For at least the third time, Peter Parker undid the mess of a knot he made in his tie and began again. And all Harry Osborn could do was laugh.
"It's not funny Harry," Peter said in an aggravated voice. "You try tying one of these things when you have so many things on your mind."
Sorry Pete," Harry responded trying to stifle his laughter. "It's just that I've seen you not able to tie a tie for so long, to think that you still can't just cracks me up."
"Would you care to try under these circumstances?" Peter said solemnly. Harry lowered his head. Peter went back to his tie but not long after that came Harry giggling.
"Out!" Peter demanded.
"Okay, okay," Harry grumbled. "Don't have to yell." He then shut the door behind him. Peter fumbled some more with his tie but soon found himself immersed in thought. Oh Mary Jane. I'm so sorry. If I had of listened in the first place and quit being Spider-Man the last time you might of not went back to modeling and never been in that horrible explosion. I've failed you again. I'm so...
Need some help there Peter? Gwen asked him as she approached him from behind.
Nah, I'm trying a new style," Peter managed weakly. Gwen laughed at his remark and quickly did up the tie.
So how are you holding up?" she asked him gently.
As well as I can I guess," he responded. "But I'm worried. You saw Warren and Osborn at the press conference the other day too didn't you?*"
Gwen's head lowered. "Yes, I saw them."
"I want you to stay close to me today Gwen," Peter continued. "I'm sure one of 'em has a plan to draw me out and you're the easiest way to me. I don't want to lose you again."
Gwen's hand came to Peter's as she intertwined her delicate fingers between his. "Don't worry," she said. "I've learned from my mistakes."
Let's hope so," Peter said grimacing. "That would be the last thing I need."
*See last issue
Across town, Mary Jane's former business manager during her short-lived modeling career Rolf, was preparing to attend her funeral as well. Oh Mary Jane. he thought. It was never supposed to have been like this. You were supposed to be as big as Tyra, Cindy…Claudia even! But now your life has been cut short all due to that stalker. And I blame myself. If I hadn't of pressed you to begin modeling, if I hadn't of begged you, you my dear would still be alive. But alas, God must of felt it was your time. Time for you to join the ranks of his angels. Time to finally shine ful..."Ahhhh!"
Rolf's scream did not last long as his attacker quickly gagged him and tied him up. Rolf tried to struggle and managed to give his attacker a low blow, but his efforts were in vain as he caught a lead pipe to his skull. The mysterious figure drug Rolf's body into the closet. No sound came from the closet for a few minutes, but soon a Rolf stepped out of the closet, dressed as dapperly as he had been before the attack. Rolf took his keys and headed out the door.
"Yes, poor Mary Jane. But today I have a date with a lovely young lady named Gwen." Rolf took one last glance in the mirror, smiled smugly, and left.
Peter, Gwen, Harry, Liz Osborn, Anna Watson, Flash Thompson, and Felicia Hardy stepped into the lush limo that J. Jonah Jameson had furnished as part of his paying for Mary Jane's funeral expenses. Over the years, these had been MJ's closest friends and family. They were always in her thoughts and heart. And now they feel it's their turn to return that love the best way they know how. The group was dead silent as they tried to make the best of the ride. Gwen tended to Peter despite his constant "I'm okay" replies. Felicia spent most of her time glaring at Flash; she hadn't expected him to be in the limo with the group and him and MJ wasn't all that close anyway. He was there for Peter. Liz and Harry chatted quietly like old friends but it was obvious of the tension in the air when they spoke. Flash merely smiled at Peter and tried to ignore his former girlfriend's icy stare. He spent most of his time consoling MJ's Aunt Anna, who seemed to be taking this the hardest out of all those present.
Soon the caravan of the limo and other assorted cars pulled in front of the church. While the rest of the gathered "family" made their way into the church, Peter stopped just short of the steps. All I have to do is duck into an alley, go up a wall, and be gone. he thinks. I'm not ready for this at all. Just slip away and not face this. As he made a step towards the alley he stopped short again. No. Too many times I've neglected my problems by web-slinging away from them. It's time I deal with this. I have to at least keep this promise to you MJ, and I will. I swear. Just as he turned to enter, he found Gwen giving him a comforting smile. She took his hand and the two walked inside.
