By Wim_Garnet 10 Comments
All main characters are copyrighted by Marvel Comics. This is a story of the Bronze Age Eternals.
Previous chapters are arranged in sequence on my blog.
Herr Heinrich Phastos donned a yellow hardhat and followed a group of men in hard hats and suits into the first turbine station of the new power plant. His Japanese escorts bowed deferentially to him at every opportunity, using their translator to ask him a respectfully worded barrage of technical questions. From his beginning in engineering at the largest steel mill in the Ruhr Valley in Germany, Herr Phastos had branched out into consulting in many industries - water, power, all manner of manufacturing.
So he often found himself on tours like this one, inspecting technology that was tediously rudimentary to him. It was his job to compliment its makers on their ingenuity and ‘cutting edge’ insights. Occasionally, he made a suggestion, but usually he didn’t bother. He knew his firm was being paid for validation, not actual innovation. It was boring, but running a boring round in public was a good way to conceal the fact that you are secretly the greatest technologist of the Eternals.
As they passed between buildings, the group leader stopped in alarm and pointed to the sky. An unauthorized helicopter was making a descent. Immediately, the others began to yell into their earpieces or run toward security stations. By the time the chopper was near the ground, it was ringed in my armed guards and agitated executives. But it did not appear to be corporate espionage or a terrorist attack. The flank of the chopper was lettered “Toho Films” surrounded by a field of flames and a smoky outline of a dinosaur.
The chopper touched down and a side door flew open. A man emerged dressed in Samurai garb, with long and short swords strapped behind his back. He ignored the security guards calls for him to get on his knees and, though he did not smile, he strode toward Herr Phastos with his right arm extended.
“Kingo!” Phastos exclaimed, as he gripped the warrior-figure’s hand. The lead executive motioned the guards to stand down. Phastos led the strange visitor toward his host.
“Mr. Yamasuka, may I introduce an old friend, Kingo Sunen. But you may already know him from the silver screen.” Yamasuka and Sunen exchanged bows and pleasantries. All was respectful in the moment. The power company’s objections to the film studio would be left for a more formal setting later. Herr Phastos bowed deeply to his hosts, apologized for the interruption and asked for their indulgence as he spoke to his visitor privately.
“Kingo, you’re crazy,” Phastos said as the two walked off into the power yard by themselves.
“I go where I choose, when I choose,” the other responded. He did not crack a smile, but there was a gleam in his eye. “It is rare that one of my brother Eternals joins me in Japan. When it happens, I will see him.”
“I think your film-star cover has gone to your head. Anyway, I thought you were shooting in Africa, or I would have arranged a meeting that drew a bit less attention.”
“The Saharan epic wrapped. Now I’m back with Toho, shooting Godzilla vs. the Ronin.”
“Kind of a lopsided contest.”
Kingo shook his head and scowled a little. “Irradiated Ronin. My character actually has about 30 feet on the lizard.”
“Imagine that. Care to join me for the tour? It may not be as exciting as what you’re used to…”
Suddenly, the ground began to vibrate beneath their feet. Soon, the pole towers and transformer units that filled the fenced yard in front of them were beginning to sway. Beyond the yard, in a low drainage field, they saw the ground begin to shudder and swell. Soon the surface split and a widening chasm stretched away from the two Eternals in a wavering line toward the west.
Immediately, both Phastos and Kingo took to the air, levitating across the plant facilities toward the open and shifting ground. Cover was not important now, so Phastos’ suit disappeared, revealing his blue and purple heroic garb. By the time they landed near the mouth of the chasm, a head was emerging from the earth 150 meters ahead of them. It shook off a cloud of dirt and clay, revealing a face shaped much like a panther’s, with large, gaping white eyes. Instead of fur, gray scales covered the face, with long, rigid plates hanging loosely around the mouth in a manner that suggested a thin beard.
The beast growled, a low rumble that moved the loose earth around it. Then with a grunt, it forced free its forearms, grasped both sides of the chasm with rough, black claws and pulled itself into the open air. Its neck and forearms were stocky and densely muscled, again like a panther, but covered in the same loose gray scales. Behind the shoulders, the body thinned and the scales tightened to it. The torso spanned 30 meters, forming the angular hind legs and tail of a lizard.
From the peaks of each shoulder, a thick, segmented tendril extended, like a spider’s arm. The two tendrils stretched straight out, stiffened momentarily and then bent to form two crooks in the air. Then, in a blinding flash, bat-like wings filled the space beneath the tendrils. The wings’ surface sparked and flashed like the electric arcs spanning a Tesla coil. The light from the wings showed stripes of white scales cutting down the back and tail of the creature.
Kingo Sunen’s dour expression barely changed, though his eyes narrowed slightly. “A lightning dragon.”
“Get these a lot, do you?” Phastos asked. Kingo, as usual, was not amused. He drew his long black sword and Phastos pulled free the long-handled hammer that hung from a strap across his back. Both rose to the beast’s eye level and prepared to assault it.
