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Ultimate Vanguard Chronicles 4

Chapter 4: A Storm Has Come

Note: Time to set up future conflicts and plots, as well as introduce the final member of the current team for the moment.


Unknown Location

Herman Schultz grunted as he put all his effort into tugging at the thin fabric separating him and the identity of Spider-Woman. He failed once more, having tried for the last fifteen minutes to no avail. “The mask just won’t come off!”

Jessica scoffed at the feeble attempt. She could same method she used to cling to walls to keep her mask on indefinitely. Even if he did get her mask off, they’ve never met out of costume so he wouldn’t know who she was. “Do you want to keep trying or should one of the real men give it a try?”

Herman gritted his teeth at the casual lack of respect. It seemed that, even in his new suit, he earned no respect. It pushed his buttons, the hum of his vibro-gauntlets audible as he held one under her chin threateningly. “Say that again. I dare you!”

Frederick Myers set a strong hand on his forearm to draw him away from Jessica. “Don’t let her rile you up. Let the mask stay on, it won’t matter if we know who she is or not once we’re paid.”

“I’m tired of all the disrespect her kind has been giving me,” Herman stated, breaking away from his grip. “Treated as a joke—even when I’ve got her dead-to-rights. I won’t stand for it anymore.”

“Enough!” barked Alistair Smythe as he entered the room, his eyes hidden by the visors of the Spider-Slayer armor. “We cannot damage the specimen. I shall handle the questioning, as you are ill-equipped and are falling for her provocation.”

Herman gave the man a glare, before he turned and walked past him and out the door.

“When do we get paid?” Frederick asked after that. “We caught one, so we should get something, right?”

“As per the client’s orders, the rest of the primary payment comes when the second one is captured as well,” Smythe stated. “Auxiliary if we manage to get the others, including the mutant according to the client’s latest request. Go preoccupy yourself with something else in the meantime until I call for you.”

“Fine, you know my number then,” Frederick ground out before leaving Jessica alone with the man who captured her.

With the other two gone, Jessica glared at the man in front her from behind her mask. “I don’t know who you’re working for, but I hope you don’t think you’re getting away with this.”

Smythe ignored her threat of justice at the hands of a deputized agent of SHIELD and a member of the Ultimates. He crossed his arms and made a demand. “Tell me the identity of Spider-Man and where I will find him and the others in your service.”

“Sure, would you like their cell phone or house phone numbers to go with their address too?” she asked in a tone dripping with sarcasm.

Smythe was neither amused nor dejected. He simply pulled out a jet injector gun, clear fluid swishing in the glass, and pressed it against her arm. Once the trigger was pulled a pressurized jet forced the fluid inside of her with a slight grunt from her lips.

The effects were noticeable instantly as Jessica felt her body warming. “What did you just do to me?”

“You’ve just been injected with QNB-T16,” Smythe said as he put away the jet injector. Jessica’s reaction made it clear she knew what it was. “Yes, a truth serum that your friends at SHIELD are quite familiar with. Even with your natural resilience to foreign elements it will prove effective by nightfall.

“And before you try such a foolish notion as biting through your own tongue…” Smythe trailed off as a slayer-bot emerged from his suit, formed of countless nanites and given a directive. It settled on her chair and released forked tongues of electricity that ran over her body. “That was reverse engineered from a HYDRA stun disk. You’ll barely be able to breathe, let alone attempt any heroic sacrifice of any sort.”

Uhh…“Jessica groaned as her body was paralyzed, muscles forced to relax at the electricity as it overwrote her body’s command to fight against it. She could feel the truth serum working throughout her system as well and could only wonder where he got his hands on new SHIELD and illegal HYDRA tech.

As Smythe departed he passed the other three under his command, Fredrick Myers, Quentin Beck, and Herman Schultz, without a word. As if they weren’t even there. Common crooks with fancy toys weren’t of interest to him, and the sooner they were paid the sooner the partnership was over.

“Damn it!” Herman couldn’t keep the aggravation out of his voice at the slight, no different that his time at Roxxon. He slammed his fist against a wall and walked off.

“Where are you going?” Frederick asked.

