DARIA'S WEB: ONCE BITTEN A Daria/Spider-Man crossover

by Ranger Thorne

Few New Yorkers look up at night. The lights of the city hid most of the stars, so there really wasn't reason to bother looking higher than the signs that decorated the city as they hawked the product of the moment. Some of the few that did, however, were occasionally rewarded by seeing a figure moving between the buildings with ease. Almost always, it brought a smile to the face of the New Yorker when they realized that Spider-Man was again on the job.

Finally, the web-slinger thought to himself, a slow night. I haven't had one of those since . . . under his mask, Spider-Man smirked, well, never. Seems there's always some lunatic running around attacking someone. A scream echoed from a nearby alley. Like that, for example.

Shooting a web off to his right, Spider-Man held on until the arc of his swing changed, then dropped the first line. Experience enabled him to land against a wall with barely a sound. The scream sounded again, urging the wall crawler to race into the darkness.

Uh-oh, trouble. The amazing sixth sense he had long ago dubbed his 'spider sense' kicked into gear. The wild awareness that came with it revealed what seemed to be explosives that had been set throughout the alley. A trap, he realized just as the bombs went off, releasing a thick green gas.

Trusting his instincts, Spider-Man took a breath before he flipped from the wall to land on his feet in the cloud. He could make out a man in a gas mask in front of him. Spider-Man was still as he waited for the man to make his move.

"Finding a little hard to move, eh, web-head?" came the filtered voice from behind the mask. "This special nerve gas does that. It causes the nerves to order the muscles to freeze. It keeps you from collapsing. Of course," the darkened figure went on, "in a few minutes, your heart will stop and your brain will shut down. It kills you, but look at the bright side, you'll make a great statue." The figure stepped up to the costumed hero. "It'll teach a lesson to everybody that no one takes my money and gets away with it."

What's he going on about? Spider-Man asked himself. As the gas began to thin, he saw the figure pull out a pistol and bring it up to point at Spider-Man's head.

"Well, I wish I could just wait, but I've never been all that patient." Spider-Man saw the finger begin to squeeze on the trigger just as he felt something hit him in the back. The next thing the wall crawler knew, he was jerked into the air.

"Hey! Get back here!" A couple of bullets whizzed past as Spider-Man passed the top of one of the buildings that had walled the alley.

"Whuf," was all the wall-crawler said as he was caught before he fell onto the roof. He watched through his mask as he was carried over to a window and set down next to it. With his back against the frame of the window, he looked at his rescuer.

She wasn't tall, Spider-Man noticed. He guessed her height to be anywhere from five feet even to four inches past that. Her auburn hair was tied back with a red bandana, which clashed with her green jacket. Beneath the jacket was a black T-shirt. Although he couldn't see them clearly, it appeared that the girl's feet beneath her blue jeans were bare. Her brown eyes were troubled as she looked at him.

There are a few questions I'd like answered, he thought to himself as he lay, unmoving. And I think playing frozen for a minute or two just might get them for me. Who are you and why do you look familiar? And, he added as he looked at the strand that could have been his own as it trailed away from his back, How did you get webbing?

"I bet you'd like some answers," she said. Her voice was almost a monotone.

"Uh," he croaked, "yeah."

"Well," she said with the barest of shrugs, "I will tell you that the idiot you just talked to thinks you stole some of his drug money." She sighed, "Actually, it was me."

"You," he stopped to swallow, "stole drug money?"

"It was a matter of opportunity and necessity. You see," she gestured to indicate herself, "I'm on the lam, and I needed some cash to ensure my continued freedom. He," she gestured toward the alley, "is someone who sells crap to kids. So, I feel no twinge of conscience about taking his dirty money and putting it to my own more ethical uses."

"On the lam?" Spider-Man asked as he twitched his fingers. Beneath his mask, his eyes suddenly grew wide. "Wait a minute. You're," he coughed, then started over. "You're Daria, that kid from Lawndale."