Before either could advance, the dragon’s white eyes glowed bright, flashing sparks. It shot bolts of lightning that struck each Eternal square in the chest. Stunned momentarily, they fell to the ground. Phastos was the first to get back on his feet. He immediately charged and struck the dragon on at knee of its left panther-leg. The blow glanced from the scales, which acted like the shields of Roman centurions gathered in the tortoise maneuver. Before he could strike again, Kingo was at the other leg, attempting to drive his sword point between the scales. The dragon reared and brought down a foot atop each of them, pressing them into the soil.
As the dragon stepped away the two shook off the dirt and exchanged a quick glance. Sharing a thought, each levitated up beneath one foreleg and began straining to lift the beast. The dragon tried to writhe free. Then, as the two Eternals grunted and unleashed their full strength, its forefeet began to rise from the ground. They lifted it up until the beast was hanging in the air beneath them like a limp cat. Then, with greater exertion, they cast it down on its back. The dragon’s landing must have registered on the Richter scale.
Without hesitation, Phastos swooped down and began to pound the dragon’s underbelly with his hammer. Kingo Sunen flew to its throat and began to slash his blade with all his might. Blue-white arcs of static electricity flew from the places their blows landed, but whether the attacks were doing any lasting damage was not clear in the cloud of topsoil and dust that surrounded them.
The lightning dragon roared like rolling thunderclaps. His white eyes narrowed and he began to beat his glowing wings. By the third stroke, the wings had stirred such a wind that gusts lifted Phastos and Kingo, hurling them across the field. They flew through the fence surrounding the power plant and triggered explosions as their bodies impacted with the housings of large transformer boxes. Alarms and failsafe warning lights triggered all over the plant. It was just the beginning.
The lightning dragon flipped over and leapt into the air. With just one more wing beat, it flew inside the fence and landed with an impact that toppled equipment sheds and outbuildings. Immediately, it began to sweep its grey- and white-scaled tail through the yard, snapping lines, uprooting overhead rigs like they were golf flags, shattering inverter and transformer units. The flashes were dazzling. Explosions overturned nearby maintenance vehicles. The dragon, wide eyed and with a higher pitched roar, drew deep breaths that pulled arcs of escaping current into its mouth.
It took several minutes for Phastos and Kingo to emerge from the wreckage and find each other into the blinding brightness. When they met up, Kingo’s face was beyond stern. It was as steely as in the climax scene of his most intense film.
“We need a plan,” he yelled. The dragon, charged with new power from the station, was shrieking in delight and searching for the two in the rubble.
Phastos nodded. “Those scales are invulnerable. We can only hope that it is weak around its eyes.”
“But what good will that do us? Get close to its face and it we’ll just get another dose of that lightning. Probably worse this time.”
“Engineering,” Phastos said with a slight grin. “Electricity runs to ground. Give me your sword and distract it. Stay as close to its eyes as you can and be ready.”
Kingo looked puzzled, but offered the hilt of his long sword to Phastos. Drawing the short sword, he levitated off to confront the dragon. Phastos too approached the beast, but he stayed on the ground, under the cover of the dust and sparks. Kingo buzzed the dragon’s face and avoided a lightning bolt by a few feet. He swept high into the air and then made a swiftly dive back at the grey bearded head. Again the lighting flashed out, a little closer this time.
Phastos used this time to get close to the right forefoot of the dragon. In a smooth movement, he flipped the sword and wedged it point down in between two scales. Then putting both his hands to his hammer, he drove the sword point down into the flesh of the creature. The dragon shrieked again, this time in pain.
The sword had not gone far, but it had set firmly in the dragon’s flesh so the next strike could fall truer. Phastos brought his hammer over his head and swung it down with all his power. A blue-white arc struck the Eternal and tossed him aside like a puppet. But the blade ran through the dragon’s foot and found purchase in the rocky soil below. The dragon tried to rear up on its hind legs to crush Phastos, but it could not lift the right foot. Then it shuddered and the white lightning of its wings flashed and began to flicker. The engineer Eternal’s gambit was working; the dragon’s power was draining safely into the earth.
Kingo Sunen saw his opportunity and alighted on the bridge of the dragon’s nose. Turning his short sword over his hand, he stabbed down into the creature’s white eye. The blade stopped for a moment when it struck the back of the socket, but Kingo put all his weight on the hilt and the blade burst through the bone. The dragon fell beside the stunned form of Phastos.
Again the images faded from the holoscreen, replaced by the tilting scales. The scales dipped further against the Eternals.
“What?” Phastos roared. “This lightning beast would have devastated cities had we not stopped it immediately. We protected many lives with this victory.”
The scales faded again, with the image of the ruined power station taking its place. Then the image returned of the lightning dragon hanging in the air, carried by the two Eternals. This time, though, they did not throw it down. They carried it out over the sea, leaving the power station and its crew safe behind them. The resuming battle faded back into the image of the scale, falling. Then the screen went black.