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CHAPTER 1:

A PAIR OF ROGUE ACES

 

            “I’ve dealt with many Arachnos Rogues before, but nothing comes close to the two of you,” Matthew Burke remarked.  “I hate dealing with Arachnos all together, but I think we may have something in common, you and me.”  The mercenary did not avert his eyes for a second from the pair of dark-blue and cyan once-Arachnos couple.

            “I honor your—uneasiness—with the Arachnos and I want to assure you, we are no longer affiliated with the brain-washed hollows that call themselves ‘honorable soldiers’,” said the slender, yet proportionate Night Widow.  She wore no visible protection besides the custom-colored Widow-skin and a bone-white spider-pack and indigo breastplate attachment, with a partially-unzipped collar.  If Burke looked closely to the spider-pack, he would vaguely see a scratched-out red painted Arachnos emblem.  The Widow’s deep black hair hung over her collar and down her back in a perfect single column, her eyes dark with hate with a vast undertone of melancholy.

            “We could never forgive Recluse and his minions for what they did.  In a sense, we all share the same hatred for the tyrant and his drones,” added the large Crab Spider, who shared the same color scheme (relatively) as the Widow.  Visually, the Crab Spider’s armor was a special variant of the standard-issue armor.  Air ventilation tubes entered the back of his helmet from his modified spider-pack, which also housed two propelling jets on the abdomen of the pack.  His boots included another pair of small propelling jets on each, and his arm claws ended in air-propelled spear-ends.  Again, the two red painted Arachnos emblems on both his spider-pack and chest plate were scratched out.  Visually, the mechanical spider legs looked like they were designed for slicing more than blasting.  Burke knew, however, that appearances can be deceiving.

            “Well I gotta say I like your attitude, but I’m smart enough to recognize a doomed plan when I see one.  You two are crazy to go up against the big guy by yourselves, therefore I won’t help you directly,” winked Burke.  “I just might know a guy who can help you, though.  But it’s gonna cost you big time.”

            “Name the price, and we’ll pay,” said the Widow.  She seemed a bit perturbed.  Burke liked it when women were annoyed by him.

            “Oh, let’s see.  How about you, babe?”

            “Unwise answer,” grumbled the Crab Spider, who now held the mercenary a foot above him by the neck.  All four mechanical spider legs focused between Burke’s eyes.

            “Now, now, Gabriel, let’s act like civilized villains for a minute, shall we?  Put the scum down,” cooed the Widow, softly stroking her counterpart’s bicep.  Gabriel hesitated for a second, and then dropped Burke to his knees, leaving the mercenary gasping and wheezing.  Burke’s eyes opened to the slink of six small spikes forming from the Widow’s fist in front of his sweaty face.  “Mr. Burke, you should know better than to take a pass at the wife of the infamous Araqua.  Not only will you induce the wrath of my husband, but you could possibly flatter the equally infamous Mistress Araqua.  Flattery from another man other than Gabriel is just unacceptable, Mr. Burke,” smirked the Widow.

            The Araquas?  I beg your forgiveness, ma’am.  I did not know Recluse’s best aquatic combat duo could ever betray their master,” sputtered Burke.

            “I didn’t expect you to know, Matthew.  Now, is there any other price for your information, or is that your final offer,” asked Mistress Araqua as she inched her spikes closer to his face.

            “Okay, okay!  I have another price, but this may be difficult, even for the two of you.  I want you to put the WEB out of commission.  With it out of the picture, it will take forever for Recluse to reset the controls and create a new set of launch codes for his little rocket in Warburg.”

            “Done.  Now, give us the information, or the WEB remains operational,” grunted Araqua.

            “Fine.  I have a friend who could help you take on Recluse.  He’s one of the most powerful supers I’ve known, and he’s already had a run-in with the big spider.  We usually go out twice a week to Pocket D for a drink.  The only thing is, he’s a 100 percent anti-Arachnos do-gooder, so there may be a big chance he’ll turn you down at a first glance,” explained Burke.

            “He will help us if he wants to see the end of the Arachnos,” said Araqua.

            “Sure, you keep with that mind-set.  His real name is Michael Stevenson, but he likes to go by the Blue Barrage.  I doubt he’ll want to meet with you, but I can get him to a spot where you can talk.  But that, too, will cost--” Araqua’s claw was already hovering across Burke’s throat before he finished his sentence.  “—okay, drinks are on me, then.”






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