By Veshark 22 Comments
Rated T+ for strong language and violence
In light of Moon Knight Month, I decided to stimulate those creative juices and pen a MK fanfiction tale. The following is essentially the story I'd write were I ever put in charge of the title (or a professional comic-book writer, hah). At present, I've finished up this first 'issue' with plans for about ten, but we'll see how the feedback goes before I start the next one.
Without further ado, introducing All-New Moon Knight, and the first part of a four-part 'Phases' story-arc:
“Would you like a cup? It’s not that drip-brew crap – this is the good stuff. Genuine espresso machine. Even’s got a bunch of Italian buttons on it…‘lavazza’…‘pronto’…I don’t even know what this one does, the names all end in vowels. Machine was donated during one of those events the brass holds every now and again. ‘Spector Corp’, was it?”
Detective Flint turned away from the chrome coffeemaker, and directed his attention back to the recipient of his offer for caffeine. The man-in-white was seated by Flint’s desk, imperceptibly still. He didn’t answer. At this late hour, the squad room was as soundless as the vacuum of space. Everyone else on night shift was out on rotation, and Detective Flint and his associate were the only living souls in Major Crimes.
Flint shrugged. The detective slumped back into his swivel chair and breathed a weary sigh. On his desk was a single case file marked ‘F.B.’, and just under those letters, his lieutenant had scribbled ‘Pass to Flint’. F.B. stood for ‘freak beat’; the Detective’s very own specialty. Other cops got the larceny cases, or the homicides committed by grown men who actively referred to themselves as ‘supervillains’.
But Flint…Flint had made a career out of cases like the one in that file. The ones that most of New York’s Finest would blink at. The freak beat.
“Right to business we go then. Sure, sure, business before pleasure. I can appreciate that. Y’know, your digs remind me of someone I work with…” Flint leaned forward in his chair, prompting a little squeak that was a cry for more WD-40, “You ever hear of the term ‘bad religion’? Well this one’s kinda like that. Not Jonestown, Scientology-bad - a little less so than that. But still…pretty messed up.”
Flint propped the case file open, and spread its contents on his desk like a poker player folding a hand. The evidence came pouring out. Forensic photos of the victims at various crime scenes across N.Y. – all of the corpses displaying extreme facial mutilation. Autopsy reports from the coroner; listing the details of the unlucky vics: names, DOBs, addresses. The separate pieces to a macabre jigsaw puzzle that would reveal the killer’s identity.
The man-in-white inched closer to Flint’s desk; moving for the first time since he’d sat down in the squad room. He perused the items before him in wordless inquiry. If the graphic images of mangled faces disturbed the man, there was nothing in his stoic façade that betrayed it. Detective Flint’s lower lip pouted in an expression of approval. The average Tom, Dick, or Harry would’ve lost their lunch by this point. For a civvie…
After a minute or two, the man retracted back to his original seated position, apparently finished with the file’s lurid contents. Flint had unwrapped a Weetabix; his long years of police work having made his appetite quite immune to rigor mortis. The detective shuffled the papers and photos back into their place. It seemed like the respectful thing to do. Eating in front of the dead was just like eating the dead – poor taste.
“Done, then?” Flint said between mouthfuls of processed wholegrain wheat, “If you want to break out the shorthand, now would be the time. Sex of the perp is male. Race’s unknown, though height’s supposed to be short – 5’7”, 5’8” maybe. M.O.’s all about the faces – real Jack-the-Ripper-Red-Dragon-type stuff. ‘Skinning of portions of facial epidermises’ was how the coroner’s report put it, I think. Motive, as aforementioned, appears to be religious.
“Most of this we got from this son-of-a-bitch’s last victim – the one that got away. The only one still breathing. ’Course now he’s got a plastic mask keeping the facial tissue to the bone…docs are talking about giving the poor prick pig-skin grafts. But I digress. Point being, he actually lived to tell the tale. Which brings us one step closer to IDing this perp.
