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.

Nexus 3, Chapter 16

“I know how this is going to sound,” I started, before stopping myself. “Actually, I don’t; I don’t know why I said that.”

“Because you’re nervous,” Elle said. “Which is making me incredibly nervous; you’re not usually self-aware enough to know when you should be worried.”

“I’m making things worse. A crew member asked me to donate genetic material.”

“His groupie?” Sam asked, frowning.

“His groupie?” Elle asked, her voice raising an octave.

“Stop reading me,” I told Sam. “And he isn’t the one who needs the material. Nor was he ever attracted to me. That was an inside joke. And I’m assuming any DNA would be provided in an approved medical receptacle, and not personally delivered to anybody’s private entrance.”

“Buh…” Elle said.

“Give her a second,” Sam said. “This has all been very confusing. I’m telepathic, and have seen into the deepest, oddest parts of your mind, and even I was having trouble following you.”
“Yeah,” Elle said, pointing first at Sam, and then at her own nose. “So, why do they want your genetics? They’ve met you? Heard the rumors, at least? And none of that has turned them off of the idea?”

“You are ripe with his genetics,” Sam said; “you are an arsonist living in a house of oily rags stuck together with kerosene.”

“I… just…”

“You cope by poking me,” I said softly. “And I know your poking is one of the rare times you’re comfortable showing affection, odd and aggressive though it often is.”

“It’s not as much fun when you just take it,” she complained.

“She’s not being candid,” Sam said.

“He knows that,” Elle said. “And exactly whose side are you on?”

“I’m on our side,” Sam said, and took both of our hands. “And this is important; you should hear him out, before trying to form an opinion.”

I could feel Sam’s warmth in my head; I wasn’t sure where her confidence in me and reassurance stopped, and her telepathically manipulating my conscious mind started, but neither did she; I guess it isn’t all that different from the way humans influence one another socially: there’s always one foot in trying to get what you want, but that doesn’t mean one person isn’t trying to help the other person get what they want, either. “It’s Sasha. He and his partner want to have a baby. Because I was supportive, after Bryan died, and because I was supportive again, during his reorientation… he has a fondness for me that few not at this table would understand. And, I think, more than anything, it’s a way to be close to Bryan; we were cousins, so some degree of his genes would be common to me.”

“And you’ve already promised you would,” Elle said. “So either I play bad cop, or I just accept that our daughter’s going to have a brother before she’s even born.” Sam flushed a color, one I’d seen only once before, and I was pretty sure it was pride.

“He hasn’t,” she said. “He promised he would ask us, and that he would be bound by our response.”

“He did?” Elle asked skeptically.

“If you’d like proof, I could arrange for the pair of you to imprint?” 

This time Elle flushed, at the realization of what that would entail.

“That’s an option?” I asked. “Then I’m afraid I have to insist. There’s just no way to be certain without doing our due diligence.”

“On the contrary,” Elle said, smiling, “I’m very certain that you’re an ass. And that my water broke.”

“Water?” Sam asked. “My feet are wet.”

“Oh, bother,” I said.

“Captain,” Haley came over my comms, “I appear to be experiencing an issue.”

“So are we, right now, Haley, can it wait?” I asked. My HUD shut down, followed an instant later by the lights. They were down the majority of an alligator before they kicked back on.

“Fine, Haley, your issue just jumped to the front of the queue. Sitrep.”

“There seems to have been some weaponized code in the black box. In trying to break its encryption, I inadvertently infected the ship’s systems.”

“I… helped,” Bill said from behind me. He was winded, trying to catch his breath. “And… my feet are wet.”

“Her water broke,” Sam said, before returning to trying to guide Elle through meditative breathing.

“Mazel Tov,” Bill said, then frowned. “This might not have been the most opportune moment to break the ship.”

“Might not, no,” I agreed. “It can be fixed, right?”

“Imminently,” Haley said. “Though there are going to be-” we lost the lights again.

“I need to get to the servers,” Bill said. “I need to pull the blades out of to create a physical quarantine.” He walked into me. “Once the lights come back on, or my eyes adjust.”

“Or you could just try and get to third base with every officer between here and the servers.”

“Please don’t tell me what I got a handful of,” he said, taking a step back just as the lights came on.”

“The accidental handful I can see, but I’m pretty sure I felt palpitating, and I don’t think all of that was on my end.”

“I think the lady doth protest too much,” Sam said. “Did I use that right?”

“Close enough,” I said. Either out of embarrassment, or fear the lights would drop again, Bill raced off.

“Damn,” Haley said. “My timetables aren’t functioning correctly. I believe I can defeat the infective programming, but it will take some time. A day, at least. During which time my systems will be-” the lights went out again, but this time my HUD stayed on, so I could continue to hear her,” unpredictable.”

“Anything else you need right now?”

“At the moment, I believe Bill’s help will be sufficient, but I will not hesitate to ask if there are further things I need. I would not dream of endangering our crew for pride.”

“Of course not. If anything changes,”

“I will alert you. In the meantime, you have offspring arriving imminently, which I believe is something humans tend to celebrate.”

