"Behind the Mask, Under the Helmet"
by Randy Lander
Spider-Man knocked three times on the wooden apartment door. The gray-haired young man standing next to him gave him a hopeful shrug. They had tried Flash Thompson's apartment and Betty Brant's apartment before this. If they weren't at Ben Urich's place...
The door swung open to reveal a dark apartment. The window shades were closed, and the lights were all turned off. A faint blue glow from the VCR clock was the only light, and it was impossible to see much more than an old folding table and a beat-up couch from the angle they were at. Spidey thought that maybe the door had just fallen open when he knocked. He stepped inside, calling out, "Hello? Anybody here?"
His spider-sense tingled and gave him enough warning to move as a baseball bat came at his skull. He ducked and came back up, intending to grab the bat away from whoever was wielding it. Instead, he was faced with a very surprised looking Flash Thompson, who was staring at Johnny Gallo, the young man with Spidey who had managed to disarm him already and was holding the Louisville Slugger in his hands.
"Flash...are you all right? Where are Ben and Betty?"
The bedroom door opened and Betty stepped out, with Ben Urich right behind her. Flash moved to the front door and swung it shut.
"Spider-Man," Ben said, breathing a sigh of relief. "We've been hiding out here, hoping that our young friend got through to you. When you knocked, we thought..."
"You thought I was the Hobgoblin, or one of his men," Spidey finished. He looked over at Flash, who had been glancing at Spidey between bouts of staring at the floor. "Even with what we've been through lately, I didn't think Flash would come at me with a baseball bat."
Flash kept his eyes glued to the floor, and Peter immediately felt bad for the crack. He sometimes forgot that his grin couldn't be seen when he had his mask on. Norman Osborn had manipulated his friend, made him think Spidey was the enemy. He already felt bad, and probably stupid, and now it sounded like Peter was rubbing it in. He started to say something, but Ben Urich was talking.
"We found out the truth about Hobgoblin...we've been researching it for some time, but we kept hitting a wall. Witnesses had seen Roderick Kingsley together with the Hobgoblin, but all the evidence we had pointed toward him as the one. Then Flash gave us the last bit of data we needed...a copy of Roderick Kingsley's journal."
"Where on Earth...?" Spidey started.
"Osborn," Flash said.
"He kept files on most of your enemies," Flash continued. "I came across them when I was cleaning out his desk, and it seemed out of place...so I started reading..."
"And he found out that Roderick has a brother," Betty interjected. "Someone who posed as him when he needed to."
"How did Scorpion wind up after you three?" Spidey asked.
"The journal also mentioned something he called the 'Bestial Brigade,' a group he was rounding up to serve as his enforcers. Something about a new Green Goblin, Rhino, Scorpion, the Lizard..."
"...and Vulture, probably," Spidey said. "All my beast-themed villains. Cute."
"Actually," Ben said, "he didn't mention the Vulture."
A silver limousine pulled up outside the Harland tower, slowing to a stop as both of its rear doors swung open. From one side, a gorgeous woman emerged, her short silver hair tied back with a headband. She was dressed in a black trenchcoat and silver boots. Her escort exited onto the street and came around. He too was wearing a black trenchcoat, and he appeared to be a man in his late sixties, with fading gray hair and a sour demeanor. The two didn't speak, but simply turned with almost military precision and marched toward the front of the building.
As the man pushed open the front door, the woman spoke into the left side of her coat. "Get ready, we're entering the building."
The security man looked nervous, seeing two people in trenchcoats walk brazenly in. His mind filled with all kinds of possibilities...terrorists, mobsters, run of the mill criminals?
"Octet Engineering," the woman said, and her sultry voice was tinged with a bit of an Eastern European accent.
"They're on the third floor. Let me call them."
He reached for the phone and found himself staring into the barrel of a silenced pistol, held on his face by the older man. The man's voice was also tinged with an accent, more of a Russian, and it sounded far too young for him.
"That won't be necessary. Just do whatever needs to be done to authorize the elevators."
His hands trembling, the security guard pushed the button that unlocked the elevators at the ground floor. The man nodded, and the woman said into her coat. "Go! Third floor!"
