Paul Stacy stood in the doorway, shocked at the sight he saw. It was his cousin, his long dead cousin Gwen Stacy in the arms of his father. His eyes burned with fire.
"What are you doing here?!" he asked as he stalked up to Gwen, making her release Arthur. "And you better have a damn good reason."
"Paul, control yourself," Arthur said in a firm voice. Paul took a step back but still held the look of anger on his jaw.
"Look, why doesn't everybody sit down and we'll go from there…" Jill began.
"No way," Paul interrupted as his face came nearer to Gwen's. "My cousin died a long time ago at the hands of Spider-Man, just like my uncle. You are not and never will be her. Now. What. Do. You. Want?"
Gwen looked into Paul piercing eyes and pushed back her tears. "You three are the only family I have. We need each other, clone or not. Can't you accept that?"
"No." he said flatly and turned away violently to stomp to the other end of the room.
Gwen sighed and picked up her purse. "This looks like a good time for me to go," she murmured as she began to cry. She opened the door before she turned to say, "Thanks for today Jill. It was nice." She then started down the steps.
"Gwen wait!" Arthur called after her, but to no avail. As the blonde-headed Stacy moved out of sight, he turned back to Paul. "Who in the hell do you think you are?"
"Yeah, Paul. When are you ever going to grow up?" Jill added as she slammed her groceries into their proper places. "She's still family either way!" She pushed him out the way as she went to her bedroom.
Arthur looked at his son in disappointment again, and then went to console Jill.
"If you had the dirt on Spider-Man like I do, you would be angry too." Paul responded to himself.
Harry Osborn slowly pulled into his father's parking place early the next morning. He had puked twice this morning and felt the urge coming again soon.
He had left Peter Parker's Soho apartment empty this morning, not having seen Peter since before he left for work yesterday morning. He was too sick to worry about his friend's safety now.
He entered the revolving doors of Osborn Industries, the company he was forced to inherit due to his father's current imprisonment. This is what his next six months would be like.
Cynthia James peered at him from behind her desk. "I take it your Mr. Osborn?" she asked. "Let me get you some coffee…" she said as she hurried to stand.
Harry smiled and waved her off. Maybe this isn't going to be so sickening now. "I'm very capable of that myself Ms…." He searched for a nameplate.
"James. Cynthia James," she injected.
Harry smiled and shook her hand. "Nice to meet you Ms. James. But please…" he sipped from his coffee. "Call me Harry."
He had been too curious to leave last night and he had been too nervous to sleep. He had chain-smoked cigars all night, to the point that he had been completely out for hours. He was still pacing when the first Bugle staffers were coming in, and had sat down for the first time in hours just two minutes ago.
Jameson stared at the telephone, as fear temporarily came over him. But the reporter in him yanked up the phone.
"J. Jonah Jameson." he said.
"Good to see you're in your office Jonah," the gravely voice came over the phone. "Like I said yesterday, I need a favor of you."
"I don't do favors for any one who tries to get his way with scare tactics!" Jonah snorted.
"What if I mention that it involves a certain wall-crawler's death?"
Jonah bit his lip, but couldn't pass up the offer. "What do you want?"
Elsewhere, someone was clearly distracted.
"Parker!" McCoy screamed. "Are you listening to me?!"
Peter's head snapped up and refocused on McCoy. "Sorry Dr. McCoy, I'm out of it today."
"Well I suggest you become un out of it! I lose my project, a good chunk of a building I don't even own, and Mr. Stark's sterling reputation! Do you knows how it feels to lose everything Parker?"
Peter stood. "Actually I do. I just buried my wife remember?" He started to leave.
"Parker, I didn't…" McCoy started.
"Save it. I'm on break." He replied as he slammed the door.
Minutes later, Spider-Man was swinging through the skyline, still tortured my USAgent's words from the night before:
"No, the Punisher kills whoever he wants and I'm not going to. I'm not going to kill Brock because I don't need to, the same as with 99% of the rest of the whackos we go up against. They're only dangerous because they've got a little power and a hard-on to use it. If you take their power away, Spider-Man, then you won't have to fight them again and again. You can't coddle them, your way doesn't work!"*
*USAgent #7, part two to last issue's events!-Kelen
My way doesn't work; I'll show that idiot! He released his web line and tumbled into the wooded area of central park. He knew his spider-sense would warn him if any danger neared.
He wasted little time in sending his right fist into a tree.
