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Post Mon Jan 24, 2005 12:14 am
C. Syphrett User avatar
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This story is based in the 5 Earths Project continuity, and is built on what was written before by myself, Brad Cobb, and Martin Maenza. For those unfamiliar with the setting, it assumes that there were 5 earths left after the great Crisis on Infinite earths. Earth 4 is a combination of Charlton and MLJ/Red Circle characters.


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SPINNING THE WEB: Part 1

Hank Hennessy waited impatiently among the relics of the aviation era at the Smithsonian's aeronautical museum. His contact was late. Nothing major. He was retired and had all the time in the world.



His contact walked towards him. Hennessy recognized him from the steel fist he had instead of one hand.



"Let's walk, Hennessy," said Sarge Steel.





"Let's not," he replied.



Steel handed the retired operator a photgraph. Hennessy's one eye widened in surprise, then narrowed in instant anger.



"We walk together," said Steel, "or I walk alone. Your choice."



"Talk fast, Steel," said Hennessy, staring at the photo in his single hand.



"The people I work for are putting together a team, and we want you as the field commander because of your experience in certain areas," said Steel as he started walking. "Covert ops."



"What do I get in return?" asked Hennessy.



"You get the man in the picture," said Steel.



"Done," said Hennessy, hatred in his eye. "When do I get to meet this team of yours?"



"Tomorrow," said Steel. "Here's the address." He handed over a card. "One o' clock."



The former agent glanced at the card. He memorized the address. He held it with his thumb and forefinger, as he used that hand (his only one) to produce a lighter. A simple manipulation of his fingers left the card a burning piece of paper in a public ashtray in a nearby café.



"I'll be there," Hennessy said, as he walked away.



I hope I haven't made a mistake, Steel thought as he walked in the opposite direction.



Hank Hennessy arrived at the appointed time. The address was a small building that housed a travel agency. He walked in, examining the place with his eye.



A counter with two clerks behind it, desks, files, travel brochures for exotic places. A door marked "PRIVATE".



It seemed innocent on the surface. He wondered how much real business they did as a cover for the real operation.



He walked up to the counter. "Hennessy," he said. "I'm expected."



"Yes, sir," the older, female clerk said. "The manager is waiting for you in his office." She pointed to the marked door.



Hennessy walked over, and opened the door. A small elevator sat there instead of an office. He got in and the elevator descended on its own. The door closed slowly as he went.



He waited for the door to open at the bottom of the shaft.



The elevator opened onto the floor of the operations center of the agency. Two rows of monitoring equipment lined a central aisle with technicians hard at work. Steel stood at the other end of the room looking over a woman's shoulder at a screen.



"Tell MacAvoy to mark where that thing went down," Steel ordered. "We're going to want to get some pieces of it for the lab boys."



He looked up as Hennessy approached. "Hello, Hennessy," he said. "Let's go into my office."



The one-eyed man casually looked at the screen as he passed. A position in the North Atlantic had been marked on the screen with real time photos being sent back to the op-center. Something was sinking into the ocean while two glowing forms looked on. Then the two forms flew away in opposite directions.



Hennessy knew one of the flyers had been Captain Atom, and the other Redstar. He idly wondered what brought those two together as he stepped into Steel's office and sat in a visitor's chair.



"Who's on the team?" Hennessy asked without preamble.



Steel pushed a stack of files across to the retired operator.



"We have been able to recruit only five of our projected agents," he said. "We're going to be setting up other teams as soon as we have the recruits. Your team is made up of those five: Captain Flag, Specs, the Shape, the Prankster, and a new Judomaster."



Hennessy took the files off and rapidly read through them, one by one.



"How good are they?" Hennessy asked, putting the files aside when he was done with them. He had heard about Steel and knew he wouldn't bother to lie.



"They're rough around the edges," Steel said. "Specs is the only one with any team experience under his belt, so they haven't built any type of trust among themselves yet."



"Are they around?" Hennessy asked.



"The team is down in the gym going through their paces for my assistant."



"I'd like to see them in person," Hennessy said.



"Let's go," said the director. "I'm sure they can't wait to meet you."



Sarge Steel led the way to another elevator hidden from Hennessy by the control center. He pushed a button to carry then deeper into the earth. The elevator opened into a maze of corridors for the new team.





