Notice: Continued from Araña: Heart of the Spider #5!
COUNTER-EARTH – ATTILAN
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK
After the incident involving the psionic entity known as Onslaught, Franklin Richards, son of the Fantastic Four’s Reed and Sue Richards, created a pocket universe housing an alternate earth in which he could send earth’s heroes to prevent their deaths after they sacrificed themselves to save the planet. The heroes of the original earth lived here until the Celestials demanded that one of the planets be eliminated. Instead of its destruction the alternate earth was placed in the hands of Ashema the Listener to keep it alive but unfortunately a rogue celestial brought chaos to the planet.
Manhattan as of now is underwater, a result of the disaster. The planet would later be saved by none other than Dr. Doom after he brought the planet into the main 616 dimension. After his departure the Thunderbolts became stranded on the planet that was now being called Counter-Earth, they stayed in the abandoned Inhuman city of Attilan in order to govern the planet. The Thunderbolts discovered an ‘engine’ of sorts that Doom had originally discovered they learned that this would bring the destruction of both worlds. In order to save it they returned to their home, the original earth, and left team member Jolt with the Young Allies to continue their work.
“We just can’t get a break can we?” asked the bull-like member of the Young Allies named Toro. “First the disasters that brought the flooding of Manhattan, then that engine-thingy that might have destroyed ‘both’ earths, then the Atlantean’s and that Proteus guy, and now what…? A bunch of giant insects?!”
The Young Allies hid in a dark corner of Attilan. Toro was on his knees trying to catch his breath. Next to him was a gun toting cowboy known as Kid Colt.
“Let’s face it,” Kid Colt started. “We’re gonna be facin’ problems like this for the rest of our lives.”
Recently, the reality hoping Exiles came to Counter-Earth to stop Proteus, who managed to kill the citizens of Atlantis before being defeated by a combined effort of the Exiles and Allies. The team enjoyed a brief moment of peace before a new threat crawled out from underneath the planet’s surface.
“I hope Rikki made it,” Jolt said. “We need someone to back us up and now.”
“There’s nowhere left for us to run,” Toro now up looked out to see where their enemies were. “Did anyone notice how the bugs are attacking more inconsistently now? It’s getting harder to figure out their movements.”
Jolt nodded her head in agreement, “It’s like their leader isn’t controlling them anymore. We have to do something.”
Part II: Pest Control
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK
Rikki Barnes, the leader of the Young Allies and former partner to Captain America, crouched while looking through a pair of binoculars from her position along the rooftops. She originally came to this earth to seek help for her home. Unfortunately, the help she got wasn’t sufficient enough to save a whole planet not to mention the fact that she had no way of getting back to Counter-Earth.
Believing all was lost she determined that there was only one thing she could do now. That was defending the original earth from the same villainous groups that were plaguing her home, the bugs and arachnids that made up the Insect Kingdom. That leads us to why she’s here. She followed a young woman she believed to be associated with the Sisterhood of the Wasp to this location. She was now on a steak-out, waiting for the right moment to make her move.
“Don’t know where she went,” she said to herself while turning her attention to a handheld tracking device. “Her signal is still in the same spot it was when she disappeared.”
She had no idea if these people were the same ones attacking her home. When she first arrived she witnessed a battle between the Spider Society and the Cult of the Tarantula, which included two former members of the Sisterhood. One of which she was attempting to follow but had no idea where she currently was.
HOME OF JAMES MILES
The man who saved Rikki from the clutches of the aquatic villain known as Hydro-Girl walked from the kitchen of his penthouse. James Miles, secretly known as the American Panther, was a wealthy young bachelor who spent his nights beating the crap out of criminals on the streets of New York.
“Where is Monica at?” he asked his butler who approached him.
The butler passed a drink to James before he answered, “It would seem your sister is still confining herself to her lab. She is still working on that remarkable piece of technology you brought her.”
