Moon Knight 2099UGR
Issue #7, Volume 2
"The Good Fight"
Written by Jason McDonald
Chief Edits: David Ellis
Marq (Edward Somerset)
For some, there’s nothing more important than family.
A loving mom. A kindly dad. Brothers and sisters that manage to warm your heart even as they pull your hair out. Tender boyfriends. Passionate girlfriends.
The best of lovers.
Husbands and wives who love each other as dearly and deeply as when they first met.
Even good friends and acquaintances, connected somehow through bonds that transcend even those of blood and marriage.
People in your life who you truly connect with on some powerful emotional level.
People in your life who are there for you no matter how hard life gets. No matter how far you fall.
There for you.
No matter what.
People you’d do just about anything to protect.
These ties that bind, these intimate connections with people. Relationships with infinite layers in infinite variations. These are some of the things we truly cherish as individuals. These connections with people beneath the surface, that give us friendship; happiness. That give us security. Give us comfort. Even, in those dark times, give us therapy. And in all times, give us hope for the future.
But if and when these bonds break, when these powerful connections shatter…truly these are the worst times in our lives.
Seeing these bonds shrink, and shrivel and die, watching our friends and families breathing their last as we stand there, helpless amongst it all…
Truly, it is the worst agony in existence.
Be it now. Or a hundred years from now.
That loss of connection, that ended life, that negation of all we loved in that other person, that decimation of all the things that person could have been, or should have been, and now never will be --
It’s simply agony incarnate.
To shield ourselves from this, we become protective of our families. We defend our friends and loved ones as best we can from the worst parts of our realities, from the most deadliest and dangerous regions of existence.
Protect them, shield them, keep them safe however we can.
No matter what.
Because most people in the world - would do anything - to prevent the loss of a loved one.
It was sometime around four in the morning when Marq trudged through the lobby of the Docs in a Box Local Clinic 189. He grunted with each step, forcing his sore and aching body to its destination.
The Moon Knight had just come back from the most insane night of his life. Between trying to thwart a pair of violent Watchdogs, to being food for a vampire he would eventually call an ally, to battling against a malevolent test program which had almost forced him to commit murder, every muscle in Marq’s frame felt like it had been through a thresher.
And on top of that, he wasn’t even sure his genetic suit of armor was working at the moment. Curing himself of the Emmanuel disease badly damaged the suit, leaving him stuck hiking the rest of the way back to the Docs.
But the thing that really mattered was that the danger to his family was over. The fight to regain control of his body had been a long and hard one, and now he could go home without fear of the suit forcing him to do something unspeakable to his closest friends and loved ones.
He could go back to the Docs in a Box Local 189 to fight the hardest battle of his life.
The knight slipped in the hospital room ever so quietly, careful not to wake Jenny’s or Vonvargas’ peaceful slumber.
Doctor Reginald Vonvargas sat in a slight slouch, his legs tucked beneath his chair and his head curled up into his chest, breathing deeply. His hands were folded on his lap, almost as if in an unconscious sort of prayer for the fallen Gale. Jenny Symes sat slumped across her seat with one foot resting lazily on the bottom of Gale’s bed. She lay with her shoulder blades draping the top of the old wooden chair. Her arms hung at her sides, heavy as anvils, and her head was tilted back against the wall. Marq could almost taste their exhaustion as a healthy snore emitted from the mouth of the slim blonde electronics expert, but most of its bluster was lost in the din of the electrical monitors surrounding the comatose woman at the center of the room.
Gale Nocturne. Marq’s closest friend.
Fighting for her life against a bullet wound to the head she‘d sustained earlier in the night.
Marq’s tired gaze swept over her comatose form. He quaked slightly, seeing for the first time the bandages wrapping her cranium, and noticing the patches of dried blood that stained the sides.
She had a breathing tube in her nostrils, and two IV’s attached with medical tape to both her arms. A great many wires led from her chest to the machines behind her off-white hospital bed. The machines were relics - perhaps twenty years out of date - but they were doing their jobs well, noting her pulse and her respiratory rate with a steady blip blip and a set of numbers that remained - for the most part - the same from moment to moment, varying very little with each update.
Standing at the foot of her bed, he watched her chest rise and fall underneath the bed sheets as she took a breath, holding it for a moment, then releasing. In and out, over and over, her motions never changing. Every once in a while, as her eyes fluttered beneath her warm eyelids, Marq’s heart skipped a beat. He hoped beyond all hope that they would open, leaving him to gaze upon the heartwarming azure of her eyes, and that all would be right with the world once again. But just as suddenly as the movement began, it would cease, leaving her face that much more pale and seemingly drained of the sweet radiance she exuded with every smile, every gesture, every wink.
He sat down on one of the empty chairs on the other side of the bed across from the sleeping duo. He winced as the old chair conformed to his body with a sharp creak. He glanced over to Vonvargas and Jenny, who remained just as oblivious to his presence as they ever were.
