Chapter 25: "Let's Wrap This Up."

The Blob sat on the street. His right hand pressed against the ground to support his upper body weight. His left forearm was on top of his left knee. His mind began to machete through the long stalks of rage to better recover his baring.

The flying metal woman and the short-lived appearance of Giant-man held no interest for him. He was preoccupied with the embarrassment and anger which grew with every mental flash back of what had occurred within the last twenty seconds. To be humiliatingly hurled blocks away by a kick that came from a nobody was something that screamed for vengeance in Frederick's mind. He wanted to go back there for a rematch with the dog puke who took advantage of his overconfidence.

The Blob had an unorthodox way of getting to his feet. In what began to look like comical awkwardness but quickly became ballet-gracefulness, he made a three-quarters of a full body spin in order to navigate his massive build to an upright position. As he was getting up, his nearly circular rotation caused his eyes to catch something.

He squinted into the sun's rays. Frederick saw a metal pole pretzel-ed around Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. For whatever misguided sense of obligation he was feeling, Dukes didn't want to leave them there. Maybe it was because Frederick knew that they were mutant-kind. Maybe it was because in his short contact with the duo, the brother and sister appeared to be genuinely caring people. Or maybe it had to do with a more rudimentary reason— he still harbored feelings for the beauteous Scarlet Witch.

But he was conflicted. His honor had to be defended. The Blob had to return to his fight. Frederick performed a lot of head turning—his head swung towards the enemy who now was fighting Spider-man and then towards the siblings.

Finally, his pity for the brother and sister won out. That d - - k faced jerk looked like he didn't want or couldn't run out of here— the jackass only walked. He'll still be around after Fred rescued the Wanda and Pietro.

Behind him, the Blob heard shouts and loud metallic yelps of bended steel and aluminum. But there were two superheroes back there to deal with that stuff. Besides, despite his confidence that he could fight the attraction, there was one individual who had already captured his eyes.

Wanda had suffered a jolt, being thrashed against the police cargo van. She had finally won her battle against unconsciousness just as the rotund Homo Superior was approaching. Her mind was clear and her vision was coming into focus.

On the other hand, her brother's vision was razor-sharp even before the Blob took his first steps towards them.

"It is good that you came," the white-haired mutant said. "I could have freed myself by vibrating my body fast enough to cause the metal to become white hot. The metal would then be pliable enough for me to unfold. I would be moving too fast to feel the heat— of course— but I would also have unforgivably caused this pole to scorch my sister with 3rd degree burns."

Truthfully, Fred didn't want to hear it. He had no interest in Quicksilver's excuse for why he was a captive. Fred had his own ego to look after.

"Don't worry," The Blob said abruptly. "I got'cha." With the ease with which a normal adult could turn the page of a book, the Blob untwisted the metal post that had at one time held a stop sign.

The brother got to his feet first. He rubbed his left rib cage— Frederick thought that it was due to the tight fit of the pole that had imprisoned him. He did not know that the pain actually came from an unintentional squeeze from Giant-man, earlier.

Fred was ready to go, but when he again looked at the stunning Wanda Maximoff, his heart anchored him to the spot. Pietro reached down to take Wanda's right arm and help his sister up to her feet.

Fred's insides would have had him hold her and cherish her. Again, his mind was unconditionally given over to a war against itself. The fight to suppress this evidence of affection led to the mighty mutant unconsciously extending his hand to Wanda's left hand in an attempt to also help her to her feet. So savagely sweet was his inner battle that Frederick hadn't noticed Quicksilver's reaction. The speepster's frown indicated that he would not let this brute of a man touch his sister. Even if the Blob had saved them, he was still a man. Pietro knew how lecherous men were and how their eyes projected defiling desires for Wanda.

Wanda looked at the powerful hand that was easily twice the size of her brother's. The Blob's awesome palm and fingers had just straightened bent metal, but they looked harmless enough to cradle a nestling of the most fragile of baby bunnies.

Being more than familiar with her brother's overprotective nature, and fearing that he would offend their rescuer, Wanda did not take Fred's hand. But she made sure that she had a smile when she thanked the powerful Blob for his concern.

