Tales of the Timeless #9
Written by Warren "Azmodi"
Entros, Edited by E.A. Morrissey
Tales of the Timeless
Part Three of: "The Cold Dominion of the Masked Specter"
Please read Issue #8 of Tales of the Timeless if you haven't already.
Go to the POTU Archive Page for more past issues of Tales of the Timeless.
The waning night sky was lit by artificial fire as the parapets of what would one day be Castle Doom were assaulted from above. Machines, born many centuries in the future, looked up with unblinking eyes at their attackers and were promptly decimated. Dozens of their ilk rushed to take their places, and keep the crumbling palace from falling entirely.
On the opposite of the once majestic castle, there lurked a trio of figures, two armored with technology, the other dressed in simple protective raiments. The river gurgled like an awakening child, moved rapidly through a gate, which led into the bowels of the olden palace.
Doom approached the rusted gate, wrapped metal fingers round a bar. With nearly no effort he tore away not only that single rotted pillar but the entire gate. Without regard for stealth the Latverian hurled the dismembered gate to the opposite bank and proceeded into the castle that was rightfully his. The waters cold had no effect on him, chest-deep as it was; the black aegis he proudly wore protected him from far more than the cold.
Nathaniel looked and Century, nodded. The white-haired being nodded back and without hesitation followed the monarchs water-logged footsteps. Richards took the rear, always looking about, fearing the gates clatter had brought unnecessary attention. But the sounds of combat still rang clearly through the air, and it seemed that the other half of the Timeless was doing its job well.
The darkness of the compacted aqueduct fell easily before night-vision sensors and Centurys own natural sight. For what seemed hours to the duo of men they waded through the water, while to Limbos child it seemed to be exactly five minutes, seven seconds, and eighteen nanoseconds. And then nineteen nanoseconds, and then twenty...
Slowly the waterway diverged, a sloping embankment rising from the murk on the right, leading to a rotted wooden. It seemed that trio of time-travelers had not been the only warriors to use that source of water as an avenue of attack - Tepes himself had designed it as a method to enter the castle if it had ever been captured during his reign.
But these thoughts did not flash through the minds of any of the Timeless, not even Dooms. Instead their eyes were focused on the multitude of shapes blocking the doorway. Torchlight played on metallic bodies, illuminating their inhuman countenances. But there was one, the one who held the torch, whose face was without humanity, yet he was still human.
"Vesling!" Doom spat, his fists automatically charging with power, "It was you pilfered my time-machine, not Zorba!"
The masked creatures voice dripped with contempt, and scarcely contained hatred, "To think that anyone else could so easily steal from you, Doom. Vesling died the very moment you grafted this accursed mask to my face!"
"Such is the fate of any who dare mock me, Dreadknight." The Latverian rose up from the water, fingers crackling with energy. He seemed a shining metal wraith, poised to take revenge on any who had wronged him.
The cold steel of Dreadknights living mask curled up into a metal sneer, even as he casually flicked his wrist at the rising Doctor, "Not today, Victor. With a simple gesture I can cease your armors functionings. Such is the power of the technology at my disposal."
"Your boast is hollow." replied Doom as he raised his crackling fist, preparing to cut down his enemy, "You cannot -"
The morachs voice suddenly ceased, even as he crashed forward onto the stone landing, falling like a frozen statue. Doom shouted inside his dead helmet, but his voice was little more than an unintelligible murmur.
Vesling gave a harsh bark of a life, "Look, look at the great king now!"
He moved forward, torch held aloft, and harshly gave Dooms fallen body a kick to the ribs, "Had I the ability I would spit upon you, Doom."
Nathaniel Richards voice cut through the grim atmosphere, drawing even the indulgent Dreadknights attention, "Your treatment of my comrade is unacceptable, and will cease immediately. You will find your futuristic technology will prove futile against myself, for it was I who designed it."
Vesling nodded mockingly, even as the dozen humanoid machines began to rapidly advance on Century. The time-spanning beings eyes glowed fiercely, and he felt that terrifying anger beginning to rise once again in his chest.
Dreadknights red-lensed eyes flashed dangerously, and his deadly gaze focused solely on Richards, "Let us see which of us is the better, old man. I have already best Doom - now I shall defeat the father of his greatest foe."
The protective shield slid up over Nathaniels face, even as he brought his war-staff to bear. Fire cascaded over his vision suddenly, as Vesling lashed out with his torch. With almost maniacal glee the Latverian hurled the burning weapon at his enemy and leapt wildly upon him, even as the mechanical host descended upon Century.
The towers floor was littered with shattered and sparking robotic corpses. The ancient stonework was laden with ash and blackened by burnmarks. The sun rose slowly and tentatively over the scene, illuminating the swiftly weaving forms of two proficient warriors.
