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STARRY, STARRY NIGHT

An Almost Certainly Out of Continuity Yuletide Tale of Iron Mike and Guardian

The strange metal platform, fitted out with two dissimilar seats mounted on either side of a yard-high ridge of bizarre looking machinery that bisected it neatly from front to back, shook, shuddered and wailed eerily as it hurtled through formless multicolored nothingness.

The emerald armored figure in the leather bucket seat on the left howled in glee. "WE TRANSCEND TIME AND SPACE!!!! LIKE GALACTIC GODLINGS CHARGED WITH POWER OVER THE VERY VOID OF CREATION ITSELF, WE HURTLE ACROSS THE AGES!!!! LIKE AMAZING CELESTIAL ENTITIES, WE -- "

The gleaming metallic figure sitting in the chair-like framework constructed of naked metal struts and braces on the right side of the platform groaned. "You're giving me a headache." His large, powerful, apparently solid metal hands moved with surprising deftness along the controls to his left, moving a dial here, adjusting a lever there.

Guardian turned to his partner, Iron Mike, in surprise. "Your head is made of nega-metal. I can't possibly be making it ache."

"It's your mutant power," Iron Mike replied dryly.

Guardian's lips compressed within his shaggy beard. "You know, if you didn't want to come you could have just SAID so. It's not like I could have built or run this thing myself, you know."

Flickers of light flashed in Iron Mike's crystalline light collectors in a way that, in a biological human, would have shown itself as rolling his eyes in exasperation. "I DID say so. Over and over again."

"Sure, sure," Guardian said, waving one hand airily. "I should have just left you all alone in the Secret Citadel to brood over yet another Christmas in the Marvelverse without wife and kids and wondering what they're doing now and refusing to put up a Christmas tree or go to Avenger's Mansion for dinner or let anyone buy you any presents. Fuckin' Scrooge. Not THIS year, boyo. THIS year we're DOING something for Christmas."

Iron Mike shook his head. "I should have gone to Latveria for Christmas with Dr. Doom."

"Sure," Guardian replied. "You could have put an antler on your head and pulled the sleigh while he stole all of Cindy Lou Who's' presents."

Iron Mike lapsed into brooding silence.

The non-reality around the platform suddenly coalesced into starry darkness. Both super powered adventurers felt a dry, cold wind begin to blow against them as they fell through a sunless sky. Guardian's armor suddenly glowed green. A beam of darker emerald hue shot out of his clenched fist and enclosed the entire platform in a similarly colored sheathe of pulsating energy. The free fall stopped.

Guardian peered down around the edge of the platform. "Looks like we're about 3,000 feet above the desert. You sure we're in the right coordinates...?"

 

Iron Mike merely pointed above and beyond Guardian's shoulder. Looking over, Guardian saw a vast, pulsating light twinkling in the heavens, easily outshining the quarter moon.

"Oh," Guardian said. "Oh, yeah."

"Follow that star," Iron Mike intoned calmly.

Abruptly, below them in the desert, another burst of light came into being... bright red, like a comet tail of sparks, waving frantically back and forth underneath where they hovered.

"Who's got magnesium flares in Jerusalem 2000 years ago?" Guardian wondered aloud, mixing his tenses abominably.

"We don't even WANT to know," Iron Mike groaned. "Ignore it. It CAN'T be good."

"Maybe Rama Tut's time machine got a flat," Guardian mused. "Let's check it out." The metal platform dipped and began to descend. Iron Mike groaned again.

A few minutes later, the platform came to rest, settling gently into the sand dunes just to the right of the figure holding what looked to be a standard late 20th century road flare. Iron Mike squinted against the reddish glare, his internal processors filtering out as much of the unnecessary light as possible. He swore.

Guardian leapt down from the platform and leveled a clenched fist at the figure. "Kang the Conqueror, you evil scumlord! I can see your nefarious plan now! You travel back to the night of the Nativity to use some futuristic mind control device to mold the brain of the Messiah from babyhood, warping his message of love and redemption into one of worship of and submission to mighty Kang! Thus, your name would resound like a drumbeat throughout all the succeeding ages, as millions would fight, live, love, and die, all in the name of Kang! Kang!! KANG!!!"

The blue masked figure in the garish Don Heck-designed costume dropped the road flare to the ground. "Actually," he said calmly, "I just wanted to mix a batch of perfume for Ravonna and this was the closest place I could think of to pick up some frankincense."

Guardian and Iron Mike exchanged a glance.

"Of course, your idea has merit," the 40th century megalomaniac admitted, rubbing his blue face-plate thoughtfully.

"Let us render him into gruel," Guardian announced, his clenched fist beginning to pulsate with green power.

Iron Mike nodded and rose to his feet, preparing to spring onto the wiley warlord and start pounding him insensate as soon as his partner launched his first energy attack.

Kang's eyes widened in alarm. "No, wait! I'm out of power! Really! A temporal warp pocket just outside the 29th century drained my circuits of nearly all their energy! I was just hoping to hitch a ride back with you guys! Honest!"

Guardian and Iron Mike exchanged another uncertain look.

