Read The Avengers Assemble Online

Authors: Thomas Macri

Tags: #Marvel Junior Novel (eBook)

The Avengers Assemble (4 page)

CHAPTER SIX

OVER THE NEXT
few weeks, things got very interesting for Tony. Obadiah Stane was not in the least happy with Tony's decision to close down Stark's weapons-manufacturing division. But Tony didn't care what Obadiah or anyone else thought about it. It was Tony's company, built by his father, and no one could tell him what to do with it.

Even after shares of Stark Industries' stock plummeted 57-percent, Tony refused to budge. He'd had a change of heart in Afghanistan, both figuratively and literally. Yinsen's struggle and sacrifice had opened Tony's eyes. He had talent and money and a fantastic scientific brain. Why, then, shouldn't he be helping the world as opposed to hurting it?

Tony spent most of his time rebuilding the suit he had developed in Afghanistan. Only this time it wouldn't be big and clunky, but as sleek and stylish as Tony himself. He was tireless in his efforts to get the jet propulsion just right so he could fly effectively. He strengthened the Arc Reactor that powered his heart and the suit. And he developed repulsor disks—much like the ones he'd used on the Jericho missiles—that would be affixed to his palms and could be used to fight off adversaries.

Ultimately, Tony had created the perfect tech suit. After a test flight, Tony's virtual butler, J.A.R.V.I.S.—who had the run of Tony's house and vied with Pepper for the most important position in Tony's life—suggested making the armor gold. Tony felt it was too flashy. He suggested adding splashes of red—and with that, Tony's suit's trademark red and gold colors were decided.

Now one of Tony's inventions wouldn't be used to hurt people, but to help them. Tony stepped into his newly refined suit and decided to take it for a ride. J.A.R.V.I.S. warned Tony that he might want to test the suit further before flying around the skies over California, but Tony was never one to shy away from adventure.

Tossing caution to the wind, he zoomed out of his house and into the night sky—shaky at first, but very quickly getting the hang of it. He swooped over the city, over the sea, and around office towers—it was the most amazing feeling Tony had ever experienced.

Once he became comfortable in his suit, he quickly put it to good use. His first mission would be the most obvious—he planned to return to Afghanistan, to the area where he'd been held captive, and help the people in Yinsen's village. Tony was successful on this first mission, but unfortunately he caught the eye of the US Air Force—and his friend Rhodey. The military wasn't happy about the idea of a maverick fighting unauthorized on war-torn foreign soil.

Worse, his actions caught the attention of Obadiah Stane, who was fed up with Tony and, it came to light, had been for some time now. Tony discovered that Obadiah was the person who had set up his kidnapping in Afghanistan. Obadiah wanted Tony out of the way so he could take control of Stark Industries. And he would stop at nothing to achieve that goal. Obadiah flew back to Afghanistan to retrieve Tony's original armor, improve on it, and create an armor bigger, more powerful, and fitted with an unimaginable array of weapons.

Obadiah soon had his suit. It was the very thing he needed to finish off Tony. It was three times as large as the Iron Man suit. Obadiah attacked Tony at Stark Industries. After a long battle, where Obadiah often had the upper hand, Tony, with the help of Pepper, overloaded the building's tremendous Arc Reactor and blasted Obadiah off the roof.

The power surge caused blackouts all over the city and sent a stream of light into the sky over LA so bright that it lit up the night like a noontime sun. This one was not going to go unnoticed.

Tony had won his battle, but he sure had some explaining to do.

CHAPTER SEVEN

TONY STEPPED UP
to the podium. He had been briefed by Pepper, his PR team, Rhodey, and Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D. The story reported to the public was to be that there had been an electronic malfunction at Stark Labs the night before and a robotic prototype malfunctioned and caused damage to the Arc Reactor. With all of the fantastic innovations that Stark Industries had produced, the hope was that this story would fly.

S.H.I.E.L.D. had covered up Obadiah's demise, writing it off as a small-craft accident while Stane vacationed. With Rhodey setting the stage for Tony's press conference, Mr. Stark, as smooth as ever, was set to explain away the events of the previous night. The newspapers were calling the armored figure “Iron Man,” and the name was taking hold. Tony liked it, and thought it was catchy—if a little inaccurate, since the suit was not iron, but a powerful alloy. Still, Tony was prepared to brush off “Iron Man” and preserve his secret identity.

“Uh, it's been a while since I've been in front of you; I figured I'll stick to the cards this time,” Tony began.

