‘Your charming daughter will remain safe in Arachne’s loving, capable hands – only if you kill Spider-Man!’ the Manipulator exclaims to Julia “Spider-Woman” Carpenter. Julia turns to Peter “Spider-Man” Parker with monitors displaying the image of her young daughter, Rachel, being held captive by the vicious Deathweb woman known as Arachne. ‘I think I’m in trouble!’ Spider-Man mutters as Julia looks at him. The large Deathweb moron Therak asks the Manipulator why he isn’t allowed to just kill both of them, to which the Manipulator tells Therak to shut up, as he wants Spider-Woman with blood on her hands so she has no choice but to join Deathweb.
On the monitors, Rachel Carpenter screams ‘Please, Mom! Don’t let them hurt me!’ Julia turns back to the screen and assures Rachel that she won’t. Spider-Man exclaims that he and Spider-Woman will rescue her together, but Julia asks how they can do that, as they might be holding Rachel miles from here. Julia’s former “handler” Mike Clemson mutters that this is rich, for he has been waiting for years to have Spider-Woman at his mercy like this. ‘She’s at my mercy, Clemson, not yours!’ the Manipulator corrects Clemson, reminding him that he is just the liaison for their mutual employers and that he shouldn’t forget that.
The Manipulator turns back to Spider-Woman and asks her what it is going to be. Spider-Man tells the Manipulator that Spider-Woman knows he is bluffing, for if he kills Rachel then he has nothing over them, adding that if Arachne so much as scratches Rachel then they will tear into Deathweb without hesitation. ‘Right, Spider-Woman?’ Peter asks. ‘Spider-Woman?’ he exclaims when he gets no answer from Julia, only for his spider-sense to go off and Spider-Woman smacks him hard across the factory room.
The Manipulator tells Spider-Man that he is a bit disappointed, ‘Don’t you know better than to turn your back on a mother whose child is threatened?’ Spider-Man lands hard against a wall, and asks Julia if she doesn’t see that she is playing right into the enemy’s hands. Spider-Man is about to fight back when Julia covers him in her powerful psi-webs. ‘It’s the only way, don’t you see? For Rachel to live, you have to die!’ Spider-Man replies that what he is finally starting to see is that he has got to stop fooling around before this mental web is fully formed, and breaking himself free he dives at Julia, pushing her back across the room as he declares that he must stop her from becoming a murderer.
Rachel sees what is happening and calls out to her mother, who smashes several of the monitors when Spider-Man thrusts her back. Julia reacts by punching Spider-Man, but he blocks her move, asking her if she doesn’t ever give up. ‘Not till you’re dead – and Rachel’s with me!’ Julia replies, admitting that she will kill Spider-Man and the Avengers West Coast to save her daughter. ‘I believe you would!’ Spider-Man replies, and dodging more psi-webs remarks that the only question remaining is how far he will go to save his own life.
Deathweb’s teleporter Antro informs the Manipulator that the fire which started when Spider-Woman smashed into the monitors is now spreading. Clemson exclaims that the monitors will not explode but that there are other machines in here that probably will. Clemson declares that they have got to clear out, to which the Manipulator tells him to run away, but when Clemson hesitates, the Manipulator exclaims ‘What do you need – a note from your doctor?’
Therak suggests that they too should get going, and Antro offers to “trapdoor” them out. The Manipulator wants to keep watching Spider’s Man and Woman fighting, yet when he realizes that they are clearly locked in a death struggle, he orders Antro to teleport them out. Antro’s teleportation powers seem to have a delay on them, and they watch as Clemson runs past them. The Manipulator remarks that he would have given odds that, unlike them, Clemson would not make it out alive. ‘The human instinct for survival never ceases to amaze me!’
Clemons calls the Manipulator a mad man and declares that if he hadn’t goaded Spider-Woman then none of this would have happened. Clemson adds that the Conclave is going to hear who is responsible for losing all that equipment, but the Manipulator points out that the organization that pays both their salaries has bigger things on its mind and that he is quite sure Clemson knows what he is referring to. The Manipulator suggests to Clemson that he make a timely exit – that is unless he enjoys making statements to the police.
