|Ultimate Sleepwalker: The New Dreams
Author: JaredMilne1982 PM
Banished from his otherworldly home, the mysterious alien known as Sleepwalker finds himself trapped in the mind of university student Rick Sheridan. Manifesting on Earth, the Sleepwalker searches for a way home as he fights the horrors of our world...Rated: Fiction T - English - Chapters: 82 - Words: 457,009 - Reviews: 45 - Favs: 24 - Follows: 12 - Updated: 04-20-13 - Published: 10-31-08 - id: 4628492
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"What do you think I'd be good at?" Rick Sheridan asked his girlfriend Alyssa Conover as they sat next to one another on the couch.
"What do you mean?" Alyssa asked curiously, petting her dog Rambo, who had hopped up onto the couch and lay down next to her on her other side.
"I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to do once I graduate," Rick explained.
"Oh yeah," Alyssa nodded, remembering the conversation she and Rick had with their friend Kenny Anderson last week about what they were planning to do as careers. "Well, you've always really enjoyed literature, haven't you? That's why you majored in English, right?"
"Yeah," Rick smiled. "Maybe I could be a book reviewer or an editor?"
"Don't have much interest in teaching, I take it?" Alyssa grinned.
"Yeah, I've never been all that good with kids," Rick shook his head. "Writing for the Bugle's been more interesting than I thought it would be. I suppose I could keep working there…"
"You want to become a reporter?" Alyssa blinked in surprise.
"No," Rick frowned, "I'd keep working in copy editing or something like that. I'd probably prefer a job with regular hours."
"Why's that?" Alyssa blinked.
"I could keep a consistent sleep schedule," Rick pointed out with a half-smile. "Why did you think?"
"Why would you need to…oh!" Alyssa blinked in surprise, before feeling very embarrassed at forgetting about the Sleepwalker trapped in Rick's mind.
Rick and Alyssa both laughed, glad to relieve the tension.
College life was stressful enough by itself, but harboring a crime-fighting alien warrior whose enemies had directly assaulted Rick's family and friends on multiple occasions made things all the more difficult.
PUPPET DANCE, PART ONE
Working at the Daily Bugle the next night, Rick glanced through the copy he had been given to proofread. Ever since Joy Mercado had taken over the crime beat, she hadn't given him as much copy as Ben Urich did, and now he had more time to work with some of the Bugle's other reporters. The sheer variety of stories he was made to edit were bewildering. One moment he was typing up a story about the payroll of the New York Yankees, the next he was writing about the city's road paving budget or the latest productions on Broadway. To his surprise, Rick found that this stuff was a lot more interesting than he would have thought. It often made for fascinating reading, and made the job far less tedious than it otherwise would have been.
"How long were you planning to work here?" Rick asked Peter Parker as they sat in the breakroom eating supper. Ever since they'd met at a frat party more than a year ago, Peter had become one of Rick's closest friends at the Daily Bugle. Rick's friend Julia Winhill might have joined them for dinner, but today was her day off and she had a lot of homework to catch up on.
"Only as long as I have to," Peter shook his head. "Once I get my degree, I'm going to try and get a position with a company like 3M or Fireheart Industries and work for them while I get my Masters and my Ph.D. The sooner I get out of here, the better."
"Why's that?" Rick asked. "You don't like working here?"
"Frankly, I'm surprised you've been willing to last this long," Peter smiled half-humorously. "The fast pace doesn't bother you?"
"Not really," Rick shrugged. "It helps make the time go by faster."
"And you don't mind working for Jameson?" Peter asked in surprise.
"Well, I never really dealt with him ever since he first hired me," Rick shrugged. "Does he treat you really bad?"
"The way he acts just wears me down after a while," Peter sighed. "I always feel like he's going to bite my head off if I say the wrong thing. Why are you asking me all this, anyway?"
"I'm trying to figure out what I'll do after I get my degree," Rick explained. "Alyssa's going to keep working as a dance teacher, my friend Kenny's going to become a graphic designer, you're going to work as a chemist…"
"Are you seriously thinking of staying on here?" Peter asked, raising an eyebrow. "And you don't mind the way this place is run?"
