Avengers everybody wants.., p.1
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       Avengers: Everybody Wants to Rule the World, p.1

           Dan Abnett
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Avengers: Everybody Wants to Rule the World


  AVENGERS: EVERYBODY WANTS TO RULE THE WORLD. Published by MARVEL WORLDWIDE, INC., a subsidiary of MARVEL ENTERTAINMENT, LLC. OFFICE OF PUBLICATION: 135 West 50th Street, New York, NY 10020. Copyright © 2015 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

  EISBN# 978-1-302-48952-6

  © 2016 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved. All characters featured in this issue and the distinctive names and likenesses thereof, and all related indicia are trademarks of Marvel Characters, Inc. No similarity between any of the names, characters, persons, and/or institutions in this magazine with those of any living or dead person or institution is intended, and any such similarity which may exist is purely coincidental. WWW.MARVEL.COM

  COVER ART BY JOHN TYLER CHRISTOPHER

  BACK COVER ART BY STEVE MCNIVEN & JUSTIN PONSOR

  Stuart Moore, Editor

  Design by Nelson Ribeiro

  Senior Editor, Special Projects: Jeff Youngquist

  Assistant Editor: Sarah Brunstad

  Manager Digital Comics: Tim Smith 3

  SVP Print, Sales & Marketing: David Gabriel

  Editor In Chief: Axel Alonso

  Chief Creative Officer: Joe Quesada

  Publisher: Dan Buckley

  Executive Producer: Alan Fine

  Contents

  Acknowledgments

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Acknowledgments

  I would like to express appreciation to Stuart Moore, Jeff Youngquist, Sarah Brunstad, and Axel Alonso at Marvel for their patience, support and suggestions during the writing of this story.

  Considerable thanks and love is owed to Nik Vincent for first reading, and for helping me order words in right the put (under very tough circumstances).

  I was also very lucky to have been able to call on Neil Grant, Elena Artimovich and Ronald Byrd for technical advice. Thank you. All the bits in this book that are correct are thanks to you. Any mistakes are entirely my bad.

  This book is dedicated with love to my father-in-law, John Ernest Vincent, 1931 - 2014.

  BERLIN

  16.12 LOCAL, JUNE 12TH

  A MATCHED pair of black limousines cruised east across the river. The sky was cloudless and light, and the evening rush was just beginning to build.

  The big cars stayed together. They moved with the flow of the traffic, allowing no other vehicles to get between them. At Sarsplatz, they turned north into a light-industrial sector. The buildings were square and modernist, built in the sixties or later. Artful graffiti decorated sidewalls and gates, but the high-end cars in the small parking lots suggested new investment: tech start-ups, specialist engineering, media consultancies.

  Auger GmbH occupied the top four floors of a square building at the end of Montagstrasse. The building was screened by poplars along the street side. A large concrete parking structure adjoined the building’s rear. The levels of the parking structure were open-sided. It resembled a stack of styrofoam trays.

  The limousines entered the parking structure and wound their way up the ramps, their tires squeaking on the gleaming precast concrete. On the eighth story, they drove past the up-ramp and beyond the parking bays, and pulled up in the turning circle outside the glass doors of the Auger lobby.

  Three men got out of each car. Their suits were as immaculately black as the limousines’ bodywork. Their designer shades betrayed as little as the limousines’ tinted windows. Their movements were fluid, their deployment precise. They covered the angles, watching the up- and down-ramps. One walked toward the glass doors and waited, speaking quietly into a wrist-mic.

  His name was Gustav. He signaled “clear.”

  The Principal got out of the rear car and walked to the doors. He was tall, his perfect suit a dark and expensive gray. He carried a small attaché case. In another age, his bearing might have been called aristocratic.

  The glass doors, etched with Auger GmbH’s logo, opened as he approached. The lobby was elegant and well-lit. There was a soft hum of climate control. The receptionist looked up from her semicircular desk.

  “Peter Jurgan, for John Rudolf,” the Principal said.

