"Geez Jim," Brian Rhodes cried out from behind another heavy box. "Did you have enough stuff in this place?"
"Yeah," James Rhodes answered. "Too much. But I don't see the point in leaving it here anymore." Brian set the box into the back of Rhodey's van and breathed a sigh of relief.
That's the last one." He noted. "I guess you'll be on your way then."
"That's right Brian, but I'll keep in touch definitely." He said as he gave his cousin a hug and then got into the driver's side of the van. "Oh," he said pulling out some money. "Take this to the landlord. I got a little behind on the payments when I moved back to L.A. And check the apartment one more time. If you find anything I might want, holla at me. "
Aiight then, Jim." Brian replied. He watched as Rhodey then drove off towards the airport where his plane was waiting. I better pay this off before I forget he remembered as he fingered the money. He then made his way to the landlords and deposited the cash with the name 'James Rhodes' on a slip of paper. He then went back into the apartment once more before he returned the key as well.
This place looks barren compared to what it was. I guess I better check that closet one more time. He opened the door, turned on the light, and went back towards the very back of the closet where Jim had not allowed him earlier. I wonder why Jim didn't let me come in here. He pushed his way thru the cobwebs that had collected and into the last end of the closet where no light shone. He then bumped into something heavy.
"Ow!" he muttered. "What in the world?" He reached out and began running his hand over the object he bumped into, finding it to be very hard, cold, and humanlike. I better get a flashlight. He then ambled back out to the deserted living room where he had left his pocket light upon arriving 5 hours earlier. He then went back into the closet. At first, the light shone on a white oval around what seemed to be the chest area. Brian then slowly slid the beam higher up the 'body' to finally arrive at the 'head' of this being.
He could not contain his elation: "The War Machine armor!" He then tried to lug it out of the closet, however to no avail. After many more minutes of tugging, Brian finally said in anger, "Why won't this damn thing move?" With that the armor engaged itself and lifted off the floor. Upon seeing this, Brian dashed out of the closet. The armor followed and he was shocked to see it stop before him. Now in the full light, Brian saw a slip of paper attached to the waist area. It looks like instructions…in Tony Stark's handwriting! He must of made this for Rhodey and left it here expecting him to find it!
After a quick glance at the paper, Brian could resist no longer. "Engage." He said flatly. With that command, the armor, separated and quickly engulfed him. He turned to look in the mirror. "Wow! I'm War Machine." He said this almost in a whisper. Then reality hit him. "But I'm no superhero, I got school, bills, work, too much other stuff to do. I better see that Jim gets this too. Dis-engage." The armor quickly released him and compacted itself to the size of a wallet. Brian placed this in his pocket and went out of the apartment, dropping the key in the landlord's box on the way out.
He walked along the street with no purpose. He had a dead-end job as a fry cook at Burger King, so where was the purpose? He had nothing. He was a bust at being a straight citizen and a bust as a super-criminal. Yep, his days as Armada were far behind him. Even though he often used his weaponry for small errand runs instead of robberies now, he still was washed up. Yes sir, he was a law-abiding citizen. He had had his butt handed to him one to many times by Spider-Man, and been tricked by Mysterio just as often. And no one ever, ever took him seriously. So he had quit the criminal gig and gone legit. But deep down inside, Armada had the itch to still prove everyone wrong. He still thought that he could be a MAJOR super-criminal. He just needed a reason to act upon that itch. But no, he was through being a crook. He was your average, ordinary, citizen. He continued to plod along the crowed afternoon streets towards his job. He had been so deep in thought, however, that he quickly got knocked over by a burly man.
"I hate this town." He thought disgustedly. He then brushed himself off and continued to plod his way along.
A few feet away from Armada's spill, Brian looked on in astonishment.
"Sometimes I wonder if New Yorker's care about anyone but themselves," he said amused. "But I always seem to be wasting my thoughts." He walked over to Armada who had just gotten up.
"You okay?" Brian asked. "Yeah, but I don't need no help from the likes of weaklings like you!" Armada responded angrily and them stomped on down the sidewalk.
