The Underground Revised Proudly Presents...
I cannot believe this. After everything I’ve been through today, now I’m trudging through the rain trying to make sure no other trackers can find me. Shock.
During one of my history classes as a kid, I remember reading about this guy Jim Rohn. He was some kind of educator; I don’t really remember. When you’re a genius and you know more than your teacher, you don’t really have to pay attention all the time. Anyway, this guy Rohn said something that did stick with me.
“Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” I’ve always been a believer in getting your feet wet and finding out things for yourself, but I didn’t intend for my feet to literally get wet while I did it.
I’m downtown, it’s raining, and I’m in a black and red costume made from unstable molecules. Heaven, right?
I spent my morning like most people do. I woke up after nearly dying from having my genes scrambled. Thank you, Aaron Delgato! It’s just what I always wanted, really! When Tyler Stone slipped me a Rapture-laced cocktail, I was really hoping someone would come along and sabotage my efforts to shake it from my system.
Stupid, arrogant, bastard.
I succeeded in beating the Rapture, but thanks to Delgato, I’m a freak. I’m…different. I’m still human. At least, I think I’m still human. As human a person with fangs and talons can be.
After a little tussle with one of Alchemax’s Elite named Venture, here I am, walking in the rain. I’ve been wandering all throughout the night. Looks like I’m in a section of the lower city. Funny how wandering aimlessly can get you lost.
Judging from the street signs and my limited knowledge of this part of the city, I must be getting close to the 13th Street line. A…border of sorts was erected on 13th Street to separate uptown from downtown. Technically, I’m uptown, but you wouldn’t know it to look around.
This used to be an up-and-coming area to live in. The economy was better back when this section was built, and they had high hopes for the community. Then downtown got “quarantined” and everyone done here got the shaft for living too close to it.
The only people I’ve seen down here are the ones you don’t want to see. Addicts, gangers, slummers…those that society doesn’t like to have a picture of in the kitchen. At least no one’s bothered me. I doubt I even look out of place in this costume down here. Only a few people have even turned their heads in my direction as I stroll along.
Does it even matter if I’m lost? What do I have to go back to? Can’t go back to Alchemax. There’s Dana, but after I accidentally hit her the other day, would she even want to see me? I feel like total shit for that, and she said it was okay because it was just the Rapture in me, but how can I go back? I don’t have the greatest track record when it comes to relationships. Hell, my interpersonal communication skills are seriously lacking altogether.
“Shock,” I say out loud.
“What was that? You talking to me? You talking to Remo?”
I stop dead in my tracks and toss a look over my right shoulder. Perfect. I caught the attention of some lowlife. He can’t be more than eighteen.
“Little old me? No, I’m just humming a few bars of Beethoven’s 5th while I admire the architecture. Run home, kid.”
“Remo ain’t no kid. You say shock, I say shock. Stupid Death’s Head reject. Maybe Remo take you out, huh?”
The shadows around him begin to move and that’s when I notice that Remo isn’t alone out here. Looks like five of them were hiding back in an alley. I lead such a blessed life, you know? Just my luck to run into some gangers while I wallow in self-pity. None of them look old enough to have moved passed Basic School.
“I’m wet, I’m tired, I’m sore…leave me alone.”
“You gonna be a whole lot more sore,” the kid says. “Remo make sure of that.” Before I can argue, he lunges at me, wielding a large metal something that came from nowhere.
Do these jokers just sit around all day looking for a fight? Sure seems like it.
When fighting Venture, I noticed how fast I’ve become. I’m sure one of those Thorite crazies would say it’s a blessing in disguise, and right now, I’m hard pressed to disagree. I easily dodge Remo’s attack and land an uppercut right under his jaw. Pain moves through my arm as I connect. My muscles must still be feeling the effects from Venture’s little paralysis attack when we fought.
Another of the goons leaps, swinging wildly with some metal pipe similar to Remo’s. Instead of dodging, this time I catch the pipe as he tries to smash my head in. “Shock!” he cries, surprised at my ability to rip the weapon out of his hands.
“Nice toy,” I say. “Thanks for sharing.”
With the back of my other hand, I slap him away. The boy falls back into his comrades, almost bowling them over. “Stupid freak!” one of them yells. I can’t tell which one.
