Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by AndyC
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The idea of the 'super-hero' has been around for ages. There was Captain America, of course, storming Fortress Europe and socking Hitler on the jaw. There were the X-Men, Mutant activists turned champions of the downtrodden. There were the Fantastic Four, a family of scientists and adventurers pushing the boundaries of the impossible. While they captured imaginations and grabbed headlines, most people barely considered these colorful crime-fighters and vigilantes to be an actual part of their world. That all changed about ten years ago, when an alien race called the Chi'tauri launched a full-scale invasion, pouring out of a wormhole centered directly above the island of Manhattan. Such an unprecedented threat brought Earth's Mightiest Heroes together, forming an alliance the world would know as the Avengers.

In the wake of the Invasion, everyday life for New Yorkers changed dramatically. Whole neighborhoods had been razed to the ground, and everyone from major corporations to powerful crime syndicates wanted their hands in the reconstruction. Government agencies, rogue mad scientists, and violent street gangs scrambled across the Five Boroughs for leftover pieces of alien technology. And while the Avengers could often be seen flying overhead to combat some world-ending crisis, it fell upon local men and women caught up in unlikely events to protect their homes and their loved ones.

New names began popping up in almost daily conversation. The Spider-Man of Queens. The Devil of Hell's Kitchen. The Punisher. The Crew of Brooklyn. Other names were seen displayed across billboards and skyscrapers to rival the influence of Tony Stark. Rand. Fisk. Osborn. Others still gained notoriety by causing mayhem and bloodshed wherever they went. Jigsaw. The Green Goblin. The Kingpin.

The age of black-and-white heroics and dramatic technicolor battles lasted the better part of a decade before things began to fall apart. Three years ago, a clash of ideologies sundered the Avengers, leading up to a series of conflicts dubbed the 'Civil War' that left many of the world's most revered protectors disgraced, missing, imprisoned, or possibly dead. A year ago, a city-wide battle between an alliance of vigilantes and the city's criminal underworld resulted in the downfall of the notorious Kingpin of Crime, who was revealed to be the billionaire philanthropist Wilson Fisk. This scandalous unmasking of such a high-profile figure in the city was quickly followed by another, as a horrific final confrontation between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin led to the exposing of the bloodthirsty lunatic as the beloved OsCorp CEO Norman Osborn, and ended with the deaths of Osborn, the 19-year-old Gwen Stacy, and evidently Spider-Man himself.

The world's greatest heroes have scattered to the wind. The city's most notorious crime lord is in jail, and its favorite son and most feared villain both believed dead. Both sides of the law now see a tremendous vacuum of power, and nature abhors a vacuum. With the criminal underworld splintered, the city at large unprotected, and a thousand paths to power and fortune laid bare, conflict between the myriad forces at play is inevitable.

With the kings and queens wiped from the board, it falls upon the Knights of New York to begin the game anew.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Byrd Man
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Part 1:
"Gimme the Loot"


Spanish Harlem
10:58 PM


"Up against the wall, fuck faces."

Detective Sergeant Vincent Abbott walked up and down the sidewalk, strutting almost. On the wall to his left were over a dozen drug dealers with their hands against the wall, all of their pants were down around their ankles. Some of them were as young as twelve, but none of them were older than eighteen. A pile of small pile of drugs, money, and weapons sat on the sidewalk. The rest of Abbott's five-man narco crew looked on with guns in their hands and amused looks on their faces. The big man Malone had a sawed-off shotgun cradled in his hands.

"We rolled through last night but it seemed like you didn't get the message. So, let me be clear."

Abbott pulled a telescopic nightstick out and popped it open. He walked down the line, hitting each of the boys in the back of their kneecaps. One by one, they all went down to their knees in pain. Abbott spoke as he struck.

"If. We. Don't. Eat. Nobody. Fuckin'. Eats."

Abbott twirled the nightstick in his long, slender fingers as he looked down at the hurting men.

"Either your boss bumps our monthly envelope by twenty percent, or every fucking corner he has in Spanish Harlem and nigger Harlem gets raided and indicted every night."

"It's a small price to pay for peace of mind," Malone said before laughing and adding, "Peace of mind and intact kneecaps."

Abbott laughed and bent down over the pile of contraband. He pocketed the cash and drugs before standing to look at the injured kids.

"Look at all these weapons," he said to his men. "Seems like enough probable cause to run these fuckers in."

---

Harlem
1:21 AM


Mood Music

Hip-hop blasted from the bluetooth speaker set up on the table. Naked women moved to the beat as they cut and packaged drugs into little baggies. They weren't completely naked. Topless and bottomless, yes, but they all wore rubber gloves and surgical masks. At one large table, six women packaged cocaine while six more packaged heroin at an adjacent table. They were naked to prevent any stealing. Though, each of them were illegal immigrants and had too much to lose by skimming any of the top. Raymond Jones watched the girls working from the landing above the floor.

He grunted and cracked his knuckles. He always cracked his knuckles when he contemplated and he had a lot to think about. One of his partners had just called with bad news. They'd lost a lot of product tonight, but that wasn't the problem. Product that they could eventually replace. Shit, the girls on the floor were busy doing that. But they had also lost respect. Respect couldn't be replaced as easily. Jones knew that the hard way from his days on the street. He'd been scrawny with a mouthful of rotting teeth.

He'd been an easy target growing up, they called him Shitmouth and made him eat dog shit. But he got big, he got mean, and he got a new set of teeth. He fought back with his fists and his teeth. He showed them by force to put respect on his name. But the motherfuckers disrespecting him now? That was a different case. They had no respect for the streets or the game. All they cared about was paper. But they were cops. And even thieving ass cops were still cops.

Jones pulled his phone out and dialed his partner back.

"Yo, it's me. How much you got in your rainy day fund?"

He smiled, showing two rows of razor-sharp, metal teeth that shinned in the trap house light.

"Why? Because I got an idea."

---

Bushwick, Brooklyn
1:46 AM


"Language like muttering pant smells running silver scanning

Passed down the Arab Street in the gutter patterns

Translucent medium from its like i talky you of a place

the vacuum of silent panic forgotten red mud flats

sharp fish syllables where is he now? he moved as sharp as water

assassins smile and drink--"

Bullseye left the coffee shop, fighting an urge to kill the guy reading poetry on the stage. Bushwick was a different beast than he remembered it being. He'd moved here in hopes that it was still the crime-ridden hellhole from his youth. The neighborhood that clocked in almost eighty murders and two thousand robberies a year. He was looking forward to being accosted by some crackhead with a dull rusty knife, someone he could kill with a quick move and move on.

But what he had found was far worse than crackheads. Bullseye had found hipsters. Crack had given way to kale, whores to gluten-free wheat germ. Property values were through the roof and it was artisan bakeries as far as the eye could see. He passed a group of young men and women wearing skinny jeans, flannel, and those stupid as fuck eyeglasses without any lenses in them. Bullseye reached into his jacket pocket and touched the razor-sharp playing cards he kept there. It would be the easiest thing in the world, a quick flick of the wrist, and they would all drop to the ground.

That was when his phone rang. He stopped short and watched the hipsters pass by. The phone ringing meant there was a job offer. Nobody else had his phone number. He pulled it out and looked at the number with the Jersey area code before answering.

"Yeah?"

"It's me." The man on the other end was a lawyer and a go-between that fancied himself as a kind of criminal broker. "I got a job offer but it's risky."

"How so?"

"It involves cops. As in, cops are the target. But money wise it's worth the trouble."

Bullseye paused for a moment and thought back to the poetry of the coffeehouse.

"To get out of Bushwick I'd do it for free."
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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by DotCom
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DotCom

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A Snowy Mountain near-ish the Avengers Tower
9:57 PM


"Give it up, Cap. You can't win this one. You know you can't."

Iron Man's pulse cannon glowed like a beating heart at the center of his palm, illuminating Captain America's bruised and yet chiseled visage.

For a moment, the colors seemed almost surreal, nightmare bright - befitting of this grotesque dream that still hurt too much to be real. Red blood, steaming on white snow. The figure of a gray mountain cut into the field of stars behind Captain America's head. The air fogged white in front of his face. Tony could count each breath he took.

How had they gotten here?

"Captain America," Iron Man said slowly and with masculine, yet vulnerable, power. "You are under arrest. For - "

"For what, Tony?" Steve said finally. "If we're going to do this here, if we're going to end everything we worked for...the least you can do is tell me why."

Tony clenched his shapely and rugged jaw so hard he thought it'd crack. He stared at Steven "Captain Boy Scout" America for a long time, then finally turned away with a curse whispered quietly into the snowy air.

"Jesus Christ, Cap, are you really going to make me say it?" Steve stared back at him, the barest hint of that insufferably smug grin playing across his features, in exactly the way Fox & Friends never seemed to capture. Tony liked to think it meant that look was just for him. He liked to think most of Steve was just for him.

"Fine. F**k. Fine. Cap - Steve. I love -"


Queens Community College
Sunnyside, Queens
11:54PM


Somewhere behind her, a door crashed open, and Kamala said a silent prayer of thanks to anyone listening she hadn't accidentally hurled her laptop halfway across the room. Mostly, she was getting used to these late-night disturbances. Sure, they were nothing so...exciting as they'd been before. But being an RA on a commuter campus was an intentionally quiet job, and since most of her already small handful of residents were foreign students anyway, it still felt like she was doing some good.

Plus, she got her own bathroom. That was cool, too.

As the swell of drunken shouting and fist-bumping grew louder, she shut her laptop and waited expectantly for the horde to reach her. Not five seconds later, four guys, only one of whom she recognized, stumbled into what barely constituted the tiny student lounge at Queens Community College. She watched as each of them, one by one, acknowledged her almost comedically, reactions ranging from wary to amused. The tallest of them spoke first, throwing a would-be charming smirk her way.

"What's up, Princess Jasmine?" His friend elbowed him. Kamala noted something distinctly yeasty in the air.

"Dude, that's, like...fucking racist, man."

Tall Guy scoffed. "It's not racist, dude, it's a compliment. Princess Jasmine is hot." He turned back to her and grinned. "She knows."

"Whatever, man," said a third member of their party, the one she recognized as Omar from her bio classes. "I'm out before you turn us into a fucking Buzzfeed article." He gave gave Kamala a sort of apologetic half shrug and said, "I just needa grab something from my room."

Kamala nodded, and the kid and his friends lurched out of the lounge, through the kitchen, and down the hallway. Only the Tall Guy lingered, staring at her. His expression was unreadable, which Kamala tried to make into a good thing.

"Um...are you okay?"

"I'm not racist," he said. Kamala nodded. Again.

"That's good."

"Do...you wanna go to this party?"

Kamala resisted the urge to look behind her and managed to just look confused instead. Of all the things she'd been expecting him to follow up with...that had not been it.

Still. She had plans for the night, and even if they didn't all revolve around the scripted and dramatic reunion of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, they were still pretty unbreakable. Right?

"Oh, I...can't. Busy. RA-ing and stuff."

"Yeah, but it's Friday," wheedled Tall Guy. To his credit, he seemed genuine. And even if she didn't really trust genuine anymore, she could still appreciate its effective deployment. He made a face. "Look, I'm sorry about what I said. Lame joke, I know. Won't do it again. What's your real name? I'm - "

Kamala's flip phone - her work phone - buzzed in her lap. "Sorry," she said, half sincere, half relieved. "Gotta take this. But hey, have fun at your...party."

Tall Guy looked like he wanted to add something, but Kamala dropped her eyes to her phone. He was gone before she finished reading the text alert.

BURGLARY IN PROGRESS OFF-CAMPUS (MANHATTAN SATELLITE): JAY'S PAWN SHOP. WEAPONS FIRED. HIGHLY DANGEROUS. CAUTION ADVISED.

Kamala exhaled, but her heart was already racing. None of her students would be at the satellite campus now. And even if they were, it wasn't like anyone expected an RA to do something about it, except maybe text her residents to make sure they were alive. Kamala knew that. She knew that, and yet...

