Nobody and the Spider (15)

There’s a Minotaur at the End of This Labyrinth




Cho looked at the thumb drive like he was expecting at any moment for it to start talking to him. He looked the envelope over for any additional instructions or contents but there weren’t any. He turned the thumb drive over in his hand, contemplating his next move. He had half a mind to turn this over to Mulligan and let her have a stab at it. For all he knew this thing was full of viruses and trojan horses ready to steal his data. But why would someone go through all the trouble of sending him this and not just plugging it in themselves? Or, hell, do one of those remote hacks? No, this was a message obviously meant for his eyes only.

His hand hovered over the quick dial button on his phone. What if this was something he didn’t want anyone else seeing? Blackmail or something? He hadn’t done anything illegal in his life, but there were a few super embarrassing things from his past he didn’t want people knowing. He decided to check the thumb drive out for himself first before letting others know. Just in case. He plugged the bastard in. The computer screen glitched out and a new window popped up. Black with white text.


Shit, was this a virus after all?

Connection made.

A cursor appeared in the window.


Fuck, they got in! They broke through his firewall and hacked his files! He unplugged the thumb drive but it did nothing. The computer blipped.

Is anyone there?

Cho furiously typed a reply.

“Who are you? What do you want?”

The computer blipped again.

I am S.H.E.

“She?” Cho wondered.

I want to help you.

“What are you talking about?” Cho typed.

With the Cosmo.

He felt his blood freeze. More text appeared.

I know you’ve been looking for answers. The investigators are shutting you out because they don’t know where your loyalties lie. The upper echelons of Jet City are tangled in a very massive web. Everyone’s in bed with everyone else. Who can be trusted? You don’t have the full picture, but you desperately want it. You’re worried someone is going to sell you up the river and you’d like insurance against that.

“How can help me?” Cho asked before remembering he had to type it out.

I know things. And I can see what you’ve been up to. Cosmo’s security tapes, time and location stamps following four people in particular. You have a theory about what happened, why all those people died, but you can’t be sure. And you hate that. Because it can be used against you. So you nabbed a copy and did a little snooping of your own. But you won’t find what you’re looking for on there. The truth is better hidden than that. But I can help you.

“Seriously, who are you?” Cho typed.

I am S.H.E.

“What does that mean?”

My name won’t mean anything to you. All that matters is I want to help you and you need my help.

“How are you supposed to help me? How am I supposed to trust you?”

I have access to the closed circuit cameras underneath the Cosmo. That labyrinth is where the Truth is hiding. And you can’t trust me. If you were smart, you wouldn’t. Unfortunately, you don’t have a choice. The FBI is close to finding out the Truth but they haven’t found it just yet and when they do it’ll be too late to find what you’re looking for.

“How do you know?”

Trust me on this. And get acquainted with the sight of black helicopters, unmarked vans disappearing important people, and an unassuming man in a nice suit feeding you your lines for the duration of your term because when it comes to this stuff the government doesn’t mess around.

“If you have something to show me then show it.”

I will. But before I do you have to promise me something in return.


Don’t trust Beacon.

“He’s a famous superhero. Why should I trust you over him?”

He’s there to clean up your mess, not help you out. Push comes to shove, he’ll protect the interests of the people he represents. If you fight back he’ll make your life a living hell. Push hard enough and he’ll make you disappear. As in, off the face of the Earth. Maybe literally.

“You’re lying.”

He’s a soldier of Capitalism. He works for the rich and powerful. Does their dirty work. Makes messes go away. Him and his team.

“I don’t believe you.”

A second window opened on his desktop. A video player. Choppy grey footage from a security camera across the street from a drab looking office building. Beacon and two of his teammates from the Nationals talking to a man on his knees, a bag full of ill gotten gains on the ground close by. The man sobs, begging, pleading, hands clasped together in a prayer. Beacon says something. A quippy one liner perhaps, or a solemn warning. Then he aims his Beacon Baton and the man is atomized in a flash of blinding light. Charred limbs and flash burned bones littering the pavement. Beacon turns to the other two and starts to laugh. The video ends.

“Holy shit,” Cho said, almost puking in his own mouth.

