Part IV: The Gathering Storm
Writer: Chip Caroon
Editor: Ben Kaine
Editor-in-Chief: Brian Provow
Ben Reilly has returned from the dead, only to accidently impersonate Peter Parker and sleep with Mary Jane. Distraught over his action, he has disappeared. Actually, unbeknownst to the Parkers, he has moved to Chicago with the mobster son called Jimmy-Six, performing barely legal missions as a private investigator to earn his new paycheck.
Meanwhile, in New York, Peter Parker struggles to discover a new way to make money now that the Daily Bugle is no longer accepting photos of his superpowered alter-ego. Fortunately, he may have a new buyer: His own fanzine!
Peter may soon have more media attention than that, however. Unbeknownst to him, the once-Kingpin of Crime Wilson Fisk has enlisted the vigilante Daredevil to stop a killing spree in which all signs point to one murderer: Spider-Man!
Sweat poured down his face, but he was too scared to even wipe it off. He took a big gulp and gripped the steering wheel tightly, almost to where his knuckles felt like they might break. Life slowed down for Winson Brigham at that moment as he watched the man in a black suit in front of the car put pressure on the trigger of his gun.
Just as he was about to give it the final bit of pressure needed to fire, one of the hitman's colleagues was tossed into his back. His arm jerked up and the bullet was fired into the air. Brigham stepped on the gas and drove as fast as he could back to where his private jet lay.
However, he didn't have to go that far. 'Jimmy-Six', one of the two 'Enforcers' Winson had hired that morning, had taken care of the men and had wandered to the parking lot. He was the one who had saved Brigham's life.
As Brigham pulled up, Jimmy-Six climbed in the passenger side.
"Let's go," he said. "We gotta save Benny!"
Vincent Mendella sat in front of the former (perhaps soon to be again?) 'Kingpin of Crime' as one of the few men alive who, in that position, was not nervous at all. For Wilson Fisk was his boss, or at least, his temporary employer. He relaxed in front of the mighty desk.
"Vincent," Fisk said. "I must commend you on your execution of our plans. You really did an excellent job of impersonating Spider-Man."
"Well, the trick was in the webbing," Vincent smiled. "But that was fairly easy for a scientific genius such as I."
"It seems that it must run in the family," Fisk replied. "And how is your father?"
Fisk had known exactly where to prick to deflate the hot air within his employee. That was a sore spot for Vincent. His father was in prison, put there, actually, by Fisk himself. Vincent had tried not to let that get in the way of the business. It was too important. But he was still reminded of it.
"He's doing well. As well, that is, as any man can in prison."
"Ah, what an unfortunate shame," Fisk said, with a tone of voice that sounded sincere. If you listened closely, though, the truth of the crimelord's thoughts were evident. Dr. Mendella had taken the fall while working under Fisk. "Now, then. How long does your hypnotic drug last?"
"It depends on the user. With some it lasts for a long time, but with others, it's only a short time. It depends on how active the user is and how much of a dose they received. I expect Daredevil's dose to wear off either today or tomorrow. Hopefully, by that time, Daredevil will have taken Spider-Man out," Vincent replied.
"It's really a nice piece of engineering," Vincent continued. "After taking the 'Death's Arrow' drug of my father and modifying it so it wouldn't weaken the user, I made their enhanced strength last longer."
"You know, actually, I rather liked that particular feature," Fisk commented. "The fact that the user was so weak, that is."
"But then your plan wouldn't have worked so well now," Vincent replied.
"Well, that's it then," Mark Raxton, once the criminal called the MOLTEN MAN, said through the glass. "Our time is up." He looked down at his nephew, Normie Osborn. "Tell your mother good bye."
"Bye, mom!" Normie said. "I'll see you tomorrow, right?"
Liz Osborn smiled through the prison glass. "Yes, Hon. You will." She turned back to face her brother. "So, what time will you be getting to the courthouse?"
Mark thought, said: "The hearing starts at ten o' clock. I guess we should be there by nine-thirty. I'll see you then, Sis."
"Bye," Liz said as they stood up.
Peter Parker stood in front of an apartment building. He checked the address.
'It's the right place,' he thought, pressing the buzzer. 'Stanley told me to come here.'
Peter recognized the voice of the man he had talked to on the phone, coming through the speaker with some static. He was definitely at the right place. Apparently, Stanley King ran the SPIDER-MAN FANZINE from his apartment.
"It's Peter Parker. I'm here for the interview."
"Oh, yes! Come right up."
