Chapter 38: Epilogue

I slip my board-shorts on, hop down off the porch and smile,

My name is Herman Schultz, and I am one of smartest men on Earth.

I hold thirty-three patents. I have financial and material backing from over ten separate governments. Only ten people know where I am in the world, and three of them only know because they’re here pretty regularly.

I was the Shocker, and recently numbers have stopped meaning anything to me; I just turned 36. I’ve done, in my entire life, only one truly important thing. But it was, in the grand scheme of things, pretty fucking important. And you know how many people know that I did it? In the neighborhood of fifty. And that’s okay. Over the years, that number will dwindle down and down until there’s nobody left, and you know what … that’s okay, too.

I know what I did. Reed Richards knows what I did. My father sure as hell knows what I did.

That’s all I need; the effects of the Shocker’s one good deed (albeit a protracted one) will have their silent, earthshaking effects on our world.

I have had ribs broken fifteen times. My left arm has been broken twice, and my right arm has been broken once. I have broken both legs multiple times, and my left eye is permanently damaged.

If you look at it, you can see the six little lightning bolt scars across the cornea.

Today is an important day for me. Today is the end of the first week on the beach.

I’m in a fairly steady relationship; I have a couple of close friends, but I only see one of them often.

Everybody used to call him the Rhino, but his name is Aleksei.

I can see him from where I stand right now. See, once I had some time to put my mind to it, I figured out a pretty quick vibro-chemical solution to getting that horrible gray suit off him.

He’s standing in the Caribbean surf, grinning at me, feeling the water and the sun on his skin for the first time in fifteen years.

My father used Creel to pull Aleksei out the window, but then disconnected to try to shoot me. His mistake. See, like I already said, Creel is a hell of a good guy. He used the wrecking ball as a safety line, and pulled Aleksei to safety. Then, as the building came down around them, they made their way to street level.

Felicia and I … That’s a hard pill to swallow. Apparently Mephisto or someone offered to save her life if she gave over her soul, and Felicia, impulsive goofus that she is, agreed.

So now she’s off doing demon stuff, somewhere. I got a letter from her. She said she’d visit, and I trust her. No sign of her yet, but I trust her. What we have is real, not that storybook bullshit. She’ll come around.

I wish I could say “AND MARTY IS A-OKAY TOO!” I love those endings, the big fake-outs where everyone gets iced and then suddenly, NOPE, THEY ALL LIVE HAPPILY EVER-AFTER.

Granted, this isn’t quite that; Felicia did die, and I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again. Aleksei, well, that just made sense, and I hadn’t properly thought the situation through.

Johnny’s up the beach in a different house; finally walking around again, looking handsome as a motherfucker. I never realized how much he and I had in common. You know, he tried to be a hero once, too?

It was only one night, and it’s not like he beat Bullseye or beat Spider-Man or Venom or fucked the Black Cat or uncovered a massive global conspiracy or …

You get the picture.

Johnny’s here, Aleksei’s here, Felicia’s around, maybe, so …

So you’d figure, “Marty’s probably about to pop out on this idyllic beach, too!”

But he’s not. He’s dead.

Martin Blank died saving my life, New York, and probably also the world.

But still, knowing the dumb-ass mixed-up universe we live in, he probably just bonded with the Darkforce dimension, and now he’ll end up being some kind of super-powerful all-being, like those fuckers who wanted to see whether or not I’d kill Spider-Man.

At least, that’s what I’d like to think.

When Reed first put forward the idea of a “pocket dimension,” I wasn’t exactly thrilled. Sure, it’s an idyllic island, from which I can instantly access New York, L.A., Atlantis, the Shi’Ar homeworld, and anywhere else my work might take me, but still, it seemed so distant.

Then Captain America reminded me that news travels sloooow in the world of super-villains. That bounty on my head is still going to be very real to a lot of people, years after those who would’ve paid it are long dead and buried, or, in my father’s case, dead and incinerated by the state.

They never found Punisher’s body.

I only got two letters while I was in the hospital. One was from him.

It read:


Bet those fuckers are sorry now, right? It was fun. I like you.

– Frank.”

The other letter was from Peter. He’s up and swinging again. He said he wanted to visit me. That he and I needed to have a talk. I actually agree; I don’t feel that burn anymore, that hatred. That rage. All I have now is curiosity. I want to know what made him what he is; I’m sick of guessing. I want to know him.

Killing my father was the single most gratifying thing I’ve ever done. If that makes me a sick man, then get me a doctor. On second thought, don’t. Get me a fuckin’ bottle of sunblock. I forgot one last time I was at the store.

Miss Peelo’s supposed to come down sometime next month, hopefully with a one-piece rather than a bikini. She told me her work with me and the gang got her excited about life again. She got hired by SHIELD to be one of their trackers, hunting down superhuman sexual predators and all that.

The word on the street is that Bullseye, Omega Red and Dragonfly have all vowed revenge, but Miss Peelo read their minds, and she says they’re scared of me. She knitted me this really cool yellow-and-brown sweater, and …

You know, I kind of like not being out there in the field, fighting for my meals.

Because I look at this sweater, and I think: Fun stuff.

So now, if you don’t mind, I’m gonna take a break. I’m gonna go let my toes sink into the wet sand. I’m gonna let my vibrations get in tune, and let the world mellow around me.

And then, later, we’re gonna hit San Francisco and try to get Aleksei laid.

A little change can shake the universe. One stray vibration can spread to reveal a network of deep cracks, of corruption and evil, to expose the world for something other than whatever you thought it might be.

And sometimes, that’s a good thing.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I smell hellfire and brimstone, vanilla and cinnamon.


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