Chapter 1: Venom

"Justice for Bill Foster!" the crowd chanted outside the New York City Hall, protesting for the black scientist tasered to death by the police. "The Shocker must pay!"

"The Mayor has ordered you to disperse!" an officer told the protesters with a loud speaker. "Obey the curfew or face the consequences!"

"What's that, pig?" a black woman in the crowd asked. "Are you fucking threatening us? You gonna taser me to death too if I don't go home?"

"That's not what I - "

"Well, fuck that shit!" a white man said to the general cheer of the crowd. "You know what I think of you lot, you cowardly sons of bitches?"

He threw a glass bottle stuffed with a lit wick at the nearest police vehicle; the bottle shattered and the car caught on fire.

"That's enough!" the young police man raised his voice, which was tinged with outrage and fear. "Gas them, boys!"

Cans of tear gas hit the ground. While international conventions technically prohibit the use of chemical weapons, and any protesters or insurgents who employ them would definitely be demonized as monsters and hunted down like animals, the governments all over the world had no issues with employing this chemical weapon that could have lingering effects on human body - never mind also being extremely flammable – on the people they claim to protect.

"Brace yourselves!" someone among the protesters shouted and tried to shield their face from the gas that never came; they opened their eyes just in time to see what appeared to be thick threads made of white spider silk hurtling the canisters away from the ground and into the City Hall itself.

"What's up, fine people of New York?" a young girl in a costume, scarlet with golden lines tracing out webs and the stylized spider on her chest, asked as a black spider the size of a house cat scuttled up her arm toward their destination on her shoulder. "Is New York's finest giving you grief?"

"It's Spider-Shen!" a little girl in the crowd said with a squeal, followed by thunderous cheers and claps from the protesters. "They've came to save us!"

"Hands where I can see them!" the police aimed their guns at the young woman, whom for all intents and purposes appeared to be armed with nothing but a wolf spider with a face-like pattern on their back. Perhaps they were startled by how freakish the "face" looked, big white eyes and huge red grin.

"Oh noes, small firearms, our one weakness!" Spider-Shen raised her arms over her head in a dramatic pose of resignation, before the spider crawled onto her hand and spit thick threads of silk from their abdomen, which stuck to the side of the guns and allowed Spider-Shen to pull the weapons out of the cops' hands. "Just kidding! Sorry officers, you are not killing anyone tonight!"

"Hell yeah!" the black woman who originally challenged the cop's threats called out. "They can't do nothing to us while we have our friendly neighborhood Spider-Shen here! Let's show them what's what!"

With that, the crowd rushed a disarmed police force, straight into the heart of a "democratic" city that refused to listen to its own people.

/╲/\╭(oOwOo)╮/\╱\

"You had one job, Officer Parker." the mountain of a man, all muscle and no fat, said in his deep baritone. "Just the one."

"I'm sorry, Commissioner Fisk." the young officer, Peter Parker, replied in a shaking voice. "We didn't expect - "

"Excuses," Commissioner Fisk stood up from his desk and walked toward Officer Parker. "Is unprofessional."

Peter Parker joined the force out of noble intention, to protect and serve the people after his uncle was killed by a mugger. If the system he worked for wasn't so corrupted to the core, willing to sacrifice its best to protect its worst, perhaps he would actually get to do that. In a different world, in a different universe, perhaps he would even be a hero, actually saving the lives of the down-trodden instead of being paid to destroy them, even if it meant he would be hunted by enforcers of unjust laws and a media circus eager to please its corporate masters.

Nevertheless, it mattered little what he would or could have done, how he came to work for a monster and became one himself. His choice in this life, on this Earth, had led him here, standing before a man with the strength of a bear and the vileness of a snake.

Fisk snapped Peter's neck with his bare hands.

"This whole Black Lives Matter fiasco had gone on long enough here in New York; they think the law is dead simply because some maniac blew up the White House." Fisk told the watching officers as two of them stepped forward to take Peter's body away. "Well I'm the law and the law is not mocked! Time to show them whose city this actually is. Time to show them not to mess with the Kingpin."

