MANHATTAN, NEW YORK – THE BAXTER BUILDING
SIX YEARS AGO
The Human Torch, Johnny Storm, flew through the room of the Baxter Building that was specially designed for training purposes. He looked down to see thirteen-year-old Lucas who was dressed in his Avispa costume. He didn’t know what to think of the young man, who was keeping a close eye on him from below.
This was a memory of Lucas’s that Jessica, Lynn, Elizabeth, and Rocky had entered while in his subconscious trying to repair the damage to his soul. They had found this memory was sealed away by Lucas and Jessica’s father. Upon releasing the seal, they learned this was the real first meeting of Anya and Lucas. Their first encounter wasn’t a positive one. The reason they were in the Baxter Building was that Susan Richards used to babysit Anya for her father while he was busy with work. Lucas had accompanied his uncle and cousin, the former was here to get help from Reed Richards.
Mike watched as his cousin stood ready waiting for the Human Torch to make a move. The Human Torch had overheard that Avispa was immune to fire and wanted to see it for himself, so he challenged him to a friendly sparring match with powers. Susan was a bit irritated with her brother having clearly told him what she learned about Avispa from his Uncle Javier.
“I think this is a bad idea,” said Mike. “I always thought it was a bad idea when my dad let him spar with other members of the Ant Council. You can never trust him to not go overboard.”
Anya was in the room as well. At first, she didn’t like Lucas at all. But she understood what his uncle had told them about him and decided to give a little slack. She was impressed by his ability to magically summon his costume in an instant.
“What’s the deal with your group anyway?” inquired Anya. “Why the Ant Council? Surely you could have come up with a better name than that.”
“It’s a long and boring story,” replied Mike. “I’ll save you from the details. Just know it all has to deal with old Spanish magic.”
“And you make it sound like your cousin is really dangerous,” continued Anya.
“He is,” sighed Mike.
The Human Torch stretched out an arm and launched a flame burst at Avispa. The flames completely engulfed Avispa which he stood in long enough to leave Susan concerned. With one swipe of the arm the flames receded and spun around into the shape of a ball no bigger than a baseball. It rested in Avispa’s palm. The Human Torch seemed impressed.
“You have style kid,” said the Human Torch.
“Hmm?” Avispa was confused by receiving praise.
“Don’t be so gloomy all the time.” The Human Torch flew down to the floor and powered down. “I was told you don’t have any friends. I don’t know the full extent of your powers but I understand people could be afraid of you because of them. Not everyone is the same. I’m not afraid of your powers. So you can count me as a friend. Those with fire powers like ours should look out for one another.”
Susan shook her head and smiled. “Sometimes you surprise me, my dear brother.”
“That was amazing power control,” Anya complemented. “It must have taken some serious training to master that.”
“Yeah, it did actually.” Avispa felt strange being in a room with people that didn’t shun him.
“I don’t know what you’ve been through,” started Anya. “But you don’t have to worry about any of that with me.”
“You really don’t feel it?” he asked. “It’s my powers that draw people away from me.”
“I don’t even…” Anya was cut short by a window shattering.
Before she could even turn to see what shattered the window she was entangled with a cable and pulled outside with alarming force.
“Anya!” yelled Susan. “Johnny, you gotta go after her!”
Just as the Human Torch went to ‘Flame on’, Avispa sprinted forward and dove out of the broken window. His scarf began to flutter behind him quite like a wasp’s wings would. He followed after the perpetrator who flew with Anya trailing behind. The masked person turned to allow Avispa to get a look at who he was following. It was a woman dressed in a red and black wasp costume.
“No!” he yelled.
“Who would have expected him being here,” said the woman known as the Red Wasp. “You might have to step in here.”
Avispa continued his pursuit until a barrage of arrows were sent his way. He hurled a number of shurikens that deflected the arrows. Not sure of where they came from he decided to continue on. As he attempted to catch up, a sound caught his attention. He looked back to see what appeared to be a school of fish, but the fish themselves were made of water.
“The archer’s a magic user?” Avispa spun and landed on the side of a building.
He was down on one knee as he adhered to the building. He arched his back and took a deep breath. Moving his upper body forward he unleashed fireballs from his mouth almost as if they were being fired from a large cannon. To the people below, it appeared like the city was being attacked. They began running to safety. The bombardment from Avispa struck the fish, evaporating them. When the smoke cleared, Avispa saw more coming his way. This time the fish was accompanied by larger creatures like marlins, stingrays, and sharks.
