Nobody and the Spider (1)

No Loose Ends

 

Previously

Jet City

May 13, 2010

 

“Jet City!” the film’s narrator announced. “Home to more airports, airfields and airstrips than any other city in the world!” The film reel hiccupped and snapped to a new scene. “But it’s not only a capitol of aviation and learning. We have our fair share of superheroes as well. Let’s meet the impressive Windsock!”

“The future lives here,” said a man, presumably Windsock, dressed in a baggy weather themed costume.

“Isn’t he swell? Let’s see who else we can find. Ah! If it isn’t the Stilly Swami.”

“Very good,” said an ethnically ambiguous man dressed to the nines in Indian mystic garb.

“Yes these are just a few of the faces you’ll find here in Jet City, fighting crime and protecting the common citizen from the gangsters that plague our fair streets. Yet, despite this winning line-up, no roster would be complete without Jet City’s resident superhero himself, Jet Ryder!”

“Heya fellas,” said Jet, trying to look nonchalant as leaned on a chair in a fancy study.

“The man our city took it’s name from. Mr. Ryder! What are your plans for the future?” the narrator asked.

“Why that’s simple, sir. Fight crime and make the hopes and dreams of the citizens of our fair city fly ever higher,” Jet replied, looking stiff and uncomfortable.

“And what about a Mrs. Ryder? And some little Jet tykes of your own?” the narrator asked.

“You never know!” Jet said, nervously.

“We can sleep easy knowing that Jet and his crimefighting pals are watching our backs. No mobster, Commie or supervillain can stand a chance when we all stick together. God Bless you and God Bless Jet Ci-”

The video ended abruptly and went to a menu screen. A bored teenager started working on the company laptop to reset the film. The only other occupant of the makeshift theater tent was a young man named James Wagner. He was working on a motorcycle helmet with an esoteric tool the teenager had never seen before.

“Weren’t you in here earlier?” the teenager asked.

“Yeah. Just taking a break from running around in the Sun to watch my favorite film about the 1960 Jet City Expo,” James replied.

“You mean Jet City Expo 1960?” the teenager asked.

“It gets funnier every time,” said James.

“I guess,” the teenager replied.

“The best part is it really doesn’t age well at all. I mean, Stilly Swami for crying out loud. I’m pretty sure that was just a white guy in a turban.”

“Dude, that’s fucked up,” said the teenager. James nodded in agreement. He put the finishing touches on the high tech looking helmet and got up to leave. “See you soon,” the teen said with a bored wave.

“Probably. Fifth times the charm.”

James exited the tent into the bright light of late morning. People were still setting up booths and tents in the grass all over Centennial Park, a fitting place to celebrate a Centennial if ever there was one. The park had originally been made in honor of Jet City’s Centennial, or technically Jetty’s Centennial, in 2001. Considering that 9/11 happened right after that, James felt it was high time Centennial Park got a chance at redemption.

The Centennial of Superhumans was still a week away, but superheroes, superhumans and the differently powered of every stripe had already started the pre-party. Not everyone knew the story of the Centennial, but it wasn’t like they needed an excuse to party. Really any excuse to party was welcome these days, the economy being what it was. But to James, the Centennial meant more than just a week long celebration, though he looked forward to that part too. He considered himself something of a superhuman nerd. Not a nerd that was superhuman (how awesome would that be?) but a nerd for all things super. He knew the story by heart; how in 1910, Dr. Miguel Valencia became the first person in history to scientifically document and verify a superhuman, that the superhuman in question was a Mexican vigilante named El Chacal. The Jackal! How the Valencia Index classified the superhuman spectrum for decades before an official international system was adopted in the 60’s.

People didn’t get his obsession with super stuff, especially the crime fighting part of it. Superheroes and vigilantes were just another facet of modern life, they’d say, and a tiny one at that. You didn’t hear about tax attorney nerds or firefighter nerds. Why make a big deal about this thing in particular? But Masks and Capes were different, James would tell the haters. There was a drama there. A narrative winding through the decades. These men and women were full of stories. Love, passion, revenge. Blood, sweat and tears. These were crime fighters, soldiers, and emergency responders. Scientists, explorers and adventurers. Artists. Geniuses! This was theater writ large. The human story in microcosm. What could be cooler than that?

James realized he’d spaced out again when he suddenly snapped back to reality as a preassembled booth and a guy in overalls and a yellow helmet hovered over his head and toward the center of the park. As fun as exploring the park had been, he decided he’d wasted enough of the day and had to get back to work. There would be time to indulge in the marvelous events around town later. Things like exclusive merchandise from various super teams from around the world, meet and greets with popular heroes of today, and Q&A panels featuring legends of yesteryear. Everyone from the biggest names in the game (like the Nationals! OMG!) to the most amateur of DIY heroes were in town for the festivities. It was like living in New York or LA for a week. He could bump into an international superstar just by walking down the street! It was like the Olympics and New Year’s Eve and Carnival and Comic Con all rolled up into one. Jet City hadn’t been this alive in decades and the energy in the air was electrifying. Like a superhuman Renaissance could pop off at any second.