Upon entering, you could tell how much Jameson had spent on the arrangements. Flowers everywhere, a choir, one of the best ministers in Manhattan, and a radiant picture of Mary Jane placed next to the minister's podium. Soon everyone was seated and the proceedings began. Almost immediately after the minister began, Peter began to cry, long and hard. The sobs made his body shudder with each breath, yet he managed to keep his noise level down. He was finally allowing himself to grieve. No hiding behind the mask, no losing himself in his work, just tears of grief. If Peter had not been crying, he might of noticed Rolf's arrival and his sitting next to Gwen. He would've noticed how, although wary at first, Gwen soon was whispering up a storm with this man she just met. Peter might have missed this, but Harry didn't. I don't like the looks of that guy at all. he thought. Not after running into Warren and my father yesterday. Either one of them could be this new guy in disguise trying to lure Pete away from here with Gwen. I'll just have to keep tabs on 'im. As the choir went into their second number, none other than Norman Osborn walked in. He then took a seat next to Jameson. Jonah turned at first to see whom this "invader of his personal space" was, but quickly changed his attitude when he saw it was Osborn.
"Hello Jonah," Norman said mildly.
"Norman!" Jonah replied trying to sound elated. "Great to see your back. How is everything?" Jonah went on with his fake friendliness as Robbie shook his head in disgust a seat away. Even though Norman nodded and responded to Jonah, he could see right through him. His eyes were fixed upon Gwen and her mysterious "friend." Make your move Warren, I don't have time for your lovey-dovey babble. he thought rather annoyed.
As the viewing ended, the party that occupied Peter's limo all piled back in to head to the cemetery. Gwen managed to comfort Peter while Flash tended to Anna. Harry's thoughts clouded whatever conversation Liz tried to have with him. And Felicia merely gave Gwen mean looks now. Peter noticed this.
"Felicia, will you quit it?" he said rolling his eyes. "You've were glaring at Flash earlier and now Gwen. Just calm down." Felicia looked at Peter with those same piercing, green eyes.
"I have no idea what your talking about Sp-er…Peter," She said flatly. "Maybe I'm a little upset because I lost one of my friends."
"One of your…." Peter was outraged. "You and Mary Jane were never friends! The last time she even told me you and her really talked was when you came over to discuss the baby with her!* You've always been jealous of her and now you've apparently jealous of Gwen for some strange reason!" Felicia looked shocked.
"Look here Mr. Parker," she said angrily. "I know you're in pain right now, I know you feel lost and hopeless, but that gives you no right to take that out on me! How many times were you not there for MJ to tell you Peter?! How many?! How many times did MJ invite ME over when you were out late on 'assignment'?! How many?!!!! Stop this limo now, I'm leaving!" The limo stopped shortly thereafter.
"Felicia honey," Anna said. "You don't have to go, I'm sure we can smooth this out."
"No, Anna," she said. "I'm leaving and that's it." She flung open the car door and started walking. Peter almost stuck his head out to stop her, but he didn't. Let her go. he thought. I can apologize later. "I haven't seen her that mad in a loooonnnngggg time Peter," Flash commented. "And that was the night we broke up! It doesn't look good for you."
"Thanks for the support Flash," Peter said rolling his eyes.
*See Web of Spider-Man #125
They group arrived at the cemetery a short while later. Once again the minister went through the customary motions of a death by Mary Jane's headstone. Man, I better stay on Jonah's good side, Peter thought. He could want me to pay him back for all this if I tick him off! It was then that Peter noticed Rolf and a too bubbly Gwen. This can't be right. Rolf was MJ's manager while she was on Secret Hospital and when she started modeling. MJ always said he felt he understood her needs best and what made women look good because he was gay! Why in the world would he be coming on to Gwen so strong? I'll have to keep an eye on those two. Aunt Anna was the only one crying now as the minister wrapped up the proceedings. Peter knelt and kissed the headstone and started towards Gwen when he felt something within. It wasn't pain or joy, just a void of sorts, like something needed to be done for someone. Man this headache I got from crying must be playing tricks on me. I better get some aspirin. Just then Gwen came over.
