MANHATTAN, NEW YORK

It was like a video was playing over again. Lynn was after Mike’s younger brother again. He was even with the same girl as before. Once again she was trying to be inconspicuous, hiding her appearance within her purple hoodie. Andrew nervously looked back trying not to show he knew he was being followed. The girl with him tried to see for herself and he nudged her to stop.

He tried to lose Lynn but she was determined today to find the answers she needed. It occurred to him that they may have to make a break for it. On the next corner Andrew grabbed his companion’s hand and pulled her along as he tried to get away. Lynn ran after them. She wasn’t gonna lose them. Not now. He turned again seemingly breaking away from her. He felt a bit of relief. They stopped running. Andrew felt confident that they were free to go about their business.

“Andy, little cuz it’s been a minute.” A voice caught him off guard. “And Arianna too. What’s the hurry? You seem a bit nervous. Is something wrong?”

It was Lucas sitting at an outside table at a restaurant. Next to him sat Anya who was reading a newspaper. She took a quick glance at Andrew and Arianna then went back to her paper.

“Lynn, was right she does look the type to be stuck up.” Anya didn’t even take her eyes off the newspaper to see a dirty look given to her. “Tell the bitch if she’s got a problem we can settle it quickly if she’d like.”

“Anya…” Lucas rolled his eyes. “A little overboard don’t you think? So cuz. Where have you been? Uncle Javy. Aunt Marcella. Mike. I haven’t seen a single one of you in awhile. What’s the deal? You know my mom’s been calling. It’s very disrespectful to leave my mom hanging like that.”

“Lucas.” Andrew found it hard to talk to his cousin. “You seem different. You were never the talkative type. The last time I saw you, you were a loner who kept to himself. And you even talk about your mother as if you two get along. Is this her doing?”

He was referring to Anya. She simply grinned as she went about her reading.

“You still haven’t answered my question.” Lucas got up from his seat. “Are you gonna just leave me waiting? I know the truth. You’re still afraid of me aren’t you? You were always one to tuck your tail between your legs and hide behind your brother. Your hotheaded older brother. Dumbass of an older brother.”

“Watch it,” Andrew stopped him.

“Oh, is that what it’s gonna take?” Lucas stood up unnerving his younger cousin. “Talk to me.”

Arianna stepped in front of Andrew and started poking Lucas in the chest. “This is none of your business. So stay out of it.”

Lucas quickly pulled her hand away from him leaving it firmly in his grasp. Lynn stepped in front of Lucas to come face to face with Arianna. She put a hand on Lucas’s arm to get him to remove his hand from Arianna. Arianna had met Lucas once or twice but never really knew him. She had never experienced his intimidating stare before.

“I don’t know you,” Lynn said to Arianna. “Are you supposed to be his girlfriend?”

“No, she’s Arianna Rojas,” explained Lucas. “Andrew and Mike’s maternal cousin, meaning she’s no way related to me. Which is a good thing I might add.”

“Look what do you want from us?” asked Andrew. “We have nothing to say to you.”

“I want to know what has happened to my family,” replied Lucas.

“I want to know where my supposed boyfriend is at,” Lynn added her own answer.

Anya closed her paper and stood next to them both. “I want to have words with the Ant Council.”

“What do you know about the Ant Council?” Andrew kept questioning them.

“It’s a council of five members, two of which are your mother and father.” Anya showed signs of impatiens. “Mike is the hunter while you’re supposed to be his mage. I’ve never once seen you with him.”

“It’s cause he sucks at everything he does.” Lucas stared his cousin down feeling something wasn’t right.

“So first the Spider Society disappears,” said Anya. “And now the Ant Council goes into hiding. Now like my dear boyfriend has been asking, where have you been?”

Andrew lowered his shoulders uncertain what to do. It was then when the sky darkened. This darkness spread throughout the area. Ordinary citizens who were walking the streets seemed to vanish until only the five of them were left. Anya and Lucas each grabbed an arm of Lynn’s and pulled her behind them. The two heroes looked around to see each nearby street shrouded in dark clouds. From the ground sprung up the foot soldiers of the Ant Council. Armored men and women stood at the ready awaiting a command. From the crowd of foot soldiers movement was seen. Anya and Lucas both saw Hormiga appear.

“Andy, Arianna, to me,” he commanded.