"Damn," she muttered. "I should have just kept my mouth shut and swung out of here." She looked at him for a long moment before sighing. "What the hell." Daria sat on the ground in front of him. "You want to hear a story?" She asked as she crossed her legs.

"I've got the time."

She smirked a little at him, "I guess you do. Okay, here it is." After looking off into the distance for a moment, she sighed and said, "You're right. I am Daria. Or, to be accurate, Daria Anne Morgendorffer. And, I am the girl they're looking for in Lawndale. But, things didn't go like the papers say." Frowning, she added, "Damn newspapers."

"They say you killed two people."

"One person died, that's for sure. But he did it to himself. Or at least he had it coming. As for the other?" She shrugged again, "We'll see." As Spider-Man leaned against the window, Daria looked into the darkness above the Big Apple and began to speak.


As you know, this all happened in a place called Lawndale. What you don't know is that Lawndale is filled with more old money than you can shake a stick at. Including one of the richest men in the state. His name is Charles Ruttheimer the Second. His son, Charles the Third, is one of the slimiest, most perverted people I've ever had the displeasure of meeting. He comes across as a pseudo-suave love child of James Bond and Jerry Lewis. But, I've heard from the few girls who have actually gone out with him that he's a pervert. His father owns stock in several major corporations, including some here in New York. He even has his fingers in the research departments of universities all across the country. Just before you started appearing in the papers, Charles the Third, or Upchuck as we call him, spent a few days in New York with his father. I know this because he bragged about going the week before. But, when he came back, he was different . . .

"Hello, ladies."

"Oh, god," Daria leaned against her locker, being careful of her glasses. She was wearing her usual outfit of green jacket, mustard-colored shirt, black pleated skirt, and Doc Marten boots.

"Why, hello, Upchuck," Jane said behind her. "You're looking fit." She, likewise, was wearing her normal clothes. An unbuttoned red man's shirt with the sleeves rolled up past the elbows, a black T-shirt and tights with gray shorts and boots even larger than her friend's.

"Why, thank you, Miss Lane." Turning, Daria could only stare for a moment.

Before, he had been this skinny kid who looked like he'd weight fifty pounds soaking wet. Now, he was fit. In fact, he looked like he'd been working out every day for years. Not bulky, mind you, but the lean look of an athlete. Kinda like you, now that I think about it.

Daria nodded, "You do look fit. Did you find a miracle spa in New York?"

Grinning, Upchuck flexed his arm, "I've found an excellent workout regimen. Which," he wagged his eyebrows at the two, "I would be more than happy to share with you."

"Uh," Jane shook her head, "I don't think so, Upchuck. You see, we already have an exercise program."

"It's called running away from you," Daria finished as the friends turned and left him standing.

"Oh," he called after them, "you'll be back. You'll see."

I'm not sure what happened next. What I was told was that he hit on Jodie Landon. She's the overachiever of Lawndale High. He'd come onto her before, but this time he must have gone too far. Her boyfriend, Mack, tried to come to her rescue, but was thrown down the hall and broke his arm. I did hear one of our teachers, Ms. Barch, chewing him out as she dragged him to the office, though.

"You lousy men think you own the world." Jane looked up as Daria met her gaze. Then, they looked toward the hall as they saw Upchuck being pulled along by the teacher.

"He looked upset," Daria said.

"You mean murderous," Jane corrected. "Something's wrong with that boy."

"Something has always been wrong with that boy," Daria reminded her.

Honestly, I thought that would be the end of it. Upchuck got in one good lick on Mack. Mack got hurt, and Upchuck learned better. Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of it. Oh it seemed like it for a time, but just over a week later, we got to school to see the police on the grounds in force. It seems that Ms. Barch had been found in the river. Somehow, she had fallen in and drowned. While it seemed to have been either an accident or suicide, the police were being thorough. I didn't make the connection until later, but I should have. I was, after all, the school brain. Then it got worse.

"Ah, if it isn't she who holds the password to my heart."

Daria turned from her locker to face him. "Whatever it is, Upchuck, I don't want to hear it."

