MANHATTAN, NEW YORK

Avispa’s night wasn’t going all too well. He had set out with Araña and Estrella to do a nightly patrol knowing that crime was escalating at an alarming rate. After arriving on scene outside a club where the Goblin was fighting the Enforcers, they learned the true identity of the Goblin. He was none other than their classmate and friend Rome Sierra, something Estrella was already aware of. She tried to defend his case but ended up getting into an argument with Avispa that would upset him.

Avispa went off on his own with the belief that he was nothing but a burden to his sister. While he thought about what had happened he heard a call for help. Despite how he was currently feeling he couldn’t help but heed the call. There he would realize he was setup by the Crime-Master, a masked criminal who had been attacking teen superheroes upon request of the Jackal. He was now surrounded down an alleyway, the Crime-Master in front of him and twenty or so gangsters standing behind him.

“All the power in the world couldn’t save you now,” said the Crime-Master.

The gangsters were all smiling, knowing there was nowhere for him to go. It was then when an orange sphere fell from the sky and rolled between them. They were all confused on what it was and had no time to figure it out before it exploded sending them all flying about. Avispa took this opportunity to get out of the alleyway but just as he turned the Crime-Master shot him in his left arm just barely missing his heart.

“Ahh!” yelled Avispa as he leapt out of the alleyway holding his left arm. “Damn it.”

Blood ran through his fingers while he tried to hold the wound closed. The gang recollected themselves. The Crime-Master himself stepped out in front of his men. He looked at Avispa and questioned where that explosive came from. He would get an answer from above. The Goblin glided down beside Avispa.

“I knew if I followed him I’d find you,” explained Goblin. “It’s time I deal with you Crime-Master. I can’t let this go on anymore.”

“Fool, do you understand what will happen if you dare cross me?” questioned the Crime-Master. “Don’t forget what you have to lose. One false move and it’s over for them.”

Avispa looked over at Goblin, suspicious of his motives for coming to his aide. The first time Avispa encountered Goblin was during the warped wasp controlled earth when he was with the yet to be known as Bastards of Evil. The next time he saw him was on live television when he was fighting Jolt of the Young Allies in an aerial battle. He took Jolt as a prisoner as part of a plot developed by the World Party and Bastards to capture all of the Young Allies, including Araña.

“What the hell are you doing here?” asked Avispa.

“You needed help,” answered Goblin. “There was no way you were gonna take them all down. Plus you were injured.”

“Because of you!” growled Avispa angrily swinging his right arm with his fist clenched. “I could have handled these punks all on my own. No one asked for your assistance.”

“How cute,” laughed Crime-Master. “I don’t want to get in the way of your little quarrel but I have business to attend to.”

“Let’s go asshole, just bring it!” Avispa was becoming more and more enraged which was even more apparent with eyes glowing through his goggles.

The gang spread out around both Avispa and Goblin. Goblin did a head count to put a plan together but the sound of Avispa charging forward threw him off. Even though he had a bullet in his arm he was still able to freely move it. From the pouches on his belt he pulled out some shuriken. Guns were pulled on him, which he quickly took care of by throwing the shuriken into their barrels. He punched out the first man he came up to with his good arm while two others attacked him by the side. Still in motion Avispa twisted his body touching the ground with his hand then planted his legs into one of the other men. His feet then connected with a wall allowing him to tackle the other individual after him.

The Goblin, not to be outdone, set his attack in motion. He jumped off his glider and lunged forward putting on hand on a gangsters face. The glove he wore let off an electrical discharge which painfully shocked the man. He staggered back as his comrades made their move. Goblin pulled out his sword and slashed them across the chest and abdomen as they approached.

Some of the men still had guns and opened fire while the Crime-Master hid behind a car to avoid being shot. Goblin twirled his sword to defend himself. Avispa armored himself with his exoskeleton which was strong enough to handle long range gun fire. He then grabbed one of the men he knocked down and threw him at the gunmen. His armored scarf fluttered like wasp wings and he took off dropping on the roof of the car the Crime-Master was hiding behind.

“You have to do better than that,” said Avispa before being over taken by the hunter. “Now prepare to die!”

“What?” The Crime-Master was astounded by the dramatic voice change of Avispa.