Almost without her permission, she reached over to turn on the old tube TV, sitting a good six feet away from her. Risky, okay, but everything felt risky these days. She flipped through the channels until she found the local news.

BREAKING read the scrolling words at the bottom of the screen. STANDOFF IN MID-MANHATTAN. ONE DEAD, TWO INJURED. HOSTAGES LIKELY.

Kamala didn't bother to turn off the TV. She was moving before the report details had finished their second loop.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by DC The Dragon
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DC The Dragon Kamala of Roleplay

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12:00 AM - Chinatown

After about a span of an hour and a half on the train, the man had made it back to Chinatown. He was walking back home from work across town in a law firm. It had been months since he left the British Intelligence, whom had offered him protection and housing originally in Britain. Yet, he declined it for himself, but instead asked for such services to be given to his mother as a request.

His home now was a decent sized apartment with prices even he could raise a brow at. Though, he knew this to be a result of people moving there from everywhere else in the world; the homeowners trying to extend their wages. Well, it was too bad for them because they weren't getting any lump-some of his, that was staying put away until needed. Instead, he lived in one of the cheaper apartments, toward the bottom of the building. The man had gotten a job as a simple custodian in the prestigious city of New York.

The work was medial, but it provided a decent cover and reinforced a feeling of humility. However, as simple as it may have seemed, Shang-Chi knew that it wasn't smart to take any sort of chances. No..His father's ninjas, he learned, were rather keen on revenge. Though, while he could handle them, more often than not, he was aware of the fact that if he wasn't careful, that he could endanger others. Thus, he needed to soon find yet another job, though, he wasn't sure of one that would necessarily meet his circumstances. He'd have to give this more contemplation; perhaps a Window Washer..?

Then there was something else that he noticed. It seemed to him that there were many people here who decided to commit to doing things that were unjust without thinking of consequences. Theives. Murderers. Warriors of the night. There were beings of strange, supernatural abilities, some used them for good, and others did not grant such a courtesy. The police, whom were tasked with the job of maintaining order, couldn't always do such a thing.

Shang needed something else to focus on other than his father's death and the nature of his conscience wouldn't allow for such injustice to the common people. So, he intervened when necessary, but declared no glory for himself, often covering his face or disguising himself in some way.

Though this was during the daylight hours and such experiences were rarer...Thus, it did not claim his focus of everyday life. He had finally made it to the doors of the building, pulled out some keys and opened them, to pass through the main area in which people came in, the door locking behind him. He walked down a hallway and turned the corner.

"Hey! Mr. Shen!" A raspy, female voice called to him from down the hall. Hearing the name of his cover, he turned, and smiled. There was an elderly lady, named Lin Fan, who was one of his neighbors that he often helped out from time to time. "Did ye catch the news?"

His expression shifted to a light concern. "No, I was busy across town.."

The cistern-shaped woman clawed a few fingers through her black and silver hair. "Well, a kid was killed because some policeman wasn't paying attention to his equipment...Though, that cop might've been crooked. He had some strange weapon on his belt that exploded just from the kid touching it." Mrs. Fan exclaimed, clearly ashamed with those officially called the "Protectors of the People" with such a reckless action.

Shang's head shook, the deaths of children being the worst of news..."It is a shame." He noted to his neighbor whom had begun walking down the hall.

"They need to get some kind of a grip on this early, or I'm banning officers of the law from my restaurant.." Her phrase was said with dry humor and heavy sarcasm.

The martial artist merely shrugged at that particular statement. Though, this sense of mental mourning at the lost child led to another thought. One that led him to enter his home and turn on his television. Flipping to the news, he watched to see if they added a bit more insight to this event.

They showed the security footage up to the point of the flash, but no further in respect of the child's family. Though, Shang watched the video closely. Policemen have no need to typically carry such explosives for a simple patrol among the common people. Especially if this weapon had no sort of safety feature.

Whose idea to even have a weapon of this sort on the street level? However, this was but a common question. Something seemed off. Who authorized this? Who would provide such a weapon..? The latter was immediately answered, when they switched to a court case, with which he heard the acronym A.I.M...He had encountered this organization previously in his work as a spy.

Though, he questioned, would it be too rash to perform more of an in-depth investigation for only one incident...? After what had happened to the city in recent years with the ones that invaded from the sky, it likely wouldn't be too far off to assume that these two clues were connected. Checking back from the footage he had seen, the incident occurred in Harlem.

There could potentially be clues around the crime-scene that could lead him to where the police officer had gotten the weapon from. From there, to figure out the mystery behind everything that had happened and where it would come to a head.

With that in mind, Shang-Chi donned the all-black attire of a fallen associate from the past, and took out into the night of New York City, as the "Midnight Sun"...
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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by AndyC
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AndyC Freeborn Scum

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She's falling.

The world has slowed to a near stop. Rain drops hang suspended in the night sky, glittering orange from the flames below. Smoke curls upward in noxious black tendrils. The gout of blood spraying out from my stomach gleams bright as it catches hints of moonlight that peak through the rainclouds. A scream tears at my vocal chords, forced through gritted and red-stained teeth.

She's falling.

She doesn't scream as the cold black waters of the river below rush up to meet her. She just gasps, more out of surprise than fear. She never thought something like this could happen to her. Not while I was around. I'd sworn on her father's grave that I'd protect her. We loved each other with a fire that could ignite the stars. She was the happiest girl in the world, and I was her unbeatable hero. It was all so perfect. It couldn't go this wrong, this fast.

Now it's all gone to hell. She's falling, and I can't catch her. Over the sound of my own screaming I hear his laughter, that awful cackle that makes my skin crawl and my blood boil. He's won. He's gotten everything he could have wanted from this moment. This is his perfect revenge: impaling me on the front of his glider, forcing me to watch helplessly as the woman I love dies before killing me himself.

I can't get free. I can't reach her. God, please, don't do this. Don't let this happen.

Without thinking, I throw out a line after her. I can still catch her, slow her down.

There's a sharp pull on the line, and an audible SNAP.

Then everything goes red.

My senses reel, the shooting agony radiating from the spike through my stomach crashes over me like waves in a storm. The horrible, mocking laughter screeches in my ears, like drills boring into my brain. If there's an opposite of numbness, it overwhelms me, such sheer crushing force of pain and horror and rage and hate that I can't register any of it. I feel and see and hear and smell and taste every awful detail of what I do in the next few seconds, but none of it means anything to me.

By the time the wave has washed over me in full, I'm free from the spike, blood still gushing from the ghastly wound. It doesn't mean anything. I've pinned him to the ground and ripped away his mask. I know his face. I've known it for years, the face of a man I trusted and respected. I don't care. His eyes are wide with fear as my hands crush down around his throat.

"Pe---*hgk!*---Peter....." he gasps as he claws vainly at my fingers. "I couldn't--.......I--*ngh!*....I'm so-.....sorry......fo-...*kkh!*.....-give me...."

I blink, and he's gone.

I feel hands squeezing around my own throat, the thumbs pressing against my Adam's apple, ready to crush the trachea.

Pinning me down, as I'd pinned him, she looks down at me, her head hanging limply at a horrific angle from a broken neck. One of her eyes looks at me with that same sparkling vibrant blue, the same love and trust she'd had for me since we were children. The other is dull, vacant. Dead.

Gasping for air and for mercy I know I won't receive, I beg in his words.

"Forgive me....."

She leans down to look me in the eye, and she says to me the same thing I said to him.

"No."

Her fingers close like a steel trap, and my throat collapses......


........and I wake in a cold sweat.

"Damn it," I mutter as I sit up in by bed, a cold draft coming in through the open window.

It takes me a few moments to collect myself, sitting at the edge of my bed and running my hands through my greasy, sweat-soaked hair, the only light in my filthy, cramped bedroom coming from the street lights outside. It's been over a year since that night on the George Washington Bridge. Since I made a stupid, thoughtless mistake and killed Gwen Stacy, the girl I'd loved since elementary school. Since I strangled Norman Osborn, my best friend's father, to death with my bare hands. Since I let Spider-Man die of a broken reputation. Every night since then, I've had the same nightmares. The same guilt, the same shame. I wake up, and feel the same emptiness.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see something black slither across the floor, ducking away into the shadows. I shudder, and look out of the open window, wondering exactly what I've been up to.

I don't know what this......thing is, exactly. I don't know where it's from. I don't know how long it's been on me. All I know is that about three weeks ago, I woke up hanging upside-down in a warehouse in Red Hook, covered in black goo and surrounded by people who'd been beaten half to death.

This goo, it's some kind of unknown organism. Probably alien-- my guess is that it came to Earth during the invasion ten years ago, possibly as a stowaway or a barnacle on one of the Chi'tauri ships. Every time I think of knocking on the windows of the Baxter Building or trying to take a sample to the labs at ESU, I suddenly find myself finding a hundred different reasons not to. It's somehow bonded to me, and it's responded to my powers, amplifying them. I'm stronger, faster, tougher than Spider-Man ever was, capable of doing things I never could before. The tradeoff is that it likes to joyride, taking my body out for a spin when I'm not using it. Sometimes I'm conscious and can control what I'm doing. Sometimes I'm just along for the ride.

Every time we go out, I see reports the next day about drug dealers and gang bangers who'd been smashed into bloody pulps. Snapped limbs, broken spines, scrambled brains-- no deaths, but we're a hell of a lot rougher than I ever was on my own. I should feel some kind of remorse over this. Really, though, I'm just glad the people getting hurt are the ones who deserve it.

The first couple of times we went out, the news ran an article claiming Spider-Man was 'back in black.' I made sure the next people we brutalized set the record straight.

Spider-Man is dead. Venom, on the other hand, is just getting started.

There's a loud thump outside my door, voices murmuring, and I recognize the sound of music playing. Still half-awake, I struggle to my feet and stumble to the door.

I'm greeted with a slurred, sloppy "Heyyyyyyyyyy, iss Parker!" when I open the bedroom door and look blearily around the living room. Harry's hosting about a dozen or so people, clumped either around the couch or around the drinks in our kitchenette. Most of them I either only kind-of know or have never met, but I recognize a couple of faces.

A couple of high school friends, like Randall Thompson and Glory Grant. They both give me a polite nod when they see me, before going back to their conversations.

Felicia Hardy, a high-society heiress and friend-of-a-friend who occasionally likes to slum it with us 'common' people. She's leaned against a wall, idly sipping at her drink while sizing everyone up, like an apex predator on the prowl.

And the big drunken goof currently trying to give be a bro-hug, Flash Thompson, the former bane of my existence.

"Mannn, it's been, like, ages, Pete!" Flash says, like he's some old friend catching up on the good old days and not my perennial tormentor. "How've you been? Lemme getchyou a beer, huh?"

"Flash, it's--" I squirm for a second before easily escaping his grasp. "I'm good. I, err, I don't drink."

Flash's face sours, and he looks at me like I've got lobsters crawling out of my ears.

"Come on, Parker, it's a party!!" he insists. "Harry told me you've been feeling down, so how 'bout we knock back a few to cheer you up?"

I raise an eyebrow, unable to help myself. "You realize alcohol is a chemical depressant, right?"

"Pete!"

From across the living room, Harry strides out from his bedroom, instantly taking command of the place when he enters. Behind him, Liz Allan emerges and gives everyone a "we totally weren't just having sex, and if we were it's not a big deal, stop staring" smile. As the partygoers part like the Red Sea, Harry walks over to me, arms out wide like we hadn't seen each other in years.

"Pete, you're here?" he asks as he gives me my second unsolicited hug in less than a minute. "I knocked on your door like five times, how the hell did you sleep through all this?"

I give a weak shrug. "I was just....out cold, man." Which technically is true-- whatever the black suit was doing all evening, I wasn't conscious for it. "So, erm, what's the occasion?"