Marq sighed, relieved. Vonvargas had blamed Marq for Gale’s injuries, citing that if he hadn’t taken her flying around the city, she would never have been shot by the Fenris sniper that nearly ended her fragile life. Marq couldn’t tell how Vonvargas would react if he saw him here, at Gale’s side, but that wasn’t important thing right now.
The important thing was that he had to see Gale. He had to know that she was safe.
Marq leaned in close on the bed and cupped his fingers around hers. Tears fell across his cheeks as he gripped her pale fingers in his hands and kissed them in grief. He remembered the last things they’d said to one another before he’d accidentally flown over that turf war.
Bitter, venomous things. Biting sarcasm. Spoken in anger. A vicious argument over…
They’d been arguing about…
What was it…?
Something about….whatever. It didn’t matter. It’d come to him eventually, but it didn’t matter if it did.
The only thing that mattered to him was that she make it. That she come out of this coma she was in, that she beat this…trauma.
That argument, the things he said…no way they’d be the last words he said to her.
No shockin’ way.
She’d get through this.
She had to.
“Gale…” He croaked out, his voice tortured with exhaustion and regret. “I’m so sorry. I just….I didn’t realize where we were until it was too late. I…I tried to get you out of there, I tried, but…but he…he had a….it all happened so fast, and I…”
Marq cleared his throat, holding her hand to his face. He gazed upon her closed, peaceful eyelids. He felt the tears welling up from all the way down in the pit of his stomach. He began anew, his tortured voice on the verge of cracking. “I’m…I’m sorry I let you down, Gale. Thor help me, I’m so sorry I let you down like this. It should be me lying there…not you. You…you don’t deserve this. Please come back to us, Gale. Please. You have to come back to us. Please…please…just, please…”
“You have some nerve.” A low growl somewhere in front of him. Vonvargas. “You have some shocking nerve coming in here like this.”
Marq tenderly placed Gale’s hand back at her side, bringing his puffy wet eyes to bear on Vonvargas. “Gale’s my friend too, Vonvargas. I’m not leaving her.”
“If you had any sense, you’d leave and never come back.” Vonvargas stood up, glaring down on Marq, lips pursed in a tight line across his jaw. “It’s the only way she’ll be safe.”
“It was an accident, dammit!” Marq bellowed, suddenly remembering himself and quieting down before the orderlies outside came racing in from the shouting. In a low grunt, he spoke. “It was an accident. She was taking me on a tour of the city. I thought she’d enjoy flying around, rather than walking.”
Marq smiled warmly, thinking back to earlier that night... “God, you should’ve seen her face, Vonvargas. She was ecstatic. The wind in her hair, the joy in her eyes…she was happier than she’d been in a long time. But then we flew above a bunch of street blocks filled with nothing but fires and gangs shooting at one another…and before I could get clear of the war zone, a sniper…”
“Come on, Marq. You must’ve known that that costume of yours is like a target. A bright, shiny white one that says, ‘Come get me, I dare you.’ Well, I’m not letting you drag Gale down with you.”
“Vonvargas.” Marq spoke the word as if it were a curse. “Believe me, if there was anything I could have done…”
“You can leave. Now.”
“Shock you. Gale needs me.”
“Gale needs you like she needs a hole in the…” Vonvargas’ eyes shot open wide before he could finish his sentence, realizing his horrible error. He looked at Gale‘s still form, suddenly breathless, glancing at the bandages on her crown. “I…that was a dumb thing to say, I apologize, Gale.”
Marq nodded in agreement.
Regaining his composure, Vonvargas began again. “Just take off. She’ll be a lot safer if you simply get the hell away from here. I‘ll make up something. She won‘t like it, but at least you won‘t be able to put her into harm‘s way again.”
“Is that what she wants, though?” Marq countered.
“It’s what she needs.”
“Who the flying shock are you to decide what she needs?” Marq bellowed, this time not caring who heard him, or what time of the night it was for that matter.
“I’m her doctor and her friend.” Vonvargas said. “I’ve known her for far longer than you have, and I know what’s in her best interests.”
“Sorry, Vonvargas. I’m not going anywhere.”
“The hell you’re not!”
“Whasss going on here?” The groggy voice of Jenny Symes fluttered into the room. She sat up with a yawn and cracked her stiff spine and neck, stretching herself out on her chair.
“Marq was just leaving us, weren’t you Marq?” Vonvargas glared with a hiss, eyes locked with those of Marq in a sharp, uncompromising stare.
“Not a chance.” Marq replied through a tight jaw.
“You’re leaving. For Gale’s sake, you are leaving this place and…”
“Reg.” Jenny said, ascending suddenly from her chair and looking him dead in the eye. “Already told you. Gale’s condition? Wasn’t his fault.”
“He was there. He was a shiny target. He flew her over a war zone, for Chrissake!”
“Reggy, I’ve already told you he’s not to blame!” Jenny gestured fervently on Marq’s behalf, “It’s the gangs, Reg. The gangs. The gangs, and their fighting and semi-automatics and snipers and riots and violence. Would you stop blaming him? He got her here in record time because he’s has powers. Because he’s a costume. And now you wanna hang him out to dry for it?”