"You sure you dont want help?" questioned Deaths Head, leaning casually against the edge of the towers wall, "Looks like you need it, yes?"
"No." whispered Ripjak, even as a jarring blow fell against his temple. The Martians vision reeled, and he saw double of his enemy, the man Peace had called simply Black Axe, the very same mercenary who had snatched Zarrko from them. The former TVA lay propped against another of the towers guard-walls, blood dripping from several wounds.
Ripjak stumbled, and he feared he would soon join his fallen comrade in sweet unconsciousness. That slim, deadly ax whipped about, almost too quick to see. Ripjaks arms went up instinctively, even as he regained his footing. Three times he felt the heavy impacts of that weapon on his forearms.
The Martians foot came about suddenly, a deadly kick aimed to decapitate the ebon mercenary. Easily Black Axe dodged, blade spinning round his head in a silver arc. Blindingly swiftly the bounty hunter darted in, the axs butt jabbing firmly at Ripjaks throat.
Black specks sprang up and engulfed the Martian warriors vision instantly, and he crashed to the ground with a loud metallic clangor. The dark mercenary smiled slightly, spinning back into a ready stance. His cold eyes focused on the hulking form of Deaths Head, beckoning the cyborg to try his own luck.
Deaths Heads shining arm flowed like a river of blue metal, forming itself into a massive cannon, a trio of blades affixed to the barrels outer shell. He charged, energy blasting out from the cannon, aimed to destroy Black Axe with a single blistering assault.
Stone and mortar exploded, spraying up into the air, alongside Black Axes somersaulting body. Easily and nimbly he landed behind the hulking behemoth, his weapon alight with building energy. The power blasted outward, striking Deaths Head squarely between the shoulderblades, and carrying him over the edge of the tower.
The cyborg plummeted downward, and landed hard. It would take but seconds, his body able to withstand far more than such a paltry impact. Unfortunately, Black Axe did not require seconds to complete his task. The ebony mercenary leapt from the towers height and landed heavily on the mechanoids chest, driving him firmly back into the ground.
"It seems you are not well-acquainted with this body, Deaths Head." said Black Axe, raising his ax above his head threateningly. A slim blade jutted from the end of the staff, crackling ominously with emerald energy, "I doubt this would have been so easy had you been in possession of your original body."
"A neural disrupter?" questioned Deaths Head, even as the smile knife swept down and jammed firmly in his eyesocket. Within a moment he joined his comrades in sweet oblivion.
Had it been possible, sweat would have poured down Dreadknights harried, dead features. His skills, honed by years in seclusion, years of hatred, were finally being tested. He found them lacking before the face of such power - and before an assault stemming from two sources.
Richards war staff heavily fell into his midsection, even as Vesling managed to avoid a punishing blow by the albino creature. Dreadknights armored hand flared with power and fired instantly, driving Nathaniel back. He turned round, only to be instantly felled by a jarring launch of Centurys fist.
Stars flashed bright on the palette of his vision and he was hurled backward into the wall. The cranial interfaces running from Veslings brain to his armor surged with shock, and he felt the unmistakable sensation of electricity rocketing through his nerves.
Century moved with super-human speed, his reflexes fueled by the adrenaline and anger of combat, and curled his fingers tightly round Dreadknights throat. Easily he lifted the fallen conqueror into the air, and held him high aloft. His digits tightened on the Latverians soft neck, threatening to crush bone like paper.
"Do not, Century." said Richards, pulling himself up from the ground, "You are far too young to take the life of another."
Century nodded docilely at his master, "Yes, Nathaniel." He slowly lowered Dreadknight to his feet, but keeping his grip tight.
"You fool." sneered the Latverian with blatant contempt, as he reached for the time-travelers lined face. His fingers dug into the tough flesh, and seared it with an outpouring of hateful energy.
Stunned more than injured, Century stumbled backwards, steam curling out from his singed features. Richards swung his war staff, only to have its arc halted by a slim ax. Nathaniels gaze turned to his attacker, and aged reflexes failed before those of the youthful mercenary. Richards weapon was easily turned aside, knocked from his grasp. Black Axes staff whirled and his neural prong sprang out, and again claimed a victim, smashing through Nathaniels protective face-shield to pierce soft flesh beneath. Richards toppled, insensate, even as cold fingers clamped down on Black Axes scalp, drawing blood with the sheer force of their grip. The mercenary felt the pain, yet smiled in spite of it. He flicked a switch on his weapon and then easily twisted out of Centurys grip, landing and turning to face his foe in midair.