Harry beams widely. "I finally got the Board of Directors to give in. Took me the last two months and probably took a good five years off my life, but they folded, gave into every one of my demands. You, Peter, are now looking at the new CEO of OsCorp."

I'm actually taken aback by this. Harry never really had any interest in inheriting the keys to the kingdom while his dad was alive. So to see him suddenly become a power-player like this is....well, I can't say it's the biggest change of character for the two people living in this apartment, but it's damn close.

"Wow, man, that's.....congratulations!" I stammer for a bit. "So, um, do I have to start calling you Mr. Osborn now, or--"

"You do and I'll throw you out the window," he says with a laugh. "C'mon, we're having a drink."

I start to shake my head. "I just got done telling Flash here I don't--"

"You don't drink, I know," Harry nods. "And I don't run multi-billion dollar corporations. But hey, first time for everything, right?"

I look back and forth between Harry and Flash, both of whom give me pleading looks in return.

"....fine, what the hell," I shrug. "Just....lemme put on some clothes first. If I'm gonna be partying with New York's newest corporate mogul, I should try and dress for the occasion."

"Good man," Harry pats me on the shoulder. "Go get dressed-- once we're done pre-gaming here, we're hitting the town. If you're not out of your room in five minutes, I'm sending in Flash after you."

I give him a half-hearted laugh, then duck back into my room, looking around for something to wear. Stripping off my plain white T-shirt and pajamas, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Jesus, I look like hell. My skin's paler than usual, which only highlights the collection of scars across my body. Claw marks from the Black Cat. Burns from Electro. A handful of cuts and gouges from Doctor Octopus. And plenty from the Green Goblin, in particular an angry knot around my solar plexus from being impaled on his glider the night that.....

I shake my head, closing my eyes, trying to shake those memories out of my head. Nobody needs to see me like this. This is Harry's night, the least I can do is not come crawling out of my hole looking like a wretch.

I feel the black suit as it crawls across the floor, grabbing onto my ankles and slithering its way up my body. I picture the form I want it to take, and it listens. When I open my eyes again, I'm wearing a black button-down shirt with slacks and a sport coat. That should do.

After running some product through my hair and managing a halfway-decent facsimile of Matt Smith's do, I step back out into the party.

"There we go, man, looking sharp!" Harry says, passing me a shot. "You good to party?"

Something catches my eye on the other side of the room. Rather, someone. She must have come in while I was changing, but she's chatting with Felicia, a finger toying with a lock of striking red hair.

Turning to see me, Mary Jane Watson looks at me with those piercing green eyes, and smiles.

I snatch the shot from Harry's hand without even looking.

"Like you said," I say, "first time for everything."
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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by ErsatzEmperor
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The Law Offices of Nelson and Murdock,
Hell's Kitchen


An odour hangs in the air, like the smoky smell of a candle being burnt from both ends. More likely, it's the broken AC unit. As it lets out a final spurt, Nelson eyes the clock. Seven-thirty.

"You ready to finish up for the night?" Foggy asks, a hand hovering over his keyboard. Matt agrees.

"Yeah," he starts, letting out a sigh of relief. "We've done all we can on this tonight. Lets see what we can turn up tomorrow." There hadn't been a minutes rest for either of them all day - they are both due in court again in two days time. Their client, Martin Peters, was facing a potential charge of first degree assault. A local kid, the two of them had taken it upon themselves to act as his defence. Matt had heard his testimony and he and Foggy knew him well enough to have doubt about the accusations. More importantly, Matt had listened to his heartbeat; he knew he was innocent. Now he just needed to convince a judge and a jury of his peers. The two lawyers spent most of the day working out their statements, while Karen looked into the alleged victim. Peters had claimed that the man, the proprietor of a deli on 35th and 10th, had been attacked prior to his arrival. If word on the street was to be believed, he owed money to the Kitchen Irish. He was in no state to make a statement due to the extent of his injuries. Matt wasn't optimistic he would be able to help shed light on the situation regardless. If he was in that deep, he'd know what would happen if he talked. Still, Matt continued to wonder how he'd be able to see an innocent man put away, even if it would save his own hide.

Matt shuffles some papers back in order while Foggy starts to shut his computer down. A yawn emanates from his side of the office, only to fade away unanswered. Matt moves to Karen's workstation, grabbing his coat and cane, before collapsing her laptop down. He lowers it carefully into an open drawer. She'd had to bail on them earlier. Matt was fine with it but Foggy was still a bit bitter. Where she had to be in such a hurry he would never know.

As the two step off the premises, Foggy starts fumbling with the keys in his pocket, lagging behind.

"Hold on..."

Matt steps around him to get out into the hallway. It is clear as he does this that they were not in fact alone. Matt says nothing, having already caught the sound of her footsteps as she had came down the street. He'd heard the rhythm of her pacemaker as it had been ticking from outside. Foggy turns to see her.

"Mrs Flass?" He asks, startled. Matt makes an effort to appear surprised. "We were actually just... No, it doesn't matter. What's up?" he shrugs. The night would always find something else to throw at them. The woman stays tight lipped, clearly trying to think of what to say. "Is Albert settling in alright?" He refers to the woman's son, a former client of theirs. They'd helped him settle a rental dispute with one of the local slumlords in the Fall. Mrs Flass came in from time to time to let them know how he was doing. Last Tuesday, she had filled them in about the boy's new job with a construction firm. She had been too proud to speak. Her tongue remains tied still, but Matt can tell there's something different. She finally forces a sound out from past the pit in her stomach.

"It's my boy. He's..." Matt hadn't noticed before but she was clearly shaking.

"What's happened?" He stands resolute as Foggy tries to comfort her.

"They've fired him," she blubs, a proud woman close to tears. Miles away from the bubbly woman they had chatted with the week prior. "The contractor said, well, he said that my boy had been taking supplies from work. He would never... I. I don't get it."

"Come on, come on in Mrs F. Let's try and make some sense of this." Foggy assures her, leading her back in to the office. Matt goes to follow in but stops. Something is niggling at him, dragging his attention from the scene. It starts as a sound, but then fades to nothing. He tries to focus on it, finding himself stood blank-faced in the hall.

"Matt, could you grab us some water from the kitchen?" Foggy's voice is in full damage control mode and the tone does serve to shift Matt back into the room. He walks through to the kitchen, past Foggy and the old woman, who had taken a seat at his desk. The lawyer was trying his best to calm her down. Mixed results. Matt turns to the tap. He was fifty-fifty on whether they'd even paid the water bill this week but he carries on. Ever the optimist. He can hear the water slosh against the pipes as he twists the handle. Relief. He stops, picking up more noise. Beyond the running tap, there was something else. Was it coming from outside?

"The money, now!"

"What's that Fogg-" Matt stops. That didn't come from the other room. He starts to catch a whirring sound, like screeching sirens. An alarm? He focuses closer on the noise.

"You heard me! Put the money in the bag. I won't ask you again."

"You really want to push him..."

"I'm going as fast as I can!"

Matt makes out three separate voices. At a push there could be five discernible heartbeats - four calm, collected; another, scattered and loud. He needed to go to work.

"What did you say?" Foggy calls in. Matt walks out.

"I'm so sorry, Mrs Flass, Foggy. I need to go."

Foggy's face grows annoyed, but he quickly twigs that there's something up. He shifts from annoyance to concern.

"Let me know how it goes, for chrissake." Matt's already past the door and out to the street. The rain begins pelting his suit as he turns a corner. Now he was just going to have to change.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Byrd Man
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Part 2:
"Redbone"


Harlem
2:14 AM


Mood Music

Detective Thomas "Red" Malone limped down the hallway of his brownstone, one hand against the wall while the other hand gripped his service glock. He was too afraid to put weight on his left leg. He knew it was broken, at least in two places. Blood dripped down the open wound on his forehead and the wounds on his chest and made the floor slick as he tried to walk across it barefooted.

He had been getting ready for bed when the bedroom door flew open and a man came in. The son of a bitch had a knife in one hand and used it like he knew what the fuck he was doing. Malone managed to get to his gun, but not before taking at least a half dozen stab wounds to the torso, neck, and face. The sight of the gun made the fucker retreat, but not before delivering a crushing kick to Malone's leg. He heard the bone snap, felt the pain so intense he almost vomited right then and there. Malone fell back on the bed screaming while the attacker disappeared further into the house.

Malone looked through his nightstand for a his phone, but it was nowhere to be found. He still had a landline down the hall that he could use to call 911 and then Abbott and the rest of the crew. If he could get to the phone then he would be safe. Malone slipped against his own blood and managed to catch himself before he put any more weight on his broken leg. When he was sure he was steady, he looked up and saw the attacker in the hallway. It was dim, but he could see the glint of a giant hunting knife in the man's hand. Malone raised his glock at the same time the man flicked his wrist. Suddenly, a great searing pain shot through Malone's chest. He looked down and saw the knife embedded in his chest, all the way to the hilt. The shock of it made him put weight on his leg and slip on the blood.

The pain and lack of attraction sent Malone down the ground, flat on his back. The fall knocked his breath from him and he gasped before coughing, phlegm and blood spraying from his mouth. Malone could feel the knife in his chest bob up and down with every breath. The attacker stood over him and looked down. There was no look of sadness, anger, or joy on the man's face. To Malone, he looked like a landscaper in the middle of mowing a lawn. The man yanked the knife from Malone's chest, causing pain to shoot through his body as blood poured from the wound.

"The only comfort I have," the man said softly. "Is in a few minutes, you'll never feel anything again."

Malone let out a scream as the man came at his face with the knife.

----

Forty-Five Minutes Earlier

Bullseye sat in his car, parked down at the end of the block from Detective Malone's house. Soul and classic R&B played on the car radio while he flipped through Malone's NYPD service jacket. Whoever hired him for the job had deep connections within the NYPD. Along with Malone's jacket, he had the jackets of the rest of the five-man squad, and a separate folder from Internal Affairs.

The Uptown Narcotics Task Force operated autonomously from any one NYPD precinct and their mandate was to stomp out major drug traffickers in Harlem, Spanish Harlem, and Washington Heights. So far they had arrested a few, but the IA folder made a compelling case that the task force ended up replacing the dealers with themselves. They were accused to skimming drug money, extorting drug dealers, and selling confiscated narcotics back to the dealers at marked up prices. IA's case was just speculation and innuendo. Nothing concrete had ever emerged. The one thing apparent was that Detective Sergeant Vincent Abbott ran the show for both the legal and illegal activities the task force engaged in.

The Crystals played "And Then He Kissed Me" on the radio by the time Bullseye started on Malone's service jacket. Abbott would have been the easy choice for a first target. As the brains of the operation, taking him out would be a sound move. Like in the military, kill the officers first to create confusion among the men in battle. But Bullseye had learned another way to operate during black ops. Malone wasn't the brains, but he was the heart of the team. The Big Man, they called him in the IA file. He was big and had a temper on him. He was suspended once when another black officer called him a "redboned nigger" and he beat him to a pulp. Malone acted as Abbott's enforcer when needed and he kept the other men in line if any of them started to question their mission. He was lovable and well liked by everyone on the team. Killing him first would sew fear and dissent in the team. Not the same as taking Abbott out, but maybe more effective.

Wilson Pickett started singing about Mustang Sally when Bullseye killed the engine of his car and stepped out into the night. He carried to guns, just the hunting knife holstered on his hip. That's all he would need. He took a deep breath and crossed the street towards Malone's brownstone.

---

Harlem
4:43 AM


Vince Abbott looked at the crime scene and tried his best not to throw up. The body of Malone -- The goddamn Big Man himself -- sat slumped against the wall with a pool of blood around him. His white undershirt and underwear was stained in blood and shredded from cuts. A giant gash in his chest still dripped blood. Abbott had begged for them to throw a tarp over his body, cover it in some way, but they refused. They needed to take pictures and collect evidence.

Abbott's eyes shifted upward. On the wall above Malone's head were words written in blood, Malone's blood.

