San Francisco

Ben Reilly awoke from his nightmare. He rolled over in his bunk, curled in the foetal position, fighting against the hallucinogenic drugs that coursed in his system. He gave up in exhaustion, allowing his persona to revert to that of the Green Goblin. Slowly and deliberately, he stood up and moved to a wash hand basin nearby. In the mirror, his face was distorted by a wide, maniacal grin. A giggle escaped his lips as he pulled on a skin-tight green and purple costume.

He pulled a garish mask over his face and walked out into a corridor. Around him, people in long robes with pale facemasks walked past him, alongside him, going about their business. Reilly, now firmly in the Goblin persona, ignored the Scriers and made his way at an even pace to a specially designed training room, a long room with several targets strewn around the place. The Goblin regarded the targets with interest; the training had become second nature, and a habit he went through twice a day for the last two months.

However, he was now training three times a day, and had done since he encountered the mutant thief one week ago. The Goblin had almost been defeated but much worse he had been unmasked. He had carefully kept that fact secret from his master, Norman Osborn, he knew that to admit his identity had been compromised would result in a swift and painful punishment, and one thing the Goblin had been taught was self-preservation. So he trained harder, trying to wipe the memory of the thief from his mind. The Goblin realised that his other persona, his true personality, Ben Reilly, saw Gambit as a hero, as an object of hope, perhaps even a potential rescuer, although the glowing red eyes of the mutant haunted the Goblin. Still, it was a moot point, the thief had been killed, the object of the first successful demonstration of the Devil’s Heart.

He walked over to a rack of weapons and selected a handful of black metal blades, shaped like bats. He returned to the centre of the room and began to attack, throwing himself through a series of fluid acrobatic moves, launching the blades at various targets. He stopped after three minutes and checked his accuracy. Out of the twenty blades that he had launched, only four had missed their targets. The Goblin cursed himself; his accuracy had deteriorated over the past week as his alter ego contiued to struggle for dominance.

Smiling to himself, although displeased with his performance, he returned to the weapons and this time selected the pumpkin bombs, orange explosive orbs that were nothing more that glorified hand grenades. He demolished a few more targets with casual yet devastating accuracy. Pleased that his performance appeared to be improving, he moved towards a punch bag. For the next half-hour, he went through a series of pre-determined attacks, throwing punches and kicks, rotating through a series of martial arts techniques. Satisfied that he had completed his early morning training session, he halted, breathing heavily, slowly allowing his body to recover from its rigorous exercise.

It was then that the Goblin became aware of a keen buzzing in the back of his mind. It took a few moments to realise that something, or someone had triggered his sixth sense. Ben Reilly, possessing the proportionate speed, strength, and agility of a spider, was also blessed with a preternatural sixth sense that warned him of danger in his immediate vicinity. The Goblin balked, he was confident that here, in his master’s fortified complex, that no one from the outside world could gain entrance, let alone pose any threat to him or the multitude of Scriers and technicians who worked here. Nevertheless, the Goblin gathered an array of weapons into a pouch that he slung over his shoulder before he left the room. Outside the training area, the corridor was silent, which was highly unusual for such a busy complex. Cautiously, the Goblin listened and could hear no sound, except for the hum of distant machinery, most likely the electricity generators. The insistent buzzing remained in the back of his mind, occasionally growing in intensity then subsiding once again.

Someone is here, the Goblin thought to himself, moving through the complex, but where are the Scriers? The Goblin slowly moved towards the main command centre and to his disbelief, his question was answered. As he came closer to the heart of the complex, he found several of the Scriers, apparently unconscious, just lying where they had fallen. The Goblin paused to check the vital signs of one woman, and found that she was indeed still alive. What is happening, who is attacking us?

The scene in the command centre was similar; every member of the Brotherhood of Scrier assigned to Norman Osborn’s San Francisco operation lay in stupor. The Goblin slowly realised, even in his own feverish, fractured mind, that he was most likely the only person still active within the complex.

Suddenly, the Goblin spotted someone moving, he tensed, preparing for combat and then relaxed when he saw the familiar black robes of a Scrier.