“Yeah. Flying her back her after putting her in that situation in the first place.” Vonvargas grumbled.
“I did not fly over that battle zone on purpose!” Marq yelled at the top of his lungs, face getting red from the mounting fury of the argument.
“That’s all very convenient, Marq.” Vonvargas shot back. “When will it be when your little episodes of ‘convenience’ get our Gale killed? Tonight? Tomorrow night? Three weeks from now?”
“Dammit, Reg, that’s enough!” Jenny said, stepping in-between Vonvargas’ line-of-sight with Marq. “THAT’S ENOUGH.”
The exchange grew silent, each man’s rage festering just under the surfaces of their bright-red faces. Jenny waited a beat, letting the warning since in before continuing.
“Last thing she’d want is to see you two at each other’s throats. In her own friggin’ room, no less. S’just not right…”
Moments passed, tense beyond belief, while the two men stared at each other mutely. Finally, Marq nodded and rubbed at his reddened eyes. Vonvargas let out a breath and placed his hands on his hips, gazing toward his patient on the bed.
Marq’s head whipped around toward the door as it opened, revealing the head nurse who was working the graveyard shift at the clinic. In the halls behind the nurse, Marq, Jenny and Vonvargas could hear the nervous squeaks of metal and a din of murmured voices. They’d apparently roused the entire clinic, patients and all, from its dutiful slumber.
The nurse, Cleo, hung on the door with one arm, leaning in while sloshing a large wad of chewing gum in her mouth. She spoke with a whisper that sounded like a viper’s hiss. “What the hell do you guys think you’re doing? It’s 4 AM for crying out loud! You’ve got the patients in an uproar.”
Vonvargas spoke. “It’s…it’s nothing, nurse. Sorry for the noise.”
Marq reciprocated. “Yeah. We were just…having a disagreement.”
Jenny patted them on the shoulder, a half-smile on her face.
“Just don’t let me hear you guys again.” Cleo pointed toward the trio before slipping out of the room.
Marq and Vonvargas turned to look back at one another once again, each trying to swallow their frustrations with the other for the sake of the rest of the clinic. And for Gale’s sake.
Jenny and the nurses had been right. Nothing would be accomplished by this.
The former broke the uncomfortable silence. “You guys cool now? We done with this fighting garbage? Agree to disagree?” She glanced at the two of them for some response.
Vonvargas slowly nodded his head, while Marq looked off toward the monitors, lost in thought.
“Good.” Jenny slapped her knee, plopping back down into her chair. “The last thing Gale would want is to see you two at each other’s throats.”
Both men couldn’t help but nod in agreement, their eyes never leaving the still form of Gale, who remained trapped beneath the layers of blankets and the bandages that adorned her injured crown.
Cecilia Indeligato stood just outside her sons’ rooms in her nightgown, smiling.
She’d just gotten home not too long ago, slipping quietly into her penthouse apartment. By the time she’d gotten home, though, everyone was already asleep. Conner and Malcolm had school the next morning at the Stark-Fujikawa Academy for the Gifted, and her husband Hank was working the morning shift.
She was simply thankful that they were alive and well. When Takayashi Martin from Spectre Division had called her at her station in the surveillance center, and threatened to kill her family if she didn’t do what he asked of her, she didn’t know what to think. She knew full well the kinds of things that Spectre Division engineered. Eugenics, corporate raiders, bio-technology. Fabricated professional assassins, if need be.
So Cecilia did exactly what she was told. She falsified the security camera recordings inside the Spectre Division Labs for over six hours straight. She made sure that Takayashi was protected from the watchful eyes of the higher-ups while he did…whatever it was he was doing in the labs. Whatever it was, he apparently didn’t even want the head of the corporation himself to know about it.
Cecilia knew she could be imprisoned or worse if her role in these events was uncovered. But if it meant her kids and her husband were safe, it was a price she’d gladly pay.
She crossed the threshold of her own master bedroom with nary a sound. She tip-toed through the silent room in the near-darkness, careful not to wake her slumbering lover. The brunette sat her lithe body onto the side of the bed, ready to curl up next to Hank and breathe in his soothing warmth when she noticed something lying atop the dresser on the side of the bed.
Hank left her a note?
She turned on the touch-lamp, and raised a hand to her mouth when she saw the red marker in the shape of a heart adorning the front of the paper. She smiled and watched him move about in his sleep from the sudden brightness. He was always leaving “I love you” notes lying around. Even after nine years of marriage, he couldn’t tell her enough that he loved her enough.
It warmed her heart and made her love him more.
She opened it, and it said:
“Your husband obviously loves you a great deal, Mrs. Indeligato. You made the right choice in doing what Mr. Martin asked.”
Her eyes went wide with a sudden terror. She tore the note into a thousand pieces and threw it onto the ground, watching maintenance robots quietly come out from the wall and melt the paper into so many molecules.
