MANHATTAN, NEW YORK

Anya and her new friend Jessica were in a bind. She had come to this warehouse located out by the East River in an attempt to save Jessica’s twin brother Lucas. It wasn’t going well. The room was filled with drones of the Cult of the Tarantula. What made matters worse was the fact that the cult’s leaders had left with their captive. The whole reason this was happening was because Lucas was the host of the Wasp Hunter, a powerful entity that the cult wants for themselves, as well as the other hunters of the Insect Kingdom groups. Anya knew they would be coming for her next, to claim the Spider Hunter.

Her heart raced. She hadn’t fought this hard since the day Sisterhood of the Wasp supposedly broke up. Of course she couldn’t let this hold her back from saving Lucas. She felt that she owed him her life after he risked his own protecting her. With her fists clenched tightly she finally made a move as the drones swarmed toward them from above.

“Don’t take them head on!” Jessica shouted, concerned for her safety.

THWIP!

A strand of webbing shot from below Araña’s wrist connecting with the ceiling. A good tug sent her propelling upwards through the horde of tarantula drones. In the air, her body became covered in her blue exoskeleton carapace. A blue stinger popped from below her palm with an electrical charge running around it. As she dropped back down she slammed the stinger in the ground, causing a bright flash. With the drones distracted Araña grabbed Jessica’s arm and pulled her a distance away from them.

“That should *pant* give us *pant* a moment,” Araña said clearly out of breath. “A very small moment though.”

“Anya, what are we gonna do?” Jessica turned to look along the side of the large crate they were hiding behind. “Their numbers are absurdly large. In the short time they’ve been back, the cult has done some serious recruiting. I don’t see how it’s possible…”

“Let’s worry about the ‘how’ later.” Anya shook her head. “We’re gonna have to fight our way out of here.”

Jessica closed her eyes. She tried her best to come up with an idea. After all the studying into the mystic arts and the Insect Kingdom she had done, she still couldn’t think of a way out of this situation. She began to panic a bit, wishing she were more like her brother. Despite all the hardships he faced while living in Boston, he still kept his cool while in battle. He was even a decent tactician. Not a great one, but he would have surely gotten out of this mess.

“Hey, snap out of it,” requested Araña.

The former Wasp Mage looked upon the calm appearance of the Spider Hunter. She was raised to believe the Spider Society was the enemy, that they were the true evil that plagued the earth. Jessica had long since opened her eyes to the truth a long time ago. But never in a million years would she imagine she’d be working alongside the Spider Hunter. A girl who didn’t seem to be worried a bit about the situation at hand. Who didn’t even think twice about jumping through a sea of tarantula drones. It reminded her of Lucas.

“Hmm…” Anya muttered as she tried to figure out Jessica. “I’m gonna create a path through to the main entrance. Once clear I want you to run.”

“What? You can’t just do that. Don’t you ever think about yourself? What if you get hurt?”

“The trick is to not think about it. The more you think about something the harder it is to see. Now when I move get ready to run. I’ll keep the tarantulas at bay. Then we’ll go after Lucas.”

Jessica simply nodded in agreement. It was time to put her new powers to work. Anya had not practiced using her webbing at all, the power had just been unlocked merely hours ago. This didn’t bother her. With how many times she saw Spider-Man doing it, it had to be easy. Pressing her middle and ring fingers into her palms she sent webbing to attach to two poles at her sides. She stepped back and pulled on the strands. And with a slingshot motion shot herself into the mob.

“Ahh!” she growled tackling into the drones.

Now lying flat on the floor, she used the strength in her back and shoulders to swiftly kick back up to her feet. A drone threw a punch which she blocked with her left forearm leaving an opening to press her hand into his chest. With great force she spun him slightly and sent him hurdling into others. From behind another drone swung a weapon.

“Duck, child.”

The sound of the Spider Hunter’s voice rang in her head, alerting her of danger just in time to dodge by crouching down. She then rolled back. Again using her shoulders to move, she got her legs in the air and kicked into the drone’s abdomen. She got back on her feet and looked around at the large number left to fight.

