Peter's world is rocked when a mysterious warrior named Slayer shows up who is intent on training him to be a real fighter. But along with this man comes demonic figure who wants him to make him an...
Chapter 6: Soul Snatcher
Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of crime, had faced some unsavory characters in his life. He had done business with ruthless killers, mutant terrorists, and dangerous crime lords of all kinds. And he had overcome all of them. But they none of them could compare to the horrific figure he was looking at right now.
"You!" gasped Fisk in horror, "What the hell are you?!"
The demonic being known as Hotshot stood in a glowing aura, firmly grasping the soul stone. Invigorated with new power, his size increased and his blackened demonic muscles grew with new strength. His eyes burned brightly with hellish flame and a horrific smile showing off his shark-like teeth dominated his expression. All the while, Vanessa Fisk stood by him in a zombie-like state.
"You pudgy little pansy!" taunted Hotshot, "This is just too perfect! The power to control souls all in a neat little package, and you give it to ME! If I wasn't part demon, I might be inclined to thank you. But instead, I think I'll just make you suffer by controlling the woman you love!"
"NO!" yelled Fisk, getting up in a rage, "Nobody belittles the Kingpin! ELEKTRA!"
Suddenly, a hidden door besides the elevator burst open and the ninja assassin, Elektra, leapt into action and threw her sharp metal sighs directly into the heart of the creature. It was a perfect throw, hitting him head on. But even as the blade was impaled in the demon's chest, he didn't flinch for a second.
"Ha! Is that all you got?" grinned Hotshot, easily withdrawing the blade, "Send a chick dressed like a hooker to fight your battles?"
Tossing the blade to the side, Elektra and Kingpin watched in horror as the blade dissolved under the corrosive power of Hotshot's blackened blood. Elektra's weapons were forged of metals on the same scale as adamantium, but it dissolved in Hotshot's flesh like it was nothing. He didn't look threatened in the slightest. If anything, it looked as though he was drawing strength from this.
"My blades!" yelled Elektra.
"Funny, I thought they were butter knives. Come on, bitch! Show me what you've got!"
"Oh, I will monster! AND DON'T CALL ME A BITCH!" yelled the assassin.
Lunging forth with great speed, Elektra unloaded on Hotshot and hit him with a flying double kick and three punch combo. Hotshot didn't even attempt to get out of the way. He stood there and grinned as she made contact with his body. When her flesh touched his, it was like punching volcanic rock. Sharp burns quickly followed along with blistering pain. It was like touching the fires of Hell.
"ARGH!" she yelled, grasping her blistered fists.
"Barely felt a tingle," grinned Hotshot, "You got some pretty lousy henchmen, Fisk!"
With a casual swat, Hotshot knocked Elektra right back into the wall. Her body flew across the room as if it were rag doll. He barely put any effort into it and hit her with the force of an oncoming truck. Elektra grit her teeth through the pain, struggling to get up. And with Vanessa still mindlessly watching, Fisk took measures into his own hands.
"You insolent pest!" he said, lunging towards him at full speed, "Power or no power, you will NOT get the better of me!"
"I already have, tubby."
Without breaking a sweat, the glowing demon grabbed the imposing crime lord and lifted him as if here were light as a feather. And with a casual toss, threw him to the side. Fisk's obese body hit the wall with a hard thud, leaving a sizable mark in the reinforced walls. But he was still conscious. And for once, the Kingpin was powerless to stop this madman.
"You may own this city, but now I control the souls that dwell in it," taunted Hotshot, holding the stone high, "As easy it would be to end you right here, I think I'll let you live to see me use your wife as my little henchmen."
"Vanessa!" yelled Kingpin, struggling to get up.
"Oh yes!" growled Hotshot, "And just for the fun of it, I think I'll take your sexy little sidekick too!"
Turning towards the still downed Elektra, Hotshot grabbed her by the neck and held her against the wall.
"Ack!" she choked, trying to break free.
"Mmm...you're a strong one, woman," grinned Hotshot, "I torture you and make myself stronger, but I'm going to need a little help for what I have planned. And you're going coming along for the ride whether you like it or not!"
