MANHATTAN, NEW YORK – ARONOWITZ BAKERY & DELI

Lynn made her way through the back room of the bakery. There she walked past the owner of the bakery, Suzanne Aronowitz. The older woman observed as Lynn struggled to complete what she was working on. She walked over to check up on her.

“Sweetie, are you okay?” asked Suzanne as she placed a hand on Lynn’s shoulder.

“I’m fine, Mrs. Aronowitz,” insisted Lynn. “Just a little tired.”

“Look I know what you’re going through,” claimed Suzanne. “I’ve had a couple kids myself. You should go on maternity leave as I suggested. If you’re worried about money, it’s a paid leave of absence.”

“You should do as she says.” Lynn’s co-worker Sophia Sanduval walked into the room. “Mrs. A.’s always right.”

Lynn turned around while dropping her shoulders. She then leaned back against a counter while looking up to the ceiling knowing full well who was standing on top of the bakery. Upon the roof, Lucas stood in full Araña costume with his goggles up right next to Elizabeth who was clad in her version of her father’s former Avispa costume. They were both eating sandwiches. Lucas seemed unamused, but Elizabeth was enjoying herself.

“I’ll give them credit,” said Lucas with his arms crossed and eyes closed. “They make one hell of a bagel sandwich.”

“I like how they baked them with jalapeños.” She smiled at her father. “Thanks for getting it for me.”

“Sure thing, mi Avispita*,” he smirked.

*‘Mi Avispita’ translates to ‘My little wasp’. -Justin.

Elizabeth was surprised by the nickname. He had never called her that before. It made her smile even more. Back inside, Lynn continued listening to her boss and co-worker. They figured it was her pregnancy that was making things hard for her at work. They had no idea what was really happening.

“I get it, I get it,” claimed Lynn. “The problems I’m having have nothing to do with that though. I’m just struggling to get a good night sleep…because of the nightmares I’ve been having. I told my family about them and they’re worried to the point that they decided it would best for Lucas to keep a closer watch over me. I hate needing someone to babysit me. Hmm, I could only imagine what he’s doing right now.”

On the roof, Lucas and Elizabeth were both meditating. Elizabeth opened one eye and looked around uncertain of what was supposed to be happening at the moment. She opened her other eye and turned to her father.

“You know when meditating you’re supposed to remain still,” said Lucas without even opening his eyes.

“This is so boring!” cried Elizabeth. “Can’t we go kick some villain butt?”

“That’s if we could find a villain to fight,” he replied. “Usually you don’t find them, they find you. That’s my experience at least. No, we have to stay here to keep an eye on your Aunt Lynn.”

“Why?” She stood up and threw her arms out.

“The nightmares she’s been having worries your Aunt Jessica,” he explained. “So, she thought it would be best if we watched over her. Your aunt didn’t want to say it but I know this was just an excuse to keep me out of action.”

“But you’re fine now.” Elizabeth was confused. “Your wound is practically gone.”

“Hmph,” Lucas finally opened his eyes. “She’s just being overprotective, like always. She’s helping Rome find clues about his sister’s disappearance and doesn’t want me involved. I bet she doesn’t want me to find out what I already know.”

She wasn’t sure what he meant. “What do you know?”

“That your mother is the one who kidnapped his sister.” Lucas looked up to the sky.


COLD-BLOODED
Part I: Florida Bound
Written by:
JUSTIN SANTOS


BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – CLINTON HILL LIBRARY

Jessica, Rome, and even Alejandro were together following a trail that led them to this library. Jessica waved her left hand as magical energies swirled around it. This energy left her hand splitting away in two different directions. The energy then took the shape of two people. Of these two silhouettes, their only significant features were a pair of wings that belonged to one who appeared to be defending herself while the other had unusual pointed hair.

“I had hoped I was wrong,” said Jessica dropping her head. “It was a good idea to keep Lucas away from this. The Tarantulas are back at it again. Only this time they have Anya going after Hunters.”

“I would have thought you of all people would know Lucas better than anyone,” followed Alejandro.

“What are you talking about?” She shook her head trying to hide her sorrow-filled eyes.

