SPIDER-MAN (Spider-sense goes wild, he clutches his head): Owww … oh, god …
SPIDER-GIRL: That’s fine. It’s all right. You’re just remembering more and more details. Trust me, your memory’s got worse coming.
SPIDER-MAN: Mephisto … the last thing he said was that he would take away our future child. The best of both of us, he said … (Stares at her for a long moment.)
SPIDER-GIRL: Aw. You’re makin’ me blush here, Dad.
SPIDER-MAN: But all this … how can you even BE? If you were erased, if we were never together …
SPIDER-GIRL: Here’s the trick with Mephisto. They call him the lord of lies, but that’s about the least accurate name ever. Mephisto never, ever lies, especially when he’s cutting a deal. He hides the truth, he misdirects, he obfuscates, but he DOES NOT LIE. Every word is a weapon. The child you will never have. The child who will never be. He was correct. You and Mom couldn’t HAVE a child. The child could not BE. Because you HAD a child. She already WAS.
SPIDER-MAN: But we didn’t … we couldn’t … [Stops short.] But we did, didn’t we? During all that business with Ben Reilly and … but she wasn’t … wasn’t …
SPIDER-GIRL (as gently as possible): She wasn’t anything you were told she was.
SPIDER-MAN: You mean … (Finally gets it. Closes his fists so tightly they crack.) I’m going to kill Norman Osborn.
SPIDER-GIRL: Eventually. But not over this. We have bigger problems, dad. It’s two minutes to midnight and the devil’s holding all the cards. But it’s okay, there’s a plan. See, we have one trick Mephisto doesn’t know about, CAN’T know about …
(BACK TO THE FUTURE! MIDDLE-AGED PETER PARKER AND MAY PARKER in 2025 …)
MIDDLE-AGED PETER: He can’t read minds. See, I’m a nerd. I love information. I love to read. Maybe I don’t take advantage of it enough, but it’s fun, and every so often it saves lives. This time around it was going to save everything.
Because I was an Avenger. For months. And I lived in Tony Stark’s tower and there were days I had nothing better to do than read Avengers case files. And boy howdy, did I ever read. I was amazed to find out how much had gone on I’d never suspected. Heck, the whole planet is always one bad zigzag away from being wiped out. The only amazing thing about Stanford is that it didn’t happen every day.
But it didn’t, at least, not in those days. So I read about how we did it, how we always managed to keep the earth alive. We had great big volumes just about Mephisto, most of which came down to “stay the hell away and leave it at that.” But WOW, had he ever gotten his butt whupped over and over again. More than any other villain, Mephisto’s history was just one big failure after another. He sometimes made incremental progress, but he didn’t have a single major win under his belt. The one that struck me the most was the time the Black Panther beat him. Because T’Challa took advantage of one very little-known fact that he threw in Mephisto’s face: He can’t read minds. At all. Or control them.
(T-MINUS FIVE DAYS TO ONE MORE DAY. MARY JANE’S BEDROOM AND HER MYSTERY VISITOR.)
THE VISITOR: And this will give you the advantage you need when the time comes. Which is sooner than any of us would like …
(SPIDERS MAN AND GIRL)
SPIDER-GIRL: Time to take one more look at the last day. Time to go live it all again, and this time get it right. Watch everything again, knowing now what you do about what’s going on, and have a little faith.
SPIDER-MAN: How are you even traveling like this? How can you even do it?
SPIDER-GIRL: My secret for the moment. Take my hand, Dad … (He does so, and both vanish.)
(THE ISLAND OF SILENCE. LOKI AND THE SEER.)
LOKI: You. I can smell it when someone has an angle. You had an angle as well. I can always tell. Why did it take me so long with you?
THE SEER: You never did understand me as well as you fancied you understood all those around you. But then again, how could you? Close as you were, you never understood what drove me. Like Peter and his Mary Jane, some things must be taken on faith …
(MARY JANE’S ROOM)
MARY JANE: Why are you doing this?
THE VISITOR (Stands at the window, watching lightning flash outside): Why do you do what you do? Why do you stay at the side of a man who seems to take nothing seriously, who fails again and again and again? For whom some might say the only thing YOU were the only right thing that ever happened to him? Why do you return to a man who might fail a thousand times ten thousand times?
MARY JANE: Because … because I believe in him.
