Chapt 26: If You Can Keep Your Head When All About You Are Losing Theirs And Blaming It On You;

The media was elbowed out of covering the bomb stakeouts at the Manhattan-fed bridges and tunnels. Unfortunately, the battle that erupted in the Triborough Bridge area had drawn their attention. Like sharks seeing blood in the water, TV news crews raced towards the East 125th before law enforcement could react. Not having to invest time in collecting a camera crew and large vehicles, radio reports were on the scene first. Nearly every station interrupted their regular programming for the news update.

Nearly thirteen minutes ago, cooks in the Osborn Mansion kitchen caught the radio bulletin. Inspired purely by gossip-spreading, they had informed the head butler, Kevin Mygatt. The butler knew that one of the combatants was his employer's prospective bodyguard, the Grey Gargoyle. Earlier that morning , that brutish stone fellow was summoned by Master Osborn to move to the North Hampton retreat; it was just a water ride away from Connecticut and much closer to Mr. Osborn's primary residence than the Osborn Manor in upstate New York.

Mygatt found the Master of the Estate in his study and informed him about Paul Duval's escapade. As the butler expected, Norman Osborn raged and threw things about. He then angrily rushed the servant out of the room, so that he could make a few phone calls. Mygatt wasn't offended. He knew that his job security was strengthened by his ignorance of Norman Osborn's everyday activities outside of the estate. All that mattered was, however it was going to happen, Master Osborn was going to fix this dilemma.

Now more than ten minutes later, Mygatt felt a little sympathy for the company lawyer, Arthur Shapiro. He was supposed to have chauffeured the meta-being to Long Island in secret. The fiery-tempered Master Osborn will not reckon him guiltless in all this. Still, empathy had its limit; and considering that anyone could be, and had been, a target for the industrialist's wrath, a sense of satisfied, self- preservation clothed him. The butler was not above thinking, Better him than me.

Yolanda was heading north to retrieve Spider-man from between two extremely powerful adversaries when she saw Giant-man assaulted with a thrown tree. Who could have been so powerful as to accomplish the uprooting and hurling? When she saw the Blob making a threatening gesture to her beloved, Yolanda instantly knew.

In thought-robbing rage, the Unicorn made a sharp detour in midair and charged downward towards the mass of hog crap. "Strength 39 percent" she spoke to her armor and instantly she had double the strength of a structure-destroying Bulldozer.

She sped down at 240 miles an hour per second/ per second finally reaching the blob at over 288 miles an hour. The impact was ear-shattering. Though his feet were still anchored to the ground, the Blob went down quick and hard. Pieces of blacktop under the massive man exploded in every direction.

Wanda and Pietro finally made it to the scene. They stood behind the Blob as he challenged the large Avenger. Wanda's opinion of Giant-man jetted to extremes. After swings where she saw him as trustworthy, then despicably deceiving, she finally settled on believing that his integrity was unblemished.

Before she turned on him, Wanda had listened to the Avenger. Now his words had been echoing in Wanda's mind. Why had she even thought about surrendering the teenage girls to Magneto, knowing how cruel and tyrannical he could be?

When she was offended over Giant-man's treatment of her brother, Wanda had used her hex power to make the giant stumble. He could have easily crushed her under his weight, but instead he had shifted his falling body away in order to save her. Judging from his action, Wanda was sure that Giant-man's nature was true, without hidden sinister motives.

That is also why Wanda bore no ill-will towards the Avenger's companion. After being thrown against the van, the Scarlet Witch fought against the grasp of unconsciousness. Wanda's conscience was stricken when the armored maiden angrily charged the Scarlet Witch with treachery against the merciful Giant-man. Yes, Wanda knew that he responded to her attack with compassion.

And now the remorseful, attractive brunette grabbed her brother's arm in protest over his insistence that the Blob contribute to their side of the struggle.

"Unhand me, Wanda," Quicksilver shouted angrily. He wanted to free his arm from her grip without hurting her.

"NO! Our purpose is blighted, poisonous. I see that now. Won't you stop to hear me?!"

"We can talk about this at another time. Right now, we are close to victory and the righteous retribution against that filthy giant Homo Sapien."

And there it was. The one who harbored ulterior motive was not Giant-man— it was her beloved brother. It was hard to calm a mind whose supposed mission was wrapped around so securely by the chains of unreasonable pride. Pietro burned inwardly to repay the non-mutant for the humiliation that he had suffered at the hands of the inferior outsider. And what merit had either of the siblings, now? Wasn't the giant's actions born out of self-preservation from her brother's assault? And the metal woman … wasn't she acting upon her desire to defend the two girls?

She hated herself and her mission. As unreasonable as it sounded to her, she discovered that she hated the gracious Giant-man, as well. He opened her eyes and that now pitted her against the last living member of her family. But would it have been better to stay blind to their cause?

