Peter Parker finally sat up after a sleepless night. He rubbed his jaw as he was still sore from the sucker punch he took from the Vulture yesterday evening in the subway.* Jonah's managed to turn New York against me…again. He rolled out of bed and stretched, his body screaming at him in nine different places. He called me out, only to not want to fight me when I found him, then he had the nerve to punch me and run! He went to the refrigerator and pulled out the milk, only to discover it was empty. "Harry…" he grunted as he tossed the carton away. He looked over at his sleeping roommate. I hope he can work things out with Liz. He pulled on his costume, webbed his clothes into a ball and tossed it on his back. He leapt to the ceiling and popped open the skylight. Once on the roof, he secured his mask. But first I need to stop by the Bugle.
*See last issue-where have you been Kelen
In his abandoned silo outside of the city, Adrian Toomes sat alone. He hadn't slept all night, only because he heard sleep was the second cousin of death. He didn't want any part of that. His interview with Jameson had worked well for him in the subway, though it was quite the turn of events. But today had to be the day. No more running from Spider-Man. The bug would die at his hands, no matter what the cost.
Back in Soho, Harry's cell phone began to ring. "Who in the hell is calling me at 6:00 in the morning?" He read the caller id and immediately perked up. "Hello? Hey Cynthia. Why are you calling so early? Oh really…well I guess since I'm in charge a day off won't hurt. I'll be over in awhile." He hung up his phone, headed to the bathroom and turned on the shower.
"Harry, its Liz. I'm leaving Normie with Mark, and then I'm stopping by to see you. We need to talk."
A few minutes later Peter landed on the roof of the Bugle. Pulling on his civvies, he made one last check for any Spider related items. Reassured, he headed down the steps into the Bugle offices.
He wasn't far before he heard the familiar yelling that always took place in the Bugle.
"Jonah, this whole thing is absurd!" Robbie Robertson yelled. "Not only are you glorifying a man who has threatened not only our lives but countless Bugle employees over the years, you're directly responsible for Spider-Man not taking him off the streets!"
"Robbie, I could care less about Toomes, even less about Spider-Man," Jonah Jameson replied. "All I care about is what sells papers. And yesterday's paper sold like hotcakes. Now help me figure out the follow up that will sell us more."
"Damn it Jonah! You and you're…"
"Whoa now fellas," Peter chipped in. "No need to go at like this at the copier. Save it for the office." Robbie shook his hand warmly.
"Good to see you Peter. Let's talk business." Robbie started.
"Wait Robertson," Jonah began. "We're not through here…"
Betty Brant poked her head around the corner. "Jonah, I know you hate for me to answer your phone, but I knew you weren't gonna do it the way you and Joe were arguing," she said.
Jameson's argument with Robbie had him past reasoning. "How many times do I have to tell you Betty," His face contorted more as he moved closer to her. You haven't been my secretary since…"
"It was Time again." Betty responded coolly. "Hi Peter."
Peter waved as Jameson's face turned completely. "Oh…yes…I'm just gonna…" Trying to save what little face he had left, he ducked around the corner to his office. Betty just smirked and went back to her desk.
"How have you been Peter?" Robbie asked as he playfully hit Peter's arm.
"As well as I can be. The whole symbiote thing at Solutions did give me some time off," Peter answered as the two walked towards Robbie's office. They closed the door behind him.
"Let's get to business Peter," Robbie said eagerly. "The court ruled Cletus Kasady sane enough to stand trial. In a few short weeks, the trial had been held and Kasady was found guilty on multiple counts of murder and sentenced to death by injection. Given your rich history of snapping that fiend in action, I think you should go with Ben to cover his last day of life."
Peter sat stunned. After countless battles with the spawn of Venom's symbiote, he knew how dangerous Carnage was. He didn't agree with the court's decision, but it was out of his hands. But to take pictures of a man who's about to die?
"Nothing too graphic mind you," Robertson continued. Just take a few pictures of him to go with Ben's story. Hopefully we can get some insight from him, but I doubt that."
"I don't know Robbie," Peter said warily. "I've been around a lot of death lately."
"You don't even have to watch him die. I just want the pictures and you can let Ben watch the end by himself."
Peter sighed. It's been awhile since I've been able to go on an assignment outside of the costume. And I don't have anything else to do. "Okay, I'll do it."
"Great!" Robbie smiled. "Here's your assignment sheet. Meet Ben at Ravencroft at 9:30 p.m. The execution is set for midnight. Let's try to make Jonah happy with this one."