James would finish his drink before he would head downstairs to his sister’s lab. The Miles siblings created a small business called Rescue Inc. that had its hands in a number of different technology fields. They weren’t as big as Stark Enterprises or Oscorp Industries, but what business they did achieve brought them wealth they never imagined they’d have. The siblings grew up with nothing. They were orphans and had no record of who their parents were. Life was hard for them as children but Monica’s intellect and James’s business skills brought them to where they were today.
“Are you still at it?” asked James. “Have you even left the lab once since I left?”
Based on her appearance he surmised the answer was no. He looked at what she was working on. It was a suit of armor, too identical to that of Iron Man’s.
“Okay, you know Stark is gonna sue us when he sees this right?” he asked her.
“I was planning on changing the color scheme around but I’m still tweaking its systems,” she replied. “Don’t want to scratch the paint job.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he dropped into a chair set before a row of computers. “So how goes the recruitment drive? With what Nomad told me we need get a team together and fast. I don’t think the Avengers or the X-Men are gonna bother with this mess. Nor would the New Warriors, Champions, Defenders, are the Heroes for Hire even around anymore? What about the Fantastic Four? I hear the Thing’s got a screw loose.”
“You’re obsessed with this superhero thing,” Monica laughed. “After looking into something’s I’ve only managed to find two people that are willing to help with this pest problem.”
“Let’s see,” he began to look through the information collected on the computer. “Ken Mack, calls himself Mettle for some reason, he has a body made of organic iridium that increases his strength and durability. And then there’s Jennifer Takeda a.k.a. Hazmat, she can produce various substances from her body which requires her to wear a containment suit to prevent prolonged exposure from her poisonous touch. Really this was it?”
“Its slim pickings,” his sister replied while working on her project. “A lot of the heroes are already tied down to other teams, some of them are unapproachable. So we’ll have to make do with what we got. Any word on your friend? You said last you heard she was tracking one of the insects that caused harm to her world?”
“Nomad said she had found one of those people and was following her,” James got up and walked over a steel cabinet that held his American Panther costume. “I haven’t heard from her since, but I should imagine that if she did find the enemy then we need to get a move on. I’ll meet with these two while you put the finishing touches on the armor. Join us and we’ll engage the villains of the Insect Kingdom.”
While James suited up, Nomad was still in the same spot. She didn’t move an inch until she spotted a disruption in front of the building across from her. A portal opened up and out stepped who she believed to be her enemy. A young woman in orange and black robes. She was Jessica Garcia or as she was now known while in costume as Estrella.
Nomad pulled out a communicator and sent a message to James, “AP I have one of the insects. I’m engaging. Will call back when I capture her.”
Estrella’s brown hair blew around in the wind as she read a message sent to her by her brother concerning events that happened earlier in the day.* The expression on her face was hidden by her orange goggles but you could tell she didn’t like what she was reading.
*events that can be read in Araña #5 which this issue ties into—Justin.
She put her phone up and was surprised by a disc that flew by her. The disc flashed brightly blinding her. Nomad charged in grabbing one of Estrella’s arms. She pressed into her midsection and lifted her off the ground sending her flying into a nearby wall.
“Ahh!” yelled Estrella.
As she collected herself she looked up to see Nomad. She looked like someone who was just finishing up a Civil War reenactment. Estrella picked herself off the ground and stared down her attacker.
“What manner of villain are you?” she asked Nomad. “Your costume is not impressive at all.”
“Shut it!” exclaimed Nomad. “The only villain here is you witch! I’m gonna put an end to your magic before you bring an end to this world.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Estrella wouldn’t get an answer as Nomad jumped in to attack her.
She flipped forward and dropped a punch. Next she landed before her and threw another punch that was followed by a high kick. Estrella managed to block the kick. She pushed Nomad back and got into position to fight back with the use of palm strikes. With the use of her palms she’s able to strike various pressure points that brought serious pain to Nomad. Both combatants jumped back not sure what the other was gonna do. Nomad held her left shoulder as Estrella breathed heavily from striking at fast speeds.
[Estrella Narrates]: I don’t know how I should handle this. I’ve never fought anyone not associated with the Insect Kingdom. The bad thing is I don’t know anything about her to make up a plan.
