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Avengers #460 "Peer Pressure"

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  • Josh M Greer
    Avengers #460 “Peer Pressure” Writer: Josh Greer Editors: Hoang Thai & JM Holder of Factoids: Kenn Beck Webmaster & EIC: Liam Gibbs Avengers Mansion: The
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 16, 2006
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      Avengers #460
      “Peer Pressure”

      Writer: Josh Greer
      Editors: Hoang Thai & JM
      Holder of Factoids: Kenn Beck
      Webmaster & EIC: Liam Gibbs


      Avengers Mansion: The Quarters of Eric Williams


      I couldn’t believe it was her when I turned to see who else was in the
      room. I don’t know why -- after everything she’d put us through, not just
      Simon and I, but the whole team, I shouldn’t have -- but I almost felt
      relieved that it was only her. Only Catherine. Only my little sister.
      Only one of the laundry list that was the Avengers most wanted. A woman
      that had dedicated herself to killing me as punishment for a lost family
      fortune. A woman that hated me, and Simon, and everything we stood for.
      Yet, somehow, I felt relieved. I couldn’t say a word.

      “No hello for family, dear Eric?” she said. Her voice was almost a hiss
      when she spoke to me. I didn’t know why she was here, or even how she got
      in, but I wasn’t entirely sure it was bad either.

      “You...you shouldn’t be here, Catherine,” was all I could manage. Even
      that was shaky, at best. Growing up, Catherine and I might not have seen
      eye to eye on everything, but compared to Simon, she’d been a godsend.
      Simon and I, as children, never hit it off. Never behaved like brothers.
      Schoolmates, maybe. Friends by association. But never siblings. That was
      a problem Catherine and I never had. We had our fights, like any brother
      and sister would, but they were always quickly forgiven and forgotten. At
      least, that’s how it was when we were children.

      But something changed when we got older. It was an unusual chain of
      events, to say the least. Simon embezzling the family fortune -- or
      taking the blame for it, at least. Then getting his powers from the late
      Heinrich Zemo. Then dying. Then coming back to life and joining the
      Avengers. Then my imbalance kicked into high gear and I became the Grim
      Reaper. I found out I had another brother of sorts in the Vision, and
      tried to kill both he and Simon. Then I died. And came back as a zombie.
      And died again. And came back again. Then they found my imbalance, and I
      was cured, and became an Avenger myself. (1)

      Somewhere along that point, after Simon died the first or second time,
      Catherine had a bit of a meltdown of her own. The one negative thing I
      always said about her when we were growing up was that she was spoiled.
      Daddy’s little girl, with all the perks therein. Everything she ever
      wanted was handed to her on a silver platter. And she loved it. She got
      used to it. And when Mom and Dad died, and all the money was gone, she
      got angry. She put together some half-cocked plan to kill me and get her
      revenge, but then Simon came back again. That’s when Catherine Williams
      ended, and the Crimson Cowl began.

      “Why not?” she asked. “Can’t I visit my own brother in prison?”

      “I’m not in jail, Catherine,” I replied, trying to get a grip on the
      stream of memories and thoughts running through my head. I already heard
      the alarm announcement. I knew the team would be there in a minute or
      two. I just had to keep her there long enough.

      “Of course you are,” she replied, glancing around the room.

      “No, Catherine...this is my home.”

      “I would hate to be the one to disappoint you, dear brother, but this
      is as much a prison as the Vault or Ryker’s ever was.” she answered. For
      a second, she actually made sense. But that second quickly passed.

      “You’re out of your mind.”

      “Common trait, wouldn’t you say?”

      “What do you want, Cowl,” I answered. She was talking in circles. Just
      like Ultron used to. And Nekra. And...father. It was starting to annoy
      me.

      “To break you out, of course.”

      “I already told you, this is my home.”

      “Is it really?” she answered. The gleam in her eye wasn’t hiding
      anything. She was up to something, but I couldn’t think clearly. Her
      sudden appearance had me off my game. My head was clouded with memories
      of everything she and Simon and I had been through. All the super-fights.
      The money. The insanity. “Is that why you’ve been rummaging this
      cell...oh, I’m sorry, your room for a half-hour looking for that tiny,
      little, orange pill bottle of yours?”

      “If I find it, I’ll give you one,” I answered with a smirk. “You could
      use a fistful.”

      “Oh, I’m perfectly sane, I assure you,” she said with the same smirk. A
      grin we both inherited from Dad. “And so are you.”

      “Catherine, I...I need to take my medication. If I don’t, I’ll--”

      “Go crazy? Hurt someone? Or maybe act like yourself for once?”

      “I was going to say ‘Wind up like you.’”

