#2: The Deadliest Game, Part 2 May 12, 2019 13:12:45 GMT -5
Post by Charlie on May 12, 2019 13:12:45 GMT -5
Issue #2: “The Deadliest Game, Part 2: Save the Last Dance for Me”
Written by: Brian Burchette
Cover by: Roy Flinchum
Edited by: Charlie Wilkins
If somebody had asked Peter Parker what his first reaction was when he got a look at his date for the prom, a blind date too boot, he would have sworn that his eyes had bugged out of their sockets like a Warner Brothers cartoon character. She was a few inches taller than him, long red hair that shined like the sun, and a smile that was just shouting: I want to party!
“Face it Tiger, you just hit the jackpot,” she had said with a wink and that smile.
Peter smiled back. It was a smile that was one third shock, one third fake, and one third terror. He raised his hand in a half hearted wave, unable (thankfully) to speak at the moment.
He did turn; the smiled still glued to his face, and looked at his best friend. “Harry, can I talk to you for a minute?”
“Sure pal,” Harry said, slapping him on the back while giving the girls a wink. They stepped away from the girls, who began to whisper to each other.
“Harry, its not that I don’t appreciate it, and everything, but I can’t go out with her!”
“Why not? Harry! Look at her! She’s gorgeous! I mean, why is she even wanting to go to the prom with… wait a minute… how much did you pay her, Harry?”
Harry stepped back in surprise, “Peter! Nothing, I swear! Listen, you need to go to the prom. It’s a once in a life time chance, and you never know, someday you may be kicking yourself with the ‘what if’, thing. And you’re a good looking guy, Pete. Umm, and I mean that in a totally non gay sort of way, so why shouldn’t she want to go with you?”
Peter stared at the red head, taking in Harry’s words. “I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve seen her before. What did you say her name was?”
“Mary Jane Watson.”
“Well… I’ve got to talk to Aunt May first; make sure it’s alright with her…”
Harry flashed his infectious grin, “Cool! It’s settled then.”
What am I getting myself into? Peter wondered as they walked back to the two girls.
His English was very good, but not great. It didn’t help that he was admittedly not the smartest guy in the world. Aleksie Sytsevich was, however, a very large and scary looking man, who prided himself on his body, its muscles, and his power of intimidation. It was what kept him employed, although not in a way that would have made his family proud.
Coming from Russia at an early age, Aleksie’s main goal was to make enough money to bring over the rest of his family. His mother and sister had sent him, hoping that he could find a better life for himself, after the death of his father.
He quickly learned that he was not intelligent enough for any well paying jobs, other than to be a bully. His size and appearance gained him notoriety rather quickly as he became an enforcer for one of New York’s major crime bosses. The money was good… but it still wasn’t enough.
That was why he was standing at the old Marlyn Warehouse in Long Island City, at the western most point of Queens County. He had heard through the rumor mill that a scientist by the name of Gerald Allan was looking for a candidate for an extremely dangerous experiment. But if he survived, it would pay enough money to bring his family to America; with enough left over to buy them a nice place in Rego Park.
He walked into the factory to find a tall thin man with rich black hair and wire rimmed spectacles, waiting for him.
“I’m glad you came,” Dr. Allan said, bubbling with enthusiasm.
“Yeah, well, you said the payoff would be huge.”
“And it will be, my large friend. Once we have tested this suit on you, the government will be dying to get their hands on it, and not only will we be rich, but this little high school science teacher will prove once and for all that they had no right to terminate him from Columbia University.”
“Yeah, yeah, rough life, gotcha. What do I gotta do?”
“I’m going to place you in this tube, where you will be subjected to intensive chemical and radioactive treatment that when completed, should give not only give you super human strength and stamina, but will also increase your speed. Are you ready?”
“Sure Doc, lets get this over with.”
Aleksie stepped into the large tube that stood at the end of the make-shift laboratory and closed his eyes. All outside sound was muffled as he began to hear a low hum coming from inside the container. He felt several needles pierce his flesh and felt a slight burning sensation as he was injected with liquids. At the same time, a clicking noise began, as if the sound of a camera shutter was going off inside the tube.
The Russian man had been in there only ten minutes when he began to feel the burning underneath his skin. At first it was nothing more than an uncomfortable warm sensation that quickly begun to grow into a full throttle burn; finally turning into a searing pain.
“STOP!” He shouted.