“Tsk.” He tried to move quickly as he could.
He popped a sword that was strapped to his waist from its sheath with his thumb. His eyes shifted back and forth to count each projectile coming his way. On their approach, he began spinning around while slashing with his sword. He was able to cut down each one all while standing on the side of the building. People inside watched on amazed.
“How is he standing on the building like that?” asked a person.
Another person answered. “He’s clearly a ninja.”
The small group of people collectively stopped talking as they saw what came next. Outside, Avispa’s shoulders dropped while he looked on shocked at what came his way. This lone projectile of water was in the shape of a massive whale.
“You’ve gotta be ******* kidding me.” He turned away and pressed his hands and feet into a window to make it shatter. “If you people want to live I suggest running now. Come on get the **** outta here! Run assholes!”
Avispa ran down a path that separated the cubicles in the office. Just before he reached the other end he pulled his right arm back and leaped up. With one punch he broke open another window that he flew out of only to bump into the Red Wasp.
“You!” yelled Avispa as an orange energy began pouring from his eyes through his goggles. “What is that son of a ***** up to now?!”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” the Red Wasp responded. “With language like that, it’s no wonder why Lord Hechicero is disappointed in you.”
A cable shot passed Avispa, catching him off guard. The archer who was attacking him slid down the cable using her bow. This archer was known as Apocrita, a dark elf who had aligned herself with the Sisterhood of the Wasp. She kicked him hard enough to send him crashing down to another building below.
“That had to hurt,” said Rocky who with the others stood around Avispa as he got up to one knee.
Jessica shook her head. “The only thing that probably hurt was his pride. He’s experienced worse falls than that.”
“Jess, what exactly are we seeing?” asked Lynn. “Why is this memory so important? Who are these two? They clearly didn’t succeed in kidnapping Anya.”
“I don’t know what’s going on,” answered Jessica looking very lost herself. “Those two are members of the Sisterhood of the Wasp. My father’s henchmen. This is my first time hearing of any kidnapping attempt on Anya.”
“I know those people,” said Elizabeth. “Red Wasp, Petra Laskov, a Syrian scientist who used to be known as Swarm. Her ability to control insects caught my grandfather’s attention. She joined the Sisterhood when she was promised a chance to get revenge on those who took her family’s life. The dark elf archer is known as Apocrita. She used to live amongst the dark elves in their home realm of Svartalfheim until she was cast out to what they call Midgard, which is earth. She was originally named Tariavia but when she was brought in by the Sisterhood she was redubbed Apocrita. Mom said Apocrita’s the mother of the Tarantula duo known as Nina and Marcos. She’s technically my step-grandmother.”
“Really?” Jessica thought back to the last time she saw them. “Those two are half-human and half-dark elf? And eww, she’s my stepmother?”
“Well, you’re a nifty bundle of information,” said Lynn to Elizabeth.
“I didn’t have many friends back in my present,” Elizabeth followed. “So I always stuck around my mom to hear any stories she could tell me, especially any of my dad. Now I’m here where she’s working with the bad guys and I finally get a chance to be around dad and he…”
“We’re gonna fix him!” exclaimed Lynn. “Don’t you worry. I know it’s been a rough time trying to bond with him. Just take it one step at a time.”
They continued to watch the memory. Anya struggled while in the grasp of Red Wasp. It was then when her gold locket popped open on its own. Red Wasp felt a presence that left her feeling uneasy. A blue substance shot out and covered Anya. It took shape and formed the blue exoskeleton of the Spider Hunter.*
*Anya was always able to summon her blue exoskeleton even before having the Hunter, she just didn’t know. She was even able to use it after she lost the Hunter until the exoskeleton was ripped out by Doomsday Man in one of the Ms. Marvel series–Justin.
Anya struck her forearm under Red Wasp’s chin. She was able to break free and dropped down next to Avispa without hurting herself. He just looked at her surprised to see her exoskeleton. Anya examined herself not quite sure what was on her.
“What is this?” she asked.
“It’s the armor of a hunter,” explained Avispa. “Somehow, you were able to call upon it even though I sense no hunter within you.”
Red Wasp and Apocrita landed in front of them. Anya wasn’t sure what to do. She looked to Avispa who had flames swirling around his arms.
“I don’t know why you’re after her, but this ends now!” he demanded.