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK – CORAZON HOUSEHOLD
Anya Corazon, the hunter of the Spider Society known as Araña, stood with her boyfriend Lucas Garcia, the hunter of the Sisterhood of the Wasp known as Avispa. Lucas had tried to contact his sister regarding the events that happened earlier in the day. He got a response from her saying she would meet them at Anya’s house around this time but she was nowhere to be seen.
“Maybe she’s running a little late,” reasoned Anya. “You know how the city is.”
“I know but she won’t answer her phone,” Lucas was angered because his phone wasn’t cooperating with him. “Damn, they call these things smart phones you think they would do the simple task of making a phone call.”
“I just think you’re letting your anger get the best of you,” she tried to calm him down. “If you just relax I’m sure you’ll get it to work.”
“I don’t understand what’s going on,” said Anya’s friend Lynn. “What happened outside the coffee shop? Why did we rush back here?”
“Yeah, did you see what happened?” asked Lucas’s cousin Mike.
The two heroes didn’t have an answer for them. They couldn’t risk revealing their secret identities. As much as they cared for them they couldn’t let them in on their secret. The truth was that they had joined forces with the Amazing Spider-Man to fight the returning members of the Sisterhood of the Wasp. What excuse could they come up with to keep them in the dark?
“Hey, we need to…go find Jessica,” started Anya. “So why don’t you two stay here and get to know each other while we go find her.”
“Uhh, yeah,” Lucas scratched his head.
They left Anya’s home not sure of where to even look for Jessica. Together they walked side-by-side down the sidewalk.
“Did she even tell you where she was going?” asked Anya.
He thought back to the moment his sister left, “She never really said where she was going just that there was some sort of magic conference of sorts.”
“How could she go somewhere like that without telling you where she was going?” she found it hard to believe Jessica would do something so dumb. “There are all kinds of lunatics out there that wouldn’t hesitate to come after her. We’ll have to get with Emi. I don’t know where she went after that attack but I’ll get a hold of her.”
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK
Estrella ran along the side of a brick wall as she dodged Nomad’s attacks. Nomad threw a punch that was caught by Estrella. The Wasp Mage used all her strength to throw Rikki over her shoulder. Nomad flew forward but landed on her feet and slid back into a kneeling position. From a small pack on her back dropped four metal strips. She strapped it to her left arm, these vibranium strips fell in place taking the shape of a triangle. This was her energy shield that she used while under the guise of Bucky. It powered on.
[Nomad Narrates]: I wasn’t planning on using this shield. It didn’t help me any against the insects back home, but this girl isn’t like them. I know she can use magic but she insists on hand-to-hand combat. What’s her deal? No time to think. Have to take her down before her friends join her.
With the shield drawn Estrella moved in and slammed the sides of her fists into the center. The shield just absorbed the vibrations from the attack. Nomad struck with her shield sending her opponent flying back. Estrella got up and cupped her hands together. She uncapped them to unleash a stream of fire that hit the vibranium shield. It did nothing. Nomad walked forward as the flames still hit her shield. She swung her shield knocking Estrella’s hands aside, in that brief second she landed a punch. Estrella’s body spun away.
“Surrender and make this easier on yourself,” Nomad demanded. “I will stop you and your kind from everything you’re doing to this world. So except the fact that you can’t beat me.”
“My kind?” asked Estrella. “Is that a poorly formed racial slur?”
“I’m referring to the Insect Kingdom!” she explained.
“What does my ancestral background have anything to do with you?”
“It has everything to do with me!” Nomad growled. “I watched my friends fall in battle against your people! And I still have friends fighting for their lives. It’s the Insect Kingdom that has brought my home so much destruction.”
“I don’t know where you’re from,” Estrella dusted off her robes. “But I have nothing to do with the people who attacked your home. If it were the Sisterhood of the Wasp I renounced them long ago. So you’re fighting a pointless fight!”
“This isn’t pointless!” Nomad threw her shield at her. “No insect can be trusted!”
“If that’s how it’s gonna be,” Estrella formed a number of hand-signs to cast a spell. “Let’s change up the elements. Strike of the water serpent!”
