Heroes for Hire #7
Iron Fist - martial arts master raised in the mystic city of K'un Lun! Luke Cage - street-tough private eye with super-strength and steel-hard skin! Black Knight - man of science armed with weapons of sorcery! White Tiger acrobatic feline fighter created by the High Evolutionary! Ant-Man -scientific genius with the ability to shrink to miniscule sizes! Together, they make the Heroes for Hire - an organization devoted to righting wrongs for a price!
"Can't we all just get along?"
Written by: Wes A.
Right about now, Randy McNeal was wishing he was far, far away. Sure, the slums of New York tended to be a bit dreary and decaying, but, hey, wasn't everything these days? And granted, the risk of getting murdered was an everyday risk. Then there was the common invasion by aliens or mutants or the occasional giant insect. But that wasn't the reason either, no. The reason was Luke Cage's tightening fist around his throat.
"Don't play dumb with me Randy, you know where he is." said Luke.
Randy felt the brick wall behind him suddenly mashing him a lot more. "I swear Luke, I don't know anything." said Randy through precious breaths.
Luke shook his head. "Randy, Randy, Randy, didn't your momma teach you not to lie? It's bad for the soul."
Danny just shook his head and let out a frustrated sigh. He and Luke had been to half a dozen sleaze bag joints in the past hour, and had made little progress finding who they were looking for. They knew he was hiding out in this part of town and we wanted to keep a low profile. Beyond that, they had
no leads. Meanwhile, Luke tightened his grip on Randy's throat just a little more.
"This is your last chance Randy, now 'fess up." warned Luke.
Randy had enough. It was one thing to keep a secret, but this one wasn't worth dying over.
"Okay, okay, okay. I'll tell, I'll tell!!!!" he exclaimed.
Luke smiled and loosened his grip. "Talk."
"I heard he was holed up on Ash St. somewhere, maybe the old tire factory. That's all I know, I swear!"
Luke let go of Randy entirely, letting the man fall to the ground, gasping for breath. "Thanks Randy, always nice to catch up with ya. We should get together
again." smiled Luke at him and Danny walked out of the alley.
The two walked in silence for about a block. Finally, Danny turned to Luke.
"You knew he was going to squeal, didn't you?" Danny asked.
The two made their way towards Ash St. through the decaying slum of New York. It had been about six hours since they left Oracle. It seems that the New York museum of rare antiquities had recently been robbed. The museum had just received a 12th century emerald sculpture of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. The foot-tall sculpture had been in the museum hardly a week before it was stolen. Although the culprit had evaded the museum's alarms and guards, he hadn't evaded the security camera. The police identified the culprit and the museum hired Danny and Luke to catch the culprit and bring back the sculpture.
"So have you ever faced this guy before?" Luke asked.
"Nope. But from what I've heard, I'm glad I haven't." answered Danny as he dropped a homeless guy a few bucks.
"I hear ya. He's given some of our fellow do-gooders a good licking." Said Luke.
The two walked in silence for another few minutes. They took in the sight around them. The lost, forgotten people roaming the filthy streets. Danny wondered why anyone should live like this. He knew that the streets Luke grew up in weren't all that better. And when the two friends first formed Heroes for Hire, their office started out in a neighborhood like this. They had moved up in the world since then, but they never forgot where they came from.
One minute, Dane was just strolling the halls of Oracle. The next, he stood on the ancient island of Avalon in his Black Knight armor. He looked around, and found that he was in a courtyard next to a large fountain. Scenes like this took place when he was summoned by the mystical Lady of the Lake.
"Hello? Lady of the Lake? Why have you summoned me?" he shouted across the courtyard.
"The time has come, Dane Whitman." spoke the water in the fountain.
Before Dane's eyes, the water went rushing out of the fountain and took the form of a beautiful woman, clad in a white dress. This was the guardian of Avalon, the Lady of the Lake.
"Time for what?" asked Dane.
"The time when the great evil will attempt to take Avalon. You must now gather your forces and battle the evil which threatens this island." The Lady said in her soft voice.
Dane knew that this moment was going to come. Back when the Lady of the Lake first summoned him*(*See Heroes for Hire #1 for more details-Wes), he knew that he would have to put his life on the line to defend Avalon. The Lady told him that he'd need allies, that's why he joined the Heroes for Hire. And now, it was time.
