"Challenged by the Human Cobra!"
Outside in New York City, the world was a rush with motorcars, tragedies and triumphs, and everything in-between. Inside a small apartment, however, none of this mattered. Don Blake sat at a small breakfast table, clutching a small first aid kit.
Across from him sat Jane Foster. She was holding a small ice bag to her face to reduce the swelling. "Some friends you have." Don groused.
"The Hulk…takes some getting use to. I suppose we were in the wrong for our actions as well."
"Jane, forget about the Hulk. I want to talk about us." He pushed the kit aside and took out a small jewelry box. "I've been meaning to ask you this for a while but," she held up her hand.
"And if you asked me a year ago I would've jumped across the table." She gently pushed the box aside. "Don, I love you. That hasn't changed a bit, but I have to know, about what Odin said…"
Don pushed the box right back to where it was. "So? Even if he spoke the truth, which I doubt, that's not who I am now. I'm Donald Blake, doctor, and I want to marry you. What's so hard about that?"
Jane wavered. "Have you told Sif?" She and the goddess were on good terms, but she didn't know how long that would last if she heard this news. Sif seemed ok with her being with Don, but there she always saw something else in her eyes whenever she mentioned Don's name.
Don sighed and shook his head. "No. I thought we could do it together." He stood up. "But there is something I'd like to do first."
"Do you remember Professor Shector?"
"The one and the same. He's doing some research near Bombay and asked me to assist him. I'd like to invite him to the wedding, if that's ok."
Jane blinked. "Why, of course. Shector has done some amazing things with anti-venom. I'd be honored if we were invited."
"Well, I also thought you could come along. Just to get to know him, of course." Don seemed nervous, but Jane didn't say anything. Did she really agree to get married? How would the Avengers react?
And more importantly, how would Odin?
The plane ride to India was smooth. One quick flash of the Avengers id and a phone call to Tony Stark, and the pair of them were riding in first class on the fastest jet available. "Ok, maybe this team thing does have its benefits." Jane sighed happily as she leaned back in her chair.
Don stared out the window. He meant what he said to Jane, but he had another reason for wanting to see Shector. "I'm not a god. I'm a man, a human man. Shector has known me my entire life, plus he worked with my father. He can prove that I'm Don Blake, I know it!"
Klaus Vorhees, formerly of the Netherlands but now sweating himself to death within the Indian countryside, grinned as he moved closer to the cages. He had been little more than a thief with a paltry education. Slowness had necessitated him fleeing the country. He found himself in India, acting as little more than a gopher to an old man.
"Klaus, did you ready the cobra yet?" Professor Shector's voice rattled from down the hall. The old man had been steadily growing tiresome. As Klaus gently ran a finger over the ventilated top, he answered.
"Yes sir; primed and ready!" Klaus stepped back. He had considered simply leaving. They were miles away from the nearest town and the professor held little sway over the authorities. "If only the fool had something worth taking!"
Then, suddenly, the answer to Klaus's prayers was delivered to him. The professor claimed he invented a new strain of anti-venom. "Think of it man, a cure for all snake bites! Instantly, and with no recovery period!"
This idea had merit. So much so Klaus eagerly helped the professor with his formula, taking extra care to keep careful and detailed notes over the process. When the old man swore he had it ready for a trial run, Klaus knew he had to strike.
He waited until the professor entered the room. He thought about simply braining him with a club, but there would be too many questions. "I can't shoot him, but if the old snake handler died of a snake bite? Who would question that?"
He snapped back to attention when the professor prodded him. "I said Klaus, are you ready?"
"Ah, yes sir!" Klaus noticed the syringe in the older man's hands. "Is that the new anti-venom?"
The professor chuckled. "Indeed it is my boy. I've tested on mice and monkeys, and each time I've had a total success. Today is the day we go to the final level: human!"
"Very good." Klaus then noticed the man slipping another syringe from his pocket. "Professor Shector, what's that one for?"
"Oh, this?" He raised the new needle up. "Why, deadly venom, of course. Now stand still Klaus, I need to see if this works."