"It is merely an invitation to spend some time with me." He gave her a lopsided grin, "I just had the seats in the love-mobile re-upholstered. Care to give them a try?"

"How about I try out the stain guard by throwing up on them?"

"How about you acting a little nicer?" His voice lost the smarmy quality as he frowned at her.

"Excuse me?" Daria crossed her arms, "Upchuck, you've been harassing me almost from the moment I started school here. Don't you think -- OW!" Reaching out, Upchuck had grabbed her lower jaw and squeezed.

"You need to watch your manners," he growled as he moved close. Daria pried at his fingers in a vain attempt to pull herself free. "Now, don't you think you should rethink your answer?"

The pain was causing her eyes to water and had her too distracted to respond. A gasp escaped her when he suddenly released his hold. Then, to her amazement, he back flipped over a charging figure to land gently on his feet. Jane, who had tried to tackle him from behind, slammed into Daria, knocking them both to the floor.

As the two tried to pull themselves together, the red headed boy reached down and lifted Jane by her red jacket and T-shirt. "You really don't want to get in my way again, Miss Lane. Besides," he leered, "your turn is coming."

"I'd rather be dead, Upchuck," Jane glared as she hissed the words at him.

Suddenly, he looked away. Then, he dropped her. Leaning close, he said, "You'll be punished for that. Punished severely." With a wink at Daria, he walked away just as a teacher came around the corner.

"Are you okay?" Jane asked as she crawled next to her friend.

"No," Daria whispered through the pain.

"Oh, god," Jane's eyes widened. "Daria, you're already starting to bruise."


"Hey, it'll help your Mom get a court order or something against him." Glancing in the direction he had gone, Jane added, "When did he get so damn strong?"

"I wish I knew," Daria mumbled as she held her hands tenderly against her jaw.

I was lucky he only bruised me. Ms. Li, the principal, tried to have Upchuck suspended, but the school board overruled her. It seems that Upchuck the Second had a lot of pull. My Mom had a warrant for his arrest issued, but a higher-ranking judge overruled the one she used. Turns out what he did was illegal, but it gave the little fink time to do what he was planning. It was two days later when Jane suddenly vanished. I was home eating breakfast when the phone rang . . .

"Hey, Daria." The voice of Jane's brother, Trent, reached her ears after she had answered the phone.

"Uh, hey, Trent."

"Have you seen Janey?"

"Isn't she there?"

"Uh, no. I don't think so. I was hoping she'd gone over to your place." Daria could hear something in his voice she hadn't heard before. Trent was worried.

"Is something wrong, Trent?"

"Uh, I went into Janey's room so I could ask if we had any soda. When I did, I saw that one of the windows had been busted out. There was glass everywhere. Uh," he paused to think, "I didn't see any blood, but the room looked like there'd been a fight."

"Oh, no." Daria sat at the table as her world fell inward. "Uh, Trent," Daria closed her eyes as her jaw began to ache, "maybe you should just wait to see if she comes in."

"You think she's okay?"

Mentally kicking herself for lying to him, Daria said, "I'm sure she's fine. Go get some sleep and she'll be there to yell in your ear in a few hours."

A much more relaxed voice reached her as he said, "Cool. Thanks, Daria."

"You're welcome, Trent," She replied. As she hung up the phone, Daria leaned against the counter and rubbed her jaw, "It's been nice knowing you."

I just knew he had her. And I was the only one who could do anything about it. I watched his place until he left for school. Using a pair of binoculars, I watched as he activated the exterior control pad. Then, after he left, I walked up to the door and typed the numbers in. With a click, the lock released and I was inside. To be on the safe side, I started at the top and worked my way down. I checked each room to make sure I hadn't missed anything. It would figure he'd have Jane in the basement.

"Jane?" Daria asked as she came down the stairs. The room had been changed from a normal basement to a cross between a lab and a torture chamber. A few Bunsen burners actually sat upon a long table. What looked like a terrarium that was filled with spider webs sat under the small window on one end. But it was the other end that drew her attention when she heard Jane speak.