Antro, Therak and the Manipulator vanish, leaving Mike Clemson in the burning factory, to deal with the police, whose fast approaching sirens signal their arrival. Clemson declares that from here on, somebody else can deal with Deathweb. ‘I’ll handle my revenge on Spider-Woman personally!’
Meanwhile, in Palos Verdes, at the Avengers West Coast Compound, Larry Carpenter, ex-husband to Spider-Woman and current public relations manager to the Liberty Party mutters that two of the Avengers West are off getting hospital checkups which does not solve his problem – making people think that it is safe to come see the Liberty Party’s presidential candidate tonight.
Miguel Santos a.k.a. the Living Lightning asks Larry how many times they have to tell him that the Avengers West will be at the Hollywood bowl for his rally tonight. ‘Even if it’s without Hawkeye and USAgent’ Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch adds, commenting on her two absent teammates, injured in battle. Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Man turns to Tony Stark in his Iron Man guise and asks if there has been any word from their spider contingent. Iron Man replies that there hasn’t been, before telling the famous actor that if he doesn’t mind he is examining the venom which he scrapped of Hawkeye’s shoulders.
‘Well excuse me!’ Simon thinks to himself as he marches off, deciding that Iron Man is still annoyed with Spider-Woman for storming off, and for Spider-Man following her. Wonder Man wonders how Iron Man can be cross at Spider-Woman, after all, her daughter is being held hostage. Wonder Man thinks that deep down Tony is probably feeling as bad as the rest of them do, and just doesn’t want to face Rachel’s father, Larry Carpenter. Simon thinks that Larry is a pain, but it will still be tough on him when he finds out about Rachel.
Wonder Man supposes that Julia would want to be the one to tell Larry, except right now she is off sulking. Simon wonders if he should do something, when suddenly Antro’s teleportation signal sounds, and Therak, Antro and Arachne appear before him. Therak and Antro both smash Wonder Man while Arachne drops some device on the ground, before telling her male teammates that they have had their fun, so now it’s time to get out of this dump. ‘Our apologies, Wonder Man, that we had to hit and run!’ Antro jokes before vanishing with his associates.
Simon looks at the device and wonders if it is a bomb, but upon trying to lift it, he finds he cannot. Iron Man, Wanda, Living Lightning and Larry Carpenter enter the room and see what is going on. ‘Was that Deathweb we heard?’ Tony asks, to which Simon replies that he thinks this is a bomb. Miguel offers to zap drain it, but Iron Man tells him ‘Not so fast’ and begins tinkering with it. Wonder Man asks if he is sure he can defuse it, to which Iron Man replies that they will soon see.
‘Can’t you wait till I get out of here?’ Larry Carpenter exclaims. Wonder Man remarks that he understands what Iron Man is doing, and Wanda points out that if their enemies had wanted for it to explode, it would have done so by now. ‘Hope you’re right’ Lightning mumbles, to which Iron Man announces that Wanda is right, and holds up a small object he pulled from the device, explaining that he has already x-rayed it and he doesn’t think this telemodule is going to create a king-size crater on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
‘A tele-what?’ someone asks. Iron Man tells his teammates and Carpenter to watch, and he plugs it in, causing an image of the Manipulator and Rachel Carpenter to appear in the air. ‘That’s my daughter! Get her before that guy can!’ Carpenter exclaims. Living Lightning explains to Carpenter that they are just holograms, and the Manipulator begins speaking, announcing to those present that he chose this personal means to inform them that Spider-Woman and Spider-Man are both dead, but that this child is safe with him and will be – unless the Avengers West attend the rally tonight!
With that, the holograms vanish. Larry Carpenter frantically asks the Avengers West Coast to forget every word that he said before, and declares that he will get extra cops to protect Galvan and Wilson, but the Avengers just need to stay away from the Hollywood Bowl! The four Avengers just look at each other with uncertainty.
Meanwhile, firemen are leaving the scene of a level-four alarm not far from downtown L.A. The firemen are thankful that the blaze and explosion occurred in an abandoned building so no one was hurt…or so they think, for deep buried under some rubble Spider-Man exclaims ‘I always thought Spider-Man and Spider-Woman should get together…but not this way!’ ‘If you hadn’t had me use my psi-webs to reinforce your webbings when the place blew…’ Julia’s voice trails off as Spider-Man points out that he did, and so did she.
