Writer: Ben Kaine
Editor: Paul Hahn
Editor-in-Chief: Brian Provow
The blast of pure electricity would have been enough to light up an entire building like a Christmas tree, and it was certainly a match for the wooden post that Angela Stoic had set up for Kari's target practice. The wooden post cracked open in a shower of sparks, like any tree struck down in nature by a storm. Angela whistled appreciatively.|
"Not bad," she muttered. She thrust her hands in her jeans and jumped up from where she was sitting so that she could walk around the post, getting a better look. Angela knew that Kari's experience with her mutant abilities wasn't extraordinary, but she still exhibited quite an amount of control. "Not bad at all. Y'know, for a novice."
"Hey, that wasn't bad for Thor!" Kari countered.
"Oh, so now we're comparing ourselves to Avengers-?"
"Says the girl who dressed up like Hawkeye." They laughed, and in that somehow-peaceful junkyard amidst the tall buildings of New York City, it felt good. Angela kicked over the burnt remains of the wooden post.
"What happened to that suit, by the way? I haven't seen it lately," Kari said. She let her hand crackle with electricity for a moment, then stopped. "You haven't even gone out and done a little crimefighting. Losing your taste for it?"
"Oh, heck no. I love it. But I've been thinking lately, and I'm not sure I want to use that suit anymore. I mean, what is it? Me running around, pretending to be Hawkeye?"
"I thought that guy was your idol."
"He is, but he made that costume what it is. I just don't feel right using it. It makes me wonder if I'm doing this for the right reasons. I mean, do I want to be Hawkeye or do I really want to help people? Am I some girl playing at Hero or do I want to be one?"
"Makes sense to me. So you're- what? Gonna make a new costume?"
"If I can just think up an idea. I'd also like a new name… Too bad I'm not all that creative."
"Oh, it'll come," Kari smiled reassuringly. "Now how about you get me another target?"
"Yes 'mam!" She gave a mock salute, looked around for something suitable. "So what about you, Kari? With a blast like that? I'll bet you COULD try out for the Avengers-!"
"Oh no no no no. Not me, Sister. That's not what I want for my life. I enrolled in the university for a reason. I've got plans," Kari said. "Plus, as far as heroes go, I'm not the Avengers fan here. I grew up near Queens, so I'm in the cheering section of another guy."
"Who's that?" Angela asked as she stacked several cans upon the ground.
"Yeah. And you actually got to jump rooftops with him. Lucky girl."
"Ha! Sorry, but I'd rather be swinging with Hawkeye."
"Hey, it could happen. I think he's single again."
"Don't put fantasies in my head, Kari. Shoot."
Kari shrugged, aimed as she shook her head. "Hawkeye over Spider-Man. I swear…"
"Come on. I'll admit that Hawkeye's a bit more glamorous, but while he's sitting in a mansion collecting health benefits-"
A new burst of lightning flew, and the cans scattered to the winds in pieces.
"I'll bet Spider-Man's out pulling off something amazing," Kari finished.
"I surrender," Spider-Man said, bringing up his hands in the appropriate gesture.
Within the gigantic, white lenses that were his mask's eyeholes, he surveyed the room of gunmen. There were five of them, three holding hostages by gunpoint. One was a girl, only eight years old. For the umpteenth time the crimefighter tried to convince himself he could take them all out.
But those were automatic weapons on hair triggers. All of the terrorists had spread out through the large boardroom, giving him no way to take out several in one move. And Spider-Man knew that, despite having agility to make the greatest acrobat jealous, he wasn't that quick.
"Smart move, Wallcrawler," one of the terrorists said. Spider-Man remembered another of the terrorists calling the man 'Borneo'. He was apparently the leader. 'Well', thought Spider-Man as he listened to Borneo continue, 'at least he has the whole Windbag Dialogue down'.
"We'll do this nice and easy, Slick. Behave and they may live, ya hear? The Latverian Liberation Force didn't take over no Latverian Embassy just so he could go and be foiled by some super-creepo on a high."