“I have no doubt that Lucas already suspects,” he explained. “I never understood him. I actually didn’t really like him. But my view of him has changed and I know him more than ever. When I was cloned from Anya, the Jackal left her memories untouched. I have all of Anya’s memories before you guys moved back to New York, including the ones that were locked away. I knew how their relationship started and how close they were. He knows Anya did it.”

“You know this?” she said while becoming more heartbroken as she watched Rome reach for the image of his sister.


MANHATTAN, NEW YORK – NINA TANNER’S APARTMENT

Nina laid back in her bed with a devious grin on her face. She looked over to the master bathroom where she saw the shadow of someone moving around. Out stepped Anya, who was half-naked. Nina laughed quietly to herself.

“I would have never guessed you were into women,” Nina snickered. “But who would ever know with you being constantly smothered by my loser half-brother? Isn’t it liberating finally being able to be yourself, my beautiful Spider Princess?”

“I was myself,” she replied. “I truly loved him. I don’t have a preference when it comes to men or women. I do however find myself enjoying exploring other options.”

“Hmm, I knew tinkering with you and the symbiote I would find the right balance.” Nina got up from under the covers of the bed revealing she wasn’t wearing anything. “You know when I was in your head I saw some interesting things. I think that redhead from another earth had a thing for you. All that aggression she had toward you. It was cute.”

Anya shook her head.

“I also saw that my father used your DNA and mixed it with my brother’s to make a new Hunter,” continued Nina. “What do they call her? Elizabeth was it? Everyone calls her your daughter. I believe my brother has even accepted this fact. How does it make you feel?”

“I hate it!” growled Anya. “He had no right! To create a new life with my own essence!”

“I had a feeling you would feel that way.” Nina’s devious grin showed itself once more. “That’s why we must keep our plans in motion. Once we accomplish our goals we will be able to take our revenge against my father and anyone else who has hurt us. Like my brother. Did he ever tell you who really killed your mother?”

“Why would he know?” Anya raised her head waiting to hear her answer.

“Who would know better than him?” Nina wrapped her arms around Anya as if she were consoling her and whispered into her ear. “Didn’t your mother die in a house fire? What other pyro maniac do you know?”


LUCAS AND LYNN’S APARTMENT

Lucas, Lynn, and Elizabeth all walked into the apartment. Lynn walked to her room to change out of her work clothes. Elizabeth ran into the living room to kick her feet up and watch television. Lucas dropped his keys on the counter. Before he could do anything, there was a knocking at their front door. He answered it to find his mother waiting for him. She quickly embraced him.

“Mom, I’ve been fine for a while now,” he said. “When are you gonna stop charging at me every time you see me?”

“Mijo, it’s gonna be awhile before that happens, so you better get used to it.” Erika kissed her son on the cheek. “Now if I remember correctly you promised me you would explain to me what your father did.”

Elizabeth heard what her grandmother said and turned off the television so she could hear what her father had to say about what she assumed was her creation. She climbed on the couch closest to the kitchen and leaned over the back of it.

“You need to know the truth don’t you?” Lucas asked of Elizabeth. “It’s true. Hechicero, I can’t call him your grandfather, created you through magic when your mother and I were thirteen. You saw when his henchmen tried to kidnap her and I got between them. They came back a second time. It seemed what they took from her wasn’t enough. She had to be present in order for you to be awakened. My memories were erased just before I freed your mother. I don’t know too much of what happened afterward. Something happened that lead Hechicero to send you into the future. I believe this is when he was sent to Counter-Earth.”

Elizabeth thought about her parents in the future she knew. They never told her anything about this. They should have known she would eventually be sent back to the past.

“So he sent me to the future, where coincidentally you guys found and raised me?” asked Elizabeth. “What you’re saying is I’m really supposed to be like five or six years old? And now I’ve returned older than I’m supposed to be? My place in this world is messed up. Has this ever happened to anyone before?”

“Technically, you shouldn’t have a place in the world,” he explained while expressing how unpleasant it was to say it. “You’re not supposed to exist. But to answer your last question I think something similar happened to the mutant named Cable. At least that’s what I heard. Sent to the future, came back older than his father Cyclops.”