A sharp pain suddenly gyrates through my spine, causing me to buckle forward to the ground. Remo is back on his feet again and standing over me, a small electrical discharger shimmering in his hands.
“Yeah, he is a freak. Remo runs this block, freak. Usually the toll is whatever you got on you, but tonight, Remo think you pay the toll with your life.”
As much as I love soliloquies, that mouth has got to be shut. Pushing off the ground for leverage, I thrust out my right leg into Remo’s gut, expelling all the air from his lungs. I somersault forward along the cold ground and into a standing position, facing the rest of the ‘gang.’
“Get back, freak! We’ll bust you up!” says one of them. He may look brave with his buddies, but I can hear the shaking in his voice. In this costume, I either look really stupid or really intimidating. I’m hoping for the second one.
“Leave now. Why don’t you all run home and jack in or something...”
The ‘gang’ scatters, so I guess I must have looked serious. I got lucky with Venture and I’m not sure how well I would have held up against all of them. Thank ‘whomever’ for small favors.
Turning my attention back to Remo, I see the pseudo-leader is knocked out cold. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I say out loud. I barely touched the kid! I’m a wussy scientist, and even I could have taken a hit like that. Although, given recent…developments…I suppose I have an unfair advantage.
I’m seriously close to losing it. The other day I was installing magno-couplers in my lab and now I’m getting into street fights. If my mom were more together she might berate me for screwing up.
I roll Remo over up against the side of the building and just walk away. I would call the Public Eye to come pick him up, but I doubt they would even come down here. I don’t need the attention anyway. Not much else I can do and I have to keep moving if I want to make sure my trail is well hidden from any other trackers.
And I wonder why I don’t visit this part of the city more often…
The rest of the night was uneventful. Another hour of aimless wandering and I found an out of order Doc in a Box to use as a temporary hotel room. While it wasn’t the most glorious of establishments, and it smelled like someone had mistaken it for a urinal, it still served my purposes.
Surprisingly, and contrary to popular belief, the sun did actually shine in the lower city. The warm rays washing over my groggy body served as my morning bath and helped to wake me up. I had to keep moving. There was no telling if Alchemax had sent more minions after me.
My problem now, however, was that I seriously stuck out in a crowd. My current threads wouldn’t do much in the way of hiding me. It was one thing to skulk around at night wearing this costume and a totally different situation when people could actually visibly see you. The mask wasn’t a problem since it slid right off, but the rest of the outfit had to be taken care of.
Ducking into one of the many alleys, I begin to sift around the piles of garbage. When I say piles, I mean mounds. "Don’t the cleaning bots ever get down here?” I say, only to immediately realize that they probably don’t.
I never thought I was so accustomed to my lifestyle. Maybe I take things for granted. I mean, I’m smart as all Hell, but I never noticed how much I depend on Lyla to take care of little things like refuse. The apartment was always spotless. I should program her a cookie when I get back.
“If I get back.”
Searching through the trash, I finally nab something resembling clothing. A long purple shirt with holes in it that reaches all the way to the ground. I saw some of the kids back uptown wear giant shirts like this for awhile. One of the many passing fads. Whoever owned this, even though they lived way down here, knew the fad was over and discarded the oversized shirt. Oh well, lucky me.
Donning the shirt, I hit the streets again, determined to keep moving. The large piece of clothing does its job well enough, despite the holes. Segments of the lite-byte cloth sealed to my costume poke out the back, but I don’t think it’s too noticeable.
I don’t get far before I stop dead in my tracks. After turning a corner, I’m practically sitting on top of two Public Eye-sores. They aren’t facing me so I try to just turn around and slip away undetected. I guess they come down here after all.
“Hey! Stop right there!”
Scratch that masterful plan. “Me?” I ask, not turning to face the officer.
“Who else would I be talking to? Get back here and show some I.D.”
“Why? What’s going on?”
I can hear the confusion in the officer’s voice as he says, “Because I said so, citizen. We’re searching the area for a felon.”
“Why are you explaining?” said the second officer. “We’re the Public Eye, just pull him back here and take his identity card.”
A hand grabs my shoulder and pulls me back. The officer doesn’t spin me around, but simply sticks out his other hand over my opposite shoulder as he asks for my identity card. A card which I left in my other pants.