“This wasn’t what I signed on for!” Herman exclaimed. “Where’s the respect I deserve? He treats us like one of those bastards at Roxxon, not even worth his time unless he can get something out of us.”

“Calm down,” Frederick said. “We were hired to bring in the kid powers and he’s the sole connection between us and the money. Just take some time and cool your head.”

Herman said nothing as he left the building, fetching a car to drive out into the city.


With Miles

Kate Bishop stared at her vintage wristwatch as she awaited the arrival of her boyfriend outside of the movie theater, purse slung over shoulder. Since he had begun his new job their time together had been somewhat scarce, but she supposed that was something she would get used to. For the moment she was worried that he wouldn’t be able to make it.

Then a pair of arms dressed in the grey fabric of a familiar hoodie wrapped around her waist and she turned her head to see Miles. “You made it.”

Miles Morales gave her a kiss, ignoring the people of various ages passing by before explaining things. “I got off work early and managed to get on the bus in time to reach. Let’s get going.”

Hand-in-hand, the pair entered the theater and gazed upon the display that listed the shows and times. They eventually decided on a romantic comedy and took their seats next to one another as the show began to play. While Kate stared at the movie, Miles found himself staring at her as the hormonal flux of puberty drove him once more.

Leaning in, he kissed her cheek softly to grab her attention and watched as Kate’s brows settled into a soft curve.

“Miles, the movie,” she said, amused more than anything.

He met her amber gaze with an apologetic one. “Sorry, but you know how it is. It’s been a while since we’ve had time like this with the regulations in school. We haven’t even hung out afterwards since I have work.”

“Hmm, is that so?” Kate mused softly, almost a purr, as she traced a finger from his cheek to his lips. The soft ecstasy from the feather-soft caress was only surpassed a split second later as she placed her hand underneath his chin and brought her lips to his.

Euphoria born from the kiss spurred him further on, placating his desires the longer it lasted, until the need for air surpassed limitations. They pulled apart slowly and he had a dazed smile on his face, a sense of serenity overflowing him. “That was nice…”

“Now let’s wait until the movie is done before we do anything else,” she said.

“As you wish,” he replied, tone amicable between wanting another kiss and obeying her request. It was then that his phone vibrated in his pocket and grabbed his attention. While content to enjoy the movie, he noticed the name of the called was Gwen Stacy and felt compelled to answer. “Sorry, but I’m kind of in the middle of something—”

You’ve got to get to St. Patrick’s Cathedral quick!” she cried over the line, fear and nervousness lacing her voice. “There’s some guy with these fire snakes threatening to kill everyone if you don’t show and I don’t know Fury’s number and if—

The hiss of a serpent came over the line with a scream…then it died.


With Gwen Stacy

Gwen Stacy had seen a lot of things in her life, including her own death and rebirth. While she wasn’t big on religion she felt compelled to come with Aunt May to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the very church where they gave Peter his final send off. It was hard, coming to the same place where she said her goodbyes to Peter for good.

Even as strong as she tried to be, she couldn’t help but excuse herself to the bathroom in order to cry to herself. He was her oldest friend and lover, and had been with her through the good times and bad. Then she heard a bunch cries coming from the sanctuary of the church and ran down the foyer until she reached the door, where she peered through a crack.

There was some muscular freak there, fire dancing off of him like serpents, who she heard call himself The Salamander. He was tall and bulky, with hair that was wild and brown and glowing yellow eyes. As if the names and eyes weren’t enough to scream dangerous, all the flaming tattoos over his body and the Aztec serpent one on his chest didn’t help.

Listening in she heard him threatening Aunt May for the identity of the new Spider-Man. May wouldn’t give the kid up, Gwen knew. But it would only be a matter of time before the guy got violent. So she had her phone out the moment flames shaped like snakes appeared and he started threatening the other church-goers to get an answer from her.

