Earth #928 – Year 2099 A.D.:
Miguel O’Hara, better known as Spider-Man, is eighty stories up across Fifth Avenue from the Stark-Fujikawa building as reality alters and the building transforms itself into an image of an angry face ready to scream. Spider-Man asks his companion, Longshot, if this is a dream, but the man tells him that this is real enough to kill them. What did you people let loose in my city, wonders Spider-Man as he thinks about the recent encounter with Longshot and the Exiles.
Longshot points to the warped building and asks Spider-Man if he can get him back inside. Spider-Man asks Longshot if he is nuts. He has no hope against Proteus. Longshot tells Spider-Man that he must help his teammates, as they are still inside. Blink is there as well. Spider-Man asks if Blink is the teleporting girl. Miguel thinks to himself that the smart move would be to wait for Blink to teleport out, but against Proteus all bets are off.
Suddenly, the building begins to “inhale” and then just as quickly it “exhales” out Morph and Sabretooth! Spider-Man leaps off the building, telling Longshot to stay put. Spider-Man swings down to Sabretooth, one of the Exiles who claims to be from a parallel universe hunting down a scary mutant, the body-snatching Proteus. Spider-Man reaches Sabretooth and wraps his legs around his waist, telling the feral mutant to relax. Annoyed, Sabretooth tells Spider-Man that he will relax when Proteus is dead.
Spider-Man cannot see Morph, but Sabretooth smirks and tells Miguel not to worry about Morph. The two then look up to see the smiling Morph wave, as he has morphed his back into a hang glider. Morph motions to a floating camera and tells his teammates that he met a new friend.
Sabretooth asks Spider-Man what the camera is, and then learns that it is a Public Eye camera. The worse the situation gets, the more cam-bots will litter the sky. They will be on every newspaper on-line if they don’t end this. The three descend on the streets, where Sabretooth asks where Blink is. Morph replies that Proteus shot them out, not her. Spider-Man asks why she doesn’t teleport out, but Morph explains that Proteus is jamming her powers.
Inside the building, Blink threatens to kill Proteus, now in the body of the Hulk, if he hurt Sabretooth. Proteus tells Blink that Sabretooth is fine. A cat always lands on its feet. He just wanted a moment alone with her. He cannot stop thinking of her. Maybe it is just some leftover feelings from Calvin. Angered, Blink cuts off Proteus and tells him not to speak Calvin’s name. He might have stolen Mimic’s memories when he murdered him, but Proteus has none of Calvin’s humanity. Offended, Proteus then asks Blink why he gets butterflies when he sees her face. Wait… no… those aren’t butterflies. Those are actually just all the people in this building like maggots churning in his stomach.
Outside, Sabretooth announces that they need to get Blink, but Spider-Man wants to move the fight out of the city. Morph calls their attention the building, which looks like his prom date after too many jell-o-shots.
From the streets, the three heroes hear the screams of the people from in the building as they are moved to the front. Morph transforms into a giant air bag and Spider-Man creates a web safety net above it, just as the building throws up its occupants, sending thousands of people out of Stark-Fujikawa and back outside!
Inside, Proteus tells Blink that they have the place all to themselves – except for the guide to this reality, of course. Proteus looks around and calls out Boone’s name, telling him that the man better not make Proteus look for him. Boone comes out from behind an up-turned table and clears his throat. He apologizes. He was just trying to stay out of the way.
Proteus introduces Blink to Jordan Boone. He is the top researcher at Alchemax. He helped him steal his new body. Boone asks who Blink is, and Proteus replies that she is someone he did a terrible wrong to. He stole her boyfriend’s body. Bodies always come loaded with feelings and memories, but Proteus wasn’t ready for Calvin. It has been like a virus on him. Proteus, with a look of sorrow on his face, tells Blink that this is the closest he has ever gotten to a real relationship before. He doesn’t want to fight her anymore. Can’t they just… talk?
Outside, all three layers of Spider-Man’s webbing begin to break, but all the survivors land. He hears the sounds of bone breaking as some of the people fall, but at least they are alive. Morph comments that this isn’t as fun as he had hoped, while Sabretooth pulls the people off of Morph and tells them to move on out. He then looks up to see hundreds of cameras and even a ship up in the air. Sabretooth then asks where Longshot is. Spider-Man looks up and explains that he left him on the roof across the street. If Sabretooth looks closely he can see Longshot up there. Spider-Man wonders if he should let him down.