"It's a steady paycheck," Rick shrugged. "It'll tide me over until I find something better, if that's what it takes."
"Come back and tell me that after you've worked here for another two years," Peter couldn't help but smirk. "You really want to keep working for New York's answer to Ebenezer Scrooge? He hires college kids because he knows that he can pay us less than people with more experience," Peter reminded Rick.
"If you hate it so much, why are you still here?" Rick asked.
"Like I said before," Peter sighed, "Jameson pays just enough to make it worth my while. It really helps that the hours are flexible-I can still keep up with my schoolwork."
"That's one of the reasons I'll probably be sticking around," Rick pointed out with a grin. "Besides, I'm in my element here-I love writing, editing, stuff like that. You work tech support here, right?"
"Yeah," Peter nodded. "I also sometimes take pictures whenever there's a spare photo assignment I can fit into my schedule."
"But you're a science guy," Rick pointed out. "You love conducting experiments, noting results, verifying hypotheses, that sort of thing. That's what you want to do in life, not work at a newspaper."
Peter didn't have a response to that.
"It might not necessarily be at the Bugle," Rick continued, "but I'm starting to think that this is something I might be really good at. Not so much journalism and reporting, but writing and editing."
"Suit yourself," Peter shrugged. "All I know is that once I graduate at the end of this semester, I'm out of here."
Senator Robert Kelly's eyes narrowed as he read through the compilation of news articles his aides had prepared for him. He'd instructed them to gather all the media coverage they could find discussing his chances for reelection, and the news wasn't good. He knew he was in serious danger of turning into a lame duck. While many of his colleagues in both the established parties had courted his support on past occasions in hopes of courting his support for crucial votes, the Democrats and the Republicans were both smelling blood and knew they had an excellent chance of beating him in the November Senate election if he decided to run again.
In part, it was because Kelly's calls for mutant registration were no longer nearly as popular with the public as they used to be. The X-Men's heroic exploits had gone a long way towards winning public support for mutant rights, and Kelly's cherished Mutant Registration Act was in tatters after the Supreme Court had declared it unconstitutional in Jameson v. Kelly. Kelly's supporters in the anti-mutant movement were furious with him, and now with their funding of his election campaigns having been publicly exposed by the Daily Bugle, he knew his political career was hanging by a thread.
Graydon Creed, the volcanic leader of the Friends of Humanity anti-mutant hate group, had urged Kelly to hire a supervillain to murder J. Jonah Jameson, whose paper had broken the story about the anti-mutant movement's contributions to his campaign. However, Creed's instinct was always to attack, attack and attack-even if Jameson was killed, it probably wouldn't repair the political damage the Bugle had inflicted him, especially when it had already given the Democrats and the Republicans plenty of material to use for their attack ads.
No, he was going to need to do something more subtle than that.
And he knew just who could help him.
Taking the specially secured phone out of his pocket, he dialed a number that he knew would be able to help him.
"Hello, Norman?" he asked.
"How could you do this to me?" Barton Grimes shouted angrily at his brother Percy. "You betrayed me, you sick piece of-"
"Betrayed you?" Percy shot back angrily. "You're the one who's been taking this body for a joyride and picking fights with Spider-Woman. At least I never tried to make an enemy of her! She only ended up ruining my performance because you were the one stupid enough to make us part of her rogues gallery!"
Barton and Percy Grimes were closer than most brothers, given that they shared a common body as a chimera. As two separate zygotes that had become fused in their mother's womb, the brothers' distinct personalities had remained fully aware and intact after their birth and as they'd grown into adulthood. Now, as the costumed supervillain called the Brothers Grimm, Barton and Percy were as deadly as they were bizarre, and as bizarre as they were insane.
Normally, their mutant conjuring powers were under Barton's control, but after he'd been hypnotized into a stupor by Dr. Karla Sofen Percy had taken control of their powers and embarked on a warped "performance" of his own. Percy had been thwarted by Spider-Woman, who'd managed to defeat him and leave him for the police, but the Brothers had managed to escape the police before they could get the power-blocking restraints on him. While Percy had been knocked out by Spider-Woman's blows, her attacks had jolted Barton out of his stupor and allowed him to retake control of their body. He'd used his conjuration powers to create an Easter egg filled with laughing gas, which distracted the police as he escaped.