Goblin was confused about what was happening, “You’re gonna kill him? I didn’t think you were the type to do that.”

“You would be right normally,” started the Hunter. “But the little half-breed isn’t in the driver’s seat right now.”

“Lucas?” asked Goblin. “Don’t tell me he’s a schizophrenic.”

The Wasp Hunter picked Crime-Master off his feet. Slowly he withdrew his stinger to the throat of the masked villain. As much as the Goblin would like to see the Crime-Master die he couldn’t let Avispa do such a terrible act. He pushed a button on his wrist protector summoning his glider. Another of his orange spheres shot out of it and he caught it with ease. He threw the sphere at Avispa. Upon contact it popped open revealing a small object that looked like a ghost you would hang on your front door during Halloween. The ghost gadget expanded covering Avispa in the process making him drop the Crime-Master, who realized all of his men were dispatched and decided to make a break for it. The Hunter struggled to get out falling off the vehicle.

“You’re wasting your energy,” explained the Goblin. “That thing is stronger than steel. You won’t break out of it.”

“Ssssssssss,” hissed the Hunter.

“I won’t remove it until you relax.” Goblin crouched down beside him. “Lucas, snap out of it!”

The Hunter fought a little more before eventually losing its control over Avispa. He stopped struggling and the Goblin freed him from the ghostly containment. As Avispa sat up Goblin saw that he was bleeding badly. Avispa tried to stand up but was fatigued by the blood loss. He almost fell over but was caught by the Goblin.

“I don’t . . . need you . . .” muttered Avispa.

“Oh, please you wouldn’t last a second on your own,” countered the Goblin. “I’m taking you to a hospital.”

“No hospitals,” moaned Avispa.

“Well, what the hell do you want me to do? Let you bleed out on the street? Lucas?”

Avispa had passed out. Looking at his glider the Goblin cussed under his breath. He knew that he could carry a conscious person on his glider, like he did with Avispa’s younger sister Elena who stood in front of him while he glided or Jolt who he carried by a cable that shot out of his glider. But Avispa he would have to hold while he flew.

“There’s too much going on right now for this to happen,” he said. “Let’s get you home fast so at least your mother can decide what to do with you.”


EMPIRE STATE
Part II: Family Bonds
Written by:
JUSTIN SANTOS


BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – GARCIA HOUSEHOLD

Anya and Jessica walked up the front stoop and into the house. They had just stopped a car chase involving both gangs of the Kingpin and Jackal. When the NYPD arrived on the scene they began to question the two heroes. One of the detectives, Vincent Gonzales, tried to apprehend them but with the use of a smoke pellet they were able to escape.

“He hates me,” cried Jessica. “I just know.”

“Come on Jess, he does not,” stated Anya. “Look let’s just see if he came home. He’s just a little upset but he loves you just as much as he loves me. All the stuff he does for me I know for a fact he’d do for you.”

“Yeah . . .” sighed Jessica before she noticed her mom step out of the kitchen. “Mom?”

“Where have you girls been?” her mother Erika asked a bit upset. “I have been trying to get ahold of you for hours. I thought you were lying dead on some street corner. Do you know what’s going on out there?!”

“Mom, stop we’re fine.” Jessica tried to calm her down.

“It’s not fine!” By the tone of Erika’s voice you could tell she was upset but not just about them not answering to her phone calls. “Anya, something has happened to your father.”

“What?” questioned Anya. “What happened to pop?”

“He was shot in Manhattan,” answered Erika. “He was rushed to a hospital. Sweetie, he’s in intensive care.”

Anya felt as if her whole world was falling apart. She remembered what it was like to lose her mother and imagined the terrible thought of losing her father. Jessica held her friend in her arms as a tear ran down her cheek.

“Anya, we should get to the hospital right away,” suggested Jessica.

“Come, I’ll drive you.” Erika grabbed her keys. “Elena, let’s go I don’t want you staying in this house by yourself! Jessica, where’s your brother?”

“He . . .” Jessica lowered her head. “We got into a fight and he ran off somewhere. I was hoping to find him here, but it doesn’t look like he came home. I’m sorry mom it’s all my fault.”