“If you wish to get out alive I suggest letting me take over,” stated the Spider Hunter. “At this rate you’ll kill us both.”

“Keep out of this demon!” demanded Anya. “You cause too much trouble.”

“After all this time you still won’t trust me? Child, we are both connected. If anything happens to you, it happens to me. It’s time to face facts. You need me. You need my power.”

Anya reluctantly agreed based on the current situation. She let out a low grunt before her brown eyes turned a bright blue. It was clear to the drones that the hunter was now in control. They readied themselves.

“Yes, tarantulas,” she said. “Prepare yourselves. For this will be your end.”

Anya’s body again was covered in her blue exoskeleton. Another drone swung their weapon. The Spider Hunter leapt into the air and landed on a pillar not too far away adhering to it in a kneeling position. The hunter looked around the room plotting her next move in her head. She looked a little to the left and noticed Jessica.

“I see… Wasp child get ready to make your move.”

“The Spider Hunter intends to help me?” Jessica was shocked.

The stinger that pops out from below Anya’s right palm, popped yet again with the same energy swirling around it. The Hunter flipped forward back into the mob slashing left and right. Drone after drone dropped from an electrical shock. She jabbed another with the stinger while at the same time landing a roundhouse kick to another. It was obvious. No drone was a match for a hunter. In hunter mode Anya’s normal abilities were amplified well beyond that of your average human.

A path finally cleared up. The hunter threw a hand up motioning for Jessica to leave. She quickly ran through and pushed the large doors to the outside as hard as she possibly could. The hunter kept an eye over her as she exited. Free of the distraction that Jessica presented, the hunter turned back to the drones that were regrouping. She raised her stinger high into the air and closed her eyes half way preparing to strike.

“Tell your masters, their plan to obtain all the hunters will fail! The children of this generation will protect this world! And I will see to it that you all will be sealed away once more!”

With her last words spoken she unleashed the most power surge of energy from her stinger yet. The streams of electricity flowed throughout the warehouse striking everything in sight. All of the drones crashed to the ground. From various parts of their bodies tiny tarantulas popped out and ran. Rid of the arachnids the bodies returned to their normal state, that of innocent New Yorkers. Anya’s exoskeleton began to retract piece by piece. Her eyes returned to their original color. What she saw left her speechless. The people began to move, showing no signs of injuries. Relieved, Anya headed for the exit to catch up with Jessica.


ARACHNOPHOBIA
Part IV: The Threat of Two
Written by:
JUSTIN SANTOS


ELSEWHERE…

Carmilla Black, one of two individuals using the name Scorpion and an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., lay motionless on a table set dead center in a strange looking room. There were runes cast all over the room, as well as candles and many other different items that indicated some form of a magic ritual took place here. A man and woman concealed in green and black robes walked over to the table.

“It would seem our mages were unable to acquire the one called MacDonald Gargan,” said the man. “What a pity. I’ve seen his battles with Spider-Man. He would have made a good hunter.”

“What of this child?” asked the woman. “Little is known of her exploits.”

“She is my daughter,” said another woman who stepped into the room.

“Who are you?”

“I am a Scientist Supreme of A.I.M., Monica Rappaccini,” she stated. “And as I said this is my daughter, Thanasee. One of your people came to me claiming they could tame her. What is this hunter you speak of?”

“The spirit of our Tribe,” claimed the hooded female.

The hooded male chimed in, “An entity that is now bonded to the girl. The Scorpion Hunter shall rise again! And bring us victory during the looming war!”

I have no idea what these people are talking about, thought Rappaccini. But I get the gist of it. They want to use my girl for world domination, which is something I might want to have a hand in.

MIDTOWN MANHATTAN

While the Tribe of the Scorpion continued their movement to increase their strength, another insect-based group sets its own plans into motion in a random building with little-to-no activity going on inside. A young man dressed in a red and silver costume placed a metallic red helmet upon his head that had two large silver bug eyes and what looked like pincers at the side and two antennae at the top.