The soul stone glowed in flashing rainbow colors as Hotshot held it over Elektra's body. The skilled assassin was unable to resist. A blistering pain like no other shot through every fiber of her being as her soul was ripped from her flesh. The blinding light was too great to look at, forcing the Kingpin to stay back while his top assassin succumbed to the power of the demonic madman. And when it was over, Elektra's body went limp and her eyes opened to reveal the same glowing red iris as Vanessa.
"No..." gasped Fisk, "What have I done?"
"You'll see, Fisk..." grinned Hotshot, "You'll all see! But first, there's a wretched little punk I need to pay a little visit to. And when I'm done, this city will be mine for the taking! Ahahahahahahahaha!"
Holding the soul stone high, a blinding white light inundated the room, consuming Hotshot and his two soulless minions. The Kingpin attempted to stop him, but it was all over in a flash. And all Wilson Fisk could do now was collapse in a fit of bitter defeat.
The power of the stone was in the hands of a being more evil than even the Kingpin could have imagined. Hotshot wasn't some thug looking for wealth or power. He really wanted to destroy life and cause undue suffering. Now he had the means to do it all and he had given it to him. This could not stand, not when he had been so badly dishonored and his wife used as a mere pawn. He had to respond. Taking out his cell phone, he dialed a quick number.
"Landon..." he said in a weak tone, "Meet me in the penthouse. We have a serious problem."
The next day, Peter was too restless to sleep in. As much as he wanted to, he couldn't turn his brain off after his discussion with Slayer. Add to that, he and Mary Jane didn't get a chance to talk and make up for their little fight. He still felt guilty about having cast his burden on her. His conscious had been nagging at him ever since. So Peter decided to take his mind off this mess and swing around New York while cashing his paycheck.
Finally, it's Saturday. Funny, I usually look forward to them. On any other weekend, I'd still be sleeping. But here I am, bright and early, swinging through the city. I must be going crazy.
Peter swung past Time Square over the early Saturday morning traffic below. He was getting close to the ATM where he deposited his paycheck. It wasn't much since he was still so young and J. Jonah Jameson was not exactly liberal with his money. But it was enough to keep him afloat both in and out of the costume.
Man, Jameson doesn't pay me enough. Then again, if it weren't for web shooters, web fluid, and torn costumes I might actually have some spending money. Who knew being a superhero was so expensive? At least Mary Jane is nice enough to fix my costume.
Landing atop a building, Peter took off his mask and set down his backpack. With a change of clothes on hand, he planned to get this over with and get back to enjoying his Saturday. There wouldn't be much to enjoy if this threat Slayer told him about was real. Now he was going to be looking over his shoulder ever waking moment worrying about it. Add to that, his family was at risk if this threat was as big as it sounded. He tried to put it out of his mind as his thoughts soon drifted to Mary Jane again.
Damn, I can't believe I fought with MJ over something so stupid. And she was just trying to make me feel better. Some boyfriend I am. Maybe I should scrape by whatever loose change I've got and take her someplace nice to make up for it...someplace besides Taco Bell. I owe it to her after everything she's put up with.
Peter was about to change into his clothes, when suddenly a series of gunshots echoed through the streets below. It wasn't unusual for New York, but the ensuing screams of innocent people quickly caught the young vigilante's attention.
"You have GOT to be kidding me!" groaned Peter, rubbing his forehead, "Why can't criminals take Saturday's off like the rest of us?"
Putting his mask back on, he swung down through the streets, following the police cruisers to the scene. It didn't take long before they reached a building surrounded by a large crowd. Looking up at the structure, he saw it was the First National Bank. And from the looks of it, chaos had already taken hold.
"A bank robbery in broad daylight..." he sighed, "What a city."
Leaping off a police car, Peter swung up the building and onto the roof. His presence didn't go unnoticed by the crowd, especially the police. They had it out for him ever since that nut dressed up like him and killed all those people. It tended to make his job more difficult than it already was.
"Look! It's Spider-Man!"
"Is he with the gunmen?" asked one of the cops.
"Who knows? Probably is. Let's just get in and take them down!"