"You're Latverian?" asked Spider-Man.
"Yeah. Surprised?" the gangster sneered.
"Absolutely. Here you've got the typical American Mugger down pat, after coming from a country where I think Slang Usage is a capital offense."
"You mockin' Latveria-!"
"Heavens, no! Just you. I kinda like the way Doom talks. It's all wordy and full of self-importance. Charming. But what the foreign obsession with the 'Ghetto' is I can't guess-"
"Alright, that's enough!" Borneo growled, training the military issue automatic on our hero.
'As if he could hit me,' Spider-Man thought, 'but I gotta wait for a chance and hope like heck one comes up. I fail these hostages and the commissioner'll have to quit my fan club. Heck, Jolly Jonah Jameson might even write an editorial about it if I let myself get killed here. I can see it now: "Bullets Ventilate Spider-Man; Cause Property Damage!" Then again, I doubt he'd be able to write one of his mean editorials anyhow if he heard news like that. At least not until he'd finished dancing.'
'Oh!' Spider-Man thought with surprise. 'Borneo is still rambling. Hasn't it been five minutes?'
"-veria must be free from the tyranny of Von Doom, once and for all!" Borneo was spitting. "The people cry out for Freedom, and to that end, we shall take all information and officials we can find within this building! And you will not stop us!"
"Hate to break it to ya, Pal," Spider-Man said, "but I've had the chance to visit Latveria a few times, and as weird as it may seem to us, Von Doom is kind of a celebrity there. The Latverians love him. And I'm certainly no fan of Doom, but don't ya think the people should be able to choose if they want to be King-?"
"No! No! They are held in fear! They cannot formulate their own opinions, not under the iron fist of Doom!" Borneo cried. Alright, thought Spider-Man, actually arguing with a crazed terrorist wasn't exactly the smartest move. Where was Captain America when you needed him? That guy could handle anything armed with a frisbee.
"Alright, Pal. Easy. Just do what you came here to do so we can go home, alright?" Spider-Man said. "I'd like to get home to my wife's cooking as much as any of you. Well, alright, that's not entirely true. Usually, we just get some Chinese and the rest is personal-"
"If you'll shut your trap, Wallcrawler, the hostages may live another day!" Borneo hissed. "But I'm getting to where I'll kill you for the fun of it. No more words from you. Arkady! Klaus! Get the hostages. We're heading for the embassy file room!"
"Word!" the larger man named Arkady said.
'I am not going to say anything', Spider-Man thought. 'I am not going to say anything. I am not going to say anything. I am not going to-'
"Authorities have not been able to begin negotiations with the hostages, nor have orders been received from Latveria as to the action that local authorities may take on this matter. The Latverian Embassy has now been held by the Latveria Liberation Force for half an hour, and even the superpowered vigilante-" For any other costumed crimefighter, they would have simply used the term 'superhero' in that report- "Spider-Man has apparently failed to make any impact on the situation. Sources suspect that Spider-Man has been captured as well or even-"
Mary Jane Watson-Parker took a deep breath and closed her eyes, listening to the sounds around her in the Daily Grind coffee house. As the wife of photographer Peter Parker, the man much of the world knew by the name and mask of Spider-Man, she had far more than an interest in the news report. She had her world at stake. Not only on that single day, when something so incredible as a terrorist attack had taken place, but every day. Her husband was an incredible man, a man who risked his life every day to save lives, whether it meant going up against a hundred gunmen, a supervillain with the power to level a city block, or a machine that spelled certain destruction for the entire city. Sure, there were other superheroes that fought with him, but this didn't change anything. This didn't make him any less of a wonder.
Nor did it make it any less hard. Mary Jane sighed, said a silent prayer to whoever might be listening Up There for her husband's safe return that night. She did it every day.
Clink! A cup of coffee was set on her table. She looked up, and for a moment her entire visage brightened as she saw the face of the man she loved-
-but then she realized that it was not Peter, that the Man Up There had not just performed a miracle for her. It was Ben Reilly, simply a clone of her husband who had managed to create his own life for himself. Despite the incredible strangeness of suddenly having a twin a year ago, Ben Reilly had become a brother to Peter and a good friend to her.
