BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – EAST RIVER

Where could there be a better place for a villain group to hideout then an abandoned warehouse along the East River? The Cult of the Tarantula has made this warehouse their home for the time being.

“Centuries locked away in the tarantula realm…” sighed the group’s leader Marcos. “And we finally return to our home to live in this filth… by a river of filth.”

“I apologize my lord, but this is the best we could do,” said one of three henchmen kneeling lined in front of him. “The other locations we scouted were already overtaken by what modern day people call superhumans.”

“Save it,” Marcos said. “We’ll make due with this shelter for now. It won’t be long before we’ll be on to the next one.”

A portal opened behind him. The body of Lucas Garcia was thrown through. Nina Tanner, a former Spider Society member, stepped out of the portal.

“There,” she said. “There is your Wasp Hunter, brother.”

Marcos looked down to the unconscious Lucas. The young man was bleeding severely from his midsection. This was due to being on the receiving end of an attack from the Nina’s hunter armor while trying to protect his new neighbor Anya Corazon.

“You wanted him and you got him,” replied Nina. “Now do what you will and let’s get after the Spider Hunter.”

Marcos walked over to his sister and slapped her.

“You went out without my approval, attacked the city without my approval. May I remind you sister that I am the one running things here? We maybe siblings but I will not hesitate to kill you if you don’t do as I say! Do you understand me?”

“Yes, brother.”

Marcos looked down again to Lucas. “Put your hatred for this girl aside for the moment. Heal this boy. We will not be able to attain his hunter powers if he’s dead.”


ARACHNOPHOBIA
Part II: History Lesson
Written by:
JUSTIN SANTOS


BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

Anya was in a similar situation to Lucas, although she wasn’t being held captive by an evil organization. She was laid out in a dark room. Jessica popped out of the darkness. She checked Anya’s pulse.

“No, she’s not breathing,” Jessica stated.

Jessica proceeded to apply CPR, pressing her hands on Anya’s chest hoping to pump some air into her lungs. Tears ran down her cheeks as thoughts of her brother being kidnapped ran through her head, and it didn’t help that her new friend could be dying on her.

“Damn it, Anya! Breathe!”

The passing seconds were nerve racking but finally Anya started breathing again. Jessica took a sigh of relief. Taking a second to catch her own breath she rubbed the back of her head. She felt extremely exhausted. The battle with the tarantula drone had taken a lot out of her, a result from casting spells she just recently learned.

She pulled a glass vial from her robes and popped the lid off. She lifted Anya’s shoulders off the ground and used her fingers to open Anya’s mouth. She poured the contents of the vial down her throat. She held her new friend in her arms as she once again thought about her brother and how she was unable to help him.

“Jess…” Anya muttered.

She could barely make out the image of her friend. Her surroundings were blurred.

“What… happened…?”

“The school was under attack by tarantulas,” Jessica simply answered. “Things didn’t work out too well for us.”

“Where’s Lucas?”

Jessica didn’t respond to the question. All she could do was see the image of her brother being impaled by the Tarantula Hunter.

FLASHBACK…

A tarantula jumped on to Anya’s formerly armored arm and bit her. She swatted it away before losing feeling in her arm, and then the rest of her body. She had been poisoned. As the unusually strong venom of the tarantula worked its way through her system Nina attacked with her enlarged armored hands. Avispa noticed this and jumped in front of her to save her but was instead struck with Nina’s right hand piercing through his body.

“No…” Araña muttered.

“Once again someone gets in my way,” before she continued talking she sensed something within Avispa. “This one is another hunter. A Wasp! I wasn’t sticking to our true plan and I still found him.”

“Lucas!” Jessica yelled for her brother.

“It just became your lucky day, Spider Princess.” Nina pulled her hand from Avispa and took hold of him. “It would be harder to track him so I’ll take his hunter first. But once I’m done I’ll be coming for you. So don’t die from the poisoning.”

Jessica ran for her brother but was too late to reach him. Nina vanished along with him. As tears ran down her face Araña collapsed.