"Peter, I'm going out to lunch with Rolf," she said almost trancelike. "I'll call you when I get home."
"Hold on Gwen," Peter said gripping her arm. "Don't you think it's a little dangerous to be going out with a total stranger like Rolf already? Especially with Warren and Osborn around?"
"Oh Peter," Gwen said smiling. "A little jealous?" Peter said nothing as she went back to Rolf and took his arm. They began to stroll towards Rolf's car with Peter following behind discreetly. He watched from atop the hill of the cemetery as Rolf let Gwen into the car and closed the door behind her. As he approached the driver's side, Rolf pulled at his face and in place of Rolf stood Miles Warren. I knew it! Peter thought as Warren hopped in the vehicle and sped off. I should of stopped her! I got to go tell everybody I got to rush off to work and catch up before it's too late!
"Is your tracer signal coming in?" asked a voice that shook Peter to the core.
"Norman!" Peter said more scared than anything else. "Yeah Norman, but there's no way I'm letting you go after him. You'll kill him and probably her too!"
"Peter, we both know you need to wrap up things here before you can take off after him. I have no wish to harm Miss Stacy now. I merely want Warren, my quarrel is not with you today."
"No quarrel!" Peter responded shocked. "How is it…." He let his words die off. "They're going west Osborn," he said reluctantly. "But I want him alive when I get there!"
"You have my word Parker," Norman answered. "You will not receive any grief from my end today." And with that he darted off towards his limo.
Peter rushed back towards his own limo which already held all of its previous occupants except for Harry, who stood outside.
"Where's Gwen?" Harry asked suspiciously.
"She went with Rolf," Peter answered as he motioned Harry over to the side. "Warren got Gwen, he was disguised as Rolf."
"I knew it!" Harry whispered. "We have to go after them."
"Not we Harry, me. You need to stay and make sure everyone gets home safe. And Norman's already on their trail.
"But how does he know…."Peter cut Harry off.
"I gave him the direction I was getting from my tracer."
"Oh I see. You'll give your greatest enemy the go-ahead to snag Miles, but I have to stay back?! Forget it Pete, I'm going to stop my father once and for all."
"Even more reason for you not to go, he wants you dead as much as Warren, and I don't see him stopping if he gets Warren." Harry's look turned solemn. "Please take care of this for me Harry. You'll get your chance." Harry nodded. Peter turned back to the remaining three members that had assembled earlier. "Looks like I can't take the ride to Anna's folks, I got to head over to work for a unscheduled meeting on some experiments we're conducting." he said smiling.
"That's too bad dear," Anna replied. "But make sure you swing by before I head back to Florida."
"Will do Anna." He then darted off towards some nearby shelter. Harry took out his cell phone.
"Hello, Phil? It's Harry. It looks like I'm gonna be calling in that favor from you…"
Spider-Man swung through the crispness of early evening honing in on the signal he was receiving from his spider-tracer. I hope I'm not too late. Osborn might of already killed Miles and changed his mind about the whole "no quarrel" thing. Lucky for me my tracer's still intact. I got to push myself faster though!!! I cannot fail Gwen again!!!! Just then Spider-Man got a twinge from his spider-sense. He stopped, landing on a nearby building, and looked about. Nothing. It has to be this headache. I don't even know if I should be doing this with this pounding, but I don't have time for that! He fired another webline and pushed forward. As he rounded a corner, a figure rose up from behind a building: on a Goblin Glider. The figure silently continued his trail of Spidey.
In Warren's lab, Gwen Stacy was begging for her life.
"Please Warren, don't do this!" Warren scoffed at her pleas.
"I have no need for you anymore woman, all I need is a sample of your fruitful DNA." He produced a needle. "And once I have that, not you, not Osborn, not Harry, and definitely not Parker, can stop me! I will have the answer I need to make perfect clones, and thus recreate you as many times as I want! I can make you to love me with all your heart, I can make you evil, I can make you a walking time bomb, I can even make you my sex slave!!!!" Gwen looked in horror.
"You're mad." she said quietly.