Now, hiding out among the pimps, drug dealers and other lowlifes on Yancy Street, the Brothers had kept a low profile, travelling in his street clothes and only using the strange creatures he conjured to steal food and money from various shops. Although they took great care to not publicly display their true nature when they were out and about, Percy and Barton had taken to arguing furiously behind closed doors in the dingy motel room they were renting, knowing full well that anyone who happened to hear them would interpret their argument as a drug addict's ravings.
The room was also filled with the rest of their creations, some of which were Barton's and some of which were Percy's, each reflecting their creator's artistic interests. Barton's creations were warped childhood things like insanely giggling masked teddy bears, animated harlequin puppets that had all been killed in some gruesome fashion and dancing jack-in-the-boxes with skulls for heads. Percy's creations were macabre things reflecting classic works of art, such as hairless screaming figures, creatures that resembled gruesome crosses between lobsters and telephones and dwarflike creatures dressed as priests who wielded clubs that resembled severed animal limbs. These creatures snapped and spat at one another, reflecting their masters' argument.
"At least I wasn't the one gullible enough to fall for that twisted headshrinker's schemes!" Barton snapped back. "And then you had to come up with that creative abortion you called a performance! How much money did you even make, dear brother?" he sneered.
"As much money as you ever made, brother," Percy shot back. "And I should add that I terrified my victims much more than you did! Your creations simply are simply creepy and disturbing, while mine are outright frightening!"
"Are not!" Barton answered.
"Are so!" Percy replied.
"Are not!" Barton screamed.
"Are so!" Percy yelled.
"Are not!" Barton whined.
"Are so!" Percy sneered.
"Alright then, Mr. Smartypants," Barton finally snorted, "why don't we put on a contest? Let's put on a dual theatrical presentation, each with our own creations. Then we'll see who scares the audience more!"
"Agreed!" Percy nodded. "I'm going to do so much business, it'll make your bulbous head spin!"
"This is your head too, you numbskull!" Barton shot back, before the Brothers Grimm burst into hysterical laughter.
Percy and Barton immediately calmed down, each using their half of the mind they shared to plan the upcoming performance. The venue was easy to figure out, as was how they were going to gather the audience.
The only question, of course, was which conjurations would get the greatest terror out of the audience.
Dr. Karla Sofen worked diligently at her computer, analyzing her findings on the public reactions to the escapes of Supercharger, Mr. FX, the Chain Gang and the Brothers Grimm. She marveled at what technology was capable of these days, as the netbots she'd developed had proven to be very useful. Dr. Sofen was using the netbots to scour the Internet for any mention either of the supervillains she'd helped escape from Ravencroft, as well as any mention of the Tomorrow Legion or her costumed alter ego of Moonstone.
As Moonstone, she'd developed the bot program with the assistance of the Fixer, a criminal technologist known for his mastery of computers. The Fixer had become famous in the criminal underworld for his development of an "off the grid" communications network, which he referred to as the "Outsider" that could not be traced through Internet service providers or phone company records. Criminals ranging from drug smugglers to child pornographers were using it to support their depraved "businesses", even as supervillains and terrorist organizations used the network to communicate with one another. Moonstone's bots allowed her to scan both the conventional Internet and the Outsider, and return all the results to her home computer for analysis.
The results were good, very good. Reading through the blogs, news sites and message boards that discussed the issue, Dr. Sofen saw how tense things were becoming in New York. The rampages of the villains she'd released from Ravencroft were making people increasingly scared, as they speculated on what would happen next. There were rumors of another supervillain crime wave, or an attack on the city like the ones caused by Psyko.
The rumor mill on the Outsider was similar. A number of villains were expressing admiration at what Supercharger and the others had accomplished, and they too were noticing the increasing tension in New York. To Dr. Sofen's delight, she found that several of them were discussing the themes that she'd tried to get them thinking about in her conversations with them as Moonstone. The villains talked about how they could make more money and cause more suffering if they organized themselves and coordinated their efforts, and just how right Jack O' Lantern had been.
