"You know what Peter?"
"I'm afraid of dying," Ben Urich said as he and Peter Parker stood nervously in the darkened interrogation room of Ravencroft Asylum for the Criminally Insane.
"You, afraid?" Peter asked, quite surprised. "After all the things you've seen over the years, you're scared to die?"
"Yes, actually," the older man said as he lit another cigarette. "I don't know why, but I am." He took the cigarette out his mouth and rolled it between his fingers. "Yet, I still smoke these damn things."
"They make things to help you quit if that's what you're worried about," Peter said as he placed a hand on his longtime friend's shoulder.
Ben scoffed at the idea. "I said I was scared of dying, not scared of smoke."
The two were interrupted as Colonel John Jameson, head of Ravencroft security, wheeled Cletus Kasady a.k.a. Carnage into the room on a dolly. "Here he is gentlemen," Jameson said with a slight smirk. "Hope he says something." He unbuckled the straps holding the straightjacketed man to the dolly and led him to the chair across the table from Ben and Peter. Ben sat down as Peter began taking pictures of a smiling Kasady.
"Good evening Mr. Kasady," Ben began as he started his tape recorder. "You look extremely cheerful for someone facing execution."
Kasady continued to smile. "I'm not going to die, Mr. Urich."
"According to the state of New York Mr. Kasady, I'm afraid you are," Ben retorted. "Unless there's been a change of plan I'm unaware of."
Peter took another picture then stood back to take in the scene. He is especially smug this evening. It's as if he's in the park feeding the ducks! I hope he hasn't figured out a way to escape because the FF is never in town when he does.
"As you sit only a few hours away from death Cletus," Ben continued. "How do you feel? Do you have any remorse at all for your victims or for yourself?"
Cletus continued smiling, but didn't say a word.
Ben sighed and took one more drag from his cigarette before putting it out on the metal table. "Is there anything you would like the public to know, anything you want to say to anyone? You're facing death Cletus; surely you have something on your chest?"
Kasady just smiled, this time raising his eyebrows.
On the other side of the two-way mirror Doctor Ashley Kafka watched in dismay as Cletus refused to say anything. She had tried so long to get through to Cletus, with the symbiote and without the symbiote. She had looked him dead in the eye both when he was in costume and out and hadn't flinched. She had offered her hand so many times to him, yet he refused to take it. And now, he would be dead at midnight. "I didn't do enough..."
John Jameson approached her from behind and rested his hand on her shoulder. The two had been lovers once, but their love had cost them their jobs when Chameleon escaped thanks to Ashley. * They had tried to make it work, but they found out they just weren't right for each other. When Doctor Leonard Samson was unable to fill his role as new Chief of Security, Jameson was offered the position again. He only accepted on the condition that they rehire Ashley. "You did all you could Ash. You can only help those that want to be helped."
*Spectacular Spider-Man #241 vol. 1 - KC
"I know John, I know," she sighed as she pressed her hand to the glass. "Sometimes I wish there was a way though." She picked up her jacket and John quickly took it from her and helped her put it on. "I'm going to go home and soak for a few hours, see you tomorrow." John stared at her until she reached the door and twirled around. "Thank you for helping me with my jacket John. And some things never change." With that, she was gone, leaving John with something to smile about on this dreary night.
Elsewhere in Ravencroft, a man sits in a darkened cell. Sweat was dripping from his forehead, not because he was cold, more because the individual he was facing.
"I recall a time before when you would've never been allowed in this type of cell."
"Yeah, me too," Eddie Brock said as he hung his head. "Until that night at Stark's with Spider-Man and USAgent. * I should've never gone after Parker." He wiped the sweat away and looked at his visitor. "I always wanted one more shot at Kasady, at least for my other's sake anyway. He always was so phony to me, a guy who gets off on killing gets granted more powers to do so. That's just not right. At least we...I always tried to protect innocents. I guess the state has the final say though."
*Amazing Spider-Man #447 & USAgent #7
The visitor stood unmoving. "I can grant you this one chance Eddie Brock. But only one, so it's best get to Kasady undetected. Security has granted Kasady one hour to himself before his execution at midnight. It is now 10:30 p.m." The door to his cell swung open. Brock nodded his head and headed out of his confinements, closely followed by his rescuer Scrier.
Ben had looked at Kasady's smiling face long enough. He stood and lit his fourth cigarette since he and Peter had arrived. "Thank you for you time Cletus," he sighed.
"Please Mr. Urich, call me Carnage," Kasady finally said. "Cletus is so informal."
