Tales of the Timeless #6
Written by Warren "Azmodi"
Entros, Edited by E.A. Morrissey
Tales of the Timeless
Part Four: "Reaching for Tomorrow - Zarrko's Gambit" - Conclusion
Note: Please read Issue #5 of Tales of the Timeless if you haven't already.
The Tomorrow Man smiled broadly as he watched the hulking Death's Head near the stoic form of Century. Despite his wounds, the thick ichor gushing into his eyes and make his staff slippery to hold, still did Immortus' creation face his foe proudly.
"Impressive, isn't he?" Zarrko said rhetorically to his mechanical servant, who looked on with far less interest, for his eyes were fastened upon the swiftly approaching forms of Doom, Justice Peace, and Ripjak.
"Yes, Master." Servitor responded without enthusiasm, "But I do not believe he possesses sufficient strength or skill to best the cyborg in combat. Death's Head is an experienced warrior, while Century suffers from numerous injuries and only this battle's wisdom to call upon."
Zarrko's beaming expression darkened, "Are you suggesting that I order him to retreat?"
Servitor hesitated for a moment, but finally pressed on despite his doubts, "If he begins to fare badly in combat . . . Yes, lord Zarrko."
The would-be conqueror stroked his hairless chin for a few moments, considering his creation's words duly. Even as he thought, he could not help but feel a rush of joy as he watched his pilfered battle droids tirelessly assault Kang's own troops and outpost. This first blow would start a chain reaction, which would lead to the collapse of the House of Kang.
Again Servitor noticed a disturbing reading, and again was compelled to report it to his master, "I am picking up the slight power surge again, Master. It has localized only two sections away from the bridge."
Zarrko did not seem to hear him, instead closely eyeing Century as he struck a glancing blow on Death's Head's skull with his staff. The towering cyborg seemed to feel no pain, and brutally backhanded his enemy away, an arc of blood suddenly filling the air.
Century tottered backward, obviously shocked, his senses no longer functioning properly. He did not see the bounty hunter's arm of molybdenum flow into the massive shape of a deadly cannon, nor see it discharge a searing bolt of energy.
The Tomorrow Man's teeth gritted together as he watched his thrall topple to the ground, obviously not dead but clearly unconscious.
The bridge of the Time Cube shook, suddenly.
"Doom has penetrated our cloaking screen." Came Servitor's voice, now touched with concern, "He, Justice Peace, and Ripjak have come aboard. They are quickly approaching the bridge, Master. Estimate no more than five minutes until they reach our current position."
Zarrko's head sank and he shook it slowly, "Right, as you so often are my friend. Century was no match for Death's Head's experience, at least not in his current condition." The Tomorrow Man touched a cobalt button on his control panel, "I'm tele-porting him back; there is much work to be done before he is all I require him to be."
On the screen the Tomorrow Man watched as Death's Head recoiled in surprise as Century's formerly inert form suddenly glowed bright and then was gone with a flash, leaving no trace that he had ever been there. The senseless form of Nathaniel Richards still sat propped against the nearby wall, a rivulet of flood flowing down from his forehead. He was inconsequential, not worth the energy it would take to transport him to the Cube.
The distant sound of an explosion was evident as Century's body materialized within the central cylinder. So close he looked not the proud warrior, but the beaten man-infant. His simple uniform was tattered in dozens of places, the ripped curls of fabric and armor crusted with his own dried blood. Long gashes and burns abounded his face and arms, the result of Kang's deadly war droids. From what Zarrko saw now, he was surprised his minion hadn't collapsed on the battlefield long before.
"Master," Servitor, said with greater urgency, "Doom is nearing the bridge. Your orders?"
The Tomorrow Man's eyes narrowed, "We'll ambush him when he arrives. I made you strong, my friend, more than capable of dealing with that troublesome trio."
Reluctantly Servitor nodded, though as he now reviewed his weapons complement, he knew his end time was quickly nearing.
Doom strode through the corridors of the Time Cube with purpose, but with no sign of due haste. Had he been stalking through the halls of a consulate in place of Zarrko's floating stronghold, there surely would have been no change in the Latverian's bearing.
Behind trod the equally stoic form of Peace, TVA issue blaster waving about like an extension of his arm. Whenever an automated defense sprung up to challenge their path, it was always he who reduced to slag first, for he was easily the most vigilant of the trio.
Finally Ripjak crawled along in Constant crouch, body tensed to deal the deathblow to any enemy which came into his sights. But never once was he forced into combat, for so accurate was Peace's aim that any foe was instantly struck down the moment it appeared.
The cramped halls grew tedious to stride through, their uniformity beginning to prove maddening. In time the group nearly wished for defensive droids or automated defense cannons to make themselves known, if only to break up the terrible monotony of journeying through the surprisingly large time-craft.
An unmistakable voice crackled across the communications channel connecting the Timeless, "This is Death's Head, I've retrieved Richards. Century beat him pretty badly, yes? Possible skull fracture."
"Treat his wounds but remain on the surface." Doom replied, having little patience for the condition of his greatest enemy's father, "We will rejoin you after Zarrko has been apprehended."
