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Opinionated nerd for hire.

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”Okay,” I mutter to myself as I crawl through the vents of the Guggenheim Museum, ”forty-five minutes til the dry cleaner closes, then another hour and fifteen til dinner. I can still catch Felicia on time…...sure. And maybe after that miracle, I’ll part the Hudson and drown my sorrows by turning some water into wine….”

Felicia Hardy may be the greatest thief in the world, at least the most audacious. Your average burglar settles for breaking into houses, ransacking the place to find jewelry and electronics and guns and anything else they can make a quick buck off of at a shady pawn shop. Not the Black Cat, though. No, she only ever goes for the most expensive things under the tightest security, and makes sure everyone knows she did it. She’s meticulous in her planning, practically a ghost when it comes to stealth and infiltration, a brilliant manipulator, an expert martial artist, a master gymnast, and a gigantic pain in my butt.

Right now, I’m supposed to be getting ready for the most important dinner of my life. Instead, I’m crawling through air ducts hitting dead end after dead end, because this stupid art museum decided to display a 57-million-dollar cat statue in downtown New York. It’s like whenever the circus comes through Gotham City, it’s just begging for trouble. I am so bringing this up at the next city council meeting.

”Any progress?” Captain DeWolff asks through the earpiece in my mask.

”Not yet,” I say, reaching a sealed-off hatch in the duct. ”Just more dead ends. I know she came in through the vents, but I’m not seeing any signs of her exit. I’ve made three rounds through this system, and I just don’t see a way out.”

When the security measures around the Guennol Lioness tripped, it not only set off the alarms, it activated security doors all over the museum. Every entrance, every hallway, every window (except the skylight, apparently), even every air duct is locked down tight with heavy steel doors and hatches.

”I hate to do it, but it looks like I’m gonna have to force my way in,” I admit, careful to state it as a fact rather than as a question so DeWolff doesn’t say no, then quickly change the subject. ”Any luck on getting the cameras back online?”

”Negative,” she answers. "Whatever program Black Cat used to knock out the surveillance systems, it was thorough. So far, the tech guys aren’t anywhere near restoring the feed, let alone retrieving any lost footage.”

”Well, once I get Cat webbed up for you, I’m sure she’ll be happy to provide some tech support,” I say, as I reach into the utility belt I keep under my suit and activate a remote-control Spider-Drone with a cutting torch on it. ”It’s gonna be a bit loud in here for a couple of minutes, Captain. I’ll let you know once I’m in.”

”Wait, what are you--”

*KSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!*

The small plasma welder on the underside of the Spider-Drone begins cutting into the security door, filling the air duct with a loud hiss and a shower of sparks. I crawl back to get away from the smoke, and then pull out my phone and open up an ebook to read while the drone does its work.




”So I tell Professor Nuñez ‘sure, that’s how you interpret Ionesco’s work, but I thought the entire school of absurdist theatre asked the audience to reach their own conclusions.’ You should’ve seen the look on his face.”

”....heh, that’s crazy.”

”So now the whole class has to read The Bald Soprano and write 500 words comparing and contrasting its themes to Beckett’s Waiting for Godot by Monday.”

”Oh man, that’s…..not cool.”

”......and then after that, I have to strip down to my underwear and fight off a pack of rabid wolves with nothing but a toothbrush and a pogo stick.”

”....wow, that’s nuts.”

Mary Jane Watson glared at Harry with annoyance. He hadn’t looked up from his phone in the past ten minutes. The single slice of pizza on his plate was already stone cold, and the ice in his soda had melted.

”Y’know, if you didn’t want to go out tonight, you could’ve just told me. Glory and Betty wanted to check out the band that’s playing at the House of Yes, and I can just--”

”Nonono, I’m sorry, I’m just…….really distracted,” Harry said, finally breaking his attention away from his brand-new OzPhone 12, one he’d gotten six weeks before it was available to the public. ”Dad was breaking in all the new interns at work today, which meant I had to go to the shareholders meeting for him, and I’m still sending emails back and forth with investors. All part of ‘inheriting the kingdom,’ Dad says. And Doctor Smythe keeps going on and on about needing to talk to the old man about something or other called ‘Project V’ but won’t tell me what it is, and I’m still trying to organize the fundraiser for Mom’s foundation next month, and I haven’t even started on my term papers yet, so--”

”I get it,” MJ said, putting a hand up to cut him off. ”You’ve got a lot on your plate. And that’s a lot of stress. But that’s why we’re hanging out tonight, to burn that stress off and enjoy ourselves for a bit. Your dad’s corporate empire will still be standing after you have some pizza and dance with your girlfriend. I promise.”

”....you’re right, MJ,” said Harry, putting the phone in his pocket.

”I know.”

While Mary Jane and Harry had only been dating for the past two months, they’d been friends for years before that, going back to high school when they met through their mutual friends. MJ was new to the city, and her aunt Anna had set her up on a blind date with her friend’s nephew, a scrawny geek named Peter. Despite appearances, Pete was a really great guy, and not only did they hit it off, but Mary Jane also became fast friends with his longtime gal-pal Gwen Stacy and her at-the-time boyfriend Harry.

Of course, a lot can happen in a few years among a group of emotionally-charged teenagers turned twentysomethings. The four of them (six, when including Liz Allan and Eddie Brock) changed partners more often than a square-dance for a bit, but now that they were all in college and on the verge of becoming actual honest-to-God adults, the relationships were starting to solidify in place.

Pete and Gwen had eventually realized that they were made for each other, and MJ was genuinely happy for them. And Harry really was a good guy once she got him to pry his attention away from all the business his dad kept forcing on him. Still, though neither of them said it out loud, both of them knew what this was: settling for second place.

”So…...this band that’s playing tonight,” he said, picking up the cold slab of pizza on his plate to take a bite. ”They got a name?”