They did as Hormiga ordered and joined him. They stood at his side. Anya wondered if this meant they had fallen to the side of evil like the other groups had. She didn’t know too much of the other Insect Kingdom groups that were locked away on the island of Puerto Rico, only what little Jessica had told her. What she was told was that the Ant Council was neutral. Behind her the magical energies that Lynn had been experiencing were now flowing around her. They entered her body making her muscles increase in size.

“Lynn, stay behind us.” Anya looked back at her friend. “We’ll protect you.”

“As if I need protection.” Lynn flexed an arm.

“Are you hulking out?” Anya looked back at the Ant Council members. “What is it with those powers of yours?”

Anya then saw Lucas walking toward them. She went to follow but he motioned for her to stay put. Lucas came up to the foot soldiers. They blocked him from his cousins.

“This has nothing to do with you,” claimed Hormiga.

Lucas was upset with his cousin. He channeled his anger into pushing forward. The foot soldiers all tried to keep him back but he pushed them back to inch closer to his cousins. All three were surprised to see this feat. Lucas was able to push them all the way to his cousins. His eyes flashed orange for a second but neither of them noticed.

“Tell me again this has nothing to do with me,” barked Lucas. “Whatever this darkness is, it isn’t the Ant Council’s way. Are you really gonna turn your back on your family? What about your future family? Lynn is pregnant you fool. Stop hiding behind your goons and act like a man.”

“I wish I could include you in this,” said Hormiga. “But you wouldn’t understand. I leave Lynn to you. I have no time for children.”

Lucas’s eyes widened as his heart sunk. Any negative situations involving parents and their children always hit him hard and to hear his cousin turn his back on his own unborn child angered him. Tears ran down Lynn’s face as she was held by Anya. Hormiga nodded to both his brother and cousin Arianna before kicking Lucas hard enough to send him flying back. He would land in a kneeling position.

He held his midsection as he ground his teeth. “So this is your true colors? I hoped that you had changed from when we were kids. That you would have grown up. But all I see is the eleven-year-old boy who only cared about proving he was better than what everyone thought.”

“Just rough them up a bit, I don’t want anyone hurt,” Hormiga ordered his soldiers before he and his two companions vanished.

The ant foot soldiers surrounded them to follow up on their orders. Lucas took a deep breath as he came to understand his family had turned on them. He closed his eyes. On his back a symbol began to glow through his clothes.

“If you think for a second you’re gonna complete those orders,” Lucas said just as Estrella magically appeared behind him with her hand resting where the symbol was. “You’ve got another thing coming.”

From behind Estrella the Goblin rose up on his glider having teleported along with her. Anya was surprised to see them both show up out of nowhere. Lucas switched into his Avispa costume and stepped forward with a stream energy coming from his back that connected to Estrella’s hand.

“It’s about time I figured out a means of transportation,” said Estrella. “Of course it will only work with you Avispa.”

“Doesn’t surprise me.” The Goblin called upon a pumpkin bomb from his glider. “Twins always seem to have some sort of connection to each other.”

The Goblin threw the pumpkin bomb. Avispa and Estrella seemed to lift their left arms simultaneously. Both siblings channeled their pyrokinetic powers they inherited from their mother into the pumpkin bomb causing a more destructive blast. The blast dispersed the foot soldiers everywhere. Some would be hurt badly while others would quickly regain their footing. Some went for Anya and Lynn. Anya shot webbing causing two to collide. Another tried to sneak up on them. Lynn turned and grabbed him by the neck to choke slam him with her amplified strength.

“I would so rock out with you guys right now if I didn’t have a baby to worry about,” said Lynn. “But you’re all experienced enough at this you don’t need me.”

Avispa dives in with an overhead spin kick. He then crouched down so his sister could roll over his back to land a kick of her own. The Goblin picked a soldier off the ground. He punched him and then flung him toward Anya who created a net with her webbing to catch him. Lynn just stood there in awe as she watched their team work. Avispa grabbed a female attacker into a bear hug. She struggled and while her head was over his shoulder Estrella came in with an uppercut that led Avispa to drop her.

“Thank you I wasn’t about to hit a woman,” said Avispa.

“Don’t worry I have no problem doing it,” snickered Estrella.

An ant soldier tried ricocheting from a wall to get to the Goblin. Anya shot a webline to prevent him from attacking the Goblin. She reeled him in to be met with Lynn’s fist. Anya was impressed. Avispa and Estrella stood back to back turning together to send short bursts of fire at the ants. Anya bent her knees back and pounced forward landing on one which she would punch out. The Goblin would put a hand in a satchel strapped over his shoulder and pull out a ghost-themed gadget he once used on Avispa. He threw it to trap them within. A few minutes would go by before all were dispatched.