“As for how Hannigan got away, and why MCU’s labeling this ‘religious crime’ - I’ll get to that in a bit,” Flint gobbled down the last of his late-night snack. The man-in-white remained as still as ever; listening attentively to the detective’s words with a Catholic schoolboy’s focus. Flint resumed, “But first: I’ve got to start at the beginning. In medias res just won’t do.
“Time for a flashback. Our story begins in Hell’s Kitchen – sometimes known as Clinton if you’re selling realty to yuppies – on a stormy night just two days ago. There’s the No. 4 victim Hannigan…the killer himself…and a vigilante who wears a white paper bag over his head…”
It was a stormy night in Hell’s Kitchen; or Clinton, or Midtown, or whatever other name they’d given to this watering hole of Manhattan crime. Build a couple of clubs, a gym; a cafe with some whimsical Irish name like ‘Kerry Castle’…it didn’t change the fact that these streets were all under Fisk’s grip. ‘A neighborhood by any other name’…it didn’t change the fact that this was a proverbial hell-on-earth. They even had their very own devil.
Marc Spector rarely ventured into the Devil’s turf. Every clown with a mask and Tae-Bo training had his own territory, one of the unspoken rules in this line-of-work. The Big Apple had plenty of slices to share. But now and again, one of Spector’s marks would cross borders. In an effort to elude vengeance, the mark would seek asylum in foreign lands. The mark would tell himself, “No way that fantasma’s gonna follow me all the way out here…”
And the mark would be wrong. Because no matter where you are on this planet – the moon always finds you eventually.
Tonight, the mark was known by Finn Hannigan. As the Mooncopter descended towards the Kitchen, the knight-with-many-names rappelled out of the craft, and landed on the rooftops. Most days, people called him Spector; or occasionally Grant, or Lockley. But come night, the city only had one name for him. He was the soldier of vengeance, the avatar of the Egyptian god of the moon, the guy who’d been in the West Coast Avengers that one time…
Moon Knight stepped up onto the edge of the roof. The downpour of precipitation made cracking sounds as it rebounded off his white investments. Before him, the nine circles of Hell stretched out to the horizon. Somewhere in this labyrinth of whiskey bars was the mark. Spector’s foremost C.I. – a criminal Profiler of sorts – had told him Hannigan could be found frequenting the Moench’s drinking establishment at this late hour.
A stakeout was in order, then. The war-on-crime reminded Marc of his private sector days: 10% life-and-death combat, with about 90% tedious waiting. Moon Knight leaped from the rooftop, a predator rearing to catch his prey, and bounced off a water tank with practiced ease. Behind him, the lightweight fabric of his silver cloak trailed after his fluid motions like a gymnast’s ribbon. There was vengeance to be served on this night.
Like every man in Hell, Finn Hannigan had sins to pay for. ‘Bombing’ was a dirty term in the modern American lexicon; right above ‘schoolyard-shooting’ and ‘unemployment’. A month prior, factions of the anti-nationalist group Ultimatum had been primed to do just that. An Eastern European embassy was ground zero. The explosives had been smuggled in. All that was left was to hit the radio detonator.
The only thing that’d averted this Fawkes-esque plot was Moon Knight himself. A handful of crescent darts, one or two cracked heads, and the day was saved. Twenty-eight Balts would see their families again and a diplomatic crisis deterred. All in a day’s work for the hero the Bugle had dubbed the ‘Lunar Legionnaire’.
But the Legionnaire knew that he had only stemmed the symptoms. The tumor was still festering, the real source of the terror still somewhere in Manhattan. And so the avatar of vengeance asked himself a question: “Who had supplied the fifty pounds of Semtex?” And then he’d asked, “Who provided the variable frequency receiver? Ultimatum had squeezed the trigger…but who gave them the piece and rounds?”