”The Mercy Killers, man,” Cletus Kassidy said as he hungrily shoveled creamed corn into his mouth. ”Sickest death-metal band on the East Coast. You start blasting that shit into your earbuds, and man, you just feel like the baddest motherfucker on the planet. It’s pure adrenaline, man, listening to that, you just….you just wanna swerve your car onto the sidewalk and start just mowing folks down, y’know?”

”.....uh-huh…..” said Eddie Brock, cutting into the brownish mass that was allegedly ‘country-fried steak’ with the side of his plastic fork. ”I’ll, uh, I’ll check them out once I’m outta here.”

”Can’t believe they’re lettin’ you back out into the world, man,” Cletus said between mouthfuls of food. ”It’s gonna be so boring here without you.”

”Well, I’m sure you’ll manage.”

Eddie had grown up in a broken home, with an absentee mother and a drunken brute for a father. As a kid, he spent as much time as he could away from the house, usually with his old friend Pete and his aunt and uncle-- there were plenty of times he found himself wishing the Parkers were his family instead of the Brocks. Over time, though, he and his little group of childhood friends drifted apart, and he found himself spending more and more time with friends of a different kind.

When he was fifteen, he started selling drugs for one of the local dealers, making a small fortune from his classmates at Midtown High. This lasted for about six months, until he was caught and expelled. Still, he’d made the right connections, and by his sixteenth birthday, he was initiated into Tombstone’s syndicate.

Everything was going well until he was called in for a raid on a rival gang. Eddie had never pulled the trigger on anyone before, but Tombstone needed every soldier he had to take on Hammerhead, and everyone going in knew that once the shooting started, it was kill-or-be-killed. Eddie was still trying to make himself ready to cross that line, when everything fell apart.

Nobody even realized Spider-Man was there before half of them had already been webbed up. Eddie had heard about him before, knew that he was a metahuman and had a reputation for putting small-timers in the hospital, but he couldn’t believe just how fast he was as the webslinger tossed Tombstone and Hammerhead’s men around like ragdolls. In a panic, Eddie had raised his gun and fired at the masked vigilante, at almost point-blank range…

…and Spider-Man ducked under it like it was nothing. He turned to face Eddie, and then just...stopped, like he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Like Spider-Man recognized him. For a few seconds, Eddie and Spider-Man just stared at each other, before Eddie raised the gun again. Before Eddie could fire off a second shot, the wall-crawler sprayed his webs at him and left him stuck to the wall for the NYPD to pick up.

He was supposed to get five years, but he was being let out in three partially for good behavior, but mostly because what with the world going as crazy as it was, there just wasn’t enough room in jail for small-timers like him. In less than twenty-four hours, he was going to be a free man.

”So….what are you gonna do once you’re back out in the big bad world?”

Eddie shrugged.

”Find a job, get my GED, get things back on track, I guess,” he said. ”I know somebody who works at some shelter called FEAST, said they can get me a place to stay for a little while and maybe some work.”

”Boooo-ring,” Cletus rolled his eyes. ”Know what I’d do if they let me out? I’d go on a goddamn rampage, man. Find everybody responsible for putting me away, and make ‘em pay. And I mean everybody. Every sheep who buys into this bullshit system, every pig who enforces it, every politician and company-man who makes money off it, I’d waste every last one of them.”

”Uh-huh.”

Cletus Kassidy had a big mouth and anger issues. Eddie imagined that in school he was one of those kids who wore edgy shirts like “you laugh at me because I’m different, I laugh at you because you’re all the same.” It made Eddie roll his eyes a lot, at least at first. He’d heard that Cletus was doing time for animal cruelty, that he’d been caught planning to shoot up his school, that he stalked and stabbed a girl who’d rejected him, and a dozen other rumors that were probably all fake. Whatever he was really in for, Cletus never said. Maybe he really was dangerous if you put a gun or a knife in his hand, but here on the inside, he was all talk.

Eddie couldn’t stand him. Which made the fact that they were cellmates that much worse.

”Well, here’s to your last day in the funhouse,” Cletus said, raising his cup of orange juice. ”And to your shiny new future among the drones.”

”Yeah,” Eddie grunted, raising his own cup. ”Here’s to the future.”

He gulped down the drink, but he knew his little toast was meaningless. Nobody was going to want to hire an ex-con who worked for one of the city’s most notorious crime bosses. All the GEDs and night classes and odd-jobs in the world weren’t going to change the fact that he’d been caught by a superhero, marking him forever as a low-life henchman and nothing more.

If Eddie Brock ever had any chance at a future, Spider-Man had ruined it.




”Okay, I’m finally in,” I say, crawling through the hole my trusty Spider-Drone had cut through the last security door. ”I’m at the display for the Lioness. Now I can figure out where Black Cat went.”

Making my way through the museum’s security was more of an ordeal than I’d expected. The heavy steel doors were one bad enough, then I had to deactivate the laser grid, short out the electrified floors, and web up the automated tear-gas dispensers. I have to admit, I wasn’t giving them enough credit when I got here-- they really don’t want people stealing this stuff.

”You do realize ‘circumventing’ all of that security counts as damaging public property, right?” Captain DeWolff says.

”True,” I admit, ”but it’s worth less than the Lioness, right? Which means if I save it, it’s basically a net gain for the city.”

”You clearly didn’t study economics,” she says. ”What do you see in there?”

”Well, there’s the display,” I say, scanning the room for any irregularities, ”and a discarded glass-cutter. Three unconscious security guards on the floor, two male, one female, all face-down but definitely breathing. There’s a length of cable that I’d bet Cat used to descend into the room, but it was cut when the security doors came down. And I see what looks like a duffel bag, going to check it out.”

It’s not like Felicia to just leave things lying around. Did she leave something here? A bomb, maybe? A booby-trap? A crazed little-person with a knife? None of that really strikes me as her style.

Carefully approaching the bag, I first adjust my lenses to scan for any traces of explosives, dangerous chemicals, or anything else I don’t want getting on me, and I come up with nothing. So far, so good. Tentatively, I pick it up, and start searching through it.