Professor Allan was startled by the sound of pain in the man’s voice and left his station where he was monitoring Aleksie’s vital signs, to look into the tube. He backed away in horror at what he saw. It wasn’t that the man was squirming in pain, but that his skin had changed. He had developed some kind of outer casing.
The Doctor ran to his controls and hit the emergency switch, the final mistake in his experiment. There was a massive amount of feedback and the panels in front of him blew up, causing Dr. Allan to be hurled backward. The tube itself exploded as well, but Aleksie remained inside, unconscious.
Rising and staggering forward, the once noted Professor at Columbia University looked at the unconscious body before him. Aleksie’s skin was now gray; some kind of polymer had been grafted to his skin, giving it that gray hue. He examined Aleksie’s face and saw that the graph had covered most of that as well, leaving a large, rather sharp looking growth near his forehead. The entire thing gave the Russian the appearance of a… a… rhinoceros.
Dr. Gerald Allen backed away slowly. This was not what was supposed to happen. He had to get rid of it, before it woke up. There would be a law suit, or worse… he would seek revenge. He couldn’t let that happen, he was thinking as panic washed over him. He had a wife, a daughter. They could both be in danger.
Blinded by the terror that swirled through his mind, he reached for several beakers, breaking them in different locations of the old warehouse. Then he grabbed a match, prayed for his soul, and lit it as he walked out the door. The flames engulfed the old building in seconds.
He drove off, sweating profusely, knowing that what he had just done had condemned him for life. What he didn’t stay to witness was Aleksie Sytsevich burst through the raging inferno with no damage to his skin at all.
He looked at his arms, his body, and screamed out in rage. Without thinking, he grabbed his own car and picked it up, flinging it into the fire saturated building. He had been mutilated, and someone was going to pay!
Spider-Man swung down off the Flat Iron building and headed uptown towards Time Square. He hadn’t gone far when he heard the scream of a woman coming from his left. He quickly swung his body around and fired another web-line that took him in the general direction of the cry.
As he entered the alley from above, he saw what the ruckus was all about. A woman in her late sixties was being backed into a corner by four young guys, probably no older than he was. Two of them were carrying rather large knives. Spider-Man couldn’t help but notice that the old woman was very similar in appearance to his own Aunt May.
“Just hand over the purse, lady, and we won’t hurt ya,” One of the guys with a knife said as he stepped closer.
“Didn’t your parents ever teach you to pick on someone your own age?”
Startled, the four young men looked up to see a figure in blue and red, a black spider symbol on his chest, standing completely straight up… on the side of building! He was standing there as if he were standing on the ground, looking down on them with his arms crossed.
“Who the hell are you?” One gasped.
“What the hell are you?” Another corrected, backing up.
“Don’t you read The Daily Bugle? I’m your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, that’s all in caps, by the way.”
“Holy $#@%, you’re real!”
“I’d like to think so. Let’s say we start by taking away those,” he replied as he fired two web-lines that hit the knives. He yanked them out of the hands of the punks. Then he leapt off the side of the building, doing a double summer-salt before landing between the old lady and the gang.
The two with the knives started to run away, but he fires more webbing that wrapped around their feet. They stumbled and fell to the ground. Spidey felt the familiar tingle in the back of his head, it wasn’t particularly strong, but it was sudden and constant.
He turned to see the fist coming at the side of his head, a pair of brass knuckles adorning the fist. He moved to the left with lightening speed, then reached out and grabbed the arm as it went by him. He picked the kid up and tossed him against the brick wall, being careful not to throw him too hard.
The last guy stood frozen in place, his eyes wide.
“What? Suddenly you have nothing to say?” Spider-Man asked as he walked up to him. “How about apologizing to the nice lady.”
The young man, who suddenly looked much younger, nodded his head in agreement. “I’m… I’m… sorry lady.”
“Awww, isn’t that sweet. Now don’t you feel so much better?”
The young boy nodded again, rather vigorously.
“Now why don’t you run along while I make sure your friends are all tied up with a pretty little bow before the police get here.”
“You’re… you’re… letting me go?”
“Yep, how else is the word going to get out that there’s a new guy in town, and he means business. So go, tell all your friends about me. And don’t be afraid to embellish it, alright? Tell them I’m seven or eight feet, with six arms and multiple eyes. The scarier, the better.”
