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Chapter 9: Tales of Suspense
The elevator dinged as the door opened. Tasha walked out of it, followed by Happy. As they
walked down the hallway, several employees nodded and smiled at them. Pushing open the door to her
meeting room, Tasha took a moment to absorb the rays of the morning sun shining through the
windows before looking at the meeting table.
Rhodes, who was sitting in one of the chairs, nodded.
She then looked down the table, to see several board members.
“And the board.”
Tasha laughed as she threw up her hands for a second. She then looked over at Rhodes, who had
a straight face.
“What is so funny, Ms. Stark?” asked one of the board members.
“Nothing necessarily in particular,” responded Tasha. “I just need to speak to Colonel Rhodes
for a moment.”
“Ms. Stark, we need to talk about the com . . . .”
“Rhodey!” interrupted Tasha. “Let's talk. Outside.”
Rhodes sighed and stood up. He walked over to Tasha as Happy led him out the door. She
looked back at the board for a moment.
Tasha closed the door. Rhodes folded his arms and looked at her. Happy stood next to them.
“Tasha, you can't keep pushing the board out . . . .”
“I need to talk to you about something. Seriously.”
Rhodes looked into Tasha's eyes. After a second, he put his arms down.
“Have you ever heard of an organization known as Advanced Idea Mechanics?”
“AIM?” asked Happy.
Tasha and Rhodes looked at Happy.
“Yeah,” said Happy. “We met with the CEO, Aldrich Killian, in Switzerland a few years back.
Don't you remember?”
“I guess I owe Janice ten bucks . . . .”
“Well I've heard of them,” said Rhodes. “They're one of our suppliers for the applied science
division of the Air Force. Work on energy efficiency, life support systems, things like that. Why do you
“Well, on the way to China, I got a call from Killian. He wanted to get AIM in on the arc reactor
. . . . and when I was busting out, I found that the group who kidnapped me had a tank with their
imprint on it. I don't believe in coincidence.”
“You think AIM is gunning for you?” asked Rhodes.
Happy looked through the window into the meeting room, squinting as he did so.
“Not sure,” replied Tasha. “But I'm not taking any chances. That's why I moved the arc reactor
here . . . . they couldn't know where it is now . . . .”
“You sure?” asked Happy.
Tasha and Rhodes turned to look into the meeting room. They could see the board members
standing up and looking out the window to see four sleek, white and blue shuttles flying towards the
building. The front section of the shuttles were curved down, and both sides were flanked by forward
facing metal plates which glowed with the same energy as the jets on the back section. Each shuttle had
a yellow hexagon imprint on each side. Tasha's eyes widened as the lead shuttle's metal plates aimed
twin green targeting lasers into the room. She immediately burst through the door.
The board members leaped down as the shuttle fired its machine gun turrets, guided by the
targeting lasers, into the room. The glass of the windows was shattered instantly, and one board
member was torn to pieces by the volley of bullets. Rhodes pulled out his pistol and opened fire on the
shuttle, but his bullets merely bounced off the thick armour. The shuttle then targeted him, but Happy
jumped and pushed him out of the way of the shuttle's fire. Tasha got down on the floor.
“Janice!” shouted Tasha. “Emergency armour protocol! I need Marilyn, now!”
“You still haven't swapped in the vibranium core,” replied Janice. “The suit won't be operating
at peak efficiency . . . .”
Tasha beckoned over to the board members, who then started to crawl under the table towards
her. She looked up to see another shuttle fly up above the rest.
“It appears that one of the shuttles is headed towards the roof,” stated Janice.
Another shuttle flew slightly below the level they were on and began firing into the building.
Screams and crashes were heard as the turrets unleashed their payload. Leading the group of board
members into the hallway by crawling, Tasha then looked back into the room to see Rhodes and Happy
on the floor, under the table. Tasha beckoned them, but Happy shook his head as the targeting lasers
scanned the room.
“Come on!” said Tasha.
The shuttle then turned parallel to the building, and the side opened to reveal a docking ramp.
The ramp landed on the edge of the meeting room, and a hissing noise was heard as the door behind it
slid open. Tasha looked up with wide eyes as a man in a red hazmat suit descended from the steps. He
had a green face, with bones that glowed through his skin. As he walked into the room, he was
followed by several people in yellow, rubber suits, causing them to resemble beekeepers. Behind the
mask of one of them, Tasha could see a younger woman with brown hair. The yellow suited individuals
were all carrying assault rifles. The woman then placed her finger on her ear.
“This is Lieutenant Brandt. All agents, be advised . . . . there is a green asset in the building. I
repeat, a green asset.”
Tasha raised an eyebrow.
“Under no circumstances is the asset to be harmed. All other personnel are expendable.”
Chen looked around the room.
“I know you're here, Stark.”
