Chapter 24: Everything Is Lies, Part One

Theoretically, the blasts that jump out of Eddie’s suit, emitting from between his second and third knuckles, move at the speed of light. They’d have to; I mean, they’re electricity, pure-energy blasts flung from miniature transconductor-coils, wired into a tiny gyro-electric generator set up at the back of Eddie’s neck.

There’s barely any tell before he fires; there’s a faint hum, and then the guided blue lightning crackles out at whatever he’s pointing at; you’d have little warning if he was about to zap you, maybe none if he were to sneak up behind you.

That’s one of the many small beauties of the Tinkerer’s Eel Suit: No warnings, just POW and you’re stir-fried.

How the old man knew to push me out of the way, I guess I’ll never know.

He throws his creaky old body into a shove that lifts me up out onto my feet, my right leg spasming wildly. Eddie’s blast hits the wall, and leaves a huge black scorch mark.

“Run, Shocker, run!” the old man says, and I do, as best I can, limping and staggering into the darkness of the tunnel. Behind me, I hear a scream, a loud hum and then silence, but I keep running, if you can call it that.

Why would that old man do that for me? He must’ve known that the Eel would kill him, why save me when I’ve got shit chances of getting out of this anyway?

As I get deeper into the darkness, I put the problem in my head and start vibrating it.

Parts of me that are out of working order or severely damaged:

Entire left arm.

Right hand, wrist.

My tongue; no real idea how bad that is; I can still talk, but it’s bleeding like a sunuvabitch.

Left eye.

Right leg from the knee to the hip, which sprays neon red pain every time I put too much pressure on it.

Okay. Okay.

I huff and puff and knock open a maintenance door in the tunnel, hurling my body in, moving on my own inertia, and stumble along, panting and cursing. The hallway is brightly lit, the white lights casting me, in my rumpled brown trench-coat, plain black t-shirt and baggy brown khakis as a pathetic, broken figure, staggering like a drunk, doomed to an inevitable death rapidly catching up to him, its hands glowing blue, wearing a Royal Purple suit of electronic equipment.

Current Materials Available:

My father’s blue switchblade, located in the left front pocket of my pants.

A pen I found in the Four Freedoms Plaza, located in right front pocket of my pants.

A sleeve and glove of the Shocker suit, vacuum-sealed onto my useless left arm.

A single v2 Shocker Gauntlet (I knew I should’ve taken out a v4 today, I just fucking knew it), currently strap-locked onto my left wrist and hand.

Two shoes, a pair of socks, a pair of pants, a shirt and a trenchcoat.

A cheap brown leather belt with a metal buckle.

Thirty-seven cents.

My wallet.

Okay, Okay.

So I’m completely fucked.


I shove through another door, and find myself in a subway repair bay, five identical subway cars parked motionless side by side on single stretches of track. I’m up on a walkway above it all, with ramps down to the roof of each car.

To my left is a circuit box.

I slam the door to the hallway, lean against a railing and start repeatedly kicking the circuit box with my left leg until it cracks open, and then starting flipping the breakers with my right elbow.

The room turns black.

The only light now is coming down through grates in the ceiling. Down below me, I hear a radio playing; Creedence Clearwater’s “Rollin’ On the River.” I feel my way forward, and pull myself up onto a higher catwalk, using my chest and my left leg; trust me, it looks as ridiculous as it sounds.

Using my shoulders to pull myself along, I get about ten feet down the catwalk before I hear the door to the repair bay burst open.

It slowly creaks closed, and I listen as Eddie walks down the catwalk under me, muttering to himself.

“I know you’re in here, Herman. I know you’re in here.” I hear the gauntlets hum, and a flash of blue light, casting the room in an eerie aquamarine glow for a couple of seconds, before everything goes dark again. Slowly, as quietly as I can, I start dragging myself on my belly further down the catwalk; I have no set destination other than “AWAY FROM EDDIE.”

“The bomb, Herman,” Eddie says from somewhere below me, mumbling like a madman. “The bomb, don’t you see? They already had it. They already knew. It was a set-up. They’re all set-ups. They always knew what would work and what wouldn’t, and they’d change it. The bomb. Don’t you see? Alamogordo. I didn’t believe it so I went and saw it myself, only stayed a day there, but that was enough. The crater.”

I try to pull myself along the edge so I can get a look at Eddie, figure out where he is, and I hear him shuffle aside and let out a weird little giggle.

There’s a silence, and then I hear the smile in Eddie’s voice as he says:

“Oh. There you are.”