"1 Down 4 to Go"

Abbott turned away from the scene and hurried out. The rest of the guys were out there, waiting for him to give the bad news. He pulled out a cigarette with shaking hands and tried four times to light it before it finally caught.

"Nobody goes home and nobody sleeps until this is over," Abbott announced. "Now mount up. We're about to fucking remind Uptown New York who the fuck we are."
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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Inkarnate
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Inkarnate Nico Nico No

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The Bronx, New York City | Mood Music


The decaying, mutilated body of the teenaged girl in front of me is a reminder of why I continue to push myself; why I need to live up to my promise. It’s never easy looking through the eyes of the dead, especially when the dead is a fourteen year old girl two days from her quinceañera.

Even for someone like Marc Spector who had tasted death’s embrace once before, it was a feeling that was unnerving. Marc’s brows narrowed as he crouched down in the alleyway, his hands touching the eyelids of the corpse in front of him. A remorseful sigh left his breath.

A young life taken before it could really experience the world. A unfair reality, but one that was sadly all very much a commonality.

“Don’t worry, Alanna. It won’t be all for nothing.”

I whisper, as if I am assuring her that her death has some meaning. I know she’s already dead. I know there is no “purpose” to her death and that it is meaningless to whisper to a corpse. But I do it. Every single time. And I’ll continue to do so until darkness takes me for the final time. I suppose it is proof positive that I am genuinely insane. Captain America doesn’t have conversations with the dead.

Marc turned around, his white cape fluttering behind him as he looked for the streets. He could feel it. The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen had unearthed the largest unspoken domino and dropped it – and because of that domino every single criminal was like a rapid dog that had finally broken free of their leash, gnawing at whatever they could find until it was picked bone clean.

But what was the alternative? Let Fisk do as he wanted because he had a monopoly on New York City? Let good people suffer under the hands of the fat man?

I cannot forgive carelessness, but I understand it.

The best thing for any vigilante to do was to give New York all of themselves; and ensure that the new regime couldn’t take a foothold and protect everyone they could, no matter the toll it cost. And that was exactly why Marc was in The Bronx on this night.

He was going hunting.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by AndyC
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Manfredi Ristorante
Mulberry Street, Little Italy


"Little Italy," Silvio Manfredi muttered bitterly as he pressed the side of his fork down into his slice of cassata. "Used to be a time when that name meant something. Tradition mattered here. Family mattered here. The Morellos, the Genoveses, the Gambinos, the Manfredis....these were names that had power. That commanded respect. This place we made our home, and nobody, not the police, not the Mayor, not the Irish or the Pollacks or anyone else, could come into our home and push us around."

He looked around the dimly-lit bistro, as if the speakers playing one of a thousand renditions of 'Santa Lugia' were a fly buzzing around his ears.

"Now look at this place," he said, waving his fork in a dismissive gesture. "A goddamn tourist attraction. Barely anyone left from the Old Country. The whole place has been overrun by gooks and spics and blue-haired fairies. All that tradition, all that history, all it means to them is pasta and opera singers. New York's forgotten what the name Manfredi means."

"Not all of us forgot, Boss," said Joseph Lorenzini, better known to the world as 'Hammerhead.' "We're loyal to the family, every step of the way."

Silvio glared at him. "Then why have you let this place degenerate like this? Why did the Maggia kneel and grovel to Wilson Fisk while I was away, and let a bunch of perverts in long underwear take our soldiers off the streets? Why is an animal like Tombstone moving in on our territory? And why, when all I asked for you to do was recover a storehouse we'd lost to the Goblin, do you come here and tell me half a dozen of our guys are in the goddamn emergency room?!"

"It wasn't our fault, Boss!" Hammerhead pleaded. "It was--"

"The Spider, I know," Manfredi cut him off. "Every other night, it's the same goddamn story. The Spider jumped you. He snapped Dom DeNucci's leg in half. He broke Irerra's back in three places. He turned Minelli's face into goddamn hamburger. An' even after, what, five years? You still haven't been able to put him down."

"....it ain't the same Spider," Hammerhead muttered, avoiding Manfredi's glare.

"Say that again?"

"It's true, what the news says about this Venom guy," he continued. "He ain't the same as the Spider I used ta fight. The old Spider, I could hurt him, knock him around. This guy? He does things the old Spider couldn't."

Lorenzini was famous for having nerves of steel, not backing down against even the most terrifying men in the city. Now, though, he was shaking.

"I saw him pick up one of our semis like it was nothin'," he said. "He could....I dunno.....make shadows that reached out an' grabbed you. I got a good angle on him after he took down Gargano, put a round right between his eyes. He didn't even flinch. Just rushed me, threw me halfway across the block. Only reason I ain't dead is 'cause of my, uh, enhancements. Then he just....just disappeared. Like a goddamn ghost."

Silvio sneered. "You tellin' me Chelsea is haunted now?"

"No, Boss, I don't know what the hell it was...." he said, throwing up his hands. "I just know I've gone up against the Spider a dozen times. And Venom? He might look like the Spider, but it ain't him."

Manfredi stared down at his cassata, the sponge cake starting to soak up the maraschino liqueur. The amateurish rendition of 'Santa Lugia' had ended, fading into Rosemary Clooney's 'Mambo Italiano.' The Maggia was once the most feared criminal syndicate in the world, spanning continents and centuries. The world had changed, and men like Wilson Fisk and Lonnie Lincoln had tried to change the nature of the business with it. Silvio felt....obsolete. A relic. A tchotchke for tourists to snap photographs with as part of the 'New York experience.' Like this chintzy bistro and its corny old music.

"This....Venom," he said, a poison of his own in his voice. "He's been spotted one the West Side just about every time he's shown up. Chelsea, the West Village, ESU. That's his turf. His home."

"....yeah, Boss," Hammerhead nodded.

"I want you get everyone we've got," Manfredi growled. "Every hitter, every soldier, every goddamn bookie and numbers-runner. If they can hold a gun, put one in their hands. Venom took from us? We're gonna take from him."

Silvio Manfredi, the once-dreaded 'Silvermane,' stabbed his fork into his dessert and pushed the dish away.

"Tomorrow night? We burn the West Side to the fucking ground."




Marquee New York
10th Avenue, Chelsea


The whole room pounded with thrumming bass of some electronic dance song whose name she didn't know. Honestly, after a while it all sounded the same anyway, but it was fun. Downstairs on the dance floor, a few hundred of Manhattan's beautiful people sweated and ground against each other to the beat, bodies practically melting into each other from the compact space and the concentrated heat.

Looking down on them from one of the upper balconies, Mary Jane Watson sipped from her old-fashioned, grinning as the platinum-haired girl tried not to spill her martini while pointing out a face in the crowd.

"So, your friend Harry," Felicia Hardy said with a mischievous look, "this whole OsCorp thing, it makes him, like.....a billionaire now, right?"

"He's already seeing someone," MJ said, knowing full well where this was going.

Felicia shrugged. "Since when has that stopped me? You know I like a challenge."

"Come on now," Mary Jane chided her. "Harry's my friend. So's Liz. She's nice. Don't split them up."

"Sooo, what you're saying," Felicia said, her grin turning absolutely wicked, "is that I should try to get two-for-one?"

Mary Jane laughed, shaking her head. "I'm saying you ought to behave yourself, for once in your life."

The platinum-haired girl gasped, taken aback. "Why, Mary Jane Watson, how could you say such things about me? You wound me to the quick!"

The two shared a laugh, before taking a gulp of their respective drinks. Felicia Hardy was an old childhood friend of MJ, separated over time by money and class. The Hardys were a wealthy family, while the Watsons....weren't so much. MJ's mother was an assistant to Felicia's father, and the two girls became fast friends back then. They eventually grew apart thanks to Mary Jane having to live with her aunt and Felicia getting caught up in the life of a Manhattan socialite, but even after several years, they clicked together like they'd never lost a step.

Somewhere in there was the plot to a halfway-decent play, MJ thought to herself, no doubt full of lesbian subtext and bold subversions of gender norms or something. Really, she was just happy to have someone she could call her best friend again....especially after losing her previous one a year ago.

Felicia nudged Mary Jane with her elbow, gesturing to a pale, skinny boy in a black suit, hovering awkwardly at the far end of the balcony.

"Jack Skellington over there has been side-eyeing you all night," she said. "Want me to go mess with him so he'll go away?"

"Hm?" MJ glanced around, then her eyes lit up with recognition. "Oh! No, that's Pete. I actually wanted to talk to him tonight."

"Ohhh, so that's the infamous Peter Parker," Felicia nodded. "Your old boyfriend from high school I've heard so much about?"

"We went out on one date; he was never my 'boyfriend,'" MJ corrected her. "And you've met him before. A couple of times."

Felicia shrugged. "Must not have been that interesting. Well, you go set off some sparks with your old flame. I'm going to hit the dance floor and see what kind of trouble I can cause."

MJ rolled her eyes as Felicia strutted towards the staircase, exaggerating the swing of her hips to catch more attention. Downing the rest of her drink, Mary Jane put her glass down on the nearest table, and started nudging and dodging her way through the crowd towards the skinny boy who was trying hard to pretend not to notice her.

"Hey there, Tiger," Mary Jane said, pulling on Pete's sleeve. For a split-second, something about the fabric felt...off, like she'd grabbed a handful of pudding, but she dismissed it as the last couple of drinks finally kicking in. "My friend tells me you've been creeping on me all night, you creeper."

"Oh, um, hey, MJ," Peter Parker stammered, trying to collect himself. "I didn't-- I mean, I was hoping I could--....okay, lemme start over--"

"God, you're easy to mess with," MJ laughed. "Seriously, it's good to see you. We haven't gotten to hang out in ages."

"I, yeah, I haven't been getting out much," Pete said, nervously looking away. "I mean, you know I was never much of a party guy, and then, just.....look, I don't wanna be a downer, I should probably just--"

"It's okay, Pete," she reassured him, putting her hand on his shoulder. "I miss her too."

Peter was the first person Mary Jane had met after moving across town to live with her aunt, who in turn was friends with Pete's aunt and had conspired to set them up on a blind date. He'd always been nervous, geeky, and constantly down on himself, but he was also one of the kindest--and most interesting--people she'd ever met. He was never short on corny jokes or witty observations, and practically broke his back helping his aunt get by without his uncle around. And it was through him that she'd met Gwen Stacy, who would eventually become one of her best friends--not to mention the best drummer that the lead singer of a shitty garage punk-rock band could have asked for. Mary Jane couldn't have been happier when after months of encouragement, Gwen and Pete finally wound up together.

It killed her to see Pete like this, though. He'd always had a sadness underneath his jokes and snark, from losing his uncle and from being an outcast at school. After Gwen died, though, he was like a ghost of himself, not talking to anyone, barely even leaving his room. She'd been worried for a long time that he was going to do something terrible, either to himself or to someone else....

She'd never said it out loud, but Mary Jane knew that Peter had secrets that he'd kept to himself--and not just a surprisingly nice body that he usually hid under dumpy clothes. The summer after graduation, they had all spent the day at Coney Island when a crazed super-villain calling himself 'Doctor Octopus' started rampaging through the park. And just when Pete had suspiciously gone missing, Spider-Man showed up to save the day. Gwen more or less confirmed it herself not long after, accidentally letting a few things slip while talking about things she'd discovered while interning at OsCorp. MJ knew why Pete had been destroying himself for the past year-- and why Spider-Man was suddenly nowhere to be found-- but she never quite knew how to approach the subject.

"C'mon," she said, taking Pete's hand. "It's quieter up on the rooftop, and the bartender up there mixes better drinks. Let's catch up."

"Yeah, I'd, erm, I'd like that," said Pete, smiling nervously as she led him towards the stairs.




The Daily Bugle
The Flatiron Building, corner of 5th Ave, Broadway, and East 22nd St


"All due respect, sir, I think this is bullshit."