Her words were like a refreshing spring shower to his heated, revenge-seeking mind. He stayed a while longer to ask, "Who did this to you?"

Pietro snapped his answer forward before Wanda could move her sensual lips. "The same base degenerate who is walking away with a precious cargo." Quicksilver pointed to the back of Giant-man. He was pushing a white and blue van away from them. "I must stop him from taking away the two innocent girls inside the van. Will you help?"

"You got it," Dukes replied with righteous indignation.

"Pietro, no," Wanda exclaimed.

"Not now, dear sister. We are close to accomplishing our rescue mission."

The Blob's bouncy arrival was unexpected. His sudden presence made the armored maiden apprehensive, even though the bottom of her boots hovered safely at 25 feet above the massive mutant with unclear motives. It was strange to see the mutant man-mountain sitting on the ground and only looking to the south, north, and east as if he was lost.

To the Unicorn's relief, the Blob eventually got up to his feet and walked away. He could have been a force against Giant-man and herself, or an ally who also had to be protected from these powerful enemies. Yolanda thought that she already had her hands filled with her concerns over Henry and the teenagers. Well, friend or foe, the Blob's disinterest in the battle uncomplicated things.

She turned her attention back to the Avenger who was still atop the winged insect in the palm of her hand. He was looking skyward. Yolanda raised her own eyes, but she saw nothing in the air but a helicopter with a local news station logo on its side. Enough of that— it was time to bring her mentor's focus back to earth.

"You should not engage in this battle," Yolanda told Henry Pym. "You can be the general behind the lines, but not one of the infantry.''

He started to shake his head in opposition. Then upon remembering the last few incomplete maneuvers that he attempted, he had to relent.

"As much as I can't stand the thought of sitting this out, you're right. I'll just jeopardize our victory if you become distracted with my safety."

Behind the mask, Yolanda had a large grin, and Hank knew it. "Don't get too cocky, young lady. This only means that I'm giving in to you just this once. But you still will do as I say… even if it means retreating.

Henry sighed and said, "I'm calling in—"

"NO! We don't need Thor, nor Iron Man, nor Captain America. We can finish this off by ourselves. Three minutes is all I ask."

Hank knew that this battle meant a lot to the fledgling heroine. If it could be contained here and if she wasn't in danger, he would give the very confident and attractive apprentice her three minutes.

Suddenly, the duo heard a shriek coming from the other side of the van. The insect, where upon Ant-man sat, threw out her wings and shot up from off the Unicorn's hand.

"Go!" the small hero yelled to his trainee. From her elevated view point, Yolanda saw the Grey Gargoyle behind a police car that was on its side. She aimed her repulsor disk, but before anything came out of it, the police car surrendered several load moans as it miraculously and quickly wrapped itself around the Gargoyle.

There was only one reason for a mass of metal to suddenly come alive and incarcerate the villain. Yolanda landed between the van and the disfigured vehicle. Yolanda looked at Lorna who was shaking like a leaf behind the closed driver's side door. Tabatha had just rushed up behind Lorna to see why the older girl had cried out.

The now 6 foot, 1 inch Avenger appeared by the driver's side window, startling both girls.

"Sorry to scare you," the hero replied to the teenagers' gasp. " But you did a great job— brilliant."

"I knew you did something over-the-top," Tabby said to Lorna. The younger girl didn't knowing the actual details. but ... "Your hair was beginning to turn back to brown and now it's all green again."

"She capture a bad-guy," Henry responded with a broad grin. Hisright thumb went up in approval of Lorna's action.

But Lorna's good feeling and encouragement were short lived. The Gargoyle's great strength allowed him to tear away his vehicle-cell. He came out to the open looking bewildered.

"Spin him like a Duncan Top," the Avenger told the Unicorn. Being a volunteer at a day care center, Yolanda knew what he meant in referencing to the Duncan Company's skill-toy.

Her repulsors worked on the electro-magnetic impulses, as did the Lorna's mutant power. But The Unicorn had one thing over Lorna— her repulsors' effectiveness was not limited to metal. The Unicorn could manipulate the tiny electronic charges of the atoms found in air and within any solid matter. Yolanda strengthened those charges of the unseen atoms in the Gargoyle's body. Her right repulsor palm-disc pushed away the atoms on her enemy's left shoulder and thigh, while her left drew the right side of the Gargoyle closer in short continual spurts. Instantly, the threat was, indeed, spinning like a top. When she stopped, he fell to the ground in a dizzy helplessness.

