Spider-Man 2114

byZev95©

They say that romance has become a lost art, but art only becomes lost when it becomes artwork. Nowadays, machines do all the work, that makes men lazy. Could it be romance is dead because it's too much work not to be primitive? Too bad machines can't do the work of romance...

***

The first thing Virus did when she got home was thump on the air conditioner. It was old, and would conk out soon enough, but for a few minutes it pumped out a nice stream of cool air that was just what she needed after a long day of strutting her stuff. She kicked off her heels and sat down, her bare feet up on the cracked coffee table far more orgasmic than anything she'd been paid for. Belatedly, she thought to turn the lights on and see the grandeur of what she paid three hundred bucks a month for, plus handjobs to the super—there was Spider-Man, crouched on the windowsill.

A few months back, she'd been run down by a gang of jackheads who were looking to get a five-finger discount on what she was selling. Spider-Man had swooped in, given them what for, left them for the cops—what any upstanding citizen would do. Then he'd walked her home, asking if she needed anything, given her a phone number to call if she had any problems in the future. Even the odd decent cop didn't do that; they preferred looking down on her—getting 'thanked'. Weird world: guy in a bug suit was the only one who seemed to actually care.

Since then, she'd been giving him information. Not much; she'd lived this long by keeping her ears closed and her eyes down. But she thought he'd been able to find Electro and Hammerhead because of tips she'd given him.

"I don't suppose you put on a pot of coffee," Virus said, looking longingly at her empty grinder.

"I was worried it would explode. What do you know about the missing prostitutes?"

Virus rolled down her stockings, out of the legholes of her bodysuit and off her long, tanned legs. "Nobody knows anything, Spider. Something like that goes down, even we talk to the cops."

He stepped inside her apartment, pacing—she thought mainly an excuse not to look at her while she was dishabille. "Someone has to know something. A customer that's been giving you the creeps, someone hanging around where he shouldn't be..."

Virus unzipped her black one-piece. Her waist was tiny and firm, her breasts large, with only the tips covered by the cups of her bodysuit. She pulled them out of their confines, enjoying the thought of Spider-Man seeing them—perfectly round, grapefruit-sized, and as tan as the rest of her. Of course, there was no way to tell if he was looking with that mask of his. Who knew, maybe he was gay.

"What customers?" Virus asked. Picking herself up off the easy chair and leaving her clothes behind—giving Spider-Man a look at her rounded ass, two cantaloupes in a bikini bottom—she went to the window and poked open the blinds with her fingers. Just two blocks away was the Cybersex Arcade, its storefront in the shape of a kneeling nude, open legs flanking the entrance. The biggest virtual whorehouse outside of the Senate. "Everyone's going to the new joint. Sexbots. Cheap, clean, don't burp, don't fart—supermodels who fuck like fat chicks. You're looking at an endangered species, Spider."

She ran a hand through her flattop hair—platinum blonde, with a single bang twisting down across her brow. In the old days, a look like that would've identified her as crème da la crème. Now, no one cared.

"Maybe it's for the best," Spider-Man said. "You're in a dangerous line of work. Let the machines have it."

"And make my money doing what? Fighting crime? There a lot of money in that, Spider? Bet I'd fill out that costume better—"

He jumped back onto the windowsill, landing in a crouch. "If you don't know anything, I won't waste anymore of your time. Stay safe. I'll go on patrol, see if I get lucky—"

"Or you could get lucky right here." Virus turned around, splaying herself over her window. A pin-up pose—leg up, arms coiled, lock of hair falling across her face, asking to be brushed out of the way by a noble suitor. "It's been a slow night, Spider. I'm getting out of practice. What say I give you a quickie on the house? You can keep the mask on..."

He stared at her for too long; definitely not gay. Unless he was checking for a penis. "No thanks. I'm trying to cut back."

Then he was out the window, thwip, and swinging on a star. Virus hurried over to watch him go, as the AC conked out and the sweat started to touch her body with the growing firmness of an insistent lover. Maybe she should retire. She was too kinky for a guy in red and blue spandex.

