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Anansi Blessed: Journey to Your Heart

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"Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul,

And sings the tune without the words,

And never stops at all,"

-Emily Dickinson

 


 She died. 

She's 24 when she dies. She's 24, fighting Red skull, and her friends are screaming when she dies.  Her name is Penelope Parker, she is Spider-Woman, and she dies protecting New York, the world, her family.  Penelope doesn't regret it even though there are things she does regret but dying for the people she cares for isn't one of them.  Penelope doesn't know how Red Skull is still alive but she knows the glowing cube is dangerous and powerful, can feel it as her spider sense wails inside her head.  She does not hesitate, doesn't stop to think, and is reaching for it, even as the machine Hydra made starts. Between the upheaval of the Hero Registration, trouble at work, family, and her recent break up, Penelope is tired, worn at the edges. The machine, Penelope can't remember what it is for, bends beneath her strength and the cube, glowing blue and clear, the power of creation contained within, burns her hands.  But Spider-Woman does not let go.  She heaves, back arched, fire and lightening scorching every nerve and vessel, and screams. The machine gives, misaligned the Hydra program fails and crashes.  Red skull rushes her, determined to stop her, to kill her but fails to reach her.  The cube answers her, her wish buried deep within her heart, even as her determination, her goal roars from within the depth of her soul. Free the cube from Red skull, back into the InBetween -the Beyond- and yet, protect the world, friends and family, protect her home.

A paradox.

To fulfill the first, the latter must perish.  To protect the second, then the former must be let go. 

An anomaly.  A paradox.

A wish.

The cube answers, Red skull collapses on the ground gasping for air and lies helpless as his muscles atrophy.  His skin swivels and cracks.  All throughout the underground compound, those of Hydra that remain suffer the same fate and the enhanced can do nothing as their power abandons or turns against them.  Some implode, spreading gore and brain matter all around them. Others are consumed, drained, left feeble and emaciated.  Daredevil, the Fantastic Four, and Scarlet Spider stand motionless but unharmed, proof of Spider-Woman's influence over the cube, and she's choking now unable to scream, to cry.  Spider-Woman can no longer feel anything, numb to it all, but her hands hold the cube in a vice even as her legs give out.  She's falling back and Scarlet rushes to her, to his sister, the woman he's cloned from, who accepted him despite his hate, his flaws.   

He manages to reach her before she hits the ground but its already too late.  Blue Iris petals cascade all around her but Scarlet doesn't care for them.  Distantly, he remembers they're her favorite.    

(Later, the Fantastic Four will release a copy of the security footage to the public before SHIELD can hide it away. The world will watch as Spider-Woman defies a monster, watch as she suffers untold agony.  The world will see a hero embrace death and fade away.  They will see a brother call out to a sister who can no longer hear him and weep with him.  To the heroes of the world, her actions will expose a plot to enslave and kill them.  Her actions will reveal an enemy waiting in the cold expanse of space and the chance to defend against it.  Later, the world will know her name, what she stood for, how she strived to save the world one person at a time, how she offered hope to all who meet her and asked for nothing in return.  The world will learn her belief in the power of responsibility and the power of kindness.  Her name and her deeds will be immortalized in paper and ink, in stone and steel, in history as a woman who was selfless, who sacrificed her own happiness to help others, who loved deeply, who reminded the world what it meant to care for people. Fans and supporters will petition to have her buried in Arlington National Cemetery, the first and only hero to have that honor).

Scarlet Spider, Kaine Parker, clutches his sister's body, like it was something precious, as if he could keep her alive using just his presence, and screams her name, screams himself hoarse, begs her to come back...

That is how she dies.


Beyond this place, within the InBetween, the cube breaks down. It opens like a flower in bloom before the petals scatter and disappear.  There are many who witness it but only one steps forward to grasp at what is left behind.  A light, small but strong.  A soul, tired but bright, warm, and beautiful.  It is familiar to some of those present and were it not so tattered by the cube's sloppy abuse, would evolve and ascend to join them.

"Worry not, Little Spider, you are loved. You are honored. You will join us again. But not today. Not yet. Not yet."

With great care, the being whispers softly to the soul cupped within its hands, like a parent would for it's child, and for a second it burns with all the glory of a newborn sun. Then it is gone.

This is how she is remade, in the cradle of creation and by the care of a god, ancient and powerful, whom cast a shadow against the void shaped like a spider's legs.


Penelope Parker is four years old when the dreams start.  Some are terrible.  Dark and twisted.  They leave her cold and afraid.  Her parents put up dream catchers and other trinkets to "ward away the bad pokemon".  But little Penny is smart.  Her parents say so, too.  The dreams feel different.  They belong to her, she knows that.  Even if she doesn't know how.  They aren't being taken.  It feels more like...she's getting something back.  Something really important.  Something she didn't realize was missing.

Her heart song hums quiet and soothing in the back of her mind. (She feels disoriented by it.  She keeps expecting something else to hum to her.  To tell her something.)

More of the dreams come.  Some are good.  (She's flying!) Some are so terrible she wakes up screaming in the middle of the night. (A blonde girl is falling, falling, falli-)

They're important.  So, so, important and little Penny clings to them.  She plays them over and over in her head.  She knows they're important but they're also...incomplete.  (Why?)  Little Penny is smart, though, the dreams are like a puzzle and when the pieces are missing, you have to wait for them to show up.  (There's a voice in her head, soft like a whisper, trying to warn her.)

Little four year old Penny doesn't say a word about what she sees.  (She listens to that voice.)


(This World is Strange.)

Little Penelope Parker is five when she is Chosen for the first time.

(Pokémon Chose who they will bond with.  Pokémon Chose a person they will follow, a person they will call friend.  It is believed when you are Chosen, you increase your chances of meeting your soulmate.  There are plenty of people who are Chosen once or twice.  They are considered Common.  If you are Chosen Thrice, you are considered Gifted, someone who is destined to further society.  If you exceed the Gifted number of Chosen , you are Blessed and are fated to not only meet your soulmate but also bestow a great Boon that will revolutionize society. 

(Not everyone is Chosen.  There have been many Gifted, historical figures like Einstein, Julius Caesar, and even Martin Luther King Jr. But there have only ever been less than a handful of Blessed in the world. There are none today.)

(And even if you are Chosen, not Everyone meets their Soulmate.)

Little Penny is no stranger to bullies. Ever since the dreams started, the other children have avoided her. As if staying away will keep the ghost or psychic pokemon who torments her away. When the dreams keep happening, they think she's cursed. They think by making her go away they will make the scary pokemon go, too. It's not like that.  But little Penny is smart. Smarter than the other kids. Smarter now than she was before, too. So she doesn't try to correct them because they're scared and don't want to hear what she has to say. That doesn't make the bullying stop and some days she goes home to cry and cry and cry. She wants to cry herself out of tears, wants to cry herself until she's too weak to move. 

She does not do that. She does not give up. She does not give in. 

Little Penny dreams of a hero. She's beautiful and strong and smart.  She wears a suit with a spider symbol on it.  She is Spider-Woman.  Spider-Woman is her hero because even against terrible monsters Spider-Woman never gives in.  Against people that give little Penny nightmares and people in suits who say they're police, she doesn't back down.

(Men in suits scare her. Detectives and secret agents make her shiver. She sees how dark, how cruel, they can be.  How easy lies drip from their lips like poison.)

Spider-Woman is her hero even if they don't really exist. Little Penny wants to be like her. So the little girl cries her eyes red, cleans them and than tries again the next day.

Its recess and she's being bullied again. There's a girl in a pink top with a meowth. Her name is Rachel. The only Chosen in their class and everyone wants to be her friend. But Penny doesn't like the look in her eyes. Or how the Meowth eyes her like she's something to eat. Penny stares back because she isn't afraid. She doesn't care if its a Meowth or a Rhydon, she won't back down because someone thinks they're special. That's not something Spider-Woman would do.

(The voice tells her not to give in. Never give in. No matter who or what. That the day she does is the day she truly dies.)

They call her names. She starts to tune them out. (She thinks of her dreams and tries to make them fit.) They throw dirt at her. She takes a hand and dust herself off. (She's learning, slowly, how to let things go, how to let the hurtful things fall to the side.)

Rachel, frustrated, picks up a rock and throws it at her. It doesn't get far.  There is the sound of something cutting through the air and the rock ends up inbedded in the ground behind the crowd. There is a Pokemon in front of her.  Its fur is white as snow. It-she- has a dark face with red eyes, a curved horn and a spiked tail. (Penny doesn't know how but she knows this pokemon. Doesn't know why but she gives Penny a warm feeling, like a piece slotting into place.)

"Absol." the Pokemon doesn't growl or roar. Her presence radiates power and mystery. Rachel's Meowth pulls his ears back and whimpers, scurrying behind his human.

"Y-you freak!" Rachel's voice squeaks. She flinches when Absol snarls, lip curling and fangs gleaming white and sharp. The other five year old flees with her pokemon and the crowd quickly follows.

When they're gone, its quiet. The Absol turns to little Penny and walks up to her. The air grows heavy with every step, thick with anticipation. 

"Hello." Little Penelope knows her manners. Absol was kind to protect her from her bullies. Its only right she thank the pokemon.

"Sol." the pokemon offers her paw almost like a handshake. 

(Take it, the voice whispers softly.)

She takes her paw, careful of her claws-

"Oh!" Penny's eyes go wide, her jaw goes slack. A warmth unfurls from her belly and her face becomes flushed. Her toes and fingers tingle. Penny feels giddy and bubbly and happy. A smile, small and shy, takes root. 

(A piece of the puzzle returns to her.)

"Its nice to meet you, Pandora." she says to her new friend, meeting the absol's gaze and for a moment, less than a split of a second, Penny's vision is clouded by a bridge made of rainbows.

Pandora purrs and the moment is over.


That night the dreams aren't so bad. Pandora, her Absol, cuddles close. Little Penny feels safe. She feels a little bit stronger, too.  She knows she'll be treated differently now. But she doesn't care.  Her new Pokémon Chosen ID card sits on her desk.  Her mother promises to get her a wallet to put it in.  She knows she is the first person an Absol has ever Chosen since Edgar Allen Poe, the writer but Penny doesn't care about that.  Although, Penelope wonders about writing her dreams down and making them a story. She knows no one would believe her if she said they were real but having them written down would help her remember them better.

(Later, the voice whispers, when all the pieces fit.)

Aunt May has a Miltank named Milly.  They work as Nutritionists and have lots of books on pokemon. They'll be going to Aunt May and Uncle Ben's this weekend so Penny can get started on learning how to properly take care of her Absol.  Her parents also want her to talk to a counselor about what careers she can choose from with her pokemon if that's something she wants.

(It is. Her dreams show lots of things. Some with pokemon. She wants to try being a coordinator! Not a Battle Frontier Fighter, the voice whispers, too many eyes.)

Still, she can't wait for when she's old enough to enter her first show! 


Penelope Parker is six when she gets her second. 

She'd been invited to another birthday party. She didn't want to come but her mother said she had to. That she needed to make friends with other Chosen.  But Penny knows she's wrong here. The people here aren't nice. The girl reminds her of Rachel, strawberry blonde curls and an "angel" face.  She was Chosen by a Murkrow but she's been bragging about how her daddy is an important breeder and she's going to get a Shiny Starter.  Her daddy said so.

(Pokémon breeders are a rare occupation.  They are people who have come from a long line of Chosen.  Those who did not find soulmates but married and had children.  If the Pokémon are compatible, any eggs they lay can be given to their human's children.  These are Inheritors, children Chosen from hatching.  Those that are not partnered with a human either go wild or are sold at auction before they hatch.  Always before they hatch.  Trafficking, enslavement, the voice whispers, angry.)    

Getting a starter is a big deal. Its a sign you are destined for great things. It could be anything. Wealth, power, beauty. If you had a starter, your future must be bright. A shiny of any kind is exceptionally rare. But it is also a sign of a life rich in joy despite adversity and difficult times.  Penny feels terrible for that pokemon. But she doesn't say anything. She watches and listens. Pandora stays close to her and snarls when someone or their pokemon get a little too close. 

(Something is wrong here. Terribly, terribly wrong. Run, the voice whispers, run.)

Its hard not to run away. She doesn't like it here. Pandora stays tense the entire day. She tries to tell her mom, but Mary Parker won't listen, sees only that her daughter needs more friends.  Mr. Sorano is convinced by his daughter to have a sleep over right then and Penny wants to cry because she doesn't want to but her mother still won't budge.  She's on the verge of breaking down when Pandora nudges her to the bathroom at the far end of the hall.  Little Penny takes her overnight bag from her mother and locks herself inside. If she has to stay, it'll be as far from the rest as possible. But just as the duo is settling into the large bathtub, a shrill alarm goes off.  It goes on for a short while before being turned off.

There is a commotion outside and after a moment of quick talking, Penelope hears the voices lower even more as footsteps hurry by the door.  She doesn't know what's going on but she has no plans to unlock that door. 

It doesn't matter.  The tile above her opens and a body falls inside.  Penelope gives a short shriek when she feels blood splatter her face.  Opening her eyes terrifies her but she does it.  Laying on top of her sleeping bag is a pokemon, froglike with a scarf or something like a ninja, bruised and battered.  The frog ninja is bloody and tired. There is a collar around her neck and as it starts to spark, sears her neck raw.  But she's looking at Penny desperately.  She can hardly move and little Penny feels so helpless. Pandora doesn't know how to heal like Milly. 

She strectches her arms toward Penny, and the six year old realizes there is something there, a pokemon, a baby.

It sparkles a shiny soft blue. She trembles in her mother's arms, eyes glassy with tears.

Penny reaches back, palms up, waiting. Even when her arms get heavy, she waits. Tentatively, she reaches out and its only when the baby froakie is settled in her lap that the warmth bursts across her tongue, her eyes, like sipping Aunt Mays special hot chocolate.

"Hello, Chiyome." she whispers, her voice breaking "I've been waiting for you."

"Fro...kie."

(Hide! Hide! Hide!)

"I'm going to hide you now, okay?  Don't be afraid.  I won't let them find you. I promise."

She carefully hides the pokemon in her bag, covering the blue baby with her spare clothes. Penny cradles the bag in her arms as her mother finally finds her, pounding relentlessly on the door. But Penny doesn't answer just yet.

"I'll take care of her." she whispers, looking the mother pokemon in the eyes. "I promise."

There is something like relief in the pokemon's gaze. She closes her eyes for the last time just as Mary Parker manages to break inside.

(Afterwards, her mother doesn't force her to go to anymore parties and she never sees the Soranos ever again. Abusive Pokemon Breeders are given some of the harshest sentences of the law. Disgraced, their families flee into obscurity.)


The little froakie is a pretty little blue color and Penny gives her a soft yellow ribbon that ties in the back.  Chiyome doesn't like to be separated from her.  So, Penny finds the nicest bag she owns and keeps her pokemon inside, letting the little water pokemon stay close and still see the world.  Penny made a promise and works to keep it for weeks after the little baby pokemon joins her.  Milly's milk is good and Pandora usually only drinks a quarter before going for her poke food.  Penny pays careful attention to her pokemon, making sure to give them the right amount of moomoo milk and solid food.  She's also extra careful to make sure her parents don't see her froakie.

She stops taking showers and takes baths so that Chiyome can play in the water.  Pandora lays by the door to keep guard and Penelope is always grateful.  She makes sure Chiyome remembers to thank Pandora for protecting them.  Shyly, the little water pokemon does so.  It's good at the start and they fall into a routine but it cannot last.  The stress starts to wear on all three of them.  Fortunately, it does come to an end because Chiyome learns to camouflage herself.  Things become easier after that and miraculously, her parents never notice.

(Richard Parker has his science and is away a lot even though he does spend time with her when he comes home.  Mary Parker is very similar but she also gives Pandora a glance, wondering and calculating.  Sometimes, she'll leave and talk on the phone for a long time.  She never notices the slight shimmer on her daughter's other side.  Those looks scare six year old Penny and she doesn't know why...)