She laid back in bed, keeping the light on and staring at the ceiling. She thought she’d never stop shaking.
Marq fought hard to keep from falling asleep; every single muscle and fiber of his being begged for it. His vision was blurring - out of focus. But he wanted to be awake then. Awake for the moment Gale woke up.
The heated debate was over - it was, after all, six in the morning. But the cold war, the mounting hostilities, was far from finished.
It was only for Gale’s sake that their détente was lasting as long as it was.
But once she was safe, the war would begin anew.
Marq let out a pained sigh and stroked Gale’s fingers once again, trying to stir that beauteous smile of hers from its captivity deep within her comatose mind.
BEE- BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEEEP.
Marq’s bloodshot eyes opened wide, his mouth suddenly dry and breathless as Vonvargas stood up at the speed of light and sped off through the door adjoining to the lobby of the clinic. Jenny shook awake, and when she heard the steady beep, the confirmation of cardiac arrest, she gasped, clutching a single slender hand to her mouth. Their friend was dying.
“Out of the way!” Vonvargas commanded, pulling a crash cart into Gale’s bedroom followed closely by two nurses. Marq and Jenny ran off to the outer edges of Gale’s room, watching in muted horror as the crash cart was pulled around toward the side of the dying nurse’s bed.
Wiping away an already-developing layer of sweat from his brow, he grabbed a set of paddles from the cart, confident in the fact that another nurse was already standing by the controls for the time-tested defibrillation device. Clutching his teeth, he ignored the steady beep of Gale’s heart monitors and splayed the conducting gel over the metal tips, swearing under his breath.
“Charge at 200!”
“Charging at 200.” The nurse adjusted the device accordingly.
“Clear!” Vonvargas shouted, and pressed the paddles to Gale’s bare chest. She shook with a jolt, her heart pumping once, then flat lining once again. Marq could barely keep himself from screaming.
“Again!” Vonvargas shouted.
BUH-BUMP! The paddles went.
Almost a pulse, then flatline.
“Charge at 250!”
“Charging at 250.”
Suddenly, a cacophony of gunfire exploded through the room. The nurse charging the defibrillation device spun around, the force of the bullet against his arm spinning him a full 360 degrees. Everyone else ducked their heads immediately, avoiding another suddenly round of gunfire.
“What the shock’s happening?” Marq shouted over the din.
“Somebody’s fighting outside!” Vonvargas said. “Dammit! Nurse, help me lower Gale to the floor! We’ve got to get her out of harm’s way before we can do anything else!”
Vonvargas and the other nurse stood up, quickly grabbing Gale on either side and lifting her up an inch before more gunfire forced them back down. Jenny turned to Marq, who was glassy-eyed and suffering from a sort of numbed shock, and yelled at him with a voice on the edge of desperation.
“Marq! It’s a gang war, right outside the building! You’ve gotta stop them, or draw them away or something!”
“Will Gale be…?” Marq breathed.
“The shots’re keeping Reg and the others from helping her!” Jenny said on her hands and knees, leaning toward Marq as another couple shots perforated the walls. “There’s no time, just GO!”
Marq bit his lip, summoning the silk suit from beneath his pores, thanking God or Thor or whoever was listening that the wondrous technology had healed itself enough for him to do this. He sprinted toward the door, initiating his intangibility field in anticipation of more bullets. As he phased through the door, he turned around for one second, desperate eyes locking with Jenny’s.
“Save her.” He said quickly, his voice wracked with pain and guilt.
Then he disappeared behind the door.
Marq arrived outside and saw a group of three Thorites pinned behind an old car, weaponless. There were intermittent blinks of light issuing from the alley on the other side of the street, the gunmen across the street hiding like cowards behind a ratty old dumpster cast in shadow. It was dawn, but down in these sections of Downtown, sunlight wouldn’t filter in for another few hours. In the back of his mind, he was relieved there was no worry of sunlight overloading the suit’s energy collectors.
But there wasn’t time to dwell on such things. More shots passed through his wraith-like form as the rest of his body vanished in a wave of invisibility. Marq sprinted across the street, his lungs wincing from the effort and speed with which he was moving.
When he got there, he took stock of the situation instantly, protected by a cloak of invisibility and intangibility.
Two gunmen hiding behind the closest dumpster. The other three spread out along the sides of the brick wall, hunched down and taking pot-shots at their enemies. Marq ground his teeth together, suddenly angrier than he’d ever been in his entire life.
He went to work.
The lead gunman - him and his buddies being part of a gang called the Fenris - smirked with his AK-47 rifle before suddenly finding his head smacking hard against a wall from some invisible force, knocking him unconscious. His partner standing next to him barely had time to inhale as the same force slammed into his stomach and something metal collided with his jaw, rendering him inert.
The other three Fenris watched the men shielded by the dumpster fall to the ground, their guns running silent. Two of the gunmen aimed their weapons at where their friends had been standing, but there was nothing there. Before any of them could sort out what was going on, another Fenris found himself suddenly double over in pain, and found his body being thrown toward the opposite alley wall, face-first, by nothing but the hard grip of air.