Giant-man disappeared again. Yolanda heard him over her helmet's ear phone. "Okay, this has gone on too long. Let's wrap this up."

He added, "When I hopped off your hand I saw Spider-man about two blocks down."

Yolanda had seen him also. But with the rebellious girls who couldn't follow a simple order like stay in the van and close the door, and the sudden disappearance of a lightheaded Henry, she had completely forgotten about Spider-man.

The Avenger continued, "He was jumping around like a Kangaroo overdosed on caffeine. I have a plan."

Following Giant-man's words, the heroine increased her strength to two hundred horses. The Unicorn then pulled to herself an intact abandoned vehicle that was to her right. Her amplified strength bent the car in half so that the hood and trunk almost met. She then picked up the fallen menace in her car- tweezers. Immediately, the Unicorn arms wrapped the car around the dizzy assailant just as the mutant teenager had previously done.

Her boosters brought her and her burden over the river. She soared up to one of the bridge tower that supported the suspension cables. The Unicorn was supposed to have torn open that mangled car and drop the woozy Gargoyle on top of the tower. But she was saved the trouble.

Duval punched himself free and he dropped onto the target like an egg onto a skillet.

Mission accomplished: The Grey Gargoyle clung to the structure in a panic just as Henry had predicted. The stone-man was horrified over the prospect of falling onto the water. Yolanda figured that this was due to his last near-drowning experience in the river. Even if he managed to get over his phobia, he would try descending from the tower very, very slowly. That would give Yolanda plenty of time to—as Henry said—wrap this up.

Now, the student should have listened to her teacher. The next move in the 4-step plan that he devised for the Unicorn was to swoop down and bring Spider-man to Giant-man for reconnaissance. Each of the three heroes had to learn about the challenges that the other was experiencing in order to effectively plan an end to the fighting.

But her teacher didn't use the word "important" in getting to Spider-man. He used that word when he said that she had to bring the helicopter down closer to the ground. Giant-man knew that they had a live-feed camera on board because this was the same aircraft that the studio used to report on and televise traffic situations. Henry wanted them to shoot the battle before police copters chased them away.

Being an independent soul since she was two years old, Yolanda put step three in front of step two. She sprang up to the TV crew. The sudden sight of the armored figure inadvertently alarmed the pilot, the camera man and a female reporter enough so that the three of them released short screams.

Luckily, they had seen her teamed up with Giant-man, just seconds before she had suddenly appeared so close to them. The heroine had signaled with her hands that they should open the helicopter door. Convinced that she was one of the good guys, they agreed.

The Unicorn yelled above the whirling blades sound, "Come down and get the action before the police get here."

She then dropped away. There was a tremendous sound that came from below. The Unicorn turned to see Spider-man on his back. A damaged green truck was rocking a little bit. Still, the red-and-blue hero looked well enough so that the Unicorn could turn again to the helicopter. She stopped her fall midway, and waved the hesitant news crew down. The copter finally lowered itself closer to the battle field.

Yolanda then turned towards Spider-man and gasped. She was witnessing the consequence of not following orders precisely as they were given.

He had to ignore the screams of his back now. Spider-man had to stay way, taunting the silent enemy until his pain subsided. That would then free him to continue throwing punches. The very fast and very powerful fists of the teen had solved 90 percent of his former scraps. They would have to do it again. He just had to make sure to stay in control and that he didn't go anywhere near his threshold of berserk.

Spider-man jumped around his foe. For the sake of his back, Spider-man cushioned his landing by bending his ankles and knees. His drawing-in-and-out antics would have left Mohammad Ali in opened-mouth awe. Finally, as the pain diminished to a tolerable level, he drew closer.

To accurately follow the sequence of action, one must appreciate three things: the time measure in fractions of a second, the mind's ability to race in the face of a threat, and the bodies of the two combatants whose reflexes could match the quickness of thought.

