Ultimate Vanguard Chronicles 3
Chapter 3: To Catch A Spider
Note: In canon Lana is technically a mutant as she was born with her powers and mutated DNA, even if her mother isn’t. The only difference is that Roxxon did it instead of the US Government.
New York City – A Few Weeks Later
The sun was raised in the sky, shining proudly onto the streets.
Among the pedestrians that filled the sidewalks, a small child and her mother squinted their eyes to avoid the overwhelming rays. The unrelenting beams of light were blocked for an ephemeral moment as two shadows passed overhead. The pigtailed little girl gazed to the sky with a look of awe as she pointed with her tiny fingers for her mom to see.
“Mommy! Mommy!” she cried, yearning for her attention to witness the spectacle. “It’s two Spider-Mans!”
The mother looked up to indeed see two webslingers making their way in haste. It was the resurfaced Spider-Man according to the rumors and news, which had yet to be confirmed officially, and Spider-Woman. But, seeing no need to correct her daughter, she watched them head towards the distant skyline.
Jessica swung in a pendulum motion, using the momentum to carry her further as she sailed through the air gracefully. Until the virtual training room was finished being implemented in their base, the pair made due with using the city for a practice routine swing-about. Thus, as they entered what amounted to a forest of skyscrapers and building that came in a myriad of materials and scale, the real test began.
“Okay, we’re here,” she called out to Miles, who was trailing behind her, as she landed on a building at the edge of the maze that formed the city.
He landed in a crouch next to her. “Here?”
Jessica nodded as she pulled out a stopwatch. “I’ll start in a minute and tell you through the radio in your ear, set to channel 3, after I get to the ending point. It’s that building.”
She pointed to a skyscraper that rose like a pillar amongst dunes, the tallest building at the end of a long stretch several miles away. Then she pointed to several other rooftops and building walls, where small emblems were webbed to them. “I’ve set up checkpoints ahead of time. You need to navigate from here to there as fast and efficiently as you can, at the same time gathering the emblems.”
“Got it,” Miles said, adjusting the device on his ear beneath the mask.
Jessica nodded and swung off into the distance.
While he waited for her to reach the point he went over how much web-fluid he had left in his utility belt, hidden beneath his suit’s top at the waist. Finished with that and still no call, he plucked out his cell-phone to check his messages, with one being from his girlfriend asking him when he was getting off and if they could go to a movie.
It was Sunday and, at Artemis’ insistence after the training regiment Daisy had implemented, the unit had the day off from what she called training and they called institutionalized torture. Tandy, Ty, and Lana were at the base or home, leaving their masks behind so that they could pursue a normal life when not on-call. Miles and Jessica instead suited up and decided to take to doing the Spider-Man thing as the legacies of the fallen hero of Queen’s and New York itself.
At his heart, Spider-Man was a street hero. Spider-Man was loved, as a symbol and a person, because he dealt with mundane threats and massive threats that most would be unable to handle with the same fervor. That was what separated him from figures like Captain America and Iron Man, there were no politics involved.
The radio in his ear came to life in a burst of static, Jessica’s voice coming through. “Alright Miles, I’m ready.”
Miles took a deep breath to center himself before taking running start and leapt off the building, allowing gravity to take him and sinking towards the asphalt, only for the webs to vacate his shooter and carried him into a arch. Abandoning the line mid-swing, he remained upright as he ran along the side to get the first emblem before jumping off and letting another line fly to the opposite building.
As Jessica observed him approaching using a pair of binoculars, she noted the difference in his travel-style compared to hers. Miles ran up the walls when he needed to scale, using a length of web as a tether to help go against gravity. Daredevil falls were broken by a quick safety line, and long distances were traversed in short spans. He would burn through his web fluid much faster than Peter would, so she would ensure he kept an ample amount as SHIELD supplied him with it as a business expense.
As he made it to the top of the skyscraper the wind picked up and Jessica’s hair was carried along the breeze. She was in the middle of complimenting him on his timing when the sound of sirens in the distant reached their ears, the lenses of their masks tracing the path of the cars speeding down the roads to a specific location in haste.
