Issue Six, Volume One

"Family Matters"

Written by: David Ellis

Assistant Editor: Jason McDonald

Chief Editor: David Ellis


Miguel O'Hara
Spider-Man

Conchata O'Hara

Ken Zimmerman

Gabriel O'Hara
Firelight

LYLA

Tyler Stone


 


2100 A.D., New York.
Conference in an Elevator

"Okay," Miguel O'Hara began after he ordered the elevator's computer to close the doors, hold in place at Alchemax's Genetics Division, and pause its surveillance feed. "You wanna tell me what the shock you just said?"

His mother, Conchata O'Hara, shrugged at his question. "All I said was--"

"I know what you said--"

"Then why'd you ask?"

"Because you just let slip that you know about my costume." He pointed to the midnight-blue bodysuit barely visible beneath his maroon office shirt. "About this!"

She chuckled. "Well, if I didn't before, I do now."

Miguel's nostrils flared the way they always did when he was about to lose his cool. "Yeah, but you knew before this, didn't you? How?"

Leaning against one wall, Conchata rolled her eyes. "I'm not just your mother, Miguel -- I'm your secretary. And it's kinda hard to plan your day if I don't know where you're likely to be."

Miguel stared at her; she had a point, but he wasn't about to concede it.

Unexpectedly, she continued. "And your costume's a death's-head design, right? The skull one that looks like a spider if you look at it just right?" She cut him a significant glance. "Your brother told me you bought one at the Day of the Dead festival."

Miguel leaned against the opposite wall, face cast upward as he shook his head, eyes closed. "And later he recognized me wearing it as Spider-Man."

"Why did you even bother to keep this from your own family in the first place?"

He favored her with the kind of unkind gaze he gave to co-workers who asked inane questions. "So you'd have plausible deniability if the corporates came looking for me? I was a fugitive from Alchemax, Ma! I got my powers in a lab mishap that took half of this Genetics wing with it! They sent a cyborg bounty-tracker after the guilty party, so I hid behind the costume to keep you and Gabri safe! You're welcome."

She moved off the wall. "You finished? 'Cause we still have to stop Zimmerman."

Miguel let out a sigh, partly to calm down, and partly to prepare himself for what lay ahead. "Yeah, I'm done. Surveillance feed resume; elevator open." The elevator complied, and as Miguel led Conchata out, he added, "Ken's done, too."


Ten Minutes Later, Alchemax Genetics Laboratory
Don't Let the Door Hit You

"What do you mean I'm 'done'?" Kenneth Zimmerman bellowed and gestured to Kron Stone's body on the operating table. "We were just about to open up his skull!"

Miguel held the scientist's gaze, unperturbed. "I mean you're gone. Vapor. Pfft. As of now, this operation is aborted. The subject and symbiote remain alive until further notice."

"But why are you doing this? I thought you were in favor of the experimentation, considering what this man did to your--"

"You tried to manipulate me!" Miguel shouted. "I don't ever want to hear you -- or anyone else who works here -- use anyone close to me as leverage ever again. That is a one-way ticket to the unemployment line; now shut down this operation now!"

Ken looked at his fellow scientists and technicians, who were already complying. "What is this? I can't believe what I'm -- Rutger! You explain to him that--"

But Ivan Rutger, Ken's superior, wasn't having any of it. "Nice try, but you went over my head to get this green-lighted, so don't you dare come crying to me." He'd already tried to quit over this incident, and he'd been on his way out the door when Miguel and Conchata O'Hara intercepted him and convinced him to stay.

Fuming, Ken turned back to Miguel. "I can't believe this! Kron Stone is a monster; this is what he deserves!"

Miguel stared at him, nostrils still flared. "Are you still here?"

"Fine." Ken unclipped the bar-coded nametag from his lab coat lapel and threw it to the floor at Miguel's feet. "I'm tired of this anyway." He turned on his heel and stormed toward the exit. A pair of broad-shouldered Alchemax security guards moved toward him, ready to escort him out. "I can see my own way out, thanks."

"For security reasons," one of the guards replied, "we'll have to insist." Grabbing Ken's elbow, he and his partner led the now-ex-employee into the corridor outside the lab.

As the other scientists and technicians continued dismantling the operation, Miguel instructed another security team to return Kron to confinement. As Kron was wheeled away, Miguel watched his unconscious form with a frown.

"Well, you got your way," Conchata commented. "A stay of execution for Kron Stone. But Ken's way would've just created more monsters."

The frown on his face remained even when both Kron and the symbiote were out of sight. "Yeah, I'm just beside myself with glee."