A few minutes later, Peter was sitting comfortably in Stanley's apartment. One room had been set up as an office of sorts, nice looking and tasteful. Stanley entered the room with a magazine in hand. He sat down at the desk in front of Peter and laid the magazine down. He offered his hand. Peter shook it.
"Hello, Peter," Stanley said. "As you know, I am Stanley King. Please, call me Stan."
"Hi, Stan," Peter replied. "Thanks for allowing me to come late. I was really held up earlier."
"No problem," said Stan. "That kinda stuff happens in New York. Now, since I know your work from the Daily Bugle, I don't have to ask to see it. You basically have the job as long as you can produce photos for us."
"I don't think that will be a problem," Peter said. "But I am wondering how you- well, honestly manage to have paid employees. This seems like a pretty small operation."
"Actually, this fanzine is just something on the side. I own a publishing company. Some of my friends in the business and I got together and decided we wanted to make a magazine dedicated to a superhero. We chose Spider-Man because he's our favorite, and he's very underrated. Printing costs aren't an issue since I own the publisher."
"Nice," Peter replied. "Now, are you going to pay me by the picture?"
Stanley nodded, and then wrote a number down on a pad of paper, showing it to Peter. "Is this enough per photo?"
Peter whistled silently, then grinned. The figure Stan had written down was more than he ever made from the Bugle. He said: "Plenty."
Stan put down the pad and picked up the magazine he carried in. "This is an advance copy of the next issue. We don't have a cover photo yet, and we were hoping you could provide one."
He handed the magazine to Peter. "You can keep this copy. Also, of course, you will have a complimentary subscription to the fanzine."
"Sounds like this is a full-fledged publication."
Stan nodded. "In a way, it is. All we really'd need is Spider-Man's endorsement."
"I don't think that'd be hard to get," Peter said.
Stan pulled some papers from his desk drawer. "Here. These are some things you need to sign. Some technicalities."
Peter picked up the papers and began to read.
Blacklash saw the car coming and knew Brigham was in it. He stood in the middle of its path, hoping that it would stop. This gave BEN REILLY, the ENFORCER called 'Taps', the chance to take a running leap at the villain and tackle him, wrestling him to the ground. Blacklash fought back out, his whip bending about and hitting Ben square in the back. Ben lost his breath and rolled onto the ground. His back felt on fire! Blacklash stood up. He saw that the car had gone past him and turned around, burning rubber in the process. He picked Ben up and tossed him to the side disdainfully.
"I'll save you for later," he muttered.
In the car, Jimmy Six was wide-eyed. "Good driving moves," he said. "I never thought you would be one to know how to drive like that, 'Boss'."
"You don't get to where I am without learning how to outmaneuver the other guy," Brigham muttered, squinting, concentrating on where Blacklash stood, which was straight in front of the car. Brigham gripped the steering wheel hard and pumped the gas twice.
"C'mon," he said. "Let's see if you got what it takes."
Just as Jimmy began to wonder if Winson really getting into this was such a good thing, suddenly, Brigham took off, and the car flew down the runway right at Blacklash. Blacklash predicted that the car would stop or swerve. After all, was Brigham really that careless, or stupid?? As the black car came closer, however, Blacklash's eyes widened and his jaw dropped. He realized too late that Brigham wasn't stopping and that he wouldn't have enough time to jump out of the way.
The car impacted him at close to seventy miles per hour. Blacklash flew several feet up in the air and landed somewhere off to the side. Brigham pulled the car up to where Ben Reilly was just starting to stand. Ben walked to the vehicle and climbed in the back.
"Man, that guy was a real piece of work," Jimmy-Six said.
Ben Reilly nodded. "A shame we may still have to deal with him. Blacklash went rounds with Iron Man. I'm thinking you don't get there by being an easy knock-out."
Jimmy Six turned to Brigham. "We have to get you to a safe place. Let me drive."
"But I have to go to Texas," Brigham began to insist.
"Sir, I don't think that's going to happen today," Ben said. "You need a pilot and a new plane. Let one of us handle it. After we get you somewhere safe."
Brigham sighed. "Okay. I'll go by your rules. After all, I did hire you."
The car sped away, but not before a shaking Blacklash's eyes opened.
'..Brigham.. I'll.. still… get you..!'
Matthew Murdock, attorney, was blind. He read the newspaper by letting his fingers glide across the page and feeling the infinitesimally-raised ink. His enhanced sense of Touch, which allowed him to also be the incredible hero DAREDEVIL, did the rest. He was interrupted by a knock on the door. Franklin 'Foggy' Nelson, Matt's best friend and partner, stuck his head in the door.
"Matt?" Nelson asked. He held up a folder. "I have the information on the Mackie case that you asked for."
