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Entwined Destines – Episode Ten Cat Catcher

Skyline of NYC, night

Black Cat ran along the rooftops of the city jumping between those spaces which were a short enough distance while she used her spring-loaded grappling hook to bridge the larger gaps. Black Cat loved the freedom she felt whenever she traveled this way. Ever since discovering her special powers she had made a point to "roof surf", as he called it, whenever possible, which was usually at least once every couple of weeks.

Felicia Hardy the young woman behind the mask was a far more reserved version of her leather and spandex-clad alter ego. Whereas Felicia was flirty Black Cat was overtly sexual. Whereas Felicia was fun-loving Black Cat was a risk taker who lived for the thrill of the moment no matter how extreme. Whereas Felicia was something of a social butterfly Black Cat was an exhibitionist who craved attention from men and women alike. Whereas Felicia liked expensive things Black Cat enjoyed taking expensive things from others her obsession bordering on kleptomania. On a scale of one through ten Black Cat was Felicia Hardy turned up to eleven. About the only behavior the pair shared in equal abundance was their devotion to Felicia's mother the long-suffering Lydia Hardy.

When Felicia was ten her father Walter Hardy mysteriously vanished. Convinced her husband been killed Lydia Hardy went into a state of mourning from which she never truly emerged. Only young Felicia knew the truth her of father's fate Walter disappeared not because he was murdered but rather because he needed to disappear. Walter Hardy was not the well-respected businessman everyone thought he was. In truth, Walter Hardy was the Cat a notorious cat bugler but that was only part of the story. Blessed with a photographic memory Walter as a young boy had witnessed the experiment which made Steve Rogers into Captain America. Once the formula was subsequently lost it existed only in Walter's mind who partially replicated it (while he might have a near flawless memory Walter was no biochemist there were certain ingredients he simply could not replicate on his own) years later so he could improve his own skills as a thief with honor. Walter only stole from those who could easily absorb the losses such as the government or large corporations. The formula had the unexpected side-effect of slowing down the aging process to such a degree Walter might have been well over eight but still looked about forty. In spite of Walter's best efforts not long after Felicia's tenth birthday, the Kingpin of Crime uncovered his secret. Walter had no choice he had to fake his own death but not before he injected Felicia with a dose of the formula so she "could protect herself and her mother" if Kingpin's agents should ever come after them. Felicia's powers stay dormant until she was eighteen after which time she followed in the footsteps of her father by becoming Black Cat. Unfortunately for Felicia, her nightly activities eventually drew the attention of Kingpin who blackmailed her into helping him even after she convinced the tub of lard she had no knowledge of the Super Soldier Formula and an unwilling analysis of her blood prove futile in replicating the formula.

'At least I'm finally free of Kingpin.' Black Cat thought as she swung on her grappling line across a gaping chasm which separated two skyscrapers. While Black Cat regretted the deaths and devastation she had inadvertently caused recently at Oscorp she would be lying if she said she had lost any sleep over her actions. At the end of the day as long as she and more importantly her mother were safe she was fine with others not being safe.

Black Cat stood on the rooftop admiring the view of the city, her city. "There is nothing else quite like New York at night." She said hands on her hips. "I wouldn't trade this view for all the tea in China for the all porcelain in China maybe but not for the tea."

Caught up in her own thoughts Black Cat failed to notice the drone which was tailing her until it was about to fire a flurry of small darts two of which hit her body. One dart embedded itself in her right shoulder the other in her left leg slightly above her knee. She would have closely resembled a pincushion if not for her acute sense of hearing and reflexes.

"What the heck!?" Black Cat exclaimed. She was surprised more than hurt by the attack or whatever it was. She easily plucked the darts from her body. "I feel kind of woozy." She said while swaying on feet. She shook her head. Everything slowly spun around her.

"I'm Impressive," A gravelly male voice said from somewhere off to Black Cat's right. "Those darts each contained enough tranquilizer to put down a bull elephant. You really must be a metahuman like my client claims. Not that your superhuman status will save you from me. I've dealt with your kind before."

With great difficulty, Black Cat pointed herself in the direction of the voice ready to fight or flee. About ten feet away from her stood a fit middle-aged man with close-cropped black hair. The man sported a week's growth of beard and wore black pants and a black shirt with a white skull symbol on the chest underneath an open black trench coat. In his right hand he gripped what looked like a bazooka. Black Cat recognized him from recent news reports he was ex-marine Frank Castle the self-styled Punisher.

"Smile kitty 'cause your punishment is comin'," Punisher said.

An electrified net flew out of the bazooka. It wrapped itself around Black Cat who was no longer fast enough in her drugged state to successfully dodge. With a scream of pain, Black collapsed.

"Now I'll take you to see my client so he can exact justice," Punisher said picking up the net which held Black Cat once he deactivated the electrification function. "Don't bother trying to escape. This net is made of specially reinforced nano-fibers. I doubt anyone short of the Incredible Hulk could break free unaided."

"W-Whatever your c-client is paying you to capture me I'll double it. I h-have money lots of money." Black Cat offered after the metal claws built into her while gloves prove unable to tear the netting.