"That doesn't sound very respectful," J. Jonah Jameson said, not even looking up from his paper as Eddie Brock paced back and forth in front of his desk. "We've already had this conversation, Brock."

"I know, sir, I just....I can't live with myself if I don't fight this," Eddie said. "These photos, we don't know their source, we can't trust them. I mean, the 'Sin-Eater?' We don't know anything about him! All he's said is he 'exposes the sins of the City' like he's some kinda hero, but he could just be some prankster for all we know!"

"That didn't stop you from using his leads on the Jack-O-Lantern story," Jameson remarked, turning the page. "If you're worried about it sinking your reputation, that ship's already sailed."

"It's not about that!" Eddie protested. "It's about....it's about her. And about Pete. They were my friends. If he sees this....it'll kill him, sir."

"Parker....hrmph," Jameson snorted. "You wouldn't even have this job if he hadn't quit. Always liked his spirit. He knew that the story came first, that you didn't let your feelings get in the way of the truth. You'd know that too if you were half the newsman he was."

Eddie's fists clenched at that remark. This got the Bugle's editor to glance up from his paper and look Brock in the eye.

"We're running the story in the morning," he said, putting up a hand to stop any outbursts. "But, since you're his friend.....I'll let you tell him first. Break it to him easy; kid's been through enough as it is."

"....thanks..." Brock muttered.

"I'm sorry, thank you what?"

"...thank you, sir."

"That's better. Now get going; I've got a paper to run."




"I've gotta admit, I'm....a little nervous," Harry Osborn said as the doors to the private VIP room back in the upper tiers of the night club. "I've never really done something like this before. I'm...kinda worried we'll get caught. Liz thinks I'm in the bathroom, so--"

"Don't worry," the slender, well-built young man lounging on the couch in front of him said. "I've had a couple of high-profile clients before. Trust me: I know how to keep a secret."

".....cool," Harry said, letting out a sigh of relief. "I don't know what would happen if this got out, but--"

"It's okay," the other man said, standing and unbuttoning his shirt as he approached. "There's nobody watching. Everyone's having a good time down there. Up here, it's just you....and me...."

Feeling the man's hand slide up his chest, Harry took a step back.

"It's just....I don't know, it feels kind of....wrong, having to pay for it," he said, starting to blush.

"Hey, you're paying for everyone else to have a good time tonight. Why shouldn't you pay to treat yourself a little, too?"

"Yeah....you're right," he nodded. "Umm, can you do something for me? It's a little weird, but..."

The young man tittered. "I can do weird, believe me."

"All right, then," Harry said, opening up his jacket and fumbling for something inside. "Then, ummm.....can you wear this for me?"

Pulling something red from his jacket pocket, Harry handed it over to the shirtless young man, who raised an eyebrow, then grinned.

"Whatever works for you," he said, pulling the Spider-Man mask on over his face. "Now, what do you--"

The young man's world exploded into stars and patches of color, with barely any time to register the pain of Harry's fist cracking across his jaw before everything went black.




The cold night air is a welcome change to the stuffy, oppressive heat from inside the night club. The music is less obnoxious, the partygoers a few scattered handfuls of friends and couples having conversations of their own instead of aggressively dry-humping each other vaguely in time with the beat. And the present company certainly doesn't hurt.

MJ and I have been talking for the better part of an hour, catching up on what we've been doing lately. Mary Jane's gone into business management because it's more sensible, but chances are she's going to change her major again. She auditioned with the drama department and got cast as Lady Macbeth, and rehearsals are going well she guesses. Her aunt just had to have the ceiling of her bathroom fixed after some old water damage caused a hole to bust through, to which I said I could have come fix that and saved her some money, but she didn't want to impose.....

It's been nice. I haven't really been able to just hang out and talk with anyone in a good long while. Harry's always either with Liz or in meetings at OsCorp. All the other people in my classes look at me like they're waiting for me to jump in front of a train or something. Even Aunt May treats talking to me like defusing a bomb, afraid she might say the wrong thing and set me off. So to be able to just make some small talk about nothing in particular with someone I like, it's been...well, I needed this.

"Do you watch baseball?" Mary Jane asks, changing the topic with a surprising sense of urgency.

I shrug. "It was really never my thing, but Uncle Ben was a big Mets fan, so I watched it with him every once in a while. Why, do you?"

She shrugs back. "I was a real tomboy back when I was little."

I raise an eyebrow, giving her a skeptical look.

"Shut up, I was," She says with a laugh. "Anyway, my dad took me to a Mets game when I was about eight. It's one of the only good memories I have of him. At that game, the Mets have this pitcher named Koo Dae Sun. He's a relief pitcher from South Korea. And, okay, you know how pitchers normally don't hit?"

I nod, assuming that's true.

"Well, yeah, they normally have a pinch hitter go up to bat for them. Anyway, this pitcher, Dae Sun, he's never actually been up to bat in his entire career. He'd been playing in South Korea and Japan for years, but he's never been up to bat. But for whatever reason, the coach decides to send Dae Sun up to the plate instead of sending in the pinch hitter. It's his first at-bat ever, and he's going up against Randy Johnson."

The reference goes sailing right over my head, so MJ elaborates for my benefit.

"He's got the second-highest strikeout record in the history of the sport. Five Cy Young Awards. He's an absolute monster on the mound. And Koo Dae Sun is pretty much just being led to the slaughter. The coach tells him to just stand there, let Johnson strike him out. There's no outs and no one on, so it doesn't matter much. He just needs to stand there and take it."

Mary Jane looks me dead in the eye, as if what she's saying is the most important thing in the world.

"At the 1-1 pitch, Koo decides, I guess just for a laugh, that he's going to swing. He hits it all the way back to the fence. If the wind had been on his side, it would've been a home run. But he gets a good solid double. The next guy bunts to put Koo on third, but Koo decides he's going to just keep running. He rounds third, slides into home, and scores. At his first at-bat, against Randy Johnson."

"That's....that's a pretty cool story," I say, not really getting the point.

"Well, that's not the end of it," she says. "The thing is, he's wearing a windbreaker jacket, and in his jacket pocket there's an extra ball that he'd forgotten about. When Koo slides into home, he lands on that ball and injures himself. The injury's bad enough that he has to call it a career. Koo Dae Sun never plays another game of baseball in his life."

I look at her quizzically. "So....he shouldn't have done it, right?"

"The point is this," she says, again looking me in the eye. "When Koo Dae Sun thinks about his career, do you think he thinks about the time he made a stupid mistake and got hurt? Or do you think he thinks about the time he went up to plate, swung at a ball he could have let pass him by, and scored on one of the greatest pitchers to ever play the game?"

Those piercing green eyes of hers stare right into mine, like she's searching for an answer in my very soul.

"Mary Jane......what's this really--"

"Pete!" a familiar voice calls out, breaking our stare. "Pete, hey, I've, um....I've been looking for you. We need to talk."

"Eddie?" I look and see a disheveled and sweat-soaked Eddie Brock making his way towards us. "Yeah, what's up?"

"It's....well, I--" Eddie struggles with the words before looking to Mary Jane. "MJ, do you mind if--"

"Not at all," she says coldly before walking off towards the bar. They dated briefly our senior year. It...ended badly.

"Pete, I know we haven't exactly been close for a while," Eddie says, "but something's come up. You're not gonna want to see this, but, well, you deserve to know first."

I look at him, puzzled. "What are you talking about?"

"At the Bugle, we've got this.....this contact, right?" he says. "He sends us leads on insider information. Scandals, dirty secrets, that sort of thing. Most of it's tabloid junk, but sometimes it's something big. And, well...."

"Eddie, I'm done with the Bugle, I'm not gonna--"

"Pete, just....look, I tried to stop this," he pleads. "I begged Jonah not to run it. But you know how he gets when he sees a big story. He's gonna run these in tomorrow's edition. I just thought....I thought you should know what's coming. Just.....look at these."

He hands me his phone, and on the screen is a set of photos.

It takes me a second for my brain to process what I'm seeing.

"This is.....no...." I stammer. "This can't--......I don't--.....what's--"

I drop the phone out of my hands, fighting back the urge to vomit. I push past Eddie, knocking him to the concrete as I run for the door, everything and everyone ceasing to be real. This can't be real. I'm having another nightmare, another horrible delusion. I have to get away from this, to wake up, to do anything to burn out of my mind what I just saw.

Those pictures.....they're pictures of Gwen.

Of her....with Norman Osborn.

As I shove my way out of the club, I stumble into a nearby alley....and I let it all go black.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Byrd Man
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Byrd Man El Hombre Pájaro

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Part 3:
"Barbarism Begins at Home"


Mood Music

Washington Heights
5:12 AM


Morrissey crooned out of Bullseye's earbuds. In his honest opinion, no assassin's playlist could be considered complete without The Smiths. Morrissey's angsty and playful lyrics, accompanied Johnny Marr's great guitar riffs, provided the perfect soundtrack for murder.

Bullseye could see the entire street below from his vantage point on the rooftop. Through the scope of his sniper rifle, he watched the unmarked police car skid to a stop outside the five story walk-up building. Detectives Jimmy Burke and Mikey Thompson jumped out the car and rushed into the building as "Barbarism Begins at Home" reach its chorus.

Unruly boys who will not grow up
Must be taken in hand.


After killing Malone, Bullseye tossed the apartment and found a stack of documents hidden behind a baseboard in the kitchen. He wasn't sure if Malone was the group's record keeper, or if he had the stash for insurance, but Bullseye found it regardless of the dead cop's intent. Records of money laundering and off-shore bank accounts, proof that the bulk of the dirty money the squad received got passed on to lawyers, judges, and politicians. A whole spider-web of corruption, with Abbott and his men at the center.

Among the documentation had been information about the Washington Heights apartment that was in Malone's ex-wife's name. The apartment hadn't been listed in any IA financial audit of Malone or the rest of the squad. Something valuable was in that apartment. The two cops showing up so soon after Malone's death was proof of that. It would have been much easier for him to break into the apartment and wait to ambush Burke and Thompson from there. But he'd killed Malone up close and didn't want to repeat himself. After all, wasn't variety the spice of life?

A light came on in the apartment a few minutes after the cops went inside. He saw them rushing through a room in search of something. He saw Burke shoot upright and laugh before letting his breath out. Whatever it was, they found it. Bullseye put Burke's smiling face in the middle of his crosshair.

A crack on the head is what you get for not asking
And a crack on the head is what you get for asking


He let his breath out slowly and squeezed the sniper rifle's trigger.

---

Harlem
5:13 AM


Raymond Jones stared down the barrel of a gun. Sergeant Vince Abbott, his eyes wide, stood in front of him with his service glock inches away from Jones' face. Jones was completely naked, having just bedded down for the night with two of his women when Abbott and one of his boys came through the door. The two girls were still in the bed beside him, sheets pulled up around their breasts.

"Call it off, Jones," Abbott screamed.

"Call what off?"

The barrel of the gun struck him across the side of his head. He swayed and stumbled back a few feet, but he stayed upright and felt blood starting to drip from his temple.

"You motherfuc--"

Abbott pushed him backwards until he was pressed against the wall.

"Don't play dumb with me! I start squeezing you for more money, and the next thing I know Malone is killed. Not only is he killed, there are promises to kill the rest of us. Tell me now or I will paint the back of this fucking wall with your brains."

Jones chuckled. His head hurt so bad that even that small allowance shot red hot pain through his skull.

"You kill me and there's no way to call anything off."

Abbott didn't miss a beat. He stepped back and aimed his gun at the two women on the bed while maintaining eye contact with Jones.

"You think I care about them hoes?" Jones laughed, showing off his rows of metallic teeth. "Bitches like that are a dime a dozen. C'mon, Mr. Police. Got any more threats? Gonna threaten to run me in? On what grounds, motherfucker?"

Abbott started to answer when his phone began to ring. He answered it without looking away from Jones.

"Yeah?"