The kid stood there, unsure of what to do, until Spider-Man sighed, leaned right into the kids face and shouted, "Boo!". The kid stumbled back and then took off out of the alley.
Spidey turned to the older woman. “Are you alright?”
“I am now. Thank you so much. I told my husband that you mutants are good people, and this proves it.”
“Oh, I’m not a mutant,” He said quickly.
“No… not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
“Of course not. Well, thank you again Mr. Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man. I’m going to tell all the ladies at Bunko about you.”
She couldn’t see him grinning, but it didn’t matter. “You do that, Ma'am,” and with that he took a huge leap and headed back towards Time Square.
He felt good, nope, scratch that, he felt great.
That’s my boy.
It was his Uncle Ben’s voice that he heard inside his head, and it may have just been his imagination, but that was alright. He believed it would have been what his Uncle would have said.
The employees of the Daily Bugle was in an unusual amount of panic and disarray as their boss, J. Jonah Jameson had been shouting orders for three days, unhappy with the fact that nobody had gotten the scoop on this mysterious new Spider-Man, and even worse, no pictures had been taken.
“What am I paying you people for?!” He shouted, as he stormed through the office, between desks, and leaving a trail of paper that flew off of those desks in his wake.
“Where’s Robbie? I need Robbie!”
“Right here, Jonah,” Came the calming voice of Robbie Robertson, Jameson’s right hand man and Chief Editor.
“The biggest story in years, and not one picture? I need pictures, of this Spider-Man, Robbie. This is going to put the Bugle on the map! A new super-hero in town and I don’t want this story going to the Times like the Fantastic Four did! Do you understand me?”
“Of course, Jonah, I’ve got all our top reporters and photographers on top of this. We’ve had a couple of dozen sightings, most in mid-town, the Upper West Side, and a couple near Hell’s Kitchen, but I’m not sure about the sources on those.”
“What? Why not?”
“The costume sounds different. They said this guy was all in red and had horns on his mask.”
Jonah through his arms up in disgust, “Horns?! That’s not him. I have no idea what kind of freak that is, but he’s not important; Spider-man, that’s our story. You tell these people that everything else is on hold until we get the exclusive. Now go!”
He then turned abruptly and marched into his office, mumbling about the ridiculousness concept of a guy dressed up like some kind of freakin’ devil. Like that would ever happen. He stopped at his desk, chewing on his cigar, and then picked up the phone, “Get me Ben Urich… now!”
“Peter Parker! Get your butt out of that bed and get down here! You’re breakfast is getting cold!”
May Parker put the stack of pancakes back into the oven, shaking her head in frustration. By the time Peter came bounding down the stairs, she had finished packing his lunch and was sitting at the table with her cup of coffee.
The young man smiled sheepishly, “Sorry.”
“Sorry?” Aunt May asked with an arched eyebrow. “This is the fourth morning in a row that you’ve been running late for school. What is going on with you, Peter? This is not like you at all.”
He didn’t know what to say. He didn’t want to lie, not to her, not after everything she had been through, but he didn’t dare tell her the truth. It wasn’t that his Aunt was that frail, not for her age. She was, in fact, quite spry and as the kids would say, “with it”; she always had been. But he just wasn’t ready to dump his secret on her… it was just too soon.
“I’m sorry, Aunt May,” he said. “It’s just that… I… I…”
His Aunt smiled, “It’s a girl, isn’t it?”
Although he was thrown off for a moment, he quickly recovered enough to realize that he had the opening he needed. “Well, there is something I wanted to talk to you about. There’s a girl who wants to go to the Senior Prom with me. I’m just not sure if I want to go, for not.”
May sat her cup down. “Why wouldn’t you want to go?”
Peter couldn’t say anything. He just smiled weakly at her and shrugged, but he saw the light-bulb come on over her head.
“Oh my dear, dear, Peter. You don’t want to go because of me, right?”
“It’s just that, I’d rather be here. You need me much more than I need, or want, to go to some stupid dance.”
“This isn’t some silly dance! This is your Senior Prom. You only get one chance at that. If you didn’t go, Peter, it would make me feel guilty, and you don’t want that, do you?”
Peter sat there, trying to figure out how to argue that comment, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to know that she had pulled out the big guns on this one. She was using “reverse guilt”. It was a sneaky and a low play, and she had done it well. He couldn’t help but admire her for that. When she smiled at him over the top of her coffee cup, her eyes twinkling with self pride, he started to laugh. She broke out in laughter as well, and for a moment, all seemed right with the world.