  “Herr Jurgan, welcome,” she replied. “Herr Rudolf is expecting you. Please, come through.”

  Two of the bodyguards flanked Jurgan as he followed her. Their names were Kyril and Franz. The others waited with Gustav, watching the cars.

  The receptionist used a swipe-card to open the inner door, revealing a long, carpeted hallway lined with glass doors. The climate control inside was fierce. The air was several degrees cooler.

  She tapped on the fifth door, waited for a response, and ushered the guests into a conference room. John Rudolf rose from the oval table to greet them. He was a handsome, intense man in his thirties. He wore an open-necked shirt, expensive jeans, and designer glasses.

  “Herr Jurgan,” he said, shaking hands. “Good to see you.”

  “And you, John,” replied Jurgan. “I hope everything has come together according to the schedule?”

  “It was tight, but I think you’ll be very pleased. Gerhard?”

  Three other men were sitting at the table. Like Rudolf, they wore smart-casual clothes. One of them, Gerhard, opened a steel carry-box sitting on the table in front of him. He lifted a polished, chrome mechanism from the molded cushion of the box’s interior. The device was about the size of a thermos flask. It had rotating, milled collars and a set of squat, retractable legs so that it could stand upright.

  “This is the prototype,” Gerhard said, extending the legs with a series of soft clicks and setting the device on the table. “We’re ready to manufacture as soon as you sign off.”

  “The requirement was four thousand units,” said Jurgan.

  “We estimate six months to fill that,” said Rudolf.

  Jurgan nodded. “But the initial requirement of one hundred?”

  “Three months,” said Rudolf.

  Jurgan’s hard face expressed no reaction.

  “We had spoken of a tighter turnaround on the initial batch,” he said.

  Rudolf shrugged apologetically. “We were bidding to use an assembler in Augsberg,” he replied, “but they just accepted a rival contract.”

  “Manufacturing high-spec consoles for American video games, if you can believe it.” Gerhard laughed.

  “I can believe it,” said Jurgan.

  “So we’re having to outsource to a manufacturer in China,” said Rudolf. “Hence the time extension. Shipping, you see?”

  Jurgan didn’t reply. He looked at the device.

  “May I inspect it?” he asked.

  “Of course,” said Rudolf.

  Jurgan picked up the device and turned it over in his gloved hands.

  “Lightweight but extremely durable,” Rudolf said proudly. “Portable, of course. Machined to ultra-precision levels. The release timer is
here, in the lower ring. Remote and manual activation are also options.”

  “Dispersal radius?” asked Jurgan.

  “One million hectares,” said Gerhard.

  “That seems a great deal,” said Rudolph. “An enormous area for agricultural use.”

  “We are developing large-scale agricultural applications in the Midwest,” said Jurgan. “For sheer efficiency, the dispersal range must be considerable.”

  Jurgan placed his attaché case on the table and opened the clasps. The case was lined with foam, and the foam was sculpted to form two recesses. In each of the recesses lay a polished metal bulb. One of the bulbs was green, and the other was hazard red.

  “What are those?” asked Gerhard.

  “Samples of the gene carrier,” replied Jurgan, removing the green bulb.

  “They are color-coded,” said Gerhard.

  “They’re all inert,” said Jurgan. “Just samples containing purified water and sugar. In application, the color-coding will relate to the specific G.M. load: wheat, rye, barley, corn, soy.”

  Jurgan unwound the milled collar at the top of the chrome device and opened the curved lid on its hinge. He dropped the green bulb into the socket and closed the lid. There was a soft sigh as the hermetic seal engaged.

  “I just want to see the release operation,” said Jurgan. Rudolf and Gerhard glanced at each other, and Rudolf shrugged.

  “Why not?” He smiled.

  Jurgan smiled back, and turned the device’s lower ring.

  “Thirty seconds,” he said. The ring began to click softly, like the dial of a bank safe, as the timer moved back to zero from thirty.