One word from Governor Hall, the city goes on lockdown, you are ‘found out’ to be a domestic terrorist and point blank executed or maybe you ‘go into hiding’ only to be found days later bent into a pretzel or melted into a wall. Unless the government finds out the Truth first, like I said. But again, any chance you have to learn the Truth will be lost.

Cho wracked his brain, looking for options, solutions. This person could be lying out their ass, or they weren’t and he was well and truly fucked. What choice did he have other than play along?

“Okay. I won’t trust Beacon,” he typed.

Smart man.

The computer blipped.

I’m going to show you a few things. Once we’re done here you will have your answers and we will never speak again.

“Works for me.”

Downloading files.

Accessing Memory.







Tina, Mallory, Nobody and James were far below. The tunnels ran under the Cosmo like a spidder web. A web for Spidders. Spidding around like they owned the place.






The 5 entered the tunnels. Running. Quiet running. Running quick and quiet. But they were being watched. The I’s were everywhere. The Spider made sure of it. Spiders have 8 I’s. 4 to see in front. 2 bigger then the rest. The 5 ran, but the others were there also. They had been busy knocking out bombs like the other supers. Myrmecomorphy is the mimicry of ants in the animal kingdom. More spiders mimic ants than any other species. They hide in plain sight, looking and even acting like ants to ward off predators who hate the taste of ants. They can even sneak into ant hills by smelling like them. They look nothing like ants, but in effect they are rendered invisible because ants cannot perceive the deception. They literally cannot see!


“This is getting weird,” Cho mumbled to himself.


The five entered the tunnels. But they didn’t know they were being tracked. Nobody’s plan was to get the others out of danger and then head to the server farm in Cosmo’s nerve center. The security room would be there. The Spider had to be broadcasting and controlling the situation from there. But Nobody hadn’t accounted for others. Enemies. Predators, hunting them down. They were close even now. Close enough to wave hello. But they were invisible, because spiders know how to hide in plain sight.







Hot Brass followed the four of them as they made their way through a maintenance door into the tunnels below. The tunnels were dimly lit. The red emergency lights down there made it feel like they were descending into Hell. They still didn’t know how close the danger was. Spiders hunt everywhere. In tree tops. Underwater. Even underground. Trapdoor spiders hunt prey by waiting beneath the earth in pits hidden from sight. Except that’s not really hunting. Hunters move. Hunters prowl. Hunters stalk. Wolf spiders are hunters. These jokers were simply trappers. She was a hunter. She went after prey on her own two legs.

The tunnels were dark in the emergency lighting, but the rail of lights near the ground was enough to guide them. Nobody acted like he knew where he was going, but in reality, he knew very little of Cosmo’s understructure. He’d studied it once, when he thought the Crime Lords were plotting something huge against the Cosmo hotel casino, but nothing ever came of it. The map was blurry in his memory. Four big circles, three big curves, two parallel tracks meant to bring personnel to either side of the complex. He hoped there would be an emergency exit map somewhere close by he could cheat off of, but so far no such luck.

Nobody kept his eyes peeled for Spiders. If the gang had control of the complex, it stood to reason they would need to secure the tunnels. They ran into another superhero, this one dressed in blue.

“Wait, don’t panic!” Hot Brass said, getting in between the four and the lady in blue. “This is a valued member of my team. This is Blue Wave, our long range specialist.”

“Pleased to meet all of you,” Blue Wave said heroically.

“Wow. It’s so cool to meet actual superheroes,” said Tina.

“Likewise,” Blue Wave said, admiring their costumes.

“Oh stop,” Tina said, blushing.

“We’re just big fans. Not heroes ourselves,” said Mallory, also blushing.

“Also not a hero. Just a courier,” said James.

“What about you?” she asked Nobody.

“I’m a problem solver,” Nobody replied. Blue Wave chuckled.

“Ooo. Ominous. Okay, cool guy.”

“My team has been busy disabling bombs. But getting you out safely is a higher priority,” Hot Brass said.

“Why?” Nobody asked.

“What do you mean?” Hot Brass replied.

“Why is disabling bombs, which could save hundreds of lives, less important than saving us?”

“Well, I, um, also want to make sure you stay true to your word that those heroic weapons and tools you ‘borrowed’ are safely returned,” Hot Brass replied. Nobody didn’t feel convinced by the answer, but he decided to keep moving and avoid raising any undue suspicion. The superheroes were a mystery that needed solving, just not right that second.