Out of fear, the other two Fenris stepped away from the walls, firing wildly into the air in front of them. The gunman on the left suddenly felt an explosion of pain in his spine, and winced before a metal something bounced off the back of his head.
The last gunmen saw his friend hit the pavement and fired wildly, backing himself against the wall. An explosion of pain in his midsection forced him to double over. In the time it took to cough, he saw his gun rip itself from his grip and hover a good four feet in the air before the butt of his own weapon ripped into his nose. In a gush of blood, the Fenris fell face-first into the dirt.
Marq grabbed the weapons and ripped all the ammunition clips from them, crunching them together in his palms with an audible snap. He then went to work on the weapons, venting his anger by slamming the nozzles against a wall, breaking them with ease and rendering them useless.
Marq took a breath and uncloaked himself, running back toward the other gang members to make sure there would be no more bloodshed tonight.
Suddenly, there was a yelp and a din of noise from behind the land-based vehicle where the Thorites had been sequestered. Eyebrows furrowing in concern, the knight headed over towards the Thorites to see what was the matter. When he arrived, one of their number stood facing the other two, his gloved hands clutched over his mouth.
A tremble swept Marq’s spine as he looked at the other two Thorites. One of them, the man, was kneeling on the ground. His oversized Thor helmet sagged atop his head; it looked heavy enough to be pressing his shoulders into their severe hunch. In fact, his entire body seemed to be sagging towards the ground, as if gravity itself was pulling him into the pavement.
He sat on his heels, wordlessly cradling the other Thorite in his outstretched arms. The other Thorite, a woman, sat sprawled out on the ground. She wore a form-fitting Valkyrie costume, which clung tight to a curvaceous figure that had stopped moving not too long ago.
Beneath her curling dirty-blonde hair – which lay in wet strips across her face, matted with a soupy crimson substance – her blue eyes shone like sheets of glass.
There was a single bullet wound, just above her right eye.
The man was covered in the dead woman’s life’s blood, but he was hardly in a frame of mind to notice. Marq closed his eyes, drawing a long, tortured breath.
“Chelsea?” The man stammered in a hoarse whisper, wiping her curling locks from her face. “Get up, baby. C-come on, Chelse. Wake up, honey.”
“Steve…” the other Thorite spoke softly, taking a step towards his friend. “Steve, she’s gone. Please, Steve…”
“C-Chelsea? C’mon, get up, baby.” Steve stammered on, lightly shaking the dead woman, his mind already receded into a deep shock. “The Fenris are all gone, now, honey. It’s safe to come out now.”
Marq watched sadly as Steve lightly slapped her cheek, trying to wake her from her final slumber. Steve ran his fingers across her blood-stained lips, not seeing the life’s blood leaving a long trail down her chin and onto her still chest. He looked up at his friend.
“Clancy?” He said. “Clancy, I can’t get her to wake up. I can’t -- she’s not waking up, Clancy.”
“Steve….” Clancy spoke softly.
“She’s not…she won’t…” His head suddenly sprung up towards Marq. “You’re a doctor. You have to help her, please!”
Marq raised his hands in objection. “I’m…I’m sorry, but I can’t…”
“You…you’re a doctor.” Steve said. “You came out of the Docs in a Box, and you’re dressed in all white, and you’re a doctor. And doctors….doctors help people. You helped us with the Fenris, and now you have to help Chelsea, you have to help her.”
“Steve…“ Marq’s face was a mask of both concern and pity. He used the man’s name in an attempt to get through to his shell-shocked mind. “Steve, I’m not a doctor. And if I were…I couldn’t…” Marq choked, trying to put it as gently as possible. “…she’s gone, Steve. She’s just…she’s gone.” “What are you talking about? She’s right here!” Steve stammered on, becoming frustrated. “She’s right here, and she won’t wake up.” His tone quieted, becoming softer. Nostalgic. ”Chelsea. Chelsea’s my fiance, you see. We’re getting married a few weeks from now. In the New Church of Thor. Clancy can tell you. He was there the day I proposed to her. He can tell you. But now, the Fenris attacked her, just…attacked her, but now she isn’t waking up. The Fenris attacked my fiance, and she won’t wake up. You have to help her, doctor. You have to heal her.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t…”
“What are you talking about?!” Steve interjected, snapping his head up to face Marq. “You have to help her! She’s hurt.”
“Steve, please. She’s gone, man.” Clancy spoke. “He can’t do anything to help; no one can. Let her go. Just…just let her…”
“I can’t believe what I’m hearing!” Steve fumed, taking off his shirt and using it as a pillow for his fiancé before standing up to meet their gaze. “I can’t…I can’t believe what I’m hearing. She just got hit in the head, that’s all. She just got knocked out. Doctor, you must have something to wake her up. Something you can use to bring her out of it. Something…”
“Please, Steve. There’s nothing I can…” Marq breathed.