“No, not you too!” Jessica grabbed under Anya’s arms. “We need to get out of here.”

With Anya in arms she cast a spell that allowed them to disappear.

BACK TO PRESENT

Jessica lowered her head in sorrow, “He’s gone. Taken by the Cult of the Tarantula.”

“He… he saved me,” Anya began to shed tears of her own. “This… isn’t right. We have to find him.”

She removed Jessica’s arm from her shoulders and staggered to her feet. Anya still had a hard time breathing but was determined to continue on.

“I won’t let them get away with this,” she said. “I don’t know anything about these people, but I know one thing. I’ll make them regret crawling out of whatever hole they came from.”

At the end of her last word she lost her balance. Jessica quickly jumped and caught her.

“Not in this condition you’re not. You almost died. Don’t be a fool.”

“This is nothing. I’ll be fine.”

“God you’re just as stubborn as Lucas.”

Anya let out a low laugh, “Heh, then I guess we have one more thing in common. We have to find him. It won’t sit well with me to let him down after he risked his life for me.”

“I don’t know where they took him… I’m gonna take you home so you can rest while I try and figure something out.”

OUTSIDE MILTON SUMMERS HIGH

The scene of the battle is now blocked off by a police barricade. Paramedics tended to the injured while the police held people back from the school. The barricade was approached by a woman, possibly in her twenties, with dark green hair. She wore a black leather costume that covered most of her body excluding her midsection and right arm. Her mask covered the lower half of her face. It actually gave her the image of being a ninja. The most distinctive feature on her costume was the metallic gauntlet on her left hand.

“Young lady, whatever you’re planning on doing here, take it somewhere else,” said one of the police. “This is no place for a costume party.”

“Listen carefully NYPD,” she said to the officer. “The name is Scorpion and I’m an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. This scene now falls under our jurisdiction.”

“You’re S.H.I.E.L.D.?” the officer laughed. “But you’re nothing but child. Step aside and let the grown ups handle this.”

Two S.H.I.E.L.D. soldiers walked up behind Scorpion, “Will you move out of my way or will I have to call your superiors?”

The officers all looked at each other as they cleared a path for Scorpion to come through. She entered the barricade followed by the two soldiers.

“Just the local authorities?” Scorpion asked. “Where’s DHS? Shouldn’t they be here? They were formed to handle terrorist attacks after all weren’t they?”

“There have been giant spiders running around this city for years,” answered one of the soldiers. “Perhaps they just thought it was Spider-Man getting into trouble again.”

Scorpion rolled her eyes, “What I just saw on TV was not Spider-Man. A massive blob with eight limbs attacked this school. We need answers now.”

The three of them approached the school bully known as Trent laying on stretcher. Earlier this student of Milton Summers High went on a rampage with the use of powers bestowed upon him by Nina.

“This is the guy?” asked Scorpion.

The paramedic tending to Trent was surprised by Scorpion’s appearance, “Yes, when we arrived this strange black energy was leaking out of him. He’s stable now but we need to get him to the hospital immediately if he’s to survive.”

“Okay, get moving, be sure to tell them to be expecting us,” she said before letting them take Trent off. “Okay, guys we have work to do.”

CORAZON HOUSEHOLD

Jessica brought Anya up to her bedroom and laid her in her bed. Jessica sat at Anya’s desk shifting through some books she summoned.

“What are you looking for?” asked Anya.

“For a locator spell,” Jessica continued shifting. “I’m still studying all this stuff. There is a lot to learn.”

There was a moment of silence which would be broke up by Anya, “So…do you care to enlighten me on this whole Insect Kingdom deal? Who are this tarantulas?”

“You were serious about not knowing…? Wow, the Spider Society really doesn’t trust you. It’s simple really. In 1099 A.D. the Spider Society began to operate in the Kingdom of Castile, which is now modern day Spain. For centuries the Spiders would send hunters and mages against their enemies you know all too well as the Sisterhood of the Wasp. The leaders of the Wasps desired power and to attain it they needed to rid themselves of their enemies. Although history only tells of these two warring groups it is said that the Wasps were joined by others, leading to the first Insect War. The unrecorded war came to a close in the “New World” upon the island of Borinquen.”