"Daria?" The familiar voice was weak, but led Daria to the box springs that her friend had been, literally, wired to. Jane was in the shorts she often slept in, but her T-shirt was gone, replaced by a black tube top. Her right eye was bruised and mostly closed.

"What the hell was he doing to you?" Daria asked as she began to undo the wire.

"He was punishing me," was the reply. Jane fell into her friend's arms as she was released.

"What did he do?"

"He used some wire from a lamp to run electricity through the metal." Jane flinched, "Now I know what a light bulb feels like." Looking at her, Jane said, "It was crazy, Daria. I was almost asleep when he comes blowing through the window like he'd repelled off of the roof. I tried to fight him off, but he just tossed me around like a rag doll. Finally," she rubbed her eye gently, "he popped me a good one and I was out. I woke up here this morning. Uh," she looked worried, "it is morning, right?"

"Yeah, it's morning." Daria looked around, "What's he up to, Jane?"

"I don't know. But," she pointed at a computer sitting in the corner, "he said he was writing in his diary at one point."

"Well," Daria sat at the desk, "let's see if we can find out why he snapped." A moment later, however, she let lose a string of expletives. "A password," she explained as she finished.

"Hmm," Jane pulled up another chair and sat next to her, "what kind of password would Upchuck use?"

"Let me see," Daria turned and tried 'stud.' "Nope."

"Babes?" Jane offered.




"What kind of word would someone like ol' chuckers use for a password?"

"Oh, god," Daria rolled her eyes.

"What is it?"

Carefully, Daria typed in D-A-R-I-A and hit the 'enter' key. "Yeah, that's it."

"He used your name? How did you know?"

"He told me I had the password to his heart just before he grabbed my jaw. Now," she began to search, "let's see if we can find his diary. Ah, here it is."

"Try looking about a week before he showed up with all the muscles," Jane suggested.

"Good idea. Here we are."

It was frightening. You see, he had seen someone bitten by a spider at the Columbia University Science Department. He had collected the spider so he could make it a pet. When you showed up later, he believed it must have been the same person. Upchuck has always been a good student. Evidently, a little better than I thought. He was able to break down the composition of the spider's venom and realized that it had the potential to impart some of its DNA's properties to whomever it bit. Then, he used the venom to create a formula for boosting the potential. His research indicated that it could cause a chemical imbalance in the brain, but he took it anyway. When I read that, I realized we were dealing with someone who was becoming more and more unstable. A glance at the terrarium made me cringe. The spider was still alive, and still in Upchuck's control. He had all of your powers, but without any compunction as to how to use them.

"We gotta get out of here," Daria told her friend. As they stood and turned toward the stairs, a familiar shape slipped into view.

"Welcome to my humble abode," Upchuck said with a grin.

"You're going to jail, Upchuck," Daria told him, refusing to back down.

"No," he shook his head. "Your friend is going to see some new friends of mine. I just made a deal to give her to them. You, on the other hand," he leered at Daria, "are going to be here for a nice. Long. Time."

Fists clenched, Daria threw herself at Upchuck. With an almost casual motion, he backhanded her across the room and into the terrarium. Stunned and barely conscious, she didn't notice a small blue and red object that fell down the neck of her shirt. With the pain of the glass and the impact, she also didn't notice the sharp sting on her right shoulder blade.

It wasn't until a hand reached out and lifted her off her feet that Daria realized that Upchuck had moved. He held her aloft by the lapel of her jacket as he began to whisper his plans for her. Then, as he drew back his fist to hit her, Daria made a move of desperation just as her attacker started to look around.

Upchuck grabbed the metal bar from Jane's hand just as the steel toe of Daria's boot reached his crotch. With a scream, he wrenched the bar away from Jane and fell to his knees. As he dropped Daria, the girl staggered a few steps away before falling.

"I'll," he gasped, "kill you," another gasp, "for that."

"Let's get out of here before he does just that," Jane suggested. Together, the two limped toward the door of the house. They had just reached it when a sound behind them made them turn.

