DCM Vertigo


Return of the Gods

"Hell" Really Is A Four-Letter Word
by Paul Hahn

My name is the Red Tornado.

I am a hero. Or, at least, I was. I am also a robot. I make intense winds upon which I fly, and also, as my name suggests, create tornadoes of any size or force. The original Red Tornado was a human . . . a woman. She fought Nazi oppression during World War II. Her life as a super-hero was short lived, as she was not very successful. When I was created, I was given the name, not to represent a legacy, but a spirit of how things used to be. When good guys were right and bad guys wound up in jail.

I fought alongside multiple heroes at one time or another, and for awhile I was even retired. But then I found myself the mentor of a group of youth heroes called Young Justice. They all sought to do good, and protect a world that they barely knew. I was to help them, be their guide. And for awhile, it seemed as though we were doing alright together.

Robin, Superboy, Impulse, Wonder Girl, Arrowette, Jade and Firebird were the members. But then Firebird apparently went insane and nearly killed the team. We then gained new mutant members Cannonball and Magik . . . and the media began to question us. Public battles in Central Park against Firebird, the Point Men at a government facility in New York, Angar the Screamer and then the Phalanx in Illinois, the Mutant Liberation Front at the World Trade Center . . . the list goes on.

The major confrontation was that of a battle at the Hellfire Club mansion in New York. Sebastian Shaw, the team's recent nemesis, was revealed to be the Black King of a secret Inner Circle of powerful mutants, revealed to be responsible for Firebird's turning against us. The team fought back, defeated the Club and saved Firebird . . . but at the cost of our stance in the public eye. We were thought of as terrorists after attacking so public a place. So, as a precaution, I grounded the team. I put them under house arrest to let the media's opinions cool down.

It didn't last.

When Wonder Girl's powers began changing, the team broke out and investigating. One giant explosion later, and the Department of Extranormal Operations stepped in, declaring that Young Justice was to be put under arrest. I intervened in the hopes of ending any conflict. Then, Superboy punched me.

The team fled, successfully escaping the DEO. Except for Magik. She had been injured and captured. Confused by Superboy's actions, I willingly surrendered with the hopes of better looking out for poor Illyana Rasputin, our mutant teleporter and mystic.

Red Tornado. Resembling a name of a hero from a time when the good guys were right and the bad guys wound up in jail. Now, the good guys are in jail, and the bad guys are able to get away with just about anything. Wonderful world we live in, hmm?

We've been here only a few days, in this DEO/S.H.I.E.L.D. cell. We haven't officially been charged with anything . . . but it will come. Illyana just sits there most of the time. Something is wrong, I know it. But she will not open up to me.

"Hey, Robot," a guard said.

Red Tornado's eyes began to glow slightly, showing a return to attention. "Yes?"

"You've got visitors," he said. "Kathy and Traya Sutton."

"My wife and daughter," Reddy nodded.

"Wife and daughter?" the guard asked. "You're a robot . . . how does that work?"

"It's truly none of your concern," the Tornado replied.

"Whatever," the guard shrugged. "You got two minutes."

The guard turned and walked away, bringing his two visitors back quickly and then exiting again.

"John . . . " Kathy said quietly upon seeing his face.

My beloved Kathy. Though most say I am incapable of feeling emotions, I know it cannot be totally true . . . or else I would not be attached to this woman so. John Smith, by the way, is my "real" name.

"Daddy!" Traya exclaimed happily.

Sweet Traya . . . she's in the fourth grade this year. A brilliant young girl . . . I couldn't be more proud.

"Hello Kathy, Traya," the Tornado replied. He was smiling on the inside, though his face could only move so much. He looked back at Illyana briefly. She hadn't even raised her head to see who had come.

"Are you alright?" Kathy asked. "I heard the story on the news . . . it said terrible things, but I didn't believe it."

"Good," the Tornado nodded. "They are lies. The media is being manipulated against Young Justice. My theory says that the Hellfire Club is behind it. Hopefully my other young charges are still free, seeking the evidence they need to prove such a thing."

"Daddy, I want you to come home," Traya said.

"I want to come home, too," he answered. "And I will be home soon. But there are some things daddy needs to take care of here first."

"John, I . . . "

"Everything will be alright, Kathy," he said. "It will just take a few days to sort through this. But everything shall be fine. Do you trust me?"

"Of course."

"Then please believe me on this."

She nodded.

"Alright," the guard said. "Time t'go."

Red nodded. "Goodbye, Kathy. Goodbye, Traya."

"Bye Daddy," Traya said as Kathy began walking her out.

"Bye, John . . . "

Two minutes . . . what a short period of time. I look back at Illyana once more . . . still nothing. Something is deathly wrong with her. I know she was not seriously injured . . . this is something totally different.

"Got another visitor," the guard said.

"Another visitor?"

"Hello, John."

"Captain America," the Red Tornado replied with a nod.

The living legend, the symbol of freedom, walked toward the front of the jail cell.

"Some mess you and your team is in, isn't it?" Cap asked.

"It is indeed," Red sighed. "To what do I owe the honor of your visit? Come to offer more advice for the situation with Young Justice?"