"He could be lying," Guardian said.

"Or he could be telling the truth," Iron Mike mused. "In which case, as Avengers, we'll never have a BETTER opportunity to beat him into a viscous paste..."

Kang shrieked like a girl and ran off into the desert.

Guardian spread his hands. "Should I...?"

Iron Mike shrugged. "What the hell. Blast him."

Guardian gestured with his fist. A bolt of vermilion power hurtled off into the desert after Kang. Half a second later, there was a loud crackling discharge in the distance, mingled with an agonized screech. Iron Mike nodded sagely. "Nice shootin', Tex."

Guardian pointed, and a strand of pulsating energy shot off in the same direction. A second later, Guardian jerked his hand up in the gesture of a Victorian gentleman of leisure arrogantly summoning a head waiter or hansom cab. Kang, surrounded by a glowing green energy bubble, floated out of the desert, tethered to Guardian's fist by a glowing green energy leash. His garish costume was blackened and smoking in places.

"Owwwwwwww," the temporal despot whimpered. "Oh, OUCHie."

Iron Mike looked exasperated. "We'd better take him with us. If he gets loose, he might cause trouble."

"In that case, let's leave the time platform here," Guardian suggested. "It takes a lot of energy to bring it along."

Iron Mike looked thoughtful. After a moment, he said, "You know, that's one of those decisions that almost always ends up being a crucial plot point later on in the story and that I always thought the heroes were REALLY stupid to make."

Guardian shrugged. "Okay."

Moments later, the two adventurers were back in their respective seats, the greenish glowing time platform flying along briskly a hundred feet or so above the desert floor, in the direction of the huge star.

Bobbing along behind was a greenish energy globe on a greenish energy tether, containing a naked and rather upset Kang. "I'll destroy each and every Avenger that ever lived!" he raged, shaking his fist at the time platform a few yards away. "I'll wipe the names of you and your teammates from the pages of history! I'll walk through the ages of mankind seeking out and murdering every ancestor of every entity who ever even thought of JOINING --"

Ten yards ahead of him, completely oblivious to the wrathful words carried off on the desert winds, the two partners debated matters of grave importance.

"Shemp wasn't so bad," Guardian said.

"Shemp SUCKED," Iron Mike replied. "Not as bad as Curly Joe, but still...."

Ahead of them, they could see the shabby environs of ancient Jerusalem looming... well, as much as two story stone and straw buildings could loom, anyway.

"That must be it," Iron Mike said, his far greater than human visual perceptions picking out an insignificant gathering towards the periphery of the small dark village.

The place he had pointed to came into plain view, and Guardian caused the platform to hover as they both took in the sight below. A bearded man, swaddled in blood stained robes, knelt beside a panting, flushed young woman, laying back in a straw filled manger. The cries of a newborn hung on the air as the man finished using a bronze knife to cut the birth cord and then swaddled the infant in an old robe.

The man looked up, eyes widening. "Who are YOU?"

Iron Mike glared at Guardian. "I thought we were in that light bending aura thingie that keeps us invisible," he said.

Guardian scratched his beard. "I forgot."

Iron Mike regarded his partner silently for a moment, drumming his fingers with a metallic rolling sound on the framework of his seat.

"Hey, at least I remembered the translator-aura thingie," Guardian muttered.

Iron Mike glanced behind him to where Kang's armor and possessions were heaped up at the back of the platform. "Hmmmmm... did Kang say something about picking up some frankincense...?"

A few minutes later, the time platform silently flew away again. "That gold necklace was for Crystal," Guardian said in an irritable tone. "And the perfume was for Natasha. It wasn't even myrrh..."

"They'll never know the difference," Iron Mike said comfortingly. "And this way maybe you can get through a whole holiday season without a fight with SOMEone's boyfriend or husband or ex-lover or previous mentor or some damn thing."

"Besides," Kang said pedantically from his newly awarded spot just behind Iron Mike, "this way we don't create any time paradoxes."

Guardian and Iron Mike stared at the time travelling warlord for a long, wordless, yet eloquent moment.

Kang rolled his eyes. "Well, you know, time paradoxes that don't benefit ME, I mean," he finally muttered.

Guardian snorted and said, "Let's leave him in the desert."

"No!" Kang screeched. "You promised if I pretended I was one of the Three Wise Men you'd give me a ride back to the 40th Century!"

"Yeah, yeah," Guardian groused. "Cap's gonna kill me when he finds out we had you and let you go... at least I got a full roll of Nativity snapshots. They'll make great Christmas cards."

Iron Mike sighed. "I just wish we could have remembered those names from the Bible. It's been years since Sunday School..."

Kang looked puzzled. "What do you mean? You guys got it right. I distinctly remember from my studies of ancient religions. The infant Messiah figure was paid a visit by three Wise Men bearing gifts... three ancient Kings of the Orient with gold, frankincense, and myrrh."

Then his eyes narrowed. "Wait a minute," the veteran time traveler said, face wary behind his newly restored blue mask. "Are you trying to tell me... their names aren't supposed to be... Moe, Larry and Curly?"