Then, something changes.  Her dad comes home and tells her she needs boosters to help her.  He pulls out three needles but Penny is a smart six year old.  She knows she isn't sick.  She doesn't need boosters.  Richard Parker tells her its so no one can try and take Pandora or any other pokemon away from her.  Pandora snarls at her dad and near her feet, she can feel Chiyome go stiff as a board.  But her dad doesn't move, doesn't make her take them. 

"Why?" For a moment, she doesn't think he will answer but he looks at her.  Really and truly looks at her. 

"Do you remember Mr. Osborn?  The man in the suit?" Little Penny shivers. 

She does.  He liked how she was friends with his son, Harry.  She likes Harry.  Penelope became friends with him before she was Chosen but he wasn't always in school with his mother so sick.  When she died just before Penny turned six, that changed and Harry hasn't missed a day since.  But his dad scares her.  The way he looks at her scares her.  (He's in her dreams, too.  He's a monster.  A goblin.  The Goblin.  He wants to tear her apart.  He wants to take her a part piece by piece.  He wants to break her, own her, and leave nothing but an empty doll behind.  A doll he can play with.) 

She never wants to be alone with him.  Ever. 

"He scares me..." she starts with a whisper, "He looks like he wants to eat me." (He does.  He wants to eat all of her.  All of her secrets and her father's secrets, too.)

Her dad gives her a sad smile but doesn't tell her she's wrong.

"I know." he whispers back, "He likes how smart you are and that you've been Chosen so young.  He asked me about forming a Contract between you and Harry."

Penny inhales loudly and has trouble focusing on her dad. 

(A Contract is serious and are not created equal.  Its like an arranged marriage but more strict and between parties who are or who can vouch for a Chosen.  Very few are lenient.  Very, very few.  There can be no dating, no casual sex, no free travel without an escort or guard, and no casual friendships.  Trips to the moves or the diner become business ventures and every person meet has to be pre-approved by the controlling party.  That part belongs to the side with the most power in the Contract.  The biggest factors on that depend on who has the power to refuse.  Those who can refuse are those Chosen who have the pokemon bonds to back up the refusal.  Two pokemon are stronger than one after all.  Contracts are not formed with Commons in mind. That does not stop certain people from trying to bind a Chosen and their pokemon to form a lineage.  It does not always work because a bond between a Chosen and their pokemon cannot be contested and pokemon do not always get along.  People still try.  But, they can do nothing, absolutely nothing, in the face of a Soulmate, either.)

Her dad reaches out and pulls her into an embrace.  The hug is warm and reminds her that her dad loves her, that he will do all that he can to protect her.

"He thinks I'll bond to more." Penny has trouble seeing clearly but clings to her father's arms.

"Yes." He hesitates for a second before blurting out, "There are studies that show the younger a person is Chosen, the higher chance they become Gifted or Blessed.  You've been Chosen young, very young and to a very strong pokemon.  There is a high probability that...you'll be Chosen again and soon.  I refused the contract because Harry hasn't been Chosen but that can change and Mr. Osborn may try something else.  Do you understand?"

Penelope nods into her dad's shoulder, trembling.  (She knows all to well.  Osborn would burn all the world to have her.  He almost did, once.  He promised, swore, nothing would stop him from having her.)

"That's what these are for.  So, even if he tries something with Pandora or any pokemon you may by Chosen by, he can't. I won't let him have power over you, I promise." 

He doesn't say how they do that and for the first time, Penny pulls away from her dad to look him in the eye.  Richard Parker holds his daughter's gaze, steady and sure, unwavering and unyielding.  She can't hide her shock because she knows what that look means.  That he can promise that, that he's so certain.  Against drugs, psychic attacks or even torture, for her dad to promise and to look like that...         

"Will it hurt?" It means he knows it will work.  That its possible her dad knows how or even why pokemon choose a person to bond with.  To fight for.  To die for.  To live for.  He knows and he's using it to protect her from a monster.

"Just a pinch and a bit of a headache. That's it."

"And my pokemon?"

"A headache and maybe feeling a bit queasy."

"Okay. But..." Penny feels torn.  For a long moment, she can't decide and looks to Pandora for help.  The absol is still as a statue before reaching over and nudging the empty space where Chiyome is hiding in plain sight. The froakie lets the camouflage go and fidgets in place.

"Fro?"  For a long moment her dad is silent.

"I...I'm sorry daddy." she looks down and bites her lip. "I made a promise but you're helping and I don't want you to be mad or disappointed.  But I had to! A-And..."

"Easy." Her father holds her close and starts to rock her gently. "Easy.  Its okay.  I'm glad you trust me enough to show me. Okay? I just...I..."

Richard Parker starts to cry.  He doesn't bother to wipe away his tears, just holding his daughter as tight as he can.  When Pandora and Chiyome shuffle closer and lean against his legs, he refuses to let little Penny go.  When warmth flows through him, seeps into his very bones, he cries harder and still does not let go.

(After he gives her the boosters, all three feel a bit nauseas but her dad spends the rest of the day taking care of them so its okay.  Everything is okay...He never tells his wife about Chiyome.)      


She is seven when Mary Parker tells her daughter she is fixing a surprise for her and Pandora.  It makes her nervous and anxious.  Little Penny can't tell why but she blames the parties and all the times her mom made her go.  She blames the lingering danger that Harry's dad brings but trust her dad to keep her and her pokemon safe.  Mary and Richard Parker are not Chosen even though Aunt May is and Uncle Ben had a Golem when he was younger before he went away. 

(Penny thinks the pokemon died but doesn't say that to her parents.  She doesn't think they like to talk about it.)

So she isn't sure if this excess of attention is because her mom hopes she'll become Chosen, too.

She never finds out what that surprise is.  The next day, her parents drop her off at her Aunt and Uncle's one night, tell her they love her, and tell her they have to leave but promise to be back. 

(The voice tells her they won't be coming back.)

Little Penny starts to cry and tells her parents she loves them even if they don't come back and then her mom starts to cry.  Richard Parker picks up his daughter and holds her tight.  Holds her like he might never get the chance to again.  Even when his wife joins the hug, he doesn't let go.  It takes the beeping of his watch to force him to move.  Just before he leaves, he places a small yellow egg with white spots in her arms.  The spark of warmth, of her father's hugs and confident protection engulfs her.  It envelops her, surrounding her in a cocoon of love and bright light.  

Cracks form along the top of the egg. It stops her parents at the door. Everyone is silent and still as the pokemon hurries to break free and when it does, sparks fly as a small fluff of yellow fur wiggles around in the palms of her cupped hands.  The newly hatch Joltik perks up at her and thrills happily, bright blue eyes gleaming in happiness.  For a second, the world stops, and Penelope's vision is clouded by stardust.

"Voltaire." She says absentmindedly, "Welcome home."

When she looks at her father, for the last time, she commits everything about him to memory.  His wrinkles and determined eyes.  His rumpled work shirt and long coat.  He smiles and kneels back down to her.

"I love you. Always. Remember that." He takes a deep breath, "Whatever happens, don't let Osborn pressure you.  You do what you feel is best and right.  If he tries, you've got all the power you need.  Okay?"

"Yes, daddy. I love you!" She gives him one last hug and holds him as tightly as she can before he lets her go. 

(That is the last time she sees her parents.  She doesn't stop crying for days.  When news comes about the crash, she's already all cried out.)


The funeral for her parents is full of people.  Most of them she doesn't like. 

Pandora keeps them at bay and Voltaire sticks to hiding in her hair or the hood of her sweaters.  Chiyome helps Pandora by being lookout while sitting on the absol's back and hiding in plain sight.  No one questions her at the cemetery so she refuses to move for a long time.  Even when the guests move on or when someone talks to her aunt and uncle.  Penelope doesn't move but the adults stay a bit to the side, just out of her line of sight.  All her pokemon huddle close to her, silent but warm. 

She is Chosen for the fourth time, here, at the grave of her parents.

"Kyu?" A head peaks out from behind her father's headstone.  For a moment she though it was a strange looking Pikachu.  But then it moves away from the stone and Penny can see it clearly, a pokemon that looks like a Pikachu because its covered by a ragged Pikachu doll.  Pandora growls in warning at the pokemon but it comes no closer.

"CayOu See mE?" It's voice is distorted. Broken. Haunted.

Penelope considers not answering. It's a ghost pokemon. (It's taboo to be Chosen by a ghost pokemon. There are stories about children being stolen and killed. There are theories that being Chosen by one is to be tormented by the spirits of the dead and to be followed by the sins of the pasts until the day you die.)

But all she can feel is the lonliness that echoes her own. 

"Hello."

"HellO ."

Pandora and the others remain strangely silent as the pokemon slowly extends a black claw from beneath the rag and offers it to Penny. She reaches out a hand and grasps the claw. 

Its cool to the touch than a sharp rush of warmth burns through her. It trails along her arms and legs. It scorches her fingers, toes, ears, and eyes. The air leaves her lungs and she can't take another breath.

(Her vision goes dark. All around her is the cold expanse of nothing. All around her is Everything. The Universe begins and ends.)

"Arsene." she exhales grief and turmoil and fear. "You waited a long time. Thank you."

"Kyua!" The Mimikyu thrills in tired relief. 

"You'll have to hide. At least for a little while. Will you be okay?"

"Mimi!" He chirps with a nod of his doll's head.

"Let's go home."


Time marches onward. 

Chapter Text

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept trying when there seemed to be no hope at all."

-Dale Carnegie


The minimum age requirement for a Pokémon Contest is ten.  However, the youngest contestant that ever participated was fourteen.  Parents and guardians hesitant to allow their children to take part in what is essentially a beauty pageant with pokemon battles.

Penelope Parker is ten when she enters her first contest.

Terri is still in high school and works as support staff during the Pokémon Contest for the State of New York.  Pokémon Contest are split into two stages.  The first is the Performance Stage, Coordinators have their pokemon perform moves that showcase their skill and style.  The appeals are judged by three judges: Raoul Contesta, Director of the Contest Committee or another Committee member, Mr. Sukizo, President of the Pokémon Fan Club or another senior member, and the resident Pokémon Specialist or Nurse Joy.  The second stage is the Battle Stage where Coordinators compete in Pokémon battles while still showcasing a pokemon's skill and style.  Each battle last five minutes and the Coordinators lose points when their pokemon are hit by an attack, when their pokemon's attack fails, when the opponent's pokemon performs a particularly appealing move, or when the opponent's pokemon uses their pokemon attack to its own advantage. A battle can also end when one of the pokemon is no longer able to battle, called Battle Off by the judges. In this case, the Coordinator with the remaining pokemon is declared the winner. 

Its a great work environment with good pay and benefits.  Terri especially likes the chance to see all the performers in between her duties.  The Hispanic hasn't been Chosen but she holds out hope that doesn't effect her chances of meeting her soulmate.  Still, her current job is a new experience for her.  She's acting proxy guardian to the youngest contestant the Pokémon Contest has ever had.  With an Absol of all pokemon.

When Terri meets Penelope Parker and Pandora, she's a little jealous.  Just a little though because as pretty as the ten year old looks in her soft blue and white Sunday dress, and as beautiful as her Absol appears, with its sparkling white coat, there is a reason they're called the Disaster Pokemon.  Terri starts to feel a string of pity for the little girl.  She is jealous of the little girl's aunt, though.  A Chosen with a Miltank.  Miltank are a serious source of nutrition for pokemon and people but wild Miltank don't always offer moomo milk to people. 

Chosen who have Miltank are highly prized and in high demand.  Its not a surprise she won't be able to stay and watch the show.  Or, at least, not all of it.  Terri offers to record Penelope's show.  It will be on an old camcorder but the Chosen, May Parker, is grateful.  Terri quickly and clearly gives the ten year old a run down of the rules while taking her to the coordinator common area.  

"Are you...I mean, is it, um, that is..." Terri fumbles over her words.  How do you ask a ten year old if something bad is going to happen because of her pokemon?  Come on Terri you can do this! "Your pokemon..."

She happens to look Penny in the eye, her big doe like eyes and promptly loses her will to say anything.  

"Absols don't bring disaster." Terri feels the air leave her lungs, because what? "They can sense it and warn others.  People just chose to blame them for it.  I mean.  I understand.  Its easier to blame someone else when things go wrong, right?"

Terri, realizing her mouth is hanging open, snaps her mouth shut, unable to escape from sting of the little girl's words, no matter how gentle they were uttered.  She feels her cheeks flush because the teen cannot say she's wrong.  She's lost count of how many times she's blamed someone else for things going wrong.  Her school, the administration, the state, the government, and even some of her friends.  If people can do that to each other, is it any surprise that people can do the same to pokemon?

For the first time since meeting the two, Terri takes a good look at the pokemon.  Pandora has the typical look of an absol, but the love and care is also obvious.  Her coat is clean, full and lush.  Her claws, horn and tail have been buffed and polished.  Pandora holds her head high and stares the teen down, red eyes glittering under the lights.  She's beautiful, full of mystery and elegance.  Like a Queen, all naturally enhanced and highlighted.  

"Hello, Pandora." the Absol dips her head slightly in acknowledgement. "Pandora," Terri tests the name, "from the myth, right?"

The name of the first woman from Greek mythology who let loose all the Evils of the World but who also gave humanity Hope. Terri is suddenly struck with the realization of how fitting a name that is.  Even if not a lot of people gave names to their pokemon partners, those she's come across weren't very creative, but this one seemed appropriate. 

She takes the pair to the dressing room to pick something from the rental wardrobe.  The teen isn't surprised when Penelope picks out a blue bandana scarf to wrap around her absol's neck and a small blue barrette for the white fur on Pandora's head.  Simple and yet, elegant.  That doesn't stop the other contestants from sending them wary looks.   

"Ignore what the other coordinators say." Terri starts because as supportive as the staff is, she knows how cruel the others can be especially if they've just fallen short of gaining entrance to the Grand Festival. "Win the crowd and show off to the judges and you'll be a Grand Festival contestant before you know it."

"Thanks, Terri." the teen tries not to coo as a blush dusts the little girl's cheeks. "Can you tell me about the prizes?"

"Sure." Terri leads the pair out of the dressing room and into the waiting room with the other coordinators. "You already know the major prize is the contest ribbon.  Five ribbons give you entrance to the Grand Festival.  There is one Grand Festival every year for every continent.  Then, there is the Master Grand Festival held once every five years for Top Coordinators.  There are also the big money prizes.  The regional prizes can add up to a few thousand, if you're lucky.  The Grand Festival has one of the biggest pot prizes.  You get the Ribbon Cup, title of Top Coordinator and a whooping five thousand dollars."

"So, if I win a bunch of regional contest and the Grand Festival I could win potentially ten to fifteen thousand dollars." Penelope's gaze is focused on Terri and the teen is struck by the realization that the little ten year old is more than just cute with barrettes in her hair.  There's a mind, a sense of something calculating, something more, to the little girl that Terri can't quite put her finger on.

"Yeah. That's right."

"And the Master Grand Festival?"

"That's the cream of the crop.  The U.S. has had a few Coordinators make it but no one's won it yet.  The Master Festival is where all Top Coordinators attend once every five years and the prize for that is the Master Ribbon, the title of Master Top Coordinator, another five thousand dollars and a bond or stock package.  I'm not sure how good that last bit is but they wouldn't offer them if they weren't valuable."

"Of course." There's a glint to the little girl's eyes and it gives Terri the feeling that she knew more about the worth of the prizes than Terri did. "Thanks again, Terri."

"No problem." Terri gestures to the large screen t.v. "The ceremony is starting."

It takes a while before Penelope is called out to perform.  Terri doesn't think anyone was prepared for her show.  There is some commentary over Pandora's elegance and beauty.  Her health and care are also marked as exceptional, which Terri isn't surprised by.  Than, she and Pandora took the stage. 