“How do we always get ourselves into these situations?” asked Estrella walking over to Anya and Lynn. “Lynn what the heck happened to your arms? And your torso?”

“I think the baby’s magical powers are trying to protect her,” responded Avispa.

“Well, he is prophesied to be a saviour,” Anya added. “I think he’s doing a pretty good job so far.”

“Saviour or not I wish he’d return me back to normal…” sighed Lynn. “And what makes you think it’s a boy?”

“An auntie can hope right?” smiled Anya.

The ants all disappeared the way they came. All of the dark clouds also started to recede. This alerted Estrella who jumped behind her brother placing her hand over the same spot from earlier. The Goblin glided down and put a hand on her. In a flash they were gone. Avispa’s costume burned away returning to his normal clothes. The darkness was now completely gone and the citizens of New York returned to what they were doing unaware of a fight taking place.

“That’s new,” said Anya. “I haven’t seen magic like that before.”


AGONY IN THE ANTHILL
Part II: Abandonment Issues
Written by:
JUSTIN SANTOS


THE ANTHILL

Hormiga, his brother and cousin, all appeared in a room together. He pulled his helmet off and looked at his brother. He appeared to not be too happy with him. Before words could be exchanged the sounds of movement caught their attention. They all looked and saw the figure of a woman masked by shadows.

“Well, what do you have to say for yourselves?” she asked. “I told you I wanted no one to know about your mission. And now you might of slipped up. You wish to seek glory for your Ant Council but with how carelessly you handle things I…”

“We have everything under control,” Hormiga stated. “You have no need to act. The mission will be completed.”

“See that it does,” said the woman before fading into the shadows.

Hormiga had his brother and cousin follow him. They walked down a corridor filled with members of the Ant Council. Some saluted Hormiga while other went about their business. Hormiga brought them to another room. This room seemed to be a science lab. He brought them before a case that had two costumes in them.

“These will be what you wear from now on,” said Hormiga. “No more civilian identities while in the field. Andy you’ll be known as the Black Ant and Arianna the Ladybug. We’ll be making our next move starting later tonight.”

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – GARCIA HOUSEHOLD

Lucas returned home with Anya and Lynn. Lynn was upset about the outcome. She really felt like she had something with Mike. And now that there was a child involved she felt even worse. She thought he was a kind person but to see him kick his own flesh and blood aside like he did to Lucas. Even if he chose to be around what kind of father would he be.

“Lynn, I’m sorry it went that way,” said Anya. “I can’t believe the Ant Council would do a heel turn.”

“I can’t believe he would just turn on us like that.” Jessica had said while sitting next to Rome on a couch. “I filled mom in on what little I knew. It doesn’t seem like Mike to do this. And Andy as well.”

“I was warned there may be trouble brewing in our family.” Erika entered the room. “The Ant Council never followed any path. They typically stayed away from either light or darkness. It was the Spider Society that played heroes and the Sisterhood of the Wasp who played the villains. It’s sad to say with them up to no good our family is not safe. That’s why Lucas and Jessica I need you to get to the airport.”

“Airport?” asked Anya.

“My cousin Veronica is returning home after being away for sometime in Spain,” answered Lucas. “She’s a scientist and has been researching abroad.”

Jessica added, “Even with how my brother was before you met him, Veronica was truly considered the black sheep of the family. She just never fit in. She was into drugs, got mixed up in a toxic relationship, and had a kid at a young age. No offense intended Lynn. Honestly, you have it a bit easier then she did. After her parents died our mom took her in and got her on the right track. Now she’s a scientist. I bet mom wants us to protect her from the Ant Council.”

“Her little girl Angela as well,” Erika furthered the explanation. “They have no part in this and I want it to stay that way. Get them here in one piece and we’ll protect them.”

“I’ll go with you guys,” said Anya.

“Me too.” Felicity walked in on the conversation. “I’m tired of sitting around here being useless. Besides I probably should start getting used to the sights and sounds of this time period’s New York.”

LAGUARDIA AIRPORT – QUEENS, NEW YORK

A girl no older than eight stepped out of the jet bridge into LaGuardia’s terminal. What she found was everything to be in disarray. Chairs that were commonly used for waiting on planes were thrown about. Signs that directed people were knocked over. The people who were coming and going from the airport were running to get away from something. The girl soon found out what. Before her a group of Ant Council foot soldiers gathered having seen her.