"On the house, Sis-in-Law," he said, sitting across the table from her. She smiled at his blonde hair. He'd dyed it so that there was some difference between himself and Peter. It'd worked, but then so had glasses for a mild-mannered reporter, so why shouldn't it have?
"Thanks," Mary Jane said.
"You looked like you needed it," he said. He waited for an answer, didn't get one, and added: "I'm on my lunch break now, so how about you tell me what's wrong?"
She looked up at the television and he looked too. His face fell as a replay of Spider-Man leaping into the building full of terrorists was shown on the network.
"Oh," he whispered. "Mary Jane… Look, Peter'll be alright. He could beat his way through an army with one hand while lifting a truck. Proportionate strength of a spider and all that, ya know. I'm sure he's just waiting for the right moment to-"
The conversation was interrupted when Kelly, the new waitress at the Daily Grind, walked over to their table with coffee pot in hand and asked: "More?" Mary Jane gave a polite smile and tried not to think ill of her, although it was definitely bad timing, and even went so far as to mentally note that Kelly was rather cute, at least in her opinion. She wondered idly if this 'Kelly' might be a potential interest for her "brother-in-law".
"Thanks, Kelly," Ben said, trying not to sound irritated. She poured two cups and was gone, but before Ben could try to continue, Mary Jane cut him off.
"Ben, you don't have to say anything more," she smiled. "I know that Peter will be alright. I can't stop worrying about it. How could I? He's my husband. But I know he'll be alright, and I accepted his being Spider-Man when I said 'I do'. In a way, I'm thankful for it… All the danger out there that he's faced with every day, all the problems- It forces me to realize how precious our time together is. I'm OK. Really."
Ben sighed and looked back at the television set. 'Well, Peter,' he thought, 'you'd better get out of there alive, because you are one lucky guy.'
"I really don't think you should be doing this, Angela!" Kari yelled. She waited for a reply, but no reply came. Kari frowned. She knew that her words had carried through the bathroom door.
"Talk to me, Ange-" She began to yell again, but that was when Angel stepped out. She was wearing her old leotard from when she had taken Aerobics several times a week, and the outfit was completed in a very weird fashion by the quiver of arrows strapped to her back.
"This isn't a good idea, Angela," Kari sighed.
"I thought you were the one who liked Spider-Man so much."
"I've got plenty of faith in Spider-Man, but I'm not sure you should be going in there. You haven't really fought anyone who really means business, Angela-"
"The Green Goblin doesn't count?"
"Oh, please. You mean that girl who just found some equipment and went joyriding?"
"Point taken," Angel said. "But I'm going, Kari."
"You're not even wearing that Hawkeye knockoff you made before. At least that thing was padded! You're just going to wear your aerobics stuff now? How are you going to protect your secret identity-? Oh my lord, I just used the term 'secret identity'-"
A cloth was taken from the table and unfolded. It only took a moment for Angela Stoic to tie it about her face, creating a mask to hide the lower half of it, and Kari groaned at the result.
"I'll finish the costume later," Angela said, smiling under the cloth as she picked up her bow and checked her arrows. "I promise. Before I can, though, Spider-Man needs the Marksman's help!"
"I thought you weren't calling yourself that anymore," Kari pointed out.
"Do we really have to make this any more complicated than it is-?!"
'Can this really get any more complicated than it is?' thought Spider-Man as Borneo shot several bullets through yet another computer screen, screaming obscenities. The information network of Doctor Doom, Lord of Latveria, had turned out to be far more formidable than Borneo had guessed. The network had detected the decrypter that the Liberation Force was using immediately, locked onto it, and denied access to the network for every computer in the entire building. To put it simply-
"We're screwed!" Arkady cried. Borneo whirled, aiming the Uzi at his own comrade.
"Shut up! We can't be stopped like this! We'll think of something! We'll- We'll- Damn!"