Peter closed the door behind him and headed back for the elevators. Jonah was screaming in his office; apparently Time and him had differing opinions on how to portray him. Peter smiled as he hit the down button. "Jonah happy? Now that is funny."
Harry where are you?! Liz Osborn asked herself as she rang the bell for Peter and Harry's apartment again. He hadn't been at work and neither was Cynthia, and that alone bought her blood to boiling.
She was just about to march back to Osborn Industries and get Cynthia's home address when a yellow cab pulled in front of the apartment. In nothing more than a sweater, sweatpants, a trench coat and running shoes, Harry Osborn paid the driver outside of his residence.
"Harry! Where have you been?" Liz demanded as Harry turned around. You were with her weren't you? Liz pushed him back out in the street.
"Liz, let me explain! It's not what you..." Harry tried to take her hand but ended up getting smacked instead.
"No Harry. I came over here to talk about yesterday, but obviously you already have your mind made up!" She shoved her hand in her purse as Harry rubbed his face. "Take these," she said pulled out several sheets of paper. Harry took them out of her hand and his eyes grew wide as he read them. "I'll see you in court Harry." She then returned to her car and was soon driving away.
Harry watched her go and then made his way to his apartment. Dejectedly, he inserted his key into the lock after what seemed like an hour elevator ride. Just as he closed the door, a red, webbed, and blue figure strode out of the bedroom.
"What's going on?" Peter asked as he pulled off his mask.
"Liz is really going to divorce me Pete," he responded as he fell face first on the couch.
"Anything I can do Harry? I'm here to help," Peter asked.
"No." was Harry's only response.
Peter looked at the time and sighed. I could do a lot of other things, but there's someone I think I need to see now. He pulled his mask back on. Before it's too late.
Liz Osborn stormed into her apartment back across town. She threw her purse into the chair and headed up the steps to her room. She flung open her door and after violently slamming it shut, she crumpled to her bed in tears.
Good thing Normie isn't home. she thought as she began sobbing long and hard. She wasn't on the bed for 5 minutes when her doorbell rang. "Go away!" she screamed, assuming it was Harry. The doorbell rung again. "I don't want to talk to you!"
After a third ring, Liz hopped up angrily. Rushing down the steps she grabbed the doorknob. "What part of…" she stopped mid-sentence as she opened the door.
"Hi Liz," Peter said as he raised his hands. "I come in peace.
Liz didn't appreciate the humor. "So he sent you instead of coming himself? He's such an…such an…Osborn! She sunk to her couch in despair.
"Actually, he has no idea I'm here," Peter answered as he sat down next to her. "Are you okay?"
Liz shook her head. "I just realized it Peter. I realized how much Harry means to me and how much I really love him. And it took me awhile to accept he was still alive. I guess I was in denial. But now I realize how much I do miss him, how much Normie misses him. And when I try to make an effort, he's already out with somebody else, like he doesn't even care!" She began crying again.
Peter took her in his arms and let her cry on his shoulder. "Liz, Harry is crushed right now. He still loves you and cares. Maybe if you talk to him…"
"No talking Peter," Liz replied as she stood up. "I'm through talking, unless it's through my lawyers. I love him, but Normie and I are not going to get fucked over. You tell him that." She was surprising calm now. "Goodbye Peter."
Peter nodded and headed for the front door as he heard a soft sobbing begin again.
The Vulture made one last check over himself before he left the silo for the last time. Two machine guns, two uzis, one bazooka, and two ammo belts. "Time to kill a bug," he muttered decisively. He exited the silo and began his flight to Manhattan.
Surprisingly enough, the extra weaponry did not weigh him down. He flew straight and looked ahead, not letting anything distract him. Until he spied a small child playing in a backyard.
Slowing down, he raised his machine gun and aimed into the yard.
Below, the little boy played joyfully with his MC action figure, not having a care in the world. It was then a quick whistle stopped him short of moving left. He looked down at where the bullet had struck the ground and concentrating slightly, the bullet exploded right before him. Smiling, he went back to playing.
Vulture continued his flight, casting a wary eye back at the child. "Mutants."
Back in the city, Peter was walking the streets, immersed in his thoughts. Ranging from Liz and Harry, the Vulture, Mary Jane, why Gwen decided to take off, his date with Cletus Kasady in a few weeks, what he was going to tell Matt whenever he decided to call him back*, and Jack Walker. Luckily, his spider-sense prevented him from running into anyone along the way.