It wasn’t all puppies and rainbows, though there were plenty around thanks to illusioneers and other mentalist types. There was this tension in the air too. That feeling of the quiet before the storm. People could feel it. Even those who weren’t hyper attuned. The street gang known as the Spiders had taken over almost half of the city, though the average person wouldn’t have known other than seeing a differently dressed group of thugs hanging out in the bad parts of town. James wasn’t scared, though. Not with all these superheroes running around. And the safer areas practically had a cop on every corner. The mayor’s zero tolerance policy on vigilante activities had him a bit worried, though. Only licensed supers could operate in city limits for the duration and only in coordination with police, which left a lot of well qualified superheroes on the bench. Even so, with this many supers hanging around, who would try anything?

James snapped back to reality again when a hover tour bus full of tourists went past him, snapping pictures and oohing and awing in their native tongues. Right. Back to work, James thought. At the moment he was with a small start up company called D*Liver. It was built around an easy to use delivery app. Thanks to the Centennial it was really starting to take off; literally in some cases as they were just starting to test out their new delivery drones, which also happened to be why James was running around this morning. One of the drones had flown off course and he had find it. First he’d have to find where he’d left his motor scooter.

It was where he left it, tipped over in the wet grass next to a sensory vapor stand. Inhale a new reality, the stand promised. He put a mental flag on that one for later. He put his helmet on and activated the smart glass visor. A yellow HUD overlaid his vision. The signal booster he installed would theoretically allow him to detect the missing drone’s unique ID tag in 3D space. The HUD blinked in and out before stabilizing. A little spinning icon informed him the helmet was searching. And searching. Unfortunately the drone was nowhere in sight. He really hoped some scavenger hadn’t made off with it. With the city full of tinkerer hobbyists, of which he was one, and super inventors, which he definitely wasn’t, it wouldn’t have surprised him.

He decided he’d need to screw around with the helmet some more back at D*Liver HQ and was on his way there when he got a text from the order dispatcher. They wanted him to cover another guy’s delivery. Again. That annoyed him because he wasn’t actually a courier. He was… well he was a lot of things but courier wasn’t one of them. The app was taking off so fast that the company couldn’t keep up with demand. So of course they were sending him to plug holes and cover shifts. He checked the delivery info. The sender and the receiver were within a mile of each other. What the hell, he thought. Easy money.

The sender was a disheveled and unkempt looking yet non-descript man waiting near a bus stop. The package was a tightly sealed manila envelope. After confirming his request and handing the envelope over, the man immediately turned and walked away, getting lost in the crowd. James thought that was a little weird. He wondered why the sender didn’t just walk the package over themselves since it was in literal walking distance. He decided he didn’t care. Laziness drove the consumer economy. Why complain? He stuffed the envelope in his satchel and rode on.

Clear on the other side of Centennial Park, on the outskirts of Totem Lake, the receiver of the package waited for him. She was an older woman, short and dark skinned. She had brown hair cut in a bob, too dark to not be from a bottle; a dark green pant suit, dusky red lipstick and dark bags under her eyes that seemed to have accumulated over years of sleepless nights. She kindly smiled when James approached and accepted the package. James smiled back, but something about her creeped him out.

After wishing him good health, she turned to leave as well. Not as abruptly as the last guy, but she was walking like she had somewhere to be. James shrugged it off and went to check his work email when he realized she hadn’t actually accepted the package. Her old lady fingers must have been too dry for his smartphone to register. He looked around for her, saw her duck into a black sedan. He hopped on his motor scooter and gave chase. If she didn’t accept the package the company that meant revenue lost!

=

The woman tore open the envelope and dumped the papers on her lap. She read her instructions carefully and gave her driver the address. The job was easy enough. Her target was paralyzed and wouldn’t put up much of a fight. The hard part was going to be getting past police security, but she had an idea for that.

The driver stopped in front of St. Lienard’s Hospital. The woman exited the vehicle, now dressed like a nurse. She had a surgical mask on to hide her features even further. She took the elevator up to floor seven. The elevator pinged and the doors opened to two uniformed officers keeping watch. She nodded as she passed them. They gave a friendly nod back.

The room at the end of the hall was manned by two more cops as well as a third in plain clothes with a badge swinging from his neck. She went for the door. Plainclothes cop wasn’t having it. No one allowed in or out until further notice. She insisted. He asked for her ID. She broke his neck and knocked out the other two cops in short order. The two by elevator sped down the hall toward her, guns out, radios slapping against their duty belt. She eliminated them just as quickly as the others. She entered the room.

A giant of a man laid in a hospital bed, hooked up to various medical devices. His skin was hard to penetrate, so the IVs had to be snaked down his throat. He was handcuffed to the bed, though it was a ceremonial gesture for someone of his strength. He was very sedated, but he noticed her enter. His one good eye tracked her as she approached. She asked him his name. He mumbled something through the tangle of tubes in his mouth. She nodded, satisfied. She pulled out a small device from her pocket; metallic and remote-like in appearance. She aimed it squarely at his forehead and pressed a button. She placed the device back in her pocket and exited the room.

She kindly smiled at the officer watching the stairs. He put up an arm to stop her. She broke him in several ways. Silently, of course. She gingerly walked down the stairs, out of the hospital, and into the back of her car. She crossed the first name off her list. Dale Dawson, aka The War. She told her driver the address of her next target, tapping her pen on the name Harold Bell. The driver nodded mechanically and pulled away from the hospital.

In ten minutes, when the body was discovered, they would find the man formerly known as The War dead from brain aneurism. Nothing in his system other than what the medical staff was pumping into him. No trace of his assassin. No witnesses save for one; a young man who’d chased her all the way from Totem Lake, looking to get paid.

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2 responses to “Nobody and the Spider (1)”

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