The Avengers Battle the Earth-Wrecker (5 page)

BOOK: The Avengers Battle the Earth-Wrecker
7.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

The speaker paused, as if still overwhelmed by what he had to say. “A giant comet has suddenly appeared from the remote regions beyond the solar system. It is racing toward earth and gathering tremendous speed. If it strikes earth….”

He took a breath and went on calmly—too calmly: “Collision with the giant comet would cause world-wide earthquakes and destroy half of civilization. And at its fantastic rate of acceleration, it will arrive within ten days.”

His voice changed to a bewildered huskiness. “The whole thing is against all cosmic chance. It upsets all the laws of astrophysics, all the theories of galactic events. I know you will think I’m overimaginative, but it’s almost as if that comet were being—well, being
drawn
toward earth by some powerful force.”

“Thank you, doctor, for the warning.” Captain America put down the phone slowly and faced the others. “There you have it. Karzz’s supermagnet must be pulling down that giant comet. That’s the way he plans to destroy earth.”

“What were you saying before, Hawkeye?” said the Wasp.

“Like I was saying,” returned Hawkeye with a crooked grin, “that guy’s no kook and it’s not a bluff. His threat is for real.”

“So what are we waiting for?” demanded Goliath. “We go to Mount Everest, lick Karzz, wreck his magnet and stop the comet. Simple as ABC.”

“Yes, except for D through Z,” warned Iron Man “which will be all the unknown superscience tricks he may still have up his sleeve. It’ll be tough, with a capital T.”

“Just the way we like it,” said Cap, drawing himself up, his blue eyes smoldering. “The Avengers have never yet met their Waterloo—and never will!”

“Corny,” said Hawkeye, “but true, Dad. Or as I would put it—we’ve never bombed yet against any overambitious adversary and we won’t goof off this time either. Let’s go.”

Captain America stared at him frostily. “I give the group decisions around here, Hawkeye. But since I can’t think of anything better to say”—he clapped Hawkeye on the shoulder—
“let’s go!”

The five Avengers strode out of the exhibition hall and down a corridor to an elevator, which took them to the roof. Here rested a rocketplane similar to the X-15, but of an even more advanced design, which had come from the “invention factory” of Anthony Stark when he wasn’t busy as Iron Man. It was specially designed to transport the Avengers anywhere on earth in minimum travel time.

“If you run into Stark,” said Cap to Iron Man, “tell him thanks for his rocketplane.”

“I never seem to see him around,” said Iron Man truthfully, smiling behind his mask. The other Avengers had never known that the Golden Avenger and Anthony Stark were the same man.

Within the craft, each man had his own individual foambacked G-force seat. Iron Man sat at the controls, with Captain America as his co-pilot. For take-off at any time of the day or night, Stark’s staff constantly kept the craft’s fuel tanks filled with liquid fluorine and hydrogen, the most powerful chemical propellants known to rocketry.

Iron Man looked at the read-out dials of the automated check-out devices. “All systems go,” he said. He activated the stud that programmed the proper trajectory into their computerized guidance system. Destination—Mount Everest. Then he barked: “Ten…nine…eight…”

Knowing his job, Captain America plugged in the “live mode.”

“Seven…six…five…” Iron Man armed the fuel pumps. “Four… three… two…”

Cap pressed the “non-abort” button.

“One…
zero!”

Iron Man flipped the main engine toggle switch.

With a roar, the fiery propulsion engine burst forth, shoving the craft vertically upward from its upright gantry. “All systems go,” gasped Captain America as the mounting G-forces rose to their peak. “Oxygen, green. Thrust, nominal.”

“Yaw, pitch and roll errors negative,” took up Iron Man. “Ship going into proper pitch-over angle into level flight, at ninety miles altitude. We’re on our way.”

Looking down through a big bottom-side window, they could all see the broad sweep of earth’s curvature below, and portions of the surface through banks of fleecy clouds—the views that many astronauts had exclaimed over as being awesomely “beautiful” and indescribable. Soon they were speeding over a great sea.

“The Pacific looks calm today,” ventured Hawkeye by way of small talk.

“The Atlantic,” corrected Cap.

“Huh?” grunted Hawkeye. “Well, you brain-boys made a mistake. If I know my geography, the Himalayas are nearer to America by going west around the world.”

“True,” nodded Iron Man. “But by going east, we take advantage of the earth’s rotation under us, which without any expenditure of fuel, rolls the Himalayas a thousand miles toward us during the flight. So in astronautical or spaceflight terms, the longest distance between two points is the shortest. We’ll be there in exactly 53 minutes and 33.6 seconds.”