“I know that part but there’s seven groups?”

“The other groups known as the Order of the Beetle, Ant Council, Bee Collective, Tribe of the Scorpion, and well you met members of the Cult of the Tarantula. They were sealed away in five separate locations in northern Borinquen by the strongest known member of the Spider Society. These would become known as the Seals of the Insect Kingdom and to this very day the seals are supposed to be protected around what is now San Juan, Puerto Rico.”

“I don’t understand why Miguel would never tell me about this? And if they were supposed to be protected how did the tarantulas get free?”

Jessica shook her head, “Maybe the Spider Society isn’t as great as you think it is. Look the point now is that after centuries of battling, the Spiders and Wasps are no longer alone. You’re going to have yours hands full and your people are hiding secrets from you… and powers. If we’re going to take them on alone then we may have to unlock those dormant powers of yours.”

“How would you do that?” Anya sat up from her bed.

“Your powers are connected to that mark on your right arm,” Jessica referred to a blue tattoo on Anya’s arm in the shape of a spider. “That’s what’s holding you back. There’s a seal over it. If you’ll let me I’ll remove it.”

“If you really think I’ll need this so-called power, then do it.”

MANHATTAN, NEW YORK – NEW YORK HERALD BUILDING

Anya’s father Gilberto was hard at work writing his next story that would hopefully give him the edge over the Daily Bugle. It was hard to compete with a newspaper company that had a twenty-foot picture of J. Jonah Jameson plastered over a billboard within the city claiming to be the number one source for anything Spider-Man related.

“It’s just sickening,” claimed one of his co-workers who was huddled over the television with other members of the Herald staff.

Gilberto sighed, “All right, we’re not gonna get anywhere standing in front of the television like that. Tomorrow’s paper isn’t gonna write itself.”

“It just might,” said another staff member. “Gil tell me you haven’t seen the news. Your daughter’s school was attacked.”

“WHAT?!”

“There was this big battle between these masked insect people.”

“Umm, two of them were arachnids so technically there was only one insect person.”

“Oh forget technicalities. One of them was that girl Araña, so you know the Bugle will be all over it. Gil?”

While the guys debated over species types Gilberto had stormed out of the building. He was so concerned for his daughter wellbeing that he didn’t realize how fast he managed to get out to the street. He had a cell phone in hand and was trying his best to get a hold of Anya.

Oh Anya, what’s the point of having this new iPhone device if you’re not gonna use it?” Gil thought. “Please tell me you’re able to use it.

REALM OF THE SPIDER HUNTER

Jessica stood alone in a desolate landscape. The change of scenery is definitely odd. First she was Anya’s bedroom and next she was here. What happened?

[Jessica Narrates]: Welcome to the home of the Spider Hunter. The creature that Anya’s powers derive from. In fact all of the humanoid spiders, who called themselves the Scarlet Spiders, live here as well. I guess you could call it the Realm of the Spider.

Jessica began walking. In the distance she saw what appeared to be a giant blue spider. It was chained to the ground.

[Jessica Narrates]: And that would be the Spider Hunter itself. For centuries each group of the Insect Kingdom used hunters to fight their enemies. The hunters of course tend to lose control of their powers and that’s where the mages come in. We’re supposed to act as a guardian to protect them and anyone in their path of destruction, but as you can tell I failed that part of my job miserably. Its funny though, through all this I have yet to hear word of the spider mage. Surely they must know their hunter was poisoned.

She stood before the Spider Hunter which didn’t move an inch. It is chained down to keep it in check. Not just from unleashing its full power into Anya but against the population of this world. Around it was a circle of carvings in the ground. Each carving depicted a group of the Insect Kingdom: bees, ants, scorpions, beetles, tarantulas, wasps, and finally spiders, which were surrounded by some strange markings.

