Year 3

by Matthew Turnage


New York's famed Hudson River seems relatively calm this morning, but that's just the calm before the storm. Two members of the local National Guard nervously scan the waters from the safety of their helicopter.

"According to satellite scans, that creature should be right here," the pilot says.

"You know, this was just supposed to be a weekend thing," the other soldier says. "Why do we have to be out here? Why couldn't they get the real Army?"

The pilot says, and then answers, "Ours is not to reason why, ours is just to -"

"Don't even finish that, please," the other says, and then turns his eyes back to the water below. "Hey, do you see that?"


"Those bubbles! My god, it's here! It's surfacing!"

Suddenly the water parts and a giant silver form begins to emerge, heading straight towards the largest city on the East Coast. The two men in the helicopter watch in terror as they see the head of the engine of destruction known as Ultimo rise from the water. Ultimo takes no more notice of the helicopter than a normal man would of a dust mote as he continues on his unrelenting path.

"Lord, how can we stop something that size? It's like Godzilla come to life! Where's the Avengers when you need them?"

The Terror Under the Earth Part III:

Havok in New York!

Tony Stark's private labs, Stark Enterprises, Silicon Valley, California.

"Here it is. My Scanalyzer," Iron Man says as he hefts a piece of equipment that looks like a rocket launcher. "I was able to use this to short-circuit Ultimo in my last encounter with him. (in Iron Man #300 - Ultimatt) It should do the same trick again - I've just got to get close enough to him to use it."

"Which, judging from our battle in South Carolina, should not be too difficult," opines Thor, god of thunder.

"Getting close to Ultimo isn't a problem, but staying close is," Iron Man notes. "But that shouldn't effect the usefulness of this baby. Just zoom in, fire and zoom out. We made good time getting here, but we'd better hurry to New York. Ultimo's path indicated that's where he was heading, and I'd like to beat him there."

"Whilst the suborbital flight we made here from South Carolina was most rapid, mayhaps there is a quicker way to reach New York from here," Thor says.

"What did you have in mind?" Iron Man queries.

"As thou dost know, Mjolnir is not capable of teleportation, but it can open the doors to other dimensions. Mjolnir can take us to another dimension, and then back to this one, with our point of return being New York."

"Well, as you know old friend, I don't care much for magic, but in this case I'll get over it," Iron Man says.

"Then gird thyself, golden warrior, for two consecutive dimensional trips may cause thy frail mortal form some stress," Thor warns, even as he begins twirling his enchanted mallet at an incredible speed.

"I'm sure my armor's up to the task," Iron Man says confidently.

"Very well, let us depart," the Odinson says as a dimensional rift appears in Tony Stark's lab. The two brave Avengers step through...

... and, moments later, appear on the streets of New York.

"Good lord, Thor, what in the name of creation was that place?" Iron Man gasps.

"There will be time for discussion later, Iron Man! Behold!" Thor says as he points to his left. The tower form of Ultimo stalks the streets of New York! Fighter jets continue to spray his form with bullets, but with the exception of an occasional swat of annoyance, Ultimo ignores the fighters, instead focus the destructive power of his massive fists on nearby skyscrapers.

"The God of Thunder shall distract the creature, while thou prepares thy weapon!" Thor says. Without waiting for comment from Iron Man, Thor spins his uru hammer and tosses it into the air. Gripping its leather thong with a hand that could crush diamonds, Thor hurtles through the air in approximation of flight.

As Thor nears Ultimo, he spins Mjolnir over his head to hover in place. "Now face thy better, foul creature! Thou shalt not best the son of Odin again!"

Ultimo turns his head to look at Thor. A look of recognition seems to pass across Ultimo's face, just before his eyes blaze with energy. A powerful blast blows Thor back, sending the thunderer crashing onto the roof of a nearby building.

"Od's blood!" Thor says as he returns from his feet. "Thou did not reveal this ability in our previous encounter. (last issue - Matt) Ne'ertheless, Thor is capable of responding in kind!" Thor unleashes a devastating bolt of energy from Mjolnir, which strikes the metallic form of Ultimo with unbelievable force. As the bright energy strikes the silver form, a glare flashes across the sky, causing Thor to lift his hand to momentarily shield his eyes. When he lowers his hand he sees Ultimo stagger for an instant, and then recover. Just as Thor is about to try his next plan, pounding Ultimo's head into scrap with Mjolnir, he sees Iron Man streak into view behind the giant robot and fire his scanalyzer into Ultimo's form.

Instead of stopping dead in his tracks, as Thor had expected Ultimo to do, Ultimo turns and plucks Iron Man from the air and sends him hurtling straight at Thor. Thor braces for the impact, but still falls down onto the roof's surface as the projectile that is also one of his closest friends impacts into his godly frame.

"That was unexpected," Iron Man says as he struggles to his feet.

"What dost thou mean?" asks Thor.

"I couldn't short circuit Ultimo's 'nervous system' like I did last time," Iron Man says. "Before the scanalyzer shorted out, I was able to detect that Ultimo's entire system is under direct control of an outside source. It blocked me out."

"An outside source? Who could be causing this beast to go on such a rampage?" Thor wonders.

"I don't know," Iron Man says. "I may be able to home in on the signals commanding Ultimo, but first we need to get Ultimo out of the city and away from all these people."