“Yeah, I think I’ll wait to light the cigars until later,” I said. “But I appreciate the thought.”

Pitchmas 2021, Part 2: Sinister Seven

Note: Part of the challenge of these pitches is that I’m making guesses based on the shifting landscape of Marvel’s universe; to accommodate this, I moved this pitch from last week to this one, figuring I could adjust as necessary over the week. Since my first Sinister Six pitch, we’ve had a Venom and a Spider-Man movie, and as a result some things I assumed were givens have now been altered; I haven’t seen No Way Home yet, and may not for some time, since my local drive-in is shuttered for the winter. The main difference is I assumed Carnage would still be around, and a threat, which Venom needed help with- and not you know, in a different reality. Now, I’d switch his character’s motivation towards fixing the Symbiote’s dietary restrictions in that first movie, but it otherwise plays pretty much the same. Now, on with our feature presentation.

The Pitch

We start on a rainy night. Venom swings through the streets like Spider-Man, the symbiote first humming a version of the Spider-Man cartoon theme, before it bursts out into a boisterous version of the chorus with his own lyrics:

Venom Suit, Venom Suit

Eats scum from their heads down to their boot (alternate line: Friend to chickens and a hoot,)

Alien goo and sexy too,

Lethally protects you and you!

Look out!

Here comes the Venom Suit!”

Venom lands on a rooftop, and Eddie’s face is revealed under the mask. “I don’t like your song,” Eddie says

“Why not?” the Suit asks.

“For one, it’s entirely about you. I’m not even in it.”

“You’re in it. Because you’re in me.”

“You make it sound like I’m you’re luggage.”

“That’s it exactly. You’re my carry-on.” Eddie’s annoyed, but doesn’t pursue it further. Lightning slashes the sky, and the suit winces. “I do not like the lightning, Eddie.”

“I know, buddy,” Eddie says, but he’s cut off by another flash of lightning, this one closer; the symbiote recoils from Eddie, nearly tearing clean off him.

“It weakens us,” Venom says, as another flash hits a transformer near to them. In the initial strike, we can almost make out the fact that the symbiote is trying to tear itself in half- we see two distinct symbiotes. When the transformer explodes, coating the rooftop with fire and sound, the symbiotes sheer. It’s a moment before the torn away symbiote’s shape becomes recognizable, but it is Carnage, reborn. His symbiote face peels back to reveal Cleatus Kassidy beneath it.

“Nice to see you, Eddie,” he says, “but I got to run.”

He leaps off the roof. Venom is there an instant later, but he can’t tell where Carnage ran. There are a handful of people on the street, any of whom he could be, and a manhole cover missing from the sewers. Eddie wants to pursue, but Venom is terrified. They gave killing Carnage their absolute best shot, and he shrugged it off like it was nothing. He prevents Eddie from pursuing long enough that Carnage has definitely gotten away. We do whatever opening credits we’re going to do, at a minimum, flashing the title with a bloody, “Absolute Carnage” splattered beneath the words “Sinister Seven” (and yes, we are taking inspiration from the Oceans flicks and adding a member of the crew and going up by one for the sequels).

We get a quick montage of Eddie doing research, because the Six have changed their hideout. Venom, desperate, returns to the Sinister Six headquarters, and demands Ock pay what he owes, namely, that the Six help defeat Carnage. But he’s followed by Carnage and his new crew including Shriek wearing a black and white symbiote of her own, which resembles her comics ensemble. That’s right: Carnage’s symbiote and Venom’s made babies (note: in this reality, Kassidy did get the death penalty, leaving his Shriek available, and consequently more feral). Ock and his team are still licking their wounds from their last whupping, and unprepared for the onslaught. Carnage captures Vulture and offers to spare his family if Vulture agrees to work for him- and threatens to recruit his daughter in his stead if he doesn’t. We also see them seize Jackal. The remaining members of the Six scatter, recognizing the fight as unwinnable (and villains being a superstitious and cowardly lot).

Venom doubles back, and follows Carnage. He’s also recruited the Hobgoblin, who also knows where Man-Spider and Lizard have been working together. I might give Shriek a backstory with Dr. Connors, that he experimented on her while she was in custody, trying to remove the herding/pack mentality from human beings (her abilities have been linked to the opposite, a panicked, every man for himself kind of instinct). She seeks revenge on him.

We cut to Connor’s lab. Peter unmasks, and offers his services as a lab assistant to Dr. Connors (personally, I’d bring back Dylan Baker, because he’s phenomenal, and can do that mentor thing no problem, but also can pivot to sinister in a way that would make him perfect for this role). See, Pete, because he’s been Spider-Manning, hasn’t really been able to hold down a job, so on paper he looks like the world’s biggest flake. Connors is patient with him, but says that even before he got the spider bite, he wasn’t much of an assistant; he spent his time there geeking out, and it got bad enough he had to hire an intern to pick up the slack, before Peter fully ghosted him to work for Octavius (who, faithful readers will remember, he ghosted for Tony Stark). That’s when we meet Connors’ new lab assistant, Miles Morales. He’s getting some college credit in exchange for the gig, and money for college… once he’s old enough to go. Pete thinks a moment, then offers that if he ever needs a second assistant, he’s one swing away. Connors stops him, and says that he’s still going to help him- him and his clone. We hear the sound of web-swinging, before a four-armed Spider-Man swings into the room. “I don’t know, I’m sort of getting used to the four arms,” he says. “Though I don’t miss the thousands of eyes. Or being hairy like a sasquatch.” Pete gets a call from Aunt May, and tells them he has to go, and swings out the window.