She could not retreat into the "what ifs" now. Wanda was only left with a choice. She could allow her dear brother to continue his unrighteous wrath. She knew that with each outburst, Pietro was plunging deeper into the ruthless, soulless pit where Magneto dwelt. Or she could turn— mayhap violently— against her beloved brother… he who would resolutely give up his live to protect her.

Damn that Giant-man. She would now be cursed above all women if she took either path.

Mercifully, she was spared her decision. The ground violently jumped under her feet and she fell. Her ears ached as the air screamed horribly around her. As pieces of blacktop shot in her direction, she closed her eyes and she flinched.

Something unseen and terrible thing had just happened. But dear Pietro leaped to her side, shielding her.

Giant-man quickly realized his mistake— it wasn't a meteor that had struck the Blob and created a small crater. Giant-man leaned forward and shouted down to the van.

"Shift the gear handle to P and turn the ignition off. I have to leave for a moment, but I'll return rapidly."

The huge Avenger ran to where he saw the Unicorn securely sitting on top of the laid-out Blob as if he was a wild horse. Her legs squeezed around his girth. Her upper body leaned forward to get the right angle by which to maximize the effects of her strikes upon the behemoth.

The massive mutant covered his face with his hands, but it didn't stop the Unicorn from raining wild, building-destroying punches onto the Blob's head. The thunderous right and left crosses were strong enough to move the Blob's body. The Unicorn and the mutant skidded across the ground. Their travels shattered several sidewalk curbs and upended a street lamp along the way. Ironically, one of her punches caused their bodies to the darted between Giant-man's sprinting legs. They passed so fast that Hank couldn't react in time. The unlikely rodeo pair was speeding towards the police van. Hank was afraid that the girls within would suffer unintentional injuries.

The 40-foot tall hero dropped his body down to the ground in order to achieve a slide. This proved to be a good braking maneuver. Then regaining his footing, he reversed himself.

Before Giant-man could reached them, the Blob placed his right hand on the Unicorn's chin. He yelled "Are you crazy?" and pushed her away. So strong was the shove that armored maiden found herself a hundred feet above her opponent.

Henry had seen how Yolanda been shoved with such might. As if anger was a fickle dancer, she moved on from Yolanda to another partner. She enveloped Giant-man him with her own arms of outrage.

Ignoring the fact that Frederick was defending himself, Giant-man snatched the Blob up with his right hand— chunks of the ground under the powerful mutant's feet came up with him.

A war of strength ensued as the mighty Blob wrestled to free himself. Then, visions— barbaric visions – came to sear Giant-man's mind. He imagined himself pulling the head off of the Blob. He was torn away from this hideous imagery by the sight of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch together. They looked stunned and that meant that they were going to be in that one place for at least another second.

Henry fought the savage urge to squash them both under his colossal foot. Hank envisioned leaving them a bloody, mangled mess at the same time that he was decapitating the Blob.

This couldn't be happening, he told himself. These demonic impulses usually came when he sustained his giant status for more than 90 seconds at a time. But they always came when his mind was disengaging. Either they sprung up on him as he lay in bed, seconds away from sleep, or they ambushed him as in a daydream when he took time off from a difficult project. … Or if he mourned a lover's betrayal, like last night.

Suddenly, Yolanda appeared by his left ear. She screamed, "Stop. What are you doing? "

Her words sliced through her mentor's mind and rescued him.

Giant-man looked down in horror to see that while his right hand fought against the Blob's escape , his left had closed around the head of his captive. Henry didn't know his present height, but his rounded index finger was sufficient enough to cover the mutant's face. He felt his heel return to the ground as if his foot was about to rise up and ….

The prospect of performing the two acts of barbarism made his stomach turn.

Thankful that he was himself, he shrunk back down to 40 feet. The penitent Giant-man placed the Blob on to the ground. The three mutants were left stunned by his Jekyll-to-Hyde- back-to-Jekyll transformations.

Giant-man started, "I'm sorry. I'm terribly—"

Yolanda's concern for Henry's actions instantly turned to anger. "No— we don't apologize," Yolanda yelled behind him. "We defeat them."

Clenching her fists, she again charged down towards the Blob. With fast reflexes, the towering hero managed to grab the Unicorn just inches away from her intended punching bag. His truck-sized back and legs strained to contain her. The Blob was already leaning away with his hands in front of his face. To his credit, striking a woman— even a powerful woman— was not in his character.

Suddenly an explosion floored all five of them. Wanda and Pietro had neither the thick hides of the Blob and Giant-man, nor the protective metal covering of the Unicorn. But since they were behind the Avenger, they suffered no serious injury.

Hank and Yolanda instinctively looked towards the van. Only a few steps from the van door were two wide-eyed, open-mouthed girls.

Yolanda's forearms braced themselves against the ground, allowing her upper body to rise up. She angrily yelled at the teens, "AGAIN?!"