His mad look disappeared. One of worry replaced it.

"Wait, what the fuck? Say that again."

---

Washington Heights
5:15 AM


"Jimmy's dead," Mike Thompson cried into the phone. "I got a fucking sniper over at the apartment. Got me pinned down."

Mikey gripped the phone with one hand, his service weapon with the other. He was crouched against a wall. The place had no furniture, so the walls out of sight from the windows were the only place to hide. Jimmy Burke's body lay just a few feet away, a huge chuck of the side of his face gone.

"Have you called the cops?" Abbott asked over the phone.

"I called you first, Vinny. Dispatch is the second call."

"Don't call them."

"What?"

"Think about what we got in that apartment, Mikey. We're on our way. Just, get out of sight and be calm. We're on the fucking way."

The call ended and Thompson swore loudly. He sat there for a few minutes, breathing heavily and sweating. It was easy for Vinny to say that shit from wherever the fuck he was. He wasn't here. He hadn't heard the shot, so loud it was still ringing in Mike's ears. He didn't have to look at Jimmy's dead body, still oozing blood out in the hardwood floor.

"Fuck this," he said and started to dial 911.

"I got shots fired, and an officer down here at--"

He stopped speaking when he heard the door fly open. Could it be Vinny and backup. He peaked around the corner of the wall towards the door. A... man in a costume stood in the doorway, white earbuds stuck in his ear and something metallic and sharp in his hand. Was that... a fucking throwing star?

"Hi."

Thompson turned the corner and raised his gun. He got a shot off just as the costumed man threw whatever it was from his hand. The door frame above the man exploded in a chunk of wood chips. A microsecond later he felt something hard hit him in the forehead. The force of it dropped him to the ground, a sharp pain accompanying the blow. He suddenly realized he couldn't see, but he could feel pain and blood and something solid and sharp in his forehead.

Thompson let out a gasp when he realized what it was. That realization would be one of the last conscious thoughts he would have as his brain began to shut down from the blunt force trauma and destruction from the throwing star.

---

Bullseye stepped over the two dead bodies and found what it was they had come to the apartment to find. A ripped up floorboard panel revealed two zipped up gym bags. He reached down and zipped them open. One was stuffed to the brim with cash, the other with three neatly packed kilos of heroin. For Abbott and the cops, the cash and dope was worth dying for, and especially worth killing for.

With a smile, Bullseye grabbed both bags and slung them over his shoulder. He stopped by Thompson's body and grabbed his cell phone. He'd need it later for his final play. The Smiths faded and the O'Jays started to sing "For the Love of Money." Maybe a little on the nose? Perhaps, but his phone was on shuffle so what could he do? With the O'Jays still singing, Bullseye walked out the door with the dirty cops' stash as police sirens started to sound from somewhere close by.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by DotCom
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DotCom

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Jay's Pawn Shop
Midtown East, Manhattan


It'd taken an agonizing 43 minutes to reach the store - already a miracle by late-night, Queens-to-Midtown standards, but still not quite as miraculous as Kamala could have pulled off. It would have been faster, better to run there. But if Jersey City was still adjusting to the occasional twenty-foot teen sighting, well...Manhattan wasn't going to stand for it anytime soon.

Kamala was half hoping, half terrified it'd all be done and over in the worst way by the time she reached her destination. And maybe it would be better that way. Maybe she'd heard the name wrong, or the address. Maybe none of this had anything to do with her anyway, and she was paranoid and bored and restless after too long spend at home, hero-ing in the boring, RA way, instead of...well, the alternative.

And, really, was this even her business? JC was one thing, at least people sort of knew her there. She had neighbors, she had a neighborhood to look out for. Here...it was like every block with a Starbucks or bodega had a caped crusader or six marking his or her territory, and if that was the case, Kamala was way, way out of bounds.

But.

But even if this wasn't Jersey City, this was Jay's. This was Vince. This was Bruno.

She hadn't spoken to her best friend almost since Josh had died -- the night he'd told her he was leaving notwithstanding -- but it didn't mean she'd ever stopped thinking about him. They'd always been close, and even closer after she'd become Ms. Marvel, and subsequently gotten his little brother Vince out of some seriously weird trouble.

She hated to think he might have found himself back in a mess, but more than that...she hated to think what Bruno would say if she let someone else he loved die.

So. Queens to Manhattan, and now...now to find a way into the pawn shop. Kamala thought it was weird that there could be so many police cars with so little noise, but maybe no one really worried about stuff like this so far from the UES.

In any case, crashing a heist was a hell of a lot easier than crossing the bridge. Being unrecognizable, even in a cowl and mask, had its bonuses. Being two inches tall, though, was even better. Dodging flashes of red and blue light for the safety of the shadows, Kamala skirted the outside of the building, pushed in through the conjoined (though now vacated) bodega cat door, and ducked behind the counter of the pawn shop for as long as it took her to get her bearings.

It took her about that long to realize why everything seemed way quieter than it should have been.

---

The hostage situation...wasn't. Or at least not in anyway she could tell. Definitely a situation, but hostage? Not so much. Outside, she could hear police sirens and vague, occasional mutterings through a bullhorn. Inside, the radio had been turned down just enough to hear the latest mumble-rap crackling under Vince's voice.

Any relief she might have felt that he was alive, though, was short-lived.

Vince didn't sound scared, or even all that concerned. He was bargaining, yeah, sure. Any good pawn shop employee was always doing that, but given what she'd seen, heard on the news, in the grisly scenes she'd been replaying in her head for the last hour, she'd have guessed bargaining with his life, and whatever was left in the cash box before the shop closed for the night.

This? This was not that. Without a sound, Kamala felt herself stretch back into something closer to normal seventeen-year-old size, though she didn't leave her place crouched behind the glass cases of bowie knives and gold watches just yet.

"C'mon, dude, you don't even know what it fucking is, just give it to me."

That was Vince, and then in response to him, a laugh Kamala thought sounded sort of slurred, if that was a thing.

"Don' need to know what it is to know't matters to you." The second voice was unfamiliar...mostly. She couldn't have named the speaker if she'd tried, and yet for some reason, she couldn't help but feel she ought to know him. "Somethin' big, too, or you'd'a let the p'lice in by now."

"Still time," Vince fired back, though he sounded uncertain. "They got guns, man, and your face is on cameras. They could shoot you. They could kill you."

"Faster'n I could kill you?"

Kamala moved without thinking. Again. It was a bad habit her new reflexes were making much worse. She was lucky her newfound flexibility came with built-in damage repair.

Two injured, one dead, the news had reported. And Vince's...customer, as it were, was right -- if the police hadn't stormed the building yet, there was probably a reason why.

But for now, there was only Vince, the the barrel of the gun pointed at his chest.

"Vince, move!" Kamala demand-shrieked as she lurched bodily from her hiding space.

Later, she wasn't quite sure what happened after that, only that it had happened impossibly fast.

At the same time her club of a malformed hand wrapped around the gun's muzzle, Kamala saw a new figure, pale, hulking, crouched by the door, shaking, suddenly straighten to an impressive height, even by her standards.

In front of her, both Vince and his friend turned to look at her, equal parts surprised and confused. The friend recovered faster, whipped a shadowy something behind his back, and fired his gun with his other hand.

And somewhere behind her, one of the glass display cases exploded, throwing a shower of glittering, crystalline shards into the air, each catching in a halo of flashing police lights to paint purple diamonds on the walls between new drops of blood.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Ruby
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Ruby No One

Co-Admin Seen 21 hrs ago

The keycard slid through the electronic reader, responding with a pale green light and the click of the door's lock. Just like that, one of the world's premier assassins was into the West Manhattan highrise using a service entrance. The ballcap and the messy pony tail extending out from under the cap was enough to hide her face from the cameras. A black high gloss leather jacket with blood red stitching and a high collar helped, her jeans fitted and dark, her boots black leather and thick. Her scent was hints of jasmine, lust, and almond. Her face was sleepy, lazy, even downright mournful when she approached the guard station to sign in.

The signature was signed across the given space on the Excel print-out with the speed and grace of a samurai slicing with a katana.

"Not looking forward to Monday?"

A shy smile peeked out from under the cap, brown eyes hidden under dark lashes meeting the guard's. George Webber was his name; he lived with his mother and girlfriend in Brooklyn. He'd been working for the Anders Security Group private security contractor buisness for three years. Before that his life had been a series of construction sites and attempts to get lucky with small buisnesses looking to make it big. He smoked pot, used his nephew as his dealer.

A pained grin finally crept on the woman's face. "I'm supposed to be on vacation--"

"--hence the outfit?"

She laughed, softly, "You got me."

Webber's face took on a smirk even as his shoulders rolled in a little shrug. "Hopefully you can make a quick exit."

It was everything for her not to grin ear to ear. "That's the idea. Thanks."

"Have a good one!"

She thanked him and made a slow walk over to the wall of lockers. '7D' was where she found the combo lock with the backpack already inside it. A quick check of the pockets resulted in a complete checklist of items, and a surprise. For half a heartbeat she debated not even reading the note, but curiosity won out.

Red Woman:

It's all here.

Remember your promise.

-M

PS: Thanks again.


"At least he didn't use names this time..." A whisper and a sigh as she crumpled the note and tossed it back into the backpack before zipping it up, throwing it over her right shoulder, and heading to the elevator. The moment she passed the threshold from staff entrance to main lobby the eyes were on her. The sixth sense of it all made her smile to no one, and nothing, in particular as a man in a suit held open the elevator for her. "Thanks."

"No problem, what floor?"

"21st."

The man in the suit with the bald head paused right before hitting '21' on the button pad. "You guys and girls never look like what I think you'd look like. Except for maybe the ballcaps."

She responded with no more than a chuckle. The man wished her a good day as he got off at 10, and the door closed. The backpack was opened, and she knelt to busy her hands with the devices inside the pack. Everything activated and readied, the backpack zipped shut and she stood tall. The elevator dinged, the doors slid open, and the seal of the Central Intelligence Agency in frost on clear glass met her. A quick right led her down a small hall dead ending in two doors. "Men" and "Women", she took the first. It was closer to the wall, and she needed the wall.

Even in a bathroom there could be cameras. There was no decency in the world these days, she thought with great amusement, as she reached into the bag and activated the first device before ducking into the handicap accessible stall right up against the wall. A hop onto the seat and the gypsum ceiling tile was an irritating, but not difficult, move. Tippy-toes and a peek told her what she needed to know: construction workers were lazy. A leap, a hand hold of red iron, and the second device was slipped into the hole drilled through the firewall; the hole that by New York City safety code should not be there, but that a small bundle of cables were passed through for the security cameras around the elevator and restrooms.

A quick placement of the ceiling tile back and she was out of the restroom, using the modified keycard to unlock the double glass doors with the CIA seal, and walking right in. Right, left, right, and the second door on the left. It wasn't locked; walking into the server closet she realized that was because of the technician typing away at the keyboard placed upon the massive server rack. He turned his head, and blinked, just in time for her fist nerdy ass to the ground. She stepped over him, and kicked his body off to the side. "Oh, look, you already logged in as the system admin for me. You're so sweet, darling."

He was alive at least. Henry Perez; a product of a tech school and a job placement program. He spent his nights playing League of Legends, and watching weeb porn, his days spent working for the tech contractor for this particular branch of the CIA. The background checks were intensive, and thus it was hard to find decent techs. Henry's weeb nerdness meant his life was spent avoiding anything that might pop on a background check.

It also meant he went down like a weeb bitch.

A few minutes of reaching behind and around the rack, of attaching devices to cables, and then she was onto the switchboard. A few screws and the board was off and flipped. A few more attachments, and the switchboard went right back on. It didn't matter if they found every device. By then it was much, much, too late. The cheap MP3 player attached to the PA system control board was replaced and turned on, it's timer counting. A final reach into the bag, and she pulled out the syringe. "Sorry Henry, you'll feel a small pinch..."