Streets are pretty packed tonight, even for New York. People must want to enjoy a nice night. Times like this make me miss MJ even more. It was then his senses started ringing. He looked up, but saw nothing in the immediate vicinity, but he heard the noise level rise a few blocks over. I better get over there and make sure everything is fine. He hadn't even gotten to the next block when he heard the screams begin.
"It's the Vulture! He's gonna…"
The sentence was lost when gunfire erupted into the air. Wanting to waste no more time, Peter ducked around a corner and emerged as Spider-Man at the roof. There he saw Vulture above the city, focused on the crowd below. His guns were still smoking.
"I will let nothing stand in between me and killing Spider-Man! Do you hear me fool?! Those below have witnessed just a taste of what I have in store for you! There deaths mean nothing to me! Only yours will!" Vulture towered in the skyline, a greater menace now then he ever was his entire criminal career.
I have to rethink my options. Approaching him directly is suicide even with my spider-sense. He crouched on the roof and began climbing down the building when a sudden heat struck him. "What in the world?"
"Hiya Webhead," the Human Torch said as he hovered right next to the wall Spidey was adhered to. "You gonna take care of this anytime soon, cause I don't want any more innocents killed in this fucked up cause of his."
Spider-Man stopped and looked at Torch hard. "Ya know, you ever hear you say the wrong things at the wrong time?"
"Sorry, I just thought that maybe, when a raving lunatic calls you out in a newspaper, you would handle it before it got this far! And if you can't then I will."
"Listen, Torch," the Spider said. "I have this under control. Now I suggest you just move along, head to the Negative Zone for awhile, and I hopefully won't see you later." He continued his climb down.
Noticing he hit a sore spot, Torch decided to let it go. "Okay then Webs, whatever you say. I'm heading to Florida anyway; take in a little R 'n' R*. Just go handle your business." He then flew off.
*For more on this visit see Human Torch #1, coming soon!-KC
"Whatever Johnny." Spider-Man grumbled as he stayed in the shadows so the Vulture wouldn't see. He quickly spun a strong web between two buildings, and used it to slingshot himself over a few buildings and to the block behind the Vulture, using a webline to slow himself down and land safely on the street below.
"Damn it Spider-Man, don't make this hard on yourself. Just come out and die!" Vulture hollered. He still hadn't seen the wall-crawler.
Reassured, Spider-Man crawled up another wall. Now to…he was interrupted when a hand touched his shoulder. He jumped but did not sense danger.
"Evening Spider-Man," Daredevil said as he lowered his hand. "I didn't mean to give you a start."
"All the times I can't find another hero in this city, I run into two back to back while I'm in the middle of trying to end this old bird's vendetta."
"I'm glad to see you're handling this situation, but that still leaves other matters," he replied. "When are you coming to see me about Solutions?"
"You just called me yesterday, give me a break," Spidey answered as he kept a close eye on the villain a block away.
"But I know about your little problem with timeliness," DD retorted. "Do you need any help?"
Spider-Man shook his head. "This is too personal, I want to take him down myself.
Daredevil cast a wary eye to his friend, finally sighing in agreement. "Just make sure to stop by my office sometime tomorrow," he said as he began to take his leave.
"Tomorrow?" Spider-Man asked. That's Saturday!"
Daredevil looked back as he swung away. "I'll be there all day."
Vulture kept scanning the rooftops nervously, expecting Spider-Man at anytime. He looked below him as ambulances braved the scene to tend to the injured and dead below. He could easily pick off any off them, but he instead allowed them their duties.
Where are you Spider-Man? He took a peek behind him and saw nothing. "Spider-Man, if you don't show yourself in the next minute, I'm opening fire until you do!"
He waited, knowing the hero wouldn't waste any more time if he involved more innocents. But still no bug.
"That's it bug! It's not going to be just your death, most of New York City's as well!" He raised his machine gun to the streets again.
"I don't think so Adrian!" the Spider yelled as he jumped from the building behind Vulture. Vulture tried to turn away but was a fraction too slow as Spider-Man landed on his back.
"Get off of me! I'll have your head!" the villain snorted as he tried to shake his foe to no avail.
"Have my head?" Spider-Man joked. "Geez Vulchie, you don't have to talk like your age since you show it so much." He grabbed Vulture's arms and pinned them back, leaving him unable to control his flight.
"You fool, you'll kill us both!" Vulture yelled as the two began to spiral to the streets below. He dropped his machine gun and lost an uzi in the process.
"Then so be it."