"Agreed." Came the cyborg's retort.
More minutes of unremarkable walking followed, until, at last, Doom came to a halt before two plain doors of thickest steel. Unmarked as they were, their stark impressiveness more than signaled what lay within. Without words his gauntlets charged with energy, even as Peace leveled his weapon upon the Grey metal, and Ripjak's own hands grew bright with inherent power.
As one they struck the impact sounding as if a storm of thunder had suddenly blown up within the corridor. Tense seconds past as the three streams of energy burned into the simple metal, the plain Grey beginning to glow an angry red.
Crimson grew to cherry, then orange bloomed at the streams of might pierced the protective barrier, the steel running to the floor in steaming rivers. More moments of this application of force and the opening into the bridge was easily large enough to fit Doom, the tallest of the trio.
Six eyes peered into the revealed area, looking for some sign of life, or a foothold from which to mount their attack. Instead, their prying vision was greeted only with darkness, ebony too deep for their unaided eyes to vanquish.
Instincts did not permit the Latverian to simply stride into Zarrko's stronghold and take command; instead he moved to the side of the opening, pressed against the wall while his scanners reached out and searched for data regarding the Time Cube's nerve center.
Their own combat experiences forcing them into similar positions, Peace and Ripjak could do nothing but wait for Von Doom's go ahead.
"The bridge area is shielded with some variety of sensor-scrambling device." The Latverian reported through his helmet's interlink, as he saw his scanners feeding him back nil readings, "I can however detect the energies native only to Limbo; Century is inside."
Peace tap a switch on his armor, and quickly it produced a small ebony orb, which he held up for Doom to see, "Thermal grenade. Should possess enough power to at least stun whoever else is in there. I throw it in, it explodes, and then we move. "
Doom nodded, and without awaiting Ripjak's approval the bounty hunter tossed the small sphere inside. With his fingers he counted off "one, two, three" and upon that finally count light flashed violently from the breached chamber. The deck rumbled and there came the shriek of shredding steel, cloaked within a thick cloud of smoke now being exhaled from the bridge.
His crimson cape no more than a flash, Doom was inside, immediately followed by Peace and Ripjak, their minds focused upon potential combat. The former TVA agent touched another button on his armor, and from its center came a powerful stab of light, which penetrated the choking darkness. Doom followed suit, and together they plied their makeshift weapons across the broken bridge, searching for their enemies.
The Latverian's beam of light twitched across the hulking form of a red-faced machine, and instantly it froze upon those artificial features.
Doom's hands came up as he breathed across the interlink, "I have located the Servitor."
Two blasts of light illuminated the chamber as the monarch struck out against his recently revealed foe, but they seemed to have no effect on the Servitor's Grey shell. Zarrko's minion moved with great speed for such a hulking creation, and he was on top of the Latverian within seconds, pulling them both down to the floor.
Another stream of power arced from Doom's hand as he lashed out at Servitor's visage, but to no avail; the robot's huge fist crashed down upon the Latverian's helmeted head, rattling his teeth despite the adamantium lanxide armor he was clothed in.
Three more blows fell upon him, and warning lights sounded before Doom's eyes, now housed behind cracked lenses and trickles of blood from scraps across his face. His internal shields were failing, and soon the mechanical monster would be pounding his way through the armor. Apparently the technology of 2099 was no match for whatever wonders Zarrko had culled during his voyages through the time-stream.
The menacing fist rose again, high in the air and ready to shatter the Latverian's skull, but a dart of light cut into his face, and the Servitor reeled backward. Doom caught sight of Peace leaping over his fallen body, firing away, as he felt the warm sensation of medication being pumped into his ailing system. The cold chill of the nanites streaming into his wounds was welcome and he could do nothing save wait until the bleeding had been staunched, and his body made ready for war once again.
With a thunderous clatter Servitor felt his back slam into the metal deck of the Time Cube, surely rattling the teeth of any mortal within the vicinity. Automatically he assessed the damaged to his unchanging countenance, now broken as it was.
Within less than a moment he knew the plastic enamel covering the cold steel carapace within which his precious circuitry was housed had been damaged, but little more. Days ago that same shot from Justice Peace's weapon had ended his consciousness, yet now it did little more than strengthen his resolve to end the life of that irritating bounty hunter.
His speed inhuman, especially considering his great size, the Servitor heaved himself off the floor as his enemy prepared to leap down upon him and deliver the killing blow. The great robot's auditory pick-ups clearly heard the crunching of bone through creaking armor, as his massive fist slammed into Justice Peace's midsection.
Servitor's other hand swung around as Peace began to drop to the deck, his face contorted with pain. The fist clubbed the mercenary's helmet clean off, the device clanging into a far corner. The right side of his head covered in dark red, Justice Peace toppled to the floor, all struggle having fled from him.
A large pore opened within the palm of Servitor's hand, and he stepped forward, pointing it down at his foe's battered body. Energy grew within the machine's hand, building to a crescendo which would serve to finally end Justice Peace's bothersome existence.
