“Traitor…traitor…traitor…traitor…” A voice echoes through my mind. “Revenge…revenge…revenge…revenge…” The voice sounds familiar but I can’t remember where I heard it before. “Escape…escape…escape…escape…” It hurts to think. I can’t make heads or tails of it all. So many disjointed images and no clue how any of them fit. “Home…” I remember my friend. “Home…” I wonder if Raja and Khonshu did fine without me. “Home…” My twins…how long has it been since I’ve seen them? “Home…” I’m finally here.
“Is he…you know.” a familiar voice speaks.
“I’m not that kind of doctor. But, he hasn’t tried to kill us yet so I say we’ve made progress.” a third older voice responds.
“Wait then why are you always wearing scrubs?”
RajTEK had numerous buildings spread throughout the globe. The main of which was in Silver Plains, Westchester, New York. It had a high hiring rate for Inversions and was open to virtually anyone. On the top floor right below the roof was Raja Eishner’s personal office which he shared with Doctor Kreon Galanis, or as he’d like to be called Doctor Khonshu. While a good portion of the room was dedicated to their numerous lab experiments, Raja’s portion was solely dedicated to relaxation and fun. It was clear to see where the inspiration for The Cells recreation room came from. He sat in his backward chair next to Doctor Khonshu as they both observed their guest. A man whose body was smooth and had a brown hue. A massive gray V extended from his forehead, over his eyes, and down to his feet. Two black spheres made its eyes and above each was two sets of smaller eyes. The impression of mandibles sat on both sides of where his human mouth would be. He sat hunched over on his knees in the middle of the room.
“Did you hear that?” Raja asks his fellow scientist. Doctor Khonshu was considered one of the smartest people on the planet. In his mind, he was the top of the list. His Inversion power was a genius intellect just like Raja. While he did the most of the creation of RajTEKs products it was Raja’s technopathy that helped upgrade them. “Think he was trying to say something.”
“Really?” Doctor Khonshu replies skeptically. He was an older man with graying hair and a full well-maintained beard. He wore black-rimmed glasses and a white lab coat over a pair of simple blue scrubs. On his forearms was a pair of gray gauntlets fit for a sci-fi film. The palms, undersides of the fingers, and the inner elbow glowed a bright blue.
“Home…” I can finally speak again. My vision clears and I can get my bearings. Raja and the doctor found me…good. It means I’m safe. Instinctively my astral manifestation retracts. The suit that protected me and kept me moving evaporates and lets my body regain control.
“Welcome back Steve. Mind telling me what happened?” Raja asked. He was concerned, but he had already seen me in worse condition than this before.
“I…” My body was still weak and my attempt to stand ends with my face first on the floor. Doctor Khonshu helps me up into a chair while I catch my breath. “I was betrayed.”
“Shit, by who?” a mix of concern and anger filled Raja’s voice.
“Mentalist…she was taking orders from someone. Head hurts like hell.”
“Context. Right here, right now.” Looked like the doctor was still out of the loop. It takes time but I try to explain everything.
My name is Steven Kessler, and I’m a Fourth Generation Inversion. I was one of the lucky ones who got a full set of powers. Agility, danger sensing, both enhanced speed and enhanced strength, as well as wall climbing I can do on my own along with other miscellaneous spider traits. Digging, leaping, poison bite, etc. But my main power is Astral Manifestation in the form of Guardian Aranea. The mental projection of myself that forms the suit I wear. It can also enhance whatever clothing or equipment I have on me at the time. Oh, and it protects me from psychic attacks. Mostly anyway…I was caught by surprise when Rage started to make me go berserk but Guardian Aranea kept me in check. When Mentalist tried to murder me it started to go into overdrive. While she assaulted my mind it kept most of it safe and sealed away in a pseudo-astral plane. The moment she threw me overboard it took over and was out for blood and answers. But GA couldn’t take down the other Inhibitors too. They didn’t deserve that so it fled.*
“How insanely lucky can one man be?” Doctor Khonshu sounded almost insulted I survived.