/╲/\╭(oOwOo)╮/\╱\

"Breaking News: Officer Parker, whom was violently attacked by the supervillain Spider-Shen and the Black Lives Matter terrorists, was found dead with his neck snapped." the anchor recited these words without a trace of irony or shame in her voice, while the title card read: "Spider-Shen: Menace and Threat to All REAL Americans!" and "AreAntifa and BLM the REAL Fascists? Yes, Yes, They Are!"

"In other news, Conservative senators strongly condemned the cowardliness and weakness displayed by the Mayor of New York, citing his failure in not allowing the army into his city to help control the far-left BLM terrorists. His question about the ulterior motive behind military intervention is obviously just his Liberal bias and his misguided attempt to protect homegrown terrorists in his own backyard."

"More on Daily Bugle!"

/╲/\╭(oOwOo)╮/\╱\

A few months earlier…

"Dr. Yakumo?" Stacie called out as she stepped into her Mother's spacious laboratory. "It's Stacie!"

As Stacie expected, the lab was just as messy as Yakumo's personal study at home. Safety and hygienic standards could not stop a woman's determination to infect her surroundings with her chaotic lifestyle.

"Hello?" having gotten no response, Stacie ventured deeper into this place of science. "Anyone?"

As Stacie browsed through rows of specimen in her quest to find Yakumo, a shadow the size of a house cat stalked her every move, stood and watched her from the vantage point atop towering lab equipment.

"Hm?" Stacie blinked when she saw one of the cages used to hold life specimen – lovely creatures like venomous snakes and poisonous arthropods – stood open and empty. "Uh, Dr. Yakumo?"

And that was when the shadow struck.

"Kya!?" Stacie covered her mouth when a face suddenly appeared before her, with giant white eyes and a wide red grin; when she realized that it was just a pattern on the abdomen of a giant black spider, the arachnid had already bitten her on the back of her neck before scuttling out of sight again. "Owie…"

"Stacie-chan?" Yakumo Hachiko appeared with her thick round glasses and messy curly hair while her daughter was busy massaging the deep and painful spider bite on her neck. "Oh, you're here!"

"Say, you wouldn't happen to have seen a spider around here somewhere, have you? About this big?" the doc used her palms to indicate something the size of a house cat. "It escaped its cage a while back."

"Well, I -" Stacie wanted to complain about how the damned thing bit her for no good reason, but bit her tongue when she realized she didn't know what her Mother would do if she knew. "No, I hadn't."

"Okay then." Yakumo nodded, having no reason to doubt her daughter's answer. "...Oh, you're here to pick up your estrogen, right?" she rummaged through stacks of pharmaceuticals before she produced a bag of small white pills. "Here you go, sweetheart; gotta take those anti-boy-otics, right?"

"Mom - " Stacie groaned at the Mom joke, before something occurred to her: "Oh, and the blocker too."

"Don't mind me, I'm just trying to be transparent here." Hachiko chuckled at her own jokes as she handed more pills to Stacie in a bottle. "Tell your Aunt Mei I'd be late for dinner, okay?"

"Thanks, doc." Stacie smiled as she took the drugs from the good doctor and nodded. "And will do."

Just before Stacie turned and left the lab, she paused and asked her Mother: "...Why do they hate us?"

As spacey and oblivious as Dr. Yakumo was, it still took her no time to figure out what her daughter's talking about: this administration had became increasingly transphobic and cruel, putting up numerous legislation that took away the basic human rights of trans people and Mutants, forcing lucky ones like Stacie to turn to homemade medicine of various quality. The unlucky ones were all but forgotten, their deaths brushed off as personal weaknesses instead of what it really is: systematic genocide of a people.

Oh, but the Liberals put up rainbow flags for a month each year, just like they talk about black history for the shortest month each year, so obviously everything is right with the world. Obviously.

No one really knows who the terrorist was, but many marginalized people and their loved ones secretly thanked Weapon V for blowing up the White House. Hachiko was one of them.