[Jessica Narrates]: This is what’s causing the suppression of Anya’s powers. Someone sealed this carving to weaken her. I knew it. The Great Weaver never grants someone power without giving them the abilities of a spider. Or so the books on the Spider Society suggest.

Jessica stepped on the carving and dragged her foot across the seal causing it to break away.

“Human girl, you do not belong here,” said the Spider Hunter. “Leave while you can.”

“I had no intentions in staying,” she said. “Just fixing a problem setup by this accursed Insect Kingdom. Now I can leave you in peace.”

“You’re a wasp yet you help a spider,” the Spider Hunter was surprised by this. “This new generation has brought change. Perhaps all will not be lost.”

“What are you talking about?” asked Jessica.

“The third Insect War looms child. As old enemies vie for power it may come down to your generation to save the world. Prepare yourselves. While the Tarantula leader now makes his move so does the leader of your faction. Troubling times await us.”

“Okay…”

CORAZON HOUSEHOLD

Out of nowhere Jessica appears before Anya. Anya was now sitting on the end of her bed. She looked better then before although you could clearly see she was still recovering.

“I feel weird,” she said to Jessica.

“How so?”

Anya stood up slowly, “I feel this energy coursing through me. Its actually making me sick.”

Jessica patted her on the back. She then guided her back to bed.

“Your powers are probably reacting to the remnants of poisons still in your system. Just get some sleep. I’ll continue looking for my brother… and decide whether I want to go home and face my mother about him missing. I wouldn’t even know what to say. She doesn’t know about the superpowers, she just believes everyone hated Lucas because they thought he was a mutant.”

“You’ll figure something out and then we’ll get him back.”

LATER

Anya continued to sleep. She was in such a hard sleep that she didn’t even hear her father sneak into the room. He could tell she needed this and gently kissed her on the forehead.

“Sweet dreams, mi Arañita,” he smiled relieved that his little girl was safe and sound.

He left the room to allow her to rest. While she laid there she began to dream. In the dream she saw a woman. A very familiar woman dressed in robes with matching brown her to Anya.

“Mama,” Anya said as she stood in what look like a park. “This is Fort Greene Park. This is where…”

Sofia Corazon, Anya’s mother who passed away sometime ago spoke, “Anya, my little girl look at you. You’ve become a young woman, a young woman who is about to enter a new chapter in her life. I’m so proud of what you’ve done for the past three years. I wanted to talk to you about your new friends.”

“The wasp siblings…” Anya stared at her mother trying not to cry. “This couldn’t be a stranger situation. They’re associated with a group I’ve worked so hard to get rid of. They should be my enemies but I trust them. And Lucas…”

“Seems like a sweet boy who needs someone like you to guide him,” said Sofia. “He’s not lost yet. They need him alive if they’re going to get the hunter from him. He needs to fully recover from the damage he took at the hands of the tarantula. Once you awake you need to get a plan in motion.”

“You’re right.”

“There’s one more thing sweetie. Watch your back. Something isn’t right with the Spider Society. I feel someone maybe corrupting the group. The future of spiders are in your hands, you must lead them from the darkness that has come upon them.”

Anya looked away for a moment, “The Spider Society corrupted? How can this be?”

“Not everything good last, Anya,” her mother said as she began to fade. “I’ll be watching over you, keeping you safe. Take care of your father.”

As soon as she faded Anya woke up from her dream. Usually she would cry over something like this but she was happy to know her mother was watching over her. She picked up her phone off her nightstand to see what time it was.

“Saturday?!” Anya was surprised to see she slept the day away. “Oh, God I gotta hurry.”

Anya went to get a fresh pair of clothes. While putting on a shirt she noticed something strange below her wrist. It was a weird bump. She looked at her other wrist finding a similar bump.

“What the hell is this?” she poked it.

THWIP!

Webbing shot out from below her wrist tangling her right hand to her left arm. She waved her arms back and forth a couple times before she used a little strength to rip the webbing apart.

