(A day with the friendly neighborhood Metal Spider-man)
January 10th, 1997
Peter swung from building to building, at his side, Cindy and their new friend Jessica Drew mimicked him. It had been surreal to discover that he wasn't the only one with spider powers, but in a sense reassuring. Sure they had different abilities such as pheromones control, gliding and their venom blast, but they could do the same thing as him with their base abilities.
To him what mattered was that he wasn’t alone on his patrols anymore; the girls had started joining him with his helping people thing. He was also supported by his aunt May and his uncle Ben. But of course they had given him rules and guidelines to follow now that they were aware of what he was doing at night or in the afternoon. It was strange to see them young again; it was like being thrown back in time to when he was still seven.
So much had happened, he was dating the girl he had had a crush on for a year, he had powers and money to experiment and invent stuff; his aunt had quit her day job and both his aunt and uncle worked for Jean Grey now, the girl who had changed his life. Peter’s life had been on hold for a while since his uncle’s death, he had sunk into a depression and had lashed out at everything. He had had to get into a fight with his friends, had lost and had gotten put into timeout in a cell to see the light. That he had been a self-centered asshole, and that his way of repenting for his perceived crime was self-destructive and would have caused him to have a very poor life, like that poor dimensional counterpart of his who couldn’t be happy at all as an always broke photographer.
Seeing what fate had in store for him made Peter rethink his choice, Jean had forced him to and then proceeded to make him owe her more by bringing back his uncle Ben. All she had wanted in exchange was him to do his best in life and being friends.
With that thought, Peter landed on a gargoyle and peered down the street, Jessica and Cindy stuck to either side of him on the edge of the roof of the small building. The three of them activated their camouflage and stopped being visible to anyone but their teammates. They faced a tall multi-storey building made of tan bricks and glass, there was an underground parking lot in obvious use. The lights of the electric sign showed that it was a combination of businesses. A restaurant, bar and nightclub.
Thanks to the surveillance and spy satellites that he had helped build, Peter's life was made even easier; he no longer felt the need to patrol all the time thanks to it as they scouted the entire Queens area for trouble. Muggings were taken care of by the spider drones that Jean had made for him and the girls. She called them bots, but they were clearly remote controlled by that new AI of hers. The one she wouldn’t let them speak to.
“Hey Spidey, you sure this is the place?” Cindy's tone implied that she doubted it even though she could see it was so through her AR goggles.
The girls kept him on his toes, when they sortied they always questioned his actions and often gave him advice, but sometimes they were downright annoying, like now. It came from hanging out with Jean Grey, she usually just scanned the place with her telepathy and sorted out the guilty from the innocent and then burned a path to capture everyone. *Well, not everyone can be telepathic and have telekinetic artillery.* Peter quipped in his heart.
“Yeah, this is boring, I thought we were going to break some faces.” Jessica added, she looked at him through the yellow colored lenses of her high-tech mask.
She wore a black skintight vibranium weave mesh suit with red accents on her shoulders with a high-tech spider motif made of glowing circuitry. At her wrists she had some kind of red gauntlet that boosted the effect of her venom blast. She was difficult to fight if you weren't insulated from electric shocks.
Peter’s body language showed that he was rolling his eyes. “Girls, please this is serious business, okay? I’m investigating a gang.”
A gang that may be under the control of another; and Peter thought that it was going to be his first foray into confronting organized crime.
"You mean we." Cindy's tone brokered no argument.
Jessica hid her mouth with one of her hands and giggled. Peter gave her the stink eye and said, "Yes, yes, we."
Cindy nodded, put her right arm before her and used her gauntlet computer that transmitted Peter’s notes for a quick perusal. She had admin root access to all of Jean’s technology, a benefit of being the boss lady's main squeeze.
She hummed and said, “This gang, is it the one that organized those illegal fights we heard about? The one that organizes fights to the death for rich people? I saw the file, they leave the bodies of the losers in dumpsters...”
Peter nodded, deciding to keep the full breadth of what he believed those people were doing to himself. “Amongst other things.”
Suddenly Peter felt the girls' gazes on him, Cindy approached him and annoyingly poked his helmet. "You only take that tone when you don't want to tell us something."