Steel led the way. Hennessy noticed that signs and arrows were in place for the newcomers like himself. The director stepped into a control booth after verifying his identity. He held the door open for Hennessy to follow.



"This is my assistant, Tiffany Sinn," Steel said, introducing a very pretty woman just showing a trace of gray in her hair. "This is Hank Hennessy. He'll be commanding the team when they are ready."



Tiffany smiled warmly, saying nothing about the operator's single arm and eye.



"Welcome to the team," she said. "I have them trying to capture Specs. We can call a halt so you can meet your team members."



"I'd like to see what they can do before I meet them," Hennessy said.



Hennessy watched the proceedings intently.



Specs stood in the center of a circle. He dodged and weaved from his teammates adeptly. The operator noticed the telepath made no move to attack. He guessed it was because Specs had almost no offensive capacity, or kept it hidden behind the glasses he wore.



Still, four on one in a closed room was not good odds. Specs sidestepped a lunge from Captain Flag, ducked a grab from Judomaster, hopped over the Shape, and was smashed to the ground by a pie thrown by the Prankster.



He laid there, glued to the floor by the contents of the projectile. "How'd I do?" asked Specs. Flag had to pull him free from the sticky trap.



"Four minutes," said Tiffany into a mike. "A record."



"Let's see how the others do," Hennessy said, impressed despite himself.



Hennessy smiled to himself as he watched the members of his team perform. Captain Flag and Judomaster were a good team, able to crowd even the fast moving Prankster. Specs had slipped into the role of coordinator with ease. The Shape's malleability allowed him to switch from offense to defense and back again with blinding speed. The Prankster was a wild card. He bounced all over the training room before the Shape grabbed an ankle and brought him down.



"They are pretty good against each other," Hennessy said. "Have they been out in the real world yet?"



"Not as a team," said Steel. "Everyone has had some experience as a solo vigilante, except for Specs, who was on the Tyro Team until it disbanded."



"I think a field test is in order," said the new team leader. "Can you find us something to take on before we do the mission?"



Steel thought for a second. "I think so," he finally said.



"Let's go down and meet your team," Steel said. "I'm sure some kind of test case will present itself."



"Let's do that," said Hennessy.



The two men left the room and walked down a spiral staircase to get to the gym. Steel opened the door with a handprint check.



"Cheez it, fellas!" said the Prankster, "It's the boss."



"This is the new field commander, Hank Hennessy," Steel said, without preamble. "He'll be going into the field with you when you're ready."



"He's only got one arm," said the Prankster. The whole group turned on him. "He does. He only has one."





"That's right," agreed Hennessy. "I only have one. I'm willing to see how I stack up against those of you with both appendages."



"Are you sure that is wise?" asked Judomaster.



"Wise or not," said Hennessy, "that's the way it is going to be."



"Free for all!" yelled Prankster, unleashing a pie. Hennessy ducked, aiming himself at the Shape.



Steel faded back to watch from the door. He wanted to see what Hennessy could do himself.



The Shape rose up in an expanding wall. Hennessy ducked to the left. He was heading for either Flag or Specs. He wasn't sure which.



Pie flew at him from behind. The one armed man jinked at the last second, luring the Captain in. The projectile struck her head-on as Hennessy ducked. She slammed into the floor, out of the battle until she could get free.



"Oops," said the Prankster. "This is not a good time to ask you to go out with me, is it?"



"I going to kill you," Flag said.



"That's what I thought."



Hennessy turned and kicked the Prankster in the gut as Specs tried to shout a warning. The clown fell to the floor with "He got me, Unca Lou. I'm not long for the world."



He then spun to leap at Specs with a flying drop kick. That was a mistake since the Shape knocked him for a loop. He landed next to a wall, dazed from the blow. He looked up to see a huge fist coming at him. He rolled out of the way. He got to his feet and knew it was over because the Judomaster had been able to close with him.



Hennessy decided he was not going down without a fight. He aimed for a leg. A gloved hand grabbed the operator's ankle and he was thrown to the ground. He rolled across the ground to get away from the martial artist. The tactic failed because as he climbed to his feet, a booted foot sent him reeling. He noticed that Specs kept the others back out of the way as he went.