A glance at one another was exchanged. The implications of what were clear. Then, reaching an agreement, they both dove off the edge of the skyscraper, taking to the skies above the New York streets.
Abandoned Apartment Building
“Shit,” the thug swore as he looked out the window of one the of apartment building’s windows.
The abandoned property was his and his comrade’s stronghold, now surrounded by New York’s finest after a car chase following a successful bank robbery. There were at least six cars, each carrying two officers, and more on the way along with SWAT. The odds were against them to say the least.
He had five men working under him, but the ammo they had wouldn’t be enough for a holdout. Shifting the band of his assault rifle over his shoulder, he left the room to find a better vantage point. From there he could at least see about using the big guns to dwindle their numbers while getting an escape plan ready.
The soft sound barely reached his ears. He turned his head towards the source, only to find nothing. He brushed it off as his mind playing tricks and called out for the others, but he received no answer.
That sound again was louder than before. His head snapped around towards the direction and this time he walked down the hall, opening the doors to the apartments to see where it came from and where the others were. “Guys…?”
No answer once again.
His balance shifted as something beneath his foot slid as his weight descended upon it, slipping him a bit. Regaining his balance, he looked down to see the white webbing of an oversized spider. He swore under his breath, lowering his stance as he moved and his finger on the trigger.
The Spider’s here, he thought. The rest of the guys were silent, meaning they were caught. He wasn’t about to join them. Screw that, he would just need to find some way to escape.
He turned and opened fire without a second thought at the sound of webbing. Glass shattered and rained down as the bullets punctured the windows. The sound of the police becoming riled outside was audible as well, but there was no blood or tattered spandex, meaning no dead Spider-Man either.
Backing away slowly, he made his way to the Room 42. That was where they kept the ammo on this floor, as well as the Bazooka they managed to get off a guy they knew. He opened the door—
The sound came from the other end as the web-line jerked the door closed. The ringing of gunfire lasted three seconds this time as light filtered from the holes in the door. He then kicked it off the hinges as he stormed into the room to find all the ammunition and spare firearms clinging to the ceiling, gun barrels bent by super-strength and unusable. Still no dead hero though.
Damn it, I didn’t sign up for this…The drumming of his heart in his ears started to drown out his thoughts. His steps were now sprints as he made for the stairs to get to the next weapons storeroom.
The aged wood cracked as he fell, his forehead aching where it landed. He looked to his feet to see a trip-line that took away his balance and sent him face-planting. Rising to his feet clumsily, he abandoned the notion of remaining calm. “WHERE ARE YOU SPIDER!!!???”
His cry was compounded by the roar of gunfire as he opened fire without concern. He sprayed bullets on full-auto until four seconds later, when the sound of it on empty and constantly clicking had him throw it down. It was then he felt a light tap on his shoulder and turned to see the black and red spandex-clad hero.
“Night-night,” was all he said. Then the delayed bio-electricity surged. The world flashed as lightning ate away at the nameless thugs nerves and muscles. His scream of agony resounded as he fell into the abyss of nothingness and slumped to the floor once more.
Miles sighed. A quick spray of impact webbing to bind him was followed by a huff as he hoisted the cocooned man at least thrice his weight onto his shoulder. He then carried him off to join the rest.
Jessica stood in the foyer, watching over the gunmen who were strung up. The ones who she took out had their complaints and threats muffled by the webbing fixed around their mouths. The ones Miles had dealt with were still stunned. As her original’s counterpart arrived and added the final one to the collection, she tilted her head in thought.
Seconds later, when SWAT burst in, they found the five gunmen upside down with their bodies cocooned, muffled groans coming from some of them as they looked towards the ground and begged to be cut down. There was a message in the webbing, tastefully done.
It said: “For New York’s Finest, Courtesy of your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man and Spider-Woman.”
One of the SWAT members pulled out his phone to take a picture, which would soon be sold to one of the ravenous reporters outside for a tidy profit, while the rest combed the area for any strays and called in for someone to bring the specialized equipment they used during the original Spider-Man’s time to cut them down, rather than wait an hour for the webbing to dissolve.