Lucas was sure he upset her but tried to change the subject quickly with the last bit of information he gave. Erika joined the two by sitting near them on the other couch. Erika nudged Lucas in the arm as he looked uneasy about the situation.

“Look little one, I’m not gonna say this again,” she commanded both their attention. “You’re not an accident. You’re not a problem. You’re not a nuisance or anything else you think you might be. I’m not gonna lie it was wrong of your grandfather to bring you into this world like that but there are many children in this world whose births were from darker circumstances. Lucas what’s done is done. She’s your daughter. Like it or not.”

“I’ve already accepted this,” he followed. “What do we do now? She’s ten. She’s supposed to be going to school. Lizzy, did you go to school in the future?”

“I was in the fifth grade,” she replied.

“I have friends that are capable of altering public information,” said Erika. “They can create official documents that prove you were born, even make you an American citizen. It would be hard to explain how you’re ten with nineteen-year-old parents. I wouldn’t worry though. I’ve been alive for almost a thousand years and no one questions my existence. We’ll figure something out. In the meantime, we should talk about why I really came here.”

“Oh, you mean you didn’t come here to squeeze the life out of me?” joked Lucas.

“Funny.” Erika smiled. “Nope. In about a week your cousin Ben is getting married and we’ve all been invited.”

“Ahh crap, we’re gonna be around Aunt Lucille?” questioned Lucas.

“What’s wrong with her?” Elizabeth looked at her father.

“She hates my guts,” he explained. “I don’t think there’s been anyone more open about their hatred toward me than her. To think my name came from her.”

“Well, regardless of how you feel about your aunt, your cousins are looking forward to seeing you.” Erika pressed her hands together before continuing. “Yeah, so we’re all going to Florida for the wedding. Ben wants you to fill the role of best man.”

“What, why?” Lucas covered his face with his hands. “Surely he has friends he’s closer with.”

“I thought you were past your social anxiety,” said Erika. “I think you should do it.”

Lucas continued holding his hands in front of his face as Lynn entered the room. She had a look on her face that said she wasn’t quite sure what she just heard but was intrigued by what she thought she heard. Looking at Lucas’s expression of dread made things further unclear.

“Did I hear Florida?” she asked.


EMPIRE STATE UNIVERSITY

A body was thrown through an open room. The room itself was dark. The one who threw the body walked in the shadows. The only thing visible was the white tarantula pattern across his torso. The leader of the Cult of the Tarantula, Marcos, was the one lurking about within the darkness. That’s the way he liked it. Darkness made him feel comfortable. He stepped further into the room. There was a containment unit at the end which he would open. In the unit, he found a number of different vials. One of which was labeled ‘Lizard Formula’.


WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA – OKEEHEELEE PARK

Anya and Nina stood together under the roof of the park’s pavilion. Anya looked around. She hadn’t been to Florida before. The temperature was fairly hot for a spring day. She remembered her time living in Mexico. She didn’t remember however experiencing this type of heat. Nina was amused by Anya’s wandering mind.

“You should really consider traveling,” said Nina. “There’s more to the world than the boring streets of New York. We went places together but that wasn’t you in control. You missed all of Europe.”

Anya looked over to Nina. “I’ve thought of traveling but never really had a chance too. With the way things are now, I can see that changing. So what are we doing here?”

“For the longest time we’ve been following one goal,” replied Nina. “That being the acquisition of power from all the Insect Kingdom groups. That plan is still in motion. There are other things however that require our attention. Like that friend of yours. Wasn’t her name Lynn?”

“What does this have to do with her?” asked Anya.

“She’s coming here with that former boyfriend of yours she’s so loyal too,” explained Nina. “The so-called mother of the ‘savior’ of the Insect Kingdom. I always hated hearing about this ‘savior’. That’s our current mission. That’s why we’re here. If we control the child we can put a stop to this nonsense. Nothing will be able to stop us from taking control of this world.”

Four people walked into the pavilion and stood before them. All four had a tattoo on their neck in the shape of a tarantula.

“These four are Andres, Caroline, Whitney, and Jacob,” introduced Nina. “They are our newest recruits. They will deal with my brother and sister, as well as any other allies they have while we work on taking your friend.”