And sometimes," Brian said in amazement. "I wonder if New Yorker's care about themselves." He then continued his own snail-crawl along the crowded streets. It wasn't until he had bumped into a third person that he realized he had transportation in his back pocket. How cool would it be to get around a bit as War Machine? I could even scare my friends. This is gonna be hot.
Brian then made his way into a just opened office building that reigned these Manhattan streets. He ran up to the secretary and said, "Can I use your bathrooms? I really gotta go." He said this all the while rubbing his knees together and stooping. It was all the secretary could do not to laugh.
"4th floor restrooms are open sir. The downstairs ones haven't been opened yet due to our just opening."
"Thanks!" Brian nodded and took off like a shot to the elevators. Inside, he laughed at his own acting. Once at the 5th floor he immediately saw the friendly signs for the bathrooms. He rushed into the men's and locked the door behind him. "Geez, this is the nicest bathroom I've ever been in!" Brian exclaimed upon his initial once over of the room. He then walked over the window and peered out. I'll be able to jump down unnoticed thanks to the shadows.
He then pulled out his "wallet". I was gonna do it in here and then jump out of the window but I want to try something a little tighter. Brian then stepped out of the window and onto the ledge. It's now or never Rhodes. he said to himself. He leapt off the ledge and for a moment it was almost as if he would keep rising. But it was only a moment. Soon he began his decent towards the ground.
"Engage." He said calmly. Nothing. Brain looked up just in time to see the armor he had tossed into the air seconds before his own leap pass him. "Engage." Brian said a little bit more tensely. Nothing. 3 stories away. "Engage!" he yelled shouting this time. Nothing. The armor was a mere 2 stories away from pavement. "Engage! Engage! Engage!" he screamed over and over. Nothing. "Dammit! Why won't you engage you piece of s-" The armor finally engaged with a story to go and encased Brian and then landing him to the ground safely. Geez. Next time I do this on terra firma. He then activated his jet boots and was off. He was soon rocketing towards ESU. Now this is more like it! War Machine then noticed a group of kids staring in wonder. He went down a bit closer and gave them a brief air show. A few minutes after, he shot off again towards his school. Brian paused as he noticed the man he had tried to be nice to below. The man was staring at him quite fiercely.
Armada looked at War Machine with a determined look. This is my chance, he thought. My chance to prove myself to everyone who laughed at me! He then pulled out what appeared to be a cell phone and punched various buttons. Armada then ducked into an alleyway. Moments later, his "girls"* arrived with his armor. He smiled as he felt the initial surge of power course through his veins as the armor completed its own engaging process.
"Well Sarah," Armada said to one of his weapons to his left. "Shall we?" He then rocketed off after War Machine.
* Armada refers to his baseball sized weapon robots as women each with their own name!-Psychologist Kelen
Brian Rhodes in the meantime, was approaching his friends respective dorm rooms at a steady pace. He couldn't wait to see their faces. He paused for a moment before proceeding. It was still quite a thrill for him to actually be controlling the War Machine armor even when just hovering a mere 40 ft above the ground. This pause of intake was disturbed very rudely a few seconds after it began however as Armada slammed into War Machine with both feet. Brian was not expecting this at all and was sent hurtling into a grove of trees outside of the school fencing. Armada quickly pursued.
"Look, you got the wrong guy," Brian said hastily. "I'm not War Machine."
"Well, you sure look like em don't cha? What an uncanny resemblance!" Armada stated sarcastically before he let the girls belt Machine with laser blasts. It was then that Brian started fighting back.
"Okay Armada," he said calmly. "If it's a fight you want…" Machine said as he circled around Armada, catching the villain by surprise. "…It's a fight you'll get!" Machine then slammed Armada with a fierce uppercut. Thrown off-guard, all Armada could say was:
"Get him girls!" He then watched in horror as Brian easily dismantled the weapons with low repulsor rays. "Charlotte! Terri! Wanda! Stop it! You're killing them!"
"Gee, isn't that what they tried to do to me?" War Machine replied. But Armada was through talking. He soared a little higher than Machine then blasted him with a fury blast. Oh no! Brian thought. He's damaged my accessory systems! I'm going down! War Machine hit the asphalt below with force enough to damage 3 blocks away. Armada was soon over top of him.
