Rootless - Part 3
by Samy Merchi
PREVIOUSLY IN ROOTLESS:
During their trek thru America, X-Force, consisting of Danielle 'Mirage' Moonstar, Roberto 'Sunspot' Da Costa, Tabitha 'Meltdown' Smith, James 'Warpath' Proudstar and Theresa 'Siryn' Rourke Cassidy have come upon the small town of Boulder, Colorado on their way westwards.
However, little do they know that the town of Boulder is currently home and haven to the fugitive former supervillains called the Thunderbolts, consisting of Karla 'Moonstone' Sofen, Abner 'MACH-1' Jenkins, Melissa 'Songbird' Gold, Erik 'Atlas' Josten and Hallie 'Jolt' Takahama.
X-Force had dinner at the Kozy Kot restaurant where both Abe and Melissa work, and there was some mild flirting between Roberto and Melissa, which caused some strain in Abe and Melissa's relationship.
After Abe and Melissa get off work, they're confronted in an alley by Roberto, who flirts with Melissa, and thus causes Abe to attack him. He knocks Abe out, and then tells Melissa that he intends to call SHIELD so the Thunderbolts will be brought to justice. [ROOTLESS,Chapter1]
Melissa and Abe then informed the rest of the Thunderbolts of the situation, and they decided to have a 'talk' with Roberto about the whole matter. The next morning, as X-Force left Boulder and headed northwards along a road from the city, they were suddenly ambushed by the Thunderbolts who demanded to talk to Roberto... [ROOTLESS,Chapter2] Hold onto your seats. It's time for the obligatory fight-scene...
"Of *course*! The Thunderbolts! It was Songbird!" James snapped his fingers as it suddenly hit him and he remembered who the waitress at the Kozy Kot had resembled.
"The Masters of Evil?" Roberto asked sharply, powering up quickly in a flare of black solar energy, turning fully jet-black, the air around him darkening as he drew in energy from the air about him. "They're wanted fugitives! Flunkies of Baron Zemo! Helped him almost take over the world!" he hissed.
Moonstone started to rebuke the accusations in an attempt to quell the assumptions before they got too volatile, but even as she spoke, she knew it was going to be futile when she wasn't even listened to. "Actually, we helped sto--"
"You mean we'll actually get to fight some non-X-villains?" Tabitha grinned widely, as a few baseball-sized globes of energy appeared from nowhere and started slowly orbiting her. "Too cool!"
"But we're not vil--" MACH-1 tried exasperatedly, but as Moonstone had been, he was ignored just the same.
"I spoke with Bridge a few weeks ago", Dani said, and with a thought, a bow of psionic energy appeared out of nowhere into her hand. She quickly aimed it at Moonstone's head, an arrow of similarly seething bluish energy appearing onto the bow. "He said SHIELD was looking for these guys all over the place."
"They know Bridge --?" Songbird said, eyes wide, and the next instant all hell broke loose, as a huge bulldozer appeared out of nowhere -- a glowing pink energy construct created by Songbird's powers of creating solid-sound objects -- and raced towards X-Force in an attempt to overrun and squash them all. "NO!" she screamed. "I WON'T LET YOU TAKE US IN!!"
"Look out, guys!!" Warpath was the first to react with his superhumanly quick reflexes, leaping to his right and out of the path of the solid-sound bulldozer, landing in a crouch and quickly taking the measure of the five Thunderbolts on the road ahead.
Then, the next moment, Roberto suddenly grabbed both Dani and Tabitha's shirt-backs and soared upwards, carrying them out of harm's way in a crackle of solar energy, his eyes narrowing towards the enemies, and his impulsive, confrontational nature anticipating with enjoyment the upcoming chance to cut loose. "We're not blind, Proudstar!"
"Nor mute", Theresa muttered to herself, remaining in the bulldozer's path, not appearing to be going anywhere, and she wasn't. Her eyes narrowed, she placed her hands together, concentrating, and then parted her lips, slightly at first, making no sound, and then opened her mouth wide, her expression turning into one of anger as she unleashed the wail of the banshee she had inherited from her father, Sean Cassidy.