“Uhh,” she muttered.

“Angela, what did I say about walking ahead of me…?” The cousin of the Garcia siblings, Veronica, kneeled down and grabbed her daughter all while looking at the soldiers. “Is there something I can help you with or can you get away from me and my daughter?”

Veronica’s hazel eyes peered at the soldiers. She knew who they were and didn’t understand why they of all people were here. Squeezing her daughter, she prepared for the worst. Luckily, the worst would never happen. Lucas flew in unnoticed by the soldiers. He pressed a hand on the ground to support all his weight as he sent up a kick to the jaw. The soldier on the receiving end was knocked upward.

“Hmm, the twins.” Veronica showed signs of relief. “I know where this move is going. And in comes Jessica.”

Instead it was Anya who came in with a flying punch, a follow up strike to the jaw. Veronica was surprised to see someone else teaming up with Lucas other than Jessica. Lucas and Anya knocked the rest of the group around. One fell and quickly got back up only to be hit with a stanchion pole. The soldier turned to see who threw it but was dropkicked by Felicity. Jessica was holding another pole by where a line was intended to be formed for attaining tickets.

“¡Tío!” called Angela as she ran into Lucas’s arms.

He picked her up into a hug. A soldier tried to get up to attack Lucas but was kicked aside by Anya. They all disappeared having been defeated. Jessica and Felicity walked over happy to see no one was hurt.

“You’ve never called me uncle in Spanish before,” smiled Lucas. “Have you been practicing?”

“¡Sí, hablo español!” cheered the girl.

“Well, I wasn’t expecting the welcoming committee.” Veronica followed with an uneasy laugh. “Your mother must have sent you knowing these guys were coming. How’ve you been little cuz?”

Veronica poked Lucas in the forehead to get an annoyed reaction she knew she would get from him. But this time he just looked at her.

“Well, that’s different.” Veronica was curious and examined him by walking around while playing with her long black hair. “You seem different. Your shoulders seem more broader than the last time I saw you. Let me guess it’s because of this little chica. I saw how she made a move I would normally see Jessica do.”

“Veronica, this is Anya Corazon,” Jessica introduced. “Lucas’s girlfriend. Anya, Veronica Abano our cousin.”

“Girlfriend, you say?” Veronica’s eyes shined with delight. “I’m glad to finally hear those words in the same sentence. It’s nice to meet you Anya. And it’s great to see my beloved cousins after a long year away. And…”

Felicity saw she was being looked at. “Felicity. Kinda new, they forget to introduce me sometimes.”

“Well, Felicity, any friend of my cousins’ is a friend of mine,” smiled Veronica. “Now can we go somewhere a little less trashed? And maybe then someone can explain to me why Mike’s cronies tried to pick off my daughter.”

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – GARCIA HOUSEHOLD

They brought Veronica and her daughter home with them. Angela was now spending time with her great aunt Erika in the kitchen while Veronica was with everyone else in the living room. She was introduced to Lynn and told what had been happening between them and the Ant Council as well as Lynn’s current situation.

“I never thought Mike would be the type to abandon his child,” said Veronica. “Sure he did turn his back on Lucas from time to time.”

“Wait weren’t they close?” asked Anya.

“Mike, liked to say he was,” answered Veronica. “The truth is Mike is just a two-faced liar. He was and probably still is a hypocrite. He was deceitful. I’m sorry Lynn we’ve only just met and I’m putting down the father of your baby. But it is what it is. It all stemmed from jealousy. To him it always seemed like his father favored Lucas over him. You did tell Mike about the baby right?”

“Yeah,” Lynn looked down saddened.

Veronica put a hand on Lynn’s shoulder. “I had Angela when I was young and she didn’t have a father. It’s hard trust me. You’re gonna really have to work to protect your baby. Luckily you have good friends. Lucas was there for me when I needed him, that’s why Angela calls him uncle when they’re really second cousins.”

Lucas walked closer to Veronica who then grabbed him into a headlock to apply a noogie. The show of affection was followed by a kiss on the cheek, something she felt she owed him for protecting her daughter.

“You know this is the first time in a really long time I met someone who was fond of Lucas before I met him,” said Anya. “You two look like you’re close.”

“I’d like to think we are,” claimed Veronica. “Aunt Erika helped me a lot. Got me back on my feet. But Lucas was there for me during the darkest of times. Feeling unwanted by our own family is was bonded us. He chose to bottled up his emotions, which is unhealthy. But I took the worst route, drugs. Lucas saw me do things no eleven-year-old should have to see. He had to take care of me when I was messed up. He even had to help me deliver the baby at the worst of times. It’s funny I think back on those times and there always seemed to be some conflict between him and Mike, sometimes they argued over me.”