***

Nisa walked through the crowded police station, shivering in her pink sweater. She cared about justice and the law and everything, but in a scorcher like Spice City, the air conditioning at One Police Plaza was reason enough to join up. That certainly seemed like the reason most of the men had joined. They certainly couldn't care about the law.

If only the AC wasn't dialed down to Arctic levels. A sweater was almost good enough, but some days she wished she had a parka. Maybe then she wouldn't be so uncomfortable with the attention she received. Men whistling, craning their necks to watch her as she passed. Their eyes on her well-developed breasts, bouncing merrily inside her tight sweater... if it wasn't their hands on her pert ass.

She made her way through the obstacle course to the Vice department, and the two cops working the missing hookers case. They crowded around a workstation, the holo-screen showing a coffee-skinned woman with jet-white hair. The way she was dressed, it took Nisa a minute to figure they were reading a police report and not watching a porno. Virus, the name on the report read. She was good at noticing details like that. Good practice for when she made detective.

Stern was a big guy—steam-shovel jaw, gritted eyes, a voice like being dipped in gravel. His partner, Connolly, was thin and reedy, his narrow face barely peeking out from under his porkpie hat. The two smoked incessantly. Nisa stood well clear of their fogbank.

"Connolly, Stern?" she asked, even though she knew. "You're working the missing prostitutes case?"

"Yeah? What's it to you?" Stern didn't look up from his work until Connolly elbowed him, then he gave Nisa the kind of look that would send her running for a police officer if she wasn't one herself—or dealing with one.

"I was thinking I could help you solve it."

"Great," Connolly said. "Go get us some coffee."

"I'm a hard worker—I graduated top of my class from the academy—" Nisa stopped giving her resume. They weren't interested. "Look, I think the disappearances have something to do with the Cybersex Arcade."

"That's a nice joint," Stern said. His flattened eyes widened. "You like to go there, Nisa? Have your roll buttered on the other side?"

Nisa ignored him. Just a little hazing. Everyone had to put up with it. "It opened a few weeks after the first disappearance. Most of the sex workers were in hiding because they were threatened; the Arcade got people to start coming because there was no other option."

"And they've been coming in droves ever since," Connolly said. They both laughed.

"I think the Arcade has something to do with the disappearances... I could go there right now and check it out—if someone would log me out a squad car." Budget cutbacks. She needed a superior officer's written permission to get a stapler.

"We're not giving you a squad car, rookie." Stern unzipped his pants. "But I've got something else you can ride..."

Nisa hurried away. Who would've thought that after so much time scrimping and saving to get into the police academy, that she'd miss driving a cab?

Then she started to wonder why two detectives investigating a missing persons case were looking up a person who hadn't gone missing yet.

***

Peter Parker fought the urge to adjust the tie on his retro blue suit. The office he was in wasn't as intimidating as some he'd seen—wasn't as sleazy as a lot of the places that were hiring. It'd been bought wholesale from a liquidated tech start-up, moved into with the artwork still on the walls. But the place had been foreclosed for so long that the offices' clean-up was still ongoing. Deeper in the building, Peter could hear exterminators going about their work. The janitorial service had refused to come in before something was done about the tidal wave of rats living on the premise.

Max, his prospective boss, sat behind a desk with a sparse collection of executive widgets and a vast collection of dust. Max was a big guy, balding, a cheap suit with a five hundred dollar haircut. Like the building, he was still getting used to the huge amount of capital his company was generating. Peter looked at him and wondered how a schmuck like him had lassoed lightning in a bottle.

"Well, kid, I gotta say, it's not easy to find someone with your engineering expertise on the job market, even with the economy being what it is. I'm surprised you haven't been snatched up by Oscorp or Alchemax."

"I have limited availability," Peter said. "I'm more used to freelance work."

Max puffed on his cigar. Always the cigars with these people. Peter was lucky he wasn't allergic. "Hey, we don't judge here. What you do on your time is your business, so long as you keep the merchandise running properly. And don't fiddle with it yourself, of course."

"It's not really my bag," Peter said.

"But we do offer employee discounts."

"Thanks. I'll show up for the maintenance tomorrow morning."

"Yeah. Be quick, be professional—just be a nerd, like you been today. You do a good job with this, you could be sitting in my chair when the company goes national."