Theresa's mutant larynx screamed with a voice that could split tanks in half, and the bulldozer did no less. More, actually. It dissolved completely, disappearing into thin air under the savage attack of the mutant known as Siryn.
"Oh, great", MACH-1 commented frustratedly. "Don't tell me they're all marvels. What've we managed to get ourselves into *now*??" The afterburner on his backpack kicked into life, and he soared off to the skies after Sunspot. "I've got the black guy!"
"That is a racist comment, MACH-1", Roberto commented dryly, as he swooped low as soon as he noticed he had picked up a tail, unwilling to risk being blasted unconscious while carrying two precious passengers high in the air. "I am 'the guy with solar powers'. Or 'Sunspot', if you prefer." Dropping Mirage and Meltdown to the ground, he then soared high again, turning in a 90 degree arc and racing straight upwards, perpendicular to the ground. "Catch me if you can!" he shouted, as he kicked in his own afterburners, solar energy crackling around him and in a matter of seconds, he had already disappeared into the sparse clouds miles above, leaving a trail of flame behind him.
MACH-1 just blinked once. "Nothing can accelerate like that!" he said, mostly to himself, eyes wide as he watched the trail of flame. "The stress of the G-forces should tear apart solid steel, let alone a human body --" He hovered there, in place, as he gaped upwards, towards the clouds into which Roberto had disappeared. "That's just *impossible* --!"
"She -- she destroyed my bulldozer --" Songbird said, and watched as Siryn rose into the air, propelled by her sonic scream, and flew towards her, her eyes narrowing, as her momentary hesitancy turned into an adrenaline-pumped anger. "Nobody out-does Mimi!" she claimed, and flew towards Theresa.
"MACH-1! Watch your back!" Moonstone shouted, and soared off to the skies, pointing a hand towards her teammate and blasting a beam of energy right over MACH-1's shoulder as she raced towards him.
"What --?" MACH-1 asked, and glanced quickly over his shoulder as the beam screamed past him.
"ARGH!" Sunspot snarled as Moonstone's blast hit him, and stopped the momentum of the charge he had been building up, having been soaring downwards from the skies from another spot than where he had disappeared to, trying to surprise MACH-1 from behind. He even hurtled backwards for a few hundred yards, and as he regained his senses, he brought a hand to his slightly smoldering chest, wincing in pain. "That", he hissed at Karla, "is not my idea of kinky games."
"Sorry to disappoint you" Moonstone replied as she followed up her blast with a charge, and the still slightly off-balance Roberto was caught squarely by the fists-ahead-of-her charge of Karla Sofen. "How about THIS, then!?" she said as she impacted onto him like a meteorite crashing onto the planet from on high.
Another hard hit. "WHOULFF!!" Roberto flew backwards again, fighting for his consciousness, his flight path erratic as he tried to clear his head. He hadn't *ever* gotten this hard a pounding so fast, but if anything, it only strengthened his resolve more rather than weakening it. "Close, but not quite", he hissed in answer, as he did a wavering loop in the sky, avoiding barely another charge from Moonstone. "I'd much rather engage in kinky games with someone as lovely as you, rather than fight her."
Luckily Roberto and Karla were too high in the air for Dani to hear the dialogue, or she probably would have gotten the knife ready for cutting out a certain part of his anatomy. As it was, she and Tabitha were rapidly scattering from incoming fire by MACH-1's strafing run against them, energy blasts tearing at the ground at their feet. "Who *are* you people, anyway??"
"Hey hey, we're the Monkees! Dum dum, dum de de dum -- We're the young generation! And we've got something to say!" Meltdown sung as she dodged MACH-1's attacks by leaping to the side, into a crouch, and then turned her eyes upwards at the diving form. "Let's see if you can take it as well as you dish it out, flying G.I.Joe!" she yelled, and made a motion with her hand, causing two of the energy spheres around her to rocket towards the armored Thunderbolt at the very low point of his strafing arc, when he was the closest to the blonde, and ad the least time to dodge.