“Think it’ll make the news?” Miles asked, watching from afar on a rooftop with Jessica.
She shrugged. “If it’s a slow day…Miles, I have to ask. Can you charge your Venom Strike to discharge a larger jolt or release it from your entire body?”
“I’ve never tried,” he admitted.
“Against things that may be poor conductors or resistant it may pack a bigger punch, not to mention eventually some of the smarter villains will start restraining your hands so you can’t use it.” Checking the time on her phone she decided that was enough for now. “Anyway, good job today. Take the rest of the day off.”
“Are you sure?” Miles asked.
Jessica nodded. “I admire your dedication to the cause, but you do need to be a teenager. The amount of stress it caused Peter was no small thing. Besides, you’ll find that wearing a mask will kill your dating life if you don’t work to maintain a balance.”
Miles reluctantly nodded before jumping off the building and swinging across the New York skyline while Jessica watched him go. If he hurried he could catch a movie with Kate Bishop and then go see his dad.
Jessica was completely unaware of the six-legged insect-like creature that was watching them split apart, the images in the lenses being transferred into the visor of the Spider-Slayer armor as Alistair Smythe began his plan to ensnare Spider-Woman. With the interface being directly linked to his mind through a neural connection, data streamed through his brain and was processed faster than an average person would be able handle. He reviewed the data that had been gathered so far about the target.
Estimated range for the omnipresence extrasensory sense, total strength, reflex time, all data gathered on the subject through various means and estimations from her previous feats were analyzed and a counter-measure crafted. He concluded that he could currently do battle with her successfully, but there was a chance she would escape if he fought straight up. That was why his bosses had him recruit the lesser villains with previous experience and he updated their equipment.
As the visuals recorded her beginning to swing off, he switched over his communications to the trio. “Boomerang, Shocker, and Mysterio, the first target is on the move. She is following predicted route F. Are you in position?”
Frederick Myers leaned against the distant rooftop where he had been stationed and confirmed that he was. “Boomerang in position. Just give the word.”
Herman Schultz adjusted his new vibro-gauntlets that he had produced with the funds and equipment provided by Smythe. The suit he now wore was top of the line, capable of dispersing the force of physical impacts with ease. He felt like a new man and couldn’t wait to try it out. “Shocker will give her what she’s got coming.”
Quentin Beck stood in the sanctum of an old opera theater, the almost silent his of gases vacating his suit and filling the space with his own blend of chemicals to serve their purpose. “The stage is set, so says Mysterio.”
Smythe silently wondered why those who deemed themselves villains felt the need to use such unnecessary statements when a simple confirmation would have sufficed. Really, the only one he could tolerate was Boomerang. Then he put the mental conundrum out of his mind in lieu of dealing with the capture of Spider-Woman.
Logically speaking, she was the first choice to be captured rather than Spider-Man. Her presence extended past the new Spider-Man, her exploits and fighting habits known and measured. The brief stint of the new spider in the past only gave them partial data, as well as means to counter his known abilities, but there were too many unknown variables that could prove troublesome.
As the slayer-bots tracked her movements, which crossed into the target zone, he gave the orders to act. “Boomerang, you’re on.”
Frederick Myers stood erect from the wall. With two flicks of the wrists, a pair of collapsible boomerangs appeared in his hands as he took aim and chambered them. He took a steady breath as a bead of sweat rolled down his forehead once she reached his line of vision.
The distance was estimated to be outside her spider-sense range and barely within his throwing range, so his accuracy would have to be perfect and all of his strength exerted to strike down the target. Then there was no more time to think or aim. He threw the boomerangs with all the strength that he could muster, listening as they hissed through the air while spinning like saws.
Jessica tensed as her spider-sense flared from behind. Closing in from both sides as Jessica turned in time to see twin boomerangs, angled so that they would cleave her in two with their razor-sharp edges. She twisted her body, the scarlet suit that hugged her skin barely grazed as the two weapons closed proximity to her.
