Protectors of the Universe: Defenders #2
Written by WarlorTVor, Edited &
Co-plotted by Morfex
Protectors of the Universe: Defenders
"Future Crimes: Part Two - Desperate Times"
This story takes place after POTU: Defenders #1
Note: The Defenders is an alternate future to the current POTU titles
Rick Jones made his way through the streets of New York City at a frantic pace. He continued to look over his shoulder, as if to check for the hundredth time that no one was following him toward his destination. His destination was a small laboratory located under the city, one of the few areas of New York that the Defenders of this reality knew nothing of. Jones' late friend, Doctor Bruce Banner, who had been killed at the hands of the Norse god of thunder, Thor, had once used it. The lab was used in the futile hope that Banner could reverse, if not destroy, his Hulk persona entirely, during his earlier years shortly after he was caught in the clutches of the gamma bomb of his own design. Now it was being used for a much different purpose now he used the lab to keep his beloved wife from passing on.
And Rick could not help but feel that this hope was just as futile as Banner's had been all those years ago.
"Damn it, Rick!" he cursed under his breath, his fist slamming into one of the brick walls that made up the alleyway that he had just crossed into. He hit the wall with such force that he could feel all the knuckles in his hand crack. He knew he was lucky that he had not shattered all the bones in his one good hand, but he did not feel lucky. Tears of agony streamed from his eyes, his legs gave way under him and he crumbled numbly on the alley's wet ground. The stench of death and decay filled his nostrils. You can't think that way, damn it, he scolded himself, biting down on his lower lip. He could feel the metallic taste of blood in his mouth, his teeth clamping down upon his lower lips as he tried to combat more tears. You won't think that way! He looked from side to side, hopelessly, his back arched forward and his shoulders were slumped greatly, and he rested his right elbow upon his knee, and covered his face with his only remaining hand. His hair, which was coarse and wildly grown, fell upon his eyes. He pushed it back, but the strains of rouge hair merely cascaded once more upon his face.
"Why?" he asked silently, more tears streaming from his eyes, his body trembling with rage and hatred. Soon he pulled himself into a semi-standing posture, his knees were bent forward, his back arched greatly, as if he were caring the weight of the entire world upon them. His head was tilted skyward and he watched the dark clouds gathering overhead, and could hear the rumbling of thunder coming. A storm was brewing. But his gaze continued to strain heavenward, as he slowly, collectively pulled himself into a more dignified posture. His right arm lanced forward, and he pointed toward the heavens. His words were full of hatred and scorn as he cursed whatever gods remained out there to hear his words. "Why her? Why not me? I deserved it, and she didn't! I don't deserve to live! Not without her!" Thunder was the only answer. The sounds of the approach storm grew to an explosive pitch, almost deafening to hear. But this did not deter the young man, whose life had been plagued with troubles and hardships. No; his voice grew louder, and more desperate. "Why?!" He continued his ramblings, his body was now trembling violently, his face turned a dark shade of red. "She doesn't deserve it! She doesn't deserve to die! And I won't let her die! No matter what it takes!"
Rain started to descend upon his visage slowly, then came down upon him and the rest of New York City in sheets. The smell of death merely intensified in the small alleyway. He turned to the end of the alleyway and headed toward the brick wall that lead to nowhere or so it appeared. Under his breath and between clenched teeth he repeated the last five words that he had said. "No matter what it takes." The young man soon arrived at a wall, where he crouched down and moved some trash and debris from one of the corners that connected the wall to a nearby building that swayed back and forth in the storm, threatening to collapse on its own weight at any time. Once he had cleared all the debris away, a small control panel glimmered and gave off a sickening green hue under the harsh light of the pale moon that made itself known between the storm clouds. Ahead, a thick layer of dust blanketed the command consul, dust that had manifested with years of neglect. After clearing away the dirt and dust with his sleeve so that he could read the instrument panel, Jones entered the command code from memory. The code was "Betty" the name of the woman whom Bruce Banner had loved with all his heart and soul and who had died, due to extensive gamma radiation poisoning she received with her constant exposure with Bruce's gamma radiated body.
But that was years ago and all his tears for Betty were shed long before. Now his only concern was for his love!
The miniature computer built into the terminal hummed and gave off a brief ringing noise, while it verified the access codes. As it did, the ringing stopped and he could hear a quick hiss of air escape from its confinement behind him. Rick Jones covered the area once again with the rubble and trash that had piled up over the years. He swirled around, still in his kneeling posture, to see the happenings that were now taking place behind him, where particles of golden light shimmered into existence, where the last two panels of cement rock leading toward the wall had once been. Soon the fašade of the sidewalk vanished into nothingness, leaving only two massive jagged adamantium doors. In between the panel doors was an area for Rick to place his hand upon, which he did without protest. A chime went off and an intense red light appeared on the glass panel his hand now covered. The device was in the process of scanning the DNA in his palm, confirming his identity. Soon the light coming from the palm print died out and the doors shifted apart, with the sound of air rushing outward. Inside, the passageway was pitch dark, and it was impossible for Jones to see more than a few feet ahead of him.
