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Heroes: The Fall


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Outskirts of Las Vegas

 

"I...want to thank you. Thanks to you I feel like I can finally make a difference and I can finally help those who need help."

 

Beta Ray Bill glanced over at Amy, whom he'd been observing from askance as he worked on the finishing touches to her house. Since Bill had been with her, he'd had no room of his own, and the little dwelling in which she'd both made and lived was barely enough for the young girl, let alone the relatively colossal stature of Beta Ray.

 

It'd started with an expansion to her home that they'd worked on together; a place for himself - and although he needed little sleep due to his cybernetic nature, he still needed privacy. As her teaching and training progressed, he found himself moving on to improving the rest of her home, until the construction of a better dwelling for the young woman became a personal hobby for Beta Ray Bill, and with little need for sleep, he found himself with plenty of time to do so.

 

He hammered one last nail in before stepping back and observing his work.

 

They were outside the house, and the outside alone was a testament to the time and effort he'd put in to the dwelling, as it was nothing like it was before - it was a house, not a hovel; well made, sturdy, and much bigger!

 

Amy smiled at Bill as he turned to her. "I owe you big time."

 

The Korbinite cocked his head to the side a bit, but returned the smile all the same. "'Oath Sister'.....Amy. No thanks are needed, no debt is owed by you. I made a promise, a solemn oath. And the debt.......The debt was mine to pay....It still is," Beta Ray Bill said in a stern but reverent voice. One could tell that his failure at coming to aid Thor in his greatest time of need still weighed heavily on him.

 

Beta Ray followed Amy's gaze, resting his own on Sol as it shied away over the the distant landscape.

 

"Where are we going to go first?" She asked.

 

Bill pondered this for a moment. he desired nothing more than to begin laying waste to all who held a seat of power in this world, knowing most if not all, were villains and scum, deserving nothing less than to be dethroned, but, the Korbinite knew better. Time and experience told him that discretion served their situation best right now.

 

"We start where we stand," he stated as he looked back to her, placing a large hand on her shoulder. "Long silent strides, before loud thunderous leaps. Our efforts must start small dear Amy, or we will do nothing but become icons and martyrs."

 

Beta Ray Bill lifted 'Stormbreaker' and pointed it out towards the distant city of Las Vegas, his gaze resting on the same.

 

"Understand?" He asked as he lowered the mighty weapon and looked back into Amy's gaze.

Edited by Master_Archon
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"'Oath Sister'.....Amy. No thanks are needed, no debt is owed by you. I made a promise, a solemn oath. And the debt.......The debt was mine to pay....It still is,"

 

Amy bowed her head. "Non the less. I still owe you my thanks. Without you, I would have most likely have been found and killed by now." She said as she turned to look at the house Beta Ray had built.

 

"I...Wow. It looks great Bill." She said with a large smile. "I don't know what to say."

 

"We start where we stand, "Long silent strides, before loud thunderous leaps. Our efforts must start small dear Amy, or we will do nothing but become icons and martyrs."

 

"Understand?"

 

"Yes." Amy said simply.

 

Amy looked out at Las Vegas. She had listened to rumors and although a few of them may have been out of date they may still prove useful. "It's been renamed Hammer Falls. In fact, it's where I was living when I came across Mjolnir."

 

She turned to look at Bill. "It's where Thor made his final stand. People used to pray at the hammer for the heroes to return and to fight for them once again." Her eyes somberly turned to the ground. "When I took the hammer...people were so excited and hopeful. I feel like I let them down by not fighting for them."

 

Her eyes once again returned to Hammer Falls. "I intend to fix that. I intend to give people hope once again."

 

She turned to Beta Ray Bill. "From what I hear, Hammer Falls was under the Kingpin until he was killed by Spider-Girl. Now that she has control of the Kingpin's territory she's become an even worse threat than the Kingpin. I've heard rumors that another villain has been trying to wrestle her territory from her."

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  • 3 weeks later...

Ruins of Haeju, Sinister Empire

 

As the rebels reached the outskirts of Haeju, they stopped to rest, and Mia was thankful for it. Their ambushers had given up the chase hours ago, far as they could tell. ChoA’s perceptiveness would have alerted them to even the best camouflaged soldier. There was no cover to hide in like there had been in the port. Despite that, they had not let up the pace as they marched through the desert. It would have been a hard trip in proper desert clothing at a measured pace, but marching through in hazmat suits had proven torturous.