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – YEARS AGO

Veronica back in her early twenties was living with her aunt and cousins while they still lived in Boston. She staggered into the bathroom and grabbed hold of the sink to support herself. She had the look of someone who was overwhelmed by a drug in her system. Her head raced. Her stomach then became the next problem. A rush of nausea hit her. She tried to get to the toilet quickly but lost her footing and fell dropping something she was holding in the process.

A battered and bruised Lucas walked into the wide open bathroom and saw his cousin on the ground. “Not again.”

He went to go help his cousin but the item she dropped caught his attention. It was a pregnancy test. He reluctantly looked at it and saw that the test had come back positive. He then saw his cousin fidgeting on the ground holding her stomach. Helping her up he grabbed hold of her long hair as she threw up in the toilet. Finally relieved she looked up to him and saw his bruises.

“Who…did this…to you?” she muttered.

“It doesn’t matter.” Lucas shrugged it off. “Just pull yourself together.”

He walked away and she just watched unable to move. Even though she had an unknown substance in her system that impaired her she still felt sorry for her cousin. Once again he was attacked because of the power he possessed. She lowered her head ashamed of herself. Later in the day, after night had fallen, they were together in the living room. They were watching a movie. Veronica would every now and again look ever so slightly at Lucas. She wanted to ask him who beat him up. But she was afraid that he had lost all respect for her. He constantly found her wasted somewhere in the house. There were times she would regain consciousness and find him holding her just to make sure she didn’t die. And now there was the pregnancy.

“It was the Ant Council.” Lucas didn’t even take an eye of the television screen. “Now will you stop staring at me?”

“You mean the same group our family has strong ties with?” She was astounded. “Well, I guess I should say the Gonzalez family since I was adopted I have no real connection to them.”

He didn’t say anything else. Veronica could understand. She too at the time wasn’t much of a talker but for some reason when she was with him she couldn’t keep her mouth shut. It was all because of their bond. They could easily relate to each other, both through their feelings of abandonment. She was adopted by Felipe and Elizabeth Abano, the latter being Lucas’s maternal aunt. Right off the bat the thought of being rejected by her biological parents sent her down a dark path. Than when her adoptive parents died it got worse. Lucas wasn’t too far off when it came to parents. His father turned his back on the family and his mother wrongfully neglected him to the point they haven’t spoken in a long time, even though he still lived with her.

“So you were at the Ant Council’s headquarters and this happened?” she asked. “What about Mike? Wasn’t he with you?”

“He just stood there and watched.” He was guided by Veronica to lay his head in her lap which she would then play with his hair. “But what can you expect from an eleven-year-old?”

Earlier in the day Lucas was brought to the Ant Council’s headquarters by his Uncle Javier. Even though he was uncomfortable being around his nephew he still took him under his wing and trained him in the martial arts. Children of the group’s members were typically trained at a young age to prepare them for anything involving the Insect Kingdom. Mike being Javier’s son was no different.

At one point while he was there Lucas was surrounded by other trainees and assaulted. Mike was in the same room as him but for some reason didn’t help his cousin who was being attacked by multiple assailants. And now hours later he returned home to find his other cousin Veronica on the bathroom floor.

“You don’t look so good,” he said looking up from her lap. “Am I gonna have to take you to the hospital again?”

“No it will pass.” She tried to assure her cousin even though her body started to shake. “It will pass.”

“Why you do this to yourself? You know that shit fucks up your system. Whatever it is it can’t be worth killing yourself.”

“Look just stay with me.” She closed her eyes. “It will pass.”

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – NOW

The girls who were listening to Veronica’s story didn’t know what to say. They did expect Mike to be what Veronica was claiming. And then there was the rest of the story. They couldn’t believe Lucas was attacked by the group his bloodline was associated with. Veronica had only told a little bit about herself and they could already see major disfunction in her past.

“I didn’t know the Ant Council attacked him,” said Jessica. “That’s why he hated going there.”

“And what about you?” asked Anya. “You seem fine now. How long have you been clean?”

“Ever since Angela was born,” Veronica continued with her story. “But before then it was a nightmare. I was a mess. My life was a mess.”

“Did Mike’s family do anything to help you?” Lynn cut in.