So Gwen had no choice but to call him. He could help them, they put their faith in him and he would be able to get there in time or contact SHIELD since this was their department. It rang a few times before the kid answered. “Sorry, but I’m kind of in the middle of something—

“You’ve got to get to St. Patrick’s Cathedral quick!” she cried over the line, fear and nervousness lacing her voice as he turned to see her through the crack in the door and sent a flaming serpent towards her like a flexible spear. “There’s some guy with these fire snakes threatening to kill everyone and I don’t know Fury’s number and if—”

The fiery projectile broke through the doors as she was thrown back, hissing as it swallowed the phone along the way before burning through the exit to the church with ease and starting at fire as Gwen laid there on the ground. As she tried to pull herself to her feet, she found herself facing her attacker. The Salamander lifted her by her neck, massive fingers that could crush her with ease just loose enough to speak.

He brought her face to his and demanded, “Who did you just call?”

“The cops!” she lied. “They’re on their way!”

Estúpido Zorra!” He tossed her through the doors of the sanctuary, burly muscles backed with preternatural strength sending her flying into benches and spraying wood as she barreled through one and landed sprawled out and bleeding while in pain.

The screams of the church-goers grew and Aunt May wasted no time in pulling out her handgun and firing at him for the slight at the girl she had taken in. Gunfire rang out, only to be met with hissing flames as the bullets that met with them were incinerated and the one shot that got through only revealed that the guy bled fire as the wound closed with a small spout of fire.

“It is useless, Vejestorio,” he said, his tone dark as tongues of fire began wafting from his eyes. “I am a Servant of Xiuhcoatl, one who is living fire incarnate. And you? ”

Opened palms gave birth to twins serpents of fire, slithering in the air around the Aztec pyromancer and coiling his body. “You’re about to burn.

To all of the gathered people who trembled in terror or expected the worst, just before he could unleash the serpentine flames, someone else had arrived and set a tense hand on his shoulder. Dressed in a long trench coat, hat, and shades, the mysterious stranger had just entered the church through the broken sanctuary door to confront the man.

“You’re going to pay for that, you oversized bull!” the stranger said, his voice lacking fear or feeling the heat of the flames around him, even as the trench coat caught ablaze. “You hear me? You’re going to pay!”

“I see you are willing to be sacrificed to Xiuhcoatl before The Spider,” said The Salamander as he summoned more of the fire serpents from his flesh. “So be it.”

The serpents of fire vacated his body from every pore and lunged, converging to consume the unknown man as the rest screamed.

Yet the man who stood at the heart of the fire only shouted three words: “FLAME ON, ASSHOLE!”


With Johnny Storm

As the flames of the Aztec Fire Serpent swallowed Johnny Storm, also known as the Human Torch, and burned away the coat that protected his identity, there was a grim expression on his face.

He had just recovered from the events he had been through and came to the city to make amends to the people he left behind and had failed. The first and foremost was Peter Parker, with his family and friends following after. It was natural that he would end up at the church where the funeral had taken place, but he didn’t expect to see two of the women who he lived with for a time there. Not after he simply left Aunt May and the others behind after failing to protect Peter—in fact he made it worse once Osborn absorbed his power.

He always made thing worse, between his father dying to save him during the Ultimatum Wave, Dr. Strange dying as Dormammu used his body as a channel, and then being unable to protect one of his first friends who inspired him into being a hero, who died on the front lawn of the woman who had taken him, Gwen, and Bobby in while in the arms of his girlfriend.

And now? And now some Aztec Fire Dancer wannabe had the audacity to attack them! TO HELL WITH THAT!

FLAME ON, ASSHOLE!” The extra-dimensional energy that warped him from an ordinary human to a mutate had covered him in a thin, microscopic layer of fire-proof plates while his cells generated plasma jets through clean nuclear fusion. Thus he burned along with his rage, a spout of fire bellowing from his outstretched hands. “You got a lotta of nerve attacking them. Pal! And you’re going to burn for it!

The Salamander was barreled by what may as well have been solid flames, carried into the air and through the stained glass windows into the sky.

Aunt May looked at the young man she had taken in once upon a time in shock. “Johnny, is that—”

“Look after Gwen!” he ordered, so she would be safe, as Johnny flew out of the broken window with flames rolling off of him in angry tongues as he pushed past The Salamander, further along into the sky, and then charged a larger flame that he unleashed from above to jet the pyromancer into the ground, followed with a continuous stream.