The mercenary's eyes remained closed as he angled his weapon on the ground, still clutched in his fingers despite the ordeal, and fire into the recent orifice situated within Servitor's limb. The bolt flew out with unerring accuracy, and exploded nearly halfway through the towering mechanism's arm.
Servitor's vision crackled with sudden reports of his severed limb as he staggered backward, shocked that the mercenary had possessed such deadly aim, broken as he was. On the cold floor, Justice Peace smiled as his fingers slipped from the pistol, consciousness releasing its grip on him at last.
Gears slowly sliding into place, the shower of singing sparks began to gradually fade from being vomited from the broken arm of the Servitor. His programming re-routing power to repair the damage, the towering machine did not sense the presence of his enemies, at least in time to deflect their attacks. As one a blast of plasma energy and Martian foot encased in armor knocked his head backwards, hairline cracks immediately spider-legging across his lenses.
Vaguely he saw the caped outline of the Latverian continue his distant assault, even as Servitor felt the distant blows of Ripjak clang against his outer shell. Punches fueled by the genes of Ikaris did nothing with their first strikes, yet gradually began to dent the steel frame designed by Zarrko.
Panic now beginning to set upon his mechanical mind, Servitor's hand flew up, fingers held stiffly out, each digit firing searing beams of power across the space of the bridge. Blindly the robot sought to down his enemies, his optics still unable to fully process his environment.
The streams of energy seemed to have no effect, for he felt the attacks come on still unabated, now feeling armored knuckles charged with plasma smashing the enamel from his features. Doom had joined the physical assault.
Lights suddenly flashed on, revealing the entirety of the chamber, and surely momentarily blinding those not prepared for it.
"Enough!" came the voice of the Tomorrow Man, puffed with confidence he obviously could not have. He leveled both hands at Doom and Ripjak who had ceased their assaults on Servitor; attention turned to Zarrko.
"You have both invaded my vessel, and now you will both pay the price."
His hands crackled with energy seconds before jagged bolts fired from his fingertips, arcing into the forms of Doom and Ripjak. Pain screeched through both members of the Timeless, tearing at their veins with needle-fingertips.
"The technology which created you both is great," the Tomorrow Man lectured, his visage contorted with pleasure as he watched his enemies writhe as they slowly sank to their knees, "but it is as nothing compared to the wonders I have gathered. Die, interlopers, die."
Through his broken vision, Servitor watched the one-sided combat. Quickly his elation died, as he detected that same alarming energy disturbance he had tried to warn Zarrko of for so long, and saw the obscure shape manifesting itself near his master. Had he been capable of screaming he would have, but Zarrko had not built him with such capability? Instead Servitor could only fling bolts of power in the direction of the shape, as he shouted to his creator, "Behind you, my lord!"
The beams struck not a man but some type of shielding, which crackled under the assault, and faded to reveal who, or what lay within.
Zarrko whirled, bringing his weapons to bear on the intruder. His eyes narrowed, "Who are you?"
Dressed in simple armor of darkest ebony, wearing long brown hair and a slight smile, and carrying a long, slender axe, the interloper replied smoothly and without concern, "I am Black Axe, Tomorrow Man. Justice Peace failed to eliminate you, but I shall not."
His speed blinding, the recently arrived mercenary spun his axe around, the head pointing squarely at the Servitor's chest. Within a moment he had fired a burst of energy at his target, and whipped it back around to carve a deep gash across Zarrko's chest.
The robot's torso exploded in a violent shower of sparks, as the Tomorrow Man looked disbelieving way at the wound... oozing blood. After several seconds of this inspection, Zarrko looked up at his attacker, as if daring him to finish what he had started.
Black Axe's uncaring smile widened, as he brought the curved edge of his weapon up to rest below his beaten enemy's chin, "Should I kill you, Zarrko, or bring you back to Kang? He gave me choice in this matter; now I give it to you."
Zarrko sneered defiantly; "I spit on Kang, and run from nothing. Do whatever you wish."
The assassin arched an eyebrow, considered the Tomorrow Man's words for a moment, and then spun the butt of his axe into the side of Zarrko's skull. He collapsed to the ground with a dull thud, as Black Axe turned to Doom and Ripjak.
"Kang is watching you all very closely." He gestured to inert Century, still captive within the cylinder, "Especially that one. Tread carefully, Timeless. I could be coming for you soon enough."
Black Axe put his foot on Zarrko's back as he touched a button on the metallic haft of his weapon. Both grew immaterial and were soon no more, gone from the confines of the Time Cube.
For nearly a minute of silence, both Ripjak and Doom's eyes were fixed upon the space once occupied, as if they could not tear their gazes from it. And then Doom slowly got to his feet, striding toward the shattered hulk of the Servitor.
With a gaze all too human Zarrko's creation stared up at the Latverian, his mechanical skull nearly totally disembodied from his ruined body. Feeling the fires of life beginning to slowly ebb away, Servitor could do nothing but await the justice his conqueror would soon deal out.
Check out Tales of the Timeless #7 for the beginning of a brand new saga! And go to 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!