The door to the tower suddenly burst open as about fifteen people came running in. There were men and women, all dressed in blue and red uniforms and carrying weaponry like the guard had never seen before. They rushed to the elevators and filled them. The guard couldn't help but watch, and so he was distracted.
When he looked back, it was too late to do anything about the woman's fist, bearing down on his face. The blow connected and he dropped to the floor behind the desk. The man stepped behind the desk, pulling off his trenchcoat to reveal a uniform matching that of the security guard.
"You're too kind, Silver," the man said. "I would have shot him."
"You're too mired in the mindset of a spy, Josef Millovich," Sable returned. "When this is all said and done, we'll have to hand over the Sinister Six to the police."
Sable rushed to the elevator to join her troops, casting off her trenchcoat to reveal her white and silver body armor. She produced silver-plated pistols from holsters at her sides and held them in both hands. She nodded, and one of the blue and red suited members of her Wild Pack pushed the button for the third floor.
The doors opened with a ding and Sable looked out at a large marble desk, with a corporate logo identifying it as "Octet Engineering." The receptionist was a dead-ringer for Demi Moore.
Sable knew instantly what was going on, and she unloaded both of her pistols into "Demi" and the walls behind her.
On the other side of the illusion, Doctor Octopus was yelling furiously. "Kill them! Mysterio, do something!" His arms struggled inside the glass chamber, grasping the nuclear warhead and slamming it roughly into its new silver case.
Mysterio grabbed his helmet and slapped it into place while the rest of the Sinister Six also leaped into action. Electro was the first to act, aiming his arms and letting electricity arc through the illusion and strike a surprised member of the Wild Pack, sending the man to the floor with a smoking hole burned clear through him. The woman behind him also dropped, her chest blackened. Vulture cursed, knowing full well how trapped he was in this office with no room to fly.
Dr. Ohnn let his power flow over him, transforming him into the Spot, and he looked over at the Beetle, who had been smoking a cigarette next to him a second ago. He saw her slamming her helmet into place, but before she did, he also saw blood flowing from a head wound.
"Are you OK?"
"I'm fine," the synthesized voice insisted. "You're the one who's going to have to get us out of here, you know."
"Thermographics!" Sable yelled, pulling a pair of goggles from her belt even as she said it. When the goggles were in place, she could see the heat forms of six people, and she ignored the purely visual illusions that Mysterio was using.
The Wild Pack rushed off the elevator and started moving, realizing that there wasn't much in the way of real furniture or cover in the room. This fact was driven painfully home as three more troops fell to the blasts of Electro and the Beetle.
"Spot! You need to get us out of here, to the secondary area! Me and the weapon first!"
Spot cringed as bullets and energy beams careened all around him, several actually passing through the black holes in his body and passing back out through different holes. He rushed back to Doctor Octopus and pulled one of the black holes off his body, stretching it out to man size by holding it in his hand and stepping on it.
Doctor Octopus jumped through with the warhead, and Silver Sable yelled out, "The warhead is gone! Take down as many of them as you can! Maximum firepower!"
Spot didn't like the sound of that, but before he could step through the warp he had created, Vulture flew in, yelling, "Out of the way, simpleton!"
Spot looked over at Electro and Beetle, all the way across the room from him and fighting a battle against about a dozen armed troops, and jumped into the warp. It closed behind him with a soft, "poit" that no one heard. Electro saw it, however, and cursed.
"That little coward left us," he yelled to Beetle.
Beetle turned and fired a blast at the nearest wall, and when the explosion cleared the sky and the city outside was visible. Electro spotted a power line and jumped, letting his body transform into current that could follow the path from there to a safer location.
Beetle activated her flight computer, programmed with the location of the second base, and turned to fly outside. She felt dizzy, however, and couldn't muster the strength even to trigger the cybernetic command for her wings. Instead, she collapsed onto the floor.
She was surrounded in a second, with the Wild Pack and Silver Sable standing around her, pointing guns down at her. It made her want to laugh, staring up at them through a suddenly developed blood red haze. They were so terrified of her, and she couldn't even move. She wanted to scream, "I'm dying! Help me!" but she couldn't speak.
"It could be a trick," one of the Wild Pack men said as Silver Sable knelt down next to the Beetle's unmoving form.
