Long Island, New York:
Dr. Josef Mengele had been allowed a bathroom break after hours of work. Most of his gestation tubes were empty. He paused at a window, staring out into the front lawn of his estate.
The Martians practiced their powers calmly, the older ones showing the young what to do. Small squads taught each other group tactics.
Dr. Mengele fought back his fear. He went to the bathroom before his guard decided to start looking for him. He needed to get some kind of warning to the Fatherland.
He looked in his face in the bathroom mirror. He needed to do something. He had no illusions about Primus’ plans for the future.
Mass destruction of the human race was counter to the Reich’s plans of dominance, to put it mildly.
But how could he overcome his main problem of hindered freedom?
He headed back to the gestation room, pausing at his study on the way. A simple check told him his phone was down. He left his office in a hurry. Getting caught in his office would be a quick way to die.
The Martians did not like to be disobeyed, and their methods were as brutal as any the Führer would use.
He scrambled to get back to the gestation room, arriving at the door as his guard came out of the room. He tried to smile at the pale clone. The Martian glared at him. Small fires marked a rapid decision to allow the doctor to live.
“Get back to work, human,” the guard said. “Primus wants more soldiers to be loaded into the chambers. Our soldiers must be increased another hundred percent. You have that honor.”
“Can’t we take a break?” Mengele said. “Fatigue will cause errors in manufacturing more of you.”
“I will pass on your request,” said the guard. “Primus will rule on it when he wants to. Until then, get back to work.” He pointed at the computer controls.
Mengele nodded, taking his place. He knew that was the best he could do. Pushing the guard would only get him broken in some way. He didn’t need that.
San Francisco, California:
Roy Miller jumped from the hovering helicopter’s door. He jogged forward, his x-ray eyes scanning the terrain in progressive leaps.
Stefan Queen poured out like heavy yellow syrup. The blob he was overtook Miller, vanishing into the combat zone.
Martin Cove and Lieutenant Matthew Shrieve leaped from the transport last. Cove’s amphibian strength allowed the creature from the black lagoon to carry his M-60 like a child’s toy.
“San Francisco Airport is that way,” said Shrieve, pointing. “Let’s get into position. Miller, you’re on point.”
The Creature Commandos followed in the wake of their yellow comrade. Miller’s unique vision allowed him to avoid several battles in progress. Shrieve radioed in the coordinates as they passed. A shell would drop out of the sky to blow whatever cover the Japanese soldiers were using. The local forces rushed in to finish the job.
“This is a massacre,” said Miller, leading the way.
“You know the drill, Miller,” said Shrieve. “It’s not in the mission plan to help civilians.”
“I don’t have to like it,” said Miller. He took aim with his rifle at a solitary soldier taking aim at him and shot. The man fell back from his perch, shot through the chest.
“No one does,” said Shrieve, checking his map.
Queen extended a pseudopod to show them his position. He made good time, rolling into a ball and using the natural hills of the city to get to where he had to go. He was the first to reach the fence surrounding the airport and squeeze his semisolid mass through the chain links.
The rest got to the fence minutes later. Cove ripped a section out with his enormous strength.
“Looks like we weren’t needed,” said Miller.
London, Occupied England:
“Hello,” the Red Torpedo said into the phone. “Put him on.”
Happy Terrill stood at the briefing room door. Numerous tips had been phoned in by the concerned citizens of Britain. Most had been worthless. He expected to be sent out to check this one and have it be a wild goose chase.
“I know the address,” said the Torpedo, taking a note. “I’ll have a man check it out right away.”
The Red Torpedo looked up after hanging the phone up. His eyes fell on Neon the Unknown first as they swept the room.
“Check this out, Neon,” he ordered, waving the note. “A foot patrol has noticed activity at an abandoned house outside of London.”
“What makes you think this will be any better than the last hundred tips?” Neon asked.
“We can’t kill someone every day,” the Torpedo said. “Get out there, confirm or deny this. You know the routine.”
“Yes, sir,” the ubermensch said, taking the note. “I’ll call if I get anything.”