“Right, because someone in the new Inversion police force wanting you dead is a good thing.” Raja sarcastically added.
My head was still spinning and I just wanted to go home. “Far as they know I’m still dead. Let’s keep it that way.”
“Shouldn’t be too hard to do. Just take it easy.”
“Don’t gotta tell me twice.”
They offered to drive me home but I wanted to go alone. Had to keep my home life and my vigilante life separate. Silver Plains was expensive to live in but I had a nice apartment on the outskirts. It was a two bedroom, one for me and one for a guest. I open the door and the first thing I see is one of my sons, Gabriel. He was 13 and had my wild red hair but his mother’s blue eyes. He always wore the same white and blue hoodie and goggles I got him a few Christmas’ ago. I swear the kid just doesn’t grow.
“Gabe?” I have so much I want to say but I can’t find the words.
“Dad!” His face lights up like a Christmas tree and he runs into my arms. I don’t even mind the pain from his hug.
“I missed you too kid.” I enjoy the moment but had to ask. “What are you doing here? I thought you were going to be staying with your mother.” Gabe didn’t respond. I didn’t try to pry. His mother, Elle, and I have had difficulties for a long time and have split custody. Gabe stays with me while his brother Michael stayed with her. She knew I had to help train the Inhibitors so I left him to stay with her. “How’ve you been holding up?”
“Good, how was your job? Is it done already?”
“Uh…” I try to think of how to explain it. “It went well but had to end early. So I came back home.” I lie to protect him and put up a fake smile. I’m not sure how many times I’ve done this. He probably already can tell when its real or not. “Are you hungry?”
“No, I just finished making something.” I taught Gabe a lot of things to be self-sufficient in case something happened to me in the field. Glad he still remembered it all.
“Okay, then if you need me just wake me. Had a hell of a flight.”
I give a final wave goodbye before I go to my room. It wasn’t anything elaborate. Just a bed for one, a nightstand, and a dresser with a television on top. I don’t spend much time here so I never really wasted time or money trying to make it look…livable. I pass out before I can even get out of my uniform. By the time I wake up Gabe already left for school. Part of me is proud, another part is ashamed he knew or even had to do this alone. One issue at a time. First was returning to RajTEK to find out what I missed. The way everyone treated me when I got back made it seem like I never even left. For a second I forget all about the Inhibitors. I hope Karen is fine without me…
“Dude, coming in a day after nearly dying is not taking it easy.” Raja chastises me like an angry parent.
“But you need me.”
“It’s fine, you’ve been gone a few months and we only had three explosions. Go home and take it easy. That’s an order.”
I had nothing to do so I went to the cafeteria though it was more like its own full-blown restaurant. I just sit down to think.
“What’s wrong?” a man asked me. Barry Stein was one of the chefs. He was friendly to everyone on staff and had a way of brightening their day. I wonder why he never became a therapist. They probably would’ve forced him to get rid of his signature mountain of hair.
“It’s been a tough…two days.” Maybe I should take up Raja’s advice.
“Go on.” he sat down and gave me his full attention.
“Been gone for a few months so not really sure what to do here.” Couldn’t hurt to ask what he thought could it?
“You’ve just been back for a day without any heads up. He’ll find something for you to do soon.” Barry assures me.
“Thanks, I needed that.”
“Anytime my friend.”
He helped me but not in the way he thought. I went back home and waited until the night after Gabe was asleep. Barry was right, I came back without any heads up. That meant my good friends didn’t know I was back in town. It’s been awhile since I was in control and in action so I keep it simple. Guardian Aranea alters whatever I’m wearing into my costume. If I’m not wearing anything, I can climb on any surface with ease. So I do just that, all I keep on is my prototype Khonshu Band. It was a special wristwatch I’ve only used it once in a trial run but never in the field. Back then it was just a communicator but who knows what else it can do now. Guardian Aranea becomes my second skin and I become my alter ego. No Steven Kessler tonight, tonight I’m SWAT-Spider again and I have criminals to find. I climb to the top of the building and jump. Webbing forms between my arms and legs to emulate a wingsuit and let me glide. It was my main means of transportation and thanks to camouflage, another perk of my power set, I could do it while staying hidden.