“There’s no time to worry about that. Let’s just head to hospital and we’ll try and figure a way to find him.”

MEANWHILE…

The Goblin landed his glider on a rooftop. Avispa regained consciousness and shrugged him off. He stumbled a bit but was caught.

“What game are you playing?” asked Avispa confused of the Goblin’s actions.

“I’m not playing any game,” he responded. “You didn’t want to go to the hospital. I imagine because of the whole secret identity thing, so I’m taking you home. At least your family can take care of you. I don’t know if you told your mother about this so . . .”

“She knows . . .” sighed Avispa. “Of course it’s not something we regularly talk about. You still didn’t really answer my question. Why are you doing this?”

“I couldn’t let anything happen to you,” Goblin began to explain. “Your sister would hate me for the rest of our lives. Not just that, my parents would be ashamed of me. Look you don’t have to believe my story about what my family has been through. Just let me get you home and this will be all over.”

Just as the Goblin went to grab hold of Avispa the sound of an explosion came from below them. They both looked down to see where it came from. They saw a window in the very building they were standing on was blown out. Then they heard the sound of another window shattering which was caused by a person flying out from it.

“What the hell?” asked Goblin. “Who is that?”

“The Crimson Spider,” answered Avispa. “He was with us when the Wasps took over.”

“I remember him.”

“Another suspicious character . . .” Avispa looked down at the Crimson Spider who clung to the neighboring building.

Goblin was puzzled by that statement. “What do you mean?”

“I made him take off his costume when we were on the wasp world.”

“Oh, yeah I remember that.” The Goblin thought back to that moment. “What was the deal with that? That was kind of messed up taking another guy’s costume.”

“It was necessary to get into Hechicero’s palace,” Avispa defended himself. “Besides my point was I saw who he was. Anya really has an unusual taste in friends.”

Avispa thought back to the moment Anya introduced him to all of her friends. Lynn and Emi were there when he met Rome, Rocky Flint, and another person.

Flashback from Araña #5

FORT GREENE PARK – BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

On a park bench Emi Kitane a.k.a. Armory, the Spider Society’s weapons specialist, sat with Anya and Lynn’s other friends. Two of them were African-American, Jerome ‘Rome’ Sierra who was tall with braided hair and Rocky Flint who was average height for a young woman with thick hair held up in a hairband. The last of them was a Caucasian male named Alex Hughes with short blond hair.

Anya walked down a path with Lucas in hand. She could tell he was nervous meeting new people. Together they approached the group. It was right when they were next to the bench they all sensed the dark energy that radiated from Lucas.

“Uhh,” Anya muttered. “Everyone this is Lucas, the one I’ve been talking about over the past few weeks.”

Being next to him was unsettling. After the introductions the group was left to an awkward silence. Lucas knew this would happen. This was no different than any other time around people. He just wanted to leave, but Anya wouldn’t let him.

Lynn turned to her friends, “Come on guys don’t be like that. Lucas is okay, there’s nothing wrong with him.”

“Anya, I knew this was a bad idea,” said Lucas. “I should leave.”

“No,” Anya stopped him from moving. “Lucas saved my life. He’s a kind soul who is a victim of a ‘curse’. A ‘curse’ that repels people from him . . . Don’t let this make you treat him any different than others.”

“Hmm . . .” sighed Lucas.

“A curse?” Rome held a hand out to shake Lucas’s. “What kind of trouble have you been getting into? With all the crazy things that happen in this city I’d believe anything.”

Lucas went to shake Rome’s hand. After a moment went by where Lucas talked to the Wasp Hunter, he let go of Rome’s hand.

“Well if Rome can look passed it so can I,” stated Alex as he held a hand out.

MANHATTAN – PRESENT

“There’s something not right about him but I can’t figure it out,” mentioned Avispa thinking of the one named Alex Hughes.

The Goblin was confused, “Do you care to share with me what you’re talking about? Who is the Crimson Spider?”

“Hmph, as if I’d tell you,” responded Avispa.

Goblin looked down at the Crimson Spider who looked back into the building he just came out of. He shook his head and then swung back in via web-line. Upon reentry Avispa and Goblin heard gunshots. The two looked at each other before Avispa grabbed his scarf and tore it. He then wrapped it around his arm to stop the bleeding. Goblin instantly figured out what he was up to but wasn’t fast enough to stop him from jumping off the building.

