Amazing Fantasy 17

A Mighty Tale Told in the Mighty Marvel Manner!

Card Subject to Change!

1975

Gwen Stacy was dead as a door nail. Officially, at any rate. The young science major vanished from the public eye one grim day in 1973 when the Green Goblin attacked the hero known as Spider-Man. The next part of the story is somewhat jumbled.

In the chaos, in which the Goblin battled with the web spinner across the city, Gwen Stacy was knocked from the George Washington Bridge and apparently died. The narrative says 'apparently', since with the revelation that the Green Goblin was in fact businessman Norman Osborn, well, the public was more interested in that plus the fact that Osborn died too, although his death was more official and verifiable.

No, Gwen died that day, she'd tell you too.

Kowalski's Gym was a dump. Even during its heyday it turned out more ham and eggers than contenders than anyone else. It was still limping along though, mostly by Kowalski being the stingiest manager around.

He overcharged and over talked. The joke was if a fighter earned a hundred bucks somehow he'd owe Kowalski eighty. Some managers had the sight, the vision, and the gab to make any joe off the street into a world class contender. Kowalski just had hot air and vague promises.

Thankfully, for him, there were many folks who still listened. One person in particular was a pale blonde-haired chick who strolled in a few months ago. She was quiet, didn't ask questions, and cleaned the place halfway decently. She kept to herself and that was fine by both parties.

Gwen, or Sally as she was calling herself, pushed the broom. She liked the repetition; it kept her calm. Calm was important to her, for various reasons. She had been working on a special project, trying to unlock the full potential of the human body. She had been researching the work of Dr. Abraham Erskine and the concept of the man's work fascinated her.

So she decided to use herself as test subject. The project notes that she could find on Project: Rebirth gave her so much, except for the Vita-Rays. Those proved harder to replicate, so she decided to use gamma rays instead. That proved to be a mistake.

She didn't know, at least until a nut in a bad Halloween costume decided to kidnap her and smack her off a bridge. That triggered something inside, something that took the combined might of three heroes to stop her and cover it up.

Gwen vanished after the fight. She considered going to the Fantastic Four, but their failure to cure Betty Ross didn't inspire confidence. If she could find Ross she might have some answers, but the Hulk hadn't been seen in years.

So she kept to her work, picking up whatever jobs she could and conducting her own research. It wasn't easy. When your change into a green skinned Amazon when you lose your cool, people tend to notice, thus her getting a tour of the greater United States via rail car or on foot.

She had been so busy pushing her broom she didn't notice the heavily muscled back before she smacked right into it. She stumbled back. "Sorry!"

The woman in front of her turned around. "My apologies sister." Her voice rumbled like velvet. She reached down and easily picked Gwen back up. "Are you hurt?"

"Ah-no! No, just fine, I need to watch where I'm going!" Gwen stuttered and slipped away. The other woman watched her go. Thundra let her leave without question, but she sensed there was something about the young lady that bore watching.

Given that she was from the 23rd Century, and an Earth ruled by women at that, Thundra had a certain sense about unusual things or people, and the gym's janitor definitely had a vibe about her. She would have to investigate further.

She walked to the gym's backroom, her boots echoing across the gym's walls. Pushing the door open, she stepped into the room covered in posters, playbills, and memories of a hundred fights, plus a thin coating of nicotine and sweat.

Seated at the wobbly table were the Grapplers. Titania, Letha, Poundcakes, and Screaming Mimi sat around the table, cards in hand. "About time" Titania drawled in her New England thick tone. "You finally finished posing yet?"

"You beat me once Titania and as such I swore to work with your group, but don't assume command over me."

The raven haired wrestler smirked and tossed her cards down. "Hey, honey, you agreed to work with us, now pull up a chair. Our boss is coming by with the details for the next job." None of the other Grapplers cared to mention that Titania only won due to a poisoned ring, but if they could get one job out of her they'd consider it a good night. They could deal with the super strong redhead later.

Gwen dropped her broom as she rushed back to the small closet that served as her lab/bed. Her heart was pounding. Her hands were shaking so bad she couldn't reach into her coveralls for her key, not that it mattered as her door was open. "Hey!"