A large body of water spun around Estrella and took the shape of a snake. It hissed and plummeted toward Nomad. She managed to kick her shield up in the nick of time to withstand the attack. The force of the attack pushed her back.
“Ahh!” she screamed in pain.
200 JOHN STREET – WEBCORPS
While the fight continued Anya and Lucas were summoned to the Spider Society. They used their own unique means of transportation to travel from Brooklyn to Manhattan, web-swinging and flying respectively.
“Sorry to just call you out of the blue like that,” replied the Spider Society’s weapons specialist Emi Kitane. “But the boss man told me to summon everyone. I think it has something to do with the Sisterhood.”
Emi’s attention turned to Lucas. Anya grabbed his hand.
“Whatever the Spider Society’s leader says don’t let it upset you,” said Anya. “Don’t let it anger you. Keep your power in check.”
“What is this guy a total asshole or something?” asked Lucas.
“That’s not a typical Lucas response I would have expected,” Emi looked at him curiously. “But to answer your question, yes he’s a total d-bag. Why he’s the leader I don’t know, but he is.”
“I have the Wasp Hunter under control,” he claimed. “Let’s see this leader of yours.”
The three friends proceeded to join the rest of the Spider Society. Everyone stood in formation before a hooded man that was the Spider’s leader.
Lucas looked at him uneasily, “What is this?”
“What is what?” asked Anya.
[Avispa Narrates]: I can sense the evil. You’re telling me they don’t feel it?
“So the one and only Wasp Hunter is here among us?” laughed the Spider leader. “Who would have ever thought we’d see the day? A wasp on common ground as a spider.”
“Yeah, it’s a real special day,” Lucas was being sarcastic.
“So you should know why you’ve been called here,” replied the Spider leader. “Your old group is back. The Sisterhood is back at its old tricks. They want the world and to get what they want they need their hunter.”
“Hmm…” Lucas sighed.
“That leaves us in a strange spot,” the leader stepped toward Lucas. “Can we trust you is the question of the day? The only reason you’re here with us is because of Araña and Miguel. Otherwise you would have been taken out when we first got news of you. We’re reigniting our war with the Sisterhood, will you follow us or fall back to your old ways?”
“There’s only one person I’ll follow anywhere,” Lucas responded by pointing a hand back to Anya. “Don’t think for a second that I’ll follow you. And for the record these ‘old ways’ you speck of, you must be thinking of someone else. The ways of the Insect Kingdom are not my own, never was and never will be. You all are in it for yourselves. That’s not how I roll, vato.”
“We’ll see where your allegiance stands soon enough,” the leader turned away from him. “We must prepare for battle!”
“It’s a little late for that now,” called a voice from above. “Don’t you think?”
On a level above the Spiders stood Hechicero, the leader of the Sisterhood of the Wasp, along with his people.
“It’s him!” exclaimed Lucas as Anya looked up. “That bastard who has the nerve to call himself my father.”
“What?!” Anya couldn’t believe what she heard.
“So there you are my boy,” Hechicero lifted his hooded head. “I have been looking all over for you. Look at you standing here amongst these vermin. Shouldn’t you be out protecting your sister? You know she’s under attack at this very moment?”
“What?” Lucas forced his way through the formation of Spider soldiers to get closer to his father. “Where is she?”
“Here take this,” Hechicero threw a piece of paper to his son. “You will find her here fighting an enemy of mine. The leader of a group calling themselves the Young Allies. They’ve been a thorn in my side for far too long on Counter-Earth and they will not be continuing so while on this planet. Find your sister and join me boy. I want you at my side when we take this world back from the true evil that plagues it.”
“True evil?” asked Anya as she approached Lucas. “What the hell is he talking about?”
“You are the only evil here!” called the Spider leader.
“Speaking of true evil,” Hechicero turned his attention to the Spider leader. “So this is where you ended up? How befitting for such a pathetic excuse of a man to find his place amongst these vermin. Heh, don’t worry I won’t ruin your secret for you.”