She was careful when she stabbed the young man, and injected him near his right glute. Back in the backpack it went, and the last device in the bag went live. She walked out of the server closet, and dropped the backpack onto the ground. Her timing was off a second by her count, because the moment the backpack hit the ground the first device was supposed to activate.

It took two seconds for the alarms to start sounding, instead of the one, and she began to walk. Behind her the backpack started smoking as the last device started it's chain reactions. That was the moment the PA system came to life, it's volume controls bypassed: "Sabatoge" from the Beastie Boys drowning out even the klaxons of alarm, dense smoke filling the floors office corridors from ceilings down and floor to ceiling, the hall behind her so thick with smoke around the backpage it was impossible to see the small backpage ignite into flame.

A quick right and she was surrounded by bodies; most doing their training justice and not in an outright panic, but it was anything but calm and orderly. It was nothing for her to walk by, snatching badges that dangled from waists and shirts in passing as she pleased. When she got to the last door, it took three badges until the amber light went green because of the automatic lockdown. Someone tried to follow her, someone yelled at her to hold the door open, and she slammed it shut behind her--taking off down the stairwell. By the time she got back to the service entrance, George was out of his little security office. He was at the exterior door, about to lock it.

"Can you believe this? On my day off, of all days."

George looked back and laughed, nervously. "Now would definitely be a good time to get out while you can. I'm about to lock it for real."

"Thanks!" was all she tossed at him as she passed into the truck loading dock of the side street and alley. Halfway down the street and the hat was tossed into a trash bin, her tummy grumbling at her as she approached the hotdog stand, fire trucks blaring sirens as they rushed by, followed by NYPD. "One hot dog, and a water. Chili and cheese, ketchup. That's all--perrrrfect."

She barely got a bite in before the man with the hair that looked frizzy with the high humidity of the day, stress plain on his face, stepped up. He asked the hotdog vendor for a "dog with everything" and took his first bite as he stepped right beside her. "I'm guessing that was you?"

A quick swallow, a dab at the corner of her mouth with a napkin, "What makes you think that?"

"Hell of a coincidence I was supposed to leave the building and meet you right before something happened and the building was put on lockdown."

She shrugged in the silence of finishing the hotdog with two big, hungry, bites. Trash tossed, mouth wiped, napkin tossed. Hands rubbed free of breadcrumbs. "What do you got Cameron?"

He stared for a long moment as he chewed, before swallowing, and spilling what he knew despite what she was certain he felt was his 'better' judgment. "His name is Giannis Kavadias. Birth records indicate his mother was a Greek immigrant that lived in Brooklyn before returning to Greece not long after his birth. No records about the father...listen, whoever this guy is, whatever you want him for, I couldn't find a hint of wrong-doing. He got arrested for smoking pot in public during college. It was dismissed after park cleanup duty. He's married, he's got three kids, so--"

Her frustration didn't show, and didn't sound, but it was there, "--where's he live?"

"Minnewaska, New York. It's a small town turned suburb about an hour north of the city. I appreciate what you did to help my old SHIELD friends, they wouldn't be alive now if you hadn't, but--"

"--talk to you soon, Cameron. Good luck on that date tonight."

He blinked in farewell.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by AndyC
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AndyC Freeborn Scum

Member Seen 12 days ago



She's falling.

The world has slowed to a near stop. Rain drops hang suspended in the night sky, glittering orange from the flames below. Smoke curls upward in noxious black tendrils. The gout of blood spraying out from my stomach gleams bright as it catches hints of moonlight that peak through the rainclouds. A scream tears at my vocal chords, forced through gritted and red-stained teeth.

She's falling.

She doesn't scream as the cold black waters of the river below rush up to meet her. She just gasps, more out of surprise than fear. She never thought something like this could happen to her. Not while I was around. I'd sworn on her father's grave that I'd protect her. We loved each other with a fire that could ignite the stars. She was the happiest girl in the world, and I was her unbeatable hero. It was all so perfect. It couldn't go this wrong, this fast.

Now it's all gone to hell. She's falling, and I can't catch her. Over the sound of my own screaming I hear his laughter, that awful cackle that makes my skin crawl and my blood boil. He's won. He's gotten everything he could have wanted from this moment. This is his perfect revenge.

I feel a sudden weightlessness, my guts lurching upward as I begin to fall after her. This time I can do it. I can reach her. Save her. I can make it right....

The wind batters at my face as I will myself downwards, straightening my body out to increase my speed and catch up to her. Acting on instinct, I throw out a line to the bridge, to turn the sudden stop into a gentle swing. Just as the line begins to go taut, I reach her, pulling her close.

For an instant, I feel her body against mine once again, the pounding of her heart resonating throughout my every sense. I can hear her voice as she calls out my name, smell the lavender she uses in her hair. She looks at me and I see the sparkle in her glittering blue eyes, the trust and love she's had since we were children.....

.....then there's a shooting agony in my chest. I look down and see her hand, wrapped in shadows, has grown claws that she's sunk into my heart.



"Ohhh, Peter," she says, her sweet and loving tone turning lascivious and vile as the shadows wrap envelop her entirely and her voice turns into his. "My hero....."

I hear them laughing together as she cuts my web line, and he scoops her up in his arms. A long, slavering tongue erupts from her mouth and plunges into his, then she flings me downward with one hand, discarding me like garbage.

Even as I fall ever downward, the horrific wet smacking of their lips and tongues writhing against each other is right in my ears, a million smaller voices laughing at me from the darkness below. Mocking me for being such a fool. For trusting, for loving someone like that. For being so weak. For letting them destroy me so thoroughly.

In the blackness below, a mouth opens. A cavernous, slobbering maw lined with jagged fangs, gnashing hungrily as I fall toward it. There's nothing I can do.

I'm falling.

I'm falling.

I'm--




"Pete!" Harry says as he shakes me awake. Looking around with bleary eyes, I see I'm on the living room couch, the black suit still retaining the form of my clothes from last night. "Dude, you scared the shit out of us, man. After you ran out on the party, nobody could find you. I didn't even see you come in this morning."

"Yeah?" I ask, shaking my head to try and remember where I was, what I've been doing. I get the distinct impression that I don't really want to know. "I'm sorry, man. I just had to, I dunno.....get away. I didn't want everyone to freak out or anything, I just...."

I'm not able to complete my sentence, because I honestly don't know what I've done. I remember talking to Mary Jane about baseball or something, then Eddie shows up, and he shows me pictures of--

"....oh God," I groan, holding my head in my hands as I remember what I saw. "Eddie showed me something last night, did he tell anyone--"

"I know," Harry says, pulling out his phone and scrolling through his news feed. "The story's been all over the news today. It's all they're talking about."

He holds the phone out to me, the screen showing today's edition of the Daily Bugle. Not wanting to see it but knowing I have to, I take the phone and start reading.




SINS PAST

Startling New Evidence Suggest Illicit Affair Between Norman Osborn and Final Victim

Story by Frederick Foswell. Photos by Eddie Brock.


The tragedy that took place last year on the George Washington Bridge sent shockwaves throughout the City, making New Yorkers painfully aware of the dangers of living in a city full of masked vigilantes and super-criminals. However, new evidence has led some to conclude there was more to the deaths of Spider-Man, Norman Osborn, and Gwen Stacy than anyone had previously believed.

It is well-documented at this point that Stacy was an intern at OsCorp, and had been close friends with Osborn's son Harry. It is also now public record that OsCorp was embroiled in several illegal activities, including industrial espionage and sabotage, the development and testing on human subjects of technology restricted by the Sokovia Accords, and the smuggling of unregistered alien weaponry. That doesn't even include Osborn's personal criminal record, which, under the guise of the Green Goblin, includes multiple counts of arson, assault with deadly weapons, destruction of public and private property, and over three dozen counts of first-degree murder.

Until now, the prevailing thought among conspiracy theorists was that Osborn targeted Stacy because she had discovered one or more of OsCorp's illegal operations, and the destructive battle between the Goblin and Spider-Man was all a ruse to silence her and make it appear as collateral damage. However, a set of incriminating photos now suggest that Osborn did it to hide something else: a torrid affair between himself and his 19-year-old intern.

These photographs, allegedly taken on the 16th of July 2017, just two weeks before Stacy and Osborn's deaths, show the two of them meeting in Osborn's penthouse on 57th Street, apparently engaging in romantic conversation before--


"Shit!" I hiss through gritted teeth as I hurl Harry's phone against the wall. It shatters into a thousand pieces, glass and metal and plastic shrapnel showering the living room. It takes me a second before I realize what I'd done. "Oh! Oh, Jesus, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to--"

"I can afford another phone," Harry shrugs. "Honestly, heh, I'll just go by OsCorp and get another one for free, considering I own it now."

I laugh weakly, then sink back into the couch. Harry continues. "What really gets me is that there's other stuff that should've gotten the front page. I mean, that Venom guy? He trashed some dive bar about four blocks from here. Little hole-in-the-wall called the 'Big Sky Lounge.' Just busted in through the back door and started breaking bones like he was Steven Seagal. Three guys are in the ICU, beaten up so badly they might not make it. But this shit's what they lead with instead. Like they've got nothing better to do but kick us while we're down."

I wince as he tells me what Venom was doing while I was out. I know about the Big Sky Lounge-- it's a regular hangout for Tombstone's gang, run by one of the Kingpin's old Enforcers. It sounds like we were letting off steam by running down our checklist of acceptable targets and just smashing whoever was nearest.

Groaning in dismay, I bury my head in my hands again. "This can't be real. I mean, this is Gwen we're talking about. I knew her since fourth grade. There's no way she could--.......I mean, could she?"

Harry doesn't make eye contact with me. He just shrugs and looks away.

"One thing you learn about living with a psychopath," he says, "is that they're really good at hiding it. They don't have empathy, they don't feel things the way you and I do, but that makes people suspicious. So they pretend. They pretend like they care about other people, they pretend to be sympathetic when you're hurting and supportive when you need it. They pretend like they love you. And they get so good at it, they can fool everyone around them for years."

"Yeah, but....I can't buy that. I can't see her doing something like this. It's just..."

"I know, man," he says, giving me a pat on the shoulder. "It sucks. It really does. I mean, what's it say about the world we're living in if you can't even trust someone that close to you? Just makes it all feel like it's not worth it."

"....yeah....."

Harry claps his hands together like he's had an idea.

"Well, I think I know what we need," he says in a darkly chipper tone. "Go wash up and put on some comfortable clothes. We're gonna get drunk as hell, and then we're gonna break stuff."

I shake my head. "That's a really stupid idea, Harry."

He nods. "Yeah. It is. And you don't have a better one, do ya?"

I try for a moment to come up with an answer, before throwing up my hands.

"All right, drinks and breaking stuff it is," I concede.

It's a bad idea, and I know it.

But all things considered, a little property damage is far from the worst thing I've done in the last twenty-four hours.

Maybe it's better that I just break some things instead of breaking more people.

....then again, if this City's so damn intent on hurting me, maybe it wouldn't be so bad to start hurting it back a little....
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Trinity Church Cemetery
Corner of Broadway and Wall Street, Lower Manhattan


"Harry, what the hell are we doing here?" I say, stumbling as we jump the old wrought-iron fence and slink into the shadows between the rows of headstones. "I hate this place."

I never liked cemeteries to begin with, but once upon a time, I used to think this particular one was at least interesting in terms of the city's history. Alexander Hamilton's buried here. So are Ralph Waldo Emerson and Ed Koch, and a number of Senators and Generals and Mayors.

The large, squat marble tomb at the top of a small hillock, built just over a year ago, is why this place really makes my stomach turn. And of course, that seems to be where he's leading us.

"We're here for a very important lesson," Harry says in a half-whisper, tucking the pair of liquor bottles close to his chest as he moves from cover to cover like he's in the stealth section of a bad video game. "Keep quiet until I know the coast is clear."