“Hormiga*,” said one of five people standing in front of him. “You have been chosen as the hunter of the Ant Council. Our time as a neutral party is over. We must stop all of the Insect Kingdom before the world is lost. That includes the Spider Society. Despite their heroism in the past, they like many others have fallen to corruption.”

*Hormiga is Spanish for ‘ant’ as is Araña for ‘spider’ and Avispa for ‘wasp’ –Justin.

“Shall I head out and put a stop to this little squabble between the spiders and tarantulas?” asked Hormiga.

“No,” replied said another of the five people. “It is too early to get involved. Let the arachnids battle it out over the wasp. If things get out of hand the local heroes will intervene. We need to start getting prepared for the war.”

“And what of the Beetles and Bees?” Hormiga inquired.

“There has been no word as of yet on their whereabouts. We have people looking into it.”

THE EAST RIVER

Jessica stood out by the river looking out upon the waterway. A gentle wind blew her orange and black robes that held the image of the Sisterhood of the Wasp. She was approached by Araña who looked down each directions of the river. She looked for a sign of which way the tarantulas took Lucas. She then looked at Jessica who had tears running down her cheeks.

“They…they’re gone,” she said. “And I can’t locate them.”

“You can’t?” questioned Araña. “Why?”

Araña looked more closely. She could tell that her friend was burnt out. Two days of extensively using her magic abilities without rest. Not only did she stay up searching for Lucas but she also helped Anya survive severe poisoning and even went into the dominion of the Spider Hunter to break the seal on Anya’s powers.

“That’s it,” Araña grabbed her friend’s shoulder. “You’ve hit your limit. I’ll figure out a way to find and save him. As for you I think you should take the Manhattan Bridge next to us. It will take you back to Brooklyn.”

“What? I just can’t go home! Not without my brother!”

Anya put a hand up to calm her down, “Okay. Okay. Jess, I’m just gonna be honest here. You’re worn out. If we find these clowns you’ll only provide a problem. I won’t be able to save Lucas if I’m busy saving you.”

“Then what do you suggest I do?”

I was planning to head to WebCorps to see if I can find Miguel, Anya thought to herself. But there’s no way I’m gonna convince her to leave this to me. That means she’s gonna have to tag along. Which is easier said than done. The people of the Spider Society can sense a Wasp a mile away.

“Care to clue me in on what’s got you lost in thought?” Jessica looked confused at Anya’s silence.

Anya sighed, “Hmm… I need to get to Miguel… who I haven’t spoken to in a while. I need to get back to the Spider Society HQ and see if I can get someone to lend me some help. I’ll even take Ted and very reluctantly Nina. You’ll probably want to change to regular street clothes. That symbol on your chest is a target.”

Jessica looked down at the black wasp insignia across her chest.

200 JOHN STREET – WEBCORPS

Anya walked through the entrance of the company known as WebCorps that was nothing but a front to hide its true purpose. The Spider Society used this as their main headquarters. Anya was now dressed in her normal clothing. After entering, Jessica followed now also dressed in street clothes that were apparently donated by Anya. She tugged at the bottom of her shirt that was a little too short.

“Anya, I appreciate the help but next time just let me conjure up something,” Jessica expressed her displeasure some more by tugging harder.

“You’re just gonna rip the shirt.”

“Well I know you like showing off your midsection but I don’t…” Jessica tried her best to keep her voice down as Anya requested during their change into normal attire. “I’m not exactly built like you, not to mention the fact that I’m taller so this really isn’t fitting well at all.”

“You look fine. Now just relax.”

They continued their way through the building. They passed the temp who didn’t appear to notice them, something Anya was glad for. Next they entered the elevator and went up several floors. Upon reaching the floor she wanted to immediately head for Miguel’s office. She figured he of all people would understand the situation best. He was more of an open-minded person then the others. Unfortunately, when reaching his office she discovered he wasn’t around. She then proceeded to head for Ted’s office…if you could call it that. The room was a mess with the television in the center still on with some video game with a yellow ninja standing in a fighting position against another ninja that had a blue costume.

“No one is here,” claimed a voice from behind Anya.

She turned to see a young Asian woman, possibly the same age as her with jet-black hair and bright green eyes.