It was just Hennessy and the Judomaster.



Hennessy tried for a takedown. If he could take Judomaster off his feet, maybe he would have a chance to put him out of the fight.



He found himself flying through the air again. Before he could recover, a choke hold trapped his neck in a grip of steel.



"Surrender," Judomaster demanded.



"You win," Hennessy gasped out.



"Thank you," said Judomaster, as he stepped back, releasing his hold.



"Training's over for the day," said Hennessy. He rubbed his throat gently.



The group headed for the door, talking quietly about their new commander.



"Smooth moves for a retiree," said Steel from the door.



"Some things you don't forget," said Hennessy. "How long did I last?"



"Tiffany?" asked the director.





"About two minutes," said Tiffany. "Pretty good for someone who has been out of the game like you have."



"We need to put them in the field to see how they react in the real world," said Hennessy.



"We'll get you a target," said Steel. "Something small."



Steel was as good as his word. Two days later a super human decided to rob everything in sight. Normal police were stymied by the speedster's extremely fast reactions.



It seemed a perfect case for the fledgling team.



Hennessy read the reports before gathering his team in the briefing room on the gym level. He was already planning tactics as he began.



"This is the target," he said, displaying a grainy black and white picture. "The locals are calling him the new Image. He has robbed five banks, eight jewelry stores, four pawn shops, and three armored cars. He has demonstrated sonic speed, and some vibratory ability. The mission is to capture him and transport him to a holding facility with minimum problems. Any questions?"



"How are we supposed to even get close enough to engage this guy?" asked Tammy Townsend, Captain Flag. "None of us are as fast as he is."



"Satellite surveillance has given us a general operating picture," said Hennessy. "Intell believes that the target lives in one of a set of apartment buildings because of an IR trail traced from the scenes of the crime. If Specs can ID him, we can stage an attack in his home and take him off guard."



"What happens if he gets wind of this?" asked Townsend.



"We let him go and try again later," said Hennessy.





"When do we get started?" asked the Prankster. Hennessy could not remember his real name, even though he had seen it twice a day since he had settled in as commander.



"As soon as you are ready to go," said Hennessy. "Read the file before you leave the room to get your things. Duty assignments will be given once we are on site."



"Ready, Specs?" Hennessy asked as he adjusted the new holster and pistol he had got from Equipment back in D.C.



"Yep," said Anders quietly. "I'll try not to alert him before the team can get into position."



"If this goes bad, fall back and handle communications," said Hennessy.



"Got it. Anything else, 'mother'?"



"Not off the top of my head," said Hennessy.



"I'm gone then," said Specs. "If you hear screaming and the sound of rending flesh, try to save something."



Hennessy watched as the telepath began his sweep of the apartment building. Too bad Specs didn't have a lot of range. He checked his deployment. The only one he wasn't sure about was the Prankster who seemed ready to charge in and alert the target the authorities were on site.



He sat in the captain's chair in the back of the surveillance van he had been provided with by Equipment. Cameras and recorders were storing the team's performance for future reference.



Specs walked through the building, talking to anyone who answered the door to his questions. He listened to anyone who didn't answer through the wooden partitions. It took him maybe twelve apartments to find the right one.



The target did not answer Spec's polite knock on the door. He went on to the next door in line as he trained every mental sense on that one apartment.



Anders did not like what he was receiving.



"He's coming out," Anders reported into a hidden radio.



Hennessy frowned. Everyone was in place and hidden. He hadn't seen them, had he?



"He's planning a job," said Specs. "Some jewelry store."



"Get ready, Prankster," said Hennessy. "The reports say this guy's fast."



"No problema, El Capitan," said the Prankster. Hennessy saw him burst through a window, pie in hand. Five seconds later, he flew back out.



"Guy's mad," said Specs. "Prankster broke some of his stuff. He's coming out to kill our guy."



"Get ready, Flag," Hennessy ordered.



The Prankster seemed calm as he started his five story fall. The new Image came out of the window and ran down the side of the building. He waited for the harlequin to hit.



Prankster began throwing pies as he fell. The Image dodged the expanding goop easily. He seemed to be laughing at the aim of the agent.