He swung wildly, a blind fury of sorts. Bark and leaves flew everywhere as the man Peter Parker, not the superhero Spider-Man lashed out at the world in the best way he could.
A full ten minutes passed before Peter sank to his knees in exhaustion, as the physical torture he had just submitted his muscles to took its toll slowly. He didn't feel any better but the trees were a great Jack Walker substitute.
He changed out of his costume and back to his dress shirt and slacks he had tossed in a web pack. The bruises were still fresh from his tango with Venom; luckily he passed the shiner off for a short tumble down the steps. All he had to do now is get through another 4 hours with McCoy.
He smacked himself in the forehead as he headed back to Stark Solutions. "Just once, just this one time. Can't I just work a normal day and go home to bed?"
Robbie could barely believe his eyes as he walked past the man who had just exited Jonah's office.
"Jonah?! What the hell were you doing in here with him?" he asked as soon as he closed the door.
"Getting the story of a lifetime Joe," Jameson answered, not looking up from his frantic note scribbling.
"What in the world could he possibly say that is remotely interesting to you or this paper?"
Jonah looked at Robbie with a gleam in his eyes he once thought long gone. "He swears on his life he's going to kill Spider-Man."
Robbie looked at Jonah like he was nuts. "Oh lord…so?"
"Here's the catch. He's dying of cancer and has very few days left, and he wants to make the most out of them."
Harry mulled over sales reports for what seemed to be the hundredth time in 10 minutes, the morning had been uneventful but the sales figures seemed to be all wrong.
Sighing in frustration, he pushed the figures away from him and began to massage his temples. "It's been way too long since I had to do this."
"What's the problem Harry?" Cynthia asked from her desk outside of Harry's office.
"I don't know! There's money missing that should be there, money that shouldn't be there…I should've known my father wasn't going to make this easy."
When Harry opened his eyes Cynthia was sitting on Harry's desk, legs crossed with an almost come hither look. "Look, maybe things will make more sense once we get some food on our stomach's. Deal?" she asked extending her hand.
Harry smiled. "Deal." He grabbed his jacket and quickly followed Cynthia out of the office, locking the door as the phone began to ring.
"Hey Harry. It's Liz. I heard about what Norman did to you and I just wanted to give you a call to see how things were going. Maybe I'll get to talk to you later. Bye."
"Okay. Thanks a lot. We'll try again later." Peter hung up the phone from his third call in an hour exasperated. "I still can't get a hold of Stark," he sighed as he looked at McCoy. "I say we just give up, I'm sure he's plenty aware of what happened last night."
"You're right Parker," McCoy finally conceded. "Perhaps I have been a little out of line." He gazed wearily out his office window
Peter raised an eyebrow at his boss as he watched him slumped into his seat. "A little?"
McCoy chuckled. "Peter my boy…if you only…" he let the sentence break off. "So how's Miss Stacy doing? I haven't had a chance to speak with her since our press conference and her ordeal with the Jackal."*
*Issues #443-#445-Finality Reminder Kelen
"She's been fine, I haven't really seen her either. But she's quite the woman, she's been through worse." Peter replied. Thinking about Gwen huh boss man? You wouldn't stand a chance.
"That she is," McCoy said quietly as he folded his arms behind his head. "Look, Parker, about what I said earlier…"
Peter began to speak but McCoy waved him off.
"…I think you should take some time off. You never really took any time off after what happened and I can see that you're mentally worn out."
"Thanks Dr. McCoy but I'm fine, honest."
"Go home Parker." he repeated.
"Don't have to tell me twice." Peter grabbed up his stuff and was out the door. I guess he really felt bad about what he said. Or maybe I do look tired. Just this one time, maybe I'll go home and sleep awhile. He strolled out the front lobby, around the police tape and damaged structure, and out the door. It'll be nice to get to just hang out with Harry; I haven't seen him in two days. There I go not paying attention to my friends. A slight drizzle started to fall on Peter's unprotected head. And a vacation wouldn't be so bad either. His eyes suddenly took notice of something else.
It was one of the Bugle's paperboy's filling the newspaper boxes. Geez. What menace is Jonah putting special issues out about now? Chuckling, Peter dropped in his 75 cents?! just to kill his curiosity. He got a lot more than he bargained for.
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: VULTURE PROMISES SPIDER-MAN'S DEATH WILL BE BY HIS HAND! Interview by J. Jonah Jameson. Villain only has a few days left before Cancer gets the best of him.