"Okay, Pandora. Let's start with Future Sight and follow up with Will-o-Wisp."  

A purple aura envelops the absol before glowing blue white orbs form and are thrown into the air, disappearing into waiting dark portals.  Immediately, Pandora summons a plethora of sinister blueish-white flame orbs around her.  She prances gracefully around the stage releasing the flames as she goes.  It does not take her long to fill the air with wisps of the other worldly fire before she flips back to center stage. 

"Dark Pulse."

In an instant, Pandora releases a wave of dark energy.  The waves collide with the flames and explode, leaving behind a mist of black, purple, and blue energy in the air.

"Will-o-Wisp one more time and then Swift!"

Once more the cursed fire fills the air, creating a haunting portrait in the air.  Pandora aims her follow up attack at the new flames and the clash creates a symphony of blue and white miniature stars against a dark backdrop.  The crowd is held in awe and goes wild.  However, as the attack Future Sight clears the dark portals, the psychic power collides with the concoction already in the air.  It explodes in a dazzling display of black, purple, and blue.  The stars from Pandora's Swift shatter on impact into millions of glittering lights and smaller stars.  The audience is left with a breathtaking rendition of a clear night sky.

It is without a doubt the most spectacular display in the contest.  

There is no question who is the front runner for the contest ribbon.  After a short break the second stage, the Battle Stage is announced.  The contestants are chosen in a tournament fashion after those from the first round are eliminated.  The Battle Stage is not a place where the ten year old lacks either.  In fact, Terri thinks with something like a cross between dread and anticipation, Penelope and Pandora tear through the other coordinators with an ease that was both daunting and enchanting.  

Even against the leading veteran Coordinator's Beautifly, a bug-flying type that should have given the absol pause.    

"Future Sight."

"Pin Missile!"

"Dodge than double team!" Pandora's coat leaves a trail of shine and sparkle copied by its duplicates. "Flamethrower!"

After a smart use of will-o-wisp and another flamethrower, the judges had to call a Battle Off since the bug pokemon had a hard time staying afloat.  

Terri is sure she will never forget this contest.  She's pretty sure no one else will either.  Or the ones that will follow because as Penelope takes her ribbon and places it in her case, there is a look in her eyes that Terri can't quite read.  But she's sure its a prequel to the things to come.  She isn't sure why the little girl is so determined or for what reason she is driven by but Terri has the feeling it will take her to places the teen can only imagine.  

As she escorts the little girl back to the changing room, she makes a silent promise that if she ever becomes Chosen she will try and do the same.  She will look for that drive and determination.  Working on the sidelines can only get one so far.

(A week later she is Chosen by a Sewaddle.  Remembering her promise, she sets out to try and make something of herself.  A few years later, she is known as one of the leading fashion designers for pokemon.) 


After her victory, Penelope goes on to enter numerous contest and wins many of them.  She does not win all of them but enough to earn a reputation.  She starts with Pandora and after a while she includes Volatire in her shows.  The Absol and Joltik become icons of Penelope as a coordinator.  Pandora becomes known for her haunting mystery and elegant beauty.  Voltaire, even after he evolves, is known for his numerous displays of colorful "Rainbow Storms".  She is determined to win as many as possible, well aware that the prizes from the contest help relieve a severe financial burden for her aunt and uncle.  

That's not to say they had a hard time supporting themselves but the contest prize money was a big relief.  Any extra she put away for later.  She knew she would need it.  Penelope isn't sure for what reason, her memories are still fuzzy, but she knows its important.  The Ribbons started to add up as well.  More than enough to enter the Grand Festival at the end of the year in July and while she doesn't win on her first try, she does win the Grand Festival three times in a row the following years after.  

Penelope becomes a Top Coordinator by the time she's twelve, the youngest in the world and has every intention of attending the Master Grand Festival in 2001.

She continues being a Coordinator, one of the best, according some of the judges.  In between practice and contests she still attends school and makes sure to stay in the top ten percentile.  Nothing too extreme or noticeable.  She sure some people suspect her true potential but Arsene and Chiyome are very good at covering up any evidence they might leave behind.  That doesn't mean school is any easier.  No.  Its a lot harder.  

Between people who are jealous and people who just want something from her, she's almost tempted to test out and ask to be homeschooled.  But, she doesn't.  She sticks it out because she knows there is good to come of this.  She knows there are genuine good people out there.  It wouldn't be fair if she shut them out because she got tired of being hassled every five minutes.  Fortunately, Pandora and Voltaire kept the worse at bay.  

After all, pokemon are not pets.  They are not dogs or cats.  They are not potted plants you can buy and put on display.  Pokémon can be dangerous if abused, neglect, or ignored.  It isn't uncommon for certain pokemon to refuse other people from getting close to their partners, especially so for coordinators.  So, most who approach her are fans asking for an autograph or a picture which she doesn't mind.  Sometimes she'll even lose a few minutes talking to them and getting to know them.  But they seem to appreciate the time and Penny always wish them a wonderful day as she leaves.  

(Obliviously, this is why so many fans adore her.  Her genuine and sincere care.  The obvious care she has for her pokemon.)

She doesn't mind those kinds of people.  But the others that ask her things, for money or work or favors, make her uncomfortable.  At first she would politely refuse and make up an excuse to get away or Pandora would make a scene.  After a while, she settled for polite refusals and then for them to please leave her alone.  The persistent ones were able to push for a half minute more before Pandora makes herself very much known, quickly followed by Voltaire's non-verbal warning.

(People noticed.  Rumors started about the polite little princess with the fiercely protective pokemon.  The little princess isn't someone to bully or scare.  But you can try.  Oh, can you try but if you manage to walk way is another story.)

Some of the other coordinators don't like her.  Don't like how young she is.  And it is hard being so young and surrounded by veterans who worked for years to make it to Grand Festival.  But she stays positive and wishes everyone she competes with the best of luck.  Some return the sentiment and some don't.  Still, she lets the negativity go like she learned to do years ago. The best she can do is mitigate her anger and resentment and bolster the hope and joy around her.  

At thirteen, she attends the Master Grand Festival in Geneva, Switzerland during the end of July, 2001.  

She's the youngest to ever attend and while many were skeptical they still support her claim to participate.  In the end, she places third and the new Champion is a man named Wallace and his Milotic.  She still gets a really nice prize package along with a number of sponsorship offers.  Its not all that she wanted but that's okay.  Her aunt, uncle, and their pokemon gained the opportunity to have a magical experience.  Out of the state of New York, the family enjoys the week sightseeing before and after the festival.  They take pictures and record every moment, even sneaking Chiyome and Arsene into family shots when no one's around. 

The trip is the most fun she's had competing.  

Hopeful and determined.  She needs to win at least one Master Grand Festival and sets her sights on the next one in 2006.  When they return home, she gets back to work.  

There were perks to being a Top Coordinator that Penny had not seen but is grateful for nonetheless.  There are discounts on travel fares, hotels, certain restaurants, at salons, and a number of pokemon products.  Penelope has no shame in using these perks since they help her save a lot of money.  Anything extra that didn't get put away she uses for Chiyome and Arsene.  As far as Penelope is concerned, just because they aren't in the contest, doesn't mean she couldn't pamper them, too.  

It only takes a few months for Penny to feel comfortable showing all her pokemon to her aunt and uncle.  They were shocked, no doubt, but also grateful to the trust their niece placed in them.  Aunt May and Milly put aside enough Moomoo milk and various berries along side the premium pokefood she serves.  While, Uncle Ben takes the time to help her groom her pokemon.  It quickly evolves into a family affair.  Which is not a surprise.  Caring for more than two pokemon is a great under taking but Penelope doesn't regret it and after a while, it becomes easier.  

They add new routines and new behaviors.  For example, Aunt May, as a Nutritionist, has access to numerous berries and they work the garden in the backyard to grow their own, cutting their grocery bill in half.  Uncle Ben will take Penny and her Pokémon down to an old gym he used to go to that's been abandoned to work out.  It helps when Pandora and Voltaire start to perform better during battles.  Chiyome and Arsene grow also with mock battles.  Its slow but steady and every mark of improvement makes her feel that much safer.

(Because the threat of Osborne's contract is still very real.)

However, she just turns fourteen when her froakie, shy and mischievous Chiyome, evolves into frogaider, still a glittering shiny blue but faster and stronger.  Pandora is her strongest partner, Arsene is the sneakiest who finds joy in any little attention he receives and who loves playing small pranks with Chiyome.  Voltaire, somewhat more vulnerable than the others, who is shy around strangers and loves napping in a web hammock, also won't hesitate to stand his ground and take a hit.  

She loves them all.  She trust them all.  And with them, she does not fear the monster in human skin.  Her aunt and uncle still refuse the contract.  Every year like clock work.  

Time marches on.   


Penelope Parker opens her eyes and is lost.  She is 24. She is 15. Penelope Parker is and is not real, is and is not here. She...just is.  She doesn't know what day it is, only that she is wrong. (She's better. Stronger.) Too big in her skin and too small to rail against the world. (Perfect all at once.) So, Penelope Parker closes her eyes, sleeps, dreams and remembers and sees.  When she wakes the second time its different. Not too big or too small.  She's -They've - settled, somewhat, even if the edges brush against each other, glass shards piercing skin deep enough to hurt but not bleed.

They are Penelope Parker.  One from a place far away; worlds, universes away and one that was already here.  They are the same and not.  The pieces don't fit.  Not completely, not yet.  They were blending together.  Growing into each other.  She's 15.  Uncle Ben is gone and that hurts, aches but its old, soothed over by time and experience and understanding.  His loss doesn't ignite a fury inside her or sorrow that burrows into her bones.  The guilt doesn't eat at her insides, doesn't fester like a disease.  Its soothed with the understanding that she is not at fault and the knowledge that she's done the best she could, that she tried when she could have just as easily done nothing at all.

She's 15 and she's Spider-Woman.

Uncle Ben's words ring across her conscious, feather soft and warm, a balm to her confusion and turmoil.  She's not okay, too sharp and jagged, raw.  The pieces don't fit yet.  Not by a long shot but she knows she'll get there.

The year is 2003.  The beginning of her Journey.  

She-They- are ready.

Around her, her pokemon cuddle close, warm and real.  They help sooth the edges.


Its 2003 and she's 15.  She's got one heavy burden to bear but she knows she can push through. But first, Aunt May.  Aunt May then the world.

Penelope gets out of bed and makes her way to the bathroom to shower.  The others get up, except Voltaire who likes to nap, and set out to complete their own routines despite the early morning.  She cleans away the grim and stardust. Her hair is too long for the mask. She'll have to cut it and a part of her breaks a little.  That's okay though.  Hair can grow back.  For now, a short layered pixie cut will do and so long as she takes care of herself, she'll have that self back again, someday.  Tomorrow she'll go to the salon for her hair cut.  The judges will just assume she's making a statement or doing it for her uncle. 

When she steps out, she wraps a towel around her and steps up to the mirror.  There is a bit of a tan to her, which is normal. (Strange but not bad.  She used to burn before.) The Penelope Parker that looks back at her is both familiar and strange.  But its her. Its who she is now.  Who she's always been, only she's not.  She's more now.

She leaves the bathroom and goes back to her room.  She cleans up and gets dressed.  It's Friday.  Which is good. She's not sure she can handle more than one school day after the roller coaster she's been through.  But one day is more than enough to get a feel for where she stands and what direction she needs to go in. She glances at the clock and notices she's got about two hours before school starts. Plenty of time to prepare herself.  One pair of skinny jeans, a t-shirt, and her high top converse later, she's going through her room.  She finds an empty cardboard box and uses it to place all the things she doesn't need in it.  Her science kits she puts to the side and her camera stays settled on her desk.

She goes through her clothes, her photos, her shoes.  Anything she doesn't need or use, she puts inside the box or out in the hall outside her door.  She's not the same.  She's grown in ways few if any will understand or experience, and it is only natural that she move her life to reflect that.  She doesn't get through everything.  That's okay.  This is something that will take a bit of time and work.  It's on her list. 

Fortunately, the broken bits that settled first, paved the way for her now.  There are dresses that she wore for her contest that she no longer finds appealing.  There are makeup kits that she doesn't need.  There are casual clothes that no longer fit her personality.  Books she no longer needs or is interested in.  Once she's gone through all of it, she'll donate them to those who will benefit most from them.  

"I need an actual list. Like written and everything.  Later, after we see what we're up against." 

Penelope turns off her light, grabs her school bag and makes her way downstairs.  She starts to make breakfast and readies herself for her first and greatest trial.  Penelope sets out breakfast for her pokemon.  They are calm and non-pulsed by the changes in her.  Which isn't a surprise either.  Each one of them has carried and nurtured a part of her, gently and carefully placing the pieces together, building a foundation that would not collapse.  

Pandora who sustained her compassion, Chiyome who held her skills and quick-thinking innovations, Voltaire who carried memories of all the bonds she's made, and Arsene who braced the weight of her loneliness.  They know her.  To them, the only difference between then and now, is that now, she can see the whole picture.  She can see the puzzle, even if there are things still missing.

That's okay though.  Despite the shock still coursing through her, she knows she can handle this.  Penny is Spider-Woman.  Penny is the heroine she admired so much as a child growing up.  She can do this. 

She's pouring the last of the orange juice when Aunt May appears in the kitchen doorway.  Milly sighs in relief right at her side.  For a painful moment Penny feels bad for making them worry but promises to make it up to them.  

"Someone's up early." Her eyes are sad but her smile is sincere. "And hungry, too."

"I wanted to do something for you, since I spent like decades marinating in bed."

"It was hardly decades, Penny." Aunt May's eyes brighten just a bit and Penelope grins. They sit at the table and start eating.  Its an American spread, pancakes with eggs and toast.  Milly makes her rounds checking up on the others, fussing here and there, before settling down to her own breakfast.

"Still, a few days is waaay too long for me to get it together..." she trails off when she realizes that while it didn't hurt her to think of her uncle, it would still hurt her aunt and she feels like an idiot.

"I'm glad he wasn't alone." Penelope snaps her eyes to her aunt in disbelief.  Her aunt was sad but she was still smiling. She reaches her hand and places it on her niece's arm. "I am glad you were there so he wasn't alone and that he knew you were safe. Okay?"

Her hand is warm and something in the teen relaxes.  She sighs in relief and smiles back at her aunt.

"Yeah, we're okay." They go back to eating and making small talk.  The air is relax and homely.  A family recovering, growing from loss and grief.

"So, you plan on going to school today?  You don't have to you know."

"Yes. I do.  I need to see what I'm working with."

"What you're working with?" 

"Well, yeah. I mean, it depends on what happens when I go back.  I still plan to attend the Master Grand Festival in three years.  There are people who will say I shouldn't but Uncle Ben would have loved to be there, to see me perform.  To see me win.  I don't want to look back and regret not going."

"Penelope," Aunt May starts but Penelope rushes ahead.

"That's about two years and a few months but I just need to get a feel for what I need to do to move on, to move forward.  It's like I'm stuck in this ditch and I can't get out and the world is trying its hardest to bury me alive.  I just...just need some space...is that too much to ask for?" Her voice gets small in the end and she kind of hates how young she sounds. (She's only 15. She is young. But she used to be 15 once, too.)

"Okay Penny.  We can make it your birthday trip.  How's that, hmm?  Winning the Master Grand Festival on your eighteenth birthday?  It'll be all the rage in the papers!" Penelope laughs at the spark of mischief in her aunt's eyes.  The tightness around her chest loosens and she finds it easier to breath.

"You're amazing Aunt May, you know that?" She can't stop grinning.

"We both are, sweetheart, and don't you forget it!  Oh, I need to save up for a new camera." She turns to Arsene and Chiyome, "Sweethearts, I don't suppose you want to dress up and pretend to be street magicians do you?"