"It's over," another terrorist said. "All of this for nothing. What are we gonna do, Borneo?"
Spider-Man sighed under his mask. Stupid terrorists, plus a bungled attempt, plus hostages equaled a bad situation. The Latveria Liberation Force wasn't paying nearly as much attention to him as they had been, but they still had a secretary, a diplomat, and the eight year old girl of that diplomat at gunpoint, and they were still spread out. He couldn't move.
Spider-Man had noticed that the entire room was full of windows, which gave clear views outside. It was a last resort, but local law enforcement probably had snipers across the streets, ready to shoot the terrorists if all else failed. Spider-Man didn't want it to happen, but-
'No, wait!' he suddenly thought. 'NYPD can't do anything! The embassy is technically Latverian soil, which means that either Doctor Doom himself or one of his boys has full jurisdiction! Doom can solve this situation any way he wants to, and I wouldn't put it past him to just level the entire building! I have to do something before Doom sends an order, but- What can I do that won't get us all killed?!'
If the physician of Publisher J. Jonah Jameson had been present to record the publisher's blood pressure, he probably would have called an ambulance. As it stood, Jameson stormed about the offices of the newspaper that he had made one of the city's most-read, shouting and barking orders like a sargeant in war.
"Urich! Urich, where the heck are you?! I want you down at that embassy, Urich, and I want you there five minutes ago! ! Whadaya mean, I never TOLD you to go?! You should be intuitive, Urich! The 'Daily Bugle' is the FINEST newspaper in the STATE, Urich! We need reporters who SENSE a story comin' and JUMP on it before it ARRIVES! Whadaya mean, what do I WANT?! I'll tell ya what I WANT, Urich! I want TELEPATHY in my reporters! Ya hear?! TELEPATHY!!! Cilia, where in blue blazes is my COFFEE?! Urich? What are you still doin' here?! Photographer? Yeah, I'll get ya one. Who's seen that screw-up Peter Parker? Whadaya MEAN, he wasn't here today? Right when I NEED the boy! ALWAYS when I NEED him-! Oh, I don't feel so good…"
"Let's sit you down in your office, Jonah," Robert Robertson said. He placed his pipe in his mouth and helped his longtime friend through the door. Jonah fell into his chair behind his desk with a loud thump.
"Thanks, Robbie. Yer the best Editor-In-Chief a man could have," Jonah sighed, rubbing his temples. "I don't know, Robbie. I'm startin' to think that quack doc was right about me. I'm getting too worked up."
"You need to get away, just like that 'quack doctor' said," Robbie said. "I really wish you'd reconsider it, Jonah. Lord knows that you could use a vacation, and I'll bet Martha would enjoy a little time off herself. Go somewhere nice."
"Maybe you're right, Robbie. Maybe you're-… Robbie? Did a girl in an aerobics leotard just swing past my window?"
"One thing about that infernal wall-crawlin' scum Spider-Man, Robbie… At least he took a little time to make himself presentable."
"Yeah, they're on the second floor, but we can't snipe them because it's Latverian soil! I don't know what I'm going to do, Detective- Huh? Hey! What's that girl doing? And why's she in her aerobics stuff- Aw, no! Lady, you can't-!"
But the policeman couldn't stop her. Angela Stoic was already over the iron fence of the Latverian embassy and running at full speed for its doors. She took out an arrow and notched it as she crossed the walkway, still unsure of how she was going to handle it.
'Take down whoever has hostages first, I guess!' she thought. 'Unless someone has something that'd end the whole thing before it could start, like a bomb! After that, pick them off one by one! Oh man, I hope these guys don't have real good training…'
She leaped, kicking open the unlocked doors. Stopped, looked around. Nobody there. They were all on the second floor, like that officer had been saying.
'Here goes nothing, then,' she thought, readying her bow and arrow.
Borneo, Arkady, and Klaus had left the other two terrorists to line the three hostages up in a row. They had walked to the window, each taking long looks at the small army of police that awaited them outside the iron gates of the embassy.