"Oh, honey…" as socially awkward as she was, Yakumo still did her best to comfort her daughter with a hug. "They hate you because they're selfish and afraid. They're afraid because they're arrogant and ignorant, thinking that you're a new threat to their precious lifestyle, instead of something as old as human consciousness itself. They let their fear control their own destiny, and now they want to control yours so they don't have to look in the mirror and realized that they're the only aggressors, not you. That's all there is to it: selfishness, their need to base their freedom on taking it from other people."

"Why do we have to pay for their cowardice?" Stacie sobbed quietly into her Mother's bosom, before she finally regained her composure and wiped tears off her face. "It's not fair, okaasan; it's not fair at all."

"No, honey, it's not." Yakumo echoed, her tone and expression contemplative. "It's not fair at all."

And the spider watched it all.

/╲/\╭(oOwOo)╮/\╱\

"I'm home!" Stacie announced as she opened the door to the house she shared with her two Mothers and not one, not two, but four siblings. "I swung by okaasan's lab to pick up my E; how's everyone?"

"Stacie, my imouto!" Takuya gathered Stacie into a big bear hug. "Do you have my testosterone too?"

"What?" Stacie blinked while she tried to free herself from the Japanese boy's arms. "Why would I?"

"What, you went to okaasan's lab and you forgot about me?" Takuya finally let go of Stacie and sighed dramatically. "I'm deeply hurt by this apathy, imouto; truly, I am!" but there was no hurt in his voice.

"You didn't tell me you needed a refill!"

"Well, you didn't ask if I needed one!"

"Namaste, Stacie." Pavitr or Parvati - Parvati, judging by the feminine clothes she was wearing at the moment – greeted the bantering duo by bringing her palms together before her chest. "Do you have it?"

"Of course, bhagini." Stacie nodded as she reached into her bag and produced a bottle before handing it to Parvati. "There you go."

"Hey, why do you have her puberty blocker but not my T?" Takuya protested.

"You didn't ask!" the girls said in unison.

"Where are Cindy and Matt?" Stacie asked.

"Upstairs, Cindy's room." Parvati inclined her head in the direction of the stairs. "Matt's playing fashionista again."

Indeed, when they got to Cindy's room, Matt was telling their Korean sister, whom had an impassive expression: "Look at this, Cindy! This dress suits you perfectly!"

"No offense, Matt, but...how the hell would you know?" Stacie asked. "You can't even see what color it is!"

"That's where you're wrong, sis." Matt's eyes lit up behind his sunglasses. "I may be blind, but I can tell the color of an object by its relative temperature." he reached out a hand and touched Takuya's jacket. "Black."

"Whoa, seriously!?" Takuya took a step back, stunned. "That's badass!"

"I'm bullshitting you, of course." Matt laughed. "I'm not a Mutant or anything; I know what color your cloth is because you only wear biker leather, and they only ever come in one color: black."

"Get over here, you little devil!" Takuya locked Matt's neck into his arms affectionately while the girls laughed. Not Cindy, though; she never laughs, or expresses her feelings in any significant way except the occasional texting, and even then it's most just just an emoticon or two.

"Dinner's ready!" Aunt Mei called from downstairs. "Come and help me set the table!"

/╲/\╭(oOwOo)╮/\╱\

Later that night…

Stacie woke up in the middle of the night, her body burning all over like she's having a fever. Did she catch a cold? Maybe next time she should sleep in her bed instead of her secret nest in the attic. She could feel bright stabs of pain spreading out from the spider bite on the back of her neck, going up and down her spine along her blood vessels and nervous system, as if thousands of little spiders were gnawing her from the inside out. Her heart would have skipped a beat if it weren't beating so fast; was the spider poisonous? Should she have told Yakumo about it instead of pretending like it's nothing?

"Girl! Here!" someone was talking to her outside the window, and tapping at the glass too. "Open up!"

Stacie forced herself out of the bed and spared a glance at the window as the pain subsided; what she saw made her jump and forgot about the pain entirely.

"Kya!?" Stacie squeaked when she saw the giant white eyes and wide red grin on black fur: it was the spider from the lab, the one that bit her. "What are you doing here!?" she asked, not expecting an answer.

"I came to talk to you!" but she got an answer either way. "Now would you please open the window?"