As annoyed as Peter was with his lack of support from his adoring fans, he slipped into the building to do his thing. Luckily, the gunmen hadn't secured the roof. It set his mind at ease because it hinted these guys were probably amateurs. But as he scaled the stairs and slipped into an elevator shaft, he was far from relaxed.
Good God, these guys suck. Wrong day, wrong time, and in the middle of a crowded city! I feel like I'm wasting my time here. But if anybody's been hurt, I guess it's up to me to stop it. And yet it STILL won't yield me any good PR knowing the cops and the public. I should really get a publicist.
Scaling the shaft until he reached the first floor, Peter took cover on the roof as he neared the main lobby. He heard more gunshots and screaming, not knowing if anybody was dying as a result. Spider-man worked fast, trying to get into position and stay out of sight. He was expecting to find more guards, but near as he could tell they were all in the lobby. It was almost sad how poor this little heist had been planned.
"Stay down!" yelled a masked gunman firing an AK-47 into the air, "Stay the fuck down and nobody gets hurt!"
Three other men in similar attire were emptying out the registers and the open lock boxes. They didn't even try to go for the safe where the real valuables were. Even with sirens outside, they gathered all they could as if it was going to get them out of this. Seeing a dozen terrified customers and employees on the floor, Spider-Man sensed this was serious. Yet still, he saw now dead bodies. Letting out a sigh of relief, he got into position and prepared to make his presence known.
"See? This is why banks shouldn't open on weekend mornings!" he said, using his webbing to get the main gunman's weapon away, "It's practically a magnet for half rate criminals!"
"He's here!" yelled the leader, "Shoot him!"
The two other gunmen frantically fired towards the roof, but their aim left plenty of room for improvement. With his spider sense to guide him, Peter easily leapt onto a nearby column while the terrified hostages quivered in fear.
"Man, you guys really are new at this!" laughed Peter under his mask, "I mean seriously! Who robs a bank in broad daylight on a Saturday morning?! What happened? You guys skip heist 101 at the bad guy academy?"
"Get back!" yelled one of the gunmen, still firing wildly.
"Looks like you skipped English too," sighed Spider-Man, "Oh well, guess I might as well end this and get back in time to watch some cartoons."
Firing two lines of webbing, Peter disarmed the guards and stuck their weapons to the floor. The would-be robbers stammered back, falling over in a way Peter would have laughed at if he wasn't so stressed out. They weren't even putting up a fight. Yet the screaming continued as Spider-Man delivered the final blow, encasing each gunman in a cocoon of webbing.
"Easy people, it's almost over," he told the terrified crowd, "You'll be back to waiting in an endless line for poor service in no time."
The three men struggled lightly, but didn't resist as they all fell to the ground. It was almost too easy for Peter. Things never went this well for him. It was against the laws of the universe. He was supposed to have the worst luck possible. It would have been nice if this was a break for him, so he hoped to get out as soon as possible.
"Okay boys, that's a warp," said Spider-Man, unmasking the three gunmen, "It's been fun, but now you need a little time out."
Then, much to the surprise of the masked vigilante, the lead gunman smiled at him. It was usually at this point that his captured victims started cussing him out and vowing revenge. But this was not the case.
"Right on time," said the leader, "He said you'd be here."
"Huh? What the hell are you..."
"Fisk Tower...thirty minutes," he said with an ominous grin, "He wants to see you."
"See me? Pal, you're seriously off your rocker if you think..."
But before Spider-Man could probe further, the door burst open.
"FREEZE! NYPD! On the ground scumbags! That includes you, Spider-Man!" yelled the lead cop.
"Oh boy, that's my queue!" said Spider-Man, leaping away from the downed gunmen and retreating to the elevator shafts.
But even as he slipped away, the lead gunmen kept yelling.
"Thirty minutes! He'll be waiting for you!"
When it was all said and done, Peter was back on the roof watching the gunmen get hauled off. It was strange. None of them were resisting or badmouthing the cops. And that guy kept on smiling. It just didn't make any sense.
I knew it was too good to be true. No criminal I cross would EVER be this careless.
