The Avengers: Intimidator Initiative (Fiction for Patrons Only)

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May 1, 1994 was supposed to be Jeff Gordon’s day. It was a warm one in Talladega, Alabama for the 1994 Winston Select 500. He wasn’t the “Wonder Boy” just yet, but by all accounts, he was the favorite to win the ninth race of the 31-race Winston Cup Series that year. Ernie Irvan won the pole, and though the season was still young, was eyeing that 1994 Winston Cup. But, one man didn’t care about poles and favorites. Dale Earnhardt was there to get the win.

Walking through the pits at Talladega Superspeedway, Steve Rogers smiles coyly and asks T’Challa, “What? You don’t have events like this back in Wakanda?” “I’ll admit. This is….quite….different,” T’Challa replies. Sam Wilson delivers a hearty pat on the back…”come on, King. Just enjoy this little taste of American culture. Take a load off.”

The Avengers were there to honor the champion of the Winston Select 500. Shake a few hands. Kiss a few babies. Take a few pictures – show the public that they’re the good guys.

“How’s that perimeter looking, Buck?” Steve chirps into his radio. “Security officers are in place, Cap. Looks like there’s nothing to worry about except for the occasional drunk redneck,” Bucky Barnes says from outside of the venue. Cap shrugs. He knows that kind of thing comes with the territory when you’re in Talladega. Signaling back in, he asks, “how about up top, Vision?”

“No abnormalities from above, sir,” assures Vision, who is hovering above the track.

Sam smiles….”I’ll be damned – we might actually get to relax today?”

“Gentlemen, start your engines!”

The Avengers have their own veritable VIP section on the infield with a bird’s eye view of the track. The action picks up right away, and it looks like all are in store for a competitive race. Halfway through, Mark Martin’s brakes go out. He tears through a couple of guardrails and through a retaining fence. Miraculously, he wasn’t hurt too terribly bad.

After 187 laps, it came down to Irvan and Earnhardt, two thoroughbreds of the sport. Earnhardt eked out the win by a margin of 0.1 second. Gordon would finish 24th. The Intimidator got his third Winston Cup Series race win of the young season, and began to close the gap on Irvan in the season standings.

#3 pulled up to the Winner’s Circle and quickly jumped out to celebrate. Steve approached Dale with an extended hand…”it’s no wonder they call you ‘The Intimidator.’ Congratulations, Mr. Earnhardt!” Dale smiled and countered with, “that means a lot coming from Captain America – thank you for being here.”

Dale raised his trophy as confetti rained down. Steve, T’Challa, and Sam were all clapping in the background.

Dark clouds began to roll in and thunder began to grumble across the sky. In an instant, lightning began to strike in every direction. Fans in the grandstands began to filter out, attempting to dodge the oncoming storm.

Not even the slightest drop of rain was in the forecast for the day, but Dale was too befuddled to notice how unusual that was. The Avengers knew better. They’ve seen too much to not recognize an unnatural occurrence when they see one.

Steve and T’Challa shared an anxious look as the sky turned as black as soot. Then, the lightning illuminated the sky and The Avengers caught a glimpse of an object plummeting towards the Earth. It was the fabled hammer of Thor, Mjolnir, and it crashed with a thud into the ground a few feet away from the Winner’s Circle.

Steve grabs his walkie talkie, “Sam, Vision – what is going on up there?”

Sam replies, “Cap – it ain’t good. Vision’s gone MIA. Lightning is striking everywhere. We need to get these people to safety.”

As Steve and T’Challa were processing the situation, an opening formed in the sky above and the silhouette of a man, nay…a God…came floating through. T’Challa exclaimed, “that’s Thor! He’s going to crash!”

Indeed, the God of Thunder was in free fall. The Avengers were powerless to slow his collision course with the Earth. Thor slammed into the ground with such impact that a cloud of dust rose up and obscured Steve’s view of what had just happened.

T’Challa made it to Thor first – he was bloodied and battered. Clear signs of a fight were evident. He asked him what happened, but all the God of Thunder could muster in response was, “he’s…..coming…..”