They came to a T-intersection. A wrong turn meant walking four city blocks in the wrong direction.

“Something wrong?” Hot Brass asked.

“Give me a second,” Nobody said, looking left and right. He couldn’t see a damn thing down here.

“Please just hurry,” Tina said. Her scarf wrapped snugly around her, trying to comfort her.

“Should we split up?” James offered.

“Hell no! Never do that,” Mallory chided him.

“It was just an idea,” James grumbled.

“Well, if none of you know where you’re going…” Hot Brass began.

“Left,” Nobody said, taking a gamble.

“All right then,” Hot Brass said.

Left took them in the direction of the hotel and the mall. Some handy signage told Nobody as much. Lucky break. After another agonizing minute of walking, Nobody stopped in his tracks, which made James and Mallory bump into him.

“Everything okay?” Mallory asked.

“Shh. Listen,” Nobody whispered.

They did. The air shook with a low hum. The floor buzzed with energy from deep below. They could have been in the belly of an arcane factory, gears grinding, pipes rattling, hidden behind these concrete walls. They could have been in the belly of an actual beast that swallowed the tunnel whole, its hearts pumping molasses-like blood through its body. Humming. Thrumming. Pressure in the ears. In the soul. It was maddening. Tina couldn’t take it. James could barely handle it. Mallory was unnerved and inching toward panic. Nobody was an oasis of calm in the maelstrom of sensation around him. What he’d heard before, underneath all the white noise, was the hiss and crackle of a hand held radio.

The silhouette was easy to miss in the low light, but with his sunglasses off and his eyes adjusted to darkness, Nobody saw him. A security guard slumped against the wall, blood pooling on the floor next to him.

“What is it?” Mallory asked.

“Stay there,” Nobody said. He knelt next to the body.

A hole clean between the eyes made clear the cause of death. No other signs of struggle. Nothing apparently taken. Wallet and keys were still there. The thing that caught his eye amidst the gore was how loaded with gang tattoos this guy was.

At first, Nobody had assumed because of the uniform that this was Cosmo security, but he was pretty sure they had a policy against tats like this. And he was pretty sure AR-15s with extended clips weren’t Cosmo standard issue either. He knew there was something wrong before but this confirmed it. This guy was definitely a Spider.

“We have an impostor. A dead impostor,” Nobody said.

“Shit,” Blue Wave said when she came upon the body.

“Shit!” Hot Brass said evenly louder.

“Why is everyone… oh Jesus!” Tina shrieked.

“Oh god. I’m gonna… nope,” James said, running away to hurl in peace.

“A Spider,” Mallory said.

“Spider? You mean like the gang?” Tina asked.

“This is worse than I thought. If he’s not alone, that means they’re operating on the inside and whatever’s going on runs deeper than a simple takeover,” said Nobody.

“What makes you think that?” Hot Brass asked.

“A hostage situation is easy. This kind of infiltration takes planning and coordination,” Nobody said. Hot Brass shook his head without realizing. He was impressed.

“God damn it,” Blue Wave said under her breath, pulling Hot Brass aside while the others justifiably freaked out.

“What are we going to do?” Tina sobbed into her hands.

“I don’t know, but it’ll be okay,” Mallory said, holding her.

“You don’t know that. How could you know that?” Tina asked.

“Oh god. Hurk!” James squealed as he retched.

“Because we’re with a bunch of superheroes. And we got these,” she said, jiggling her gauntlets.

Nobody couldn’t help but notice Hot Brass and Blue Wave freaking out too, but in a very different way. Like guilty people about to be exposed. Blue Wave was doing most of the talking. He overheard her saying things like “high caliber” and “clean kill”. Hot Brass noticed him eavesdropping.

“Anyone have a plan?” Nobody asked, adding a dash of fear and uncertainty to his voice.

“I… I need to call my team,” said Hot Brass, grabbing his cell phone and stepping away.

“I hope you have a lot of teammates because we’re gonna need all the help we can get,” said Nobody, almost forgetting to leave out the ‘golly gee’.

“Don’t worry, kid. We’ll figure something out,” Blue Wave said.


