Explore the World of 'Marvel's Avengers' with 'Marvel's Avengers: The Extinction Key'
Read an excerpt from the official prequel novel to the epic blockbuster video game!
Written by New York Times best-selling author Greg Keyes, with cover art by legendary artist Steve Epting, the novel leads into the game as Earth's Mightiest Heroes Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, and the Hulk assemble as the Avengers to face world-class threats whenever and wherever they might appear. Yet some threats transcend the ages.
Centuries ago, a never-before-seen group of heroes gathered as the Avengers of their ancient era to fight the Zodiac, foes who wielded unimaginable arcane energies channeled through a mysterious Key. The resulting battle devastated vast swaths of the planet. The Key was lost and the Zodiac went into hiding, influencing world events from the shadows, waiting for the stars to align to usher in their return.
When strange beings exhibiting the traits of the twelve astrological signs appear in the 21st century, the Avengers again answer the call to assemble. But when this modern team of heroes are forced to divide their efforts, each encounter leads to their opponents gaining strength. Once again, the hunt is on for the Extinction Key…and if the Avengers don’t find it, our world will be lost.
Marvel’s Avengers: The Extinction Key is now available, and thanks to our friends over at Titan Books, you can read an excerpt from the novel below!
MARVEL'S AVENGERS: THE EXTINCTION KEY EXCERPT
NATASHA Romanoff accepted the flute of champagne. She sipped it, wrinkled her brow slightly, and set it down.
“Is it not to your liking?” the man in the blue suit asked. “It’s fine,” she said.
In fact, it was very good wine. Expensive. It went with the nineteenth-century Persian rug, the Grecian vase in the corner, the Mayan stele embedded in the floor, the lapis lazuli necklace hung on a headless bust on the wall, and the jade statuette of an Olmec jaguar man on the end table where she rested her champagne.
And the guards, of course, the men who had patted her down before she entered, and now stood at roughly each cardinal point of the room.
“You are the buyer?” the man in blue asked.
“The buyer? Of course not. She does not do—errands—but I represent her. I’ve been authorized to make an offer. A generous offer. After I’ve seen it.”
“I understand,” the man said. “Ms.?” “Smith,” she replied.“Of course.”
He peered at her, and for a moment his eyes narrowed slightly. Did he recognize her? Her hair was dyed black with a streak of gray, and she wore brown contacts over her naturally green eyes. Her cheeks were sprayed with temporary freckles. Her accent was that of Ghent, in Belgium. She wore a black three-piece business suit over a white shirt.
It had been easier in the old days, before all of the television exposure. She’d taken this assignment as a challenge, as much as for any other reason. To prove she could still go undercover. Now she worried they should have sent in someone else.
“Do I know you?” he asked.
“We have done business before,” she said. “I sometimes work for a certain successful businessman on the West Side. I’m sure you remember.” In fact, she’d never met the man in blue before. If he called her bluff, asked for details, she was screwed.
But he didn’t; he backed down, just as she thought he would. He knew which businessman she meant. Few were interested in getting on his bad side, or showing disrespect for anyone who worked with him. “Oh,” the man in blue said. “Of course. My apologies for not recalling you immediately.”
“No matter,” Natasha said. “I am not here to discuss history, but to see it.”
He stepped behind a long, low hardwood cabinet. His hand worked for a moment out of sight, and then he pulled out a wooden tray with a glass lid, of the sort in which jewelry was often kept. He walked to where she sat and tilted it in front of her so she could see its contents.
The tray was far bigger than it needed to be to contain the object it held, which was no larger than the palm of her hand—a rectangular tablet inscribed with the elongated wedges of cuneiform and a peculiar diagram that might be some sort of map. It displayed a central circular object with rays, with eight smaller circles ringed around it.“
One of the few such tablets known to be inscribed on metal rather than clay or stone,” he said. “And the language—”
“—is undeciphered,” Natasha said. She reached into the sleeve of her shirt and pulled out her phone.
“I’m sorry,” the man in blue said. “That won’t work in here—and if you take pictures, I shall be forced to confiscate it.”
“I’m not taking pictures,” she said. She tapped in a code and watched the screen until she was satisfied. “It’s the real thing.”
“Of course it is,” he said. “But—”
“How do I know? Because this was stolen from a special collection of the Smithsonian five days ago. By a crime lord in Taiwan.”
The man in blue took a step back. Balancing the tray with tablet in one hand, he drew a pistol from his jacket. The guards pulled theirs.
