Nick Fury rode the service elevator down to the sub-basement of the Triskelion. Agent Jasper Sitwell spoke to him over his communicator.
"General Fury, we've recovered the drugs and weapons from the abandoned limousines at the docks, from the botched Silvermane/Intergang exchange," Sitwell reported in.
"Good," Fury replied back. "Destroy the drugs, then get the weapons over to our tech department. See if there's anything there we can use. Fury out."
The elevator chimed as it arrived at the sub-basement, and the doors slid open. Fury strode down the long corridor of the new prison wing, which now housed Maxwell Dillon, Quentin Beck, Herman Schultz and the Rhino, each in their own specially designed cell. Natasha Romanov, better known as the Black Widow, leaned casually against the door of Beck's cell, waiting for Fury.
"Natasha, I have an assignment that requires your talents," Fury said, stopping in front of her and clasping his hands behind his back.
"I am listening," she replied in her thick Russian accent.
"Those holo-cubes that Beck uses. I want him to make us one, or tell us how to make one. Quickly. That damn fortress thing that the Kent kid built around the Statue of Liberty. I want to make it look as if we destroyed the fortress and fixed the statue. Once the illusion is up, our boys can go in and analyze every inch of the thing, see what we can learn from it."
"And, supposing Mister Beck is not wanting to cooperate?" Widow asked, smiling.
"Convince him," Fury said, flatly.
"Using pain… or using pleasure?" she asked seductively.
"Natasha," Fury replied. "I always thought you were at your best when you combined the two." He turned and continued down the corridor, leaving the Widow to her task. Fury, meanwhile, was going to check on the status of another project.
Doctor Garner woke up slightly disoriented. The first thing that he noticed was that he had been stripped down to his boxer shorts. The next thing he noticed was that he was lying on some kind of metal platform, suspended some ten feet in the air. He tried to sit up and look around, but found that his arms and legs were strapped down. He struggled against the restraints.
"Glad to see that you're awake, doctor," Nick Fury's voice said from somewhere below him.
"Fury? What's going on?" Garner asked.
"Calm down, doc, everything's fine."
"Why am I strapped down like this?"
"Oh, come on Doctor Garner. You should recognize this apparatus. After all, we built it from your designs."
Garner craned his neck as far as he could, straining to see below him. As he looked down, he saw that he was suspended over a clear tank filled with a greenish glowing liquid. It was the meteor rock bath that Garner had used in his memory regression therapy experiments.
"What are you doing to me, Fury?!" Garner cried.
"You see, doctor, our entire computer database was recently wiped out," Fury explained. "I was thinking about something that Spider-Man said to me. He said that we should have backed up our data. And you know, he was right. The thing is, doc, someone did back up our data. The Eradicator did. He downloaded our entire database and committed it to his memory. And he was occupying your body and mind at the time."
"So?!" Garner yelled, pulling at the restraints.
"So, doc… it occurs to me that data might still be floating around in your head somewhere."
"But I don't remember anything that happened while I was under the Eradicator's control!"
"I realize that, Doctor Garner. Hence, we're trying to get to your repressed memories via the regression experiments that you designed. For being the guy who came up with this stuff, you're not catching on very fast."
Fury turned and walked away from Garner. Seated at a small console in the back of the room was Clay Quartermain, looking a bit perturbed. Fury nodded at Clay and waved his finger, giving him the cue to lower Garner into the tank. Clay pressed a button, and the platform began to slowly descend toward the murky green fluid.
"You can't do this to me!" Garner yelled. "I never agreed to this! You can't just hold me here!"
Fury paused at the door and stroked his chin thoughtfully. "I'm pretty sure the Patriot Act will cover our ass on this one," he said.
"Sir?" Clay spoke up. "…What if he really doesn't remember anything?"
Fury shrugged. "Then I guess you guys are gonna be down here a long time." He walked out of the room, Doctor Garner's screams lingering in the background as he was plunged into the liquid.