"It could be," Silver agreed, but she still holstered both her pistols and reached up to the Beetle's helmet. She unlatched the catches on the side and collar and yanked it off, slowly. She knew something was wrong when blood dripped out. Pulling the helmet all the way off, she revealed the face of the woman inside the armor. The entire right side of her face was bloody, and a gash ran along that side of her temple. Her eyes were wide open and unblinking.
"We got her," Silver said sadly.
Jonah Jameson was a hard man to get along with on a good day. On a bad day, like a day when his most hated public enemy was waltzing into his office, he was almost unbearable.
"What is that fugitive doing here in my office?" Jameson blustered, pointing a bony finger at Spider-Man. "Robbie, call the police! You, the intern, what's your name, Fleming? You're a strapping young lad, hold him until the police get here!"
Fleming, a somewhat overweight college student who had probably never thrown a punch in his life, looked over at Spider-Man with a mixture of confusion and fear. Never one to miss an opportunity, Spidey put his hands to where his ears were and began waggling his fingers at Fleming. "Yeah, get me. Booga booga, I'm the bad guy."
Fleming dashed out of the newsroom at top speed. He might have yelled "I quit!" but he couldn't be heard over Jameson's string of curses and invectives.
"Jonah, please calm down," Robbie Robertson said. "There are no warrants out on Spider-Man, and he did bring two of our reporters here for their protection."
Jonah grumbled and walked back into his office, slamming the door. Betty Brant and Ben Urich exchanged a grin, and Flash Thompson just stared. Robbie shook his head, giving Spidey a warm smile, and said, "Come on into my office, Spider-Man. I've got something to show you."
As Betty and Ben settled in to their familiar desks, Flash and Johnny Gallo walked off to see about getting a few coffees. Robbie took Spider-Man into his office and closed the door.
"I thought you might want to see this."
Robbie opened the day's Daily Bugle onto his desk. On the right hand side was a full-page ad, a large color picture of Spidey. Underneath, in bold type, was "Spider-Man. Need Your Assistance. Call Me. Silver Sable."
Spider-Man felt a piece of paper pushed into his hand by Robbie. "I took the liberty of looking up the number for the Wild Pack. You can use my phone."
Robbie stepped out of the office, and Peter once again marveled at the difference between Jonah and his editor in chief. They were practically mirror opposites in attitude. Peter heard the phone ring on the other hand and heard the receptionist answer "Sable International Professional Services, how may I help you?"
"Silver Sable, please. This is Spider-Man."
Spidey heard weariness in Sable's familiar, European-accented voice. "Hello Spider-Man." She said the words with sarcasm. "What did you once tell me when we had a disagreement over the mercenary nature of your contract in Symkaria?"
There was a sigh, and a pause. "You expressed disgust about mercenaries, and I reminded you that you were a mercenary working for me..."
"Oh! I said, 'Well, at least I'm your mercenary.' Jeez, that was lame, wasn't it? Why are you bringing that up?"
Her voice brightened considerably. "Oh thank goodness, it really is you."
"No, you don't understand. You are the fifteenth 'Spider-Man' to call today."
"The Sinister Six has reformed, and they have a nuclear weapon."
His chuckle died in his throat.
"My Wild Pack and I went to try and reclaim the weapon, a stolen nuclear missile from a sunken Russian submarine, but we succeeded only in killing the Beetle."
"The Beetle? You mean the Thunderbolt?"
"No, this was a new one. It was an accident, she wasn't wearing her helmet when we got in. But the rest of them escaped, using some kind of teleportation. We have a lead on where they might be, but we've failed once. I need your help, Spider-Man. You know how to fight them, you know them."
Teleportation? That didn't sound like any of the Sinister Six that Spidey knew. "Um, yeah, Sable...I have a bit of a crisis myself here..."
"Didn't you hear what I said? Your enemies have a nuclear weapon? What could be more important than that?"
She had a point, Spidey thought. The police were coming to protect Betty, Ben and Flash from the Bestial Brigade. But they wouldn't slow down for the police. Maybe he could call Johnny Storm? Yeah, maybe, but no telling if he'd be available. Then Spidey realized that he already had someone who could help him protect them.
