"Come on, man!"
He looked down at the screen, a shaking hand running over his smooth scalp. "I don't think I can...I'm too nervous. I can't focus! I'm definitely not drunk enough for this."
"Take a breath," one of his colleagues yelled. "Just calm down and put your mind on what you're doing!"
"No," a second voice replied, "just don't think about it! You're over thinking it, just do it!"
A third voice, rough and gravelly, threw out his own opinion. "Either do it or quit wasting time and let someone else have a crack at it!
"Alright, alright, alright!" He couldn't believe he was this apprehensive. The man at the front of the crowd was a world traveler. He came from a far away continent. He had gotten into many adventures and misadventures in his lifetime. He had stood before stadiums packed of rabid fans, and cowered in the face of near-deities. So, why now was he getting butterflies in his stomach at the very thought of what he had to do? It was easy. Other people had done it before him...
The man took a deep breath, trying to calm down and find his center. All he had to do was come near enough to what was on the screen, and he'd be fine. Considering that his entire career revolved around being able to strike objects with pinpoint accuracy, "close enough" was something he could easily do.
His hand had stopped shaking when he reached out and hit the button on the side of the machine. The familiar thumps and whistles, upon recognition, drew laughter from the crowd, along with a smattering of applause. The positive reinforcement reassured the man, and when the words on the screen began to be highlighted, Fred Myers, aka Boomerang, found his fear was nearly gone as he brought the microphone to his lips.
#Travelling in a fried-out combie#
#On a hippie trail, head full of zombie#
#I met a stranger lady, she made me nervous#
#She took me in and gave me breakfast, and she said#
#Do you come from a land down under...#
Earlier that evening, the door to the bar creaked open. Behind the counter, Maxwell looked up as the overcoat clad form of Dr. Otto Octavius entered the establishment, the first customer of the evening. "Evening, Doctor. The usual?"
"Make it a double, Maxwell, neat. I have had the most difficult day." One of the metal tentacles fused to the spine of Doctor Octopus reached out from the collar of his overcoat and shut the door behind him before the scientist made his way to the far end of the bar. Maxwell already was reaching for the good whiskey, top-shelf Canadian bought second-hand from Hammerhead's crew a few days before. Octavius' usual spot was unoccupied this evening, as it was most nights. The bar stool sat under one of the few lights in the Bar With No Name that functioned at 100% capacity, shining brightly upon the seat. As such, most villains tended to avoid sitting there if they could help it. Octavius had his theory on this phenomenon, that most of his fellow criminal ilk tended to avoid the bright light as it reminded them of a police searchlight, or the bright ceiling fixture that dotted the interrogation rooms of many New York City police stations. Subconsciously, they preferred to sit in the shadows, where they could hide or blend in to their surroundings, avoiding the light. A strange dichotomy, since these were men and women who often walked in bright costumes or suits of power armor and boldly proclaimed their superiority to the world.
For Otto Octavius, PhD, the matter was different. Aside from not having to boldly proclaim his superiority to the world due to his status as a criminal mastermind, the bright light provided him the perfect place to read, placing less strain on his already poor eyesight. This evening, he already had the book in question ready, removing the hardcover from his overcoat pocket and placing it on the bar before taking off the heavy coat, revealing the set of four metal tentacles that had been fused to his back in a scientific accident. This evening, the tentacles were nearly motionless, moving slightly in a non-threatening manner as Octavius made himself comfortable on the bar stool. Maxwell put the drink down in front of him immediately, amber liquid in a slightly scuffed tumbler. "Here you go, Doctor. Should I just keep them coming?"
"No thank you, Maxwell. I am here to study, not to get inebriated. A little alcohol will hopefully take the edge off my mind and allow me to focus."
The bartender nodded as Octavius picked up the glass with his hand. "Got it. Wave if you need anything. I'll be doing prep for tonight." Maxwell moved away towards the other end of the bar as the villain sipped at the whiskey. It was strong, potent, and smooth going down his throat, just the thing to remove the strains and stresses of the day before diving into some seriously scientific study. Over his shoulder, a tentacle reached down and picked up the book gently by its spine. A second tentacle whirred in from his other shoulder, and opened the book, carefully turning the pages to the introduction. Settling in, Octavius made note of the author of the text before diving into the written word.