Tasha lowered her head. Happy looked over at her with fear in his eyes. Chen flexed his hands,
which had pads on the palms that glowed with green energy.
“Step into the light, Stark . . . .”
Tasha narrowed her eyes. She looked over at Rhodes and nodded. Rhodes nodded back. Tasha
then got up and stood in the doorway.
“Looking for me?”
Chen looked at her.
“Ah . . . . the famous Tasha Stark.”
“And you are . . . .?”
“Doctor Chen Lu . . . . well, that's what they called me in my former life. I prefer my new
name . . . . the Radioactive Man.”
“You come up with that one all by yourself?” asked Tasha. “I'm impressed.”
“I'm afraid your glib will not get you out of this one, Stark.”
“It's worked pretty well so far . . . .”
Chen put up his hand as radioactive vapour steamed off it.
“I'm going to give you one chance, Stark. We control this building now. If you want to get out
of this alive, you're going to tell us where the arc reactor is.”
Tasha moved her pupils to look at Rhodes for a split second before looking back at Chen.
Brandt smirked at Tasha. Underneath the table, Rhodes moved into a flanking position at the side of
Chen and the AIM agents.
“Oh, that?” said Tasha.
She pointed upwards.
“It's upstairs. Second floor from the top.”
Chen smirked as his hand glowed brighter.
Rhodes stood up and fired at Chen's arm. Knocking it, Chen shrieked in pain as his radiation
blast fired between Tasha and Rhodes. The AIM agents scrambled as the explosion knocked them down
and blew Rhodes out the window.
Tasha ran towards the window and jumped out after him. Happy shouted as she did so.
The AIM agents then looked at Happy and began firing their rifles. Happy ducked under the
shots and ran out the door and down the hall after the board members as they fled.
As Tasha fell down the length of the tower, she kept her eyes on Rhodes.
“What are you doing?!” shouted Rhodes.
“Trust me!” yelled Tasha.
As she said it, the now red and gold suit, in its open form, flew next to her and began to latch
itself around her body. Forming itself on her limbs, the central unit wrapped around her torso. As the
chest piece locked in, Rhodes' eyes widened. After the helmet locked in over her face and the HUD lit
up, Tasha boosted forward and grabbed Rhodes out of the air. Spinning around, Tasha activated her
shoulder jets, which slowed their descent. Landing on the pavement outside the front entrance of the
tower, Tasha put Rhodes on the ground as he stared at her with wide eyes.
“What is . . . .”
“This? My special project.”
“Those guys . . . .”
Tasha then blasted off the ground and began flying back up the side of the tower.
“Janice. Evacuate the building.”
“There are one hundred and twenty floors of this building, ma'am. Evacuation procedure will
take some time.”
After reaching the broken window, she hovered in place as Chen and the AIM agents stared at
“You like your nickname, Radioactive Man? Then you'll love mine.”
Tasha put up her arms and charged her repulsors.
“I'm Iron Maiden.”
Tasha fired a set of twin repulsor blasts at Chen, striking him in the chest. They knocked him
through the table, splitting it in half. As his head smashed into the floor, his body flipped, sending him
crashing through the wall. The AIM agents were stunned for a moment before looking back at Tasha.
“Shuttles!” shouted Brandt. “Take her down!”
The two hovering shuttles aimed their green targeting lasers at Tasha. She immediately boosted
up above their line of fire as their bullets riddled the wall of the tower.
“Janice, analyze targets!”
Tasha watched as the HUD began listing information as they scanned the shuttles.
“Enemy craft are shuttle-class, with durable titanium armour. Weapons include computertargeted machine gun turrets, cluster missiles and carpet bombs. They sustain flight using four hover
jets which are attached to each corner of the craft.”
Tasha boosted to the left to avoid more bullets from the shuttles.
“Looks like they also use those hover jets to manuever . . . . meaning, that's their weak point.”
Boosting to the right, Tasha flew underneath one of the shuttles as the twin lasers tried to follow
her. Turning her chest to face upwards, she grabbed at the metal plate containing the hover jet on the
bottom left corner of the shuttle. Gripping it firmly with both hands, she pulled on it, straining herself.
After a few seconds of struggle, the metal plate tore off, and the shuttle jerked in response. Smiling,
Tasha then flew to the other side and boosted as she kicked forward, snapping off the metal plate on the
“Try to fly now, you tin brick!”
The shuttle, unable to maintain flight, toppled over and began to fall. It smashed against the side
of the tower, cutting through the glass and metal of several floors before splitting in half and beginning
to careen towards the ground. The AIM agents started to fire their rifles at Tasha, but she fired two
repulsor blasts, knocking back two of the agents and causing the rest to scramble for cover.
The other shuttle opened fire with its twin machine gun turrets, and several struck Tasha's back.