A gateway opened in the pavilion and out stepped Marcos having just stolen the Lizard Formula that was stored in Empire State University. He held the vial up to his sister. Anya just looked at it curiously. With a smirk and the wave of a hand, magical energies appeared and swirled around the vial popping its cap. Its contents emptied into the air. While it floated, the magic amplified its power so that it could be split four ways.

The formula was then administered to them by phasing through their bodies. With the clap of her hands, she was done. Nina’s spell ended and the formula began to take effect. The four people huddled over as they began to change. Anya was grossed out by their transformation from a human to reptilian form.

“Who are these people?” she asked.

“Lost souls,” Nina simply put.

“What do you mean?” Anya didn’t understand. “I’ve seen a lost soul recently. What’s so lost about them?”

“They’ve all experienced some form of hardship,” explained Nina. “They’ve lost their places in this world and I offered them a new one.”


MANHATTAN, NEW YORK – LUCAS AND LYNN’S APARTMENT
DAYS LATER

A gateway opened which Jessica stepped out of. She appeared to be saddened by something she just experienced. Elizabeth walked into the room and showed concern for her aunt. Jessica put a hand up to stop her niece from asking what she wanted to ask. Lucas was the next one to step out of the gateway, appearing to be a bit in a clearer mind. He was carrying a woman on his back. He bent his knees so he could sit her on the sofa.

It was Emi Kitane, the former weapons expert of the Spider Society. She had left for Japan quite some time ago for her brother’s funeral.* She hadn’t been heard from until now. Jessica suggested that she and Lucas should go to the temple protected by Emi’s parents to find her. They found her but in a sorry state. The clothes she wore were tattered. Her bruises, welts, and wounds were all visible. She looked malnourished.

*This happened back in issue #9–Justin.

Lucas turned and bent down to her eye level. “Look at me. We’re gonna get you through this. Lizzy, get me some water!”

“Uh, yeah.” She did what her father asked uncertain of what was happening.

“Oh, my god Emi!” exclaimed Lynn. “What the hell happened to you?”

“It was her father,” Jessica answered for her. “Her father sold her off to this guy who was a leader of a branch of the Hand. They’re some mystical ninja organization, don’t even ask I couldn’t really tell you.”

Elizabeth returned with a bottle of water. “Wait, is this Auntie Emi?”

“Is that what you call her?” asked Lucas. “Yeah, this is her. I don’t know if I want you seeing her like this.”

“I’ve already seen her,” she countered her father. “There’s no point in sending me away now.”

Lucas appeared annoyed. “Really? Is this how our parent-child relationship gonna go? Jess, we gotta do something. Tell me your healing magic has gotten better.”

“No.” Jessica shook her head disappointed in herself. “I’ve tried getting better at it but my only source for learning it was Aunt Marcella. And you know the Ant Council have gone off the radar. Just like the Spider Society.”

“Then we’re just gonna have to do the same thing we do with Veronica.” Lucas grabbed something sharp to draw some blood but was quickly stopped by his sister.

“No, we are not doing that!” she exclaimed while expressing with her hands how serious this was. “You just got out of a coma! I didn’t even want you to go fight the Hand. We’re lucky we got out of there!”

“I was fine,” Lucas countered her argument. “I need you to stop babying me.”

Jessica argued back. “Lucas, you’re not taking this seriously! Stop being so irresponsible! You now have a ten-year-old girl who is depending on you!”

“Yeah, a ten-year-old girl whose mother just kidnapped your boyfriend’s sister!” he yelled. “You think I didn’t know this?”

“Guys, let’s dial it back a bit,” Lynn tried to intervene.

Lucas looked at Lynn and at his sister for a moment before walking out of the apartment without saying anything. Lynn’s heart sunk thinking about what he must be going through. Jessica was saddened again by the recurring thought that she was a bad sister. Elizabeth wasn’t sure what to do herself. Everyone had some kind of problem. She wanted to help somehow. The one thing she knew about Lucas was he was a hothead, which was ironic. The best thing she could do for him was to let him cool down.