That came out wrong. Almost cynical or angry. I wish I hadn't said it.

"Not quite," Cap frowned. "There's something going on outside. The sky is red . . . and the city's been taken over by demons. It's a complicated story that even I don't fully understand, but Mephisto has turned New York, or possible all of earth, into another level of hell. Normal people are starting to be affected by all the evil. It's an intense situation."

"I see."

"The Avengers League and most of the city's other heroes are trying our best to both cope with the situation and find Mephisto in order to stop this threat. But since most of our force will be needed to stop Mephisto, we have very few people to spare to help protect the city."

"I have no way of contacting Young Justice, if that's what you're getting at."

"No, that's not it. I've worked this out with the DEO and SHIELD. They've agreed to release both you and Magik and give you a pardon if you help with this crisis situation."

"Just the two of us?"

"You're the only two who we know to contact from your team. John . . . we need your help."

"I would have gladly offered my services without the pardon," the Tornado nodded.

"And Magik . . . ?"

"She shall help as well," John answered for her. "I appreciate your assistance, Captain."

"And I, yours."

The guard walked over and unlocked the cell door.

Cap shook Red's hand. "Good luck."

And so, a few minutes later, both myself and the young Rasputin are standing outside in the middle of New York City. And it is indeed a mess.

The sky is fire red . . . there is chaos everywhere. Demons flying in the sky, and people reacting in fear to ordinary objects. I'm not sure where to begin.

"What's wrong?" he asked Illyana. "You're free."

"This city . . . " she said at last. "It's become pure evil . . . I can barely withstand it . . . "

" . . . ?"

"It's tainting me," she frowned. "Torturing me . . . "

I don't know what to do for her. Magik and I have never really spoken with one another. She's always kept to herself. Out of everyone on the team, she's been the loner . . . and completely by choice. Unfortunately, before I can offer any help, I spot a pair of small, winged, monkey-like demons heading right towards us.

"Look out!" the Tornado yelled.

In an instant, Illyana called forth her magical SoulSword. And, with it, body armor. Every time she brought for the sword, more and more armor appeared. The increases were usually gradual. This time, the armor had almost doubled. It covered her entire left side. Leg, hip, chest, arm, shoulder and even her face. She swung the sword through the air, and a blast of magical energy swooped forward, blasting the demons into oblivion.


"My magic is black in nature. Though I loath to admit it, this much evil has increased my strength immensely."

"The Captain told us to be going for damage control. But if you have any better ideas . . . ?"

"I can sense it," she said, holding her sword close and squatting on the street.

"Sense what?"

"A disturbance . . . a great evil," she said. As she spoke, one of her trademark stepping discs appeared beneath her and the Tornado's feet. "Below us!"

For a brief second, my senses are assaulted by a flash of light that usually accompanies Illyana's teleporting affect. We're in Limbo then. She doesn't want to stay in Limbo . . . it's just necessary for her to go to Limbo before teleporting us to the desired location. I can't help but notice how similar Limbo looks to New York City . . . at least, since this current crisis. All the demons and everything . . . but with a hint of metal . . . and electronics. But magic and electronics do not mix. How is this possible?

Unfortunately, I don't have time to find out. Because the flash of light hits again, and we're somewhere underground before a waterfall of some sort and a source of running water.

"I don't believe it," Illyana frowned. "A Chaos Stream?"

"What is a Chaos Stream?"

"It's a branch of the River Styx . . . it induces evil above and beneath where it runs."

"Could this be responsible for what's going on up above?"

"Not directly. I believe Mephisto, or whomever, created this, and multiple other streams beneath the city to start what he is attempting to finish."

"Perhaps we should alert the Avengers League . . . bring in reinforcements."

"No time," Illyana said. She approached the pond-like area that the water was pouring into and dug her sword into it. The water began to boil and glow white-hot. "It needs a little cleansing fire . . . to stave off it's affects, at least for a little while."

"Illyana," Red said. "What was that in Limbo that I saw?"

"What was what?"

"The metallic influence," he said again. "Something is changing that demonic place."

" . . . I am aware," she said quietly. "It's been disturbing my control over Limbo. I haven't had time to do much investigating, though."

"But do you have any ideas?"

"I believe, in the aftermath of our battle with the techno-organic Phalanx, one that I thought was dead may have been accidentally teleported to Limbo when Sam and I inadvertently teleported to the Morlock Tunnels under New York."

"The Phalanx have invaded Limbo?"

"Not necessarily. I . . . I don't know. But it's best that we focus on the task at hand."

"You would indeed be wise to do that," a voice called.

I turn quickly to see another player entering the field. He appears to be a demon of some sort . . . he looks human, but has gray wings. His hair is red, his skin a pale gray. He's dressed in a maroon, leather jumpsuit. And he has more of those winged, monkey-demons with him.

"My name is Dante," he said.

"Wait, don't tell us," Illyana interrupted. "This is your Inferno, correct?"

"Not quite," Dante grinned. "What is going on is not my doing. But its continuance shall soon be. I mean to defeat Mephisto, steal the Materioptikon, and rule the world, remade into my Inferno!"