”Nothing,” I say. ”The bag’s empty. And I’m still not seeing any way she could have gotten out of here.”

”Hang on,” DeWolff says, ”how many guards did you say were in there?”

”Three. Two male, one female.”

”I’m looking at the employee schedule. There’s only supposed to be two guards stationed there.”

”So what’s…..”

The two male guards are still lying there on the floor.

The third ‘unconscious’ guard, the female, is nowhere to be found.

”Oh my God, I am so stupid!” I say, cursing myself.

She knew I’d be the first on the scene. She knew I could disable the security measures that would have kept her trapped inside. She knew that I get distracted easily by things that are seemingly innocuous but out of place.

That’s why I couldn’t find any trace of her escape: because she didn’t. She let the doors close, changed into a guard uniform that she had brought in that duffel bag, then waited for me to come along and make the way out for her.

”Jameson’s going to have a field day with this,” I mutter to myself as I start sprinting out the way I came in.

”Spider, are you implying what I think you’re implying?”

”I’m already on it, Captain,” I say, gritting my teeth. ”In the meantime, can you do me a favor? Call Johansen’s Dry Cleaning in Chelsea and tell them ticket number 195 is going to be late for his pick-up.”
I am working on Eve currently. I’m also working on a Suicide Squad app, which I just want to run past @GreenGrenade if I can take Captain Boomerang (George Harkness) and @AndyC if I can take Typhoid Mary (we don’t have a Daredevil player but Mary crosses over with Spider-Man occasionally). Also with no Aquaman player I’m also looking to take King Shark, if anyone wanted to use him let me know though.

Despite the thoughts I’ve voiced previously I’m not intending to drop or quit. I find it harder to motivate myself, but I still love storytelling and what we do here. I just might have to look to taking up side projects to hit that classic interactivity itch.

Edit: Also @AndyC again, do you have any plans for Mysterio (Quentin Beck)? If not can I use him on the Squad? I’ve flipped him on and off my roster a couple times as he’s a big name but I think he’d be good for the dynamic.


To answer your questions: I have zero plans for Typhoid Mary. I have included Mysterio in Spidey's backstory, and while I haven't gone into much detail, his origin is similar to is role in Far From Home. He was apprehended once, escaped as part of the Doc Ock's Sinister Six, and is currently in SHIELD custody. In terms of actual story, I don't have any grand plans for Mysterio, so if you wanna use him in the Squad, you're welcome to him.

New posts are currently in the works; not my best work by any means, but they'll at least get the ball rolling again.
Sorry for the lack of activity- real life has been, well, insane. I lost a job, got a new one, started having panic attacks, and only just recently started to normal out, only for it to start back up again thanks to all the fun stuff on the news. And on top of that, I'm so far behind in posting that I feel guilty about even checking in on it, let alone trying to pick up where I left off a month ago. Excuses aside, I could use a little escapism, so if I still have access to Spidey and the Titans girls, I will try to get posts up soon.
Once upon a time, I would write out the exact plots I had in mind well ahead of time, sometimes even several seasons ahead, but then I'd burn out before I could get going (the first time I got to play Spider-Man, I had him plotted out from Year One all the way to Year Ten, then stopped midway through Year Two). I usually find that when I try and scheme things way in advance, my writing suffers because I get so hung up on the conclusion that everything leading up to it isn't given much thought.

Nowadays, I just try to think of a scenario, throw the characters into it, and see what happens. This requires a lot more understanding of the characters' personalities and how they would react to a given situation, but it also requires less prep work. It's messy and a lot of the time the continuity gets all screwy, but I think it has a better "feel" than whenever I would spend months and months setting up a payoff that everyone saw coming a mile away.


"Oh, come on, you guys," I say to myself as I land on the rooftop of the Guggenheim and see the neat circular hole cut into the glass of the Guggenheim's intricate web of skylights. "Regular glass? While you're displaying a priceless artifact shaped like a cat? In New York? Where there's an infamous master criminal who dresses like a cat? Why not just put up a big flashing neon sign that says 'Please Rob Us?'"

"Most of the security there is top of the line," Captain DeWolff says over the earpiece in my mask. "Motion sensors, cameras that can detect the entire electromagnetic spectrum, laser-tripped alarms, pressure sensors on everything from the displays to the floor. Hypothetically, even if someone did manage to get in, there's no way they could grab the Guennol Lioness and escape without detection."

"Yeah, well, the thing about hypotheses is they have to be put to the test," I say, crawling through the skylight and lowering myself down via a web line to avoid touching the floor. "I'm going to see if I can retrace her steps-- knowing where she came in is all well and good, but we need to find how she got out, and maybe then we can figure out where she went."

"Think you can do it?"

"Pretty sure. I'm no slouch when it comes to infiltrating and sneaking around in places I shouldn't be."

"Oh, is that so? Any mischief that I need to know about?"

"I only B&E on bad guys, Captain," I assure her, as the bundle of heightened awareness, acuity, and reactions that I collectively refer to as my vaunted Spider-Sense picks up the near-imperceptible heat of a laser tripwire, and I stop my descent short. "Manfredi never knew how many times he spilled his guts to me while I was crawling around up in the air ducts. Speaking of...."

Carefully winding around the laser, I drop down another floor, before I see a vent on a far wall whose grate is just slightly off. Most people wouldn't notice it-- I wouldn't have noticed it if I weren't looking for this particular perp. By her standards, though, it's practically a dead giveaway. Either she did this in a hurry, or.....

"Captain, you mind if I put you on hold for a sec?" I ask. "I might lose signal in here, and I need to make a call."

Before Captain DeWolff can answer, I put her line on hold, open my contacts, and let out a sigh as I head for the air vent.

"It's gonna be one of those nights, isn't it?"