“Emi, it’s you,” Anya smiled. “Where is everyone? I mean Ted of all people should be here with the mob out to get him and all.”

“He said he was going on a cyber-date,” Emi appeared confused. “I don’t know how anyone could trust the internet to find them a date. Anyway…Miguel is out looking for Nina.”

“Still?” Anya was surprised.

“Look, come with me. I don’t really like being in Ted’s room, it creeps me out.”

Emi signaled for Anya to follow her. As she went Jessica followed as well. They all came upon a large room filled with a wide variety of weapons. The sheer amount amazed Jessica, who then got Emi’s attention.

“Who’s your friend?” she asked.

“This is Jessica…she…” Anya scratched her head.

“Is a Wasp? Heh…” Emi smirked. “I know. I saw your battle alongside the Wasp Hunter against the giant tarantula drone. Why the Spider Society isn’t going nuts over this is beyond me. The Wasps are back as well as other groups. I’ve received no instructions on preparing weapons. All I know is you’re here right now with a Wasp Mage, which might I add takes some balls to do.”

“Emi…”

“I’m sorry are you gonna run your mouth any longer?” Jessica was angered. “If not we would like to continue with what we were doing.”

“She’s a feisty one,” laughed Emi. “Listen Wasp, I’m Emi Kitane, weapon specialist of the Spider Society. You might want to watch your tone when talking to me, seeing as you’re in our house.”

“Emi, Jessica, stop this now!” Anya demanded. “There’s no time for this. That Wasp Hunter you speak of risked his life for me and now I owe him the same. We need backup. We need a way to find the tarantulas, but we’re at a disadvantage.”

Emi stopped her, “Say no more. I’m all you need. You remember that spider-tracer we found left over by Spidey? Well I played around with it and made an improvement. Say hello to the mobile spider-tracer. When you’re all out of magic, it’s time to rely on science and technology.”

The girls looked down at a little metal spider-shaped object. The legs flexed and popped the device into the air allowing it to land on them. It then walked around before being joined by more devices of the same shape.

“They just need a command,” explained Emi. “And then we’ll be able to use them to find your boyfriend.”

Anya sighed. “Very well, get them moving. Tell them to search for tarantulas.”

MEANWHILE…

Nina Tanner, the woman who trained Anya how to fight entered a building with dim lighting. She looked around displeased with what she saw. Her brother led her here, claiming that there was someone here working for him.

“Brother,” she started. “What have you brought me to?”

Marcos, who has no last name to speak of, entered the two level building with Lucas over his shoulder. He then headed over to what appeared to be an operating table and laid his captive upon it. Nina looked at the strange equipment that filled the room. She walked further in and saw another operating table covered in blood and other unknown substances. The closer she got to her brother the more weird stuff she found. She ran her fingers across a green facial mask that took the appearance of some sort of demon with a pair of yellow goggles that made her think of creepy eyes.

She finally came across some paperwork which she skimmed through, “What madness is this? Talk of clones and goblins… Marcos, who have you aligned yourself with?”

“A madman, that’s all you need to know,” he simply replied as he began flashing a number of hand-signs as he began to chant a spell.

Nina knew she wouldn’t get any more information out him. Uncertain what to do next, she decided to step outside and get some fresh air. After minutes of staring at New York’s skyline, a group of tarantulas approached her. These arachnids were used to create the drones Araña fought. Nina let out a low grunt at the thought of all her soldiers being defeated. The fact that she needed to replace them infuriated her more.

Urr… You got out of this one, Spider Princess, Nina thought as the tarantulas crawled up her leg. But I’ll get you next time. Hmm… And I know just how to.

200 JOHN STREET

THWIP!

A strand of webbing shot out across the way from the WebCorps building to its neighbor. Araña stood atop the building alone. She looked down to the street. Through the course of the day she had used her webbing to do various tasks but none of them were to swing long distances.

It’s gonna take some time to get used to this, she thought. This webbing still sickens me. But it’s just like using my bola, probably better than.

