DCM Vertigo


Return of the Gods

by Chip Caroon and Paul Hahn

Morph and Beast - his arm not in a sling for the first time in weeks - walked out of the tunnels, into the city above. All night long, they had heard some crazy things happening. Finally, they knew they had to go and investigate.

"It's so strange," Morph said. "The sky is . . . red!"

"Fascinating," Beast replied. "Although, it is probably a sign of danger."

"Perhaps," Morph replied. "What of this rain? It's pouring like crazy."

Beast looked around. He saw fires off in the distance. "It's almost like hell on earth."

"Why do I have the feeling tonight is going to be a long night?" Morph asked.

"You have that feeling, too?"

The shape shifter nodded. "But I'm not scared."

"Neither am I," Beast replied. "What is there to be scared of?"

Suddenly, as if on cue, a nasty looking demon came flying in, and took a swing at Beast. He was able to dodge it, and come up behind the creature. Beast gave a quick karate chop to the back of the demon's neck, but it did nothing to slow the creature down. The demon swung its arm back and sent Beast flying through the air. He hit a brick wall, and fell to the ground.

Morph let out a mental cry for help, which he hoped could be picked up by Jean Grey. He then ran over to the demon, who was now ready to tear Beast to bits and pieces.

Clark Kent and Jean Grey were taking a stroll through the Morlock tunnels.

"I am surprised at how fast you healed from your encounter with Death," Jean commented.

"I'm surprised at how sick I got just by coming closer to him," Clark replied.

"That was odd."

Before either could say another word, Jean picked up Morph's telepathic call for help. "Clark," she said. "We have to get up to the surface. Morph and Beast have been attacked by a demon!"

As Jean began running off, Clark wondered what demons were doing in New York City.

Lamont Cranston stared out the window to his home. The scene outside put him at unease. His grandson, Victor, walked into the room.

"What's going on?" Victor asked.

Lamont turned from the window. "Those red skies . . . I haven't seen anything that ominous in a long time."

"You think something big is going on?"

Lamont was silent for a moment. "Whatever it is, I want you to stay out of it. You're still not fully recovered from your 'accident' in Suicide Slum."

"Sure, sure. But if things get really bad out there . . . "

"Then maybe. It depends on how bad."

The remaining four X-Men rushed up to the surface, and found Beast lying on the ground, trying to get up. Morph and the demon were in hand-to-hand combat. Superman flew over, and tried to help him out.

Sarah rushed over to Beast. "What happened, Hank?"

"We were . . . coming out to . . . see what was going on when that thing attacked us. It's supernaturally strong."

"Of course, it's a demon," Jean said. "How do we beat it? It looks like Morph and Superman aren't doing any good."

"Don't you people ever watch horror movies?" Iceman asked. "I know the perfect way to stop that demon."

Iceman ran to the demon. "Morph! Superman! Jump back!" he shouted, forming a cross of ice in his hand, and slamming in into the demon's chest.

The demon screamed, and fell to his knees. Iceman kept forming the cross, as it kept melting against the heat of the demon's body. Finally, Iceman took the cross off very fast, and the demon ran away in a ball of fire.

"Very good."

"I know that voice," Superman said, turning around. "Death."

"You are correct."

The X-Men looked up and saw Death hovering in the air above them.

"Dude!" Iceman exclaimed. "Isn't that the guy that nearly killed Superman?"

"Yes," Superman replied, coldly. "But this time, the odds are a little more even . . . "

"If you only knew . . . "

"Knew what?" Superman shouted.

"If you only knew of the great destiny that lies before you . . . but you must choose it."

"Enough with these cryptic messages! Why can't you ever tell us straightforward what you want to say?"

"I am Death."

"ENOUGH!" Iceman shouted. "I'm tired of hearing this garbage! We know you're Death, what are you going to do about it?"

Death jumped at Iceman, claws out, ready to tear him to pieces, but Iceman threw as much ice up as possible to stop Death.

And for once, something actually worked against Death.