Kowalski loomed over her in the doorway. "Alright, I let you sleep here 'cuz I'm a softy, but I ain't letting no pill heads use my place!" He held up pill bottle half empty with the most powerful tranquilizers she could get her hands on.

"What were you doing in my room? Gwen rasped. Her skin was starting to turn pale and she felt her muscles swelling.

"Dumping all this crap out, that's what!" Kowalski kicked a box containing her equipment across the floor. "I ain't letting my gym get turned into some kind of Frankenstein lab either!" He jerked a thumb to the wall behind him. Once scientific formulas covered the surface. Now it was a black smear.

"You…You" Gwen's thoughts went from anger to blinding rage. Her eyes started to shine in the dim light.

"Hey, what kind of dope you on lady?" Kowalski suddenly felt that he had done something very foolish. He backed up into the closet and quickly shut the door. "Cheap lock!" he muttered. "Hey, just leave and I won't call the cops!"

He heard a muffled moan that turned into something deeper. Before he make another threat, two massive green arms broke through the door and clamped down on him. He barely had time to scream before he was yanked free of the room and tossed into the ring.

The ring was some distance from the closet. He sailed over the top rope but his momentum faded. He hit the center with a jarring crash and skidded to the other side. Most wrestling rings have some level of give to them. Given his usual level of thrift, Kowalski had bought a boxing ring. A ring that was a super thin canvas stretched almost to breaking over a thick lair of particle board that was balanced over a series of steel beams.

"What madness is this?" Thundra didn't actually like Kowalski; in fact she'd be hard pressed to name anyone who did, but she supposed she should do something.

She easily jumped into the ring. Her opponent mimicked the action. Thundra whistled in appreciation. It was rare to find a woman who rivaled her in the muscle department. The green skin and near nudity was odd, but at this point she was willing to overlook that. "Who are you?"

The strange woman growled, her white teeth standing out against the green face. "Smash!"

Thundra appreciation grew. "Someone to fight as an equal? At last!" She rushed forward and gripped the hulking woman's hands in a test of strength. She regretted that, as the stranger's strength really was equal to her own.

"You are impressive, but have you any skills to match your strength?"

For an answer the stranger slammed her forehead into Thundra's nose. She staggered back, blinking back tears. The stranger didn't let up, tackling her to the ground. Thundra managed to get her legs wrapped around the green torso. She squeezed with the strength to warp steel as the stranger tried to pry her legs off.

"You're strong! I could use a woman like you back home!" Thundra was aware the Grapplers were watching. "I don't suppose I can count on you ladies for assistance?"

"Why? Looks like you've got it well in hand!" Titania snickered.

Thundra reached out and grabbed the ropes, the leverage giving her an advantage. With one free hand, she punched the stranger full in the throat as she increased the squeeze. The monster gagged and pitched backwards. The stranger was still breathing, slowly. Thundra pulled herself up and checked on her opponent, albeit carefully. Her foe's throat was clearly crushed, yet she saw the flesh ripple and heal. There seemed to be more going on with the stranger's eyes, almost like she was fighting someone else besides Thundra. Before her eyes, the green skin turned a pale shade of peach and the dark hair faded to blonde as the muscles shrank.

The now nude and confused young woman looked around. "Oh God, is anyone hurt?"

"Nobody important." Poundcakes coughed as she eyed the moaning Kowalski. Screaming Mimi elbowed her.

"Sorry" Gwen muttered she stood up.

"Wait!" Titania jumped into the ring, a spare robe in hand. "Hang on a minute! Let's chat."

The display of kindness gave everyone pause, Thundra especially. Gwen took the robe and slipped it on as she was led out of the ring to the backroom. "Look, it seems you got some troubles. How about we talk about it? We might even be able to help."

Letha's eyebrows almost vanished under her headband. "How?" She mouthed. Poundcakes shrugged. Titania glanced over her shoulder and glared.

Inside the room, Gwen nursed the stale coffee as she laid her story out to the Grapplers. Thundra sat next to her and offered sympathy. Titania and Letha saw profit. Poundcakes was weirded out by the whole thing and Screaming Mimi busied herself with a magazine.

"So, this, ah, other you. You change when you get angry, right?" Titania asked.

"Sometimes. Sometimes when I'm asleep. I can't control her, not really."