Tabatha turned to Lorna. The younger girl's face appeared as if she had tasted something sour. Her hands were flapping like she had held something hot and her feet were jogging in place.

"I'm never, ever, going to listen to you again."

Tabby's right hand slapped Lorna's shoulder before she darted into the van. Lorna slowly turned her head away from the girl inside of the van to the adults.

"Ahhhh, sorry guys. You two just keep kicking mutant a – ses, okay?" She then scurried into the vehicle, as well.

Dizziness had reclaimed Giant-man, but he didn't let it show. Instead, he sat on the ground with the air of in-control confidence. His knees were up, supporting his forearms.

He swiveled on his rear to face the Unicorn. "Okay, young lady… go bring Spider-man to me."

She protested, "And you expect me to leave you here with—"

"I expect you to follow orders, just as we agreed from the beginning," Giant-man said sternly. Then in a calmer, caring tone he added, "This particular fight is over. We need to thank the girls, later. They subdued Mr. Dukes in a way that we probably couldn't."

The respectable reference of "Mr. Dukes" made Frederick's eyes quickly move from the police van to Giant-man.

Henry knew that Yolanda was fuming. She looked at the Blob, barely hearing Henry say "Go on."

She straightened up and looked away towards the mutant siblings. They were just then getting to their feet after being jolted from the explosion. The Unicorn pointed to them.

"They won't be a factor either," Gant-man said before his trainee could speak. "It's now three against one. Quicksilver hasn't a chance."

The trainer and pupil locked eyes. If silent emotions could be heard, one would swear that the Unicorn's frustration sounded like a volcanic eruption. After a period, Giant-man said as non-provoking as possible, "Concern and anger towards me is understandable, but insubordination isn't. It will cost us the victory."

Despite her inner urge to challenge his decision-making, she spun towards the north. There, the Sandman was talking to a seated Spider-man. Suddenly a fist appeared to thrust out from the Sandman's chest. Horrified and confused, the Unicorn took off to rescue the red-and-blue hero.

With his attention directed to Frederick, Giant-man hadn't noticed that the Unicorn had stopped midpoint between Spider-man and her mentor. The conflicted young genius turned her face back towards the Avenger. Rescuing Spider-man was her aim, but it left Giant-man alone facing three dangerous mutants. How could he foolishly think that they posed no threat? If it would come down to following his command or saving him from an attack, she knew what she was going to do.

"Again, my apologize for losing my head," Giant-man said appreciating the irony that it was really the Blob who almost lost his.

Now having a clearer head, the Avenger rose to his feet and stretched out a supporting hand to raise the seated juggernaut.

"So what do you say Mr. Dukes? You still think I've imprisoned those girls?"

Fred looked at the gloved hand. Saying nothing, the Blob spun his massive body as he always had to get himself up to his feet. The man's refusal to take his hand was understandable. Giant-man thought that Frederick needed time to sort out who fought for the right cause.

Hank continued his case. "The girls came out to defend the Unicorn and me. Then they willingly reentered the van that I was pushing away, and they closed the door. It doesn't look to me like they are being forcibly kidnapped. What does it look like to you?"

"Don't listen to him," Quicksilver yelled.

The speedster continued shouting, trying to re-ignite the Blob's rage against the size-changing Homo Sapien. Giant-man raised his voice also. But anger was absent from the Avenger's words.

The towering hero said, "The Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver came here to liberate them from their dreary lives and bring them to a loving environment under Magneto's roof."

As with Wanda before him, Hank was careful not to give the impression that he was lecturing Fred. Hank asked question that allowed the mighty mutant to reach his own conclusion.

"You remember Magneto, don't you Mr. Dukes? Do you think that they would be happier and better off under his care? Were you better off when you allied yourself with him? Was he kind and merciful? Would the girls nominate him for the Adopting Father of the Year Award anytime soon? Would he even allow them a say, one way or the other?

"Maybe you should ask the Scarlet Witch. She can tell you about …."

The white-haired hothead stepped in between them. Shouting and wildly moved his arms, Quicksilver sought to rob the Blob's attention. Of the two shouting voices, Frederick heard Hank's clearer. What he saw in the girls' behavior was evidence enough to dispute Quicksilver's claim as to who was the real rescuer. But the humongous Tsunami of proof that swept him away came when Giant-man included Wanda in his narration— the beauteous woman looked away in shame.

Fred was left with stunned, blinking eyes. Giant-man was telling the truth. And this woman, whom he had dreamed about since he first saw her … she came here after those innocent girls in order to throw them into a crocodile pit.

A breeze passed between them. It tossed the short hair up and away from Fred's forehead, while pushing Wanda's dark locks over what little she allowed Frederick to see of her face.