Miles confronts Connors about their mysterious donor- that it’s Spider-Man. Connors doesn’t confirm it, or deny it. Miles tells him that, ethically, they shouldn’t be keeping their experiments a secret. He says that until they have a breakthrough, there’s nothing to publish- nothing to share- and he wants to make sure it’s safe before exposing anyone else to the mutagenic compounds in Spider-Man’s blood. 

The window opens, and they turn back, expecting to find Peter. But it’s Carnage. Man-Spider attacks him, and Carnage makes quick work of him, dropping a writhing little ball of symbiote onto him that turns him into the Doppleganger. Carnage next attacks Connors, who starts to change into the Lizard. As his mouth snaps open, Carnage jams a symbiote inside, and holds him while it takes him over. In the commotion, Miles hides, but has a terrarium with a spider smashed over him in the commotion, and he’s bit by its former inhabitant. Venom, watching from a nearby rooftop, calls Ock.

Cut to Peter Parker’s rooftop. He’s marching, maskless, saying, “No no no no no no no.” We pan, and see that he’s reacting, badly, to Ock and Venom. “The last time you two were on this rooftop I was sucked into a black void before spending a week chained in a sadistic nightmare.”

Venom, not being a monster in this iteration, tries to apologize. Ock cuts him off. “You care for your clone, yes? And Dr. Connors?”

“Are you threatening them? What kind of a team-up is this?”

“They are already under threat, and not from me. Carnage has them. They are in the thrall of his sadistic symbiotes.”

“Are you saying they’re all sadistic or just his?”

“The red ones,” Venom’s symbiote says, “are mad. We have a saying amongst the Klyntar, that black and white are all right. Black and red, everyone’s dead.”

“Well thank God there’s a nursery rhyme,” Peter says, rubbing his eyes. “And they can be helped?”

“Symbiote and host can be separated. Must, in most cases, before the symbiote kills the host.”

“Oh. Good. What nightmare isn’t better without a ticking clock?” Peter asks. He shoves his mask back on. “I don’t see that I have a choice.”

“You could call your Avenger friends,” Ock taunts.

“You think he didn’t?” we hear a commanding voice from behind them. We see that Sam Wilson Captain America is landing on the rooftop.

This is your cavalry?” Ock complains.

“Short notice. Everyone else is dealing with a Kang situation,” Sam says (we can swap in whatever else might be a more appropriate reference).

“So that’s six, right?” Peter asked. “Contract fulfilled. We can stop recruiting and take the fight to Carnage? Or are you doing that thing from that old Ocean’s 11 series, where each time you have to add a character and a number to the movie.”

“There wasn’t a sequel to the ‘old’ Ocean’s 11,” Ock protested.

“Kid’s 6. Anything older than Blue’s Clues is prehistoric,” Venom said.

“Blue’s whose?” Peter asked, to which Ock chortled.

We cut to street level. Carnage’s symbiotes are chasing Cloak through the streets. He calls out for Tandy, before he hears her scream “Tyrone.” He follows the scream to the rooftops.

Carnage is there with his makeshift family. “You spoke to Brock for an article about homeless youth and underground drug experiments. Nobody cared. Color me shocked. But the experiments made you slippery, and your friend, well, she’s a beacon if I ever saw one. Her? I have no use for. I learned a long time ago that I do my best work in the dark. But you… we could have a lot of fun with you. But you’re slippery. So I was never going to be able to catch you on my own. I needed leverage.” Shriek produces Tandy, held inside her symbiote. “I have a soft spot for tragic love, so I’ll give you one chance to save ‘Tandy.’ You accept one of my symbiotes, and I let her go.” We show he’s got a finger crossed behind his back.

“I want to say goodbye.” Cloak floats near her, then engulfs both Shriek and Dagger in his cloak, before disappearing- but not before Carnage tags him with one of his symbiotes. Cloak lets Dagger out of his cloak somewhere else. They have a tearful goodbye, as Cloak tells her that he can feel the symbiote taking him over- that she needs to run- because when it does, it’s going to chase her. She doesn’t want to leave him. He tells her he isn’t- that she’s going to save him- she just has to pick her moment. He disappears, reappearing with Carnage. He lets Shriek loose. Then they all teleport to where he left Tandy. She’s gone.

The story follows a similar arc to the Maximum Carnage storyline from the books, Carnage’s team sewing panic in the streets, which Shriek is able to turn into unrest and rioting; she’s used Connor’s work and her new symbiote to create the opposite of what he was working on, a low-level sonic pulse that freaks people the hell out on an animal level; he’ll jibber about the reptile brain, mention those sonic pest repellers; it’s especially effective on the young, who have better hearing, and also fewer social ties, and because the first riot is mostly kids, that freaks out the older cohort. So by the time the heroes are organized, Carnage has built himself a bubble of innocent rioters to hide behind- they can’t take the fight to them until they clear out the civilians. 