 

The walls of the city loomed high above them, still standing despite the heavy damage they had sustained years ago. The city had been transformed into an Akkaba Citadel long ago. Luckily, the walls cast a shadow, and they were all grateful to get out from under the sun. Mia sunk to the ground, sitting next to Kurtis and his squad. She wanted to removed her suit and cool off, but the radiation levels had only increased as they approached the city. That had not come as a surprise, given that the city had been the site of Genocide’s death.

 

“Who was this Genocide guy again?” Mia asked Kurtis.

 

“He was Apocalypse’s kid, a living nuclear reactor.” Kurtis said. “There’s a bunch of different stories ‘bout how he kicked it. Important thing is that he did, and he did it here. Haeju was War’s city. If there’s any weapons out there, they’d be here.”

 

“We’ve rested enough,” Woojin said. “Let’s move on in. I want a good survey of this place done before the sun goes down.”

 

Mia stood up, stretching and looking at the wall for weak points. She slipped through a gap, Kurtis and the others following. She found herself in a rubble-strewn square, with the ruins of Haeju clearly in sight. Mia was certain that the city must have once been rather grand, once, but Haeju had not been preserved like the nearby port. It was a broken, ruined city, covered with soot and sand. In its own way, it was impressive, but Mia and the rebels were not there to be tourists gawking at artifacts of a bygone era.

 

Kurtis and Mia walked at the head of the squad, heading up the main street to the central building of the city. They had been charged with finding a way inside, a task for which Mia had volunteered. Kurtis, never one to flee from risk, decided to accompany her with his squad. The Akkaba city planners had evidently not been one for subtlety, as the building towered over the rest of the city. They ascended the large stairs that led to the building, stopping as they reached the large entrance.

 

“What now?” One of Kurtis’ squad, Taewoo, spoke up. “We can’t just knock on the front door.”

 

“Why not?” Mia said. She raised her hand, and let off a blast of channeled energy. The door clattered down with much clamor.

 

“Knock knock.” Kurtis said with a grin, and started walking inside. Mia followed.

 

“If there’s cannibal mutants living in there, I’m blaming you too when we get eaten alive.”

 

Mia was not surprised to find the inside of the building as filled with debris as the streets had been. Part of the building had collapsed in on itself, limiting their paths forwards. All the hallways, save one, were filled with wreckage. Meanwhile, a gaping chasm awaited directly ahead of them. The fallen ceiling seemed to provide them with a slope they could use to access the lower levels quickly. Mia looked at a knowing Kurtis, who nodded.

 

Carefully, Mia began to climb down into the chasm. Luckily for her, the wreckage proved fairly stabile. She descended a few levels, each appearing rather identical to the others. She shouted to Kurtis, who led his squad down after her. It was dark in the below, so flashlights were needed. They found themselves in what appeared to be some sort of trophy room. Statues of War, the Horseman of Apocalypse, were interspersed with broken pieces of equipment and torn costumes.

 

The trophy room exited into a long, narrow hallway. Mia found that heading left led her only to a blast door, so she and Kurtis proceeded right. There was the occasional side-room to distract them, but none held anything to keep them for long. A few sets of stairs took them even lower underground. Eventually, they found themselves in a large, dark, empty room, what seemed to be a dead-end. The room was long enough that shining their flashlights directly forward did not immediately illuminate the opposite wall. After about fifty paces, they were able to behold the wall, which was not a wall at all, but seemed to be the door for a massive safe.

 

“Get Woojin,” Mia said, assuming one of Kurtis’ squad would follow the order. “He’ll want to see this.”

 

 

Once news of the vault had gotten out, all the rebel squads converged on the central building. They were all relieved that something had been found; friends had died that day, and the discovery meant that their deaths had been for something. Debris was refashioned into makeshift furniture, with flashlights left on top to provide lighting. Mia paced back and forth as Kurtis worked on the locking mechanism under Woojin’s personal supervision. Despite the size of the door, the lock seemed to be a simple matter, or so he insisted.

 

“Assuming this’s the only door, its looking like War was counting on the city’s defenses to keep this thing shut,” Kurtis said. “The first lock would be open already if this electronic stuff weren’t broke.”

 

“Can you fix it?” Woojin asked.

 

“Nope. But I can mess with the wires and skip it all.”

