Tales of the Timeless #5
Written by Warren "Azmodi"
Entros, Edited by E.A. Morrissey
Tales of the Timeless
Part Three: "Reaching for Tomorrow - Zarrko's Gambit"
Note: Please read Issue #4 of Tales of the Timeless if you haven't already.
"Master," Servitor announced as he gazed intently at the suddenly illuminated monitor, "the tracking device affixed to Justice Peace has re-activated."
"Oh?" Zarrko responded, surprise evident in his voice. The Tomorrow Man turned and strode away from his vigil of watching the time-stream race by, quickly sidling up beside his servant, "It seems Von Doom has infused it with a new source of energy."
"Most likely they are tracing the signal and will use it to try and retrieve their comrade." Servitor said.
Zarrko turned away, stalking up to watch the limp form of Century still float helplessly in the cylindrical chamber, "Let them come, then; they will be the first bodies my 'Empire of Tomorrow' shall be built upon."
The hulking robot felt compelled to speak now, for his creator's safety, "Lord Zarrko, we have yet to test Century's battle responsiveness; there is no way of knowing if the mental conditioning has had any effect. And if he proves incapable of serving you, I do not believe the two of us will be capable of defeating such a combination of intelligence and skill alone."
Zarrko scoffed, "My technology will prove more than a match for them, faithful Servitor."
Against his better judgement, the machine pressed onward, truly wishing no harm to befall his maker, "Master, even Kang feared the mind of Victor Von Doom, and at his side he now has another of the greatest intellects ever born of Earth: Nathaniel Richards. I do not think it is prudent to let this confrontation occur, my lord. All that we have built could be so easily lost."
The Tomorrow Man's bald pate lowered and for a few moments he seemed infinitely smaller, not the powerful conqueror but rather someone who long ago had been conquered. He turned on Servitor then, and his gaze burning into his servant's expressionless eyes, Zarrko said in hoarse voice, "I'm tired of running, my friend. Over my life I've done nothing save run - run from my previous existence on Earth, run from heroes, run from Kang. No more, my friend, no more."
Servitor considered his master's emotion-tinged words for a few moments, and though he could not truly sympathize, he did his best. He would serve Zarrko as best he could, even if he did not agree with the decisions being made.
The silence growing nearly unbearable after several minutes, the Tomorrow Man finally ended, his voice again possessing the quality of command it often did, "How much longer until we reach Kang's outpost?"
"Approximately eighteen more minutes, my lord."
"And until these 'heroes' reach us?"
"At current speeds, twenty - three minutes, Master."
Zarrko nodded, still gazing at Century and the promise he represented, "Good . . . " And then with more certainty, "Good."
The brush of twilight fell upon the sky above Castle Doom, painting in dreamy watercolors of red, orange, and purple. Lights flickered on in the ancient castle, a scant sign of the great wonders housed within. It was one of those same wonders that a singular intruder intended to take for his own purposes, and use as he pleased.
His lithe form clothed in an ebony metallic mesh which discouraged all sensing devices, the thief slipped slowly through the old halls, having already stowed away in a wagon of grain to gain entrance. His own arrogance was greater, but the interloper knew well that never would he have been capable of besting Doom's security devices had he himself not built a portion of them.
Racing through the halls, avoiding the various servants tottering about, the thief felt the rush of air on his face as if he wore no hideous mask. Like unto a second skin it was, grafted to his very countenance by Doctor Doom's own dark science and immense ego.
For what seemed to him the billionth time in his rather short lifespan, he reached up and touched the cold metal, felt the inhuman curves of what was now his face. Sneaking through the halls, the memories of that fateful day years before charged back into the corridors of his mind, even as he charged through the labyrinth that was Castle Von Doom, slowly plumbing downward into the basement levels of the ancient structure.
He had been young when Victor Von Doom, young and arrogant seared what he now realized was his true face onto his flesh. For years he had worked for the benefit of Latveria and its strict but fair ruler. His inventions had been wondrous, revolutionary, and infinitely useful, but no praise had ever fallen upon his ears. Toiling for Doctor Doom was a thankless task.