The sqwuak they give her is lighthearted indignation.  It doesn't fail to make Penny laugh.

They aren't broken.  Cracked.  A little brittle.  But they've been preparing for this since she was a child.  They can do this. 

Chapter Text

School is hellish.  Thankfully, Pandora and Voltaire keep the worse at bay.  They bracket her sides and most of the other students keep out of her way.

Still, there is no other way to describe it.  Since the bite, all her senses are enhanced times ten, and if she hadn't been changed from the past week, she'd have a hard time filtering what she did and did not want.  There were the whispers of course.  She ignored those.  There were the looks she got, sympathy and pity.  She ignored those, too.  There were the cliques and the gossip that she avoided.  And then there was Flash.  She's spent the entire day avoiding him and succeeding, too.  It won't last.  She plans to stay afterschool to talk with an administrator because she has no intention of staying another two years in high school if she doesn't have to. 

So, that means Flash is bound to catch up to her, eventually. 

Flash asked her out last year when he was Chosen by a Chimchar and she turned him down.  As a Starter Chosen he expected her to be glad to have his attention and to be turned down in front of his friends, well, he wasn't to let that humiliation go.  He's verbally abused her ever since.  His pokemon is too young to be an actual threat to her partners so the best he can do is hurl insults at her.  (She wouldn't date him now anyway.  She's had enough of big blondes telling her what she should do or villains telling her to submit and grovel.)  She has plans.  Things she wants to do, that she needs to do.  (She's lived this life once and it might be different but its close enough that there are things she's willing to change).  Penelope cannot stop other things from happening, not without making others suspicious, or causing serious harm to others. 

Helping Dr. Connor was a path she couldn't avoid, she was already on it, but there are steps she could take to keep her identity a secret. To save Captain Stacy.  She needed to get on to those things right away, too.

Penny really needed to write that list. 

She's walking out of the main office when Flash stops her, chimchar right on his heels. 

"Hey! Parker!" She stops and turns to him, face carefully blank. 

Everyone around her has been pitying her all day.  Normally, she wouldn't be able to stand it but she needs all the advantages she could get right now.  It was March.  Her birthday is in August.  In August, Aunt May will be going with her to Florida for the American Grand Festival.  She needed her head on straight for the competition because she couldn't afford to lose.  Not now.  Not anymore.

Not only does the prize money help the small family but it also helped Penelope prep to invest in herself.  Knowing what she does, having the experiences she does, Penny knows she can make a difference in more ways than one.  

But she needs to prepare for everything before she attends the festival in August.  

"Flash."

"Hey..." he hesitates and fidgets in place.  Chimchar peaks up at her and Pandora from the blonde's side.  She doesn't know what he wants. (Something not bad.  He looks almost guilty...an apology?) "I'm sorry, about your uncle, I mean.  I just...I'm sorry."

His eyes trail away from her. (An apology. Flash isn't bad, just...a little lost). She still would not date him but he is sincere.

"Thanks." She means it even if she feels bad about taking advantage of the other's pity for her.  It buys her time.  And right now, time is precious. "I appreciate it but I've got to go."

"Oh, yeah. I...yeah.  You, ah, you coming in Monday?"

"Yeah. I've got work to give in."

"See you then?" Penelope blinks in confusion and Voltaire thrills quietly in surprise from her side but Penny nods her head.

"I gotta go."  She walks around him as he stutters a goodbye.  

"Sol." Pandora cast the jock a calculating glance but keeps stride with her human. Voltaire doesn't give Flash anymore of his attention.

But he isn't important right now.

She needed to get home and start preparing.  There was the Lizard, the Goblin, Electro, Kraven and others that were bound to show up.  She needed to prepare not only herself but the police, paramedics, dispatch, and so on.  She needed to help New York prepare for whatever comes next.  It was a huge undertaking.  But she's ready and willing.  It's not nearly as overwhelming as it should be.  There are other heroes who will come out, step forward out of the dark.  She can do this.

Because she is Spider-Woman.


She didn't go out that night.  Couldn't really.

For one, there were serious changes she needed to make to her suit.  A padded sports bra for one and better lining for the suit with some kind of support.  A modified bulletproof vest?  Something flexible but light?  She'll figure something out.  But that was a minor issue.  Right now, she needed to make that list.  Not a timeline.  She's pretty sure time is not her friend.  Events and things are more than likely not going to play in her favor.  That's okay.  She doesn't need it to help her.  But if she opens up more of her own time?

Between her contests, school, her extracurricular, and now her time as Spider-Woman...its incredible she hasn't collapsed from the prospect of so much work.

Well, every little bit of time counts.

Opting out of certain subjects was her best bet. It would drag attention, yeah, but not the kind if she showed up bruised and bloody every other day. Or if she was late to all of her classes.  Every. Single. Day.

Live and learn as they say.

Well she's lived one life alright and now she's learning from it.

Chiyome and Arsene help her clear her floor of anything, takes out some poster paper, markers, pens, sticky notes, and her school calendar.  Arsene hands over her class schedule and the contest schedule for rest of this year, too, before getting to work.  Voltaire curls up on her bed to nap while Pandora settles at her other side.

She make a large caledar for the rest of the month of March and another one for April.

First, which classses can she opt out of no problem?  Well, that was easy.  She circled all the math and science course she's completed and marked the ones she still needed to graduate.  Then, she placed possible test dates for them. This was only if the administration didn't just lump the subjects together.

If they did the latter then all the better.  It would open more time up for her.

After that came the landmines. The arts. She wasn't terrible at them but she wasn't good enough to test out of all of them.  Which is fine.  She could work with that.  Since the school system hasn't converted to block scheduling that meant school days were 8 periods long.  She can cut those days in half, meaning having a late start or an early dismissal to her school day.  That should throw off any ideas that she's a school student or someone with a lot of time on their hands.  Which would include a group of people that did not include Penelope Parker. 

Progress.

Could she test out of basic english? (All that time working for the Daily Bugle did help somewhat.) No. She'll leave that alone. Four years of physical ed would not change nor health.  Those stayed.

What else?  Should she drop photography?  It wasn't like she needed it because there wasn't anything else the school could teach her that she didn't already know.  It would open her up for something else...oh! She could take coding in it place.  She was a decent hacker especially with the current technology but extra training never hurt. 

Switching personal finance for...entrepreneur skills or business management?  She makes a note and sticks it on the march section.  She'll need to talk to her counselor for those she isn't sure of.  What else?  Penelope knows what she can't drop and what she can test out of already but looking at her school electives again, Penelope can't help but see so many possibilities.  There were certain electives that would be a huge help to her later on.  If she applied to take summer courses she might be allowed to take extra courses.  If she is extra lucky she'll be able to work around her coordinator schedule. 

The school made allowances so far because she always kept her scores pretty high and always kept on top of all her assignments and projects, even when she leaves the state or the country.  The more skills she got now, the better off she'll be later.  Technology wasn't an issue even before the Melding. (Is that the best we can do? Sounds like something she heard in a video game.)

Now, she knew more.  The tech she's familiar with is years in the future.  She adapted to that familiarity. (Even if she didn't use them.  There were people, heroes and villains alike who did use some of the most complex and sophisticated tech in the world.  Adapting was her thing.)

Already new ideas came forward.  Angles she didn't see before made themselves known.  Ways to help secure Aunt May and herself financially permanently and to protect herself politically and legally.  Methods to help guard against manipulation and abuse.  Penelope once saw school as a burden to bare but now...now it offered an entirely new future.  All she had to do was go for it. 

She can't throw away four years of english, health/physical education, or social studies. That's fine.  She knows several languages though. Except spanish, ironically enough, so she didn't need to take another foreign language.  She marks that on her calendars just in case she needs to test for more than one.  (With all the heroes she's meet from all around the world it was only natural she picked up a few languages.  Of course, she didn't leave them half way.  Learning them was hard but worth it.)  Japanese, Mandarin, and Italian with a sparkling of German and Arabic. (The last two are due more out of a weird necessity to know if ancient artifactes are stolen or cursed.)

It was incredibly useful during the trip to Geneva where the primary language is French.  She's sure it will be even more useful continuing on from here on out.

She didn't mind picking up one or two more. But Penelope would rather do that in her own time because she knew she would retain it better. 

There were a few other electives that she thinks would be useful but she only writes them on a note and sticks it to April.  She'll come back to them and see what to do with them when she meets with her counselor. 

Next, clubs.  She put down Student Diplomacy Corps pointed out by Chiyome, which is a separate affiliate working with the school, and Foreign Affairs that Pandora taps with her claw, before putting them all for March.  Also, to be discussed with her counselor.  If she's switching from the chemistry club or adding the other two, she's not sure yet.  But both would be incredibly useful when another hero registration came around.

(It will be different because this world is different.  But some people are not.  Some see heroes and they see profit.  They see war.   Violence won't stop them.  It'll just make them look more human to the public, no matter how monsterous their nature.  Batman's Alfred said it best, "Some people, just want to watch the world burn.")

If she's lucky, maybe, she can mitigate how that plays out. Or at least give heroes and those that support them a platform to negotiate. Something. She doesn't really know.

But that's later.  Penelope looks over her work and smiles a bit. 

"Progress, yeah!" her pokemon voice their agreement. (The ones awake anyway.)

Now, for work.  Penelope is determined not to work for the Bugle.  Not again.  Once is enough.  The insane schedule Jameson had her running was just not feasible.  In fact, looking over her make shift calender, it adds to her chances of getting caught and exposed.  (It was how SHIELD found her the last time, too.  A bit more caution would go a long way here.)

Penelope pulled a seperate sheet of paper and started another outline. 

"We have enough savings set aside for a few years."  She keeps scribbling. "But it won't last.  Winning contests and Grand Festivals will only take us so far too."

(We need something more...solid.)

"The bonds and stock package we got from the last Master festival will hold us over if we play it smart.  Invest them in companies we know will grow.  No matter what."

(Stark Industries is the only one we can actually trust.  Even if, they are currently a weapons manufacturer.)  Penny stops writing abruptly.

"We could start our own company." she whispers.  Voltaire wakes up abruptly at the same time Arsene accidently snaps a marker in half, spilling ink all over one of the unused poster papers.  All of them focus their complete attention on her.  With good reason.  (In one universe, one of our counterparts started Parker Industries.  That same universe Norman Osborn becomes the Goblin King. Do we want to rise that happening here?)

"We won't let him win." She tears up the sheet she was working on and grabs a new one to start again. "Parker Industries was a tech conglomerate.  We won't be focusing on that.  No.  We'll be sticking strictly to medical research and improvement.  My webbing will be a huge help.  It has certain properties that I never really explored."

(Funding and time were pretty big factors.  But...)

"It could work." Penny nods. "We've got a pretty big pie to work with and if we do invest a big enough bite out of Stark Industries, we can use the profits from that to support our own."

(We won't be able to get a big enough piece unless the value drops...like when Tony Stark proclaims to the world he's shutting down the weapons manufacturing.)

Penelope flinches at that.  It would mean that Tony Stark would get hurt overseas.  She doesn't even know when that's supposed to happen or where he gets attacked.  Before, all information around Tony Stark becoming Iron Man was covered up pretty tightly.  All Penny knows is that he was captive for three months and came back a changed man.  A better man to be sure but a hurt one, too.

"We'll...we'll stick to this plan."  She lays the paper out for all her pokemon to see. "I don't think there's anything we can do for Tony.  Who would believe a teen about a possible terrorist attack in a few years anyway?  But we can try to support him the best we can.  Stark Industries will take a hit when he stops making weapons but, whether or not we have our company up and running by then, we'll buy what we can and if he wants, he can buy most of it back.  And anything we gain from the profits will either go into our company or our savings."

Penny points out certain parts of her plan on the paper as she speaks.

"Maybe put it in a separate account if we need to.  We'll see how it all pans out.  But on the other side.  What do you guys think of the name Inovine Industries for our company?"

"Frooo..." Chiyome raises her hands to a thinking pose with her hand beneath her chin and another folded before nodding her head.  Penny would find it comically cute if she didn't know the frogadier was serious.  Or as serious as the little mischief maker could be.  

"Kyu!" Arsene coos in its distorted way while gently running a claw over the company name. "Miiiiii!"

"Lo." Pandora purrs and Voltaire falls right back to sleep with a low trill.  

"Well, okay then."  This is going to be a huge task but she's at her peak right now.  They were ahead of their bills, they were eating right and full every night, even now that she's become enhanced, Penelope is able to eat to her heart's content.  Plus, Penelope was still making big headway as a Coordinator.  There was little actually standing in her way.     

If she managed tp pull all of this off Penelope and her family will be set for the rest of their lives.  Penelope will have a company that allows her to help people outside of the suit, a reputation she can use (because coordinators are like celebrities and Top Coordinators usually take on another occupation to substitute their income and draw in more appeal to their fans during downtime like volunteering or activism of some sort.), and a steady income means materials for Spider-Woman and a steady supply of food. 

If she made a big enough income Penelope would actually be able to eat like she needs to without a fear of burning through all of their money or berries.  Rather than moderating herself. (She was always hungry except for a few times.  Times when someone else paid and could afford to pay for her to eat like she needed.)  Having a heightened metabolism can work against you after all but for now, she's okay.

And materials!  She'd be able to truly modify her suit for added protection and additional features.  Like a com device.  Because holding a phone in one hand to fight with the other can get...complicated.  

Her stomach lets out a painful howl.

"Speak of the devil...", The hunger pains were starting.

Penelope takes a deep breath before putting her planning to the side and making her way downstairs to get something to eat.  Her pokemon stay where they are.  Aware that she'll be back.  She finds just enough to keep the hunger at bay but its not satisfying.  It solidifies her drive to a whole new level because she knows her greatest enemy is herself.

(She was always tired. Always hungry.  And it hit her where it always hurt.  Made her weaker, slower.  If she was able to eat her fill everything was easier, clearer. Thinking, acting, fighting, planning.  She was more readily able to get a clearer picture of a given situation.  SHIELD...didn't always indulge her.  Now that she thinks back, she wonders if that was on purpose.)

After her late lunch, she went back up to her room and got back to work.  Penny brings back a plate of berry treats for her pokemon.  Settling back down, she added times and dates for working on samples for her company and her "SW", times as Spider-Woman which she marked as "Science Work" just in case anyone looked and wanted to ask questions.  With school, work and "work" mostly taken care of, the only thing left is New York City...and Dr. Connor...


 

2005- December 31

Spider-Woman perches on a skyscraper, the view giving her a clear look down Times Square.  The entire square was filled with people, streamers, and music.  A massive party to welcome in the new year.  She inhales deeply, taking in the cold and letting it fill every part of her.  She shivered with the frigid air and anticipation.  Next to her Chiyome, now a fully evolved Greninja, shares her perch, relaxed and at ease.  Arsene stayed on her shoulders, clinging to her suit with his claws but she didn't mind, the mimikyu didn't weight a thing to hero who could lift tons.  Pandora and Voltaire, too well known and noticeable, stayed home.  They weren't too concerned since they knew Penny could take care of herself and if she needed help she had two shadows as back up.

The past year and a half- almost two years- were both rewarding and absolute hell.  Changes to her school schedule was an amazing boon.  Keeping some of the other classes gave her a sense of stability, something to hold on to.  It helped ground her when everything threatened to swallow her whole.  And that "everything" was a whole lot more than what she was expecting. 

The same could not be said for Dr. Connor. She tried to get him to look at other ways, other formulas, or theories he could use.  When subtly didn't work, she decided to make some changes to her father's formula before giving it to him.  It would not surprise her if Oscorp employees were watching them, and she could not risk giving someone like Osborn more power.  It wasn't a lot but she managed to tie it directly to the lizards and Dr Connor not unlike how her father locked the formula with her.  It was the best she could do on that end.  Penny simply did not have the time to do more and neither, apparently, did Dr. Connors.