The answer to all those questions, as Moon Knight discovered, was a single man. Hannigan was what the underworld referred to as a ‘fundraiser’. The local equivalent of an arms-dealer. For a fee, Finn Hannigan could provide his skel clientele with everything from two-toned SigArms to salvaged Punisher hardware. He was the source of the sickness.
And he was the reason why Moon Knight found himself on the Devil’s turf tonight – in what the fuzz called a ‘target-rich environment’ – heading towards the tumor. How many bodies could be put on Hannigan’s head-all in the name of murder as commerce? Spector didn’t know. But since he learned of the mark’s name, Moon Knight had vowed there wouldn’t be any more. A month’s worth of hunting would end tonight at Moench’s, here in Hell itself.
The corner bar was brimming with patrons by the time Moon Knight arrived; mostly white-collar suit-and-tie professionals rushing to find shelter from the rain. It was a full-house night. Music emanated from the inside; the Buzzcocks with a little Pogues. From the roof of an office across the street, Moon Knight observed Moench’s behind the foggy lenses of his binoculars.
Sixty minutes passed as people entered the bar sober and dry, then left belting out the lyrics to Carrickfergus. Moon Knight studied the ebb-and-flow like an unwavering gargoyle. No sign of the fundraiser yet. But Marc knew fortune favored the forbearing. His time at Langley had taught him that; the disciplined hunter was often the one with the highest success rate.
And Moon Knight’s training paid off in time – when he glassed a tall man with a ponytail exit the premises. The BOLO papers provided by the Profile had come with snapshots. It was definitely the mark. Moon Knight watched as Finn Hannigan stepped out of Moench’s into the pouring rain, and the source of the virus was given form. The binoculars in Spector’s hands were swiftly replaced with a truncheon. The wait was over. Time for vengeance.
In the storm, Spector’s habit made him into a veritable Casper, his white ensemble blending seamlessly with the rainfall. Moon Knight trailed after Hannigan from up-high; stealthily keeping pace with him as the man turned into an alleyway. Already the soldier within Marc was counting down the ways to hurt Hannigan. There was a time for restraint, for leaving the unconscious offender hanging from a streetlamp with a cute note attached.
“I have 12 oz. of crack up my ass-crack – arrest me please,” or something similarly glib.
…But then there’s also a time for leaving the offender in a full-body cast, and ensuring that the only words he thinks of for the next six months are ‘traction’, ‘physiotherapy’, and ‘inguinal hernia’. A time like tonight. A few broken bones and the whole ‘criminals are a cowardly lot’ shtick wasn’t going to work here. Finn Hannigan and his wares had to be taken off the streets entirely. The bastard needed to have the fear of God instilled in him.
Moon Knight had carbon-plated truncheons…and spiked knuckle-dusters…and all manner of objects that would never pass Customs. Hannigan’s fate was sealed the moment he left Moench’s. At this point, the best he could hope for was a phone to call the ambo he’d inevitably need. Up on the roofs overlooking the alley, Moon Knight closed in on his mark. It was time to fulfill his duty as an apostle of his god. It was time to be the avatar of vengeance.
“Finn Hannigan! The God Khonshu cries for your blood!”
Moon Knight blinked. That was his cue, and his line – but the words never had the chance to leave his lips. Who the hell just said…?
Spector’s eyes immediately scanned his surroundings; finding the source of the unexpected voice. A second man had appeared behind Hannigan in the alleyway. The newcomer was dressed in a grey goose-bubble, with the jacket’s hood disguising his appearance. Marc quickly backed from the roof’s edge. His zeal to break Hannigan vanished momentarily, having been replaced by confusion at the new man below. Who was this here?
“The god whooooo?” Hannigan said by way of reply, slurring his words in obvious inebriation. The arms-dealer began stumbling towards Mr. Goose-Bubble with an unsteady gait. Above them, Moon Knight viewed the two men from the shadows.