Ben rolled his eyes as he turned to face Peter. "We're not getting anything else out of him. You can go home if you'd like Peter."
Peter nodded and slipped his camera back into its case. "Nice working with you again Ben, I'll have to stop by the Bugle soon to see everyone." He shook his old friend's hand and watched as he left the room. Stealing a glance at the still smiling Cletus, he felt a chill shake him to the bone. What a maniac.
"Hey Peter, could you come in here?" Jameson's voice called from outside of the room. "And make sure you close that door."
After following instructions, he rounded the corner where Jameson was chewing on a cigar. "Since when do you smoke John?"
"I don't," Jameson responded as he rolled the cigar between his fingers. "I figure smoking this will help me calm down a little. I don't mind being in charge of all these inmates, but when it comes to killing one of them, it's rough." He brought it back to his mouth and lit it. "Care for any?" he asked.
Peter waved him off. "That's quite alright, you enjoy it." He sat down next to his former boss' son. "So what do you think of the state's decision John?"
John exhaled the thick smoke. "I think it's a good move. Carnage costs us millions of dollars every year just to keep him housed. And all his victims deserve some type of closure. Something I don't agree with is if they brought Malcolm McBride or Edward Whelan up on charges and decided to kill them. They had no control over their actions when they were Carrion and Vermin, so now that they are cured, there should be no reason they get the death penalty. But I believe Kasady actually deserves to die. As wrong as that sounds."
Peter placed a hand on his shoulder. "That's not wrong John, society will be better without him around. The thing I'm afraid of is if his symbiote somehow survives and bonds with someone else."
John remembered his own experience with the Carnage symbiote. * "Me too. I'm gonna go check over everything one more time," he said as he put out his cigar. "Staying or going?"
"Going," Peter replied without hesitation.
"Good seeing you again Peter. Good night."
Peter watched him rise from his seat and go. "Night John." Just then his spider-sense flared, almost knocking him out of his chair. What in the world? He hopped up and ran to the window. Kasady's still there. What made my spider-sense go off?
*Amazing Spider-Man #410 vol. 1
Just above Peter's head, the symbiote-less Eddie crawled as quietly as possible through Ravencroft's ventilation system. Only a matter of time now Cletus, he smiled as he peered down through a small grate at the departing Peter Parker. Not as bloody as I would like, but it'll do. He continued his trek until he reached the grate in the interrogation room.
Kasady sat with that same perverse smile he always did, as if he had little fear he would actually die on this dreary night.
"You make me so sick asshole," Eddie whispered as began looking for the maintenance shaft Scrier had told him of earlier.
Jameson entered the locked room and immediately Kasady looked up. "Enjoy your time Cletus," he said. "There will be only one more interruption tonight."
Cletus nodded his head and looked somewhat somber for the first time. John closed the door again and breathed a sigh of relief as the air lock secured the door. A lock that had been put in place for use on nights like these.
Jameson swallowed hard and reached in his pocket for a few more lozenges. My throat's never been this damn dry. And as much as I want Carnage gone, I still can't help but feel bad for the guy. He stopped and took a deep breath before he reentered the media room, where various news organizations were lined up to watch Kasady die in a few short hours. No matter what he's done. No sooner did he open the door and step back into the room his ear were flooded.
"Colonel Jameson! Colonel Jameson! A word, please?! What do you think of this Jameson?"
Harry Osborn sits alone in the apartment he shares with Peter Parker, clutching his second Icehouse of the night and flipping through the channels with little interest at all. As a fourth Friends episode airs on his fourth different station, he turns off the set and slumps back into the couch. After taking a long drink of his beer, he sets that down as well and closes his eyes.
"Go deep Harry," a distant voice says in his mind. "Let your mind relax and become unattached to what's bothering you." His mentor Mr. San's words bounced through the caverns of his mind, but for the first time in awhile they were doing no good.
I never touched Cynthia! * We had lunch, she invited me up for coffee, but I actually rejected her advances. She respected the fact I wouldn't sleep with her because of my love for Liz and Normie. And the only reason she called me the other morning was he toilet was clogged and she didn't want to have to call a plumber. But what does Liz think? That I'm an ass. And who knows if she'll ever let me explain, she just wants to shove her lawyers on me. If only...
*Last two issues.
"Who is it?" Harry asked as a knock at the door shook him out of his thoughts.
When no answer came, Harry reluctantly picked up his beer and took a few more swallows as he opened the door, finding the last person he thought he'd see.