"I don't care about your ill-gotten gain. Not everyone is motivated by greed like you are," Punisher said his voice full of disdain. "Some of us adhere to higher principles."

"Such as," Black Cat inquired.

"Such as punishment for those who deserve to be punished but who the proper authorities for whatever reason cannot or else will not bring to justice," Punisher said as he transported the captured Black Cat to a roof access ladder which led to a fire escape.

"I'm not a bad person, not really. I've only stolen stuff. I've never hurt anyone." Black Cat insisted.

"My client would disagree. Accordingly to my client you've hurt plenty of people. Or have you already forgotten about the innocent lives your criminal conduct cost at Oscorp?" Punisher said.

"I didn't mean those people any harm." Black Cat said she then paused for a moment. "What will happen to me."

"That's up to my client. Although if I were you I'd make peace with whatever deities you believe in if any." Punisher advised.

"You think your client will kill me?" Black Cat said her eyes grew wide with fear.

"Its quite possible," Punisher said while scaling his way downward with Black Cat in tow.

"Please don't take me to be killed. I don't deserve to die." Black Cat said.

"Many would disagree," Punisher said.

Black Cat began to sob. "I'm only twenty-years-old. I don't want to die."

"Tough break kid, you should have thought about that before you started on your life of crime," Punisher said showing zero compassion.

"I'm just a thief. I'm no hardened criminal." Black Cat whined pathetically.

The rest of their journey was spent in silence only occasionally punctuated by Black Cat's soft sobs. When they reached the alleyway where Punisher had parked his van Punisher dropped the net which contained Black Cat down on the cold ground. "Be a good kitty and stay put, not that you have much choice in the matter, while I bring the van around," Punisher said. When he exited his van roughly a minute later Punisher was confronted by a new costumed character Spider-Man. "This doesn't concern you webhead," Punisher warned drawing forth two automatic pistols from body holsters concealed beneath his coat.

Spider-Man glanced down at the netted Black Cat then back at Punisher. "If you want a date there are easier ways to get one. Tell me, have you ever heard of a little app called Tinder?" Spider-Man joked.

"He's going to kill me! Please stop him!" Black Cat cried.

"Back off bug boy. The cat is mine. A client wants her hide and I always deliver. Justice will be done and punishment doled out whether you approve or not." Punisher said.

"Okay, chill," Spider-Man said putting up his gloved hands palms forward. Light snow began to fall.

Spider-Man took a couple of steps back. He then rapidly ran up one of the narrow walls of the alleyway and delivered a kick to Punisher knocking Punisher down. Spider-Man landed on his feet, rolled over to where the net lay, grabbed it and swung away on a webline all before Punisher recovered his bearings.

"Damn interfering insect," Punisher roared recklessly firing his guns into the air. "I'll get her next time and him too. Spider-Man is now on my list of targets top and center."

A Rooftop Twenty minutes later

"There," Spider-Man sighed. It had taken him nearly fifteen minutes but at last he located the release mechanism of the mechanized net but not before shocking both himself and Black Cat twice.

"Thank you, thank you so much. You saved my life." Black Cat said throwing her arms around Spider-Man. Her eyes suddenly turned dreamy as she leaned her body against his. "Let me show you how grateful I am." Black Cat pulled up the bottom of Spider-Man's mask and proceeded to kiss him with great passion and more than a bit of tongue.

Spider-Man's body went ridged. While her kiss felt nice, scratched that it felt very nice, he was an engaged man. There was only one woman for him and her name was Gwen Stacy. As gently yet firmly as he could Spider-Man pushed the very clingy Black Cat of him.

"While I'm flattered, I'm also taken. I won't betray my partner Ghost Spider who is currently at home recovering from a recent mission. Although I won't lie by saying your offer isn't a tempting one." Spider-Man said.

"A pity," Black Cat said smiling coyly. She ran her gloved finger along the spider symbol on Spider-Man's chest. "Maybe we could persuade your partner to join us for a menage a trois? I'm not adverse to a little girl on girl action every now and again."

Spider-Man was rendered temporarily speechless. No one had ever offered him, or to his knowledge, Gwen either, to participate in a threesome before. "Uh, thanks for the offer but I must decline. My partner and I aren't ah as kinky as you are. Not that there is anything wrong with your lifestyle. It just isn't for us. We don't believe in open relationships." Spider-Man stammered. Beneath his mask, which he had pulled down over his lips, he blushed a deep shade of red.

"If either of you changes your mind and want to take a ride with me, especially if you do handsome, I'll be more than willing to accommodate your desires no matter how scandalous." Black Cat said while turning around slowing and looking back over her shoulder. "Thanks again, Spider. Until next we meet, farewell my sweet hero." Black Cat jumped onto an adjacent rooftop then another followed by a third. She was out of sight in well under a minute.

Peter swallowed hard. Peter knew he would have to edit out the postscript of this rescue when he recounted the event to Gwen. Peter might be a firmer proponent of honesty in most instances but there were exceptions. He had no desire to see footage of Ghost Spider brawling with Black Cat over Spider-Man on the homepage of Bugle Media once Gwen's broken bones fully healed (which should be in another day or two given her healing factor as three days had already passed since her injury).