"So hero," Armada smirked. "Who's laughing now?"
"Not me," Machine said as he managed to achieve his footing and punch Armada squarely in the jaw. "How about you?" But before Brian could follow up his move, Armada's girls were attacking him once more. It's already hard enough to move with the accessory systems down, and these things aren't helping! War Machine thought as he was forced to his knees.
"Oh me, War Machine? I'm fine." Armada replied confidently. "You on the other hand, are in trouble." He then kicked Machine in the chest, sending him flying. Brian landed in the middle of the street and Armada's weapons were on top of him again. "Hit 'em with the paralysis rays ladies," Armada ordered. "He won't be going anywhere for awhile." And sure enough, War Machine found he could not move.
"Dammit Armada," he grunted. "What in the world possessed you to attack me anyway?"
"Quite simply," Armada began. "I don't like you. And I needed you to prove to the world that I'm not any old pushover of a criminal. With the way you've been fighting, they still won't take me seriously!"
"Oh so you think your gonna get respect by kicking the snot out of a fake War Machine?" Brian asked. "I say your still a chump." Armada looked at Machine fiercely.
"Oh yeah? Watch this."
Michelle Gomez had to get to work. She couldn't let some super-powered brawl get in the way of that. While the rest of the stuck pedestrians stood back and watched in awe, Michelle took action. She started to tiptoe her way behind Armada's back, hoping that he wouldn't notice. And Armada wouldn't of, if not for War Machine's challenge. Armada whirled around and grabbed Michelle by the arm. He then quickly put her in a headlock and placed his hand to the side of her head. "Now watch as I snuff this life out right before your eyes War Machine," Armada cackled. "Her life means nothing to me and I will prove to you how villainous I am!"
|Accessory systems will be operational in 3 minutes| the armor reported. Great. How am I gonna save the girl when I can't even move? Brain thought. He then saw the armors movement gauge had refilled. I can move! Now if I can only move quick enough… "Come on hero, think I won't do it?" Armada continued. "Try me." Machine then leaped from his prone position and kicked Armada squarely in the face, causing Michelle to fall to the ground as Armada's palm blaster sounded. Armada landed a few feet away and Brian whirled to check on Michelle. He saw the blood trickling from the side of her head and the empty look of her eyes. He didn't save her. "She's dead punk," Armada yelled. "And so are you!"
"You beast!" War Machine screamed. "She didn't have to die!" He then fired a full blast repulsor at Armada. He ducked but the shot damaged his backpack that held all of his women.
"You think that can stop me? Even as I speak, my armor's repairing itself. How about…arrrgh!" Armada screamed as Brian hit him with pulse bolts. The pummeling continued as War Machine tore into Armada in a blind rage. "No! Stop! Please!" Armada pleaded as Machine cracked his helmet off his head. Brian then used low-level pulsars to send Armada into a wall, rendering him unconscious. As he stood over Armada's battered body, the only thought that coursed thru his skull was, Revenge. Machine then brought up his missile box launcher and sighted Armada.
"THAT'S ENOUGH WAR MACHINE!" Lt. Stone of Code: Blue screamed as he readied his now arriving men. "Step away!" Brian didn't budge. "War Machine, I said move!" It was then that Brian turned and noticed Blue's arrival and the medics tending to Michelle. He looked back at Armada, then blasted into the air.
Brian Rhodes stood over the Hudson River later that evening. Armada had been taken into custody but he couldn't get the girl out of his head. I killed you Michelle, not Armada. I guess this is what I get for playing hero. He then pulled the armor out of his back pocket. In an instant, a great prank had turned fatal, all because of this armor. Rhodey doesn't need this and neither do I! With that, Brian flung the armor into the River and watched it sink into the murky depths. He then started back to ESU.
And somewhere a voice came. "Oh you don't get out of this that easy Brian. Not a chance."
NEXT ISSUE: Brian got rid of the armor, so War Machine is out of his life. Or is he? Plus more on the voice at the end of this issue!