Originally written 6/28/15
Dr. Druid let out a relaxing sigh as he sat down in the recliner of his private office.
“It’s been far too long since I’ve had a chance to just relax”, he thought to himself as he stretched out. “I love being an Avenger and doing my part to keep the world safe, but sometimes, it’s nice to take a break too!”.
Druid’s mind began to wander as he relaxed, thinking back to the past few weeks, which had been especially busy for the Avengers and the London-based squad, Avengers International, of which he was a part.’
“First AIM, then the Juggernaut and then The Wrecking Crew, not to mention Baron Blood and those gang wars we’ve been helping Union Jack with”, he remembered. “It was almost a relief that Lyja had an appointment here in New York and I was able to volunteer to fly her over in the Quinjet. Now we have two days until we head back to London and I intend to relax and do absolutely nothing until then.”
And suddenly, the brief respite was interupted by the sound of the phone ringing.
“But of course”, Druid sighed as he reached for the phone, glancing at the caller ID.
“Yes, this is Dr. Druid”, he answered the phone, recognizing the number as that of a long-time contact and informant.
After a very brief conversation, Druid pulled himself up from his chair.
“No rest for the weary”, he sighed. “But if Lorne thinks that he’s discovered a vampire den, I have to investigate.”
And after a quick phone call, Dr. Druid quickly headed out the door.
***** BREAK *****
Roughly an hour later, on the docks of New York City, Druid and a tall, thin man, noticibly nervous, stood outside a large warehouse.
“It’s daylight right now so we should have a few hours”, Druid said. “How many vampires do you suspect are inside?”
“At least fifteen… maybe a few more”, Lorne replied. “Hey, is it safe to be this close to their lair?”
“Right now, it is”, Druid said. “I’m mystically shielding us from any observers.”
“So what you gonna do?”, Lorne asked the somber mystic.
“Killing vampires is not really my speciality”, Druid answered. “But they can not be allowed to run free here in New York or else innocents will suffer. So I decided to call in a few experts in matters such as these.”
“Experts?”, Lorne asked. “Who?”
“Us”, a voice boomed out from behind them. Lorne and Druid turned to see two men standing there. One was wearing a long tan trench coat and stroking a huge gun. The other was a black male with dark shades and wearing a belt filled with wooden knives.
“This is Mr. Frank Drake”, Druid said as he nodded at the man holding the gun.
“And this is Linda”, Drake said as he held up his gun.
“And I’m Blade. Now let’s kill those bloodsucking bastards”, the black male said.
“Hannibal sends his regards”, Drake said to Druid as he shook the mystic’s hand. “He wanted to come, but the whole daylight thing… you know!”
“Have Hannibal give me a call”, Druid said. “The Avengers… Dr. Pym, has developed a serum that has helped an associate of ours who suffers under the same affliction as Hannibal. Perhaps we can help him as well.”
“I’ll do that”, Drake said.
“If you two are done exchanging valentines”, Blade cut in, “let’s go kill the vamps!”
“Impatient as ever, I see”, Druid smirked at Blade.
“I got things to do and people to see and we’re wasting time here!”
“Very well”, Druid said. “I can’t sense any living minds in the building so it appears that the den is unprotected. How would you like to do this?”
“Uh, Doc… if you don’t need me anymore, I’m gonna get out of here”, Lorne said.
“Oh yes, thank you Lorne. You don’t need to be here. I’ve already deposited your payment in your bank account”, Druid said.
“Thanks Doc”, Lorne said quickly. “I’ll keep my eyes open and be seeing you!”
And with that, the nervous man quickly turned and walked away.
“A bit of a coward, isn’t he?”, Drake asked as they watched the man leave.
“He’s a great resource”, Druid said. “But he’s not the bravest of souls.”
“So we going to do this or what?”, Blade asked once more.
“Yes, we shall”, Druid said. “How do you want to proceed?”
“Like this”, Blade said as he quickly snapped the lock on a door with his bare hand. “Let’s go in and kill these damned things!”
Blade moved quickly and silently into the door. Frank Drake and Dr. Druid followed behind him and they made their way into the building.
Twenty minutes later, the three men came walking out of the building.
“Well, that was simple enough”, Druid said.
“Nineteen vampires dusted”, Blade sneered. “Not nearly enough for my tastes.”
“Still a good days work”, Drake said. “Thanks for the call, Doctor.”
“My pleasure”, Druid replied. “My powers may be formidable against the common crooks, but against vampires, it’s better to call in the experts.”
“And we finished quickly enough that I can still make my dinner date”, Blade said.
Drake and Druid shared a smile at that and shook hands once more.
“Too bad we didn’t find them sooner”, Drake said. “There were a bunch of ID’s and wallets over in that small room in the back. Probably victims who’s families don’t even know they’re dead and are wondering.”
“I’ll take care of that”, Druid replied. “I can use the computers at Avengers Mansion to locate the families of the persons who those ID’s belonged to and give the families some closure for their loved ones.”
“Good”, Drake said. “Closure is better than never knowing and always wondering.”
“If you got control of things here, Druid, we’re going to get out of here”, Blade said.
“Yeah, Blade has a problem with authorities”, Drake agreed. “So…”
“I’m preparing to summon the authorities now and will take care of everything”, Druid said. “Again, I thank you for your help.”
“Killing vamps is what I do”, Blade said. “Take care Druid!”
“And next time you’re in town, come by the office. We’ll throw a steak on the grill and have a beer”, Drake added.
“That sounds excellent”, Druid smiled. “Don’t forget to have Hannibal call me.”
“He will”, Drake said.
And with a wave and a nod, Druid watched the two vampire slayers walk off.
“Now let me call in the authorities and secure this location”, Druid sighed.
***** BREAK *****
A few hours later, Druid was sitting in Avengers Mansion, looking at a computer screen.
“I’ve entered all of the names we found on ID’s into the system and forwarded my reports to the proper authorities. I just wish there was more that I could do.”
Druid’s stared at the screen in front of him until he was interupted by a light knock on the door as Captain America entered the room.
“Afternoon Doctor”, Cap said as he walked up to Druid. “Jarvis told me that you were here and I wanted to stop by and say hello.”