Office of Bugle Media in Downtown Manhattan the next day, early morning

"You want to see me, Mr. Jameson?" Peter said taking a seat across the desk from his former boss. Peter had been flabbergasted when he received an e-mail out of the blue from the official account Bugle Media telling him to show up at 8:00 am sharp for a special meeting with Jonah.

"I do indeed, Peter." J. Jonah Jameson said shuffling some papers.

"Ah, Mr. Jameson I'm due in Flushing at 9:00 for police training at the academy. I'm sorry if I seem rude but you tell me why you've summoned me here?" Peter said after mustering his courage. He swore Jonah was at times more intimidating than any of Spider-Man's enemies.

"Tell me, Parker. Do you enjoy police training?" Jonah asked looking over the top of his stack of papers.

"While becoming a cop wasn't my first career choice I'm proud to serve the city in any way I can," Peter said choosing his words carefully.

"Say hypothetically, within reason, of course, if I could offer you any job in this organization which one would you most want?" Jonah said still inspecting his papers.

"Science Reporter," Peter said without hesitation. "While I ideally I would want to be Science Editor I honestly don't have the qualifications or experience to hold such a position yet."

"Done," Jonah said.

"Excuse me, sir?" Peter said doing a double take.

Jonah put down the stack of papers and locked eyes with Peter who momentarily flinched from the intensity of his stare. "I'll cut to the chase, Parker. Since we parted company Bugle Media has been consistently out scooped on the superhero beat by the Daily Globe. We lost millions of website hits alone when they snagged that video of Ghost Spider's duel with the robot at Grand Central Terminal. I won't have a trash tier so-called media site like Daily Globe beat me. So, I'll give you the position of Science Reporter on two conditions."

"Which are, sir?" Peter said. He could hardly believe what was happening.

"One, you supply me with all the Spider-Man and Ghost Spider related material I want," Jonah said counting off on his right hand. "Two, if you or your girlfriend."

"She's my fiancee." Peter corrected.

"Whatever," Jameson snapped. He did not like to be interrupted "If either of you is found guilty of blackmailing the late Professor Warren you're out on your ass with no severance, no reference, no anything. Heck, I might even sue you for the money I'll have shelled out to you for being hired under false pretenses."

"Fair enough," Peter said.

"So, we have a deal, Parker? I'm warning you, don't yank my chain." Jonah asked narrowing his eyes.

"We have a deal, sir," Peter said. He reached across the desk and shook Jonah's offered hand.

Jonah released Peter's hand then said. "I'm going out on a limb for you here, Parker. I better not regret this."

"Don't worry, sir. I promise I won't disappoint you." Peter said.

"You'd best not, Parker," Jonah said.

"Oh, uh, one last thing sir," Peter said before Jonah could dismiss him which he sensed was coming soon.

"What is it now, Parker? Did you change your mind already? Do you want to hold my feet to the fire for a more lucrative position? Well tough, my offer is final. Take it or leave it." Jonah said picking up his stack of paper once again.

"Nothing of the kind, sir," Peter said. "I just want until Monday to start my new position it being the end of the week and all. I need time to tie up some loose ends."

"Understandable," Jonah said. "You can start Monday. I'll have a contract drawn up by then. But if any major spider related action breaks out in the meantime you better be there honoring our agreement."

"Don't worry, I will be, sir," Peter said before he literally skipped out of the office. He was the happiest he had been since Gwen decided they should get engaged. On his way out of the offices all his old friends congratulated him. Good news travels fast it would appear.

Outside a few minutes later

Peter dialed Gwen's number on his smartphone when she answered he said in an excited tone of. "Hey Gwen, guess what?"

"Jameson yelled at you?" Gwen's voice said.

"C'mon on try harder. He always yells at me. The guy yells at everyone." Peter said.

"Can I have a hint?" Gwen's voice asked.

"Sure," Peter said. "How would you like to go out for supper to your favorite restaurant with Bugle Media's newest science reporter?"

"I'd rather go with you if it's all the same," Gwen's voice said.

"You can do both. Jameson hired me back, full time, no more freelancing for me." Peter said happily.

"Really?" Gwen's voice said.

"Really," Peter confirmed.

"Peter, I'm so proud of you!" Gwen's voice squealed.

Peter winched placing his smartphone away from his ear until she calmed down a bit.

"Wait," Gwen's voice said as she came back down to Earth. "I thought Mr. Jameson fired you because of the Warren Scandal? He wanted to avoid 'public embarrassment' and such. What made him change his mind?"

"I'll fill you in on everything when I get back," Peter said.

"Okay," Gwen's voice said. "See you soon, love you."

"Love you too," Peter said before hanging up. At long last things were going his way.

To Be Continued

Author's Note One -

I decided to go with the origins of the Black Cat from the old Animated Spider-Man Series. I always felt the 1990s' Era cartoon version of her origins made the most sense.

Author's Note Two -

At this point in this loosely 616 inspired timeline, I'm using, it is not widely known Wilson Fisk is Kingpin. Punisher thus has no idea he is working on behalf of a major criminal mastermind, at least not yet.