Then came the brief flaring of her spider-sense once more as the magnets built into the heads of the boomerangs attracted one another and caused them to connect, priming the explosives that lay within the metal and turned the two into bombs.
The force of the explosion carried her through the air, agony running through her body as the metal shrapnel of the Bomberangs embedded themselves within her skin. Had it not been for her super-human durability she would have been blown apart, hunks of meat that were once an attractive woman raining down over the city. Instead the scarlet outfit leaked droplets of crimson through the tears as she fell to earth.
“DREW!” shouted Daisy over communication device under the mask, after hearing the blast from the other end. Her time in the field as part of the West Coast Ultimates had her well acquainted with explosives. “REPORT! WHAT HAPPENED?”
Easier…said than done, she thought as she fought to hold on to her fading consciousness. Ignoring the ringing in her ears and the coppery taste of blood in her mask from her mouth, she extended her arm and prepared to release another web-line to regain air maneuverability when spider-sense alerted her to the incoming attack. What now?
It was a blast of air, violently shaking to damaging levels. Too wide to escape and too focused to disperse upon impact instantly, it battered her and carried her careening through the window of the opera building three blocks ahead. The sound of breaking glass, strained metal, and creaking wood was all that was heard over the radio along with a scream before an energy field went up and severed the communication.
Herman laughed at the power of his gauntlets kissing them in celebration of the clean shot before he radioed in the success in positioning her. Quentin had already set his stage for what was sure to be a captive audience and Smythe left the room he was in to fulfill his role, his sleek armor encompassing his body.
Jessica Drew’s body ached as she moved through the dusty halls for an exit, wary of her surroundings. Slayer-bots set up through the decrepit building transmitted her wandered around, scuttling throughout the halls to track down their target as she moved from the landing point without her knowing, the sound of the wood under her feet cracking further rattling her nerves as the pain lacing her body refused to dull.
That was Shocker’s doing no doubt. He and whoever broke him out she figured. But worst of all was the fact that her spider-sense was failing her, the buzzing almost completely stopped as her breathing became heavier. It was an ambush and I fell into it.
Her efforts at escape seemed fruitless so far. Trying to escape through the windows or breaking through the wall with her superior strength failed as a barrier that had been raised and used to block all means of escape. Even touching them proved painful.
So, trapped in enemy territory with no way to communicate with the outside world or escape, her prospects looked dim. There was only one thing she could do, and that was to keep moving until she could find someone to beat some answers out of and figure out why she was taken. Coming into the stage room from the high-seats that hung above the ground, she soon spotted Quentin Beck standing on the stage.
His costumed figure was draped in fog-like gases as he made no move at all. Yet his cape was billowing around with a dramatic flair. Using the darkness that hung above on the ceiling, she positioned herself carefully above him and let fly webs from her fingernails…only for it to pass through harmlessly and cling to a projection device that she pulled up.
Just like the reports said, she mused silently as she examined the device. So the SFX Drama-King is a part of this too?
The sound of air parting reached her ears at that moment, the burning of fuel following as she abandoned her perch on the ceiling. It was just in time to avoid the small missiles that exploded where she once clung, debris raining down from the ceiling. On the wall she stuck to she peered past the darkness to see the one who fired it.
It was Smythe in his full armor, the panel on his right forearm containing the mini-rocket launcher barrel opened and aimed at her. Having never seen the enemy facing her, she felt the need to know who it was attacking her. “Who are you and what do you want with me?”
“I am the Spider-Slayer,” was all he said. Then he opened fire, a second projectile flying from the launcher and leaving a trail of grayish-smoke as the missile flew towards her.
Jessica leapt from the wall and clung to the roof as the spot she was in was rocked by the explosion that followed with another missile on the way. Dodging the projectiles and explosions she let fly as web-line from her right hand and blocked his visor’s sight. As he tore it away, he found the distance closed as the scarlet fist slammed into his face headfirst, an abundance of strength within it.
Tougher than I thought, she noted. It felt like she was punching steel and at best all she did was manage to dent the armor covering his head and forced it to turn. Even without the access to her spider-sense, her enhanced reflexes allowed her to see his attempt to swat her away using his arms and she used her superior agility to leap over him and lift him above her head. “Let’s see just how tough!”