She took a deep breath. Putting aside her uneasiness, she leapt off the building and swung off. She was moving too fast toward a nearby building. If she didn’t react quick enough she would be splattered over the side of it. With the use of her right hand she shot another strand of webbing to send her in a different direction.

That was too close! This is no different than the other times I’ve swung through the city. Have to get this right. I can’t afford to be at odds with my powers. I have to squash these tarantula cultists and free a wasp. Never thought I’d be in this situation.

The further she got the more she got used to swinging with organic webbing. It felt right to her now. She decided to see how good she could land coming in from web-swinging. She landed on one of the shorter buildings in the area. Her landing was a little shaky but worked out. She ran along the rooftop passing clothing lines with someone’s laundry blowing in the wind and air vents that let out white steam. She picked up her speed as she moved closer to the end. She leapt over the ledge and flew over to the next building. Clinging to the wall she looked back.

While on the side of the building, she heard a beeping that came from one of the pouches on her belt. She pulled out a device that was given to her by Emi to notify her if the spider tracers found the Tarantulas hideout. Luckily she knew exactly where the device was indicating they were. She quickly crawled up the wall and sprinted along the roof to jump off and then continue web-swinging through the city. Her ability to swing with the webbing had improved as her speed picked up. At this point all she was focusing on was saving Lucas.

Like any other superhero trying to go unnoticed she went through a panel on the roof. She quietly dropped on the metal walkway that made up the second level and hid in the shadows. She peeked around a metal pillar. She saw no one below. Sticking to the shadows she moved to the ground level. She was cautious about her surrounds. As she became sure no one was home she went for Lucas. She put a hand on his midsection where she thought he had been impaled. She shook him lightly and got no reaction. Then she put a hand to his face and then his hand.

He’s so cold, she thought. There’s no pulse… I’m too late. But there’s no wounds, no indication of harm to him. How can he be! There’s no way. What did they do to him?

Anya held his cold hand as tears ran down her cheeks. She failed to save him. Light flashed behind her and Jessica appeared with Emi at her side.

“No!” Jessica cried after seeing her brother’s motionless body. “Lucas!”

She threw her arms over her brother and broke down. Anya could only watch as Jessica cried for her brother. She was overwhelmed with emotions and a strange sensation that burned through her body. Emi walked over and placed a hand on Anya’s shoulder.

“I’m sorry, Anya,” she said. “We’ll get these tarantula bastards for this.”

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

Lucas and Jessica’s mother walked over to Anya’s house. She hadn’t seen her kids in a while and had a feeling they would be here. Yesterday was the last time she saw Lucas and today she was assured by Jessica that he was fine. She knocked on the door which was answered by Anya’s father.

“Yes?” he answered.

“Gil?!” she seemed a bit surprised. “I can’t believe it. I had no idea you lived here. It makes so much sense now. Anya reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. She looks so much like Sofia, how could I not figure it out?”

“Erika,” Gil opened the door more. “So it’s your boy who has caught my Anya’s attention. What a strange coincidence.”

“So…uhh…How is Sofia doing? It’s been eighteen years since I’ve seen you all. I’ve always regretted what happened and I’ve wanted to talk to her for so long but I never could find you guys.”

A look of sorrow grew on Gilberto’s face, “You haven’t heard? Sofia passed away when Anya was just a child.”

“What?”

Coincidently, Anya and Lucas’s mothers had been good friends ever since they were young girls. They went to school together, lived together, and planned on starting their own families together. When it came to that time Sofia and Erika’s friendship came to an end. Sofia truly caring for her friend and her unborn children’s wellbeing, pleaded with Erika to leave her husband who had been abusive and not only that. He was proven to be the leader of the Sisterhood of the Wasp. This of course led to their falling out. Erika never learned of her friend’s death down in Mexico.

The sense of loss left her speechless. Knowing that she could never make up with her best friend broke her heart. And the thought of such a sweet girl like Anya not having a mother while she growing up saddened her. That thought managed to remind her of why she was here.

“Gil, where are our kids?” she snapped out of her funk.

“Anya said she had to find the boy who saved her,” Gil explained. “That boy must have been yours. The high school was attacked the other day. He might be in the hospital. I think they were taking the injured to Kings County Hospital. Come I’ll drive you there to find him.”