"Excuse us" Titania and Letha stepped out of the room and headed to the locker rooms. Once alone, Letha shook her head.

"Ok, so what the hell are we doing?"

"Making a million bucks, easy." Titania put her hands on Letha's shoulders and looked her square in the eye. "How much cash do you think Brand would give us for a bona fide hulk?"

"Sell her? D., come on. I mean, we've done some rotten stuff, but slavery?"

"Hellen, this could be our big break! Screw breaking into some lab, we hand that weirdo over and we'll be on easy street!"

"But what if Brand doesn't want to pay? What if they decide to kill us instead and take her?"

Titania scowled. "Alright, you made your point. Tell you what, we'll take her with us on the job. If she pulls her weight, we'll keep her, but if she doesn't we'll turn her over to Brand. How about that?"

Letha nodded.

The two returned. Gwen had apparently finished up her story. Kowalski had been taken away in an ambulance, raving about a green giant.

"Okay ladies, I know we've kept you in the dark about a few things, but tonight is going to our night!" Titania smiled, which was usually a bad sign.

An hour later, the man showed up. Everything about him was bland. His hair, sunglasses, even skin all looked pale and dim. Looking straight at him was almost a challenge given that he seemed to blend into every surface around him.

He glared behind his shades at Gwen. "I was told there would only be five of you. The job calls for five exactly."

"And she is worth another five, easy." Titania tired to smooth things over. "Look, if she doesn't work out, you have our word that we'll quit."

"This isn't a five and dime." The man's voice was flat, but the threat was there. "Since you brought her in, use her as you can." He ignored Gwen as he opened his briefcase and unfolded several blueprints across the table. "This is your target."

He went on. "Project P.E. .U.S, which stands for Potential Energy Group, Alternative Source, United States, is here in the Adirondacks. Its security at the moment is only a handful of agents of minimal abilities. Your target is this." He pulled out a picture of a small black cube. "It is located in the lower levels, as per our agent. Get it, get out, and return it and you will be well paid. Fail, and we disavow everything."

"Aw, you mean we can't count on you?" Poundcakes put her hands to her cheeks. "And I was already missing your passion!"

The man adjusted his tie. "Just get to it. It's a five hour drive. The van you requested is ready." He removed all the papers and walked away.

The man stopped outside and lit a cigarette. "You know those things are bad for you." Screaming Mimi stepped out of the shadows.

"What do you want?"

"You saw our new addition. Maybe she might be worth more than some rinky-dink box?"

"Your leader explained her condition already."

Screaming Mimi's face dropped. "Oh."

The man shook his head. "Forget what you're thinking. Gamma powered heroes are too unpredictable. If she works, fine, but I'm not letting that research escape. Get that first, and I might have a bonus if your new assist pulls her weight."

The van ride was five hours. They arrived a few minutes before midnight. "Everybody know their part?" Titania killed the engine.

Gwen spoke up. "So you just need me to be a lookout?" She wasn't fooling herself. She knew they were breaking into a top secret research facility but given her own status at the moment it wasn't like she could really judge.

"Yeah, you and Thundra just hang out here and we'll do the heavy work." Letha smiled as the rest of the Grapplers sneaked off into the woods.

Bill Foster stifled a yawn. It was boring work, but he liked boring. He had a dozen letters after his name and yet he never corrected anyone who just called him Bill. When someone asked him about his projects or the lack of glamour around them, he would just smile and shrug.

After all, when you work alongside Hank Pym and the rest of the Avengers, everything else is going to come in second. He popped his back before standing up. "Hope they left some coffee." He mumbled as he snagged his mug and went off towards the break room.

His shoes echoed on the tile as he went down the corridor. Another plus to working late, in the daytime those now empty halls would be bustling with scientists, noise of every type reverberating off the walls. Now it was as peaceful as a crypt.

He stepped into the break room. The glowing figure before him almost made him drop his mug. "Sorry chief, didn't know you were working the graveyard too."

Quasar dimmed the light from his bracelets. The black and gold Quantum Bands were still a mystery to Foster but those were deemed to be above his pay grade. Quasar had been the chief of security at the project for a few months but he never socialized with the scientists.

"Don't worry about. McMasters had some family fly in, so I'm filling in. Everything ok in your division?"