Just as a very young Jan Van Dyne's mind had slowed down the time sequence of an impending car crash, years ago, the fighting also slowed down for Peter. He led with his left, but his intended damage punch was going to be his right.

Spider-man threw what he believed should have been his knock-out punch. But the way that he had telegraphed it made him scold himself inwardly— that was dumb.

Just as he had feared, the stranger anticipated the punch. The strong man reacted in his trade mark fashion. Exhibiting unbelievable reflexes, his left hand grabbed the young hero's right wrist. He pulled Spider-man closer. The strong man's right hand went up towards Peter's face. The youth mistakenly thought it was a punch heading towards his face and his free hand rose to deflect it away. But the stranger's intent was to ram his forearm against Peter's right upper pectoral and shoulder. [END OF THE 1st SECOND]

It hurt Spider-man, but it wasn't the mighty enemy's primary blow; his forearm positioning was only to help him judo-flip the youth. The real blow came from his right knee. When he had pulled Spider-man in, the powerful teenager was left leaning so that the right side of his torso was tilting earthward. The knee rose to hit Spider-man just under his ribs. The hit was intentionally painful, but the primary reason for the move was to knock the air out from his lungs. It was an ingenious maneuver to stun his opponent long enough to prevent retaliation while the stranger landed several destructive blows.

Seeing how he could not escape the battering, Spider-man's equally super-quick reflexes allowed him to partially leap up. With his body going in the same direction as the punishing knee, the blow wasn't as effective as the strongman had anticipated.

A stranger again pulled on Spider-man's right arm while spontaneously lifting up his left forearm against the youth's shoulder. This raised Spider-man over the strong man's hip. [END OF THE 2nd SECOND]

Spider-man was heading down to the ground hard. But the memory of the first back pain that Mighty Mutt had inflicted was fresh in his mind, and the youth wasn't going to allow him a repeat performance.

While going down at a tremendous speed, Spider-man turned his body so that he landed on his left side. It was a jolt, but extending his free hand towards the ground minimized the impact.

Standing over Spider-man, the stranger's right arm lifted away from his foe's body. It then began to descend with decimating speed to mightily punch the hero's face. At the same time, the quick-thinking Spider-man had raised his own right knee towards his chest. His knee hit the oncoming fist to redirect the punch. The stranger's knuckles landed on the ground just above the hero's head. [END OF THE 3rd SECOND]

But the maneuver wasn't designed to be only an evasive action— his other knee followed the first, enabling Spider-man to flip around and land on his feet. If not for the deadly consequence of the fight, one could have laughed seeing both battlers rigidly holding each other— but the stranger was now held upside down.

That flip was so quick that the black top that shattered under the force of the stranger's missed punch didn't reach Spider-man's cheek until the amazing hero was standing upright.

The silent strong man was about to make a move to right himself, while at the same time delivering a heel-kick to the back of Peter's skull. Spider-man launched them both into a brick wall about 20 feet from them. Due to his tremendously strong legs, their travel lasted less than an eye-blink. But it felt insufferably much too long to the worried youth. Peter knew that the kick to the head was coming.

He bent his neck forward to avert the heel-kick, while concentrating on twisting their intertwined bodies in mid-air. Mighty Mutt had to hit the wall at full steam and Spider-man would take advantage of whatever cushion his foe's body could afford. [END OF THE 4th SECOND]

They ricochet off the brick structure with Spider-man achieving the release of his right risk. [END OF THE 5th SECOND AND .42 OF THE 6th SECOND]

The fighters whizzing through the air, seeing the sidewalk and blacktop speeding by them. Finally the two powerful figures began to descend from their linear projectory. [END OF THE 8th SECOND]

Spider-man bent his knees and placed the soles of his feet against the back of his opponent's torso. The youth then stretched his left hand down towards the ground.

The green soda truck that the stranger had earlier damaged lay on its side with the roof facing Spider-man. His spider-characteristic clingy fingertips hit the ground—it was the brace that he needed. The bodies of both fighters continued to sail over his stationary hand, as his own elbow dug into his side for a fraction of a second. The anchor effect forced Spider-man's body to rotate— as soon as his feet were positioned at "10 o'clock," he shot out his legs to a straightened position. [END OF THE 9th SECOND]

His incredible legs rocketed the stranger into the soda truck. The boom was loud. The truck moved backwards. The roof of the vehicle bent in half, swallowing the silent strong man. [END OF THE 11th SECOND]

Spider-man knew that he didn't have too much time to rest, but whatever could be afforded to him, he needed.