“There’s no need,” Gil was interrupted. “I know where your children are.”

It was Nina. From her shoulders jumped two of her tarantulas. They fused with Gilberto and Erika’s bodies. Black energy flashed from their eyes telling Nina that their possession was completed.

“They’ve been a hindrance for too long and now you’re gonna take care of them for me,” she continued. “Now it’s the little girl’s turn.”

Nina went for the youngest of the Garcia family, Lucas and Jessica’s little sister Elena.

MANHATTAN, NEW YORK

Jessica was still over her brother’s body. Her head was pressed into his chest as she cried. Her crying was getting louder. Anya grabbed her attempting to pull her away and calm her down but Jessica fought to not be moved away.

“I’m sorry, Jess…,” she managed to get Jessica to stand up. She held her arms to get her attention. “But if we stay here we’ll be attacked. We need to get to them first. Of course we can’t just leave him here like this.”

“I’ll take care of him,” Anya turned to the voice of someone new entering the room.

“Miguel!” she was surprised to see him. “Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you.”

“I’ve been looking for Nina,” he walked over to Lucas. “Somehow my search has led me here. I’ll take care of the boy. Go after those who did this. Afterwards we’ll have a lot to talk about. Now go.”

“Thanks,” Anya turned to Jessica. “Come on let’s go after them and stop them before they hurt anyone else.”

Jessica’s clothes ignited in flames, they took the shape of her robes. The flames died down showing her now to be in costume. Jessica then looked at Emi.

“Oh I’m coming with you,” Emi said. “It’s been so boring around here lately, time to get some action.”

“And you’re just gonna fight like that, in your normal clothes?” Jessica asked.

Emi pressed her hand on a steel pole and absorbed the material into her body. Her entire body was now covered in a steel armor.

“You don’t have to worry about me.”

The three young women left the building leaving Miguel with Lucas. He looked down at the Wasp Hunter he thought he stopped from being created.

“So you say he’s still alive?” he appeared to be talking to himself. “How is that possible? The Wasp Hunter was pulled from his body.”

The spirit of Sofia Corazon appeared beside Miguel, “You think I don’t know about my own godson? His father may be the leader of the Wasp, but his mother’s bloodline is part of the Ant Council. He’s a host to two hunters which is why his powers overwhelm everyone around him. Leading them to hate him.”

“He had two hunters bonded to him?”

Miguel removed a piece of leather armor from Lucas’s left arm to reveal a red ant tattoo. He then looked at his back that had an orange tattoo of a wasp. The idea that someone bonded two hunter’s to the boy sickened him. It’s a well-known fact in Insect Kingdom magic that bonding two hunters in one person would leave the host to live a terrible life. As he laid Lucas back down flat his eyes opened. Their usual brown hue was burning bright red. Miguel tried to hold him down.

“Remove your hands from me!” growled the Ant Hunter that dwelled within him.

“Control yourself!” demanded Miguel. “I’m not your enemy. You’ve been through a lot, you need to recover.”

Sofia put a hand on Lucas’s shoulder knocking him from being possessed. He looked at Miguel and then the spirit form of Sofia. He kicked up from the table landing on his feet without the use of his arms. He then flipped forward off the table and while in air pulled daggers from his belt. He got into a fighting position thinking Miguel and Sofia were his captors.

“Still able to move like that after all that happened?” questioned Miguel. “Impressive. But you’re wasting your energy on us. As the Hunter of the Ant it is your responsibility to protect others. The Cult of the Tarantula is your enemy and they are planning to hurt the people of New York. You must help them.”

“Ant?” Lucas was confused.

“You have to protect your sister,” Sofia added. “As well as Anya Corazon, the Hunter of the Spider.”

TIMES SQUARE

Nina was now with Marcos in the center of Times Square. There were many people in the area and Nina knew this. She sent all her tarantulas out so that they may possess them. In a matter of seconds the villainous traitor had an army to use against Araña and friends.

“This will be it brother,” she said to Marcos. “The Spider Hunter will be ours.”

To be concluded…