DCM Vertigo


Moon Knight

Parallel Lives
by Drutz

Marc Spector pushed himself harder and harder, grunting with the exertion of push-up after push-up. His shoulders ached, but he wouldn't quit. He told himself that he did these daily sessions to stay in shape, but it was more to the point that he sought to punish himself. In many ways, his life was based around the theory of redemption -- that through his nightly excursions as Moon Knight he might atone for the sins of the past.

When his strength finally gave out, he dropped to the floor with a thud. His breathing was hoarse and rapid, and his head pounded. He didn't even hear Marlene Alraune enter the room.

"Steven . . . why do you push yourself so hard?" Marlene asked. "You're not feeling well."

Steven Grant looked up and smiled. Marlene was wearing a tight bodysuit and was looking tired -- she'd obviously been working out in another part of the large gymnasium located inside the Grant Mansion.

"I've got to keep up with you, Marlene. I know how you'd kill me if I developed love handles . . . "

Marlene knelt beside him, running a hand through his dark hair. "You're all sweaty," she said, making a playful face, before kissing him on the nose.

Steven pulled her closer. "Yeah, all sweaty. Want to join me for a shower?" he asked, a cheeky grin on his lips.

Marlene nuzzled his cheek. "Okay, Mr. Grant, but don't think I'm letting you forget your doctor's appointment this afternoon . . . "

"That's hours away . . . " he muttered, nuzzling the crock of her neck.

Marlene smiled. "Mmmmm. Hours, Mr. Grant? Think we can find a way to occupy your morning?"

"Oh, I think so . . . "

Leila O'Toole spun smoothly, kicking out with a well toned leg. She made contact with her assailant, sending him reeling to the ground. She felt the energy swelling inside her and fell into a crouch, her hands in front of her. Energy projected from her hands, striking the man on the ground. He screamed, his white cape and mask beginning to burn. The man named Moon Knight died, while Plasma stood over him and laughed. Suddenly a loud rumbling surrounded her. She turned to face the sound and saw a subway train rumbling towards her . . .

Leila woke with a start. She was still in her penthouse in New York City -- donated by the Kingpin. Sweat dripped from her forehead. The dream again . . . ever since Moon Knight and Ghost Rider had tricked her, nearly killed her in a subway tunnel under New York, she had dreamed of her revenge. She had barely escaped that night, channeling her energy into the ground, allowing her to drop to safety. But the fear she had felt . . . it still haunted her.

As heir to the legacy that was the Living Monolith's, she should be above such fear. There was only way to conquer it, she knew . . . she would have to vanquish the man who had nearly killed her -- she would have to face Moon Knight . . .

Wilson Fisk, the crimelord known to some as the Kingpin of Crime, stood in his office, watching over the city -- his city, he thought. The city's buildings were stretched out like chess pieces, the people of New York were his pawns, or so he thought. Behind him, an aide moved slowly from one foot to another. When Fisk spoke, his voice rumbled throughout the room.

"Tell me again what you've learned about my newest asset, Watkins. Leave no detail unmentioned."

Watkins, a thin, shaky man, cleared his throat. "Leila O'Toole is a mutant, sir, with the same ability to channel cosmic energy that her relative, known as the Living Monolith, possesses. O'Toole has clashed with several costumed heroes in the past -- including Moon Knight and Ghost Rider. During that case, she was attempting to use the Cult of the Monolith to gain power but when that organization was destroyed, she turned to another fringe organization, the Knights of the Moon . . . "

The Kingpin turned, holding up a hand to stop Watkins. "The Knights of the Moon . . . an odd name, very similar to Plasma's hated enemy, Moon Knight. Their costumes are similar, as well?"

Watkins looked at his notes, nodding. "Um, yes, sir. And at various stages of his career, Moon Knight has used items that were obviously Egyptian in design . . . "

"Interesting. These Knights of the Moon serve the god Khonshu?"

"Yes, sir, or so they believe," answered Watkins.

Fisk puffed on his cigar, his brow furrowed in concentration. "Find out more about both Moon Knight and this Khonshu. Find out if I may be able to use this to my advantage . . . "

Watkins seemed somewhat taken aback. "Yes, sir, but I fail to see how -- "

"Do it, Watkins . . . " Fisk's eyes narrowed, " . . . it would very much displease me if you didn't."

Steven Grant arrived at the doctor's office around one o'clock. His head had begun pounding and his vision was blurred as he entered the office. He frowned . . . he'd been afraid to come find out what was wrong with him. His constant brushes with death had instilled him a deep fear of the Great Big Death -- the one from which he wouldn't return. He'd only been back from his latest scare for a little while . . . he didn't want to have to face death in the face again.