But just like the original Maximum Carnage, it’s a combination of Captain America’s inspiration for them to be their best selves (I imagine mentioning the solidarity he saw in New York during the Chitari attack, Sam, not yet an Avenger, took volunteers from his group therapy to do disaster work), and a combination of Dagger’s light powers, that get the people enough in their right minds to disperse. I’m imagining an additional rub, that while he’s not officially, numerically part of the team (got to save something for the sequel) Morbius studies Shriek’s impact, and discovers there’s a biological component; yes, it is primarily a psychic plague, but it works symbiotically with a biological one, that lowers inhibitions while increasing adrenaline and rage- even if they can get the crowd to calm down, the moment someone stubs a toe it all goes to hell all over again, unless they can deal with the underlying, symbiote-based infection. I’d probably have him be attacked by a symbioted Jackal, who mocks his abilities, and he has to defeat, to be able to carry out his cure. So it’s the three of them in tandem that deal with Shriek’s influence.

Then the heroes take the fight to Carnage. We get a cool aerial Cap vs Vulture fight, a heartfelt Dagger vs. Cloak fight (him swallowing her up and her using her light from inside to reach him). Venom fights Carnage, while Spider-Man handles his Doppleganger. I guess Ock fights Lizard. Kraven and Scorpion fight Hobgoblin and Shriek. Dagger is able to clear the symbiotes off of people, everyone except Carnage. See, there isn’t anything underneath it- he’s just the symbiote, the face we’ve seen having been recreated by its shape-shifting. I think as the other symbiotes are removed, they return to Carnage; it makes him slightly more powerful, but also takes the hosts out of the fight. So in the end it’s everyone still standing versus Carnage. He ends up climbing to the top of a tower where, buffeted by attacks, he’s struck by lightning, and his charred body falls to the ground, shattering.

Mid-Credits Scene

Venom apologizes again to Spider-Man for dragging him into this. Peter, with a little reluctance, takes his hand and shakes it. We go in close, as the Venom symbiote reaches a tendril from Eddie’s hand onto the back of Spider-Man’s. It should read, in the moment, like the symbiote wanting to shake his hand, too, since he’s a real hero.

Ock is waiting in the wings, wanting a similar moment, and Peter notices. “You touch me, Otto, and I’ll tear off your arms. The, uh, metal ones, I mean.”

“You touch the kid again, and I’m tearing off all your limbs,” Venom adds. “Wait. Aw, crap.” Venom starts to do the thing he did at the end of Venom 2, and disappears; instinctively, the suit covers Spider-Man, too, to try to protect him, and inadvertently drags Peter with them, giving us, for the briefest moment, the MCU debut of symbiote Spider-Man.

Sam is on Otto in an instant, assuming he had something to do with the kid’s disappearance. Otto is just as flummoxed, and concerned, as he is. “I knew the boy before he grew into a Spider-Man; I briefly dated his aunt, and considered him a son. My concern for his welfare is equal to your own, and my befuddlement at his disappearance equal, too.”

Sam asks Connors, who is out of his depth on this one. Sam leaves, saying he needs to consult with some nerds.

End Credits

We cut to Carnage’s charred remains on the ground, and can see that the eyes are moving, if only just. He’s remembering the moment he was struck. We saw it as lightning, but really, it was a message, carried on electricity, across the stars. We zoom across galaxies, to the homeworld of the Klyntar, a writhing ball o symbiotes. We push through the goo, into a dark throne room, on which sits a gaunt, terrifying figure. We zoom in, pushing close, until we can just see one of his eyes beneath wispy white hair. He opens one blood-red eye, and we cut to black.

Nexus 3, Chapter 15

It had been a long time since I’d been in the biome. A lot of the ship’s resources were fabricated, either through entirely synthetic means or in the bioreactors- essentially bacterial colonies reprogrammed to create whatever raw materials we needed, similar to one of the early ways insulin was farmed. For everything else, we had the biome, a small slice of Earth recreated as a perfect, closed system designed to keep homeostatic harmony, with us harvesting the materials needed, and replacing them with processable wastes and byproducts from the rest of the ship.

Sasha and his fiancé were already most of the way into their hazard suits when I arrived, and started to dress. One of the MaintOffs in charge of the biome checked to be sure our suits were sealed shut- to make sure we didn’t contaminate it- then sealed us in the decon suite.  

I waited through the cycles of hot steam, alcohol and decon sprays, and even after, waited for Sasha to speak. I was here at their request, and I appreciated a chance to just be a spectator at someone else’s rodeo.

“You’re our plan B,” Sasha said, when the doors opened.

“Should I be flattered, or insulted? Or just wait for more information?”

“Well, first, you should say hello to my fiancé, Deena.”

“Howdy. We’ve met, but obviously, these are less formal circumstances. At least, I think they are.”

“I like watching him squirm,” Deena said. “He’s so used to being in the loop, especially when there are secrets he’s not used to being on the outside.”

