Pitchmas 2021, Part 4: Spider-Women: Edge of the Spider-Verse

I think we open on Miles Morales for a prologue. He’s listening to music, walking to school; he attends the same school as Peter Parker did. He walks by an alley, and we see, in shadow, a hulking figure. He’s bearded, and looks disheveled enough he passes as homeless, for the moment. Miles glances back at him, experiencing his very first Spider-Sense. He rubs his temple, and gets some painkiller out of his backpack, and continues walking. There’s another alley. This time, the figure is there before Miles, waiting. Just as Miles is about to cross the threshold of the alley, he’s snatched up by Ghost Spider, sometimes called Spider-Gwen or Spider-Woman. She swings him to a nearby rooftop. Miles is surprised, but trying to play it cool. “So you got the powers, and nobody thought to get you some webshooters, a costume, maybe a little self-defense training?” she asks him.

“I’ve been working on my costume,” Miles says a little sullenly. He might just pull out his sketchbook.

“Yeah, no offense intended, kid. Your Spider-Man should have handled this. Spider-Woman? Whatever it is you’ve got here.”

“Actually,” Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew, in the red and yellow, lands beside her, “we though it best to leave Miles alone. Let him have a chance at a normal life. And we keep an eye on him.”

“Shoot, was it your day?” Julia Carpenter swing in, in the black and white Spider-Woman costume, landing besides Jess.

“I was in the neighborhood,” Jess says. “And the arrangement’s still new. Especially when I couldn’t raise Spider-Man…”

“He’s still missing?” Silk asks, landing beside Jess. “That’s worrying.”

“Is that everybody?” Ghost Spider asks.

“Unless Arachne’s cutting class again,” Julia says, and they wait a moment, before deciding she isn’t coming after all.

“Wonderful. This actually saves time. I’m Gwen Stacy. But not your Gwen Stacy.” She takes off her mask. Now, for my money, I’d say it’s worth springing for Emma Stone, and really, she deserves it after troopering through the two Amazing movies. “I’m here, from an alternate dimension, because anyone with Spider-related powers is being hunted, and across universes Miles is a pretty prime target. He rarely has the kind of experience under his belt that would let him survive the attack- and I’ve seen seasoned Peter Parkers fall to the Inheritors. Ones with symbiotes, ones in Iron Man armor. I cried the day they killed Spider-Thor, because, if even he was vulnerable…

“But we’re spiders. We live to fight another day. So first things first, anyone who you know or think has powers that fit, you should bring. Lady Spider’s developed, well, these things,” she rolls up her sleeve to reveal a big, chunky bit of steam punk wrist tech. “The inheritors are… bloodhounds. They can smell us. This messes with their ability to track us. Not terribly fashionable, but it goes better with my outfit than a big bloody hole through the chest.”

“No,” Spider-Woman says. “I’ll go with you. They take Mile someplace safe. If you seem on the level, we’ll meet back up. If you’re not, I’ve only put my head in the snare.”

“We don’t have time to pussy-foot around.”

“Lady, I don’t know you from Eve, and I get traps instead of breakfast every morning, so we’re doing it my way. But if you’re so concerned, give them your little cloaking doohickey.”

“It will only hide one of them.”

“Or only let your people track one of them. Volunteer?” Julia puts up her hand, and Ghost Spider tosses her the device. “You get any static, and you split off. Lead whoever it is away from Silk and Miles, then ditch the doodad.”

The others swing off, with Miles hanging off of Silk’s neck. Ghost Spider asks about her origins, that she’s very take-charge, military? “SHIELD, back in the day. I volunteered for an experiment. They told me it was a vitamin supplement; apparently it was the blood of some kid vigilante in New York.”

“Spider-Man?”

“That’s always been my guess. I thought, since the experiment was being run by my parents, I could trust them, but they also didn’t tell me they were secretly working for Hydra all along. Hydra used them; threatened to expose them as double-agents if I didn’t join them. Some of the time, I could not tell you where my true loyalties were. As a result, I was always playing everyone, and the only person whose side I knew I was on was my own. I got exceptionally good at reading liars, and if you lie to me, even once, I’ll snap your neck just like ‘my’ Gwen and drop you off a bridge.” (Note: So far as I know, MCU Gwen is alive and well…. But I love this line enough I’m leaving it in anyway, even if it would need to be changed- though I suppose it’s possible this Jess is from an alternate world).

Ghost Spider and Spider-Woman head back to the their base. Jess meets Lady Spider, a steam-punk Spider-Woman who is nearly as technophilic as Tony Stark. She gives Gwen another cloak; Spider-Woman declines the one offered to her, and wants more information.

Gwen tells her story. She was bit by the Spider, Peter continued working with Dr. Connors, in part trying to save her from DNA that he was worried would kill Gwen. An Inheritor shows, Morlun. Peter’s experiments have turned him into the Lizard, and he stands between Morlun and Gwen; Morlun goes through him. Morlun is making short work of Gwen when Lady Spider shows, giving Gwen a cloak that also acts as a transporter, and they’re able to escape.

Meanwhile, an inheritor attacks the three other Spider-People, knocking Miles off of Silk’s back. Julia swings away, trying to lead him off. We follow her, and a moment later hear “Julia,” forcefully in her mind. It startles her enough she bobbles her swing.

“Madame Web what-”

“There’s no time, child. You must return to Silk, or he’ll consume them both.”

“But-”

“No time!” Web says more forcefully, and Julia turns, and is surprised not to see Morlun chasing her.

“Where the hell?”

Morlun made a bee-line for Miles. Silk swing into him, and he backhands her into a dumpster, and lifts Miles up. “I do so love the flavor of young spiders,” Morlun says, “before their first swing under their own steam- like a veal calf.”  

Julia returns, surprising Morlun (who is largely blind to her presence unless she’s in his sight-line), swinging into him, smashing him painfully into a brick wall; the force spider-webs the wall. Julia helps Silk and Miles to their feet, and they square towards Morlun, who is already struggling to his feet. “We can take him together,” Julia says.

“No,” Madame Web says forcefully, her likeness flashing in the sky behind them, and they all react, all of them hearing her this time, “you cannot. Flee, or you will surely perish.”

Julia throws a glowing purple psychic net around Morlun, and Cindy sprays him with web fluid, then they run.

Back at the Lady Spider’s lair, Madame Web emerges. She is an older, white-haired woman, with a cloth across her eyes. She looks pretty much like Aunt May from the comics; I’d probably go so far as to make her an alternate dimension Aunt May, one where Peter gave her a transplant to save her after an attack, which attuned her to the web and the weaver. “What do you know of totems?” she asks.

Spider-Woman is defiant; she’s had a lifetime of people manipulating her, and scaring her, and she doesn’t move easily. “Wooden. Kind of creepy. Tend to congregate in poles.”

“Save your venom for our foes, Jessica,” Web says.

“Just who the hell are you?” Jess asks, taken aback by the reveal of her identity.

“Madame Web,” Julia says from the door.

“Julia,” Web’s tone softens. “I’m so heartened that you’re safe.”

“We’re hardly safe,” Silk says, winded. “That monster was hot on our trail.”

Web cocks her head. “He will not attack here- not yet. He will need time to heal his injuries- though that will provide but a moment’s reprieve.”

“Another lair bites the dust,” Gwen says. “I’ll start packing the essentials.”

“Wait,” Web interrupts. “Morlun knows where we are. But does that make this his trap, or ours?”

“Are they prepared for the fight that’s coming?” Lady Spider asks.

“They will have no choice but to…” Web stops, “wait. Where’s Mattie?”

“Mattie?” Miles asks.

“Mattie Franklin,” Web says. “Arachne.”

“Does everyone but me have a name and a costume?”

“Madame Web’s wearing more robes than a costume,” Julia offers.

“They’re comfy,” Web says. “You can’t expect a woman my age to flit about in drafty spandex.”

“Hey!” Jess snaps her finger, “what about Maddie?”