His patience at last exhausted, the brilliant scientist and engineer had dared speak out against his sovereign, calling him what he truly was a grotesque monster, a mockery of man. Yet great as the infamous Doctor's deformity supposedly was, greater still was the kinship he held with his beloved country; nothing occurred there that he was no aware of.
Immediately he was called before his dictator, quaking with fear. As Von Doom showed the terrified creature his own face, the mystery behind the mask, so too was the youth's own countenance forever sealed behind another grotesque facade. Bonded to his flesh with a bio-enhancer, never would that hated mask be removed?
Cast into a Latverian river he eventually drifted into the confines of Castle Frankenstein, and quickly sought to enslave its inhabitants with his own technological wizardry. But the unwilling mirror of Doom proved far less successful than the original, and was quickly subdued by Iron Man.
Stripped of all his mechanisms save his face, he was shackled and confined within the Vault for years. In those years his near-matchless intellect had already grown, and so too had his thirst for vengeance. To him there was nothing now save the rabid desire to utterly destroy Victor Von Doom, make him pay a thousand times over for his misdeed.
His plan for escape had gone perfectly, the Vault never living up to its renowned reputation, and soon he had found himself back in his homeland. Now he was in the castle of his hated former master, creeping towards the goal of so many fevered nights spent in his cramped cell.
The twisting corridors had long been left behind, floors above, and he strode upon ancient cobbles within the bowels of Castle Doom, nearing his target. Reaching the doorway he gave a quick glance inward, saw that no one was there, and made for the hulking suit of armor seated placidly in the center of the vaulted chamber.
Quietly he flicked open a panel on the mechanized suit's shoulder, and deftly tapped a sequence in via the numerous buttons. Instantly the machine hummed to life, running lights burning on along its arms and legs, and the machine's chest opening to accept an eager passenger.
Quickly the intruder eased himself into the padded interior, filled the machine's limb cavities with his own, and felt cold connectors slide forward and attach to his forehead and temples. Data flooded through his brain, so much so swiftly that his mind swam in sudden pain for moments before he adapted.
When he had mastered the rudimentary mechanics of the armored suit, the thief sent a mental command to the large device's core, and soon he was completely enclosed, eyes peering out through a multifaceted set of shaded visors.
A slight small worming its way onto his frozen features, the intruder sent a second command and instantly felt the confines of Castle Doom slip away, to be replaced by the roiling sea of time itself.
His smile widened, widened as far as it ever had in the years since gaining his new face as he looked out onto that surging gulf of endless possibility.
The fingers of time slowly parted, revealing the boredom of black ether - space. Through the translucent bubble the five time-tossed heroes slowly descended towards the barren and rocky planet known only as Morax.
Even from their slowly sinking orbit the handful of beings could see great plumes of acrid smoke rising high into the dusty orange sky, harbingers of carnage far below.
Doom paid little attention to the desolation even as they exited the clouds and could see the tall citadel of House Kang burning brightly with a hundred fires. The Latverian's concentration was set on searching the air with his eyes and armor, probing for the shape and signature of Zarrko's Time Cube.
The ground rising with every passing moment, Nathaniel saw dozens of mechanized infantry units skirmishing about the smoldering ruins of Kang's outpost, each side peppering the other with flashing bursts of plasma and laser.
"How did Zarrko come into possession of so many troops?" Ripjak questioned as he peered downward, watching two nearly equal sides of identical droids fire upon one another without pause, "I wasn't aware he had an army of his own . . . "
"He doesn't." Peace said bluntly, already pushing an energy cartridge into his multi-purpose weapon, "Chances are he managed to override some of Kang's droids' programming and is using them for his own purposes."
The mercenary turned to Richards, for the first time truly acknowledging him as his superior, "Which side do we take? Neither?"
