The streets of Hong Kong were busy as ever. People crowded the streets, hustling here and there, focused on their own, involved lives. Most of them tried to ignore the sad, dirty white man crouched by the side of the road. A few occasionally took pity on him, offering him a few coins here, some street food there.
Miles accepted it all graciously. After all, beggars couldn't be choosers, and that's what he was now: a beggar. Whenever the conservatives talked about dirty foreigners who didn't work and refused to assimilate, as conservatives were apt to do anywhere, he was pretty sure they would speak about him. He was unable to assimilate into society, thanks to that goddamn bracelet S.H.I.E.L.D. fastened on his wrist that fried any computer he touched.
He couldn't transfer money from any of his accounts, and he couldn't do any kind of legal work here. He couldn't speak Mandarin or Cantonese, and he couldn't access any kind of translator. The best he could do was beg by the side of the road. Sometimes he was able to steal some things off of street vendors' carts, but only when he felt absolutely confident he could get away with it. The last thing he wanted was to rot away in a Chinese prison.
The beggars had their own community. He'd interacted with them as much as he dared. Some of them were friendly, but others would steal the shoes right off your feet. Miles valued what few possessions he had, even his shoes, which were becoming so worn that he could feel the texture of the ground through his soles.
There were a lot of drugs in the homeless communities. Miles was grateful he hadn't gotten into that, but he could see the appeal. When you had nothing, you just wanted to see to your own happiness, and drugs that gave you an easy high looked like a decent substitute for true happiness. Watching the others shoot up just made Miles depressed, however, so he avoided them when they were using.
Now was one of those times, so he begged. He sat by the road with his legs crossed and a cap in his lap. He looked down and tried to broadcast how pitiable he was, not that it was especially hard. He wasn't eating enough these days, and he was starting to look like a statue of the fasting Buddha. What he really needed was to be lucky enough to attract the attention of those of good will, which were few and far between in this world.
A man broke from the pack and walked toward him.
Excitedly, he raised his head to speak to him. "Please, sir, anything you offer would be..."
He trailed off. The man in front of him, if it was a man, looked astonishingly strange.
Clad in a theatrical bright yellow outfit, the figure was covered in short brown fur and had a long tail arching up behind him. His face... It had strange ridges. It protruded outward. The nose sloped downward. The eyes... The eyes were large and dark brown, without any hint of white. It was the face of an animal. This figure looked like a giant monkey.
Miles gaped. Surely this was some sort of costume, but it was the most realistic costume he had ever seen. It didn't look like a rubber mask but real flesh.
"Good evening, Mr. Lydon," the figure spoke in precise Chinese-accented English. As his mouth operated, Miles caught a glimpse of long fangs. It looked like a monkey's mouth, not that of a human in a costume. "My name is Sun Wukong. You may call me Mr. Sun."
Miles closed his mouth. He swallowed. Was this some kind of dream? Maybe he'd finally cracked. "You... You know my name?"
"Indeed, Mr. Lydon." Sun nodded. "I have need of your services. I have been observing the situation with S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA for quite some time. I believe both present a threat to the security of the free peoples of this planet, and I would be remiss not to use my abilities to help the world. For this purpose, I require the assistance of those who would oppose them. I need Rising Tide."
Miles looked around, wondering if anyone else saw this strange event, but he couldn't tell. The people of this city were good at ignoring things they didn't like, and he could see how a character in this getup could offend their sensibilities. "Is this some kind of trick? Did S.H.I.E.L.D. send you to test me? Well, you can tell Coulson I'm being a good boy. No Rising Tide for me."
"Do I look like I work for S.H.I.E.L.D.?" Sun grinned with his mouth of monkey teeth. He held out a hand. "Why don't you take my hand? If I'm wearing a wire, that wicked bracelet you wear will surely knock it out."
Miles looked at the furry paw-like hand. He looked at the monitoring bracelet. He never thought that thing would actually be useful. He took Sun's hand.
Nothing happened. No radio got busted, and neither did Sun's tail, which ruled out the possibility that it was some kind of animatronic.
Sun gently tugged, pulling him to his feet. "It's such a cruel device. So condescending too. A band you can't take off that keeps you in line. I know what that feels like, friend. No one should have to feel like that."
"You mean S.H.I.E.L.D. nailed you too?" This was starting to make sense. Well, as much as an encounter with a humanoid monkey could possibly make sense.
"Not S.H.I.E.L.D." Sun shook his head. "Long ago, a man placed a golden band around my head that would shrink whenever he was displeased with me."
"That's... That's awful." Miles was horrified. Whoever this strange monkey man was, he didn't deserve to be tortured. No one deserved that.
"This is awful too." Sun released Miles' hand and stroked the bracelet. "But I can remove it from you just as I removed my own band. Pledge your services to me, and I will free you from your shackle."
"And fight S.H.I.E.L.D.?" Miles was a little afraid. He'd met S.H.I.E.L.D.'s wrath head on. He knew he wouldn't fare well if they caught him a second time, but something drew him to this strange monkey's cause: hope. He knew deep down inside that S.H.I.E.L.D. was an evil force of imperialistic oppression. It had to be stopped. Joining Sun would allow him to do the activism he lived to perform. He would be a hero.
"Okay," he said. "Okay, I accept. Just get this thing off."
"Thank you, Mr. Lydon." Sun bowed. "Let us together save the world."