'How much trouble they've gotten themselves into has finally started to penetrate those thick little skulls,' Spider-Man thought. 'Which means they're going to get desperate, and the hostages aren't going to be for show anymore. Well, they only have two of their buddies watching them now. And those barrels aren't inches from their heads. If I'm going to make my move, the time has to be soon!'
"We've lost, Borneo!" Arkady growled. "We will be returned to Latveria!"
"I would rather die now than return there!" Klaus yelled. "Do you know what Doom'll do-?"
"Nobody returns to Latveria. Not us, not anyone in this building- Nobody," Borneo said, but his voice was shaky. "Those officers outside cannot touch us. This is Latverian soil and Doom would never give them permission to operate on it."
'Now,' thought Spider-Man. 'If I'm gonna do this, it has to be now!' Every muscle tensed as he prepared to leap forward with all the speed that his superhuman muscles held- And then he felt his spider-sense, tingling. 'Danger? But they're not shooting anyone-!'
Wham! The door burst open at that second, and all five terrorists turned to look upon the pretty girl in a leotard who was aiming, of all things on God's Green Earth, a bow and arrow at them.
"Who the hell-?!" Borneo muttered.
"Hi, guys! I'm the Marskman!" she announced, but then Doubt entered her voice. "I mean, I'm 'Crossbow'. No, wait- 'Lady Arrow'-"
By that time, the terrorists had long lost interest in her identity. All five turned their guns upon her, and in a blue and red blur, Spider-Man leaped into action! His fingers pressed down upon small nozzles located in his wrists, firing gray strands of 'webbing' at two of the automatics. The goop immediantly gummed up the guns, causing them to misfire with the pulling of the trigger.
Spider-Man landed, jumped, and twisted around in midair to deliver a punch to Arkady along with a simultaneous kick to Klaus. The entire complex series of moves took a little over two seconds and had been so graceful as to cause any dancer to hang his or her head in shame. Spider-Man landed. Only Borneo was left-
An arrow whizzed through the air, blew up in a blast of concussive force, and knocked Borneo upon his little Latverian butt.
Scratch that. The Good Guys had won. 'Hurray!' thought Spider-Man. 'Now to go find a nice, quiet spot to have my nervous breakdown in peace.'
"Good work, Spidey!" Angela said, smiling under the makeshift mask.
"Thanks. Who are you again?"
"The Marksman. I'm sort of inbetween names and costumes, though-"
"Oh. Swell," Spider-Man sighed.
Suddenly, there was a loud scream, and the two crimefighters turned to see the little, eight year old girl holding tight to her diplomat father. Spider-Man raised an eyebrow within his mask, looked to Angela, then back at the girl.
Spider-Man's jaw dropped within the red, webbed mask. "Hey, she didn't even make a peep when Borneo and his goons had her!"
The diplomat shrugged, then gave a light smile. "I am sorry, Sir. Leda hates spiders."
Spider-Man found that, despite the wit he was famous for, he had nothing to say to that. He left the room, Angela behind him, and ascended the staircase to the roof. It was almost noon and he was already exhausted.
"Well, I guess that tidies everything up," Spider-Man said, stretching out in the noon sun.
"Um, yeah. I guess so," she chimed in. She leaned on her bow, sighed. Spider-Man turned to look at her for a moment, deciding what to say. New superheroes on the scene always made him nervous, because he often somehow felt responsible for what happened to them. What superpowers had she exhibited, anyhow? None. But then, Hawkeye, her role model, didn't either and he was a staple of the world's greatest crimefighting team-
"Take care," he muttered. 'Good pep talk, Spidey,' he mentally congratulated himself.
"Thanks," she replied. "Anything else on the list today?"
"I don't think so. I was worried about what Doom was going to do to stop the terrorists himself, but apparently we stopped it in time," Spider-Man said.
