The Avengers Battle the Earth-Wrecker (3 page)

BOOK: The Avengers Battle the Earth-Wrecker
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“It is not to spare your eyes that I adopt human form on earth,” Karzz commented, “but because in my own form I am dangerously unadapted to the earthly environment. On our native planet, we breathe chlorine gas. And only in human guise can I breathe this horrible oxygen in your atmosphere, poisonous to us.”

Karzz shrugged and went on.

“To satisfy your curiosity as to why I can speak your language fluently, I have been on your world a week now. During that time I tuned in radio broadcasts and learned all languages.”

“All of them on earth?” gasped Iron Man.

“Including all local idiom,” nodded Karzz. “In Americanese, for instance, I dig how the cats talk. Crazy, man.” With a wry face, he turned haughty. “I know everything else about earth from my long-range sensors, scanners, and monitors—the continents and oceans, mountains, rivers; also cities, subways, cars, trains, planes. And people, pets, and politics.”

“You absorbed all this in one short week!” marveled Iron Man, aware of the superintelligence facing him. Then, bracing himself, he asked the next logical but rhetorical question:

“You have come, I suppose, to conquer earth now?”

“No, earthman.”

Prepared for the affirmative, Iron Man was staggered, his head whirling.

“But you boasted of how many other planets you had conquered. Then what else could you be here for?”

“To
destroy
earth!” hissed the alien, his eyes seething in ferocious hatred.

In America, the Avengers’ colorful Memorial Meet played on to a rapt TV audience.

“We have honored past members of the Avengers,” announced Captain America. “We will now review the current Avengers, giving a broad resume of their origin and special abilities. First, a man who sits nine feet tall in the saddle, and I’m not exaggerating. Here he is, the man mountain…the modern Gulliver…the walking skyscraper…
Goliath!”

The spotlight limned the huge ten-foot form and a gasp sounded in every home in America that had television.

The Wasp had flitted off his shoulder. “This is your show, Big Boy. I’ll go press the button for the elephant to come on stage.”

Flying to the podium, the Wasp darted down and jammed the button with her descending feet, just before Captain America’s finger got there. She grinned impishly at him.

Out on the stage of the auditorium, a big door flew open and a moving platform came into view, on which stood a huge bull elephant with one end of a heavy rope wrapped in its trunk. Goliath picked up the other end. The rope tightened as he braced himself and the trained elephant began to pull.

“A tug of war between Goliath and a five-ton elephant,” sang out Captain America. “Don’t bet too soon on the wrong one!”

At first, the powerful beast began to back up, dragging Goliath forward. But then the towering Titan planted his feet, rippled his muscles, and began a slow, steady pull that first halted the elephant, then—incredibly—dragged him forward foot by foot, and finally brought him across the dividing line.

Panting, Goliath took a bow in the spotlight as the other Avengers applauded. “You know it’s not muscle but sheer weight that wins a tug of war,” said Hawkeye maliciously, eyeing the Wasp. “It’s a good thing that cloudscraper has plenty of fat—between his ears.”

“Fat or not,” said the Wasp sweetly, “it can out-think whatever stuffing they put in your skull…probably rocks.”

Captain America cleared his throat as Goliath sat down.

“Now listen to the strange story of Goliath, alias Giant Man, alias Ant-Man. He is a famous biologist in private life and one day, some years ago, he devised an astounding bio-serum which could shrink the human body down to insect size. He then became the Ant-Man for a while, cleverly using his tininess to outwit certain evildoers.”

The spotlight now swung to the Wasp, again perched on Goliath’s shoulder.

“Dr. Henry Pym,” said Captain America, giving Goliath’s real name, for his “secret’ identity had been revealed to the world at large, “eventually let his girl friend share the bio-serum, a variation of which shrank her down to small size and gave her some of the characteristics that account for her name—the Wasp.”

The audience was listening raptly to Cap’s commentary as he continued. “The Wasp has shared in many Avenger adventures, doing her part in confounding our foes. Originally, like Ant-Man, she had to take the reducing serum each time, then an enlarging serum—a sort of antidote—to regain normal human size. But eventually with enough bio-serum in her body to last a long time, she developed a mental way to shoot down to small size, and back to human size. By will power alone.”

The spotlight under Cap’s control swung back to Goliath.