Klaus silently obeyed, hoping the professor wasn't blowing his results out of proportion. The venom was injected first, and at once Klaus felt feverish. The anti-venom was injected within seconds, and no sooner had the needle left his flesh then he felt better. "Professor, it's a miracle!"
"Indeed. Now, to write this up and let the world know about it!" He turned and left as Klaus grinned.
"That's right old man, write up all the details. I want this perfect when I-" Klaus felt a sharp pain in his arm. "What's happening?" Fire seemed to surge through his veins. "That blasted fool, I've been poisoned!" Klaus tried to cry out, but his throat constricted. He collapsed on top of the snake cages before passing out.
"Klaus, speak to me boy!" Professor Shector shook his assistant awake. Klaus slowly opened his eyes. Shector sighed with relief. "Oh thank heavens! I thought the formula was defective."
Klaus stood up. He felt different. Powerful, yet his body felt strange. Flexing his arm, he felt the coiled muscles under the skin. Turning, he noticed with shock that his upper body was turned almost a full 180 degrees, yet his feet were still facing the other direction. "What did that old man do to me?"
Seeing the professor trying to capture a loose cobra, Klaus was struck by an idea. "The formula works, that's all I need to know." With inhuman quickness, he darted over to the professor and wrapped his arms and legs around the man.
"Klaus, what are you doing?" The professor struggled against his assistant, but to no avail.
"Removing an obstacle!" Klaus forced the older man to his knees, directly in the path of the cobra. The deadly snake, already angered, struck fast at the professor's face.
Nimbly leaping aside, Klaus quietly closed the door to the lab. His first stop was the professor's office. "Ah, right on his desk. God, I loved that man's habits!" He quickly picked up the spiral notebooks contained the years of research. From there he gathered what little clothing and money he could carry and slipped out the back door. "Next stop, America!" He walked through the screen door, and promptly found himself outside a bustling lab. "What? What happened?"
It was true. He was formerly in India, but if the geography was any indication, he was in New York City. "Am I dreaming?" He looked down at his feet and nearly tripped over an odd helmet. It was green, and designed to look like a coil serpent. Under it was a costume. Green and purple, it shined like snake skin. "I'm not sure how this got here, but it's perfect! I'm no longer Klaus, now I'm the Cobra! A human cobra! And the entire world shall feel my bite!" He quickly slipped on the costume.
Unseen by all mortals, Loki smiled at the scene. "I wasn't expecting this, but who am I to turn down such a nice new playing piece?"
"I'm worried. He should have contacted us by now." Don nervously rung his hands as Jane turned off the main road; his thoughts on the unanswered telegrams sent from nearly every stop.
"Like you said before, he's a busy man. Besides, I doubt they have Western Union around here." Jane kept an eye on the withered walking stick next to her, just in case.
They arrived at the lab. "Tire tracks and no jeep. I guess we missed him." Jane climbed down from the driver's seat as Don looked around the area.
"I don't like it." He moved, as fast as he was able, up the path and knocked on the door. Much to his shock, the door swung open. "Unlocked?"
Jane snatched her stick. "Hold on, let me go inside first." Jane turned, only to see Don vanishing into the building. "Or not."
Don called out nervously. When he heard no answer, he carefully crept forward. Opening the closed door to the lab, he carefully stepped inside. ..
Jane slammed her cane on the ground the second she heard Don's cry. Lady Thor tore the door from its frame as she barreled down the hall. "What is it?"
Don was on his knees. Before him was an elderly man on the floor, dead. "The professor!" The man's body was ghastly contorted. A coiled cobra sat in the corner. With no fear on her part, Lady Thor picked up the deadly snake and dropped it into a cage. "An accident?"
Don shook his head. Tears were brimming in his eyes. "He was too good for something like that." Lady Thor looked around, not arguing with the statement.
"Even the bravest can make mistakes." She didn't voice her opinion. Seeing a scrap of paper under the dead man's chest, she carefully removed it. "A clue?" Reading it, she gasped. Reading it aloud, she ushered Don from the room. "Look at this! 'My assistant Klaus has killed me and stolen my research'."
Don tore the note from her hand. "That murderer will pay!" Don swore. Lady Thor nodded in agreement.