"Maybe he hasn't even heard about it yet. Latveria's all the way in Eastern Europe. How could Doom hear about this and execute any plan in so little time-"
"One thing about Doom, 'Marksman'. If it happens, he knows about it in five minutes. He knows how to find out stuff that'd make you quiver. No, he definitely knew about this, but we managed to beat him to the punch. And trust me, that's a success. Seeya, 'Marksman'."
"Actually, I don't want that name any-" But Spider-Man was already swinging through the air once more, heading toward Queens. She sighed contentedly, a job well done. She still had to do something about a name and costume, though. What could she-?
"Hey! 'Quiver'!" she exclaimed. "I'll call myself 'Quiver'! Now we're talking!"
"Lord Doom? Have you a moment of time for your humble servant, my liege?"
"Come in, my Editor," the Lord of Latveria whispered through that metal mask that was his only known face. He did not move a muscle within that armor, did not turn his eyes away from the hundreds of monitors that he was surrounded by within one of his many private rooms in Castle Doom. The Editor approached, adjusting his glasses.
"I was simply going over the log of the day's events," the Editor began, struggling not to stutter. "And I came across the embassy crisis. You took no course of action, my liege."
"That is correct," said the cold metal under that green cowl. The Editor took a deep breath.
"This contradicts actions you've taken in similar cases," the Editor said. "For the purpose of the archives, I hoped that you would explain to me why you simply sat by in this case."
"Do you think, my Editor, that Doom is without faith?" came the reply from the metal mask. Those black eyes, colder than any metal upon the body, finally turned and fixed themselves on the Editor.
"Faith, my liege?"
"Faith, Editor. Yes. Faith that all would be well in the end, that all would be set right."
"I- er- But why Faith in Fate now, Milord-? Why-?"
"I do not have any faith reserved for such a thing as Fate, Editor!" the monarch laughed. "For Doom makes his own! I instead had faith in a man I have come into contact with upon several occasions. I had faith in Spider-Man, in that unshakable determination I have witnessed in him that will not rest until the lives are safe. Thus, I did not simply sit in inaction, Editor. The mission was clear and I had faith that he would carry it out for me. My operative for the mission was Spider-Man… and he has not disappointed myself or the people of New York City. Nor, do I believe, he ever shall. A pity that one day, Doctor Doom will no doubt have to crush him!"
The television set was still on when Spider-Man landed in the yard of his house that night. The television, as far as he could tell, was actually the only light still on. Mary Jane must have been up late, watching television. 'Waiting for you to come home,' he admitted to himself. 'Crud.'
He changed quickly into the spare clothes that he kept in the bushes, allowing him to enter as Peter Parker and not that costume that clung to his skin for hours every day. He stepped inside, closed the door behind him, took a minute to look around. The house used to belong to his aunt and uncle, the two people who had raised him to be the man he was today. Those people were gone now, but every nook and cranny of the house still reminded him of them.
He sighed and entered the living room. Mary Jane was lying on the sofa like he thought, fast asleep in front of the television set. The News was on, giving local New York City news for the night.
"Critics agree that this mysterious girl who aided Spider-Man in the apprehension of the Latveria Liberation Force is the worst-dressed superhero or superheroine that they have ever seen," the announcer of E! Entertainment was saying. "With the possible exception of an anti-hero called 'The Nudist', who is currently wanted for-"
He turned the television off and sat down next to Mary Jane's unmoving form. Kissed her. She opened her eyes and he kissed her again, smiled.
"Love you," he said. It sounded like an unnecessary thing, but it wasn't.
"Love you too," she answered sleepily, yawning. "Peter? Listen to me, alright?"
"Whenever you get home or however tired you are after fighting those people," she said, "… I always want you to let me see you. Even if I'm asleep, jus' wake me up, alright Peter? I jus' want to (yawn) know you're back, with me."
"Consider it done, Pretty Lady," Peter smiled. "…Consider it done."
They embraced, and neither would surrender the other until they woke up that next morning, lying just as they had been at that very moment. Spider-Man and Wife.
NEXT: Developments sure to leave you surprised and more brand-new villains than you can shake a stick at! If you enjoyed the ish, don't hesitate to read #11!