To his surprise, The Salamander struggled to stand as the asphalt around him melted. Rising to one knee, he then forced himself to stand amongst the flames as though it were no more than a simple shower washing against his skin.

Do you think you can burn The Salamander, boy?!” the burly man shouted, his tone mocking and accent thick. “My fire comes from Xiuhcoatl itself! It is my blood and bone, MY VERY SOUL!

With a howl he was engulfed in a pillar of fire that rose up and swallowed Johnny’s flames as he broke off the stream. The Human Torch then found himself floating before a massive serpent that, once again to his surprise, he couldn’t manipulate. It bit down on him, crashing like a tidal wave of flames upon a stone, and slammed him into the concrete of the sidewalk below.

With a strained breath Johnny rose to his feet again, only for thick flames in the shape of a serpent to coil around his body. He strained to get out of the fetter of flames, but couldn’t. The struggling only made it tighter.

“Your skin may burn hot,” The Salamander admitted as he approached, a devilish grin coming onto his face as the flaming serpent raised the Human Torch up to his eye-level. On his shoulder a burning serpent the size of a garden snake came into existence and fixed its gaze on the hero’s mouth. “But I wonder if you can handle it as the ‘Kiss of Xiuhcoatl’ sends its flame down your throat and caresses your lungs and heart, boils your blood, and turns your bones to ashes.”

THWIP!

The Salamander had maybe a second after feeling the web-line attach itself to his head. Then he was given a one-way trip into a lamppost, bending the hollow metal down as he crashed upon it.

Johnny Storm looked up to see the black-and-red spandex of the newest Spider-Man, who turned to him and said, “Umm…sorry I was late.”


With Miles

Don’t let me be late, don’t let me be late, don’t let me be late, Miles thought over and over as he crossed the skyline of the city. It was fourteen miles between Brooklyn and Manhattan, twenty-eight minutes driving. Miles had superhuman speed, agility, and stamina, on top of traveling on webs. Miles could only pray that it was fast enough.

He hoped that Kate would let him explain why he left at the theater in the middle of the movie. Lives were at stake he feared. He also hoped he could think of an excuse to give her later that sounded believable, perhaps an emergency with his dad?

Of course, such thoughts were driven away as he witnessed the firefight in the front of the St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The Human Torch, who he knew about from some independent research, had just taken flight and surpassed the guy who was smoldering and still rising, only to hit him with a stream of fire that forced him down to earth from a distance and poured on the flames. The other guy then stood up unharmed and yelled something, before the cascading flames were swallowed by a gigantic snake of even more flames, which then devoured the Human Torch and slammed him into the ground.

“Okay, I’m starting to feel inadequate here,” Miles said to himself as he angled the web-line, snagged the guy, and gave him a little trip into a lamppost. He then landed in crouch in front of the Human Torch and tried to think of something to say. The best he could was, “Umm…sorry I was late.”

“You the new kid?” Johnny asked.

“Yeah,” Miles said as he looked at the flaming serpent coiled around the flaming young man, which hiss at him. It was as if it were daring him to try something. “Now, how do I get this thing off…?”

“I got it. Take a couple steps back,” Johnny said as he turned up the heat. Flames swelled and expanded into a sphere, courtesy of lessons from his sister. The serpent was forced off and dispersed into embers with a dying hiss. He stood up and turned his gaze to The Salamander, who was pulling himself out of the wreck of a street lamp and fixed his eyes on Miles.

“I have come to deliver a message, Spider,” he declared, arches of fire dancing like jumping snakes from shoulder-to-shoulder. “You have struck a blow against us, interfering with our compatriot and our goals for this city. For that, you and everyone you care about will burn.”

“Uh, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who would hang with you,” Miles quipped, firing blasts of impact webbing. “Fire hazard and all, pretty bad for the suit until they get the fire-proof ones ready. Present company excluded.”

The lashing serpents of flames devouring the webbing before they could touch him or fully expand. “I speak of The Scorpion, whom you did battle with last year.”