Liz was standing in the doorway in a tank top, pajama pants, shoes, and a coat. Normie held onto her neck tightly as he tried to stay asleep in her arms. "Tell me where to lay Normie down at because you and I need to talk."
Back in Ravencroft, Kasady looked blankly at the mirror reflecting his image back at him. For all the confidence he had in an eleventh hour escape, his hope was fading fast.
Just need to figure out a way for my other to get out. All I need is one chance to murder everyone that dares stand in my way!
Just then he heard a thump behind him, and as he tried to swivel to see who was behind him, a pair of strong hands grabbed at his throat and began to squeeze. Cletus struggled to slip away, but the hands had too strong of a grip. "Security!" he screamed as he finally saw his attacker. His shout was no more than a muffled cry as no one was actually in the surveillance office, as the guards trusted the straightjacket and the microwaves that were being pumped into his room to keep the killer at bay.
As Kasady took his last few breaths, Eddie allowed himself to smile. "Looks like twelve is coming sooner than you thought bitch."
Peter walked into the media room, deciding to stick around for a little while after the way his spider-sense had just blared. Ben approached him and patted him on the shoulder.
"Decided to stick around for the end huh?" he asked. Peter shook his head.
"No, I just..." His spider-sense nearly rendered him unconscious. He took off back towards the interrogation room, the only place any danger could be coming from. Ben followed as quickly as he could. The sight they saw turned both of their stomachs.
Eddie Brock was viciously choking the life out of the helpless Kasady, who couldn't get any type of leverage, let alone air. Brock looked up and saw Peter, and smiled brightly.
Peter started to swing at the air lock to open the door, but stopped when he remembered Ben was behind him. "We need to find help!" he urged his friend.
Ben removed his glasses. "I brought help...Spider-Man. You really think I asked for you 'cause you're good at taking pictures?"
Peter nodded and busted the lock as Ben scurried away. He grabbed Brock in a sleeper hold in an attempt to end this without having to change clothes. "Get off him Brock!"
"He's as good dead Parker! If I couldn't kill you, I'll at least take him with me!" But just as Cletus was about to black out, he squirmed free of his attacker and smacked the ground.
Peter slid Brock into the wall and he ambled over to check on Kasady. As he pulled him to his feet he saw a gash across the redhead's cheek. And the blood began oozing all over his body.
"You've done it now Parker, couldn't let me just choke him could you?" Brock yelled as he tried to slide himself towards the doorway.
A blood curdling cackle was released from Kasady's lungs as he tore through his straightjacket. Carnage was born again.
"Under normal circumstances, I'd kill you immediately," Carnage sneered at Peter. "But since you did free me, I'll let you live...for now!" He laughed and pushed Peter towards the door, where he stumbled backwards over Brock and fell into the hallway. "Come here...daddy." Carnage stretched out his tendrils pulled Eddie slowly towards him. "What happened to your pretty outfit?"
Got to change and try to find a way to stop Carnage! And since Brock is symbiote-less now, I'm all I have. He scrambled to his feet and grabbed Eddie's leg in attempt to pull him away from Kasady.
"Now Parker, is that anyway to repay the kindness I've shown you?" Carnage asked. His arm reached across the room and batted Peter into the hallway wall. "Next time's a charm punk," he grinned evilly.
Just then the door at the end of the hallway flung open and a few dozen members of the media entered. "Where's Carnage? I don't see him! Urich was lying! Who's that guy or the floor? Is he dead?"
The arrival of noise made Carnage appear at the interrogation room doorway, still torturing Brock with his hands and tendrils. "Oh look, it's the main course!" he yelled.
This was enough to send the media screaming towards the Ravencroft exits, and Peter wasted no time falling in line. As the rest ran for safety, Peter ducked into the security office, quickly sending webs flying at the video cameras in each corner. Moments later, Spider-Man emerged and was back on the scene in seconds. Brock was cut in several places and looked to be a few moments away from his last breath.
Spider-Man leaped in between the two enemies and forced Carnage off of Brock. "You may think you're walking away alive tonight Carnage and that may be the case. But I will not allow you to walk free!" He clenched his fists preparing for what was next.
"'Bout time you showed up Spidey. I was hoping you could tell me what the gas chamber was like." He turned his arms into two large blades. "Let's go."
Liz had been sitting across from Harry for ten minutes now. She hadn't said a word since her initial question about Normie.
Harry had done everything possible to avoid eye contact with Liz.
