Now we see just what friendship is worth… In association with the X-Men Comics group on Facebook, what happens when Uncanny Avengers go to war?
“Ah am not going to fight him!”
It was strange, Arcade thought gleefully as he leaned against the wall of the stone cell, but this particular scrap was proving to be the most difficult yet.
He was loving it.
The mutant known as Cannonball was chained to the wall, heavy manacles and cords fixing him in place; his costume had been partly removed, and the flesh of his torso was coated with bloody welts. The sight of the blood made Arcade smirk all the more.
The mercenary gave Cannonball a broad grin in return. “Sam, Sam, Sam,” he taunted, “I do understand your reluctance – I mean, he was your best friend, and all – but it’s too late, you know?”
“Never too late,” Sam yelled back. “Ah am not going to fight him!”
For once, Arcade chose not to laugh; instead, he smirked, then turned away. He raised his hand and snapped his fingers; the hooded figure of an executioner, in full Medieval armour, stepped forwards to unlock the door. Arcade left him to it.
Whistling jauntily as he ascended a flight of steps, Arcade ran his hands across the old mortar. He had to give it to Mojo; his compatriot had a good taste in settings. That was confirmed even more so as Arcade stepped out into the fresh air, and heard the cheering of the crowd.
Arcade still remembered the last time super-villains had gathered together in his name. It had been his birthday, and Arcade had found himself mocked; since then, though, he’d upped his game. He’d started out by kidnapping a bunch of teenagers and simulating The Hunger Games (a book he’d really enjoyed reading while on his last stretch in prison). Now, courtesy of Miss Coriander, he’d been able to escalate still further.
No longer was he a subject of contempt; the super-villains were cheering him.
Arcade was stood in a simulation of the coliseum of Rhodes, a massive, circular stone construction with a gladiatorial field at the centre. In this case, the air around the field was shimmering with energy, a field to prevent any contestants escaping through flight. All the seats were filled, with villains from all over time and space; Arcade raised his hands into the air, beaming, and the crowd went wild.
He cast an eye across them, beaming; Constrictor, looking much more respectful these days; Vulture, who had been grumbling all over the place that Spider-Man wasn’t involved in this; the Shocker, the Hobgoblin, the Leader, Boomerang, Mole Man, the Wrecking Crew, Princess Python, the Tinkerer, the Blob, Grizzly, Mystique… The list went on, and frankly Arcade was making a small fortune out of their bets.
A figure stepped out into the field; a young male, his body wreathed in dark energy. The mutant known as Sunspot. To the other side, the executioner dragged the scrawny-looking Cannonball in.
Arcade gestured, and the crowd hushed. The atmosphere was electric; they’d simply watched all the other battles, but this one they got to experience in a far more visceral fashion.
Arcade began to speak. “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your patience! In case some of you don’t know, I’d just like to introduce these two contestants…” He preened in the spotlight, delighted at the continuing attentive silence. “We have Cannonball and Sunspot; two young X-Men, both now Avengers, but about to fight it out!”
He just heard Cannonball’s yell of “Never”, and he laughed – as did the crowd. As the humour gradually faded, Arcade gave the challenge its answer.
“If you don’t fight, you’ll die, Guthrie,” he snarled back. “Sunspot?”
Roberto DaCosta, Sunspot’s oldest friend, stepped forwards.
Addressing him, Arcade asked: “Will you hesitate to kill Cannonball?”
Sunspot merely shook his head. The executioner – and the chains by which he had dragged Cannonball – were swiftly teleported out of existence, leaving a poor and confused Sam Guthrie stood there.
“For the record,” Arcade explained to one and all, “Sunspot’s mind once fractured into another persona, called Reignfire. We’ve liberated Reignfire, and offered him freedom – and continued existence.” He grinned broadly. “But only if he tears Sam Guthrie apart.”
Cannonball backed away as his friend advanced…