“No.” Veronica shook her head. “They wanted nothing to do with me. They made it very evident the night I woke up in the hospital. The other problem with my life at that time was that I foolishly married a man I thought loved me. He was the one supplying me with the drugs I was taking. And to top it off he ended up being abusive.”

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL
YEARS AGO

Five months had passed since the day Lucas found Veronica on the bathroom floor. Now he was standing at her bedside in a Boston hospital. She was beaten up badly, worse than he had been at the hands of the Ant Council. He looked near the door to the room. There stood his Uncle Javier and Aunt Marcella. They were talking to the doctor. After they found out what had happened they glanced over at Veronica. The doctor left to check on something and they followed afterward not wanting to deal with Veronica’s problems.

“Lucas, let’s go,” said Mike who happened to be there as well. “We better get moving or they’re gonna leave us here.”

“Then go.” An irritated Lucas stayed by Veronica’s side.

“Man don’t get involved in this.” Mike grabbed Lucas’s arm only to be shaken off. “Dude, we’re eleven years old. This shouldn’t be our responsibility. Don’t get mixed up in her problems.”

“Who are you to tell me what I should and shouldn’t do?” Lucas was angered but kept his voice down. “This is wrong. She’s family. And if I remember correctly we’re supposed to look after our family. No matter how they became part of our family.”

“She’s not our family.” Mike tried to reason with his cousin. “She’s just some girl our aunt and uncle picked up from an orphanage because they couldn’t have children. She’s a fucking disaster. Who would want someone like her in their family?”

“Just leave me alone.” Lucas turned from his cousin. “That shouldn’t be too hard for you to do. Just pretend there’s five guys beating me up.”

Mike looked up like he was defeated. He took one last look at his cousin before walking out of the room to meet up with his parents. Lucas grabbed Veronica’s hand. He didn’t know she was awake. She grabbed his hand and placed it on her belly that had grown quite a bit over the last few months. Her eyes had teared up.

“Lucas…” she started to cry. “Why is my life like this?”

He wiped away her tears. He didn’t know what to do. With the way he had been treated through his young life he learned nothing about compassion. He just tried his best to comfort her. Her whole body had been bandaged from head to toe. Luckily, no harm came to the baby. He decided to stay with her over night. It wasn’t like his mother would notice he was gone. When a nurse came in to make sure all visitors were gone he hid in the shadows so he wouldn’t have to leave.

Hours went by and the sun was now out. Lucas had fallen asleep in a chair next to her bed. His head rested on his folded arms which leaned at Veronica’s side. He was awoken by the movement within her belly. He sat up and looked at his cousin who was awake.

“She’s not a fan of the hospital food,” laughed Veronica trying to make a bad situation look better. “Sorry I woke you. You missed your mom with your sisters. She was gonna wake you and take you home but I insisted you stay. I can see it in her eyes, she loves you. She just can’t show it.”

“Hmph, please.” Lucas didn’t even want to discuss his mother.

“No, it’s true,” she said just as she tried to move her body but failed. “And I think I know what her problem is but I have no way to know for sure nor would I know how to counteract it. It’s that damn magic of the Sisterhood of the Wasp. There was a spell cast on her. It was probably put on her back when you were born. Probably by your father. From what I understand he is a powerful sorcerer. I’ve been reading things in the Ant Council library.”

Lucas stood up not sure how to handle this information. He saw on a nightstand next to her bed a ‘get well soon’ card signed by Jessica and Elena. Also there was a science magazine with the picture of an octopus on it.

“You and your sea creatures,” he changed the subject.

“Don’t do that.” She was saddened by his feelings towards his mother. “If there really is a way to repair your relationship with your mother you should look into it. Take it from me. There shouldn’t be anything more important to you right now.”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” he stated. “It’s been eleven years. Not once has she said she loved me. Now you want to talk important, why don’t you tell me about how this happened?”

“What’s there to talk about?” Veronica really didn’t want to discuss her problems because they may make the one person who cares about her lose respect. “I’m okay don’t worry about it.”

“He gave you drugs again, didn’t he?” he questioned. “Your husband. I never liked the guy. You two got wasted again and then he lost it and attacked you. Veronica I paid attention during sex-ed. This is bad for the baby. And getting beaten by your ass of a husband is no better.”

Veronica began to cry. “Lucas, please stop talking about it. I know you’re just gonna get involved in this and you shouldn’t. It’s not your responsibility to deal with my mistakes.”

