Elijah's Mantle, Part 2

Summary:
January 22, 2015: The drama continues inside St. Mark's Cathedral in Alexandria, Egypt

St. Mark's Cathedral, Alexandria Egypt

A very old, Coptic Cathedral. The rumored home of St. Mark's remains.


Characters

NPCs

  • Ibrahim al-Monsoor
  • HYDRA Goons

Mood Music:


"It reads: Here lies the Mantle of Elijah, who passed it down to his â¦" al-Monsoor looks as if he's struggling to find a synonym. "passed it down to his good friendâ¦that is not what it says, but that is what it means." The man rambles a bit, and starts over. "Here lies the Mantle of Elijah, he who was taken to heaven on a flying chariot of fire, who passed it down to his protegeâ"Elisha. All who wear it shall be closer and like unto God."

Al-Monsoor looks to Steve who looks back with a serious face.

Then Steve's eyes drift down to the floor and over to poor Fitz and those low-top Chuckie's he wears. And the stones beneath his feet.

"Fitz," Steve says calmly. "Don't move."

"You're standing on top of a booby trap."

Beast adjusts his glasses as he also reads what's on the wall. "Agreed…that word isn't easily translateable into English…" but the discussion will have to wait as it's mentioned that Fitz is on top of a booby trap. He blinks between the two before glancing around as if looking for the mechanism. "This is earlier than the Holy Grail…" Only the Penitent Man Shall Pass.

Fitz is moments from taking another step, his body twisting around to face Captain America.

The heel of his shoe comes up…

Then, he freezes in place, blinking. "Wot?" he asks. "Are you bloody" The tone suddenly changes from complaint to concern. " serious?"

His body is half twisted, he's halfway through taking a step, but indeed, he has stopped moving.

"He's serious, isn't he?"

Gulp!

"There are some things I wish He'd stop handing out," Sara murmurs, scrubbing a hand over her face as the translation is read aloud. She pauses at mention of a booby trap, taking a closer look at Fitz as a few more of those metallic tendrils start to climb up her arm, a few curling around her eyes. "He usually is," she replies to Fitz's question, trying to keep her voice light. "On the up side, he noticed before anything happened. Which means we've got a moment to work around it, yes?"

"Watching him blow up would be a bad thing, right?" Midnighter asks. It's difficult to tell if he's serious or not since there's no hint of a joke in his tone. Still, he does move toward Fitz instead of away but comes to a halt a few feet away in order to squat down and examine the floor. "I've heard that shield of yours is pretty tough. Got it with you?" Looking up from the floor, he examines the ceiling above and the walls.

Steve shakes his head towards Midnighter, "It's back in the car. al-Monsoor?" The Professor nods and begins to run up the steps as Steve joins in searching to try and see what might be the mechanism that will undoubtedly be unleashed should Fitz move any farther.

Beast points to a line of holes in the wall, "I think that something may be coming from there…aimed at whomever is on the stone." He looks to the others, "I can try and tackle him away…we might both avoid it although the shield…or jamming those holes might be the best." He glances back at Fitz and then at the corridor, "How did the others get through without setting this off?"

"A moment." Leo's eyes dart over toward Sara, and he smiles unconvincingly. "Well, that's all we need, isn't it?" He might've taken offense to Midnighter, had the fellow not followed his dry statement with a very solid backup plan. "Suppose I could still be a brilliant SHIELD engineer without the use of my legs."

Nervous banter. Meanwhile, Fitz had begun to break out in a sweat, eyes darting from hole to hole. "Where's Simmons when you need her," he mumbles. "She probably has an antidote. Poison darts, it's got to be. But no, she's off… snarking along about bio-blah-blah and chemical-whatever in her shiny lab…"

Still, he hadn't moved an inch.

Sara quirks a brow at Steve's answer, then holds out her left arm. Silver and gold tendrils swarm down her shoulder, like vines full of wicked thorns, before weaving together into a kite shield tall enough and wide enough for her to stand behind. "I have a shield," she notes, in the same tone she might mention that oh, sure, she's got a pocket knife on her belt.

"We've all seen Indian Jones where the darts shoot out the holes in the wall. But the obvious danger is not necessarily the only danger." Midnighter points out. Still, lacking any other obvious threat, he suggests "Give me the shield then I yank him back out of the line of the holes. I can probably react fastest if there's another source of attack."

