Previously in Reign of Symbiotes…
Anti-Venom, Toxin, and Mary Jane escape to the underground New York Resistance force, where they meet Peter Parker's Aunt May and the commanding officer of the Resistance, Lieutenant James Rhodes, a.k.a. War Machine. Meanwhile, Spider-Man and a team of his turned heroes search the super-prison, the Vault, to find Carnage's forces have already taken all the inmates and left behind Spider-Man's objective, Doctor Octopus, now turned into a raging monster. Spider-Man and his taskforce narrowly escape destruction, leaving the Monster Ock buried in the rubble of the collapsed prison. Elsewhere, Venom meets and turns the mercenaries Ghost and Deadpool to take down Spider-Man. A surviving S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier is attacked by Spider-Man and Carange's aerial forces alike and in the midst of battle the ship's prisoner, Norman Osborn, escapes custody and rallies the soldiers in time to save the ship and assume its command. Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four narrowly escapes Spider-Man's clutches after returning from an alternate dimension and joins the Resistance with War Machine and Anti-Venom. Now a lone helicarrier arrives in Manhattan with the promise of aid to the Resistance, and Spider-Man begins to plan Carnage's destruction with the help of Richard Reeds, a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic.
"It's been twenty minutes, Brock. He should have been back by now. Maybe it was a trap set up by Spider-Man, or by Carnage. They probably caught him by surprise and already turned him!"
"Rhodes is a Marine; he would never go down without a fight. If it was a trap, and if they did get the jump on him, we would have known it by now. With all that ordinance he packs as War Machine, Rhodes would make a big enough bang to alert us. So whatever he's negotiating with S.H.I.E.L.D. up there, it must be important enough to take this long." Toxin and Anti-Venom hung close to the shadow under a demolished garage near the subway access. All was relatively quiet; no enemy symbiotes – not even the helicarrier hovering a little above one hundred and fifty miles above them – was heard. Brock's eye twitched: ever since his symbiote was altered by Mr. Li, the existence of other symbiotes made him itch with a carnal desire to eradicate them, and allowing Mulligan to keep Toxin sensually ailed him. It was like having a strong urge to relieve yourself with a sneeze, but you can't quite get one out.
Despite that unpleasant experience, Brock was worried, too, about Rhodes' extended absence. Any negotiations with a coalition between S.H.I.E.L.D. and their small resistance movement should have been relatively quick…or was Brock wrong in assuming they cared about non-super humans? Outside of the normal human soldiers within S.H.I.E.L.D.'s command, they only seemed to deal with superhumans and mutants. Either way, the world was in jeopardy for normal and super humans alike, and with Nick Fury captured by Spider-Man S.H.I.E.L.D. needed all the help they could muster. The only thing Brock could do at this point was put his faith in the hope that Rhodes did not meet any opposition and that negotiations were going well.
Not a moment after his reply to Mulligan's concern, Brock heard the growing roar of jets descending on their position. He and Mulligan first spotted their leader as he zoomed towards them, but then were surprised to find four dropships trailing behind him. War Machine arrived a few moments before them, quickly scanning the surrounding area for hostiles. "Brock, Mulligan: make your way back to the base and gather up all the refugees. S.H.I.E.L.D. has agreed to take us all aboard."
"What happened up there, Rhodes? Why'd it take so long to make a decision like that," Brock grilled him.
"No time for explanation. We have a small window of opportunity here and I intend on taking it while there are no hostile forces around. Go and get everyone ready for extraction, and bring our armory. We dust off in five minutes." Brock gave a small growl and turned to follow his orders. Another thing he couldn't stand: being told what to do. And again, it was something he had to bear with for now.
A wild commotion ensued in the three configured subway stations forming the Resistance headquarters. There was no time to tear down camp completely, but that didn't matter much to the refugees. S.H.I.E.L.D. had finally come and saved them, and they were quick to vacate their dark hole for an aerial sanctuary. As per orders, the entire armory was stripped clean and distributed equally among the four dropships. The refugees all began to load into the dropships when an inhuman shriek pierced through the din of the jets. A small force of enemy symbiotes descended from the surrounding rooftops, clawing and snapping at their escaping victims. "Spider-Man found us," Anti-Venom cried. "Protect the refugees and dropships!"
"No, Spider-Man did not find you," a familiar voice said coolly. From one of the rooftops, a male figure adorned in spikes and horns appeared. A symbiotic tentacle waved from the base of his spine, mimicking a tail, but his visage did not possess the grotesque symbiotic smile found on most of his kind. His body was blood red with erratic black strands extending from a jagged double "D" sprawled across his breast. "None can escape the ear and justice of the Daredevil."
"Daredevil! He must be a part of one of the rogue clans not yet under Spider-Man's control," Toxin surmised as he engaged in battle with the descending predators.
"Whatever alliance he belongs to, he still possesses a symbiote," Anti-Venom hissed as he purified three of the hosts of their foes. "And symbiotes must be eradicated at all costs!" After finishing off his first patients, Anti-Venom web-zipped a beeline to the leader of the strike force – but even without the aid of a Spider Sense or any form of precognition, Daredevil still managed to dodge Anti-Venom's lightning-quick attack. Anti-Venom reciprocated to this ineffectuality with several swift swipes of his claws, but Daredevil kept his pace and not the minutest caustic tentacle from Anti-Venom touched him.
"You're Eddie Brock. I can tell by that faint, but distinct, cologne you always used to wear as Venom," Daredevil menacingly chuckled. "So this is your new Anti-Venom faux symbiote that's all the rage, huh? I've heard stories about what it does to normal symbiotes, and I don't intend on getting close enough to you to learn first-hand."