Upchuck had recovered enough to follow them. Now, however, he was climbing along the roof toward them. The girls stared as he neared. His grin appeared as he reached out a hand.

"I believe that belongs to me," he said as a thin strand shot out to stick to the tube top Jane was wearing. He gave a tug, and the cloth came free, leaving Jane with only her hands to cover her chest.

"You perverted little," Daria began.

"Oh, enough, miss high and mighty," he said with his grin in place. With a grace that would make a professional dancer green with envy, he slipped from the ceiling to land on his feet. "We're going to have a bit of fun, now. In fact," he stopped. "Oh, damn," he frowned. "He would have to come home now."

Behind the girls, the doorknob began to move. Daria grabbed Jane and pulled her behind the door just as it opened. The figure that entered the house had hair that was darker than Upchucks, but close enough for them to guess that it was Charles Ruttheimer II. A single suitcase fell from his fingers as he strode toward his son.

"Charles, what the hell have you been doing? My lawyers had to work overtime to keep you out of jail."

Not wanting to faced the elder Ruttheimer with Jane topleess, the girls slipped around the door and outside. They saw the boy give them a final glare before looking at his father. "Daaad," he whined, "it's all a misunderstanding. I can explain everything."

"'Everything,' he says," Jane grumbled as they headed away from the house. "You should have heard his explanation of what he was going to do to me." She swallowed, "No, on second thought, you shouldn't." She glanced over her shoulder at the house as she adjusted her hands over her chest. "Shouldn't we tell 'daaad' about this?"

"Jane, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."


"I get the feeling that Ruttheimer Two would be more likely to take Upchuck's side. Especially with you dressed like that." Slipping off her jacket, she handed it to Jane. Then, as the last of the adrenaline faded, she stumbled and fell.

"Hey, you okay, amiga?" Jane knelt next to Daria and helped her to her feet.

"I feel awful."

Jane glanced at her friend's back, "You need medical attention, Daria."

"So do you."

"Nah," Jane grinned and shook her head slowly, "I've been hurt worse. I'm just glad you showed up before he actually did try to sell me."

Daria stopped dead in her tracks and stared. "I thought he was joking."

The grin faded, "He said he'd been in contact with someone who wanted to 'purchase' a teenage female. Upchuck even said that they'd okayed me ahead of time."

"White slavery sounds right up his alley," Daria grumbled.

"I know. That's why I was worried." Jane took Daria's arm, "Come on, your house is closer. Then I can look at your back."

I had glass stuck in my back. Jane took a pair of tweezers and pulled the shards out one at a time. It was a good thing no one else was home to hear me screaming. Something I didn't really pay attention to at the time, though, was a splotch on the inside of my T-shirt. Jane commented on what looked like a bite mark on my back, but we had other worries. It wasn't until later that I made the connection between the splotch and the bite. That damn spider had bitten me just before I fell on top of it.

"Get some sleep, Daria," Jane instructed her friend.

"What about you?" Daria lay face down on her bed. Her back had several bandages on it, covering the places where glass had been removed.

"I'm going to head home and get some rest, too."

"Jane," Daria started to sit up, "Upchuck knows where you live, and he's busted in there before."

"His dad will keep him busy for the rest of the day." Jane stood, "Besides, I want some of my own clothes." She plucked at the jacket she still wore, "It looks okay on you, but I'm not big into green."

"Fashion snob," Daria teased.

"But which is my best side? I know they're both good." The two shared a grin, then Jane moved toward the door. She stopped and turned, "Daria."


"You think he really would have killed us?"

"I don't think he's sane anymore, Jane. But, given his past history, he would have made us wish we were dead, first."

"Damn." Jane frowned, "I better hurry home, then. Later." Not hearing a reply, she looked around to see that her friend had already fallen asleep.

I slept through the rest of the day and into the next morning. When I woke up, I staggered into the bathroom, then back to my bedroom. It wasn't until I put on my glasses that I realized something was wrong.