“Heh, no need to worry, we no longer need her,” said Apocrita. “We got all that we need. I’ll tell your father that you’ve aligned yourself with this Spider. I assure you he won’t be happy.”
With a simple gesture of their hands, their bodies became shrouded in a mist that would fade along with them. Once fully gone the blue exoskeleton around Anya withdrew back into her locket. She looked to Avispa to see him fuming. He slammed a fist on the ground.
Anya heard the sound of a helicopter nearby. “Should we probably go somewhere else?”
“Shh, yeah let’s get off this building,” he said while making his costume turn back to his normal clothes.
The two quietly walked down the stairwell. Anya was full of questions but with how serious Lucas looked she wasn’t sure if she should ask. Ants. Wasps. Spiders. His father. This was all the things running through her head. When they finally reached the outside she finally spoke up.
“Okay, what’s the deal?” she asked. “I asked your cousin and he decided it was best to not tell me about the details of whatever this is.”
“It was probably for the best,” he said. “He was always bad at remembering the history of the Insect Kingdom.”
“Insect Kingdom?” She was confused. “That woman called me a Spider. What did she mean?”
“Hmm…” Lucas closed his eyes.
He really didn’t want to talk about it himself. However, he could see it in her eyes. She wasn’t gonna back off from this conversation. He looked around for a good place they could talk. He saw a place where they could sit down with no one around. He motioned his hand toward a table where he led her.
“What is this?” she asked again.
“So you don’t know anything about your family’s history?” He followed with his own question.
“What family history?” she laughed. “Until I was seven it was just me and my parents. I have no siblings, no aunts or uncles. I never even met my grandparents. My mother died when we lived in Mexico in a house fire. I still have my dad, but the Corazon name ends with me.”
“Really?” He took a second to think of his family. “To think you don’t have powers like mine and you have little to no family. Me, I have two sisters, but my mother has like a ton of brothers and sisters. My powers emit an energy that makes other people afraid of me, even my own family. My twin sister Jessica and adopted cousin Veronica are the only ones who really give a **** about me. My own mother doesn’t even care.”
“What about your powers, what does the Insect Kingdom have to do with it?” she wondered.
“I guess I should start from the beginning,” he replied. “It all started in Spain. At the time the country was split up into kingdoms. In the eleventh century, the Kingdom of Castile relied on a group known as the Insect Kingdom to fight for them. The Insect Kingdom itself was broken up into seven different groups, all based on insects and arachnids: Ants, Scorpions, Bees, Beetles, Tarantulas, Wasps, and Spiders. My father is the leader of the Wasps. He met my mother who is affiliated with the Ants. When she gave birth to me she passed on a demonic being that was bound to her known as the Ant Hunter.”
Anya raised an eyebrow.
“I was only a baby,” he gritted his teeth. “When my father bound a Wasp Hunter to me. Their combined powers are what steers people away from me. Except for my sister, cousin Veronica, and you… I wondered why you didn’t feel it. The Spider Hunter showed itself. That blue exoskeleton. Even though it’s not directly bound to you, you can still call upon it in times of need. It’s almost as if it was protecting you.”
“Spider Hunter?” She thought about the blue armor she wore. “There’s a demon living in my locket?”
“I guess,” he wasn’t sure what to say. “That means someone in your family is connected to the Spider Society. You don’t remember anything to do with Spiders while growing up?”
“Well, my dad always calls me Arañita,” her eyes widened. “Which means ‘little spider’.”
“That’s something I suppose.” He then stopped speaking as a thought popped into his head.
Lucas leaned back in his chair and pulled his hands back up to his face cupping them together. His original thought was then followed by several others. He thought about how he hadn’t heard from his father in quite some time. The times that his father did show up were always followed by tragedy. Lucas wondered what he wanted this time. Was it another attempt to control the Wasp Hunter within him? Or was it all just about this girl he had just met?
Lynn leaned forward to look into his sorrow filled eyes. She grabbed her chest as if she was feeling his pain herself. Jessica placed a hand on her shoulder.
“That’s what I felt every time I looked him in the eyes when we were younger,” said Jessica. “It finally got better when Anya entered his life. And now that she’s gone… Now when I look him in the eyes the pain feels worse.”
“What exactly is this memory showing us?” questioned Lynn. “How can we cure him of this pain?”