“Good afternoon, Captain”, Druid said as he shook the hand of the red, white and blue clad Chairman of the Avengers. “I was just wrapping up some business on the computer. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Not at all”, Cap said. “You’re an Avenger and always welcome to use the computers here. Anything I may be able to help you with?”
“It’s already been taken care of”, Druid said. “A contact of mine informed me about a vampire den here in New York and I was just notifying the authorities of some of the victims.
“Vampires in New York?”, Cap said, “It’s so hard to believe sometimes, but still… do you need me to summon the team?”
“No, some associates and I took care of it earlier today”, Druid repeated. “Now I’m just wrapping up the paperwork and trying to make sure that the victims families get some closure.”
“If you get the opportunity, would you mind filing a report in our files as well. If there are vampires in New York, I should have the team on alert”, Cap said.
“I will do that Captain”, Druid said. “But I will probably wait to file the report when I get back to the Avengers Castle in London if that’s okay with you.”
“That’s fine”, Cap said. “Druid, I know you’re still a little uneasy when working with the New York team, but you don’t need to be. We’re all Avengers and you’ve proven yourself time and time again with the London team, with the Widow, with me…”
“I know that Captain”, Druid replied. “But I still have a long ways to go to feel like I belong. Over in London, it’s not so bad, but here in New York, especially when I’m around Dane, Monica, Thor or She-Hulk, I can feel their eyes. I may have been under the influence of The Temptress, but still, I betrayed the team and did a great deal of damage.”
“And you’ve come back and made amends for that, many times over. If there are bridges to be mended and repaired, do so. You’re a psychologist so I shouldn’t have to tell you this. If you think that Dane or Monica or any of the others hold a grudge, talk to them. Try to work it out if you can.”
“I have spoken to Dane briefly, when he was with the International team and we’ve come to an understanding of sorts. But the others…”
“Talk to them man!”, Cap said, putting his hand on Druid’s shoulder. “We’re a team, all of us, and need to be able to get along and work together and trust each other.”
“I’ll try”, Druid said. “But for now, I should get back to these reports.”
“Are you going to go meet any of these families in person?”, Cap asked.
“I may go meet some of the relatives and associates and see what I can learn.I haven’t really decided one way or the other yet.”
“Well, do me a favor and keep Jarvis informed of your progress and whereabouts. That way, the Avengers can provide back-up if needed.”
“I will Captain”, Druid replied. “And thank you.”
“You’re a good man and a good Avenger Druid”, Cap replied. “Now I’ll let you get back to your work.”
As Cap walked from the room, Druid went back to looking at the police reports.
“All of these poor souls, ending up as vampire food. Such a tragedy”, he frowned.
***** BREAK *****
Roughly about an hour later, Druid had finished up with his duties and had moved on, looking for signs of suspicious activity that may or may not require his attention. Suddenly, there was a buzz on the intercom system.
“Druid, this is Captain America. We’ve just received an alert and myself and the team are heading out. I was wondering if you’d mind sticking around and minding the shop with moniter duty until Jarvis gets back. It should only be a couple of hours at the most.”
“Not a problem, Captain”, Druid replied. “Would you like me to come along with your team?”
“No, we have the full active team on hand”, Cap replied. “And besides, it’s The Mandarin. Iron Man will most likely handle it himself and the rest of us will just be there to handle the clean up. We just need someone to keep an eye on the moniters and since you’re already in the Mansion…”
“But of course, Captain. Don’t give it a thought.”, Druid replied.
“Thanks! Cap out!”, Cap said as he clicked off.
Druid smiled to himself as he sat back in his chair. Considering his history, it was indeed an honor to be asked by Captain America to watch the Mansion and keep an eye on things while the team was on a mission.
“I don’t have anything better to do”, he said to himself as he got up from the chair and headed up to the main library.
“I can moniter things just as well there and do some research at the same time”, Druid thought to himself.
It wasn’t long Druid was relaxing in the Avengers library, reading a very rare manuscript on Asgardian theology.
“This must belong to Thor”, he said as he glanced over the ancient text.
“Excuse me Sir”, a voice spoke up.
Druid looked up and there was the Avengers butler, Jarvis standing there.
“I just wanted to let you know that I’ve returned”, Jarvis said. “So I’ll be able to assume moniter duty if you have anything else planned.”
“Thank you Jarvis”, Druid said. “I was just reading this Asgardian text. Fascinating, to say the least!”
“Yes sir”, Jarvis replied. “I believe that Master Thor brought that here when he and the team were last dealing with a being he called Utgard-Loki.”
“One of the legendary frost giants”, Druid added. “I remember reading of that in the case files.”
“Yes sir. It was quite an encounter, according to Master Hawkeye. I believe he called them Frosty Wannabes”, Jarvis smiled.
The conversation was then interrupted by the sound of the doorbell ringing. Jarvis quickly went and pulled up a computer screen, looking to see who was outside and waiting on their front porch.’
“My word”, Jarvis said as he quickly moved to the grand hallway and opened the front door. Druid followed behind him to see who was the guest ringing their bell.
“Mistress Joscota, please come in”, Jarvis said as he opened the door. Standing there, the gleam of metal in the moon, wearing a trench coat, was the robot Avenger known as Joscota.
“Thank you Jarvis”, Joscota said as she walked through the doorway. “I’m supposed to be meeting Iron Man here tonight. Is he available?”
“Oh my”, Jarvis exclaimed. “Master Iron Man and the rest of the team have been called away on a mission. I’m so sorry!”
“I see”, Joscota said with an annoyed tone to her metallic voice.
“It was really quite a sudden call”, Druid interjected as he approached the metallic form. “Greetings dear lady. I don’t believe I’ve had the honor. My name is Dr. Anthony Druid.”
“Dr. Druid? Yes, you’re part of the Avengers International team, aren’t you? I’m Joscota”, Joscota replied, holding out her hand to shake that of the infamous mage.
“Yes, I am”, Druid smiled as he reached over and kissed the hand of the robot. “And I’ve heard of you as well. This is indeed a pleasure.”
“So… you said that Iron Man and the rest of the team are on a mission?”, Joscota asked.
“Yes”, Druid answered. “Something to do with The Mandarin. I was here doing research so the Captain asked me to do moniter duty until Jarvis returned.”