 

After a few months, Mia turned her head at the sound of a large thunk from the door as the first of three locks opened. Kurtis celebrated quietly, and began to work on the next lock. An obnoxious buzzing noise came to her ears, and she looked up just in time to see a series of lights flicker on. The light was dim and blue, and she did not have to shield her eyes. Mia and the others raised their weapons and surveyed the room.

 

Mia did not see where the first security mech came from, but soon they began filling the room. They dropped from the ceiling and came from holes in the walls. Some of them were old and rusty, and so easily dispatched. Others were fully operational and proved much tougher to take down. The rebels crowded around Kurtis in the corner, defending him as he continued to unlock the vault door. Mia grimaced, letting loose a blast of energy. She wasn’t sure how much longer they could hold this position.

 

---

 

Schultz’s face retained his slight grin as his men piled the last of the rebel bodies together. The pile was doused with gasoline taken from the rebel’s own supplies. His sturmgruppen had sustained a handful of casualties, but the rebels many more. At the bottom of the pile was their Abomination, who had proven too heavy to move. They had taken a photograph with the corpse, like a proud hunter did with his prey. Taking a matchbox from his pocket, Schultz approached the pile. He struck a match and dropped it casually, turning his back as the corpses went up in flames.

 

“Herr Oberscharfurher!” Ullrich Becker approached him, saluting. “Will you be readying your report for the Bureau today?”

 

“Of course. I pride myself on punctuality, Becker.” Schultz said. “Our long-range communication capabilities are limited. Who is the nearest Bureau contact in the peninsula?”

 

“HYDRA database says that Operative Curtiss Bentley is currently housed in Paju.”

 

“Paju? Must be hunting someone, then.” Schultz said. In his experience, Bureau agents rarely left the major cities except when they were chasing fugitives. “Be sure to send our surveillance footage along with my report. Perhaps he will find it of interest.”

 

“As you wish, Herr Schultz.”

 

---

 

“Hurry up with that last lock!” Mia said, crouching down behind a pile of fallen security droids.

 

“Shouting. Does. Not. Help!” Kurtis concentrated on the wiring, speaking slowly.

 

The assault had continued unabated for some time now. They had felled enough mechs to erect a barrier with their scraps, but Kurtis’ squad was beginning to run low on ammunition. The tide of robotic reinforcements was slowing, but they were expending ammunition at a faster rate than they could sustain. Woojin and Mia were the only superhumans in the room, and neither of their power sets were suited to taking bullets. Her energy discharge could only take out so many droids before they’d overwhelm her.

 

The final lock opened with the same thunk sound that the others had. The door began to swing out, breaking down the edge of their barrier but sweeping into the crowd of mechs at the same time. Momentary relief for the rebels turned to despair as the vault door revealed what appeared to be some sort of raw energy barrier. Mia, however, grinned. She could sense the energy, and tried to draw it out to her. Feeling bold, she stood and spread her arms, one towards the barrier, and another towards the crowd of droids.

 

“Get down!” Mia said.

 

A second after she shouted, Mia began repurposing the barrier as a weapon. The barrier was depleted as the security mechs were torn apart by the raw energy. The tide of the battle was turned, and soon Kurtis’ squad secured the room. They began venturing out into the hall, to see if the rest of the rebel force had need of assistance. Kurtis himself was enthusiastic, and gave Mia a strong hug. Woojin remained more serious.

 

“That was rather convenient. Not that I’m complaining.” He said. “Let’s hope this was all worth the trouble.”

 

 

When the matter of the droids was finally settled, a good deal of the rebels crowded in the vault chamber. The anticipation was palpable, and brought a sense of tension to the air. The vault had ultimately been what they had hoped to find in the first place, and many had died to get them to it. Woojin cautiously entered the vault, flanked by Mia, ChoA and Kurtis. The inside was large and spacious, lit by the same dim blue light. They found themselves on a bridge of sorts, leading to a platform in the center of the room.

 

The platform had a container on it, and as they approached it opened automatically, lifting the contents up. Displayed on a metal stand was a tear-drop shaped object, with dimly glowing orange spots along it. Mia could see surprise on ChoA’s face as she saw it. Woojin stepped up to it, and reached out a hand, but was hesitant to touch it. Mia turned to Kurtis, who seemed as confused as she was herself.