The audience, many of them reporters who had attended Tony's previous press conference, rippled with laughter. Tony cleared his throat.

“There's been speculation that I was involved in the events that occurred on the freeway and the rooftop.…”

“I'm sorry, Mr. Stark,” a female reporter cut him off, “but do you honestly expect us to believe that was a bodyguard in a suit that conveniently appeared
despite
that fact that you…”

“I know that it's confusing; it is one thing to question the official story and another thing entirely to make wild accusations or insinuate that I'm a Super Hero.”

“I never said you're a Super Hero.”

“You didn't?”

“Uh-uh.”

“Well, good, because that would be outlandish and, uh, fantastic. I-I'm just not the hero type. Clearly. With this laundry list of character defects, all the mistakes I've made, largely, um, public.”

Rhodey whispered to Tony to stick to the script and Tony nodded.

“The truth is,” Tony continued, then paused, with his eyes locked on his cue cards for an eternal instant.

“I am Iron Man.”

ASGARD

One could say that the Realm of Asgard is far from Earth, but
that would not be entirely accurate. For the distance between
Asgard and Earth is measured not in meters or miles. The
journey from one point to the other cannot be traveled by plac
ing one foot before the other, or by flying an aircraft. The two
exist on opposite sides of the Bifrost wormhole.

It is much easier for Asgardians to travel to Midgard,
which is what Earth is called on Asgard, then it is for Earth-
lings to travel to Asgard. Asgardians can travel relatively
easily between Realms. And if Asgardians can do something,
you can be certain they will. So, to put it plainly, the people
of Asgard have, and still do, travel to Midgard. They do this
by journeying over the Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge that can
transport them to any of the Nine Realms.

With the long history of intimate contact between
Asgardians and humans came some misunderstandings.
Humans have called the beings of Asgard everything from
demons and monsters to angels and gods for the abilities they
possess. Asgard has found a place in human literature, history,
culture, and lore. Thursday, to take one example, is named for
Thor, son of Odin, Allfather of Asgard.

Like any father and son, Odin and Thor enjoyed a complex
relationship. Odin loved his son and wanted what was best for
him. But Thor was stubborn, proud, and arrogant. On the day
that Odin was to bequeath the throne to Thor, a great banquet
was held with all Asgardian royalty present—including Thor's
mother, Frigga, and his younger brother, Loki. The kingdom
was at peace with its neighbors, and all were set to celebrate with
a great feast. Thor's closest companions were in attendance as
well: Fandrall, Volstagg, and Hogun—together called the War-
riors Three—and the Lady Sif, a proud and skilled warrior.

At the very moment that Odin was to bestow the crown
unto Thor, a chill frosted the throne room's very air. The
Asgardians looked about them. A chill like this—one that
stabbed at your bones—was not common in Asgard, and it
could only mean one thing. Frost Giants must be near. The
icy blue inhabitants of Asgard's oldest enemy, the land of
Jotunheim, must have somehow entered the Realm despite the
truce between the kingdoms.

Odin, Thor, and Sif rushed from the throne room to the
Vault, where all the greatest treasures of Asgard were kept.
Sheets of ice covered the walls, and the Vault's sentries had
fallen prey to an onslaught of ice. A giant suit of armor known
as the Destroyer, powered by Odin's very life force, stood at
the far end of the Vault. The Destroyer's only directive was
to protect Asgard and its people. When a threat was posed,
the Odinforce within the Destroyer would burn bright and lay
waste to the threat. It had done that now—and recovered what
the Frost Giants had intended to take: the Casket of Ancient
Winters. Laufey, king of Jotunheim, once tried to use the
casket to cover all Nine Realms with ice, so that he might rule
over them. Odin and the Asgardian armies had battled for the
Casket and won, then secured it in the Vault so that it might
never again be misused.

Thor was furious about the Frost Giants' attack. To him,
this was clearly an act of war.

Odin reminded his son that Asgard and Jotunheim had a
truce. Who was to say that Laufey ordered this attack? How
could Thor know that these Frost Giants were not acting of
their own accord? How would Thor have Asgard respond? Odin
asked.

Thor replied that he would march to Jotunheim and
teach them a lesson, just as Odin had once done.

Odin fiercely forbid it. No Asgardian would travel to
Jotunheim and jeopardize the peace that both Realms had
recently enjoyed.

Thor was enraged. His nostrils flared—along with his
famous temper. He shouted, overturned banquet tables in the
now-empty hall, and smashed anything in his way.