"Tell me everything Harry," Liz said as she broke the silence. "I want to know everything that happened since they sent you to the morgue after you were pronounced 'dead'. Now."
Harry swallowed hard and took the last drink of his beer. He recounted how he had woken up to find Liz paying for the fake autopsy, how he had traveled to Asia, met up with Matori San in Japan who became his spiritual advisor, how San had forced Harry to deal with his issues with his father, discovering his father was alive and well, and the thing that made him come back to America: Liz dating Foggy Nelson.
"Hold on a second! You weren't coming back?" She stood up and walked to the window.
Harry remained seated. "I didn't think so Liz. Despite everything San taught me, I still felt you and Normie were better of without me. You were running the business, you weren't in danger..."
"How in the hell were we not in danger Harry?" she pleaded. "You're father wasn't dead! He was the real crazy one not you but you thought we were doing fine?"
Harry walked over to her and tried to put his arms around her but she pushed him away. "I know, I know. I'm sorry. I really am."
Liz turned around to face him. "Why couldn't you tell me sooner? You could've told me and then you could have been on the next flight to Japan."
"Japan was never in my plans. I just fell into it. And who's to say I wouldn't have found a way for to get thrown back into the Vault or what's that one place they have now? Ravencroft?"
"Yes, Harry. But Normie and I love you; we would've worked through it. As for Foggy..." Her voice became quiet. "There was a time I thought I loved him but...he cheated on me and...that's really a story for another time." She took a deep breath. "But what about you and Cynthia? Lord knows what you two did."
Harry rubbed the front of his forehead. "Nothing happened, I swear it! She tried but I told her all about you and how much I loved you and she respected that. She had a plumbing problem the other day, that's the real reason I was there so early."
Liz sat on the couch and took a drink of her bottled water. "Fine, you're clear, I believe you. But if you had of come back for something besides jealousy, why not when you found out Norman was still alive and took all the businesses from me? I barely run Osborn Chemicals and I damn near had to take him to court to keep that."
Harry sat down beside Liz. "I was scared. Scared he might be able to get me to want to be the Goblin again. Scared I'd go back to the old Harry. Scared that next time I had the chance, I might nail Peter with the glider."
"Peter? Why would you do that to Peter? I know he tried to help you sometimes and you didn't want his help but that's...no...reason...wait. Peter's not..."
Liz covered her mouth and a distant look came into her eyes. "Flash would shit himself."
Harry nodded again.
"There! That should buy us some time!" Spider-Man yelled as catapulted off of the ceiling into Carnage with both feet. The blow sent the lunatic out of the interrogation room and into the next hallway.
"Buy us time for what Parker?" Eddie asked weakly. "You act like you just knocked him out."
The Spider grabbed Eddie, threw him over his shoulder and took off in the opposite direction of Kasady. "Just trying to think positive," he muttered.
"There's nothing positive about me buddy!" Carnage laughed as he leapt in front of his two foes. He smacked Brock away and sliced across Spider-Man's chest with an axe shape. "Just death and chaos!"
Spidey stumbled backwards and took an instant to see the blood trickling out of his new wound before he cart wheeled away from a Carnage formed chainsaw. He stuck to the ceiling for a moment before launching himself at Carnage again, but the symbiote was ready as the tendrils caught the hero and flung him into a nearby wall where he slumped over Eddie.
"Hey Peter," Eddie whispered. "You don't happen to have any of that webbing on you, you know the stuff that the other Spider used on me a few years ago."
"You mean impact webbing?" Spider-Man asked, remembering the new version of webbing his clone Ben Reilly had concocted. "It's worth a try."
"What's wrong with you people?" Carnage asked as he kicked the Spider sharply in his ribs. "You're both fighting like pussies! I could get more fight from a toddler!" His symbiote formed tiny knives and began stabbing at Eddie's chest, causing more wounds to open.
Now's my chance, I just hope I can time this right. Suddenly, Spider-Man rolled between Carnage's legs, causing the tendrils to follow him closely. He leapt to the wall and began a quick ricochet in hopes of avoiding Kasady long enough to get in a clean shot.
"You know Jameson's always been right about you Spidey-boy," Carnage smiled as he closed in on the web-slinger. "You are crazy."
"Look who's talking Cletus!" the Spider yelled as he flipped over Carnage's head. I knew he'd get that stupid grin on his face. "Take two and don't call in the morning buddy," he quipped as he shot two rounds of impact webbing into the symbiote's mouth. Spider-Man tried to land on his feet but Carnage lashed out with his left and nailed him in the same ribs injured just minutes earlier. Spidey fell flat on his face but he managed to turn his head to watch the results of his work.