 

“Is that all there is?” Mia said. “What even is that?”

 

“That,” ChoA said, timidly. “is a War Seed.”

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  • 2 weeks later...

"From what I hear, Hammer Falls was under the Kingpin until he was killed by Spider-Girl. Now that she has control of the Kingpin's territory she's become an even worse threat than the Kingpin. I've heard rumors that another villain has been trying to wrestle her territory from her."

 

Beta Ray Bill twitched at the mention of a 'Spider-Girl', for he knew the barer of the original title of Spiderman, and in the past had fought alongside him, if only briefly.

 

Bill was no stranger to the events that had occurred on Earth, now. His time spent mentoring Amy had allowed him to learn from many sources of what had lead up to, as well as, the current affairs of this world. From large gatherings of data hashed together by 'Scuttlebutt', from the most remedial - to the most secure networks (those that still worked or even existed anymore), as well as stories and knowledge from Amy herself; to wandering around the nearby towns and villages as his alternate human form: Simon Walters - allowed him by 'Stormbreaker' - gathering information and rumors as best he could without drawing attention.

 

Beta Ray grasped his long face in his hand, pondering this news.

 

"A war....? Yes. That would be the best course. Would it not...." He muttered, though it was still audible enough to be heard. He turned his attention back to Amy.

 

"With the chaos of two warlords vying for territory our actions will be less noticeable. We'll start there, 'Oath Sister', disrupting them both where we can, yet, ultimately we will focus on the weaker of the two."

 

Beta Ray Bill straightened himself, slipping his grip from the handle of his great hammer to the strap below, allowing 'Stormbreaker' to dangle in his grasp.

 

"And night is best for flying, unnoticed." He said rather ominously as the sun finally set, the last light of day slipping away, darkness finally reigning in. Looking down at Amy both stoic and stern.

 

"Ready?"

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"With the chaos of two warlords vying for territory our actions will be less noticeable. We'll start there, 'Oath Sister', disrupting them both where we can, yet, ultimately we will focus on the weaker of the two."

 

"In that case, we should most likely focus on Spider-Girl. This Warlord she's been fighting has unknown forces. Although there have been rumors whoever it is has been using technology similar to the Iron Man suits that Tony Stark used to use."

 

"Ready?"

 

She looked up at Beta-Ray's stern face and nodded as she held Mjolnir with one hand and the other hand pointed towards the city. "Always." She said as she slowly began to rise into the air and she looked down at Beta Ray.

 

"Be careful. I have a feeling that Spider-Girl has eyes everywhere."

 

 

Twelve miles outside of Hammer Falls

 

SlipStream was forced to dodge left and right as he continued to run across the landscape as the two mechanical suits that had been following him for the past few miles shot repulsor beams directly in front of him in an attempt to stop him or kill him. He had a feeling that whoever was in control of these suits didn't care much either way.

 

"I have a feeling that you guys aren't going to let up until either I die or you die!" He called over his shoulder as he continued to run. On the outside it looked as if he was still fine but in reality he was struggling to keep going.

 

He was exhausted and he couldn't seem to lose these two.

 

"Missile lock established." A cold mechanical voice spoke from behind him.

 

Missiles. That's not good.

 

SlipStream could hear the sound of a most likely explosive object closing in from behind him and he knew that he was going to have to get creative to avoid it.

 

Lets see here...what options do I have to work with? Cliffs to the North and West, Hammer Falls to the East, and a trail that anyone can follow to the south.

 

Wait a second...the Cliff!

 

Slipstream knew that he wouldn't get a second chance at this since he was nearly out of energy. But it was worth a shot.

 

Just as he was about to run into the cliff he jumped and threw himself legs first at the rock face and used what little energy he had left and the momentum he had gained to launch himself away from the wall of rock and let a small grin appear on his face as he heard the sound of an explosion behind him accompanied by the sound of the suits slamming into the cliff.

 

He took the opportunity to bolt once again and shot off towards the East. He knew that Hammer Falls wasn't exactly the...well, it was the worst possible place to go but he didn't have much of a choice anymore.

 

And who knew? Maybe he could find someplace to stop for a bit and rebuild his strength.

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  • 1 year later...

Paju hadn't changed much since Curtiss' last assignment. That mission, as well, had been a direct perogative from the Bureau Direktor.