"Very well," nodded Dane "I'll assemble the Heroes for Hire and we'll-"
Dane stood surprised for a moment. The Lady appeared calm and serene as
always. "What do you mean 'no'?" he asked.
"The Heroes for Hire are not the ones that you are destined to lead into battle. You must find others."
Dane couldn't believe his ears. The Heroes for Hire were a good team. Why wouldn't they be the ones he should lead?
"Then who must I lead?" he asked.
"You must lead the Dragon, the ones that walk as both man and beast, and the eternal that held your heart."
"What?" asked Dane confused.
"Find them Dane Whitman, time grows short."
The next thing Dane knew, the world around him melted back into the halls of
Oracle. He took a moment to ponder the Lady's words. The Dragon, those who walk as man and beast, and the eternal who has held his heart. He took a few minutes and pondered who they could be. It then began to click in his head. Some of them he wanted to see again, others he wouldn't be so sure about. He made his way to Oracle's communications room.
"Computer: open a channel to Wundagore Mountain."
The Evans Tire Factory didn't get much use anymore, hadn't for several years when the place closed down. But today, one man was using it. He was in what used to be the boss's main office. The man placed a briefcase on an old desk and unlocked the case. Inside was an emerald statue that was just stolen from the museum. The statue shined, and as it did, it brought a smile to the man's face.
"Excellent." said the man, admiring the statue.
The man's name was Bullseye, and he couldn't wait to give his boss the statue. Bullseye had recently come under the employ of the Kingpin again, but until his boss found a job for him, he needed some fast money. Thievery wasn't his strong point, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And what better way to score some cash than with a 12th century emerald statue worth millions of dollars. Unfortunately, the police intercepted him just after the heist and forced him to lay low for a bit.
"Baby, you're gonna be my meal ticket for a while." said as he put the statue back.
Bullseye snapped the lid shut. The locks on the case made a click. But after the locks clicked, he heard another one, except this one was behind him.
Bullseye's entire body stiffened. He recognized that gruff voice and felt the gun barrel pointed to the back of his head. Bullseye slowly raised his arms over his head.
"Hello Castle. Fancy meeting you here."
Frank Castle, the Punisher, jabbed the back of Bullseye's head with his gun barrel.
"Shut up. It took me a while to track you. Luckily, some of the fine residents of this neighborhood are very helpful."
"I bet they are." said Bullseye with a sneer.
"Turn around." orders Punisher.
Bullseye slowly turned around. Punisher was in his black body armor with the skull on the chest. He also wore a gray trenchcoat. He held an automatic machine gun in his hands, which was pointed at Bullseye's face. Bullseye could also see a handgun strapped to Punisher's belt. Punisher no doubt had
more weapons, but Bullseye couldn't see them.
"So you came after me, huh? I thought maybe you'd think twice about it, considering the beating I gave you last time*(*check out MUTF Presents: Punisher #4 for details-Wes)."
"I think you know me better than that." said Punisher with a dark smile. Punisher's finger tightened on the trigger. Just before he shot, Bullseye dropped down to his feet. He performed a leg sweep that knocked Punisher onto his back. Bullseye then grabbed the case with the statue in and bolted out the door of the room. Punisher got to his feet and went in chase of his prey.
"Damn it, too slow!" he cursed as he ran.
Bullseye ran through the halls of the factory, not caring where he went so long as it was away from his pursuer. His remembered the injuries he sustained the last time the two met. The operations he went to be healed weren't an experience he wanted to repeat. He ran into a supply room, which still had several tires in it. He picked up a tire and threw it at Punisher as he entered the room. Punisher used a high-kick to deflect the tire, giving Bullseye enough time to pull a knife from his costume. Bullseye dropped the case and lunged at Punisher, knife in hand. Punsiher used his rifle to hit Bullseye in the stomach. Bullseye fell
to the ground, arms covering his sore stomach. Punisher aimed his gun at Bullseye's head.
"Let's finish this."
Punisher almost pulled the trigger when he heard a footstep at the doorway. He whipped around and began firing on pure instinct. The barrage of bullets him their target dead on, but did little harm. All they did was rip open Luke Cage's jacket.
"Aw, c'mon is that anyway to greet an old friend?" asked Luke.
