“What the hell’s new?” mumbles Thunderball, as he runs.
His costume was trashed in the chaos, his mask, half burnt off, is all that remains. He had to ‘commandeer’ a pair of jeans, which he’s sure he’ll laugh about someday. Not today.
Spiderman swings in over-arching loops above him, punchy little slingshots on the up, then free-fall on the down.
“You’re loving this, are you?” Thunderball shouts, annoyed.
“What’s not to love?” Spiderman says. “Hey, I don’t mean to be rude, but have we fought before?”
“Are you fucking serious?” Thunderball shouts, swinging and missing.
“Well, I have wrassled a lot of big donks. No offence.”
“Yeah, we fought…” Thunderball mumbles, swinging his wrecking ball, missing again.
“Oh. How did it go?”
Thunderball growls with anger, punching and collapsing a wall as he runs.
One block away, Iron Fist and Power Man are collecting debts from a cheap client. Luke Cage is arguing with the fat, cigar-smoking man, when Iron Fist hears the noise and goes out onto the man’s crabby little balcony.
“On it” says Cage.
They go to leap off the fire escape, when a small flock of pigeons, shaped like the Immortal Dragon, catch Iron Fist’s eye. The birds arc into the sky, bend and curve, dissipating as they pass Dr Strange, who is standing on the roof of the place next door.
“Come up,” his voice says.
“I have cast a spell of protection around him. He is fine.”
“Oh, not so well for you, then?” Spiderman’s banter drifts up from the street.
The fight tumbles through an alley in a poor district. People watch from the balconies and doorways of their tatty apartments.
“I just don’t get you guys,” Spiderman says. “I mean, a heist? Isn’t that a little too old school?”
“Shut up,” Thunderball grunts.
“Even if you get away, everybody knows it was you. You’re too big to not be noticed. How you gunna spend it?”
“I said shut up, man!”
“Be damned!” Cage says, smiling. “Spidy’s too quick for him, but he’s too tough for Spidy to take down.”
“Why don’t we just end it, Doctor?” Iron Fist asks.
“Why, Daniel? Look at him. So young, happy, innocent.”
“Sounds like you got a man crush, Doc,” says Cage.
“We are watching unbridled youth, gentlemen. Why spoil that?”
“Of Spiderman? Of course! He is a cat, lying in the sun of a window. Anything I have to offer would just spoil that perfection.”
Cage and Iron Fist give each other a confused shrug while Dr Strange watches below with a warm smile.
Thunderball lands a blow.
“Do you mind?” Spiderman holds his head, while clinging to the underside of a delivery bay. “Hey. Did you really used to be a scientist…?”
The fight spills into the mechanic’s inside.
“Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” Thunderball fumes. “I know! Okay! I know! This heist, it’s dumb and lacks any imagination and fuck it all! But here I am, asshole!”
“Asshole? Me? You’re the one trashing some poor slob’s workplace!”
“I’m sick of this! It’s beneath me! You’re beneath me!”
“Sheesh! Aren’t you in a mood.”
“YOU’RE FUCKING BENEATH ME!” Thunderball screams, throwing the contents of the scrap metal bin.
“Yet here we are,” Spiderman’s says, dodging as shreds of metal punch through the wall.
“Um, Doc?” Iron Fist says.
“My spell of protection applies to all in the area, Daniel. It is also laced with one of correction. They are too absorbed to notice their damage fixing itself.”
“So they’re fighting for nothing?” Iron Fist asks.
“Freedom ain’t nothing,” Cage says. He is watching, with Dr Strange. “Fifty on black, says he gets away. Seems angrier than usual.”
“Done,” Strange smiles.
Hit hard, upside-down, Thunderball smashes through the mechanic’s wall, embedding into the alley’s other side. A car motor smashes into his face. He brushes it off, only to have his face covered by webbing.
“Goo,” he sneers, pulling it free.
“I invented it!”
Spiderman is hit so hard he flies through the air past the three on the roof, smashing a ledge on his way, dislodging gargoyles either side.
Iron Fist and Power Man are so busy watching, they don’t notice the slightest circle of light around Strange’s pinkie finger.
“I dunno…” says Cage.
“Hm…?” says Strange.
“Should it be going down like this, Doc? That was a big hit.”
“You were right, Luke. Thunderball is angry.”
“Angry opponents are easier to beat,” Iron Fist says.
“No. Thunderball has the power of Norse mythology running through him. All these years, he has barely tapped its limitless potential, because he thinks too much.”
“I don’t get it?”
“Now he is genuinely angry, base. Not defeating his power with logic.”
“Surely, thinking is-“
“Not always, Daniel. Instinct and mythology are a powerful mix. There are many energies he could channel through that wrecking ball.”
“Really, Doc? I mean, a wrecking ball? Damn, I thought my silk shirts were out-dated…” Cage says, in the background.
“Ow,” Spiderman mumbles, picking himself up off a third story roof.
“Thunder?” he looks over the ledge. “Or you prefer Mr Ball? We know each other well enough now. Your full name seems awkward.”
Thunderball leaps into the air above Spiderman and the building, wrecking ball raised, crackling with energy, ready to hammer down.
“You can call me Spidy,” says Spiderman.
Thunderball is still in the air when Spiderman leaps over him, latching onto the underside of his chin as he goes, only pigeons for company.
“Y’know, that was a monster hit, but I’m feeling really good, dude! Like, I dunno, I’ve hit second puberty,” Spiderman says, throwing Thunderball through the air.
Up on the other roof, Power Man and Iron Fist fail to see three of Strange’s fingers now have small glows.
Thunderball is flat on his back in an alley where laundry workers are on a smoke break. A billboard, with all its wrought iron framing, shatters across his midriff.
“I didn’t know Spiderman was that strong,” Iron Fist says.
“You sure you’re not cheating me outta fifty, Doc?” Cage says.
Still on his back, Thunderball throws some of the framing, hitting the attacking Spiderman.
Most of Strange’s fingers are now busy.
Thunderball, holding his ribs, beaten, eye swollen, runs down an alley, picking up some of the heist money he dropped in the fight, and into the Hood’s cloak.
“Where were you and your fucking hood!?” Thunderball snaps.
“Busy. The Human Torch. What happened to you?” Parker says.
“Spiderman. Whatever,” Thunderbolt sneers.
“Sp-? He doesn’t have the power to-“
“I SAID whatever!”
And they are gone.
“Aw! Not fair!” Spiderman says, arriving too late. “I wanna hood.”
“Damn! I told y’all!” Cage whoops, slapping Strange’s shoulder. “Even though you supered Spidy up!”
“What makes you think-?”
“Hey, I can tell!”
“This isn’t fun and games you two,” says Iron Fist.
Dr Strange, still smiling, continues to watch the street below.
“And home in time to write those essays…” Spiderman says, swing up, out of there.
“’Write those essays’. Happy puns, even when he thinks no-one can hear him. Can you imagine the freedom? The joy! He is my favourite.”
“I thought you weren’t allowed to have favourites for some reason?” Iron Fist asks.
“I can do as I please. Why not favourites, Daniel?”
Strange hands Luke his wager and vanishes.
“Thank you, gentlemen. A most pleasant distraction,” his voice lingers.
Back turned, looking down at the street they are about to climb down to, Cage says:
“Better not be no magic fifty that disappears on me, either...”
Iron Fist watches over his shoulder, where Strange was, before following Cage down the fire escape.
Spiderman swings through the air, easy, whistling at tune.