"Sara has her shield," Captain America says. "She's a big enough girl to use it. McCoy, Midnighter, and I should all flank Fitz in case there's an attack coming. We go back to back."

Steve nods towards Sara, giving her the go ahead, and gets into position, trusting that her shield will block and prevent him from being sliced and diced.

Beast turns his golden eyes to Steve, "It's 'Beast', if you don't mind." While he's in uniform, that is. Or…something like that. Not that he's thrilled that his name seems to be bandied about SHIELD now. He didn't expect otherwise, but he sort of hoped. Ah well. Surely these folks are discreet. "So, we move in and set off the trap…and hope that the shield can contain it. All right." Worse comes to worse, maybe any poison is old, dried up, and rendered ineffective. He looks to the others before giving a nod, "All on three?"

For the moment, Fitz seems riveted to the workings of the Witchblade armor. "Brilliant," he breathes. Mental note to ask her how that works when he's not on mission or in lethal danger. "One…" he starts to count. "Two…" Then, he squeezes his eyes closed into a preemptive wince.

Sara steps into place, the rest of the armor forming around her body as she eyes the holes to put the shield into place. Where does that all come from? "Ready when you are, boys," she says, ducking her head and crouching slightly to keep herself behind the shield.

"Three people to pull one under muscled nerd out of the line of fire? You'll get in my way if I need to dodge with him." Midnighter stays where he is. "Too many cooks and all that. So go ahead if he's too heavy for any one of you."

Fitz opens his eyes and turns to look right over at Midnighter. "Now wait just a damn minu—"

Oh look. His foot moved.

Everything happens so fast.

Steve reaches back to grab Fitz by the black uniform and gives him a mighty pull, but by that time it is too late. Fitz has already moved.

Luckily, the dozen or so arrows are easily knocked away by Sara's mighty shield. The bad news? Well, four walls of spikes come out from hidden compartments in the doors and fling themselves in all directions towards Fitz.

They are a criss crossing of long, sharp, wooden spears, about 10 feet high, with about 6 inches of space in between them. They are about six inches in diameter and move at a high rate of speed.

"This isn't a time to be comparing sizes…" Beast starts, but as Fitz moves, he dives as if to tackle Fitz and push him too the side. However, it seems that others may be a bit faster. All the better as it lets him roll away from the giant spears now flying at the space that Fitz -was-. Maybe it was a more flamboyant way to go about things, but he had to get the other out of the way.

"—nnnuuaaahhh!!" That is, decidedly, how Fitz concludes the word 'minute'. Especially while being tackled by the blue mutant known as Beast!

Go shield! Except of course that's not all of it. At the sound of something else firing, Sara twists to look behind herself at the others, right hand reaching out even as a tall, thick staff comes to being in her grip. The shield starts to shrink, the danger of the arrows past - or so she thinks - as she swings the staff in an arc to intercept one of the spike walls.

The danger you know about is not the one to cause concern. The armored chick has the arrow holes covered so Midnighter can basically write them off as a concern. The telltale sound of the trap mechanism being activated and the firing of /something/ behind him causes him to spin and in the second and a half that he sees what the danger is, extends his arms and catches the wall of spears, each hand coming in from the sides to avoid the sharpened points. It would have been easy to sidestep but that would have meant leaving it for the others to deal with. Tempting but they are allies. Which doesn't stop him from saying "I told you so." You knew he was the type to say that, right?

Offbalanced, Steve throws himself forward, hopeful his legs aren't clipped in the process once he realizes what's happening. Fitz was reached for, but already handled by Beast pretty easily as the pair are pulled away from danger. As Steve barely clears the coming wall of spikes, the danger coming in his direction and the danger coming in Hank's direction smash into each other, splintering wood shards out everywhere.

Meanwhile, the other two walls never make it. Midnighter rips his away and Sara takes care of hers as well. The next thing you know, it's all over, with a ton of splintered wood and two walls of spikes that fall over unceremoniously.

But when Steve looks back towards the entrance, he notices it's been walled off. As has the way into the crypt—both by giant walls of stones that seems to have fallen from the ceiling. They've been trapped inside, and there's an ominous grinding sound coming from somewhere behind the stone walls.

Beast looks first to Fitz, "Are you all right?" After all, he knows that being tackled by him isn't the most comfortable of things. There's a wince at the sound of the crashing and splintering wood, but he does turn to brush some of the splinters off of himself. Golden eyes glance about at the closed entryway, the pupils glowing like a cat's in the dim light, "How did the others get through without setting all this off?" Maybe they have a map? There's another frown before stands, "Everyone all right?"