All of a sudden the Scarlet Witch didn't look that irresistible to him. She looked more like a shining new apple that had worms hiding inside of it. Sure, his heart ached almost enough to bust and his throat was terribly tightened due to profound sorrow, but the truth was also a liberator. At least now he wouldn't spend those quiet lonely nights on his bed staring at the ceiling, wondering what might have been. No, she was no longer worthy of the hoped-for thoughts, the breath-stealing sighs, the deep yearnings. No, … not anymore.

And that brother of hers— his shouting was quickly getting on Frederick's nerve. He wouldn't look at Pietro. He just gritted his teeth wondering how long would it be before he just smacks the teeth out of Pietro's lying mouth.

The sensitive powerhouse moved to the right of Pietro- to look into Giant-man' eyes.

He nodded and said, "Take care of those girls, Big Guy. I'm out of here."

Quicksilver was too busy yelling to hear those words. But when the Blob began walking away, the speedster knew he had lost both the debate and a crucial ally.

The young, angry mutant reached for the Blob's arm.

"NO! NO! You can't believe his lies," Pietro screamed.

The mighty man snatched his arm away from the shouter and continued on his way.

"You lost, Quicksilver," Giant-man said calmly. The large hero looked back at the distraught Scarlet Witch and added, "You don't even have your sister on your side now."

He looked back to the green-clad speedster and added, "Why don't you just go back home to your Merry Magneto Paradise Camp, and save yourself more grief?

"Now, if you abandon all your crazy schemes and talk, you can follow me to the Avenger's Mansion. We can take you in. There will be no pressure, no spying on your conversations, and we'll try as much as possible to make you feel like a valued guest. In time, if we can come to a mutually agreement, I'm confident that we can open two places in the roster—"

Giant-man stopped. It was evident that Quicksilver wasn't listening. He followed the volatile, white-maimed man's stare back to the van. Out of sheer reflex, in less than a second, Giant-man shot up to seventy feet and dove in front of the side door with his arms stretched over his head.

While Giant-man was still falling, Quicksilver disappeared from the spot where he was standing. As Giant-man hit the ground, Pietro reappeared, tripping over one enlarged arm. The mutant continued tumbling along the ground on the other side of Giant-man's appendage. A second later, Hank felt the dull tap that resulted from running legs hitting his forearm. The Avenger guessed correctly. The speedy scum was going to try a last-minute abduction.

"Pietro, STOP IT!" Wanda yelled. That was enough for the Blob to turn around to see what had occurred.

Giant-man inwardly acknowledged that he was lucky this time. But could he guess right, again? Most likely not; and the faster-than-fast mutant would never give him time to re-adjustment any defensive moves.

Giant-man saw the Blob approaching from the corner of his eyes. But even if the mighty man had decided to join the giant hero, Quicksilver would run rings around both of them.

He again summoned the wasps and ants via his cybernetic call. In addition to the response from his nearby battalions, there was an unexpected answer. The reading came back to Hank's circuitry— a new air force of yellow jackets was on their way.

And as if things couldn't look more promising, here came the Unicorn with Spider-man.

Blocks away, Sandman's butt-attack had sent the voiceless stranger surfing along the street. But he jumped up to his feet quickly. This creature in front of him had increased in size and width and appeared to be a 30-foot high wave of sand. The powerful man took the front half of a destroyed FBI vehicle and threw it at the coming attacker.

The car–half was swallowed into the grainy tidal wave. The stranger reached for an intact police cruiser. He attempted to lift it over his head and prepared another throw. As the vehicle was raised up, a man-sized axe of stone violently came down, barely missing the stranger. After an explosion of sound, the stranger found the one body of the auto had become two. And the two ends of the car fell onto his head and shoulders.

The strong man shrugged off the heavy pounding. But before the powerhouse could offer another attack, a flat concrete slab swung around from his left and made contact with great force. The stranger was again shot across the air by the Sandman.

Marko was enraged and this f - - king two-bit, Johnny-come-lately, son of a bitch was going to see how disastrous it was to cross the Sandman.

The Sandman's body shortened from 30 to 18 feet. But his arms lengthened and thickened still more. His previously used axe hand—the left hand— also grew in size. Still flattened, it slid under one vehicle that was on its side and flipped it onto the top of a second, upside down car. The hand then slipped under the bottom car. His free arm stretched out to form a twenty-foot ramp where his hand and forearm anchored themselves to the ground. He looked like he was a giant bird with extended wings, but the Sandman was actually shaping himself into a catapult.

Marko sneered, "Remember what I said about yer momma needin' a spatula?"

Without another word, the left arm lifted the two cars off the ground. That same catapult-arm lengthened still again as the cars swung directly over the Sandman's head. Then like a humongous fly swatter, Marko slammed the two cars right down on his prone adversary. The sound was easily as ear-punishing as the crash that involved the Unicorn and the Blob. …. Or perhaps louder.

