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Delayed On The Accound Of Sand

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Flint Marko was the arch-criminal known as Sandman. Accidentally bombarded with a near fatal dose of iconic radiation his cells were mutated with sand particles giving him an unusual and unique anamorphic power. He virtually had unlimited power and in a world without Spider-Man he'd be unstoppable. But unlike other criminals he continuously fought an inner battle with his mortality and kept that stable balance in check. Being a criminal wasn't fun for him, but it was necessary. His daughter was diagnosed with a serious illness and for a below than average income family he needed money to pay her medical bills.

Sandman traveled above the city in a blanket of sand. His ability allowed him to transpose his weight ratio into a lighter than air substance so he could be carried in the wind. He couldn't actually see where he was going but using the radiated particles within his bio-chemical make-up, he followed the directional properties of the geo-magnetic poles to take him where he wanted to go. And his location was the First National Bank of Manhattan.

A vortex of sand swirled in front of the bank and people ran for their lives. Sandman reinitialized into his human form and watched as people scattered in every direction. They feared him and for good reason, because he was about to commit a crime. He smashed through the front doors and heard screams from the patrons.

He sighed disgruntled at what he was about to do but he had no choice, his daughter needed the money for an operation and this was the only way he could get it. "Leave, NOW!" he told both patrons and workers. There was no hesitation by anyone; they knew what he could do.

When everyone had vacated the bank he used his power to rip the vault door from its steel hinges, but before he could toss it to the side it was engulfed by webbing and yanked from his hands. The door landed on the floor in front of Spider-Man. Flint Marko jerked to the right and saw Spider-Man standing on debris of what used to be the front entrance to the bank. On occasion he and Spider-Man became allies against other criminals whose schemes seemed over indulgent and insidious. But now Flint Marko had returned to his roots and Spider-Man looked vexed. "I thought your final crime was your last, Marko? You promised me." He said.

"Stay out of my affairs, Spider-Man," Marko said. "I'll do what I want."

Sandman morphed his arms into giant hammers and attacked Spider-Man. Spider-Man leapt out of the way as they hit hard like two hammers in a carnival game on the spot where he once stood. Spider-Man clung to the far wall and shot out a string of web and covered Marko's face with it. Marko immediately restored one of his hands and ripped the webbing away. "You never learn," Marko said. "Your webbing can't harm me."

"True, but it was the only way to distract you," Spider-Man said, and launched a spider-ball at one of the sprinklers in the ceiling causing it activate. And when one activated, they all did and started to rain on Sandman, turning his body into mud. Sandman snarled at the superhero and departed the bank, stabilizing his bio-structure outside on the street by using dirt particles on the ground to reform his body. But he was unable to foreseen a car barreling down upon him and it slammed into him at eighty miles per hour. His body exploded into trillions of trillions of trillions of sand particles that engulfed the car, nearly burying it. The car skidded to a halt as soon as the driver realized what had happened.

Sandman quickly restored himself as his magnetic pull dragged his body back together. Then he used his superior strength to lift the car into the air as Spider-Man leapt out of the bank and into the street. "Put the car down, Marko," Spider-Man said insistently.

"Allow me to take what I need or his death will be on your hands," Marko said.

"You don't want to do this; you're not a bad person. Just put the car down and we'll talk about this."

"Talk is cheap, Spider-Man, and I need a lot of money."

"There are other ways to earn money, Marko."

"Not for a person like me, and why earn a living when you can just take what you want?"

"If everyone thought like that then we'd have chaos, similar to what you're creating now."

Spider-Man suddenly shot out a web and captured a fire hydrant that was several meters from his position. Flint Marko looked at what Spider-Man had done and immediately a sense of worry came over him. Marko was susceptible to water. It turned his solid form into liquid mud that broke down his molecular structure into its individual components. "I know your weakness, Marko," he said. "Put the car down and I won't be forced to hose you down."

Marko frowned angry. But then he smirked smartly, and said, "There's one problem with your plan, Spider-Man. If you do that, I'll drop the car, and that'll hurt the driver." Sandman smiled insidiously. "I want the money. Give it to me and I'll go in peace."

"I can't do that, Marko," Spider-Man said.

"Then I'm afraid you leave me with no choice," Marko exclaimed, and threw the car at Spider-Man. Spider-Man's first instinct was to leapt out of the way, but if he did that then the car would smash to the ground and the driver would be hurt. So if he couldn't do that that left him on other recourse but to save himself and the driver at the same time. He erected a blanket of webbing to protect himself from the impact while at the same time capturing the car inside using the adhesiveness of his web to grab onto the vehicle so the recoil would not catapult it back onto the street. His plan worked and the car was caught in the web. But as he was engaged in that action Marko had made his way into the bank and grabbed what he wanted.