"ARRGH!" MACH-1 yelled inside his armor as red lights flashed all over, gazillions of systems failing. "Gyroscopes -- failing -- power -- shutting down --" he strained, as electricity from broken wiring arced thru his body, his propulsion shutting down and causing him to crash straight to the ground, and skid to a stop, motionless.
"You're Jolt, right?" Warpath asked, as he quickly ducked a blow from the super-energized teenager. "You aren't a Master of Evil -- Why have you hooked up with these guys??"
"Because they're my *friends*!" Jolt answered, as her fist, blazing with bioelectric energy, whizzed past James' shoulder. "And they're not Masters of Evil, they're *Thunderbolts*! Why can't you people listen!?"
Sunspot was starting to get back in gear again, and raced in a few quick loops around Moonstone, before tagging her with a swift blow to the jaw. "My apologies", he said quickly, before racing away from Moonstone's attempt to return the blow, "for the ungentlemanly behavior."
"UMPH!" Karla's head snapped back from the hit, and as Roberto raced away, Karla soared quickly after him, and managed to grab his ankle, after which she yanked him back, and straight into the fist of her other hand which slammed into his gut. "You apologize for hitting me, but not for not listening to us?? Well, at least you're being consistent with your kind!"
"UNGH!!" Roberto wheezed as Moonstone's fist knocked the wind out of him, and he took a few fractions of a second to clear his eyes, buying himself some time with a solar blast straight into Karla's face. "And --" he wheezed painfully "-- what kind would that be?"
"AGH!!" Moonstone recoiled as the solar blast hit her face, and she instinctively let go of the ankle she was holding. "The 'just doing our job, just following orders' kind!" she replied, knowing that an accusation of being a Nazi was always a good way to ruffle the feathers of non-Aryan people. Not being able to see for a few moments as she recovered from the blast, she instead fired several energy bolts in the direction she anticipated Sunspot to fly towards.
"ARGH!" Sunspot cried out as one of the energy blasts got lucky and struck paydirt, smashing onto his left shoulder and sending him spinning around for a few times until he didn't know which way was which. And just as he started making sense of the world, he noticed Moonstone flying straight towards him. His knee suddenly snapped up. "You're comparing me to a Nazi??" he snarled.
"GNH!" Karla's jaw got yet another hard blow as Roberto's knee thrust upwards and smashed into it, snapping her head backwards. She, however, was far from giving up. Managing to grab the leg that had smashed into her, she gave it a ferocious swing, and hurled Roberto towards the ground. "Hey, if the shoe fits --"
"GNFF!!" Roberto went as he impacted onto the ground. "Ow --" he said quietly to himself, while taking a few seconds to realize if he was still alive. "Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow." Then, his eyes widened as he saw Moonstone racing down towards him. Quickly, he rolled to the side, in an attempt to avoid the charge. "What are you talking about, Meteorite??" he asked as he tried to dodge.
The air screamed around the curvaceous blonde woman as she only accelerated like a meteorite caught in the planet's gravity well. There was only a fraction of a second until impact, as Roberto rolled suddenly out of the way. Surely she couldn't survive flying right into the ground at such speeds? Surely she couldn't pull up anymore? "I'm talking about your prejudice against us before you've ever even talked to --" Then, nothing.
"What --??" Roberto looked around as he stumbled up quickly, and turned this way and that, but Moonstone was nowhere to be seen, like she had flown right into the ground and disappeared.
"-- US!!!" Suddenly, behind Roberto, Karla came out of the ground she had phased into, and became tangible again as she swung her hardest punch towards the back of the X-Forcer's head.
"UNNH!" Roberto never had a chance. He went down, hard and fast, the force of the woman's punch knocking him instantly unconscious.