Sabretooth tells Spider-Man to just watch Longshot. He has a knack for getting out of jams. He is just waiting for the right moment. Up on the ledge, Longshot’s left eye glows, and then he jumps off the building, much to the surprise of Spider-Man, who thinks that it is suicide. As Longshot begins to jump from one camera to another, Sabretooth explains that this is what Longshot does. He has a way of making the odds line up in his favor. Sabretooth guesses that he warps probabilities or something like that. All he knows is that Longshot’s luck shield is the only think that Proteus cannot mess with.
Up in the air, Longshot leaps across the cameras to the Stark-Fujikawa building.
Inside, Boone, as he looks out the windows, tells Proteus that they really should be going. Proteus has made this place center stage for every news feed in town. Proteus tells Boone to be quiet, as he is trying to have a moment here. Worried, Boone tells Proteus that he doesn’t understand what it means to attack a mega-corp like Stark-Fujikawa. They have resources even Proteus should fear. Right now a kill-team of corporate raiders is probably en route, or perhaps they will zap them with an orbital laser platform. Proteus turns to Boone and tells him to let the mega-corps try. Nothing can touch him now.
Suddenly, Longshot comes smashing down through the glass ceiling!
Longshot lands close to Blink, causing her to fall, but he swoops and catches her in his arm, asking her is she minds if he cuts in. Enraged, Proteus tells Longshot to get his hands off of her, and then tries to warp reality. However, Longshot’s luck shield protects himself and Blink, and the yellow energy from Proteus harmlessly is battered away. Longshot tells Blink to stay close as he indeed holds her close. Surprised, Blink realizes that Longshot is shielding her too. He then smiles at her and tells her that now would be a good time to teleport. Blink obliges.
Outside, Blink hugs Sabretooth, happy that he is OK. Sabretooth is glad to see her too. Blink then asks where Spider-Man is. Morph points up and tells her that he scrambled up the building when he saw Longshot go in. He must have felt guilty about leaving him stuck on a roof.
On the side of the building, Spider-Man begins to swat away a few Public Eye cams getting in his way, telling them that no one watches this spam anyway.
Meanwhile, at Alchemax headquarters elsewhere in New York, Tyler Stone watches the live feed and states that he though Spider-Man was his personal pain in the butt. What beef does he have with Stark-Fujikawa?
At the Stark-Fujikawa headquarters in Japan, Fujikawa receives a call from his deadly assassins known as the Specialists, who tell him that they will be at the building in two minutes. Fujikawa tells his troops that the longer this goes on, the further their stock drops.
At Pixel Corp’s Airship Cicada over Spain, the leader of Pixel Corp calls for a tele-presence in New York. He senses an opportunity in the midst of this incident.
At Castle Doom, Latveria, Doom is fascinated. He returns… and then Spider-Man returns. Is this Spider-Man a pretender, or is he a genuine article like himself, but in a new set of clothes? He must override a camera and get a closer look.
Back at Stark-Fujikawa, Spider-Man hears a sound, as if supercharged hover-bikes were coming at him: military grade. Spider-Man looks across the sky to see the Specialists from Stark-Fujikawa coming in on their hover-bikes. Just one of them nearly killed him a couple of weeks ago; now four of them are here to deal with Proteus.
The four Specialists crash through the glass walls of the Stark-Fujikawa building. Spider-Man, however, doubts that four of them have a prayer against Proteus. Proteus shoves Boone behind him and tells him to stay down. The rampaging Proteus then charges into his attacks and uses his mighty fists to smash their hover-bike. He apologizes to them, for he is a bit angry at the moment. He thanks them for helping him work through it. Proteus then begins to slam the men around.
Boone tries to crawl away, but he is grabbed by Spider-Man, who whispers to him that they will get out of there. He then asks where Blink and Longshot are. Gone, replies Boone. Suddenly, Proteus notices Spider-Man and grabs the man with his massive fists. As the Public Eye cams swarm around them, Proteus notices that it is the Spider-Man wannabe again. He thought he tossed all of the heroes out. Spider-Man should know that Proteus’ reality has many Spider-Man wannabes. However, the real Spider-Man is a wrestler named Peter Parker. Is that his name? Proteus then begins to tug off Miguel’s mask, much to O’Hara’s dismay.