Sandman swirled out of the bank and whipped past Spider-Man in a sand storm, carrying several bags of money in the eye of the vortex, using the north-eastern winds to carry him away. Once he made sure the driver of the car was safe Spider-Man went in pursuit. And although a sand storm should've been easy to follow Spider-Man lost sight of Sandman. Flint Marko must have solidified and set down to avoid detection. But a 6'5 muscular man wearing a green stripped shirt and brown pants shouldn't be hard to find. But after one hour of searching the trail went cold.

"I don't believe this, how can I let him escape?" Spider-Man said, as he crouched down on the edge of a building overlooking 59th Street, adjacent to the south side of Central Park. "But there are plenty of places to get lost in Central Park, and one of them is the Zoo."

He web-slung to street level and entered the park. He didn't immediately make his way to the zoo, but eventually got there after a brief search through the surrounding areas of Columbus Circle and Heckscher Playground and the surrounding forestry. He didn't bother to search the pond, because Marko wouldn't be in that area; it contained marsh and water. His search turned up nothing other than curious eyes from visitors of the park.

He arrived at the zoo's entrance that was on the East side of the park just off Fifth Avenue, and hopped on the exterior enclosure wall that surrounded the facility, and scanned what he could see without actually going in. But when nothing looked out of the ordinary he jumped down and made a preliminary ground search. Almost immediately his Spider sense tingled and a giant hand came out of the ground and clapped around his right ankle. Then another hand took hold of his other ankle, and suddenly sand engulfed his entire lower body.

Sandman emerged from the ground like a god-like figure and solidified the upper-half of his body to face the hero. "You're persistent, Spider-Man, but remember what happened to the cat when it became curious," he said. Spider-Man cried out in pain as Marko squeezed his lower body as if it were in a vice-grip. "Leave me alone and I won't kill you, Spider-Man."

Spider-Man tried to slip out of Sandman's sand trap but the villain enveloped him further to his upper chest, but left his arms free to move. Spider-Man continued his attempt to dig out of Marko's trap, but his efforts were futile. The sand trap soon trapped his arms up to his neck. "I don't want to kill you, Spider-Man, but I will if I have too," Marko said.

"You're not an evil man, Marko," Spider-Man said.

"Yes, but I will do what I have to in order to save my daughter," Marko said.

Suddenly a little boy holding cotton candy, accompanied by his father walking down a paved path that ran adjacent to the foliage near the enclosure wall, stopped and pointed, and said, "Look Daddy, that man is hurting Spider-Man!"

The man grabbed his son and held him back. "Quickly, get help!" Spider-Man shouted.

Sandman covered Spider-Man's mouth with sand so he couldn't speak anymore, then he turned and said to them, "Leave, NOW!"

"Don't hurt Spider-Man!" the boy shouted and threw his cotton candy at Sandman. The cotton candy mixed with Sandman's body and was enveloped. The boy's mouth opened with abstain shock to see that his treat had been absorbed in the man's body.

Flint Marko felt the cotton candy inside his body and tried to discharge it, but no matter how hard he tried, it remained with him, and spread throughout his system. And because it had mixed with his physiology it made it increasingly difficult for him to alter his body. "This is disgusting!" Marko said, as pulled out a clump of sugar crystals that had infused with his body with a free hand. He looked at it and it immediately reminded him of a piece of sugar candy. Then he threw it away. "That was a very stupid thing to do, kid!" he said to the boy.

Marko telepathically reached out and grabbed the kid with an extended arm, bringing the boy to him. The father cried out, pleaded, and said, "Please don't hurt my son."

Marko cocked his head right to the father and said, "I'm not going to harm your son. I'm a father too. But I want you to pick every last ounce of cotton candy out of my body, kid," he then said to the boy.

The boy looked Sandman up and down and saw the extent of damage his attempt at valiancy had caused. "I can't," the boy said.

Spider-Man had a realization when he looked at Marko. That kid may have just saved me, he thought. He felt Marko's body begin to harden around him as the sugar from the cotton candy infused with his molecular structure. Normally that would be a death warrant for anyone else, but for him, and his super strength, it would be enough for him to break free. Plus, he had to save that kid. Besides, Marko was still new at his criminal career as the Sandman and he might not know his own strength and accidentally kill the boy.

Spider-Man flexed his muscles to breaking point and broke Sandman's grip on him. The sugar that mixed with his body had turned to a hard crystal-like substance that shattered like glass. Flint Marko jerked back at the hero and couldn't believe it. He had been distracted by the kid and Spider-Man was able to escape his hold.

Spider-Man leapt backwards into the air and landed on the enclosure wall of the zoo. He brushed sand off his costume and then looked back at Marko from his perch. "Let the boy go, Marko," he said seriously.

Marko returned to his human form, and held the kid tight against him, "No, Spider-Man. Not until you let me leave peacefully."

"So you can rob another bank?" Spider-Man said. "Sorry, can't do it."

"Then we're at a stand-off," Marko said.

"I don't think so," Spider-Man began to say. "Sucrose from the sugar in the cotton candy that the boy threw at you for which you absorbed is having a negative reaction to your body. As we speak, your body is slowly turning into a hard crystal like structure, and if left unchanged could leave you a permanent resident to Central Park."