“Damn it,” groaned Goblin who turned to his glider and hopped on. “Are you really that stupid to join a gun fight after already being shot?!”

“You think a single gunshot wound is gonna put me out of the game?” Avispa replied back. “I’ve been thrown through buildings, smashed into pavement, suffocated on numerous occasions by artificial sources of water . . .”

“You get into some freaky things when you’re out fighting crime don’t you?” laughed Goblin.

Avispa reached the floor the Crimson Spider was fighting a number of gangsters. The Crimson Spider dodged gunshots and then was confronted by a man taller than him wearing metal gauntlets that were fashioned like boxing gloves. One punch from the man sent the Crimson Spider flying back where he was caught by the Goblin. The rest of the gangsters all pulled their guns and opened fire. Avispa jumped in front of the other two and with his good arm created a wall of flames that made the bullets melt on contact.

“What now?” asked one of the gangsters. “We did what the Kingpin asked of us. This little drug racket of the Jackal’s is broken up but we can’t deal with this. Harrison what should we do?”

The man with the gauntlets was known as Hammer Harrison. He wasn’t known too well in the criminal underworld like most but he is a member of the Enforcers. Just one look at the opposition led Harrison to retreat with the rest of the Kingpin’s people. With that Avispa ceased holding up the flame wall.

“Damn it,” sighed the Crimson Spider. “I always get into these situations.”

The Crimson Spider got back to his feet and looked at the other two. He questioned why Avispa was holding his left arm and why the Goblin was with him.

BELLEVUE HOSPITAL CENTER

“They got Soriano back from the Cubs and Granderson from the DL,” a man sitting in the hall said to another man. “The Yanks are back in this. All they need to do is get one of the two wild cards.”

“Please they’ll be lucky if they get third place,” replied another. “Tampa is gonna get one of the wild cards and Cleveland will get the other since they have the easiest end to the regular season.”

Anya burst into the hospital and flew passed the two men conversing over Major League Baseball. It was here where her father Gilberto was brought after being shot. He was placed in intensive care and required the use of machines to stay alive. Anya asked the receptionist working the desk where to find her father and immediately ran to his room. Jessica followed behind walking at a faster pace to keep up with Anya. Erika and Elena were not too far behind. Anya found the room and instantly ran to her father’s bedside.

“Pop!” she cried for him as she put her arms around his chest. “No!”

“What are you . . .” called a nurse. “You can’t be in here! You have to leave!”

The nurse grabbed Anya’s arm and pulled her. She only moved a little before she ripped her arm from the nurse’s grasp. She looked at the nurse with her eyes burning a bright blue.

“Touch me again and you’ll regret it!” Anya growled with intent to back up her words.

Erika became concerned that the situation was going to worsen, even more so when she caught glimpse of Anya’s eyes. They sent a familiar chill down her spine. She not only experienced this with her own son but within her own self. Erika stood behind Anya and put an arm around her.

“Anya, back up,” requested Erika. “Cool down outside the room. Jessica stand with her.”

“Come on.” Jessica grabbed her friend’s hand.

“I apologize for the roughness but this man is in serious condition and we can’t have anyone in our way while we tend to him,” the nurse stated. “I don’t know what you’re relation to this man is but you’ll have to wait outside.”

“We will but is there anything you can tell us?” asked Erika.

“Not right now,” replied the nurse. “We’ll let you know if anything changes.”

Outside the room, Erika saw her daughter connected to Anya via a stream of energy that poured from her back to Jessica’s palm. The anger that filled every fiber of her being became visible as Anya gritted her teeth and her arms began to tremble.

Erika consoled her in hopes of quelling the power that thrived on her anger. “Anya, I know all too well what you’re feeling. I’ve been through all of this with my own parents. Not only that I too know of the power you possess. You can’t let it over take you.”

Anya removed herself from Erika. She turned away from them. Although she had come to an understanding with the Spider-Hunter, it was still too dangerous to let her anger feed into it. She closed her eyes for a second before she darted off disconnecting herself from Jessica.