“Let’s return to Ant-Man. Dr. Pym one day took an overdose of the enlarging serum, and instead of stopping at human size, he kept growing and growing to the tremendous height of twenty-five feet. He then joined the Avengers as Giant-Man. But in time, he found his Cyclopean stature too much of a handicap.”

“Probably,” Hawkeye murmured to the Wasp, “because too many people kept asking him, “Hey, how’s the weather up there?” “

The star-spangled MC went on before the cameras. “Dr. Pym finally revised his formula so the bio-serum kept him below fifteen feet tall…for a while. Even this was an unwieldy bulk to maneuver—especially into buildings made for people not much over a third his size—so he settled on a more modest ten feet, as he is today. Having been on a leave of absence from the Avengers for these experiments, he returned to us in a new uniform and with his new name of Goliath.”

Cap went on in a deadly serious tone. “Needless to say, this giant Avenger has helped us out of many a tight spot—tighter than if he himself tried to squeeze into a telephone booth.”

“He got himself into tight spots worse than that,” drawled Hawkeye for the Wasp’s benefit, “like that time he got stuck in a narrow cave and the rest of us had to figure out some way of working him loose…before a load of nuclear bang-bang stuff went off and blew the place to bits. You weren’t there that time, Wasp.”

“Were you all blown to bits?” she asked innocently.

“Into a million bits,” growled Hawkeye. “But the same guy who put Humpty Dumpty together again came along and serviced us, see?”’

“They never did put Mr. H. D. together again,” the Wasp reminded him. “So that explains why you’re scatterbrained at times.”

Hawkeye was about to make a sarcastic retort when the spotlight fell on him. He bounced to his feet and bowed in the grand manner, with the TV-camera lens aimed at him.

“Robin Hood, they say, could split arrows,” came Cap’s build-up. “But now you’re going to see a demonstration by Hawkeye, our third Avenger member, that would make envious Robin Hood put away his bow and retire.” Hawkeye strode to the middle of the floor, where an attendant stood with a pistol, facing a target fifty feet away. Hawkeye stood beside him, pulled an arrow from his quiver, and notched it to his bowstring.

Hawkeye pulled back the bowstring with deceptive ease.

It would have taken two other strong men to do the same, one holding the bow, one pulling the string. His firing hand poised, Hawkeye snapped: “Fire!”

At the same instant that the attendant fired his pistol, Hawkeye’s bowstring twanged. A bullet and a sleek lightweight wooden arrow sped to the target in motion too fast for the TV eye to follow.

But the TV camera could record what happened in the next millisecond, as described by Captain America. “See, folks? The arrow arrived
first
and the bullet
split
it!”

The thunderous applause all over America could not be heard, as Hawkeye, acting nonchalant, returned to his seat.

Cap’s voice resumed. “This superarcher’s repertory of arrows includes unique kinds of his own devising to perform ingenious feats. To name but a few—the blast arrow that can blow open a locked door, the stun arrow for putting enemies out of action, the rocket harpoon to spear flying criminal craft, the bolo arrow to twine around a running man’s ankles before he can escape, and the sneeze smog arrow which both throws a smoke screen for an Avenger’s escape and causes pursuers to sneeze violently and ruin their aim with weapons. There are many more.”

“Especially the bombast arrow,” whispered the Wasp, “which carries a recording of Hawkeye bragging about himself and bores the enemy to death.”

Hawkeye had to keep smiling. He was on camera.

“Hawkeye’s history is somewhat like that of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch,” Cap informed the audience. “He had been a bitter and resourceful foe of Iron Man for a while. But not by his own choosing. In reality, he had been wrongly suspected of crime by the police, which led him to join forces with a notorious girl-spy, the Black Widow. This enmeshed him in intrigue that further got him in bad with the authorities. Hunted like a criminal, he was forced to battle for his own life and freedom.”

“A poor, misunderstood, downtrodden slob,” murmured the Wasp, wiping away a false tear. Then she brightened. “But there’s justice after all, and today you’re a heroic, honored, and respected…slob.”

Hawkeye kept smiling into the TV camera, but his hand, which was off-camera, moved around to where he could reach toward the tiny tormentor on Goliath’s shoulder.

But when Hawkeye flicked his finger to give her what would amount to a good slap, he met nothing. Then a larger form grew rapidly nearby until the Wasp was her normal girl size.

“Did you forget,” she smiled, walking away from the frustrated Hawkeye, “that I was to take over and tell about Captain America himself?”