“Who are you?” he demanded.
“Like I said, I’m on an errand.”
She grabbed the jade statuette and kicked the tray as she flipped backward over the chair. The tray slammed into the man in blue’s face as she added a half gainer to the flip, slinging the heavy jaguar man at the guard farthest from her and landing in a crouch two yards from the nearest guard in the back of the room. He fired his pistol as she sprang forward, but she was to the left of where he thought she was going. She clotheslined him with a spinning roundhouse, then tucked and came down as two bullets panged into the wall above her.
The guard at the far end collapsed, clutching his face where the jaguar man had hit it. The remaining two were busy trying to put holes in her suit.
Scooping up the gun of the man she’d just kicked, she ran toward the next closest guard and shot him three times in the chest. He had body armor, but the shots dazed him long enough for her to break his arm and take his weapon. Now she had two guns. She crouched behind the Mayan stele as shots from the final guard and the man in blue chipped the ancient stonework, rendering illegible the ancient glyphs that had survived acidic rainforest downpours, excavation, and rough transport.
She leaned low and shot the remaining guard in the knee. Then she came out from cover, both guns blazing, hitting the man in blue in the right shoulder. He dropped his gun and scrambled backward.
“Don’t,” he said. “Don’t kill me. Tell Capricorn I can make it good!”
Capricorn? That rang a bell. A very old one. She’d told the man in blue she knew the theft had been commissioned by a man in Taiwan, and that was all she’d known. She didn’t have a name to go with the information. Now she did. Capricorn. Put a pin in that, she thought.
There were more guards downstairs. They should be arriving in about three…
WHEN it was over, she propped the man in blue up in a chair. His eyes were glazed, and he clutched his hand to his bleeding shoulder.
“I know better now,” he said. “I won’t do it again. I’ll do anything. Anything he wants.”
“Capricorn, you mean,” she said.
He nodded. “It’s just like you said. His men took it from the museum, but you can’t take a thing like that in this city without me knowing, right? So I took it from them. This is my town. If he’d come through me, none of this would have happened. You have to believe me.”
“Uh-huh,” she said, cocking her gun. “And how will you make this up to him?”
He gestured at the tablet. “There’s another piece like that,” he said. “I can get it for him. Gratis.”
She shook her head. “He’s not the forgiving sort.”
“I just didn’t know, okay? I heard the rumors, sure. They said not to mess with them, but I thought they were a myth.”
Them? Natasha thought. “What do you know about the others?” she asked.
“Some sort of syndicate,” he said. “They used to be a big deal, but nobody’s heard anything out of them for years. I don’t even know what they’re called. Only that Capricorn is one of them.”
“And what do you know about Capricorn?”
“He’s a businessman, a boss. Works out of Taiwan, like you said. That’s all I know.”
She nodded and uncocked the gun.“I’m going to take you along anyway, so we can talk about this in a more comfortable setting.”
“You’re not going to kill me?”
“Not today.” She gestured. “Get up.”
As he rose shakily to his feet, Natasha felt a pulse of hot air. Time seemed to slow as her instincts kicked into high gear and her senses expanded, taking in the whole of the room. The guards were all still down, and she was sure there were no more left in the building.
Yet someone was here, in her blind spot.
She spun away and hurled herself to the side. Heat and force clipped her, sending her off-balance. There was the smell of burning hair and she realized it was her own. At the same time, cramps ran up the right side of her.
Sonics, she realized.
Natasha hit the ground, half paralyzed, squeezing off shots with her left hand. She saw a blurry figure holding up both fists in front of his face, knuckles out. She rolled as another blast of sound and heat roared past her, setting the Persian rug and a scattering of papers aflame.
Then one of her bullets found him. The figure staggered.
She rolled back to her feet as her metabolism fought off the sonic paralysis, launching herself toward her attacker.
He vanished in an implosion of air.Then the man in blue screamed, and she turned just in time to see that someone else was in the room—a male wearing some sort of body armor. With one hand he had the man in blue gripped by the neck, and held the metal tablet in the other. When he flashed a very white grin at her, his eyes looked like welding arcs.
Then he was gone, just like the other guy, along with the artifact.
The man in blue lay on the floor, gasping. His face was turning cobalt to match his suit.
He stopped breathing before help arrived.
Snag Marvel’s Avengers: The Extinction Key now! And if you haven't purchased already, Marvel’s Avengers is now available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, and PC! Marvel’s Avengers will be available on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X when the consoles launch in Holiday 2020.
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