“You know a lot about the inner workings of the Cosmo for a couple of out of towners,” said Nobody.


The screen exploded with classified files, top secret military information and blurry black and white photos of places and times long ago and far away.


Super. Human. Exterminator.

The ultimate weapon designed to fight the differently powered enemies of America. Started by Project Monolith, April *4, 19*2, S.H.E. would go on to serve multiple tours in Iran, *ibya, Soma***, Nicaragua, and *******. After multiple incidents of unlicensed violence against non-targets, S.H.E. was designated to be decommissioned. She never was.


“What the fuck is all this?”



The target’s trail led to the Cosmo complex in the heart of downtown. It was faint but still good. She would be… happy wasn’t the right word. Relieved when the job was finally done. This had been one of the more frustrating ones she’d taken in recent memory. Who knew an overweight attorney could be so hard to kill? The car pulled up next to the security gate where a Cosmo security guard waved them away.

“Yo, this place is closed,” the guard said before his face was destroyed by bullets.

Three more guards rushed the car with AK-47s and were disposed of in short order. She noted their no-so-corporate-friendly assault rifles and curious number of tattoos. She exited the car and ordered her driver to find a good hiding spot. With clockwork precision, he complied and drove the mess of a car deep inside the distribution area where its active camouflage feature disguised it as a pallet of silverware boxes.

She entered the guts of the Cosmo, located underneath the complex and connected to every other part by way of tunnels, shuttles, and mini-rail cars. She encountered more security guards but none of them expected her and so she ended them easily. Then again, few ever expected the kindly old lady to be a world class assassin. But that’s because she was playing way above their level. There was a whole world out there beyond what a couple of fake rent-a-cops could even imagine. This was the pros. The big leagues. They didn’t stand a chance. One after another fell to her silenced rounds and the occasional neck snap.

Somewhere near the center of the complex, her internal Geiger counter started going haywire. What was this? She figured she was right above the power core or thereabouts. What ungodly reason could they possible have for nuclear power here? Not to keep the lights on, surely. Her curiosity was piqued, but she still had a mission to finish. The mystery of the Cosmo’s nuclear core would have to wait. Wait. W-w-w-ait. W-W-W-W-W-w-w-w-w-w


Error. Unable to recover memory, his computer chimed.

“Shit,” Cho cursed.


Memory recovered.





“Just get here!” Hot Brass hissed before ending the call and making his way back to the group. “My team is close by. We’ll get you all to safety inside the hotel.”

“The hotel? No, I want to leave!” Tina protested.

“Do what I say,” Hot Brass snapped. He huffed and composed himself quickly when he saw Tina draw back. “Ahem. We know what we’re doing. We’ve done this before, all right? Just trust us.”

“First bombs, now this. What the hell?” James said, sobbing now too.

“Stop crying. All of you. Jesus,” Blue Wave said.

“Just stay close and we’ll escort you to safety. Come on, we’re Oscar Mike, people,” said Hot Brass, waving them forward.

“We’re Oscar what?” James asked.

“On the move,” Nobody replied, suspiciously.

With Hot Brass in the front, Blue Wave holding up the rear, they double timed it through the tunnels and past two intersections before ending up in the North mini-rail shuttle hub. The emergency lighting somehow made the hub look even creepier than the tunnels. The dead bodies didn’t help either. There were three more guards lying where they’d been shot. Nobody got the feeling that if he inspected them, he would find the same cause of death inflicted with pinpoint accuracy.

“God, this is horrible,” Tina said, averting her eyes.

“Both shuttles are missing,” Hot Brass observed. “Looks like we’re taking the scenic route.”

“Something else go wrong. Please,” James griped.

“Don’t jinx us, man! The universe listens,” Tina snapped.

“You’re right. I’m sorry. I’ll send positive thoughts to the universe from now on,” James replied, trying not to roll his eyes.

“Just…” Tina’s hands balled up into fists, her eyes wetly glistened behind her purple star-shaped glasses. “Just think happy thoughts, okay?”

James suddenly felt like a huge asshole. Sure, he was in the middle of a terrorist take over of Hero Fest/the entire Cosmo complex, and he saw what he thought was an old woman destroy a bunch of cops earlier that morning, but that didn’t mean he had to be an asshole. The Staff of Meditation suddenly felt light in his hands and it made him feel lighter too. He held on to that feeling like driftwood in a hurricane.