"Possibility," began the man in an immaculate three-piece suit as he addressed the conference hall full of excited young interns, "is the barrier that separates reality from mere dreaming. It may be a cliché to say that 'anything is possible,' but as we learn and progress, we discover far more things are possible than our ancestors could have imagined. Once upon a time, it was 'impossible' for a carriage to move without a horse to pull it. It was 'impossible' to build a machine that could calculate and compute complex equations faster than a human could blink. It was 'impossible' to split the atom, to land a man on the moon, to map the human genome. It was 'impossible' for a man to fly through the air, to lift a tank over his head, or to crawl along walls like a spider. And now, they tell us it is 'impossible' for mankind to keep stride in a world full of titans."

Toward the back of the room, Gwen Stacy did her best to act impressed. She was a third-year intern at OsCorp now, and while CEO Norman Osborn was always a commanding presence who dominated any room he entered, she had heard almost this exact speech no fewer than five times now. It certainly captured her imagination during her first year, as it was with the new crop of first-year interns in the room, but Gwen had spent enough time in and around OsCorp to know there was a lot more going on behind the sales pitches and showmanship.

"Possibility, you see, is what drives us here at OsCorp," Norman continued, the large screen behind him showcasing stock footage of happy people and appropriately 'sciencey' imagery, mixed with clips of the latest OsCorp products. "This company was founded on the notion that boundaries are meant to be pushed, that limits are there to be exceeded. Revolutionary breakthroughs in genetic engineering, in cybernetic augmentation, and in the next generation of bio-technology, all developed right here, in this very building, will propel the world forward in ways that many of our peers would consider, well, 'impossible.'"

On the screen, a silhouette of an Olympic runner kept pace with an expensive sports car. A firefighter lifted up a steel girder weighing several tons. A young woman, her eyes full of hope and determination, took a running leap, and propelled herself high into the sky. All very dramatic, very theatrical, but Gwen knew they were closer to the mark than the corny presentation let on.

Most of her work was as a lab- and administrative assistant, doing basic data entry, taking notes for Doctor Warren, getting coffee, translating long and highly technical papers into 800-word articles for the OsCorp website. It would be years before she would ever be allowed anywhere near the labs where the real work was done, the military contracts and top-secret projects that pushed the boundaries of legality and ethics. Still, Gwen had connections-- after all, she was a friend of the CEO's son-- and the glimpses she had gotten behind the proverbial curtain were eye-opening.

The presentation showed a young man standing from a wheelchair as inspirational music swelled, and Gwen wondered if an injection of Globulin Green could indeed allow a paralyzed person to walk. Maybe for a few minutes, before they went horrendously insane and attacked the nearest person.

"You, the youth of America, are going to inherit the future," Osborn went on, "And you fortunate few, you are going to have a hand in shaping that future for--"

*The Itsy-Bitsy Spiiii-der Went Up the Water Spout....*

Gwen started, her eyes wide, realizing she hadn't put her phone on silent. From the stage at the front of the conference hall, Norman glanced at her with a raised eyebrow.

"Are you going to get that, Miss Stacy?"

"Oh! Ohmygosh! I-- I'm so sorry, Mister Osborn, I--"

"Don't apologize, Miss Stacy," Osborn interrupted her, "I never do. If there's one thing I dislike more than thoughtlessness, it's spinelessness. Now please, step outside and take your call. I'm sure if you had your phone on during a meeting, the call must be for something more important."

Gwen flushed, inwardly cursing at herself as the room full of OsCorp personnel, some fellow interns like her, others high-ranking project managers and team leaders, watched her fumble for her phone and taking a mental note of the faux pas. A few of the first-year newbies laughed, and Osborn shot them a cold glare.

She stepped out into the hallway, and checked her phone, seeing who would call her in the middle of a meeting.

"Of course," she sighed as she saw the name and answered.

"Hey Gwen, it's me, I just wanted to--"

"Peter, I could strangle you right now!" she blurted out. "Norman is doing the orientation speech to all the new interns, and half of the people in the company that I want to work with now think I'm some ditz! It's going to take me months to live this down!"

"Oh--I, uh, I'm sorry, I didn't know--"

Gwen took a deep breath to catch herself. "....it's not your fault, I was the one who left my phone on. Sorry I yelled. Anyway, what's up? MJ kept hinting that you've got some 'big surprise' for me after work?"

"....uhhh, yeah, about that," Pete began, "I, uh, I may be running late. Something came up....y'know, job stuff. It might take a little longer than I thought. But don't worry, I've still got something great in mind! Just....once you get off work, don't take the bus or subway back to the dorm, I've, uh, I've got a ride to pick you up."

"What kind of ride?"

"It's, ah, kinda part of the surprise. If I'm not there in time, well, you'll know it when you see it. And I'll meet up with you later, honest."

"If you say so," she said, doubtfully.

"Okay, cool. Anyway, I've gotta get going, or this thing is gonna take even longer. Sorry again, babe. Love you!"

"Love you too," Gwen replied, ending the call. She really did love Peter, but there were times when he didn't make that easy.

As she stepped back into the conference hall, all eyes turned back to her, some disapproving glares, other silent jeers, before Norman Osborn cleared his throat to turn their attention back to him.

"Do forgive the young lady," he said to the room as Gwen sheepishly made her way for the back door. "she really is quite brilliant. But even geniuses can make the occasional slip-up. Now then, the future....."

Gwen Stacy sank into a chair at the back of the conference hall, and inwardly sighed.

"It's going to be one of those nights, isn't it?"
Sorry about the lack of activity-- started a new job, which has cut my hobby time down a bunch. New posts should be coming soon, though.


"We're all dead," Alex says to himself, quivering with fear and clutching white-knuckled onto his weapon as on the other side of the hill, the battle rages. "Oh man, we're all dead. This is bad, this is bad, this is so bad....."

Indeed, things do appear to have the bleakness. The bulk of our forces have been routed, overwhelmed by the enemy horde. While they fought bravely, they lacked discipline, and most have been laid low. Our reinforcements were cut off, and only with a frantic withdrawal was I able to retrieve a few of my friends and bring them to safety. If we are to win the day, we must act with the boldness, and we must do it in the now.