“Morlun knows of her. She’s in danger.”

We cut to a classroom. We’re going to hover over a young girl who’s about the right age, even though, subtly, there’s an empty seat.

Morlun smashes his way inside, caving in a window and the wall surrounding it. He picks up the teacher and screams, “Where is Franklin!” Timidly, a young boy’s hand goes up, shaking more the higher he raises it in the air. “Martha Franklin!” Morlun yells.

“Mattie’s home sick with a chest cold. She sounded awful in her message. I emailed her work so she could keep up.”

Morlun looks at him like he’s the true monster (because seriously, if we don’t lean into at least a little comedy, here, this Spider-Verse stuff can get real dark). “You sent work to a sick child?” Morlun disdainfully flings the teacher and we cut to the Spider-Women swinging through the city. They’re all wearing the cloaking devices.

“You’re sure we didn’t just voluntarily strap bombs to ourselves?” Jess asks.

“I don’t know what it does,” Julia says, “but it seemed to make it harder for Morlun to know I was there. And I trust Web.”

“I don’t. And I trust you less for keeping her from me.”

“She’s not picking up,” Cindy says. “Which could mean she’s in class. Or the bathroom. Or ditching. Or talking to a boy. Or patrolling.”

“I thought we were going to slip a tracker into her costume,” Julia says.

“We have. She keeps finding them, and taping them to pigeons.”

Gwen chortles, and they all land on a rooftop together, where they stare at her. “Okay, I get why right now it’s not that funny… but it is pretty funny.”  

“This isn’t getting us anywhere,” Jess says, punching a wall. “Our only advantage right now is that there are more of us than there are of him.”

“Yeah, I’ve seen that movie,” Silk says. “As soon as we split up, the slutty one dies first- sorry, Jess.”

“Feels a little pot calling the kettle black,” Spider-Woman says.

“She’s not wrong,” Lady Spider communicates with them over their cloaking devices. “Franklin could be anywhere inside a triangle from her home, to her school, to your meeting place.” A hologram projects a map of part of the city, along with a triangle. “From there, I’ve mapped likely patrol routes, factoring in her height, vantage points, securing webbing anchors. If you split into two teams, you can maximize the chances of finding Mattie before Morlun, without spreading our forces so thin he can isolate and overwhelm us.”

“I’m going with Ghost Spider,” Spider-Woman says. “I still don’t trust these people. You two watch each other’s backs.”

Madame Web finally gets to have her Totem talk; depending on whether the telepathy FX are more jarring or the communicator ones, she’ll use the less obtrusive method of communication. “What do any of you know of totems?”

“Animals that are symbols of great power?” Julia offers.

“And responsibility?” Silk asks.

“Precisely. Totems are… animal heroes, similar in concept to the demigods of Greece. Have you ever wondered why so many of Spider-Man’s foes are animalistic? Rhino. Vulture. Lizard. Octopus. Rabbit. Armadillo. Gibbon. The Spider-Totem, which all of you are connected to, is the most important, because they are connected to the web between realities- the same web we traversed to your world, and the same web the inheritors use to stalk their prey.”

“And let me take a wild stab,” Jess says, “that Spider-Totems are their prey.”

“Indeed. Their name they chose because they view themselves as the Inheritors of all things, conquerors on a scale that would make Alexander look like Wilson Fisk and his petty empire. They consume all totems, but they hunt us for sport, because of a prophecy, that the spiders would be their undoing. 

“Great,” Jess responds. “So how do we stop them?”

“The prophecy… was incomplete. It speaks of a Scion, a Bride, and an Other. It would seem they hail from your world- which is why the Inheritors have, until now, refused to come here. They assumed that unless disturbed, your world would remain oblivious of the Web, until your Spider-Man stumbled across it.”

“You’re saying Spider-Man found it?” Jess said. “Did something happen to him?”

“I believe he crossed the Web into another world, at once garnering the Inheritor’s attention, and showing them that your world was less guarded than it had ever been- and might ever be again.”

“So you’re saying you didn’t bring Morlun down on us, you followed him here?”

“Yes,” Lady Spider cuts in. “My tech is crude, but it was able to detect Morlun’s arrival on your world. The prophecy has been the only thing holding the Inheritors back; it made the Inheritors cautious, deliberate. They’ve culled tens of thousands of Spider-Totems across realities; I shudder to imagine what they would do unhindered.”

We cut to a rooftop, hanging off from a slightly peculiar angle. Below, we see Mattie Franklin, Arachne, swing by. Three seconds later, Morlun bounds after her, closing the distance.

Subtly, there is a webbed foot in the foreground (I want this so subtle most people don’t see it on first viewing). We cut in close, Mattie swinging by, as she’s tackled mid-air by Morlun. She uses his momentum against him, rolling him over her body and flinging him into a wall as she lands gracefully on a fire escape.

Morlun leaps at her, faster than she expected, and they crash together down into a rooftop with him on top of her. The impact is brutal enough she coughs blood, which Morlun wipes from her lip and tastes. “The blood of young spiders is always so invigorating.” We start to hear a car alarm going off; it’s distant enough it sounds like it must be on the street, at first, but it’s getting louder, until an entire damn taxi cab bounces into Morlun, smashing him into a water tower. Spider-Girl lands gracefully behind it, and grabs up Mattie and swings off. This Spider-Girl, for the uninitiated, wears a costume very similar to Peter’s, but obviously, tailored to a lady. 

“Since when does Spider-Man have boobs?” Mattie asks.

“Since he got old and flabby. But I’m Spider-Girl- Mayday Parker. His daughter. From the future.”

“Cool.”

“Now Mattie, I’m going to throw you as hard as I can; Uncle Wolverine called it a fastball special.”

“Who?”

“You’ll love him when you meet him; everyone loves Logan, he’s an angry little teddy bear. But when I throw you? Swing away, okay? My friends will be here any minute, and we’ll take care of Morlun; we  know how to deal with him, and I don’t want you getting hurt.”

Spider-Girl throws her, before swinging back towards the roof where she left Morlun. “Where the?” her line is cut off as he attacks her from behind. He’s fast, brutal. She fights like a Spider-Person, but he’s personally killed hundreds of them. She’s outmatched, and the fight doesn’t last long. He pins her against a wall, his arm across her throat as he leans into her (personally, I’d remove the ‘psychic’ part of their vampirism and just make them drink blood, but whatever the mechanism, he’s leaning in for the kill, when he’s kicked from behind, and when his head hits the wall it’s webbed in place. Spider-Girl collapses to the ground. Morlun reaches up to tear through the webbing, only for that hand to get webbed to the back of his head, then the other when he reaches up to tear through that webbing.

“Not the sharpest tool in the belt, is he?” Arachne asks. Spider-Girl, wheezing, peels back her mask enough for blood to dribble out of her mouth. “Gross.” Arachne is shaken, but trying to keep up the Spider-patter, because it’s always worked for Peter, and she’s trying to be strong. “Your friends are right around the corner, May? Come on. We’re all heroes, here; don’t expect me not to recognize a heroic sacrifice when I see one.”

Morlun screams, tearing the chunk of wall he was webbed to away, shredding through the webbing in the process. “Two for the price of one? I’m starting to feel like a glutton.”

“Actually,” Ghost Spider lands beside Mattie, “her friends were right around the corner.”

Spider-Woman, Silk and Julia Carpenter all land with them, “And so were yours,” one of them says.

The Spider-Women wail on Morlun for a bit; it’s still a brutal fight, as he’s able to bloody most of them in the process, as Madame Web helps Spider-Girl slink away to safety. Morlun tries to flee, but is stopped by the arrival of Lady Spider. She prevents him from using his tech to call home, before stabbing him through each limb with her metal arms. He shoves himself towards her, willing to stab himself four times over so long as he can get close. She splays her metal arms, tearing his flesh (I imagine, for the desired rating, this will likely have to be done in silhouette, or perhaps just from reactions shots of whichever Spider person feels the most innocent).