Behind him sand poured onto the street. It first formed human feet. The remaining sand mounted on top of the first two piles. Legs materialized… then a torso, and finally the complete personage of Flint Marko. One hand was shaped into a one-foot thick, flat concrete slab, about the size on an office desk top. He raised that arm threateningly.

Spider-man's mind and body were still yearning for rest. He had not focused on the different sensory impulses that warned him of this second threat. His toes and knees were on the ground. Both forearms stretched upon the ground as fortress walls protecting the forehead that welcomed the coolness of the sidewalk.

The war that he and the Unicorn were engaged in had blocked out the battle noise from the other side of the secluded bomb searching area. But just at that moment Henry looked northward, towards the young adventurer. In a surreal moment, he saw a soda truck bend itself around the man. A second later, he heard the loud boom that accompanied the sight.

There was no time to lose. He was confident that the Unicorn was faithfully tending to her end of the scheme and Hank had to work on his responsibility. Remembering that he had dropped a metal giant on his head earlier, the normal sized the Avenger ran to the other side of the van. He was rewarded with an encouraging sight. The robot's attempt to get to its feet was very slow. And that was good indication that Hank could get the girls out of harm's way without interruption.

Giant-man opened the van's side door and the girls rushed towards him. He told them that one girl had to turn the ignition key. This would release the parking brakes and enable the power steering. Tabby was the first to respond. She turned the key without actually starting the motor, as Giant-man had instructed. The 13-year-old began steering the van away as the now 15-foot Avenger pushed the vehicle from behind.

Seeing Tabby behind the steering wheel, Lorna wanted to kick herself for not reacting before her young friend did. She would content herself to sit in the passenger seat for now. But hey, after a few blocks Lorna was going to insist that they switch places.

Hawkeye's back was towards the van and he didn't see the reappearance of his primary target. He was looking north. Spider-man was taking a breather, on his hands and knees. This was the moment!

An exhausted Spider-man was going to get tangled up in his steel ribbon arrow. The arrow head was larger than the others, as it had 6 thin-but-strong, long, flexible steel bands. Once fired, Hawkeye could release the ribbons via a remote control button on his belt located under his left elbow.

These metal ribbons' steel construction made it impossible for anyone to break free from its tentacle-like grasp. It could even crush the ribs of a man. There was no pretense to believe that Spider-man was just a man, but Hawkeye was confident enough that it would keep the amazing dirt-bag stationary long enough to use another electri-WHOA!

"What have we here?" Barton smiled. "No, no, no. This is too good, to be true." Sandman was forming behind the wall-crawler.

"Okay," Barton whispered. "Back into the quiver goes the steel bands and out comes the grenade arrowhead."

The confident Hawkeye fixed the explosive arrow on his bow string as he waited for Marko to fully materialize. Once Barton saw the Sandman's head appear, the smiling villain pulled back on his murder weapon and … THE ARROW SNAPPED IN TWO!

The Sand Man stood behind Spider-man. He had raised his granite-hard, 3-foot by five-foot pulverizing hand. But he just couldn't bring himself to hammer it down on the hero. Sure, he wanted to smash the son-of-a-bitch who turned him over to the cops. But this way? Marko shook his head slightly— "Nnnno, nope."

Marko wanted the world to know that he beat Spider-man fair and square.

"Well, either I should be thankful that you changed your mind" Spider-man said without turning around to Marko. "Or maybe be thankful that your vision's bad."

Sandman chuckled at the thought that Spider-man knew he was there all along. "I ain't cashing in on somebody else's work. I wanna beat you all fair-like, sh – t head."

Spider-man nodded understandably… and with some admiration. With his left knee still on the ground, the youth's upper body and forearms rested on the upright knee.

Now at this time, Marko had thought that his foe had won his fight— the Sand man figured that he could afford to give his opponent 4 minutes of rest. But Peter had already been fooled once and had he known what the Sandman was thinking, he'd have vehemently disagreed.