Forcing his body upwards, he suggests they have another try and lifting the rubble, but to no avail. Spider-Woman regrets that Deathweb destroyed her Avengers Communications Card, so now she can’t contact her teammates. ‘Hey, nobody’s perfect’ Spider-Man remarks, adding that he could soon tell Julia wasn’t really going for the kill, despite the cagney-style threats. Julia replies that, for a moment, she really thought she could, but deep down she couldn’t, not even if Rachel… her words trail off and Parker suggests that they try lifting the rubble again, or else sooner or later this place really will squash them flat.
Julia feels deflated, exclaiming that they will never get out, that it is hopeless. Spider-Man asks Julia what she is talking about, before revealing that Dr. Octopus once buried him worse than this and he got out of that – ‘And I didn’t have a little girl to live for!’ Julia fears that she has failed Rachel, failed everyone! Spider-Man reveals to Julia that he didn’t have a chance to tell her earlier, but he thinks he might have managed to shoot a spidey-tracer onto Rachel just as Deathweb teleported with her. ‘You what!?’ Julia exclaims.
Spider-Man explains that from here he cannot be one hundred percent certain that it caught hold, so he was saving this news as a last resort. ‘What do you think this is?’ Julia asks with new gusto as she exclaims ‘Push, blast you! Push!’ With that, the Spider-duo burst out from their makeshift prison, with Julia warning Peter that if he was lying to her about the tracer on Rachel – to which Peter quickly assures her that he wasn’t, while thinking to himself as they make their exit from the factory that he thinks the tracer stuck to the mask Rachel was wearing – only she wasn’t wearing the mask when they saw her with Arachne!
Later, at a packed Hollywood Bowl. Standing on the stage, Liberty Party leader Michael A. Galvan declares to his massive audience that it is not a tribute to him, presidential nominee, that the good people before him have come here tonight, but it is a massive testament to themselves – to that brave pioneer spirit that made America what it is today and that his running mate Wilson Lambert and himself intend to keep it when they are elected in November.
Galvan announces that that, at the last minute, the Avengers West could not be here, but that the Liberty Party does not need super hero star appeal, for the Los Angeles Police Department is more than capable of protecting them all against the threat posed by the so-called “Deathweb”. Galvan motions to several police officers and boasts that they will solve the Century City murder of attorney Henry Drummond, too which some unscrupulous politicians have been trying to lay at the Liberty Party’s doorstep, just as the New York police will handle the murder of so-called informant Walter Weston.
Larry Carpenter listens to Galvan’s speech as Galvan boasts that while the republicans and democrats play games with the economy, the Liberty Party will make this country’s streets safe again. ‘Will you, Galvan? How can I believe that when my Rachel is…’ his voice trails off, when suddenly Spider-Man exclaims ‘Mr. Carpenter, I presume?’ Larry turns and sees Spider-Woman hanging down upside down before him. Enraged, Carpenter exclaims ‘You! Are you trying to get my daughter killed!?’ before remarking that he heard a male voice, and that there are supposed to be no super heroes here.
‘Is this one supposed to be here, Mr. Carpenter?’ comes Spider-Man’s voice again as he appears from behind a curtain with Rachel in tow. ‘Hi, Daddy!’ Rachel exclaims as she rushes over to hug her father. Larry bends down to hug Rachel back and asks Spider-Man how he found her. Spider-Man reveals that Deathweb left her locked up, unguarded in a trailer park in Gardena, ‘Evidently they had other plans for tonight’ Peter remarks. Rachel tells her father that those ‘Webbers” are bad people but that Spider-Man and Spider-Woman could have licked them if –‘
Larry interrupts, turning to the Spider-heroes he asks them if they just barged into some trailer possibly putting his child in terrible danger. ‘My child, too, Larry!’ Spider-Woman exclaims. ‘What are you talking about?!’ Larry snaps back before Spider-Woman takes off her mask. ‘JULIA?’ A shocked Larry gasps. Larry stands up, face to face with his ex-wife and declares ‘So this is what you’ve been up to since you followed us out here!’