"You stay here and contact the authorities. There's no telling how far this Klaus character has gotten." She rushed outside and took to the sky, leaving Don alone with his thoughts.
"It wasn't supposed to be like this." Don slumped down in a chair. "He knew me. He could prove everything."
"Art thou sure?" A familiar voice echoed down the hall.
"Who's there?" Don hefted his walking stick.
"Just a friend." Loki appeared from the shadows. "Oh, put down thy silly weapon. I've come to talk bro-ah, Dr. Blake." Loki smiled. "I know where the murderer hides. If you want, I could provide the information."
"And what do you want in return? My soul?"
Loki scoffed. "Hardly. Nay good sire, humble Loki doesn't trade in souls. I merely want to help. I would, of course, expect a small favor in return."
When Lady Thor returned some time later, Don was already finishing up his talk with the local constables. "The killer is in New York." Don flatly mumbled.
"What? But how can you know" She was interrupted.
"I just, I just know!" Don was half-mad with grief. "Please, the killer is in New York. I can't tell you how I know, but he is. Stop him, please!"
The goddess of thunder left without a word. Don turned around, half expecting to Loki's grinning visage, but found only the empty hallway. "What have I done?"
Klaus, or the Human Cobra as he christened himself, scanned the phone book for the nearest laboratory. "With the notes, all I need is the proper amount of chemicals, and perhaps an assistant or two." Finding the address of a Dr. Andrews, Klaus tore the page from the book and slunk away.
Slipping the helmet on, he felt powerful. "A cobra has many abilities. I wonder how many I share with my namesake?" Reaching out, he gripped a drainpipe. Testing its strength, he quickly shimmed up the metal drain in seconds.
"I can slither! My grip, it's so strong I can almost walk up a wall!" He cackled with glee. Leaping over the rooftops, he found another wall. Hopping over the side, he found himself half crawling half sliding down the brick and mortar. Once on the ground, he repeated the process across the city.
Finding the offices of Dr. Bruce Andrews, he grinned under his helmet. "This is the start, the start of my new reign!"
Dr. Bruce Andrews barely looked up when he heard a knock at his door. "We're closed for lunch. Come back in an hour." When he heard the sound of breaking glass, his attention was forced to divert. "Who the devil are you?"
"Men will call me the Human Cobra, in time." The garishly garbed figure boasted. He threw down a series of notebooks. "Follow these formulas. I want this serum perfected and ready for mass production."
"You're insane!" Andrews spat, but a steely hand around his neck made him reconsider. "I would need chemicals, vast amounts! I couldn't possibly produce as much as you want from this office!"
The Human Cobra relaxed his grip. He had not taken that into consideration. "Very well, where would I need to go?"
"There's a chemical supply warehouse across town, they would have what you need." Andrews groped for the nearby phone. "I could call them, maybe get them delivered?"
The grip tightened. Perhaps it was a side effect of the serum or perhaps Klaus's true nature was finally unleashed, but with his free hand he tore the phone from the wall. "And get the police after me? How stupid do you think I am?" He tossed Andrews across the room. "No doctor, we're going right up to the warehouse together!"
Lady Thor landed near the outskirts of the city. "I have no idea where this Klaus person may be. If he arrived before I did, was there magic involved?"
Passing a parked car, she stopped as radio bulletin caught her attention. "Newsflash, police report an armed madman has taken hostages at the Osborn Chemical Plant!"
"A sign perhaps?" She quickly thanked the necking couple inside the car and flew off towards the plant.
The Human Cobra smiled. He and Andrews made it inside the building with little difficulty. He sent Andrews ahead, and relying on his new abilities, slithered through the air ducts unseen. They made their way inside of the main labs. He ordered Andrews to barricade the door. "Now, get to work!"
"What do you plan to do with this stuff?" Andrews meekly followed the direction in the notes.
The Human Cobra paused. How would he inject the populace? Going from the notes, it was possible to create a version of the serum that could possibly induce lowered mental resistance. Seeing a nearby faucet dripping gave him an idea. "The reservoir!"
