Tuesday, July 24, 2012
By Luca Baldassarra
In the Nevada Desert, the fight between Damian Hellstorm and Johnny Blaze rages. Blaze is in Rider Form, but has no control of himself. He is possessed by the Demon Lord Mephisto and the powerful artifact he holds known as the “Hand of Fate”.
Ghost Rider raises his chain, silently meeting Damian’s charge. Damian charges toward the Ghost Rider, his trident raised. The two exchange blows, Damian’s trident colliding with the red hot metal of the chain and leaving long cuts along the Ghost Rider’s body. Though deflecting the fatal blows, Damian is still overwhelmed by the brutal chain strikes and suffers long gashes along his torso and arms.
Johnny Blaze (thought): It’s like a fog. A choking, endless fog. Images flutter by, barely visible. Sounds are distorted. Screams. Muffled screams. I can feel the pain. Like hot knives, slicing through me. Am I bleeding? Please, just make it all end…
The two opponents exchange blows for what seems like hours, endlessly. Ghost Rider breathes in deeply and exhales black fire from his jaws. Damian skilfully dodges as a nearby boulder is melted from the unholy heat. After dodging, Hellstorm keeps his distant, trident at the ready. Damian Hellstorm is breathing heavy, his coat is tattered and he has long scars scattered across his body. The Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze, stands in front of him silent and foreboding. Long gashes are scattered across his body, flaming blood oozing from the wounds. Despite the damage, he is completely unaffected. Damian is near exhaustion.
Damian (thought): I don’t understand…..he should have been finished. I’ve hit him with everything I have. I practically skewered him! I’m running out of time…and options. Do I really need to kill this monster? Do I really need to kill Johnny Blaze?
Blaze…I’m not going to warn you again. Whatever control you’re under, fight it. Fight it with everything you have. Don’t let that bastard control you.
Ghost Rider (in a low raspy voice): Mephisto. Mephisto demands….I…I serve Mephisto.
The Ghost Rider’s chain lashes out at Damian, catching him off guard.
Damian: ARGHHHH! Damn you Blaze, you weak minded--GAHHHHHH!
The searing heat of the chain burns into Damian’s flesh. Ghost Rider slowly walks towards his victim, tugging at the chain with each step. Damian vision slowly blurs from the pain. Ghost Rider stands over his defeated opponent, silently staring.
Damian: Go on then….end it. Just know that this is all on you now Blaze. It’s all your fault.
The green portal that Ghost Rider arrived on suddenly begins to churn and spin, creating a vacuum. Ghost Rider loses balance as he is being tugged toward the vortex. The struggle loosens the chain’s hold and Damian breaks free. Gathering his strength, Damian shoves Ghost Rider into the portal, and he is consumed by it. The portal flickers as Ghost Rider passes through, closing immediately after. Damian collapses, completely exhausted from the effort. Behind Damian, his saviour stands shrouded by the now darkened desert.
Damian: What took you so long Strange? The bastard almost got me back there. This is much worse than we thought…Mephisto is using some powerful magic….incredibly powerful. We need to find a way to stop him, fast.
The shrouded figure steps forward, slowly revealing himself. His dark green cloak trailing behind him, snapping in the night air.
Dr.Doom: Indeed demon, Mephisto is a much larger threat than you could possibly imagine. That is why I have come. Now, surrender to Doom.
=Meanwhile, in a SHIELD safe house, Captain America trains alone in a large gym. The near-silent gym filled with the sound of his heavy breathing and grunting as he spars with a punching bag. Captain America slows his pace and casually walks over to his bag, reaching for his towel. His expression is calm as he pats himself down. He straightens and looks into a seemingly empty corner of the gym=
Captain America: You have about five seconds to step out of the shadows and tell me why I shouldn’t replace my punching bag with your face.
The once empty corner begins to shimmer, and out of the darkness Young Loki appears.
Young Loki: To be able to sense me through my illusion spells is no small feat Midgardian. Thor’s respect was well placed for you. Please excuse my intrusion, I mean no harm Steven Rogers. I am--
Cap’s hand slowly reaches for his Shield which leans against the gym bench nearby.
Captain America: You’re Loki. Thor’s brother. Well…a copy of the original. Somehow. But that still doesn’t explain why you’re here and why I should let you stay.
Young Loki’s expression is mixed joy and confusion. His voice is taken back.
Young Loki: Do you speak true Steven Rogers? Do you remember Thor-Odinson? Do you remember my brother?
Captain America’s expression is puzzled.
Captain America: How could I forget Thor, after his sacrifice. What’s your game Loki?
Young Loki steps towards Cap cautiously. His face is serious.
Young Loki: No games Steven Rogers. If only such were the case. Great danger has come to Midgard, a threat that threatens all the nine realms. I’ve come seeking answers…that only you can provide.
Why has Dr.Doom taken Damian Hellstorm? What does Captain America know that Young Loki is seeking? What is happening with Dr.Strange, Alejandra, Mephisto, and across the nine realms? Find out in HANDS OF FATE #4!
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