“Damnit,” Gwen says, kicking an air conditioner.

“We needed him alive,” Lady Spider says.

“Why?” Jess asks. She’s not squeamish about a monster killing itself.

“Because the Inheritors have beaten death,” Web says. We cut to their spire on Loomworld, then inside, to row upon row of clones. Most are hidden by mist/fog, but we can make out the row of Morlun clones. “When they die, their consciousness is sent to their clone matrix; if you can capture one alive, you can remove them from the board. But if they die… they are reborn.” One of the clones opens his eyes, as his pod opens up.

“They’ll just keep coming, until we’re all dead,” Spider-Girl says, haunted by her near-death experience.

“Mayday!” Web scolds.

May shakes her head. “Sorry. Got my bell rung harder than it’s ever been.” Web touches her face gingerly.

“It’s understandable to be afraid; only a fool would not be. But we are Spiders, and not so easily cowed.”

Now… depending on runtime, you could end it there, as a lead-in for next year’s Spider-Verse. But I’m just going to assume we’re a little too light, and could use one final action set-piece. Plus, it’s more dramatic to have the Spider-Women, now much the worse for wear, have to take on a refreshed Inheritor- it ups the ante considerably.

I’d probably stick to Morlun’s perspective for this scene. He warps back into our world, and travels to their headquarters, able to smell them. From the neighboring rooftop, he’s able to see, in a red and blue vision that’s almost like thermal, nine red orbs, all connected by a web, and all looking like spiders as a consequence.

Morlun crashes in. He fights brutally, shooting for quick, maximum damage, mowing through the Spider-Women, who go down with just enough fight to be convincing… but only just (think Hulk vs. Thanos at the beginning of Infinity War). Morlun is heaving, but triumphant. But he pauses. He scans around the room. “I felt nine of you.” We can see that there are only eight down, including Madame Web. “But now I only see eight.”

“About that,” Miles says from Morlun’s back, suddenly appearing (Miles, for those of you who don’t know, can become invisible), wearing his black and red costume, and hitting Morlun with the full force of his venom blast in the head.

The Spider-Women start to get up, their worse injuries melting away, to reveal Julia and Madame Web had used their telepathy to convince Morlun he was doing more damage than he actually was. They beat on him, a stream of fists and kicks, more even than he can rally from, culminating in a stream of leaping punches that put him on the ropes, with every single one of them getting in at least one good lick, before Lady Spider says, “Legs.” Spider-Girl and Julia use webbing and psychic webs to bolt his feet to the floor. “Arms.” Two spider-people each grab one of his arms and restrain him, with Lady Spider levering her metal appendages to break Morlun’s arm.

“Tooth,” Web says.

Gwen reaches into his mouth and tears out of one his teeth, before dropping it; it cracks on the floor, spilling liquid out. “You’re not swallowing cyanide this time, asshole.” Even wounded, even with one arm broken, it takes all of them to wrestle him into a metal straight-jacket with a clamp over the mouth.

Once he’s sealed inside, Lady Spider yells, “Clear,” and they all step back. She hits a button on her gauntlet, and a jolt of electricity travels through Morlun. He tries to fall, but his legs are held in place, so he just kind of sags. Lady Spider hits another button, and we zoom in to the collar, where little needles jab into Morlun’s neck. His eyes roll up into his head and he goes limp, starting to fall forward. One of them webs his back, so he doesn’t fall forward; last thing they need is his leg breaking and slicing his femoral artery. They carry him into a modified metal shipping container. It has a drain, and a sprinkler system. Lady Spider hooks him to an umbilical tub. “The clamp will keep him fed, sedated and hydrated; the umbilical keeps it charged and supplied. If I have a free moment, maybe I’ll design similar to deal with his waste, but for now that’s why there’s a drain.”

“Gross,” Mattie says.

They have a pow-wow. Lady Spider tells them they’ve struck a blow, and a significant one; they’ve never taken an Inheritor alive before. But it’s also a minor victory, in a war they’ve been losing on every front- a war they’ve all just been recruited into.

“Um, excuse me?” a familiar voice says. We do a reverse shot, all of the Spider-Women clustered together since there’s nine of them to fit in one shot, and opposite them is Spider-Man, alone in the doorway, the same rough amount of space alotted to him in the shot as any one of them in the reverse (playing up how relatively alone he is in that moment). Attached to his finger is a sticky note (get it?) with the words, “Spider-Man, come quickly” on the front (there’s an address on the back but we don’t need to see that). “I think somebody was looking for me.”

Cut to credits.

Mid-credits scene: There’s a pounding on the door. A web-gloved hand opens it, and we see an older Dr. Strange is outside, winded. “I need to see Peter.” We keep old man Peter offscreen, mostly because Tom Holland is going to look weird in old man make-up. “I’ve checked it and rechecked it, and Peter, if your son stays here, with you, you die. Your wife dies. Your daughter dies. And he dies. Followed swiftly by every other Spider Totem in existence. Peter Parkers across the multi-verse, Gwen Stacies, MJs, Miles Moraleses, Miguel O’Hara’s, May Parkers.”

“Will I ever see my son again?” he asks from offscreen.

“That’s a difficult question to answer, Peter, because this threat is going to happen across all realities at once, all timelines. It is a crisis across infinity; I don’t know if any of us will live to see the end of it.”

End-credits scene: We see the spire on Loomworld again. This time we even throw in a title, “Loomworld, Earth 001.” It’s possible, at this point, that we won’t have cast the Inheritors. Any we have, can be in this scene, but we hear the patriarch, Solus, arguing with one of them about Morlun. Solus isn’t happy; Morlun went against him in going to the MCU, risked the entire family. But he also won’t stomach a Totem holding his kin hostage. Karn is an easy one to include, since all you need is to design the mask and shove an intern inside. We pan across a fancy board room table as the arguing commences, before we see a strange combination of Victorian era dress clothes, and an intimidating looking mask.

“Karn, I want you to track down your wayward brother for me, and kill every spider you find.” Karn seizes his trademark two-pronged fork (a bident?), and we cut.

Nexus 3, Chapter 19

Sam was still holding our daughter, still sleeping peacefully. Elle had asked me to crawl into her bed with her, and hold her; nothing sexual, just… holding her.

“I think… I think the reason things worked with Sam for as long as they did was because she never saw you as competition. She didn’t care that I loved you- that just meant that she loved you, too. I could be with Sam without denying the parts of me that loved you, even needed you, needed to be able to imagine our life together, or children together.”

“You might want to think twice on that one; I’m not sure I want a replay of what just happened. Ever. With anyone.”

“I know. I’m not writing any checks your body would have to cash. The point is, I think with Sam I could be who I needed to be.”

“And now?”

“It feels like that’s changed. That the parts of who I need to be are at odds, maybe even at war. I don’t know how to make peace with destroying what we’ve had.” Elle started to shift. She’d done this before, wanting to look me in the eye, really feel how what she said landed. But she wasn’t still swollen from pregnancy, with the pair of us sandwiched into a bed that wasn’t really meant to accommodate two adults spooning, let alone anything more acrobatic.

The earnestness in her eyes made it simple enough for me to set aside my own amusement. “That’s why you need to let us go,” she said, and the words landed like a body in a quiet hall. “The next pod. There’s a window coming in a couple weeks. Right now, you’re a starving orphan staring lustily into the candy shop.”

“So why don’t you let me into the candy shop?”

“You couldn’t handle the candy shop,” she said with a smile. “I’m saying we have to get you to stop pining for all the things you want, long enough to figure out what you need. And I think the first step in that is not just stepping out of our way, but embracing us going- embracing the chance to spend time with our daughter and… figure out who you want to be. What kind of life you want to lead… and who you want to live it with.” She stopped herself. “I’m sorry. I didn’t lure you here for this.”

“No, I know,” I said. “But feeling safe, and loved… it bought you the moment you needed to tell me how you really feel. And it sucks. And it hurts. But I still appreciate what it took for you to say it.”