“No Anya, don’t run off by yourself!” Erika called for her. She lowered her head in shame as she thought of Anya’s late mother who asked her to watch over her daughter if such a situation like this would arise. “Sofia, you must be upset with me. I said I’d take care of her if anything ever happened and I’m not doing a very good job.”

“Mom, I have to go after her,” said Jessica. “Knowing her she’s going to do something reckless.”

“Right, I’m coming with you,” replied Erika much to her daughter’s surprise.

Jessica waved her hands in front of herself not agreeing with her mother. “No you don’t understand it’s not that simple.”

“I know exactly what’s happening,” her mother countered her argument. “I was doing this long before you were. Don’t think for a second that I’m close to being over the hill yet. We’ll find her together. Elena, you’re staying here.”

“But mom!” whined Elena.

“No buts miss, you’ll do as I say. Jessica let’s go and suit up.”

Moments later, mother and daughter were both on the hospital rooftop. Erika pulled up a silver ring zipper to close up her top that was long enough to go passed her waist and when under her belt made it look like a skirt. On her chest was the symbol of the Ant Council. She wore knee-high boots and gloves that reached passed her elbows. She also wore a white scarf in similar fashion to her son, so that they may be used as wings. Her costume as a whole was a mix of red and white coloring.

“You just randomly carry around a costume you haven’t worn in how many years?” Jessica choked an eyebrow. “And is that the emblem of the Ant Council?”

“Don’t think to hard dear, you’ll hurt yourself,” smirked Erika. “Where did you think your connection to the Ant Council came from? Your father is not the only one mixed up in the Insect Kingdom. And the Ant Hunter bond to your brother was once bonded to me. I don’t understand how but I somehow passed it down to him. Consider yourself lucky. I see you have an interesting taste in a costume.”

“Uhh?” Jessica blushed, a bit embarrassed. “What am I supposed to call you anyway?”

“Well, I was the original Hormiga before they decided to give that name to someone else,” she answered. “And you?”

“Estrella . . .”

Quickly Erika grabbed hold of her daughter and took flight. “That’s a real simple name. You realize if your name was in English you’d only be called Star? That’s not very creative.”

“And Avispa is more creative? Hmph.”

LAIR OF THE JACKAL

Miles Warren, the man known as the Jackal, sat behind a desk that was covered in a number of devices and various other items that were part of some project he was undertaking. He seemed to have many projects as of late and one was set to deal with the Kingpin, Wilson Fisk. It was a tricky project to say the least. The Kingpin’s resources were near endless. While the Jackal’s was being stretched thin. His own team of super-powered teenagers was currently unavailable. Meanwhile the Kingpin not only had the Enforcers on his side but the entire New York criminal underworld at his disposal.

With that in mind the Jackal thought it would be wise to hire some muscle. Granted the young man that stood before him didn’t quite fit the bill when it came to the muscle part. He was barely taller than Araña and almost as thin. His name was Jon Kasiya, an old rival of Araña’s known to her as Amun. The Egyptian assassin was once hired by the Sisterhood of the Wasp to assist in their war against the Spider Society when they were missing their Wasp Hunter.

“I understand you fought Araña in the past,” stated the Jackal. “Back when the Sisterhood of the Wasp was under staffed. They were unable to bond one of their demons to a host thanks to not only the Spider Society’s interference but because they lost their leader to an alternate earth. You know the ironic thing is there was already a Wasp Hunter and he’s now the boyfriend of your old enemy.”

“I’m sorry was there something you needed of me?” asked the emotionless assassin. “I was told you were looking to hire me for a job.”

“Oh, yes, yes.” The Jackal realized that he had gotten off track. “I was informed that you’re quite talented. I’m in need of talent. Right now I’m facing a predicament that requires me to hire some new blood. What I would need from you is to lessen the number of the Kingpin’s family. If I’m to get to the Kingpin I’m going to need to get passed his Enforcers. Can I count on you for such a task?”

NEW YORK CITY SUBWAY

Two men entered the station walking downstairs toward the waiting platform. They were both dressed like businessmen who appeared to have ended their work day. One of the men lit up a cigarette and took a puff. The other looked over to his companion a bit annoyed.