“Speaking of Jarvis, where has he vanished to?”, Joscota asked as she suddenly seemed to realize that Jarvis had indeed vanished from their company.
“I’m right here, ma’am”, Jarvis said as he re-entered the hallway. “I had a dinner prepared for the team and it looks as if it might end up going to waste unless by some chance, the two of you would like to join me?”
Druid looked at Jarvis and then over at Joscota. “Dinner with a beautiful lady cooked by Jarvis. Those are two things I would never turn down”, he said.
“And I don’t eat food, as it is”, Joscota replied. “But the company of two handsome men is something that even a robot would enjoy.”
“Then please, follow me”, Jarvis said as he led the two Avengers into the dining room.
***** BREAK *****
A few hours later, the two Avengers and the loyal butler were all sitting around the dining room table, exchanging stories.
“So you really were lost in time and space, Doctor?”, Joscota asked.
“Yes”, Druid explained. “I don’t remember much of it since I was under the thrall of that Temptress, but I ended up being returned to earth roughly about a year later. I was physically younger and had my hair back. It was quite an experience.”
“So it at least had a happy ending”, Joscota smiled. “You’re back with the Avengers now.”
“Yes, although I’m sure that a couple of people aren’t quite happy about that”, Druid frowned. “But Natasha and the rest of the International team have been very supportive. Have you ever thought about rejoining the team on a full time basis?”
“Captain America and Iron Man have both offered me a position in the group, but I’ve found I enjoy my status as a reservist”, Joscota explained. “I work with Tony Stark as an assistant and find that quite enriching.”
“What is it?”, Druid asked.
“It’s just ironic that ever since Ultron created me and I met the Avengers, it was my dream, if I can call it that, to be a part of the team and yet, when it was offered, I decided to decline and stay in a supporting role instead.”
“And in my case, it was the opposite. I never wanted to be a part of the super-hero world, but found myself being dragged into the world of the Avengers by necessity. And once I was accepted and then disgraced, all I wanted to do was gain their respect and honor once more. I don’t want to be running around in spandex and trying to save the world, but I keep finding myself doing it anyhow”. Druid remarked.
“It’s a crazy world we’ve chosen to live in… or have had chosen for us”, Joscota commented. “But I guess that’s life!”
“That’s very profound”, Druid agreed. “And…”
“Excuse me sir and Madam”, Jarvis interupted. “We have an emergency signal coming in. I’m transfering it to your ID cards.”
“Of course, thank you”, Druid said as he puled out his ID card. “Yes, Dr. Druid here!”
“Dr. Druid?”, a voice came over the card. “This is the US Agent! I’ve got a situation here. Are you at the Mansion?”
“I am”, Druid said. “What’s the situation?”
“I’m at Rykers Island… at The Raft. We’re under attack by The Wizard, Titania and a few others I don’t recognize. Some heavy duty villians. I can handle a few of them, but I’m going to need back-up. Is the team there?”
“No, they’re on another mission, but Joscota and I are here. We’re on the way and will be at your coordinates as soon as we can”, Druid answered.
“Joscota?”, Agent replied. “Yeah, I’ve heard of her. Just hurry and I’ll try to contain these creeps here! Hurry!”
“Will do”, Druid said. “Jarvis, did you get that?”, he asked.
“Yes sir”, Jarvis replied.
“Relay the message to Captain America and the main team. Let them know that I’m responding to the call and… Joscota, I hate to impose, but…”
“I’m in”, Joscota replied.
“I’m notifying the Captain”, Jarvis said. “And I’ll go prepare a Quinjet for take-off in approximately twenty minutes. But if I might make a suggestion..”
“Go right ahead”, Druid said.
“If the threat is as serious as the Agent seems to imply, wouldn’t it be better to call in some other Avengers to accompany you and Mistress Joscota?”
“It would be, but time is of the essence”, Druid said.
“Send out an A-1 Priority alert on your card. It will notify any reserve members within a short range to come to the Mansion immediately.”
“It’s a good idea”, Joscota agreed. “And it’s far better than going in alone and unprepared.”
“I’ll do it”, Druid replied. “Now let’s go get the Quinjet prepared.”
And with that, Druid, Joscota and Jarvis all quickly moved to get ready on this mission.
***** BREAK *****
Approximately 18 minutes later…
“I guess it’s just you and I, Doctor”, Joscota said as she prepared to climb aboard the Quinjet.
“I suppose so”, Druid said.
And suddenly, a door opened and in walked the man-god, Hercules, followed by Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat.
“Greetings, my fellow Avengers”, Hercules bellowed. “The call for aid has been sent forth and thus, the Lion of Olympus has answered!”
“What he said”, Hellcat replied. “I was having dinner downtown when my old ID card started buzzing. I rushed over here as quickly as I could.”
“I’m so glad to see you two”, Druid said. “The US Agent has requested our aid and the regular team is on a mission.”
“The Agent? A boastful and brash fellow is he”, Hercules said. “But still an Avenger and Hercules shall answer the call.”
“We can fill you in on the way”, Joscota said. “Right now, we’d best get going.”
“I hope you have room for two more”, a tiny voice rang out as Scott Lang, aka ‘Ant Man’ flew into the room on the back of a flying ant and quickly dismounted in front of the four heroes, quickly growing to full sized from his previous ant-sized form. “I just saw the Falcon flying in outside as I came in, so he should be here in a moment.”
“And here I am”, Sam Wilson, aka The Falcon, spoke up as he entered the room. “Guess I haven’t missed the party after all.”
“We were just preparing to leave”, Joscota replied. “So the party, as you call it, is still here.”
“Looks like we’ve got a full team here”, Hellcat noted.
“Looks like it, Hellcat”, Ant Man said. “Druid, since you issued the alert, that makes you the acting leader!”
“I didn’t think of that”, Druid said humbly.
“Well, if I remember my history once, you were the Chairman once so you may as well take the job”, Falcon said.
“Works for me too”, Hellcat smiled at the Doctor.
“For me as well”, Joscota added. “But enough of this small talk. I think we should be departing soon.”
:Aye and aye again”, Hercules said. “Let’s load up and get in the air then so we may be on our way to glorious adventure that shall be long sang of in the streets of Olympus.”
“But first”, Ant Man said. “Isn’t there something we need to do?”