"Thanks, Foggy. Just sit it on the desk. I'll get to it when I can."
Franklin laid the file down on his partner's desk. He looked at Matt. "Are you okay, Buddy? You've seemed a little weird the past couple of days."
"Huh?" Matt asked, seeming a little confused. "Oh. I haven't noticed. At least, not until now?"
"What do you mean?" Foggy asked, puzzled over the cryptic message.
"I- Hm. I don't know."
Foggy turned and walked out. "Sure, Matt. If you need to talk, I'm here. I'll be in my office, working on the Bendis case."
Judge Howard Jenkins sat in his chamber, looking over the paperwork for the Liz Osborn hearing that would take place that next day. Sitting across from him sat the bailiff, an old friend of his, sipping on coffee.
"I remember this case," the judge said. "It had something to do with the Green Goblin. Why am I dealing with this again? I thought she got locked away."
"She did, but some new evidence has come to light that proves she was set up."
"Set up? But I clearly remember it being determined that she was a willing accomplice."
"She was threatened."
The judge looked over the paper and sighed. "Ah, well. I'll try to keep an open mind tomorrow."
In Chicago, Ben Reilly was pacing as Winson Brigham sat on the foot of the bed of their hotel room. Jimmy-Six was on the phone, trying to find a new pilot and plane for Winson's already-delayed business trip to Texas.
"Look, I need a small private jet that I can transport a really important person in. Preferrably today, but we'll take tomorrow," Jimmy was saying.
"I'm sorry, sir, but we don't have anything," buzzed the man at the other end of the line.
"Do you know who I am?"
"I am Jimmy-Six. My buddy 'Benny the Taps' and I saved your whole freakin' airport a few days ago. You owe us. So, unless you want me to come over and pound the favor outta ya, ya better give us a jet."
"Who will be reserving this flight?"
Ben stopped pacing for a moment and turned to Brigham. "So, did you have to be in Dallas today?"
"Well, my meeting isn't until tomorrow afternoon," Brigham replied. "I was leaving today to get some extra 'R&R' down there."
"Ah. Heh. Sorry?"
Jimmy-Six walked over after hanging up. "I got it settled, Boss. We have our own private jet scheduled to leave tomorrow morning at seven."
"Who's the pilot?" Brigham asked.
Jimmy-Six's smile grew ten sizes. "Unless we can find someone we can absolutely trust, we are!"
As Peter and Mary Jane lay in bed that night, both of their minds were deeply set thinking of recent events. For Peter, even though many things had happened to him that very day, his mind kept wandering to his 'brother'. Ben Reilly. Why exactly did he leave?
Peter was staring at the ceiling fan when MJ asked: "What are you thinking about now, Tiger?"
"Ben again. I just don't know why he left without telling anyone."
"Maybe something came up."
"But his whole life is here," Peter replied.
"You know that's not true. He was a wanderer for nearly five years before he came into our lives. There's no telling how many people he met with. Maybe one of those people needed him."
"You know, he did disappear around that time I had business in the sewer systems. . . " *
*[issues 11-13 - Chip]
"Yeah, it was on the day you finished that up. Mmm. I remember the night before. It was great."
'Night before?' Peter thought. 'Great? I was stuck in the sewer all night. I didn't get home until the next day. Or did I? Heck, I can't remember most of what's happened in the past twelve hours. Maybe my memories are running together.'
He put the whole train of thought aside and drifted asleep, trying to focus on- well, happy thoughts.
Next issue: As Spider-Man and Daredevil have their final confrontation on the sinister strings of the puppeteer called the Kingpin of Crime, the Enforcers attempt to take to the unfriendly skies once more! Liz Osborn goes to trial! Miss not the fifth part of 'Maximum Vengeance': 'Truth and Justice'!
We're over halfway through with Chip Caroon's run on the ASTONISHING SPIDER-MAN and in the course of these issues, he's said some very kind words about me in his own notes. Now, at the point where we are, I think it's about time I said a few about Chip.
Reader- You have no idea how hard it is to have me as an editor. I am a pain in the butt. I say you can't do this, you can't do that, this isn't a good idea- I'm probably the most active editor in editing in the fan fiction 'company' community. I think that improves my product and in the end, it shows when you compare it to others. But it makes me one tough guy to work with.
Chip did. What's more, he took it all without complaint. Occasionally, he'd ask why, try to compromise with me on some issues, but he was never hostile. He just wanted to write a good 'Spider-Man' story. And four issues out of his six, I think I can safely say, in my own opinion, that he's put out something I would read if I was merely a passing reader.
Thanks a ton for what you've done, Chip, and for what you've yet to do!