"What the?" Daria lowered her glasses and looked around. The objects were crystal clear. Raising her round frames again, she flinched as everything became blurry. Confused, she took a spare jacket from the closet and put the frames in the pocket. Then, picking up the phone, Daria dialed a number as she began to put on her boots.

After several rings, Daria heard someone pick up the phone. "Officer, really, she left her ID at home."


"Huh? Oh, hey, Daria."

"Hi, Trent. Can I talk to Jane?"

There was a moment of confusion on the other end of the phone, "You mean she's not there?"

"Not again," Daria whispered to herself. A feeling of dread came over her again. "Did she say she was coming over here?"

"Yeah. She left about an hour ago. Daria? Daria?" Trent called into the phone, not realizing that it had been dropped onto the bed as Daria raced out of the room.

Despite the heavy boots and her normal lack of exercise, Daria had covered half the distance to Jane's house at a dead run. Suddenly, however, she stopped.

It was the strangest feeling. Like my entire body was tingling. I was suddenly more aware of everything around me. There was a car going down the street with a couple in it. The guy was doing something with the radio as the woman laughed. A dog across the street was saying hello to the neighborhood fire hydrant. And, my green jacket was lying behind some shrubs.

Reaching down, Daria pulled the jacket out of the greenery. She glanced around as thoughts raced through her mind. "Upchuck," she growled. Holding the jacket in one hand, she turned and ran toward the mansion she had escaped from only the day before.

Arriving at the mansion, she noticed a large "For Sale" sign had been placed in the yard. "Get out while the getting's good, eh Charles?" Daria mumbled. Instead of the front door, Daria decided to find a different entrance. Circling around to where she thought she had seen the basement window the day before, Daria saw that a piece of wood had been secured over it. A sound from the front of the building caused her to race back around. A white van had pulled up and two men had stepped out of the side door.

White slavery? The words echoed in Daria's mind. "Not today, kiddies," she told herself. Stepping out from the corner, she confronted the men. "What are you doing here?" she demanded.

"Who are you?" One of them asked.

"She's the Lane kid's buddy," the other said. "Don't you recognize her?"

"She ain't got on those mondo sized glasses," the first replied. Looking back at her, he said, "Just get out of the way, kid." Reaching out, he put a hand on her shoulder. Daria awarded him by grabbing his arm and using it to throw him into the side of the van.

I don't know who was more surprised, me or them. The other guy tried to punch me, but it was like he was moving in slow motion. My dad had taught me some basic martial arts moves when I was young, and I used a couple on this guy. He and the other clown climbed back inside the van and drove off. Now, all I needed to do was deal with Upchuck. Right after I figured out how I had just beaten two large guys without breaking a sweat.

She glanced first at the retreating van, then at the house behind her. Then, she looked at her hands. As she did so, something on her wrist caught her eye. Pulling back the sleeves, she stared at the strangely shaped discoloration, then she checked to find a match for it on her other arm. "Could it be?" she asked. Recalling Upchuck's actions the day before, she aimed her arm at one of the shrubs and pressed her middle fingers into her palm. A silver strand shot out, barely missing the plant.

"Damn," she whispered. Daria looked at her hand, then slowly closed it into a fist. "Upchuck, you're going to pay." She went to the front door, then kicked it in. As the pieces of wood flew down the hall, she called out, "Avon calling!"

Proceeding down the hall toward the basement door, Daria's new senses suddenly kicked in. She leaped straight up as Upchuck dove at her. To her astonishment, she clung to the ceiling by her fingertips.

"So," he called up to her, "I see you met Matilda."

"Who the hell is Matilda?"

"Why the little spider that gave you the powers you now exhibit. By the way," Upchuck leered, "I strongly suggest pants the next time you decide to dance on the ceiling."

Daria glanced down and realized that her skirt had bunched up around her waist. Distracted, she almost didn't react in time to avoid Upchuck as he leaped at her. As she twisted and fell, she reached up and fired a strand of webbing at him. He avoided it by pushing off the wall. This time, he managed to catch her in the chest with a foot.