"Forsooth, thou art the soul of wisdom, Iron Man," Thor says. "Shall we simply lift the beast and carry him hence?"

"I don't really see any other options," Iron Man says. "I'm afraid we'll have to incapacitate him first."

"Very well," Thor agrees. "Let us be off!"

The two heroes fly from the rooftop towards Ultimo. Mjolnir carries Thor at such great speed that Ultimo is not able to react. Windows shatter from the force of Thor's impact on Ultimo's chin. Thor then lands on Ultimo's shoulder and begins mercilessly pounding on Ultimo's head with his mighty hammer.

"Thor's certainly got the right idea," Iron Man thinks as he streaks towards Ultimo's stomach. "I may not have quite as much strength as the big guy, but my armor can lift over 70 tons - more than enough to give Ultimo a tummy ache." Iron Man channels all his available strength into a powerhouse right that causes Ultimo to double over just as the giant robot was about to strike Thor.

"Well done, my friend," Thor cries. "This monster cannot withstand our combined might!"

Then Ultimo opens his mouth, as if he were screaming in rage, and lashes out at the building in front of him, causing it to totally collapse. So swift and powerful is the blow that Thor loses his footing on Ultimo's shoulder and plummets to the street below, landing with a sickening thud.

"Thor, are you alright?" Iron Man asks as he continues to rain blow after blow into the staggering Ultimo's midsection.

Thor slowly rises to his feet, his long blond hair falling into his eyes without his helmet to hold it back. "Now, Ultimo, thou hast truly awakened my wrath! Let this farce end now!" Thor digs his hands into the pavement, and rips half of the building's foundation from the ground. He heaves the giant block of steel and concrete into the air. Iron Man manages to move out of the way just in time, as the chunk of building slams into Ultimo, sending the giant robot toppling towards the ground. Fortunately for the city of New York, Iron Man catches Ultimo and lifts him up into the air.

"I'm flying this monster to the ocean," Iron Man announces.

"Aye," Thor simply says as he retrieves his helmet and takes to the air to aid his comrade.

Iron Man reaches the Atlantic Ocean within minutes, but Ultimo is already struggling. As he twists, Iron Man can no longer retain his grip and Ultimo plummets into the ocean.

"Blast," Iron Man says as Thor hovers in the air beside him. "I'd hoped to get him out deeper. He can still stand here -"

As if on cue, Ultimo emerges from the water. Only submerged up to where his ribs would be, Ultimo punches Thor before the thunder god can react. Iron Man instantly unleashes a barrage of repulsors, which Ultimo answers with a searing eyeblast. Just as Iron Man is about to begin his next assault on Ultimo, Thor zooms back to the scene, striking Ultimo with a devastating blow.

"Iron Man, perhaps thou shouldst track the force controlling this beast," Thor advises. "I shall keep him from returning to shore. If thou canst disable the controller..."

"Then Ultimo should go down alot easier," Iron Man finishes. "Good idea. Are you sure you can handle Ultimo while I'm gone?"

Thor begins to retort angrily, but Iron Man quickly says, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry! Good luck!"

"And to thou as well," Thor says as Iron Man rockets back towards New York. "And now, creature," Thor says as he returns his attention to the now- recovering Ultimo, "the god of thunder need no longer hold back. Feel my full might!" Thor launches another attack as the winds blow, the skies turn dark, and the sea rages.

Meanwhile, Iron Man rockets back to the Stark Enterprises construction site on Long Island. "I should have realized it sooner," Iron Man thinks as he plummets into the hole created earlier today by himself, Thor, and a creature known as 'Earl' (in Iron Man #357 - Matt).

"In our last battle, my scanalyzer revealed Ultimo was thousands of years old," Iron Man thinks as he speeds through miles of underground tunnels, creating his own when necessary. "Grotesk indicated he was looking for some sort of artifact that would give him great power - it makes sense that whoever left Ultimo on earth would have left behind a control device of some kind."

Iron Man blasts his way into another cavern and sees Grotesk with a device of some sort wrapped around his forearm, with what appear to be wires of some sort attached to his head, resembling some sort of virtual reality gear. Grotesk turns in surprise, but then grins.

"Your plan will never work, Iron Man," Grotesk gloats. "I control Ultimo completely - I see and hear all he does. And I've ordered him to return to me - Thor cannot stop. In fact, here they are now."

Iron Man feels the earth trembling, and suddenly the cavern ceiling explodes as Thor comes hurtling into the cavern.

"Od's blood!" Thor cries as he lands. "Forsooth, a sudden and unexpected fury didst come over the creature - eh? Grotesk! Thou art behind this madness!"

"Yes, Thor," Grotesk laughs. "With the power of Ultimo, I can destroy your pathetic surface world." The cavern's ceiling cracks open wider, and Ultimo's metallic face peers in.

"But first," Grotesk says through a twisted grin, "I'll start with you two."

"I think we're in trouble," Iron Man whispers.

Next: We run headlong into our slam-bang conclusion in Iron Man #358, as Rockin' Ralph Angelo makes his debut as series writer! Then join us back here next issue as Thor tries to relax on Midgard after recent events. Too bad the Wrecker's back in town! See you then!

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