Of course, he does move to inspect the boulders closing them in, "It doesn't seem very useful unless they were expecting an attack coming through the Church."

"Sorry!" Fitz can be heard shouting out as the din of splintered wood dies away. "I'm sorry, guys!" He scrambles to his feet, only to look around at the carnage while running a hand through his hair. "Yeah, I'm alright, thanks, Beast." Still, there seems to be a crick in his neck that wasn't there before. Probably whiplash. Or is that… Hanklash?

The young scientist looks from end to end, realizing that they've been shut in about the same time everyone, himself included, notices the grinding behind those walls.
"Um, okay. So, let's think through this. No electricity means all of these bloody death traps operate on a series of primitive, mechanical chain reactions." He goes back to where he was standing before, moving some splintered wood out of the way with his foot. "Clearly, depressing this stone set the trap up, like cocking a pistol. Releasing the weight must have released a spring loaded firing mechanism in the walls over there." He points to the holes. "Once the darts came out, that would have triggered the next mechanism, which released the, uh, the walls of spiked death. So, if we can put the walls back into place, and jam the dart holes again, without stepping on the original trigger stone, we just might be able to reset the whole system!"

He looks around at everyone, pausing for a moment. "Well, it's just a theory…"

Sara lets the shield fade away, still armored as she looks up and around at the grinding sounds. "I will not make a Star Wars joke here," she says under her breath, walking over toward one of the walls and trying to get a feel for how quickly they're moving. "I'm pretty sure I can't hold all of these walls for more than a minute, guys," she says after a moment. "And even that might be pushing it. I haven't tested the upper limits of this thing's strength like that."

Midnighter glances around them and sighs. "I do not get paid enough for this shit." he mutters then steps over to a wall to look up toward the ceiling. "Up or down might be the easiest way out. Or…" He turns to Sara. "That shield formed from nothing. Can you snake a tendril under the wall to find the pulley system and break it?"

As Captain America looks up, his face looks more grave as he begins to see what's about to happen. "Everyone to the center of the room!" he exclaims. Within a moment two large pillars fall from ceiling and smash down on the floor, spitting out dust into the center of the room—one covers an extra layer of rock between themselves and the exit, the other between themselves and the room where the Mantle is said to rest.

"Whatever your plans are," Steve says to the others, "You'll want to do them right away."

High above, it appears there are more pillars. One would assume they are designed to eventually smash downward and crush all of them.

Beast darts to the middle of the room, pulling Fitz if he must, even as he looks about and watches the mechanisms. "For something this old to have lasted…" he murmurs before shaking his head. "The others obviously came through without setting this off. There has to be a way to stop it or reset it…possibly even within this room," since it's the first that they came to. "Other than that, if it's indeed a domino effect, the apparatus might not even be here. If it were me, I'd put it someone in the middle of the labyrinth…"

At Steve's word, Fitz immediately moves closer to the center of the room. When the walls come crashing down, he winces, then frowns. His plan would have worked, but now, they have no access to the dart holes or the source location of those spiked walls. "The best laid plans," he mutters. Midnighter's plan for the use of Sara's tentacle things is solid, but something dawns on him. With a creased brow, he reaches up to press the comm in his ear.

"Al-Monsoor? Fitz here, do you copy?"

"I can try," Sara replies grimly to Midnighter, eyeing the walls. "I've picked locks with it before. Shouldn't be too different, right?" That might be more reassuring if she sounded a little more certain about it. As things start to tumble, she raises an arm quickly, more of that armor forming around her head. "Tell me where I'm looking, Fitz, Beast."

Midnighter idly twirls his staff in his hand as he wanders around the now shrinking room and keeping an eye to the ceiling. "These walls are old. We might be able to shatter one. I definitely could but maybe not in the time we have. But if I got a crack started, a tendril could be snaked in and then expanded? Much like how water gets into a crack and expands as it freezes, thus cracking whatever is around it."

"Hello?!" al-Monsoor's voice comes through on the radio with his heavy accent. "What is happening? You are cut off from me!"
"By now, I was kind of hoping you were going to do something, just then," Steve says as he puts himself between Sara and the the next pillar to fall. Best guess, the next pillar set will push them all together real nice. The one after that? Well, folks are gonna die.