“Anything that evens look genuine,” the Torpedo said. “Report, and then sit on the place. He could be just waiting to get one of us on our own.”
“Got it,” said Neon, walking to the door.
“I’m serious,” said the Torpedo.
Neon rolled his eyes as he left the room.
Happy knew how the younger man felt. Still, they had to remain sharp. The Jester had almost killed them at that warehouse. What would a real trap be like?
The Ray got a drink of water as he waited for the next tip to have to check out. He knew it wouldn’t be long the way they were coming in.
Five minutes later, Happy was on his way with a note in hand. He had to check out a warehouse on the Thames. He scratched his arm as he went. Some kind of bug had bitten him, making the spot on his arm itch like mad.
The Ray descended over the building. A casual inspection showed no activity. Maybe it was another false alarm. He landed on the roof of the building, shining a light through the single skylight. The building looked deserted to him.
He slipped through the dirty glass and carefully inspected the place. Nothing moved, not even a rat. He slipped out of the building, heading back to the government offices.
Happy hoped the rest of his tour was the same way.
Project M, New Mexico:
David Vincent sat up in bed, tendrils of energy snapping away the burned hospital gown he wore. He grabbed a set of fatigues from the closet, pulling them on with his thoughts. His boots walked to him as he looked around for socks.
“What do you think you’re doing?” a nurse asked from the door.
“Checking out,” Vincent said, half with a nasal voice, half with his thoughts. “Where are the other monsters?”
“Calm down,” said the nurse. “Professor Oak would like to look at you, now that you have come out of your coma.”
“The only one I need to see is Sanchez,” said Vincent, stepping into the shoes, letting them tie themselves up as he walked toward the door. “Then I need to leave.”
“I am sure Colonel Sanchez would like to see you, too,” said the nurse, blocking the door.
“Do I need to go through you?” Vincent asked, looking for his watch. It wrapped around his wrist before he could start searching the room. “I am in a rush.”
“Just wait,” said the nurse. “I’ll page the colonel and Professor Oak to come down and talk to you.”
“I’ll give you five minutes,” said Vincent. “After that I have to get going.”
“Just wait,” the nurse said before hurrying out of the room.
Vincent heard alarms. He paid little attention as he gathered up the rest of his personal possessions. He caught sight of his reflection in the dressing mirror. He winced at the sight of his enlarged eyeballs. A jagged tendril smashed the mirror at his thought.
The room door opened, revealing Professor James Oak. The chemist frowned at the sight of his patient standing in an array of flickering light. “I understand you wanted to see me,” said Oak quietly.
“I need to leave,” said Vincent. “I would like the others to go with me.”
“The other subjects have been ordered into combat,” said Oak. “They have been sent off the base.”
“What about Sanchez?” Vincent asked.
“He is on his way up here to talk to you,” said Oak.
“Good,” said the experimental subject. “I don’t have much time to hang around chewing the fat.”
“Why the rush?” said Oak. “You have been in a coma for a long time. There’s no telling what kind of damage your system has suffered from the experiment.”
New York City:
Margo the Magician went about her show in slow motion. It was still spectacular for those who didn’t know the illusions she usually included in her act. As soon as it was done, she made her way off the stage to her hotel room. It was time to find out what was bothering her.
She took a seat on her throw rug, pulling up the sleeves of her white jacket. Sparks danced around her fingers as she held them in front of her. A cloud erupted from her body as her eyes became white marbles. The cloud hovered in the room, seemingly looking around. It floated to the window, easing under the frame. It floated over the city for a second. Then it turned north.
The cloud wafted against the wind as it flew out of New York. Its speed elongated it into a white ribbon as it crossed the miles. It circled a walled manor at the other end of its journey. The cloud coalesced as it descended to the manor.
The feeling that bothered Margo was somewhere in the innocent-looking building.
The cloud spread itself out over the grounds, looking for something out of place.
The front doors opened. Platoons of pale blond men assembled in the yard. They stood at attention in three large squares. Each warrior, dressed in black uniforms, glared at the mansion.
A clone in the same black jumpsuit as his troops exited the front door. He smiled as he walked the ranks. He returned to the front steps after his inspection.