"And I remember you, Daredevil," Brock grinned. "You're the blind avenger, aren't you?"
"You remember correctly."
"And that means you rely on your other four senses to see, right?"
"Then, so called 'Man Without Fear,' may I introduce to you a nightmare both you and that abomination attached to you can share," Brock said as he backed off. "Rhodes, if you'd please."
"Loud and clear!" War Machine turned from roasting a couple attacking symbiotes and, with two mounts on the shoulders of his armor, directed a concentrated beam of continuous sonic waves at Daredevil. The turned hero slammed his hands against his ears, screaming in tandem with his symbiote in pain. Not waiting a moment longer under the barrage, Daredevil turned tail and retreated, his symbiote trailing in shreds behind him. Anti-Venom began to give chase, but was halted when War Machine called, "Brock! Let him go, we have to focus on getting the refugees out of here. You'll get him another time."
Brock roared in restraint. "You're right, you're right. Innocents before monsters." Brock regretfully turned from his intended prey and returned to finishing off the last of the small strike force just as the first dropship dusted off. After cleansing the last host of the enemy symbiotes and loading them onto a dropship, Anti-Venom and Toxin leaped on top of the last departing refuge. "Rhodes, do the helicarrier and its captain know of Toxin and me?"
"Yes, I've already debriefed the captain about you two and Mrs. Watson and Ms. Parker," War Machine replied as he flew alongside their transport as it steadily rose to the helicarrier concealed by the clouds and smoke above. "The captain is extremely interested in meeting the four of you personally on the bridge once we board, but I must warn you: you've all met him before, excluding Mulligan."
"Oh," said Mulligan. "I wonder who that can be?"
The door to the bridge of the helicarrier Credence hissed open, and the party of Eddie Brock, Patrick Mulligan, Mary Jane Watson, and May Parker, escorted by a S.H.I.E.L.D. soldier, walked into a scene of precision, order, and high morale. Every officer attended to their station with a military sternness and all was evidence of a solid, effective chain of command – so why was there a hint of hesitation in the air? The party assumed it had to do with the presence of two symbiote hosts in their midst, but that was only half of the crew's worries. The party approached the captain's station overlooking the rest of the bridge. There stood a man tall in honor and discipline, adorned in the dark blue and white uniform of S.H.I.E.L.D. The escort snapped in attention with a salute, "Captain, the party you requested, sir." A small pause for effect, and then the captain turned on his heels, revealing his identity. Mary Jane stumbled back a bit in shock and caught Aunt May as her knees buckled.
"No, it can't be! You're supposed to be dead," Mary Jane quivered.
"And yet, here I am," Norman Osborne slyly smiled. "You and your husband should know well enough that an Osborne can never be killed."
"But how-?" Aunt May gasped, regaining her composure in Mary Jane's arms.
"As always, Parker overlooks a simple procedure to determine the state of a person he assumes is dead," Osborne explained a little too casually. "The super soldier serum in my bloodstream makes me very resilient, thus preserving my body in a death-like state. S.H.I.E.L.D. is much smarter than your husband, though, and through their precautions discovered my survival and immediately – and secretly – took me into custody and revived me, just to transport me to the Vault for indefinite containment. But thanks to his little symbiote invasion, an opportunity appeared to show my strategic worth. Think of it as my repentance for past misdeeds," Norman carefully approached MJ and May. They both stepped back, but with hesitation, Norman extended his hands towards both of them, and behind blue eyes, "I want to apologize to you both, and hopefully to Peter when this is all over. My short time in command of this helicarrier has opened my eyes; I have much more to offer to this world. I finally have a chance to be a good guy…maybe not with the likes of Spider-Man and the Avengers, but I can try my best. So would you please forgive me? I don't expect you to do so so soon, but in time I hope you understand what I mean."
"You are really twisted if you think we're going to believe that crap," MJ spat.
"Mary Jane," Brock said, trying to calm her down, "I know your history with Osborne, and I know Osborne as well – but you must believe that even the greatest villains can change. I absolutely hated Parker – I still do, though not as much – and look at me! I'm trying to be a good guy, too. Please believe that he can change like I did."
"No, you don't understand! You may have been one of Peter's greatest nemeses as Venom, but Osborne – the Green Goblin – will always be Peter's archnemesis. He's bad to the core, and no amount of redemption can change him!" MJ stormed off the bridge with Mulligan helping her support Aunt May on the way out. Brock was ready to go after them, but Osborn caught him by the shoulder.
"No, it's okay. Let them go, Brock. However long it took for them to accept you as a good person, it will take sevenfold the amount of time for me."
"And what makes you think they trust me? I terrorized them several times before, just as you had done. It may not seem it at the moment, but the scars are still fresh."
"Well, either way I want to have a word with you. I think you can help me win this war, and maybe even win their affection."
Rhodes caught the Parker family as they retreated towards their new bunks. It was apparent that they at last met the captain of the ship.
"Ms. Weying, Ms. Hughes, I'm sorry, I should have –"
"How could you, James? You knew well enough our history with…him," MJ lashed at him.
"I had no choice. I read Osborne's file and seen firsthand his strategic and leadership skills, and at a time like this those skills are invaluable. He could very well be the key to turn the tides of this war. I hate to say it, but we need him."
MJ's face contorted in bitterness. "Fine, you go off and be deluded with your war. Just keep him away from us!" The Parker family briskly trod off, leaving the War Machine inside his cold, metal husk.