"'BERTO!!" Dani screamed as she saw him go down, but her expression immediately hardened from the initial worry she had shown. She was a competent, experienced, tough leader, and she wouldn't let her worry over Roberto get in the way of acting effectively. Quickly, she sighted her psionic bow towards Moonstone, trained it on her forehead, and the next instant, an arrow of similar, seething blue psionic energy appeared on the bow, and the instant after that, launched itself towards the Thunderbolt.
"Ngh!" Warpath's expression constricted as Jolt managed to touch him and conduct her bioelectricity into him, energy coursing thru his body and causing his muscles to seize up. "Nice -- try --" he strained, and then suddenly, forced his body to work again and lashed out with a kick. "But compared toExodus' energy blasts, that was child's play!"
"OOOFFF!!" Jolt hadn't expected Warpath to have stayed up. She was inexperienced. And so very, very used to fighting enemies that went down with one shock. This cost her. Luckily for her, Warpath was no Wolverine. James was a kind soul, and he didn't want to hurt people. And especially when fighting a little girl, he was far from using his full strength level with which he could toss around tanks. As it was, Jolt only got the wind kicked out of her, blacking out, as she was flung back a few dozen yards by the force of the kick.
"LIN-- Hallie! No!" Atlas shouted as he saw the little girl go down, the little girl who so much reminded her of someone else...  "YOU DIRTY LITTLE --!" Suddenly, he started growing...and growing...and growing...
Atlas' fists were larger than vans as he brought them down in worry-propelled fury. To coin a phrase, 'the bigger Atlas gets, the stronger Atlas gets'. And he was HUGE. The ground shook in vast tremors as his fists came down like the wrath of god itself. Across the Rockies, in California, several seismic monitoring stations noticed a slight spike and became alarmed that the Big Earthquake was coming for the state. Hours later the yellow alert would be cancelled.
"NOO!!!" Moonstone screamed, as she fell onto her knees, concealing her face in her hands, when Mirage's psychic arrow hit her on the forehead. Danielle's original power had been to cast illusions drawn from her subjects' minds -- usually their worst fears, or hearts' desires. Now, years later, she had perfected her ability to such a degree that she was able to focus her illusions into compact psi-arrows, and shoot them directly into the target's mind. Which is what she did now. And invoked Moonstone's worst fear. But what would a woman like Karla fear?
"I won't let you beat me! I won't!" Songbird screamed, as she avoided Siryn's sonic blasts in the sky. Turning her head towards the redheaded mutant, she used her own sonic powers, firing dozens of small, razor-sharp, pink, solid-sound blades towards Theresa.
"You've got no choice 'bout it", Theresa replied calmly, even as she noticed from the corner of her eye James getting buried by Atlas' gigantic fists, but she wasn't one to allow emotions to get the best of her in a fight. Not good emotions, anyway. Not friendship. Nor love. She was a calm, collected professional, as sonic waves erupted from her mouth, and shattered the solid-sound blades heading her way. "We're takin' you in, f'r all that you've been doin'!"
"Jimmy!" Tabitha screamed, far less calm and collected, and prone to emotional outbursts, than Theresa Rourke Cassidy. With a furious fling of her hand, half a dozen tennis-ball sized glowing orbs shot out at Atlas' towering form.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
"Nice try", Atlas replied as the orbs exploded against his torso, "but I...I --" His hand rose to his forehead, as he started feeling the dizzying effects of having grown too much, too fast. "I...can...take..." he continued, unsteadily, gritting his teeth, "...rocket...shhh-- unnh!" He collapsed, everything going black suddenly in his eyes.
The ground shook again, weaker this time, as Atlas' massive form fell down onto its back, and he lay there, unmoving, his eyes closed.
"YESSS!" Tabitha gloated with a wide grin, as he watched the colossal man fall, raising her fist in the air triumphantly, only turning her head just in time to watch the battle climax into a confrontation between the two sonic superhumans, X-Force's sometime leader Theresa Rourke Cassidy, Siryn -- and the Thunderbolts' very own wrestler, Melissa Gold, Songbird...
 Lindy Josten, Atlas' kid sister was revealed in THUNDERBOLTS #10 to have died years ago in her teens when run over by a car.
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