"Yup. The Pym Particle Project is really coming along." Foster helped himself to the last of the coffee and replaced the filter. "I love working late. You can get so much done."

The light over the room's door suddenly flashed red. "What's that?"

Quasar narrowed his eyes. "Could be trouble. Dr. Foster, I'm going to have to ask you to lock yourself in your lab and don't open the door until you here from me, understand?" The man's wrists flared before he flew out of the room.

Poundcakes and Letha tossed the last of the guards into a shack. "Does boss lady know what to grab?" Poundcakes picked up a guard's key set and locked the door. They entered the main building and strolled around what looked like a large meeting hall.

"She should, we went over the plan enough." Letha poked through a few piles of notes scattered over the tables. She couldn't make heads or tails of the stuff.

"Hold it!" a voice cried out from outside. A glowing man dressed in red and blue hovered over the floor. "You ladies are trespassing on federal property. Put your hands up!"

"Ok, ok" Letha raised her arms. A wire shot out from her wrist and snagged his ankle. Poundcakes quickly took over, yanking the wire and flinging the flying hero into the wall. Quasar rose.

"That's the way you want to play? Fine by me!"

Titania and Screaming Mimi rushed down the stairwell. "Why couldn't we have just taken the elevator?" Screaming Mimi whined.

"Cameras, stupid!"

Kicking the stairwell door down, they emerged into the corridors. "Come on, the lab should be around this corner!"

Bill Foster went back to work. He heard the fighting upstairs but tried to ignore it. "Not a hero Bill, just stay in your lane and let the pros handle it."

His door crumbled and two women in bright tights entered the room. "Hey dork, where's the stuff?" the smaller one in green snarled, the white paint on her face giving her a bizarre appearance.

"What my friend is asking, is where are the Pym particles? We'd like all your notes, research, etc. Hand them over and we won't break anything." The taller woman tried to sound more professional.

"Or maybe we will!"

Bill sighed. He thrust out his arm. The limb swelled and shot forward, catching the smaller one full in the chest and sending her crashing into her friend. They both hit the wall outside. Bill's arm returned to normal, albeit missing a sleeve.

"What?" the taller one gasped. "How? We read your file, you're just a desk jockey!"

"Just because it doesn't say anything about powers doesn't mean I don't have them." Bill stood up and removed his tie and shoes. Super powered fights tended to be hell on his clothes. "Now are you going to leave or do I have to break something?"

Gwen was fidgeting. "This is wrong."

"Possibly, but I did promise." Thundra was calm or at least seemed calmer. This wasn't her world, after all.

"No, I mean this is wrong for me! I shouldn't be here!" Gwen felt her heart racing. She eyed the woods. "Why did they bring me here?"

That was a good question. Thundra didn't know that much about her employers but she doubted Gwen plus the research equaled anything good. Given how green Gwen's eyes looked, perhaps she should focus more on her.

"I don't question orders and the money they're offering is good enough."

"I don't care!" Gwen shouted. Her eyes blazed green. Her hands trembled.

Letha and Poundcakes cursed as they ran. Quasar hovered over the complex, his bands casting a blinding light over the area. "Crap! I hope the others are doing better!"

Bill Foster, or Goliath as he briefly considered calling himself, smacked Titania down the halls. He didn't dare grew to his full height, as the corridors would box him in. He kept himself at a solid nine feet, just to give him an advantage.

He smacked the intruder close enough to a fire hose. "A bit corny, but if you're not going to cooperate I'll just tie you up and let security handle it from here." He reached for the hose when a blinding nausea overtook him. "What's happening?" he tried to turn around but the floor melted away from his feet when he moved.

Stumbling like a drunk, Foster smacked his head in a nearby door frame and dropped to the ground. "What's with him?" Titania slowly stood up.

Screaming Mimi stepped into the light. "E, G, and a pinch of High C."

"Cute." She pointed to his lab. "Come on, let's get the stupid work and bail."

Gwen had become the Hulk again. The monster glared at the woods. Whatever calming effect the area had on vanished when she spotted Thundra. With a savage roar she leaped at her. The impact sending them both crashing through a tree.

"What's going on?" Quasar heard the sound of roaring and breaking timber. "More intruders?" He turned and flew off towards the fighting.

