"Spot Quest Part Two: (Hob) Goblins of Little Minds"
by Randy Lander
co-plot by Mark Bousquet
Dr. Jonathan Ohnn was getting used to flying. His new partner, the Vulture, carried him over the city, as the two of them kept up their own kind of patrol. Ohnn reflected on the circumstances that had brought him here. A degree in physics, one of the most recognized experts on radiation theory in the greater New York area, he had still found himself scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to get hired. Teaching at Empire State earned him enough for a studio apartment, and enough to eat Ramen noodles four times a week and hot dogs the other three days.
So he had given in when a man named the Arranger came to him, offering him employment of a somewhat dubious legal nature. He had agreed, in exchange for a three-bedroom apartment and the lifestyle of the New York elite, to sell his principles. Then, a few months later, when he decided to analyze Cloak's radiation frequency and duplicate it for the benefit of his boss, the Kingpin, his life took another turn for the worse. He found a portal into another dimension, and wound up transformed into the Spot.
His reverie was interrupted when he heard an explosion.
"That way," the Vulture croaked. The old man's voice had gotten more annoying with each utterance Ohnn was forced to endure. And his constant ranting about his scientific genius, the sheer arrogance that let him place his paltry engineering talents on par with Ohnn's abilities, were also grating.
The two were flying now toward a bright orange flame, lighting the thirtieth story of a building several blocks away. They had been waiting for something like this, expecting that in the dust settling after the crime wave that had been going on* there would be some more actions by the crime lords against one another. And with any luck, one of those would-be crime lords would be the man they were looking for. (*See the Crime Wave mini-series! – It'll be done soon Randy)
Vulture swung over toward the fire, and Spot felt his stomach lurch as they went into a power dive.
As they got closer, the two men could hear automatic gunfire, and they saw a shape silhouetted against the flame. It was a man, hunched over on some kind of rocket-powered flying device, and they saw his arm go up and then down. Seconds later, another explosion wracked the building, and the sounds of gunfire stopped.
"I think it's him," Spot said.
Vulture didn't answer, instead flying closer. The Spot could now see that the man flying was wearing an orange hooded cloak, with gray chainmail on his arms and legs. The device he was flying on was in fact shaped like a bat, and when he raised his arm, he was in fact throwing in pumpkin-shaped bombs.
"Hobgoblin!" Vulture cried out, sounding like a bird of prey screeching.
The villain turned, and his glowing red eyes, set in the yellow, monstrous face that was hidden by the hood of his cloak, burned into The Spot's own eyes. He got a chill, and wondered once again if he was in over his head. When the raspy, inhuman voice echoed from the Hobgoblin's lips, he shivered.
"Vulture...I've been looking for you. What is that you're carrying with you? A snack?"
Vulture cackled viciously, and The Spot was reminded that he was floating 30 stories in mid-air, being supported by a psychopath. The Hobgoblin's mocking laughter didn't help. It reminded him, painfully, of Spider-Man.
Which gave him enough anger to speak. "I'm the Spot. I'm looking for revenge on Spider-Man."
The laughter stopped, and the Hobgoblin used his right leg to trigger the thrusters on his batwing. He floated right up to Spot, until their eyes were level.
Then he flew away at top speed, and the Vulture turned to follow. The Spot felt his stomach lurch again, and prayed they would land soon.
Peter Parker looked over the clothes in his closet. His wife came up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist, giving him a kiss on the neck.
"Take the blue pants. You look really cute in those."
Peter reached for the blue slacks hanging in the closet, but Mary Jane grabbed his arm.
"Wait...who did you say is going on this trip with you?"
"Joy 'mid-30s, knockout blond' Mercado?"
"Actually, I think her middle name is Karen."
"Forget what I said. Take the brown." Mary Jane kissed him again and walked out to look in on Mary.
"Good idea. Joy said I look sexy in the brown."
A balled up sock hit Peter in the head a few seconds later. He grinned and then put the brown slacks into his suitcase, along with a couple pairs of jeans and another shirt. His eye settled on a row of hangers on the far left of the closet, and he sighed as he reached for one of the blue and red Spider-Man costumes. As he was stuffing it into the suitcase, Mary Jane came back into the room, holding May.
"Taking your work clothes? Even to the happiest place on Earth?"
"There could be a terrorist attack on Disneyland. You never know."
"It's not fair," Mary Jane complained. "You get an all-expenses paid trip to Disney, courtesy of Now, I have to stay here and write my first fashion column."
Peter smirked at her as he zipped up his suitcase. "Remind me again which of us spent years as a high-paid model on the beaches of Rio, Mexico and California?"
Mary Jane coughed. "Um...I think May needs her bottle."