"Talking spider isn't real, it can't hurt you…" Stacie shook her head when she realized an even more surreal detail about her situation: she was sticking to the walls and ceiling of the attic with her hands and feet like a spider. "Yeah, this must be a dream!" she concluded. "But can you hurt this much during a dream…?" though at that point, the pain was already fading, making her wonder if she only dreamed about being in pain.

"Open the goddamn window, young lady!" the spider was practically body-slamming the window at this point.

"Fine, fine!" Stacie grumbled as she jumped down onto the floor and then got to the window in one swift motion unexpected from a science nerd like her, before she went and got the window. "There. Happy?"

"Thank you!" the spider said and crawled into the house. "I feel like we've gotten off on the wrong foot; allow me to introduce myself: I'm Venom. I'm non-binary and use they/them pronouns."

"I'm Stacie. Guan Stacie." Stacie gave Venom her name instinctively, before she blinked and realized: "Annnd I'm introducing myself to a talking spider."

"Not quite." Venom said. "I'm communicating with you through your olfactory system; your sense of smell, in other words."

"What, seriously?"

"No, of course not." the spider laughed in Stacie's mind. "I'm a Mutant and I'm communicating with your mind directly through telepathy, which only works on people I've bitten and injected with my, well, venom, for lack of a better word. Uh, sorry about that."

"So I'm, what, your personal translator, is that it?" Stacie crossed her arms and stared down at Venom. "Why me? If you can escape from the lab, you could have picked anyone else."

"I could." Venom agreed. "But as you've noticed, my bite mutates the recipient further than allowing them to communicate with me. It comes with great powers that must be handled with great responsibilities."

"And you think I can take responsibilities for them?" Stacie cocked her head to one side like a little bird.

"I think you can take better responsibilities for them than most others, in any event."

"Why?"

"Because I overheard you talking with the mad scientist who abducted me." Venom earned a chuckle from Stacie with the mad scientist remark. "And you understand what it's like to be powerless."

That last line tugged at Stacie's heart, and a quiet settled between them. After a while, Stacie broke it:

"Wanna get outta here?"

/╲/\╭(oOwOo)╮/\╱\

"Woohoo!" Stacie squealed as she swung through the hot breath of New York city on Venom's thread, thick and sturdy as the ropes climbers use to scale mountains. "This is amazing!"

"You might wanna keep it down a notch." Venom reminded her as they cut off another thread in her hand and went back to perching on her shoulder. "People are sleeping, after all."

"Oops, sorry." Stacie giggled and stuck her tongue out as she took a break by sticking to the side of an office building. "But I can't help it; this is too much fun!"

There was a time when more was felt than known; when Stacie was a small child, even when she was still in the foster system, the world seemed pregnant with magic: she expected to find a mysterious curator in every corner shop, and each night promises a new adventure. But as she grew older, that sense of wonder was crushed by the obligation of so-called adulthood; she realized that the corner stores were staffed with underpaid people barely making a living, each night is but a moment of reprieve before another day's wage slavery. Being an orphan just made her learn all of this harder and faster than other people, but eventually everyone realizes it: the world is filled with potential, but only for the privileged people who took from others, not for the people they took from.

But tonight, released from the mundane world that victimized her and her siblings, that sense of wonder came back with the help of a talking spider; she felt like a magical girl and Venom was her familiar.

"Man, what should we do now?" Stacie smiled as she plotted her next adventure. "Maybe we should go to the Stark Tower, see what it's like to look at the city from - "

Just then, an unspeakable chill interrupted her train of thought, a primal feeling of being watched by a predatory animal, and she instinctively looked to where the feeling came from: down in a darkened alley, two police men were harassing a black kid from her school.

"Hey, isn't that…" Stacie frowned and squinted at the small figures on the ground. "...Miles Morales?"

She maneuvered to get closer to the scene, and that's when she saw one of the cops reaching into his pocket and produced a small packet filled with white powder, before he promptly tossed the packet into Miles's backpack...and then "found" the damning evidence that he had just planted on the poor boy.