“What is that?”, Druid asked.
“Someone needs to say it, for the benefit of all us part-timers”, the Falcon said with a smirk.
“Oh”, Druid smiled with realization. “But of course!”
“Hercules, would you do the honors?’, Hellcat asked the Olympian demi-god. “You’ve got such a great voice.”
“But of course”, Hercules responded. “As only the Scion of Olympus and son of Zeus can do, let me now proclaim those infamous words. Avengers Assemble!”
And with that, the assembled team of Dr. Druid, Joscota, Hercules, Hellcat, Ant Man and The Falcon quickly moved and climbed aboard the waiting Quinjet.
***** BREAK *****
A short time later, Joscota turned to Druid and the others from her spot in the pilot’s seat. “We’re approaching The Raft. I’m unable to get any kind of communication response from the facility.”
“Then I think we should assume the worst”, Druid said. “Falcon, go see if you can do a recon of the facility from the air. Ant Man, do you have any more of your flying ants available?”
“Yes sir”, Ant Man replied.
“Saddle up then and go do some scouting. I want both of you to keep in radio contact via your communicards. Don’t engage anyone unless absolutely necessary. I’m going to use my telepathic abilities to see if I can contact the US Agent.”
As Falcon and Ant Man exited the Quinjet, Dr. Druid concentrated and attempted to telepathically reach the mind of the US Agent.
A moment later, Druid opened his eyes. “The Agent is OK and currently in an enclosed area near the rear of the facility with several guards and civilians. He’s trying to keep them quiet and hidden”, Druid replied.
“Heads up”, Joscota said. “We’ve got incoming!”
And with that, Joscota masterfully swerved the Quinjet, narrowly avoiding being hit by a flying piece of steel.
“I see someone down there. It’s a woman… looks like she’s preparing to throw something else”, Hellcat said. “We’ve got to get down there!”
“Let me try something”, Druid said and he quickly concentrated. “I’m using my powers of illusion to make her think that the Quinjet has vanished.”
“We still need to stop her”, Hercules replied, “and that task shall fall to the Lion of Olympus!”
And with that, Hercules hit the button to slide open the door to the Quinjet. “I’ll see thee on the ground”, he smiled and dove out of the flying machine.
“Land us, ASAP!”, Druid said to Joscota, who responded with a quick nod. Reaching for his card, Druid called The Falcon. “Falcon, spotted anything?”, he asked.
“Yeah, it looks like The Constrictor prowling around over here on the east side. I’m going to take him”, Falcon replied.
“Has he spotted you yet?”, Druid asked.
“”Oh yeah”, Falcon said. “He’s trying to snare me with those whip-thingees of his. Going to have to engage!”
“Can you handle him?”, Druid asked.
“Oh yeah”, the Falcon answered. “He’s going down… hard!”
“Roger that!”, Druid said. “Let’s head out!”, he said to Hellcat and Joscota as they opened the doors to the Quinjet.
***** BREAK ***** BREAK *****
Meanwhile, Hercules landed with a crash into the hard ground, but within seconds, was up and looking for his target. There stood a tall woman, clad in purple, with red hair, holding a huge steel door over her head.
“Hercules? Now things are getting intereresting!”, she sneered as she tossed the steel door at the demi-god.
Hercules quickly ducked and moved forward. “And I remember hearing of you. Titania, is it not?”, he asked.
“Yeah, also known as the woman who’s going to pound you into oblivion”, she roared as she dived towards the approaching hero.
“I think not”, Hercules said as he caught her in mid-dive. “Though I have no desire to hit a female, your reputation is well known to me. And thus, I give thee the gift!”
Titania spit at Hercules and took a swing, causing his head to jerk back.
“A sound blow, and thus thee shall reap what thall has sewn”, Hercules smiled. KA-POW! With a mighty blow that sounded like thunder ripping through the sky, Hercules punched Titania, sending her flying backwards into a large number of trees. They collapsed and splintered as the body of the already unconscious Titania ripped through the trunks and limbs. Titania landed in an unconcious heap roughly about a hundred yards away. She wasn’t getting up anytime soon.
“And now, the son of Zeus shall find more foes to pummel!”, Hercules said.
_-_-_ BREAK _-_-_
The Constrictor scowled as he stepped outside the prison walls. “Go patrol the outside”, the boss had said. “If I didn’t need the damn money”, Constrictor said to himself. “We need to get out of here before any more of those so-called heroes show up. That Captain America wannabe with the shield was annoying enough. And he gave Trapster and Hydro Man the slip earlier. He’ll call in help. That kind always does!”
Constrictor glanced upwards and thought he saw a quick flash of movement up in the sky.
“More of those super-dupers nosing around”, Constrictor thought to himself. “Let me lash this idiot down before he knows what hit him!”
Constrictor lashed out with the adamantium cables from his arms, hoping to snare the Falcon unaware, but at the last second, Falcon changed direction, barely avoiding the slashing metal. And then, increasing his speed rapidly, the Falcon did a dive-bomb terchnique and plowed into the Constrictor, both fists slamming into the masked man’s head. Constrictor went down… hard!
“Got him”, Falcon smiled.
And after using some wires and cable to secure the fallen villian, Falcon took back off up into the sky, looking for any more situations needing his attention.
_-_-_ BREAK _-_-_
Ant Man, riding his flying ant, quickly moved into the once secure hallways of The Raft.
“If I remember correctly”, Scott Lang thought to himself as he manuevered the twisting hallways, “the area where Druid said the Agent was should be right around here somewhere.”
Suddenly, responding to a noise from behind him, Ant Man jerked his steed to the ride, just barely being missed by a blast of energy. Ant Man turned and there stood the villian he recognized as The Shocker.
“Great!”, Lang sighed to himself as he shrank down to even a smaller size, barely avoiding another blast from the yellow-clad criminal.
“Shouldn’t you be off fighting Spiderman”, Lang quipped as he shot a cable from his uniform, wrapping it around Shocker’s arm and wrist.
“I’ll kill that blasted spider soon enough”, the Shocker replied. “But for now, I think I’ll just squash an ant!”
“No need for murder on my account”, Ant Man said as he jerked the arm, causing Shocker’s blast to miss and blow a hole in a concrete wall.