It came back to Miles after a second, Maximus Gargan, the criminal who sought to be the new Kingpin of Crime and had a beef with his uncle. “Oh, the guy with tattoos all over his body, tall and built like a truck, managed to hit me hard enough in the face to see stars?”

“His loss at your hands was a disgrace to us all”—at this point multiple snakes of flames rose up like a hydra with The Salamander as the main body, their hisses a choir of malevolence—”and I am the one who shall light your funeral pyre, Spider.”

“Light this!” Johnny cut in, a stream of red hot flames pouring from his outstretched hands. The flames did little to stop The Salamander as he walked forward unflinchingly.

“We have come for you,” The Salamander declared. “There is no escape from what you have coming. VETE AL INFIERNO!

At that last outburst the hydra lunged, ten snapping jaws of flames that swooped down in an effort to make morsels of the Human Torch and Spider-Man. Spider-Sense blared as Miles ducked and dive out of the way of the constantly lashing heads. Plasma-jets fueled by clean nuclear fusion burned even hotter from the Human Torch’s hands, severing the pyromancer’s flames with his own, only for more heads to spout.

Seeing no end unless he burned hot enough to snuff out The Salamander’s flames all at once, Johnny told Miles to get clear before he went as hot as he could without killing everyone around him by blazing with the heat of the sun. Glass shattered, the crackling of superheated asphalt and concrete melting ringing out as the burning gold color overtook everything else until the hydra was swallowed inside what looked to be a tiny star.

Johnny fell to his knees as he withdrew his flames, the task done and him spent. He thought it was over. That’s why he didn’t notice The Salamander’s overwhelming figure in the shimmering haze of burning air, eyes ablaze with fire.

“Look out!” Miles yelled, too little too late, as a snake of fire engulfed Johnny and jetted towards Miles. The flames then ruptured in an explosion that set the area around them ablaze.

The Salamander to a deep breath as he causally strolled towards the scene and approached what should have been the charred corpse of the young men…only to see a cocoon of webbing. “What in—”

A black latex hand extended out of the cocoon and made contact with his flesh, unleashing a point-blank Venom Blast. Bio-electricity danced with arcs of lightning, tearing at his muscles just enough to make him kneel. Miles leapt into a strong kick that was thrust like a spear, leaving the unconscious form of Johnny Storm in the rest of the webbing as he pressed the attack.

Punches were laced with bio-electricity, his stored reserves expended in order to bring the massive enemy down. Even if his charges were stronger than a year ago, the punches had little effect on the skin that seemed almost unbreakable. When The Salamander finally lashed back with a wild swing, he caught Miles and sent him careening into a parked van.

The impact shattered the glass as the metal frame was dented from the human projectile slamming into it with the same force of a car crash. Without his super-human endurance he would have been killed. Miles let out a groan of pain as he pulled himself away from the metal that was now dented, and sighed. “Man, what is with the skin on you guys! Is it in the water where you come from?”

“Your end has come Spider,” The Salamander declared, his body starting to sweat flames once more.

Miles looked around to see a fire hydrant nearby and lunged towards it as the fiery snake consumed the twisted metal that was once a vehicle. He slammed his fist down on the hydrant and water spouted out in a jet stream, bending before his hands as he angled it to the man on fire.

The Salamander howled as it battered him, the agony in his face clear as Johnny Storm awoke in the bed of webs. Seeing the effect, Johnny let loose a searing blaze from his hands that melted the end of the hydrant on the opposite of The Salamander and doubled the amount of water crashing into him until they both stopped flowing with the same amount of force and The Salamander was on his hands and knees.

He struggled to get onto his feet until he saw a shadow cast over him and looked up to see the new Spider-Man looking down at him through those white lenses. “You think a little water can stop what you have coming? You will burn!

“Fun fact:”—bio-electricity jumped between Miles’ hands at this point—”water reduces skin resistance to electricity to near nothing, being such an awesome conductor and all.”

This time The Salamander screamed as the Venom Blast did the trick and put him down for good, leaving Miles and Johnny gasping for breath with rescue service sirens in the distance and Aunt May approaching.