Fenders, wheels, and vehicle fluids flew in every direction, but the bulk of the weight bounced straight up and then descended back down on the stoic strongman.

Marko returned to his human form and looked at the small mountain of metal that seemed like a mausoleum over the silent enemy.

Yes, he wanted to get back to Spider-man .… but, truthfully, he was feeling the tugs of disappointment. Was that all there was to the haughty bastard? Marko hadn't even been brought to labored breathing. Damn it. The wall-crawler better offer him a better contest.

Crouching behind two abandon cars, the six mobsters had their guns drawn. They did nothing other than release unconscious ooos and ahhhs. The Sandman was absolutely awesome.

One man was less swayed by the spectacle and more worried about the consequences if things went uncorrected. This thinning, redheaded hit-leader was told by a look-out that Spider-man was the one pinning down the Thinker's boy. But this was the f - - king Sandman— the mother f - - ker who can't be stopped by bullets.

Days ago, the Thinker told the boss about the escape plan. His big guy was the one who could arm the bombs that were placed in areas around the city. That shirtless muscle-guy needed help to escape this place and get to work activating the blows. And the boss won't like hearing that 6 of his best guns were hiding behind cars doing nothing.

The mob lieutenant swallowed hard. What could be done? Shooting at the Sandman would only cause him and his group to be served with the same medicine that the Thinker's boy was getting. And none of these mugs were super-powered strong.

"Ep. Ep." The mobster next to him whispered. The leader didn't answer. He was peeking over the hood looking for something, anything, that he could spot on the Sandman that appeared solid enough to receive a bullet.

"Ep," the frightened hoodlum continued. "I thought that this Sandman-guy was on our side. Matter of fact, the guy isn't supposed to be here. He ought to be at the courthouse waiting for the Thinker's signal."

Another gunman who was hiding behind a nearby car thought that he could educate the dumb bastard. "Look, no madda how powe'ful he's become, Marko is still a penny-ante street crook. Small-timers like him ain't got no class o-ah sense-a responsibil'ties. His type not only will be da foist ta rat ta da cops when da heat's on, but when he's on da job, he can't be relied on ta be in da ro-ight spot an' do da ro-ight thing, see?

"Now we's,… we's da pros. We knows about loy'ty an' doin' da ro-ight thing, ya see? If we's have ta cut off some digits on a guy's hand who welches on a bet, be a-sho-ah dat guy won't be playin' da piano eva again. If we's got us a hit, dat guy neva has ta worry about geddin' up too late fo-ah woik ag-in, ya see?

"Nope. Marko's kind neva has da discipline an' decency ta do da ro-ight thing like us, see?"

"Shut yer traps, both a yas." Ep, the leader spat out. Jerry Epstein couldn't afford to be distracted by gibberish.

"Keep da rods ready an' wait 'til I tells ya when an' where's ta shoot."

The Unicorn had hoisted Spider-man up from the battle scene at the other end of the isolated area. Yolanda had explained that the end of the two-front battle required Spider-man's cooperation. She had not realized that her words about obtaining information from Spider-man so that she could wrap this up, came across to the hero as arrogant. He assumed that she thought that he was only good enough for show-and-tell, while she was the exclusive problem-solver.

The offended Mr. Parker's anger towards the Unicorn suddenly widened to include her partner. He had originally come here to aid her Paul Bunyan boyfriend. And where was he when Peter was duking it out with Mighty Mutt?

Damn it, after this is all over, if he saw that Giant Waste, he'd kick his a – s. As a matter of fact, Peter was so steamed that he might stop in the middle of this fight and … Naw, he might need the big jerk.

Original intent and misinterpretation aside, they were within yards of the scene where Giant-man was sprawled out on the ground and Quicksilver was taking his final head-over-heels tumble on the ground.

Giant-man looked up at her with a smile, so evidently the other three mutants hadn't attacked him. GOOD THING FOR THEM, Tolanda mused.

Spider-man interpreted the scene differently. To him the Blob and two other people having had challenged Giant-man were now reconsidering the consequence of that. Spider-man excused the absence of a helping hand if the big bump-on-a-log had his own problems. LUCKY FOR HIM, Peter thought.

Spider-man was still in the Unicorn's arms when, suddenly he pointed away and shouted, "Look out."

Every head— save for the one belonging to the dazed speedster— turned towards the top of a two story abandoned building. Five sets of eyes saw one thing—a threat. Of the five, Spider-man and the Unicorn, also saw a second thing—INCOMING!

Giant-man, though, saw three things.

Hawkeye didn't know who the gorgeous chick and the green-attired clown on the ground were. He only knew that of the four figures who he recognized, two could reach him quickly after he assassinated Giant-man. Spider-man could gain a lot of ground quickly by swinging on his webs. The metal bitch could fly as fast as Iron Man. Naturally, he had to put them out of action first.