This new man was an unknown variable, and unless Spector heard him wrong, he was also another disciple of the God of Vengeance, or at least...he was claiming to be. Heliopolitan deism wasn’t exactly a popular belief-system. Could this joker be one of those Knight of the Moon fanatics, Marc pondered? After a quick weighing-of-the-options, Spector called an audible, and decided to watch the situation play itself out.
As the lumbering Hannigan closed the gap, the man in the goose-bubble reached into his pockets. In the rain, Spector thought he saw a firearm; before realizing the man had produced a Taser. 50,000 volts, 1.8 milliamps, and two piezoelectric probes later – Hannigan was supine on the alley floor, mouth agape and limbs shuddering. The man had come prepared. Even drunk, Hannigan was still built like an ox; the Taser was a smart call.
And if Goose-Bubble was trying to exercise his faith, Moon Knight had to admit the man was certainly on the right track. Khonshu’s gospel was generally less ‘Have you heard about the good news?’ and more ‘Let me cripple you for life.’ Evidently, this newcomer had just done Marc’s job for him. Though witnessing Finn Hannigan getting electroshocked brought up more questions than it did answers for Moon Knight.
Was this second man also aware of Hannigan’s sins? What was this man’s motive here? Moon Knight resumed observing the confrontation unfolding beneath him: watching as Goose-Bubble paced towards the prone Hannigan, watching as the man reached into his pockets for a second time, and waiting for some clue that would solve the mystery.
But all thoughts of 21 Questions vanished when he saw the knife appear in the man’s hand.
Aggravated A&B was one thing, cold-blooded homicide another. The question of the newcomer’s motive seemingly-answered; Moon Knight sprang into action through pure instinct and muscle-memory. The third-degree could come later – right now all Moon Knight was concerned with was preventing a one-eighty-seven. Spector wanted Finn Hannigan in the emergency ward, not on the cold slab of a morgue.
Moon Knight’s cloak blossomed into a crescent-shaped parachute as he dove for the alleyway below. Puddles erupted once his boots graced earth; the landing jolting the newcomer in surprise. The look on the man’s face as Moon Knight approached him was a familiar one. The Pope wore a mozetta and zucchetto, the rabbis had their kippahs. The Fist of Khonshu, on the other hand, was dressed like the Grim Reaper in photo-negative.
And that brief second of shock – that pause that a civilian who’s only seen super-people on Nightline makes upon meeting one in real-life – was Moon Knight’s opening. Marc didn’t hesitate. There’d be time for the Gitmo routine when Taser-Man woke up. Truncheon. Temple. Moon Knight’s arm arched back, readying itself to connect the two, when —
The truncheon slipped from Moon Knight’s grasp as the Silver Avenger keeled over. Pain! A sharp, searing pain went off in Marc’s head like a 40 Mike-Mike. Pain! Moon Knight felt his legs give way – what the hell was happening to him? Seizure? Stroke? Morpheus?! The pain overwhelmed all coherent thought, and Spector could only cradle his skull in agony.
Amidst the pain, Spector screamed in his mind. Screamed for his limbs to move, for his arms to respond. It took Moon Knight an excruciating five seconds just to glance up at the newcomer, who now stood above him. In the rain, and with the jacket’s hood, Marc couldn’t make the man’s features. But Marc knew – the shock had passed. All that remained was the man, a knife, and the helpless vigilante who’d just tried to assault him.
One stab wound probably wouldn’t do it. Moon Knight’s vestments came with magnesium composite-armor and SAPI trauma plates. Pectoral crosses tended to do squat vs. small-arms fire. But enough lacerations to the face or neck… After Bushman, and Knowles, and any number of Ravencroft alumni – tonight, a virtual unknown could succeed where every other thug or villain had failed.
Marc began to wonder if there was a cap on Khonshu’s resurrection policy.
Then, a first for Hell’s Kitchen happened. Every banger’s wet-dream: to have a cape at gunpoint (or knifepoint, as the case went), and at your mercy. But the man in the grey goose-bubble stepped away. Moon Knight would’ve felt relief if not for the inconvenient aneurysm. Until Marc saw where the newcomer was headed.