“Than who’s gonna take responsibility?!” Lucas became upset as Veronica lowered her head. “Are you gonna let this keep happening until you’re dead? You keep going back to the drugs because you were abandoned by your parents and you feel unwanted. You talk to me about fixing my relationship with my mother. For what? To make myself feel better? What about you? Maybe you should try to find your own parents and find out why they put you up for adoption. And your husband. You need to stay away from him.”

Lucas looked away just as his eyes flashed orange. Veronica continued to cry as she knew everything he said was true. But the problem was she was too scared to find her parents. She wondered if she found them would what they have to say hurt her even more. She looked at Lucas uncertain of what he was thinking. He stood up and walked out of the hospital room leaving her to her thoughts.

THE ANTHILL – NOW

Hormiga leaned against a wall as he supervised a training session Black Ant and Ladybug were having. He formed the group as a trio to counter the one Avispa had with Araña and Estrella. He along with his brother were the hunter and mage pair, quite like Avispa and Estrella. He knew that his brother wasn’t as efficient with his magic as Estrella was but he wouldn’t work with anyone else. And then there was his cousin Ladybug. She was always getting into trouble and was an accident waiting to happen. But he felt he could trust her to keep Araña occupied while he dealt with the person he hated more than anything. His goal was defeating Avispa.

His train of thought was interrupted as his brother’s projectile spell was knocked aside by a holographic enemy. This enemy, a humanoid insect, swooped in for the kill but was intercepted by a punch from Hormiga. Black Ant stepped back uneasy. He thought his brother was gonna be angry with him. Hormiga pulled his helmet off. The light in that particular spot of the room shined on his neck revealing a marking. It was a tattoo of sorts. A black tarantula.

“We can’t afford any mistakes,” said Hormiga. “Avispa is cunning and Estrella clever. We’ll have to take advantage of their weak link, being Araña. She has a tendency to be reckless. She relies on Avispa too much. This could be his downfall. If we endanger her he will lose focus on the main objective.”

It was true Araña was reckless at times but she wasn’t weak by any means. Hormiga based his facts off of recent adventures with the New Slingers, but he knew nothing of the current mean streak she was experiencing due to her father’s fate weighing down on her. Hormiga felt like his team wasn’t ready for action. Ever since he met Avispa he couldn’t get along with him. He didn’t trust Wasps, regardless of how he claimed to align himself. And since Araña associated herself with him Hormiga couldn’t trust the Spiders. He thought about his cousin Lucas. He knew Lucas was a skilled fighter as his father trained them together.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – YEARS AGO

Mike was following after his cousin. Lucas had left the hospital after making sure Veronica was okay. He knew his family wouldn’t do anything to help her. As far as they were concerned she wasn’t part of the Gonzalez family. That’s how he felt about himself. It was the connection to the Garcia family and their ties to the Sisterhood of the Wasp that separated them. Mike picked up his speed and when the chance arose he pushed his cousin into an alleyway. Lucas turned to see his cousin and pushed back.

“Hey, it’s just me.” Mike gestured to his cousin to hold back. “I’m trying to stop you before you do something stupid.”

“What business is it of yours?!” Lucas growled. “Someone has to do something about this. And it looks like it’s gonna have to be me. So get out of my way.”

“I won’t move,” insisted Mike. “The Ant Council has her husband under surveillance. You don’t have to worry about him.”

“Surveillance?” Lucas turned away from his cousin and quickly back. “That’s the best they can do?”

“The Ant Council has always opposed violence,” countered Mike. “That’s why they never took part of the Insect Wars. They teach us to fight only as a means of self-defence. Don’t get yourself in trouble by going after Veronica’s loser husband.”

“Leave me alone.” Lucas expressed his annoyance toward his cousin. “I didn’t ask for your help so go running back to your Ant Council.”

Lucas went to walk away but was grabbed by the arm. He ripped his arm free of Mike’s grasp and tried to leave again but Mike swiftly jumped over him and blocked him.

“Get the hell out of my way!” demanded Lucas.

Mike didn’t give up. Lucas knew he would probably have to fight his way through him. When Mike stepped forward Lucas hit him with a backflip kick right under the chin. This knocked Mike down. Seeing an opportunity, Lucas hightailed it out of there by bouncing from building to building to get to the rooftops. Mike got up and clenched his jaw. Then he suddenly shrunk down to the size of an insect. He looked around and inspected the area. He found a line of ants and one in particular that had wings.