“I dig it. But it’s crazyville.” A malicious gleam came into the bowman’s eye. “Say, Cap, back in your day during your
first
career, how long did it take to go halfway around the world—by ox cart?”

“You know we had planes then,” said Cap, but his voice muted in wonder as he recalled the primitive craft of the time. “The fastest piston-plane speed during World War II was 469 miles an hour, made by a German Messerschmidt. Later, when Howard Hughes made a flight around the world in less than eighty hours, it was considered a Jules Verne feat. Today, we can do it in about eighty minutes in orbit or by space trajectory.”

Soon after this, Iron Man warned: “Five minutes to landing. What’s our course of strategy, Cap?”

“I’ve been mulling it over,” the spangled leader answered slowly. “It doesn’t pay to reveal all our forces at once—we should hold some in reserve. Karzz already has Iron Man’s number with his rust-ray; so the Wasp, Goliath, and I will confront our enemy first. Then, if reinforcements are needed, Hawkeye and Iron Man will join in.”

“Always robbing me of glory,” grumbled Hawkeye. “What if you three don’t need help?” He knocked his knuckles against his forehead as if chiding himself. “What am I worried about? Insect Girl, Elephant Boy, and Star-Spangled Grampa…how can they win without help? So just call on the Ace Archer of the Ages and I’ll save the day. You can help too, Rust Pot.”

Iron Man said nothing, wincing at the word “rust.” Witheringly, the Wasp spoke up. “If all your arrows had points as sharp as your wit, Hawkeye, they’d be too dull to pierce a chunk of butter.”

If the others, thought Iron Man to himself, had met Karzz, they would not be bantering so light-heartedly.

They would find out soon enough what they were up against…

chapter 6

Mountaintop Battle

Re-entry came now as they slammed into earth’s atmosphere. The leading edges of the craft’s wings began to glow cherry-red. But the molybdenum-tantalum alloy skin of the plane could withstand any air-friction temperature as they slanted down toward the towering whitecapped Himalayas. When aerodynamic control came back, at mere supersonic speed, Iron Man skillfully maneuvered the rocketship through cloud banks and mists in the mountain system to keep hidden from watching eyes on Mount Everest.

A burst of rocket power at level flight sent them gliding down into a snowfield just below the rim of Everest’s peak. They landed on the retractable skids that had been lowered, plowing up a spray of snow.

“Parkas, anyone?” asked Iron Man, pointing to the fur suits stashed in ceiling receptacles. “It’s cold outside, well below zero.”

“I expect enough action,” said Cap grimly, “to be plenty warm.” The others nodded.

“Hawkeye and Iron Man will stay here as planned,” said Cap after they stepped out. “The other three of us will approach from three directions. Goliath and Wasp will assume their fighting forms at their own discretion. Okay, this is it….”

With an unvoiced exchange of glances that said “Good luck,” Goliath, Captain America, and the Wasp spread out a hundred yards apart and slowly advanced up toward the ramparts of the peak. They all shivered in the icy winds, but as Avengers they were inured to hardships and discomforts that would incapacitate other people.

Cautiously, they looked over the final ridge. The mighty magnet machine came into sight first, towering high and surrounded by its eerie nuclear glow. Then, as their sight came to eye level, they saw Karzz…facing them with a mocking smile as he swung his gaze to each of them.

“Dumbkopfs,”
he greeted them sneeringly. “Did you think to sneak up on me unawares? My ultramonitor saw your craft approach and land. I presume you have come to play the same game Iron Man did. The game of Save the Earth, which you will lose.”

He waved at his monstrous machine.

“You won’t wreck my ultramagnet, which is pulling the giant comet into its proper collision course with earth.”

Even from yards away, they could see his frosty eyes flash defiantly.

“Five against one, but I can easily hold you off. Earth science pitted against mine is like an atom pitted against a star.”

“We’ll see about that,” said Captain America gratingly, and then he raised his voice to shout, “Charge!”

Goliath had already assumed his giant ten-foot size, and he ran forward to pick up a huge boulder weighing at least a ton. Mighty muscles propelled it straight at Karzz, who turned to face the oncoming juggernaut without flinching.

Incredibly, striking the force-field aura in front of him, the hard stone shattered into countless pieces.

“Yes, we know you’re shielded from the
front,”
came Captain America’s voice behind him. “But Goliath’s move was only to make you face that way, while I—”

Having raced across the wind-swept rock at his superOlympic pace, Cap was already within reach. In one headlong plunge, he hurled his body straight at Karzz’s back, ready to send him off his feet with a knockout blow.