There’s a faint hum, and I roll myself out of the way as a blast of blue electricity scorches the catwalk where I just lay; this new position puts a layer of plate wood in between myself and Eddie.

“Stop running, Herman. Stop. You don’t want it. You don’t want to know.” There’s a silence, and I hear him moving around. “No one should ever have to know.”

Another hum, and then another blast of blue electricity, this one blowing apart a gantry-way up ahead of me. Good; he’s off the scent, at least for now. I double back and drop painfully (and way too noisily) down to one of the lower catwalks, my single uninjured eye open as wide as I can get it, scanning the darkness for any trace of that sinister purple costume. I catch a glint of blue out of the corner of my eye, and jump/fall off the platform, seven feet down onto the tracks.

I land, and almost crumple immediately, my right leg telling me exactly what it thinks of its current working conditions. Now I’m down at the dark, dank floor; everything smells like half-chewed, half-vomited cheeseburger and mildew. Up above me, I hear Eddie walking down steps, still grumbling to himself.

“The lab explosion,” he murmurs. “The beach and the radiation. The radioactive waste on the street. The Darkforce. Darkforce dimension. You’ll see. You can’t see. You need to die, Herman, before you ruin it. Everything is lies.” I hear a loud hum, and watch as, somewhere above me, Eddie blasts a shadow that he must’ve thought was me.

I try to get up, but find I can’t; my right leg has stopped working entirely. Instead, I roll over and drag myself under one of the subway cars.

It’s actually pitch black under here; I can’t see my hand in front of my face.

That is, if I could lift my hand in front of my face.

For a time, there is silence. Maybe thirty seconds, maybe a minute. And then I hear Eddie, maybe two feet away from me, standing alongside the subway car. I look over, and, squinting through my good eye, I can see his purple feet.

“Herman. Come out.”

I lie there for a moment, breathing, thinking, and then bring up my shattered right hand, and stare at it. If I try hard enough, squeezing tears out of my eyes from the pain, I can close my fingers into a fist.



I can do this.

If I shake it hard enough in my brain, I can do this.

“Herman, please, don’t make this harder than it —”

I reach into my pocket with my broken hand, pull out my father’s switchblade, pop out the blade and slam it into Eddie’s left foot. He screams, and I use my still-working left leg to kick him in the right knee; there’s a crack, and his knee snaps, his leg bending backwards, and he falls forward, hitting his face on the side of the subway car.

I roll out on top of him, head-butt him once in the face, and then bite deeply into the side of his throat, tearing a good chunk of flesh out as a jet of blood sprays into my face. I roll off him before he can zap me, and just charge headlong down the side of the rail car, finally throwing myself behind a cart full of power tools.

There’s a pause, a hum, and then the cart goes blue and flips aside. I use my still-working leg to springboard me into the side of the subway car on my left, shoulder-first.

The “pop” is deafening, a nuclear explosion inside my chest, and suddenly my left arm works again. I swing it up and hit Eddie right in the sternum with a level one, knocking him back. He falls against a tool table, and then raises his arm, and blue light fills the room. I feel my chest seize up, and the shock actually flings me onto my back, twitching convulsively, stomach acid spraying out of my mouth now that I’ve vomited out all the food.

I flip over, and a series of spasms smashes my face on the floor. My body is jerking so hard that when I pull myself up onto one knee I’m literally flung back down onto my chest. I grunt and fall forward, passing out.

When I wake up, my watch says it’s fifteen minutes later.

It’s still dark. It’s still silent, except for “Rollin’ On the River”, which must be playing on loop.

But I’m still alive. Something’s wrong there; Eddie should’ve killed me. He wouldn’tve hesitated a goddamn second, he would’ve fried me like a fly in a bug-zapper. There’s no way in hell that …

Unless …

I force myself up on one elbow, and then force myself onto my knees. My right leg is still aching, but the fifteen minutes of undisturbed electrocuted slumber seem to have given it a little more life.

“Okay,” I say aloud, and turn, squinting into the darkness where the last blast had come from. “Eddie?” I call out, my swollen, dry tongue heavy in my mouth. “Hey, Eddie, you down there?”


I stagger forward, my now semi-functional left arm held out in front of me, feeling through the darkness like a blind man.

My foot hits something, and I stumble, nearly falling flat on my face. I turn, and get a look at what I tripped on; it’s Eddie.

He’s slumped against the side of one of the subway cars, sitting on his ass, his legs out. Even in the darkness I can see how pale he is; at first I think he’s dead, but then he looks up at me and blinks, and speaks in a faint, weak whisper.