Two arrows that carried the steel, rapid-coiling bands were stretched on his bow. Hawkeye then launched them.

Damn it. His f- - -king spider-sense alerted the piece-of-sh –t. Spider-man pointed, everyone turned, and his secret perch was discovered.

Writer's Note: Duval meets Dillon

a) When you come to Duval's exclamation, Ek-rrrwa-ya-blay, please remember that the word appears here as it would sound to an English speaker. Incroyable is the proper spelling and Incredible (or unbelievable) is the English translation. "Gargoyle" is written gargouille (in French) and it is pronounced as it is later written when he reveals his name to Max Dillon. He says "grey" instead of "gris" because he is trying to communicate to an American. In his excitement, he will occasionally slip back to his mother tongue.

b) In many words, the author heard French speakers sound out an "R" in a specific manner. To hear it, the reader should attempt to imitate a gargling noise (without mouthwash) for a second. One internet French teacher adds: say "kay" while doing it. But the author's ears could not pick up krray from his French acquaintances.

This sound will be represented in Paul Duval's attempt to speak English when 3 r's (rrr) come together in a word.

To say that Max Dillon was less honorable than Flint Marko would've been an understatement. The man whom the public trembling referred to as Electro purposely gave Spider-man the impression that he had previously hurled a bolt at Spider-man only as a calling card. Electro also claimed that he was leaving the battle scene without engaging in any of the turbulence. He even used electronic magnetism to make his exit.

In reality, when Dillon rose up to the Triborough Bridge, he hid behind one of the girders that supported the bridge's roadway. He was waiting for the right moment to strike. That right moment was the cowardly moment— it would be when the unidentified strong man and the Sandman pushed the red-and-blue hero to the point of exhaustion. Electro would then deliver the knock out—or rather the barbeque—punch. Now, If the other two fighters would also get roasted,… well, it wasn't something that Dillon would lose sleep over.

At first, Electro thought that he should have struck when Spider-man was on his hands and knees. But on second thought, Dillon saw no real evidence that Spider-man was fully out-of-it.

And then, a few seconds ago, a female version of Iron Man whisked Spider-man away. She was taking him to a distance where Dillon knew that he could only rely on luck to hit Spider-sh – t. Even if he took careful aim, his electric bolts tended to deviate from their targets if they traveled beyond a block and a half.

Dillon looked down at the two idiots. Sand-man and that brute should have joined forces, but look at them now fighting each other. Their stupidity allowed Spider-man to escape.

He sighed, imagining that he needed to go after his foe by himself. He could put the shapely blue-and-gold chick out of action with a charge strong enough to light up several city blocks. But if Spider-man was given a rest period, Dillon needed a third party more than ever. That pain-in-the-balls was so fast. The electricity-hurler was reminded of that when Spider-man dodged Electro's first bolt. Electro's success depended upon the wall-crawler being distracted.

Hmmm ... That all-grey lug who was wrapped in a car… That metal bitch had brought him up to the top of the bridge. The car fell into the river afterwards, and she flew down. Now, why did she come down without him? He had to be dangerous, right? Yeah, the guy may be someone Dillon could use to draw Spider-man's attention.

Dillon stretched his hands forward and they crackled. This new form of transportation had the disadvantage of giving his position away to a keen ear. He would have to learn to fix that. Electro jumped, but his body fell no further than six feet. His electric-magnetic attraction to the expanse's metal allowed him to move along the underbelly of the bridge and then follow the steel support cables up to the bridge's tower. Electro's head finally cleared the top of the tower and he stopped ascending.

There he was— the stone man. The guy looked to Max Dillon like a kid with a weak bladder desperately looking around for a toilet.

"And who might you be?" the electric-master asked.

Now being closer, Dillon thought that the man's get-up was great. He actually looked like a statue. Unfortunately, he spoke like one, too.

"What's the matter, bub? Cat got your tongue? Don't worry, he'll return it once he discovers he can't chew stone."

Dillon was just going along with the gag, or rather what he thought was the man's outfit. He didn't know who he was addressing until….

"I am ze Grrey Garrr-ghoul-ee, you idi-ought."

Dillon figured out from the guy's accent that he had to be a prissy Parisian, and he used that assumption in his response.

"Now, now," Dillon said. "Let's not get nasty. We can be pals, or I can be the cook and you the French fries. Your choice."

With crossed arms, the rest of the American villain's body rose up over the tower's edge. He then stepped onto the platform of the tower.

"Ek-rrrwa-ya-blay," Duval said with wide eyes. "You cohn make ze flight?"

"Make ze flight?" Dillon taunted. "Not really," he continued with the right side of his face wearing a smile. Now that he had the guy's respect, he would forget the insult that the Gargoyle had previously launched.

"Rrre-al-lee ohr, not, you cohn get me down fah-rom he-air."