“I missed this.” I think to myself. Spent so long hiding my power I forgot how good it was to actually use them. The Inhibitors could stick to working publicly, I’ll stick to my shadows. It was how I protected RajTEK all this time and how I’ll keep Silver Plains safe. The cool September air felt refreshing as I clung to the side of the skyscraper. “Doc, are you there?”
“Holy shit this works?! I mean…ahem…Hello SWAT, how can I help you this evening?”
“Nice save, I almost believed you for a second.”
“What do you want? I was trying to sleep like a normal person.”
“Just putting the Khonshu Band through its paces. Any crime tonight?”
“Why don’t you just steal a police scanner so I can sleep?”
“Some genius you are. Can’t even answer a simple question.”
“I swear to god I’m punching you tomorrow.”
“You can try. You’ll fail, but you can try. Just tell me how this thing works and I’ll be on my way. I’m sure it has a ton of useful features.” Stroking his ego is always the best way to get the doctor on your side.
“Of course it does! It’s more than just a simple communicator. It’s a portable computer that can scan any security system that isn’t made by RajTEK. It can, in theory, be modified to work like my Khonshu Drive. Oh, and right now it’s a good replacement for that terribly clunky taser you used to carry around.”
“Nice, that’ll save on carrying space. Does it have any other weapons?”
“Sorry, no shooting people for you tonight. Now can I go to sleep?”
“Thanks, I think I know exactly where I’m going tonight.”
“You’re not welcome. Now leave me alone.”
Silver Plains wasn’t a particularly dangerous place on the outside but there was a lot of shit if you knew where to look. The Starlight Club stood at the top of Ludwig Tower was one of them. Every night it’s sloped roof would glow in the night sky. First red, then blue, then green, and back again. A high-end club only the upper class could afford to go to if you didn’t know the right person or do a favor or two. Do a few more favors and you can get all types of illegal goods. I generally dealt with corporate espionage between the rival tech companies. But there’s nothing like taking out the trash that’s out in the open.
“The hell is that?!” a man cries as I crash in from the skylight and land on one of the tables. Guardian Aranea buffers my impact and keeps the glass from cutting me.
“Miss me?” Each of my extra eyes focused on different points in the room. 6 eyes, 5 bouncers, and only one of me. I almost feel bad.
Webs fly from the palm of my left hand to my the furthest target. They were strong enough to pull a car to me with ease so his gun didn’t stand a chance. I retract the webs and the gun with it into my hands and swing it into some poor guys side. I jump off of him, sending him into the ground, and fire some Taser Webs from my right hand. When Guardian Aranea upgraded my gear it became one with me. This included the Khonshu Band, which makes taking out criminals in one hit easier. I disconnect the taser webs and land on the next guard. One punch to the jaw is all it took to knock him out. Three down, two to go. I can sense one trying to sneak up from behind but the chaos of drunken patrons and wayward strippers trying to flee getting in their way makes them hard to reach. I jump onto the second-floor ceiling and race towards the first sap I disarmed. I grab onto his shoulders and swing him into the ceiling for a quick knockout. One left and he does the smart thing and holds up his hands in surrender.
“W-what do you want SWAT? We didn’t do anything wrong this time I swear!” he spills his guts in seconds.
“I’m back in town and thought I’d send a message. You do business I don’t like and I shut you down. First time is a warning. But second time? You know what happens right?” My suits mandibles click menacingly. They were for show mostly but he didn’t need to know that. He shakes his head in terror. I shoot my webs backward, pull a gun into my hand, and point it under his chin. “Second time is an execution.” I drop it and leave the man to continue soiling himself in isolation. He’ll never forget tonight.
The first night was a success. Those poor bouncers will deliver my message to their bosses. Either they shut down or next time I visit I show them where the SWAT in my name came from. I look over Silver Plains at the lights and sounds of cars driving by and think to myself. “It’s good to be home.”