“Who?” shouted Steve. Thor replied grimly, “Th….Thanos.”

“Sam, Bucky – I’m going to need reinforcements. Converge upon the Winner’s Circle. We’ve got company.”

Once the dust settled from Thor’s fall, The Avengers noticed clear blue skies yet again. It was a sign that Thor had lost consciousness, as his temperament no longer had a stranglehold on the weather. But, there was no time to check on their friend. An alien ship lurched above. A single beam of light shot down and with it came The Mad Titan himself: Thanos.

“Do you know why I’m here, Avengers?”

T’Challa quickly spoke up – “it matters little, Titan. If you are looking for war, you will find nothing but blood and dust here.”

Thanos smirked and hoisted the Infinity Gauntlet. In it, the Power Stone surged with bright purple light. He pointed his fist at Bucky and it produced a stream of energy so powerful it knocked Bucky back 30 feet.

“I need the android,” Thanos said with a tinge of impatience in his voice, “he has the Mind Stone.”

“Well, you’ve got us. Now deal with it,” replied Steve as he threw his shield. It smacked Thanos across the face, but all he did was spit. “all that for a drop of blood?” He fired his energy stream directly at a shield-less Steve, and when Steve fell, he was non-responsive. Sam swooped in from behind, and soon suffered the same fate as the others. T’Challa charged while Thanos was distracted with Sam, but once Sam was knocked out Thanos delivered a left hook that put the Black Panther on his back.

“This could’ve been easy, Panther….but you Avengers always have to make my work here difficult. I’m going to find the Vision, whether any of you are alive to see me or not.”

He was the last Avenger remaining, and now he was preparing to face the full force of the Power Stone just like the others. If Thanos got to Vision, he would have another Infinity Stone to add to his gauntlet. T’Challa could not allow that to happen – even if it meant he died trying to stop Thanos.

T’challa rose to his feet slowly. “Impressive,” said Thanos, “your will is as strong as I’ve ever seen. I hope they remember you.”

With that, Thanos raised his gauntlet and aimed to kill the Black Panther. The Power Stone lit up yet again, and the blast made its way directly for T’Challa. A bright light passed by T’Challa’s head and clashed with the energy stream presented by the Power Stone, keeping it at bay. T’Challa turned to see the source of this power, but couldn’t make out any details in the blinding light.

“WHAT?!? IMPOSSIBLE,” yelled Thanos angrily. He eventually relented, and T’Challa turned to see what was surely an impossible sight. Mjolnir flew by the Black Panther with immense velocity. Its destination was Thanos’ face, and when it arrived, it split his skull in two. After destroying The Mad Titan, Mjolnir returned to the hand of the man who had thrown it: Dale Earnhardt.

The Intimidator raised the hammer of Thor to the sky, and produced a steady stream of lightning in every direction. Someone had the wherewithal to play The Avengers theme song over the speakers in the stadium at Talladega Superspeedway. Thanos’ ship retreated as Dale and T’Challa shared a tired look.

Vision returned to Winner’s Circle, telling T’Challa and Dale that he could not allow Thanos to find him. He had to get as far away from him as possible so that he wouldn’t recover the Mind Stone. Now, they had to get their fallen comrades immediate medical help.

It took three hours before Bucky, Sam, and Steve regained consciousness. But, once they did, they understandably had questions. Vision informed them that after battling Thanos one-on-one, Thor had drifted into the Thorsleep. Dale Earnhardt, apparently worthy, had lifted Mjolnir in his stead to kill Thanos.

Steve thanked Dale. “You know….as long as Thor is down….we could use a guy who can actually lift that hammer on the team…” said Steve. Dale just smiled and said, “alright then.” Steve gave him a hearty handshake…”congratulations, Dale. You’re an Avenger.” The Avengers theme song blared across the intercom in the hospital our heroes were recuperating in.

Dale Earnhardt went on to win the Winston Cup later that year.

Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network. He is a strong supporter of Team GSD and #BeBetter. “Big Natural” covers the Tennessee Titans, Alabama Crimson Tide football, the WWE, and a whole wealth of nonsense. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley

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