I could've told him the coast was about as clear as it could possibly get-- there's no one around as far as the eye can see. And failing that, my suit would tell us if there's any approaching danger long before even my Spider-Sense would. But this whole thing was Harry's idea, and he's too drunk to listen, so I let him take point in this little commando raid of his.

The tomb is stark white, practically gleaming even in the near pitch-black of the cemetery, still too new to have begun to weather. It used to require regular cleaning after protesters would attempt to deface it, but eventually those incensed by its presence either gave up or got bored, so now it sits undisturbed, its very presence an insult that no one bothers to take offense at anymore.

In a bold, Roman-esque font, the name OSBORN is displayed on a stone held by two pillars. Below it is a vault, and within that is the corpse of the man who ruined our lives.

Norman Osborn, 1964-2017 reads the plaque to his vault. Brilliant But Troubled.

Harry sets one of the liquor bottles down on the grass, unscrews the cap from the other, and takes a long pull.

"'Brilliant But Troubled,'" he says in a bitter, mocking tone as he wipes a dribble of whiskey from his lips. "That's what they keep saying about him, over and over. Spencer Smythe came up with it-- one of dad's little henchmen from the lab. They make it sound like he was crazy, like he couldn't help what he was doing. Poor Norman, think of what he could have done if he wasn't so....'troubled.'"

He sits down on the grass in front of the tomb, staring with murderous intent at the tomb.

"I could've stopped it," he says after a long, cold silence. "The Goblin, the murders, Gwen, all of it. I had the chance to stop all of it."

"What do you mean?" I ask, pacing uncomfortably behind him.

"Remember back in sixth grade, when I went off to boarding school in England?" he asks. I nod my head. "The night before, he and my mom were arguing about something, I don't remember what. She busts into my room, grabs me by the wrist, says we're leaving now. I'd never seen her so scared in my life. But I knew why she was so scared."

"Did...did he....hurt you before?"

Harry doesn't answer. He just takes another swig of whiskey.

"We get to the living room and Dad's just standing there in front of the door," he continues. "Doesn't look angry, doesn't raise his hand. Just stands there, daring Mom to try and move past him. She crumples to the floor like he'd shot her with a tranquilizer dart-- she knows she's not going anywhere. I don't run to her side to help her up. Instead, I run back to the master bedroom, to the nightstand by their bed.....where Dad keeps his pistol."

There's another long pause, and I can see Harry's face twist with a dozen emotions, none of them good.

"I grab the gun, and when I turn back he's standing in the doorway. A few years earlier, he taught me how to shoot. Said it was important that a man knew to respect that kind of power so they wouldn't do something stupid with it. I point the gun at him, pull back the hammer. All I have to do is squeeze the trigger. He doesn't panic. He doesn't get angry. He doesn't even seem to care that I'm about to blow a hole in him. He just.....looks at me, with this look of......disappointment. Like I came home with a C on my report card. He says 'Now son, let's talk,' and I.....I listen. I put the gun down, and I listen to him lecture me for nearly an hour. And it all just sounds so perfectly reasonable."

He takes another drink.

"Next thing I know, I'm on a plane to Manchester, being groomed to become a business mogul," he says. "I don't even get to come home for Mom's funeral. He doesn't let me come home til he's satisfied that I'm 'better.' That I'm more like him."

On shaky legs, Harry begins to stand, and he staggers over to the vault.

"That's what assholes like Spencer Smythe and the Board of Directors don't get," he says. "Norman....he could make you do things.....really awful things you'd never normally do. Make you leave your mother alone with him after she tried to run for her life. Make you keep company secrets even after those secrets led to dozens of people dying. Make you--.....never mind. Point is, Norman Osborn wasn't crazy. He was evil."

"So.....you think he made Gwen--"

"I dunno," he interrupts. "That's not the point, anyway. See, he wanted me to be like him. And I hated his guts for it, but I ended up being more like him than I wanna admit."

A drunken grin crawls across his face.

"Thing is, Pete, I'm a bit of a super-villain, too," he says like he's admitting some dirty secret. "I've got me a master plan and everything. Those stuffed shirts at OsCorp want to sell off the company assets, divide up everything and auction it to the highest bidder. But I'm not gonna let them. I'm gonna make sure it all goes to me. Every project in the laboratories, every share of company stock, every cent of its net worth, every piece of furniture in that building."

That drunken grin turns dark.

"And then I'm gonna burn it all down," he says. "I'm gonna fire every asshole on the payroll, I'm gonna flush every penny down the toilet, and I'm gonna have the building demolished with everything inside. I'm gonna burn the Osborn name and everything it stands for to ashes and laugh every step of the way. And you wanna know why?"

I shrug. "Why, Harry?"

"Because fuck Norman Osborn, that's why," he says. "Fuck Norman Osborn, fuck his company, fuck his 'legacy,' and fuck his name. Fuck every asshole who stood by and let him threaten and hurt and kill all those people. Fuck all those superheroes who could have put him down but let him blow up half of downtown so they could play costumed grab-ass with him. And fuck anyone who makes excuses for someone like that by saying shit like 'Brilliant But Troubled.'"

With that, he hurls the bottle of whiskey at his father's tomb as hard as he can, the glass shattering against the marble and splashing liquor all over his plaque. Not satisfied, he takes a few paces towards the vault, and spits on it, a wad of saliva and phlegm smacking against the engraved name.

"....you done?" I ask as he storms back towards me.

"I am," he says. "You're not. C'mon, we've got one more stop while we're here."

It takes us a few minutes to hike down the hill and around a few bends to reach our destination. Neither of us says a word along the way. We both know where we're going.

The headstone is small and simple, just like the one right next to it for her father. There's already a little bit of mold starting to grow on one side.

Gwendolyn Maxine Stacy, 1999-2017.

That's all it says. No words about who she was, what she was like. Nothing about how she helped uncover the Green Goblin's secret identity at the cost of her own life. Nothing about how she wanted to get her doctorate and work for Reed Richards and company. No words about her being the valedictorian in our class, or being the drummer in a punk-rock garage band, or being the undisputed champion of Smash Bros. at Empire State. Nothing about how she kept a tally of how many times one of her puns could make me groan out loud. Nothing about how she'd follow a long, deep kiss with a small peck on the nose. Nothing, just a name and some numbers.

"I don't wanna do this, Harry," I say as he offers me the other liquor bottle. "I know what those pictures mean, what the news is saying, but I--"

"Pete, you've gotta listen to me," he says, pushing the bottle towards me until he's shoving me backwards with it. "You're one of the nicest guys in Manhattan, and that's never gotten you anything but screwed. People have been doing you wrong all your life, and you still keep sticking up for them. Don't be that guy who sugar-coats Norman Osborn as 'Brilliant But Troubled.' Fuck that. Fuck everyone who's done you wrong, Pete. And if those pictures are legit, and she really did cheat on you with him, then you know what? Fuck Gwen Stacy, too."

I look down at the sloshing bottle of amber liquid, and I snatch it out of Harry's hands. "All right," I say with a nod.

He pats me on the shoulder. "Good man. I'll give you a minute, some privacy while you do what you've gotta do. Meanwhile, I'm gonna go find a tree and mark my territory."

As he runs off into the night, I open the bottle and take a gulp of the smoky, stinging drink. It doesn't really affect me like it's supposed to-- one of the perks of enhanced healing includes burning through chemical influence faster than most-- but the bitterness and pain of the whiskey itself is enough to put me in the right mood as I approach Gwen's grave.

"....I don't get it," I say, pacing as I look down at the headstone. "I don't want to believe what they're saying about you, I can't get my head around it, but......but I saw those pictures of you and him, and I just......how could you? I trusted you, cared about you, I loved you more than anything! And you just--.....what, you couldn't help it? Did he get his hooks into you somehow, or blackmail you, or--....or....."

My hand starts to squeeze against the glass bottle.

"....or were you just laughing at me behind my back, like everyone else?" I growl, my muscles starting to tense up. The suit practically shivers with excitement, and I can't help myself. "Everything I felt for you, did any of it mean anything? Or was it just a setup for the universe playing another big joke on poor Peter Parker? I would've moved the world for you, Gwen. I would've died for you. And for you to go behind my back, with him, it--.....it makes me sick to even think about it."

Now instead of pacing, I'm stalking back and forth, like an animal about to strike its prey. My hand is shaking as it raises the whiskey bottle to my mouth, and I take another gulp.

"I don't know what's real anymore," I say, seething. "For a year now I've felt like I'm in a nightmare I can't wake up from. And just when I think it can't get worse, I find out that everything I loved was a lie. That all along, you were a lying, cheating, backstabbing wh--"

*KRRRSSSSHHH!*

The bottle shatters in my grip, shards of glass embedding into my palm. Pain shoots through my arm and I double over, clutching my mangled hand. Immediately the suit works its way into my wounds, black goo pushing out the glass and soaking up the burning alcohol, knitting the flesh back together. By morning, there won't even be a scar. Nothing to mark the pain but my memory.

"Hey, mazel tov!" Harry shouts at the sound of the glass breaking. Stumbling out from the shadows, he has his arms out wide in celebration. "I knew you had it in ya, Pete! Feel better?"

I don't answer. I just clutch my fist close, hiding the black goo of the alien suit as it holds my hand together.

"Well, you will, trust me," he says, patting me on the back. "I think there's a few bars not far from here that are still open, how about we--?"

Harry shuts up when he sees flashing red-and-blue lights coming from the road, the wail of a police siren. For a second, he lays low in case we've been spotted. The siren begins to fade, however, as the car speeds off towards Uptown.

A few seconds later, it's followed by another police siren. And another, and another and another. Something serious is going down.

"Huh, that's weird," Harry shrugs. "Anyway, we should--"

Harry turns to me, but at that point, I'm already gone. I've slid back into the shadows, letting the suit take hold.

Peter Parker's had the chance to let out his aggression. Wherever all those cops are going, chances are there's an opportunity for Venom to let a little out as well.




14th Street, Chelsea
Upper West Side, Manhattan


"This is what you get!" shouted Joe 'Hammerhead' Lorenzini as he hurled a half-empty bottle overhead. It arced high, the flame on the soaked rag stuffed into its top standing out against the night sky, before it crashed through the window of a brownstone tenement building, the room inside erupting into a blaze. All down the block, the air carried the sound of car alarms, of roaring fires, glass breaking, and people screaming.

A dozen armored cars, flanked by nearly a hundred hardened criminals armed with everything from pipes and chains to assault rifles and Molotov cocktails, paraded down the streets of Chelsea in a show of force. Smashing storefronts, spraying bullets haphazardly into apartment buildings, terrorizing the citizens inside. Reminding everyone that the Maggia syndicate was still a force to be reckoned with.

As the soldiers and enforcers whooped and howled as they caused mayhem, Hammerhead scowled, scanning the rooftops for movement. He knew just about everyone in this war-band would be behind bars by the end of the night, but it'd all be worth it if they tagged that Venom freak. Inside the armored cars was the heavy artillery: machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades. The lead car even had some reverse-engineered alien weapons Silvermane had bought from some nut called 'The Tinkerer,' real scary shit. The big guns wouldn't come out, though, until Venom showed its face. Until then, they'd be content with breaking windows and starting some fires until they got his attention.

"We know you think these streets are yours, freak!" Hammerhead called out, lighting another Molotov. "But they ain't! These streets are ours! The whole goddamn city's ours! An' anyone who says otherwise? They're gonna get more a' this!"

As Hammerhead hurled the cocktail overhead, he heard the sound of police sirens approaching. Off in the distance, he heard the distinct pops of gunfire. Smoke began to curl up over nearby rooftops and into the night sky.

Another war-band had gone further uptown to deal the same damage to Hell's Kitchen. A third went into Harlem with the same mission: smoke out Venom, or make the city pay.

Silvio Manfredi wanted a war, and he was going to get it. Tonight, Silvermane would get his trophy, or the West Side would burn.
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