“Gentlemen,” the leader said, “I am pleased at your progress. In three days, we will secure our first objective. As soon as the materials are in place, we will create enough of us to rule the ants that crawl in our way. It will be a slow war, but within our generation, we shall have victory. Then we will secure a place on the moon, and then the other planets of the solar system. That is for the future. We must begin with a single step. And that step will be the seizure of our region.”
The cloud dissipated, allowing Margo to wake up.
Billy Dunn hovered over the burning building. Bomber Jones took aim through a scope in the belly of the Blue Tracer. A button push opened the belly hatch. A full load of the snuffer hit the flames in an expanding deluge. The foam ran out in the streets as it put the fire out.
“Got another call, Trace,” said Jones. “We’re out of snuffer.”
“We’ll get another load,” said Dunn. “Then we’ll get over there and help put that one out, too. Tell them to clear the area.”
The Blue Tracer turned. It headed for the trailer where more of the snuffer was being created by engineers from the 101st Airborne Division. Dunn brought the multipurpose craft down next to the storage vats. He released the loading tubes from the side of the aircraft. He climbed down as soon as he could get the canopy to roll back. A temperature test told him the snuffer was ready. He connected the hoses and gave the high sign to Jones. The snuffer flowed through the hoses into the storage bay.
Jones watched the payload meter load to full. He cut the pump off, waving at Dunn to disconnect the hoses. As soon as that was done, Jones retracted the flat conduits. Trace nodded for the engineers to start making another batch of the fire extinguisher while they were delivering the full load they already held.
The Tracer took off vertically as soon as its pilot had strapped himself in. It turned on its axis, starting forward with a roar.
Dunn swept in low over the reported fire. He switched to vertical to hover when he was in the right place.
“Everyone is clear,” Jones reported. “The fire marshal says to drop it when we’re ready.”
“We’re ready when you are,” said Dunn, holding the Tracer in place.
“Snuffer is gone,” reported Bomber. He watched the snuffer hit in a pink spray. The flames vanished under the spreading wave. “Looks like the fire is out.”
“Get us a sitrep,” said Dunn. “We’ll load some more fuel and snuffer back at the trailer before we put out anything else.”
The sky off the coast of California:
Quicksilver appraised the odds with a judicious eye. It was Richard Ito’s super-speed and some training in karate against six killers with their own skills and powers. Time for Quicksilver to go to work.
The speedster started by punching the Eurasian that had dropped the plane again. Captain Shiro Nakayama crashed into the broken landing-gear struts. The Wind Serpent, a giant snake with wings, breathed a column of fire at Quicksilver, forcing him on the defensive. The runway’s asphalt cooked into a cloud of choking smoke as the serpent tried to pursue the speedster with its natural flamethrower.
Quicksilver frowned as the armored Kite Man took to the air, firing lightning at him. The Wind Serpent took a breath to reload as he stepped away from both discharges. Then a man in a blue and black robe descended from the wounded plane. The robe fluttered as a wind built out of nothing.
Maybe I should have used hit and run, thought the new Quicksilver. I need to get the momentum back on my side.
Driving rain and wind lashed at the speedster. Lightning and fire tried to touch him as he ducked and dodged. Then an invisible hand struck him on the chin, sending him to the ground. He rolled with the impact, leaping to his feet.
Quicksilver took a millisecond to plan his next move. He felt something pushing toward him through the air. He ducked, letting whatever it was pass over his shoulder. His arms multiplied as he punched the empty space the attack had come from. His fists beat a tattoo on something solid. The Oni dropped to the ground, driven by the hundreds of blows delivered in the space of seconds.
A stream of fire tried to catch the speedster on fire. He felt the heat as it approached and ducked to one side. The next second he began slapping the sides of the Wind Serpent’s metallic neck with the edges of his hands. It wrenched away from the beating, flexing its elongated body like a whip. Quicksilver leaped over its slim blue girth.
A blast of wind hurled him away while he was still up in the air. He saw the Divine Wind member called Typhoon smile as he fell head over heels to the wrecked runway.