“You can’t beat me”, Shocker said as he leveled two more blasts at the tiny hero.
“Probably not, but I can distract you”, Ant Man smirked.
“Distract? What are you…?”, Shocker said as he turned his head around, only to be nailed by a fancy roundhouse kick by Pasty Walker, aka The Hellcat.
“I think he’s talking about me, Quilthead”, Patsy said as the villian collapsed to the ground. “Are you all right, Ant Man?”, she asked.
“I’m fine”, Scott smiled. “I was just trying to find US Agent when I came across the walking matress pad there.”
“Well maybe we should look for them together”, Pasty smiled back. “I’m a little out of practice when it comes to fighting super-crooks!”
“Me too”, Ant Man admitted. “But I don’t think Shock-face would agree.”
“Probably not”, Patsy agreed. “Let’s move!”
_-_-_-_ BREAK _-_-_-_
Joscota moved down to the main control center of the Raft, using her cybernetic senses to interface with the electronic system that controlled the high-security prison.
“I should be able to bypass most of the electronic security features on my way to Control Central. Then I can override the computer and re-establish the security and cells for this place.”
As she rounded a corner, she ran into two men she recognized as Boomerang and Blizzard.
“What have we here. Some little robot lady”, Boomerang sneered.
“I think she’s one of the Avengers”, Blizzard said.
“Surrender”, Joscota said to the two men.
“No, I don’t think so”, Boomerang said as he pulled a boomerang from his side. “There’s two of us and one of you, Robot lady!” He quickly threw the boomerang at Joscota, only to see it bounce off a force field projected by the metallic hero.
“A force field”, Blizzard said. “Let’s just put it and you on ice then”, he scowled.
Blasts of ice and cold shot forth from Blizzard’s hands, only to be met by two force blasts from the eyes of Joscota, which quickly cut through the ice and cold and sent Blizzard flying back hard, crashing into the wall. He quickly slumped to the floor unconcious.
Boomerang quickly tossed two more boomerangs at Joscota, only to see her blast both of them from the air as well with her eye blasts. A third boomerang was tossed and Joscota quickly snatched it from the air and with an almost perfect precision throw, sent the boomerang flying back at Boomerang, who just barely managed to dodge. But he couldn’t dodge the metal fist that smacked him across the head next.
“Ouch!”, he whined as he fell to the ground, dazed and barely concious.
“Sometimes, the simpliest methods are the best”, Joscota thought to herself as she picked up the two unconcious men, looking for a containment unit in which to deposit and secure them. Quickly finding a proper cell, she deposited the two felons and moved on to locate and secure Control Central.
_-_-_-_ BREAK _-_-_-_
The US Agent and nearly a dozen civilians were gathered in a small room, hidden down behind some overturned tables.
“Now keep quiet”, the Agent warned the others. “This place is crawling with super-powered bad guys and we need to stay hidden until the calvary gets here.”
Agent felt a buzzing in his head and the voice of the telepathic Avenger Dr. Druid sounded out, “We are here and have split up to engage the enemy. Are you all right?”
Agent replied, “We’re okay. Just laying low and trying to keep some of the staff and crew here safe and out of the fireworks.”
“Excellent”, Druid replied. “I’ve pin pointed your location and one or more of the Avengers will be there soon.”
“We’ve got some injured folks here so make sure you call some medical in”, Agent added. “Gotta go now. I hear someone outside trying to get in. Is it one of ours?”
Druid mentally scanned the area and replied, “No, it’s the mutant known as Forearm.”
“I’ve heard of him. Super strong with four arms. I’ll take care of him”, Agent said.
“Hellcat and Ant Man should be there soon”, Druid said.
“We’ll be waiting”, Agent answered. “But as for Forearm”, he said, “he’ll be unconcious!”
“Be careful”, Druid said.
“Just hurry up with the troops”, Agent said. “I’ve got this!”
_-_-_ BREAK _-_-_
A short time later, after parking the Quinjet and telepathically communicating with the rest of the Avengers, Dr. Druid moved quickly down towards Control Central.
“Most of the resistance seems to have been taken out and all of the Avengers are moving in towards the US Agent’s location”, Druid thought to himself as he mentally scanned the area in front of him.
“Bogie on the left”, Druid realized as he moved quickly and barely dodged a large desk tossed in his direction. “That was close!”
And from the shadows came a large orange creature.
“The Armadillo”, Druid said, recognizing his opponent.
“I don’t wanna hurt you, but I got to”, the Armadillo said as he grabbed another desk and tossed it in the direction of Druid.
“Please… surrender”, Druid said to the huge animal like being. “You don’t have to do this?”
“I do… I do!”, Armadillo said as he moved quickly moved forward with a surprising speed for a creature his size, slashing the air as he moved towards Druid.
“Very well then”, Druid sighed.
Using the magical abilities at his disposal, Druid created an explosion of lights and energy directly in the face of the massive monster.
“Aaauuuggghhhh!”, Armadillo screamed as he covered his eyes.
Falling back, he swiped the air with his claws and tried to protect his face. After landing awkwardly on his back, he slowly opened his eyes, realizing he was unharmed.
“What the…?”, Armadillo started to say, but then he noticed that Druid was standing in front of him. Druid’s eyes seemed to glow as they made contact with the eyes of the man-beast.
“Your will is now mine and you are under my control”, Druid said as he focued his powers of hypnotism and mesmerism on Armadillo. “And now you will sleep!”
Armadillo tried to fight the clouds forming in his head, but to no avail. In a matter of seconds, Armadillo was out cold, snoring loudly.
Druid nodded in approval as he began to once more move forward towards where the other Avengers were gathering.
_-_-_-_-_ BREAK _-_-_-_-_
Moments later, Druid finally arrived at Control Central for the mass facility known as “The Raft”. Joscota, Ant Man and Hellcat had already arrived as well. Joscota and Ant Man had began to work and make sure that the security was online and that there were no more security breaches. Hellcat had gone to tend to the injuries suffered by the US Agent and some of the employees and workers who he had been protecting. Falcon and Hercules arrived shortly afterwards and Druid instructed them to aid the guards in getting the assorted criminals that the Avengers had defeated into secure cells and detainment facilities.