“What has happened here?” The Goblin spoke in hysterical tones. “Who attacked us?” Immediately, he sensed that something was wrong, the buzzing in his head had intensified, screaming that he was in danger. His eyes widened behind the green scaly mask as the Scrier began to change shape. The dark robe melted into the person’s body, replaced by dark blue and red armour, the back of the robe shredded, becoming black and red tendrils that simply hung from the shoulders of the man before him. The pale visage of the Scrier was also morphing, a blazing red diamond standing out on its forehead. The skin remained pale, as human features became apparent, a small beard, raven hair, blood red eyes. In a matter of seconds, the Goblin was confronted with the creature that had incapacitated this whole complex, except for him.

“My dear Mr. Reilly, it has been too long.” The voice was calm and even, yet its presence felt like claws raking a blackboard. The Goblin shivered involuntarily as Sinister smiled at him, dark eyes glinting with evil purpose. “We have much to discuss, my errant creation…” Sinister took a step towards the Goblin, who was tensing his body, torn between fighting and fleeing. He chose the former.

Somewhere Else

Remy LeBeau was not enjoying the accommodation. For one, he appeared to be in some kind of barn, there were at least two levels to the building, all wooden floors and ceiling. But it wasn’t that, he’d been in worst places. No, the reason for his complaint was his condition. He was kneeling on the rough wooden floor, his head hanging low over his body. Remy LeBeau was chained to a stone wall, and it wasn’t a comfortable experience, instead of hanging by the chains, his arms had been stretched backwards as far as they could manage, and then the chains had been secured. Currently, his arms were held at an uncomfortable angle behind his body. Because of this, his whole body was stiff and he was having trouble just raising his head.

He wasn’t alone either. Eight men had gathered around him. At the head of the group was the ranger, Calidorn. Three of the men were archers and the remaining four all wore identical clothing, indicating that they were soldiers of some kind, or possibly watchmen. Remy struggled for a moment against his bonds and realised stubbornly if he tried to force his way out; his arms would surely break before the chains would, not dat I ‘ave de strength ta break chains, that’s Rogue’s trick. He twisted his wrists, trying to grab the chain but the pain in his outstretched limbs was intolerable. With a brief shuddering breath, he relaxed his body again. The ranger and his companions noticed that the thief had awakened.

Calidorn crouched down, taking Remy’s chin in his hand, raising his head so they could make eye contact. The look on his face was one of disgust. “So, you are awake, demon,” he spat the words out in a hateful tone. “Are you some spy come to live amongst us, so his brethren can learn our secrets.”

Remy replied, his voice as calm as he could muster, “Not a demon…mon ami,” He breathed. “Don’ know where I be, just need…a few directions.”

Calidorn snorted, releasing Remy’s head, “Lies, your kind are a blight on the landscape, thief, we’ve had our fair share of demons.” He stood and gestured to the men gathered around him. “Tomorrow, when the sun has reached its peak, you will be slaughtered like the animal you are, as a sign to our people that your evil cannot prosper.”

Remy was about to reply when the barn door suddenly flew open, a breathless young man staggering into the building. Remy could not see him very well, but got the impression he was a messenger, or a courier. He heard the young boy speak, “Sirs, I have word from the watchtowers, they are coming, tonight, across the plains.”

Calidorn spoke in shocked tones, “Tonight?” he exclaimed. He turned to Remy and lashed out with his foot, catching Remy across the chin, “So you brought your brethren with you, demon. Two of you remain here, the hellspawn are no doubt here for their companion, I want him kept alive.” Calidorn took five men with him and followed the messenger. Remy noticed that one archer and one watchman had been left. For over an hour, Remy stayed as still as possible, trying not to put any more pressure on his arms. The guards regarded him dispassionately, yet he noticed their fear, how they fidgeted when they thought he wasn’t looking.

Then the screaming started. Remy heard the sounds of battle in the distance, growing louder and more intense with every passing minute. He heard the cries of men and women as the invaders cut them down. Remy raised his head slightly and spoke to the watchman, “Hey, you wanna let me up here, sounds like you could use de help, non?”

The guard ignored him, so much for that, Remy thought. He was uncomfortable though; he could hear the sounds of wholesale massacre outside yet he was powerless to intervene. Remy’s mind was filled with images from his past, the night that his life had taken a turn from the dark path he had blindly followed. He remembered the screams and the smell of blood, and the shame washed over him as he also remembered his part in that ordeal.

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