Betty Brant and Ben Urich both gaped at Flash Thompson. The man who had once been framed as being the Hobgoblin had just claimed to have divined the villain's true identity. The identity that had been hidden behind masks and dupes like Lefty Donovan, Flash and even Betty's deceased husband Ned Leeds. The identity that Ben and Betty had been desperately trying to uncover for the past few weeks, only to have hit what seemed like a dead end.
Flash didn't look triumphant, though. Sweating, nervously looking all around the near-abandoned city room of the Daily Bugle, he looked terrified. He grasped the journal of Roderick Kingsley as if it were a lifeline.
"I don't want to sound like I doubt you, Flash," Ben said, taking another drag off his cigarette, "but how did you come by this information?"
"Mr. Osborn knew," Flash said.
Flash had worked for a brief time as the assistant to Norman Osborn. Or, more accurately, to the Jackal, who had been posing as Norman Osborn. He had recovered from a descent into alcoholism, and finally seemed to be turning his life around, as Osborn's assistant, when the truth had been revealed.
"He made tracking down the Hobgoblin's identity a priority," Flash continued. "When I went through some of his files just before Osborn Chemicals dissolved my position, I found some of that information. A few days ago, I followed the information and found his stash, which included this book."
"Are you trying to tell me Roderick Kingsley knows who the Hobgoblin is?" Betty asked.
"I'm telling you Roderick Kingsley is the Hobgoblin," Flash replied. "But we've got to go. It's dangerous to be here."
"How can Roderick be the Hobgoblin?" Urich asked. "When the Hobgoblin attacked that charity ball early in his career, Roderick was there."
"It was his brother! We've got to go!" Flash yelled.
He charged out of the city room toward the elevators, towing Betty along by her arm. He was moving with the speed and strength of a madman, and Ben grabbed his jacket and followed along behind. When Ben got out into the hallway, Flash had already pushed the button.
"Flash! What is going on?" Ben yelled.
"We've got to go!" Flash said. "I don't know how many steps ahead of him I am."
"How many steps ahead of who?" Betty asked.
The voice was a gruff male one, belonging to the man who was standing inside the elevator, which had just arrived. He was dressed in a form-fitting green bodysuit, and a curved green metallic tail curved around from behind him, ending in a vicious looking hook just above his head. Mac Gargan. The Scorpion.
Flash grabbed Betty by the hand, dragging her with him toward the stairwell at the end of the hallway. Ben Urich was right behind them, and narrowly missed getting hit by a burst of acid fired from the Scorpion's tale. It sizzled through the floor as the three rushed into the stairwell and began running down.
Vulture scoffed as he walked through the door. "Really, Hobgoblin. This is the best a man of your considerable means could do?"
Hobgoblin said nothing, he just walked in behind them and closed the door behind them. He stared at both of them, and then said just one word.
The room hummed quietly and the Spot and Vulture fell as, to their surprise, the floor began descending. The entire warehouse was sliding down a smooth metallic shaft, and Hobgoblin smiled at the two of them, enjoying their confusion.
After about twenty seconds, the floor settled again, and a long hallway extended off in the distance. Hobgoblin gestured toward it, and Spot and Vulture walked cautiously down the hallway. As Hobgoblin followed, they heard the hydraulics behind them lifting the floor back up to the warehouse above.
The hallway was not quite as wide as the rest of the warehouse had been, but it was close. There were doors on either side, about four each, and at the end of the long hallway a set of solid steel security doors that were sealed shut.
One of the doors on either side of the hallway opened. Out of one stepped a man. He was dressed in a lab coat, with a short mop of unkempt brown hair, and his right arm ended at the elbow. His other hand held a smoking flask of some kind of chemical. On the other side, a hulking figure standing about eight feet tall stepped out. He was massive, about twice the size of The Spot, and was covered with a gray bodysuit which ended in a horn resting atop his head.
The Spot recognized both of them. Dr. Curt Connors, also known as the Lizard, and the Rhino. Both perennial Spider-Man foes. Was this the group that he had heard about?
"Vulture," Hobgoblin said. "I'd like you to meet some of the members of the Bestial Brigade."
"Some of the members?" Spot found himself saying, even though he was sure he'd given his mouth no orders to speak.
"Scorpion is out on a separate mission," Hobgoblin explained, talking not to the Spot but to the Vulture. "And there is one more member I'd like you to meet."
With that, another man emerged from the door that Connors had come out of. He was dressed in a green and purple chainmail costume familiar to anyone who knew Spider-Man. His face was a twisted mask of laughter and insanity, topped off with a purple cap. The Green Goblin.
"I thought Norman Osborn was dead," Vulture said.
The Green Goblin reached up to pull off his mask. Underneath, there was a young man, handsome, with a sharply curved nose. He resembled Norman Osborn, aside from his brown hair, which was tied up into a ponytail rather than matching Osborn's rather distinctive hair. However, he was clearly not Norman Osborn.
"Meet Stanton Noble," Hobgoblin said. "He was working for Osborn, up until recently."