Oscorp wanted Super Soldiers.  They wanted Hybrid Super Soldiers.  Stronger, faster, and better than Captain America ever was. And if their head researchers won't get the job done, then they'll find someone who will, even if the serum is faulty.  They wanted results.  They weren't even cleared for human testing.  But had test subjects, army veterans discharged for injuries and amputations.   

Penelope discovered this during her mini espionage trip at Oscorp.  She wanted to destroy any evidence of her ever having been anything other than a visitor.  Like her short time with the spiders.  It was almost painfully, stupid, easy to clear away any proof of her having been there.  But she wasn't going to look a gift as anything other than that. 

Two good things came out of that.  The first, having Gwen as a friend again.  She is as beautiful and as smart as Penny remembers her.  Meeting her pokemon after going back to her place (since pokemon are not allowed at Oscorp) an eevee and vulpix was a charming experience and Penny found the two pokemon complimented her friend.  And this time, she's determined to make sure her dearest friend makes it to university.  The other was a valid reason for Spider-Woman to have a talk with Captain Stacy.  It was one nerve-wracking evening as far as Penny was concerned.  It wasn't like she waited to get caught.  No, she did something about ten times more reckless and dangerous. 

She cornered him in his office, alone.  With his growlithe right next to him.  

The only good thing was that his lycanroc was at home with his family.  Still, it was insane and stupid.  It was not her first choice but she really did not have the time to have it out with the NYPD.  Spider-Woman managed to keep him from shooting her or setting his pokemon at her.  He gave her five minutes. She used three.

She explained that there was illegal human experimentation going on in the city and that she was trying to stop it.  Spider-Woman may have fibbed a bit by telling him that they were picking people off the streets.  They weren't ready for human testing just yet but she remembers Osborn picking one or two from the lowest of NYC.  Whether they are willing or not does not make it any less illegal.  And that's not even touching on what Oscorp may have done to Electro later on and who else they got their hands on.

When Stacy tried to argue that the police would take care of it, she told him as bluntly as possible that the experiments were aiming to recreate and improve the serum used on Captain America, meaning the Stacy would be setting up the police for a slaughter against people capable of bending steel.

Seeing him hesitate gave her the opening she needed to wrap up. She told him, she had a contact helping her but that she couldn't reach "her" if the police were spending all their effort chasing some vigilante in red and blue.

Seeing the Captain start to frown, she hurried along and placed a USB with some of Oscorps more unethical practices and some questionable transactions on his desk. It didn't specific how or where or with who.  But it did paint a grim picture.  

And pictures were worth more than a million words.

Interestingly, his pokemon just sat at his feet and didn't move an inch toward her.

She didn't tell him to call off his search. She doubted he could make that call and be able to keep it.  All she asked from him was a lighter hand when tracking her.  Allowing her the room to find answers he can't get.  Before the Captain could give an affirmative answer Spider-Woman was at the window.  She looks back and asks if he could put in a word with other responders to be on alert.  (People were hurt. People died. Maybe this time will be different.  All she can do is try.)

"Just in case."  With that Spider-Woman left. 

After, the world deemed it time to remind her that she was not it's master.  She expected it.  But she didn't expect it to be not so bad.  It was still terrible. But not the near end of the world brush with death she was half expecting. 

Penelope wondered if that was because her experiences from Before, that range all over the spectrum, had become a part of her or if she had reach the point where she acknowledges that she can do the best she can and it still not be enough to save everyone.  She accepted that either or as the answer.

Dr. Connor becomes The Lizard.  As if predetermined by fate.  She feels a moment of guilt and confusion.  She had hoped if he did change, Connors would have control.  She made changes to the serum to allow for that.  But he doesn't.  She resigns herself to the first fight of her new life and regrets nothing.  She's ready.  In the sewers she builds a web and waits, careful, steady, and calm.  A spider waiting for her prey, still and focused.  When the Lizard comes, she smiles and taunts him.  She jokes and jabs, enraging him.  It comes to her as natural as breathing.  It doesn't take long for the fight to escalate.  Had she been as she was Before, she would not have lasted long, forced to run and retreat.

But she isn't. She is stronger.  Smarter.  Experienced.  Trained through trial and error.  She was more than a match for him.

Their battle underground soon went topside. Right. At. Her. School.  She was sure fate was having a grand laugh.  Luckily, the only ones still there were the staff and club members from after school.  That didn't stop their fight from being any less violent.  Sometime during the fight, the fire alarm went off.  She doesn't know for who or why.  It's good because it means evacuating anyone still in the building.  It doesn't stop her from giving a slight flinch at the suddenness, she tunes it out and tries to wrap her opponent up in her webs.  He tackles her through a wall and out into the school courtyard.  Then the fight is on again.

A news crew was near by when the call came over the police radio about Spider-Woman fighting The Lizard.  They manage to make it and film Live as the duo's fight spills outside.  Th ey struggle with claw and webs.  Fangs and fist.  They draw blood.  They bend armor and crack bones.  Each sound and sassy remark magnified, so close.  Heedless of those watching, two titans clash and New York watches in awe and fear.  The world turns to look, speechless and shocked.

Eventually, one of them gets lucky.  The Lizard manages to toss her aside far enough to disappear back into the building and into the sewers.  It's hard to swallow how similar it is to her memory of what was.  But she'd pushed on.  She warns Captain Stacy one more time before working on the serum.  What's unexpected is the help she gets.  Gwen is there and the Captain and the police force and the crane workers.  Chiyome and Arsene follow her out into the street.  They meet her at the tower and it works out. The serum works, Gwen is safe, her father is safe, and even though she's bruised and sore.  She's okay, too.

It's during the fight with The Lizard that Chiyome evolves.  Penelope is sure the unexpected event is the only reason she manages to get away with her identity intact.

After, things started to change.  Not at first.  Not that she noticed right away.

Sometimes cops invite her to drink with them or a bite to eat at a nearby donut shop.  Other times she's joking with firefighters or trading quips with paramedics while on patrol.  She learns the names of several dispatchers every time she calls in for a crime or with a victim of a crime to hear her talking with operators as a distraction.  A relationship builds and blooms.  It wasn't how she pictured or originally planned but she likes it nonetheless.  New York changes and grows with her.  She learns about people and places and they learn about her.  Sometimes she'll find information that she'll pass on to them, the police and they'll work together to make a case stick.  

Arsene refused to be seen, mistrustful of being seen, of being noticed.  That doesn't mean he doesn't help Chiyome play her pranks.  Chiyome shares these moments with her.  Quiet and shy at first before she's in the thick of it all, a sly grin and a prank (harmless and fun) seconds away.  Penny doesn't really notice the awe people had when meeting the pair of them.  Not until a rookie cop ask if he could shake Chiyome's hand and while neither of them minded, they did find it weird.  

Until her Inner Coordinator reminded her that her Starter partner is also Shiny.  Synopsis with good fortune, joy, and a fulfilling life despite hardships.

She didn't bring attention to it.  Mostly because she isn't sure how to handle it.  She's known, intellectually, that Chiyome is unique and important in a lot of circles but being confronted about it like this, benevolently, leaves her feeling wrong footed and out of depth.  But Spider-Woman and Penelope have learned to adapt.  They move on.

Her life as a Top Coordinator, on the other hand, has taken a step up.

Many Top Coordinators have nicknames associated with them.  This is mostly due to fans and emphasized with the introduction of social media.  Penelope is known as the Princess Coordinator since she first started.  The moniker has grown over the years.  Her being a "Princess" is less about being a pretty Disney damsel in distress and more like an elegant and intellectual young girl.  Which Penny has no problem with.  What terrifies her is that she's become a role model.

As Spider-Woman its something she's somewhat used to, along with the rapid mood swings of the police and the people of New York.  As Penny? Its on an entirely different level.

What she wears, what she says, the questions that she asks and everything else in between is a topic for discussion.  Nothing negative has been reported though.  Her love of science and math is praised.  The stores and salons she goes to for her pokemon is commended (well, Penelope doesn't skip out when it comes to caring for her friends so she doesn't know if that counts.)  

Still, it wasn't overwhelming but knowing that there were other little girls, woman and even boys and men, who looked up to her as something to strive toward, as someone good enough to emulate, terrifies her to her core.  But, everyday she take a deep breath and exhales before going about her day.

The best way to be a role model, she's learned, is the set an example.  Maybe the point will be misinterpreted or mistranslated and people will get mad.  That's likely, you can't please everyone, after all, but she's also in a position of power that she didn't have before.  

She can tell her side of the story.  Its not a power she's about ready to lose.

Penelope as the Princess Coordinator has given many interviews.  By this point she's a professional coordinator and knows how to give an interview.  Her most recent confirmed her intent to attend the next Master Festival and to win despite her family tragedy.  Her fans and media have not stopped talking about it, even now, two years later.  She's had other veteran Top Coordinators, who are opting not participate this round at the Master Festival, to help train and coach her.  Penny has taken up many of those offers.  Which is good since a few were only available in New York for a few days and she knows for a fact that Pandora and Voltaire are not the only ones to grow from the experience. 

Chiyome and Arsene also benefited from the growth by mock battling with them on their training days at the gym.  Sometimes the fights get out of hand and on those days, she's incredibly grateful to Milly, who helps care and tend to all of them.

As her pokemon and Spider-Woman grow, Penny works to grow, too.  She becomes a little more proactive with her fame.  She shares what she's studying at certain times and things she's just found.  She makes every interaction about how she's constantly learning about the world around her and about the many questions and concerns that she has.  The raises issue like abuse and human trafficking.  About pokemon poaching, highly dangerous but extremely profitable to the black market, and even endangered species poaching.  

Always, always she asked if they (the people she's being interviewed by or having a conversation with) know anything about what is being done to help.  Sometimes the conversations turn awkward and other times it sparks serious debate with the people around her.  Bit by bit, conversation by conversation, and day by day, her reputation grows.  She becomes the "Princess" that her fans and other coordinators have called her by for years.  

Then the gossip and rumors start.  About how young she was when she was first Chosen and how surely she will be Chosen again.  Princess Penelope has to be someone Gifted or Blessed.   

That was fine.  Penny doesn't mind.

The world keeps on turning. 

But it does not remain the same. 

Time passes and she changes with it.  

She grows into herself.  The broken pieces fit together.  The cracks fill.  The Before and After become one.  She becomes one, whole, and strong.  She's different, sure, but the fundamental bits, those principles and values that make her who she is down to her very soul, remain unchanged.  That's not to say that she expects the future to be as easy.  No, she fully expects to encounter some kind of obstacle.  Some kind of hurdle that will take every ounce of her power to overcome.  But Penelope looks forward to it.  She's ready and with her pokemon and Aunt May and Milly, she'll make it.  She'll overcome anything that stands in her way.

She stands from her perch, practically vibrating with giddiness.  The massive disco ball starts its decent.  Seconds to midnight.

10...

9...

8...She throws a web...Arsene tightens his grip...

7...

6...

5...She braces herself, bouncing on the balls of her feet...Chiyome disappears into the shadows...

4...

3...

2...She leaps...

1!

The dome lights up and flashes.  Then, goes dark before lighting up in a kaleidoscope of reds and blues.  A plethora of spiders and Greninja sprites crawl in every direction in brightly colored LEDs and when they disperse, they leave behind a message, "Spider-Woman was Here!"

She swings her body through the air.  Timed perfectly.  She lands right next to it, waves quickly, and jumps down toward Times Square.  She makes a round with webs and jumps and flips.  Arsene giggles loudly, at her back.  People in the crowds go wild, screaming and shouting.  Cameras go off and streamers set off. 

Spider-Woman stops by the jumbotron one more time, Chiyome appearing hanging on the top waves before disappearing again, and then she swings low, closer to the crowd and calls out.

"Happy New Year, Everyone!"

She pulls herself up and swings away.  To Aunt May and warmth and home.  Chiyome dashes along the rooftops keeping pace.  They're all looking forward to what came next.

Chapter Text

2006- Rome, Italy

Penny had been pretty excited for this trip. The Master Grand Festival promised to be spectacular this year if only because the hosting country put their best forward and aimed to profit from so much publicity. Penelope couldn't fault them for that.  Rome is beautiful.  The lights and architecture made the city seem like another world.  Unfortunately, Aunt May couldn't make this trip with her.  So Penny left Chiyome and Arsene at home to look after everyone.  They didn't seem to mind, thankfully.  Still, Penelope has plans to bring back a bunch of treats for everyone along with the number one spot.

The prizes from her last win she invested carefully.  Knowing what she did, even if it wasn't much anymore, had her placing her bets with Stark Industries anonymously.  She picked a proxy to stand in for her which is not something she expected to have to do.  Apparently, the stock prizes she won carried substantial value.  It was a good investment according to her proxy, Miss Roxen, even as she gave Penelope a measuring look, knowing like half the world her stance on weapons development.

Penny's only stipulation was that Miss Roxen support Tony Stark and if anything happens to the company to buy, reasonably, instead of pulling out.  What Penny didn't count on was the interest she'd get from those orders because her proxy did exactly that.  In doing so she gained a rather influential amount of stock and leeway in the company.  But beyond enforcing company policy and supporting any changes by Tony Stark, she didn't do much of anything with that power.

It baffled the other investors and board members.

Her proxy never said a word.  Just calmly redirecting all personal inquires back to the topic at hand.  Miss Roxen has years experience with finance and knows her way around a room full of men thinking she's only good for what's between her legs.  She also knows when to play her cards close to her chest.  Having a prominent figure as a client playing with stocks is one thing.  Having said client look at a company with such a knowing look to her eyes is another matter entirely.  Miss Roxen had only seen that look a few times but each was followed by a move of such finesse as to completely leave everyone else in the dust.  So, keeping her client's privacy and turn a profit was as easy as breathing.  The bonus she gets in turn is also an added benefit that Miss Roxen keeps in mind.

This year Penelope plans to take the grand prize and with the profits made from her investments, she'll be able to launch her company by the end of the year.  It will be a rough going at first but with her creations, soon to be patent, she knows better now, it won't last long.  After a few test trials they'll be cleared to make serious progress and help people all over the world.  But first, she had to win.  

The Master Grand Festival takes three days so most coordinators arrive a few days early to settle in and spend a day or two to recover before heading out.  Normally, Penny would sight see for the first day, taking a few pictures here and there before heading back early to prep for her competition.  

Not this time.  No.  The first hint should have been the fire breathing lizard who spent a good minute styling some fly away strands of her hair.  It was not what she expected when she stopped by a café for some cake.  Pandora was absolutely no help and Voltaire stayed in the hotel to sleep the day away.  Penelope was tempted to name the little fire breather 'Princess' just to be funny but figured it wouldn't go over well.  Also, Penny is sure she's never seen a pyro (even if its a pokemon) so picky and fussy.  Penny names her Ruth instead and is rewarded with an utterly unimpressed look.  Its her most anti-climatic choosing and Penny has no problem with that.


Burning. Raging. All consuming heat spreading out to every corner of her body.  Her cheeks flush and her heart races furiously.  Supernovas explode behind her eyelids.  Galaxies open before her like a flower coming to bloom.  Its victory and elation.  Its a new skill and a favorite film.  Its Sex and Glory.

Passion drowns her in rapture.  All the pieces are together. At last.   


Its loads better than an hour later when she's trying to prevent a drunk Tony Stark from drowning in a fountain.  His only partner with him is his Jolteon, which has spent the entire encounter freaking out and crying.  

"Hey! Hey.  HEeeeeeeeeeeyyyyyy..." The billionaire is a giggling mess that cannot stand straight.  "Hrmp! Asssssslam! Am a...aim me.  Me!"

"I have no idea what you just said." Penelope grumbles while using a touch of super strength to drag the genius gifted away from the big fountain.  "But, its time for bed."

"Nom. No."