A smile spread across Dr. Sofen's face, as her eyes lit up with eagerness.
Everything was working out just as she'd anticipated, and the months of planning were starting to pay off. The Tomorrow Legion was ready to be revived, and all it needed was a leader.
However, Dr. Sofen would still have to get elected as the leader first. Jack O' Lantern and Doctor Octopus had done it based on their status in the supervillain community, status that Dr. Sofen had yet to attain.
Not that attaining that status would be particularly difficult, of course.
Rubbing her chin thoughtfully, Dr. Sofen planned her next move.
Rick found himself at the Student's Union Building several days later, reading over his notes in preparation for his afternoon English class. At the back of his mind, however, he was thinking about his decision to become a copywriter or book editor. The more he thought about it, the more he knew that it was what he wanted to do as a career. He might need to continue on to get a Master's degree, but that in itself wouldn't be too much of a problem.
His musings were interrupted by the loud crashing sound that erupted from another part of the building. Leaping up in horror, Rick ran to see what was going on, even as he instinctively checked his pocket to make sure he was carrying his supply of emergency sleeping pills. Not knowing when he might have to release Sleepwalker, Rick had taken to carrying the pills with him in case he needed to release Sleepwalker. While he could get Sleepwalker to put him to sleep and be released from his mind, there was always the danger that the sounds of the fight could wake Rick up. Rick hoped that the pills would reduce the danger of this happening.
He saw a grisly sight when he came into the area where the explosion had happened. A large, gaping hole had been torn in the side of the building, with rubble strewn all over the floor. Bloodied and unconscious students lay among the wreckage, some screaming in pain and others not moving at all. Hovering above it all was a figure sheathed in golden light. At first Rick thought it was Lightmaster, but in fact it was a beautiful woman dressed in golden body armor with a masked silver helmet and matching gloves and boots. Long blonde hair flowed out from her helmet, and she laughed hysterically.
Rick quickly ran in the other direction, looking for some place where he could hide and release Sleepwalker without being seen, but to his dismay Moonstone was following him and several other students into the main foyer. She was firing deadly beams of light everywhere, blasting holes in the walls and ceiling and causing debris to come falling down on the terrified students.
His heart pounding, Rick tried to figure out what to do. Maybe if he fled and then came back, he would be able to find some rubble to hide under and release Sleepwalker-
Rick's attempts to come up with a plan proved to be utterly pointless, as a large piece of the wall came crashing down right on top of him and pinned him underneath it. His entire body exploded with pain, before he mercifully fell into unconsciousness.
Rick had been near the wall of the building when he'd been hit by the debris, which landed down around him. Between them, the wall and the wreckage provided enough cover for Sleepwalker to emerge from Rick's mind without being seen. The alien warrior took a few moments to clear the debris away from Rick, rage filling his mind as he saw what his human host had suffered.
Rick was covered in bruises and blood, and it was clear that several of his bones were broken. His breathing was shallow, and he was deathly pale.
Sleepwalker felt a boiling rage rise up inside him, a rage that only increased as he saw what had happened to Moonstone's other victims. Focusing his warp vision, he used it to free many of the people who were trapped in the debris that had hit them, making it easier for the paramedics to help them, before he took off after the woman who had injured them. Sleepwalker didn't know why she was causing all this mayhem, and quite frankly he didn't care.
She had hurt Rick, to say nothing of so many other innocent people, and he intended to make her pay.
Moonstone was having a wonderful time, blasting away at the helpless, screaming students and staff as they ran for their lives. When she'd first decided to become a supervillain, she could never have realized just how much fun such a destructive rampage could be. More and more, she was getting an idea of why so many supervillains committed their crimes as much for pleasure as for profit. There was, after all, a certain appeal in wielding so much power over these people.
It was only just in time that she heard the angry scream and whirled around to confront Sleepwalker, who was charging at her with a murderous look in his eyes. She reacted by channeling a powerful blast of light at him, but to her surprise Sleepwalker's eyes flared with a bright magenta light and seemingly deflected the blast. Caught off guard, Moonstone was bowled over by Sleepwalker, who began viciously beating her.