Anya looked at the paper in Lucas’s hand, written on it was an address. Just as she finished reading it he crumbled it in his hand. In a show of anger he leaped from where he was standing and pulled out a kunai to attack his father. Lucas was caught off guard as he phased right through his father.
“Come now did you seriously think I would leave myself open to an attack like that?” asked his father. “If you want to fight me then you’ll get your chance but that time is not now. I’ll see you soon son. Now go save your sister.”
Hechicero began to fade away with his soldiers as he looked at Lucas. In a matter of seconds they were gone. Lucas gritted his teeth as he was enveloped in flames changing him into his Avispa costume. With a sigh Anya pulled up her shirt which is where her costume was under. Avispa found a window and flew out.
“This day just keeps getting better,” Anya sighed.
ELSEWHERE IN MANHATTAN…
The American Panther stood before the two recruits his sister managed to get. He looked at the one called Mettle. He couldn’t help but think of how he resembled a certain Captain America villain.
“So Ken Mack…,” started the Panther. “Ken Mack. Is that your real name? You sure it’s not Ken Shmidt?”
“What is that supposed to mean?” the red giant asked.
The red iridium that made up his body in fact made him look like the Red Skull, which is a disturbing way to look. American Panther then changed his attention to Hazmat, a young Asian woman who was required to wear a custom hazmat suit while out in the public.
“Miss Takeda, can you do anything while in that suit?” he looked up and down at the scrawny teenager.
“I can fight,” she replied. “And how I would love to fight someone right now.”
“Well, the people we’re about to fight are skilled in not only martial arts but the mystic arts,” the Panther looked to see their expressions. “Soldiers to that of an organization that is centuries old. I would like to think you two would be a great asset to us but you’re not seasoned enough.”
“I don’t care how long they’ve been around,” Mettle stepped in. “This is my chance to prove myself to people. And if these insects really are a threat then I want to bring them down before they bring harm to the world.”
“And if our enemy is insects then my poisons should be useful,” Hazmat followed.
The American Panther held a communicator in his hand indicating he received Nomad’s message, “Well if you’re that eager to get out there then let’s go.”
BACK TO THE FIGHT
Nomad flipped in the air dodging the swirling water conjured up by Estrella. She had long since discarded her shield that wasn’t helping the current situation. She ran forward and then bounced off the hood of a car. While in the air she turned and threw one of her discs. It hit the oncoming water and with a flash of light froze it.
“Damn it,” Estrella groaned from her right arm being frozen in the long stream of water.
She broke her arm free and charged forward while Nomad did the same. When they reached each other they sent a single punch at the same time nailing each other on the cheek. They staggered back a bit before Nomad continued the fight. She kicked Estrella in the ribs and then hit her with a high knee. Her knee hit Estrella in the head making her fall back. A wound opened up on Estrella’s forehead, blood ran down her face.
“This is it,” claimed Nomad. “This is where the end begins. No more insects.”
Nomad pulled her arm back and threw what she thought would be the final punch. However the punch was caught to her surprise. Estrella looked up only able to see out one eye. Before her was her brother glaring his bright orange eyes at Nomad. She couldn’t be happier to see him but was unable to express it. As Avispa held a tight grip on Nomad’s fist, Araña swung over and landed next to Estrella.
“Jess, oh my god!” Araña showed concern for her friend.
Armory, the guise of Emi Kitane, joined them as well and immediately went to work on applying first aid to Estrella’s injuries.
“Let go of me you insect filth!” Nomad tried to break free from Avispa’s grip. “You all swarm in together bringing harm to everything around you! This has to stop! I won’t let anyone else get hurt! Do you…”
Araña webbed Nomad’s mouth shut, “Okay, that’s enough out of you.”
“What the hell is this girl talking about?” asked Avispa.
“I think I encountered her before,” Araña looked over Nomad.
FLASHBACK – MIDTOWN MANHATTAN
Araña leaped from her crawling position to grab a pole sticking out from the building. She swung around on it launching her into the air. The swing sent her to another fire escape a distance in front of Rikki who was still running. Araña landed crouching down. When Rikki got close enough Araña used her webbing to catch her. With the use of the fire escape she left Rikki hanging by her arms. She than took the stairs down a level to talk to her.