He took flight and went after Lucas. On the roof Lucas stood trying to decide which way to go. Mike flew over to him and hopped off the ant sending a miniature fist at Lucas. Lucas spun around but quickly recovered. They were now across from each other standing in a battle stance.

“I’m not letting you do this,” insisted Mike.

Lucas glared at him. “So now you care? When your precious Ant Council isn’t around.”

“You got it all wrong,” claimed Mike.

They both charged forward. Lucas went into a baseball slide and separated both his legs. When his legs caught Mike’s he turned into them to trip him up. Mike face planted as Lucas rolled backward up to his feet. Wiping his hand across his face revealed that Mike was bleeding. He lifted his head to show his nose bleeding.

“I’m sick of being your charity case,” said Lucas. “I can fend for myself.”

“You’re eleven you shouldn’t be fending for yourself,” Mike countered.

“Again I ask why you suddenly care?” Lucas’s anger was growing. “Eleven years. Eleven years I’ve been an outcast in my own family. I may have had a roof over my head but what does it matter if the people you share that roof with doesn’t even acknowledge you?”

Mike never did see things from Lucas’s point of view. He was raised in a happy family with his parents and younger brother. When his parents met up with Lucas’s mother from time to time he would almost always see Lucas alone unless he was with Jessica or Veronica. He felt the need to help his cousin but when the time really called for it he was nowhere to be seen.

“Are we gonna keep fighting or are you gonna let me go?” Lucas clenched a fist. “Cause trust me you want no piece of this anger. I have no intention of hurting or killing Veronica’s husband. I’m just gonna scare him a little. And considering how other people are around me that shouldn’t be too hard.”

“I’ll go with you then,” answered Mike.

“No thanks.” Lucas turned away and walked off.

Even though he took a harsh bump because of his cousin, Mike was still determined to make sure he didn’t do anything stupid. He shrunk again and used the ant to fly over to Lucas’s shoulder. He thought he was unseen but Lucas rolled his eyes and decided not to even bother acknowledging him. Lucas ran along the rooftops until he reached where Veronica had been staying with her husband. He saw NYPD officers walking a cuffed man to a squad car. Mike unshrunk himself.

“Looks like you won’t have to do anything,” he said. “Are you satisfied?”

“Not in the least,” sighed Lucas. “Let’s just go home. And clean yourself up. You look pitiful with the bloody nose.”

THE ANTHILL – NOW

Hormiga thought about that moment. It was almost impossible to talk with Lucas without angering him. He hadn’t talked to Lucas really since his sudden change in personality. He was too infatuated with Lynn to even say a word. He considered going and talking to Lucas about his plans but suddenly he started thinking of Lynn and what he had learned. Lynn was pregnant. He knew with what he had to do he couldn’t involve himself with her. She would be better off in Lucas’s protection. He knew he would care for her as he did Veronica.

His mission revolved around Avispa, but it was more than that. It was just the stepping stone of a far bigger scheme. His plan was to end the Insect Kingdom. The groups once were united under the Kingdom of Castile but now have fallen into darkness. Wasps, Spiders, Scorpions, Bees, Beetles, and Tarantulas were not to be trusted. With their end the Ant Council could cease its operations.

Black Ant saw his brother deep in thought. “So, you’re sure you want to do this? What’s the plan?”

“The plan is simple,” started Hormiga. “We’re gonna go after an ancient relic of the Ant Council’s our father hid away.”

Hormiga guided his brother’s attention to a computer screen that showed the image of a clear red sphere. Ladybug walked over to get a look at the sphere herself.

“It’s the Arakis Orb,” explained Hormiga. “With it we’ll draw out Avispa and use it against him and whatever New Slinger decides to show up with him. Then after that the rest of the Insect Kingdom. We’ll put an end to their evil deeds. Things like the Wasp Dominion will never happen again. We leave tonight to retrieve the orb and then we’ll invite Avispa here.”

“That’s right today is the annual combat tournament,” said Ladybug. “That’s where you’ll use the orb on him.”

“Exactly, now we have more preparation to do so let’s get to work.” Mike turned making the tarantula tattoo visible again.

Upon closer inspection Black Ant and Ladybug had the same tattoo. Jumping from person to person we could see on their necks the same tattoo until we came to another room where Hormiga’s parents sat. The door to their room was guarded by tarantula controlled ant foot soldiers. They themselves however showed no signs of a tattoo.

“The Tarantulas turn our children against us.” Hormiga’s mother Marcella showed signs of frustration. “What will we do Javy?”

“Pray, dear,” Javier simply answered. “Pray.”