Larry angrily tells Julia that he doesn’t know how she managed to bull her way into the Avengers West, but that when the court learns she has been endangering their daughter and running around with masked muscle men she will be lucky if she sees Rachel, in his presence, on Christmas Day! ‘Daddy, No!’ Rachel exclaims, but Larry tells her to be quiet, and dragging her away tells her that this is for her own good. Rachel just sobs as she is dragged away from her mother. Spider-Man puts an arm on Julia, unsure what to say, when Julia exclaims that what hurts the most is the thought that Larry might be right – maybe it would be best for Rachel if she never saw her again.
Suddenly, Deathweb’s teleportation signal sounds at the same time Spider-Man exclaims that the trouble of having enemies who can teleport is that his spider-sense kicks in at exactly the same time. ‘Do it, Arachne!’ Therak urges his cruel companion as she rushes over to Galvan. ‘Who in the –‘ Galvan begins, until Arachne asks him if he doesn’t recognize them. ‘We are your death!’ she exclaims as the spike attached to her wrist pricks his neck, and he screams as something is injected into him.
One of the policemen exclaims that he thinks the woman killed Galvan, so another policeman calls out ‘Get em!’ as they all rush into action – until Antro exclaims’ The only thing you’re getting, cop – is a bellyful of venom!’ and blasts the police officer, who mysteriously crackles. ‘”Crackle”? What kind of sound is that?’ Antro wonders, to which his reply is ‘The kind you’d expect from the Living Lightning!’ as Miguel loses his police disguise and bursts into the air.
With the Avengers West’s cover blown, Antro thinks it very bold of them to be here, in disguise, in spite of Deathweb having the Carpenter girl. Iron Man bursts out from the back of a truck, explaining that they were here just in case, and that their own spider-guys just gave them the ok. ‘Avengers Assemble!’ Iron Man shouts as everyone leaps into action.
Living Lightning expresses his relief about Spider-Woman and Spider-Man being okay, and Spider-Man jokes that they are kind of happy about it themselves. Therak mutters to Arachne that he told them they should have brought the kid with them, to which Arachne points out that the have handled the Avengers West before and they are two men down this time. Wilson Lambert looks back at the body of Galvan and rushes off stage as Iron Man remarks that the might not have been able to save Galvan, but that they are now familiar with the murderous modus operandi of Deathweb.
Spider-Man swings down and kicks Arachne hard in the face, exclaiming that he is a lot less inhibited about how he fights a woman who kills people and kidnaps children. Wanda remarks to Wonder Man that it is time for “plan A”, so Wonder Man calls up to Iron Man, telling him that they both need to take on Therak, while Living Lightning attacks Antro, thinking that if Hawkeye’s electric arrow shook Antro up last time, then he should be able to send him into orbit!
Wonder Man and Iron Man tag-team Therak, and Simon asks him ‘What are you, anyway, creep? Is there a man inside that fright suit?’ Calling Simon “Pretty Boy” Therak tells him to get a little closer and he can find out, but Iron Man warns Simon to keep away from Therak’s arms, and reminds him that he knows the plan, when suddenly Arachne tells them to try fitting this into their plan as she fires some webs which tangle up Wonder Man, reminding them that her neuro-toxins took care of USAgent, so they should take care of Wonder Man too.
Simon remarks that USAgent is a strong man, but ripping apart the toxin-filled webbing declares that Wonder Man is a whole different ionic ball game. Simon is about to attack Arachne, when Julia tells him to keep out of this, and smacks the deranged Arachne hard in the face, right where she deserves it, as Julia thinks that for hours she has lived with the image of Arachne with her poison needles at Rachel’s throat. ‘Not even creaming Mike Clemson ever gave me such a glorious sense of release!’ Julia warns herself to watch it or else she might end up killing Arachne.
Iron Man and Wonder Man smash Therak across the stage, and Therak tells Antro to get them out of here. Antro exclaims that his armor is haywire, but he thinks he can still use his trapdoor power. ‘Then do it!’ Arachne snaps. ‘With pleasure!’ Antro replies as he teleports them away. ‘Not again!’ exclaims Spider-Man, asking if they are ever going to be able to catch “these turkeys” Suddenly, Iron Man calls to Spider-Woman and Spider-Man, and Living Lightning asks them to throw everything they have got at the same spot he and Iron Man do.