Johnny banished his flames and Miles forced his tired body to stand straight as he apologized. The guy was looking for him by going after them. It was his fault in his mind. “Miss Parker, I am so sorry about everything. This was my fault and—”

Miles was cut off when Aunt May embraced him and Johnny. “I’m glad you boys are okay!”

“How’s Gwen doing?” Johnny asked.

“She says she’s fine other than her back hurting,” Aunt May told them. The sound of ambulances, police, and fire trucks closing in was louder now. “I imagine you both have other things to do and don’t want to see the police at the moment to avoid complicating things. We’ll talk later, yes?”

They nodded and Miles applied a thick layer of webbing over the unconscious body of The Salamander. They then took to the air with Miles tapping the communication device in his ear to report and have SHIELD agents assist in the arrest and to take The Salamander somewhere more secure than a regular holding cell.

It was then he received an order from Daisy to return to base and to bring Johnny with him.


At Base

“I’m going to the infirmary” Miles said as he pulled off his mask, now safe and secure in the underground base foyer. “I got a few burns and after that I need to get a new costume since this one is half melted in some points.”

“Wait!” Johnny claimed as he walked up to Miles and offered him a hand. “If May and Gwen are letting you run around using that name, I think I can trust you to keep Peter’s legacy alive.”

Miles shook his hand and then made for the infirmary, where inside there was an assortment of machinery designed to provide substantial healthcare to the underage heroes. Artemis ushered him onto a bed and proceeded to apply a medicinal paste to the injuries and bandages to patch them. His own metabolism held a faster recovery rate, but until then it would suffice.

It was then the vibrating of his phone told him of an incoming call and, upon viewing the name on the Caller I.D., Miles answered. “What’s wrong, Ganke?”

Dude, I just saw the video of your team-up with the Human Torch!” he exclaimed, the excitement in his voice apparent even over the line. “He’s part of the Fantastic Four before they broke up—tell me you can get an autograph?

“Youtube?” he asked. Ganke confirmed someone took a video with their phone. “I was kind of busy trying not to get eaten by a giant fiery snake of death to ask for one…Ganke, that guy was looking for me.”

There was surprised sound from him throat before he asked again. “What…? Why?

“Says it was over The Scorpion last year,” Miles said. “He attacked Gwen Stacy and May Parker to try and figure out who I was.”

Doesn’t SHIELD watch over them or something?

“I thought so, but I’ll have to ask Jessica about it. I haven’t seen her since before I went on a date with—Oh crap!” Miles shot up and winced as the burns on his back ached. “I left Kate at the theater!”

Miles could swear Ganke was shaking his head over the line. “Oh dude, what excuse did you give her when you left?

He rubbed the back of his head. “I told her I had to use the bathroom….”

The sound of a face-palm could be heard over the line.


With Johnny Storm

Johnny watched as Miles left, before turning his attention to base that they had to work out of. He would admit it was nice and he wanted to take a tour, but the sound of shoes on the hard floor took precedence. Three people were approaching, one brunette, one blond, and one dude dressed in a cloak with glowing eyes.

To his surprise the brunette was on the warpath as she approached him and grabbed him by the collar. “What are you doing here?!”

“Umm…” Johnny tried to recall what he could have done to offend her, but it honestly escaped him. “Have we met?”

“It’s me you damn idiot, Bombshell—Lana Baumgartner!” she reminded him. “You and Spider-Woman got me and my mother arrested. Then we went to school together when you were Johnny-fucking-Parker!”

Johnny snapped his fingers at the recollection. “Oh, right! You look different. No hard feelings about me human-torching you? How were things with that ‘Poey’ guy?”

“I grew my hair out, that’s part of the reason I’m here now, and we broke up,” she rattled off in order. “More importantly, you lied to me about who you were and vanished with Bobby without a word after Peter died!”

Johnny rubbed the back of his head apologetically. “I’m sorry about that. Things were moving so fast and we felt guilty about everything. It didn’t feel right after all that happened to stay there. I came back to apologize to all the people I hurt and that includes you and Jessica too.”

While this was going on Tyrone whispered a question to Tandy. “Exactly how many heroes went to your school?