"Do not despair, Friend Alex," I say, trying to rally the remaining warriors. "Our enemy has proven strong, but our resolve will be ever stronger! My friends, whatever horrors lie on the other side of that hill, beyond them lies glory! All we need is the courage to take it! Who among you will find your share of honor with me this day?!"

Not ten yards away, the grunts and cries and snarls of combat grow louder. Friends Trevor and Eugene whimper.

"I do not ask of you anything I would not give myself," I say, taking my own weapon in one hand and that of a fallen foe in the other. "The Warlords of Okaara and the blade-singers of Tamaran would sing songs of remembrance, ballads of mighty champions and warrior queens who defended the innocent and slew the wicked. To have so much as a line written in your name, let alone a verse, is a greater honor than most achieve in their lives. And friends, I do believe each of you have names worthy of singing."

This raises their spirits a bit. Friends Gerald and Andrew stand, their fear giving way to a quavering confidence.

"The enemy comes. I will charge them, and they will know the fury of a Princess of Tamaran! Come with me and find your honor, or bury your heads in shame!"

A defiant war cry erupts from our ranks, and we prepare to meet the foe in one last desperate stand.

Behind me, my most trusted friend and confidant, our powerful sorceress, stands.

"Kory," she says with a sigh.....




".....this is stupid," I say, as the handful of LARPers in the park cry out like they're in the climax of a Peter Jackson movie.

On the other side of the hill, a dozen or so "orcs"-- some other nerds with green face-paint on-- have captured a "sacred relic" (a beach ball with some gold spraypaint and glitter) that we have to take back. I'm the group's sorceress, which means I've got a couple of pouches of bird-seed and tennis balls with streamers on them that I throw around to act as my "spells." For some reason, Kory got it in her head that this would be a great way for us to train for combat, to learn how to use my Soul Magic tactically without outing myself to any prying eyes that might be watching. In action, this whole thing would be humiliating if there were any people in Jump City whose opinions I actually valued.

The rules of this Live-Action-Role-Playing thing required me to dress up as my fantasy character, a Sorceress I named 'Raven.' I initially didn't want to put on a costume, but they didn't want some girl in normal clothes running around their magical fantasy battle-- that would just be silly. I found a couple of cheap pieces at a costume store, a dark cloak and some pieces of faux jewelry. The dress I wanted to wear wasn't really easy to move around in, so I ended up buying a gymnast's leotard and some stockings for the main portion of the outfit-- it's light, I can run around and jump and whatever without any trouble, and it's cheap if it gets torn.

I'm not crazy about how form-fitting it is, but at least it's more modest than the outrageous armored-bikini getup Kory picked for herself. She looks like something from the cover of those old Heavy Metal magazines Alex and his crusty friends keep in the back of the comic shop.

"For the glory of Tamaran!" Kory yells as she charges towards the first group of pizza-faced ogres. She doesn't run into them, so much as she dances through them. Each of their attacks might as well be moving through pudding as she gracefully ducks underneath one, twirling to land one strike in a nerd's face, then whirls low with a backhand blow across the knees with her off-hand weapon. The second one swings a club at her, and she butterfly kicks over it, bringing both of her weapons together in an X-pattern to slash across his neck.

If she wasn't using a pair of PVC pipes padded with pool noodles and wrapped in duct tape, it would actually be kind of cool.

As Kory engages the main body, three more of the green-painted 'Orcs' run towards me and Alex, who cringes behind me.

"Hang on, hang on," I say, looking through my list of spells as the enemies converge. "Okay, here we go. Greater Invisibility."

I pull a small pouch from my belt, and throw a handful of glitter in the air. As the other nerds approach, I put my hands up. One of them raises his foam-and-cardboard battle-axe to attack.

"Nope," I say, casually taking a step back, "You saw the glitter. According to the rules you guys gave me, that means I'm invisible, and so are any other friendly players within five feet. So you can't attack me and 'Bolphunga the Unrelenting' here."

"....ugggh, no fair!" the axe guy whines.

"Hey, those are the rules. Not my fault your team went all barbarian with no spellcaster."

"....okay, but what about all the other guys on your team?" he asks, pointing to the guys who didn't join Kory on her glorious charge.

I shrug. "What about them? Come on, Alex, let's go get this over with."

The attacking orc players eagerly charge in on the couple of cowering dorks, ready to do their dirty work. Even if it's just a game, I do feel kind of bad.

"Oh hey," I call back as they move in on my helpless teammates. "You see that line I drew in the dirt with the 'X' on it?"

Axe guy turns back and nods. "Yeah?"

"That's a Dimension Door," I tell them. "When you ran across that line, it opened up and teleported you to the Abyss. You're out." Game or not, I'm not going to just leave people defenseless.

"Oh come on!" he pouts, and then he and his friends go wander over to the pavilion where their moms have prepared snacks.

A few yards away, Kory does a no-hands cartwheel to dodge an incoming arrow (which has a big foam ball on the end, making it about as dangerous as a thrown pillow) and throws one of her foam swords like a javelin at her attacker, hitting him square in the chest. Meanwhile, I casually stroll up the greenway towards the golden beach ball, Alex cringing behind me.

Eventually, the 'invisibility' spell wears off, and a couple more Orcs with spears try to intercept me. "Burning Hands," I say as I toss a handful of bird seed at one, harmlessly coating him in pellets. He plays along, falling to the ground and yelling like he's actually on fire. It's silly and lame, but at least he's getting into it instead of griping about the rules. Alex lets out a war cry and swings his pool-noodle sword at the second spear guy, and they split off to have their own little duel.

The golden beach ball is sitting maybe about ten yards away in the middle of the orc players' "base," a small arbitrary area lined out with a couple of traffic cones. With Kory single-handedly cutting down most of the other team, the "relic" looks undefended, so I make my way towards it.....