 

As another sign of goodwill, the dignitaries of the Sinister Empire had opened up a direct channel for members of the Bureau to eradicate dissenting superhumans, opening up a permanent bridge between the Reich Eternal and its Asian neighbors.

 

Curtiss was the first company man to place his polished shoes upon the Paju tarmac, a day which had left his jet-black, well-tailored suit coated in dust and grime. By the time Curtiss had managed to leave later that week, 23 superhumans hung from the lamp posts and balconies of the Sinister Elite's domiciles. His suit, however, had remained unchanged.

 

Curtiss remembered that the filthy, sheenless view of dirt and blood upon his expensive shoes was oddly similar to the mess in Paju, the mess that was also on his gloved hands. The mess that would only keep getting messier.

 

The type of messy that no hand wash or disinfectant could clean.

 

Curtiss' mind shot back to the present with the distinct triple-beat tone of his personal communication device. He quickly unclipped it from his belt as he stepped from the vehicle dropping off his gear at the Paju safehouse. The communique emblazoned itself in bright green light on a nearby wall.

 

Von der Hande des Feldkommander Shultz:

 

Our mission parameters cannot be shared at this time, but we have encountered a small group of rebels who fit the description of a dossier sent to us prior to our current engagement. Please view the following footage.

 

This message's digital footprint will erase itself upon your closing of this message.

 

Curtiss wasted no time as he accessed the surveillance files. The screen presented a darkened setting, broken occasionally by the flash of gunfire and other equipment. He managed to catch a glimpse of several of the rebels as they made their escape from the Sturmtruppen squad. A brief second was just enough for Curtiss' active mind to do its work.

 

There she is, he thought, Mia Ko is far closer than even the Bureau had suspected.

 

Old memories of bodies swaying in the wind broke his concentration and Curtiss accidentally closed the communique, inadvertantly deleting the footage and information. He visibly shuddered.

 

Let's not make this any longer than it needs to be.

 

The money would be waiting for him when he brought her in. For a while, maybe he could forget the putrid waste that each of these missions left on his personal memories.

 

Curtiss refocused his mind, grabbed his bailout bag and got back into the vehicle. Utilizing his personal driving skill and knowledge of the backroads, Curtiss knew he could make it to the Haeju ruins in short order.

 

Time meant everything in these types of breaks.

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Ruins of Haeju, Sinister Empire

 

ChoA made her rounds of the city walls as the rebels regrouped inside Haeju. While she could not deny that her abilities made her the inarguable best choice for the job, she still resented the assignment somewhat. She did not have the temperament for the job. Regardless, they did not think that the assailants they had faced at the port were likely to have given up the chase entirely. If they wanted to survive another encounter, they could not be left unawares. ChoA looked towards the distance, back towards the port. Here eyes widened in surprise as she perceived a battle taking place. The battle was between the new, unfamiliar enemy, and the most familiar of enemies.

 

Sinister.

 

Symphony Hall, Sinister Seoul

High Majesty Sinister sat in the place of honor, high on a balcony, as the Sinister Symphony played for a full crowd. Beside him sat the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of the Interior. Only Sinisters were in the crowd, of course, the crowd becoming a pattern of ashen grey skin and fine black suits. The lower minister, McDowell, was brought in by a pair of escorts. Sinister did not look at him, but instead continued to look down at the performers. McDowell was visibly nervous, sweating profusely.

 

“I’m quite angry, you should know.” Sinister said. “My attendant asked if that meant I wanted to cancel the performance. I thought I made him to know better. Anger does not rob me of taste.”

 

“Angry, your majesty?”

 

“My Squadron Sinister discovered a Reich force within my territory. A heavily armed, elite black ops unit. Completely unauthorized.”

 

“I swear, I didn’t-”

 

“I know you didn’t know.” Sinister tapped the side of his head. “Telepathy. Your mind is an open book. And you know what I think of it?”

 

“W-what?”

 

“Genre trash.”

 

Before McDowell could say anything more, his escort set upon him, beating him to the ground with the butts of their rifles. High Majesty Sinister spoke now to his Ministers.

 

“All people like him to be eliminated from the Empire. The Reich has tested our sovereignty for the last time. The Bureau too. No more associating with neanderthals.” He spoke calmly. “No more humans.”