  When it reached twenty, the two bodyguards with Jurgan suddenly moved. Kyril went to the door of the conference room and turned the lock. Franz went directly to the climate-control panel on the wall and turned it to in-room recirculation.

  “What are you doing?” asked Rudolf.

  The timer reached zero. There was a click, then the sound of something puncturing inside the device. An extremely fine vapor exhaled from the top of the mechanism, filling the conference room with a gauzy mist. For a second, it was like being in a steam room.

  The mist dissipated, leaving beads of moisture on the faces and hands of the men present, and on the polished tabletop and leather seats. The surface of their clothing was slightly damp.

  Gerhard laughed nervously and wiped his forehead.

  “You see?” he said. “Perfect aerosol dispersal, even in a confined space.”

  Jurgan nodded.

  “It is more than adequate,” he agreed. “An excellent piece of engineering. Entirely to my brief.”

  “Your brief was very thorough, Peter,” said Rudolf. “And, if I say so myself, my engineers do very fine work.”

  “My brief was very thorough,” agreed Jurgan. He rested his gloved hand on the top of the device. “The machining has been matched. But the brief was also for one hundred units delivered in three weeks.”

  “As I explained,” said Rudolf, “the assembler in Augsberg has let us down and—”

  “And you failed to find an alternative.”

  “China—”

  “With a three-month turnaround.”

  “It is regrettable—” Rudolf began.

  “It is,” said Jurgan. “For you, certainly. I do not like to be let down. For my entire career, I have made it my business not to be let down.”

  “I’m sure we can—” Rudolf started to say.

  “You can die,” Jurgan said without emotion. He glanced at his watch. It was a very expensive timepiece. “In two minutes.”

  Rudolf blinked, uncomprehending.

  “Ah, what?” he asked.

  Jurgan opened the lid of the chrome device and removed the punctured, expended green bulb. He put it back in its case.

  “The pathogen,” he said, “is contained within this room for now. Some traces may have escaped, but contamination will be low. The pathogen operates through skin contact. Given your proximity and the degree of exposure, I’d estimate no more than two minutes.”

  He took out the red bulb.

  “Of course, there is the antidote. Dispersed in the same manner, on a regular timetable, it can be used to keep the infected individuals alive and prevent the pathogen from activating. This is, of course, how the pathogen will be managed, ongoing.”

  He looked at Rudolf and weighed the red bulb in his hand.

  “But for you, no such mercy.”

  “A pathogen?” asked Rudolf. “A pathogen?”

  “Is this some kind of joke?” asked Gerhard.

  “The pathogen is call HE616,” said Jurgan. “A synthetic creation. I have named it Breath.”

  “This is ridiculous!” Rudolf exclaimed. He reached for the phone on the desk to call security, but Franz placed his hand firmly on the receiver.

  One of Rudolf’s colleagues made for the door. Kyril stood in his path and pushed him back toward the table.

  “One minute,” said Jurgan.

  “This is not funny at all!” said Gerhard. “How dare you come here and play games like this! This is a legitimate business arrangement and—”

  “And you reneged,” said Jurgan. “It is most inconvenient. It impacts my timetable, and I am not happy about that.”

  “I’ll find an alternate assembler!” Rudolf cried. “There’s absolutely no need for this preposterous and insulting behavior! You squirt us with sugar solution and then terrorize us with claims of—”

  “Terrorize,” said Jurgan. “John, that’s precisely what terrorism does. And terrorism doesn’t work if it’s a claim or a lie. It needs a foundation of truth. A genuine threat. That wasn’t sugar solution. And I do not give people second chances when they fail me.”

  One of Rudolf’s colleagues, the man who had been blocked from the door, suddenly gasped. Blisters appeared across his hands, cheeks, and throat. He started to shake. Veins stood proud at his temples. Discolored saliva welled over his quivering lip. Convulsing and choking, he fell against the table, slid off it, and rolled onto the floor. The impact of his body sent one of the wheeled chairs skidding across the carpet.