Proteus yanks off Spider-Man’s mask, revealing his identity not only to Boone, but to the Public Eye cameras displaying the fight to the whole world. Boone is shocked to see that Spider-Man is Miguel O’Hara, his biggest rival at Alchemax. A Public Eye camera hovers in front of Miguel and a visual of Tyler Stone appears. He smiles and calls O’Hara a naughty boy for keeping secrets. Proteus wonders who Tyler is, and Boone introduces him as the CEO of Alchemax. Stone tells Boone to tell the Hulk that he can do business with Alchemax now. Boone tells Stone that Proteus is seeking technical help. He inhabits bodies like a hermit crab. He needs to stabilize so the bodies won’t burn out. He can also suspend physics at will.
Stone is pleased to hear this and tells Proteus that he will put the world’s greatest minds on the task of fixing his problem. Once Alchemax understands his abilities, a cure for his condition will come. Suddenly, another Public Eye cam projects an image of Fujikawa, who tells Proteus that Stone is lying. Stark-Fujikawa has superior technology, and Proteus already owes them for property damage. A third camera displays the CEO of Pixel Corp, who offers to beat his rivals’ offers by ten percent.
From his office, Stone tells Proteus that the others will cheat him at the first opportunity. He already trusts Boone, so Tyler will make the man chief of Proteus’ division. Behind Stone, a technician tells his boss that someone is pirating a Public Eye cam.
A visual of Dr. Doom appears on the pirated cam and tells Proteus that all these men will betray Proteus once they glean his secrets. Doom alone knows the meaning of honor. Proteus should come to Latveria and work for him. Proteus recognizes Doom, and the Latverian ruler tells him that if he recognizes him then he knows that Doom’s genius is unrivaled.
Proteus drops Miguel, who slowly gets up and tells the villain that he is setting himself up for a failure. They will all look for a way to contain him and turn him into a lab rat for the rest of his life. Unconvinced, Proteus asks Miguel how he is so sure. Miguel explains that he works for Alchemax. Tyler Stone slipped him the world’s most addictive drug so Miguel wouldn’t leave his staff. Proteus turns to Boone looking for confirmation. Boone tells Proteus that O’Hara’s case was special. He was always a troublemaker and Stone had no choice.
Angry, Miguel turns to Jordan and tells him to stop thinking about his commission for a moment. Virtual Unreality is Boone’s meal ticket. He spent years developing that portal. Proteus jumps reality under his own power. If Stone signs him, then Virtual Unreality is a redundant project. Boone suddenly realizes the horrible truth and doesn’t want his budget to be cancelled. He then tells Proteus that it is all true. All of the men would make Proteus a guinea pig.
Disappointed, Proteus looks down at the ground and mutters that it was a mistake coming to this reality. At least this new shell will last. He then turns to Spider-Man and thanks him for cutting through the lies. He will live another day for that. Proteus then smiles and tells Miguel to enjoy the new fame. He then warps out of this reality.
Stone turns to Boone and fires him. He then asks Miguel to take a guess as to who his new guinea pig is now. At that moment, the Exiles teleport in and Blink demands to know where Proteus is. Sabretooth realizes that Proteus is gone. He probably realized he found no profit on this world and jumped to the next one. Creed then speaks into the Tallus, asking Heather to teleport them out. Spider-Man tells the group to wait. They need to take him too. Blink tells Spider-Man that this isn’t his fight. Miguel, however, disagrees. Proteus revealed his identity to the world. As soon as the Exiles leave, these mega-corporations will hunt him to the ends of the Earth. Plus, it was Miguel who convinced Proteus to jump realities. He is responsible for whomever Proteus hurts next. Miguel has to help the Exiles.
The Exiles stare at Miguel, taking in what he is saying.
Spider-Man puts his mask back on and stands with the group as Blink tells Heather to teleport Dr. O’Hara as well. The Exiles then teleport out of reality.
Annoyed, Stone tells Boone that this is his fault as it was his Virtual Unreality that brought Proteus here in the first place. The other company heads hear this and ask if it is true, and wish to know more about this project. Boone smiles and tells the men that, if Alchemax cannot see the value of his work, then the bidding for his services begins at fifteen million a year…