“You certainly seem to be,” she said, grinding her hips into me.

“I’m more than just a piece of meat,” I said, feigning injury.

“You always were to me,” she said. “But that’s the last I’m going to say on the subject. Until we go, I want us all to just… be a family. Because whatever you do, we have a daughter together. Sam and I will always have some kind of relationship, a friendship at the minimum. And we never know who’s going to come home. Between the people we’ve lost on the pods, and the Nascent bearing down on us… there really is no guarantee any of us get to live into old age. And that’s not how it maybe sounds…”

“Like you’re planning on Old Yellering Sam on your mission?”

“Yeah. That. Can you imagine trying to sneak up on a telepath? And you’ve seen the eyes on her,”

“I’ve nearly drowned in them,”

“I’ll assume you aren’t being gross and actually mean her eyes- it would be like choking out a cartoon baby seal.”

“So that’s why that gave me an erection.”

“On that note…”

“The erection?”

“Your distractibility. Maggie… sort of… not let slip, but intimated enough I could subtly interrogate… she offered you some meds, right?”

“I’m not sure how I feel about you finding out about it…”

“She didn’t mean to let anything slip. She was pumping me for information, but she’s not used to doing it surreptitiously, which clued me in and I pumped her, at the same time. She wanted to know if you were taking them, not for cracking the whip, just, wanted to know if they’ve helped.”

“Yes and no. At the best of times I feel like I’m firing on all cylinders. And then somedays, it’s just a drop in an endless ocean.”

“Can’t blame you, there. I… get to ignore the larger strategic concerns, I only have to worry about repelling the Nascent’s crew if they manage to catch us. You have to coordinate trying to make it so they can’t. I’m drowning, just trying to deal with our family drama and trying to be ready for a fight we might not win…” she stroked my cheek and my lip trembled, “I can only imagine how much heavier your load.”

“I’m sure it hasn’t been that long, mere hours if you count the kid.”

“I don’t. I still hold out hope she was conceived immaculately and has nothing to do with your material lucky enough to wash up on my shores.”

“Ouch,” I said. “Please. Like I don’t know when you’re trying to deflect. It’s okay, to be sad, to be scared, for everything that’s been going on between us and even everything beyond the four of us to hurt. For a moment, just shut up, and hold me while I hold you.”

Pitchmas 2021, Part 3: Spider-Man: Into the Venomverse

First things first, dealing with complaints: while this functions as a quasi-sequel to Spider-Man: No Way Home, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, and Sinister 7: Absolute Carnage… it’s not one. It’s the beginning of a new thing, what will likely be a pentalogy of interrelated movies (similar to what I’ve been doing on the DC side with the big Green Lantern event movies- which is also kind of a cheat).

During the end credits scene from Sinister Seven, Peter Parker gets some of the symbiote on him, and he and Brock get shunted back to Venom’s original Earth. They swing to the top of the building, and see that the city is mostly on fire. Peter’s symbiote slides away, and we see just how devastated he is by the destruction. But for the moment we linger on Eddie and Venom, who have a conversation; Venom is convinced they’re back on their original version of Earth; Eddie is skeptical, because this place is nuts, destroyed, and still smoldering. He hasn’t been gone long enough for this to be their world. Venom finally says something to the effect that, “I know it does not seem possible, Eddie, but this is the world from which we originated.” That thought steals Eddie’s breathe away, and we pull back, to see Peter staring out over the city.

That’s when he hears a familiar voice: MJ (yay, we get a Zendaya cameo! Of course, if she wants, we’ve got a symbiote with her name on it…). She’s soothing, giving him little tidbits of what happened, but telling him it’s okay, now that he’s here, now that he can save them, that they’ll need him to be strong- that she needs him to be strong- but that right now, more than anything, she needs him to hold her and tell her everything is going to be okay.

He reaches out to her, but hesitates, because his Peter tingle is going nuts. During that lull, she’s hit with a black shield. Now, I’m good whichever way we want to slice this; original Cap in a symbiote is cool, but so is Falcon Cap. Either way, Captain America in a symbiote hits “MJ” with his shield, which is also covered in symbiote goo. She falls, fast enough Spider-Man can’t try to shoot a web to save her, and impacts the ground. But the sound isn’t right. He’s been doing this long enough he’s heard people splat. This was almost like a stone dropping. The poisons are coated in a crystalline shell; when they’re unattached, they are spindly and skeletal (around human height and size or larger), but once they absorb a humanoid, they take on that person’s proportions (so a Rocket Raccoon Poison would be tiny, but a Hulk Poison would be huge).

Cap explains that it wasn’t really MJ at all, but one of the Poisons. “They do to the symbiotes what the symbiotes do to us, only it’s parasitic, invasive, and permanent. You touch a poison, and you become one of them- forever.”

“And what happens to the host?” Peter asks, his life sort of flashing before his eyes.

“They convert the host body, keeping any metahuman abilities it might have. Anything else is eaten up, used as fuel for the conversion process.”

“And the person’s just… gone?” Peter asks.

“You see flickers of them, but-”

“Was that really MJ?”

“No- or probably not. They’re telepathic. They can read what you want, what you need, and convince you that’s what they’re giving you. It’s convincing, because we all see it, whatever they’re projecting. It’s fooled everything we’ve thrown at it, magic, other telepaths.”

“I sensed it,” Peter says.

“Not enough you didn’t try to make out with it,” Venom says.

“But if he can hone that, it could be a game changer,” Cap says.

“Wait,” Venom puts up his clawed hand. “How do we know whether or not you are just a different poison, rescuing us from the first, because you wanted his meal?”

Cap smiles. “You don’t. But that caution will serve you well, here.” Cap leads them back to his safehouse. This world proves to have oddball versions of lots of Marvel’s existing characters, but also the Fox and Netflix and TV characters, you can also pull in alternate reality, What If characters, so if you wanted to have Haley Atwell do a live-action Captain Carter/Britain… you could. Characters could possibly be played by different actors to ease the budget, but I am all for us having a ridiculous cast, nigh unto an Avengers movie, and I feel like the box office of No Way Home justifies it. In the time Eddie was gone, Carnage’s babies have spread like a plague to most of the Earth’s metahumans. Most of the actors could probably be paid peanuts compared to their usual salary, because they’re doing voice gigs (they’ll be under symbiotes without their faces exposed, completely CG) and can bang out their role in an afternoon, with maybe a handful of them actually being face to face (likely the more main characters… it would likely be a fun excuse to get Hugh Jackman into a movie with Deadpool, if only for a few minutes).

Most of these would be expendable if the actor either doesn’t want to play ball, or wants too much (expendable in the we could do without, or kill them quickly to up the stakes). Since we’re drawing from the comic, the only two I think we need to have, hero-wise, are Dr. Strange and Deadpool; Strange would have his face covered, giving us as close to the design of the blue-faced strange costume as we’re likely to ever see. As far as what we’re adding, the pair I view as necessary are Michelle Williams She-Venom and Danom, Dr. Dan, both from the previous Venom movies. If we want we can leave them here at the end of it… I’m not terribly invested in the side characters from the Venom franchise, but it would be a good opportunity to tie off those stories.

She runs up to Eddie and throws her arms around him, and they have an emotional reunion. Danom follows her, and stands behind her, eventually introducing himself to Spider-Man as “Danom,” before the symbiote peels back and he calls himself “Dr. Dan,” and offers his hand for Spider-Man to shake, but Peter doesn’t take it, and a beat later he retracts it and says, “You’re right; I’ve really got to stop trying to touch people.”

“You’re trying to grope the kid now?” Eddie asks Dan.

“Man,” Peter says, “Spider-Man.”

“You’re trying to grope the man now?” Eddie asks again.

“Really not much better,” Peter mumbles.

Dan recognizes the name. “We had one of you. He did not last long. Hon? That Spider-Kid still with the poisons.”

Man,” Peter says feebly.