 

Three Months Later

Ruins of Haeju, Sinister Empire

 

A caravan of hazmat-wearing men approached the walls at the dead of midnight. A group of three came from inside, weapons ready. Once the identities of everyone were ascertained, they were escorted inside. They were lead past a large pit, down the remaining unblocked hall. An empty chamber awaited them. An elevator. One of the three escorts pressed some buttons and began the descent. After a few minutes, a light turned blue. The elevator operator removed her headgear.

 

"Is that safe?" One of the new arrivals spoke, voice audibly skeptical.

 

"Absolutely" ChoA replied. "The Undercity of Haeju was like a giant bomb shelter. Completely protected from the radiation above."

 

"You'd think there'd be Akkaba remnants in it."

 

"This was the Horseman of War's residence. He didn't much believe in non-combatants. When he went to battle with Sinister, he brought everyone with him." ChoA continued. "Which does mean there wasn't much in the way of weapons left behind. But this place is relatively self-sustaining."

 

"I suppose that explains how you've been able to taken in so many refugees."

 

"Sinister cutting ties with the rest of the world was a mixed blessing. It took the pressure off of us directly, but with the slums being purged, people need us more than ever." ChoA's voice was noticeably agitated. "We've been here for three months. Three months we've stayed put. Driving me crazy."

 

"I thought you found a weapon here?"

 

"Its a little more complicated than that. What's your name?"

 

"Boris."

 

"What the hell is a Boris doing here?"

 

"The Sinister Empire took half of Russia, remember."

 

"History isn't my strong suit." The elevator slowed to a stop, and the doors opened. "Well, Boris, here we are. Welcome to the heart of the rebellion."

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New Babylon, Reich Eternal, The American Reichschancellery

 

"Would you care to repeat that, Herr Ribbentrop?"

 

Ambassador Hans Gerd Von Ribbentrop had a noticeable quiver to his lower lip, a single bead of sweat retreating down his forehead. Such perspiration could not be attributed to the weather, as the dark, gray-green marble that lined the FuhrersKabinett reflected only the cold, crisp air of both the lack of heat in the room as well as the efficiency of the activities performed inside it.

 

"Mein Furher..." stammered Ribbentrop.

 

The Red Skull stood across from Ribbentrop, seperated only by a titanium black desk with a rich mahognay wood in-lay, polished to a blinding sheen. Behind the Red Skull's hellish profile hung a large, room-sized curtain, a giant swastika emblazoned upon it, a single red skull centered inside the black spider. With the Red Skull's bust on the desk, an elegant portrait placed tastefully to the right of the large curtain, the centered skull, and the imposing figure of Red Skull himself staring him down, Ribbentrop felt insignificant in the face of all who surveyed. All of whom were, in fact, the Red Skull.

 

Ribbentrop struggled to finish his sentence.

 

"...The Sinister Empire has sealed off all communications, our men at the Embassy are being singled out and killed as each tries to leave the safe territory agreed upon in the Trade Agreement of Steel...we are utilizing the Luftwaffe to airlift them as we speak."

 

The Red Skull lifted a part of skin that would have belonged to an eyebrow had he any.

 

"The Mandarins have also begun to follow suite, threatening our Pacific Fleets...the Silver Shogunate, as always, has chided our efforts to expand into their territory. The Shogun's ambassadors, however, are largely staying on the reservation, fulfilling their trade and defense agreements."

 

The Red Skull's jaw loosened, his displeasure momentarily broken by what could best be described apathy, but to Ribbentrop, could also mean mercy.

 

"And why are my legions being denied their respect in the Far East, Herr Ribbentrop?"

 

The ambassador shifted his weight,"Mein Fuhrer...they...that is, the Sinister Squadrons caught whiff of a Reich team operating near Haeju. We've not heard anything since then, but we have reason to believe that they have successfully gone to ground to continue their mission..the one involving the tracking and capture of..."

 

The Red Skull waved a hand to stop Ribbentrop. Loose lips sink ships? That was true for the last strong American who tried to stand against the Reich Eternal. He lost far more than a few ships.

 

The Skull broke his expression, stating,"I knew your great grandfather, Herr Ribbentrop."

 

"Truly, Mein Fuhrer?"

 

The skull's nasal cavity wrinkled, a slight annoyance.

 

"Yes, I did. Good soldier during the Great War. Fought against the foolishness of Versailles. But all such leadership then was weak."

 

The Red Skull stalked around the table, his black boots clicking against the marble floor.