Hearing guards approaching, the Human Cobra slapped his hands together in glee. "Finish the formula. I'll handle the guards."
Stepping outside into the hall, he smiled when he saw the three armed men coming closer. "Gentlemen, I thank you for this opportunity." He rushed forward. In such close quarters, the men were hesitant to draw their guns.
Wrapping his legs around the closest, he squeezed the breath from the man as he drove his fists into another guard's jaw. The third tried to run, but a quick hop propelled the Cobra through the air. Binding the man's arms and legs he drove him to the floor. Cracking the guard's head against the concrete, the Human Cobra slithered back to the lab.
"I bought us some time. How is the work coming?" The alarm was already sounding, and he knew the rest of the factory, if not the outside world, was aware of their presence.
For an answer, the window exploded inward. Wiping the dust and grime from his eye holes, the Human Cobra gasped. "Lady Thor?"
"Aye, and thou shall pay for thy crimes!" She stood tall, pure power radiating off of her.
The Cobra wrapped an arm around Andrews's neck. "One more step and I'll crush his windpipe! Now, get on the ground!"
For a response, Lady Thor complied. She tapped her hammer against the floor, summoning a mighty windstorm. The Cobra released Andrews as he tried to maintain his balance in the gale.
Banishing the storm once she saw Andrews slip outside, Lady Thor rose and stalked towards the now less self-assured Cobra. "Villain, thy doom is at hand!"
Groping blindly, the Cobra found a coiled rope inside the sleeve of his tunic. "Is this part of my costume?" He removed it, and with blind panic behind him, threw the rope. It sprang out and ensnared the goddess. "Ha, even you can't escape my Cobra Coil!" He rushed out of the lab. He had no way of verifying that statement, but he was reasonably sure Lady Thor couldn't either.
Had he stayed and watched, the Cobra would have been proven correct. The material, which was thinner than an average wire, looped around Lady Thor. Caught unaware, she struggled as the coil constricted, binding her arms and legs together.
With her hammer out of reach, Lady Thor waited as the seconds dragged by. When a full minute passed, she found herself back to be plain Jane Foster again. "Strange, this coil is falling away now, could it be magic?" She easily stood up as the now loose wire slipped freely from her. Picking up her cane, she slammed it against the ground as she ran after the Cobra.
The plant was being evacuated as the Cobra spotted his quarry. Andrews was in a large group heading towards an emergency exit. "I know I don't need that buffoon anymore, but no one can make the Human Cobra look ridiculous!"
Pulling out another coil, he whipped it through the air and snagged the fleeing doctor. Pulling the struggling doctor back, he grinned at the man's discomfort. "Trying to run away, eh?"
"Somebody help me!" Andrews shrieked.
Almost in answer, a bolt of lighting streaked through the building. "Not possible!" Pulling Andrews closer to act as a shield, the Cobra turned to face a thoroughly enraged Lady Thor. "What does it take to stop you?"
"More power than what lies in thy fetid limbs!" The Cobra ducked as her hammer flew towards him, missing him by inches. Turning around, he ducked again as the mystical projectile returned to her hand.
Rushing towards the fire exit, the Cobra knocked over levers, setting off safety valves as he went. Seeing the heroine being slowed down by the chemical steam, the Cobra darted into the fire stairwell. "Doc, you're going to be useful to me again!" He ignored Andrews whimpering.
Exiting onto the roof, he neared the edge when Lady Thor's shadow suddenly loomed overhead. He grinned as he turned around. "Stay back! I'll drop this weakling over the side so help me!" He hopped onto the building's ledge for extra emphasis.
"I can fly upon yon current better than most fowl. Does thou think that paltry threat a means to stop me?"
The Cobra paled. He had not taken her ability of flight into account. He felt his mouth grow hot as he tried to come up with something witty to say. What came out was a glob of venomous spit.
He was surprised but annoyed. Lady Thor blocked the potentially deadly liquid with her hand, but the distraction was enough. Releasing Andrews, the Cobra spread his arms and fell back. "The design makes sense!" He tried to rationalize his actions as he felt the wind current pick up his costume's webbing.