“I feel a little better … Those vibros of yours … have a … way of clearing your head …” He blinks, his bloodshot eyes haunting in the darkness. “Herman. You bit me.”

I fall forward, and slide down the side of the subway car, sitting next to him.

“Yeah,” I say. “Sorry about that.”

He wheezes out this long, dead man’s laugh that chills me to the core.

“Bit my neck right out. Like a goddamn … like a goddamn vampire.” Eddie rolls his head to face me, and smiles weakly. “What a stupid fuckin’ way to die … And you’ve got … What, a broken hand, a broken leg, a fucked-up arm, your eye’s all bloody and shot to shit … And I was A-OK, and you still got me, you son of a bitch.”

“Come on, Eddie,” I say, nudging him a little. “Let’s get you to a hospital, before —”

“Before nothing,” he says, louder than I thought he was capable of. “Blood loss; you got the jugular. Just let me go. I’d … I’d explain it to you, man, really I would, but I don’t think I have that much time left … They’re scared of you, Herman. They know you’re going to figure it out. You are going to, aren’t you? You’re going to blow it wide open.”

“Oh, yeah,” I say, tipping my head back and looking up into the light from the grate. “I’m going to shake shit up.”

“Hey, Herman …” he says, and weakly rests a hand on my leg. “We’ll do each other a favor, for old time’s sake. Me … fe first … You go to New Mexico, Herman. Alamogordo, New Mexico. There’s a military base there, but … but that’s not important … A couple of miles outside of town, there’s a valley … You look at that valley, Herman, take a … take a radiometer … Look at the rocks and the … just … just look hard. You got that?”

“Got it.”

“Okay … here’s the favor you do me … you tell Lucille and the kids … I love them … and you find Blitz, man … When they found out I knew what was going down … they took her … They took her for that FPS thing … You find her, and get her out of the country … but … if she’s got one of those … rich faggots … in her head … kill her.”

“Done,” I say, and then there’s a long empty silence, where we’re both very quiet.

“With a fucking … a busted hand and … a fucked-up leg …” That weak, sorrowful laugh again. “Jesus.”

And then Eddie becomes quieter than quiet, and I look into his unblinking eyes.

“Goodbye, Eddie,” I say, and force myself to my feet.

Six minutes later, I’ve forced myself, stumbling and staggering, back into the tunnel where it all started. I pass the old guy who saved my life, now just a blackened, still-smoking pile of burnt flesh.

Now that some time has passed, I can hear the first-responders starting to move around up at the station; tons of shouting, screaming moving metal around.

I reach the rubble where Aleksei and Hyde hit the wall, and find Aleksei sitting quietly by Hyde’s body, rocking back and forth.

“Oh, hey, Herman. Sorry I didn’t come and get you. I had a … a kind of attack.”

“Right, it’s …” I lean heavily on Aleksei. “It’s okay.”

“I heard noises up there in the tunnel. There wasn’t another meta, was there?”

“Yeah. The Eel.”

“Eddie? Oh, cripes, Herman, I should’ve —”

“I told you, it’s okay. I handled it.”

Sirens in the distance are getting louder, closer. Aleksei squints at my face.

“You got blood all over your face, Herman, what’s —”

“It’s okay. It’s not mine. I … I killed Eddie, Aleksei.” I feel it’s politic at this point that I remove the section where I bit out his throat.

“Cripes; we kill a whole lot of people.”

“Don’t worry, Aleksei. Hyde ain’t dead.”

And, indeed he isn’t; though his torso is split almost entirely in half, his body a writhing, crushed mess of blood and gore, he is indeed still writhing, snatching at Rhino with his one unbroken arm. The mask that was bolted to his head is torn, so that a single, furious eye is visible, bloodshot and menacing.

“Raah!” he screeches, and I wonder if that’s some rich kid still playing make-believe, or if they’ve somehow severed the connection, and I’m looking at a very confused, very in-pain Calvin Zabo.

And then I realize that Zabo, a mass murderer, probably had this coming in the first place.

Aleksei carries me out; we go through the sewers, and walks me on the surface streets five miles back to the doctor Peter brought me to; Carolyn Landau.

Her face shows only a kind of vague surprise as I stagger in.

Twenty minutes later, she’s wrapping my aching hand.

“I thought you said all your fingers were broken?” she says.

“I thought they were …” I say quietly.