“She has a point,” Sasha said with a grin, “but we didn’t ask him here to torture him, no matter how amusing that might be. My plan A wasn’t ever feasible, because trans men don’t produce sperm. I was pre-med, back on Earth, but I think I was still in the wishful thinking stage; I brought it up, with MedDiv, when I was first talking about transitioning. I wanted to be able to just flick a switch and be who I wanted to be, down to new DNA. But that’s not really a procedure they do, not even back on Earth, except in extreme cases. Because the human body really wasn’t designed to be restarted with new genes. It’s… basically the equivalent of a full body transplant. And if that weren’t enough, your cells replace at different rates, too, so it’s more like a series of transplants. Your skin will be replaced in 39 days. The skeleton takes 10 years, at the outside you’ve got hippocampal neurons replaced every 20 to 30 years. But the most important parts don’t replace at all; heart muscle cells stop growing at 10 years old, grey matter at 3. So you’d always have to keep the immune system suppressed, or it would attack your heart and brain. And honestly, the only real reason to still pursue it at that point is psychological, so there couldn’t be any nagging sense that maybe I’m not a ‘real’ man. And fuck that. I don’t need to adopt a toxically masculine death wish to prove my masculinity; and I’d rather live a real long life as me than worry about whether or not anyone else takes issue with my reality.”

“That sounds healthy,” I said.

“It’s likely solvable, long-term. I think if we, as a society, disliked trans people less, we might have dedicated the resources to building nano-gene-replacement tech that would do that safely; we use similar techniques to aid in a host of genetic disorders already, so it’s not as if the technology doesn’t exist- though to be fair we are talking a complete tear-down as opposed to replacing a single bad gene, or a cluster, or even a faulty chromosome- though there are plenty who might argue that’s the case if we’re replacing a y with an x. But even today you have a lot of people who see the disharmony as a psychological one, that the fix should be convincing us to be happy with what we have- of course, isn’t that capitalism in a nutshell, the people who have the most trying to convince the rest of us we’re content with what we have, so they don’t have to share?”

“I have brain worms,” I said, “and a whole series of head traumas. So feel free to dumb it down for me, because right now I couldn’t tell you if we’re in a forest or a desert.”

“We want to have a baby,” Deena said, “while I’m still young and most likely to have the least amount of complications. And for that, we need a donor.”

“And I checked with MedDiv, you’re the man on ship whose genes are most likely not to be allowed near a fertile human woman,” Sasha deadpanned. “Waste not, want not.”

“He gets nervous,” Deena said, touching Sasha’s arm as gingerly as possible through the hazard suit. “One part crush, one part hero-worship. Several parts a mid-level introvert uncomfortable dealing with an extroverted authority figure.”

“It’s an honor even to be asked,” I said.

“You have no idea,” Deena said. “It’s a very exclusive club.”

“But like the two of you, I have a partner, or maybe two, I’d need to discuss things with. Were it only up to me, I wouldn’t hesitate at all, and I am touched to even be considered.”

“Um, not to be pushy,” Deena said, “but how long do you think we’ll have to wait for an answer?”

“I’ll ask as soon as we’re clear of the biome. It doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you ask over message.”

“That seems fair. Also, far less impulsive than I would have expected.”

“I have developed something of a reputation in that regard, more than a little of it fair.”

“And, again, not trying to push…”

“Just anxious to know whether or not one of the more stressful and intimate decisions you’ve ever made is going to get blown up despite everyone’s best intentions?” I asked.

“Something like that, yeah, but how long do you anticipate your partners taking to decide?”

“Well, seeing as this is a normal occurrence for me, the typical turn-around is two business days. Elle’s likely to kill me immediately for asking. If she doesn’t, I imagine Sam can convince her to at least decide whether or not to kill me by breakfast tomorrow.”

“That seems reasonable. And for whatever it’s worth, I am rooting for her not killing you,” Deena said over-seriously. “Me, too,” I replied.

Pitchmas 2021, Part 1: Spider-Man 2099

First things first: I planned out this series of pitches before Marvel and Sony had started talking about doing a new MCU Spidey trilogy. This is important, because I am pitching a spidey-heavy slate in large part because I wanted to demonstrate that Spider-Man is better in the MCU, and vice versa. So if you were noticing an awful lot of Spiders flying your way, your Marvel no-prize isn’t in the mail.

We open on the Gallows family; this is the last time we’re going to see Jake Gallows happy. They’re leaving a show, when they’re accosted. Jake wants to fight back, but his wife tries to hold him back; she only succeeds in getting him shot. His Public Eye badge clatters to the ground, and the muggers freak out. They gun down the rest of the Gallows, before fleeing.

We cut to the inside of Alchemax. Miguel O’Hara gets waved through security, as he watches the head of Alchemax, Tyler Stone, talking to his son, Kron, who we recognize as the head mugger from the previous scene. Miguel doesn’t care about either of them. He’s got bigger fish to fry. Miguel heads up to his lab. Only Tyler stops the elevator, and slides in.

