DCM Vertigo


Moon Knight

Chance Encounters
by Toby Kernan

Jake Lockley steered his cab down Third Boulevard. Hardly a finer section of New York City, Jake favored this part of town, especially when gathering information. Third Boulevard was home to the prostitutes, the snitches, and a vast assortment of underworld criminals that provided the backbone of any good information network. Lockley needed information. His best friend's love, Chloe, the Knight Templar, was missing.

Jake felt responsible for Chloe's disappearance. Jake was just one of the identities of the man named Marc Spector. Another was the crime-fighter Moon Knight. Jake's friend Gena had come looking for Moon Knight, because her children had been nearly killed in a gang shooting. Gena had found Chloe instead, and convinced the girl to investigate the crime and bring the gang members to justice. Jake - having been so pre-occupied with the traumatic events plaguing Moon Knight and another of his identities, Steven Grant - had neglected Gena. Now, Chloe was gone, and it was Jake's responsibility to find her, regardless of the events of his own life.

Jake wiped the sweat from his brow. It seemed that all of his lives were falling to shambles. Sociopathic-killer Scarecrow was stalking Moon Knight, had murdered his psychiatrist, and knew about all of Marc's alter-egos. This had forced him to send Marlene Alraune, Steven's love, out of town to prevent her harm. Now this whole mess with Gena and Chloe and Jake's life. It sure seemed that Marc's luck was running most foul.

Jake pulled his cab into a spot in front of the Triple D Club, a drinking and dancing establishment where he had become lfriends' with the bartender and several of the dancers. It wasn't as though the thought of entering the Club excited Jake in any way. The drinks were watered down, and the dancers were either too young, too old, or just too damn ugly for his personal tastes, but many of the seedier elements of New York City seemed to frequent the establishment. Even better, employees seemed to have very good hearing, and would drop information on anybody for a twenty or two.

Jake walked up to the door, where a muscular security guard stood, guarding the door. Jake forgot his name, but it seemed to matter little, because he seemed to recognize Jake, and let him slip through the door with a small nod of his head. Inside, Jake made his way to the bar. He took a brief glance of the room, and noticed it was filled with its typical occupants. Low-level executives in bad suits hiding from their wives and unimpressive lives, a few sweaty truckers huddles at one table, and a small group a local lbangers huddled around one particularly young looking oriental dancer. Jake looked at the oriental girl-she was quite pretty, not more than eighteen years old. The problem was, he noted, she had that same nasty, glassy-eyed stare that normally came with the poor, young souls, mostly runaways and junkies, who ended up peddling their existence upon that stage.

"What is up, Jake?" Lockley heard, and turned his attention to the bar. Jake was lucky, because the main information source he was seeking was working tonight, a bartender nicknamed Templo.

"Templo, my man, how is business?"

"Same shit, different day, Jake. Got a new dancer though, Lisa, the oriental chick. She seems to be a hot commodity, if you like the type. I prefer a good, hot senorita myself. What are you drinkin', my friend?"

"Give me a shot of Crown Royal."

Jake and Templo continued their conversation of small talk. They talked about how bad the New York Knicks have become, and how it is time for the team to rebuild. They talked about the prostitute that was killed a couple of blocks away a couple of nights ago. Then the conversation turned to the ruckus at the club down the street, and Jake's quest for answers began to take a more fruitful turn.

"You hear what happened at the Crystal Triangle?" asked Templo as he pulled out a handful of beers for the waitress.

"Nah, what?" said Jake, pretending to be only half-interested.

"Lacey, one of the dancers, was there, on her night off. She said they were dancing, then all of a sudden she looked up, and there was gunfightin' and big old blasts in a room upstairs. Said a bunch of dudes went up, and then came down carrying a chick that was all bloody and shot up. Said the dudes were lead by some chick, and her hands were smoldering, like they were on fire or something. Turns out, the guys upstairs were lbangers from 'The People.' Guess they killed them, every last one of lem. Burnt big, nasty holes in them. Guess the place still hasn't got out the charbroiled stench."

The People, Jake had heard of the gang. A woman with smoldering hands, and a group of men with her. A lsuper' character of some type, with a gang, staking out new territory. This sounded like something Jake would hafta check out.

"Oh yeah, and Lacey said the smoldering chick had a big, old sword slung across her shoulder."

A sword, thought Jake. Damn, that was trouble. The combination of a sword and a gang fight led Jake to the conclusion that this was where Chloe had ended up. Worse still, the bloody woman being carried out didn't sound like she had faired the battle well.