As the youth anticipated, the soda truck gave out a loud scream and birthed the dreaded stranger. The powerful figure strolled forward as if nothing happened… and worst of all, as if he wasn't the bit exhausted.

The sandy prison escapee was twice as surprised. Firstly, this Raggedy Andy— with his pants tattered, and having a lone strap clinging to one shoulder as the only evidence that he had a body length jumpsuit— had just popped out of the tomb that was once a truck. Secondly, this jerk was out of his mind—he was walking up to the Sandman, who in his own estimation was the most feared meta-being in the world. Marko was gripped by baffling silence, not understanding why this fool dared to walk over to him.

Marko eventually recovered from the shock to say to Spider-man: "Ferget yer little prom date, scumbag. We gots unfinished business ta attend ta."

"Well," the hero replied as he turned around to Marko. "Who'd of thought that I was such a popular dance partner? Keep your dainty little boogying feet right where they are, you mad impetuous boy. After I bury Mr. Chuckles, over there, in a ton of webbing, I'm going to give you the rumba lesson of your life."

A BOOM was heard. But the present situation was far too serious for either man to concern himselves with a sound that appeared to be blocks way.

Marko ignored both the explosion and the hero's words. Instead, the Sandman yelled at the advancing powerhouse. "Beat it, sonny. You're way atta yer league." Spider-man had to shake his head. Did Marko know anything about Mighty Mutt?

A few seconds of silence elapsed and then a second BOOM filled the air. Again, it appeared too far for Marko to concern himself. Spider-man, on the other hand, was wondering if these were the bombs that were supposed to go off and get the wheels moving to free the Thinker. He shook his head remembering something about only one going off and the others exploding long minutes apart. These two were too close together. Peter was relieved that the truck bombs didn't get past him while he was distracted with Mighty Mutt.

"Turn around an' get ta Momma before I make ya stain yer draws," Marko warned the oncoming brawler.

"No?" the Sandman asked in bewilderment as the silent menace continued walking forward. "All right then. Hope momma has a giant spatula. She's ganna need it ta scrape her little diaper-sh – tter off the ground."

Having the equivalent stretching ability of Reed Richards, the Sandman elongated both arms. One hand was already formed into a flat, wide, punishing block; the other hand now looked like a rounded ball about three-quarters the size of the stranger, and it had several sharp spikes sprouting up all around it.

At seeing this metamorphosis, the mighty stranger stopped in his track. The reaction ranged from the unbelieving Spider-man's "WHAT?!" to the Sandman's sneering, "I thought so."

"Scram," Marko yelled at the emotionless stranger. The partially grainy brawler turned again to Spider-man.

"Take it easy, ya f - - kin' peanut brain. Save yer breath. Yer gonna need all yer strength for me."

Spider-man moved his head so that he could peek around Marko's right arm. The youth was recovering from exhaustion and that would be enough for anyone to ignore one's instinctive sense of fairness. Well, if Peter had the slightest sense of indignation, he would have said something. But the Sandman DID instruct him to save his breath.

: Sprat! : cried out the sound as the Sandman felt a dull pain and his body jerked forward. Marko looked down. He saw a forearm and a fist protruding from the chest area of his green shirt.

The stranger had thrown a punch at Marko's back and his hand went right through his target.

"Very un-sporty of the chap, wouldn't you say?" Spider-man quipped.

The arm retreated quickly. Marko said, "That was pretty funny, mother f - - ker. An' since yer in a f - - king humorous mood, let's see how you fair with an a - s attack."

Peter was fairly sure that Flint Marko wasn't going to fart the guy into submission, but he did move to the side to better see what Sandman meant.

Marko grew to twelve feet with everything under his belt line being loose sand. Suddenly, a cement tube-like structure, about 4 feet wide, jumped out from the Sandman's unstable rear and hit the stranger straight in the face. The hit sounded loud and painful. The silent fighter was shot away from the Sandman like a comet. Peter tired not to laugh, but the move was so comically brilliant.

Marko turned around to his new opponent. He had expanded his body width and darn if he didn't blocked Peter's view of their common enemy sliding across the street.