“NO!” Steve’s eyes glazed over with a terrifying shine of rage. He pointed his finger at Marq, his face red with anger. “No! You…you are going to help her. You are going to help Chelsea, and then we’re all going home. We’re all going home, and then Chelsea and I will get married.”
“Thor help us…” Clancy stammered.
Marq bit his lip.
He had to try and talk him down.
“You are going to help Chelsea, and she and I will be wed.” Steve’s face was reddening with each passing moment. His face was wrinkled and twisted in a desperate grimace, as if he’d just gotten hit in the stomach with a car. “And then we can, all of us, go and fight the good fight together. Forever. Forever and ever, till death do us part.”
Marq raised his hands in front of him, trying to ease Steve’s nerves. “Steve, listen to me…you need to just listen…”
“Marq!” The door to the Docs in a Box squeaked open, revealing the form of Jenny Symes. She was smiling ear-to-ear as she jogged over toward the arguing trio. “Marq! Excuse me, guys. Marq, we have some great news! Gale’s gonna be okay. Reggie got her heart pumping again, and she’s back in bed, resting. I guess you’ve got everything under control as far as the fighting’s concerned-- oh…oh my god…”
Jenny saw the still form of Chelsea resting in a pool of her own blood. She cupped her hand over her mouth as Steve eyed the newcomer warily.
“I get it now…” He hissed. “I get it. You’ve got other patients you’d rather treat besides Chelsea. I see it now. It’s not that you can’t help her. It’s that you won’t help her. You don’t feel like helping her, is that it? Is that it?”
“No, it’s nothing like that, Steve! Just listen to--”
“Nah, I’m done with that crap.” And Steve was a blur of motion. He grabbed Jenny with his left arm, holding her in front of him as he drew a gun he’d kept tucked in the back of his belt. Jenny gasped, grabbing hold of Steve‘s left arm in a futile attempt to get him off of her. He pressed the barrel to her temple. “You listen to me.”
Marq took a defensive stance, ready to move at a moment’s notice, his face tightening in a strained grimace.
This was bad. This was leagues beyond bad.
Clancy stood to the side, shaking his head in disbelief at his friend’s erratic behavior.
Steve addressed Marq, his breath fiery hot against Jenny’s cheek. “What you’re going to do, is you’re going to help my fiancé. You are going to treat her wounds and fix her up, good as new. And then, we’re going to thank you and go home to our Thorite family. Do you understand me?”
“Steve, just please put the gun down…”
“DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?”
Marq sized up the situation, a dozen options going through his head.
The bo staff would be useless: He was using Jenny as a shield.
Perhaps if he could target just the arm with the gun? …no. No, that wouldn’t work. If the gun went off before it fell out of Steve‘s hand, Jenny would be killed.
Use the light from the staff to blind him? Could he do that? Wouldn’t matter. Any shock could set the gun off considering the state he was in.
Invisibility? If Marq turned invisible and crept behind Steve…
But there were too many unknowns with that approach. If Steve freaked out and shot Jenny before Marq could get around.
Intangibility? Just as useless.
But he’d have to get a lot closer if it had any chance of working.
A lot closer.
“DO YOU?” Steve repeated, his eyes wide and bloodshot.
Marq breathed in short gasps, nodding quickly. ‘Steve…’ He thought, ‘Please don’t kill her, for the love of God, please…’
“Well what are you waiting for?” Steve growled at Marq, leveled his eyes at the hero. “Or do you need some incentive…?”
“No!” Marq said quickly, holding out his arms. Playing along. He stared in morbid terror at Jenny, wriggling uselessly in Steve’s grip. She was terrified, but trying so hard not to let it show. Her face was wrinkled and twisted into a pained grimace, her eyes constantly focused on the shard of metal pressing against the side of her head.
He had to play along. He had to. It was the only chance Jenny had. “No, no, I’ll…I’ll help Chelsea. I’ll help her.”
Marq held out his hands, showing Steve he had no hostile intentions. Looking up at Steve’s arm wrapped around Jenny’s throat, Marq took several steps toward Chelsea’s corpse. He bent down, pretending to kneel down and pick the body up. He glanced up at them again, his knees tensed for a dash. Still several steps away from him. Could he make it?
“Steve, please, don’t do this.” Clancy’s voice. Steve turned his gaze toward his Thorite brother, who was walking toward his friend, desperately trying to calm him down. “This isn’t you, Steve. You don’t need to do this.”
Steve kept the gun against his hostage, strengthening his resolve. Marq paused in his maneuver, unsure of how to proceed. “I have to do this. The doctors here don’t want to help Chelsea, so I have to make them want to help her. You want Chelsea to get well, don’t you?”
Marq saw Clancy was trembling slightly, both in his posture and in his speech. “Steve, please. Chelsea is gone. This isn’t going to bring her back.”
“Don’t you say that.” Steve warned. “Don’t you shocking say that. Chelsea’s going to get well soon, because these doctors are going to fix her up, good as new. Isn’t that right, doctors?” His gun dug harder into Jenny’s temple, causing her to wince in pain. Marq’s heart leapt to his throat as he saw Jenny trying to keep herself from screaming.