“Oh yeah. He’s creepy.”

“Hey,” Eddie interjects, “I think we all need to give Spider-Boy a little respect and call him by his proper name.”

Peter rubs his temple, then says, “I think I should go talk to Cap.”

But once Peter’s gone, the atmosphere changes, and Dan steps to Eddie. “You know what I like about this? You can’t just throw your weight around anymore.”

Eddie, who is much bigger, puffs out his chest, and pushes it into Dan. “Really?”

One of Dan’s tendrils grabs Eddie from behind the head and flings him across the room.

Looming over him, Dan demands, “Stop trying to bang my fiancé in front of me.”

“In front of you? I would never- this isn’t your way of not-so-subtly telling me about your kink, is it?”

“It does sound kinky,” Anne says.

“Don’t egg him on,” Dan complains.

“He does have a point, Eddie,” she agrees sternly. “It’s not cool trying to bang me in front of him. At least have the decency to do it behind his back.”

“That is not… damnit.” Dan, frustrated, stomps off.

She helps Eddie up with one hand, but holds him close. “Fun as it is to wind-up Dan, he’s right. I’ve moved on. I love you enough I want you to, too.”

“You love me?”

“The way you love a puppy who won’t stop shitting in your underwear drawer; you know it’s too stupid to understand why it isn’t housebroken enough to live indoors. And Eddie- I mean it. This needs to stop. We’re fighting for our survival here. I don’t have time to coddle you.”

We linger just long enough to see how much it hurts Eddie, before cutting away to Spider-Man, talking to Cap.

“We tried that,” Cap says. “The last you, in fact, our you- he had the same idea. It didn’t work. What we found out, subsequently, is that the symbiotes leave traces, antibodies, maybe they’re eggs. But there’s enough of the symbiotes left that even if you try to fight the poisons without, they can still take you over if they touch you- faster, it seemed, like the symbiote will fight the corruption, but without that barrier it barely touched Parker before…”

“Okay. So how long do they have to make contact?”

“It’s not instantaneous. You can get away with punching them. But if you try to grapple… that’s how we lost Hulk.”

“Okay, then what we need is weapons. Where’s your reality’s version of the Iron Man suit, Mjolnir,, the Infinity- wait, they have a Hulk?”

“We have a Hulk,” a Poison Loki says from the doorway. He was using his illusions to be a character we wanted to be able to use but whose actor said ‘Nah.’ An instant later, Poison Hulk smashes through the wall.

 Cap tells everyone to scatter and rendezvous at location 4. Cap fights Hulk long enough for everyone to escape; an angry Hulk beats him until he expires. Poison Loki chastises. “No! Hulk! Too much smashing!” Hulk calls him a “Puny God” and threatens to strike him, and Loki flinches.

Venom and Spider-Man leave together, along with Anne and Dan. They fight a Poison Sinister Six. Anne and Dan help at first, but they’re obviously novices, so it takes the two of them to take out Poison Kraven, leaving most of the fighting to Venom and Spider-Man.

Spider-Man is badly injured. He hallucinates Aunt Man, or Happy, or maybe Tony in his armor, and we see his hand outstretched, before cutting back to Venom beating Poison Doc Ock down with a piece of rebar. Venom calls for Spider-Man, and the camera turns to show Poison Spider-Man, who says, “Spider-Man’s not here anymore.” It comes down to Spider-Man vs. Venom, with Spider-Man winning handily, holding a limp Brock up and calling for a poison to convert him.

Reinforcements arrive, including Venompool. His bullets make quick work of the free poisons, but the converted are still up for a fight, until Antivenom arrives with Dr. Strange, the one from the Thunderbolts, with the red symbol. The remaining poisons, including Spider-Man, think he’s a black and red, and flee.

Venom asks Strange Venom to bring a Carnage here, but Strange is reluctant. The conversation is interrupted by Venompool. He fights with Strange, upset with their dwindling numbers, that their plan has been to run and hide, run and hide, each time losing more people. “That’s how we lost Cable. Domino. Firefist.” He snickers. “Okay, they didn’t all have great names, but they didn’t deserve to die because some feckless, unemployed surgeon confused himself for Captain America.”

“We recruited one of those, remember? It didn’t help.”

Venompool hits Strange. “I wasn’t done listing people I blame you for getting killed.”

“You’ve lost a lot,” Strange says, levitating off the ground, “so I’ll let you have that one.”

“Yukio. Negasonic. Vanessa. And now the kid’s gone, too. I can’t speak for anybody else, but I’m done waiting for Handsome Gandalf to get me killed.” He storms off.

The other Venoms are shocked, and one asks what they should do. Strange tries to play it cool, but he’s just as hurt, because Wade’s been his lieutenant from the beginning. “Wade does this every few people we lose. He’s been fighting this fight longer than anyone but me; the losses have been extra hard on him. But we need to meet up at location 4, and pick up any other survivors.“

Anne and Dan have a tense moment hiding out in a largely destroyed building; she feels like they abandoned Eddie. His reasoning is he’s a doctor; he couldn’t just let someone die because Eddie was too preoccupied putting a piece of rebar through someone’s head. This is the place, if we want a face heel turn for Dan, and for Anne to end up with Eddie, for that to happen; frankly, I prefer Dan for her, despite the format usually preferring the screw-up ex instead (almost always romanticizing unhealthy behavior in the name of a man reclaiming his “territory”).

They decide to stay at location 4, which turns out to be the Baxter Building, a copy of the home of the Fantastic Four (they built satellite buildings across the globe, so the Four had nearby operating bases to deal with crises, that otherwise function as tech magnet schools). Strange tells Venom they had to keep the location hints simple, so Wade could remember them; he was unstable before the symbiote, but the alien had made him even more volatile.

Just then we cut to Venompool, on the streets. He’s got his hands up, and is surrounded by poisons. “You know what they say? If you can’t beat them, join em. You guys get dental? With teeth like these, I could really use it.” One of the free Poison shambles towards him. The Poisons grab hold of Deadpool; most hold him down, but one or two of them are actually trying to sooth him. “Does it hurt? Should I have a safe word? I’ve always been fond of sarsaparilla. As a word, and a drink, and like that, I’m thirsty. I’d even choke down a YooHoo. Oh, who am I kidding, my safeword has always been ‘Goldilocks.’ I’d let that big, blond Asgardian hammer me til Sleipnir came-” as the Poison touches Deadpool, he screams, and we cut to black, maintaining the audio. “Kidding,” Deadpool says, “It tickles my taint.”

“No, you’re doing that,” one of the Poisons tells him.

“Spoilers,” Deadpool says.

We cut back to the safe house, where Venom again asks that Strange summon a Carnage. “You understand this isn’t like Magic: The Gathering, I can’t just pull a Carnage out of my deck.”

“Or ass. I’m not particular about which side. And you pulled all of us,” Eddie insists.

“No,” Strange replies, “I didn’t. Some of those here are from this Earth. The rest received symbiotes from this dimension, despite hailing from alternate ones. When the symbiotes began to lose, they called out, across realities, for their champions. The symbiotes themselves summoned most of you here.”

“So you can’t do it?”

“I didn’t say that. Most of my strength is reserved, for keeping us and the Poisons inside the mirror dimension; sorcerers usually only open one large enough to contain a fight- I captured the entire city. I’m not sure the Poisons have even noticed yet- because there’s a hypnotic charm near the boundaries- I learned that trick from Wanda. But I can try- though you realize there’s an even chance that Carnage simply decides to try to kill all of us, instead, right?”

“He wouldn’t be Carnage if he didn’t. I once heard Fury had a doomsday plan for Latveria, if Dr. Doom ever became to- drop Hulk at one end of the country and Punisher at the other. Carnage is similar, and if the Poisons really are afraid of him, that could give him the advantage we need.”

“Peel back your symbiote.” Brock hesitates, and Strange waves his hand, and the symbiote peels back, revealing Eddie’s chest. Strange draws a symbol on him. “You’ll be the anchor. If Carnage gets off the chain, I can banish him by banishing you.”