“It’s you!” Rikki exclaimed.
“You mind keeping quiet?” asked Araña. “I’m sure the people of this building have enough problems than to have deal with your mouth.”
“You’re one of them,” she continued. “Arachnid filth!”
“Excuse me?” Araña raised a hand to her. “I’ll have you know I shower like any other normal person… Speaking of, when’s the last time you bathed? You reek. And you are all beat up. Listen sister, you may not like me for some reason. I don’t know what you’re deal is, but you need help.”
“As if I’d take help from you Insect Kingdom people!” Rikki struggled to get out of the webbing.
Araña webbed Rikki’s mouth shut, “Things will be so much easier if you just didn’t talk. I’m taking you to a hospital. And then we can part ways.”
Rikki mumbled something but her mouth was webbed shout. Araña grabbed her making sure her hands were still bound and placed her over a shoulder. With the sound of a THWIP they were gone.
BACK TO THE PRESENT
“Hmm, we’re playing this game a little too much don’t you think?” Araña asked referring to Nomad’s webbed shut mouth. “I’d ask you you’re name but I actually like it when you don’t talk.”
Nomad angered by the comment kicked out the back of Avispa’s knee making him drop and lose his grip on her. She then darted in the opposite direction. Avispa quickly got up and ran after her. He pulled an item from one of the pouches on his belt and threw it her. It popped open revealing a wire that wrapped around Nomad’s ankles causing her to crash into the ground. She pulled a knife out and cut the wire. She then rolled backward up to her feet and sent a kick to Avispa which he blocked with both his forearms. He pushed her leg back making her body twist which she used the momentum to strike with her elbow which he ducked. While ducking he pressed his hands on the ground lifting his legs up kicking her aside.
“Damn it, he’s faster than her,” muttered Nomad.
She pulled out more her throwing discs and sent toward Avispa, to which he replied by pulling out his sword that was strapped to his back. He slashed the discs causing them to explode. The fire from the explosion twisted around Avispa’s sword, it was under his control. He swung his sword sending the flames back to her. At the rate they were coming she couldn’t move in time. She expected to be hit but before it could reach her Mettle landed in front of her. The flames hit him head on but his special armor-like skin left him unfazed.
“What the hell is that thing?” Avispa appeared disgusted by Mettle’s appearance.
Next the American Panther and Hazmat arrived. The Panther went to Nomad’s side to check on her.
“You should have called for backup,” he said. “Rescue, check her vital signs.”
The Panther’s sister now wearing the armor provided to her by her brother flew overhead with use of the repulsion systems in her boots. She scanned Nomad. The holographic screens inside her helmet gave her readings on Nomad’s vitals.
“She’s fine,” Rescue answered with a robotic voice. “A bit roughed up but she’s fine.”
American Panther looked over to Avispa, “So these are the guys. Mettle it seems your body can withstand intense heat. You got the wasp.”
“This looks bad,” Armory said to Araña. “The red one is immune to fire and the one flying in the air looks like she has similar tech to Iron Man. I don’t think we can take that. We need to get Jessica out of here.”
“First the Wasps and now these guys,” Araña shook her head. “I don’t get what’s going on.”
“Whatever it is now is not the time to figure it out,” Armory turned her attention from Araña to Avispa. “Avispa, smokescreen now!”
“What?” he replied.
“Just do it!”
He did what he was told and threw something to the ground. A cloud of smoke rose up and with that Araña and friends retreated.
“Really?” asked Mettle. “We just got here. I didn’t even get to put my hands on that wasp guy.”
“Relax,” the Panther stopped him. “I’m sure we’ll see them again for now let’s get Nomad out of here.”
Hechicero stood atop a building in Manhattan with a fist raised in the air, “Now my Wasps! We shall take the city! Leave no corner untouched! It’s time to purge the city of its evil!”
With that all his drones, now stronger than they once were, rose up and flew out to take over the city.
To be continued…In Araña: Heart of the Spider #6!