I am totally caught.
I could make a break for it since they haven’t seen my face yet. If I run back through the alley I can toss on my mask and take my chances.
Or maybe I could grab his right arm over my shoulder and shift my weight, tossing him as far as I can. The second officer I could probably take down since I would catch him off his guard. Then I would just make a run for it.
My arms are still itching like right before I let loose a wad of webbing. Maybe I could surprise them by shooting out another glob and then just knock them over like I did Remo.
“Hey, you by the blue maglev vehicle! You are in violation of the Refinement Act! Stay where you are!” the second officer yells to someone further down the block. “Come on, forget this guy.”
Both Public Eye-sores run down the street after their new target, not even saying another word in my general direction. I let out the breath that I wasn’t even aware I was holding in. Paranoia is apparently part of my mutation. A few more seconds and I would have done something that probably would have brought half the Public Eye down here after me.
Not one to look a gift horse in wherever it is you look, I resume my original course of moving down the street. Maybe heading East would be a good idea. I could get the Hell out of this area by this evening and swing around back to my apartment.
Oh, how I wish I was I my apartment right now. So clean and quiet, unlike my current surroundings. How do these people live? There must be several diseases crawling all over this giant shirt from the trash. I’ve had all my shots, but I doubt any of the people living down here can afford healthcare. Shock, if Alchemax’s healthcare program wasn’t available to me, I might not even be able to afford the right vaccinations.
Glancing further down the street I’m hobbling down, I can see the 13th Street line. Not much to look at, really. Just a big wall stretching along the cracked pavement. It’s thick, but not tall enough to totally obstruct my view. It’s not very pretty. I’ve never been down there and I seriously never plan to go for a visit.
One thing is for sure: if I ever get out of here, I’m never coming back.
A few blocks later and Lady Luck actually does me a favor that I’m sure she’s owed me for years. An old taxicab slowly creeps by a block up from where I’m walking and I swear it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
I flail my arms about, trying to catch the driver’s attention. I’ve never had to hail a cab before. Either it worked or the cab died because it suddenly comes to a halt. I race up the remaining hundred or so feet and pile into the back of the cab.
“Where to, bud?” the driver asks.
I open my mouth to tell him anywhere uptown but the smoke and various other fumes choke back my words. Seriously, has this thing ever been cleaned? How could it ever have passed inspection like this? Although, I suppose it would have to have been taken in for inspection for it to actually pass. Something tells me this vehicle has never been further uptown before. The driver looks at me curiously in my large shirt while I manage to stifle back my vomit.
“As close to the Totalitarian Market as you can get.”
“You want me to do what now?”
“I’m headed uptown, just get me to the T. Market.”
He shakes his head a little and turns back to the wheel. “Whatever. Hope you don’t expect me to stick around when we get there.”
The cumbersome motorized vehicle starts back up and begins to move again. Why wouldn’t he want to stick around after he drops me off? Aside from trying to get on with his business to earn some credits, what’s up with the Totalitarian Market? I’ve never been there myself. Miguel O’Hara has better things to do than go visit the slums’ mall.
Of course, right about then I remember why I’m down here in the first place. Shock.
When I was growing up I knew I was going to be someone important. I knew I was different from everyone else. While my classmates were worried about finishing their assignments on time, I was already done with the next week’s work. I’m different for a whole other reason now and I’ve got goons chasing me down. My life’s work has pretty much been ruined. I have no idea what my next move is and I just want to get home.
It is so frustrating feeling like this! All my life I’ve been in control. Maybe not in control of the world around me but definitely in control of my own soul, my destiny, my life. But now…now I just can’t wrap my head around the gravity of the situation. I feel like I’m just floating through my life right now. I’m a genius, for Thor’s sake! I’m the guy people come to when something needs figured out!
When I feel the soft Styrofoam padding under the vinyl of the seat rub against my fingers, I realize my hands are balled into fists, grabbing the seat cushion. The talons at the end of my fingers have pierced the vinyl and pulled out a few chunks of the Styrofoam. Doesn’t matter anyway. Not like this cab could be in worse condition.