Beast tries to squeeze his way past the others and past the pillars to look at the walls. Nothing. His eyes then shift to the floor and a clawed foot pauses before he crouches down, "Hello…what's this?" He takes a moment before poking lightly at the spot on the ground as if trying to see if it might somehow do something…for better or for worse. "Head's up, everyone…"

Beast will find that he can get a finger down in there, but there's something down deep and something out of the reach from his finger.

"Yes!!" Fitz exclaims when al-Monsoor comes in on the radio. "I know you are, just listen to me! Look at the walls beside you, there should be a fist-sized hole to the left or the right. - What do you mean, TWO of them? - Go for the dirty one! There should be a lever inside. Pull it and hold!"

Back to Beast. "Should be a latch in there. You want to pull it 'til it clicks, but don't let go until we're either crushed, or everything goes back to normal." That's how it should work. That's how he's got it mapped out in his head. One reset switch inside, one outside, both must be pulled to reset the antiquated system.

Right?

Because they always made these stupid things so stupid complicated?

"Yeah, the not being the smartest person in the room thing is a little uncomfortable for me, too," Sara quips to Steve with a dry look. "What, like one of those artery clot-busting balloons?" she asks Midnighter, shaking her head. "Never tried it. This thing didn't exactly come with a manual." But Fitz? Fitz sounds like he knows what he's talking about. "Pull the latch until it clicks?" she echoes the engineer, crouching next to Beast and putting one hand near the hole. "Let's do this." One silver tendril starts to snake into the hole, as Sara closes her eyes to try to concentrate.

"And it's going to be filled with insects?" Midnighter doesn't quite ask. "Are you sure you aren't letting your fondness for Harrison Ford movies influence your conclusion?" Not that he's going to object either way. His only idea is taking Fitz and trying to wedge him up into the ceiling pillar. Which would be messy.

Al-Monsoor looks to his left. Al-Monsoor looks to his right. "There's nothing but smooth stone, here! What's going on in there?"

Unfortunately, there are no such handles on the Professor's side. He begins to panic, and the heroes can hear what one would assume to be swearing in Arabic on the other end.

As Sara's tendrils seep out and down, they press against a piece of stone down inside the hole. Once it depresses the switch, the humming in the backgroundtwisting gears and pulling ropes and the likestop abruptly.

Steve breathes a sigh of relief and gives Fitz a punch in the arm once it's clear that everything is going to be okay. "Next time you're taking point," he says with a wry grin to the Scottish Scientist.

"Who is Harrison Ford?" Cap asks as he hears the conversation between Midnighter and Sara.

Later, SHIELD will bring an excavation team to delicately figure out what's behind all that stone. Some historians flip their lid, but for the most part, the process is relatively minor and can be accomplished within a day. Naturally, Cap and the rest of the crew are there for when the soft stone is smashed through (Midnighter's idea). Inside the crypt there is an arrow right through the chest of a man in black, wearing the telltale uniform of HYDRA. If there was any question that they were in on this, it now is pretty clear. Or a pretty elaborate hoax. Whoever was in had to leave quick enough where one of their men was forced to be left behind.

Further in, a coffin with the "remains of St. Mark" although that has been a controversy between Alexandria and Venice for sometime. What hasn't, however, is the opened coffin off to the side; the one with the inscription regarding the "Mantle of Elijah." There is nothing inside.

*

THE CAVES INSIDE MT. CARMEL
HAIFA DISTRICT
ISRAEL
At a small chapel in the historically implied place of death for the prophet Elisha, a group of men in dark garb are huddled around an altar. It looks like it could be a religious proceeding for any one of the three religions of Abraham, but there's something amiss. Rather than having a classic purple table covering, or perhaps one with the intricate arabesque designs, the altar is covered with black and red. Rather than wine, the chalice is filled with blood.

One of them reaches down to a clump of grey cloth upon the altar and reaches it upwards into the sky. Facing the HYDRA agents and whoever is running this show, is a terrible image depicting a winged demon with horns, a forked tongue and tail.

«Baal, your servants reach to you for your favor. We return to you the mantle of those who mocked you. Curse this unholy garment, and if it is your will, assist us in wielding its great power for your benefit »

Outside the caves, the clouds begin to shroud the sky, and though it is not common in this part of the world during this time of the year, thunderclaps can be heard in the distance, headed for Mt. Carmel.

TO BE CONTINUED…


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