THE VISITOR: Indeed. (The ground shakes with thunder.) Interesting. Do you know what the Norse believed caused earthquakes? (No answer, so she responds to her own rhetorical question.) They say at Ragnarok, Loki was punished by being chained forever beneath the jaws of the Midgard Serpent in the Island of Silence, to writhe beneath his poisonous fangs forever. Loki was banished to be left alone in agony for all eternity. Yet one accompanied him, bringing a bowl to catch the venom and relieve his pain. And every so often she must turn aside to empty the bowl, and when the poison stings Loki, the earth trembles with his rage. (Long pause.) And why would she stay with him? The only reason for someone to believe in such a man, to stay with such a man, is an unshakeable belief in them. An endless faith that no matter how many times they fall down, they will get back up once more. That no matter how many times they disappoint those around them, they will come back and make things right. Fidelity, my dear. To understand that it is not important that the one you love gets it right the first time … only to know that they will always get it right the last time. And sometimes you are all that stands between him and the venom of the world. You cherish fidelity above all else. And throughout all the nine worlds there is but one whose name is forevery synonymous with Fidelity …
(THE ISLAND OF SILENCE)
LOKI (with dawning realization): Sigyn …
THE SEER (Hood drawn back, a raven-haired goddess of great beauty, with a mischievous smile): Sigyn. Who else would accompany you to the end of the world and beyond? (Draws nearer.) And perhaps wily Loki has not considered that he is not the only one who can choose a champion. And what icon would Mary Jane Parker best represent than the goddess of fidelity?
(LOKI is momentarily speechless with surprise. She takes the chance to engage in a passionate embrace.)
SIGYN: Now, my love. Now, let us save our champions.
(MARY JANE. PETER PARKER. MEPHISTO. THE DEAL.)
MEPHISTO: … you two will no longer be married, because you two will NEVER HAVE BEEN married.
MARY JANE (Thought-caption): Are you in?
PETER (Caption): I’m in.
(CLOSEUP OF THE TWO – shared caption) All right, you son of a bitch. Let’s do this.
TO BE CONCLUDED, TRUE BELIEVERS!
Last Edit: Jan 14, 2012 7:00:58 GMT -8 by paulpogue
LOKI’S NARRATION: It all started with Norman Osborn …
SOMEWHERE ELSE. SOME TIME AGO. NORMAN OSBORN AND MEPHISTO.
OSBORN: My soul, then.
MEPHISTO: I already HAVE your soul. You’ll need to do something better than that.
OSBORN: I want to take away all he has. I want to destroy him.
LOKI: What Osborn didn’t know and Mephisto elected not to tell him was that those are not the same thing. Spider-Man is as much defined by what he has LOST as by who he IS …
MEPHISTO: I can take away that which is most important to him … and give you back that which matters most to you. And all you need is an assassin and the right bullet at the right time and place. Let me tell you when …
SIGYN’S NARRATION: Mephisto is hate. Pure hatred. He knows no other element. He doesn’t understand the love and devotion of parent for child. And that was his weak point. Ironically, he even knew it and knew he needed to attack the Parkers there. Which was where it all fell apart …
(ONE MORE DAY! PETER and MARY JANE stand hand in hand as MEPHISTO continues monologuing
PETER (aloud): Tell me exactly. How does this work?
MEPHISTO: Your marriage is but a stitch in time that I will simply, painlessly remove … (His words recede into the background for the duo, not much more than “blah blah demonic blah …)
PETER (Thought caption): I hope we know what we’re doing. And that your little friend giving us this telepathy trick knows what THEY’RE doing.
MARY JANE (Thought caption): We’ll know soon enough. Here we go … (ALOUD) WE’RE NOT DONE YET. You’re going to give him a chance at happiness, because of what I can offer you.
MEPHISTO: And what, pray tell, might that be?
(MARY JANE leans in close to whisper to him)
MARY JANE: I’m going to offer you a deal, which is more than you deserve. Walk away. Walk away now and you won’t be destroyed.
MEPHISTO: How dare you …
MARY JANE: I DARE, because we know what you’re doing. Game’s up, tiger. We know about Norman. We know about everything. YOU caused this, and because of that, we don’t have to give you a damn thing to undo it. (She raises her voice again, goes over by Peter’s side.) You had your chance. No deal.
MEPHISTO: Do you have any idea what you are doing?
PETER: For once in our lives, yes. No deal. You still have time. RUN.
