The Avengers Battle the Earth-Wrecker (16 page)

BOOK: The Avengers Battle the Earth-Wrecker
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Cap knew his eyes were lying. Goliath should be sprawled flat on the floor from the power-packed blow of the shield. It must be a delusion that he was seeing Goliath still standing there, only reeling a little and regaining his balance while rubbing his head a bit. But Cap knew it was no delusion when the massive man came charging toward him like a flesh-and-blood juggernaut.

Cap slung his shield again, hoping repeated blows might at last do the knockout job. But Goliath was cannily watching and swiftly ducked. When the boomeranging shield returned and Cap swung it again at the giant’s middle, Goliath turned and took the blow on his broad back where it could do little harm. And that also made the shield drop there, out of reach of its owner.

Tensing up every muscle in his body, Cap went into his famed crouch and then drove forward, his legs churning like steam pistons. The sheer tremendous force of his body plunge had often bowled over a dozen Nazis in the old days. And one time, in an exhibition football game for charity, Cap had carried the ball through eleven tacklers—the whole opposing team—for a touchdown. Not once, but four times. And when they tried to score, the opposing ball-runners had been stopped time and again by what they had sworn, in a punch-drunk state, was a solid stone wall that had suddenly blocked their way. The wall always had strange colors—red, white, and blue.

But Cap was driving himself faster than ever in his life before—either life, in the past or present. He got up to better-than-Olympic speed and slammed his lowered head squarely in Goliath’s middle.

Goliath grunted and sat down. Bouncing back, Cap also sat on the floor, head whirling. That was all he had done, pushed Goliath over with his bulldozing plunge.

But he was otherwise unhurt and was about to clamber back on his feet.

Cap quickly leaped up, his fists within reach of the sitting Goliath’s face before he could rise. Unmatched shoulder muscles and the world’s best biceps went into every punch that Cap pounded into Goliath’s face with the rapidity of a machine gun, hoping to knock him out by sheer brain-bruising slugging.

Suddenly, the roof fell in on Cap. That was what it seemed like when a giant weapon—five huge knuckles—exploded against his chin.

Cap’s arching body flew backward and landed in a heap against a steel post. Then his shield came sailing, propelled by Goliath. Cap ducked and it struck the post, cracking it in half, but with the weight of the dome above exerting pressure and keeping the broken ends pressed together.

Cap limped back to Hawkeye and Iron Man. All three looked at each other with lips set into grim lines.

The Wasp came flying down, eyes haunted with horror. She knew what they had to do next.

“This is it,” Cap said flatly. “All three of us this time—to the death.”

“Please,” moaned the Wasp. “Isn’t there some other way? Must Goliath…die?”

Cap turned hollow eyes on her. “It’s either him, and Karzz…or all the people on earth…three billion souls.” His voice went gentle. “Sorry, kid. Don’t watch. Fly up in the rafters and wait till it’s all over.”

As the insect-girl flitted away, a tiny tear dropped on Cap’s hand. He looked at it for a long, silent moment. Then he drew himself up, giving the command that only he could give, and for which he alone was responsible.

“This time, men, it’s kill—or be killed. Let’s get to it.”

Stepping out into the open, Cap poised his shield for a deadly throw at Goliath’s throat. Hawkeye’s drawn bow was ready to speed a fatal arrow at the giant’s heart. Iron Man raised both his hands to spew forth killer-rays.

And now they noticed that Goliath held a weapon too, something that looked like a blunderbuss with a flaring barrel.

“I signaled the future,” called out Karzz, “for them to send the death-beam gun, which Goliath will use to mow you down. Prepare for death, Avengers!”

Fate seemed to hold its breath.

But the Wasp was challenging destiny. The tiny winged girl darted down toward Karzz at high speed. Checking constantly in his wrist-monitor, Karzz saw the Wasp coming straight toward his face, snapping on her sting-ray.

“Fool, girl,” he cried, “are you trying to blind me?” He flung a hand up before his eyes protectively. But arriving at bullet speed, the Wasp used her jabbing stingbeam to slice through the headband that held the hypnotic mirror. It clattered to the floor.

The noise seemed to snap Goliath out of a trance. He looked at the weapon in his hands, bewildered. “Goliath!” screamed the tiny creature buzzing around his head. “Don’t obey Karzz any more. Those three men advancing are your friends. You are free of Karzz’s evil control. Throw the weapon away…throw it away!”

Goliath hesitated, his half-hypnotized mind still unable to think straight. With a curse, Karzz snatched up his hypnotic device and fumblingly tried to aim it at Goliath.

The three advancing Avengers had stopped, and they withheld their death blows.

“Goliath!” screeched the Wasp again, desperately. “You are an Avenger!”

“Yes,” roared Goliath suddenly, twisting the weapon in his hands into a tangled wreck. Then he turned balefully toward Karzz, who was just shining the violet-green light in his eyes.