‘Huh? But there’s nothing there!’ Spider-Man replies as everyone pours their powers in on one position, and suddenly Deathweb reappear. ‘I don’t believe it! Why’d they pop up there?’ Peter asks. Iron Man tells him not to ask, to just hit them! Deathweb fall under the combined power of the four heroes, and Wonder Man remarks that for a threesome no-one had never heard of until a couple of days ago, they sure gave the Avengers West a “Battle Royal!”
Simon turns to the Scarlet Witch and tells her that she did great, before pointing out that she looks rather drained. Wanda replies that she is feeling a bit faint; as it took all of the hex control she could muster to get Deathweb to teleport where she wanted them to instead of some distance away. Spider-Man understands now why the Scarlet Witch hung back from the fight, for she was focusing all of her mutant energy on Deathweb from the moment they showed up. Spider-Man turns to Julia and points out that obviously the two of them were not around when the rest of the Avengers hatched their scheme. Julia asks Spider-Man to tell the Avengers that she will be right back, for Larry went to take Rachel home and she wants to make certain they are both all right.
Living Lightning remarks that Antro won’t be doing too much “trap-dooring” without his helmet, before noticing some police and paramedics lifting up the body of Galvan onto a stretcher, and asking them if he is alive. One of the police replies that he is afraid not. Wonder Man asks why Deathweb killed him, to which Iron Man remarks that they had half-suspected Galvan might be behind Deathweb since their earlier victims supposedly had proof that someone in this race was in league with the mob, so if not Galvan, then who?
Suddenly, ‘My fellow citizens!’ exclaims Wilson Lambert as he take to the podium, addressing the audience, he remarks that most of them know little about him, but now, in the hour of tragedy, that must change. Lambert declares that, for the sake of America, he means to pick up the fallen standards of their murdered leader. The Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man and Iron Man all look at Lambert suspiciously as he continues his speech, sounding like a tele-evangelist Lambert boasts that Galvan’s call for law and order will echo in the land until they have taken back their streets and their cities from all who would usurp them. ‘With your help, nothing will prevent me from carrying his message to the American people!’ Lambert adds, and people in the audience wonder if perhaps there is hope after all, and decide that if Lambert is not giving up, then neither will they.
Meanwhile, in the car park, Larry opens his car and tells Rachel to hurry up and get in it. Rachel asks if they are going home, to which Larry replies that they aren’t, as those villains probably know where they live, so he is taking her somewhere safe. ‘Is any place really safe in these troubled times?’ asks the Manipulator as he creeps up behind the Carpenters. ‘Who in the -!’ asks Larry surprised. ‘Daddy, he’s one of those web-people!’ Rachel exclaims. The Manipulator corrects her, pointing out that he actually employs Deathweb – or at least he did, before muttering that he should have known better than to trust them to even baby-sit.
The Manipulator then reaches out for Rachel, who screams ‘Noooo!’ when suddenly Larry leaps to his daughter’s protection, ‘You heard her, she said no!’ Carpenter exclaims as he punches the Manipulator. The Manipulator warns Larry to back off, adding that he is playing fast and loose with his promising public relations career. ‘Hang my career! That’s my child you’ve been threatening!’ Larry shouts back, punching the Manipulator again.
The Manipulator suggests to Larry that he shouldn’t exert himself, ‘After all, even a man in good physical condition has been known to have…a heart attack!’ Larry screams in pain as the Manipulator places his hands on Larry’s chest and induces a heart attack. Rachel screams out for her father as he falls to the ground beside his car. The Manipulator tells him that he brought this on himself, for by taking on the Manipulator, he is also challenging the Conclave – and they are way out of Carpenter’s league, just as they were out of Galvan’s.
Manipulator turns away from Larry’s body and calls out to Rachel, ordering her to come along, for with her he has a certain amount of leverage vis-à-vis the Avengers – but Rachel is gone! Suddenly, ‘Why don’t you order me to kill you this time, Manipulator? Now that I might just manage!’ exclaims Spider-Woman as she appears before the Manipulator, with Spider-Man at her side. Peter pulls Rachel to safety, telling her to stay behind him. ‘You again? Outraged motherhood plus super powers – a formidable combination even by my meticulous standards!’ the Manipulator exclaims, before declaring that he thinks he will take his leave so that he can life to plot another day – ‘And I think that next time we’ll forego the spider-motif entirely!’