Knocked backward by the kick, she crashed through a door and into a kitchen. Rolling to her feet, Daria grabbed Upchuck's arm as he swung at her. A second later, he was flying through the air as she tossed him away. He crashed into the stove, knocking it loose from its connection and into the refrigerator. As the sparks from the appliances flew, he leaped at her again. Together, they rolled into the hall. Daria kicked him away, then climbed to her feet.

The two of them stood toe to toe and tried to hit each other. With their enhanced senses, however, the task seemed impossible. A flurry of blocks and dodges left them both more angry, but unhurt. Finally, when Upchuck swung at her again, Daria leaped over him to get to the basement door. Following her into the doorway, Upchuck was surprised to find no one on the stairs. He started to look up just as a pair of Doc Marten boots caught him in the face.

Stunned, he rolled to the bottom of the stairs. Daria leaped over him and began to look for Jane. Not finding her, the girl looked back toward the stairs. Seeing that Upchuck was beginning to move, she webbed him to the floor.

"Hey!" he complained.

"Shut up, Upchuck." Taking careful aim, she shot webbing over his mouth. Then, she went up the stairs.

She found Jane in the bedroom. Half drugged, Jane barely recognized her. Daria lifted her easily into her arms and started toward the door. Suddenly, her senses kicked in again. In a moment of realization, Daria knew that the stove had been fed by natural gas. Gas that, even now, was filling the lower level of the house with deadly fumes. And the fridge was still sparking.

As the house exploded, Daria leaped through the window of the second floor bedroom with Jane in her arms. The force of the blast knocked them off balance. A piece of debris hit Daria in the head, leaving her unconscious. Jane landed nearby, still slightly out of it, but coming around.

Daria looked over at Spider-Man. "I don't know what happened after that. I remember seeing Jane hit the ground, then I was out."

"The papers say that your friend's body was destroyed in the explosion," he pointed out.

"They're wrong. Jane's alive. I think those guys who showed up earlier came back and got her before anyone else got there."

"Daria?" Jane rolled onto her back and sat up. Painfully, she made her way to sit beside her best friend. "Well," she said after putting a hand to her neck, "there's a pulse." She dropped her head until a pair of shadows fell over her. When she looked up, terror filled her eyes.

"So they arrested you?"

"Actually," she shook her head, "they put it down as an accident. I told them an abbreviated version of what I told you, but I couldn't convince them that Jane was alive. It wasn't until Upchuck the Second got involved that they decided they needed a scapegoat." She smirked, "Guess who they picked?"

"I know the feeling," Spider-Man told her.

Daria paused as she reached for the door. Her sixth sense had kicked in, letting her know that trouble was waiting inside. Stepping back, she looked around, but found nothing suspicious on the street. As quietly as she could, Daria made her way around to the back of the house. Then, she slipped off her boots and leaped up to cling to the side of the house. A quick glance inside her window told her no one was in her room. So, she opened the window and crept to the door.

Two police officers were sitting on the couch with her parents. Her father, predictably, was all but shaking as he glared at them. Helen was on the phone with someone.

"But she didn't kill him," Helen was complaining. "An arrest warrant for an accident? Your honor, it doesn't make sense!" She flinched, "Sorry, but that's my opinion. What? But why would . . ." She listened some more, "Oh, all right then." Hanging up the phone, Helen sat next to her husband.

"Well?" he asked.

"Judge Connor says that the charges were pressed after Charles Ruttheimer II began to throw some of his political weight around." She sighed, "Jake, defending Daria is going to take everything we have."

"We'll clear her, honey," he put an arm around her shoulders. "Daria didn't kill anybody."

Daria went back to her room and quietly closed the door. With a sigh, she leaned against it for a moment. Then, she turned to her room and began to look around.

"You see," she told Spider-Man as she pulled her thoughts back to the present, "I knew it, too. Ruttheimer has enough pull and money to keep me tangled up in the legal system until my family is too broke to fight anymore. He would have destroyed Quinn's chances of going to college, not to mention what he's done to me."

"So you ran."