His mother noted the disgusted looks on the faces of the other employees. "This might be the least popular decision you've made so far."

"I don't think it's topped the time I outlawed the use of Rapture," Miguel replied, referring to an Alchemax-made hallucinogen, "but it's certainly close." He sighed. "It's my decision to make; I'll learn to live with it. Gabri might want to kill me, though."


The Next Day, Leonardi's Bistro
Brother's Keeper

"You did the right thing," Gabriel O'Hara told his brother as the two sat at a cafe table by a large window. Their vantage point, atop an Alchemax-owned skyscraper, afforded them one of the most amazing views possible of New York's late-winter skyline.

"Miguel's eyebrows raised. "I 'did the right thing'? Gabri, wait a minute: I just spared the man responsible for the death of my ex-fiancée and your ex-girlfriend ... that that's all you can say?"

"It was a hard choice to make, and you made it," Gabriel replied. "I'm proud of you, man. Guess all my lectures to you finally paid off."

"Oh no. Don't give yourself credit for this one. You had nothing to do with this decision.

Gabriel took a sip of his soft drink and eyed his older brother. "Then ... what?"

Miguel opened his mouth to reply ... but he had no idea how to put it into words. Weakly, he finally went with, "it was the right thing to do."

Gabriel was skeptical of that. "That never stopped you before."

"Now wait a minute! If I didn't spare Kron's life -- if I continued to let all those Alchemax jerkoffs walk all over me -- it would've spelled serious trouble for the timeline!"

"Gabri blinked. "'Timeline'?"

Miguel took a deep, contemplative breath. How to explain without sounding like a complete nutjob?

So he explained the whole situation with him, the year 2211, and the Spider-Man of that era. Fifteen minutes later, he finally concluded with, "...and that's pretty much it."

His brother stared at him as if Miguel had just explained in great detail how the moon was made of Monterey Jack cheese. "That's it? I mean, I'm sorry, but that is the most ridiculous logic I've ever heard! Aren't time travel attempts supposed to change the timeline, not keep it like it is?"

"Yeah, that's what I kept telling them."

"But you're keeping Stone alive just because of that?"

He thought about it. "Well ... I guess." He lowered his voice "That, and Spider-Man wouldn't let him die. There's this huge S-Man legacy over the past few centuries, starting before I was born and continuing long after I'm dead. I didn't really see it like that until I spent that week in the future. I ... I think I get it now, Gabri. I'm part of something, and there are so many people depending on me. I don't wanna be the weak link in the chain." He nudged his lasagna with his fork. "If that makes any sense at all."

"It does, actually," Gabri replied with a smile. "That's kinda why I came up with Firelight."

"Your online persona?"

"Yeah, and remember that persona I made for you that one time? The one that looked like your Day of the Dead costume?"

"How could I forget? That thing was hideous! It had twencen rollerblades, for shock's sake."

Gabriel grinned. "You ended up becoming Spider-Man after that, so I must've rubbed off on you, after all."

"Very funny. You're just hellbent on taking credit for my good behavior, aren't you?"

"It's either my influence," Gabriel replied with a shrug, "or the Catholic upbringing."

At that, Miguel had to laugh. "What Catholic upbringing? Ma an' D-- and George were Catholic -- that was probably all they had in common -- but they never practiced it when we were growing up. Besides, Ma converted to Thorism more recently."

Gabriel's demeanor grew solemn. "I think they practiced it more than you think. You left home for the Alchemax School when you were six or seven, so you weren't really raised with us."

"Which leads right back to my question: 'what Catholic upbringing?'"

"Y'know, maybe you should get back in touch with it. It's been helping me come to terms with ... y'know, with what happened to Dana."

"With her death, you mean?"

"Sounds kind of callous when you say it like that."

"It's what happened."

"Yeah, I guess ... but still. Maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to think about--"

"About what? God? Heaven? C'mon! I'm a man of science, Gabriel. It'd be counterproductive to believe in that stuff and still practice genetics work."

"Do you even practice anymore? You're a CEO these days, not a scientist.

"...I dabble. Once in a while. When I get a chance."

"See? What's stopping you from getting a little belief in a higher power? You're already believing in something bigger than yourself with the S-Man thing--"

"Why're you pushing this all of a sudden?"

"I talked with Father Jennifer yesterday, and went to visit her church Downtown. I think this is something I need."

"But not something I need," Miguel shot back. "I swear, I'm beginning to think I'm the only sane one in the family. One brother's a psychopath, and the other's turning into a religious nut...."

Gabriel, who was lifting a forkful of lasagna to his mouth, froze and stared at Miguel. "Wait ... what're you talking about? You only have one brother, and that's me."