She thought about how she could help Emi. There was a possibility that she could grant a person the ability of healing but she would need someone without powers. Emi herself had matter absorption powers. Her Aunt Jessica inherited her ant powers from her mother, including pyrokinesis and wallcrawling. She had no idea though that she could fly like Lucas could as Avispa. That left Lynn. She had no powers. Unfortunately, the baby within her did and he was passing it onto his mother while in her womb. Suddenly, an idea popped in Elizabeth’s head.

“Wait, I can do the blood thing!” She remembered how the combination of her father’s blood and aunt’s magic granted their cousin Veronica the use of her paralyzed arms. “I’m in good health and have stronger healing abilities than most.”

“I don’t know, sweetie,” Jessica said uncertain.

Jessica went to change her attention to Elizabeth who already had cut herself with the object her father had grabbed. She sighed at the young girl before walking over to her and Emi. Lynn felt she wasn’t needed here so she went after Lucas.

He was up on the roof cloaked in the shadows thanks to his ability to meld within them much like Anya could. He was hiding here so no one would find him. It finally sunk in. All day he thought about how Anya was the one who kidnapped Caitlyn Sierra. He tried to fight it while around Elizabeth, he felt he needed to be strong in front of her. Now that he was alone it all came out. Tears ran down his cheeks. He wanted to scream but saw Lynn step out from the roof access door.

He held it in so he could stay hidden from her. While she couldn’t see him she knew he was there. This was the first time she could sense someone without seeing them. It was thanks to her child. She could sense the power of the Spider Hunter. She walked over and quickly wrapped her arms around him so he couldn’t get away. He was caught off guard.

“Don’t run from me,” she said. “It’s not fair because I’ll never be able to keep up. I’m so sorry Lucas. I know how much you love her. I saw it. I love her too, but this has gone too far. She’s hurt you too much and now others. You have to let her go and move on.”


BOYNTON BEACH, FLORIDA

Anya stared out to the moonlit sky while on the top floor of a luxury beachfront hotel. A cool breeze came from the ocean rustling through her hair. She was lost in thought. All she could think about was him. Lucas was coming here soon. She wondered what she would do when the time came for her to face him.

“So you finally saw it,” said Nina who walked out to the balcony. “What will you do?”

She didn’t have an answer to that question yet. She just replayed what she had witnessed. It was another memory that had been suppressed. It was not known who suppressed it but it was unlocked now. It was the memory of a young Avispa attacking the Corazon family home in Mexico. His fire powers were what burned down their home with a fatally injured Sofia Corazon within it. At least that what she saw.

Unbeknownst to them, the spirit of Anya’s mother, Sofia, stood on the balcony along with them. She was hurt by everything that had transpired with her daughter. Nina left Anya with her thoughts. Sofia walked up to her daughter and crossed her arms. She had an expression of her face that screamed oncoming lecture from a parent.

“It frustrates me to my very core,” she said despite Anya not being able to hear her. “You know what you saw wasn’t true. He didn’t burn down our home. He didn’t kill me. That witch planted that memory in your head. Damn it. I wish I could help you, but something is holding you back from seeing me. Lucas, your ‘brother’ Alejandro, and my oldest friend Erika can see me. Snap out of this, mija!”


MANHATTAN, NEW YORK – LUCAS AND LYNN’S APARTMENT

Lucas and Lynn returned to the apartment. Jessica went immediately to go apologize to him but was stopped when he came in and hugged her tightly. She was surprised at how quickly he got over their argument. He walked around her and over to Emi who was now in better shape. It didn’t even take him too long to know what happened. One glance at Elizabeth showed him an overly cheerful smile as a bandaged hand was raised.

“Of course,” he said unsurprised.

Hours later, it was three in the morning and the lights to the apartment were off while everyone tried to sleep. Lucas walked out of his bedroom to the living room to find Emi sitting on the couch with her knees pressed into her chest with her arms wrapped around her legs. He sat down on the chair next to the couch.

“It’s three a.m.,” he said. “You should really try to sleep. We got a plane to catch tomorrow.”

“I shouldn’t go to Florida with you,” she said while staring off. “I appreciate you inviting me but I’ll just ruin the fun for you guys.”

“Shh, nonsense.” He waved a hand to emphasize that it wasn’t a problem. “We can’t leave you alone at a time like this. Besides, you were living at WebCorps and the Spider Society abandoned the building. There’s no telling what enemies could be snooping around that place.”