He didn't laugh long as Captain Flag flew from her hiding place and blindsided him. He fell into the goop, rage all over his face. He began to spin on the ground. The entangling goop sprayed away from his spinning body. Flag leaped up over the spray as the Image was freed.



The Prankster landed lightly on a set of springs built into his boots. As he bounced up, he spun a yo-yo over his head. He threw it as it reached the end of its arc. The yo-yo wrapped around the Image's legs like a snake.



The villain grunted slightly as he spun the other way to unwind the restraint. When he stopped rotating, Flag was right there with a flying punch to send him flying into the wall of the building.



"Coming down," reported Specs. "I just passed the fourth floor."



The Image got to his feet, shaking his head. "You want me, catch me," he said as he bolted for freedom.



"He's coming your way, JM," said Hennessy.



Judomaster stepped into the path of the running Image. The speedster made an effort to push the red and gold figure out of his way. Then he was slammed into a nearby telephone pole by the martial artist.



Before the Image could recover, Judomaster applied a choke hold and strangled him into blackness. Manacles for legs and arms were quickly applied.



"He's down, team," said Hennessy. "Let's secure him and get him to a jail."



Hennessy reviewed the recordings of the arrest of the Image for two days. He was quietly satisfied with their performance. They had acted like a well-oiled machine.



Now it was time to get ready for the main event.



Hennessy gathered the materials together he needed for a briefing. The WEB's first reaction team was in the world saving business.



The one eyed man held his briefing the fourth day after the first mission. He kept himself in control as he waited for his team to return from their passes. He wanted to go by himself. Only the remains of his professionalism held him in check.





This had to be bigger than a thirst for revenge. He had to be bigger. He wasn't going to lose any more people just because his goal was within reach.



No. A plan would be put in place and followed until the job was finished.



He watched silently as his new team filed into the room. Time to go to work.



"This is the target," said Hennessy, as he started the slide projector. "His name is Bernard Spielmann. He is a contact man for the Mars Council. The Feds almost snagged him after that fiasco with the Peacemaker and a private detective in New York. He was able to skip the country ahead of a dragnet. He was off everyone's radar for a few weeks, and then the NSA found some kind of activity in the South Pacific. A chance satellite recon returned a few pictures of Mr. Spielmann enjoying some time on the beach.



"Our job is to go in there and extract Spielmann against his wishes and bring him home to stand trial. As you can see, Mars has taken an old base from World War Two and outfitted it with the lastest in security and defensive technology. We will have to breach thier defenses, secure the target, and exfiltrate before anyone notices our operation."



Hennessy looked at his team. "Any questions?"



The first WEB Reaction Team loaded themselves and any gear they would need on an Army cargo plane. Hennessy took the time to inspect the weapons he had requistioned from Equipment. He was the only one going with any conventional firearms. He was actually the only one who felt comfortable with a pistol in his hands.



Tammy Townsend, a.k.a. Captain Flag, had picked up a bag of gas grenades and a filter to use. Specs, Judomaster, and the Shape were content to use only their abilities. Of course the Prankster had a bag full of tricks and gimmicks to make a stage magician envious.



The cargo plane carried the team halfway around the world with ease. One low pass in the middle of the night dropped them in the ocean on a Shape raft a few miles from the target.





Captain Flag began pulling them to shore. Specs picked a clear spot to land and she dragged them up on the beach. The invasion was exactly on time. Hennessy wondered when things were going to begin fouling up as he pulled the Uzi pistol from a holster.



Specs led the team forward into the jungle, scanning around them with his telepathy. Judomaster walked at his side, disarming cameras and any mechanical trap they came across. The team made slow progress in this fashion, but finally reached the rebuilt headquarters Mars was using to house Spielmann.



Hennessy knew the place had been destroyed in the forties by the Shield and the original Judomaster. He wondered briefly what changes had been made to give added security to the renegade.



Time to send in the expendable one. Hennessy gestured at the Prankster with his one hand. The colorful operative made a "Who? Me?" gesture. Hennessy nodded once.



Prankster shrugged broadly. He reached into his bag, and drew out several plastic eggs. He activated the springs in his boots and bounced forward. Clarions went off as soon as someone spotted him bouncing around like a kangaroo.



Prankster pitched the grenades swiftly as he made a broad curve away from the headquarters building. Various substances exploded against the building, scarring and cutting the walls on contact.