  Jurgan glanced at his expensive watch.

  “A little early,” he said.

  “Oh my god!” Rudolf cried. “For god’s sake, help us!”

  Gerhard wailed, looking down at the blotches and blisters that were starting to cover his hands. The other man sat down, swallowing hard. Then he flopped facedown onto the tabletop.

  Gerhard retched and then fell, striking his head against the lip of the table on his way to the carpet. Blood flecked the polished glass. Rudolf staggered toward the windows. His blistered hands scrabbled at the slatted blinds, rattling them. When he fell, he tore the blinds down on top of him.

  Jurgan looked at the four corpses.

  “Hail Hydra,” he said.

  He placed a red bulb in the device, closed the lid, and pressed the activator. Mist filled the room again. Franz adjusted the climate-control panel back to building circulation. Kyril packed the device into its carry-box.

  “We’re leaving,” Jurgan told them. He passed the attaché case to Kyril and took the steel carry-box with the device in it himself.

  Kyril raised his wrist to his mouth.

  “Gustav,” he said. “Coming out.”

  “Neutralization?” Franz asked Jurgan.

  “As required for exit,” Jurgan replied. The bodyguards drew black, blunt-nosed automatic pistols from under their jackets.

  They strode together down the hallway toward reception. Two employees of Auger GmbH appeared in a doorway, saw the guns, and retreated in horror. Barely breaking stride, Franz stepped into the room after them and discharged four shots.

  He returned to Jurgan as they reached reception. Voices rose in the offices behind them. Someone called out a name.

  As they reentered the lobby, the receptionist looked up in alarm. She recoiled at the sight of the pistols and tried to duck behind the desk. Franz aimed
his pistol at her cowering form.

  One of the glass panels of the lobby’s outer doors exploded in a blizzard of fragments as a spinning disk punched through it. The disk was about three quarters of a meter in diameter and marked on its convex face with a distinctive red-white-and-blue motif.

  It was a shield.

  It struck Franz before he could fire and threw him backwards through the inner glass door at the rear of reception.

  Jurgan and the other bodyguard turned to see Captain America coming for them.

  The Sentinel of Liberty—his uniform as red, white, and blue as his famous shield—leapt in through the smashed glass door panel. Kyril fired his weapon. Two shots went wide; the third tore off the Captain’s duralumin-scale body armor.

  Captain America crashed into him. His left fist connected with Kyril’s wrist, sending the gun flying. His right fist drove home a punch that snapped Kyril’s jaw up and knocked him headlong across the room. His shades flew off. The attaché case bounced out of his grip.

  Jurgan struck Captain America on the side of the head with his free hand. The force of the blow was considerable; it knocked Cap onto one knee. He flip-rolled out of the drop, but Jurgan backstepped, evading the bicycle kick that threatened to take out his legs.

  “Not today, my good Captain,” he said.

  “Absolutely today,” Cap replied, springing back onto his feet. He lunged.

  They traded blows, face-to-face, at phenomenal speed. Each man used his forearms to block and deflect the other’s punches and chops. Jurgan struggled to keep hold of the carry-box.

  Cap drove a heel into the side of Jurgan’s knee and, as the man staggered sideways, planted a punch that threw Jurgan against the receptionist’s desk. The impact knuckled over the flatscreen monitor and dislodged a pot of ballpoint pens marked with the Auger logo. Hidden behind the desk, the receptionist cried out in distress.

  Jurgan had dropped the carry-box. It lay on the carpet, too far away for him to reach. He looked at Captain America.

  “I really don’t like interference in my plans,” Jurgan said, wiping blood from his split lip.

  “You should be used to it by now, Strucker,” Cap replied.

  Cap knew that surrender wasn’t a likely option. Baron Wolfgang von Strucker was one of the most dangerous terrorists in the world, and had been for decades. He was no longer a mortal man. Science and other, more arcane properties had prolonged his life and invested him with superhuman strength and durability.

 
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