“So who is this lucky young lady?” May asked after they had both regained their composure.
“Harry and Gwen set me up with her. Her name is Mary Jane Watson.”
May choked on her coffee, startling Peter. “M.J.?” May asked in disbelief.
“You know her?!”
“Yes, Peter, I do… and so do you. You can’t tell me you’ve forgotten the little red headed girl who lived next door when you were young?”
Peter’s jaw dropped in shock, “I knew she looked familiar! She’s you’re friend’s niece! Aww man, wait until I tell Harry.”
His Aunt smiled an almost wicked smile. “Hmm, sometimes fate does work in one’s favor, I guess.”
Peter blushed and grabbed several pancakes as he grabbed his backpack. “I got to go, Aunt May, or I’ll be late. And don’t worry about money for my tux and all, I’ve got enough saved up to take care of it.”
“Oh Peter, you’re not going to… well… we’ll discuss all that later. Just get to school.” She smiled sweetly and raised her cheek for him to kiss it as he went past her and out the back door.
She shook her head at the irony of Mary Jane Watson as she collected the dishes and put them in the sink. She turned on the water, pouring a bit of soap in the sink, and her eyes automatically went to her wedding ring. She took a shaky breath and fondled the ring for a moment.
“Oh Ben…” She whispered as a tear rolled down her cheek.
Two weeks flew by, and before Peter realized it, the Prom was upon him. The night had started out on a foreboding note when he had picked his tux up that day to find that the jacket was one size to large, causing the sleeves to hang over his hands just slightly. Unfortunately, because he had rented it at the last second, there was nothing he could do.
Although he had argued with his Aunt about paying for the tux himself, she wouldn’t allow it, but conceded that he would use his own money to buy the corsage and boutonnière.
Peter was the last to be picked up as the limo rolled to a stop in front of his house. Promising his Aunt that he would not be too late, he headed for the car, only to have the limo driver meet him and open the door for him. He stuck his head in and found Harry, Gwen and Mary Jane sitting there, grinning. He couldn’t help but break out into a smile of his own.
The ride to the Prom was not as uncomfortable as Peter had thought it would be. Mary Jane was fun, and after some light teasing from her, he actually began to pick on her as well, making things a bit more comfortable for both of them. He didn’t mention the fact that they had known each other many years ago. She probably wouldn’t have remembered, anyway. By the time they had reached the reception hall where their Prom was being held, Peter Parker had realized that he was going to have a good time.
“Smile,” Harry said as he pulled out his digital camera and snapped a photo of Peter and M.J. getting out of the limo.
“Hey, there’s Liz Allan,” Gwen said. “Poor girl, having your father here as a chaperone must really stink.”
“I don’t see Flash,” Harry mused.
“Maybe he’s home with dysentery,” Peter said hopefully, until he saw the jock come out of the coat room, with his usual swagger. “So much for that idea.”
“Professor Allan doesn’t look well,” Gwen commented as they headed towards an empty table.
“His daughter is dating the school’s number one jerk; I’d be feeling pretty sick myself.” Harry scoffed.
The group laughed as they sat down, taking in the decorations, the tuxes and formals that the friends they had grown up with wore, making the entire evening a bit surreal. They had been children when they had walked into the halls of their high school for the first time, but now, they were walking out as young adults.
The D.J. began to play Sonic Youth’s cover of “Superstar” and Peter and M.J. watched as Harry and Gwen got up to dance. The two of them looked at each other, but Peter looked away quickly.
“Oh come on, Tiger, ask me; I promise I’ll say yes.”
“Why do you keep calling me Tiger?” Peter asked, realizing that he found the nickname a bit annoying.
Mary Jane grinned mischievously, “Cause I’m betting underneath that meek guy is a real tiger, just waiting to come out.”
Peter couldn’t help but laugh at the silliness of that statement. “Well, I doubt it, but I’d be happy to dance with you.”
M.J. smiled as Peter stood up and led her to the dance floor. They drew in close, and the smell of the red head’s perfume was intoxicating. He couldn’t help but look around, proud when other couple’s would look his way, whispering in shock that Peter Parker was at the Prom with such a gorgeous girl.
He closed his eyes and could see them, dancing through the crowd. He was twirling her, showing her off. He brought her back to him, dipping her, her golden blond hair shining in the soft light.