"Who, me? Maybe." The two studied each other and then Dillon spoke. "I heard of you when I was in the slammer. You got this whole Medusa thing going for you."

"Medusa?! I am no myth. I cohn turn anyone to stone. But mo-air, I cohn leeft a trrruck weeth one 'and." Now take me down!"

"Hold on, there. Even you Frenchies must have heard about that hand-washing-hand thing, right? If I get you down, I need you to do me a favor."

"An-no-szar time. I need to get to ze Williams-b'eg Brrridge, whe-ah-ev-air szat eez."

"And why is that?"

"Szor is sz-air. I wasz szneaking up to Giant-man and I 'id behind a poliz cahr. Ze cahr radio said he wasz – "

Duval stopped. Why was he talking to this American simpleton? None of them had the sophistication of a Frenchman. In addition, why was this sparkly-eyed fool only talking and not actually taking him down to the ground. He must've been a cheap magician who played an even cheaper parlor trick in order to appear to levitate. Duval could slap his head right off his shoulders or just turn him into stone. Still, if he could take Duval down safely… The Grey Gargoyle decided to issue him a challenge.

"Ah, why bo-szair talking to you. You 'ave no power and cohn do no-szing fo-air me."

Electro wasn't taking the bait. He had been doing his own thinking. It was going to be hard to use this numb-nuts as a decoy, if he was intending to fly the coop the minute his feet touched the ground.

Dillon released an exacerbated sigh. He would have to wait for the Sandman and the other palooka to take a breather from their fighting. All Dillon needed was two seconds to get their attention. Then hopefully he'd convince them to tire out Spider-man, as he had originally planned.

Behind him, Electro heard the sound of an approaching helicopter. It had to be the news crew that he had seen coming down. He used to fly Majors and Generals in those 4-seat, Bell 47-J copters when he was in the service. Electro was determined to give them a shock; nothing fatal, of course. He would only shake the news crew up. Why kill them if they were going to broadcast his handsome face— as he believed— to the world?

Dillon made an about-face, but surprise stilled his attack. The chopper didn't belong to the news hounds. It was smaller— a two-passenger, with a glass dome surrounding the cabin, and the rear of the body was exposed metal frame. From the aircraft, the passenger stuck his head out from the side. He raised a megaphone to his mouth.

Ignoring Electro, the man had a quick message for the ill-tempered stone-man. A jet plane was coming from the north. It would lower a net on a long cord. It will pass low enough so that the Gargoyle could grab it and escape.

The chopper abruptly turned away. Then, speak-of-the-Devil, Dillon spotted the plane and the snagging equipment. The net looked like it had a gigantic tube around it. Dillon laughed, thinking that the Gargoyle's rescuers were going to dunk the guy in the water when they arrive at whatever destination they were taking him. What was awaiting him was far less dignified than the method Dillon had planned to get him down … But hey, the uncooperative jerk brought it upon himself.

Dillon returned to his previous spot, with only his head peering over the top of the bridge tower. This had too much promise of fun for him to miss.

The 70 foot Avenger knew that all eyes would be on the heroes overhead or the attacking archer. He took advantage of that by chopping his heavy index finger on the back of Quicksilver's head. That put an end to Pietro's attempt to stand up.

Frederick Dukes heard the Spider-man's warning from overhead. Instinctively, he rushed towards the Scarlet Witch. He protectively stood with his back towards her. He kept his eyes on the arrow-slinger on the two-story roof as he addressed Giant-man.

"Hey, Big-Guy, go get 'em. I'll protect Wanda so you won't get distracted."

But Wanda Maximoff tried to run around him to get to her fallen brother. He pulled her back. She banged on his chest and angrily demanded that he release her.

It profoundly hurt Fred to see the beautiful woman fighting him when he only wanted to shield her. Surely he would eventually lose all feelings for her, but that was going to take months, not minutes.

"On second thought, you protect her and I'll go after the scum."

With Wanda's finger tips barely seen above his closed, large right hand, Fred turned to his right— to Giant-man. …. But he was no longer there.

After he had simultaneously shot the two arrows, Hawkeye had no interest in witnessing the entrapment of Spider-man and the mystery woman in the steel coils. Hawkeye pulled on the bow string that now had the acid arrow. He targeted Giant-man's easy-to-see throat.

Suddenly, the vibrating noise, the obstructed vision, the painful pricks on the hand that held the bow steady, all came at once.

WASPS! F - - king, G – d Damn wasps. They were all over him.

A second ago, more than a hundred feet away, two arrows were nearing their targets. The Unicorn flipped her wrist to fling her cargo, Spider-man, away from her.

"Hey," Peter smart-mouthed in mid-air, "Going wrap this up, too?"