"Ha-HAAAAAAA!!!!!"

....and a scrawny kid with no shirt, a plastic skull mask, two big foam axes, and his arms and chest covered in temporary tattoos, jumps out from behind a bush between me and the beach ball.

"You may have outsmarted my minions, witch," he snarls in as deep a voice as he can manage, "but I, BROZZGOR THE UNCONQUERABLE, will not fall for your magicks! My steel is thirsty for your blood! BERZERKER RAGE!!!!"

He charges, and I toss a ping-pong ball at him, which bounces off of his plastic mask.

"Hold Person," I say. "We win."

"But--- hey, that's....whaa--"

"In the rules you guys gave me, it says that Berzerker Rage lowers your Willpower. Hold Person is a high-level spell, which means you now don't have the ability to save against it. So you're now stuck in place, which means I can grab the beach ba--...the 'relic,' and we win."

"You can't do that!!!!" he starts to shriek.

"There's literally nothing that says I can't," I shrug as I walk over and pick up the beach ball.

Skull guy runs off, still shrieking in a dork rage, while I wave down Kory to let her know we won.

"Oh, Friend Raven," she exclaims, "This is most glorious! We have one the first of many triumphs today, and have succeeded in kicking many of the butts!"

"It's Rachel," I say, "I told you, 'Raven' is just my character's name. It's only while the game is going, and now that we've won, the game is over. This whole thing is weird enough without mixing up everyone's real and fake names."

"I see," she nods, clearly not seeing at all. "Anyway, you did very well today! I believe this was an excellent training session for when we fight the true ass-holes in the world!"

I give her a skeptical look. "I threw bird-seed and pocket-sand at some overweight chuds with bad hygiene. How is that going to get me ready for fighting mercenaries and cultists and super-villains?"

"You were aware of your gifts," she explains, "you saw how they could best be used, and you applied them in ways the enemy did not expect. The danger may not be as great as when we confront the HIVE or the Church of Blood, no. But you are beginning to think like a warrior, and that is the first step to becoming one."

I shrug, not completely convinced. "It's better than nothing, I guess."

"Indeed! Now, we have been invited to take part in the celebratory feasting upon the cakes of pan! Our new friends Rothgar Blood-Thirster and Zugroth Doomhammer have room in their cars to take us to the domain of IHOP. Never-ending pancakes, four flavors of bottled tree-sap, and free refills on coffee! It sounds like a place of wonders!"

"Kory, the last thing you need is caffeine," I say, "But sure, I could eat. You are going to change clothes before we go, though, right?"

"Is something wrong with my battle regalia?" she asks, looking down at the bits of dubiously-effective armor held together by strips of spandex, the only things between her and a public indecency charge. "Did it get torn?"

"I'm pretty sure if it got torn, the parents at the park would never let us back here," I tell her. "It's just....not appropriate to wear that stuff in public. It's so....degrading."

"I fail to see how it degrades me if I do not allow it to make me feel degraded," she says. "At any rate, I saw many females and males in the public yesterday, who were all wearing regalia like this, and they were not said to be 'degraded.'"

"They were at the beach, Kory. Those were swimsuits."

"I have the confusion. How does the proximity to water influence the amount of shame one is supposed to feel about one's body? Do you humans have some sort of chemical reaction when exposed to moisture?"

"It's.....complicated," I wave it away. "Anyway, I'm going to put my 'Raven' costume up. You put on some pants, then we'll eat some pancakes, okay?"

"I have the annoyance that so many things on this planet are 'complicated,'" she frowns, but then like a light switch she goes right back to sunny and cheerful. "Still, I look forward to the eating of fried carbohydrates and tree-sap!"

She merrily trots away toward the small concrete building where the public bathrooms are so she can get changed (just getting her to do that instead of stripping wherever she felt like was a chore), and I'm left picking up the ping-pong balls and other bits and bobs I threw around to cast my "spells" before we leave.

"Hey, uhhhh, Rachel?"

Turning around, I look and see Alex, still holding his foam sword, shifting nervously back and forth.

"Hm?"

"I, uh......I thought you were really cool out there," he says.

"Oh, ummm.....thanks," I say. "Did you, uh, manage to beat that spear guy?"

"....no," he admits, turning his head away.

"Ah," I say as I stand up, having picked up my last bit of litter. "Well, you'll get him next time."

"Yeah," he says, smiling with a bit of uneasy confidence, "Next time."

He looks like he's about to say something else, then he runs off towards his mom's van in the parking lot.

What a day. What a weird, lame, and very, very stupid day. Then again, 'weird and stupid' could describe just about every aspect of my life for about a month now, ever since a magic space-girl crash-landed in front of me and started sleeping in my apartment. Considering how many people are after us, how many people want Kory on a dissection table and me on a sacrificial altar, a day running around in the park having a fake-fight with a bunch of nerds is practically mundane.

My stomach growls as the sun starts to set on Jump City. Now that I think about it, pancakes don't sound too bad.


"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to Just the Facts, with your humble host, J. Jonah Jameson. Now, you know me. I'm not the type to hold a grudge."

"Ummmm...."

"Quiet, Betty. People have been asking me, why can't I just 'let it go?' It's been six months since Spider-Man 'saved the city,' everyone says. Without him and his amazing, sensational, spectacular spider-powers, Doctor Octopus and the Sinister Six would have turned Manhattan into a scrap heap! We should have thrown him a parade, given him a bright shiny medal, maybe even the key to the city! And yes, I'll admit, Spider-Man was in fact the one who defeated Otto Octavius and his brute squad.

"But what everyone seems to neglect while showering the web-head with praise for stopping the Sinister Six, is that the whole reason the Sinister Six even existed was because of him! We now know that at least two of the members of Otto's gang, Flint "Sandman" Marko and Alex "Rhino" O'Hirn, were given their special abilities specifically to fight Spider-Man. And the only reason they were in a position to get those super-powers was because Lonnie "Tombstone" Lincoln has been trying to expand his criminal empire. And the only reason Tombstone is trying to expand his criminal empire is because the old head of the Maggia, Silvio Manfredi, is behind bars. And the only reason Silvio Manfred is behind bars is because SPIDER-MAN PUT HIM THERE!"


