MILTON SUMMERS HIGH SCHOOL – BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
After dealing with the menace of Spidercide and Misterioso, Anya returned to her normal life. It was getting close to the end of the school year and the stress of getting ready for final exams was setting in. Anya and Lucas were inside the school’s indoor basketball court. They were meditating. They faced each other while their eyes were closed. On the bleachers sat all of their friends.
“What are they doing?” asked Rome.
“Meditating,” responded Jessica.
Rome looked at her a bit confused. Of all places to meditate they chose the school’s basketball court. He decided to let it go and focused on Jessica who read a book while she explained the happenings on the court.
“Anya has been seriously stressed out recently over finals,” Jessica continued. “Lucas is trying to help her calm down.”
“That’s cool,” he started. “Do you need any help? Maybe I can give you hand. We could go somewhere and maybe get a cup of coffee and…”
“Okay, let me stop you right there,” she insisted. “I know what you’re trying to do and I’m not interested.”
“What crawled up your butt? I thought I was being pretty nice.”
“We may not know each other that well, but let me assure you that I have a keen sense of my surroundings. That sense lets me know when someone is being phony. You sir give me this terrible vibe that turns me off. Oh, and trust me that I know a thing or two about terrible vibes. Just ask my brother.”
“Jeez, girl do you ever listen to yourself talk?” he asked her. “You can be a bitch some times.”
“And you’re an ass so let’s call it even, okay?” Jessica stood up. “Why don’t you go back to playing Mr. Perfect for the rest of your friends?”
Jessica walked up to Lucas and Anya and asked them if they could leave. Rome watched as Lucas got up and winced in pain. His sister put a hand on his chest and he reassured her that he was all right. Rome continued watching as Lucas put his arms around Anya from behind and together they said something that appeared to irritate Jessica. Rome dropped his head as the three he watched left the court. He so desperately wanted to talk to them about the truth and put an end to everything that’s been happening but he couldn’t. No one knew that he was the Goblin, masquerading as a villain to protect his family. It was hurting him that Jessica was seeing him for someone he’s not. Although they’ve had little interaction he started to become interested in her.
Moments later Jessica walked in front of her brother and Anya. She was clearly mad about something. Lucas brushed his fingers through his brown hair while Anya giggled to herself. The fact that Jessica was mad was an understatement. She was fuming. Lucas contemplated his next choice of words carefully.
“Jess, don’t be like that,” he said. “It was a harmless joke.”
Jessica stopped and turned quickly to face her brother. “It wasn’t funny! I do not like that guy. You know what I don’t know why I’m arguing with you. Just leave me alone.”
She turned back around and stormed off. Lucas stepped forward but was stopped by Anya. She shook her head to tell him it wasn’t a good idea to follow his sister.
“She took it way too seriously.” Lucas was confused. “I don’t understand why she got so mad. I’ll just apologize to her.”
“Don’t.” Anya held him back. “I was in on the joke to, so don’t feel too bad. It was an innocent joke. Just let her cool off for a little while. She’ll come looking for us when she gets over it. Until then let’s just spend some alone time together. I can use some more help studying.”
“You should take a break. That’s all you’ve been doing recently. Constant studying like that would drive me crazy.”
“Yeah but you have that astonishing memory of yours.” She grabbed his arm and pulled him along. “Not everyone can remember everything as well as you can, so help me out.”
CRACKS IN MISTER PERFECT
Jessica walked into her house still a bit disgruntled. The notion that she could even like such a guy enraged her. What little she had seen of him was enough to turn her off. Rome was the type to show off. Every time she ran in to him he was boasting about an accomplishment of his, flexing his muscles for girls at school, bragging about his high grades in class. It was sickening. To her at least, everyone else seemed to eat it all up. She couldn’t understand why Anya was friends with him in the first place and just imagined her brother was just going along for the ride as he just seemed to follow Anya anywhere when it came to her friends.
“What an ass…” she muttered before noticing her little sister who sat in the kitchen. “What are you doing here? Mom’s not home from work yet.”
“Jessica, you said you were gonna go with me to get some art supplies,” Elena answered. “I waited for you at school but you never came.”
Jessica had to think for a moment but eventually she remembered, “Oh, crap! I’m sorry little sis. I just got a lot going on right now. Look if you give me a little bit I promise I’ll go to the store with you.”
Elena, who was only twelve, had been known to be a bit of a brat at times but just like how she cared for her older brother, Jessica also cared a great deal for her little sister. While she fiddled around in the fridge for something to eat she thought about how Elena was a budding artist. She was quite good at painting and drawing. Then she thought about how her brother was a talented writer, well as talented as someone could be at his age. The future for her siblings was bright, but when she thought about where her future stood she didn’t know what to think. Sure she was the apprentice of the Spider Society’s most skilled mage but what possible future could the mystic arts bring her? She didn’t know what career field was best suited for her. She looked up from the refrigerator and saw her sister drawing. She walked over to take a look at the picture. It was Araña and Avispa both embracing each other with their goggles up. Jessica was speechless. The resemblance was uncanny.
“I went on an adventure with them,” explained Elena. “When everything was said and done I saw them staring off into the night sky like this. It was a romantic and heroic sight all in one. Lucas is so lucky. I’m glad he was able to find someone like Anya who could bring such a change to his life.”
“Heh, I am too little sis,” Jessica laughed as she playfully ran her fingers through the top of her sister’s brown hair.
“Come on, don’t mess up my hair,” pleaded Elena. “Do you think we’ll ever get to be that lucky?”
“I’m sure one day. Wait, when did you start getting interested in boys?”
A man wearing a brown fedora and a matching trench coat entered a room that looked like an office. When he lifted his head a bit it was revealed that his face was concealed by a black and white mask. His trench coat was open enough to see that he wasn’t wearing and type of costume but a suit and tie. This man was known as the Crime-Master. An identity that has been used by many but the identity of this particular man was currently unknown.
“It’s about time you showed up,” the occupant of the office said sharply. “I summoned you hours ago.”
“My apologies, Mr. Warren.” The Crime-Master saw the displeased look on the face of the other man in the room. “I mean Jackal. When you called for me I had just ran into that Goblin character you wanted me to find.”
“Oh, did you apprehend him?” asked the Jackal.
“No, sir,” the Crime-Master replied. “I’m watching his movements right now. I saw him conversing with a young woman I have a suspicious feeling about.”
The Jackal nodded showing that he understood the situation. He was an old enemy of Spider-Man. At one time he actually cloned the webbed hero resulting in the creations of the Scarlet Spider, Kaine, and someone Araña had the displeasure of meeting, Spidercide. The Jackal was in fact an elderly man dressed in a furry green costume with large pointed ears and claws built into the hands and feet of the costume.
“On the subject of young people,” the Jackal started. “I’ve had quite a few that have been a thorn in my side as of late. That brings me to why I’ve summoned you. I have a project in mind for you.”
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
Jessica walked side-by-side with her sister. She smiled at the sight of her little sister who was eager to get some new art supplies. While they walked Jessica’s cell phone began to ring. She pulled it out of her jeans’ pocket. She tapped the screen and saw that Ted was calling her. She accepted the call and answered.
“Ted, what do you want?” she asked a bit coldly. “Every time you call me it’s over some complete nonsense. It’s the same when you call Anya and Lucas. They overlook it but trust me when I say I will punch your lights out if it’s some perverted prank call again.”
“God, I was just gonna relay a message for Miguel,” he replied back. “And I’ve never done anything perverted in my entire life.”
“Sure…” She didn’t quite believe him. “Look what is it? I’m busy with my sister right now.”
“He said to tell you that training was cancelled tonight. Don’t know what he’s got going on but looks like you have a free evening. Why don’t you come have dinner with me?”
“Who was that?” asked Elena.
Jessica sighed. “Nobody…”
While the two sisters walked together they turned a corner that had a fruit stand on it. Jessica looked at the fruit for a second before she noticed coming from the other direction was Rome. She jerked her neck a bit annoyed that he was here. As he passed the woman putting up some clementines accidentally knocked them off the rack. Rome quickly went into action. He swiftly caught each one juggling them around to his other hand and the last one was caught by his foot which he then kicked up and caught atop the rest of the clementines in his hands.
“There you go,” he said.
As the clerk thanked him, Rome turned slightly and noticed Jessica and Elena. He walked over to them. Jessica cringed at the thought of what was about to happen. She grabbed her sister’s hand and pulled her along attempting to walk passed Rome.
“Look, don’t walk away.” He tried to stop her. “I’m sorry if I rubbed you the wrong way. Back at the gym I only came over because I really wanted to talk with you. I see the way you are with your brother, you’re the kindest person I’ve ever met and I feel I can trust you more than anyone.”
“Look I don’t know what you want from me,” started Jessica. “But it might be best if you find it somewhere else.”
“Jess, who’s he?” asked Elena. “He’s cute and nice too because you’re more bitchy then you are nice.”
Jessica closed her eyes a bit showing that she was annoyed with Elena.
“I just need someone to talk to,” he claimed. “This is something that I can’t come to Anya about and I kind of feel weird talking to Lucas.”
“Fine…” Jessica looked at her sister who was elbowing her with a devious grin on her face.
Moments later the three of them found a nice place where they could sit and talk. Rome offered to buy them something to drink. The waitress came and took their order. Jessica tapped her fingers on the table as the waitress walked away.
“So what is it?” asked Jessica.
“What I need to talk about,” he began. “I haven’t talked about with anyone. I can probably already guess how you’re gonna react to this but…I’m the Goblin.”
Jessica quickly moved, she guarded her sister with one arm and prepared to fight with the other. “What kind of joke are you playing?”
“This is no joke. And there’s no need for that. I’m not gonna do anything. I’m tired of everything, tired of the lies, tired of hurting people, pretty much tired of my whole life recently.”
“And why do you need to tell me this?” asked Jessica. “Don’t you have some boss you should be telling this to?”
“It’s not what you think,” claimed Rome as he looked around to see if anyone was watching. “I know you think I’m some criminal who tried to take out members of the Young Allies. I fought a member of that super team but I didn’t hurt her. I even gave her an opportunity to save her teammates.”
“How generous of you…”
“I never wanted any of this,” he continued. “My whole life I tried to be a good person. I tried to be the good son my parents expected me to be. But one day…”
He began shed some tears.
“Come on pull yourself together,” said Jessica.
“My dad was a scientist for Oscorp.” Rome wiped the tears away. “He was really good at his job, maybe a little too good. He was able to discover the formula that gave the Green Goblin his powers. Norman Osborn never knew, but an old accomplice of his somehow found out. He calls himself the Jackal.”
“The Jackal?” questioned Jessica. “Isn’t he the guy who cloned Spider-Man, the guy who created that lunatic that attacked my brother?”
“Yeah, that’s him. He blackmailed my dad, with what I don’t know. But the Jackal made my dad work for him. He was forced to make the Jackal an army of supervillains. He first started making rip offs of old Spider-Man enemies but has since branched off into other rogues galleries. The Jackal used the Goblin serum on me and took my family prisoner. My dad, mom, older brother David, and little sister Caitlyn are all locked up somewhere in one of that madman’s hideouts. I’ve been trying to find them but he always catches me and tells me if I don’t serve him he’ll kill my family.”
Jessica heard what he had to say and tried to process the information. He was a villain. If what he said was true he was unwillingly a villain. As she thought it through, Elena nudged her.
“He’s telling you the truth,” she said.
A bit confused Jessica replied, “How do you know?”
“I just know,” she answered her sister. “I just know these things. Give him a chance.”
Anya and Lucas sat together on the floor in the living room of her house. Anya looked down at a text book and then instantly became angered. She started flailing about while Lucas laughed at her. She stopped and changed her attention to Lucas. He stopped laughing and was a bit confused at the way she looked at him. She jumped him and got him to fall on his back. She sat on one side of him and using her near arm encircled him in a headlock position and grabbed his near wrist, bending the arm upward. Then, Anya maneuvered her other arm through a hole created by Lucas’s bent wrist, locked her hand upon her own wrist, and then pulled his forward, causing pressure on Lucas’s arm and neck.
“Say uncle!” she playfully said.
“Okay, you got me!” he called back and was then released. “Where did you learn that hold?”
Anya groaned a bit, “From Nina. That witch who betrayed the Spider Society. But that’s not important. There’s something I want to talk to you about.”
“Oh, what’s that?” he asked.
“Have you ever thought about having kids?” she replied leaving him a bit shocked. “What it’s a serious question? I don’t mean to make you nervous. It’s just something made me think about it recently.”
As Lucas sat up he winced in pain. It was his chest wound. It hadn’t completely healed yet. Anya put a hand on his chest afraid that she might have reopened it.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t think it was still that bad. Please tell me I didn’t make it worse. I couldn’t live with myself if…” she rambled until he stopped her when he grabbed her hand.
“I’m fine,” he told her. “Just chill out. I never thought about it. I mean I haven’t really had a reason to think about it until now. But we’re probably still too young to think about that. What’s got you thinking about this all of a sudden?”
Anya lied back and placed her head in his lap as she recalled, “It’s just what Spidercide said.”
Araña and Spidercide both fell and landed on the top of a bus. Araña looked up to see the never ending smirk of Spidercide.
“What is the point of all this?” she said while throwing a punch that he caught. “What is so important that you have to do this to us?”
Spidercide squeezed her fist while he replied, “I’m not necessarily after you or even your boyfriend. There is someone more important than you, someone who may possibly change the future. Don’t your people tell you anything? Did they not tell you about the prophecy? In the future a single person will settle the dispute between your warring factions. I have really no interest in what you insect people are doing. I find it quite boring. But the boss feels the need to have his hands in everything that’s happening. It’s hard to control the world when it’s being destroyed by a bug worshiping cult. In order to control the Insect Kingdom my boss must control its savior and the key to that is getting to that girl.”
BACK IN THE PRESENT…
“What Spidercide was talking about was Lynn,” she explained. “Supposedly there’s some prophecy that says she’ll be the mother of the Insect Kingdom’s savior. I don’t know his source of information but that’s what kind of got me thinking. We’re all moving on to college soon but where is that gonna take us? Are we gonna start our own family? I’ve thought about it. My whole life all it’s been is me and pop. Mama died when I was seven and I can barely remember anything about her. And then I see you with Jessica and Elena. It must be nice to have sisters. And then there’s Mike, he’s your cousin but he’s like a brother to you. I wish I had that. So I want a big family. You better prepare for that mister.”
“Heh, you think too much you know that?” he laughed. “Of course you realize if we ever get married my sisters become your sisters?”
Jessica just heard what Rome had to say. And to top things off Elena believed every word he said. She knew her younger sister was very observant but could she really go with what she believed? Their booth remained silent for bit. It wasn’t until they heard some noise outside that the tension broke. They went outside to see the masked man known as the Crime-Master commanding his lackeys to hold innocent New Yorkers at gun point.
“So that’s where you are?” he asked.
“Elena, get back inside!” demanded Jessica. “Who is this guy?”
“I have no idea,” replied Rome. “I honestly never seen him before.”
“He speaks the truth,” said Crime-Master. “You can call me the Crime-Master. I’m here for you Romeo. The boss is pretty upset with you. He sent me to call you in.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you!” yelled Rome. “So let these people go before…”
“Before what?” The Crime-Master motioned for Rome to look back where Jessica and Elena were now being held at gun point. “So what do you say now? Come with us or these girls die.”
“Okay!” Rome gritted his teeth. “Just leave them out of this.”
“Oh, no they’re coming with,” said the Crime-Master. “As long as you do as you’re told they’ll be unharmed but step out of line and kiss them goodbye.”
Rome agreed to these terms. He wasn’t pleased about the situation but didn’t want anything to happen to Jessica and Elena. Together they walked with the masked man and his henchmen. Jessica checked on Elena and then looked at Rome. She knew nothing good could come of this. Her first instinct was to protect her sister.
“It’s not like they would do anything to him if I made a break for it,” she thought to herself. “I’m sure I could get Elena out of this mess before anything could happen to either one of us. This would be so much easier if she was still little but she’s as tall as me now. There’s no time to think about it, just do it. Sorry Rome.”
Jessica picked up Elena. Elena hung over her sister’s right shoulder as she ran. The Crime-Master’s henchmen all pulled out their guns and aimed for the fleeing sisters.
“Jess, they’re gonna shoot us!” Elena yelled as she saw everything behind Jessica. “Do something!”
“I’m trying to but I wasn’t expecting you to be this heavy,” Jessica grunted. “What have you been eating?”
“I’ll have you know I weigh less than Anya and she’s small,” argued Elena.
“Don’t tell her that,” said Jessica as she approached a brick wall. “She hates being called small.”
Now near the wall, Jessica hopped up and her feet clung to the brick surface of the building which allowed her to run up. Elena was amazed. Despite going on an adventure with Anya and Lucas she had never travelled in this manner and they were more known for wall-crawling than Jessica.
“How can you do this?” asked Elena.
“This is no time to explain!”
“Hurry up and go after them!” commanded Crime-Master before he turned his attention to Rome. “You! If you know what’s good for you, you better go after them.”
Rome reluctantly called upon his glider and went somewhere to switch into his Goblin costume. While the Crime-Master’s men ran up a fire escape, he made a call and walked into the building in pursuit of Jessica and Elena. The two sisters reached the top. Jessica looked around the rooftop to see if everything was clear.
“So what now?” asked Elena.
“I don’t know.” Jessica tried to think for a second. “If Anya and Lucas were in this situation they would either web-swing or fly out of this, but I can do neither. I’ve stood on air before but that won’t get us anywhere. Damn it.”
“Chill out,” Elena told her sister. “Since we can’t do either then that means one thing. We get ready to fight. It’s time to put my training with Lucas to use.”
“Training?” asked Jessica. “What training? What have you been doing with him?”
“He taught me how to fight,” smiled Elena. “And how to control our clearly hereditary fire-elemental powers.”
Jessica sighed. “I don’t like this sis. You shouldn’t be involved in this, but we have no choice. Come here and grab this device from the heel of my boot.”
Elena faced her sister to see her already in her costume. She walked over and looked at her boot.
“What is that, some kind of communicator?” Elena pulled out the device and examined it. “Jess, that’s so Batman-ish. What is this gonna do? Summon a flock of bats?”
“Okay, okay we’ve all seen the movie let’s just get on with it and press the button,” Jessica implored Elena. “You get behind me and I’ll fight them off as long as I can. Hopefully help will arrive before it’s too late.”
“I’m doing no such thing!”
The Crime-Master’s men arrived and Elena got into a battle stance with a kunai that appeared out of nowhere in both hands. Jessica tried to get in her sister’s way but she had already charged forward. The men all opened fire on them. They both luckily were missed. As Elena continued forward she threw a kunai into the barrel of a gun. The man holding it pulled his hand back surprised. This brief moment left him open for Elena to swoop in. She thrust her left leg high kicking the man under the chin. He flew up and in a flash Elena vanished and reappeared behind the man while in the air.
“Teleportation?” thought Jessica. “That’s the power she had when she was controlled by the Cult of the Tarantula.*”
*way back in Araña #4—Justin.
Elena’s eyes began to burn orange much like her brother’s. Her body contorted in a way that allowed her to kick the man in his stomach. Jessica not to be outdone by her sister began her offensive. The first henchman in her sight was hit with a palm strike. She followed with a rapid barrage of palm strikes that winded the man. Elena smiled as she dropped down with a leg sweep that knocked another down. She of course was getting a bit too over confident. A number of men ganged up on her. They grabbed her and pulled her closer to the edge of the roof.
“No!” yelled Jessica before being pinned down.
“This is what you get for sticking your nose in something that’s none of your business,” said one of the men.
The men then pushed Elena off the building as Jessica watched in terror. With Elena out of the way they changed their focus on Jessica. As they made their move they heard the sound of something gliding above them. They looked up to see the Goblin with Elena in one arm and in the other a pumpkin bomb.
“Say cheese, fools,” said the Goblin as he dropped the bomb.
A light flashed and the bomb exploded. It got most of the henchmen except those holding down Jessica. Elena teleported off the Goblin’s glider and reappeared by her sister. With the added motion of her hand she blew a kiss to the men that was followed by a fireball that came out of her mouth. The men released Jessica and ran about trying to put out the flames that ignited on them. Elena gave thumbs up to her sister.
“Good job, I’m glad you’re okay,” said Jessica.
The Goblin glided down and dropped off his glider while his faceplate popped open, “That was a tricky one. I just barely timed that catch righ…”
The Goblin was completely caught off guard as he received a kiss from Jessica. You couldn’t tell because of his dark complexion but he was blushing. Elena snickered to herself.
“Thank you for saving my little sister,” Jessica replied after the kiss.
Rome was speechless. “I… Don’t mention it. Look I’ve gotten you two in too much trouble as it is. Take the fire escape down from here. I’ll go another way to keep anyone else off you.”
Rome hopped back on his glider and waved bye to them. Jessica watched him fly off.
“See he isn’t bad,” said Elena. “Now let’s get the hell out of here.”
“Not so fast!” exclaimed the Crime-Master.
He finally arrived on the rooftop and with more of his lackeys. Elena slapped her face a bit annoyed and Jessica looked on concerned that they wouldn’t get out of this one. They all came through the roof entrance and blocked the fire escape. The Crime-Master made one step forward before a kunai landed right in front of him.
“I’d think twice about that,” called a female voice from nearby.
Behind Jessica and Elena stood Araña and the New Slingers. Avispa twirled another kunai in his right hand. The Crimson Spider balled up a fist and lightly punched his open hand. Hormiga lifted an arm that had many ants crawling up it. Araña pressed her middle and ring fingers into the palm of her left hand.
Jessica and Elena returned home with Lucas and Anya. They all gathered in the living room where Anya found the drawing done by Elena.
“Wow, Elena you drew this?” she asked. “This is really good. It shows just how cute I am.”
“You’re not always cute,” laughed Lucas. “Remember when you had your homework stuck on your face? You looked funny then.”
“Oh, really? Do I need to get you back in that headlock?”
Lucas and Anya wrestled around with each other while Elena egged Anya on. Jessica just watched happily as she had never seen her brother be this playful before. It made her think of how great it was to have someone to love. It made her wonder about things. She stopped when she noticed everyone looking at her, including Lucas who was still trapped in a headlock.
“What’s up with you?” he asked.
“Nothing I’m just not used to seeing you like this,” she replied. “You’ve been acting so different ever since that scrape with Spidercide. What happened?”
“A friend just helped me realize what mattered in life,” he said to her. “Are you sure that’s it? You’re not still mad about that joke from earlier are you?”
“No, no.” Jessica waved a hand in front of her. “Let’s just forget all about that.”
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK
Somewhere in Manhattan we find ourselves in a penthouse. Behind a desk sat a rather large bald man. Before him stood three other men. One was another large man who was only dwarfed by the first man. Another was the smallest of all four, dressed in a suit and tie. While the last’s most distinctive thing about him was the cowboy hat he wore.
“I’ve finally found him,” said the one behind the desk. “This Jackal thinks he can waltz on in here and make claim to my turf? We’ll show him won’t we my Enforcers? We’ll show him why you don’t mess with the Kingpin!”
NEXT: Empire State!