“All systems are on-line and secure”, Joscota spoke up as Druid spoke with the Warden, one of the many who had been under the protection of the Agent.
“Thank you Joscota”, Druid said to his metallic ally before turning back to the Warden. “So what exactly happened here? How did so many villians get loose and what was their agenda? Do you know?”
“I don’t know”, the Warden said. “None of the people I’ve seen that your team defeated were actually imprisoned here. Titania and Shocker have been in our custody before, but the rest of them like Boomerang, Constrictor, Forearm, Blizzard and Armadillo… they don’t belong here and aren’t ours.”
“That’s extremely odd”, Druid frowned.
“I think this creep might be able to help”, Falcon said as he walked over and joined the conversation. Firmly in his grasp and handcuffed was Donald Gills, aka Blizzard.
“He should be able to tell us something. Maybe your brain mumbo-jumbo can convince him to talk!”, Falcon said.
“Perhaps”, Druid said. “Keep an eye on him while I go speak to the US Agent.”
“Will do, Doc”, Falcon said.
Druid walked over to where Hellcat had finished wrapping Agent’s arm in a sling.
“I think it’s just a sprain and should be okay in a day or so”, she told the fidgety man. “But when we leave here, you should probably get it checked out to be sure.”
“Appreciate that, Cat lady”, Agent said to the red haired heroine.
Both Agent and Hellcat turned as Dr. Druid approached.
“Thanks for the rescue”, Agent told the cloaked man. “I did my best, but there were too many and I couldn’t fight them and protect the civilians too.”
“You did extremely well given the circumstances”, Druid replied. “But I’m having trouble figuring something out. Why would all of these villians attack this prison? What was the point and their reasoning?”
“I’m not sure”, Agent scowled. “I was here dropping off a character called The Ringer, strictly a B-rated punk, and cutting the breeze with some friends who work here and they just attacked and seemed to come out of nowhere. First it was Titania and The Wizard and after that I lost count.”
“Oh cripes”, Hellcat interjected. “The Wizard? Nobody encountered him or fought him?”
“Then he’s probably still here somewhere in the Raft”, Druid said.
“We’ve got to find him”, Agent said, quickly standing up. “Near as I can tell, he’s the boss behind these losers.”
“Then they were his muscle, here to counter and distract any opposition while he does whatever it is he’s here to do”, Druid finished.
“So what do we do?”, Hellcat asked.
“I’m detecting a energy overload, something isn’t right in Level 19-D”, Joscota said, still working on the Control Central computers.
“Oh my God!”, the Warden said, his face turning pale. “That’s where Klaw is being held.”
“Klaw?”, Agent said. “Why didn’t you tell us he was here? Now it makes sense?”
“What makes sense?”, Ant Man asked.
“Klaw was the Wizard’s partner in several of his exploits”, Joscota explained.
“We can’t let Wizard set that maniac free”, Agent said. “We’ve got to stop him!”
“And we will”, Druid said. “Joscota, keep working with the security system and make sure we don’t get anymore surprises. The rest of you, head down to Level 19-D and see if you can find Wizard and stop him before he can release Klaw. Agent, you’re injured so it would be better if you stayed here.”
“It’s not going to happen”, Agent said quickly. “I can still fight and I’m going to!”
“Then just be careful”, Druid replied.
“And what are you going to do?”, Falcon asked Druid.
Looking over at the manacled Blizzard, Druid replied, “I’m going to find out from our friend there exactly what the Wizard is up to and anything else I can.”
“Sounds like a plan to me”, Hellcat said.
“Aye! Most verily”, Hercules added.
“Then let’s move people”, US Agent yelled, taking charge. “Hercules and Falcon with me. Hellcat and Ant Man, go in from the other side.”
“Joscota and I will join you as soon as we can”, Druid said.
“Good enough”, Agent said. “Now move!”
As the Avengers spread out and left the room, Joscota quickly moved back towards the main computer terminals. Druid turned and walked over to where Blizzard was still waiting.
“Now my friend”, Druid said. “You and I are going to talk!”
_-_-_-_-_ BREAK _-_-_-_-_
Moments later, the US Agent, Hercules and the Falcon reached the entry way to Level 19-D. The passage was sealed by a huge metal door.
“Stand thee back and the Prince of Power shall smash us through yon wall”, Hercules said, but Falcon quickly put his hand on the Olympian demi-god’s chest before he could act on his words.
“We don’t need to smash the door and let the Wiz know we’re coming”, Falcon said. Pulling out his Avengers ID card, Falcon quickly communicated with Joscota and had the robotic Avenger use the Raft’s security system to unlock the massive metal door.
“See? No mess and no noise”, Falcon smiled as the three Avengers moved forward.
“And no surprise”, a voice called out as three small devices came propelling through the air at the three heroes.
The Wizard was standing there, watching and waiting and had launched three of his patented anti-gravity devices at the unsuspecting heroes. Reacting quickly, Falcon launched himself into the air and barely dodged the device. Hercules and the US Agent weren’t quite so lucky as the devices made contact and quickly, both Hercules and the Agent found themselves rising quickly into the air, slamming hard against the ceiling and being held firm against the unforgiving,cold metal.
“By my beard”, Hercules bellowed. “This shall not hold the Scion of Zeus for long and when I break free…”
“We shall be long gone”, the Wizard scowled as he turned back and continued to work at the sophisticated electronic cell that held his former and hopefully future partner, Klaw.
As the Wizard turned, a loud wooshing sound filled the air as the Falcon swooped down and dove into the purple-clad villain knocking him hard against a wall.
“Oooofff”, Wizard let out a large gasp of air as his body slammed against the unforgiving concrete.
“Someone check those controls and make sure that Klaw isn’t getting out”, Agent yelled, struggling to free himself as he was still pinned, along with Hercules, against the ceiling by the Wizard’s anti gravity device.
“On it”, a voice called out as the Ant Man appeared, growing up to regular size as he stood in front of the computers and machinery where the Wizard has stood only seconds before.
“And I’ll free you two”, Hellcat said as she flipped into the room with a big kick to the Wizard who was starting to pull himself up from the floor. Once more, the purple clad criminal fell to the ground and this time, he was not getting up any time soon.