Miguel avoided his gaze.

"Mig?"

He stayed silent, feigning interest in a maglev traffic jam in the distance.

"Miguel. What aren't you telling me?"

He took another deep, contemplative breath. His previous revelation about 2211 paled in comparison to what he was about to reveal. "I have two brothers, Gabri. Half-brothers. You and I have the same mother, but thanks to an affair Ma had before either of us was born, we have two different fathers."

Gabriel's eyes widened. "Then ... who's your real father? Or am I the one who has a different dad than George O'Hara?"

"Yours is still George. Mine is the only man I hate more than George, of course: Tyler Stone."

"Holy ... your boss?"

"Former boss, and I'd really prefer not to hear his name in the same sentence with 'holy'."

Gabriel picked at his food, churning the information in his head. "Then, wait ... that means your other half-brother--"

"Is Kron. Yeah. Hence the part where I said he was a psycho."

"Damn" Gabriel chewed on a mouthful of lasagna, still trying to make sense of all this. When he was finished, he swallowed and asked, "how ... long have you known?"

Miguel took a moment to get the timeline straight. "For a few months at least. Since the whole business with your ex as Payback."

"So ... why didn't you ever tell me about this?"

"I ... to be honest, I don't know. Guess I couldn't find the right time or way to say, 'hey Gabe, guess what? We're not as related as we thought.'"

"Why did you think my reaction would've been?"

"What was your reaction to finding out my other secret?"

"Keeping it quiet, and not even telling you I knew."

Miguel leveled an annoyed gaze at his brother. "Then when you were tired of that, you rubbed it in my face every chance you got!"

"What? No, I didn't--"

"Oh, come ON! You threatened to tell Ma every possible way from subtle innuendos to outright revelations, just to watch me squirm!"

Gabe's expression deflated. "Oh. Yeah...."

"There's no telling what you would've done with the knowledge that my father's Tyler--" Miguel realized his voice was carrying across the restaurant, so he abruptly stopped in mid-sentence. "That my father's That Bastard," he whispered.

The two of them ate in silence, unsure of what to say next. The twenty-odd other patrons of the restaurant, men, women, and children alike, chattered amongst themselves while sparing occasional glance toward Miguel's table. The face of Alchemax's latest CEO had been all over the newsfeeds since he'd taken over the job. To hear those newsfeeds tell it, he wasn't particularly popular.

"So ... does he know?" Gabe finally asked, looking up from his nearly-finished meal.

"Who?"

"'That Bastard'. And your ... other brother, come to think of it. Do they know you're...?"

"Ty knew the whole time, maybe. It's probably why he gave me all those breaks with Alchemax. He found out I knew a while back when I wouldn't step aside and let him be CEO again. I called him 'Dad' and kicked him out."

"Harsh."

"Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. And it was fun." An unguarded smile flashed across his face before he turned serious once again. "Over my dead body will Kron Stone find out. Or over his."

Gabriel eyed his brother, letting this sink in. "So you still do want to kill him."

Miguel frowned. "Okay, yeah. That option's still on the table. I have reasons not to, but I also have just as many reasons to go ahead with it."

"Well, like I said, maybe you should give more serious thought to your belief in--"

"Okay, shock this," Miguel announced, shoving his chair back and standing up. "I've had enough of your sermons for one day. Check, please."


Later, Miguel O'Hara's Limousine
Backseat Discussions

"I don't why he's on such a religious kick all of a sudden," Miguel commented to his holo-assistant Lyla as he sat in the back seat of his sleek black mag-lev limousine.

The Lyla extension was built into the limo itself, and as the gold-hued hologram of Marilyn Monroe 'sat' next to Miguel and recorded his journal entry, it also multitasked by steering the driver-less vehicle. Acting as both chauffeur and secretary simultaneously, she interjected, "Gabriel did say, quote: 'it's been helping me come to terms with ... y'know, with what happened to Dana', unquote."

"Yeah, I got that part," Miguel replied. "But I would've figured he'd have coped with it by jacking himself back into cyberspace and losing himself in it. I mean, I know he's always been more philosophical than I am, but he's going overboard all of a sudden. Seems like his every third word was about God."

Lyla reviewed the conversation he had described to her. "Actually, very few of those words had anything to do with religion. I could recite a transcript of Gabriel's every third word if you'd like."

"Thanks, Lyla, but that won't be..."

"The. It. Hard. Make. Made. Proud. Man. My. You. Off..."