Octavius rubbed at his eyes with his free hand. The text was turning out to be drier then he had originally thought. The author was going over the same ground treaded by hundreds of past scientists, and doing so in a carefully constructed manner. It was knowledge that Doctor Octopus already knew, picked up second-hand during his studies and tenure at Empire State University. Halfway through the book and he had yet to see one original idea, one new thought, one progressive experiment. This book was turning out to be a waste.
"What are you reading tonight, Otto?"
The villain turned to see who was sitting next to him. A figure wearing a yellow-and-brown quilted mask nodded towards the book being held by his tentacle just above the surface of the bar. "Anything good?"
"Nothing you'd be interested in, Schultz." He turned the cover towards the man sitting next to him, the villain known to the world as the Shocker, and known to Otto as Herman Schultz.
"'Waves of the Future – A Comprehensive Study of Gamma Rays and Radiation.' Wow, Otto, that sounds complex, even for you," Schultz said.
"It's not that complex, but then again, I wouldn't expect you to understand. You're an engineer, not a scientist," Octavius sneered. "You didn't even go to college, Schultz. I'm surprised you can work an iPod, let alone those contraptions on your hands."
"Ah, Christ," Schultz replied with some irritation. "Can we not start this argument tonight, Otto? I had a crap day and I just want to drink it off. Just trying to make some polite conversation, alright?"
Otto drank some of his whiskey before answering. "Fair enough. I apologize, Herman. I didn't mean to be so harsh. My day has been less than perfect as well. I just wished to read for a few quiet hours, but this material...it's as dry as burnt toast."
"Quiet hours? Otto, you picked the wrong place for that." Schultz motioned with one of his hands to the bar behind them. "It's Friday night, this place is gonna be packed soon." Indeed, in the hour or so that Octavius had been engrossed in the scientific material, more patrons had entered the Bar With No Name. They were spread out, scattered among the less-than-palatial pub. At the pool table, Boomerang and Hydro-Man were in the midst of a game of 8-Ball, which the Australian was clearly winning. Sitting at a far table, the massive form of the Rhino sat reading the sports page of the Daily Bugle. His lips slowly moved as he studied the box score of the baseball games he had bet on the night before. In a corner booth, the lovely ladies of the Serpent Society, Asp, Black Mamba, Coachwhip, and Fer-de-Lance were already ordering their second round of drinks.
"Ugh. You are right, Schultz. Soon, this place will be packed with cretins and miscreants, and it'll be impossible to read even a children's book." The two tentacles holding the book spun around, and as Octavius finished his original double of whiskey, they slid the hardback into his overcoat. "Well, when in Rome, do what the Romans do. Maxwell! Another whiskey."
"Right up, Doctor," the bartender said as he slid a bottle of beer in the opposite direction towards Machete. "Sorry, Machete, we're out of limes."
"I got Otto's too, Maxwell." Herman finished the Budweiser and plunked the empty down on the bar, soon followed by a twenty dollar bill. "We're both having bad days. Might as well share in the misery."
"I disagree, Schultz, but I am not one to turn down a free drink." The scientist and the engineer got their drinks, and as they sipped at them, Otto asked Schultz, "so, what happened to cause your bad day?"
"Oh, now you want to share the misery," the Shocker joked. "Fine. One guess."
Otto's face twisted into a sneer. He knew the answer immediately. "That damnable wall-crawler."
"That's why you're a genius," Schultz replied. "Bank job, all set up, all perfect. I even set a distraction across down to pull the NYPD away, a bomb scare at Grant's Tomb. Everything's going perfect, everyone's down, the alarm's cut, the money's all packed and the dye bombs are gone...and then as I'm walking out the door with at least two hundred grand, Spider-Man comes swinging through the door and nails me right in the face with both feet. I go sprawling on my ass, and next thing I know, he's sitting on my chest, looking down at me, and says 'Herman Schultz failing at bank robbery. Gee, there's a shocker.'" He took a long pull from his beer, shaking his head. "I managed to get away, but...it's the fact that Spider-Man's so damn nonchalant about what he does. Those damn one-liners...I'd have given away all that bank money just for the chance to land one, just one, good punch on him. Break his damn nose or something."