“No. Just your pointer and your middle. Your knuckles are all pretty badly damaged, and you’ve got some pretty severe bruising; you weren’t trying to use your hand after the initial injury, were you?”

“Uh …” I say, still very quiet. “Uh … no?”

“Hm,” she says, setting my bone with a loud crack that makes me let out a dog’s yowling scream. “No, I think you’re lying to me. Your bones are all chipped; they wouldn’t be that screwed up unless you’d been trying to use the hand. What’d you do? Was this in a metafight, or a skirmish with the cops?”

“No, I don’t do that anymore; don’t fuck with the cops. It was an …” I decide to be honest. “An assassination attempt.”

“Hm,” she says again, a tiny noise of derision. “Mhm. Since when does the Shocker rate an assassination attempt? The entire Fifth Avenue subway station, destroyed, forty-three people dead? And a metacriminal called the Eel …” she says, sliding a splint-press around my fingers

“Yeah, well,” I say. “Times, they are a’changin’.”

When we walk into the Stark Building, I am a pirate.

The doctor has turned me into a fucking pirate.

She says I have corneal abrasions. They’ll heal, but she says my eye might look funny for the rest of my life; like it’s got six little cartoon lightning bolts drawn up and down the pupil and iris of my left eye.

Her answer to this was to put some kind of fluid in it, shine a blacklight on it, put some more fluid on it (this time stuff that smells like pure ammonia) and then drop an eye-patch on me. And not some modern-medical eyepatch; I’m talking a full on Captain-Hook-Arr-Me-Matey-Homosexual-High-Sea-Hijiinks eye-patch.

On top of that, she couldn’t just give me a crutch for my cracked kneecap; oh, no, that’d be too easy.

Instead, she hooked up some kind of weird knee-brace that starts at my thigh and ends at my calf; it clicks loudly as I limp along the polished marble, leading Aleksei by the hand. He’s nervous, scared even; you can see it in his little black eyes, darting around from place to place like a frightened kitten.

“Be cool, Aleksei,” I say, and he lets out this long, sorrowful moan.

Ever since Stark joined the Avengers, his building has become a sort of Mecca for the metas of New York. On the twenty-third floor, there’s a hospital wing with some of the most advanced medical technology in the world, open for free to the injured metahuman vigilantes of New York.

The thing I’m worried about now is whether or not the Rhino has done enough heroing to be considered eligible. Ever since the tunnel he’s been leaning; on walls, against tables, on the sides of cars … Like a ship that’s hit an iceberg, he’s listing. He’s been trying to hide it, but it’s getting worse and worse.

Parker lives here.

Peter Parker who showed up to be a friend when I needed one.

So convenient.

Peter Parker who my father said would drag in the Ditko-42s.

Peter Parker who doesn’t really offer a job description. Peter Parker who lives in the Stark Building. Peter Parker who’s married to an actress.

As the good Doctor Landau says, “Hm. Mhm.”

So here’s my guess about Peter: He’s SHIELD. Some kind of undercover operative, maybe part of a task force following me as I follow FPS. Or maybe he’s a free agent? An information broker maybe, that wouldn’t surprise me. What’d Otto say; “a former student.”

Well, one thing’s for sure; on some level, at least, Parker is a genuine ally. According to my father, he’s one of the only things saving me from a sniper’s bullet, and these days any enemy of my father’s is a friend of mine.

In the elevator, Aleksei falls against the wall so hard the entire elevator rocks.

“Oh, Herman … Oh, jeez … It hurts, Herman …” He’s rhythmically rubbing his chest, like a toddler with a tummy ache. “I think I broke my organs.”

“Almost there. Almost there …”

The door opens on the twenty-third floor, Aleksei manages to take three steps out and then collapses flat on his face, the impact shaking a coffee mug off the desk of the check-in nurse.

“Aleksei!” I hoot, my voice cracking on the “k” so that the “sei” comes out in a high-pitched squeal. I turn to the nurse. “You’ve got to help him!” I scream at her, but then get a hold of myself via the most psychotic-looking means possible, in this case violently shaking my head. “Look,” I start again. “I’m Herman Sch–”

“Herman David Schultz. The Shocker, right?” she says, with a cute little candy-striper smile. “Mr. Parker said you might drop by.”

“He … did?” I whisper. How much power does Parker have around here?

“Oh, yes. On top of that, we’ve got a personal message from Mr. Stark in the system for you.”

“You … what?”