"Okay, okay! Not the point," Miguel interrupted, rolling his eyes at her tendency to interpret his statements literally. "What I'm saying is, this has gotta be another kick of his, like his fascination with Downtown, or with nutrition, or with public nudity."

"If this is another phase in a long line," Lyla inquired, "why are you so concerned? Wouldn't it simply pass like the others?"

Miguel paused. She also had an annoying tendency to ask very thought-provoking questions; it was partly why he enjoyed talking to her. Still... "I'm concerned because his 'phases' invariably drag me kicking and screaming into them, just so I can bail him out. I swear he's more of a trouble magnet than I, and I wear a Spider-Man costume!"

"Speaking of attire," Lyla announced, moving onto another matter by utilizing her Conversational Segue subroutine, "I am past due for an upgrade."

Miguel sat forward in his seat. "Oh yeah, I've been putting that off, haven't I? But what does that have to do with attire?"

"The current 8.0 patch includes hundreds of new clothing, personality, and physical appearance options."

"None of which I'm likely to use anyway."

"A new feature is a full-color appearance," Lyla went on cheerfully, sounding like a spokesmodel in a commercial. "Instead of simple golden hues, my holo-projection would contain a more realistic color scheme and an improved physics engine." She innocently jiggled and bounced for effect.

"Yeah, I've seen a lot of holo-assistants with that upgrade. Call me old-fashioned, but I actually like being able to tell the holos from the humans." More seriously, he added, "honestly, I like you just the way you are ... and do you realize that's the first time I've ever uttered that sentence to anyone?"

Lyla blushed a darker shade of gold. It was a programmed response to compliments. "Be that as it may, I'm already an obsolete model."

Miguel actually laughed at that. "'Obsolete'? Come on, Lyla. You are not obsolete. Xina built you with unique programming no other holo-assistant could hope to match. Shock, the other holos still have a long way to go just to catch up with you."

"Speaking of Xina Kwan," Lyla changed the subject again, adjusting her holographic glasses, "you have six unanswered calls from her in your inbox. Would you like to review them?"

He frowned. "Nah, that would break my perfect streak of avoiding her while she's on her road trip with Net Prophet. I'm surprised the two crazy kids aren't married by now."

Then he paused and stared out the window at all the mag-lev traffic and walkway pedestrians and towering skyscrapers. Lost in thought about Xina, his longtime friend and former lover. Finally, he relented. "Sure. Yeah. Maybe just one message."

"Okay, Miguel. One message, coming--" Lyla tilted her holographic head to the side for a moment, the way she always did when loading a batch of information. "Please hold for an incoming call from Tyler Stone."

Miguel bolted upright in his seat. "Stone? What the--? You gotta be kiddin' me! Just have him leave a message; I don't wanna talk to him." Suddenly, catching up on unanswered vidmail from Xina sounded like a much better alternative.

Lyla paused and tilted her head again. "Stone's now recording a vidmail message."

Silence stretched for a moment in the limousine, but it felt like an hour. He heaved a long-suffering sigh. "All right ... patch him through. I want to know what's on that decrepit little mind of his."

Lyla smiled and nodded, pleased to fulfil a request. "One open connection, coming up."

Miguel thought that sounded entirely too cheerful. "What do you want now, Ty?" he demanded when the image of Lyla was replaced by that of his father and former boss.

"Now, Mike," Tyler greeted, a show of disappointment in his voice. "Is that any way to speak to--"

"A pain in my butt-cheek? I'm pretty sure it is. And stop calling me 'Mike'!"

Tyler remained unperturbed. "You do realize that 'Miguel' is just an alternate version of 'Michael'."

Miguel remained very much perturbed. "Of course. Just as I realize that 'Tyler' is an an alternate version of 'tiler' ... as in, 'one who makes tiles'. What. Do. You. Want?"

"Honestly, I was perfectly happy to record a message for Lyla," Tyler remarked. "When you interrupted with a request for a live conversation, I have to admit I was hoping for civility. For a connection."

"Well, in that case, I'm sorry I interrupted," Mig replied with a smile. "I'll let you get back to composing that--"

"No, no, that won't be necessary," Tyler assured him quickly. "The reason for my call is that I'm in the process of running a background check."

"Yours or mine?"

"Kenneth Zimmerman's. I understand he was let go from Alchemax recently."

Annoyed, Miguel shifted in his seat. "Yeah, 'recently' as in last night. What does this have to do with you?"

Tyler shrugged, replying as if it were the most obvious answer in the world: "he's inquired about a position at my company to head up the fledgling genetics division."

Miguel blinked. "What company? Since when do you have a new company?"