The albino being felt something rise within him, awaken and stir from its cage. It was as if though a great hand had reached into his brain and flicked some heretofore unknown switch. He was invigorated, live, and most of all - powerful. His skin tingled with the promise of new abilities, and his fingertips arched with the anticipation of using these new skills.
Black Axe surged forward, blade spinning about. Centurys eyes saw his foe move towards him, and saw the streams of layers of time running around him, running through him. He reached out a mental hand, and pulled tight those cords, and the chronal energy inherent within Black Axe slowed to a crawl. The bounty hunter barely moved at all now, and he appeared a humorous caricature of his normal self. Century smiled, and looked down at his hands with silent awe. He was invincible, unbeatable now that he had control of his abilities. His mind focused on the future, focused on the infinite possibilities that lay ahead of him.
Centurys mind ceased to focus on controlling the flow of chronal particles throughout Black Axes physical body.
The mercenary was moving again, moving with the same deadly speed he normally possessed. The glowing jade blade whipped about brightly, creating a halo of emerald oblivion. Century realized his mistake, looked up with astonishment, but by then it was far too late.
He collapsed to the ground, a telltale stream of energy still arcing from his forehead. From behind, Dreadknight clapped aloud, striding over to inspect the fallen bodies. He finally came upon Doom once again, Doom who had lain insensate for the entire period of combat. Vesling looked down at him, at the man who had destroyed his face, and bent down so he the monarch could hear him.
"I will kill you, Doom. I will torture you, maim you, butcher you - and then I will end your life. And afterwards I will spread your ashes over your beloved Latveria, even as I burn it to the ground."
Victory Timely across the large chamber, and then strode back. He paced. It was a habit he had developed recently. He did not like it.
In each corner of the large room there sat a massive, towering cylinder, which reached all the way to the chambers ceiling. Each cylinder crackled with power, blue bolts of energy warping across the massive combines. At the bottom of each device worked a single droid, interfacing and controlling the cylinders. Though they had been active for not long at all, already one could perceive a slight warping of space within the chamber - straight lines began to bend, and the seconds never seemed so long.
His patience nearly exhausted, Timely stalked over to examine the readings on one of the combines, and then barked at the android, "These calibrations are off by one trillionth of a nanosecond! You could scatter the entire planet across the timestream!"
The droid made no reply, and only continued its work. Instantly the error was corrected. Timely nodded curtly, and then moved on. He visited each droid and their unmoving charges, and assured himself that things were progressing as had been planned.
Indeed, things progressed even better than he had hoped. The mechanisms had been assembled and activated before he had anticipated. Before the end of the day Earth and its burgeoning heroic population would be in the hands of Kang the Conqueror.
Timely smiled wearily, and thought of the great rewards his master would bestow upon him. To think, a simple analog, elevated to godhood...
He turned away from the great sight, confident that there was no further use for his presence. He strode out of the room confidently... and was drawn back seconds later by the terrifyingly familiar sound of an explosion and shrieking metal.
Victor Timelys artificial eyes look on with horror at the shattered hulk of one of the cylinders, its carapace cracked, bleeding flames and smoke. He looked around the chamber, and finally glimpsed the culprit - the culprit and his army.
"Doctor Doom!" he shouted with surprise and questioning. He saw the identities of the small host arrayed behind the dictator, "And more Dooms?"
The masked countenance turned toward Timely, and the voice that escaped it was cold, "Doombots, Victor Timely. The Council of Doom has watched your masters actions, and they will not be tolerated. The past of Doom is not to be tampered with, and neither is his world!"
Timelys mouth was agape with surprise, and barely even felt the beam of energy slice through and out his chest. He fell, dying, the dreams of godhood rotting in his mechanical mind.
Doom motioned to his small host - no more than seven of his mirror-images, in fact - and then stalked towards the nearest functioning cylinder, "Destroy these combines, my pawns, and then we shall destroy the architects of this madness - Dreadknight and Kang the Conqueror!"
The pawns nodded and sprayed the cylinders with energy beams. The devices exploded before the assault, and so did their effects end. Space and time no longer warped, and the seconds were seconds once more.
The true Doctor wasted no time surveying the damage - he made for the door, his steps not slowed by the thick smoke, "Onward, pawns - to the throne of Latveria! So says your master - so says Doctor Doom!"
Continued in Tales of the Timeless #10, the final Timeless issue by creator Azmodi! Also, check out the Cosmic Unionverse Page and POTU Archive Page for details about the Cosmic Union continuity and the other stories taking place in it, as it begins to shape into a whole new cosmic universe of Marvel characters! And be sure to check out Azmodi's current fan fiction saga, Foundations Forged Before Nightfall, the first of many sequels to his Twilight War Saga! Now be sure to leave us some comments and suggestions!