 

"You and your great grandfather are similar men."

 

The ominous Skull grabbed a small manila folder from his desk. It's print was warm and fresh, only recently made from the government offices below.

 

Ribbentrop beamed at the thought of being like his great grandfather, the man who acted as Adolf Hitler's voice in foreign relations.

 

"You are both foolish men. Both whom have left their leaders without proper intelligence and protection. What Untermensch would be so idiotic as to conduct covert operations over established channels?"

 

The feeling of pride deserted Ribbentrop. The fear returned.

 

The Red Skull moved swiftly and in a perfectly controlled rage, seizing Ribbentrop by his thick dirty, blond hair and smacking his head against the marble desk. If he'd used a fraction more of his immense strength, the ambassador's head would've popped like a melon.

 

"Examples must be made, Herr Ribbentrop, be thankful that I desire you to learn from your mistakes."

 

The man struggled upward, holding his bruised and bleeding skull as if he felt his brains would pour out.

 

"Thank you, Mein Fuhrer..."

 

Ribbentrop gave a half salute and turned on his heel to leave. A gloved hand grabbed his shoulder.

 

"Oh, and Ribbentrop...deliver this final message to Sinister. I hear he likes music."

 

Red Skull handed him the manila folder, little blood droplets coating its outside, giving it a more dramatic flair.

 

"Jawohl, Mein Fuhrer."

 

Ribbentrop hastily marched from the room, hearing the Red Skull say, with a sense of finality, "Two gods standing against each other in conflict always makes me think of Wagner."

 

The Red Skull exhaled loudly.

 

"Goetterdammerung may be upon him."

 

 

 

Three Months Later

Mandarin/Sinister Borderlands

 

"3 days, no contact."

 

Schultz lowered his enhanced binoculars, his breath turning to white clouds in the early morning air.

 

"The Reichsmarshall doesn't want to make the same mistake, Becker."

 

The SS soldier deactivated his communication advice, returning to complete radio silence. Schultz sat back down in the makeshift camoflage shelter the team had constructed.

 

"We'll cross the border back into Sinister territory again. We must complete our objective."

 

Becker nodded,"With our shields or on them, as they say."

 

Schultz grunted an affirmative and looked at the well-worn dossier he'd just taken from his pack. The picture of their target was emblazoned on the first page.

 

"Mia Ko cannot hide for long."

 

 

 

Haeju Ruins

 

Curtiss had firsthand experience with purge, but genocide was an entirely different matter. After leaving his quarters in Paju, he'd witnessed what he guessed was a complete failure of international policy. Human denizens who had found themselves under the thrall of the Sinister yoke were fleeing from the cities en masse. Communication had been cut off for the most part, rendering the communiques with the Central Bureau impossible.

 

For once in his life, Curtiss had no idea what was truly happening. But he knew that whatever it was, it would shift world power once again. Those seemed far too common now.

 

Because of the crowds, the military actions, the general chaos of the change, it had taken him far longer to reach Haeju than he had intended. He had only been in the area for 15 days, scavenging and trading for supplies with old Bureau merchant contacts who were seeking access outside of the Sinister Empire. Having worked with the Eternal Reich, deportations and executions were normal occurrences, but this level of displacement was ambitious.

 

Prior to his field days and the discovery of his ability to perfectly empathize with targets, Curtiss had worked for the Bureau's Strategic Analysis Branch. He ran numbers on populations, crafted threat categories, and performed a triage affiliation of sorts within certain nations. It largely pertained to superhumans, but he also differentiated the Sinister Human population vs. the Sinister population....if their reports would be accurate, many many millions of persons were now refugees from a superior number of armed Sinister denizens.

 

And Mia Ko was smack dab in the middle of it.

 

He'd been gauging the ruins from a distance for days and interrogated a few refugees as they fled for the underground bunker beneath the city. The rebels were active, granting safety to many folks, but that also made them clear targets. Haeju's population was growing rapidly, it wouldn't be long before Sinister squadrons would put an end to this Humanitarian effort.

 

As well as ending the chances for bringing a live bounty to the Bureau's coffers.

 

Curtiss jumped down from his hiding place, an Akkaba spire half-burned, and walked quickly to join step with a small caravan of human refugees walking straight into Akkaba bunker.

 

The Rebels were far too trusting.

 

Why not walk right in? He thought.

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