She ignores him.  She's never seen him so utterly smashed and it worries her.  After a careful pat down and finding his cell phone, Penelope manages to crack his password and is making her way through his contacts.  Pandora manages, with barely contained irritation, to get the Jolteon to calm down...by slapping the electric in the face.  The shock on the yellow lupin would be funny if Penny wasn't so mortified and Ruth the Charmander?  Well, she wasn't very impressed by the billionaire.  Penny wasn't aware a pokemon could pull off that level of disdain and disgust.  The eighteen year old was starting to get the feeling that Ruth will be incredibly hard to please.

"Bob?"

"No." She manages to get a hold of his PA, Ms. Potts, thankfully. "And you'll be back to bed soon enough so...let's go...over there."

Penelope drags Tony to the sidewalk where they'll be easy to see by his bodyguard/driver.  They barely make it a few steps before they are stopped by a woman, an incredibly beautiful woman, and her glameow.  Her smile is soft and benign.  Her posture open and friendly.  If not for her spidey sense, Penelope would have taken her for another fan or passerby.  

She isn't.  

Her every move, while graceful and meant to entice or seduce, is the same fluidity of a lethal fighter.  This woman is no friend of hers or the drunk man leaning on her for support and while Tony Stark didn't know her, might not ever know of her outside her hero identity, she still considers him a friend.  And Penelope has always tried to protect her friends.  She straightens and narrows her eyes at the woman.

"Oh thank goodness." she sighs in relief that Penny doesn't believe.  "Tony, darling, you can't just wonder off.  I'm sorry.  We got a little excited earlier and well..."

She gestures to Tony's drunk state with something that Penny guesses is supposed to be something fond.  But all she can see are eyes sharp as daggers and a smile that is all teeth.  

"And you are?"

"I'm Indries Moomji." Her smile dims just a fraction but something crosses her eyes, too fast for her to identify.  She takes a step closer, her glameow stopping only from a warning snarl from Pandora.  Still, she leans in a little more cautiously, and lowers her voice, "I'm his fiancé."  

If Penny were anyone else, she might have been able to fool her.  But Penny is a superhero with senses cranked up to the point where she has to dumb herself down.  She can hear the moment she lies, can see it when her pulse jumps for a microsecond.  The name is familiar but most names that are familiar are not all friendly.

"Sorry if I don't believe you.  But Miss Potts is on her way-"

"Oh, no.  She doesn't know.  Its a surprise!" Moomji's face tightens a fraction. 

She twitches like in an aborted motion to do something.  Its late but there are still a number of witnesses around including those who didn't bother to help her when Tony almost drowned himself.  Jerks.  The woman, whoever she really is, can't really act out of character without giving herself away.

"Well it can be a surprise for Miss Potts when she gets here." Ruth flares the fire on her tail, almost lazily.  A warning at the feline pokemon who tried to skirt around Pandora.  Ruth gives an almost slutry smile and exhales a small stream of fire from her mouth.  Daring her, challenging her to make a move and the glameow goes still.  "And you should really keep your pokemon back.  Pandora doesn't like strangers too close and Ruth might take offense."

Moomji glances down at the tension mounting between the pokemon and the people who've started to gather to watch them.  The odds are noticeably against her, especially with Tony's Jolteon plastered to his Chosen's side like glue.  It looked bad from an outside perspective already.  So the woman gives a smile, forced the feeling of kindness, and walked away.  Penny feels vindicated when she notices how the woman seamlessly disappears into the crowd.

No normal civilian can do that.


Penelope doesn't know how she gets herself into these things.

She blames all the time spent around Deadpool.  Its the only explanation she has for accidently being a casualty during a firefight between assassins.  Seriously.  Ruth sits on the table in front of her, utterly unimpressed and heavens! She never thought she'd ever be scolded by one of her pokemon. Ever.

But, Penny can't blame the fire starter.  The coordinator had ducked into an unfamiliar hotel to avoid another coordinator.  She can't remember his name, Jarod? Jaamal? Ja-something or other.  He didn't seem mean spirited but he was definitely persistent about Penny partnering with him for a duo partnership.  Something that is usually for couples.  So Penny has taken to avoiding him and his Golduck.  

As she does this, she is greeted by the Manager of the hotel, Julius.  Penelope is quick to explain why she ran into his hotel and the man is polite and nice.  They spent a few minutes talking and when he finds out she's a coordinator, he offers her a seat in a private area and an escort to her hotel later.  Before she gets the chance to think about it, her Spider sense is screaming and she yanks Julius to the side and out of the way from a ricocheting bullet.  The arm Penny used to move the manager jerks back on impact.  

Then two men crash into the reception area.  That is how she meets John Wick and Cassian.  Hit men.  Joy.   

To say Julius is pissed in an understatement.  He has a medic fix her arm including removing the bullet because it didn't go through and a new sweater.  Expensive and tailor made, she can tell.  Then sits her at a luxury table in the bar area, which is completely illegal because she isn't 21 but, again, hit men.  With the two men who were fighting earlier.  Ruth and Pandora are projecting a cloud of doom toward the two and it makes Julius smile, a little smile at how painfully awkward this all is. 

Vindictive managers are scary. 

The two don't look guilty. More ashamed? Slightly? They made it incredibly hard to tell. Something about a code or honor or something. She doesn't understand it. Too well used to the likes of Deadpool's no care attitude and Punisher's single focus rage. Its a little too hollywood for her to take them seriously.

Which is bad.

"Isn't he just going to kill you afterwards? I mean that seems like the most likely outcome." she says not thinking as she looks between John and Cassian. "The guy who hired you I mean.  He can't let a loose end be right? That means he doesn't want you talking or whatever so that means he's related to who you killed or close enough.  I mean...that's how it goes in the movies.  Its always the relative that's the culprit."

The silence that surrounds the table is thick and as it continues Penny realizes she should have kept her mouth shut.  Cassian gives John a long look.  Its full of disdain and fury but beyond that is a calculating mind.  This man is not just a hired thug.  

"Santino." He says at last, eyes dark.  John takes a long sip of his drink.  "Fucking Hollywood."

He gets up, places a gold coin in Penny's hand and marches out.  The teen glances between the direction Cassian left, the coin in her hand, and then back again.  Several times.  Ruth snags the coin and inspects it.  

"What just happened?" 

"That, my dear, is a hit man thanking you for the name of the man responsible for his pain and suffering.  Please, enjoy the rest of the evening on me.  After let the attendant know and a car will take you to your hotel." Julius smile seems to grow even more, gives her another gold coin and with a quick excuse leaves the table.  Penny eyes the coin and looks back at the only man left at the table.

"I am very confused right now.  What did I just do?" Wick doesn't answer at first, choosing to stare at her wrapped arm for a while.  He seems to wake when Pandora takes Julius seat at the table.

"Its considered...unprofessional to give the name of who hired a hit to others.  A faux pas.  I never say the name of who hires me.  However, the circumstances for this one was...complicated.  You gave away the name of who gave me orders without me saying a word to two very important people."

He takes another careful drink and waves a waiter over doing something with his hand.  Next thing she realizes there are two menus on the table.  Ruth gives the coin back to her to inspect what the hotel serves.

"One is-was- the former body guard of my target.  He'll be looking around and spreading word of what he learned.  The other is the manager, Julius.  He'll do the same, only he'll find out why and gain...leverage, of sorts, for and against a number of people.  Information is a form of currency.  You've given very valuable information away free of charge.  The gold coins are a way of paying you for that."  

"What do I do with them?" Completely baffled. Whose idea was it to use gold coins of all things?!

"Its a form of trade. You can trade a coin for any number of services. With three, you get three favors."

"I only have-" Wick slides a third coin across the table. "You have to kidding."

"You helped me finish my last job. Its...a thank you."

"Oh."

She doesn't know what to else to say to that.  Thankfully, Wick calls the waiter back over to place their order. Penny has no idea what to get especially since a certain pokemon was hogging the menu. But Ruth simply turns the menu over and point out to various dishes. Penelope has to give the waiter his props becuase he nods along with whatever the fire breather wants. 

"Your order will be out momentairly."

Ruth gives her menu back with an air of dignity and a regal nod. After, they fall into a more natural conversation. It starts with the usual questions about her. What is she doing in Italy? What are her goals for the future? Etcetera. Etcetera. She gets the feeling that he's trying to distract her from what happened earlier and she lets him. 

Their food comes and they get settled in.  The dishs cover the entire table and someone comes over with a bottle of white wine.  Penny gives Ruth a look, because she sees what she's doing. The teen is not blind but Wick already pouring her a glass. She knows she won't be able to take the bottle to her hotel and she doesnt want the bottle to go to waste so with a glare at her charmander she takes the glass.

"Thank you." After a quick stop, she takes another, enjoying the light and sweet almost bubbly taste.  "Its good."

"You can probably thank Julius for that." He doesn't elaborate and she can guess why.

They start into their food and talk. Ruth and Pandora are also served meals safe for them to eat, mostly berries and chunks of sliced meat. Between bites, she shares a little of what she has with them. A bit of venison here, some salmon, and bits of roasted quail. Penelope had to give Ruth credit. The little starter knew good food. She downs half the wine in no time, savoring the taste and slight buzz without worrying about falling over drunk. The rich food and her superpowered metabolism keep her sitting upright. The secret hero can feel Wick staring at her, weighting and judging her. For what, she doesn't know and she almsot asks him but he beats her to it.

"You said you plan to win the Master Festival."

"Yes. I do." 

"You'll be someone when you do."

"I already am someone." Her tone is a little harsh but she is unhappy with what he implied just then.

"Not like that." Wick seems to come alive all of a sudden, less this impenetrable still wall with spikes for door handles. "I didn't mean you are not someone. But when you become a Master Coordinator, you become more than just a regular someone."

"I...I guess." Penelope hadn't given the title much thought. "It's just a title though."

"Its more. It means you have power. It means you have something others want. Something others would be willing to do anything to take from you."

He's right. She knows he's right. How many times had someone close to her got hurt? Because of something someone else wanted from her? How many times had SHIELD taken advantage of her ability and willingness to help others before her own safety? How many times had they emotionally blackmailed her into doing what they wanted until there was nearly nothing left? And how many times had she been led to fend for herself against sadists like Norman Osborn?

"You know what I'm talking about." Wick whispers softly.

"I know a few." She whispers back, just as soft.

"I was recently forced out of retirement." Wick locks eyes with her before letting his eyes trail down to the gold coins still on the table. "And from what you say, you'll soon need a personal bodyguard."

"Its- that- I mean you-" she stutters for a moment before she manages to collect herself. "Isn't that demeaning? To you I mean."

"No." He gives her arm a piercing stare. "It wouldn't surprise anyone either. You were injuired on neutral territory. I am responsible for starting the disturbance when I took out my target. Most of the blame falls on me. Putting myself into your services would be...an appropriate trade."

There is a moment of silence as Penelope takes in what he's saying, what he doesn't say, and what's happened so far.

"It was your bullet that hit me." She realizes.

"Yes."

"That's why Julius put me at this table with you. To make a trade or fulfill a debt or something, like with the gold coins."

"Yes."

"When I opened my mouth and mentioned the guy who hired you..."

"You moved the target to him instead. Yes. I fulfilled my contract. He's got bigger problems now."

"And, that bodyguard bit is just you saying you're going to stick with me. Isn't it?"

"You won't ask me to kill your family."

"Never. I-wait." Wick gives a shadow of a smile as Penelope realizes what just happened. She was played. By a bunch of hit men.

"Son of a biscuit!" Ruth and Pandora just sigh next to her. 

Chapter Text

Following the disastrous night out, Penelope throws her complete focus into the Festival, including studiously ignoring her new grim faced shadow.  She spent considerable time preparing for this Festival, however, and while it was close at the end, she wins.

Ruth, her new charmander, is ruthlessly charming.  She leads the team even though she doesn't compete, adding a new twist and flare to her routine. Unlike her opponents, Pandora and Voltaire have been training against opponents who fought criminals and rogue Pokemon.  They expect opponents to be stronger, faster, and quick to follow commands.

Penelope had, since she "woke up", taught her Pokemon to use a chain of attacks from a single word or phrase.  Like football lingo. 

What was the point in announcing her attack so her opponent can counter it?

She doesn't expect the absolute outpour of fans for her win.  So, there is some weight to what Wick was saying because she would have had a hard time getting back to her hotel without him.

Its cool, though, totally cool. He gets Chosen by a Bisharp in the hotel lobby.  Ha! Take that Mr. Badass Hitman!

(She doesn't care that the only thing they did was side eye each other as the Pokemon came out from behind a dark pillar. No. Damn suave Pokemon and smooth Assassins.  How is this her life?!)


Penelope Parker returns to America, a Celebrity Hero. 

The first American to win the Grand Festival, too.  There is a lot of fanfare and questions about what she's going to do with her grand prize.

"Well, I plan to start my own company."

"Oh, really? That's very ambitious.  What about school?"

"I've already sent out my applications and I've picked my top three but I haven't settled on a single one.  So, I'm waiting to hear back from the colleges."

"Sounds like you're going to be very busy.  We're all looking forward to seeing how everything turns out."

"Thank you.  I'm looking forward to it, too."

They're not really expecting her to succeed.  They're not expecting her to get anywhere, just another pretty face with ambitions too big.  But, Penelope knows better and launches her own business. 

Inovine Industries is announced not long after her latest interview, dedicated to furthering medical science in all regions of the world.  Penelope starts off small by planning the introduction of two new drugs which are now entering the final stage of clinical trials.   

Polyseudomorphine, nicknamed polly-sue, is a sedative which is stronger than regular morphine but less addictive, and Dermacortic Steroids, which is a liquid used to stimulate the body's natural accelerate tissue reproduction, promoting skin regrowth for burns and severe trauma. It is primarily used when the patient is bleeding and a sedative isn't an option.  It is also a completely non-addictive treatment.  

She knows they're effective because she made and used them in her first life. As a vigilante without health insurance, there were times when a needle and thread just weren't enough.  Her friends, like the Fantastic Four, were great and offered their support but sometimes the risk outweighted the benefits.

SHIELD didn't help matters. Coulson and Fury, despite their differences, were okay. Still. Shady spies are so shady.

She could never really drop her guard around them.

But, here, she's determined to do as much good as she can outside the suit just as she does inside it.

Of course, she expects some kind of backlash for starting a medicinal company at age 18 and without any type of degree for support.  But Penelope severely underestimated the situation.

She had gained the necessary legal and patent work done over the course of the last two years while she was still in high school.  There had been no push back.  Not until now, where she's starting the company and the human testing of the clinical trials is something that interest a lot of different people.  People who learn that Penelope is the one responsible for the development of the new medical drugs.

As a result she ended up bombarded with CVs and requests for interviews and proposals.  There were a lot of things she didn't understand and drove home the very real need for a CEO and other executive staff.  

Penny gave a few interviews and asked some very heavy questions but quickly stopped taking any more.  Either they belittled her vision for her company (as politely as possible but no, she's a novice not a naïve, thank you) or they tried to encourage her to leave all the work to them.  All of them triggered her spidey sense in one form or another.

So she turned to the only other person she knows about business.

Wick. (She pointedly ignores the coo his pokemon sent her. Pointedly.) 

Taking Wick's advice, she changes her apartment prospects for something a little more expensive.  Its a nice place though and she knows its got more than enough room for all of her Pokemon.  Its a really massive three bedroom condo with a nice view of the city.  The owners of the building he knows to be incredibly discrete and Penelope has never been more thankful for having Wick recommend the place.

Its perfect.  Its close enough to Colombia University, Manhattan, and Queens is only about a twenty minute swing away. Being so high up also means that the chance of someone seeing her is lower than if she was still living with her aunt. 

The heroine knows she can test out of a number of classes to minimize the amount of work she has to do.  Normally, she wouldn't do that to stay under the radar but that's impossible with Ruth and the media circus following her around.  If she doesn't, Penny knows she also suns the risks of being overwhelmed and burned out after a few months.  It doesn't take Penny long to make the arrangements of which courses to test out of and schedule her classes for the next term. 

