"If any of you pathetic worms dare to talk to me that way again," she told the entire group, "then I will kill each and everyone of you . . very, very slowly."
Gaia quickly called an end to the lunch and had the seven teams that were left assemble in front of Strange's. One by one, in the order they had reached his Sanctum Sanctorum, the teams received their next clues from the Doctor. Once again, the players stood staring at their cards in confusion.
"Your journey on the plane is watched over by the only public statue of a dog in Manhattan."
"If you have any idea what the heck this is talking about, I suggest you whisper it to me," Cable told Deadpool, who just shrugged in response.
"I swear," Jon, the Intergalactic Gladiator said to Private Hudson, "the next leg of this thing better be in Chicago."
Emma meanwhile gave a sly wink to her partner, Selene. The two slinked slowly towards their jet scooter and hopped on board.
"Captain, my data banks indicate that there was a famous memorial to a heroic Siberian Husky located in Central Park," Data said in hushed tones to Captain Picard.
"Then let us head for the Park," Picard ordered.
All heads turned as Emma and Selene whooshed into the air. Picard and Data, having already reached their scooter, followed shortly behind. Everyone else, unsure of their destination, ran to their crafts and took hurridly to the skies.
Almost as one, the swarm of ships raced towards Central Park.
"Hey Jon!" Hudson called to his partner over the roaring wind. "Can I take out that annoying little guy with the claws now?"
With a mischievous smile, Jon nodded. Hudson cocked his M41A Pulse Rifle and aimed it Wolverine's scooter. A flash of energy leapt from the barrel and blasted through the engine of his ship. Wolverine and Colossus were sent flying as the flaming debris hurtled towards the earth. Vegeta burst out laughing and gave the thumbs up to Hudson.
Twisting in mid-air, Wolverine managed to land on top of the scooter piolted by Lieutenant Commander Oneida. His hands grabbed hold of Master Yoda's robe, who in turn was holding onto to Oneida's back.
"Off my back, you must get!" Yoda yelled as Wolverine tightened his hold on him.
"Sorry Kermit, but I need a ride," Wolverine replied.
'"Hhmphh," Yoda grunted as he wrinkled up his nose. Suddenly the back of Wolverine's underwear leapt out of his pants as if yanked up by invisible hands. The blood-curdling shriek that escaped his lips sent shivers through all the players as they raced towards the park.
As Wolverine plummeted towards the ground, Yoda took pity on both he and Colossus. Using his force powers, he lowered them gently to the ground.
"Looks like we should be safe from elimination for this round at least," Oneida said to her partner.
"A lesson in manners, that one needed."
Up ahead, Data turned to Picard. "Captain, I am registering an unusual energy fluctuation coming from two miles in a Northwesterly direction."
"Then perhaps that is our destination." He could see Emma and Selene descending where Data was pointing.
The women were the first to land next to the worn metal statue of the husky, bearing the inscription "Balto." In front of the statue was a red arrow pointing towards a small land bridge nearby. An eerie glow filled the underpass.
"What do you think?" Selene asked.
Emma's only response was to rev the engine and race top speed through the small tunnel. Almost instantly upon entering the energy field, the two found themselves in the midst of a vast barren landscape - a huge reddish wasteland with rocky crags, empty sandy plains and bizarre twirling clouds. There was no apparent sun and yet the terrain was well lit.
"There," Selene said, pointing to a row of seven posts a few feet away. Small cards hung from each one. Quickly grabbing one, Emma ripped open the clue and read, "Now you must journey to the master of this plane, the Dread Dormammu, to reach the pit stop for this leg of the race."
"Dormammu?!" Selene exclaimed. "What the hell could Doctor Strange have on that demon to get him to participate in this?"
Before Emma could speculate, Deadpool and Cable materialized behind them.
"We'll find out later," Emma replied, lifting off into the alien soup that passed for air in this dimension. Far off in the distance, a dark castle could be seen on top of the lone mountain.
Each scooter quickly followed through the portal and headed off for the fortification. Eventually Wolverine and Colossus came bounding through on police horses.
"I do not veel right vith taking the horses of police, Comrade," Colossus said to his partner. "Back in Russia they vould send us to Siberia for such infraction."
"Well this ain't Russia, bub," Wolverine answered. He looked around the otherworldly landscape for a moment. "Least I don't think it is." They could see the scooters ahead of them, surprisingly not that far off. The ships were having a rough time picking up speed in the thicker air.
"Captain, this experience exceeds my programming," Data told Picard.
"Snap to it Mr. Data. You are designed to adapt to new experiences."
"Yes Captain, but within parameters consistent with the known laws of physics. My sensors are unable to determine any of the elements present in our immediate environment."
Picard did his best to ignore Data as he tried to gain on Vegeta, who was a few yards in front of him.
"For instance," Data continued, "I am unable to determine if those objects flying towards are material."
Picard glanced towards the direction Data was pointing and saw several large red, winged beasts rushing towards them with great speed. He was able to dodge the first one and zip under the second, but the third monster crashed solidly into the under carriage of the scooter. Picard and Data were sent sprawling onto the sandy surface not far below. A loud crash up ahead told him that Vegeta and Son Goku had also been knocked to the ground.
The sound of blaster fire drew his attention back to the sky. Private Hudson had taken out two of the beasts attacking his ship. As Yoda zoomed by over head, he could see the Jedi Master using his force powers to send two more of the creatures spinning off into the distance. Oneida, steering with just one hand, had her blaster out and finished off a third.
As several of the monsters swooped down towards Picard, Data came running to his side. The creatures landed in a circle around the two, saliva dripping off their long fangs.
"Are you enjoying your shore leave, Captain?" Data asked.
"Was that sarcasm, Mr. Data?" Picard replied with a smile.
A demon lunged for the Captain, but Data grabbed its outstretched arm and flung it head over heels. A second beast swiped its powerful claws at Picard but he ducked and rolled under the monster. A sharp kick to its posterior sent it sprawling. Momentarily stunned, Data gave a powerful chop to its neck, flattening the horrible thing.
Free for the moment, the two ran over the incline ahead just in time to see Vegeta cleaving one of the monsters in two. Several of the demons lay scattered across the ground. Both he and Goku were covered in the thick goo that passed for the monsters' blood.
The strangest whooping sound behind them caused all four to turn back towards where they had come from. They watched in surprise as Wolverine and Colossus bounded over the hill on horses and quickly galloped past.
"Blast it!" said Picard. The four looked at each other for the briefest moment before suddenly breaking into a mad run towards the castle. Picard did his best to keep up with the Vegeta and Son Goku, but the two warriors were simply in too good a physical condition to be beaten in a foot race. Panting and exhausted, Picard, with Data staying loyally at his side, entered the castle behind the others.
As they ran into the main hall, they saw a giant stone throne in the center. A great powerful giant with a flaming head sat there, Gaia at his side. As the two Star Fleet officers approached, Gaia, surrounded by the others, said, "Captain Picard, Lieutenant Data . . I am sorry to say you are the last team to arrive. You have been eliminated from the race." Gaia's eyes were starting to water.
Picard looked at her and smiled. "That is quite all right. I must say, this might just have been the most fun I have ever had on shore leave. Thank you for letting us play."
Gaia then turned to the others. "This is the last leg for today. We are going to spend tonight in Dormammu's castle. He will give you your next clues tomorrow. Emma and Selene, as the winners of this leg, you will get to leave first tomorrow."