"What the?" Carnage asked as the webbing began expanding in between him and his symbiote. "What did you do Spider-Man!" he yelled as the webbing forced the symbiote off of him.
"It's working!" Eddie yelled jubilantly. "Don't forget the symbiote!"
Spider-Man fired another round at the symbiote as it began to realize it had been separated from its host. The webbing quickly had in under wraps as well. The Spider regained his footing in time to see both Kasady and the symbiote fall harmlessly to the floor.
"I don't want to give you credit," Eddie sighed as he got back to his feet. "But you did it."
Spider-Man pushed Brock back to the floor. "I don't think you even want to move with all the trouble you've caused tonight."
Eddie just dropped his head.
Spidey made his way over to the symbiote, watching it roll to and fro helplessly. Nice work Ben. A sharp pain from his ribs reminded him of the real culprit. "You cracked my ribs Kasady...again," he sighed. "Least I can do is let you breathe now."
Before the web-head could reach down and rip the web away from Carnage's face, a red blade sliced through its bonds and sliced open the hero's leg, sending him back to the floor. "No..."
Spider-Man and Eddie could only watch in horror as blood red shredded through the webbing and Carnage stood as big as ever. His blood-curdling laugh rang throughout Ravencroft as his tendrils freed the rest of his symbiote from its prison.
"You really think I didn't read about what happened to you awhile back Pops? Sons learn from their father's failure's." He walked in front of his two foes and let his tendrils wrap around both of their necks. "And I'm already learning, that's why the Spider dies first." Another small blade emerged from his leg and stabbed Brock in his side. "Don't go 'way!" With that, he grabbed Spider-Man and threw him down some nearby stairs and was soon after his tormentor.
As the new wound drained even more vital blood from him, Eddie Brock tried to come to terms with his own mortality. And what the strange black ooze was that lies in a puddle next to him.
Liz and Harry were at a stalemate. And Liz had had enough.
"That's it Harry," she said as she stood. "We're not getting anywhere, except you just gave away Peter's secret identity. I'll call the lawyer to draw up the papers tomorrow."
"Papers?" Harry asked as he stood and moved in front of her. "What papers?"
"The divorce papers. I can't live like this and you haven't said a damn thing to convince me otherwise. I'm going to get Normie."
"Liz I do love you! I want to make this work!" Harry pleaded.
"Now you say something," she sighed. "Is that the same as 'I love you baby, nothing can ever come between us, and we're Osborns we're strong'? Then you jump out the window and blow up a building because you 'thought' Spider-Man was there? I'm through." She moved towards Peter's room to retrieve her son.
"NO!" Harry yelled as he moved in front of her. "I want us to be a family again! I don't want little Norman to grow up without me around! I don't want my father's shadow to claim him too! I love you both too much to let that..."
Liz withdrew the hand she just hit her husband with, a single tear rolling down her cheek.
"Why..." Harry began to ask but Liz covered his mouth.
"That's for all the hell you put me through," she said as she began to smile. "And this is for the future." She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him, just as Normie pushed open Peter's bedroom door.
The Spider's head bounced off a concrete wall for the third time in as many minutes as Carnage continued his ruthless assault. He tried to spin some webs that would lift him away from his attacker, but the symbiote sliced through the web before they even hit their mark and sliced Spider-Man across his shoulder.
"I really don't know why it's taken me so long to kill you Spider-fool," Carnage cackled. "Once you're alone, you're a pushover."
Spidey tried to reply to the taunt by throwing himself at the serial killer, but the only result was more slashes and slices being torn into his skin. The attack was enough to make him fall to his knees; his breathing labored. His costume of barely recognizable due to the damage Carnage had inflicted and the blood that soaked it.
Carnage got on one knee to look into his enemy's eyes. "Any last words before you go wherever the hell they send you when 'good people' die?"
Peter's mask was torn away from his mouth. He raised his head slightly and spit in the symbiote's face.
Carnage stood back up and looked down on the beaten hero. "You know," he said as a katana sized blade formed above Spider-Man's back. "That was the dirtiest thing I've ever seen you do."
Just then Cletus was tackled from the side by a large black and blue figure. The shock of the sudden attack startled Carnage long enough for the new combatant to gain the upper hand as they repeatedly hit Kasady with rights and lefts.