His thoughts drifted to the ominous message the leader had given. He shuttered at the thought of actually taking the word of some low life and going to the one place he hoped he'd never go again, Fisk Tower. And only one man had that kind of influence on the criminals of New York to put together something this bizarre.
Oh man, I can't believe I'm even thinking this. The Kingpin? Again? This is the same guy who threatened to find out who I am and kill everybody I care about. And the reasons I should NOT go are so tempting. But still...
Looking at the large clock displayed on a news ticker, Peter debated with himself whether or not he should go. It was Saturday. He could just blow this off, go home, and sleep. Wilson Fisk was the last person he wanted to see. This guy was the epitome of everything he fought against. He even murdered a man on camera and walked off a free man. The idea of being within the same block as him sent shivers down his spine. But a nagging voice in the back of his mind convinced him otherwise.
Oh man, I can't believe I'm doing this. Why do I get the feeling this will come back to haunt me? Oh wait...I know. Because it ALWAYS does!
And with a beleaguered sigh, Spider-Man swung off into the morning sun. His next stop, Fisk Tower.
On the roof of Fisk Tower in the heart of the city, the Kingpin of crime stood at the edge looking out over the skyline in a daze. His expression was cold, stern, and full of anger over what had happened. His wife was gone. The stone was gone. And the madman known as Hotshot had disappeared without a trace. Despite his vast resources, Fisk was powerless. He was a businessman, not a superhero. He couldn't call the police and he couldn't call Nick Fury. The Kingpin was already on the watch list of every law enforcement agency in the world. So that left him with only one option.
"You know if we were on a beach, I'd so mistake you for a sick whale," came a pestilent voice Fisk knew all too well.
"I see you got my message," he said, ignoring the remark.
"Hell of a way to set up a meeting," commented Spider-Man, resting casually atop a flag pole, "You know there's this really cool invention called email. You should look into it."
Casting the witty vigilante a cold scowl, Wilson Fisk clenched his fists as he prepared to cut the hardest deal of his career.
"I hate you," he said coldly, "You're a punk kid who's meddling in a world he has no concept of."
"Oh so you brought me here to lecture me?" remarked Spiderman, "You know I do to got school. They tell me that at least ten times a week."
"Enough!" spat Fisk, "I didn't bring you here to lecture you. Rest assured few forces on Heaven and Earth could ever bring me to turn to you of all people. But time is short and my options are limited. In short, I need your help."
Peter was taken aback by the Kingpin's choice of words. He had seen him when he was angry and when he meant business, but this was different. There was a look in his eyes that told a terrible story. The usually cocky, confident Kingpin was gone. He was actually humbling himself to his enemy. It was enough to make the wall-crawler take him seriously.
"Okay, if you're so dead set against me being within ten miles of you, tell me what you want so I can find the nearest shark tank to throw you into."
Fisk's expression sank, partly out of bitterness and partly out of frustration.
"It's the stone."
"The stone? You mean the Rolling Stones? I thought those guys were dead?" quipped Spider-Man.
"I'm talking about the stone that I lost because of you and that Cat woman!" shot Fisk.
"Oh, THAT stone. You must mean the one that's floating at the bottom of the Hudson."
"No...not anymore," said Fisk ominously, "It took months of searching at a great cost to me personally, but I recovered it and now its power has been unleashed."
Peter wasn't sure if Fisk was telling the truth or just pulling his leg. For all he knew, it could be some elaborate plan to find out who he is so he could kill him. His spider sense remained dormant. Fisk's voice was serious and for the sake of curiosity, he gave him the benefit of the doubt.
"Okay, somebody's off his meds this morning," he joked, "Just what is this stone anyways? Did you get it from Merlin the wizard or is it one of those religious things from Ebay?"
"I assure you, it's no joke," warned Fisk, "That stone contains enough power to bring this whole city to its knees. I've seen it work. I know what it can do."
"Right...and you're telling me this because you want it back so you can be the one do it?" said Spider-Man cynically.
"No. I'm a businessman, not a tyrant."
"Could've fooled me."
"Don't patronize me boy!" shot Fisk, "I wanted that stone for one reason and one reason alone...my wife, Vanessa."