“Oh Peter,” M.J. sighed.
“Oh Gwen,” Peter replied, his eyes shooting open as soon as the words left his mouth. What the heck was that about?!
M.J. pulled away. Her face a mixture of shock and something he couldn’t place.
“I mean… I…”
That was when the wall nearest them exploded in, causing them, and many others, to fly across the room.
A huge man, resembling a large rhino, came barreling into the party.
“Where are you, Allan?!” The Rhino bellowed.
Peter had been flung into the far wall, and fell to the ground hard. Chaos ensued as the people who hadn’t been in the blast range, began to run in a panic, screaming as they trampled over each other to get out.
Looking around, he saw M.J. lying next to him. He checked for a pulse, relieved to find that it was steady. He didn’t see Harry or Gwen, anywhere, but whatever that thing was, it was causing mass hysteria. He had to do something, fast!
Why he had decided to wear his costume under his tux had been beyond him, at the time. It had just felt right, like a second skin. Now he was thankful that he had trusted his instincts. He saw a door leading to the men’s room and head towards it. The tingle at the back of his neck came quickly and powerful, and he dove to the ground just as a chunk of concrete flew past him.
He made it to the bathroom, making sure no one else was in there, and shed his already tattered tux. Pulling his mask from his pocket, he pulled it over his face. Whoever that sideshow was, he was about to learn not to mess with Spider-Man at his own Prom!
The Rhino was throwing concrete and tables everywhere, high school seniors were scrambling to get out of his way, and standing in the midst of the chaos, shock on his face, was Professor Gerald Allan.
“Dad, what’s going on?” Liz cried out as she cradled the unconscious body of her boyfriend, Flash Thompson.
“Dad?” The Rhino said, a sneer crossing his face. “Now that gives me an idea.”
“Don’t touch her!” The Professor screamed, finally coming out of his trance.
The Rhino said nothing, but began to run, the building shaking under his feet as he barreled towards the young woman.
“This school doesn’t appreciate party crasher’s, ugly,” came Spider-Man’s voice as the hero sent his body in direct contact with Rhino’s face. He had hoped that his enhanced strength would at least stun the guy; instead, they both crashed into each other and both flew back, like two magnets that had repelled each other.
Spider-Man hit the far wall with a grunt. That hurt. He shook the stars from his eyes and looked up in time to see The Rhino making another run for Professor Allan. He shot his webbing, hitting The Rhino at his feet. He pulled hard, hoping to pull his legs out from under him. Instead, he felt himself be hurtled forward as Rhino dragged him across the floor.
“Well this is not going as well as I had planned,” Spidey said, as his costume became shredded from the debris on the floor.
He looked up to see that The Rhino had almost reached his goal, his fist out in front of him. If the madman connected with even one punch, Peter knew it was all over for Liz’s father.
“NO!!!” He screamed as he fired his web-shooter again, connecting with the raised fist and baring down with all his strength. His muscles felt as though they were going to rip out of his skin, but still he held firm, biting his lip so not to cry out in pain.
The Rhino screamed in rage as he was unable to land his blow. The webbing had held, and the villain was thrown off balance when he was stopped.
One shot, Peter thought to himself. He had only one shot. If he didn’t have it in him, he would fail. As The Rhino tried to get his balance back, he turned to see the red gloved fist flying at his face.
Spider-Man had braced himself, using every ounce of strength he had left, and throwing the most powerful punch he could muster. He struck Rhino full in the face, the blow caused the windows of the hall to blow out, and The Rhino stood… swayed… and fell over, unconscious.
Spidey fell to his knees, exhausted, bloody, and trying to figure out how to get out of the room without people seeing him. That was when he heard the scream for help. He recognized the voice… M.J.!
He turned to see her hovering over a body, her friend Gwen Stacy next to her. They were both crying hysterically.
As he got up and staggered towards them, Mary Jane looked up at him with tears in her eyes. “Get help! Get an ambulance! He’s dead. Oh God, he’s dead!”
Spider-Man looked down at the body, knowing who he was going to see, his heart already breaking. But when he looked into the face of the body, his hidden eyes grew wide.
“That can’t be…”
“Please,” Gwen Stacy said, looking up at the man in the shredded suit. His name’s Peter Parker, and he’s dead!”
TO BE CONTINUED
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