Tyler pressures him for progress. He’s oily, and is sure that they’re so close to a breakthrough. Miguel snaps at him. “A woman died.” The words reverberate. We’re in Miguel’s lab, as a woman named Angela Rose becomes sand. We continue to hear his words. “She disintegrated before my eyes, Tyler. The only thing we’re close to is a new, more efficient way to cremate people.”

Back in the elevator, Tyler says he noticed Miguel hasn’t touched his allotment of Rapture, and that a productive employee is a happy employee. For the first time we notice that Miguel is looking a little twitchy, a little sweaty, a little worse for wear. He tells Stone he doesn’t always use it; sometimes it makes it harder for him to concentrate or sleep. Stone stops the elevator a moment. “You remember why you helped me develop Rapture, Miguel?”

Miguel remembers Stone’s answer, even if he disagrees with him, philosophically, and parrots it back: they developed it because it acts as a stimulant, getting the best work out of employees on the clock, but also relaxes the employee off the clock, so they return the next day refreshed. The fact that it’s addictive and prohibitively expensive without it being subsidized by the company keeps employees loyal. Miguel tells him he’ll take his next dose soon.

In his lab, Miguel is confronted by two bots of his design, Electro and Mysterio, riffing on the classic Spider-Man villains. Electro was designed first, to handle electrical and magnetic lab tasks that could be dangerous; Mysterio does the same for chemicals, and as a consequence is essentially a mobile chemistry lab with an overdeveloped sense of the dramatic. Mysterio is playful, up to and including sewing himself a cape and making mist wherever he goes; Miguel teases him about it being to cover up his exhaust cloud.

Miguel also has a lab assistant, Aaron Delgato. He’ll mostly be a background presence, this go round, but he is essentially Tyler’s eyes and ears into Miguel’s work. Miguel is working with spider genetics, specifically working on a serum using their genetics as a curative to the addictive compounds in Rapture. Miguel is doing a head count as he slides into a lab coat. His spiders have been engineered to have numbers on their abdomens to make it easier to count them. He asks where one of the numbers is, I’ll say 15 (I believe it was Amazing Fantasy 15 Spider-Man debuted in, though please don’t take my nerd card away if I’m wrong, I use it to defend my honor- that’s right, duct-taped to my junk like a chastity belt, which has proved incredibly effective at keeping people from untaping my duct).

We cut to the inside collar of his lab coat, where the spider is. Miguel scratches at his neck, which compresses the spider, who reacts by biting. Miguel cries out, twisting out of his coat. The spider runs off, as he collapses.

We hear the beeping of a heart monitor in a fancy-looking hospital room. Miguel is across the way from the monitored man; his vitals are good, we overhear his doctor say, no need for the same kind of equipment as Mr. Gallows is hooked up. “Gallows?” the woman visiting Miguel asks, as we pan towards the TV, which is showing the trial of Kron Stone.

The prosecutor is wrapping up. “Even now, one of the brave officers from our Public Eye is fighting for his life, barely clinging to it while this scum has the audacity to smile and make jokes. If only his wife or children had been so lucky. You’ve seen the vids; his guilt isn’t even in question. The only decision you have to make is the kind of justice he’ll face.” The judge instructs the jury to register their verdicts, and an instant later tells them the verdict is in. He instructs the defendant to stand, but he refuses, so the judge has two bailiffs force him to his feet, then reads out the verdict: death. We start to hear the heart monitor again.

This time the mugger goes into his pocket, and retrieves a black card. The bailiff holds out a panel, which he swipes the card against; the card changes to a slightly lighter gray. The courtroom gasps, as his shackles deactivate and fall to the floor. A man narrates that because of his family’s wealth, being caught committing multiple murders on camera essentially amounts to only a credit downgrade, that he’ll only be able to crash his sports car every other day from now on.

We hear the heart monitor go into full alarm, as we pull back out, into the hospital room. We see now that the window is open, with the cord for the heart monitor trailing out, threatening to pull the monitor out of the window, before going slack. We pan over to see that Jake’s bed is now empty.

We pan back to the TV. We hear reporters mobbing the defendant, in particular the newscaster who narrated earlier. “What would you say to people who say that you got away with murder?”

The mugger mugs for the camera (see what I did there?) before saying, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t pay the fine, kids!” before cackling. The camera pans to the interviewer. He’s John Eisenhart. “There you have it: an ending nearly as horrifying as the crime that preceded it.” While John is a little too slick, a little too massaged, we can see some genuine emotion bleeding out of him. We cut a little later, as he’s driving down the freeway, while his camera woman cycles through their footage, including that last line.

“I hate this job,” he says.

“The fame? The fortune.”

“That I’m not paid that well, or paid to punch little shits like that on camera.”

“That’s why we moonlight,” she tells him. “So we can get at the stories that really matter. You really think these guys are legit?”

“I think these guys are certifiable. If half what I’ve heard about the Knights of Banner can be believed, I think they’ve been soaking up too many gamma rays.” He laughs to himself, before turning stone-faced. “No, they’re zealots. They’re definitely legit. Maybe too legit.”

“To quit?”

“To not be dangerous. But danger’s sexy. Danger means eyeballs.”