Klang!

Though Karzz had not turned, Cap’s shield met another kind of invisible shield and bounced back, nearly knocking out Cap himself.

Slowly turning, Karzz said softly, “After Iron Man taught me that I was vulnerable from the rear, naturally I fixed up my force-field shield to curve all
around
me. I am now invulnerable from all sides…
voila!”

His hand went to his belt. “Now, spangled Avenger, let us see if
your
shield can save you from my repertory of weapon rays.”

Lurid beams sprang forth—purple, red, green, blue—each carrying a different form of destruction. But Cap’s shield, coated by Anthony Stark’s inventive genius with a superalloy impervious to known forces, deflected them all. Cap drove forward again and slammed into Karzz’s force-field aura with such muscle-driven power that Karzz—force-field and all—was shoved back several yards.

“Ach du lieber,
what manner of man is that?” said Karzz, startled.

Cap was not just making a grandstand play. Out of the comer of his eye he had seen Goliath lumbering toward the giant magnet. He had distracted Karzz from turning and noticing.

Reaching the machine, Goliath put his great arms around one of the steel-truss support legs and heaved mightily. Could he topple the gigantic contraption? Metal groaned as Goliath grunted, straining every massive muscle.

Karzz heard, and whirled as Captain America bounced back again from his force-shield. “Colossal fool!” shouted Karzz. “My dis-beam will turn you into a puff of nothingness.”

He touched a stud on his belt and the ray sprang forth, disintegrating rock close to Goliath.

“My next shot,” Karzz warned, “will get you…
Yeow!”

The last was a pained yell as something sharp jabbed into his hand before it pressed the dis-beam button. Something tiny flew before his face, buzzing angrily.

“Some earthly stinging insect,” he muttered. Then his eyes opened wide. “But it seems to have human form!” he gasped.

“Meet the Wasp,” shrilled a thin voice. “A member of the Avengers. I have the ability, as you can see, of shrinking to insect size.”

“But my force-shield,” said Karzz in a puzzled tone. “How did you get past it?”

“Simple,” buzzed the tiny girl. “I suspected that it’s only a half-shell, stretching down to the ground. But where the ground is uneven, there are small crevices under the edge of the shield. I slipped through one.”

She had been hovering before his face, vibrating her gauzy wings. Now she swooped down, calling back, “I stopped you from shooting your dis-beam at my man. And now, to keep you too busy to oppose the other Avengers….”

A series of howls came from the alien, and he began doing a wild dance as the Wasp’s sting-ray from her wrist device stabbed him again and again, all over his body.

Seeing this, Captain America jumped up and yelled: “Hawkeye! Iron Man! The Wasp is entertaining Karzz. This is our chance to wreck his ultramagnet. Come on.”

Hawkeye and Iron Man came charging, grinning at the cavorting figure of Karzz, trapped with the tiny stinging girl inside his own protective energy shell. Cap joined them, and they raced up to where Goliath was still heaving away but unable to overturn the huge machine.

“Karzz has only a flat shield above it,” said Iron Man, pointing to where another meteor, drawn down by magnetism, spanged off the force-field there. “He has no complete shell around it, as with himself. That means we can wreck the unshielded machine from down here.”

With that, Iron Man rheostated up his transistorized power and shot a thin laser-beam from a finger of his right-hand gauntlet. The beam began slicing through steel struts as if through butter.

Hawkeye was already joyfully pulling an arrow from his quiver. “Watch the blast arrow do its stuff,” he sang, letting fly. Whizzing between struts into the heart of the machine, the bulbous tip of the arrow exploded violently, shattering wires and causing short-circuit sparks.

Unable to help directly in the destruction, Captain America pointed out key sections of the machine for Iron Man and Hawkeye to aim for. “And keep heaving, Goliath,” he called out. “The whole structure is weakening fast.”

With one last Herculean effort, the man-mountain lifted one support leg clear of the ground. Then, as Iron Man burned through a connecting cable, Goliath yanked the entire leg away.

BOOK: The Avengers Battle the Earth-Wrecker
7.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Keepsake Crimes by Childs, Laura
Terra Incognita by Sara Wheeler
The King's Marauder by Dewey Lambdin
The Hero's Lot by Patrick W. Carr
Suzanne Robinson by The Rescue
Chris Collett - [Tom Mariner 01] by The Worm in The Bud (txt)
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt