MILTON SUMMERS HIGH SCHOOL – BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

Finals were over and now it was graduation day for the senior class that included Anya, Lucas, Jessica and friends. Everyone was out on the football field. The students lined the bleachers next to the deck they were supposed to walk on to, to receive their diploma. The male students were on one side while the female students were on the other. In front of all of them sat the families of the graduating class. Gilberto and Erika sat next to each other with a vacant seat next to Erika. She looked at the vacant seat a bit peeved.

A short distance away behind the stands there was an orange flash. Elena teleported her way there and was dressed properly for the special occasion in a black dress. She quickly made her way to her seat next to her mother just before the event began. Erika shook her head clearly disappointed in her soon-to-be teenage daughter. The ceremony began as the students and teachers recited the pledge of allegiance followed by a lone singer who sang the country’s national anthem. After the crowd’s applause the principal of Milton Summers High School took to the podium centered on the platform between the bleachers.

“Good evening and welcome,” started the principal. “As principal of Milton Summers High School it is my pleasure to welcome you to the commencement ceremony for the senior class. We are here tonight to celebrate the accomplishments and academic achievements of the young men and women seated beside us.”

As the ceremony continued various speakers came up and spoke about the future, one such person happened to be Jessica who happened to be the class valedictorian.

“Before I speak today I would like to thank my family who will always hold a special place in my heart,” she started. “Although today marks the beginning of my journey into adulthood I will never forget my mom and all she has done for me while always over working herself trying to keep the family afloat while our father was absent. I love you mom and let me assure that even though I now move on my own I will always find time to be with you even it’s just for a short phone call. My little sister Elena, I have to thank you because you thought me to always believe in people. Your inspiration has changed my views in life in many ways. And most importantly I would like thank my twin brother Lucas. Despite all the hardships you faced you showed me that as long as you believe in yourself you can overcome any adversity. Oh and she’d probably kill me if I didn’t mention her, my friend Anya Corazon and undoubtedly future sister who just being around has made my life very interesting.”

Jessica continued on making jokes, quoting famous people, and giving advice to her fellow classmates. After she wrapped up it finally became time to call students to claim their diplomas. The principal re-approached the podium.

“Now may I ask that the senior class please stand?” the principal asked. “I will now call you in alphabetical order by last name, when called upon approach the podium to receive your diploma.”

The students started moving as they were called. The principal passed those whose last names started with As and Bs and then some with Cs until…

“Anya Sofia Corazon!”

People cheered for Anya while her father whistled for her. She walked up the platform and claimed the hard cover that held her diploma.

“Jessica Grace Garcia! Lucas Nicolas Garcia!”

After getting their diplomas the siblings stood next to each other for a quick picture.

“Michael Gonzalez! Alexander Hughes! Lynn Johnson! Emi Kitane!”

Anya and friends looked around for the absent Emi. No one had heard word from her ever since she left for Japan to attend her brother’s funeral.

“Jerome Sierra!”

Another absentee that Jessica looked for, she at first didn’t like Rome but after the events involving the Crime-Master she had changed her view of the troubled young man. The ceremony wrapped up and all the graduates met up with their friends and family to takes pictures of the joyous occasion. Gil held his phone out to take a picture of the kids. Anya stood in the middle with her arms wrapped around Lucas and Jessica while Elena jumped in front of them and crouched down so all four could be seen.

“Don’t want to obstruct the view of Anya, seeing how small she is,” laughed Elena.

“What did you say!?” Anya snapped and flailed about as Lucas held her back.

“See what did I tell you?” Jessica said to Elena referring to a past discussion.


EMPIRE STATE
Part I: Gangsters, Goblins, & Jackals
Written by:
JUSTIN SANTOS


MANHATTAN, NEW YORK

Crime in the big city has been picking up as of late. On the scene were the NYPD gathered in the street where two bodies lied. Forensics Specialist Carlie Cooper examined the bodies for any personal effects that could give the identities of the two individuals. It was already clear what the cause of deaths were.

“Two men in suits with a single gunshot wound to their heads,” said an officer. “Seems gang related to me.”

“You’re right,” agreed Carlie. “I recognize one of these men. He’s one of Hammerhead’s men or was. The last known sighting of the mob boss Hammerhead was in Miami, Florida where he went missing. Judging by the length of time it’s been since the last sighting it could be possible he didn’t make it out of Florida alive and someone else stepped up to run his crew.”

“Over the last few days gang related deaths have been on the rise,” stated the officer. “I wonder what’s going on.”

Carlie motioned for the two bodies to be put in body bags, “You’ve heard the rumors haven’t you? The rumor that there’s a new crime lord out there somewhere who has been operating out of the Kingpin’s rule. If I were the so-called undisputed king of crime I would be furious if someone else tried to move on my turf.”

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

Gilberto and Erika treated their kids to dinner to celebrate their graduation. Along with them were Lynn and Mike who sat next to each other. Anya and Lucas sat next to each other while Jessica sat next to Elena and appeared to be lost in thought. Everyone talked amongst each other while Jessica just stayed quiet. Elena noticed this and waved a hand in front of her sister’s face. Anya looked at Elena who shrugged her shoulders.

“Jessica!” called Erika. “Baby, are you all right? You haven’t been yourself lately.”

“Oh, I’m sorry it’s nothing,” she pretended.

“She’s worried about her boyfriend,” Elena answered for her sister.

“What?” Jessica angrily looked at her sister and then saw everyone else looking at her. “She doesn’t know what’s she’s talking about. Heh, she’s clearly just trying to make me mad.”

Jessica nervously looked away and then looked back. She could tell by the look on Anya’s face that she was intrigued and wanted to know more. Erika saw how uneasy her daughter was and decided it was best to change the subject.

“Mike, I’m sorry that your father and mother missed graduation,” said Erika. “Javier and Marcela always seem to have their priorities mixed up.”

“Yeah…” He was patted on the back by Lynn. “But my little brother Andrew was hurt in an accident involving my cousin Arianna. She can be a little reckless. So I can understand.”

“Hopefully Andy’s alright,” Erika followed up. “I can’t believe you kids are moving out on your own. It feels like only yesterday I was still changing your diapers. It’s gonna be a whole lot quieter without you guys around.”

“We’ll still be around mom,” Jessica reassured. “You can’t get rid of us that easily.”

“Mi Arañita,” began Gilberto. “I’m so proud of you and I know your mother is as well.”

“Thanks pop!” Anya smiled at her father. “I’m sure she’s looking in on us right now.”

MANHATTAN, NEW YORK

Night had fallen over the city and for some people that meant it was time to hit the club scene. A group of men who worked for the Crime-Master were enjoying themselves. They drank while they watched other people as they danced the night away. Working for the Crime-Master meant that you were part of the Jackal’s crime family and that alone made them targets. The Kingpin, Wilson Fisk, was out to get the Jackal who had been trying to make a name for himself as of late. Five men sat together while they drank. One of them looked up to see they were approached by three other men.

“So you’re some of the Jackal’s crew?” said the shortest of the three. “You’re a pathetic looking bunch. What do you think Ox?”

“You’re right, Dan,” said the large man called Ox.

“Who the hell are you supposed to be?” asked one of the Crime-Master’s lackeys.

“So you’re tellin’ me you have no idea who we are?” asked the last member of the three who sported a cowboy hat. “Do the Enforcers ring a bell?”

The Enforcers were a team of criminals made up of Ox, Montana, and Fancy Dan. Ox was the muscle of the team, while Montana was a lasso slinging cowboy, and Fancy Dan was an ordinary gun toting thug who just happened to be skilled in the martial arts. A fight finally broke out. The five men made the first move against the Enforcers. They thought their number put things in their favor, but how wrong they were. Montana’s lasso caught one of the Crime-Master’s men by the wrist. He pulled the lasso sending the man flying through a table. Fancy Dan pulled out a gun and shot one of the men who charged at him. Ox picked up two of them and speared them through the club’s front wall.

Outside Ox was joined by the other Enforcers who dragged the other men out with them. They were in service to the Kingpin and they were ordered to eliminate anyone aligned with the Crime-Master or the Jackal. Just as they were gonna finish the job an orange sphere hit the ground in front of them. A blinding flash halted their plan. When their vision was restored they looked up to see the Goblin who glided above them.

“The Enforcers?” asked the Goblin. “Talk about obscure. You’re the clowns who have been killing the Jackal’s people? I commend you for getting this far but you boys are out of your league.”

“Who’s this joker?” asked Fancy Dan.

“He looks like the Green Goblin,” replied Montana. “Of course ah don’t know Norman Osborn to be the type to braid his hair.”

“Funny,” laughed the Goblin as he hopped off his glider. “I’m a new breed of Goblin, one you don’t stand a chance against.”

Dan opened fire on the Goblin who jumped out of the way and hid amongst the shadows, “Where’d he go?”

The trio stood back-to-back in a triangular formation. They looked around for the Goblin with no idea where he went. In an instant he reappeared in the middle of them.

“Surprise!” he yelled.

The barrel of Fancy Dan’s gun swung at the Goblin’s head. He ducked and jammed his left elbow into Dan’s ribcage. Montana lassoed the Goblin’s right hand but this time he got pulled forward and was greeted with Goblin’s free fist. Ox lunged forward and caught the Goblin in a bear hug. He struggled to get out of the hold. Fancy Dan and Montana took pleasure in seeing their attacker being crushed. The Goblin wouldn’t be able to break free with mere strength alone which is why his hands twitched with an electrical current. He pressed his hands into Ox shocking him enough to release the hold. Dan and Montana went into action but got kicked aside. With Ox down on his knees the Goblin pulled out his electric sword and lowered it to large man’s head.

“Sorry, but this is strictly business,” said the Goblin as he went to strike.

Before he struck his blade was caught. The blade was held in place between the two palms of Avispa. Araña swung down from above with Estrella in one arm.

“No more killing tonight Goby,” said Avispa.

“Stop this,” pleaded Estrella as she approached the Goblin. “You don’t have to do this.”

“Keep out of this!” The Goblin tried to pull his sword from Avispa’s grasp. “This has nothing to do with you!”

“Rome, listen to me!” Estrella continued.

“Rome?” asked Araña. “Are you kidding me? Rome what kind of game are you playing?”

“Are you just gonna stand there or are you gonna stop…” Ox said to Araña before getting decked by her.

“So all this time it’s just been a front?” asked Araña. “Pretending to be this nice and innocent guy? For what!?”

“Araña, stop,” begged Estrella.

“Estrella, what’s gotten into you?” Araña was confused by the fact that she was defending a villain. “He’s part of the Bastards of Evil. He was part of that attack on the Young Allies.”

“You don’t understand.”

Goblin kicked Avispa in the stomach making him lose his grip on the blade. Goblin twirled his sword and scathed it behind his shoulder. His glider then appeared and he hopped on it without looking.

“This is a waste of my time,” said the Goblin looking at Estrella. “If you all are such great heroes you should be focusing on the gang war. The Kingpin and Jackal’s forces are fighting one another. There are people out there that need your help.”

“Don’t lecture us!” exclaimed Avispa. “You’re part of the Jackal’s crew! Oh, yeah I know. When I broke in the World Party’s headquarters I managed to hack into their mainframe thanks to a little help from the Spider Society’s number one hacker Ted. I didn’t know of your identity until now but the World Party had all kinds of information on the Jackal and his Bastards of Evil. You’re a sellout. The World Party wants to wipe out anybody who doesn’t have blond hair, blue eyes, and white skin. The sight of you makes me sick.”

“Who gives you the right to judge me?” asked the Goblin. “You know Lucas, that’s makes you just as bad as those people who judged you because of your powers. I’m just gonna say this once. Don’t get in my way. If you interfere with my plans I won’t hesitate to cut you down, whether we’re friends or not.”

“Why don’t you save me the trouble and show me how you’ll cut me down or are you gonna turn tail and run away?”

“Hmph.” The Goblin turned away and flew off.

“Damn, the Enforcers got away,” said Estrella.

“We’ll get them,” replied Araña. “But I think there’s something more important we should talk about right now.”

“I think you need to rethink your priorities,” Estrella answered back.

“Oh, no.” Araña placed her hands on Jessica’s shoulders. “Something happened and I’m gonna get to the bottom of this.”

“Órale…” sighed Avispa.

WILSON FISK’S PENTHOUSE

The Kingpin was a little agitated. Actually words couldn’t describe how agitated the massive man named Wilson Fisk, the one and only Kingpin of crime was. Before him stood the Enforcers. These men were employed by Fisk to do his dirty work. His current job was for them to kill anyone associated with the Jackal. They were handling the job until the Goblin showed up.

“Everything was going good until Goblin Jr. got involved,” claimed Fancy Dan.

“And then those heroes showed up,” added Ox.

“Excuses!” yelled the Kingpin. “All I hear are excuses! The heroes, this Goblin, they’re all nothing but children! I’ve dealt with greater foes and to hear my own hired guns are getting taken down by mere children makes me look like a fool!”

“A little hot tempered are we?” called a voice from out of nowhere.

“What is the meaning of this?!” the Kingpin demanded to know as he saw the image of the Jackal on a large screen hung on the penthouse wall. “How have you found out how to contact me?”

“Come now, Fisk,” started the Jackal. “Did you really think I would enter this game of ours with merely Hammerhead’s people? There’s more to me than some crew of street thugs. Heh. If you want to defeat me you’ll need to come at full force. Oh, and those mere children you speak of. Don’t underestimate them. It will be a big mistake on your part. I’m looking forward to the fun we’re going to have. Don’t let me down ol’ great Kingpin.”

The screen cut out and the Kingpin angrily stomped forward, “How dare you think you can talk to me that way. The three of you go! Find the last two Enforcers and get out there and put a stop to that madman!”

“You mean Hammer Harrison and Snake Marston?” asked Montana. “I don’t remember the last time we worked with them.”

MEANWHILE…

“What!?” exclaimed Araña.

“Will you knock it off?” said Estrella a bit annoyed. “You’re making too much of a big deal about this. Remember what I said? You need to rethink your priorities.”

Estrella looked at her brother who had remained silent while she told them the events that took place when the Goblin had confided in her. She couldn’t read his expression but had a feeling of what he was thinking about. She knew her brother all too well. They were twins after all.

“I know what you’re thinking,” she said. “And I don’t care. He saved our little sister. Do you know he has a little sister too? She’s in danger with the rest of his family. It’s the only reason he’s doing all this. We need to help him save his family before he does something stupid.”

“And you believed him?” asked Avispa. “Did you even check to see if he has a real little sister? He’s playing you!”

“It’s not like that!” she spat back.

“You’re being foolish!” he yelled. “I’m trying to knock some sense into you! For someone who just graduated as valedictorian you sure don’t use your head.”

“Don’t try and lecture me,” she continued. “Acting like the big tough older brother. It only took eighteen years for you to finally man up. All this time I’ve been watching your back which has been a total pain in the ass this whole time!”

“Is that how you see it?” Avispa backed up. “I’ve been nothing but a nuisance to you…”

“Wait, Lucas I…” she couldn’t continue her sentence as he had turned away and flew off. “Why did I say that? Anya, what’s wrong with me? He finally gets the confidence to be his own person and I crush him with a few words.”

“I know you don’t think of him that way,” replied Araña. “The discussion went a little over board. You’re newfound love is mixing all kinds of crazy emotions in you right now. You truly believe in Rome but Lucas doesn’t. It’s understandable how you would feel about what Lucas said. Give him a chance to cool down okay? Let’s you and me go after some gangsters.”

Araña shot a web-line and grabbed Estrella. With a tug of her webbing they were off. Elsewhere in the city two cars raced down a street while their passengers fired upon each other from the windows. Behind them the police were in pursuit. One of the cars carrying the Kingpin’s gang sped up and cut off another car as they attempted to get away. The other car with the Jackal’s gang appeared to have gained the upper hand. They shot into the opposite lane and dodged oncoming traffic to keep up with the other car.

“These people are crazy!” yelled one of the police officers as their squad car remained on their tail. “How are we gonna stop them before someone gets hurt?”

“No idea,” said the other officer driving the vehicle. “Where’s our damn back up?”

The Jackal’s gang got back in the right lane and continued their chase. One of the men popped out of a back window and prepared to fire upon the opposing vehicle when Araña slammed onto the hood of the car. She shot webbing at the gun and pulled it away from the man.

“Spider-Girl!” yelled the driver of the vehicle. “Shoot her!”

“I know you did not just call me that!” she yelled back.

The passengers opened fire which prompted Araña to jump up while webbing the windshield. She used another web-line to swing to a street light post which she hung upside down from as she watched the car crash into a building. The brick wall was strong enough to prevent it from going through. The other car filled with the Kingpin’s men continued on while the men laughed.

“That’ll show them!” said one of them. “Wait what is that?”

A short distance away Estrella stood waiting for them to come closer. The men didn’t know what to expect. She just stood there. They saw the symbol on her chest, that of a wasp.

“What the hell is she gonna do shrink?” laughed one of the men.

Estrella slapped her hands together and the slammed them into the ground in a crouching position. A sewer lid in front of her burst up from a surge of water, with the wave of her left arm the water rushed at the car. The resulting splash stopped the car and destroyed its engine. All the men got out and moved closer to Estrella. Their guns were all out of ammunition but that wasn’t about to stop them from getting out of this situation. One of them pulled out a knife.

“Oh, please,” said Estrella. “As if a little switch blade like that will scare me off.”

At the other car the police stopped. They pushed open their doors and kept behind them so that they would be shielded. They held their guns out between the opening provided by the doors.

“Get out of the vehicle and drop your weapons now!” demanded one of the officers.

The gang got out but didn’t drop their guns. They went to shot the officers but were stopped by Araña who drop kicked one of gangsters. Her body continued moving forward and she ended up on her hands allowing her to use her legs to grab another in a scissors-like hold. She contorted her body so that she could spin her legs. This motion hurled the man at one of his fellow gang members causing them to crash into the car. The last of the four shot at Araña as she tried to regain her footing. Her spider sense alerted her and she used a web-line to pull her out of the way. She connected with the building she webbed and bounced back off it. She dove at the last of the Jackal’s gang on scene.

“You can thank me later,” Araña said to the policemen while she wiped her hands satisfied of the outcome.

Estrella was now surrounded by the Kingpin’s men. They circled around her ready to strike at any moment. The first one made a move and was greeted with a boot to the face. The man with the knife lunged forward. Estrella spun out of the way and elbowed him in the back of the head. The other two charged at her together from opposite sides. She simply jumped up making them collide into one another. She flipped forward as they fell back. The man with the knife shook off the pain in the back of his head.

They had a short stand off before Estrella said, “Really? Of course it had to be the Spanish person in the group who had to have the knife. That’s such a stereotype. You’re an embarrassment.”

Angered, the man lunged forward again. Estrella used the long loose ends of her sleeves to wrap around the knife. This allowed her to pull the knife from his grasp while she turned her body. She placed her right foot to the back of his knee and with her right arm nailed him with a lariat. The added usage of her foot made him fall easier. While all men struggled to pull themselves up she pounced back. Her hands ignited in with her one true power. She shot her hands down making the flames hit the ground and they raged forward. All of the men were hit and sent flying back.

“Wow and not a single one of them is on fire after that,” said Araña as she walked over. “Thought you would need some help but I can see you got it handled.”

Elsewhere in the city, Avispa sat on a gargoyle-like structure that branched out from a building overlooking the city from above. His goggles were up on his forehead and he appeared to be meditating. His meditation abruptly ended only seconds in the position. His eyes opened showing just how sad he was. He was obviously hurt by what his sister said. For years he had to deal with being hated because of his powers and the only person he could look to for comfort was Jessica. He wondered if all the time in the past if he was just some annoyance to his younger sister.

He remembered events from his past. One such memory was a day when Lucas found himself surrounded by people while living in Massachusetts. They threw trash at him, broken bottles, aluminum cans, rotten food and anything they could get their hands on.

“It’s that kid!” one of them yelled.

“He’s evil!”

“Get him before he gets us!”

Despite not knowing him the people still wanted to get rid of him. Lucas was born to this world already bonded to an Ant Hunter something neither of his parents knew, especially his father who would take his son and magically bond a Wasp Hunter to him. His father believed that the spell failed and abandoned his family to find another way to bring glory to the Sisterhood of the Wasp. The spell did work however. The powers of both hunters combined and would leak out. This is what made people fear and hate him.

Lucas was backed into a corner. He guarded his face with his arms. Just as it seemed to be getting worse Jessica appeared and shielded her brother.

“That’s enough!” she exclaimed. “If you think for one second I’m gonna let you hurt my brother you’re wrong!”

The memory brought a tear to his eyes. Lucas wiped them away and again tried to meditate. It was hopeless though. Too many thoughts ran through his head. He wondered if that memory meant anything at all. His moment of solitude was interrupted.

“Somebody, help me!” he heard the voice of a woman nearby.

Back with Araña and Estrella, they were still on the scene as more police arrived. They just wanted to make sure everything turned out well before they headed off. A police detective by the name of Vincent Gonzales walked in the direction of the two. He combed his fingers through his black hair as he approached.

“Hmm…” muttered Araña. “He almost looks like Lucas. He even has a soul patch. If it weren’t for that black hair they could almost be brothers.”

“You think too much,” responded Estrella.

He was joined by Carlie Cooper as they reached the two heroes. Carlie raised an eyebrow at the sight of the two of them. She felt their costumes were unusual and was curious how someone who wore a spider on her chest could work with someone who had a wasp on hers. The spider and wasp were natural enemies after all.

“Is there a reason for you to be here?” asked Vin. “There’s no corpse anywhere.”

“Vin, shut up,” replied Carlie. “I heard they were still here and was hoping to ask them something. Araña and Estrella, huh? Don’t you usually operate in a trio?”

“…” Estrella looked away.

“So what I wanted to ask,” started Carlie. “I came to the conclusion that the Kingpin is at war with someone who is using the Hammerhead’s men. Do you know who this person is?”

Araña looked at Estrella for a second before, “It’s the Jackal.”

“The Jackal?” Carlie was a bit surprised to hear.

“I don’t know why you’re asking them,” said Vin. “It’s not like we can trust them. We should take them in for interfering with police business.”

“You’re a fool,” she said to him.

Vin tried to make a move to arrest them but Estrella pulled out a pellet that she threw to the ground. It was a smoke bomb that unleashed a gray cloud that covered Araña and Estrella. When the smoke cleared both heroes were gone.

“Damn it!” yelled Vin.

Meanwhile, Avispa headed toward the call for help. Like always he found himself going to one of the darkest corners of the city. He was able to meld with the shadows even with the orange costume of his. In the alleyway he found himself in, there was a small amount of light at the end where he saw a woman being held at gunpoint by a man in a brown trench coat and matching fedora.

“Where is he?” asked the man who pulled his gun closer to the woman.

“I don’t know.” She looked at the black and white mask of the Crime-Master.

A kunai buzzed passed the Crime-Master and knocked the gun out of his hand pinning it to the wall at his side. He turned to see Avispa. Avispa grabbed him by his trench coat and lifted him up into the air.

“Please don’t tell me you’re gonna make some kind of joke about how this isn’t a way to treat a lady,” the Crime-Master said. “All you young heroes are the same, filled with nothing but bad jokes and overconfidence.”

With that Avispa heard a large number of clicks behind him. A light flashed on and revealed an army of the Crime-Master’s henchmen all pointing their guns at Avispa. There were so many Avispa couldn’t count, he knew however that he was drastically outnumbered.

“Kill him!” commanded the Crime-Master.