Moon Knight could only stare helplessly as the man returned to the prone and semi-conscious form of Finn Hannigan. The knife began a slow descent to Hannigan’s face. All Spector had done was delay the newcomer by a minute or two. Marc roared for his muscles to act, but the pain wouldn’t allow it. Marine, PMC, moon-themed vigilante – Spector was well-acquainted with pain, but this was something else entirely.
The carving began. Alcohol was a pale substitute for anticholinergics as it turned out. Paralyzed though he was, Hannigan could still feel the blade shaving chunks of his face off like orange peel. His screams were mercifully drowned out by the storm. Moon Knight watched in horror as blood splatters decorated the alley. Frustration bubbled beneath Marc’s pain…Hannigan was just inches away, but his body simply refused to budge.
The entire messy process of facial mutilation wouldn’t take long. And an inevitable coup-de-grâce would follow. You didn’t do something like that to another human being and expect him to live. Personal experience informed Moon Knight on that. If there was anything to be done – Moon Knight knew it had to happen soon.
With a silent prayer to Khonshu to grant him strength, Moon Knight’s left fingers sluggishly crawled their way to his right arm. For use in times-of-emergency, Spector’s gauntlets housed tear-gas darts; ideal for distracting a foe or making a quick getaway. And the present situation certainly qualified as a CODE 3. After a couple grunts and grimaces, Moon Knight managed to unclip a single weaponized crescent.
“Here goes,” Moon Knight muttered through gritted teeth, though with the pain, it came out more as ‘Hrrgghhh’. One press primed the chemical agent, a second one pulled the electronic safety pin. Hannigan was still shrieking. Now or never. Moon Knight flicked the crescent dart down the alley; turning away as the projectile exploded with a bright BANG.
80 grams of CS cyanocarbon shot out the dart in a violent cloud of white vapor. The tear-gas filled the entire alley within moments. Moon Knight heard a voice yell in confusion – either Hannigan or the second man – and saw a figure scrambling behind the smoke. Marc’s mask had filter-cartridges, but the dart’s contents wreaked havoc for its other recipients.
When the gas finally lifted, the man in the grey goose-bubble was nowhere to be found. On that stormy night in Clinton, in that grimy alley just across from Moench’s - the only souls left were a disfigured arms-dealer and a vigilante in filthy white tights. Moon Knight clambered awkwardly to his feet – the mystery pain apparently having left with the newcomer. He was still breathing, and he’d prevented the mark from being worm-food.
All things considered, Marc figured the night could’ve gone a lot worse.
Then Moon Knight remembered that Finn Hannigan was still bleeding out not more than two steps away. Hannigan had stopped screaming, but the fundraiser was falling into severe shock. Liquor, high-voltages, maiming, and chemicals could do that to a person. Moon Knight rushed over to the man’s side. The pool of blood around Hannigan stained Spector’s cloak, as the vigilante knelt down beside the fundraiser to inspect the damage.
“Jesus Christ…” Moon Knight whispered, when he saw what was left of Hannigan’s face.
“This was all that was left of Finn Hannigan’s kisser when Wedding-Gown-Man dropped him off at County Med,” Detective Flint said drily, as he extracted the horrific picture from the F.B. file, “Tell you, if there’s a more conspicuous mugshot of a skel out there, I ain’t seen it. March’s a little early for Thanksgiving, huh? Look at that. Our perp carved a clean chunk off Hannigan’s left temple-to-chin. Like a, a, well you look at it and tell me…
“And this was the lucky one. But we got lucky too – see, even though Hannigan was on-the-bottle, punk was still cognizant ’nuff to relate what he remembered. About ‘Khonshu’ – that’s the Egyptian god of falcons or some such, according to Wikipedia – which got me thinking this is one of those cult crimes. Religion. So Hannigan was the only wit. Well, him and my vigilante friend, but good luck preserving chain-of-custody with these cape types.