"Sable, I'm in. I'll be at your office in fifteen minutes."
I just need to stop at home and pick something up first, Peter thought.
Twenty minutes later, there was a knocking on the window at Silver Sable's high-rise apartment. She opened the kevlar curtains to see Spider-Man standing on her balcony. Running her fingers along the print sensors, the window slid open to allow him access.
"Sorry Iím late," he said. "What's going on?"
His surprised outburst had come when he saw the Beetle standing inside the room. Sable looked back and shrugged.
"Spider-Man, meet Josef Millovich."
Josef removed the helmet and nodded grimly at Spider-Man.
"We took the Beetle's armor off her," Millovich said. "I am an expert at infiltration, so I will take her place."
"Don't you think they might notice you're not a woman?" Spidey said.
"The armor does not betray gender, and I do not intend to be unmasked," Millovich said. "The armor has a flight computer that was set to navigate to a location in upstate New York. We are assuming that is the new base for the Six. I will fly in, and the Wild Pack will be in close pursuit."
"Wait, wait, just a minute. I don't know anything about who we're facing here or what's going on!"
"We'll brief you on the way," Sable said. "We donít have much time, if they suspect that location isn't safe, they'll move soon. We can't do this without you, and we can't wait to give you a full update. But I can promise you that these are your enemies, and they're more dangerous than they've ever been. Can we count on your help?"
Flash knocked on the men's room door. "Come on, Johnny, come out!"
There was a muffled voice from inside. "I don't know about this..."
"Hey, you saved my life, and Spidey trusts you. It'll be fine. Now come on out!"
The door opened and Johnny Gallo stepped out, dressed in one of Spider-Man's spare costumes.
"Well? How do I look?"
Flash just smiled.
Nate aka Spider Striker
I just finished reading "Spot Quest" part 3. GREAT!! You guys are doing such a great job of making Spidey worth my time. I would've mailed you sooner, but I wanted to read the whole series first so I can praise you on the whole thing.
1. Venom. I'm a huge Venom fan and you made me remember why. Whoever made him a good guy needs to be killed painfully.
2. "Who Is Norman Osborne?" was the best Spidey I can remeber reading. But why did the Jackel degenerate? Was it a clone of the Jackel?
3. You brought back the Scarlet Spider! My favorite character of all time (yes I follow that series too)!!!
4. About time Spidey let the Torch know who he is. All I have to say. Oh, and the talk with Matt was cool, too.
5. I didn't think it possible. The Spot is becoming a cool character!
6. Jonny Gallo?! I LOVE you guys! I'm a huge fan of "Slingers" and he's the best one!
7. And I almost forgot: May's alive! May's alive!
There's like a million more things other things, but I do have I life, believe it or not. Just keep it up!
1. Venom's back, and after a short stint in the Vault, he'll be making
another appearance in Web before my run is over.
2. The Jackal was a clone, yes. The original died a long time ago, and was probably unstable anyway due to his mucking with his own genetic structure.
3. I've never been a Ben Reilly fan, to be totally honest. But I have been a fan of a lot of good characters who got killed because they weren't popular enough, and I thought his was a senseless death.
4. The Torch revelation credit goes to Mark Bousquet, and I think it's one of my favorite things to come out of our series. Spidey in our eyes was not some loner...he's not an Avenger or anything, but he does have friends he can count on, like Daredevil and the Torch.
5. To be honest, I chose the Spot as a joke. But as I've been writing him, I've really started to like him.
6. Johnny (or Jonny, I can't decide how to spell it and I keep going back and forth <g>) is my favorite Slinger as well. Expect his role in the series to grow throughout the second year.
7. She certainly is.
Thanks for writing!
Now, for some blather from me. Due to a variety of things going on in life (getting married, moving my reviews website over to CBR, and getting some other writing opportunities), I'm having to cut back on my MV1 output. The Vault will continue as normal, but I wasn't sure about my other two series. However, I've got Spidey in the Vault, and I didn't really want to leave that plot bomb for another writer, so I asked for a co-writer to script from my plots (and help me re-plot, because my originals were a little too radical...if you want to know what they were, e-mail me). That writer is Ka-Zar writer Jason Snyder, who I think will please you all. He starts next issue.