Three of the orderlies have managed to get a hydraulic-forklift-style hospital bed under Aleksei, and they’re setting up some kind of portable X-ray device. A doctor approaches, looks through a pair of bizarre night-vision-type goggles, and then turns to an orderly and says, “Three broken ribs, and his pelvis is cracked clean down the middle. One of the ribs punctured the left lung. We’re going to need a phase-meta to reach through this … Armor stuff. Looks to be some kind of pliable concrete compound, can’t get a handle on the exact chemical build-up.”

And then off goes my big friend, doctors on all sides.

For a moment I’m hesitant to let him go off alone, but then I remember that this building is the headquarters of the New Avengers. And as much as social pessimists would beg to differ, I just can’t believe four people as different as Spider-Man, Captain America, Luke Cage and Wolverine could all be on the same bribery-payroll, as far as a massive conspiracy is concerned.

Fuck, man, wasn’t Wolverine involved in that Weapon X thing? There’s no way he’d play ball with something as sick as FPS.

Unless he didn’t know. Or maybe he … or maybe they …

Fuck, I need to stop thinking about this.

“Mr. Schultz? Did you hear me?” the nurse says. Apparently she’s been talking this whole time.

“No, sorry, I zoned out.”

“It’s all right,” she says, with a charming Valley-girl laugh. “The message from Mr. Stark is: ‘Herman, don’t let Reed hog it all; give me a look at one of your earlier gauntlet designs, just a peek, I promise, and I’ll make it very worth your while.’ And then he leaves a number …” She jots it down, and then does a little double-take. “This is Mr. Stark’s private office line. You must be a real big-shot.”

I start to respond to this, but then a permanently hoarse, but still somehow cheery voice answers for me.

“Big-shot? He’s the fucking biggest. This guy took down six hardcore super-villains at once without even breaking a sweat.”

I turn, and feel something I’m very not used to feeling, especially these days.

Especially today, when I learned that the face of the enemy is also the face of my father.

What I feel is Joy.

Martin Blank stands on crutches, his broad, simian face smiling, his left arm hanging in a techno-sling.

“Marty, you hairy motherfucker!” I yell at well above hospital-appropriate volume, and embrace him.

I hug him.

I hug my friend. My friend who isn’t Aleksei. It’s …

Shit, I don’t know. I’m getting all sentimental and shit now.

“Herman, how the hell are you doing? Jesus, your hand! Your leg! Your eye!” He lets out a little “ooo-AH!” monkey noise of amusement. “What happened? You go on a hot date with She-Hulk?”

“Hey, man, I wish,” I say, and smile. “More of the same, Marty; the people who got in your head, they’re after me, after me big-time. They’ve got more mercenaries rolling around than cripples in an earthquake, plus the meta-crims they’ve brain-fried.”

“I assume I fit into the latter category,” he says.

“Yeah. Look, it’s pretty … It’s pretty fucking complex. I’d tell you about it, but I think maybe I should stay with Aleksei, because —”

“Aleksei’s in here?” Marty says quietly. “Shit, is the big guy okay?”

“I …” I decide to answer with the truth. “I fucking hope so.”

The nurse butts in again, still smiling, either not listening, not understanding or not caring about our bizarre discourse. “Sir, actually, if you’re not being treated I’m going to have to ask you to go. Fill out a contact form, and we’ll let you know when your friend is okay to leave.”

“Shit,” I whisper.

“Hey, uh … Herman, can I ask you a favor?” Marty says as I fill out the contact form; he sounds embarrassed, like a once-wealthy man begging a loan from a friend. He takes my silence as a yes, and continues. “Look … I got a call from my neighbor in the tenement I’ve been living in; he saw on TV that I’d been admitted here, and then the next night goons showed up, and they wrecked my place. Burned everything. So … what I’m sorta driving at here is —”

“You wanna stay at my place?”

He smiles the ape’s smile, showing sharp little monkey teeth.

“Well … yeah, Herman. You caught me.”

“Sure,” I say, sliding the contact sheet to the nurse, who gives me the flirty smile she’s paid around forty bucks an hour to give schmucks like me.

“That easy?” he says.

“Marty …” I say, and shake my head, smiling. “Buddy, you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.”

“Is that so?” he says, his thick brow rising.

“Oh, yeah. Big-time crazy. I’ll tell you all about it on the plane,” I say, limping briskly towards the elevator.

“Wait, what? What plane?” Marty says, limping after me.

“Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you.” I smile and hit the L for Lobby button. I put my fucked-up hand on his fucked-up furry shoulder and grin. “Monkeyman, we’re headed to New Mexico.”

Previous Part               Chapter Index               Next Part