Spider-Man rolled to his good side to take in the view. It took a moment for his vision to clear but he was shocked at the sight he saw. "Venom?!" he asked weakly.
Carnage finally managed to throw Venom from on top of him, sending him crashing into a support beam. "Oh, so now is the time you decide to spawn?" Carnage yelled as he charged Brock. Venom barely was able to miss his "son" due to his wounds and his new found symbiote being a weaker version of Kasady's.
"It ends now!" Venom stated as he connected with his right.
Carnage didn't budge.
Venom lashed out again with his left instead. No results.
Carnage laughed as he clasped his fists together and slammed Brock in the chest, sending him down in a heap. The spawned symbiote was withering around him, a sign that it would not be able to help its host much longer.
Cletus grabbed Venom by his symbiote as if it was a shirt. "Pitiful."
Suddenly, Venom was dropped back to the floor as the Spider leaped on Carnage's back and wrapped his arms around his neck. "I swear Cletus!" he screamed. "I'll choke the life out of you!"
Carnage laughed yet again. "You wouldn't kill a gnat punk, let alone be able to kill me before my other cut you in half!"
"What can I say," Spider-Man agreed as he quickly moved his hands to the top of Carnage's head. "When you're right, you're right!" He used what remained strength he had to slam him head first into the concrete floor. He then jumped to the ceiling and waited for Kasady's next move. "That pothole's coming out of your pay by the way."
Carnage pulled himself to his feet and sent a piece of his symbiote flying in a triangular shape at Spidey. Spidey ducked slightly to his right and lashed out with his feet, catching Carnage in the face again. The blow staggered him.
The web-slinger rolled to his feet near where Brock was pulling himself to a sitting position. There's still a chance. Before Carnage can fully regain his senses, Spider-Man brought both of his fists down on top of Cletus' head, stumbling the symbiote again. He drew his right fist back to deliver what he hoped would be the deciding blow when Carnage whipped his head around, smiled and bit into Spidey's arm with his fangs.
"Arrrgh!" Spidey yelled in pain as several tendrils wrapped around his arms and legs and suspended him in the air. Carnage removed his teeth and chuckled sadistically.
"You really thought you could knock me out didn't you?" he asked. His smile vanished. "Rot in pieces!" he yelled as he attempted to rip the Spider apart.
Once again, Spider-Man felt himself being released and dropped to the floor. He leaped away just in time as Brock sent himself and Kasady crashing into the main electric box for the bottom wing of Ravencroft. The resulting explosion plunged the wing into total darkness and smoke.
Spidey looked over his shoulder and saw no sign of Venom or Carnage. "I sure hope there's no cells down here that's run on electricity, I'd have to run away the way I feel!" He switched on his spider-signal from his belt and started scanning for signs of life. It wasn't long until he came upon the unconscious bodies of Cletus Kasady and Eddie Brock. "No sign of the symbiotes and at this point I don't give a damn!" He slung each man over a shoulder and made his way back to the lighted part of Ravencroft.
Minutes later, he dropped Eddie onto his cot, who barely noticed his homecoming. "Thanks Eddie," Spider-Man sighed. "I owe you one."
After securing the cell, Spider-Man soon was walking out of Ravencroft entrance, where Code: Blue and several Ravencroft security members were waiting for someone to emerge.
"Of course, you guys have sonic guns OUTSIDE! A lot of good they did me in there," Spidey moaned at the sight of the weapons.
"Spider-Man!" Lieutenant Stone said as got in the hero's face. "I want answers."
His response ended with a mouthful of webbing.
"Here's Kasady, Colonel Jameson," the Spider motioned as the head of security pushed his way through the crowd. "Out cold and apparently symbiote-less. You might want to give him time to recuperate."
Jameson shook his head. "Negative. Orders are to gas him as soon as he's awake."
"Are you kidding me?" Spider-Man asked in shock. "Just because he's scheduled to die, he doesn't get any dignity?"
"It's not me, Spider-Man. The state doesn't want to take any more chances. You'd have to understand that after the beating you took."
The Spider did not reply. He silently reloaded his web shooters for the swing home. After replacing nearly all of his fluid cartridges, he was gone.
As one man battled with his emotions over the death penalty, another man was coming to grips with change.
"Just shut up!" Eddie Brock screamed from within his cell. Both hands were over his ears as if he was trying to block something out.
"Kill! Murder! Slice! Dice! Maim! Rape! KILL!"
"No, no, no!" Eddie screamed back. "Let me be!"