"You and I share the same boat it seems, Herman." Octavius downed about half his whiskey before spinning his tale. "This morning, I was on the docks, obtaining some Soviet-era tritium from some Eastern European brokers when Spider-Man showed up. It's 2009, and there he was, knocking these men around, spouting quips about the Cold War before turning his attention to me. I have fought him many times, but at each battle, he seems to come up with new and different ways to call me nearsighted and fat. Clearly, Spider-Man was not held enough as a child."
"Heh...how did you get away?"
"Broke several crates over his head before escaping overland. Without the tritium."
"Damn. Sorry, Otto." Herman raised his bottle of beer to Doctor Octopus. "To Spider-Man. May someday, we all get a chance to give him exactly what he deserves."
Otto touched his glass to the bottle. "That, Herman, I will drink to with you."
"So what's wrong with being an engineer!"
"All you do is play Tinker-Toys with known theories! When was the last time an engineer every pushed an envelope or had an original thought? You would be nothing without scientists to give you ideas in the first place!"
"Yeah, scientists, who don't have to deal with reality! You just stand there and play with equations and theories all day, while engineers like me build stuff that's practical and usable, instead of some doomsday device that gets shut down because a scientist like you feels the need to add a self-destruct button!"
"It wasn't a self-destruct button, it was a failsafe mechanism, you ignorant dolt!"
Next to the Shocker and Doctor Octopus, Speed Demon put his head in his hands. "Now I know why this was the only open seat in the entire bar," the speedster moaned. "Maxwell, just run an IV from the Harp nozzle to my veins. It's the only way I can get drunk enough to deal with this."
Shocker spun around, pointing a finger at Speed Demon. "Oh, don't you start James. You're a chemist, you should be on my side!"
"No," Doctor Octopus loudly retorted. "A chemist is much more a valuable member of the scientific community then an engineer! Chemists discover penicillin, engineers just make a bigger gun!"
"BOTH of you leave me out of this!" Speed Demon turned away, his back to his sometime partner-in-crime. He sipped at his Harp as he looked at the female standing in front of him. "I just came here to drink and enjoy the eye candy..."
"Huh. In your dreams, Sanders," Black Mamba replied with a hint of a grin, just the right bit of flirting mixed in with a very solid "no chance in hell" tone.
"Well, in my dreams, I'm buying you a drink. Tell you what, how about one of you girl slides over and I'll buy the next round," the speedster replied with a sly smile.
"Sorry. Saving room for Anaconda. Maybe next time." Black Mamba took the tray of drink from Maxwell and headed back towards the Serpent Society's table in the back. She had to weave her way through the crowded bar, which had become packed as the Friday night progressed. Every table and booth was backed, and it was quickly becoming standing room only. The Rhino had been joined at his table by the Ringer, Boomerang, and Hydro-Man. The line of barstools featured a motley lineup of villains – Doctor Octopus, the Shocker, Speed Demon, Sandman, Aqueduct, Piledriver, Machete, and Batroc the Leaper. And many, many more costumed super villains drank and made merry in the bar. Aside from Herman and Otto's argument, though, the atmosphere lacked tension. A snide remark or two was made in jest, or some heated words exchanged over a game of darts, but these were people, super villains, just looking to blow off steam and enjoy a normal night out.
When the door opened again that evening, though, it stopped being a normal night out. It became something that, for years, was talked about in super villian circles. Even when the superhero community fought over registration, even when mutants suddenly were depowered all over the world, even when Captain America was shot and killed, it was this night that super villains would inevitably discuss when gathered together over a case of beer, or sharing a cell in a police station. In time, many who weren't anywhere near New York City that night would tell about what they had done that evening, and just by virtue of that alone, the night would spin from fact to myth to legend, to the proportion that even those who were there that night couldn't quite remember who else had truly been there.
And it all started with the most unlikely super villain of all...
The front door to the Bar With No Name opened, and the figure in power armor clanked inside. A few patrons near the door looked up to see who had entered, and once noticing, they quickly returned to their drinks. At the far end of the bar, Shocker, who had just thrown up his hands in protest to one of Doctor Octopus' comments, caught a glimpse of the figure. Quickly, he lowered his head, trying to hide behind Speed Demon, but the figure raised a hand, waving to Herman before starting to make his way down the bar. "Aw, damn it," Herman muttered under his breath. "He's coming this way."
"What?" Otto looked up, and saw the metal-clad person coming towards them. "Oh, damn it all," he commiserated. "Just when this evening was going well."