"Golden boy's buzzing off, let's go!" Poundcakes hissed.

"Wait!" Letha tugged on her arm as two figures emerged from a darkened building.

For answer, Titania held up a briefcase. The other two nodded and dashed off towards the van.

Whatever elation they felt died collectively as they spotted Thundra locked in a struggle with the Hulk (they hadn't actually stopped to ask Gwen what she called herself and that was later decided to be the best alternative). The glowing form of Quasar was drawing close. "Great, now what?" Letha glanced at the two battling.

"Let 'em fight!" Poundcakes hissed.

"Thundra knows too much. You think she won't turn on us if she gets caught?" Titania slapped the larger woman's head.

"I can blast that flying guy, maybe?" Screaming Mimi eyed the golden light around Quasar. If that was a force field, they were in trouble.

Thundra had to admit, breaking & entering aside, she was having fun. It was rare that she could just go all out against someone. She traded punches with the Hulk (she was using the name too). Their blows echoed throughout the forest and bent trees as they punched and grappled throughout the woods.

Slipping her chain off her wrist, she feinted to her right and wrapped it around the Hulk's arm, quickly binding her limbs to her side. "That chain was forged by the greatest smiths in my land." The Hulk growled and strained against the links.

Much to her shock (and pride) the chain started to give way. Before it could break, Quasar hovered over them. "Are you two with those burglars?"

Thinking quickly, Thundra released the chain and booted the Hulk into Quasar. She spied the rest of the Grapplers piling into the van. "Hmm, as much as I would love to stay and fight, I feel a retreat might be in order." She dashed after them and dove into the rear as they sped off.

Quasar knew about the She-Hulk and the Hulk. The nearly nude and green giant pounded against his barriers was not either of them. "If you're anything like them, then gamma is your go-to." He aimed his Quantum Bands at her carefully."

He blasted her with the bandwidth, drawing out the gamma radiation and redirecting it into outer space. The Hulk stopped pounding against his barrier and slowly sank to her knees. Within seconds the muscles shrank and the green skin gave way to a pale pink. The young lady looked around. "Where am I?"

Quasar looked down at her with some pity. "With friends, I hope."

Thundra was silent during the trip back. When they arrived back at the gym she snatched the briefcase from Titania. "Hey!"

"We left a comrade behind." Thundra's tone was level. She could have broken out of the van and gone back for Gwen, but she wasn't sure what kind of people she'd have to fight, plus she had a feeling that the lab back there would ultimately be more useful to her than Titania could be.

"Hey, if jolly green can't cut it, we don't need her!" Letha smirked.

"I fight beside you because I lost a match." Thundra suddenly crushed the case with her two hands. "A rare thing. Let me assure you, that will never happen again." She continued, turning the case into a twisted ball. She finished by flinging it through the skylight.

"Wh-what do you think you're doing?" Titania tried to sound brave.

"Something I should have done a while ago." Thundra calmly walked over to the wall of lockers, found hers and ripped the metal apart. She gathered her few items and with the same casual air walked out into the coming day.

"Man, the boss ain't going to be happy." Poundcakes eyed the hole in the skylight's panes.

Titania was nearly beside herself. "She's going to pay! Even if it takes a hundred years!"

Gwen was at a table. Quasar had been kind enough to take her inside the project and from there some long conversations had been made. A few phone calls were placed and by lunchtime two people entered the room.

The man was a fairly plain looking fellow. The only remarkable thing about him was his suit color. Purple was not a standard style. Behind him, and taking up most of the doorway was a woman Gwen had only read about. "You're" Gwen sputtered.

"Yup." The woman flashed a grin, her white teeth standing out against her bright green skin. Her suit was form fitting, but with muscles like her most clothes would be. "They tell me you might have a problem we know something about."

The end

Our cast is based on the following:

Gwen Stacy, first appeared in the Amazing Spider-Man I#31 (December 1965)

The Grapplers, first appeared in Marvel Two-In-One#54 (August 1979), with credits to Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Macchio (story), John Bryne (pencils), and Joe Sinnott (inks)

Next time, Tigra VS Kraven the Hunter!

Also, be sure to keep an eye out for Freedom's Five VS Yi Yang, the Grim Ghost Returns, the Dragon, more Devilina and more.

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