The streets were relatively deserted as the ambulances had sped away a few minutes earlier when they thought Vulture was going to attack again. A few blocks from the street, the Spider leapt off of Vulture's back and shot a webline to save himself. Instants before Vulture hit the pavement, he swung back around and planted both feet into the fiend's side, sending him into a nearby wall.
Spider-Man landed and was on top of his old nemesis in seconds. He ripped off the bazooka and tossed it away and stepped on the remaining uzi. With Vulture disarmed he swung with vicious left and right hands, dazing Toomes.
"What were you thinking?" Spider-Man screamed. "Killing innocent people just because you're going to die? How low can you be?" His fist slammed into Vulture's chest sending him backwards onto the ground.
"But it's over Vulture, do you understand? I didn't give you the cancer, you gave it to yourself from your harness. And now you have to suffer the consequences!" He raised his hand to deliver the knockout blow.
"Wait…" Vulture managed. He wiped away the blood that was coming from his lip as Spidey lowered his hand. "…There's a bomb."
Spider-Man's eyes widened behind his mask. "Where is it you…"
"It's on me," Vulture smiled as he took his feet. It's connected to my harness with a fail safe. If it leaves my body my murder count will only rise with our names attached to it!" Suddenly, he grabbed his wrist in pain, falling back to his knees.
"Vulture are you?" Spider-Man asked as he watched the old man crumple.
Vulture began rising to his feet. "I activated it, bug, and there's nothing you can do."
"NO!" Spider-Man wasted no time as he grabbed Vulture by the waist and shot a webline up. He swung feverishly, not knowing when the bomb was going to blow.
"It's too late my friend," Vulture sneered from under the wall-crawler's arm. He was getting tossed around like a rag doll as the Spider swung and he could easily escape now, but was too drained from the beating he took to do so. "We're all going to die."
"No we're not!" Spider-Man answered as he pushed forward. He finally saw his goal up ahead: the Hudson River.
Vulture realized what Spider-Man was doing. "You're going to leave me to die at the bottom of the river?! But that goes against everything you stand for!"
"And you've insulted everything I stand for," Spider-Man said quietly as he neared the top of the bridge above the river.
Landing on top, Spidey quickly scanned the river for boats or other signs of life. Finding none, he grabbed Vulture from the concrete.
"This is it Adrian. You're scared of dying? Well, maybe you should've thought this through better." He dangled the villain over the edge.
"You wouldn't!" Vulture said meekly as he gave up all hope of Spider-Man changing his mind.
"Yes I would." Spider-Man flipped Adrian around in mid-air and grabbed him by his back. He used his unique gripping abilities to get a firm hold on Toomes' electromagnetic harness and the bomb.
Yanking quickly, he managed to rip the harness and wings from Vulture's back and throw it out across the water in the same motion. Trusting it was far enough away from the bridge, he leapt the opposite direction of the bomb and drug Vulture with him, sending both over the side.
Mere seconds later, the bomb exploded just above the water. The results were huge, but the water absorbing most of the impact, sending a huge wave into the air. The bridge shook a little, with driver's only noticing the brightness of the explosion.
Spider-Man shot another webline to the bottom of the bridge and brought Vulture and himself back to one of the support cables. "Now what have we learned from this bird brain?" He held Vulture in one arm, who suddenly looked very pale.
"Get me to a hospital Spider-Man," was his last words as he lost consciousness. Hoping he had enough web-fluid left to get to the hospital without reloading, he shot another webline and swung off.
A few hours later, the Spider crouched above the hospital window Adrian Toomes was located in. Doctors had been coming in and out for hours, but he finally heard something positive. "It's been a rocky road, but he should be coming out of this shortly, one doctor said to another.
"Yes, but it's no telling when the cancer will take his life," the other doctor said. The two turned off the lights and headed for the door. "But then again, I guess everything happens for a reason." The door closed behind them.
Spider-Man breathed a small sigh of relief and began refilling his web-shooters for the trip back across town to Soho. Feeling good that he was able to stop the Vulture, he couldn't help but wish there was more he could do. "Not even the amazing Spider-Man can beat everything, because deep down, I'm still just Peter Parker, another man among a million." Putting his shirt back over his belt, he shot a web and swung away, not knowing how many more days Vulture had left and questioning his own mortality.
NEXT ISSUE: It's the giant-sized issue #450! Peter and Ben Urich head to Ravencroft to cover Cletus Kasady's final hours, but another resident of the prison wants to kill Carnage himself. Is there anything Spidey can do to prevent Kasady's death now so the state can kill him later? Does that sound like a rock and a hard place?