“Anyway. Nobody gives a rat’s ass about this case; Lew’s not even leaning on me to put it in black. The vics weren’t exactly Webelos, and that’s the only thread between them. No. 4: arms-dealer. No. 3: 66 Bridges, No. 2: child-pornographer, No. 1 a henchman for one of the Hobgoblins. For all we know, this perp could be a Punisher-lite, maybe that’s why he did this to Mr. Hannigan here. Carving into his face a…well, you look and tell me, it’s a…”
“A crescent,” the man-in-white answered. Flint gagged on his cereal upon realizing that the man actually had a voice. “The killer skinned a portion of Mr. Hannigan’s face off, leaving behind a patch of exposed tissue in the shape of a crescent,” the man explained, “Tell me, Detective: Have you noticed the pattern between these mutilations?”
Detective Flint felt his left eyebrow rise a slight millimeter at the word ‘pattern’. You didn’t trade your silver shield in for a gold one through felony arrests alone. Police go plainclothes with intuition, and Flint could sense his tingling. The man-in-white had noticed something. Flint cracked the case file open, and began sorting through the macabre puzzle, his brain buzzing with legit Italian caffeine, his fingers reaching for the autopsy headshots of each vic.
Finn Hannigan had a – what did the man say? – A crescent carved into his face. Flint found the picture of No. 2, the snuff-filmmaker, and immediately saw the connection to Hannigan. Two dots with a line between them. No. 2 was a mirror-image of No. 4; a crescent-shaped patch of skin was all that remained on the flayed face. Flint pulled out No. 1…Macendale’s accomplice had his whole face peeled off. And No. 3 had half his mug missing. Patterns!
“Phases,” Flint said in a hushed whisper when the Eureka moment finally struck him, “Like ‘faces’! ‘Phases’ of the moon. Numero uno was a full moon – his whole face was skinned. No. 2 was waning; three-quarters of his face missing, leaving behind a crescent patch of skin. No. 3 was a half-moon, and Hannigan…Hannigan was supposed to be a crescent moon.”
“And Khonshu is the Ancient Egyptian god of the Moon,” the man-in-white concluded, “As well as the god of vengeance – hence the choice selection.”
“God. Bit of cosmic coincidence that it was Moony who found him then, huh?” Flint leaned back in his chair, prompting another succession of squeaks. His mind was still reeling and coming to terms with the epiphany. Somewhere in New York – a town with no present deficit of madness – was a serial-killer who disfigured the criminal element in the name of a god mentioned solely on the History Channel.
The man-in-white simply smiled at the detective’s observation like it was an inside joke; making the first facial-expression save for ‘impassive’ since their exchange began. Then the man rose from his seat, shook Flint’s hand, thanked the detective for his time, and departed the station with speed. Detective Flint’s pupils were still lingering on the four headshots when he heard the click-clack of the MCU’s doors opening and closing.
Outside the precinct, Khonshu stepped into the open air. A storm was already brewing, and the falling drizzle stained the white garb of his mortal guise like runny watercolors. The god of vengeance and the moon let out a jaded sigh. His misgivings were confirmed. The ritual sacrifices, what his avatar had related about a sudden onset of pain, the sensations that he himself felt - tonight’s visit to Spector’s contact had simply cemented the god’s fears.
And anything that could make a god afraid was something to fear indeed.
Khonshu walked down the streets of New York under the glow of the night’s crescent moon. A little godly magic to the detective told him everything he needed to know. Within this modern-day Babylon; a second god of vengeance and his avatar were rising. The monopoly that Khonshu held in the market of cold-dishes was slipping. A new competitor was in town, and the man-in-white did not appreciate the fact one bit.
“Only room for one moon in the night sky,” Khonshu murmured, as the rain began to pour, “Only room for one moon."