If we can get them to sign on for broadcast rights. Otherwise you got to tell their story with sock puppets again.”

“I can be very persuasive. I got an exclusive quote from Kron Stone.”

“Yeah, because you elbowed that Jameson girl from the Bugle in the boob.”

“An ace news hound follows his instincts, and doesn’t have time for chivalry.”

“Yeah, you elbowed me in the boob, too, dude.”

“Sorry about that.”

“S’okay,” she says sulkily, before striking, elbowing him in the chest.

“Driving!” he says. She grabs and yanks the wheel, but the car doesn’t respond.

“Yeah, but the car won’t let you drive badly. So whatever.”

We get a relatively low-key tour of the compound for the Knights of Banner. They’re really more monks; yes, they’re experimenting with gamma radiation, half because they claim it has the potential to be a true, and cheap, power source, one not controlled by the MegaCorps… but also because it can make worthy men of mortal ones- their world needs more than these knights, it’s going to take sterner material to tame this future. He relates the history, how most of Marvel’s heroes fell defending mutants- the strongest defending the weak, how when they fell mutants became hunted, and even the mention of most of the heroes became against the law. The Thorites got around it by making Asgardian worship a major religion again. Most of the other heroes faded into obscurity. Their leader pleads with Eisenhart- that he gave him this tour not to whet his appetite, but to help him understand how vital their mission is- and also how vital it remain a secret until their work is completed.

But seeing their secrets he’s convinced there’s fame and money in the story. He tries to convince the guy, that with publicity would come funding, enough to get his reactor online, but he’s having none of it. John and his camera woman return to his car, and he tells her there’s a way around this, that he can call the authorities, then film the Knights under an emergency public interest license. She’s pissed, because his big break was exactly like that, and instead of right place at the wrong time, he created the storm that got people killed. “My footage got those people justice.”

“Your ego got those people killed. It doesn’t justify it, just because you got their killers a slap on the wrist to soothe your conscious.” She storms off, leaving the camera. He hesitates, before calling the Public Eye. But the cops don’t just roust them, or arrest the Knights- they slaughter them. John pleads with them to stop, stop the violence, stop the madness, even threatens to expose them. They tell him the cops learned from his last shenanigan, and cut his feed- he isn’t broadcasting. They smash his camera. Eisenhart ends up barricaded in with the other Knights in their gamma reactor. The Knights work to dismantle their reactor, both to do so safely and prevent a meltdown, and to prevent their tech from being seized by the MegaCorps and then patented. They give John their plans, and ask him to get them out. He laughs bitterly, because none of them are getting out. The head knight offers Eisenhart their crucible; every knight has taken it, and that is why every one of them is dying of radiation sickness, some more swiftly than others. They have been incrementally closing in on Banner’s original experiment.

“You want to kill me slow so the cops don’t kill me fast? What kind of sense does that make?”

“I want to transform you into something the cops cannot kill.” They argue for a bit. The head knight’s stance is basically, “I believe in destiny. I do not believe we would toil here, in secret, for decades, and only as we close on our quarry be shut out. I believe this is fate, John Eisenhart. I believe you are here to complete our work. Perhaps I’m a zealot; if I’m wrong, the Eye will murder you long before radiation poisoning can damage you. If I’m right… there are many people you will be able to save from them.”

John finally relents, because “Dead men don’t file stories,” and this one is big enough to be worth chasing, even at this cost. We cut to the outside of the reactor compound, as the cops blow it. Subtly, we’re watching through a news camera. The cops infiltrate the reactor. They’re surprised the Knights managed to render the reactor safe in the time they had. One of the Knights, badly burned, tells them it’s because the Knights respect gamma, and is shot for his troubles. The cops execute the remaining Knights, before finding John Eisenhart. His clothes have been destroyed, save for a pair of purple boxers that are shredded. The cop who found him is about to shoot him, when one of the other officers stops him, and points back at a camera being held by his returned camera woman.

“Who cares, we cut his feed?”

They’re live.” The executioner holsters his pistol, swears, and calls in an ambulance. John’s hand flutters, and we see the data chip that the Knights gave him. John Eisenhart ends up in the hospital room where Miguel is.

Jake Gallows calls a friend from the force, one who was fired for a lack of brutality. He has him bring him to Old York, formerly Hell’s Kitchen, where the pair discovered the Punisher’s old cache, including a diary. We hear narration, “You who find my war journal, I charge with carrying on my work.” We realize then it’s Gallows friend, quoting. He helps Gallows inside, and dresses his wounds. He’s torn stitches and is bleeding worse, now.

Miguel comes to sleeping on the ceiling. When he realizes that’s where he is, he falls painfully flat into the bed, just as the doctor comes in to check on him. “Feeling better, Mr. O’Hara?”

“Not really,” Miguel mutters into his pillow, having had the wind knocked out of him.

“It’s all relative, Miguel. You nearly died. Anywhere north of dead is better.” The doctor asks the nurse how long he’s been up. They tell him according to his EKG less than a minute ago. The doctor is curious what woke him up. Then they notice the noise coming from John. He’s breathing like a dragon. An angry one.