“Please, don’t do this, Steve. Don’t do this.” Clancy said. “You don’t want to become this, Steve. Trust me, you don’t. Please, just put the gun down. Put the---”
“You’re taking their side? Why the hell are you taking their side? You and Chelsea are friends. All of us, the best of friends.”
“I know…I know.” Clancy said woefully, glancing over in Marq’s direction toward Chelsea’s lifeless body. “And as her friend, I’m letting her go. I’m letting her go. Please, Steve. Let Chelsea go. Let this other girl go; there’s no reason for this. Chelsea wouldn’t wanted you to do this.”
Steve stood in place, his gaze firmly fixed on his friend.
“She wouldn’t have wanted this, Steve.” Clancy said. “Please, put down the gun.”
Steve closed his eyes for a moment, and Marq tensed his legs to pounce. But before he could take a step, Steve’s eyes opened wide, glazed over with a kind of insanity.
“I see what’s going on.” Steve said; the hand holding the gun trembled slightly. “You’re in league with these bastards. These bastards that call themselves doctors. I see what’s going on. They’ve made you stray from the path. From the Path of the Odin’son. From the path of the Righteous. These doctors must be part of the Goblin Church we’ve been warned about. They get into your head and take away your soul. They make you turn on your friends. On your beliefs.”
“Steve. Steve, this isn’t anything like that. I’m not…”
“SHUT UP!” He spat out. Jenny trembled, gritting her teeth, tears streaming down her face. “Clancy, you’ve been corrupted by the evil. They’re trying to keep Chelsea asleep, so they can infect her mind. But I won’t let them. I won’t let your evil friends infect my Chelsea. I’m going to stop them now, Clancy. I’m going to stop them, and free you and Chelsea from their clutches.”
With a sudden swiftness, he turned the gun on his friend.
“Don’t try and stop me, Clancy.”
Moon Knight rushed towards the struggling duo, catching Steve’s attention. He aimed the gun back at the hostage, but Marq was faster. He grabbed Steve’s arm, feeling a surge of electricity as he initiated the intangibility.
Jenny winced in imagined pain as Moon Knight passed through her, tackling his now-insubstantial foe to the ground, the gun firing two rounds harmlessly into the air above them. One of the bullets, turning substantial the minute it left the gun, whizzed by Jenny’s hair. She finally let out a shriek of terror, and ran forward a couple steps, bracing herself against the ancient ground car the Thorites had used as shelter not too long ago. She gasped in a desperate attempt to catch her breath.
Steve struggled in Marq’s grip as they fell backwards, still wraiths, towards the pavement. The knight was astounded: He had extended his intangibility ability to a fire hydrant one time by accident, and observed the water burst through the wraith-like hydrant, as if it were no longer there, toward the source of the flames.
And he’d just had his suit do it to a living being.
He felt another twinge of electricity as they landed on the pavement, solid once again. The knight jabbed at Steve’s right arm, forcing the gun out of his limp hand. He pulled back a fist, preparing to knock Steve out, when he noticed his mistake.
In all the fuss, he hadn’t realized that they had fallen atop something. A fire hydrant, in fact. A cruel coincidence.
Steve had been a wraith when his back and stomach phased through the hydrant. But when the field clicked off from the strain, he was still phased inside the fire hydrant.
Moon Knight fell to the side as Steve coughed, his body quivering and jolting from the shock. Marq cupped a hand over his mouth, glancing at the rusty hydrant impaling Steve’s belly. A pool of red started to pool around the wound.
This would be fatal. There wasn’t any getting around it.
“Oh my god…oh my god…I’m so sorry, I’m so…oh, my god…” Marq stuttered, leaning over the dying man.
“Mm..mm.m…” Steve choked out as Clancy rushed over to see his dying friend. “M-my…girlfriend…my fiancé, she…she’s dead. Isn’t she….?”
Marq tried to talk, but the words wouldn’t come. Parting his lips slightly, he nodded.
Steve sobbed; it sounded like some pathetic cross between a yelp of pain and a gurgle. He sobbed for a few agonizingly long seconds. Clancy was kneeling next to Marq now, watching the man speak his last.
“…I’m s-s‘rry…I’m so…sorry for what I put you through…I was…c’nfused…I just couldn’t…couldn’t accept it…Thor help me…she‘s gone…she‘s….”
Marq glanced over to Jenny, who was still bracing herself against the car. With a convulsion, she vomited all over the hood of the car. She was shaking and growling in pain, remembering the horror she felt as the barrel of the gun drilled into her skull.
“Don’t worry, Steve.” Clancy leaned in, whispering, trying to ease his friend‘s pain with a laugh that sounded like a sob. “Chelsea will be waiting for you in Valhalla. So will the mighty Thor, and all the finest warriors ever to pick up a sword in the realm of Midgard. Don‘t you worry, friend. Don‘t…you…”
“Yeeaah…“ Steve gurgled, sighing. “Yeeeuuur…”
With a breath, his eyes glazed over one final time, staring off towards the promised land.