"Right you are my love," Miles said as he raised his needle. "And I'm loving every moment of it." He jabbed the needle sharply into her arm, not noticing the strange electronic spark the contact produced. Gwen slumped to the tiles unconscious.
"Don't make 'em like they used to," he commented, laughing hysterically as he tossed her limp body on top of the Green Goblin's. And from above this grizzly scene, another mysterious figure watches.
Up ahead , Spider-Man swung on web after web in his search. Just as his tracer seemed to reach its peak, his brain exploded.
"Arrrrrrrrgggggggg!!!!!!!" he screamed as fell about 10 stories in pain. He managed to somehow grab the side of the building and stop his decent.
"That was my tracer!" he yelled in fury as his headache intensified. "Warren must of found it! Now what am I going to do?" He looked ahead and saw a huge abandoned car factory with Warren's car right in front of it.
"Talk about luck!" He shot a webline towards the building and promptly swung atop it. Before him was a non-used smokestack.
"He must have a smokestack fetish or something," Spider-Man then quickly slid down the long tube. He must be expecting me. he thought as he silently made his way through the dark corridors towards the light. Villains don't just park in front to their hideout everyday. As he reached the light, Spider-Man did not believe the scene before him: in one corner, the Green Goblin and Gwen lay in a heap, apparently unconscious. To the opposite end of the lab, Warren was rapidly analyzing his newfound data and making calculated adjustments.
"Aren't you too big for Nintendo Miles?" Spidey asked as he leaped behind Miles.
"On the contrary Peter," Miles replied as a shield went up around him. "I only play with Playstation 2's." Spider-Man hammered at the shield but to no avail. "Keep hammering Parker, it'll only be a little while before you break it."
"Oh so you want to be stopped," came the Green Goblin. "Well let's see what we can do about that Peter." Spider-Man looked in shock as the Goblin hurled pumpkin bombs and gauntlet blasts at the shielding. "Are you going to stand there bug or help?" Spider-Man continued his pounding. I'm almost there Miles," the Goblin said smiling. "Death is upon you!"
I'm not gonna let you kill him Osborn," Spidey said flatly. "I'm bringing him in."
"Is that so?" Osborn asked as he shot his gauntlet at Spider-Man, flinging him against the far wall. "Remind me to kill you after him." His blasts have never been that strong. Spider-Man thought. I better be on guard after I stop Warren, if he's not dead first. Spider-Man leapt back up and nailed the shielding with a kick, producing a crack.
Stand back Parker," the Goblin warned. "That crack is all I need." He aimed his gauntlet and with the precision of a laser, his blast went into the shield itself, enveloping it. It then shattered. Spidey ducked to avoid the shrapnel, but the Green Goblin had no such concern. He grabbed Miles Warren by the shirt.
"Time to say goodbye to your precious Gwen, Miles." he said smiling.
"Not quite yet," Warren said confidently. Those were his last words; he degenerated into a pile of goop.
"Whaaaa?!" came Spider-Man and the Goblin's reactions together.
"He was another clone?" Spider-Man asked as he stood from where he has been tending to Gwen. Osborn didn't have the chance to answer as he was smashed in the back of the head by a Hulk-sized hand.
"Right-O Peter," came Miles' voice. "The very last one of me, ever. Now that I've perfected my cloning process, I don't need that weakling body anymore." He stepped out into the light revealing himself to be the size of the Hulk and The Thing combined.
"What have you done to yourself Miles?" Spidey said shocked. He fired dual weblines at Warren who caught them and reeled him in.
"I've made myself--" he started as he backhanded Spider-Man, rendering him semi-conscious and adding to his headache. "--Perfect." he finished.
"I'll stop you Jackal," Spidey managed as he went black. "If it's the last thing I do." Warren laughed heartily as he threw Spider-Man into a cage that had just revealed itself from it's casing.
"And if he doesn't-" came a voice from above Miles. "--We will!!" Kaine finished as he and the second Green Goblin came down from their rafter hiding places.
"Thank goodness you're here," Jackal said as he smiled. "I was starting to get bored."
NEXT ISSUE: "Finality-The Finale!" How does Kaine, two Green Goblins, and Spider-Man stop one Hulking Miles Warren? To put it simply, they can't. Be here!!!