"Are you akin to a punishing goddess, casting heavenly bolts from on high to bring suffering and misery to those who lack the wherewithal to retaliate?" Sleepwalker shouted, punching Moonstone in the stomach and then smashing her across the face with a vicious haymaker when she doubled over in pain. "Perhaps we might ascertain the true extent of your divine capacity by determining how you fare against one who is capable of opposing you on equal terms!" he shouted, grabbing her by the arm and flinging her down into the roof of one of the nearby buildings.
Moonstone landed with a heavy crash, her body throbbing in pain from the punches Sleepwalker had hit her with. She cursed herself for not foreseeing Sleepwalker's attack, knowing that she should have been watching her back. She fired another blast of energy at Sleepwalker, who simply deflected it with his warp beams and came down to roof level to attack her. His warp vision flared to life again, twisting the stone of the roof into restraints that trapped her.
Moonstone struggled briefly as Sleepwalker tightened the bonds, causing her to cry out in pain. The alien advanced on her, an ugly look on his face.
"Who are you?" the alien demanded, his eyes glowing with anger. "Why are you engaging in this murderous spree?"
"I'm…Moonstone," she gasped. "And..." she trailed off, before focusing her power all around her in a burst of energy, blasting herself free and blowing Sleepwalker back. "And I'm doing this because I can!" she laughed, firing a powerful burst of energy straight down on the building they were standing on. The building's roof began to cave in, as debris began to rain down on the screaming, terrified students and staff inside.
Moonstone raised into the air and flew away, still laughing all the while. Sleepwalker was forced to let her go, racing frantically to save the people inside the building they were standing on from being crushed by rubble. Using his warp vision, Sleepwalker was able to reshape much of the furniture and the walls of the building into a protective barrier that shielded most of the people inside from the debris, although several people were injured.
By the time Sleepwalker emerged, Moonstone had disappeared. He tried to pick up on her energy trail, but the Sleepwalkers who called his part of the Mindscape home were never very good at following energy trails. While there were a few faint traces here and there, it wouldn't be nearly enough for Sleepwalker to pick up on.
Cursing himself for letting Moonstone catch him off guard the way she did, Sleepwalker moved to start helping the victims of the catastrophe, using his warp vision and his superhuman strength to dig several bystanders out of the rubble they were trapped in. Most of the people Sleepwalker freed were alive, although many of them had suffered everything from concussions to broken bones. In between helping the survivors of the attack, Sleepwalker also used his warp beams to repair much of the damage done to Empire State's buildings by Moonstone's crazed rampage.
The alien warrior was outwardly calm as he worked, but inside he felt a seething, boiling anger, the type of rage he typically only felt when dealing with the likes of Cobweb, the Scarecrow or Psyko. For no apparent reason, this Moonstone woman had decided to terrorize, maim and kill dozens of innocent people, for no better reason than because she could.
And Rick, to say nothing of all these other innocents, are made to suffer, Sleepwalker realized. These sorrowful circumstances are akin to the aftermath of many of my previous encounters with supervillains and extradimensional demons, and this encounter will conclude in the same manner.
Moonstone will be called to account for her crimes, Sleepwalker thought, making every keep to keep his rising anger under control.
I've got the angle just right, Kenny Anderson congratulated himself as he finished the preliminary sketch. Now I've just got to mix the colors right. Should I go for a twilight sky effect, or-
Kenny's train of thought was interrupted by his phone ringing. Jolted out of his reverie, he sat there for several seconds before he realized where the ringing was coming from. Confusion turned to irritation as he answered the phone, not pleased at being interrupted while he was trying to work on an assignment for his art class.
"Yeah?" he snapped in annoyance.
"…Kenny?" the female voice on the other end asked hesitantly.
"Oh, Mary Jane!" Kenny said, his mood brightening when he realized who was on the other end. Mary Jane Watson was one of the most beautiful girls he'd ever met, and she'd been one of his best models for the calendar of drawings he'd put together late last year. They'd become good friends since then, to the point that Mary Jane not only tolerated but even enjoyed Kenny's absurd attempts at flirting with her.
"I'm sorry, I didn't know it was you," he grinned. "What's up?"