Clancy took off his Thor helmet and held it to his chest as a gesture of respect. Marq sighed, and stood up on legs that felt like rubber.
He looked at Jenny, who was still trembling against the car. He opened his arms and gave her a long hug, stroking her back gently. He could feel she was still shaking, and she buried her face into his silk costume, sobbing in short gasps. He placed his hand on her head and patted her back once more, trying to set her at ease.
“It’s all right. It’s all right. It’s all over. Let it out, that’s it.” He said softly, “Just let it all out, Jen. Let it all out…”
“He wasn’t a bad man, you know.” Clancy said, standing above Steve’s limp form, looking down at his friend. “He just…he was in shock. He didn’t mean to do what he did. It’s just been a long night.”
He gazed back up toward the knight. “We’d been fighting against the Fenris for hours. They’ve been shooting at us, chasing us since early last night. So many of us had died in the ambush. So many…I’m not condoning what he did, I just… I can just understand why he cracked, that‘s all. I…hope you understand that too. He wasn’t a bad man…he was just…”
Marq gazed at Clancy blankly, Jenny still shaking in his arms. He opened his mouth to respond when Clancy turned his gaze back down upon his friend. “I’m sorry for what Steve did to you, ma‘am. It was just wrong…he should never have…”
Clancy sighed, nodding and shaking his head a few times, trying to console himself as he kneeled back down towards Steve and began sobbing himself, cradling his friend’s lifeless body in his arms.
Marq’s face contorted into a grimace of anguish. Such senseless tragedy, such pointless death.
He thanked Thor that Jenny had emerged from the insanity alive, cradling his good friend in his arms and consoling her warmly.
“It‘s all over. Let it all out…”
Marq breathed a sigh of relief, watching the steady life signs on the monitors above Gale’s bed.
They’d come so close to losing her completely.
Hell, they’d come so close to losing both of them completely.
Marq glanced over at Jenny, who was now sitting in-between himself and Vonvargas. Her knees were tucked tight into her chest, arms hugging them in. She was biting her lips, with eyes cast down towards the floor; her mind no doubt re-living the experience she’d just suffered.
She’d been held at gunpoint by a madman. She’d nearly died.
Vonvargas was sitting next to her, trying to soothe her nerves with a warm hug. But she was still vacant, in shock.
Marq furrowed his brow. He’d almost lost two of his closest friends to gang warfare in the streets of Downtown. He’d have to re-double his efforts, and make sure near-tragedies like these would never happen again on his watch.
Then, Marq heard something he never expected to hear from the person he never expected to hear it from.
“Thank you, Marq.” Vonvargas said softly.
“…what?” Marq asked, confused.
“If you hadn’t been there…” Vonvargas’ voice trailed off.
Marq looked back at Vonvargas with a renewed sense of kinship. He gave a slight nod back.
“Jenny? What’s wrong?” Marq snapped his eyes back to the shivering blonde, but she looked as stunned as he was.
“I didn’t say anything.” She whispered.
They all looked toward Gale at once. The brunette nurse was looking at them with groggy eyes, a slight smile on her face.
“Oh my God! GALE!” Marq yelled, running over to the bed. “Gale! I’m so glad you’re okay…”
Vonvargas and Jenny stood up behind him, tears of happiness dotting their eyes.
“…m—marq...whut…happened…?” Gale sighed, bringing a shaky hand up to the bandages on her head.
“You…you were shot.” Vonvargas said. “A sniper in the battlefield you flew over. Marq…saved your life.”
“…you…did…?” Gale choked out hoarsely.
“Yeah.” Marq said, leaning in to gently run the backs of his fingers along her beautiful features with a warm smile. “I wasn’t sure if I made it in time, though. It looked…like we were going to lose you there.”
“…my hero…” she joked. They all let out a chuckle.
“…but don’t think…saving my life….gets you….off the hook….” Gale said.
Marq’s smile died, his mind remembering their argument just hours ago. About the fact that the Docs in a Box, Local 189 was owned by the Stark-Fujikawa Corporation, the same corporation that captured him and used him as a guinea pig. The same corp that stole his memories and his life, and was desperate to re-capture him at all costs.
About the fact that she knew all this, and didn’t tell him. Despite the fact that she was simply trying to protect his feelings, the glimmering knight had lost a lot of trust in Gale. At the time, he’d said some nasty things, and even though she’d reciprocated in kind, he had a lot of making up to do. They both did.
Marq furrowed his brow, gazing into her azure eyes solemnly.
“Yes. We have a lot to talk about…”
Previous issue: "Demons in the Dark" Next Issue: "Recovery"
As Gale recovers from her injuries, Marq re-doubles his efforts as Moon Knight to bring peace to the rancid streets of Downtown. But as he does, he finds something sinister brewing that may spell trouble for those Marq holds dearest!
All this, and a look into Gale’s past as well...
“Recovery” is the name of the game next issue, hitting the binary in two lunar cycles!