      “Oh....that hurts, Eric. And after all I’ve gone through just to help
      you.”

      “Help me with what?”

      “Be yourself. Help you regain your freedom. Help you let the Grim
      Reaper live again!”

      “You’re crazier than I am, Cat.”

      “Think, Eric. Just think,” she said, her tone sounded almost like
      someone begging. It frightened me more than her normal tone did. The tone
      I was used to hearing death threats from. “You’ve fought your whole life
      for the family to be whole again, haven’t you? For Simon and even
      that....robot...to work with you, rather than trying to stop you, right?”

      “And that’s happened, Catherine. Now you’re the one on the outside of
      the fence.”

      “That’s only what they want you to think,” she snapped back. “They’re
      responsible for this, Eric. Those...heroes. Responsible for tearing our
      family apart. Responsible for making you into something you’re so clearly
      not.”

      She was talking in circles again. I wanted to scream at her. Tell her
      to get the hell out of my room, out of the mansion. I wanted to grab her
      by the shoulders and throw her into the hall and hope maybe Marko would
      step on her on his way through the Mansion and put us all out of our
      misery. But something stopped me. Something in the back of my head that I
      couldn’t quite put a finger on. Something that continued to whisper to me
      that maybe she was right.

      “Nothing to say, Eric?”

      “I don’t like repeating myself.”

      “Good. Then just listen. Who was it that you thought stole your brother
      away from you, Eric? That killed him when they could have saved him?”

      “The Avengers. But--”

      “Shhh. Just listen. And who was it that put his mind into
      that....machine?”

      “Ultron.”

      “And who built Ultron?”

      “Pym. But--”

      “And who was it that killed you? That left you in that zombie state for
      Ultron to take advantage of?”

      “The Avengers. Do you have a point?”

      “And when you came back, who was it that called you crazy? Who was it
      that forced you onto this....medication?”

      “Simon.”

      “Don’t you see, Eric? Everything you’ve done....every time you’ve tried
      to bring us all together again, even that robot--”

      “Vision. His name was Vision.”

      “Even Vision,” she answered, almost visibly shuddering to spit out his
      name. “It was the Avengers that stopped you. That stopped the Grim
      Reaper!” She stopped then as I glared at her. For a moment, she looked
      confused, but she shook it off. “Oh, poor, dear Eric. You can’t see it,
      can you?”

      “See what? How completely insane you’ve gotten?”

      “See that all this time....they’ve beaten you down, and beaten you
      down....and now, dear brother, they control you.” I couldn’t listen to
      her anymore. I turned away, but she wrapped that damned cloak around me
      and held me in place. “They’ve turned Simon against us, Eric. They let
      him die. They broke his spirit, and controlled him until he couldn’t even
      tell they had him anymore. And now.....now they’ve done it to you, too.
      Now they’ve beaten you and broken you....and own you.”

      “You...you’re out of your mind,” I said...but it was difficult to say.
      The whisper in the back of my mind was getting louder. All the times I
      tried to prove my love for my brother, whether I thought of Simon or
      Vision as my true brother, it had always been the Avengers that stood
      against me. Every time. They’d defeated me at every turn. Beaten me no
      matter who I aligned myself with. Every time. And now the medication...

      No. No, they wouldn’t do that. They wouldn’t treat me that way. They
      were my friends now. My family now. They wouldn’t do that to me.

      “Can’t you see, Eric?” she said, pulling down the scarlet cowl that
      gave her her name and staring at me with those soft, violet eyes. “Can’t
      you see what they’ve done to you? To our family? To Simon? I...I had to
      take your pills, so you could see it. So you would listen. They treat you
      like soldiers, Eric. Like little toy soldiers, thrown to the enemy as
      fodder. They’re hoping you’ll get hurt. That you’ll die. That something
      will happen so they never have to deal with our family again. Can’t you
      see it?”


      *****


      “Eric, who---you,” Simon said, as the others hit the doorway , quickly
      barging through and spilling into the Grim Reaper's room. Turning, Eric
      Williams eyed his brother. Catherine quickly pulled her cowl back into
      play, Eric doing the same. As his hand shifted into the long, sharp
      scythe most were more used to seeing, he couldn't help but smile.

      "Hello, Simon. Tell me," he continued, raising his arm and stepping
      towards his brother. "Would you rather be first, or last?"

      "What are you talking about?" Simon replied, his brain reeling at the
      coldness he thought he saw in his brother's eye.

      "To die, Simon. You're all going to die."

      The Grim Reaper was back. And it was time for a reckoning.


      [To Be Continued....]



      Footnotes:
      1. The all-time briefest recap of the Williams family tree that started
      to unfold for us waaaay back in RMU’s Avengers #9.
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