“You know they don’t allow smoking in here right?” he asked.

“Tsk.” The smoker showed signs that he didn’t care. “So now you’re the police? Shut the hell up and let’s just wait for the train to get here.”

As the two quietly waited they weren’t aware that someone crept behind them masked by the shadows. The pitter-patter of someone scurrying by caught them off guard. They looked around nervously. There wasn’t a soul around. The truth was that the work day had already ended hours ago. Now was the time for lowlifes to be out and about. The smoker pulled out a gun.

THWIP!

A web-line shot out from the shadows and yanked the gun out of the man’s hand and back into the shadows. The two men looked in the direction the web-line came from but saw nothing. Araña excelled in stealth movement. She melded with the dark portions of the subway with incredible ease. A couple steps forward and the men were met with balls of impact webbing, knocking the cigarette out of the smoker’s mouth. The other grabbed his forehead where he was struck.

“I’m gonna say this once,” she called from the shadows. “Answer me correctly and I won’t throw you out on the train tracks. Who do you work for and what were you just doing?”

“Go to hell, bitch!” yelled the disgruntled smoker.

Araña dropped out of the shadows. The men were shocked to see their stalker was a young woman. They laughed it off as she approached them. One of them thought it would be funny to hold her back in a comical fashion one taller than their opponent would do. She however caught the hand meant to hold her back and snapped it like a twig.

“Ahh!” yelled the man.

“I warned you,” Araña said sternly. “Now I’m throwing you off the platform.”

She dragged the man by his broken hand toward the railway. The other man tried to aide his companion but Araña spun around kicking out his hip. She proceeded to now drag both men until finally one started to plead to her.

“Okay, okay! We work directly under the Crime-Master but the Jackal is our boss. He has been ever since Hammerhead never returned from Florida. We were sent here to extort some bigwig that the Jackal has taken interest in.”

“That’s all you’ve done?” she demanded to know. “You didn’t hurt anyone today? Like an innocent news reporter?!”

“No I swear!”

“Swear to me!” she growled.

“Hold it!” ordered another voice. “I don’t know what you’re aiming to get from them but we won’t let this go any further.”

Behind Araña stood two police detectives, guns aimed at her. She loosened her grip on the two extortionists and turned her head to the detectives with her body still facing the criminals. The detective that took the lead was an African-American man who looked at her. Despite wearing goggles he could still feel the eerie chill from her stare. He tightened his grip on his gun uncertain of what he was feeling. The other detective was of Spanish decent. He looked at his partner who was reluctant to move forward.

“Dee, what’s the problem?” asked the second detective.

The first was Darren Williams and his partner was Gabriel Hernandez. The two detectives were young and inexperienced members of the NYPD known for getting themselves into troublesome situations. This one was particularly new to them. In front of them stood a known superheroine with two criminals at her feet. To Darren or Dee as he was called something didn’t feel right.

“Gabe, why do you always get me into this crazy stuff?” he responded to the question.

“Damn it do we have to do this now?”

They began to bicker back and forth. Araña just looked at them and the two criminals took the opportunity to make a break for it.

“See, look what you did,” stated Gabe. “They’re getting away. You always do this man. Every time you get all emotional, crap like this happens.”

“Every time I get emotional?” questioned Dee. “You would get emotional too if everywhere you went your partner nearly gets you killed.”

Araña, now exasperated, fully turned to face them. They stopped their bickering when they noticed her looking at them. The eerie chill could still be felt. The detectives didn’t know what to do now. She just stood their awaiting their response to the situation.

“You’re Araña, right?” asked Dee. “What exactly is it you’re trying to accomplish here? I don’t know who those guys were or what they did but doing what you were just planning is not the right thing to do.”

“Hmph, and I thought you superhero types were supposed to be against killing,” added Gabe.

“Are you gonna use those guns or can I go about my business?” Araña clenched her fists. “I have to find out who shot that reporter.”

“You mean the one from the New York Herald?” Dee was a bit surprised that that was what this was all about.

Gabe lowered his gun a bit saddened about what he and his partner had seen earlier, “We were there. It’s was that Goblin-character that rides the snowboard glider.”

Araña’s jaw dropped and eyes widened.

To be continued…