Jean tried a mental assault, but it didn't work. Death's mind was shielded very well. Even if Professor Xavier was still alive, he probably couldn't have penetrated the shield himself.

Morph watched the battle. He saw how every attack was failing. Iceman's ice trick slowed Death down a little, but Jean's mental attack, and Superman's physical attack weren't doing a thing to stop him.

So, Morph began spinning. He used his shapeshifting power to make his body size smaller, and shifted as much mass into his fist as he could. He continued doing this until he had morphed into an object the size of a bowling ball, but much denser. The momentum he had built up from spinning allowed him to sail though the air, and ram right into Death's chest. It was enough to knock him down, and cause some serious damage. At the very least, it broke some bones.

Iceman took advantage of Death's new weakness, and brought large ice spikes down on top of him, plummeting right into his chest. He hoped it punctured some organs.

"ICEMAN, STOP!" Superman ordered. "We don't have to kill him!"

"But this creep doesn't deserve to live!" Iceman replied.

"Yeah!" Morph agreed, already shifting back into his normal form. "You saw what he did to all of those people in Times Square! Not to mention how he nearly killed you!"

"But that's no reason for us to kill him!" Superman shouted back. "He's still a . . . " He hesitated, not sure if Death was human. After all, he was pretty strong and invulnerable. Finally, he found the right words. "He's still a living being!"

"Superman . . . come here . . . " Death called weakly.

At first, Superman felt it might be a trick. But then he realized that Death really was dying. He knelt down beside the warrior.

"Take my hand," Death whispered.

Superman took Death's hand, and suddenly found himself in another reality. He could see green for miles around.

"Welcome to your home planet of Krypton . . . "

"Krypton? That place Professor Xavier told me about when he died?" Superman wondered aloud. "But, it exploded."

"We are not on the plane of reality that you normally perceive. I have brought us into a state of Beta meditation. It is an ancient Kryptonian practice."

"Who are you?" Superman asked.

"I am Death."

"No, really. Not just your name. Who are you?"

"I am an agent of the Great Rao."

"Rao? Who's that?"

"Rao is the sun god of your home planet . . . Krypton."

Superman was perplexed. "Why have you come to Earth, then?"

"Rao made a deal with several upper class families on Krypton, that he would spare their children. He did not want to see his worshipers completely die out."

"That's why you called me one of the four . . . "


"So, where are the other three?"

"Their fathers were lesser men than your own. The spacecraft that those three resided in where not of high enough quality to allow them to survive once they had left the atmosphere." Death coughed.

"So, I guess death comes to those called Death, as well, huh?" Superman asked.

"Yes . . . But because you are unwilling to come back, the mighty Rao will be angry."

"Won't hurt my feelings. I never knew the guy."

"Joke now . . . Pay later . . . "

"I know nothing of this heritage," Superman said. "Why should I abandon my life here to please a god who is no longer worshiped?"

"You wish to know more of your life. Ever since you found out you weren't human, you have felt a void in your life. Nothing makes sense to you anymore because you thought you had all of the answers, when in fact, you didn't even know all of the questions."

"So, you came to bring me back?"


"But bring me back to what?" Superman wondered. "If Krypton exploded, what is there left to go to?"

"That is the question you must find answer to . . . Farewell, Kal-El of Krypton . . . "

Superman suddenly found himself standing back in the street, with the X-Men around him. Death was dead.

"We have to go back," he said.

"Go back where?" Jean asked. "The tunnels?"

"No. Home. The mansion . . . "

"But what about the Morlocks?" Sarah asked.

"They are not our captors," Superman replied. "We'll go to them in the morning, and let them know we are leaving. In the meantime, we shall attempt to find out what exactly is going out tonight."

Beast spoke up. "Might I ask one question, first?"


"What did Death say to you?"

Superman was silent for a moment. He didn't want to tell them too much of something he did not completely understand.

"He said he was the agent of a god."

"A god?" Beast commented. "Hmm, I fear that tonight's rather unusual events will become even stranger."