After being led into a room to wait for the doctor, Steven sighed. Perhaps he was being worried over nothing. Perhaps these were migraines . . . he certainly led a stressful life. Perhaps . . .

The door opened. Steven's eyes widened. Standing in the doorway was Stained Glass Scarlet, the beautiful redhead who'd turned her back on God to hunt down those that would prey on innocents . . . with lethal force if necessary.

"Scarlet . . . ?" Steven's mind rebelled against her presence, this couldn't be happening.

She crossed the room to him. "Moon Knight . . . there are forces at work that require your steadfastness and devotion. You must not give in to despair. Only in your faith can you find redemption . . . "

Steven frowned. "You're not real." He reached out with one hand. It found the soft red fabric of her hood and pulled her close, felt her breath on his face. It couldn't be . . . but she felt so real.

"Are any of us real, Moon Knight? Of your many selves, which is the real one -- Marc Spector . . . or Jake Lockley . . . or Steven Grant . . . or is the mask your real face? Are you Moon Knight in deed as in word?"

Steven pushed her away. "This is insane . . . " Trust her to come up with the one question that was bothering him at the moment.

Scarlet nodded. "Yes. But they are questions which must be asked, Moon Knight. And they must be answered."

Steven exploded. "What the hell does that mean?!"

The doctor stood in the doorway, blinking. "Excuse me, Mr. Grant?"

Steven glanced at him. Scarlet was gone . . . like she'd never been there.

"I'm . . . sorry. I . . . need some help, doctor."

The doctor nodded. "Yes, I've looked over your file. Let's see what we can find out, shall we?"

Gena slammed down the saucer in front of Crawley. The ever-present flies circles Crawley's head in droves. "So," she frowned, "back are ya, Crawley? Whatsamatter, they run you out of the Huddle House?"

Crawley shook his head. "Not at all, dear Gena. Actually, I have just discovered that the ambience in the aforementioned House of Huddle does not suit my delicate sensibilities . . . "

Gena raised an eyebrow, a smile on her lips. "Uh-huh. You stiff them?"

Crawley shrugged. "I offered to pay for my hamburger on Tuesday, but they refused."

Gena bit off a retort as the telephone rang. "You're saved by the bell, Crawley." She moved over to the phone and picked it up. "Gena's Diner. Yes, that's me. What . . . ?" Crawley saw Gena's face go pale. "Oh my god, are they okay? What hospital . . . yes, I'll be there." She hung up the phone.

Crawley leaned forward. "What's wrong, Gena? Bad news?"

Gena nodded. "Yeah, Crawley . . . it's my boys. They've both been shot in a drive-by . . . "

Steven Grant shook his head. After all those tests . . . it had come to this?

"You couldn't find anything wrong with me?"

The doctor smiled. "You seem like a man in perfect health, Mr. Grant. Now, of course there are many more tests we can perform . . . but, as I said, I don't think you have a physical problem."

"Then what kind of problem do you think I have?" asked Grant.

The doctor shifted uncomfortably. "Well, a man of your stature can sometimes feel enormous amounts of stress. I believe these headaches are psychosomatic in nature. I'd recommend a psychiatrist."

Steven shook his head. "No. No one is seeing into my mind."

The doctor leaned forward. "I think your mind is sending distress signals, Mr. Grant. Heed them . . . or you might find yourself in a deep problem. Shall I get you the name and number of a psychiatrist? Only the best, of course."

Steven sighed. "All right. But there's no guarantee that I'll go see him." As the doctor moved out of the room, Steven ran a hand through his hair. He'd certainly been through enough to drive anyone mad . . . given the way he'd nearly died when the vision of Khonshu had appeared, perhaps he would go see the psychiatrist. Otherwise, Marlene might be at risk being around him . . .

Plasma stood in front of her troops. Most of them wore white robes and hoods and large golden ankhs around their necks. They were the Knights of the Moon, the army of Khonshu.

"We have returned to this city to avenge our greatest defeat. When last we visited New York, our faith was tested and found wanting. But Khonshu, in his infinite wisdom, has granted us a second chance. Now we claim our destiny!"

The group roared its approval and Plasma smiled, reveling in the attention. She cared nothing for Khonshu or any god, of course, but his troops were very devoted. Eventually, she hoped to unite most of the cults in the Middle East . . . launch a Jihad like the world had never seen. And, of course, she would be on top at the end.

Plasma watched her loyal followers pump their fists in the air and she smiled. "One way or another, Moon Knight," she murmured, "I'm going to make you pay for humiliating me. I won't rest until you're dead . . . "

Next Issue: Moon Knight vs. the Knights of the Moon! Plus, more on Gena's kids, the Kingpin continues his plotting, and Marlene makes a MAJOR decision . . .