Spider-Man # 4
"A Day at the Office"
He swung the air as the wind whistled in his ears. The few hours that had passed were intensely frustrating, as he had no leads on The Five. All of his contacts either shook in fear or shut up, or said they knew nothing and walked away. He wondered what could frighten such a veritable group of snitches. His Spider-Sense went off as he had a collision with a hard surface. Spider-Man stood up in a daze as a towering shadow of a man was cast upon him. He looked up to see a figure covered in ebony armor with jutting shoulder attachments. An odd helmet adorned his head as a faceplate covered his mouth. A long black cape flowed down to his ankles but did not touch the ground. His eyes gleamed with an unnatural red glow as he gazed upon Spider-Man.
"Whoa, you like a bad refugee from a Japanese Anime." Spider-Man put some distance between them.
His voice practically boomed. "And you have room to comment with your spandex uniform?"
Spider-Man was caught off guard by the return quip. "You must be Archeville's brother. Gotta boomerang?"
"I am Gotterdamerung. My brother is of no concern at the moment, but you are. Your search for the others of the Five has gotten my attention. Depending on the situation, it may be a good or..." The costumed man clenched his fists. "...bad thing."
"Let me guess. You want me to run your own little agenda as well. Sorry, I already told your brother I wouldn't be his little marionette." Spider-Man began to leave as Gotterdamerung stopped him.
"It is more of both our agendas. You wish to reveal the Five, fine. Our time grows short anyway. All I want is for one of the Five to be found. He is a greedy worthless politician."
"Well, that narrows the field. What's in it for you?" Spider-Man lamented.
Gotterdamerung bowed his head for a moment. "All I ask is that you not seek the identity of the Overseer. She has trusted me with her most guarded secrets, including her true appearance. The politician does not deserve to be one of us, and right now, is the most severe threat to National Security."
Spider-Man was baffled. "Uh, I hate to say it, but don't you think National Security is basically out the window by now."
Gotterdamerung shook his head. "There is still much that the world at large does not know. If this man is discredited, his stories will seem nothing more than a bunch of lies to cover his own tail."
"I see. You want me to find proof of his misdeeds without linking him to the Five. What's in it for me?" Spider-Man was curious to find out.
"You have a lead story for your newspaper." Gotterdamerung curtly responded.
Spider-Man sighed. "Isn't there anyone who doesn't know my secret identity?"
"Your current troubles are your own. I wish to know your answer, now." Gotterdamerung glared at Spider-Man.
Spider-Man hesitated for a moment. "Fine, no Overseer. Just give me a name and I'll see what I can do."
"His name is Shawn Berger. Oh, and one more thing. Try to discover my true identity and I will respond in the fashion of many of your other adversaries." Gotterdamerung departed.
Spider-Man scratched his head. "Man, I just love these new set of villains lately. They just ask me to do something and don't even throw a punch. For now, I'll hold to our deal. But, that doesn't mean I can't get that dirty little rat to speak out. I have to use every resource at my command. That means I have to deal with something I've been trying to avoid. Ol' buzzhead and the fact that he knows my secret. I'm glad Mary Jane doesn't have days like this."
A couple knocks on the door were heard as Mary Jane walked over to answer it. She opened it to see a young man about in his early twenties, with brown hair with white streaks on the front bangs. Mary Jane smiled as she asked him to come in. He walked in and sat down while Mary Jane sat across from him.
"Nate, I'm sorry if you were busy with something, but this couldn't wait." Mary Jane sighed as she began to shake with nervousness.
He noticed her demeanor and her mind overlapped with several thoughts. "I know about Peter's recent troubles. His voice rang in my head when Jonah found out. He doesn't know, but I established a permanent psychic link with him. He's a true friend to me, the only one I trust in this world. And if someone threatens that friendship, then I will respond."
"I'm glad to hear that. But, I also wanted you to know that you’re my last option. Peter would never ask you to wipe Jonah's mind. But, I'm not Peter. I've already experienced so much from the villains who found out Peter's identity. I don't even want to fathom what will happen if Jonah actually releases that kind of information."