Peter couldn't help but laugh. The Vulture?! Out of all the villains that could kill me he thinks he can do it? And he gave Jonah an exclusive interview? I do need to go home to bed. He tucked the paper into his bag and decided to brave the rain: and walk home.
High above Peter, the Vulture, Adrian Toomes looked down, watching the people. So many lives, so many just beginning…just as mine is ending. It had been a few days ago when his doctor had given him a mere week to live and his thoughts had been nothing but hatred since. Hatred for the mess he made of his life, hatred of the wretched cancer, and hatred of the accursed magnetic harness. But my hatred of Spider-Man stands out above all of that. He's the one that has hounded me ever since I became the Vulture. The scorn of my nightmares and the foil of all my plans. But no more. If I must die, so too must Spider-Man, one way or another.
He continued to hover, watching as the New York streets below became harder to see as the rain began to fall more steadily. "Very soon, Spider-Man. Very soon." He laughed to himself and quickly darted off to the south.
Harry parked his car in his normal spot, across the street just past Peter's apartment. He whistled softly to himself as he looked through his keys to grab the right one for the door. Without looking up, he found the key, took it in his left hand and rubbed his two fingers against Cynthia's phone number with his right. The rain wasn't bothering him one bit.
"Hi Harry," Liz said just as he was about to run into her. He was so startled he jumped and dropped his piece of paper.
"Liz? Oh man, you're soaked. How long have you been out here?" He pulled off his trench coat and wrapped it around her.
"For a little while. I heard about what happened and I wanted to see how you were doing. We barely get to talk when you come to see Normie."
"Yeah I know. Look why don't you come inside and I'll fix you some coffee." Harry offered.
"I'd like that," Liz replied looking down. "Oh wait, you dropped this a second ago."
"Liz, Harry what's going on?" a now thoroughly drenched Peter Parker asked as he approached his building's steps. Harry's eyes went wide with horror.
"Cynthia?! Who's Cynthia?! Oh wait, I remember! Your father's secretary? Give me a break Harry! I spend twenty minutes in the rain waiting on you and you're out smoozing with some young tramp? Don't call me Harry, my divorce lawyers will call you!" She pushed past Peter and went up the block in tears trying to hail a taxi.
"Liz wait!" Harry called after her, but it was too late. She flagged down a ride and was soon out of sight again.
"Wait a minute here," Peter began. "Something's wrong with this picture…"
"What Pete? That I'm a married man and I spent the better part of my day flirting with my father's hired help?" Harry asked.
"No." He opened the door and turned back around. "Aren't I supposed to have the women problems?" he quipped. Harry chased him up the steps.
"Gwen?" Jill asked. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah I'm fine. I was just hoping Paul would've been a little more receptive." She sat alone on her bed with her window cracked so she could let in a cool breeze.
"He's such a jerk. I don't know where he gets off. But he's gonna have to deal with it one way or another."
"I guess so." Gwen responded. An awkward silence followed, with neither of the girls too sure what to say next.
"I just got this crazy idea though," Jill said suddenly.
"Let's leave the country. Just you and me. Let's go to the islands for awhile. We both need the vacation!" Jill couldn't believe what just came out of her mouth, but it didn't sound like a bad idea at all.
"I can't leave! What about my job, my life, I can't put those on hold!" Gwen answered.
"Oh come on Gwen! It should be no problem for you to take time off. And it won't be forever. Come on! Do it for me!" Jill pleaded.
"Fine! I'll go. I don't see the point but I'll go with you." Gwen's head started to race with the excitement of something new, instead of the same old same old. "When do we leave?"
The rain continued to rage on, as many New Yorkers were locked nice and snug in their homes. Not this little Spider.
Kicked out of my own apartment! How crazy is that? Can't even make a joke about a guy's love life any more without them telling you to not come back until you can say something constructive! The nerve of some people! He shot another webline as he vaulted through the city caverns. Left with little choice and still bothered by USAgent, he decided to go take out his pain on the Vulture…again.
"Some guys you just don't get tired of beating the crap out of and handing them to the cops," he sighed as he somersaulted onto the Daily Globe roof. Trying to get a bird's eye view.
"There!" The Vulture said as he spied Spider-Man below. "I knew it wouldn't take him long to come after me. He can't resist!" He took to a lower altitude to plot his next move.
Spider-Man scanned the skies, but the clouds and fog were killing his aerial visibility. Stupid rain! I can't see a damn thing. He felt what he thought was a valid danger warning but dismissed it as a baffled bird almost flew into his face. "Almost pulled a Fabio there. I need to move; I'm a sitting duck like this." He raised his arm to swing away but he was bowled over by two feet that landed in the small of his back.