"....actually, Mister Jameson, Captain DeWolff of the NYPD was the officer who--"

"Now I'm not saying Manfredi should have gone free-- the Maggia syndicate are the worst of the worst. But if you're going to topple the biggest crime boss in New York, you ought to have a plan for what happens after! Now look where we are! Manfredi's replacement is a thug by the name of Sonny "Hammerhead" Caputo, a cold-blooded killer, and he and Tombstone have started a gang war. The Sinister Six might be behind bars, but there are still plenty of costumed freaks that the wall-crawler hasn't dealt with-- ever notice how that Green Goblin lunatic always seems to get away? Or how the Black Cat always just happens to slip out of Spidey's webs before the police can bring her in? For all the talk about him 'saving the city,' I sure as hell don't feel any safer, do you?"

"......kind of?"

"Let's take some callers! Francis from Long Island, you're on the air!"

"Hi, Mister Jameson? You're right on the money, as always. If Spider-Man really cared about saving the city, he'd put on a badge or sign on with S.H.I.E.L.D."

"Ex-actly! You think a S.H.I.E.L.D. team wouldn't be able to take down Octavius's weirdos or Tombstone and Hammerhead's goons faster and cleaner than one guy who's probably working out of his mom's basement? More importantly, a S.H.I.E.L.D. team has superiors that they answer to if they screw up! How many times have we seen the web-head make a bad situation worse? And how many times has he ever actually had to answer for it? If he won't answer to Uncle Sam, I'll make sure he answers to me! Next caller! Miles from Brooklyn, you're on the air!"

"Hi, Mister Jameson, I think you've got it all wrong. There are a lot of us who can't rely on the government or the cops to be there for us, and when there's trouble, Spider-Man's always been--"

"Kid, I'm sure it looks like he's there to help you out, but he's only ever been in it to help himself. Trust me, I've been covering him longer than anyone else, and that 'friendly neighborhood Spider-Man' act is just that: an act. He's clearly well-equipped and trained and funded, which means he's got a lot of money backing him. So why isn't any of that money going towards helping out those neighborhoods he's 'saving?' Because he wants everyone in the city to congratulate him for being such a great guy. Even those high-and-mighty glory hounds in the Justice League are less obnoxious and phony when it comes to grandstanding and showboating and playing it up for the cheap seats. Next caller! Webster from Queens, you're on the air!"

"Hi, Jonah? I think you're right about Spidey, he's a total creep! Like just now, I caught him peeping in on someone's window!"

"See?! This is the sort of degeneracy those freaks in tights get away with if they don't--"

"Yeah, I saw him hanging upside-down outside an office building, waving at some dork who was running a radio show!"

"That's just--.....hey, wait a--"

"Whoever it is, it seems to be some high-strung blowhard who still thinks a flat-top and a little Hitler moustache is a good look! And it looks like he's about to have a conniption!"

"Why, you--......you no-good--....you come on MY SHOW--"

"Just popped by to let you know that you've got a piece of spinach stuck between your teeth. Anyway, I'm off to foil some crimes and save some people, and then I might grandstand and showboat about it for a bit like the giant fraud that I am. Have a good one, JJ!"

".....YOU GOOD-FOR-NOTHING DELINQUENT, I'LL HAVE YOU DRAWN AND QUARTERED IN TIMES SQUARE, YOU HEAR ME?!?!?! I'LL HAVE YOUR HEAD MOUNTED ON MY WALL! I'LL BRING YOU DOWN IF IT'S THE LAST THING I DO, SPIDER-MAN!!!!!!!!"




Ahhh, sometimes I just can't help myself.

Back when I first started, Jonah's muckraking and fear-mongering used to really get to me. Sometimes it still does, if I'm honest-- no matter how hard I try, no matter how many people I save, there are always going to be guys like him who'll go out of their way to get everything twisted. If there's one constant in the world, it's that people are willing to believe just about anything about just about anyone, just as long as it's bad.

Thankfully, most people in the city are starting to come around, and an increasingly large chunk of Jameson's audience are tuning in just for the comedy of him blowing his stack. I feel like it's my duty as a public servant to occasionally poke the proverbial bear, just to keep old Jolly Jonah lively for their sake.

Having had my fun, I push off from the side of the Flatiron Building, and feel the all-too-familiar rush of air and lump in my throat, as I drop down towards the pavement, hear the reliable THWIP of my web-shooter as I throw out a line, and then feel the guts-heaving G-force of my fall becoming a swing.



"WHOOOOO-HOOOO-HOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!" I let out a cry of exhilaration as just before I start to lose the momentum in my swing, I let go of the web-line and launch myself into the evening sky. I tuck back my feet and grab my ankles behind my back into a sort of reverse-cannonball pose as I arc through the air, holding the pose as long as I can until I need to throw out another line and swing again. On my next upward arc, I do a jackknife, and on the next one I curl in start to spin, seeing how many rotations I can get before I have to throw out another line-- just eight this time, three short of my record. I've been swinging around this city and hopping across rooftops for five years, and it never gets old. When you've got muscles like industrial springs, and instant rope-swings and zip-lines whenever you want, the whole world is like one big trampoline park. Even in life-or-death situations, it's hard to not show off a little bit.

....so maybe Jonah's kind of right about me showboating. Kind of.