Brock managed to drown out the screaming long enough to hear his own thoughts. I hope they have some type of medicine for voices in your head because this symbiote is going to be the death of me. I didn't expect for the whole symbiote to re-bond with me after I smashed Kasady into that box. Now it's all I can do to keep myself under control.
"KILL THEM ALL!"
"God help me," Eddie muttered as he closed his eyes, hoping for some form of sleep to come to his rescue.
Twenty minutes later. The Ravencroft gas chamber/media room.
Cletus Kasady sat straightjacketed at a wooden table in the chamber as three-dozen eyes watched him intently.
An older gentleman approached the microphone that was hooked to the small PA system in the gas chamber. He opened his Bible and flipped a few pages before stopping. "Cletus, I'm Father Brashear. I would like to read a few verses to guide you along the way."
Cletus mouthed something, but no one could hear.
"What was that my son?" Father Brashear asked.
Cletus repeated his words, but to no avail.
"I'm sorry Cletus, I don't understand. Does anyone read lips?"
"I DON'T BELIEVE IN GOD!" Cletus screamed at the top of his lungs. It was muffled, but yet very clear.
Father Brashear closed his Bible. "Very well, my son."
Jameson gave the signal and a button was pressed in the back of the room. It took no longer than twenty seconds as Cletus' closed his eyes, let his head fall to the table, and he took his last breath. Cletus Kasady died at 2:16 a.m. He was 28 years old.
Spider-Man silently pulled open the skylight to his Soho apartment as the clock struck 6 a.m. at City Hall. I hope I don't wake up Harry. But then again, I'm too beat to care at this point. He pulled off his costume and tossed it into his closet. I'm down to my last suit; have to try to take care of it. Too bad MJ isn't around to sew me another... He shook off the thought as he went into his bathroom to bandage his various cuts and bruises. "I want to sleep for a week," he groaned as he headed for his bed.
"Uncle Peter?" Normie asked as he opened the bedroom door. Peter whirled around and saw Harry's son, smiling brightly. "Where have you been all night? I didn't see you when I woke up earlier."
"Earlier?" Peter asked as he racked his brain for an answer. "Believe it or not Normie, I fell asleep in the bathtub."
"Oh," Normie replied. "Mom and dad were wondering where you were."
"Mom and dad?" Peter asked with a puzzled look.
"Yeah!" Normie said excitedly. "They're downstairs putting the rest of Dad's stuff in the car."
After pulling on his old ESU sweatsuit, Peter stepped out his apartment to a joyous sight: Harry and Liz kissing.
"Hey, hey, hey," he joked as he pushed them apart slightly. "Not with the kid around."
Harry took in the sight of Peter's battered face and body as he put the last bit of clothes he had into Liz's Cadillac Escalade. "You look like hell Pete. What happened?"
Peter waved him off. "Read the Bugle, Urich should have it thoroughly covered." It was then Peter noticed Liz covering her mouth and fighting back tears. "Oh don't worry Liz, I fell down some steps at work last night. You know me," he smiled.
Liz then threw herself at Peter and wrapped her arms around him. "All these years," she whispered. "Every time we thought you were running away, you were going to help. Every time we called you Puny Parker, you were that same superhero we idolized. I don't know how you do it Peter, but I love you for it."
Normie tugged on his dad's shirt. "Shouldn't she be hugging you dad?" he asked.
"Of course, I should," Liz said as she let go of Peter and moved back towards her husband. "We have a lot of catching up to do."
"So this is it huh?" Peter asked as he tried to stretch out his weary muscles. "You finally kissed and made up?"
"Yeah," Liz responded as she wrapped her arm around Harry. "I just needed him to prove him loved me."
"No, I think you just wanted to slap me," Harry sighed as he rubbed his face.
"Anyway," Normie said impatiently. "Let's go home, I'm bored!" He opened the rear door of the SUV and climbed in.
"I think he's trying to tell us something," Liz joked. She kissed Peter lightly on his cheek. "Don't worry, I won't tell Flash." Peter could only smile.
Once Liz was inside the vehicle, Harry extended his hand to his best friend. "Thanks for everything Pete."
"No need to thank me," Peter replied. "Just go and make your family whole again and run that business the way it's supposed to be run."
Harry laughed. "Count on it." He walked to the driver's side and opened his door. "You know where to find me." With that, he entered the Escalade and drove away.
"Night of endings and beginnings huh Peter?" Ben Urich asked as he sat down on the apartment steps.
"Ben," Peter said surprised. "I didn't think Jonah would let you leave you desk for four more days."