A huge hand swept across the alien’s face, knocking him a dozen feet away. “Now I know who I am, and what you are,” bellowed Goliath.

“Thank heaven!” sobbed the Wasp, flitting over him. Then she flew over to where Karzz lay groaning. “Ever hear of this expression—
cherchez la femme.”

“Vive la femme,
I say,” boomed Goliath to the other three. “We’re back together, Avengers.”

“Right, High Pockets,” said Hawkeye, getting there first. “Shake.”

A moment later, Hawkeye sagged at the knees as a huge paw grasped his. “Me and my big ideas,” Hawkeye groaned. “Let go, Goliath, before you crush my superb arrow-shooting hand.”

“But what’s this all about?” asked Goliath, puzzled. “The last I remember I was charging Karzz up in his room and he was shining some kind of light in my eyes.” Cap rapidly filled him in.

Goliath’s face turned pale halfway through the account, at the tragedy that had nearly wrecked their group. Then, in black fury, he strode to Karzz and picked him up by the collar, dangling him off the floor.

“You murderous little pipsqueak!” roared Goliath. “Now you’re in my power and I’m going to….”

Karzz shrieked in terror at what he saw in Goliath’s eyes.

But Iron Man called out, “Stop, Goliath. We need Karzz alive. He was the one who launched the four earth dooms….”

The Avengers looked at one another, the joy of reunion wiped out by this stark realization.

“…and he’s going to save the earth now,” finished Iron Man.

They all stared. “You’ve flipped, Rust Pot,” said Hawkeye. “He started four destructive processes that even he couldn’t stop now.”

“He can halt them very simply,” returned Iron Man. “Remember Karzz is the master of time. He used timeteleportation to travel into the past. He used the timestopping ray to ‘freeze’ us once. And….”

Iron Man paused and faced the alien. “Karzz, can you
turn time backward
for earth…back to the day before your four dooms began?”

“Yes,” nodded Karzz. “And I’ll do it if you promise my life is safe afterward.”

“Agreed,” came from Cap immediately. There simply was no other choice, with the fate of a whole world at stake.

“Time,” announced Karzz, “will now be reversed for earth.”

They were in Anthony Stark’s laboratories the next day. Iron Man and Karzz had worked through the night, putting together a vast machine according to the alien’s blueprints. They were ready now to use it. Karzz pushed the master button. No sound came from the machine, no sign of anything happening. But on the wall, the hands of the clock began spinning backward.

“Down in Antarctica,” said Iron Man, “the heat device has gone dead and ocean waters will recede until the ice cap grows back to its original state. In the South Pacific, all eruptions are ceasing and the molten magma is flowing back down as the crust heals itself of cracks caused by the Vulcan Machine.”

He pointed upward.

“Above earth, the super-wind is dying down as the Storm Satellite vanishes, whisking back to the future where it came from. And the giant comet, drawn by ultramagnetic attraction, is now being driven back into outer space by antimagnetic forces.”

He shrugged. “Don’t ask me to explain it in any logical way. All I can promise you, from Karzz’s formulas and chrono-equations, is that in some weird way that twentieth-century science cannot yet understand, time is turning backward and healing earth of its mortal wounds.” The proof came via radio as a puzzled and joyful announcer said, “Amazingly, the four menacing phenomena that seemed to be building up to the end of the world have subsided…nobody knows why.”

“Except us,” murmured Iron Man.

“I have carried out my end of the bargain,” said Karzz, stepping toward the door. “In turn, my life is spared….”

Iron Man blocked his way. “Agreed, chum. But you’re not going anywhere—except back to the seventieth century.”

“Nein!…non! …nyet!”
babbled Karzz frantically,

his face reflecting stark terror. “Back there I was a defeated conqueror, hated and despised. An exile, a condemned man. They will hunt me down ruthlessly and execute me...”

“That’s their business,” said Iron Man shortly, whipping the cover off a new apparatus. “I brought along your time-teleportation device from the sea dome. I’m setting the dials for the future, and now….”

Karzz was still screaming in protest as a purling ray bathed him, fading him out of the twentieth century and whisking him to the seventieth.

“The worst punishment he could have,” said Iron Man, “was to be sent back to the defeat, disgrace, and death he tried to escape from. Karzz the Conqueror won’t have a second chance to try to conquer time and change history.”

“Oh, well, another job done,” drawled Hawkeye, patting back a false yawn. “I’m glad I saved the world…with the help of you other Avengers, of course.”

“Knowing how modest you are,” said the Wasp, “I won’t tell the public you did it practically single-handedly, or you’d be mobbed.”

Captain America smiled. All was back to normal.

“Avengers, assemble!” he barked, and added, “For a celebration.”

BOOK: The Avengers Battle the Earth-Wrecker
5.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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