Armed guards deployed from another building to shoot at the fleeing Prankster as he bounced into the jungle.



Hennessy took aim at the oncoming men and fired the Uzi pistol. He grimaced slightly at the effort involved as the troopers scattered away from the bullets. Time to secure and escape, he told himself.



"Catapult, Shape," Hennessy ordered. This was a move they had worked on in training. Hopefully it would be just as good in the field.





Shape took the form of a catapult with his hand enlarging to form the basket. Captain Flag leaped into the altered palm calmly. With a mighty grunt, the shape changer launched her through a window on the top floor. The arm came back down in a ready position. Judomaster flew through the air next. He smashed through another window in the row, feet first.



"We need a location Specs," said Hennessy as he fired at the secondary building until he ran the Uzi dry. He quickly exchanged weapons as answering fire sought him out.



The Prankster bounced over to the front of the barracks. He threw several of his special gadgets through the open door. Screams could be heard as several clouds exploded within. He moved away, yo-yo ready and whirling in his hand.



"What was in those things?" said Hennessy wondered.



"Industrial strength itching powder," Specs said.



"Location, Specs," said Hennessy. The building had been quieted by the clouds, so he didn't care what had been used to do it. At least they would be able to stand trial, if it came to that, later.



"Our boy has been moved," said the telepath. "One of the Prankster's victims thinks we're after Spielmann and remembered they took him to an emergency airstrip across the island. They just left before we got here."



"Secure this area, Specs, and then get the team together and follow us," said Heennesy. "You're up, Shape. Let's go."



The silent shape changer assumed the form of a bicycle to carry the commander. Within moments, he had crossed the battlefield. A second change and a ladder was pulling Hennessy up the side of the overlooking mountain. The Shape switched to a glider at the top to carry the one armed man swiftly to his goal at the end of the island.



Hennessy chafed at the delay, even though the Shape was carrying him at double or triple the speed he could have done on his own. His angry eye glared at the passing landscape below. They had to stop Spielman in time.





The Shape fell in a coil when he was in range of the secondary landing strip. Both men could see that a jet was being readied for take-off on a starting X. The engines roared to life as the Web agents bounced onto the scene. The plane began moving forward.



Hennessy leveled the spare Uzi as his carrier bounced close to the wing of the plane. He held the trigger down as the plane coasted forward. The bullets punched through the closer engine, causing an outburst of fiery smoke.



"Let's see them take off now," said the operator grimly. He dropped the empty clip out and reloaded one-handed as the plane rolled to a stop.



The Shape carried the both of them on top of the wing and then over to the other side with a single bound. He released Hennessy as he slithered through the landing gear wells inside the plane. A gigantic fist flashed out of the floor to send the pilot flying out of the cockpit.



Hennessy walked over to where the disembarking ladder would have to descend and waited. They would either take their chances with the Shape or try to run for it.



The door burst open and the ladder clattered down. Feet appeared as Hennessy heard cries for help. The operator ran his single arm across the back of those legs to send the owner sprawling on his back.



"Hello, Bernie," Hennessy said, making sure no one else was coming out of the plane at the moment. The Shape was keeping them busy, judging from the bone crunching sounds he could hear.



"That thing in Iran wasn't me, Hennessy," said Spielmann desperately. "I tried to argue them out of it."



"I was there," said Hennessy. "Steel thinks I'm bringing you back for trial." He leveled the Uzi's barrel at the other man's face. His index finger tightened slightly.



Spielmann's hands came up defensively.





"And I'm going to," Hennessy said as he let the Uzi drop off target. "It's more than you deserve."



Spielmann reached for his ankle. A small pistol appeared in his hand. 9mm bullets chewed him up before he could bring it up to shoot.



"Stupid sack," Hennessy said.



Epilogue

Sarge Steel read the reports quietly. The navy had arrested a bunch of those goons, but no one had any kind of useful information. Bernard Spielmann had bought a ticket to the back alley in the sky.



At least Hennessy had passed with flying colors. The Shape made it clear that Spielman had gone for a piece, instead of being taken alive.



The WEB's first team was up and running. After the trial period was over, Steel would try to field a team two for testing.



He wondered who he could recruit to be the team leader.

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