"You shared the formula?" Vulture asked incredulously.
"No," Hobgoblin said. "Stanton is a rather talented chemist. He used to work for ROXXON, where he developed a certain...moral flexibility. That led him to HYDRA and the development of a super-soldier serum."
"Oh, let me tell it," Stanton said. "I do so love this story."
"Well, I didn't much care for the idea of all that money going to ROXXON on my behalf. So I gave them the formula, earned their invention bonus, and faked my death. Then I started selling the formula to mobsters, letting them create super enforcers and bodyguards."
"Of course, eventually, I sold it to the wrong person. The formula has certain...psychological side effects, in addition to enhancing strength, agility and durability. Tombstone was already strong, tough and psychotic when I sold it to him. So after he took it, he became quite obsessive about being the only one, and tried to kill me. I injected myself with the formula, which allowed me to get away from him."
"Which is when I found him," Hobgoblin interrupted. "I'd been following his career through spies in various criminal organizations, and I knew Stanton could be very useful. So I made him an offer."
"If I'd become his chief scientific aide, he'd protect me and pay me very well," Stanton concluded. "So I joined up. And it only seems natural that the Hobgoblin's lieutenant becomes the Green Goblin, doesn't it?"
Vulture frowned. "You're being awfully open about all this. Are you planning on killing us?"
Hobgoblin threw back his head and laughed, sending chills down Ohnn's spine.
"Ah, Vulture. Have you not noticed a certain motif with the Brigade? Scorpion? Lizard? Rhino?"
A slow smile crept across the Vulture's face. "You want me to join you?"
"Us," The Spot said. "He wants us to join."
"No," Hobgoblin corrected, pointing his finger at the Spot. "He was right. I want him to join us. You I'm going to kill."
With that, he fired a burst of electricity from the orange-gloved fingertip. The Spot had been expecting it, however, and managed to twist a little so that the energy fired harmlessly into one of the black spots in his body, finally fizzling out in the dimension that the portal led to.
Hobgoblin gestured, and the Rhino charged at the Spot. He put his head down, intent on ramming into the scientist with his horn. At the last moment, the Spot reached down to his stomach and pulled off a large black spot. He threw it into the air, where it landed just behind the Hobgoblin and floated. When the Rhino's head struck, it struck another black spot on the Spot's body, and re-emerged from the hole behind Hobgoblin.
The full force of the blow struck the master criminal from behind, sending him sprawling into a wall. Stanton Noble pulled on his mask again, as Curt Connors ducked back inside the door he had come from. The Rhino pulled his head out of the black spot and started yelling to Hobgoblin.
"I'm sorry, Hobgoblin! I didn't know..."
The Green Goblin pulled a small pumpkin bomb out of his pouch and threw it at Spot. Spot responded by throwing up another of his spots, and the pumpkin bomb went into the other dimension and exploded harmlessly there.
The Hobgoblin held his hand up, in a "wait" gesture, and climbed to his feet.
"Not bad," Hobgoblin said. "You're seeking revenge on Spider-Man?"
The Spot nodded, expecting another attack at any second.
"Well." Hobgoblin looked around at the group. "I'm afraid you don't fit the theme, so I can't really take you. But I've heard that Doctor Octopus is putting together a new group. I believe I can get you a location."
He turned to Adrian Toomes. "Vulture? What do you say?"
"Sorry, Hobgoblin. I've worked with Doctor Octopus and the Sinister Six before, and we may not have succeeded in the past, but they're at least a known quantity. I'll be leaving with the Spot."
"You're making a mistake. The Bestial Brigade will destroy Spider-Man, and then we will become major players in this city's crime scene. Are you going to turn that down to run off with a third-rate supervillain and join a group that's failed many times before?"
Vulture shook his head.
Hobgoblin nodded. "Very well."
He leaned over and whispered something to Green Goblin, who produced a scrap of paper with a handwritten map on it.
"This should get you to Dr. Octopus. I trust you understand that once you leave, we aren't allies anymore?"
Vulture nodded solemnly and took the map, then walked with the Spot over to the elevator.
As Vulture and Spot rode the lift up, Ohnn nervously asked, "I'm not complaining, but...why didn't you want to join up with them?"
Vulture turned to him. "Hobgoblin would sacrifice his pawns at the drop of a hat. Green Goblin is clearly insane and dangerous, Rhino is a moron, and the Lizard either hates all humanity or is a weakling in the form of Dr. Connors. I'd rather try my luck with Octavius."
Hobgoblin turned to Green Goblin.
"Did you get them?"
The Green Goblin reached into the purple pouch that hung at his side and produced a handful of notes. The Hobgoblin took them and read through them, flipping through quickly and making clicking noises with his tongue.
"Hmm...Interesting...why don't you pay Mr. Bannon a visit?"