But Spider-Man knew something Marko didn't. The dose of sugar that Marko ingested was minimal and it wasn't enough to completely immobilize him. That was a complete lie. What happened to Marko's sand trap that allowed him to escape was an immediate, but temporary reaction. Although Spider-Man hoped Marko didn't know that.

Marko looked at his left hand and clenched a tight fist. He couldn't feel any difference, but he knew very little about bio-chemistry and its many properties. Maybe Spider-Man was right? He quickly looked at Spider-Man, and said, "How do we reverse the effects?"

"Water," Spider-Man said bluntly. Although he knew that was a lie, too. Water had the opposite effect of what he was suggesting. Instead of saturating the sugar particles and have them break away, it would solidify them and reinforce Sandman's condition - but only temporarily. A simple solution of Acetaminophenic enzymes would remove the sugar from his system. Good thing he paid attention in chemistry class so he'd know that.

Marko was absolutely in disbelief that his ultimate weakness was his salvation from his present dilemma. But something in the back of his mind told him not to trust Spider-Man. He didn't know the man; Spider-Man could be deceiving him. It was probably a trick to force him to release the kid and submit to deluding his body in water, the result would be his capture. "You!" he turned his head to the boy's father. "Is Spider-Man right?"

The boy's father looked to Spider-man, then back to Sandman. Unfortunately the boy's father was a bio-chemist who had taken the day off from work to spend the day with his son at the zoo. "No, Spider-Man is incorrect," he said, fearful of his son if he told a lie. "Water will not help you. I'm a bio-chemist. You see, the chemical enzymes in sucrose create a –"

Sandman stopped him in mid-sentence. "Enough, I don't need a chemistry lesson," he said. He clutched the boy tighter against him. "Nice try, Spider-Man. I almost fell for it."

"Thanks pal," Spider-Man said sardonically to the boy's father.

"Now, tell me if what you said about my condition was true, or an unpleasant experience will befall the boy," Marko said, although he hoped it wouldn't come to that.

Spider-Man was trapped; he had to tell the truth. "I lied, you're perfectly fine, Marko," he said. "The sucrose only had a temporary effect on your body. Now release the boy."

"Stop repeating yourself, Spider-Man; I'll release the boy when I'm ready," Marko said.

"I'm not going to let you leave here until you do, Marko." So I'm going to have to make the first move. "Here's web in your eye!" Spider-Man said, and shot an extra sticky glob of web into Sandman's face. As Marko was in his human form, the web spattered across his entire face and attached to his head like a mask.

Marko grabbed it with his free hand but he was unable to pull it free. Reluctantly he released the boy to yank the web off using both hands. The boy didn't hesitate to run back to his father. His father wrapped his son in his arms and hugged him. "Run! Get away from here!" Spider-Man told them, and they did just that. Spider-Man then leapt over Sandman and stood between them so they could escape.

Marko watched as the boy and his father ran to safety. He could reach out and grab them with a sandy hand and take them both hostage, but decided against it. He wasn't a violent man, and he wasn't that desperate. "You may have stopped me today, Spider-Man, but there are endless places to get money in this town," he said.

"And I'll always be around to stop you, Marko," Spider-Man said. "I may have forgiven you for killing my uncle, but that doesn't mean I'm going to let you roam the city, committing crimes."

"I steal to save my daughter, why can't you understand that?!" Marko said through clenched, angry teeth. "I need money to pay for her medicine."

"Your plight may be noble, but your methods are criminal."

"Sometimes you have to steal to survive. I'm not rich, I wasn't born into a noble family, and I don't deem to inherit a fortune from a long lost dead relative. I'm one of the forgotten."

"A lot of people feel the way you do sometimes, but you don't see them going on a crime spree."

"You make assumptions, Spider-Man. Just because you don't witness a crime, doesn't mean one never happens. Crimes take place everyday and go unnoticed. You may be a superhero and protect the city, but you can't protect everyone, or be everywhere."

"I'm not clairvoyant either. I do what I can do. And try to make a difference." Spider-Man then said, "You never asked to be what you've become and neither did I. We all make choices and I chose to use my powers to benefit mankind, while you chose a different path. If I had continued to wear that symbotite I would've become like you. I didn't want that."

"I didn't choose to become a criminal, it just happened. Everything is happenstance. But enough with the philosophy lecture."

Marko morphed his right arm into a gigantic hammer and hit Spider-Man into a group of bushes, remarkably leaving what he had stolen from the First National Bank of Manhattan in plain sight on the grass. He then transformed his body into its individual sand components and was carried away with the wind.

Spider-Man felt his head and watched Sandman escape into the air. He then noticed Marko had not taken what he had stolen. "Maybe there's hope for you yet, Marko," he said. He then shot out a web and web-slung away, carrying the money with him, and back to the bank.

END