With that, the Manipulator vanishes in a blinding light. Spider-Man jokes that he thought Mysterio had the patent on the old disappearing trick. ‘If there was ever anyone whose face I really wanted to smash in…’ Julia mutters, before Rachel calls out to her father. Julia asks Rachel what the Manipulator did to him, as they got here too late to see. Rachel explains that he just touched her father on the chest and then he fell. ‘Oh my God…’ exclaims Julia as she rushes over to her ex-husband, asking Spider-Man to take Rachel and go call an ambulance.
Larry, extremely weak, whispers ‘J-Julia…?’ Julia lifts her mask and assures Larry that she is here, tears falling down her face. Larry remarks that it didn’t take much to give him a heart attack, and reveals that he has known for many months that his heart was weak, but he wanted to make some big money. Larry asks Julia to take care of Rachel, and as Julia kisses Larry, Larry whispers that perhaps neither of them was quite as bad as the other one thought….Spider-Man returns and informs Julia that the medics are on their way, before asking about Larry. ‘He’s dead’ Julia replies as she lies beside her ex-husband. ‘No!’ screams Rachel.
Back in the auditorium, Lambert exclaims that the economy is an important issue in this election, as is health care, but that the most important issue of all is the fear that grips Americans when they step out of their own front doors. Wonder Man realizes that Lambert is delivering Galvan’s old speech practically word-for-word, and Iron Man points out that it looks like Lambert is getting through to the crowd. Lambert declares that Michael Galvan is now the symbol of the fight against the kind of lawless terror they witnessed here tonight, adding that the assassins here tonight should be speedily punished – even executed!
‘Lambert? Are you trying to get us killed?!’ asks Antro, who sits tied up with the rest of Deathweb nearby. Lambert points at Deathweb, asking why they are still on the stage, still polluting the precious air of decent men and women. Wonder Man replies that the Avengers West were about to take them away when he started his speech. ‘I say – remove them at once!’ Lambert exclaims, telling the Avengers to be like their name says and let swift justice be done to these butchers, adding that he wants every American to know that he is not afraid of these cut-throats.
‘But then, you didn’t have to fear us, did you?’ Arachne exclaims, revealing that Deathweb’s orders were to kill Galvan – and anyone who got in their way, but on no account were they to hurt Lambert! Lambert pauses and adjusts his tie before replying that it is a lie and that every man and woman in this auditorium knows it. But the echoing silence says all too eloquently that Wilson Lambert’s audience is suddenly far from certain of the fact.
The Living Lightning turns to his teammates and asks them what they think. Wanda replies that there is no way of knowing, but that it does make sense. Iron Man reminds his teammates that the murdered journalist claimed to have sordid details on somebody in this race, and suggests that perhaps Galvan’s job, though he didn’t know it, was to be assassinated. ‘You mean so a man too lacklustre to make a good candidate could sail into the white house – on Galvan’s blood?’ Wonder Man asks.
Wilson Lambert shouts ‘Lies! Everything those Deathweb gangsters said is a lie!’ and exclaims that the Avengers should have executed those murderers the moment they captured them. Lambert returns back to his speech, but by now people have already begun to leave the auditorium. ‘All of a sudden I don’t trust this guy!’ one member of the public mutters, while another remarks that they are going to have to think about him for a while. ‘The most important issue of all is…the fear! The fear!’ Lambert cries.
The Scarlet Witch remarks that they will probably never know the truth, to which Iron Man tells her that killers only confess in public on old Perry Mason reruns, adding that if Lambert’s not guilty, then Deathweb’s accusations are a real tragedy. Several police officers move in on Lambert and take him away with them. Living Lightning tells Iron Man that it is a tragedy either way, to which Iron Man replies ‘Yeah…I suppose it is’.
And nearby, police hold crowds of people back as paramedics rush through the car-park approaching Spider-Man who stands guard over the body of Larry Carpenter, Rachel, and the grieving Spider-Woman….