“Yeah. Sure,” he said, apologetically. “I will.”

“Who’s doing this?” Mallory wondered, feeling her queasy stomach squeeze itself into a knot.

“I don’t know. Let’s try not to run into them,” Nobody said, heading for the hotel access tunnel. He almost ran into two guards coming from that direction.

“Yo, you can’t be down here,” one of the guards said, unsure whether to aim his rifle at them or not.

“There’s some kind of terror attack happening up top. We’re trying to get out,” James hurriedly explained. The guards looked at each other.

“Uh, yeah. We heard about that,” one of the guards said.

“Can you help us?” Nobody asked.

“Um… hold on,” the other guard said, reaching for his radio.

Nobody wasn’t 100% certain, but he was pretty sure that these guards were also undercover Spiders and that anything these guys said on a radio was bad news. With the Slugger’s baseball bat in his right hand, Nobody put his left hand on the Master Gem embedded in the hilt. He really hoped this would work.

“We’re okay to leave,” Nobody said. The guards looked at him, confused. Then they’re eyes went blurry.

“They’re okay to leave,” they said in unison.

“The fuck?” James muttered.

“Which way to the nearest exit?” Nobody asked.

“That way,” the first guard pointed.

“Thank you,” Nobody said.

They all hurried to the access tunnel. When they were far away enough, James ran up to Nobody, the look of a man about to nerd out plastered on his face.

“I can’t believe that worked!” James said.

“Me neither,” said Nobody.

“Dude, did you just Jafar their asses?” James asked, making mystical hand wave motions near his head.

“I wouldn’t call it that, but sure,” said Nobody.

“Your freaking eyes turned red, man. That was sick,” James giddily said.

“I didn’t know you could do that,” said Mallory.

“I’m a practiced hypnotist,” Nobody explained. “It was risky, and I took a gamble, but I was betting that the gem would amplify my natural talents with its supernatural mojo. Luckily, it paid off,” said Nobody.

“You also could have wiped your memory clean you idiot!” Mallory hissed.

Hot Brass blocked their path. He had an irritated look in his eyes. “What did you just do?” he asked threateningly.

Nobody looked him up and down. Finally, he asked, “You ever heard of the Red Master?”

“No I haven’t,” Hot Brass replied.

“Hmm,” Nobody said, ducking past him. Hot Brass awkwardly stood there as the others passed him as well.

“This is worse than we thought,” Blue Wave whispered, bringing up the rear.

“No shit,” Hot Brass hissed.

“The op needs to happen now,” Blue Wave said.

“Don’t get trigger happy. They’re packing a ton of super gear and the two of us alone might not walk away from that.”

“At this rate, we’re going to escort the targets right out of our reach. We need to act,” Blue Wave insisted.

“I’ll think of something. Just follow my lead,” Hot Brass said.


Memory updated.

New files located.




She was in the tunnels. She was near the nerve center of the complex. She was in *&86%&77*& She was in the hotel. When had she gotten here? The hotel was full of people. They saw her and gave her no notice. She was a kindly old woman after all. Three Spiders up here. The security force below had all been Spiders to the one. But they weren’t her target. Who was her target? Who? Who? Who? Target?

He is the Master now

Spotty security footage overlaid her vision. Her new targets. Six of them. Six. Six. Si-

She threw a security man out of her way. He broke against a concrete beam. Oh well. She entered the tunnel below. Spiders come in two varieties. Hunters and trappers. These Spiders hid in plain sight. She was not a hider. She was a hunter. Other people just couldn’t see her for the threat she was. But she never hid. She was a hunter.

Access tunnel connects to the Main Line North. Main Line North connects to the mini rail hub. Targets were down here. Spiders had eyes everywhere. She could see them. She could feel them. The trail was getting warmer. Six targets. Two of them straight ahead.

“Wait, somebody’s over there,” Tina said.

Ammo low. Not ideal. When had she used so much? Didn’t matter. Too dark for targets to see her. A quick series of head shots and it would be over.

“Hello?” James called out.

She fired a three shot burst. The first target went down.

“Jesus fucking fuck!” James screamed.