"Sounds traumatic," said Jake. "Lacey here tonight?"

"Nah, doesn't work until tomorrow. Can give you her address though, if you are interested. Just don't mention you got it from me, okay."

Jake nodded, and after getting the address, he gulped the last of his drink, left Templo a generous tip, and bid the bartender goodnight.

Jake then walked outside and got into his cab. He looked at the address, and noticed it was a couple of blocks away. He hoped that the traumatic events of the night before would keep Lacy from going out this evening, and would allow him a chance to speak with her. He figured his best bet was to get a good description of the lsmoldering handed' woman, there couldn't be that many fiery-handed women walking New York City.

Suddenly, Jake was jarred from his thoughts by two women leaping in the back of his cab. They seemed to be very jumpy, their faces full of worry.

"You better get this cab moving now, buddy!" shouted one of them, as both turned to stare out the window behind them.

"But I'm not . . . " was all Jake could say before the bullets began flying. He heard the thud as several hit the back of his cab. The two women ducked lower in the seat.

"NOW, buddy, If you want to live . . . " shouted one of the girls.

Jake took the subtle hint, and pulled out quickly, racing down the street before him.

As he began driving, he noticed several cars following him, at a very rapid pace. He also noticed arms with pistols and semi-automatic rifles coming out of the cars. Jake then checked the road, and made a quick glance towards the two female passengers in his back seat. Both were in their mid-twenties and quite attractive. They both had a similar bleached blond hair, and could almost pass for sisters, except one had short hair and brown eyes, the other longer hair and blue eyes.

As Jake expertly guided his cab down the moderately busy ghetto streets, he took another glance at the cars pursuing him. It was dark, but it seemed to him that the passengers in the other car were wearing masks of some sort, and the guns they were welding didn't appear to be standard street fare.

"Excuse me, ladies," asked Jake, calmly, as he pulled a sharp right turn, and headed down a deserted street, "but where exactly am I going?"

The women seemed to look at each other, and try to think of a response.

"We are still working on that, for now, just drive . . . "

Jake pulled out into a busy intersection. For someone who was constantly on the offensive while driving - such is the life of a cabby - the maneuvering was no problem. The people pursuing were obviously not so adept at driving. As one of the pursuing cars hit the intersection, a large semi slammed into the side of it, hitting it with terrible velocity. Then the cars began to crash and pile up. Only Jake's cab and one of the pursuers seemed to avoid the fray, as they continued their game of chase down another street.

As Jake pushed his car down another nameless street, he watched in amazement as his back window shattered into a thousand shards, and a bullet went speeding through the glass and into the passenger seat. He glanced back, and saw one of the women, the one with the longer hair, pull several pistols from inside her jacket. She handed one to her friend, and the two began to return fire at the car behind them. Jake suddenly wondered how he had gotten caught up in this. He wondered if he was just a trouble magnet or something.

As the girls fired their weapons, one of them must have placed a very lucky shot, because as Jake watched, one of the bullets seemed to hit the driver. The car started turning wildly, crashing into a nearby building at high speeds, flipping over, and skidding to a stop against a light-pole. The two women seemed noticeably relieved by the events.

Jake drove for a little while longer, but it soon became apparent that nobody was pursuing them any longer.

"STOP!" shouted one of the women, and Jake pulled his car to the curb, and stopped. Quickly, the two women got out of the car. Jake just sat there, momentarily stunned by the strange turn of events. The girl with the short hair came up to Jake's window, as he rolled it down.

"Sorry about the window, but thanks for the ride," she said, as she threw a small wad of cash into his lap.

"That was some nice driving, though." she said, as she kissed Jake upon the cheek, and then the two women ran off into the night.

Jake just sat there for a moment, trying to gather his senses, touching the spot upon his face where she had kissed him. He got out of the cab, noticing he was in a pretty deserted part of town. He quickly placed a call to Frenchie, and found a shadowy alley to change into his Moon Knight costume. He hoped that he could quickly examine the crashed second car before the police found it. He knew it wasn't all that easy to get police into this part of town, so he figured he had a window of opportunity.

Moon Knight had been correct in his assumption, and he found the wreck untouched. This part of the city was little more than worn-down industrial buildings and warehouses, and it appeared nobody had been present to notice the accident, and call it in or investigate.

Moon Knight cautiously made his way towards the overturned car. He didn't see any movement, but he wanted to be sure, not wanting one of the occupants to still be alive and trigger-happy. His luck hadn't exactly been great lately, and he wasn't about to take the chance now. From his viewpoint, as he approached, he could see both the front passengers. The driver was crunched against the cracked front window, a steady stream of red seemed to pour from him. He could see the passenger's head was crooked at a wrong angle, and he was sure it was quite broken.