The sandman moved forward. Feeling better, Spider-man attempted to look around the grainy combatant.

For his troubles, Spider-man was almost hit with the front half of a police car that exploded out from Marko's back and continued rocketing past the youth. Man, spider-senses were a blast, weren't they?

The stranger was throwing stuff at the Sandman. He was, no doubt, frustrated as to how he could combat handle the Sandman. Welcome to my world, Spider-man thought.

His sense again tingled, but it was too late. A subdued roar, a tight clutch on his chest and suddenly Spider-man was airborne.

"Stop squirming," an annoyed female voice said. The words sounded like where coming out of a metal can. "Everything will be alright."

Spider-man then knew that his abduction was really a rescue attempt. As Peter saw his two antagonists grow smaller in his eyes, he relaxed his body. The grip around his chest lightened. His back felt the metal on the side of the female form. :: SIGH:: Too bad he wasn't held against her front. On second thought, considering that she was wearing a metal chest plate, it wouldn't have made a difference.

The female voice continued, "You're needed for information-gathering. I was ordered to wrap this up, and I may use your information to do it."

Now Peter liked a confident woman, but this one sounded arrogant. Giant-man sure could pick 'em. His former squeeze was a insect-sized, loud-mouth, bossy know-nothing.

This was all too entertaining to Hawkeye. But he had to shoot this arrow. Be it Spider-man and the Sandman or the web-shooter and the tin can bitch, Barton wanted to bag two prizes. He followed them with his eyes until he discovered that he now had THREE targets. One of them was the sought-after Mr. Treetops. Well, patience is a virtue, he was taught as a kid.

Six hired gunmen couldn't believe their eyes. They had heard of the Sandman, but actually seeing him in action… WHOA!

A medium built, 4O-ish-year-old with thinning light red hair—presumably, their leader— whispered to the other five men that they were there for a purpose and it wasn't to be spectators.

"Ready yer guns," he said. But it was doubtful that even he knew what to do next.

Like The Gargoyle, before him, The Blob uprooted a tree. The sharp rumbling sound of the roots coming up from the ground didn't mean anything to Giant-man as he kept pushing the van uphill towards the police barriers on 2nd Avenue.

Henry Pym didn't have Peter Parker's spider-senses, but he did have winged look- outs covering his back. The 15-foot Giant-man answered the call to action by becoming the 40-foot Giant-man. He wasn't going to escape harm by becoming Ant-man. That would have left the van vulnerable to the sudden danger that was coming his way.

He turned his head in time to see a tree flying in his direction. It bounced off his right shoulder blade with the effect of a light tap.

One hand kept the van moving forward as his eyes focused on his new assailant.

"Where you think you're going, big guy?" a round figure shouted.

"The Blob," Giant-man spat out. What stake did he have in all this?

"Let those girls go," the mighty mutant challenged. "You don't want a piece of me."

Hmmm. Where were Quicksilver and Wanda? Henry would bet that they were behind this guy's misplaced rage. Now, he could get close to the unsuspecting Blob as Ant-man, and quickly regained his present height— plus ten more feet. The subsequent increase of strength working with the good prospect of catching the Blob unaware, would enable the size-changer to soccer-kick the massive mutant into the river, … if not clear it altogether, so that the Blob would land in the borough of Queens.

Better not, Hank scolded himself. The hero didn't want to hurt the Blob, nor anyone who had the misfortune of receiving the falling weight of the heavy brute.

If he wasn't going to do that, there was another issue. Hank Pym wanted to finish this little war, not continue it by adding another fighter. His trainee just took the Grey Gargoyle out of action, why have some other brawler take his place?

Hank's sharp mind went to work. Why couldn't he figure out how to calm the Blob down? The same genes that were in his crafty sister were in him also.

Hank knew that this man was Frederick Dukes, the Applebaum Circus' top attraction. After denouncing his past battles, Dukes happily accepted the life of entertainment. Hank read where the circus owner wanted to sell his company and retire. Dr. Pym's mind recollected a name— Craig Morrison— from his spy-smashing days. .… Hey, like a big, but easy puzzle, it all came together for Erica's little brother. Now the Unicorn's flagging down the helicopter news crew had another extra benefit.