"Clark, I think we're dealing with something out of our league," Jean said. "We're used to fighting mundane, material foes. But tonight, we've dealt with a demon and an agent of a god."

In a supply room in the Hall of Justice, the Cosmic Treadmill whirled back to life. Captain America, Flash, and Thor stepped off.

"Strange," Flash said. "I would have thought that at least one of them would have stayed for us."

"Something is definitely wrong," Cap replied. "They obviously had an emergency come up."

"Was it so important that they couldst not wait for thee?" Thor asked.

"Must of been," Flash answered. "Cap, can you contact the others with your card."

"Of course," Cap said. "But, so can you."

Flash blushed. "I kinda left my card at home . . . "

Cap smiled. "Okay. I'll try to call the others. You go around the city and scout things out."

"And what of me?" Thor asked.

"You'll stay here with me," Captain America replied.

A minute later, Flash saw a group of people standing in the rain, surrounding a figure lying on the ground.

"Hi, I'm the Flash," he said. "Is something wrong?"

"What's it to you?" Morph snapped.

The speedster put his hands up in the air. "Hey, I was just going to offer to help if you needed it. I'm with the Avengers League."

Suddenly, he was hit in the back by a large block of ice. He fell to the ground and turned around. He saw Iceman shooting ice, covering him.

Flash vibrated, and slid out of the ice block before Superman could finish saying, "Iceman, that was out of line!"

"I take it you're mutants," Flash said, standing up.

"The X-Men, to be precise," Beast replied. "And I wish to apologize for my teammate's behavior. Tonight's activities have taken a toll on him."

Flash nodded in the direction of Death. "What's with him?"

"He claims to be the agent of a god worshiped by a dead planet," Superman replied. "He nearly killed me a few days ago."

"Is he dead?"

Superman nodded. "Death comes to he who is called Death."

"I suppose I should be taking you into custody right now," Flash said, "but since I don't have my Avengers League card on me, I guess I really don't have the proper authority."

"Are you sure it doesn't have anything to do with the crisis at hand, and the fact that you need all the help you can get?" Beast asked.

"That, and the fact that it's six to one, even though I can outrun you . . . "

"So, what is going on, if I may ask?" Jean inquired.

"I'm not so sure myself," Flash replied. "All of a sudden, the sky started changing colors, and the rain started coming down real heavy. I ran over to the Hall of Justice and they hadn't realized it yet. We called a meeting almost immediately, and it's decided that I go with Captain America to Asgard."

"Asgard?" Beast interjected. "The mythical home of the Norse gods?"

"As it turns out, one of Cap's buddies from the 'big one' was Thor, the god of lightning. We went to him for help."

"This is too weird for me," Sarah said. "Demons, gods, red skies . . . it's too much."

"That's all well and good," Flash said. "But I gotta go and find my teammates." He zoomed off.

"So, fearless leader," Iceman said, turning to Superman. "What do we do now?"

William was laying on the cot that he had been using as a bed for the past few nights. He heard something in the corner, and instantly charged his hands with his green plasma energy.

Suddenly, he saw a man's form appear out of nowhere. William stood up, and got in an attack position. But, before he could do anything, the man was already behind him, with one arm around William's torso, and the other hand covering his mouth.

"You're William, right?"

William nodded.

"Don't worry, I'm not here to hurt you. I just didn't want you making noise and alerting someone." He let go of the young mutant.

"Who are you? What do you want?" William asked, facing his "guest."

The man disappeared. "I am called Stealth."

"What kind of name is that?"

"It describes my abilities. I am wearing a suit that allows me to melt into the shadows, and numerous other capabilities," Stealth replied.

"But what do you want with me?"

"I was sent to find you, and provide you with shelter and companionship."

"But I already have shelter - "

"You know very well you can't trust these Morlocks," Stealth interrupted. "They nearly tried to kill you. The only reason they've left you alone since you came back is because they don't want to piss off the X-Men for the time being."

"How do you know all this?" William asked.