"Holy shit, these cops are dirtier than Takuya's laundry." Stacie wanted to help Miles, but she couldn't just let the police know who she was, or they would come after her family too; she needed some kind of disguise, but there was no time to go home and get the V mask she used during the protests…

"You two!" Stacie settled for a paper bag with two holes bitten out by Venom. "Hold it right there!"

"What the fuck!?" the cop who was planting the drug on Miles blinked when he heard Stacie, then blinked again when he saw her disguise. "What the fuck!?"

"Must be one of them masked vigilante nutjobs." the other cop reached for his sidearm. "They're all over the place after that terrorist bombed the White House."

But his gun was not in the holster. By the time he realized what's happened, Stacie had already took it from him using one of Venom's threads.

"What the fuck!?" the first cop continued to panic as Venom crawled onto his legs and chewed at his holster, causing his gun to fall to the ground. "What the fuck!?"

And with that, the true villains that threatened the safety of the people were defeated; disarmed of the state-issued implements of power, they had no choice but to run away like the cowards that they were.

/╲/\╭(oOwOo)╮/\╱\

The next day...

"That was amazing!" Miles caught up with Stacie while she was leaving the school for home.

"Hm?" Stacie's heart skipped a beat when she saw who was talking to her. "Uh, what was?"

"Oh, are we doing this whole secret identity thing?" Miles whispered conspiratorially. "Are we just gonna pretend you didn't save my ass last night while wearing a paper - "

Stacie grabbed Miles by the arm and shut them both off inside a utility closet.

"And I wore that paper bag for a reason!" she said severely and glared at Miles. "How did you know it was me, anyways? We don't even know each other all that well."

"You were wearing that kitten pajama Takuya made for you." Miles said. "And he just couldn't shut up about how cute his imouto is while wearing it. He described it in excruciating details. Repeatedly."

"I'm going to murder him."

"Look, you secret is safe with me, okay?" Mile swore as he took out his phone and showed Stacie a few blurry photo of her in the pajama and paper bag. "There. All gone." he deleted the photos right before her eyes. "And now, tell me everything." Miles's eyes lit up when he said it. "What other powers do you have? Where did you get your powers? What was that spider? Did it give you your powers?"

"Whoa, whoa, one question at a time, Spider-Fan!" Stacie threw her hands up helplessly.

"Alright, alright; I'm just excited, is all." Miles nodded and drew in a deep breath to clam himself. "So did you think about going pro, so to speak? Becoming a superhero?"

"What, like the Flash?"

The Flash, the Silver Lining, the Fastest Person Alive, was a member of the Brotherhood of Mutants and one of the most popular superheroes in America. Throughout the Brotherhood's turbulent and sometimes even violent history, the Flash stayed true to her principals, always fighting the power and helping the weak, which earned her an eternal spot in popular culture; someone on Stacie's class was literally named "Flash Thompson" after her.

"Yeah, exactly!" Miles nodded. "Do you like the Flash too?"

"Oh, I love her!" it's Stacie's turn to gush: "I have her posters, comics, action figures...everything!" her face was suddenly clouded by a trace of melancholy: "If only Aunt Mei isn't like the one person in the whole world who hates the Flash…"

"Speaking of your Aunt Mei," Miles said, "Are you gonna tell her? Or the rest of your family?"

"Hell no!" Stacie crossed her arms before her breasts into a big "X". "If I tell one of them, all of them will know, and if Takuya knows, eventually the whole world will know, and that includes Aunt Mei!"

"So it'd be like…" Miles smiled. "...Our little secret?"

"I suppose so." Stacie couldn't help but smile with him.

"Anyways, just in case you want ta get into the superhero biz," Miles took a sketch book out of his bag. "I took the liberty of drawing up some costumes during classes..."

Miles showed Stacie numerous pencil sketches of superhero costumes, and one in particular caught her eyes: it had big white eyes on the mask like the ones on Venom's back, and a stylized spider on its chest.

"This one." Stacie pointed it out to him. "I think it'd look good with red and gold."

"Yeah, it would." Miles nodded his agreement. "Say, have you picked out a codename?"

"Hmmm…" Stacie put a finger to her chin as she thought about it. "How about…"