*BZZZT-BZZZZT*
INCOMING CALL FROM:
MAY PARKER


The augmented-reality HUD inside the smart-lenses of my mask is a pretty little piece of guerilla engineering that I'm rather proud of. I know Iron Man has a better one, and I've heard Batman has something crazy in his cowl, but I don't have Tony Stark bucks to throw around, so for something I knocked together in Aunt May's basement, I think it's got quite a nice suite of features. If I need it, it's got up-to-date GPS navigation around the city, and can connect to my tracking bugs and remote-control camera drones so I know when bad guys are on the move. It can access NYPD, FBI, and even S.H.I.E.L.D. databases through backdoors that took no small amount of work to put in place, as well as my own private database for info of all of the crazy stuff I've come across. It can take pictures, zoom up to 16x magnification without any loss of picture clarity (awesome if I want to get some shots for the Bugle and don't have my actual camera handy), switch between various night vision modes, and filter out flashes of bright light in case, say, Electro gets too close for comfort. Or the SWAT team flash-bangs me while I'm saving a hostage. Again.

And best of all, it pairs with my smart-phone (after bouncing calls through an impenetrable maze of relays so people don't ask why Spider-Man's gear is connected to Peter Parker's phone, of course). I waggle my left eyebrow up and down twice to answer the call.

"Hi, Aunt May!" I say cheerfully, swinging higher above the streets so I can hear her above the traffic. "How was your day?"

"Oh, it was fine, Peter," Aunt May says, always trying to downplay how hard she works. Even over the phone, I can hear the exhaustion in her voice. "There were a few troublemakers at lunch today, and Mister Li had his hands full for a few hours getting them taken care of, so I was more or less in charge of the center for most of the afternoon. Walter and Susan did what they could, of course, but...."

"Aunt May, we've got to find more help for you out there," I tell her. "You're supposed to be enjoying your retirement, not working yourself to the bone!"

"I happen to like working, Peter," she says, defiantly. "And now that I've got all this free time on my hands, I can't just sit idly by when there are people in need."

"I know," I admit, "and you're amazing for it. Just....while you're taking care of everyone, make sure you're still taking care of yourself, is all."

Ever since retiring from her career as a nurse, Aunt May has spent her days helping out at FEAST (Food, Emergency Aid, Shelter, and Training), a community center for the less fortunate put together by a philanthropist named Martin Li. Martin's a good man, and I'd like to think if I had his kind of money I'd be paying it forward to the city like he does, but ultimately, there's only so much they can do. It's been a hard year for New York, and all of the various bits of craziness have left a lot of people out of work, out of a home, and running out of options. Aunt May's got more than enough heart and willpower to go around, but at her age, even the best of intentions can end up with stress and strain that she just doesn't need.

"It's nothing a hot bath and a good book before bed won't fix," she brushes it off. "Anyway, that's not why I called. I called because I want to make sure you've got everything ready for tonight."

"Of course!" I say, vaulting off of an air conditioning unit and springing into a no-hands cartwheel in the empty air, enjoying the hangtime. "I called the restaurant this morning to confirm the reservation. I'm on my way to pick up my best shirt and pants from the dry cleaners right now. I booked the carriage ride to surprise her as soon as she's off of work. It's all good to go."

"....and you're sure you've got the--"

"Oh no!" I exclaim. "I-I-I must have left it back at the dorm! Ohhhh, man!!!!"

"Peter, you've got to--"

"Kidding, kidding!" I say with a laugh. "I've got it on me, right here in my pocket."

I pat myself down really quick to make sure I actually do have it on me, and sigh with relief.

"All right, well, it sounds like you've got it all together," she says. "You have a wonderful night. And Peter?"

"Hmm?"

"I'm really proud of you."

"I....thanks, Aunt May. Love you!"

She hangs up, and underneath my mask, I've got the biggest, dumbest smile I've ever had in my life. Buzzing Jameson and swinging around town is fun and all, but tonight's going to be something special. I can put up with supervillains, with media smears, even with Flash Thompson moping around the dorm, because it's all been leading up for tonight. Nothing in the world can--

*BZZZZT--BZZZZT!*
CALL FROM
CAPTAIN JEAN DeWOLFF, NYPD


....of course.

"Thank you for calling Spider-Man's Hoodlum and Supervillain Gift-Wrapping and Delivery Service, this is Spidey speaking, how may I help you?" I answer. Please let this be something easy. Maybe that guy with the big wheel, he was fun.

"A laugh riot as always," she says in a tone so dry it would make the Sahara feel like the Pacific. If there are two things Jean DeWolff shares in common with her late mentor, George Stacy, it's a tireless devotion to justice, and a steadfast refusal to play along with any of my schtick. "An alarm just tripped at the Guggenheim. Three security guards incapacitated-- no serious injuries reported, but they didn't see what hit them. The museum's currently displaying the Guennol Lioness, an ancient Mesopotamian sculpture estimated at over $57 million. At least, it was displaying the Lioness...."

"Until it went missing, right," I say, barely able to contain my annoyance. "Someone's lifting a priceless cat statue in the middle of the day? I think we both have a pretty good idea who's gutsy enough to pull that trick off. I'm on my way now."

"Make sure that sculpture doesn't get a scratch on it," DeWolff warns. "It's worth more than my entire precinct makes in a decade."

"You got it," I say, my great mood turning sour. Just what I need on the biggest night of my life.

It's okay, you can still have a perfect night.

Just investigate the crime scene, chase down the master criminal, recover the priceless artifact, and do it in less than two hours so you don't miss your reservation.

No pressure, right?
<Snipped quote by AndyC>
Sounds like a future Moon Knight and Spider-Man special event.


At some point us New York street level heroes are gonna have to figure out the state of organized crime in the city. Is the Maggia still mostly untouched?, etc.


Silvio Manfredi is the head of the Maggia as a whole, but he is currently indisposed for reasons I haven't bothered to elaborate on. In his place, Hammerhead is running New York, and Tombstone has broken off to start his own syndicate. Hammerhead's group are your more prototypical gangsters, while Hammerhead is using more creative methods for trying to deal with Spidey. I haven't touched Wilson Fisk since I figured that would be under the purview of anyone who wanted to take a crack at Daredevil, but since nobody has yet, we can assume he's out there and currently "above" the street-level gang war.
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