Tossed from the higher-level to the stage below, Smythe broke through the wooden surface of the stage and into the concrete beneath it. Jessica followed it up with a somersault, landing upon his chest using gravity to place it deeper inside its crater. When he flinched violently before he stopped moving, she assumed he had been rendered unconscious and proceeded to web his torso to the caved-in concrete.
Had her spider-sense been operational, it would have gone off at that instant as blades sprang up from the forearm of his gauntlets and cut through the webbing. Like a snake, his right hand was thrust out and coiled around her throat as he stood. The armored digits were tightening, cutting off her ability to take in air and strangling her behind her mask. He raised his arm and held her up, his visor using the connection to monitor her vitals as her heart beat quickened to fight off the dive into unconsciousness.
“You should…lighten up,” she quipped as she released a web from her hand that clung to a stage light above. With a jerk she brought it down, tearing it from the aged wired and rail above and onto his head, the sound of the glass within it shattering echoing above his disorientated scream. Then, with flexibility befitting a spider, she brought her knee and elbow up and down respectively on his forearm as hard as she could, the strength driving them deep into the armor and relinquishing his grip on her as she backed away.
The stale air never seemed like such a relief as she breathed in deep to fight off the tunnel vision that had been setting in. Running over the scenario in her head, there was no victory to be attained at the moment and this battle was to her disadvantage. She had to get out of there.
“AGH!” Smythe howled in frustration as he tore the light off his head and seesawed his head to find her. She had already fled. He clicked his teeth before using the neural connection to issue a remote order to his slayer-bots to find her as he left the stage to track her down. You can run, but you can’t hide.
Jessica took in calming deep breaths as she took refuge in one of the side rooms and barred the door. The window was tinted by the energy field surrounding the building and disturbing the radio, but she knew that Daisy had been aware of where she had been shot down and there had to of been witnesses. The only question was if she could avoid capture until either SHIELD or the police arrived to actually investigate.
Her heartbeat grew as she noticed the heavy footsteps of the armored greave-like boots adorning the self-styled Spider-Slayer. Concern over her lack of a spider-sense made things worse. It felt like her heart would burst from her chest when he stopped at the door…
But the footsteps continued as he walked past the door, not opening it or even touching the handle. Jessica leaned against the side-wall and let loose a deep, silent breath of relief. It had been too close. Okay, I bought myself a few minutes at best to…
Her thoughts trailed off as she heard the light scraping of metal on the wall opposite hers and looked up. The sight of the slayer-bot gazing at her with its soulless lenses set off every alarm in her body as she realized he could have been using it to track her. Not a second later an armored arm broke through the wall and closed in around her throat, placing her in a head lock as it pulled her through the aged wood and drywall material.
“No more games,” Smythe snarled venomously as he bought his other arm around. A nozzle extended from a compartment on his wrist, venting with a loud hiss a spray of acrid gas.
Like hellfire running through her lungs and filling her body with agony, Jessica struggled to seize a breath of fresh as the spray continued and she choked on it. As the seizures started she croaked out a feeble cry while Smythe smiled beneath the visor, watching the display within the inside of it showcased her bio-signs fading. Reaching towards Smythe a final time, her body went limp in his arm and she stopped moving…
Smythe let the body fall like a rag doll and ordered the energy field dropped. A dozen of the slayer-bots crawled in through the crevices and windows to surround her, projecting a new stasis field around her that wrapped her body like a cocoon to transport her to their current base of operations. There the toxins would be purged and she would be properly stored for transport to the island base that had been secured off the books, in order to minimize the chances of escape that so many of the successful projects of Roxxon had managed.
Once the other targets were secured, they would all be shipped off. Then there would be no more Spiders in New York and he would have proven that technology surpassed the limitations of body, that it was the future. All the funds wasted to the super-human development projects would be better spent in his field and his name would be renowned.
All that was left was to capture Spider-Man, Cloak, and Dagger…