PETER (thought caption): And as I recall it, right about here is where SHE showed up --
SPIDER-GIRL (offscreen voice): Pop quiz, hotshot: Amoronsayswhatthwip?
MEPHISTO: Wha –
SFX: THWIPP! (Spider webs to the face! High kick to the chin!)
SPIDER-GIRL: I swear to god, that one never gets old.
SPIDER-GIRL: “You!” I’m disappointed! All this effort two generations have put into branding, and we still get “you”? Does the big symbol on the chest not give it away? It’s the frequently sensational, often spectacular, but never anything less than amazing SPIDER-GIRL! (She punches him with all she’s got, and much to everyone’s surprise, the devil goes sprawling …) Wait, wait, here’s one for you: “Spider-Girl? But that’s impossible!” [Kicks him in the face.] Here’s another: “Not even Spider-Girl can stop me – OOFF!” [Slams him against the wall.] Or my all-time favorite: [Grabs him again, slams him through the wall so hard it shatters the wall and sends him careening through, only to break another wall.] “Spider-Girl? Didn’t I fool your parents and erase you from having ever existed?” Here’s a hint, dirtbag: NOT. HARDLY.
SPIDER-GIRL (Looks over at her family): So right around now you’re probably wondering how your not-yet-existent daughter is knocking Mephisto all over the place and not getting turned into a cinder. (She calls out through the hole in the wall) You wanna tell them, or should I? (No response. She shrugs.) That’s the thing with these demons. They don’t have any power over you that you yourself don’t give them. They’ll chase you down and sweet-talk and take you to pieces with words, but they don’t have any POWER over you. He can KILL you, he could kill ME, but that’s not what he wants and he knows it. All they can do is talk you into defeat. And lemme tell you something -- that’s a PARKER specialty. We face the tough choices. Nobody ever said we didn’t. Show up for the date or save the life? Get the good job or keep the kid from getting shot? Bad things don’t happen to us because we attract them; bad things happen because we choose to accept them for the greater good. Like when you make yourself out to be the biggest mook in the history of the world to save a billion lives from Mephisto. Maybe we don’t win in the beginning, but we always pull it off in the end. We have a word for it … the Parker Luck.
MEPHISTO: ENOUGH! (The demon tears into the room, roars up into his most impressive size, the devil riding the crest of hell, no longer a charming Shakespearian sort, but an image out of nightmares, and in his face, reflected over and over again, AUNT MAY falling in a spray of blood as she is shot …) You want to talk about power, mortal? Let me explain POWER to you. Your aunt will DIE, and it will be YOUR FAULT. Can you live with that? I can restore her! Bring back her life! I CAN GIVE YOU THAT GREAT POWER!
PETER: Seriously, man, you don’t want to leave an opening like that for me to finish the rest of the sentence. Everyone dies. Everything ends. And this time around, it won’t be my fault … it’ll be YOURS. If it’s war you want, war you’ll get. Now … GET THE HELL AWAY FROM MY FAMILY.
MEPHISTO: I am not what you think I am. There is more than just Mephisto. I have allowed you to live this long, but do not doubt I can kill you where you stand! I am the lord your god. I am the creator of this so-called age of heroes, and I will un-create it just as easily. Do you think it a simple matter to create a super-soldier? To have a spider irradiated just so? To drive a reality manipulator to kill her friends and wipe out her own race? All my doing. I am the oldest creature in creation. I am the spirit of this planet and the force that gives you meaning. I am that which endures through the ages … … I have created the Avengers and destroyed the Avengers and all they stood for and then YOU … RUINED … EVERYTHING.
(He charges full force at PETER, ready to hit him with whatever he can muster. SPIDER-GIRL, MARY JANE and PETER all stand firm – everyone understands that if Mephisto really feels like chucking the rules out the door and give up getting the souls he craves, he just might be able to kill them, but backing down is not what they do. He approaches spitting fire, and an instant before his bolt strikes, it dissipates against an unseen force field.)
OFF-PANEL VOICE: Ruin everything?
(All turn and see LOKI and SIGYN, surrounded by a potent red aura, descending on the group exactly as one might expect a god-and-goddess couple.)
LOKI: Mephisto, Mephisto, let us be fair – that is, after all, what he does. (His expression hardens.) And let us be clear on one other thing – only one villain gets credit for creating the Avengers, and it will be the same one who destroys them. As for you … (Flicks a finger, a bright red flash emerges.) Begone. (And with that, without even a flourish, Mephisto is simply no longer there.)