Grunting in pain, she fired a weak repulsor blast at the front section, which barely scratched the durable
armour of the shuttle. Landing in the meeting room, Tasha jumped over the table, kicking one of the
AIM agents in the chest as she did so. Another agent tried to shoot her, but she grabbed the rifle out of
his hands and bashed him across the face with it. Throwing the rifle to the ground, she saw the other
agents run into the hallway, followed by Brandt.
“Shuttle three! Tear. Her. Apart!”
Tasha looked to the right to see the shuttle aiming its targeting lasers at her. She began running
forward as the shuttle opened fire, barely keeping ahead of the stream of bullets as she blasted her way
through the wall at the edge of the meeting room. Throwing her right hand into the air, she rapidly fired
repulsor blasts at the shuttle without looking as she ran. The twin lasers then disappeared.
“Missile launch detected!” yelled Janice.
The shuttle fired a cluster missile directly ahead of Tasha. She tried to turn around and leap
away, but the explosion blasted her through the wall and into another room.
Pushing himself off the ground, Chen stood up and turned to see the rubble strewn around him.
As he started to walk towards the door, he heard Brandt speaking in his ear.
“All agents. This is Lieutenant Brandt. Regroup on the upper level! Shuttle four has taken the
roof, and shuttle three is landing now. We must secure the arc reactor!”
“This is Radioactive Man,” replied Chen. “I'm on my way.”
As he finished speaking, two security guards ran into the room with pistols. They aimed them
directly as Chen.
Chen sighed and put up his hands.
“Keep your hands above your head!”
“Certainly,” he said.
His hands glowed with green mist, and then fired two focused beams of radiation. They hit the
guards in the torso, causing them to stagger. Within a few seconds, the guards melted into puddles of
bloodied biomass. Chen chuckled, and then walked out of the hallway. He looked to his left to see a
woman in a business outfit being gunned down by an AIM agent. She then turned to Chen.
The agent ran over to Chen.
“We've got to get upstairs and regroup with the others,” she said. “Word on the com is that
shuttle three took out Stark.”
“That would be too easy,” he said. “Let's get moving.”
Punching open the nearby door, Tasha scanned the corridor ahead of her.
“No life signs detected on this level, ma'am,” said Janice. “It appears that the hostiles are
congregating near the roof.”
“Caution advised. Someone has activated the open roof. The arc reactor will be exposed.”
“They're going to airlift it out of here with one of their shuttles,” said Tasha. “Time to move.”
Tasha lifted off the ground and flew down the hallway.
Happy rushed into the next room, where he saw a group of people huddling in a corner. Taking
out his pistol, he beckoned them over.
“Come on! We've got the evac order! We've got to get out of here, now!”
The group began to walk over to him, and he saw that Pepper and Stane were amongst them.
“Happy, what's going on?” asked Pepper.
“A group of angry beekeepers are trying to take over the building,” answered Happy.
“And they're led by some glowing nightstick guy in a hazmat suit.”
“Are you sure . . . .”
Happy's eyes widened as he saw two AIM agents turn the corner. The first one pointed forward
as the second took a crouching position.
“Take them out!”
“Get down!” shouted Happy.
Pepper jumped back into the room as Happy took a defensive position at the door threshold.
Stane stayed under a table near the door with some of the other civilians. The AIM agents fired at the
door. After their burst stopped, Happy took a couple of shots, forcing the agents back.
“See?” said Happy.
“Okay, I believe you! I believe you!” shouted Pepper.
Happy got back behind cover as the AIM agents fired again. He popped out to take a few more
shots, but the agents returned to their cover. Firing the last shot in his magazine, Happy quickly popped
out the empty clip and stuffed a new one into the gun. Cocking it, he felt the vibrations of more bullets
colliding with the wall behind him.
Looking out, he saw the door behind the AIM agents burst open, as Rhodes kicked it in. The
agents turned after hearing the noise, but Rhodes quickly punched one of the agents away before
shooting the other one in the chest with his pistol. The first agent quickly recovered, and was about to
attack Rhodes from behind when Happy lined up a shot, firing directly into the agent's head. Rhodes
turned around as the agent crumpled onto the floor behind him. Rhodes looked over at Happy and the
two exchanged a nod.
“Elevator's out?” asked Happy.
Happy stood up and walked out to the hallway next to Rhodes.
“I've got, like, twenty civilians with me,” explained Happy. “We've got to get them out of here.”
“Agreed. Come on, let's bring them this way. We'll see if we can pick up more survivors on the
Pepper, Stane and the civilians began to exit the room. Stane looked down at the dead AIM
“What about Tasha?” asked Happy. “She told me on the way here about her 'project', but even
with that . . . . all those guys . . . .”
“The civilians come first,” said Rhodes. “Unfortunately, right now . . . . Tasha's on her own.”