"You said I was the last option. Do you even have another one?" Another knock at the door interrupted the reply.
Mary Jane opened the door to reveal a man wearing dark sunglasses and carrying a Seeing Eye cane. He wore a formal suit and entered at Mary Jane's behest.
"Matt, please sit down. I'm glad you were able to come. I needed your legal expertise on this matter." The man sat next to Nate as he put out his hand.
"I'm Matt Murdock, lawyer and friend of the Parkers. I don't think I've had the pleasure of meeting your acquaintance."
"Nate Grey. I'm also a friend of Peter's. And Mary Jane's." The mutant shook Murdock's hand.
"Ah yes, the New York prophet in the papers. I remember reading the stories awhile back. Fortunately, the Bugle has a Braille edition." Murdock smiled at the man.
"Well, Matt I need to tell you it's okay with Nate. He knows Peter's secret as well. First, I want to see exactly what kind of figure I'm looking at if Jonah decides to go public with Spider-Man's identity." Mary Jane suggested to Matt.
"Well, considering the overwhelming amount of proof printed almost daily in The Bugle, I'd say you could almost own the entire company. Libel, emotional trauma and distress, the list could go on." Matt noted sympathetically.
"You intend to blackmail him." Nate seemed shocked by Mary Jane's first plan.
Mary Jane nodded. "I guess there is no other way of putting it."
"You're doing what is necessary to protect your husband. That's the other way of putting it." Matt consoled the woman.
Mary Jane seemed to look out the window as though Peter were hanging right outside it. "I just hope that my first plan works. I don't want us to suffer anymore than we already have."
"Well, looks who shaken out the cobwebs and greeted us with his presence." Jonah's greeting made Peter cringe.
"Hey Pete. Jonah told us that you were working on the Sector 17 case. I take it that you've had a couple of rough nights." Rob patted Peter on the shoulder.
"Yeah, you could say I've hit a couple of bumps along the road. Thanks for the concern." Peter smiled back at his friend then walked up to the editor.
Jonah puffed a large amount of cigar smoke in Peter's face. "Come in boy, tell me what you've found out so far."
Jonah opened the door as Peter entered. As soon as the door shut, Peter released his pent up anger.
"Look, keep the sly innuendoes to yourself. If anyone in this building found out, you would be personally responsible for his or her safety. Or do you not care about the people that work here?" Peter remarked with a deep chill in his voice.
"Well, that's not my problem, boy." Johan said with hatred filled whispering. "You decided to put on a mask, you have to pay for it."
"What I did was out of responsibility for my loved ones. If I went around revealing my identity, everyone surrounding me would be threatened." Parker's face flushed red with growing rage.
"It's the same risks that the boys in blue make every day and they do it without a face mask. They have respect and the law to back them up. You have nothing but your own personal gain for a sorry excuse to constantly break the law. You could have used your powers with a shield to back it up. Instead you make yourself one of these masked freaks, and that only invites more of them in. Boy, you've been responsible for every Vulture; Venom, Carnage, and every masked freak that has ventured into this town to prove themselves. I've told you this plenty of times with the mask on, and now I'm telling it straight to your face. You're going down for the choice you've made boy. And I will be the one to do it."
Peter stood there and took the words in and let them back out. However, this time there was no protection of the mask that he wore. No satisfaction of being able to leap away while Johan was bound to his chair. He would have to go back out and wear the face of a man who had only been lectured by his boss. A burden of a secret lost that weighed heavily as he went for the door.
Peter turned around for a moment. "I have an inside source that gave me some information about a politician. His name is Shawn Berger. The inside source told me that he has his hands in several funding projects for Sector 17, legally and illegally."
"Good work. Was that in or out of the webs?" Jonah puffed a huge ring of smoke in the air from his cigar.
"What does it matter to you?" Peter coughed when the second hand smoke hit his lungs.
Jonah only smirked in discontent. "It doesn't. Now, leave this office before I decide to call in the exterminator."
Peter glared at the man who let out another puff of smoke. He quickly turned around and opened the door.
"Oh, and one more thing boy." Jonah spoke loud enough for the others in the office to hear.