Peter's phone rang. He checked it rather than consider the prospect of Max's dusty desk. The call was coming over the Shadownet, through the routers he'd installed to keep the signal from ever being traced. Otherwise, he'd never have felt comfortable giving out a number for Spider-Man to be reached at.

"Sorry, I have to take this. If that's all, I guess I'll just see you again tomorrow?"

"Sure thing, kid. Get gone. And try the merchandise! I'll have your employee discount approved before you're out the front door!"

Peter nodded thankfully, but he was already checking the caller ID of the rerouted signal. Virus. He lowered his voice to Spider-Man's tones as he answered. "Hello?" he greeted, just outside Max's office.

The voice was distant, but audible even over the sounds of objects breaking and tearing. "There's nothing in here, I told you, I can't pay you."

A break-in. She must've dialed his number before they got in.

Peter stepped into the elevator, jamming the Door Close button. As they slid shut, he was already unbuttoning his shirt.

***

Nisa had followed Connolly and Stern only to shadow their investigation, find what angle they were working and see if she could contribute anything. She had never expected things to get violent.

They'd corralled Virus outside the Cybersex Arcade, where she'd been trying to entice the patrons to 'eat organic'. Right away, the situation was all wrong. They leaned into her, loomed over her, asking where their money was. Nisa got it right away. Protection money. She set her phone to record and got as close as she dared, recording as Virus told them that she didn't have any money to be protected. The Arcade was cutting into her profits too much.

They didn't believe her. Hectoring her with vile comments and brisk slaps, they forced her back to her apartment, then shoved her to the side while they tossed the place. From the fire escape, Nisa continued to film through the window. Then Stern pulled a gun.

"Nobody lies to police," he said, pushing Virus's head around with the barrel. "That's Stern's Law. Where's our money?"

"Wrapped around your dick, if you can find it."

The gun went back over his shoulder, then rushed around like a baseball bat to knock Virus to the ground. "Shit, Connolly, I'm starting to see the appeal of knocking these dames around. You think I should do it this time?"

"Nah." Connolly had a pair of brass knuckles on. "I'd still enjoy it more. You wanna watch this time?"

"Yeah. I should get a picture of that pretty face. A sorta 'before and after' thing..."

Nisa knew it was a bad idea. A suicidal idea. But she'd only intended to film a shakedown, not an assault. Swearing, she tapped her phone on the window glass, drawing their attention. "Hey boys. Say cheese!"

Stern fired at her so fast it was almost instinctual, a bullet cracking the windowframe like a blow from an ax, but Nisa was already jumping down to a floor-level dumpster, then down into the alley and she was off like a shot. Behind her, she heard the window smashed open. She was grateful they were giving chase. She'd driven her cab through these streets long enough to know every little shortcut. They didn't have a chance of finding her.

***

Virus washed herself off in her bathroom. Until recently, its cleanness had been a point of pride with her—a separation from the shithole she'd grown up in. A kick from Stern had smashed the toilet and most of the shower tiles had been shattered by the butt of Connolly's pistol. The sink still worked, though, even if the water spilled through the broken porcelain more than it went down the drain.

"Jesus, Vi, what happened?" Spider-Man. He stepped gingerly in through the window, this time avoiding broken glass.

"Nothing much," she replied. "Some people I owe money to." She checked her face in the mirror. She'd definitely bruise. That would improve her prospects, yessirree...

"You don't seem the type to get in bed with a loan shark. Uh, no pun intended—"

"I'm not," Virus stressed. "But when someone has a badge and a gun, and they say you owe, you pay them."

Spider-Man began tidying up. Virus watched in a bit of disbelief. First time she'd seen any guy do that, let alone one in spandex. "How much do they want?"

"Enough."

"How much?" he repeated, collecting the broken glass on the floor with a fine spray of webbing.

She told him.

"Christ, I thought my college loans were bad." He thought for an instant as he wadded up the glassed webbing, dropped it in her trash can—which, ironically, they hadn't damaged. Then Spider-Man took his wallet out. Extracted five bills. "Here. This should cover you for a while. Long enough to get clear, if you can take care of yourself as well as I think you can."

"I can't take that," she said immediately. Never would've thought she'd say that to a spandex-man—well, not for that reason.