"Mater . . . what?" Illyana asked.

"You fools," Dante grinned. "You truly do not understand anything that is going on."

"I knew enough to disrupt the Chaos Stream," she frowned.

"Yes, you did," Dante frowned. "And for that, I'm afraid . . . I must kill you."

And with that, the battle breaks out. Dante's winged monkeys attack with a speed and fury that belies their size. However, my robotic skin is more than enough protection from their claws. Magik seems capable of facing them with her armored side forward, keeping most of the attacks from causing her harm. A quick spin and a little wind is enough to send a squad of the monkeys flying into the hard, rock walls of the cavern around us. The impact stops them from returning to battle.

"Impressive," Dante said. "You are a robot . . . magic would not affect you much. So allow me to provide you with a more physical threat!"

So another monkey-demon shows up. This one's about twelve feet tall, two-thousand pounds, and has really big wings.

"Great googly moogly," he said.

The giant demon leapt at him and quickly began pounding.

"Your demons won't stop me," Illyana said. A whispered incantation later, and the demons lost their wings. They all howled in pain.

"And your magiks won't stop me!" Dante replied. He quickly pulled out a whip and cracked it, slapping her SoulSword from her hand. Another crack and the whip was wrapped around Illyana's neck. He pulled, and she was flung forward and onto her knees. "See?"

Given much more time, it's entirely possible that this demon will do enough physical damage that my armored, metal body begins to dent and damage, possibly even break. I decide to not give him the chance. I hit him with both fists, charged forward by F5 winds. I do believe I smash it's skull with the impact. Illyana isn't faring so well.

Dante still held her neck in a choke lock with the whip. "The more you struggle, the more I enjoy it."

"Enjoy . . . this!" she gasped, kicking him across the face. The whip flung from his hand and landed on the ground. With a moment to finally relax, she pulled the whip from around her neck. She grabbed her sword and it flashed with light. It was indeed strong.

"It will take far more than that to defeat me!" Dante exclaimed.

"Then how's this?" Magik asked. Once more, she thrust her sword forward, expelling a blast of energy at him. Dante was knocked back and in pain, but it did not finish him.

"It will take even more than that," Dante gasped. He spread his wings and took into the air. He blasted fire from his eyes, smashing the roof of the cavern they were in, escaping into open night sky.

"Quick," Illyana said. "We have to follow him."

She climbed onto Red Tornado's back and he took off after him.

As the two left, they failed to notice someone watching them. The figure sheathed his sword and began to climb up after them.

Now we're in the red skies, trailing after a demon-man flying on wings that almost seem metal. Illyana hurt him . . . hopefully enough that he'll be easy to pick off.

"If he was a real demon, wouldn't he have to talk in rhymes?" Illyana asked.

"Don't look at me," the Tornado shrugged. "You're the demon expert."

"Just stay after him."

"Yes ma'am."

The city has indeed changed. I doubt it was just a Chaos Stream that was responsible for all this. There is much more at work than we suspect. I can only hope Captain America and the others are getting to the bottom of this.

"He's landing over there!" Illyana called.

"Then we'll meet him," the Tornado said, landing before him.

"What was the purpose of your fleeing?" Illyana asked.

"Time for my body to heal," Dante answered. "So that we could face anew, and I would be stronger than ever. My plans shall not be thwarted."

"You want to take on Mephisto, yes?" Illyana asked. "He's the king of all demons and devils . . . the head honcho of evil. If you could barely withstand a blast from the ruler of Limbo--"

"You?" Dante asked. "The Ruler of Limbo?"

"I defeated Belasco in combat," she continued. "I rule there. You are a fool . . . and it is my duty, as both ruler of Limbo and a member of Young Justice, to put you down."

"Bold words, girl," Dante sneered. "Actions speak loudest."

I do not interfere. Though my . . . 'gut' instinct tells me to assist, I know it is better that I do not. Illyana has much pent up frustration and anger . . . and a whole host of other emotions from far too many different sources. This, perhaps, may be the best source of therapy that she can be provided with.

The fighters appeared evenly matched. Despite Illyana's size and age, she proved herself more than capable as a fighter, a magician, and, apparently, a ruler. But one thing Dante failed to realize, was just how powerful Illyana's SoulSword is. He was able to withstand a second blast, and even a third. But when Magik was able to plant the sword directly inside him . . . it was over. The demon discorporated. The fight was won.

"Feel better?" he asked.

"A little," she said, breathing heavily.

"There are still numerous other demons on the loose," he continued. "Are you up for it?"

"For as long as I must," she nodded.

"Then let us continue."

I take us both into the air again, seeking out ways to help people. Something is still not right with her . . . I hope she gets better and soon. In the meantime, I still worry about my charges in Young Justice. I fear that, should this crisis be resolved, the next assignment for the Avengers League . . . shall be their capture.

The man from before watched as the two took into the skies.

"That's right," he said to himself. "Run away. I know you're scared. You should be. Even though you weren't with the team when we last clashed, I'll be sure to take you down with the rest of them. Hell's claiming this world, kiddies . . . and those who live in Hell have got free reign. Which means . . . Harm is back to stay!"