At first Kenny had been confused, then he'd been irritated. After that, he was happy, and then he was horrified when Mary Jane told him what had happened to Rick. Their mutual friend Julia Winhill was already there with Mary Jane and a few of her other girlfriends, who were helping to look after Julia. Kenny wasn't at all surprised that Julia was too distraught to call him herself, particularly when it came to anything involving super-powered villains.
Shaking his head in frustration, Kenny assured Mary Jane that they were on their way, and got up to find Alyssa and Red.
Kenny, Alyssa and Red arrived at the hospital almost half an hour later, caught between anger at what had happened to Rick and nervousness over his condition. To their immense relief, they found Julia sitting with several other girls. One of them was a gorgeous redheaded girl with stunningly bright green eyes, who Kenny introduced to Alyssa and Red as Mary Jane Watson. The others were an attractive blonde named Liz Allan and a lovely brown-haired girl by the name of Kitty Pryde.
Mary Jane briefly introduced her friends, before explaining once again what had happened to Rick. Kenny noticed that Julia was still too upset to talk, while Liz and Kitty didn't really seem comfortable explaining the situation. He realized that Alyssa and Red probably didn't mind, since they didn't look like they were in the mood to talk either. They spent several hours waiting, as the doctors were extremely busy with multiple patients. Moonstone's rampage had sent almost ten people dead and nearly two dozen wounded, and no one knew how long Rick would have to be in surgery.
"Thanks for waiting with us," Kenny ventured, as he sat down next to Mary Jane. "You guys weren't hurt by that crazy Moonstone lady, were you?"
"…No," Mary Jane murmured. "But…it's just…why does this have to keep happening?"
"What do you mean?" Kenny asked, slightly alarmed by the vehemence in Mary Jane's tone.
"Supervillains are always using this city as their personal playground," Mary Jane said angrily. "And when the heroes try to stop them, people like Rick are always getting hurt in the crossfire! Why do these sick maniacs keep doing this? What's the goddamn point?" she asked, her eyes flashing angrily.
Kenny wasn't sure what to say.
"…I'm sorry," Mary Jane finally said. "I just hate seeing these things happen," she finished, clenching her hands in frustration.
Kenny patted her hand gently, saying something to comfort her. He winced as he saw the tears in her eyes, realizing what she must be going through.
Although Alyssa had managed to avoid shedding any tears so far, she felt almost sick with worry over Rick's condition. A part of her desperately wanted to scream, to vent her worries and her frustrations, but she knew it wouldn't help. Every time things seemed to be going well, something bad happened and they ended up going through hell once again.
Sleepwalker being trapped in Rick's mind…
Rick's parents murdered by Psyko…
Julia nearly being killed by Lightmaster in his attempts at revenge…
Rick nearly going crazy from the stress of keeping Sleepwalker's presence in his mind a secret from his friends…
Cyrus being driven to suicide by one of Sleepwalker's demonic enemies…
Why do these things keep happening to us? Alyssa wondered plaintively.
And when is it going to stop?
If Alyssa was frustrated and upset, Red was merely angry. First Lightmaster had tried to kill Julia, then Cyrus had been driven to suicide by some demonic monster and now Rick was clinging to life in intensive care because of Moonstone's rampages. That was what galled Red so much-these psychotic freaks kept getting out of jail and coming back to cause more mayhem, more suffering and more death.
You can't rehabilitate these sons of bitches, Red thought to himself. Why can't we just kill them? If you put them out of our misery, they can't hurt anyone anymore!
Red briefly wondered what had happened to Sleepwalker. Was he still in Rick's mind and unable to leave because he didn't want to give himself away to the hospital staff, or was he still in the physical world with Rick being unconscious? If that was the case, then Sleepwalker would probably return to the house Rick and his friends were renting to try and talk to them.
Then again, Sleepwalker was probably hell-bent on finding Moonstone and doing to her what she'd done to Rick and all those other innocent people.
That thought cheered Red up, if only for a moment.
Kenny and the others were allowed to see Rick briefly, although he wasn't conscious. Hooked up to a respirator, his arm and leg in casts and his chest heavily bandaged, Rick was pale and thin, lying in what looked like a coma. While Rick's friends had experienced the tragedy of losing loved ones to supervillain rampages before, they had fortunately been spared the graphic details of seeing what had happened to Cyrus and Rick's parents.