And then, Wick finds out she's Spider-Woman.


 

She'd just finished moving in and had offered Wick and Bisharp some lunch.  She remembers to make sure he can see what she's making so that he knows she isn't trying to hurt him.  

Assassins, right?

Everything is fine. Totally fine.

Except Chiyome and Arsene are impatient and have been prickly all day.  After an annoying day on patrol they were not content to wait on the side.  Chiyome had drawn herself a bubble bath.  Arsene had turned her bedroom into a dark room, complete with the curtains drawn.  When Bisharp left the kitchen to do another perimeter check, the moment he opens that door, he has a face full of furious Pokemon.

Arsene hisses at the fighter Pokemon and slaps at him with his claws.  Fortunately, Bisharp is quick on the uptake and manages to deflect the furious attack.

At the same time, Ruth goes to interrupt Chiyome's bath time.  Which does not end well.  Both Pokemon end up screaming at each other and the greninja threatening the charmander...because apparently, Chiyome decided to use Ruth's portable bluetooth speaker.  

"Really guys!"

Of course, Penny's complaints gets ignored and Wick just Looks at her.

"Spider-Woman, huh?"

Penny couldn't get any redder if she tried so she just cradles her head in her hands and groans.

Of course, this is easy compared to her plans for hiring a CEO or even an Executive Assistant.


Wick enters her condo first and has a gun trained on Coulson, who is sitting on her couch.

"Good evening Ms. Parker. I apologize for interrupting but I'd like to make a proposal."

Penny frowns at the SHIELD agent and Ruth hisses at him, a curl of fire tossed his way.  Pandora snorts as Bisharp disappears and reappears behind Coulson's Forretress, one hand on its shell.  He doesn't attack but its warning enough.  Penny's galvantula hisses and scurries away to check the rest of the apartment.  She just knows if anyone touched so much as a cushion, she'll be hearing him throw a hissy fit for days.

"A proposal from whom?" Wick's gun doesn't waver.

"Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division."

"SHIELD."

Coulson doesn't show a hint of surprise at a freshman college student knowing about an apparent secret organization.  But since his gaze doesn't move from Wick for a second longer and then turn to her, Penny is going to make an optimistic guess that this isn't about her being Spider-Woman.

"This contract," he gestures to the file on her coffee table, "proposes a joint venture between our organization and your company.  We're willing to provide funding, supplies, and even staff."

"And in return."

"Its exclusive."

"Meaning?"

She knows how this works.  If she doesn't make him spell out what he means and just assume anything, they'll be able to run roughshod all over her.

"Meaning you would work for us. Exclusively."

Now, he's looking at her.  Trying to test her or read her thoughts.  She knows he's really good at that.  Its also a reason she prefers a full mask.  It makes it harder for agents to get a read on her.  Not completely but enough to misdirect or misinform them of something or other.

Wick is different and reads the offer like a job, questionable and clandestine.

"So, you would own her and anything she made, you would have free reign to do whatever you wanted."

Coulson doesn't have to say anything and she doesn't really hear his excuse.  Penny knows this game and was always struggling to stay out of the fire.  But no matter how hard she tried, she always found herself on the defensive.

She agrees with Wick even though she knows who Coulson is and who he works for. 

"I'll thank you for considering me for your proposal but I'm not interested in being your own personal Frankenstein doctor.  Now, I'm going to ask you to leave and to take all listening devices with you."

She's not sure what his reaction would be if she threatened to call the police.  Would she even be able to?  He would only be so calm if he had the right kind of back up.  A sniper?  Coulson stands to leave, no reaction, places his card on the table and makes his way toward the door.  Forretress lumbers slowly after him and Bisharp doesn't let his hand fall until his target was gone.

"We'll hear from you soon."

Penelope sighs and sets out to pluck all the spy bugs scattered through out her home.  They're really easy too find, her enhanced senses make it hard to ignore but she is beyond annoyed that there are so many.

"Be ready.  They won't hesitate to retaliate."

"Yeah."


They work quick.  Penny will give them that. 

Many of her other offers of support and investors start to mysteriously back out.  It doesn't take her long to figure out that this is SHIELD's doing.  Wick's first offer is to take care of them but she refuses.  That would give SHIELD way too much power over her.  The paperwork to finish the clinical trials starts to drag on forever and other legal things start to pile up.

She starts to have a hard time keeping up with everything, including her own school work.  She desperately needs a CEO and a staff she can trust.  Penelope needs people in her corner.  Someone who wouldn't try to milk her or her company for all their worth before they got off the ground but who also wouldn't get pushed around in the corporate arena. 

"I have a few people in mind." Wick eyes her, considering. "They've been trying to...retire."

"I thought there was no such thing?"

"Normally that's true unless the circumstances are extremely unique."

"Like you?"

"Something like it. Yes."

"Are they going to try and highjack my company?" 

"If you can help them and you are genuine in what you promise, they'll keep their end of the bargain."

Wick's second offer is a gamble but later, she's be glad she takes it.


He introduces two woman to her, Lily and Iris. 

No last names. 

Lily is a woman with green hair and a fitted dress suit. She's pretty but there is an edge to her.  Iris is an Asian woman

He doesn't need to say anything for Penny to know what they are and she does not face palm.  Because this is what she's left with.  She's been reduced to interviewing assassins to be part of her senior staff.  She gives them a trial run and finds herself beyond amazed.

(It only occurs to her later that the reason for how hyper efficient they are is because failure isn't an option for these women). 

But she's got two executive assistants now. Yay!  The results are immediate.  Her work load is practically cut in half.  But she still needs a CEO.  Penny is expecting another friend or coworker from Wick but she really didn't see this coming. Really.


They meet in a hotel.  One of Wick's hotels with the whole assassin thing that Penny doesn't really get. (Since when do assassins have a code and hotel chain?). But its in a private seating area which isn't really private considering everyone tries to be discrete as she walks by.  Her spider sense tells her they are paying close attention to her and to the room she's walking into.

There are several women already seated inside, seven in total.  All of them are asian and only six of them are standing, dressed in dark trousers and sweaters.  Iris and Lily move to stay at the door as Wick pulls out her chair. (She's given up at this point because she can't make him or the others stop).

"Ms. Parker, this is Madame Blossom, Mother of the Black Widows. Madame Blossom, this is Ms. Parker."

"Good Evening." Penny starts. Madame Blossom sits very rigid in her seat, poised, elegant and pained.  "Let's get started, okay?"

"Of course, please ask as many questions as you need."

Her voice is sweet but powerful.  This is a woman who is used to being in charge but the slight buzz from her senses tells her that she's also dangerous, too.  Penny asks her question and writes whatever answers and follow up questions she wants to ask on her notepad.  Its the same setup she's used for the regular prospects and Wick let her know that Madame Blossom knew Penny wasn't judging her.  

"What business experience do you have?"

"I once owned a brothel within the borders of the notorious Jungle Village, in what you know as China.  I rose from nothing to become the Queen of Jungle Village and kept that power for several years before another clan tried to over throw me.  In the end, no one gained anything."

"Jungle Village?"

"Ah, yes." Blossom quirks her lips into a smirk. "I forget that not many Outsiders are aware.  I will explain, briefly."

She reaches for her tea and drinks it, every move is rigid.  No doubt a result of the injury that Wick said made her vulnerable.

"There are...pockets, areas where the lines between worlds blurs.  In some places, the worlds can lead to unique places with unique powers in the very air you breath.  Jungle Village is one such place."

"So a pocket dimension.  Or a doorway to splinter universe."

Madame Blossom and the her widows turn interested gazes to her.  They scrutinize her, taking her in, and seeing something.  Penny doesn't know what but the concept isn't new to Penny.  She's had plenty of experience with alternate universes.  

"How did you become the 'Mother of the Black Widows' if you don't mind me asking."

"I don't." She nods her head once. "You could say I am the original Black Widow, the first.  During a power struggle for Jungle Village I was nearly killed but with the aide of my girls, managed to escape.  I was crippled and ashamed but alive."

For a second, Madame's gaze turns far before steeling over. "I knew it best to hide until I could regain my strength and that is what we did.  We traveled to this world to escape any followers, unfortunately one of my girls was taken from me.  She was taken alive by the country we had crossed into, Russia.  The KGB, having witnessed some of my widows in action, wanted widows of their own but without the effort, without the care."

The assassin smirks, dark and smug.  "So my widow chose to bite the hand that held her leash.  She would give them widows, deadly and sexy.  But each is a damned soul.  Forever alone, broken and disposable.  They killed her when they thought she fulfilled her purpose but her work continues."

"It just continues...tainted."

Penny figured and when Madame Blossom smiles, the heroine takes a moment to take that in.  For so long, she's seen the Black Widow as something belonging to Natasha Romanoff.  The title was her call sign, her identity.  To know the Widow she once admired, the Widow she has yet to meet in this universe is fundamentally wrong is a little hard to swallow. 

"You look great for your age."

The assassin burst out laughing, even though it causes her jolts of pain from her seat. "Sweet girl, our times very differently."

"Oh." She blushes. Right, time dilation. Forgot some universes have that.  Penny's cheeks burn when some of the widows giggle. "Right." 

"The procedure. Tell me about it."

Right.  Back to business.  This woman is crippled, more pinched nerves from a half assed doctor and poor supplies.

"The use of the Polyseudomorphine, is to numb the area where the Dermacortic steroids will be used.  You'll also need to be perfectly aligned on your back to make sure there isn't any build up.  I'd be able to tell you more after a full work up with an actual doctor.  But, there is a risk of overdose.  It's the reason its just now getting into human testing.  So that's something you have to keep in mind."

Surprisingly, the assassin across from her doesn't stop smiling.

"All of life is a trail.  Our every choice is a risk but to do nothing is the greatest risk of all.  It is a dishonor to your very soul to stand aside." Her face softens, just a bit. "You are a kind girl, compassionate and full of life.  I can see it.  I can feel it.  That is why your serum will be the best risk I will ever take."

...

...And what can Penny say to that?


 

2 months Later...

Madame Blossom stands in her living room, six "true" black widows at her back, smiling with pride.  

Penny feels her breath catch because she is facing the full brunt of this Master Assassin's presence.  Penny shivers, not out of fear or intimidation but recognition.  She radiates power, ambition, determination, ruthless cunning and respect, wrapped around her body like a well tailored dress.  It is her sword and shield.  

It tells Penny that Blossom is a woman whose suffered but endured.  Who thrived despite her pain.  A woman with a spine of steel, unafraid to challenge the men who would try to denounce her, to make her lesser.  As her natural state, fit and in fighting form, having it taken from her is a traumatic and pride crushing experience but now, Penny has given that back to her.

And since all she ask in return is for Madame Blossom and her Widows to defend her budding empire...

"Let's begin."

...The Widow Clan is all too happy to fulfill this debt.  

Chapter Text

Penny is oblivious.

Wick knows this.  He knows she's aware of certain things, ideas, and subtle hints.  He also knows she's oblivious to other things but that's what he's here for.  He knew what he was doing when he offered the positions he did to the people he chose.  He knows he's offering a new start and a new life without judgment in the same breath.  He knows the kind of attention he risks bring on the original widows and their maker.

Penelope doesn't realize that people know Madam Blossom.

But that's okay.  Because by the time she does, the Widow will have proven her worth and her loyalty.  By the time anyone tries to pull anything it will be too late.  She's already spinning her web, pulling and trapping her prey.  She's already gaining strength and strength is what Penelope desperately needs.

She could survive with near nothing.  He knows this, he sees it in her eyes that she's no stranger to struggle but that's not something she can afford anymore.  There are too many eyes on her.  People who envy her, who hate her, who love her, and people who look up to her.  Penelope is a powerful person and would make an even more powerful asset.

As she goes about her days. Lily or Iris follow her and Wick's instructions, often shadowing them to and from campus.  While the other helps get the Widows settled into the city.  This included training them in the business aspects of a company.  This is no brothel, where their bodies are the ultimate weapon and the women traded fishnet stockings for dress pants.  Adapting, learning, and growing are all aspects of a True Widow.  

These are aspects that the women all embody as they make the transition from sex worker to corporate worker.  It's a different sort of power grab that requires a different approach to their targets and they take to the challenge with relish.  Each Widow takes on a new name to reflect this.  Silver Bell, Shiv, Jade Claw, Diamondback, Cotton Claw, and Velvet Star become Jun, Ming, Wen, Jingyi, Lexi, and Shuren, respectively. 

Along the way Wick's gamble pays off.  Lily is chosen by an Emolga, Iris by a Buneary and each Widow finds themselves chosen not long after.  There is an bellsprout, an ekans, a stufful, a mankey, a Fletching, and a Hoothoot, also respectively.  

Madame Blossom simply drops the Madame to her name and is chosen by a Fomantis and a Flabebe.  She, too, grows into her place.  Blossom researches who the giants are.  Senators who would support her and would be an obstacle.  Governors, politicians, and policies that may serve her as allies or as enemies.  She spins her web.  Spins and spins, tightening the strings.

She shares a smile, secret and deadly, with Wick.


"How the fuck did this get passed us?"

To say Fury is pissed would be a massive understatement.  Spread out on the screens before him are heat shots of one very specific woman.  A woman who is followed by several other very notable women and at the side of the screens is a list of estimated abilities and skill sets.

"It appears we underestimated Ms Parker's reaction to external stressors." Coulson's voice and expression are both bland but Fury can tell he's torn between being impressed and being annoyed.

"And how did that happen?"

"We knew she caved to Wick's self appointment as her body guard.  We attempted the same maneuver but it appears that the information on how and why she gave in was the reason she did."

Fury swears, colorfully and loudly.  He has good reason to.  He's seen the preliminary results from her work and he knows it can be a game changer.  If this is only the start of what she's capable of than she could be an important piece socially, economically, and politically.  Getting her under SHIELD control at the very beginning before she could really grow would have given them one hell of an ace.

"You think?" He snaps. "Now we have the progenitor of the Black Widows sitting nice and cosy as the CEO of one of the most recognized celebrities in the country!"

This put one annoying ass obstacle in their way of getting her work.  If it becomes mainstream they'll lose a huge advantage.  That's not even counting the backing of several important politicians and company owners whose profits come from the lack of real medicine.  That's not to say that civilians deserve to suffer but sometimes they need to go without so that the soldiers who protect them might have an edge over their enemies.  When something better comes along than they can have the improvements that their defenders have benefitted from.

That's just practical.  Its annoying as shit and not fair to them but Fury didn't get to where he was without making some hard choices.

"Russia is freaking out." Hill reports. "After her interview introducing herself as Ms. Parker's new CEO, the entire Russian network lit up.  They're all in a panic especially since many suspect the assistants she brought with her appear to be Widows."

"I don't care, we've got one of our own.  Anything they try we'll know before they can complete whatever they plan.  What I want to know is how the hell she looks like she hasn't aged a day since WW2."

"Mutant?"

"Speculation." Coulson throws back. "It doesn't explain the other women with her.  If they're the same from the Russian report than it's not genetic."

"Unless it is and all of them are her kids." Hill pulls up another report on screen. "But there's no evidence of a maternity test.  In fact, there's no blood work beyond what they got from the Widow they managed to capture and she came back as a normal baseline human."

"If the Russians know anything else, they aren't talking.  Even if they were in a sharing mood, they're probably too panicked to share anyway."

"Send someone to get a peak at the records they have on her." Fury growls, he can feel a headache growing.  "I want to know everything they have on her."

"Uh, Sir?"

A techie stands to the side, pale and wide eyed.  He looks like he's just walked to his own execution.  Which means whatever he has to say will just make his day that must worse.  

"What?"

"This just came in, uh, sit." A new file opens on his screen. "Tony Stark just made contact."

"WHAT?!"