"Our primary objective is to remove Century from Zarrko's hands." Nathaniel replied as he gently set the protective orb down on the scorched ground, bolts of sizzling force already impacting brilliantly on its outer shell, "Don't expend energy dealing with either his or Kang's troops unless they present an obstacle - or danger."
Death's Head, Ripjak, and Peace all nodded their approval, while Doom remained silent, still searching the sky for his query.
"I'm lowering the field now; everyone ready themselves." Richards announced, before giving the mental command to drop the protective sphere.
Energy crackled and suddenly the group was under attack from two sides, both small armies of droids wishing to end the lives of the intruders. The dried dirt exploded in towers of dust as shafts of power burned into the ground amongst the Timeless, seeking to end their lives quickly.
Ripjak launched himself outward with blinding speed, his kick cleanly cleaving the head off a skeletal droid. Sparks vomited from the decapitated machine's neck as the body went limp and sunk to the ground, even as the Martian warrior sought out new targets.
Doom immediately searched out an enemy under Zarrko's thrall and quickly dispatched him, jamming his armored fingers into the humanoid machine's central processing unit. Information flooded through the Latverian's systems, and swiftly he began sifting through it, searching for the Time Cube's location.
Death's Head and Peace formed a deadly duo, their skills honed by mercenary experience. Before the two bounty hunters fell droid after droid, burned to cinders by the cyborg's immense cannon, or cleanly shot through the chest by a TVA-issue energy pistol.
Nathaniel Richards did his best to avoid the fighting, weaving in and out of fire while he searched for Century. Occasionally a bolt would strike him, doing no damage to his advanced armor. Absently the scientist would swat down the offending droid with a spear of power from his armor, before moving quickly onward.
Soon he found himself within the shuddering shadow of the citadel, its once polished surface pocked with the impact of laser weaponry. Yet one impact crater seemed infinitely more serious, burned deep into the thick wall. Richards sidled up before it, and quickly scanned it with his wondrous devices.
As Nathan had suspected, the crater possessed an energy residue only left by the forces of Limbo. His scanners now carefully attuned, the scientist's pace quickened in the air as he rushed toward the newest discharges of energy of the same type, knowing his search would soon lead to his abducted comrade.
Rounding the cylindrical form of the tower, Richards at last caught sight of his objective. From his distant post the aged intellectual saw Century valiantly struggling against two armored droids. These were far more deadly than those scurrying about below, possessing thickly reinforced chassises and heavy arms outfitted with both deadly cannons and slicing claws.
Immortus' creation did his best to avoid the attacks of the two droids, dodging and deflecting as he could, but clearly too inexperienced to outmatch them both. His movements were swift but unsure, unpracticed. He hesitated where he should not have as he whirled about in the choking air, and caught a beam of energy in the side because of his lapse.
With anger born of pain Century lashed out with Parallax, the wickedly curving ax blade cleanly removing the nearest droid's right arm. Yet the other moved in swiftly, and razor-claws whipped across Century's backside, leaving jagged trails of albino flesh dripping with otherworldly ichor.
Nathaniel watched with curiosity and concern for moments, before finally seeing that though Century's endurance was great, he would not last much longer in such a one-sided conflict. Swiftly the scientist moved in, twin pulses of ionic energy building in his armored fists.
His fingers spread wide, Richards released the potency, striking both droids with burning shafts of energy. Inside their thick shells the hulking machines' circuitry burned to cinder, and within moments they were hurtling out of the sky, nothing more than scrap.
"Century!" Nathaniel called out, drawing closer to the beleaguered being. Tentatively he reached out a hand for his shoulder, hoping to get his comrade to face him.
Richards saw Parallax spin in its owner's hand, but his own reflexes were far too slow to block the blow. The silver staff whipped around and with a crack flew into Nathaniel's jaw, knocking the elder scientist senseless.
His mind gone numb, his sensations gone, Nathaniel plummeted to the hard ground below and was still.
Continued in CPU #6
Now check out issue #6 of The Tales of The Timeless in Cosmic Powers Unlimited. Also visit the Cosmic Unionverse 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! Now be sure to leave us some comments and suggestions!
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