Ben shrugged as he lit a cigarette. "I slipped away. Besides, the least I could do is explain how I knew." Peter sat down next to his former coworker.
"I didn't want to find out," Ben began as he exhaled some smoke. "I decided to let you keep your secrets because I didn't want to have another Daredevil case on my hands where I wouldn't cash in. Matt says don't forget your appointment by the way."
Peter rolled his eyes. "He sure is persistent."
"They don't call him the Man Without Fear for nothing," Ben joked. "What happened was you were at the Bugle one day dropping off some photos right before you got the Solutions job. You said your goodbyes and had gone out the door. I wanted to ask you a few questions about your pictures for the story I was writing so I ran after you, thinking you hadn't gotten far. Instead I see open elevator doors and no sign of you. I thought you had taken the stairs and I was just going to leave you a message when I glanced out the window. What I saw was Spider-Man swinging down from our rooftop."
"And that was all you needed to clue you in?" Peter asked.
"No, I had to be certain. So a few days later, you came in again and while you were talking between Robbie, Jonah, and Betty, I headed up to the roof. You were wearing short sleeves and I figured IF you were Spider-Man, you would have to have your costume somewhere. It didn't take me very long to see where you webbed it a darkened corner along the roof's ledge. And I've known since then, and it's also why I specifically asked Robbie for you to take the pictures last night. Just in case."
"Just in case was right," Peter sighed. "Seems like my identity is getting less secret by the minute."
Ben stood and placed a hand on his friend's shoulder. "But just like I told Matthew, your secret is safe with me."
"Thanks Ben, I'd really hate to mess up me and Jonah's new friendship," he quipped. "But honestly, I'm going the hell to bed. I'll see you around Ben."
As Peter's apartment door closed behind him, Ben put out his cigarette. "Sleep well my friend. Lord knows you deserve it."
His eyes weren't closed five minutes when his telephone rang.
"Dammit!" Peter yelled as he groggily pulled himself away from his pillow. "That better be Kristen Dunst or someone's about to get cursed out." He yanked the phone from its receiver. "Hello?" he asked quite annoyed. His look of anger turned into a look of worry as he listened intently to the person on the line. Suddenly, he dropped the phone and leapt to his closet for his last suit. Moments later, despite his body's screams of agony, Spider-Man was swinging across the New York City skyline once again.
He doesn't know how long it takes him, a minute or an hour, but soon the Spider arrives at Ravencroft once more. Instead of heading back inside, he lands next to a familiar cell window.
"Norman!" Spider-Man yelled. "Come here now."
"No need to rush Peter my boy," Norman answered. "I'm the one who called you remember?"
"Spill it, I'm in no mood to play games right now," Spidey retorted.
"Oh you don't have to tell me," Norman said as he pulled his Daily Bugle into view. "You've had quite the night already judging from these wonderful pictures you took during the battle. Wouldn't it have been a hell of a note if you had gotten killed taking these?"
"Norman..." Spider-Man growled.
"Fine, have it your way bug. The reason I called you here is because I recently learned some information that you may find quite valuable to you. It seems that someone in Paris is bringing in an awful lot of money lately, mostly due to his gorgeous models he's finding and hiring."
"So?" Spider-Man asked. "What's wrong with that?"
"Oh nothing," Norman replied. "Unless these women had a sudden career change, I believe they are being forced to model against their will."
"You want me to run all the way to Paris to help women I don't even know?" the Spider asked. "I wish there was something I can do but my arms are only so long. And why do you care anyway?"
"I don't care honestly. I just figured that since one of these women is your previously believed dead wife Mary Jane..."
Peter wanted to punch him in his face. "You're lying," he muttered through gritted teeth.
"No lie, Parker. You're wife still lives in Paris, under false pretenses of course," Norman uttered. "I suggest you go to France and take your wife back."
"Two questions Norman," Spider-Man said. "If I do believe you, why tell me and who did it?"
Norman only smiled. "Why? Because I hate to see things happen to you when I didn't cause them. Who?" He chuckled as he began to flip through his paper. "It'll all make sense once you get there."
"We'll see Osborn, we'll see," Spidey replied. He shot a webline and was soon swinging back across the early morning sky; his heart thumping a thousand beats a minute. Mary Jane's alive! Alive!
NEXT ISSUE: Peter's on a mission to find his not so dead wife, but what other dangers await him in the city of love? And also how does Gwen and Jill Stacy figure into the proceedings? Next: Peril In Paris begins!