Coming to a standstill and glancing up to where USA Agent and Hercules were still being held, trapped against the ceiling by the Wizard’s anti-gravity devices, Hellcat launched metallic claws from each of her hands, linked by steel cable and with precise aim, her “claws” each fastened themselves against the two anti-gravity devices.
“Get ready”, she warned the two men as she gave a big jerk on both cables and yanked the devices free. The devices slammed up against the ceiling, still active but no longer holding the Agent or Hercules immobile. Hercules and Agent began to fall from the ceiling to the floor. Falcon quickly swooped in and caught the US Agent, his arm still in a sling.
“Will there be naught a rescue for Hercules”, Hercules bellowed, but he suddenly stopped in mid-air, finding himself being lowered gently to the ground. Dr. Druid had arrived and joined the rest of the team and was using his telekenetic abilities to cushion Hercules and prevent his fall.
“I have you”, Druid shouted to Hercules. “What is the status of Klaw and The Wizard?”
“The Wiz is out cold and I’ve removed his weapons”, Hellcat said as she finished taking off the Wizard’s wrist gauntlets and tossing them across the room.
“And Klaw is still secure. They’ve got him in some kind of suspended animation and he never even woke up”, Ant Man said.
A voice came out over a speaker on the wall.
“The rest of the Raft is secure and all of the prisoners, as well as the men and women we defeated, have all been secured”, Joscota’s voice echoed through the room.
“So we just need to find a cell for sleeping beauty here and I guess we can call it a wrap”, Falcon said, pointing at the still unconcious Wizard.
“So it seems”, Druid smiled. “Well done everyone.”
“Yeah”, the US Agent agreed. “I wasn’t sure what to expect when I called the Mansion for help and got a bunch of part-timers and reservists, but you all did some good work. As good as anyone on the main teams.”
“Agent, we may not be full time Avengers or on the main rosters for any of the teams”, Hellcat spoke up. “But that’s mainly due to our own choices and lives. We’re still Avengers though and don’t you forget it!”
“Hey, I said you all did good”, Agent sighed. “And you’re right. I apologize!”
“Do my ears decieve me or did I just hear the US Agent apologize for something?”, Falcon smirked.
“This shall truly be a day that will be spoken of and written about in fabled Olympus for centuries to come!”, Hercules added.
US Agent looked at his two fellow Avengers and scowled. Then turning to Druid, he spoke once more.
“What did you find out from the Blizzard guy? Why did Wizard get these folks together and stage a break in here at the Raft?”
“Was it just to free Klaw or was there another agenda?”, Ant Man asked.
“From what I was able to discern from the memories of Blizzard, it seems that the Wizard has created a device of some sort that is powered by sound and he needed Klaw and his sonic powers to make the device work.”, Druid replied.
“What is this device supposed to do?”, Falcon asked.
“Blizzard seemed to think it was a mind control type of device”, Druid said.
“Well, hadn’t we better go check out his HQ and disable this machine?”, Hellcat questioned.
“Already taken care of”, Joscota answered as she walked into the room to join her fellow Avengers. “I’ve already contacted both the Fantastic Four and SHIELD and they’re taking care of that. Reed Richards promised to send us a report at the Mansion just as soon as they’re finished. Nick Fury seemed a little miffed that I contacted Reed and the rest of the FF first though.”
“Nick is always miffed about something”, the Falcon noted.
“He’s probably mad that with Reed and the others there, the machine will be dismantled instead of becoming one of SHIELD’s toys”, Agent noted.
“So if that’s all taken care of”, Druid said to his assembled heroes, “I would suggest that we help the staff and security here with the clean up and then head back to Avengers Mansion.”
With nods of confirmation from the rest of the heroes, the team quickly dispersed to aid in the clean up and making sure that the situation was totally over.
As they all walked off, the US Agent stopped Dr. Druid.
“Listen, I want to apologize for my comments earlier. I’ve never really got to know you and all I knew about Dr. Druid was what I’ve read in the files and that stuff with Photon and She Hulk and all of that, where you allegedly betrayed the team. I wasn’t expecting much and couldn’t figure out why they let you back on the team with the folks in England.”
“What’s your point Agent?”, Druid asked.
“But you came through for me here. You were at the Mansion and answered the call, assembled a team and got the job done. And well, I’m beginning to understand why you’re back on the team. You’re a good leader and a good Avenger Doc. Thank you!”
The US Agent held out his hand for Druid and Druid glanced down at it and gripped it firmly, a strong handshake.
“Thank you Agent”, Druid smiled. “That means a lot!”
The two men shook hands and Druid glanced down at Agent’s arm, still hanging limply in the sling that Hellcat had made for him earlier. “Now I think we need to go get that arm checked out.”
“It’s okay… just a sprain”, Agent said as he glanced down at his arm and the sling.
“We’ll get it treated when we get back to the Mansion”, Druid said firmly. “Doctor’s orders!”
_-_-_-_ BREAK _-_-_-_
A few hours later, the team has returned to Avengers Mansion and are in the main library. The main roster, consisting of Captain America, Iron Man, She Hulk, The Wasp, Justice, Firestar, Vision and the Scarlet Witch have also returned and the heroes, past and present members, are socializing and making conversation.
Captain America and Dr. Druid are speaking.
“It’s a good thing that you were here, Doctor”, Cap said to the cloaked man. “I really do appreciate the way you stepped in and took charge.”
“I was only doing what I needed to do”, Druid said. “I was the fortunate one that Joscota was here and the rest of the team showed up when I sent out that alert. It’s what any Avenger would have done.”
“Possibly”, Cap agreed. “But I know that you’ve had your doubts about your place on the team. I hope that this helped you realize that you’re an important part of this team and a valuable part of the Avengers machine.”
“It still weighs heavy on my mind how I betrayed the team during my first stint as an Avenger. I don’t think I’ll ever totally be over that.”
“You were under the mental influence of that fake Kang… what did you call her? Temptress? It’s happened to the best of us and what matters is that you’veredeemed youself many times over already”, Cap said.
“I’m trying Cap. That’s all I can do”, Druid said somberly.
“Excuse me”, a voice interrupted as Jennifer Walters, aka She Hulk approached the two men. “I hate to interrupt, but can I speak to the Doc for moment?”
Cap looked at Druid who gave a nod.