SPIDER-MAN: Wait … how did you … (Everything around them begins to fade slowly …)
LOKI: That detail is unimportant. For the moment, anyway. What is important is that things will go back to the way they were. Except for what doesn’t, of course. Your memory will be confused, but will return in time. Your aunt will survive, for what little time remains to mortal gnats -- (SIGYN elbows him unsubtly) -- and with time, thrive. Your occasional friend Harry will remain as well, as he has his own part to play in all this –
SPIDER-GIRL: You’re just gonna have to trust him on this one, Dad.
SIGYN: And the world will remember you. (Places an arm around LOKI, as they, too, begin to fade.) But know this – no matter what happened, the world will always have reason to remember Peter and Mary Jane Parker …
SPIDER-GIRL (Gives a little wave as she too fades.): Aaaaand that’s it for me. Be seeing you around, Mom, Dad. Maybe sooner than you think …
MARY JANE (Turns to Peter): Face it, Tiger … (and then ALL fades away …)
BACK IN THE ISLAND OF SILENCE – LOKI AND SIGYN ARM IN ARM
LOKI: And now everyone lives happily ever after.
SIGYN: You know such things are impossible. The fight never ends. But we keep enduring. As Spider-Man and his love will. Only one things puzzles me, my love – this was far too dangerous a plan simply to cause chaos for the fun of it. In other words, dear … what was YOUR angle?
LOKI: You know me too well, my love. It was simplicity itself. It all goes back to Tony Stark, who always did reach further than his grasp. Which is what is admirable about him, but makes him … predictable. He thinks he keeps secrets, but Loki sees all things and merely awaits the chance to strike. And there is one secret Stark cannot keep because he no longer remembers, not since wiping his own memories for good. It also allowed me to help our champions to restore things to where they needed to be. Rendering me a simple opportunity to take something in hand, take my cue from Mephisto … (he looks down into his palm where a glittering red gem rests … an Infinity Gem …) … and rewrite reality.
EPILOGUE: PETER AND MARY JANE’S APARTMENT. T-PLUS ONE MINUTE FROM ONE MORE DAY.
(PETER PARKER sits on the couch, arms wrapped around himself, shivering, while MARY JANE stands near, half poised to walk out the door.)
PETER: I’m not even sure who I am anymore. Not even sure what happened.
MARY JANE: (VOICEOVER NARRATION): And there he goes again … same old Peter, shrinking into himself and whining when the going gets tough … easiest thing in the world would be to just walk out and leave him to this … whatever “this” is … [Her hand trembles at the knob.]
MARY JANE (ALOUD): We’ve been through so much, Peter. We don’t even know what’s real. Our marriage was gone, then it was back, then gone again. But we can choose to overcome.
PETER (Almost to himself as much as to her): I have so many memories overlapping the same time that I can’t tell which one is real. I remember Mephisto … I remember someone helping us… but that face, so indistinct, reminds me of my own – was it Ben? It was Ben’s costume, wasn’t it? Or am I just going insane? How do we endure it? Maybe … we should just call the whole thing off.
MARY JANE (Turns as if to leave): If that’s what you want …
[MARY JANE’S hand touches the knob. Turns it … and pushes the door shut. Click. She turns wordlessly to him. One panel of silence. They stare at each other, each making the same realization. Despair gives way to rising hope and understanding, and each gives voice to the same two words that change everything.]
And that's that! Thanks for bearing with me through this, gang. Whole thing could probably use five or six rounds of editing to make it structurally work a bit better, but hell, I told the story I wanted and got all the pieces in that I wanted. Spider-Girl makes the save, Spidey planned it all ahead of time with Spider-Sense, Mephisto was behind everything, Sigyn and Loki are behind everything ELSE, Reality Gem, now everyone knows Baby May is still out there. Hard to believe that Sigyn has only appeared in the Marvel Universe a few times, despite being a crucial part of Asgardian myth, but the Goddess of Fidelity married to the Trickster God was far too good a piece of metaphor not to use .
Thanks! I considered and discarded about a zillion different ideas for how this one could play out over the last couple of years -- you should have seen how many variations I had on the "That Which Endures" theory -- and surprisingly, I didn't have any detailed notes on how to get Norman involved in any deeper manner, but heck, we can just consider that the next major storyline in the alt-universe Brand New Day .
(Note to any Marvel types inspired to use Sigyn in the future: You're welcome . )