Lex sat at his desk in the study of the Luthor mansion, sporting a bandage over his nose. He watched the screen of his laptop obsessively. The computer was playing the video broadcast of the shadowy figure with the yellow visor over and over again on a loop. On the other side of Lex's desk, one of his assistants, Sidney Happersen, stood anxiously with his hands folded in front of him.
"Have we been able to identify this man yet, Happersen?" Lex asked, gesturing toward the video.
"Sir, our best research team has been on it for days, and they've come up with nothing," Happersen replied. "This sounds unbelievable, but… the man in the video is vibrating his head slightly at an incredible speed. It prevents the camera from ever focusing clearly on him, making a clean screencapture for analysis impossible."
"What about voice print ID?" Lex asked.
"Our computers don't even recognize the voice as being human. It must have been passed through some kind of electronic modification device."
Lex sighed. "Well, tell them to keep working on it."
"Sir, you don't understand… the team says that it's impossible to--"
Lex slammed the laptop shut. "Then fire the team and hire me a new one!" Lex reached under the desk and grabbed a copy of the Daily Bugle newspaper and slapped it down on the desk. The front page boasted a picture of Lex in his battle-suit, slugging Iron Man in the face. "Then contact Sheldon Bender and have him file a libel suit against the Daily Bugle," Lex continued. "We're going to say that this was obviously an impostor, posing as me. Have the security team change the date stamp on some of the mansion security footage, make it look like I was here at the time. I want this whole mess swept under the rug before my father returns from Zurich next week. Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir," Happersen said quietly.
Lex's cell phone rang. He took it out and glanced at the caller ID.
"That will be all, Happersen," Lex said, dismissing him. Lex flipped open the phone as Happersen left the room.
"Mister Luthor, it's Donovan," the man on the phone said.
"Hello, Dabney," Lex answered. "What's the situation like at the lab?"
"We've gotten everything cleaned up, and most of the equipment is still in working order. Level 33.1 should be fully operational again in another day or two."
"Excellent. And the Goblin formula?"
Donovan hesitated. "We are not sure yet if there is enough of the formula residue left to recreate it. We have our notes to work from, but… it may take awhile."
"That's fine," Lex said. "We have other projects that we can focus on in the meantime." Lex shifted a bit in his seat. "What about the body? I've told the Macendales that I'll cover all the funeral expenses, but… I'm not sure how much of Jason is left to bury."
There was a long pause. "Sir?" Dabney asked, sounding confused. "What body?"
"Jason Macendale's body, Donovan," Lex said, annoyed. "I saw Osborn throw him into the vat myself, then blow it up with one of those pumpkin bombs. I'm asking you what happened to his body?"
"Sir, I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about," Donovan replied. "There was no body recovered in our cleanup."
A cold tingle ran down Lex's spine as he got the sudden feeling that he was not alone in the room. As he looked around, he noticed something moving in the shadows behind his pool table.
Lex threw down the phone and stood up, grabbing a pistol from the side desk drawer. "Who's there?!" he yelled, aiming the gun into the darkness. "Show yourself!"
"Can you rebuild the glider and weapons?" a raspy voice whispered from the shadows.
Lex continued to aim the gun at the source of the voice. He furrowed his brow. "What?"
"Harry Osborn's glider and weapons," the voice repeated. "Can you rebuild them?"
Lex took a few cautious steps toward the voice, never lowering the gun. "Maybe… or something like them, at least," Lex said, slowly. "But why do you want them?"
"Because I want to show that son of a bitch…"
The figure emerged from the shadows. It was Jason Macendale. His face was horribly burned and scarred, his skin so leathery it looked almost reptilian. His hair was gone except for a few stray wisps that clung like seaweed to his skull. His eyes were blood red. The tips of both of his ears had been burned away, giving them the appearance of devil horns. Lex recoiled in absolute horror at the sight. Jason smiled, his teeth rotting and ash colored.
"…who the real goblin is."
The End… ?