“That’s so wrong,” she said. “So gross. Makes me wish Spidey did give me those web-shooters.”

Finished dressing she headed downstairs. She entered the kitchen and found her father there. She was completely surprised.

“Pop, you’re home,” she said. “Shouldn’t you be working for the Herald?”

“I told them that I wasn’t coming in today,” Gilberto stood up from the kitchen table and wrapped his arms around his daughter. “I’m always working and never around for you. And with what happened at your school who knows what could have happened to you. I…”

“Pop, it’s okay. I’m not gonna lie to you and say I’m fine after that attack, but you really don’t have to worry about that. And I know how work is for you. You get excited when a new story comes up. Not too mention we need the money anyway…”

Gilberto stopped his daughter and looked into her eyes, “Something’s troubling you. I can tell you’re trying to talk me out of staying so you can go do something.”

“Ahh,” Anya closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “There’s this boy. I hardly know him but…a lot of people have been saying he liked me and well…he saved me yesterday.”

“And now you’re starting to have feelings for him?”

“Yeah, but I think he’s hurt,” Anya saw the image of Lucas saving her again in her head. “I need to find him. I’m sorry pop.”

Gilberto put an arm over his daughter’s shoulders, “Don’t be. This obviously means something to you. Go and find this boy. I’ll be here if you need me.”

Anya smiled and kissed her father on the cheek. She left the house and immediately went looking for Jessica. She saw some strange lights coming from a window on the second floor on the side of the Garcia house. She looked around to see if anyone was watching. Knowing that she was in the clear she leapt on the wall and climbed to the second floor. She peeked into the room. In it Jessica was levitating off the ground with green lights whirling around her. She lightly tapped on the window.

“Come in,” said Jessica.

Anya slid the window and entered the room. She looked around a bit confused at what was going on.

“You don’t have to say anything,” Jessica said. “I’m searching for my brother. I have to meditate when casting a locator spell. So keep silent for a moment.”

Anya watched on as Jessica continued. Jessica concentrated and next thing she knew she was above Manhattan, not physically of course. She opened her eyes and looked upon the city. Her attention went back and forth between the city until she settled upon a warehouse out by the East River. The next thing she saw was the inside of the warehouse. There were tarantula drones all over. There leader Marcos and Nina were discussing something in one room and then in another Lucas was hanging chained to a wall.

“Ahh!” she exclaimed.

“What is it?” asked Anya.

“I found him. He’s in Manhattan. Hope you’re ready to go because I’m going to teleport us there.”

Anya raised her shirt to show her costume underneath, “As ready as I’ll ever be. Let’s get moving.”

MANHATTAN, NEW YORK – EAST RIVER

Anya and Jessica appeared atop the roof of the neighboring warehouse to the one housing the Cult of the Tarantula. Anya was now in her costume as was Jessica in her robes.

“So what’s the game plan?” asked Jessica.

Anya who was looking down at the warehouse, counted the number of guards. She turned to her friend, “We go down there a kick some ass.”

“Oh, that’s a great plan…” Jessica was clearly being sarcastic. “Any words of wisdom you want to throw my way before we get started, oh great Spider Hunter?”

“You’re just so funny aren’t you?”

The two of them discuss a form of strategy. Araña pulled out her spider-shaped grappling hook. Jessica grabbed it.

“Seriously?” she asked. “That seal I broke allows you to shoot webbing from your hands.”

“Don’t remind me.”

Like usual, being the hunter Araña moved in first. The mage, being Jessica, is meant to stay back while the hunter did all the dirty work. Araña landed behind two tarantula drones, which were no where near the size Trent was when he was converted into one. She bashed their heads together. Some more drones charged after her. She jumped up landing a kick to one of their jaws. She twisted her body a bit and landed a punch on another. One last drone came after her but she jumped up again grabbing him on the shoulders and pressing her knees into his ribcage. She let her weight drop them to the ground causing her knees to impale his ribs.

“Very nice,” said Jessica who had made the wall of the warehouse pop out to form a staircase. “Glad to see the Spider Society taught you something.”