As Moon Knight walked up next to the vehicle, he was finally close enough to recognize the masks that the men wore upon their faces. They were green masks with red goggles upon the eyes. They were the signature masks of Hydra members.

Moon Knight knew Hydra well. They were an international terrorist organization, with their hands in just about anything and everything that was illegal and immoral. Moon Knight had fought its members before. He had once fought Fenris, the former twin leaders of Hydra. He had also had several run-ins with the organizations current leader, Cheshire. She would have killed him once, had it not been for the intervention of Batman and Arsenal.

Moon Knight began pulling the broken necked man from the wreckage when he noticed the Moon Copter flying overhead. Frenchie had been very quick getting to the location.

"What ez going on my friend?" asked Jean-Paul 'Frenchie' Ducamp, for his position in the helicopter's driver seat.

"Seems lJake' stumbled onto a Hydra attack," replied Moon Knight, as he checked the Hydra outfit for information about what exactly was happening. He found a computer disk and a piece of paper with an address and a time on it. Moon Knight recognized the address, it was in this section of town. He assumed it was a meeting place.

Moon Knight contemplated what to do. The date for the meeting was tomorrow, so he decided the best course of action was to take the disk and see what was on it, and hope it provided some valuable information. Moon Knight wasn't ready to take on Hydra at the moment, he wanted to being fully prepared for such an occasion.

"Let's go home, Frenchie," said Moon Knight, as he waited for the rope ladder from the helicopter to descend.

Moon Knight, out of his uniform, sat in the home of another of his identities, Steven Grant. He didn't much like the large mansion now. Once it had been his home, his sanctuary away from all the problems the lives of Moon Knight and Marc Spector created. Once it was the place where he and his love, Marlene Alraune, spent many nights together. Now Marlene was in hiding, away from his vicious enemy Scarecrow, and the mansion just seemed like a gigantic, empty, cold tomb. Without Marlene, the mansion had become just a shell, devoid of life.

Marc placed the disk into his computer, and clicked through the files. The first several he went through were detailed attacks of reports carried out against Hydra all over New York City. Someone had been sabotaging their operations, creating a great deal of problems for them. They had exposed several of the hideouts to the Super-Unit Police. They had wrecked a heroin smuggling operation in Gotham. They had stopped a counterfeiting shop on Paris Island.

As he read through, Marc noticed most of the attacks had been attributed to one person, a vigilante costumed lhero' who went by the moniker Vigilante. Then, after all the incident reports, Marc found two files detailing the lives and characteristics of two women. Marc recognized them as the two that embroiled him, as Jake, in this situation.

The first of the files was on the short-haired woman. Her real name was Wendy Conrad. At one time she had been known as the super-villain Bombshell, and was part of some group called the Death-Throws. She was a demolitions expert with a penchant for juggling and throwing explosives. She had apparently given up the criminal life, after one of her partners, Oddball, had been murdered by the super-villain killer known as the Punisher. Moon Knight had encountered him on a couple of occasions, and found him to be a very unpleasant man, psychotically obsessed with his killing. She apparently now was a secretary, living with a roommate who Marc recognized as the other woman in his cab.

The other woman was named Patricia Trayce. She was a former S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent, and now ran around New York City with guns and explosives, taking out super-criminal empires as . . . taa-daa . . . The Vigilante.

It was all starting to make sense now. Somehow Hydra had discovered the identity of Vigilante and decided she had become too much of a threat to their organization, and was out to eliminate her. He had gotten caught up in the middle.

Suddenly, Marc noticed the familiar beep of his computer, signaling that he had a new arrival in his e-mail. Without thinking, thinking it was maybe Marlene, he clicked upon his account, and checked the message.

It wasn't from Marlene. Instead there was a small animated cartoon. It featured a Scarecrow, hacking into a person with his scythe, blood flying, over and over again. A tiny automated voice said, continuously looping, "Everybody's gonna die . . . everybody's gonna die . . . everybody . . . "

Marc angrily flew up from the desk, and, with a swipe of his hand, sent the monitor crashing onto the floor, breaking in an explosion of electricity.

"Damn you, Scarecrow," mumbled Marc, as he walked from the room, "damn you . . . "

Next issue: Moon Knight crashes Hydra's party, Vigilante makes a special appearance, and Scarecrow finds a new friend!