For Kenny, it was a sobering moment, especially when he realized just how many people had to have gone through these same experiences. He shuddered as he realized just how narrowly Julia had avoided suffering a similar fate at the hands of Lightmaster, as had Red and Alyssa when they were kidnapped by the Bookworm. If it hadn't been for Sleepwalker, they would have been the ones lying unconscious in a hospital bed or on a slab in the morgue.
And Rick's just one of, what, twenty-two people who got hurt? Kenny realized. They were the lucky ones-another ten people were killed by Moonstone.
Three times in the past, Kenny had experienced what the loved ones of murdered supervillain victims went through. Now, the friends and loved ones of ten more people were going to experience it too.
No wonder Red could barely contain his anger, Julia was hanging off of him for support and Alyssa was shaking like a leaf.
Sleepwalker had spent more than an hour observing the house Rick and his friends were renting, and no one had gone into or out of the place. He suspected that they were all at the hospital with Rick. Part of Sleepwalker wanted to go to the hospital too and see Rick's condition for himself, but he knew that his presence would cause far too much commotion. The last thing he wanted to do was cause the hospital staff any more stress than they were already dealing with.
He'd completely lost Moonstone, as his limited tracking abilities simply weren't up to the task of following her energy trail. Sleepwalker had been scouring the city for quite a while before returning to the house Rick and his friends were renting, but aside from thwarting a liquor store robbery by a pair of non-powered gangbangers, Sleepwalker's search had been uneventful.
Sleepwalker fully intended to resume his search for Moonstone, but for now he needed to speak to Rick's friends. Deeply worried about Rick, Sleepwalker needed to know what condition his human host was in. Once he was clear on that, he would be able to go after Moonstone.
Knowing how Rick was doing would help Sleepwalker focus on the hunt, but getting rid of the uncertainty wouldn't help him get rid of the anger he felt at Moonstone, nor the increasing sense of concern not only for Rick, but for all of his human friends, as well.
"Just look at it," Vincent Gonzalez was telling the TV reporter. "Rick Sheridan is a textbook example of what these super-powered maniacs do to ordinary people! It's just like what happened to my sister, and all those people at Macy's!"
"And where was Spider-Woman, the great and noble superhero, when Rick and Moonstone's other victims needed her?" Vincent spat in disgust. "Moonstone is supposed to be one of her enemies, isn't she? Spider-Woman thinks that she's some big bad hero, but she can't even do her damn job properly!"
"So, this is Spider-Woman's fault?" the reporter asked.
"Who else would it be?" Vincent scoffed. "If she were any kind of real hero, she'd have stopped Moonstone by now! Instead, people like Rick Sheridan suffer because of her incompetence!"
Laughing at the report, Dr. Karla Sofen closed the file. It had been an invigorating several days, tearing through Empire State University, Madison Square Garden, Central Park, Times Square and several other New York landmarks. From everything her bot program had found, Moonstone was being widely talked about both on conventional news sources and among her fellow New York supervillains on the Outsider Network.
Everything was finally coming together, and she was ready to begin the final step of her plan.
It was time.
(Next Issue: As Rick lies clinging to life in the hospital, Red continues to wonder about why the supervillains who make people like Rick suffer should be allowed to live. Robert Kelly has not remained idle, as he takes steps to strike back at the Daily Bugle for its exposes harming his political career. Kelly isn't the only one working behind the scenes, as Dr. Karla Sofen finally puts her plan to revive the Tomorrow Legion into action! Sleepwalker searches for Moonstone to bring her to justice, but instead he finds himself an unwilling participant in a horror show carried out by the psychotic superpowered showman called the Brothers Grimm! All this and more in Sleepwalker #63: Puppet Dance, Part Two: Dancing On A String!)
This issue is part of a crossover with the Ultimate Spider-Woman series. Reading the issues in both of the series starting with issue #39 of Ultimate Spider-Woman and issue #62 for Ultimate Sleepwalker will allow for the entire story to be fully understood before the Sleepwalker/Spider-Woman Crossover Special coming soon!