"Yes." Peter said coolly.
"Don't be crawling around too many places or you'll be liable to get squashed by one of these masked freaks hanging around." Jonah closed the door with the last statement.
Peter's longtime work friend noticed his demeanor. "Don't let him get to you Pete. He just wants the story of a lifetime, and he wants to get it anyway he can."
"Rob, you don't know the half of it." Peter snapped at him.
The older black gentleman seemed taken aback by Peter's cold comeback. "Sorry Pete. I didn't realize the old man had you on the ropes lately."
Peter regained his composure. "I'm sorry. It's everything that's happening lately. It's like every dirty little secret is about to come out from the woodwork."
"Yeah, there has to be government involvement in a setup like Sector 17. It's become the new Roswell of the coming millennium. Something like this I had to come out of retirement." Rob explained to Peter.
Peter nodded. "I know. Well, I'll be spending a lot of nights getting contacts and pictures where I can. Tell everyone I won't be around the office during the day anymore. But, leave the old man out of it. He works late anyway, and I'll hand in my assignments to him."
"You got it Pete. Tell Mary Jane that the misses says hi. Include me in that too." Rob winked and patted Peter on the shoulder.
"I will. Thanks Rob." Peter exited the office with a slight slam of the door.
Jonah finished working for the night as he put out his cigar. The door creaked as it opened up to reveal a rather ravishing redhead with an equally red flush face. It was one of rage and spite.
"How dare you treat my husband like that in front of his peers?" She snapped at Jonah.
"Mrs. Parker, your husband made a choice to be a vigilante instead of a cop or something else that didn't require the use of the mask. Now, he has to live with that choice." Jonah snuffed out his cigar.
Mary Jane clenched her hands in fury. "And so will I. There are only a few villains who know his secret identity and wish to keep him and me alive for their continual amusement when they torture us. There are others that once they find out, will have no problem killing the both of us. Do you really want to be an accessory to murder, Mr. Jameson?" Mary Jane silently hoped that one of her tactics would save her from using the last resort.
Jonah glared at the woman. "If you think I would feel guilty for either of your deaths, you're wrong. Those who conspire to keep masked freaks on the street are as guilty as the ones that wear the masks."
"Fine, Mr. Jameson. But, if you do decide to release the information concerning my husband, you will face the biggest lawsuit in the history of publication. All that amount of garbage you spilled about my husband will equal a treasure so great it will cost you your job." Mary Jane slammed her fist down on the desk.
"Are you attempting to blackmail me Mrs. Parker?" Jonah's stoic face gave no indication of changing his mind.
"No, I'm telling you I will not stand here and let you threaten what I hold most dear." Mary Jane said defiantly.
"Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news Mrs. Parker. If it costs me my job, and it gets one more masked freak off the streets. Then, that's exactly what I will do." Jonah began to walk towards the door to show Mary Jane out. He opened the door and waved his hand.
Mary Jane bowed her head, almost as though she nodded. "Fine, I'm sorry it has to be this way."
"Well, I'm not. Tell your husband he has better things to do then send his wife to threaten me." Jonah slammed the door behind her as he sat down and held his head in his hands.
Outside of the building Nate Grey, the mutant known as the X-Man, reached in Jonah's mind and pulled the mask over Peter's face once more. Mary Jane walked out to see the levitating young man float down next to her.
"I did what was needed. If it's any consolation, you would have convinced me to stay quiet." Nate placed his hand on her shoulder.
Mary Jane allowed a slight smirk. "Thank you. I just need to be alone for a moment."
Nate Gray nodded in understanding. "Okay, be careful."
Mary Jane had walked several blocks away before another shadowy apparition appeared.
"Peter, is that you?" She asked as it darted away.
"No my dear. I'm afraid not." The menacing voice sent chills down her spine.
"NATE! Can you hear me?" Mary Jane tried to yell in hopes that the mutant was still nearby.
"No time for other saviors you harlot. The Green Goblin has need for you, as a test subject." An evil laughter filled the night air as he whisked Mary Jane away to an unknown destination.