She adjusted her aim. Two degrees to the right. Lined up the shot. Another burst. Second target down. Behind them, two more targets.

“Watch out!” Mallory screamed.

Target three rushed forward. She lined up the shot. Aim steady. Trigger depressed.

Target four moved quickly. A small metal projectile in her right eye made her shot go wide. Ricochet sparked off the walls, grazing the targets. Target three stopped in her tracks. More projectiles flew at her from Target four’s hands, impossibly aimed at her eyes. They were sharp and small, but effective. Ducking out of their way, she lined up her shot again. The muzzle of her AK was pulled hard to the right by some kind of wire. It had a small knife on the end of it, like a ninja tool she’d seen in a old movie once. She pulled her rifle free of the wire just in time to get a face full of boot. She hardly felt it. She recovered quickly but he was already closing in for a second attack. Her advanced reflexes made it easy for her to dodge him.

He advanced again. This time she caught his arm mid-punch, but when she went to snap it in two, something happened that she didn’t expect. The target moved with her, maneuvering so that he escaped her grip and off-lined from her counter attack. He grabbed her arm. She saw the arm bar coming a mile away. Again he surprised her. Instead of locking her arm out, which wouldn’t have worked, he vaulted over her and used his momentum to go right into a spin kick which connected where her carotid artery used to be. When she didn’t go down, it was his turn to be surprised.

She closed in for a combination strike that caught him off guard and sent him tumbling head over heels into the wall on the far side. Instead of being down for the count like she thought, he was already trying to get up. He was fast. Tough. Packed a punch. But he wasn’t super, or if he was he hadn’t cut loose yet. An impressive physical specimen, perhaps. Or well trained. Honestly, it had been a while since she had anything to compare a normie to. Usually non-powered types went down in seconds.

Oh well. She’d have to update the file later. She picked her rifle up off the ground and did a quick check. She aimed for her favorite spot, right between the eyes. After this, there were only three targets left to deal with. That’s when she realized she didn’t have eyes on the other targets. That’s also when a mirrored gauntlet fist smashed into her face, obliterating her cheek and teeth facsimiles.


Memory file fragmented.

Compiling secondary source data.

“What the fuck,” Cho said, running his hands through his hair. Did the investigators know about this? This extended drama that happened below the Cosmo not four days ago? He couldn’t believe it’d only been four days. So much had happened. So much was happening. A thumping sound in the distance, which he thought was some protestor’s boom box, was getting noticeably louder. Loud enough that it was becoming worrisome.

He checked his Super-Lert app first. The thing had been going off non-stop since the Cosmo Incident, to the point that he had to mute the damn thing to get any work done. He typed City Hall into the app’s search bar, got a little creeped out when he saw the app had already been searching the area, and then felt his stomach drop.

Two protests had met in Centennial Park near downtown and formed into a kind of super protest. It was currently on its way to City Hall where a counter-protest was forming. The protests were mostly made up of normal folks, but at the same time there were more supers in the mix than he’d ever seen in his short time as mayor of Jet City. Not to mention the sizeable police presence that was camped in and around City Hall.

He turned the TV in his office to the local news. His fears were confirmed. People were marching. Signs were waving. Chants were being sung. It was all coming to a head and it would happen right here in front of City Hall. He’d never seen a powder keg situation like this.

He had visions of protestors clashing with riot police. Molotovs bouncing off of riot shields. Tear gas and masked assailants. Women and children running from the chaos, bloody and bruised thanks to some swing happy cop that got too fresh with his baton. Police cars tossed into storefronts. Energy beams cutting through street lights and power lines as super protestor fought super counter protestor. And all in front of the news cameras for the world to see. There would be no turning back from that. Not for the city. Certainly not for his career.

He hadn’t considered being the mayor for that long. Hell, he’d only accepted the Vice Mayorship because it would look good on the resume. He had his sights set on bigger and better things. He wasn’t prepared for any of this. The Governor had been right to send Beacon. This situation was getting out of hand fast and the supers only made things infinitely more complicated.

“You know, I think it’s about time we re-examine these so called Mask Laws,” a talking head on the news said. Cho nodded.

“Yeah. Maybe it is,” he said.


2 responses to “Nobody and the Spider (15)”

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