His friends had seen him like this before—it was not
atypical behavior for him. Thor grabbed his fabled hammer,
Mjolnir, which was cast from the heart of a dying star. He
studied the incredibly powerful weapon and told his friends and
his brother, Loki, that they were going to Jotunheim.

His friends pleaded with him. Of all the laws of Asgard,
this was the one he must not break.

But Thor's mind had been made up. He asked for his
friends' trust. This was something they must do.

The Warriors Three and Lady Sif reluctantly agreed, and
Loki joined them. As they headed out toward the Bifost, they
feared they would live to regret this action and trembled at the
thought of Odin's rage coming down upon them.

All of them quaked with fright, except for Thor: Thor the
mighty. Thor the arrogant. Thor the foolish.

CHAPTER EIGHT

TONY TOOK THE ELEVATOR
to this penthouse apartment and punched in his security code.

“J.A.R.V.I.S.?”

“Welcome home, sir.”

Strange. J.A.R.V.I.S. didn't turn on the lights for Tony upon his arrival, as he normally would. Tony knew something was wrong.

“I am Iron Man,” a flat and sardonic voice came from the shadows on the far side of the room. “You think you're the only Super Hero in the world? Mr. Stark, you've become part of a bigger universe. You just don't know it yet.”

Tony noticed the shadows shifting near the area where the voice was coming from. He balled his fists and readied himself for a fight.

“And exactly who are you?” Tony asked as the figure moved closer.

“Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” the voice said as its owner stepped out of the shadows. He was a tall, formidable looking man, who wore a patch over his left eye—an eye that was scarred by what looked like the claws of a ferocious animal.

“Huh…” Tony said, still on guard.

“I'm here to talk to you about the Avenger Initia-tive.”

JOTUNHEIM

Five great warriors of Asgard traversed the frozen landscape of
Jotunheim. Thor led them toward Laufey, king of the Realm's
Frost Giants. The son of Odin was determined, filled with a
euphoria he only experienced on adventures such as these.

The party accompanying Thor was not quite as thrilled
with the experience. Most did not agree with Thor's decision
to defy Odin's orders, but joined him because they were loyal
friends. As they trudged over the ice-covered soil of Jotunheim,
they learned that even the fiercest warriors of Asgard could fall
prey to a chill so painful as to burrow into their bones and make
it seem as though their limbs might snap from their bodies.

The warriors knew nothing of their course. They antici
pated the battle would come to them once the Frost Giants
discerned that Asgardians had entered Jotunheim. From what
they could observe through a blizzard, they were journeying
through an endless, barren landscape of ice. Not a soul was to
be seen.

But then the giants began to emerge, seemingly from the
landscape itself. They surrounded the Asgardians and squinted
their glowing amber eyes as they asked what business they had
in Jotunheim. Thor raised his head arrogantly and told them he
would speak only to their king. And with that, Laufey, king of
Jotunheim, appeared. His skin was a pale blue, like that of the
other Frost Giants, but he towered over even the other Jotuns.

Thor asked Laufey how it was that Frost Giants came
to enter Asgard. Laufey replied that Odin's house was full
of traitors. This disparaging comment angered Thor, and he
threateningly raised Mjolnir. Loki urged his brother to calm
down. They were outnumbered. They should return home.

The Frost Giants extended their arms, which became
encased in swordlike shapes of rock-hard ice. The Asgardians
rallied around Thor, readying their own weapons.

For a moment time became still, palpable. And then a
brutal battle erupted between the two parties. Ice splintered
and shattered as it was smashed by Asgardian and Jotun
weaponry. As the battle continued, it also escalated. The scene
was more horrible than any battlefield on which the warriors
had ever fought before. It seemed that nothing would end this
confrontation save the totally annihilation of every living
being fighting in it.

And then, the sky became charged with energy, as Odin rode
his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir, down from the telltale Bifrost
portal onto Jotunheim. He was fitted in golden battle gear
and carried his all-powerful staff, Gungnir. He urged Laufey
to join him in condemning the battle, but Laufey refused.
All of Odin's efforts—his wise leadership, his diplomacy—had
been in vain. The truce he'd worked so hard to secure was
broken. And his son, Thor, next in line for the throne of
Asgard, was to blame.

Odin slammed his staff on the ground, sending the
Frost Giants toppling. At the same time, he commanded the
Asgardians back over the Bifrost and home to Asgard.

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