“Now when you say ‘banish..’”

“Portal with a sling ring. Or putting a hole through your chest large enough to disrupt the symbol.”

“I was afraid you meant that.”

Strange brings a Carnage, who reacts badly to Venom. “You ain’t my daddy. Look like him. Smell like him. Bet you even taste the part. But you ain’t him.” There’s a pause, before he says, “But you’ll do.” Carnage attacks all of them.

“Aw, mommy and daddy are fighting,” Poison Spider-Man taunts as he arrives. “I bet it’s not over which of their little bastards they love the most.” They cause a little damage, one of the Venoms falls, but Carnage is a game-changer. He’s able to slice through the Poisons like a hot knife through butter, and they’re actively afraid of him. Spider-Man manages to snag Strange and return to home base.

That’s where we learn that their leader is Poison Dr. Doom, and that Poison Deadpool earned his trust by telling them where to find Strange. For the moment his magical defenses keep the Poisons at bay; because I want something visually fun, the Poisons can approach, but once they get too close, they get zapped by orange electricity and flung violently backwards. It’s fatal to the unbonded ones, unpleasant to the big ones.

Finally, we cut back to Dan and Anne. She’s very worried about Eddie. “And I’m worried about my patient.” He softens, and puts his arm around her and kisses her head. He offers to let her rendezvous with the others, if she wants; as soon as his patient can move he’ll catch up. He wishes there were anything he could do to spare her from this horror- no one deserves this- not even Brock. As he’s reassuring her, we see a Poison creeping up the wall behind them, snapping its weird little mouth open as it prepares to lunge, before being webbed in place.

“You two might want to, uh, worry more about the horrible thing wanting to eat you both.” We see Dan’s patient. It’s Spider-Man, our Spider-Man. He’s bandaged, and clearly worse for wear, but alive, and not a Poison. Dan tells him he’s not well enough to move. “Yeah, well, it’s not safe to stay here, either.” The three of them swing off, even as their hideout is swarmed by unbound Poisons.

Back at the Baxter Building, the Venoms aren’t sure what to do next. Tragedy keeps walloping them, again, and again. There’s a leadership void, with most of them reluctant to follow Eddie, because, well, his reputation as a screw-up precedes him. They realize Strange is missing, that he was their target all along. They badly, desperately need a win, and it’s at that moment that Poison Deadpool is thrown into the room, all webbed up.

Spider-Man saunters in, flanked by Dan and Anne. Deadpool tries to speak, and Spider-Man fills his mouth with webbing; not just a single shot of it, but a prolonged spray, lasting several seconds. Deadpool spits it out.

“I’ve had dreams like that, only in the dreams I wasn’t wearing a mask so I could swallow. Wait, is the ‘kid’ old enough that my dreams like that aren’t going to get me sent to the dream hoosegow?”

Literally no one is paying attention to him, because they’re all so happy to see Spider-Man and the two Venoms. Eventually, Deadpool interrupts: “I truly hate to break up the love-fest- half the reason I did this was hoping to be thrown a triumphant hero’s orgy on my return-”

“That is not a thing,” one of them says.

“Hercules swears it’s a thing. Anyway. Like I tried telling these three, I surrendered. On purpose.”

“To the Poisons?” Anne asks.

“Both times. I got myself Poisoned, so I could come back here and give you the skinny on them.”

“That’s a stupid plan,” Brock says.

“Your plan was to use Hannibal Lector in a symbiote, and hope he killed more of theirs than ours? But my plan’s stupid.”

“Hey,” Spider-Man says, “it sounds like we’re on the same side, and that everybody’s plan was stupid.”

Venom growls, but Deadpool laughs, before launching into what he learned. “First, I know where they put their headquarters.” Because it’s San Francisco, it would probably be cool to have it on Alcatraz, but there’s plenty of other historical options. “Second, I know who’s pulling the strings.” We show Poison Doom on his throne. “Third, I like being tied up, and I can feel my mind ‘poisoning’ even as we speak, so that was, retroactively, probably a smart call, and not just because it provides plausible deniability about how much I enjoy being tied up.”

One of them who would have a reason to know, asks, if they have their own Doom, why they would need Strange. “Because Victor Von Doom is a jack of all trades, but a master of none. He’s a technologist almost as good as Tony Stark. He’s a scientist second only to Reed Richards. And a sorcerer just behind Strange. He is the world’s biggest second banana, which is why he’s such a jerk. But they’ve got scores of magic-types, just no one of Strange’s caliber. Or maybe it’s just that the barrier he erected prevents any of them from opening a gate out.”

“So your plan really was stupid,” Anne says. “You traded Strange for information that their plan required capturing Strange.”

“And, where and how to get him back out, plus, the location of Doom’s teleporter that they’ve been using to bring in more poisons. They don’t breed, at least not at the stage where they can take on a host. We break in, get Strange, destroy Doom and his teleporter. Once they can’t replenish their numbers, we can whittle them down.”

The Venoms leave the room to discuss the plan, leaving Carnage to watch Deadpool. They spar, a bit, Deadpool goading Carnage in close before revealing that he cut his way out of the webbing. He attacks Carnage and webs him up.

We cut to the other room, where they’re discussing. Through the doorway, we can see Deadpool putting Carnage over his shoulder like it’s a sack of toys and he’s a horrible Santa, and jumping out the window. “My Peter-Tingle, damnit, now May’s got me doing it- my Spider-Sense.” Peter says, pointing at the fleeing Deadpool; they run after him.

Deadpool drags Carnage into Doom’s throne room. At first Doom is congratulatory… until Carnage stirs. He blasts him with sonic waves from his gauntlets, which disrupts Carnage’s symbiote. It’s also loud enough Deadpool sneaks up to Doom and puts a sword through his chest. That gets the other Poisons rushing the throne room.

We cut to the Venom strike team, led by Venom and Spider-Man. They fight their way through a team of Poison Avengers; Anne and Danom stay behind with the other Venoms to fight them, while Venom and Spider-Man press on for Strange.

They fight their way to the holding cells, finding Strange held captive by other magic users that take turns probing his defenses for weaknesses. Occasionally he turns one of their attacks back on his attackers. When he creates that opening Spider-Man and Venom strike. The element of surprise is enough for them to create an opportunity, which Strange exploits to sling-ring them all onto a snowy mountaintop- you all know the one.

We cut back to the throne room, where Deadpool abandons Carnage to deal with the teleporter. Subtly, Doom is now missing, as Carnage cuts through increasingly more Poisons. Deadpool finds the teleporter as Doom tries to use it to escape… only to realize at the last moment that Deadpool has rolled active grenades in it with him. It explodes.

Things look dire for our Venoms. The Poison Avengers are winning, and free Poisons are gathering around the fight, lunging at Venoms at every opportunity. That’s when Strange, Venom and Spider-Man arrive, and are enough to turn the tide, chewing through the Poison Avengers.

We cut back to Carnage, who’s been overwhelmed. A veritable army of poisons are holding him down, suffering casualties even as they choke him under their sheer number. Deadpool arrives, shooting first the free Poisons, and then helping free Carnage. They slice and dice their way towards the others. Rocket Venom (or someone else with the right kind of experience) reveals he set a bomb on their generators, one that will blow the entire island. Strange teleports them away at the last moment.

Strange and Venom have a conversation. Venom thinks they’ve won, but Strange realizes that the Poisons were coming from somewhere, that they’ve beaten back the first wave, but there will likely be others… “This is no longer their fight. I will send you home- all of you. Those who are from this reality, may choose to stay, or I can send you to another reality as a refuge. But all of us staying here, we’re too appetizing a target.”