"Since you refused to let me rejoin Alchemax," Tyler replied. "I've spent the time gathering resources, personnel, and contacts for my new endeavor. It's a small indy-corp now, but in time...."

"Does your new endeavor have a name?"

"Absolutely. I'm calling it 'Stone Enterprises'."

Miguel blinked a few times, holding back gales of laughter. Finally, he couldn't hold it in any longer and collapsed on the limo seat in a fit of hysterics. "That's the name of your company?" he asked when he could catch his breath. "How long did it take you to come up with that?"

"Two weeks, but that's not the point. The point is--" He waited until Miguel's latest round of laughter had subsided. "The point is, Kenneth Zimmerman is interested in a position at my company, having been laid off from yours."

"Oh. Him again."

"I understand this was in the wake of your decision not to harvest the Venom creature?"

"'Venom creature'. Half of it was Kron, your son. Remember him?"

"He's a hard boy to forget," Tyler asserted, "even though I've tried. I'd disowned him and everything, and he just came back and went on a murderous rampage."

Miguel clenched his teeth. "I know. I was there for the rampage."

"More to the point, so was Dana D'Angelo."

Miguel's teeth clenched even tighter. "Don't. Go. There."

"Mike, I cared about Dana as well, and her death pained me deeply. Which is why I'm mystified that both Kron and the symbiote are still alive, when you had the power to correct that."

"Oh good. Stay mystified, Ty. It suits you."

Tyler switched subjects again. "As is turns out, Zimmerman won't be the first Alchemax employee to join Stone Enterprises, and I'm certain he won't be the last."

"Oh really. Who else have you snatched up?"

"I could forward you the list, Mike, but I'm sure all you'd have to do is consult the list of employees you've let go. The list should be more or less the same, give or take a few people."

"Well, I suppose they've gotta have a home somehow," Miguel commented with a shrug. "You want to run a company staffed by a bunch of shady lowlifes, be my guest, but it doesn't seem like a very good business strategy to me."

"Forgive me if I choose not to bow to your wisdom on the matter," Tyler replied, his voice thick with bland sarcasm. "It's been my observation that you've made for a disappointing CEO."

"You put me in this position."

"A temporary position, Mike. It's bound to unravel on you sooner or later. Probably sooner."

"Forgive me if I don't bow to your wisdom," Miguel shot back. "My position's fine. It's not gonna unravel anytime--"

A muffled explosion startled him; Miguel glanced out a window ... only to find a column of smoke issuing from a jagged hole in one side of the Alchemax building.

More specifically, from the section where the Venom symbiote was being stored.

The holographic face of Tyler Stone was predictably smug. "You were saying?"


To Be Continued.

Previous Issue: "Hold the Line" Next Issue: "Ties of Blood and Venom"


So what do you think?

This is my first issue as solo writer for Spider-Man 2099UGR, and I have to say, it's been a unique challenge to write. S-Man is the character who introduced me to the 2099verse back in the day, so I've always had a reverence for the character, and I'm so glad I've been able to get into his head for the five-issues I teamed up with Jason McDonald. I enjoyed the experience so much I decided to stay on as writer. Let me know how I'm doing. And now, a post from the 2099UG Message Board concerning Spider-Man 2099UGR #5:

Good work as always, guys. Spider-Man 2099 UGR is easily my favourite 2099 UGR title, and #5 was one of the best issues yet. It was an interesting story, and I think I like Aaron Lycosid more than Max Borne as the Spider-Man of 2211. I did enjoy PAD's recent return to 2211 in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, but I was a little disappointed by it in some ways. You came up with a nice alternate take on the world of 2211. Props for some of the one liners and the characterisation of Aaron and Miguel. I'm looking forward to the next issue, where we'll hopefully find out more about what's going on with Conchata O'Hara and Kron Stone.

-- Luke, via message board

Thanks, Luke! Jason and I worked hard to not only do justice to Miguel, but also present Spider-Man 2211 as an interesting character in his own right. His growth from lowly intern to worthy inheritor of the Spider-Man mantle was really interesting to write. It's certainly in keeping with the Spider-Man mythos when one realizes that the previous Spider-Men had to grow into the mantle as well. Especially Miguel, whom some might argue still isn't a worthy successor.

I'm curious to know what you (Luke, and anyone else reading this) thought of this issue.

-- David Ellis, 07.13.2006_


Next Issue:

Kron Stone and the Venom symbiote escape! It'll take all Spider-Man has in order to defeat him. If he can.

Plus: A major turning point for two members of the supporting cast starts here!

And more of the conniving Tyler Stone.

All this and more in "Ties of Blood and Venom" by David Ellis.