On the podium, the Wasp whispered to Cap: “Actually, Iron Man was supposed to get the build-up bit before you, Cap. What do you suppose is holding him up?”

“Oh, maybe he met the Man from Mars,” said Cap, trying to sound blithe, and not knowing how close his quip had come to the grim truth…

chapter 4

Earth Doom

In the bleak iciness at Mount Everest’s peak, Karzz the alien, conqueror of a host of worlds, spoke again. “No, I came not to conquer earth but to
destroy
it. I will wreck your world and annihilate all humans on earth, every last one.”

Iron Man was stunned by Karzz’s threat and by the venom of his words. “But
why?
What has earth done to you or your faraway future world?”

“That is too long a tale to explain right now,” responded Karzz abruptly. “I am wasting time. I must set the coordinates of my ultramagnet and keep it centered on its target.”

“Just what is your ultramagnet aimed at, out in space?”

“I have no time for frivolous explanations,” Karzz answered sharply. “It is part of my plan to destroy earth, that’s all you need to know before you…die!”

With that, he pressed a stud on his belt. A livid ray sprang forth and a rock next to Iron Man turned to dust. The next ray struck Iron Man squarely in the chest.

“Good-bye, Iron Man,” said Karzz, starting to turn away. He swung his head back, in a perfect movie doubletake. “You’re still standing there!” he gasped.

“Sure,” said Iron Man cheerfully. “Whatever your gizmo was supposed to do, it failed against my steel suit. Which by the way, has withstood a dozen assorted types of rays, bullets, shells, rockets—you name it—hurled at me by my enemies.”

Respect shone in Karzz’s eyes for the first time. “I see you are a very special earthling, equipped to battle super forces.”

“You’re right on the nose,” Iron Man came back. “And it so happens that as an Avenger, I’m an unofficial guardian of all earth. Now I’m ordering you off our world…you and your contraption both…Or else!”

“Or else you will drive me off?” Karzz said with a scornful laugh. “All right, do so.”

“You asked for it, Frankenstein.” Iron Man was already rheostating up his suit’s power, getting ready for action. He charged forward suddenly. “I’m going to knock you halfway to Aldebaran,” he grated between clenched teeth.

Iron Man wondered why Karzz didn’t move, why he didn’t show the slightest fear. Except for his belt, he seemed unarmed, helpless. Iron Man touched a push button on his power-pack, sending a surge of more than human power into his mechanized right arm. Then he swung his fist, ready to knock all the fight out of the alien right from the start.

Klang!

Iron Man’s balled fist struck some invisible barrier before it reached Karzz. Iron Man reeled back himself, seeing now the glowing indigo aura that surrounded Karzz protectively.

“I should have known,” the Avenger chided himself, “that you would have the same force-field shield around you as around your ultramagnet. But don’t worry, I’m not through. I’ve got a dozen other fighting tactics to try.”

Tensing himself and clicking over transistor power relays, Iron Man prepared for all-out battle against a superscientific foe.

On the podium at the Avengers’ gathering, the Wasp pressed the stud that swung the spotlight on Captain America beside her.

“Last, but the furthest from least you can get,” she said, “is the Avengers’ leader, whom I hardly need name. He’s known not only to the younger people of today, but to all of you of the previous generation some twenty years ago. Captain America is unique among us—he’s had
two
glorious careers as a fighting hero upholding American ideals!”

Cap’s face was dreamy, as his own thoughts flew back to those former days…

“It’s a strange story,” resumed the Wasp. “At the start of World War II, a young Mr. A—for anonymous—was rejected by the army as being too puny and in poor health. But it so happened some scientists were looking for just such a 4-F specimen of manhood, to use the last term loosely. Mr. A was then given a special hormone injection, and before their eyes he changed like a Jekyll-Hyde into a big, brawny, powerful man—the ideal soldier—and more.”

Cap glowed, reliving that grand and glorious moment of his transformation from the proverbial “90-pound weakling” of the ads into a 190-pound mass of fighting flesh.

“Mr. A now passed the army tests with flying colors; and soon after, Sergeant A ran into Nazi saboteurs and laid the whole gang low with his pile-driving fists. He then adopted his colorful uniform in order to work as a mysterious champion against democracy’s foes. The fame of Captain America became a byword to the world all during the war years, as he and his young pal, Bucky, smashed spy and saboteur rings right and left.”

BOOK: The Avengers Battle the Earth-Wrecker
5.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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