I’ve lost count,” she said, already lamenting that her school would be forever known as the school that Spider-Man went to and now this.

“Can we save the fraternizing for another time?” Daisy told them, stepping out of the conference room. “There’s something important you all need to know. Johnny Storm, you already have clearance due to an arrangement made by Nick Fury and Sue Storm, so please join us.”

Lana huffed as she let him go and stormed into the conference room at Daisy’s ushering them all in, as well as Miles once he came from the corridor leading to the Infirmary looking troubled.

With everyone set around the table she began the debriefing as, from behind her, a silver-colored device of sorts hovered. “This morning, after a training session with Morales, Jessica Drew was attacked and kidnapped. We used these remote controlled quadcopter modules invented by the tech-boys at SHIELD to comb the Opera house and surrounding are to pick apart the crime scene for anything that would give us a clue as to what transpired there. So far they had managed to paint a picture and it was not pretty.”

Pressing a button on the table console pulled up a 3-D rendition of a metal boomerang, the one that cut through her webbing, and the projection device. “From the shrapnel we reconstructed what looked to be a boomerang, similar to one that matches an attack on the police transport that was carrying Herman Schultz, aka Shocker. We believe it is the work of a criminal named Frederick Myers, also known as Boomerang, and the projection device is one of Quentin Beck’s, whom Morales is familiar with as Mysterio. In addition, the damage done to the site where she went missing on impact is consistent with the damage done by Shocker’s weapons, only magnified. Lastly, there was the presence of Ethyl Chloride along with several other chemicals, and remnants of what looked to be nanotechnology.

“From these we concluded that there were at least four members involved in this surgical strike,” Daisy stated, pulling up the profiles and mug shots of Shocker, Mysterio, and Boomerang on the screen. “These three are confirmed and the last is unknown. It is assumed that their objective was to capture Spider-Woman from the beginning, but for what purpose is unknown.”

“So what are the chances that they’ve left her alive?” Lana asked half-heartedly. “All of these guys have beef with the original Spider-Man and Spider-Woman. They’ve got her in their palms now. If it were me I’d at least work her over.”

Johnny tensed at the thought, ready to give an outburst, when Daisy spoke. “Fairly well, actually, if I had to hazard a guess. They would have killed her on the spot if they were making a statement. That’s the good news.”

“If that’s the good news, then what’s the bad!?” Johnny all but yelled.

“These three are out there together,” Daisy said. “The last time this sort of thing happened Peter Parker was killed and I find it difficult to believe someone would orchestrate a plan to take out someone with the same basic powers as Morales and be satisfied with getting only one. Taking her alive means I cannot rule out the chance she will be tortured or drugged into giving up sensitive information that could be used to identify everyone here…”

Daisy trailed off as she placed a hand to her ear, where a communication device rested. “It would appear Herman Schultz is attacking a bank at this moment according to one of our police contacts. He’s gained some kind of suit resistant to bullets and his gauntlets seemed to have been upgraded…he’s overwhelming the police.”

“Then let’s go get him!” Johnny stated. “We take the guy, pour on the heat, and make him tell us where they’ve taken her!”

Daisy gave him a sharp look. “We need a plan before we just rush in. Going into things too hot-headed will only make the situation worse and none of you are ready to handle another villain team-up, not to mention you and Morales can’t be in optimal condition after the last attack less than an hour ago. So we do it this way.

“Morales, Baumgartner, Bowen, and Johnson, suit up and go assist the police and crowd control, focus on averting casualties and try to get the information out of him. Storm, you’re going to stay airborne and center yourself between the site and the base so once we’ve attained her location you can move in and throw up a flare so Cloak can retrieve her fast enough to avoid conflict. Ideally we do this fast and hard before they know what hit them, retrieve Jessica, and then allow SHIELD agents to move in and capture the others.

“Now, move out.”


End Note: The Salamander is from Issue #2 of the Scarlet Spider 2012 Comic Series. It felt like such a waste of a villain for the series to be canceled and, considering that The Scorpion was in the Ultimate Comics, I figured I could use them in the future plot.

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