The person clanked to a stop. Under the silver half-mask he wore on his face, he smiled at the Shocker. "Hey, Herman. What's up?"
Herman sighed, and turned to face him. "Hey, Wilbur. How's your day been?"
Wilbur Day, aka Stilt-Man, the laughing stock of the New York City super villain community, smirked at Herman's comments. "Cute," he replied. "You think that one up by yourself, or did Doc Ock here give you a hand?"
"Wilbur, that's DOCTOR to you." One of the Doctor's tentacles whirred over his left shoulder, snapping its claws shut for emphasis. "I earned my degrees and a little thing like being a criminal genius does not change that fact."
"Yeah, yeah," Wilbur said, waving a hand.
"Alright, Wilbur, what do you want?" Herman studied the man in front of him. Wilbur Day was an engineering prodigy. Not to the level that Herman Schultz was, but he was smart enough to steal a hydraulic ram design from his employer, and incorporate it into a suit of power armor for the purpose of committing crimes. Aside from giving him superhuman strength, the calling card of his suit was its powerful telescoping legs, two hundred and fifty feet worth of height packed into the lower part of his suit. Over the course of his criminal career, Stilt-Man had numerous run-ins with Daredevil and Spider-Man, and every time, had lost in an embarrassing manner. No matter what he did, be it a new strategy, or new gadgets, or even trying to go legit briefly, Wilbur always ended up in jail. On the super villain pecking chain, Stilt-Man easily ranked at the bottom of the list, to the point where even the Thunderbolts had turned him down.
"First off..." Wilbur tapped a button on his suit, slid opening a side compartment. "...I got that thousand bucks I owe you." He reached into the compartment, emerging with a bound stack of hundred dollar bills. "Sorry it took so long to get it back to you. Times have been a bit rough lately."
"Wow...you're paying me back? For real?" The Shocker took the stack of money from Stilt-Man's metal hand, and counted it quickly. "This is real money, too. How the...you're paying me back in real money?"
"Well...yeah, I ain't gonna give you fake money, Herman," Stilt-Man responded. "A thief like you could detect it in a heartbeat."
"Thanks, Wilbur. You might be the first guy in a year to actually pay back a debt to me." Shocker pocketed the money in a fold in his quilted suit...and then looked at Wilbur for a second, not believing what he was about to ask. "Did you pull off a successful job today or something?"
Wilbur smiled again. "Damn right I did. Held up a bonded courier down in the Battery. Spider-Man was distracted with some bank robbery, so he didn't show up for once and ruin things."
"Really...lucky you," Shocker groused. "Well, good for you, Wilbur. Guess the sun shines once in a while. How much did you make out with?"
"This much." Wilbur turned away from the Shocker, facing the entire bar. "Yo, everyone!"
When no one paid attention to him, he cleared his throat, and yelled a little louder. "Hey, can I get everyone's attention for a second?" Again, no one even looked in Stilt-Man's direction. Next to the Shocker, Doctor Octopus gave him a pitying look, shaking his head sadly.
Finally, Stilt-Man raised his voice, cupping his hands around his mouth, and yelled the words every bar goer in the world likes to hear, the one that immediately grabs their attention.
"HEY, EVERYONE! DRINKS ON ME TONIGHT!"
Conversation came to an immediate stop. The clinking of glasses being lowered onto tables was the only sound for a few more seconds. All eyes turned towards the loser in thick power armor. He stood, arms out, grinning for a second. "Yeah, that's right. I'm the Stilt-Man, and I'm buying tonight for everyone here."
From one of the tables, a peal of laughter escaped one of the patrons. "Yeah, right, Day. Pull the other bloody one," Boomerang snarked, drawing laughter from the other patrons.
Wilbur responded strongly. "I ain't joking, Fred." Wilbur reached into that side compartment again, and produced two more stacks of cash. "Two thousand bucks, Maxwell. And there's plenty more when that came from." The bartender took the money with an amazed look on his face, happy to actually, for once, get this much cash front. The pride in Stilt-Man's voice was telling as he turned back to the bar. "So, like I said...drinks are on me tonight!"
After about three seconds of shocked silence, a roar of approval erupted from the patrons. The Shocker was the first one to pat Stilt-Man on the back, before he was engulfed in the crush of brand new friends.