"I have connections."

"What if I don't want to go?"

"It's your destiny."

"What if I want to stay with the X-Men?"

"What if I could promise you a stable home?"

William was silent for a moment. Stealth continued. "That's right. With the X-Men, there are no guarantees about anything. But, with me, at least I can give you a place to stay. They'll probably be on the run for a while at least."

"Okay," William said. "I'll go with you. But only because I don't like staying in these tunnels."

"I don't think you'll regret your decision," Stealth said.

"Can I tell the X-Men good-bye?"

"In the morning. Right now, we have some things to do."

The X-Men returned to the tunnels, and were greeted by two Morlocks. One had brown, scaly skin, and wore an oversized yellow shirt and blue pants. The other had green, furry skin, and wore a red shirt and black pants.

{Clark, something's wrong,} Jean said, telepathically. {They look possessed.}

Without warning, the Morlocks lunged at the X-Men, but their attack was stopped by Morph, who had leapt from behind, and formed his arms into clubs. He batted both Morlocks down with ease.

"Kill . . . kill . . . " the green one murmured.

"Kill . . . X . . . kill . . . X . . . " the other one chanted.

Morph repeated punched both of them. He was stopped when Beast grabbed his arm.

"What is wrong with you tonight, Morph?" Beast asked. "You don't have to go completely psycho on these guys."

The Morlocks jumped up and attached themselves to Beast.

"Hank!" Iceman shouted.

"Hank, watch out," Superman said. "I'm using my heat vision."

Superman aimed his heat vision at the Morlocks foreheads. They both fell off the big mutant.

However, they started walking toward the X-Men, continuing to chant. Sarah stepped forward and sent bolts of fire onto their legs.

It didn't slow them down a bit. They came closer, and the brown one hit Sarah in the stomach. She doubled over, and dropped to the ground.

"That's it!" Morph exclaimed. "We have to take them out!"

Before anyone could do anything, Morph formed his arms into spikes, and rammed them into the hearts of the Morlocks. They finally stopped, dead.

"Is that anyway to treat your hosts?" a voice asked.

"Callisto . . . " Beast growled as the leader of the Morlocks came into view. "Were you behind this?"

"What, me? No! They're just feeling the effects of what's going on in the upper world." Callisto's lips twisted into an evil smile.

"Callisto, we're leaving, first thing in the morning," Superman said.

"Fine by me . . . "

Superman walked forward, and the rest of the X-Men followed, leaving Callisto to take care of the two dead bodies.

As soon as she was sure they were out of earshot, she motioned for one of her followers to come close.

"After they leave, I want you to follow them, and kill them."

At the Hall of Justice, Captain America was trying to study his membership card, wondering why it wasn't allowing him to call his fellow teammates.

"Look here!" Thor exclaimed. "Thou hast a prisoner in your midst!"

Cap, who had been trying in vain to call any of the Avengers, looked up and walked over to the cell, and saw Batman sitting in the far corner.


Batman looked up, and then rushed over to the door, and grabbed Captain America through the bars, lifting him up.

"Get me out of here," Batman said, very roughly.

"Why are you in there?" Cap asked.

"Dammit, Steve, get me out of here!"

Cap looked at Batman's face and saw the rage. "Wait. If the League put you in here, then I'm sure they had very good reason. I'm not going to question them at a time like this."

"Forget about the League!" Batman shouted.

Cap reached down, and put his hands around Batman's wrists, and found the right pressure points and squeezed. Batman released his grip and fell to the floor, dropping Cap, who was able to regain his balance right away.

Just then, Cap's card beeped.

"Now how come it's working now when I couldn't call out earlier?" Cap wondered. He tapped in, and Wonder Woman's face appeared.

"Wonder Woman! I've been trying to call you. Why is Batman locked up?"

"Batman? He started acting real strange, and nearly beat a man senseless," Wonder Woman replied. "By the way, did you find Thor?"

"Yeah, he's here with me now."

"Good. I need to come here. Something big is happening . . . "