Like a glider, he sailed away, ignoring the rapidly fading curses of his foe…
Blocking the disgusting projectile, Lady Thor cursed herself for being distracted. Her momentary distraction was enough for her enemy as he released the captive doctor and made good his escape. Bounding over the side, she pointed her hammer down. "I must overtake the mortal before he gains too much speed!"
Latching on with her free hand, Lady Thor swore loudly as the Cobra sailed away, using the purple mesh under his arms to act as a glider. Landing, she set the panicking Andrews aside and took aim with Mjolnir. "No foe may best me in combat! Not while I wield the power of the heavens!" She slammed her hammer's handle upon the ground, summoning a storm.
If the Cobra was aware of her actions, he gave no sign. The skies over him darkened. Thunder rolled as the winds started to die down. Cut off from his main source of propulsion, the Cobra started to fall.
When he fell for several feet, the wind suddenly picked back up, spinning him into a frenzied maelstrom. Hail battered him as he was rocketed towards the bay. Driven into the water, he sank beneath the waves with a loud splash.
"A kindly fate for his ilk!" Lady Thor turned her attention back to the civilians and the arriving authorities.
Some hours later, Jane sat down besides Don in his apartment. He had been largely silent since returning from India. She tried to break the ice. "Don, I'm sorry about the professor's death"; Don stopped her.
"I just…I just wanted to see him. He knew me Jane, he knew Don Blake."
"I know you too Don." She leaned in to kiss him. "Look, right now? Right now we're two people. No gods, monsters, or anything between us. Whatever is in the past is just that, in the past." She kissed him.
His skin was rough, due to not shaving for several days. He returned the kiss, but broke away seconds later. "Jane, I love you, but what if I'm not who I think I am?"
"We'll deal with that if it comes up. Now come here" She roughly kissed him again before switching off the light.
Several miles downstream, far away from the prying eyes of the police and firemen, a soiled hand broke free from the muddy shoreline. The Cobra slowly dragged himself free of the mud and muck that made up the foul industrial landscape. He gasped and gagged as he staggered to his feet and looked to the evening sky. "This isn't over Lady Thor, not by a long shot!"
Journey into a Mailbox
This tale was based on "Challenge of the Human Cobra" which first appeared in Journey Into Mystery#98 (November 1963). Credits to Stan Lee (script), Don Heck (pencils & inks), and Artie Simek (letters). Be here next issue when Lady Thor meets Mr. Hyde!
As for the reference at the start, be sure to read Avengers#3 (on screens soon!) to find out the reason for Jane's shiner.
Now for the letters
I have to ask since you're writing Lady Thor, when will she encounter the Enchantress and her sidekick the Executioner? Also, nice way of making Loki having him use both Lady Thor and the Lava People to start a war with between the surface and the ground. I can't help but knowing that this little adventure will cause the newly formed Avengers to step in and stop them.
Oh, sooner than you think, and not to let the cat out of the bag, but when she shows up? WOW! Also, to answer the rest of your Hulk question…you will just have to wait and see.
From They Call Me Bruce
Love the story, fella. Especially how Loki cooked things up things to nail Lady Thor. Still wish you'd put them all in one chapter though.
Well, I must confess that I'm a little unsure and how to do that without losing the reviews. Rest assured though, that all new series will be grouped into one setting.
As per usual, I loved the latest installment of the Lady Thor saga. The subplots keep me riveted whilst I read. I just wish they'd come more often. It has been a while since the previous chapter, the Avengers story not withstanding. Keep up the great work!
Well heck, if I could afford it I'd have a story out every week (might get something like that around Christmas though). Just keep watching this space for more news…
You did a great job as always. This was a very interesting read and I enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for the latest chapter of Lady Thor's adventures. I can't wait to read Avengers#1 and find out what surprise Don has in store for Jane. The Lava Men returned in Avengers#5
Yes, yes they did. What did you think of the surprise? And infinite thanks for proofreading all my previous work AND this one as well.
Be sure to keep a look out for the next thrilling tales!
The Avengers#2-Trial by Fire
Sensational Comics#15-The Hulk VS Iron Man & the Angel!
Tales to Astonish#14-Be-bop Beat-down!