The conversation in the cab is nonexistent and we reach the T. Market undisturbed. I think I notice the area actually gets cleaner the closer we get. Peering over the front seat and through what pretends to be a windshield, I can see several figures against the entrance. Looks like Public Eyeballs. Perfect.
“Just let me out here,” I tell the driver.
“We’ve still got like two blocks left!” he hollers back over his shoulder. Guess he wants as big a fare as he can get.
“Here’s fine; thanks for the lift.” I open the door and jump out without waiting for him to even slow down. He lets out a few obscenities and screeches to a halt. The brake pads (if that old thing even has break pads) must be as chewed up as the back seat.
Ducking into an alley, I sprint down the narrow passage and chance a glance back at the cab. The driver got out to chase me down, but it looks like he caught the attention of the Eye-sores. He’s probably doing something illegal; most people are down here. Sorry pal, but I think I would get in slightly more trouble than you if I were caught.
The authorities probably have the whole border monitored, and that means I’ll have to go over them instead of through. Slipping the giant shirt off, I pull my mask back over my head and walk up to one of the walls in the alley. No sense in letting anyone see my face if I’m going to attempt this.
When I got away from Alchemax the other day, I climbed up the outside wall. The talons on my feet and hands seem to be strong enough to grip the wall and support me, even through the costume. If I can do that again, I can just jump across to the next building, effectively overshooting the mall and the Public Eye.
I place my hand on the old, worn, smooth surface of the wall. Not quite sure what to expect here. I feel the talons extend slightly and grip the wall. Should I start pulling myself up? When I did this before, I was just fleeing on instinct. Now that I’m coherent and aware of my actions, I’m not quite sure what I should do next. Gripping the wall with my other hand would be a good start I suppose.
I half expect to have some difficulty lifting my entire body but it turns out to be really easy. Like lifting a liter of water. Just a little resistance but nothing I can’t handle. Maybe with practice I can do this quickly. It takes me about ten minutes to get to the top of the building, although I suppose that’s better than most people would do.
The morning sun shines bright against my costume, causing me to really stand out. I’ll have to move fast if I want to get anywhere without being spotted by the flyboys.
Back in my apartment, the controlled atmosphere feels like the embrace of an old lover. I told Lyla to have the place set for ten degrees lower than the current outside temperature. Makes me feel like my world is more cool and collective than everyone else’s is. She hasn’t let me down.
“Welcome home, Miguel,” says Lyla as her holographic image phases into view. “There was a horrible man in black, and he went –”
“You can stop saying that, Lyla. It’s been a rough few days. Make some coffee, black. Oh, and give yourself a cookie, too. I was thinking earlier that you deserved one.”
“How about a bath? I can draw one up in 37 seconds. The arometers suggest you should probably clean up a little bit and change your clothing.”
“I’m just going to crash after I drink my coffee. I’m starving, but I doubt I can keep anything down right now. Coffee to cleanse my palette, that’s all. Like I said, it’s been a rough couple of days.”
I go to my bed and just collapse. A Public Eye spotted me on the way home and I managed to slip away from him fairly easily by jumping down a mail transport shoot. Not a fun experience. After the first one spotted me, I just ran across rooftops the whole way back here. There were a few other…problems…but the point is I got back here in one piece. Once I was sure I was all by myself, a slight criss-cross pattern gave me piece of mind enough that no one would track me.
Precious sleep loomed across my consciousness, promising that the events of the last few days were finally over and I wouldn’t have to deal with these problems anymore.
“Dream the dreams of children,” my mom used to say to me. Maybe I can have those dreams again.
I wouldn’t bet on it, though.
A big ‘Thank You’ goes out to Dave Ellis and Jason McDonald for giving me and Tony the opportunity to get our hands on the S-Man. Tony and I are both big fans. This one-shot takes place during the time Miguel was wandering the city right after he fought Venture in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2099 #3.
Tony and I had some various ideas for how to do this one-shot, but then Ellis had asked, “I wonder what went on during that time?” We both just exploded at the idea and really jumped all over it.
Hope you enjoyed the issue, and look for more from me and Tony soon!
(Assistant Editor's Note: Due to unforeseen circumstances, Tony Thornley will not be writing any SMAN stories for the Underground Revised anytime soon. We all wish the best to Tony and good luck with all his other projects in the future.)
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