“This type of pain doesn’t go away very easily,” informed Rocky. “The pain he feels now isn’t about his past but the loss of his future with Anya. It takes time to get over that type of loss. It’s almost like when I lost my parents. I fell into a depression as well. It’s been years and I never truly came to terms with it.”
“He probably won’t get over it until he’s back together with mom,” Elizabeth concluded. “But who knows if he ever will. The timeline has changed. I’ve heard all of the stories while growing up. I’ve even seen the written history of the Insect Kingdom which chronicles those same stories I was told. Nowhere did it say anything of a goblin known as Menace. That’s because I created her when I was controlled by Felix Jade.”
“You created that goblin?” asked Jessica. “Are you sure of this? How did Jade even know about your powers? If you created Menace than the timeline has definitely changed. Is there anything else we should know?”
“Pop.” Elizabeth looked away as she teared up. “My grandfather, mom’s dad, was still alive when I left the future. I don’t know how he died here but it wasn’t supposed to happen. There was never any mention of an alien controlling my mom. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want dad to hate me. He already doesn’t want me around.”
Rocky hugged Elizabeth as Jessica tried to process this new information. Lynn kneeled down in front of Elizabeth and wiped away her tears. Jessica than kneeled in front of her niece.
“I’m not mad at you,” Jessica assured. “None of this was your doing. It’s the fault of Jade and that villain who caused you to fall back in time. I need you to promise me something. From here on out if there’s information you have that’s important like this, you need to tell us. Can you do that?”
“Yeah,” muttered Elizabeth.
“Enough of this talk of your father’s feelings toward you,” requested Jessica. “You just have to give this time. I’m sure he’ll come around. When you’re depressed, like he has been, it can really affect you mentally. You lose interest in everything you’re used to doing. You don’t want to talk to people anymore. It physically makes you sick. He’s been through a lot. We’ll work on helping him together, once we figure out what this memory is about. Also, if your parents didn’t get back together you wouldn’t exist right now.”
THE FOLLOWING WEEK
The memory moved forward bringing the group to a new scene where Lucas stood before Anya, both appeared to be dressed in workout clothes. He was explaining to her what exactly they would be working on. What the girls were watching was Lucas training Anya in the ways of the martial arts. They started simply by getting into a stance with their legs spread in line with their shoulders. He first covered how to punch.
“Is he teaching her to fight?” asked Lynn. “That’s cute.”
Jessica smiled. “It wasn’t hard for them to get over their differences. Anya told me that the Spider Society trained her to fight. She even said my wicked half-sister was her trainer. It’s sad these memories were taken from them.”
The memory quickly bounced from various training spots until it got to them sparring. They threw a couple kicks and punches before Lucas spun around and got her into a wrestling hold, which he didn’t even have on too strong. She pulled his arm and kicked out his leg to make him hit the ground. She then sat on top of him with an arm cocked back. Seconds went by before they both burst into laughter. Anya got off him and sat to the side. He sat up and they both looked each other in the eyes.
“Hmm, the way they looked at each other,” said Rocky. “Jeez, what do I have to do to get a guy to look at me like that?”
“Come on, you’ll find someone,” Lynn followed.
The memory than switched from different moments between Anya and Lucas. Lucas was spending the summer in New York as his uncle handled business in the local Ant Council branch. After getting to know Anya he couldn’t help but try to spend as much time with her as he could. Anya continued to be watched by Sue Richards, so anything they did would have to be under her supervision.
Sue enjoyed spending her downtime with Anya. To her, it was a good way to get prepared for when her own children reached this age. She thought it was cute that Anya and Lucas wanted to spend so much time together. They sat next to each other while eating lunch with Sue’s children, Franklin and Valeria. Sue would take the four kids on trips that proved to be educational.
One day they went to the Museum of Natural History, where Lucas would find a framed parchment that was said to be from Spain’s past. There he saw at the top two mages battling it out. One of which he knew was his own father. The other he wasn’t too sure of but based on who else was depicted, he assumed it was Anya’s mother.
“I didn’t know this was here,” said Jessica. “I wonder if it’s still there after all this time. There’s a lot of insect and arachnid imagery, but clearly, the two mages at the top are my father and Anya’s mother. At the bottom of this artwork, I think that’s these two. This kind of makes me think our parents were fighting over Anya and Lucas’s relationship.”
“But this says this was from the eleventh century.” Lynn leaned in to further read the plague that accompanied the parchment. “These people look like they are dressed for the part.”