“Can you fight?” asked Araña. “Everything you know seems to be self-taught.”

“Lucas, was working on teaching me some martial arts to defend myself, but well never got to it,” Jessica fiddled with her orange goggles. “I have learned some powerful spells though, so you don’t have to worry.”

Araña sensed something was wrong. She grabbed Jessica to pull her out of danger as a dagger came flying by. She then pulled out her grappling hook and threw it around the person who threw the dagger. It tied the person up allowing Araña to pull them forward and deck them. An arm of a large man grabbed Anya’s arm and threw her high into the air. She tried to use her grappling hook to swing to safety but the line was cut by another flying weapon.

“Ahh!” she yelled as she fell to the ground.

She stuck her arms out unexpectedly and shot out the webbing that came from below her palms. It snagged a building allowing her to regain control of her fall. She swung down with a drop kick to the large man that threw her up. This sent them through the warehouse wall and inside the building.

“Don’t mind me I’ll just let myself in,” said Araña before sensing someone else creeping up on her.

Before she turned around, pillars of water rose up from the ground and struck the person coming after her. Araña then looked at Jessica who was conjuring the water.

The two friends smiled at each other and Araña said, “Let’s get your brother back.”

“Did you think it would be that easy?” questioned the voice of Marcos.

The two heroes see the main part of the building filled with tarantula drones. In the center of the room Marcos stood next to his sister Nina. Araña was unable to tell it was Nina since her hood was up.

“Like in the past the Spider Hunter always found away to get into our business,” Marcos said. “The Spider Society has been a nuisance for far too long. It’s time we end that.”

Marcos gave the signal and the entire room swarmed the heroes. Jessica sent her water spell whipping around hitting anything she could. Araña fought her way through the mob of drones. She landed a roundhouse kick one. And the grabbed an arm of one tossing them over her shoulder. Another ran into her pushing her back. She used her forearm to strike the back of his neck.

While they fought Marcos began walking off to the direction where Lucas was being held. Nina followed after him.

“You’re just leaving?” she asked.

“Yes, we’re leaving this dump,” stated Marcos. “And we’re taking the Wasp Hunter with us. Once we take his powers we will take over this city.”

Jessica and Anya came back to back surrounded by an endless number of tarantula drones.

“So you wouldn’t happen to have an idea of how to clear up this mess?” asked Araña.

Jessica sighed, “No… but I’m open to suggestions.”

LOCAL HOSPITAL

The agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. named the Scorpion stood outside the hospital room of Trent who was not awake. She was checking in on him. In her normal life she was known as Carmilla Black. On the day of her high school prom her powers manifested and she accidentally killed her boyfriend. In fear of what people would think of her she left her home and began living on the streets until she learned that her adoptive parents had been murdered. She originally suspected S.H.I.E.L.D. to be responsible for their deaths but learned that her biological parents were agents of A.I.M. and that her mother was the group’s Scientist Supreme.

The whole situation lead Carmilla to become an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. where she would be tasked in bringing in her own mother. She was unsuccessful on that mission and since then has worked with S.H.I.E.L.D. ever since, working on secret solo missions and for a very brief moment she worked alongside the New Warriors.

One of the soldiers that was with her before walked up to her, “The boy is gonna be fine. Everything is in the ordinary…all except a tattoo on the back of his neck that wasn’t there before.”

“A tattoo?” questioned Scorpion.

“Yeah, of a tarantula. Doctors say they don’t know where it came from. It just appeared after getting him here.”

“I don’t know what’s going on with this kid but he’s proven he’s dangerous,” said Scorpion. “Keep guard over his room. I’m gonna return to base and see what I can find on tarantulas in the superhuman community.”

She left the hospital and after getting outside she is approached by a group of men and women in green and black robes.

“Carmilla Black,” said one of them. “You have been chosen to be the hunter of our tribe. The Tribe of the Scorpion!”

The group swiftly surrounded Scorpion and in a united effort attacked.