“Of course”, Cap said as he walked away. “I need to speak to Iron Man anyhow.”
As Cap walked away, She Hulk looked at Druid.
“Can we talk?”, she asked.
“But of course”, Druid said. “Shall we walk into the other room?”
“Lead on”, She Hulk answered as the two walked into a small room adjoining the Avengers library.
“Jennifer, I…”, Druid started to say, but She Hulk cut him off.
“Let me go ahead and get this out”, she asked. When Druid nodded in affirmation, She Hulk continued.
“Listen Doc, I know that we’ve got a history with the whole Temptress or whatever you called her thing. I get it that she had you mentally enthralled and you weren’t yourself. Not entirely anyhow. But let’s be honest. When you joined the team the first time, you were kind of a prick!”
“Jennifer… I”, Druid started to explain, but She Hulk cut him off.
“Let me finish! The way you treated Monica for example, constantly undermining her authority and making her second guess herself. And I don’t know… so many little things. And by the time the stuff happened and you brought that bitch into our group, brainwashing me, Dane and Thor. You made me try to kill Dane.”
Jennifer glared at Druid for a moment and then her facial expression softened.
“I don’t know how much of that was you and how much was the Temptress bitch and I really don’t care. If it wasn’t for those Kang clones or whatever they were getting involved, Dane would be dead and I’d have been the one responsible for killing one of my best friends. That’s not an easy thing to live with.”
She Hulk paused and took a deep breath.
“But I’ve talked to Dane and he’s spoken about what you’ve been doing as a member of the Avengers Europe team and how much you’ve changed. And I’ll be honest. I didn’t want to believe him or accept it. I don’t know what happened to you after to you after you got sucked into that temporal wave and lost in time, space and limbo. You were gone and then you were back, younger and you got your hair back. And you joined the European team when we decided to set up a franchise in London. I read the mission reports and from everything I’ve read and heard from the others on that team, you’ve really turned into a good Avenger and a much better person. And now this. There was a situation here and the US Agent needed help and you stepped up, gathered a team and went to the rescue. Even the Agent is talking about how you stepped up and took charge and he’s a total ass-clown who doesn’t like anyone and gives praise very grudgingly. Anyhow, the bottom line is I don’t know if we can ever be friends or if I’ll ever totally get over what happened on that Quinjet and what I almost did, but I think we can be good team mates and good Avengers. Fresh start?”
Jennifer reached out her hand in an offer of a shake towards Druid.
“Dear lady”, Druid said as he reached out to shake her hand. “I would like nothing better.”
Druid sighed and continued. “I was hoping we would have the opportunity to talk while I was here in New York. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what happened and what a total fool I was. I am so sorry for what happened and know that if I could go back and change things, I surely would.”
“Well, we can’t change the past”, She Hulk admitted, “but let’s put that behind us and ses about making a better future.”
“That would be lovely”, Druid said. “Thank you!”
“You still need to apologize and talk to Monica though. And get things right with Thor too”, She Hulk said.
“Thor and I have come to an… understanding”, Druid said. “While we may never be great friends, we have worked together on a few missions for the Avengers team and I think I’m regaining his respect.”
“Is that enough? Thor can be a bit pig headed sometimes”, She Hulk agreed.
“It will have to be”, Druid sighed. “As for Monica, I have some appointments scheduled for New Orleans next month promoting a book I’ve written. I hope to meet with her then and hopefully, we can make amends.”
“I wouldn’t wait that long”, She Hulk said. “The sooner the better, I would think!”
“Perhaps”, Druid started to say, but they were interrupted by The Vision.
“Excuse me Dr. Druid and She Hulk”, Vision said in his emotionless robotic voice. “We have an alert and Captain America has ordered the team assembled. Dr. Druid, the Captain has asked if you’d like to join us on this mission?”
“But of course”, Druid said. “I am at your service.”
“All of the main team roster are coming as well as all of the reservist you summoned earlier”, the Vision told Druid. “With the exception of US Agent who is currently receiving medical attention for his injured arm.”
“Well, let’s get to shakin’ Doc”, She Hulk said as she started to head towards the Quinjet.
“Indeed”, Druid said as he followed her and the Vision to the Quinjets.
When they reached the Quinjets, the assembled teams were waiting. Captain America, Iron Man, Justice, Firestar, The Wasp, Scarlet Witch, Joscota, The Falcon, Ant Man, Hellcat and Hercules were all standing as Dr. Druid, She Hulk and the Vision entered the room.
“Okay folks, here’s the deal”, Captain America said as he took charge. “We had an A-1 priority call. There are robots attacking the Stark Industries plant in Long Island. Similar robots are also attacking the Genetech facility in New Jersey and the Frost Industries building in upstate New York. We’re going to split into three teams, one led by myself, one led by the Wasp and one led by Druid. We need to stop those robots and find out what and why they’re there.”
“Excuse me Captain”, Druid spoke up. “I’m one of the team leaders?”
“Unless you’d rather not?”, Cap said. “I just assumed that since you just finished leading a team on a mission, you’d be willing.”
“Come on Doc, just do it!”, She Hulk said, patting the Doc on the back.
“Yes… of course”, Druid said. “My apologies for the interruption. Now you were saying Captain… teams?”
Cap smiled briefly and then went immediately back into business mode. “Iron Man, Wanda, Hercules and Ant Man are with me and going to Stark Industries. Jan will have Vision, Justice, Hellcat and Falcon with her and take care of the mess at Genetech. And Druid, your team will be Firestar, Joscota and She Hulk. You’re headed to Frost Industries.”
“And me too”, a voice came from the doorway as the US Agent entered the room. “You didn’t expect to head out on a mssion without me, did you?”
Captain America sighed, “Agent, you’re injured!”
“It’s just a sprain and feels better already. And I’m going!”
Before Cap could argue with the Agent, Druid stepped in. “He can come with myself and the ladies. We’ll try and keep him out of trouble.”
“Oh great”, She Hulk smiled sarcastically.
“Fine”, Cap said. “Now let’s move people!”
“Hey Cap? Someone needs to say it”, Hellcat spoke up as the assembled heroes headed towards the Quinjets.
“Fine”, Cap said. “All together on three. 1… 2… 3!”
And a shout filled the air.
*** END ***