Peter's eyes widened, having not expected this from the Kingpin of all people. He was a ruthless criminal who killed anybody who stood in his way. He had seen first hand just how cruel this guy was. The last thing Peter ever would have expected was to hear a woman had risked marrying this guy.
"Your wife? Man, women have strange tastes. She wouldn't happen to be related to Anna Nichole Smith, would she?"
"I'd advise you not to disrespect her," said Fisk angrily, "Otherwise I may be inclined to let this city die out of spite."
Spider-Man was about to comment, but common sense won out and he fell silent as Fisk went on.
"The truth is Vanessa was the one who wanted that stone, not me. She knew of its power and she believed in it. I never gave it too much thought...until the day she was diagnosed with aggressive cancer."
"Cancer?" said Peter, growing more intrigued, "How bad?"
"Bad enough for the doctors to give her a mere six months to live," said Fisk, the sorrow choking his voice, "She was beyond all hope, but I refused to let her go. So I financed an expedition to find the stone. My wife had a fascination with ancient artifacts and spoke passionately about many relics. And just after she got sick, she told me the story of the soul stone. I figured if she believed in it, then that was enough for me."
"And I'm guessing it wasn't," surmised Spider-Man.
"No...that's the thing, it was," said Fisk.
Now Peter was confused. This was not a run of the mill conflict. It had to be big if Kingpin was making himself this vulnerable to a hated adversary. But there was more to the story.
"When I found the stone I tried to unlock its power. But no amount of money could buy the answers I wanted and Vanessa was running out of time. So I placed my trust in a mysterious figure who said he could help."
"Mysterious figure? You know, they make horror movies that start out like that," remarked Spider-Man.
It was yet another annoying comment, but on many levels it was true. And the Kingpin held his head low for not heeding what every fiber in his being had told him.
"I'm afraid this was no different," he sighed, "That figure turned out to be a monster the likes of which I've never seen before."
"Did this monster have horns, a tail, and red skin?"
"No...he was worse than that. I don't know whether he was a mutant or the devil himself, but he took that stone and used it to take Vanessa's soul. I tried to stop him, but even Elektra couldn't stop him."
"He took her soul?" said Spider-Man, finding that bizarre even by his standards, "Just who the hell is this guy?"
"He called himself...Hotshot."
Peter froze in horror. The memories of the demonic creature that attacked his school came rushing back. A shiver of terror coursed through his spine as the contents in his stomach sank. Slayer had told him a lot about that creature and none of it was very encouraging. Of all the people in the world, Wilson Fisk was the one to bring him back. Peter knew Hotshot was probably holding a grudge against him and now he had a new power to inflict more suffering.
"Hotshot?!" said Peter, seething with anger.
"I take it you know him."
Suddenly, the masked vigilante leapt down from the flagpole and punched the Kingpin right in the face. The crime lord stumbled back as Spider-Man grabbed him by the color and stared at him with rage in his eyes.
"YOU CRAZY EXCUSE FOR A TUB OF LARD! YOU MEAN TO TELL ME YOU TRUSTED HOTSHOT?!"
"I know..." said Fisk, unafraid of the vigilante's rage, "Which is why I called you here."
"Oh let me guess? You want me to stop him!"
"He has Vanessa! She's an innocent woman!"
"He has her because YOU let him!" yelled Peter, "Do you have any idea what you've done?!"
As much as Fisk hated being disrespected, he set his pride aside for the grim challenge at hand. Spider-man was right. This was his fault. He couldn't escape that, but he couldn't let it stand. So he did what he did best. He was going to make a deal.
"What are you going to do? Throw me off this roof? It won't change what this madman has done. Now you can either fight me or fight this monster. It's your choice."
"If I had things my way, I'd take you BOTH down!" yelled Peter.
Despite his rage and better judgment, the wall crawler let Fisk go, shoving him back as a new sense of anxiety consumed him.
"I can't believe I'm going to have to face this monster again."
"Which is why I need you, Spider-Man," said Fisk, "Only you can save Vanessa. And rest assured you will not go unrewarded if you help me."