“My mom told us we’ve been reincarnated on more than one occasion,” Jessica explained. “So we’re looking at old versions of them.”
“Reincarnation, really?” Rocky seemed interested in the notion.
The summer would pass by and school would soon start up again, which meant Lucas would have to return to Massachusetts where his family was currently living. This saddened Anya. She went back to the way things were before she met him. One day when she was walking home from school with Lynn the street erupted into chaos. There were so many people that the two friends got separated.
“I remember this,” said Lynn. “I completely lost Anya and didn’t see her again until the next day.”
Anya would soon find out what was causing the people of Brooklyn to run out of fear. The Wasps were back. She wasn’t sure what to do. She knew running wouldn’t get her anywhere when she knew at least one of them could fly. With her right hand, she grabbed her locket hoping what happened last time would do so again.
“Looks like the Spider Hunter isn’t willing to answer your call,” said Red Wasp. “We hadn’t planned on coming back for you but it seems our Lord needs you after all.”
“Come quietly, Little Spider,” requested Apocrita.
The two took a step forward, prompting Anya to take a step back. Before they could reach her, Avispa would show up dropping down right in front of her. Her heart stopped for a second before she realized who was in front of her.
“Lucas?!” exclaimed Anya. “Where…?”
“I was gonna surprise you, but I overheard the noise coming from this direction,” he replied. “Keep behind me. I’ll fend off my father’s lackeys.”
“Lackeys!” growled Apocrita. “I am the mother of his children!”
“What?” asked a confused Avispa. “Eww. Don’t tell me I have some loser half-brothers or sisters.”
With that comment, Apocrita clapped her hands together to summon a large number of Wasp Drones. Avispa’s eyes shifted left and right to count how many drones popped up. Apocrita threw her left arm out to signal them to attack.
“Stay back,” he said to Anya.
The first one he kicked back into a couple other drones. It did little to slow them down. There were so many that they began to surround them at all sides. Anya knew she was gonna have to defend herself.
“So are these guys hard to take down?” she asked. “They’re so nasty looking.”
“For a skilled fighter they’re easy to dispose of,” he responded. “But when they swarm like this, they can be a problem.”
The swarm moved in on them. Avispa caught an insect arm and pulled it forward to guide its head into a punch. Anya had been practicing what he had taught her during the summer but had never had to really use it. She dodged a punch sent her way. Just as she went to make a move, the four watching felt as if they were being pulled out from the memory.
LUCAS AND LYNN’S APARTMENT
Jessica and the others weren’t sure what happened. They looked to find Veronica and Ted in the room with them. Jessica gave her cousin a confused look and then Ted, who shrugged his shoulders to show he didn’t know what happened either. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Lucas shot up into a seated position.
“Lucas?!” exclaimed a startled Jessica.
He didn’t respond. Everyone was concerned about his blank expression. Veronica waved a hand in front of his face to only find him unresponsive as well. She sat on the side of his bed and put her hands on his shoulders.
“You gotta snap out of this,” she said. “I’ll do anything to help you. You gave me your own blood so that Jessica’s magic can make my arms work. If that’s what you need then take it.”
There was still no reaction. Jessica tried to lay him back down but was unable to move him. She didn’t know what to do. Rocky looked at her cell phone to check the time. Her eyes widened when she saw how much time had passed. She stood up quickly an placed her phone in her pocket.
“Guys, I’m so sorry,” she stated. “I hate to bail on you like this but I almost forgot I have something very important I have to do. I hope you guys aren’t upset.”
“Nonsense, you’ve helped us out during our time of need.” Jessica placed her hands on her brother’s shoulders. “Thank you.”
“Okay, let me know what happens.” Rocky headed for the bedroom door. “Hopefully, you’ll be able to snap him out of this.”
With that, she left. Jessica got up so that she could guide Lucas back down on his bed. She was unable to use her magic to get back into his consciousness. She shook her head as she remembered she placed his pillow on the ground. After picking it up, she then pulled his blanket over him.
“If only we knew where Miguel was,” said Jessica. “I could really use some advice from someone with stronger magic than mine.”
“There still no word on him,” followed Ted. “What about a member of your family?”
“I don’t think my mother had used this magic before,” answered Jessica. “My aunt and uncle are off doing something with the Ant Council. I don’t know what to do.”
NEXT: Shocking Developments!