Strange says he’s going to send the Venoms home, that those who remain can handle sweeping up the remaining poisons. Dan and Anne decide to stay, it’s their home, and they want to stay and help rebuild it, so they can start the family they want. I think Strange tells Eddie that things got worse when he arrived, in particular with the Poisons being able to track them, because his suit is from the original line that sired all of the symbiotes remaining on Earth, so they were connected. Eddie opts to go, and we’ll spin it as a noble decision, not a pouty one, especially where Anne is concerned. “I want you to be happy, Anne, deep down, I do. But there will always be a part of me that’s sad that you can’t be happy with me, that I can’t be the one who makes you happy. And I want to be that better me, you know? But if I stay I don’t know that I can.”

“You’re already a better you,” she says, and kisses him.

“Look,” Dan says, “if you want, you can be the best man.”

It takes him a minute to understand what Dan means. “Really? That would mean the world.”

Eddie hugs Dan. “We were talking,” Anne said. “And you go through something like this, these people are closer to me than anyone I’ve ever known. They’re friends, family.”

So they do an impromptu little ceremony. Dr. Strange presides. Dan gets his hand a little too close to the book Strange is holding, and it tries to bite him. “It’s not a Bible; you probably don’t want to touch it.” Everybody forms either black or white formal wear out of their symbiotes; most keep their faces covered for largely budgetary reasons. We do enough of the ceremony to get to the speak now part, and Eddie raises his hand. Strange and Anne share a look, with him gesturing to his sling ring, essentially offering to teleport Eddie away, but she gives a subtle little head shake to warn him off.

We let the moment linger. “I just wanted to say, it’s not an objection, but I wanted to say that I love the hell out of both of you, and I’m just so touched that you let me be a part of your love, and your life. Sorry, probably not the right moment.”

Strange shrugs, and continues. “By the powers vested in me, by the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth, by the Omnipotent Oshtur, by Agamotto’s light, by-” Peter gives Strange the cut it gesture, and he pivots, “I now pronounce you, husband and wife, and invite you to share your first wedded kiss.” It is a hell of a kiss, because the symbiotes are like Viagra. “I said kiss, not bliss; there are children present.”

Man, damnit,” Peter mutters, “I’m a Man.”

“Sure you are, buddy,” Eddie says to him.

We cut to after. Venom tries to convince Anne and Dan to come to the MCU. “It’s pretty much the same, only San Francisco didn’t get destroyed. New York, a little, but it’s mostly fine, now. But there, I’m not a signal flare for a band of interdimensional monsters to come and eat my loved ones.”

“Someone’s got to pick up the pieces,” Dan tells him.

“And it might sound silly, but I want my kids to grow up in the same San Francisco I did, not a facsimile.”

“No,” Eddie says, “I get it. If they were my kids, I’d want the same thing. I’m just- I’m gonna miss you.”

“We’ll miss you, too. Spider-Man?”

Peter’s so jazzed to have someone call him Spider-Man. “She called me Spider-Man!” he says under his breath.

“Take care of this big lug, okay?”

“Sure thing, miss, ma’am, uh…”

“It’s time,” Strange says. He sends Venom and Peter home. Peter discovers he has 178 missed calls.

“Sounds rough, kid,” Eddie says, and slaps him on the back, and turns to leave. “I probably still owe you one. Or maybe a couple, now. If you need me, you know where to find me.

Credits.

Mid-Credits scene: We show the exterior of Xandar, along with white text, “Xandar” followed shortly after by, “the Venomverse”. We cut inside the Nova citadel, where a similar teleporter to the one Doom tried to use sits. Doom teleports in, before he and the teleporter are caught in an explosion. Doom, smoking but still moving, holding the wound in his chest, slinks down the hall. In the central chamber sits a floating crystalline throne, which Doom kneels before. “My operation was lost. The sorcerer escaped.”

We pan across the throne room. We see Poison versions of the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Shiar Imperial Guard, the Super Skrull, Warlock, Nova, Silver Surfer, with two large things in shadow floating in space beyond that could well be Poison Galactus and Poison Ego. Sitting in the throne is Poison Thanos, who tells Doom, “There are other sorcerers, and our numbers remain vast. And now we know there are countless other realities to conquer, and we will Poison them all.” He gives the same, creepy little smile he gave at the end of Avengers and we cut to black.

Nexus 3, Chapter 18

Sam was holding our daughter, Samantha Eleanor, in her arms, sleeping soundly on the bench, braced against the wall.

Elle emerged from the bathroom, and I gave her an arm to steady on. “Come on,” she said, “we should go for a walk.”

“You sure you should be on your feet?” I asked.

“We don’t have to go far, I just…”

“I get it,” I said. There was something in the air; I wasn’t sure if it was what she’d said, earlier or not, but the question had certainly lingered for me. “You never did tell me what your most painful moment was,” I said, as she wobbled down the hall towards the caf. “I imagine that machete you took to the clavicle had to make the top ten.”

“Nine,” she said. “I think the fourth is a tie. I got shot in the chest, once, a double-tap, the first of which weakened my armor enough the second bolt burned through; I took part of the shot in the areola. Parasites from the squid planet; similar pain, more diffuse, and coming from inside, where you don’t usually feel that kind of pain.”

“Okay,” I said, “but you’re going the wrong way.”

“I know. Because I’m not sure I can handle going the other way. Worst pain I ever felt…” she paused, and I could tell it wasn’t for effect, she really was having trouble saying the words, “was seeing you with Sam. Knowing… knowing that was it. You stopped looking at me like you look at her a long time ago.”

“Like what?” I asked, because I’d been taking flack from everyone on ship since we left our home solar system for the way I looked at Elle.

“Like, like a girl, I guess.” 

“You’re not a girl, Elle. And you haven’t been for a long time. Hell, it’s hard to remember what that was even like.”

“You sure know how to flatter a lady.”

“That’s not what I meant. You have been the most competent person I’ve known my entire life.”

“And ‘girls’ can’t be competent?”

“You know that’s not what I meant, either. We were both young and naïve in the beginning; I thought of you as a girl then. But we had that innocence burned off us, in a way… Sam can’t. I don’t know if it’s a species thing, or if it’s just a part of who she is, but… there are parts of what we’ve been through, and what we’ve yet to, that she’ll never really intuit. She’ll support us, love us, help us through it; with the imprint she’ll even understand it on an intellectual level, maybe even an emotional one. But there will always be a softness to her, maybe even a naivete.” I was struggling to articulate the idea. “Like,… she never hated Jacob. It’s not just- it wasn’t only her trying to protect me from myself, when the two of you tried to distract me from what he’d done to her. He hurt her, violated her in ways that are hard to even fathom-”

“No they aren’t,” Elle said, touching my arm; “we’ve both imprinted with her.”

“Right. My point was she didn’t hate him. Maybe even couldn’t. And that’s probably healthier. Saner. And likely a recipe for a better, less violent world. And I know that’s… it’s not fair, or even as binary as it sounds. But Sam is… the way things ought to be. And you, you’re the way we have to be if we ever have a hope of getting there.”

“I don’t like hurting people,” Elle said, her voice halfway to a sob.

“I know,” I said, moisture sliding down my face. “I wouldn’t love you like I do if you did. And it really isn’t a competition. I’m not saying you’re the pragmatic one and she’s a naïve peacemonger, or the reverse. Without security, there can be no peace; without the hope of peace, security can’t be maintained. They’re all part of a whole.”

“I really wish I could be enough.”

“Elle…”

“And even saying it aloud I feel like an asshole, because it is both so much more complicated than that, and so much less so. If we’d hooked up before you met her, or if you knocked me up after your relationship ran its course, I don’t think any of this would be complicated. And I’ve imprinted with Sam, I know… I’ve felt her in a way that no other person in our species could understand, and in the oddest way that makes me closer to you, too. And through her I know I’ve seen you, felt you, known you deeper even than I ever thought possible. That’s why I have no interest in your Drone; he isn’t the you I fought beside, nearly died with, fell in love with, or know down to my core through Sam. He isn’t you.” Her breath came out ragged, and I stroked her cheek. “She’s practically a part of our relationship, too. So I know what you mean, when you say it’s like trying to separate pieces of you. But I think there will always be a part of me that’s hurt that I couldn’t be enough.”