"Right you are bug," Vulture smiled smugly as he came into Spidey's view. "And it's not good to talk to yourself either."
Spider-Man wasted no time in recovering as he brought himself to his feet. "Look," he said rubbing his back. "There you got me. Now let's get to the part where I pop you in the jaw and go home." He swung, but just missed as Toomes took to the air again. Not wanting to risk another cloud-concealed attack, Spidey was right behind him. "Oh come on, again with the 'I can fly, I am your superior' bit? Hold still and say good night!"
Vulture darted between buildings trying to catch the Spider off-guard. "If I won't do that for cancer, why would I do it for you?" He attempted a loop-de-loop and ended up behind Spider-Man but he still couldn't shake him. As much as I want to kill him, I'm going to have to really stick by my whatever means necessary clause. Looking down, he saw a large grouping of people that had formed for the next subway car. "Intriguing."
"What's intriguing? And when did you learn big words?" Spidey yelled, but Vulture's flight path took a sudden turn down. He's gonna try to lose me in the subway tunnels! Maybe I can slip a tracer on him just in case. He released his web and landed just behind the crowd of commuters who were a little distracted.
The group was around Vulture, almost akin to crowd's gravitating towards a celebrity. Questions were flying left and right; objects were being stuck in Toomes face to sign. All of this left him quite baffled and also distracted.
Spider-Man unleashed a right-handed blow that sent Vulture crumpling into the nearby support beam. He towered over his old foe. "Now, like I said…game over."
"Leave him alone!"
"Yeah he hasn't done anything to you!"
"He was telling the truth! You won't leave him alone!"
"You're part of the reason he's in the shape he's in!"
Just as quickly as the crowd had been to show their interest and admiration for the Vulture, they quickly became a lynch mob around Spider-Man.
"Waitaminute! I'm trying to help you! Birdman here is a menace!" Spidey said as he tried to fight through the crowd. There's a lot of them! I might hurt them if I try to force my way through. He fired a web upward, which pulled him out of danger and began to head to a better spot to finish off the job when a dozen or so hands yanked him back into the crowd and onto the floor.
Toomes sat and watched the bizarre scene unfold, quite unsure of what was happening. What he did see was another chance to prepare. A final chance to prepare. He wiped the blood from his lip and rubbed his chest before standing up. "So the tables have turned eh Spider-Man?" he asked as he came closer to the mob.
Peter had long abandoned being gentle, but New Yorker's who carry cow prods in their purses and Spiders don't mix. After having been jabbed in his side twice with one of those, he was only on his feet thanks to a burly construction worker who offered Spider-Man up to Vulture like a prize.
"I could break your neck now. Quick and easy. But instead you will wait." He backhanded Spidey across his face and then flew out the subway entrance.
The smack was enough to jog Spider-Man back to his senses. "Get off!" he screamed as he finally broke away from the crowd. "What's wrong with you people? You just helped a many time murderer escape! And why? Because he's the victim?! Whatever." Disgusted, he reloaded his webshooters and began the swing home.
As he silently dropped through the skylight, he saw the answering machine blinking new messages. "Harry? You here?" When no answer came, Peter peeled out of his wet costume and pressed play.
"Peter. It's Robbie. Got an offer for you. Word is the court is about to hand down a death penalty to Cletus Kasady soon. I wanted to know if you wanted to take the pictures. Give me a call."
"Hey Peter, it's Gwen. Jill and I have decided to go out of town for awhile, but I'll be sure to tell you all about it when I get back. Bye!"
Peter raised an eyebrow. Beep!
"Hello Peter. This is Matthew Murdock. Long time no see pal, but business first. Tony Stark has asked me to represent Stark Solutions. Seems the city wants to sue Stark for not having full control over the symbiote experiments and for destroying the one building in a fire. McCoy referred me to you for a few questions, so get back to me. And I do mean some time soon."
Peter shook his head and pulled down his blind. Stupid Agent. 'My way is better, kill the symbiote.' And now I have to pay for that as Peter Parker too? Beaten physically, mentally, and spiritually now, Peter Parker aka the amazing Spider-Man crawled into his bed.
NEXT ISSUE: Adrian's Big Plan concludes! It's Vulture as you've never seen him. No-holds barred with only one intent: kill Spider-Man! Is Spidey gonna get serious and put the Vulture down or is a dying man's wish about to come true?