"It's fine. I'm starting a new job soon. There are women's shelters, halfway homes—"

"A bunch of Jesus freaks," Virus said dismissively.

"Maybe they'll leave smaller bruises," he retorted. "You're a smart girl, Vi. You don't have to make a living this way. Take the money and get out."

"I can't. You saved my life once already, now you're going to give me charity? I'll have to start coming up with a new opinion on men."

"Take it," he reiterated, holding the money out. It was right there. "Go."

She grabbed it from him. Had it in her pocket before he could say a thing. "You're a born sucker, you know that? This could be up my nose in the next thirty minutes. You're acting like you're in love with me and I haven't even jerked you off."

"Uh... you're welcome?"

She hugged him. His body was tight and warm, the costume on her skin feeling like nothing she'd ever felt. Like it was from another world.

"A guy like you has got to have someone at home. That's the only reason you wouldn't go for me, you've got someone at home. Well, she better be giving it to you long and hard. Long and hard and every night."

***

Virus left her apartment feeling good about herself. She had an old friend who'd gotten clean, married into a family of dentists. She could stay with her while she figured out her next move. Maybe she'd finally give modeling another try.

What she hadn't counted on was the law of the jungle. Even when the predators had moved on, there were still scavengers in search of easy prey. This particular scavenger had almost been scared off by Spider-Man, but was too enamored of Virus to give her up so easily. Her features, her physique, the way she carried herself—it was all worthy of immortality.

He waited until the Spider had left. Then he finished prepping the syringe, and when Virus stepped out her door, it was merely a matter of injecting her.

If someone were to see them together without those five seconds of chemicals, they would only register a man greeting a female friend at her door, telling her to come with him, and the two leaving together as naturalistically as a prostitute accompanying a john.

***

Nisa took a busman's holiday back to police headquarters. The cab she hailed was almost as good as her old one. Before she'd set off, she'd e-mailed the recording to the police commissioner. Now she was wondering what to expect. Probably not a commendation. They'd want to keep things quiet. Connolly and Stern would be retired, she'd be given a tidy little promotion. That would be fine for her. She wasn't greedy.

She got off at One Police Plaza, walked up the steps to the great cylinder of police headquarters aimed at the sky like a rocket ship about to take off, went inside, went to the squad room entrance, and put her hand on the scanner like she'd already gotten used to. It flashed INVALID.

Nisa backed up, startled by the shrill sound of denial that drew the attention of the few suspects waiting to be processed, the detectives hanging around the front desk. The multipurpose scan-surface now became a video screen. She saw her superior, Lieutenant Dent, in a pre-recorded message. Her name was the only thing new; it didn't match his moving lips and it sounded and octave higher.

"NISA LOLITA, you have been terminated from the employ of the SCPD. Your access to the building is revoked and you are banned from the premises, starting now. Your last paycheck has been deposited into your bank account. Have a nice day, NISA LOLITA."

Then the screen was black. In the sudden reflection, Nisa could see two beat cops behind her. They showed her out of the building.

At the bottom of the steps, Nisa checked her phone. Every recording on its hard drive had been wiped. They'd hacked her.

She found herself wondering if Yellowcab still had an opening or if some Chechen brain surgeon had needed a job.

***

Otaka was a slim little man who favored black. He hid from the world—under the brim of his wide hat, behind the lenses of his thick glasses. His accent turned his voice into a croak. Next to Max, he felt otherwise—the other man American, boisterous, normal, himself... special. He'd always felt that way. Not one or the other, but something else.

He slunk through Max's office like an insect that had wandered in out of the great outdoors, his coat sweeping around him. His hand emerged with the gel-lined membrane of a bionic hard drive. These days, they were not much larger than an old USB memory stick. The function was not dissimilar.

"The new personality construct," he said, limping his way to the renderer Max kept on hand. He plugged in the BHD, and the interplay of physicality and mental landscape was constructed into a holographic projection. It wasn't like a photograph, of course. To the untrained eye, the woman portrayed glitched and morphed like a bad TV signal—really, it was the construct acting up sans external stimuli. Once committed to vat-grown flesh and metal endoskeleton, the construct would read its full potential.

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