The two oncoming arrows had already opened their heads and silvery long bands stretched out like the tentacles of two hungry giant squids. They must have carried miniature tacking systems because one set of metal coils continued forwards towards the mighty maiden and the second set veered left and downward, following the amazing adventurer.

Moving faster than the human eye could follow, Spider-man flipped backwards. His "C" shaped body dodged two sets of bands that charged forward and barely missed his butt. The two metal straps that were below those two bands, reached up to capture the hero's knees. But Spider-man, with miraculous speed, brought them to his chest. These second pair of bands wrapped themselves around air alone.

The last coil was launched slower and it waited underneath him as gravity eventually pulled on the heroic figure. Instantly, Spider-man stretched his hands towards the metal band. It surged forward like a trout towards a fishing hook. Spider-man's torso was going earthward, his hands went skyward. Just as the steel ribbon was about to snare it's prize, Spider-man pulled his hands to his himself. This last band swooshed in the air. It tried to correct itself by curling around and reaching for his body. The other four bands made an attempt to also ensnare him from below and behind him. But at that time, the arrow stem had already passed the incredible teenager.

Spider-man shot a web-line towards a street lamp. He mightily pulled on it to stop his fall and spring him forward. While heading towards the lamp, he turned around. Spider-man saw the steel tentacles flapping while they descended helplessly. They almost appeared to have been waving goodbye. "And good ridden," Peter muttered.

If Peter had but two seconds, it was still enough time for the incredible speed and reflexes of Spider-man to rescue him. Unfortunately, two seconds were all it took to enslave the less-experienced and slower-responding Unicorn. She stayed motionless figuring out why that costumed clown thought that this stupid arrow would stop her.

The arrow stem extended from her chest quivering in apparent triumphant glee over hitting its target. All five bands held tightly around her. They began to hum.

Oh, really? She thought. She wasn't afraid for her safety. The ultra-intelligent young woman knew that her invention was more than adequate to insulate her body from harm. But she was ticked-off, as the American slogan went. The bands that covered her torso responded to a captive's movement with vertical moves of their own. The thin metal that wrapped around the Unicorn slid up and down quickly, about a half an inch.

"You hear me?" Henry asked over her head set.

"Yes, and I'm fine,' she answered.

Turning her attention back to the arrow, it was designed, of course, to rip the flesh of a stubborn, escape-driven captive until the poor soul would die of the squeezing pressure and the loss of blood. Her repulsed mind spat out the word, "Barbaric."

Still, the coils' creator had not reckoned with the daughter of Anton Vanko. Her left arm was pinned against her chest. That was the arm that stretched out to effortlessly snap four steel straps. The last band was ripped off by her other hand.

She held the arrow stem in her left hand. The coils attached to the arrow dropped like cooked spaghetti.

Okay, she thought, the guidance systems must have been at the head of the straps. What she held was harmless—correction, what she dropped to the street was harmless… Which was a description that the archer would soon find out could never apply to the Unicorn.

She raised her eyes to see a swirling dust clou— no. That had to be insects around the masked bowman on the roof. Her attacker was spinning and swatting away in a panic. Henry proved to be on top of his game again. What a man.

Below her central line of vision, the Unicorn saw Spider-man using his webs to swing towards the assailant.

Oh, no he won't. The angered heroine wasn't going to let Spider-man punch out the jackass that her fists were dying to meet.

All was ready. The twenty-four-foot tall robot sprang out of hiding. Zhi Ming Xu directed its running feet towards the accursed American Capitalists Dogs. His thumbs were hovering over the buttons at the ends of the half steering wheel—or as commonly called by American pilots, the yoke. Those buttons would release a hail of metal-penetrating bullets on his hapless victims.

Only one corner was left to turn and then ….


The chapter's looong title comes from the opening line of Kipling's poem entitled, If.

It well suited Henry Pym and his surroundings. He had to keep it together even when devilish imageries took him by surprise. And the main characters who have had contact with Giant-man blame the Avenger for their outrage.

Spider-man's frustration over his inability to finish off this foe and his impression that he was looked down upon by the Unicorn led to thoughts that Giant-man had abandoned him. Hawkeye saw the large Avenger as a coward. Because of that, if Clint Barton couldn't extract extra amorous attention from Natasha Romanov, the fault belonged to Giant- Chicken-heart.

Still under the influence of marijuana, the young scientist, Xu, saw Giant-man as extremely disrespectful for resisting the obviously superior communist's generous plan to capture him alive.

The Blob had angrily accused Giant-man of kidnapping, thanks to Quicksilver. Quicksilver was assured that the size-changer was a villainous outsider mainly because he prevented the speedster from taking the two teenage girls. Wanda was an uncommitted sympathizer— she also hated Giant-man for turning her against her brother.

Yolanda got ticked-off at Hank for ordering her to do what she thought was irresponsible. But heck, in the heat of battle, hadn't Yolanda got ticked at everyone, at one time or the other?