"Save your blood money for blowing up an orphanage fat boy!" grunted Peter in disgust, "You couldn't pay me enough to do your dirty work. But for a monster like this, I guess I don't have a choice! Either way, I'm helping you! So you can just take your big, fancy rewards and shove them up your big, fancy ass!"
As insulting as it was, Fisk didn't say another word. He just stood there, cold and calm as the Kingpin of crime. Peter wanted nothing more than to throw him off the roof and turn him into the world's biggest street pizza. But that wouldn't change anything. Hotshot was back and he was at the top of his hit list.
"I hate you. I really, REALLY hate you!" shot the web-slinger, "I'm actually going to help you, not because I want to be in your good graces, but because it's the right thing to do. Just know this...if ANYBODY, including your wife, suffers because of this monster, the burden is going to be on your shoulders! Got it?!"
Not bothering to wait for an answer, Peter leapt off the roof and swung away. With Hotshot on the loose, he had to get back to Aunt May and MJ. Then he had to somehow contact Slayer. But as he disappeared into the skyline, his seething words rang in the mind of Wilson Fisk. Pestilence aside, there was no denying the truth in his words.
"Trust me, boy...I do not wish to carry such a burden. But from the looks of it, neither do you. I just hope you're as strong as I hope you are. Otherwise, we'll have much bigger problems than each other."
Back in queens, Mary Jane had just stepped out of the shower and was drying her hair. She had been moody since yesterday when she had a fight with Peter. All night, she stayed near the phone, hoping he'd call to apologize. It wasn't the first time they had a scuffle like this. Usually he'd come to her and they'd make up. She wanted him to call, but he never did and she ended up falling asleep watching reruns of Seinfeld.
Damn it, Peter. Why won't you call?! God, why do boys have to be so stubborn?
Letting out a frustrated groan, Mary Jane retreated to her room to get dressed. And as she put on her casual attire for the day, she heard her mother call out from downstairs.
"MJ! I'm going to the store! I'll be back in an hour!"
"Sure thing, Mom! Don't forget the grape jelly this time!"
"I won't! Call the Parkers if anything comes up, understand?"
Rolling her eyes at the prospect of talking to Peter again, MJ muttered incoherent curses to herself. She wanted Peter to call first. He was the one who started all this. But with her luck, she'd be old and gray by the time he worked up the nerve.
"Sure thing, Mom! See you later!"
Collapsing on her bed, the young woman rubbed her head in a fit of frustration. She and Peter had endured plenty of complications since their relationship began, but they always came together in the end. Him being Spider-Man constantly got in the way, but she understood why he did what he did. In addition, there was also the undeniable fact she was in love with him. Even when he drove her crazy like this, she couldn't stop loving him. It seemed like a no-win situation.
Ah hell, we're not even married an already we need counseling. I wonder if other girls with superhero boyfriends have problems like this? Maybe I should get in touch with Jean Grey or Sue Storm.
She was about to roll pick up the phone when suddenly, she heard a knock at her door.
"Geez, it's about time, Peter!" she said with renewed energy.
Scrambling downstairs, her excitement grew. If it was Peter and he was willing to talk, then maybe there was hope for this weekend yet. But when she opened the door, she was disappointed to see a middle aged woman with black hair standing in her doorway.
"Uh...can I help you?" asked Mary Jane.
Suddenly, her eyes flashed red and MJ fell back. But before she could gasp, a large hand covered her mouth she was taken in a powerful grip. It felt like being encased in living rock. Her skin burned to the scolding heat, as if they had come right from an erupting volcano. Mary Jane struggled to get away until she turned around and came face to face with evil incarnate.
"Remember me, little bitch?" said Hotshot with a demonic growl, "You're boyfriend caused me a lot of pain. Now I'm back to return the favor!"
MJ's froze in horror. If ever there was a creature of pure evil, this would be it. She tried to scream out, but his grip was too strong. This had to be a nightmare. She desperately tried to wake herself up from this horrid nightmare. But this was no dream. Hotshot would ensure that. Gripping the soul stone with his right hand, he held it over the terrified girl. The ancient relic began flashing in a maze of bright lights. And in a blinding light, Mary Jane Watson screamed in horror.
"Your soul is MINE!"
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