He rose to his full height. Slowly, with unsure feet, Rick Jones stepped inside, and the door closed behind him.
He stopped and waited for a moment, the telltale sound of the doors sealing behind him rang out, shortly followed by the sound of a faint and distant hum. Rick knew that that was merely the holographic device that ensured the lab from being noticed activating once again. Soon the harsh red lights activated in the passageway, lighting the way. He entered, placidly.
Soon he entered the main chamber. Several of the computer stations that lined the back wall upon his approach activated. But he paid no attention to them, he merely continued to enter deeper into the lab. Soon he reached the back wall, where he knew he would find his wife, Marlo. He entered a series of command codes, and soon the door panel shifted open. Without a moment's hesitation, he entered the dark room.
The room was pitch black, and the air was stale. The smell of death, he thought grimly shaking his head from side to side slowly. There was only one light source in the entire room, and that was coming from a small cylinder shaped containment unit stationed dead center in the room. The containment unit gave off a crimson light. Rick approached the unit, and stopped before it, he rested his hand upon the sleek glass that separated him from his wife. Granted the two had separated shortly after the death of Betty, at Area 102, all those years ago, and they never came back together, not until that last day, in Central Park, weeks ago. It was the day that the Earth lost hope. The day that Marvels died, and in their violent death throws left this hell on Earth. But just because they had been separated did not mean that, for a moment, he had ever given up on the idea that she was still his wife. And Jones knew deep in his heart that Marlo felt the same way toward him.
He stared down upon her limp body, which was completely nude. He stared upon her now closed emerald green eyes. With her eyes closed and her hands laid out crossing over her chest it gave off the appearance that she was dead, but he knew that that fate was merely around the corner for her. The instrumentation that was attached to the outside of the containment unit merely kept her alive. It could not heal her, only delay the onset of death that was eminent. The instrument that monitored Marlo's heart and vital signs gave off a chime at ten-second intervals; her heart rate was shallow, as was her breathing.
Rick Jones turned away abruptly, his long hair cascading over his eyes, eyes that at that moment were stern and fixated and burned with an inborn passion. "No matter what it takes, Marlo. I swear it!" With that he stormed out of the room where his wife, his life, laid near death.
He made his approach toward the main computer console, which he activated. His hands frantically raced across the computer's controls. He entered commands at lightening speed. And in moments, the world's fastest computers carried out his bidding, on the main viewscreen appeared the image of this timeline's Genis-Vell, better known as Captain Marvel.
Genis was bare chest and his entire upper torso along with his face and white hair was drenched in perspiration. He was laying down upon a throne of luxuriant bed coverings. Steam slowly danced across the screen in slow moving clouds. He was no doubt in the throws of the female exploits that seemed to have made him famous over the last few weeks. The female laughter in the background was more than enough evidence to corroborate Rick's theory. After saying a few brief words to someone who was not in the viewing range of the screen, and propelling himself up onto his elbows, Genis-Vell finally addressed the screen.
"Rick!" he exclaimed. He was out of breath, in much the same way one would be if one had just finished the Tour de France. Then his eyes widened as he saw the condition that his old friend was in. He took noticed of the grime and dirt that covered Rick's face and the long unkempt hair that hung on his wry shoulders. His simplistic street clothes were soaked, drenched from the rains that continued to pound outside. "What the hell happened to you, Rick?" he asked slightly taken aback when he noticed that Rick Jones' left arm was no longer there.
"Life, Genis. Life happened." Rick's tone became more formal and commanding when he said, in no uncertain terms, "Meet me at the remains of Avenger's Mansion, Genis, in let's say an hour."
"And why should I?"
"You owe me that much, friend."
"True," Genis' tone was nonchalant and he shrugged his shoulders in an uncaring manner. "That I do. May I ask the reason?"
"You may ask," Rick said. His gaze fell upon the reflective surface of a nearby piece of metal. He stared at his own image. Then his reflection faded and the dark image of his nude wife, lying in the containment unit near death took hold. His last words to her echoed in his mind, No matter what it takes, Marlo. I swear it! His eyes glazed over, a watery sheen covering them for a moment or two, as he considered his options and the consequences of his actions that he was currently embarking upon. And the same answer came to mind every time he went over the situation at hand, What options do I have? His gaze snapped back into reality, the watery sheen diminishing greatly. He cleared his throat and his words were harsh and carried an edge of doom to it. "It concerns the current whereabouts of the Defenders ... from the past "
To Be Continued
Now, go read Defenders #3. And be sure to leave us comments below or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure to check out the POTU Archive Pages for more information on this continuity and more stories contained in it.