The doctor turns towards John to check him. John wakes, and attacks both the doctor and nurse, before lunging bestially, growing more hulking and monstrous with each moment, at Miguel. Miguel leaps over him once. Then twice. The third time Hulk 2099 manages to connect, knocking him out the window. Miguel falls. And falls. We think that’s the end of him, until he shoots webbing from his wrist, and swings to (relative safety). A homeless man tells him he can see his ass (because he’s still wearing a hospital gown), and he says he’ll have to figure something out.

Jake has been researching while injured. Kron has been gathering organs for his father because what Miguel never knew is that fresh human organs were necessary to ‘tame’ Rapture; without them it’s lethally toxic to humans. The synthetics and vat-grown just don’t cut it; only filtering it through human organs cuts the toxicity enough for it to be used in humans, and Kron’s gang have been providing these organs.

Alchemax also runs the Public Eye, and have been feeding their officers into setups like the one that killed the Gallows family- basically doing it to any officers not otherwise on the take or deep enough under their control. They were also instrumental in the fall of the Knights of Banner- giving John Eisenhart the tip that led him there, knowing that he’d used his trick of calling out the cops to get his story- and once John finds this out he’s on board taking on Alchemax. He has a fight with his partner, who doesn’t want to help him kill people, and also doesn’t think he’s up to the fight yet, and isn’t willing to help Jake kill himself.

Gallows dismantles Kron’s gang violently, using relatively low-tech from Punisher’s stores. However, Kron isn’t there. Jake finds out interrogating the last of his lieutenants (who is wearing the mech suit Jake will put a skull on to complete his look). The lieutenant tells Jake Alchemax is experimenting on Miguel and on John, trying to use them to create superhuman organs that can survive Rapture. “Who?” he asks, and the lieutenant points to a screen on the wall, Eisenhart and O’Hara on security cameras in the hospital room. The lieutenant pleads for his life, saying he has the exact same family as Jake did, that they won’t survive their crippling debt without him. Jake notices a girl, cowering in the corner. Her name is Polly, she’s a Venus 8 Gene Doll, illegal on-world; and they’re sentient, the feel pain, and fear- whether or not it’s against the law to beat on one, it’s wrong, the kind of wrong that needs correction, needs punishment. We pan back towards the TV as the Jake looms over the lieutenant; over his shoulder we see Polly, watching intently, studyiously.

Miguel has stolen a Day of the Dead costume that is 90% of the way to his final costume. Hulk is rampaging, and smashes out of the hospital. Spider-Man pursues, first trying to get him to stop, then trying to get him away from crowds. Then, he’s able to talk John down, realizing his rage is feeding the cycle of his Hulking. Jake appears, telling them he had a shot (from a ludicrously large future cannon), but worried they were going to need the big man, so he let it play out; he’s added the skull motif to his stolen armor. He says that their accidents weren’t accidents, but real-world human experimentation, and that to get the proof they’re going to need to go hard at Alchemax. Miguel insists they not kill anyone. Jake says he doesn’t have to, but Punisher’s going to do what he needs.

The trio attack Alchemax, and are confronted primarily by corrupt members of the Public Eye. Jake ‘kills’ Kron, calling him ‘sewage’ and dropping him into the sewer with the intention of letting all of his stab wounds become septic and kill him as slowly and painfully as possible. We’ll show him get attacked in the sewers by something dark and shadowy (it’s the Venom symbiote). The corrupt Public Eye deliberately weaken the building, threatening everyone working there (save the executives, who escaped already via helicopter), as well as anyone who will be in range of falling debris. The heroes have to abandon their assault, deciding to save innocent people rather than pursue their personal missions. Alchemax-owned news stations paint them as terrorists anyway, attributing the damage the corporation and its henchpeople caused to them. John tells Spider-Man that the Knights gave him the designs for a reactor; they believed an Alchemax scientist named O’Hara could be trusted with it. He’s not so sure anyone working inside that company should be trusted. Spider-Man takes off his mask, and introduces himself. 

Mid Credits Scene

Tyler Stone leads Aaron Delgato into a basement at Alchemax. Aaron is nervous, even chattering about how he half-expected Stone to put the Public Eye on him, or pin Miguel’s accident on him. Stone admits that would be fair, since Aaron was the cause of Miguel’s accident, but tells him he values loyalty over anything else, and believes it should be rewarded. That’s why he wants to introduce Aaron to his silent partner. When he and Miguel would get stuck, and Stone would whisper answers into Aaron’s ear, it was this genius who whispered them in Stone’s. Aaron’s surprised/confused when the room is filled with a vast tank of water. Inside, however, there’s a full complement of scientific equipment, including computers. That’s when we meet Dr. Octopus, an Atlantean/octopus hybrid (he created the hybrid process himself). He’s a genius. And terrifying.

End Credits Scene

Latveria

Very science fictiony space, lots of tech, machines going. There’s a cocoon not unlike the one used to creative Vision in one corner. A red light flashes green, before it opens, and a metal gauntlet matching Dr. Doom’s grabs the edge of the cocoon to life him out, obscured mostly by smoke/steam as he says, “Doom rises again.”