"Not my preferred option, but the only one I had. Besides," she shrugged, "how would I explain everything without revealing the truth about what I can do? If I did, not only would they prosecute me, I'd end up in a lab somewhere." Crossing her arms, she leaned back against the window frame, "I guess you're going to take me in now, right?"

"Not exactly," Spider-Man stood. "I don't know if you realize it, but your spider-sense is also a good lie detector."

"'Spider-sense?' You mean that weird tingle that comes with those warnings?"

"That's what I call it."

She nodded, "It makes sense. No pun intended." Looking at him, she said, "Jane is alive. I just can't prove it."

"I'll help you. If she's in trouble, we'll find her."

"So you're not turning me in?"

"You're a victim, not a criminal. Besides," he patted her shoulder, "you saved my life. That counts for something."


As a shadow fell over the desk in front of her, Carla Mason looked up to see a short woman with sandy blond hair looking at her. "Can I help you?" she asked.

"I'm Melody Lane. The agency sent me."

"Oh, good," Mason said as she stood. "Three of our usual librarians all called in sick today. Do you know your way around a library?"

"I cut my teeth in one," came the reply.

"Wonderful." Leading the young woman around a desk, she showed her several carts of books. "We'll start with a tour, then you can put these away. When you're done with that, we'll find something else for you to do. Okay?"

"Sounds great."

A few hours later, a slight figure climbed onto a sculptured head that stretched from the side of a skyscraper. Enough light carried up from below to make out the outfit the woman wore. The arms and legs were black. Her boots started halfway down the shin and were red. Her gloves likewise started between the elbow and the wrist and were the same color as the boots. The same deep red covered her torso like a body suit and continued up to a red mask with two large white eyes trimmed in black. Between her breasts rested a black spider. Pulling off the mask, Daria looked down at the people below. Her hair, now bleached and cut into a short style, blew in the wind as she gazed. A sound to her left caused her to pull her mask back over her head.

"Hey," Spider-Man said as he climbed over.

"Uh, hi."

"You feeling any better?"

"You mean by rejoining the rat race?" Shrugging, she said, "I suppose."

"I thought getting a job might get you out of your funk."

"I wasn't in a funk."

"Sure you weren't. Did you get any time on the computers?"

Leaning back, Daria sighed, "Nothing new. They're still looking for me. Only now, they've received a tip that I was seen in Miami."

"So much for the Sunshine State." With only his feet holding to the wall to keep him from falling, Spider-Man leaned back as well. "You going to try going back?"

"I'll have to. It's where the trail begins." The masked girl rubbed her hands together, "I'll just have to wait until I've established Melody Lane well enough to stand up to scrutiny."

"That could be a while."

In a voice barely audible, she said, "I know." Pulling her shoulders back, she looked away, "But I'm sure Jane's alive. And I am going to find her. Even if I have to follow her around the world and back."

"You sound like a good friend to have," Spider-Man told her. He stood, "So tell me, Scarlet Spider, you wanna mope around up here all night or do you want to work out some aggression on some trouble makers?"

"Let's go see the violence inherent in the system," she replied as she also stood. She let Spider-Man go first, then looked up as the moon came out from behind a cloud.

"I will find you, Jane. I promise." Then, as she spun a web, the Scarlet Spider leaped from the wall and into the night.

The sun had long since gone down and the full moon had been covered behind a cloud. A lone deer wandered through the trees as it searched for a safe spot for the night. A scent reached its nose, causing it to stop and look into the night as it listened for signs of a predator. Suddenly, a shape fell from a tree onto its back. It was shaped as a human, except for three eight-inch claws that extended from each hand. As the deer tried to buck the shape off of its back, One hand came down onto its neck. A few seconds later, it was over. The decapitated deer lay in the grass of a small clearing. The figure crouched at its side and used their claws to open the hide. Removing a chunk of raw meat, they began to eat. As the moon came out from behind the cloud, they looked up as if hearing something far away.

The face of the young woman who had once answered to the name of Jane Lane looked at the moon once, then turned back to her meal.