“Could I?” I asked.

“What?”

“Just, hypothetically. Let’s say, Samantha gums her way through Sam’s throat in the night. You and I go back to a vanilla, human existence. There’s no way to maintain the level of intimacy we’ve had, without imprinting; there’s nowhere for our relationship to go but down. Maybe that’s enough- maybe. But it would always be less. Could we still make each other happy? Probably. You were always really bendy, and, sweeter than anyone really ever knew- when you choose to be. But it would always be wanting, missing that subtle bit more.”

“Fuck,” Elle said.

“I’m pretty sure that’s what got us into this whole mess,” I said, realizing we’d circled back into the medical wing.

“This whole mess being your daughter?” Elle asked, as we both stared lovingly down at her.

“She takes after her mother.”

“She really is beautiful, isn’t she?”

“Sure,” I said, “but I wish she could be a bit more humble about it.”

“Ass.”

“Nice legs. Pretty face. The whole package, really.” “Nice save.” Elle rested her head against my shoulder and sighed, looking at Sam holding our daughter. “They look good together. Like they belong like that.”

Nexus 3, Chapter 17

The lights died again. That seemed to be happening regularly enough we were using them to help time Elle’s breathing; I couldn’t help but wonder if that was Haley’s doing, trying to make something useful out of the chaos. Sam had been more of a presence during the classes, and seemed… eager to participate in a way I wasn’t, since I was trying to monitor the ship even while everything tried to break. I wondered if that was because too much of this process had been Elle and I sharing something she couldn’t be a part of, and this was her way to be a part of it.

Either way, I felt warm watching the two of them working together to bring our daughter into the world. “Our” daughter; I realized I wasn’t sure whether I meant by it Elle and me, or the three of us. Sam had been so much more a part of the pregnancy, there were even moments where she felt more like their daughter.

I must have been thinking the thought too hard, because Sam noticed me, and beckoned. “I would not dream of displacing you,” she said, and motioned to the end of the bench she was seated on. It was wasn’t quite enough room for me to sit without getting the sharp edge in the crack, but I appreciated the gesture.

“How’s my least favorite patient?” SackTug asked.

“Salty,” I said, a little too defensively. “But I’d suggest you focus on her.”

“I was. And even you have to admit she’s got a knack for finding interesting medical emergencies- though you’ve certainly given her a run for her money in that regard.”

Reese finished checking her dilation. “She’s doing well,” she said. “But every time I try to give her an epidural,” the lights went off again.

“Allow me,” he said, and took the needle from her in the dark. “I spent a month on a colony without light running their clinic. You get used to doing things by feel.” As the lights came back on he removed the now empty syringe from Elle’s leg.

Elle cooed low enough it vibrated the bench I was on. It reminded me that… superhuman though she often seemed- and I had no doubt she would have delivered our daughter fine without the epidural- she still felt pain, was still vulnerable, fragile, human.

I think Sam felt the thought in my head, because she looked at me with sadness in her eyes; I’d been trying to move away from it like that. It was a linguistic tic common to a host of species, but ‘humanity’ was an exclusionary phrase. Sam had just as much humanity as any biological human I’d ever met, maybe more, and it wasn’t right to remove her from that, even linguistically. But she was also compassionate to a fault; she understood, both the intent behind it, and that it wasn’t the time, and put her hand over mine.

“Uh,” Elle said. “Did I, did I just?”

“We prepped for this,” I said, “and the answer is you don’t actually want to know.”

“We’ve all taken a vow of silence,” Sam said.

“I took some convincing,” Reese said.

“And a consult with a PsychOff,” I added. “And the consensus, backed up by our very own telepath, was that, no, you would not actually want to know. What you really want, is to know that everyone in this room cares enough to let you crap on a table without us giving you shit about it.”

“So if you have or if you do, you know you’re safe with us,” Sam added.

Elle sniffled. “I’m not comfortable feeling this emotional over waste.”

“I think it’s the thought that counts,” I said.

“I actually have a little bit of a good news/bad news for you,” Reese said. “The good, you’re dilated, and the waiting part’s over, and you’re almost over the finish line. The bad is, now you’re going to have to push. In my experience, it’s best to listen to your body, let it tell you when to push, but we’re going to try, once, one your own, so you get a feel for what’s you pushing and what’s your body wanting you to push. I’m going to count to three, okay?”

“Fuck that,” Elle said, and started to push, grunting with the effort in a way I hadn’t heard since a particularly brutal training exercise; I remembered the noise because it was both deeply sexual but also very unsexy. “It’s time for this princess to take up residence in another castle.”

Reese chuckled. “I understand you’re eager. But it’s still a distance run; you try to sprint it and I’m going to have to borrow an ice cream scoop from the café to get her out.”

Elle grimaced, “Think my body’s ready, too,” she said, as her legs shook from the effort as she pushed again, this time bearing down with her whole body.

“Okay, then let’s cowgirl up,” Reese said, snapping her glove. Another quake, and a leg spasm that knocked me off the bench, and I decided I should probably stay on my feet, so I could duck and weave better.

Elle was breathing heavily. She wanted to push again, but she was cratering; her body needed to rest. “So tell me,” I said, “worst pain of your life?”

“Third,” Elle said with a smile, glowing under a misting of perspiration. “And knowing you was only number 2.” She laughed, enough to sell it, but not so much to make it mean. “I kid because I love,” she said, perhaps overserious.

“You kid because you’re a sadist,” I corrected her.

“You are teasing me through some of the worst pain of my life.”

“Just to distract. And you said it was only third worst.”

“And because you’re a little bit of a sadist, too.”

“Takes one to know one.”

“That’s what I’m saying. Now hold on,” she pushed again, with Sam coaching her gently through, reminding her to breathe through the strain.

Elle made it look easy, or at least it would have to anyone but me; I’d seen that look on her face, that look that if so much as a drop of rain managed to hit her she was going down for the count. Not that I believed it; I knew her well enough to know there was no one I trusted more to get the job done. But still, that look, that fear, that pain, that sadness, on her face, I cracked, just a little.

“I really am sorry,” I said. “I should have got that vasectomy.”

“Shhh,” she said, laughing weakly as a contraction ended, “our daughter will hear you.” “Our daughter,” I said, and the words vibrated in my head, only some of which was the dibba-calkhu; it had an inkling of just how new having a daughter was going to be- and no idea just how much of that newness came in the form of all the new kinds, shapes, and places to find poop.

New Year’s Resolution

1080P. Because we can’t afford to go full 4K yet.

(crickets)

Fine. Not in the mood for bad/dad humor.

You came here for pitches and an overdue NaNo and the getting ain’t good. I can’t blame anyone who might be salty about that.

But I have a resolution. And it’s one based firmly in experience, rather than what I want. I want to write more. But family issues have prevented it, and unfortunately, those may not be resolving any time soon. So I’m not promising you the moon, just that I’ll show you my moon on a semi-regular basis. Specifically:

My plan all along actually had been to move the pitches to a biweekly thing, posting every other Friday, because then they could be a year-round treat (for all of you as well as for me), instead of a half-year productivity killer that grinds me into a bloody little nub at the precise time I’m supposed to be doing a NaNo. This just gives me a chance to make that switch sooner rather than later. I might have to rename them; maybe call them the Summer/Winter Solpitch (I may need to workshop that). The Summer Pitchfest? I know if I do this a few more years, I can try to publish it as “The Seven Year Pitch.”

As to Nexus 3: stories and characters from this series are going to the freaking moon this year. That hasn’t changed, nor has my desire to finish the trilogy. I just haven’t had a lot of time to work on it. So my goal, right now, is to do a story post every Monday of NaNo progress. Once I finish the novel, I’ll go back to daily posts until we’ve burned it off. But even with the difficulty I’ve been dealing with, I think I should be able to keep to that schedule.