Peter took her hand in his and gave her a look. “Okay, stop! Well... I don’t want to tell you because it's just a hunch I have, nothing confirmed yet.”
The girls on either side of him stayed silent, and waited for him to share his findings.
"You really want to know?" Peter sighed.
The two girls nodded and waited in silence.
Peter showed a fist and raised a finger each time he listed a crime. “Money laundering, drug trafficking, illegal brothels, illegal fighting arenas with humans and canines, scam operations and I suspect other things that I couldn’t get evidence on because the spider drones didn’t infiltrate all the physical locations of their operations. This shows evidence of multiple gangs working together and we might have to take out the big boss first.”
Cindy whistled. “Crap, we are going to have to get help for this Spidey.”
*Says the girl who destroyed multiple Hydra bases with her girlfriend.* Peter mocked in his heart.
Peter found that Cindy was a rather... vicious individual, and desensitized to violence because of bad habits she picked from the brutally efficient Jean who had suggested or showed her assassination techniques. The girl could take you out as if you were nothing by pressing some nerve on your body or shock you into submission with her venom blast, at least she didn't try to use her silk thread like a garrote wire anymore. Pete shuddered as he remembered how she silently took down a mugger three nights ago. She silently used her thread to descend in the alley and caught him with her web thread and dragged him up and let him hang until he lost consciousness.
Of course it was Peter’s job to reassure the frightened old couple that was being mugged. Cindy was a rather timid individual who avoided people she didn’t know; Peter was the people person of the group. The spider-girl clearly needed to learn what types of skills to use in different situations and acquire some people skills.
A bank of black vehicles appeared from the intersection, catching Peter’s attention, but he still answered his teammate. “I know we'll have to, unfortunately, we can’t go to the police yet with what we have, some officers might be bought.”
Jessica spoke in a thoughtful manner. “We might need to involve Jean later for some mind reading, she knows how to dismantle organized criminal operations.”
“Or she will take on a supervising role and make us do it.” Cindy said as a counter to Jessica's proposition.
“She’d do that?” Jessica asked, surprised by Cindy not falling in line with her way of thinking.
Peter chuckled, Jessica was the most recent arrival in their group; after being saved by Jean, she blindly followed the redhead’s lead. *She really thinks the sun shines outta Jeanie's ass.*
“Positively, she wants us to be able to do things without her, unless it’s too big for us; at least that’s what she had told me the last time, she was kinda busy with the renovation of the base and talking with her new friend."
“That also means that she trusts us enough to do that kind of thing, right?” Peter had perked up at Cindy’s explanation, he ignored the girl’s pique at the girl that Jean was trying to save from unlawful institutionalization.
The two girls kept their peace as the parade of black vehicles arrived at the building. The procession was composed of two armored SUVs protecting a large limousine in between them. They were checked out at the entrance to the underground parking lot, then let inside. The concealed spider drones inside the underground parking lot then started to record video and transmit it to the trio’s HUD. The bodyguards surrounded a not particularly tall bald caucasian man with thin hair on his head's sides and a gaunt face, he wore an Armani suit and had a metallic briefcase in his hand. They filed out toward a door that led to a bank of elevators.
“Who is the big cheese who exited the limo?” Cindy asked as she zoomed on the face of the VIP.
With a quick facial recognition search, the computer showed the rather thin information on the man, a certain Dr. Mindella with multiple PhDs in Pharmacology and Chemistry from NY university.
“Some guy called Dr. Mindella.” Peter commented, the girls had access to the same information as him so he didn’t speak more than that.
Jessica seemed to have taken her time to read the file on Dr. Mindella. “What’s so special about him that he ranks the limo treatment?”
Peter sighed, his shoulder sagging, then started to say, “He's a researcher that the gang I am hunting hired to make most of their designer drugs; didn’t you read my notes? They are selling the normal hard stuff and some horrible drug called Death’s arrow that temporarily increases physical abilities in their fighting ring, until the user dies though.”
Spider-man transmitted the files about the drug to Jessica’s HUD. The girl gasped as she without a doubt saw the rictus of death each of the users of this concoction had on their dead faces. “It’s horrible, it causes heart failure!”