He put up his free hand with his palm facing his new challenger. It was a non threatening gesture indicting that he didn't want a conflict. It seemed to do the trick. The Blob stopped shouting. Everything looked like it could be settled peacefully.

DEAR LORD! Out of nowhere a meteor crashed down on top of the Blob.

The young communist scientist had brought the robot back to its feet. He had to place his sore neck at the back of his concerns. Xu had to gain control of the situation after these embarrassing setbacks.

The machine ran around a bulldozer and ducked behind a building that had been partially demolished, only half a block away. On the instrument panel before him, he checked the power meter—it was fine. He checked the condition of the nozzles of the two gun barrel and the flame thrower located between them— they were not damaged. He checked his ammunition. High powered bullets were at 60 percent load capacity and the fuel for the flamethrower was close to 80. Xu grinned.

He had wished to bring the Giant-man back alive to mainland China—the REAL China— as a prize for his people and a warning to the West. Well, a dead Giant-man would have to do. And a couple of extra corpses— one stone and the other metal—could relieve Xu of his disappointment.

The Unicorn saw the incredible sight from her sky high vantage point. The man who she thought was a mere street-dweller had thrust opened the top of an inwardly collapsed truck and walked out. His display of strength was incredible.

But if that wasn't enough, Spider-man was down on one knee before the menacing presence of the Sandman. To the mind of the young and not-too- compliant genius, if Spider-man was resting or begging for mercy, it was all Yolanda's fault. Yolanda should have gotten Spider-man out of there earlier as her mentor had instructed her.

As the news helicopter was descending, the Unicorn prepared herself to race to the wall-crawling hero's side. But her peripheral view caught a new character. On a roof top, a costumed archer was pulling back on his bow. His sights were unequivocally aimed at the Sandman, Spider-man and the fellow who was walking towards them.

Well, just as in the case of the Blob, Yolanda didn't know if this masked man was a hero who planned to help Spider-man or a villain who intended to beat the others to the kill. This wasn't the time to flip a coin.

Again she spoke and her armor responded. The telescopic visor came down over her right eye. This time it had a hunter's crosshair. Her right middle and index fingers joined – this opened an eighth-of-an-inch round hole at the tip of her index finger. It also readied a laser beam in the finger mechanism that was far advanced from anything anyone could imagine… until, perhaps, the year 2064.

The crosshairs were aligned with the aim of the fingertip opening. "Dart" Yolanda said quickly.

In an instant a quick burst of light escaped her index finger. The light ray reached its mark. It cleanly sawed through the arrow's stem, barely missing the top of the masked archers' forearm.

The front portion of the arrow fell to the ground and the part that the man held stayed in his fingers, but it drooped downward. Unfortunately, the Unicorn had no chance to gloat over her perfect hit.

Her right vision was still enhanced by her telescopic lens, but her left eye had a normal panoramic view of what was below her. From the bottom of the facemask's left eye opening, she saw a tree taking an incredible flight like a massive bird. And it… hit Henry? HER HENRY?!

Oooooh yeah! Yolanda was going to wrap this up, all right.

Her eyes reversed-tracked what she assumed was the flight path of the tree. She found the Blob standing at the estimated point of origin. She first saw him raise a threatening fist at her beloved. And then she saw red.

Post script: "Spin him like a Duncan Top," the Avenger told the Unicorn.

Side note— The following had to be edited out of the battle sequence because it slowed down the action. Yolanda knew what he was referring to. In the day care center where she volunteered her services, the little boys had brought tops from home. She knew what they were supposed to do, but the 3-year-olds were unsuccessful in trying to throw the tops into a spin. Yolanda and the other adults had to forbid them. The tops were flying around like bullets.

Main thought— Along with that other skill-developing toy— the yo-yo— the top was the "Rave" of the 1950s and early '60's. The author assumes that even in this age of computer video games, the readers know about spin tops and their strings. If he's wrong, the internet has photos of the toy that the reader's Cretaceous-age grandparents played with when they were kids. Actually, ... they played with the tops when they weren't sliding down the back of an Alamosaurus, or playing rodeo on top of a Triceratops, or filing down the teeth of their pet Tyrannosaurus.