Punisher's eyes went wide with recognition and annoyance. The last time he met with the Heroes for Hire, they didn't part on good terms*(*Heroes for Hire #9)
"Not you guys again!" exclaimed Punisher.
Luke was about to make another quip when Punisher opened up several more rounds on him. The shots didn't hurt but they made Luke mad enough to charge the vigilante. He took Punisher down with a tackle, knocking the gun out of his hands. The two were sprawled out on the ground. Bullseye made a grab for the rifle, hoping to kill at least one of the heroes. He took aim at Punisher, when the gun was suddenly kicked from his hands. He turned to see Iron Fist standing there.
"I think you have something that doesn't belong to you. I suggest you return it and surrender before you're hurt."
"I'm getting really sick of you heroes." snarled Bullseye.
Iron Fist just stood there as Bullseye threw a punch at him. With ease, Iron Fist caught the punch and kicked Bullseye in the chest. Bullseye was knocked down, but got right back up. The two circled each other, each sizing the other up. Bullseye threw a roundhouse kick, Iron Fist ducked it and then performed an uppercut. Once again, Bullseye was knocked back. He wiped a bit of blood from his nose, then charged at Iron Fist again. Meanwhile, Luke and Punisher were busy with their own brawl. Punisher knew that bullets wouldn't hurt Luke, so he drew his knife. To Luke, it looked more like a small sword than a knife. Punisher made a swipe at Luke, which Luke dodged. Again, Punisher tried to stab Luke. This time, the knife connected straight in the middle of Luke's chest. As the knife made contact, the blade smashed.
"Guess I'm tougher than the average drug pusher, huh?" asked Luke tauntingly.
Punisher grabbed Luke's arm with lightning quick speed and performed a judo flip. Luke landed with a crash on the wooden floor. Punisher turned around to see Iron Fist pounding on Bullseye. Judging from Bullseye's bruised face, the fight was obviously in Iron Fist's favor.
"You heroes aren't going to stop me from doing my job." he said as he picked up his rifle.
Punisher took aim and began to fire. A stream of bullets separated Iron Fist and Bullseye. Iron Fist took a stray shot to the leg. The hero received a sudden jolt of pain and was taken down to one knee. Bullseye turned to Punisher, now taking aim at him. He also saw a window that had the glass knocked out of it. For a second he debated on jumping or fighting. They were on the second story of the factory, but it was either that or face three enemies.
"Forget the statue." he murmured.
Bullseye ran to a window and leaped out. He landed on the street in a crouching position. As soon as Bullseye regained his balance, he bolted to an alley across the street. He didn't have the statue, but he had his life. Besides, there'd always be another chance for revenge. From the window, Punisher watched as Bullseye made his escaped. He slammed his fist down on the window frame.
"Blast it! I would've had him this time!"
Punisher whipped around to face Luke and Iron Fist. Iron Fist was now able to stand but was still in pain.
"I hope you're happy now! You've just let a dangerous criminal slip from my hands." said Punisher angrily.
"When are you going to learn that killing criminals isn't the answer?" asked Iron Fist.
"Oh shut up! I've heard that too many times from the web-head. Next time, don't get in the way until my job is done."
Luke shook his head. He started at advance on the Punisher. Everyone from the police to the FBI wanted this man, and Luke knew he couldn't take both him and Iron Fist. It was time to take the Punisher in.
"There's not gonna be a next-" Before Luke could finish, Punisher jumped out the window himself. "-time." finished Luke lamely.
Iron Fist bolted to the window to spot him, but couldn't find any trace of the vigilante.
"He's gone!" exclaimed Iron Fist.
Luke just shrugged dismissively. He had enough for one day. "Good riddance. Come on Danny, we got the statue, let's just go home and get our paycheck."
Iron Fist nodded as he backed away from the window. Luke helped get the bullet out of Iron Fist's leg and made a bandage out of a tattered coat remain.
"This'll help get you back to Oracle. We can get Dr. Foster*(*Jane Foster, as in Thor's Jane Foster) to get a better look at you."
Iron Fist nodded in agreement. He picked up the case with the statue as he followed Luke out of the room. The two changed into their street clothes and walked out of the building. From the rooftop, the Punisher watched them walk down the street, shaking his head.
"They'll never learn." he said to himself.
With that, Punisher slung his rifle across his back and headed for the building's fire escape. This city was full of criminals that needed punishing.