Peter had to throw up when he saw the pictures from the morgue. It wasn’t the first time that he had seen dead bodies, but seeing them with pain and fright written all over their face like that? *What kind of man doesn’t care about that kind of shit? This gang needs to be put down.*
Cindy impatiently said, “So when are we going in?” She was raring to go.
Peter made the sign to wait and answered, “We will infiltrate the place when the bots obtain sufficient evidence.”
It took over an hour to record the lab this place had in its basement and to actually see Dr. Mindella as he refined his drug; the bots took advantage of his distraction to also hack his computer for data. When they got everything they wanted, they entered the Troya, a bar/restaurant/nightclub through the roof and the door there while cloaked. They avoided detection rather easily and reached the staffroom, but something unanticipated happened. In the supposed staffroom there were multiple shelves and lockers, with table and counting machines, they found goons in black business suits on the ground, they were still alive but unconscious or seizing. Their skins showed the telltale electrical burn that tasers made.
"Someone took care of them." Jessica said as she looked at how those five people were taken down.
Cindy walked to the lockers to her right and looked at how their doors were torn off and laying on the ground. "Some of those lockers were forcefully opened with great strength. From the depressions in the metal that looks like fingers marks, I would say the perp is enhanced. Some of the leather bags are missing, I guess whoever it was took some of the money, but not everything."
Peter nodded, it seemed that it was only one person who did all this. As the spider-bots were analyzing the scene, multiple threads of thought ran through Peter’s mind as he tried to guess at what had happened, the strength needed to tear out locker doors, how fast someone had to be to take down five grown men and the technology and power needed to use a rechargeable taser. *Unless it’s an energy manipulator who can somewhat speedup his or her body.*
Bang! Crash! Then the cries of someone rang, Cindy and Jessica immediately entered in a fighting stance and looked at a door connected to the staff room.
"Quick, let's go see what's happening!" Peter said as he opened the door and froze on the spot as he saw something that made him cold.
This was the lab that he had seen through the spider-bots cameras, it looked like a cheap chemist was working here as everything looked pretty outdated to him. But what made him freeze was the dead body of the woman strung up on the lab table and the rictus of pain on her face.
Peter’s eyes found Dr. Mindella crucified on the wall with pieces of concrete molded around his arms and waist, he was moaning in pain and praying to God. Someone seemed to have gouged his eyes out and broken his hands. Blood streamed out of his eyes as he begged some demon not to take him between prayers. Peter heard a gasp behind him.
"The hell is happening in here?" Cindy asked as she saw the disturbing scene.
"Call the police and the EMTs, Silk." Peter’s voice was cold and his vision had not left the doctor for a second. The girl obeyed, and began to call. Jessica looked nauseous as she watched the dead body on the lab table and the crucified doctor.
Twenty minutes later, when the police and emergency responders arrived, Peter discovered that what had happened in this lab wasn't the first time the police had found someone in such a state, that they found a card with a stylized red bat symbol on the victims who tended to be reprehensible or monstrous criminals that always ended up maimed in such a manner fitting their crimes.
They were on the roof of the building facing the bar/restaurant/nightclub, the cops had evacuated everyone from the establishment. The Spider-gang had been shaken to their cores by the incident and were blaming themselves for having been too late to stop it.
"We have to stop the person doing this… we have to be better." Peter began to say, this wasn't heroism but vigilantism.
He was used to disabling people non-lethally, but what he had just seen showed that the person hunting these people was brutal and uncompromising. Peter felt a hand on his shoulder, he turned his head to see that it was Cindy who wore a determined expression. "We will, Spidey."
Peter nodded back. With this hero gig, he was bound to find horrible scenes such as these. He needed to toughen up.
"I want to go home…" Jessica expressed, that scene was seared into her mind. "Maybe we should go back to base."
"Let’s." Peter said and threw himself out of the roof and swung away from the place that would give him nightmares for nights to come. The girls followed him with feelings muddling their thoughts.
For all the time they were there, they didn't notice the person in the shadows on the neighboring building who had been observing them for a while.