“I don’t know if I want to be around people right now,” she followed.

Lucas nodded. “I get it. Remember my father did some messed up stuff to me as well. I’m still feeling the effects of it to this day. That being the girl who is now sleeping in my bed because the couch is taken.”

“Who is that girl?” Emi looked over to him finally. “Why does she call me ‘Auntie’?”

“You’re a close friend of the family,” explained Lucas. “Just like Lynn. She must have met you while growing up in the future. The truth is, she’s my daughter. Mine and Anya’s, to be exact. Therefore, you are now Auntie Emi. Sounds nice. My dad created her. Things happened and she got sent eight years into the future, where she stayed for ten years before returning to her proper timeline. It’s gonna take some adjusting. I really hate what my dad did but I can’t target those feelings toward her. It’s not right.”

“Lucas, he sold me.” Tears rushed down her face. “All because he believes I’m not his daughter. I wish it was me who died, not my brother!”

Lucas looked down upset by what she said. He thought about the problems he was currently dealing with and thought how they were nothing in comparison to what she had been through. He walked to her side, sat down and embraced her with one arm.


QUEENS, NEW YORK – JOHN F. KENNEDY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

Lucas walked alongside Elizabeth. She looked up to him and smiled. It weirded him out every time she did that. He didn’t know how much it meant for her to be able to be with him. She ran over to the windows to watch everyone outside working. He looked over a screen just outside the gate as he was approached by his mother and two sisters. Emi came next with Lynn playfully holding onto her shoulders.

Veronica snuck up from behind Lucas and hugged him. After she let go, he bent down to hug her daughter Angela who he then told to go join Elizabeth. He then saw Rome walking their way while talking to Alejandro. Next, Rocky showed up and waved at Lucas before going to talk to Emi who she hadn’t seen in some time.

“Why are we flying there when Jess can just open a portal?” asked Lucas.

“That particular spell takes a lot out of her if she opens a portal to a place she’s not familiar with,” explained his mother. “And it would really do a number on her with this many people. Luckily, your friend Felicity and her mother offered to fly us down there. Don’t want to be rude when an offer like that comes up.”

“Heh, really?” Lucas laughed. “That’s so like you, mom. You know because of our family history we can afford a little trip to Florida?”

“Shush, don’t tell them that,” she whispered jokingly. “No one needs to know the Gonzalez family has money because we’ve been around for ten centuries. Besides I’m pretty sure this money they have is from stuff they stole, so I don’t feel too bad.”

“Hi, you must be Erika!” The very pregnant Felicia Hardy cheerfully greeted her.

“It’s nice to meet you,” said Erika. “I’d ask if you should be traveling in your condition considering how far along you appear, but then again we do have someone else in a similar state.”

“Hi.” Lynn waved at Felicia.

“So how’s the infamous new Black Cat doing?” Lucas asked of Felicity who stood next to her mother.

“I’m all good.” Felicity tried to act all cool while crossing her arms. “Mom puts me through some rigorous training but it’s nothing I can’t handle. How you doing there, Spider?”

“I’m doing well, all things considered,” he assured.


BOYNTON BEACH, FLORIDA – QUANTUM VILLAGE

The shops along Gateway Boulevard within Quantum Village were in disarray. A door was ripped off its hinges. Inside a young man was trying to hide from those responsible for the chaos. A large hulking humanoid lizard stomped his way toward him.

“Andres, I swear!” called the young man. “I didn’t sell you out!”

“Hmph, I don’t go by that name anymore,” hissed the lizard. “I would tell you to call me Basilisk, but that doesn’t matter. Nothing else will matter for you when you answer to the Lizard Gang.”

The three others turned to lizards stood behind him. They weren’t as big as him, but that didn’t mean they were any less deadly. Nina and Mania both appeared out of nowhere. Mania appeared to be unamused by what she was seeing.

“I hope you’re having fun,” smirked Nina. “Because it’s time for you to fulfill your end of our deal. They’ll be here soon. Bring us the girl and kill the rest of her companions. Oh, I almost forgot. Leave the Spider we spoke of. My lovely partner here would like to have a word with him.”


To be continued… in the 25th issue!