When she finished with her classes for the day, she didn't expect to go into work and meet Tony Stark.

Well, going into "work" is pushing it since all the work they currently do happens at the hotel.  Penny has no idea what possessed her to agree to let all the meetings happen in an assassin hotel until the she had a space of her own but here she is.  She's having lunch with her CEO, her body guard and Tony Stark.  It had been weeks since they last meet.  What was he doing here?  The assistants weren't here, out doing whatever it is they need to do to get her company rolling and Wick didn't even reach for his gun, which he couldn't do even if he wanted.  Tony's body guard, a man named Happy, didn't seem threatened or threatening either.  He also didn't look very happy, why was that his name?  

"Well, if it isn't my little hero." Tony Stark chirps at her when she walks into the private room.  Chirps! Tony's Jolteon is also incredibly happy to see Pandora, skipping over to cuddle up to her Absol.  The Pokemon just sits there and lets it happen with the most deadpanned expression Penny has ever seen on her face.    

"Hi?" She shakes his hand, confused. "Hero?"

"The fountain?"  He doesn't mention the fake girlfriend. "With the woman who broke up with me and then tried to take my money?"

"Oh." Nevermind. "Yeah.  She seemed suspicious.  I didn't know she was umm..."

"A real life gold digger? Yeah. She was good. Neither did I."

"I'm sorry."

He blinks in surprise.

"Why?"

"No one should have to suffer that kind of deception.  Not for love or companionship.  So, I'm sorry she hurt you instead of trying to get to know you.  I'm sorry there are people like that who'll keep trying to hurt you."

"Stop. Stop." He sighs. "Jeez, you're too nice."

Penny blushes and she knows she blushing.  Its just really hard not to be honest with him.  He used to be a friend and she still thinks of him as a friend.  Its really hard to reconcile the idea that he didn't know her as well as she knew her Tony Stark.  It breaks her heart a little.  Mostly, she misses her friend.

"Fortunately," Blossom sweeps in with her Pokemon at her side, dressed immaculately in a professional dress and a white overcoat hanging on her shoulders.  Powerful and elegant but it reminded Penny of what a mob boss would look like.  "She has me to guard her heart and her empire.  Welcome, Tony Stark. How might we help you?"

"Wow, you're gorgeous." 

Blossom smiles.

"Aaaaaand dangerous." He whistles.  "Where can I find one of you?"

"I'm afraid you can't afford us, Mr. Stark."

"Well, how about I offer something else?" He looks at her. "Help you out as a thanks for making sure I didn't drown."

"You don't-"

"Nope!" Tony cuts Penny off. "Too late! I'm a big fan of what you're trying to do here and I'm more than willing to invest."

"Than let's talk, Mr. Stark."

The smile that crosses Blossom's lips is soft but her eyes are sharp.  Penny sighs as she gets comfortable in her seat.  On the one hand, she's grateful that she's here to make sure she doesn't accidentally sign away her entire company or her soul.  But she can't reminisce about the billionaire who would laugh at her corny jokes and watch Saturday morning cartoons with her on bad days.

She glances down at the two Pokemon on the floor, at Ruth as she curls up in her lap and the lazy playboy smile that Tony wears as he talks business.  When the food comes, they're still talking about the kind of support her company can expect from Stark Industries.  Despite the topic there isn't any tension in the room and Penny wonders, glancing down at the Jolteon and Pandora for maybe the dozenth time, if this can lead to something.

She wonders if she can get her friend back.  It wouldn't be the same, of course, because the experiences are different but she hopes anyway.

And when the meeting ends, when everyone shakes hand and smiles, when Penny and Tony get distracted talking about science, that hope blooms.  After all, there's nothing quite like two lonely souls meeting and burning brightly together.

Chapter Text

After meeting with Tony Stark, things move very quickly.

They get the support they need to push through the final testing phase and market the new products.  They sell incredibly well, like Penny knew they would.  This success also gave Blossom and the Widows a chance to really spin their webs.  What Penelope didn't expect was just how fast demand would grow and with that demand, the need for expansion.  

They could no longer operate out of the hotel and had to buy a towering skyscraper.  Penelope had almost fainted at the very idea but with how quickly they were expanding, they needed the space.  There was PR, Legal, Human Resources, Security, Administration, and so on.  Her head spun just thinking about it all.

Again, Blossom is a godsend.

She handles the increase work load like a painter making strokes on a canvas and Wick simply disappears one day, leaving her with Iris and Lily as both assistants and bodyguards.

When he does return? It's with two more men, hitmen, she's assuming. One is a bald but serious face man in a suit named Frank Martin, with a Toxicroak.  Apparently, he's her new driver.  Fortunately, he has a sense a humor despite having such a serious default expression.  The other comes with a noibat and is a brunette with blue eyes that seem to gaze far, far away.  His name is Jason Bourne, her new head of security.  He's polite and blunt but she can't help but feel like he's been carrying around a great amount of sadness.

Penelope greets them every time she sees them.  No judgments. No pity.  She understands that sometime, things happen.  Terrible things and they leave marks on people but pity never helps.  It just makes a person feel like...like they were eternally stained by whatever it was.  As if their entire life is defined by this one thing.  But, Penelope knows that's not true.

So she doesn't pity them.

She brings cookies and brownies every Monday.  Because what better way for her top staff to start their week then on a good note?

Life moves on.

Frank drives her around and Jason screens all potential employees looking for employment.  Iris and Lily file all the paperwork that needs to be filed or signed by her, while giving her the cliff notes.  There are days where they'll take extra time with her and go over documents that are marked "no go" and explain why.  Loopholes and phrases that someone tried to sneak in to legally trap, bind, or steal from her further down the line.  

The same goes for security and politics.  Both make her nauseous.

Blossom shows her recordings of some of her meetings with Generals and Senators, alike, and highlights phrases and behaviors used throughout.  She emphasizes what is and is not said, what certain actions say about those present, and so on.  At the end of the first session, Penelope promptly tried to bribe her own CEO.

"Give yourself a raise." Blossom laughs.

"Why?"

"What do you mean, why? So you don't leave." Penny can't keep the pained whine from escaping.  She just spent watching an hour of a bunch of men talk about bullshit because they were too busy posturing at her CEO.  "I'm not sure I'd be able to stop myself from screaming if I had to do what you do."

"Don't be silly." She pats Penelope's hand and snags another cookie from the table. "We'll help you learn and practice, too.  You'll need to start making more public appearances."

"What are you talking about? I make appearances."

"I mean high society, sweet child." The grin she gives the people on the screen would be hungry, if it wasn't also a little dark. "I imagine they'll try and take advantage of how young you are.  But we won't allow that, don't worry, we're going to have them wrapped around your finger."

She would be more worried if she weren't too busy freaking out.  Why would she want so many people "around her finger"?

Reviewing security measures with Jason is so much easier.

The man is thorough and meticulous.  He commands the small, yet growing, security force with the air of...something intangible.  He reminds her of Kane, after the self-doubt and the rage, after the insecurity washed away.  Standing tall, hurt and battered and worn down from war, but stubborn and fierce in his love.  

A survivor.

He spares no thought to anyone's comfort. He tells them exactly how many times someone tries to infiltrate the budding company.  Cameras count the number of agents in the lobby, being interviewed by HR and how many are let through to meet with security.  At this point, everyone is informed that they must sign a release statement giving permission for Inovine Industries to take their fingerprints to check for criminal backgrounds.  

Most agents refuse. The ones that don't are asked to return for a follow up interview or expect a letter of rejection.

Penelope knows this is unorthodox.  Since the need for demand is so high, one would expect a new company to hire as many as it can and as quickly as it can.  That is not the case.  Which Penelope is glad for.  She really can't afford any mistakes like that at this point.  

In the mean time, Tony is more than happy to help pick up the slack.  

It makes his company look good at the same time Blossom can maneuver the company into whatever angle she's got her sights set on and at the same time, Tony gets to hang out with them.  Well, with Penny since most of the time everyone else is working.  But the things they get up to!

Ms. Potts developed a bond with Iris and Lily out of sheer necessity.  Because letting two geniuses alone for any length of time has created rumors.

World domination being the current most popular.

(Penelope was horrified because the sheer amount of paperwork for that kind of venture nearly made her faint while Tony laughed at her expense.  Of course, right after Blossom walked into the room and Tony went down to one knee loudly proclaiming her his only "Empress", with one hand on his heart.  To her credit, Blossom grinned pat him on the head, told them that dinner was ready and walked right back out.  How is this her life?)

That they were soulmates is another.

Both companies had to release statements to correct that.  To the misfortune of many of their fans.

Still, Penelope is happy.  She has good friends, she passing her classes and making medicine that she's only ever used on herself to better the world.  Her CEO is turning her company into a superpower and Penny couldn't be happier with what they've done with everything.  The policies that are put in place are standard for most companies but Penny adds a few things to the harassment section and give her plans for the insurance and health care benefits she is looking to include.  They can't really afford to cover everything just yet.

But with the way prospects are looking, that will change soon enough.

At this time, she also gives a proposal for her next invention.  Biomedical foam or, Biofoam, for short, would be used for military and emergency service use only.  Its purpose is to keep any damaged organs in place, stop severe bleeding, and hemorrhaging from wounds, including thermal and electric burns.  It is a self-sealing, space-filling coagulant and also an antibacterial, tissue-regenerative foam polymer.  Its container is about the same size as the average thermos and easy to apply.

Blossom practically radiated joy when she was told and was more than happy to create new contracts.  Penelope barely has to mention the applications of what this could do for medicine to Tony before he's putting in a word for her with his own contracts and introducing her to his best friend and military liaison, James "Rhodey" Rhodes.

The ink for Invoines' new contracts are barely dried when Tony Stark goes missing.


"Eyes on target?"

"Confirmed."

Bradley kept the grimace off his face but he did glance at his partner for this mission.  They were situated across from an opulent hotel.  A hotel that is apparently an assassin meeting ground which just put him on edge, being so close to so many killers.  Still, they needed all the intel they could get.  That didn't mean that he liked his partner.

The guy was silent and just stared across the street like the building would give him all the answers to the universe.

It was creepy.  He didn't see why they had to share jurisdiction with these guys. They didn't even say who they worked for but Bradley figured they stepped on a lot of people's toes when his boss gave him a call and let him know.  It sounded like he'd rather be telling Bradley to go fuck a pig while his boss had his teeth pulled out with a plier.  

Whoever these guys are, they really pissed off a lot of people.  But all that bullshit is way above his pay grade and he figures the big bosses will get their pound of flesh soon enough.  From what he's heard, you don't stay the Boss of the CIA unless you had some real fucking teeth.  

The hours drag on and their target, Lady Blossom of Inovine Industries or "Mother of Widows" as she's known in the intelligence community, remained inside.  They didn't get clearance to put in cameras or microphones.  The place was run by a bunch of assassins, it was a miracle they haven't been shot for spying on them.  Bradley isn't blind, he can see the sniper and the cameras, some turning to look right at them.

"No Change." Bradley reports for the record.

There'd been a huge buzz going around Inovine Industries ever since Tony Stark went missing.  According to intel, the man had been close friends with the owner, Parker and there was rumors of a possible merge on the horizon.  They would have made a powerful duo and made an equally powerful message to America's enemies.  A symbol of machines and medicine, of war and peace.  

It might still happen depending on who inherits Stark Industries and if they can talk the younger company to the table.

But considering that its Lady Blossom at the helm and not the actual owner, they'd have a hard time getting that off the ground, but the biggest bite is that Ms. Parker is certain the playboy is still alive.  Even more, she's certain he'll escape and make it back.  There's a recording of her conversation with the military liaison to Stark Industries and its been played numerous times but no matter how many times its played, there's isn't a hint of how she knows that.

It's just a fact.  The sky is blue, water is wet, and Tony Stark will escape his terrorists captors.

Bradley couldn't believe his ears when he first heard it for his mission.  What the hell did this civilian know? Hell, its now public knowledge that his partner, a Gardevoir, died several hours after his escort was attacked.  So, what made her so confident?  So sure of his life?

And everyone wants to know just where is she getting her intel from.  Who is she talking to that can promise this?  Is it her own CEO?  Is the infamous maker of the Black Widows going into the field? Is she sending in a team? Does she have a contact in the Middle East that can deploy a team for her?  

"She's moving."

Bradley manages to contain his flinch but his fingers still clench in surprise.  His partner for the past few hours, speaks up but doesn't turn to look his way.  Bradley is already picking up his go bag and heading for the door when his comms turn on.  The rest of the team that had been in wait are moving too.

If he's lucky the guys will rotate again and Bradley can forget all about how much of a gargoyle this guy is. 


Something wakes her.

Penelope blinks her eyes to clear away the sleep but doesn't move.  What woke her?  Its strange and her body doesn't want to move.  She's tired.  Between school, her company, and patrols, she's exhausted.  Tony going missing just makes it worse because he's her friend and she can't do anything from here.  

She thought about flying out there to help but she knows no one would let that happen.  They don't know she's Spider-Woman and even if she went despite that, she doesn't know where to start her search.  

Spider Sense!

A low buzzing crawls along her temples.  Oh. There is someone here.  Now, she's awake.  She strains her hearing but gets nothing.  No extra beating heart, no soft inhale and exhale of air from a person's lungs, no harsh stretch of fabric from someone's clothes and no nearly inaudible sound of someone's weight on the wooden floors.

She gets up anyway.  Penny has learned that if her senses are aware of something then there must be something, even if she can't directly see it.

Half of her home is clear when she notices a soft glow from her sitting room.  A light is on but still, it's silent.  Unnaturally so.  Penelope makes her way over just as silent as when she woke up.  Her spider sense is silent but alert.  There is no danger but there is something.

Penelope steps into the room.

A man is sitting on her couch. No- not a man but someone or something that looks like a man.  There was something off with his presence.  Like he was too big and he'd squeezed himself into something too small to contain all of him.  

Voltaire sat in his lap, purring as he was stroked in all the right places.  The electric arachnid was at ease on the stranger's lap. This stranger who looked like a black man in a three piece suit with his face painted in white strokes.  He wore a fedora on his head that cast a shadow over his eyes.  

His familiar glowing gold eyes.

"Hello, princess." The being grins. "It was time we formally meet."

Chapter Text

Penny is used to weird. 

She's a superhero that was bitten by a radioactive spider.  Weird is the definition of her life.  Being reincarnated into a new world is just another Tuesday.  Meeting an African God is...new.

To say it was a tense night would not be a complete lie but it wouldn't be a complete truth, either.  Because Anansi is powerful and intimidating.  However, he's also familiar.  Like a vague memory that hovers just out of reach.  He's dangerous like Loki but fun like Thor.  He's wise like Buddha but bloodthirsty like Ares.  He stands before her like a person and a shadow.  There but not really, for only as long as he feels like it.  

Her pokemon fall asleep near him and Penny fights the urge to do the same.  It is like being surrounded by a group of people you trust to look out for you and who you know won't let anything bad happen to you, so you fall asleep.  It is the same feeling Penny had when Kane would drive and she'd fall right to sleep in the passenger seat.  That implicit trust that he'd never let anything bad happen to her, no matter what...and this god brings to mind those same moments.

Anansi doesn't talk much about why he shows himself. Only that the time was right and she didn't know how to take that.  Then, she's laying her head on his shoulder and he's playing with her hair, singing a lullaby she's never heard before.  It comforts her and she falls asleep.

Penny forgets what they talked in the morning but, somehow, she knows things will get better.


Tony chokes on water and wonders if this time, if this time will be it.  The car battery fritz and shocks him.  It makes him lethargic and weak.  It makes him aware as his muscles spasm and clench.  The nerves in his chest start to go numb...

He won't be able to take much more of this.  There's a hollow space inside his heart.  There's something missing, something lost, and it makes Tony ache.  It makes him afraid.

The men let him go and no one stops him as he falls to the ground.  He doesn't bother to move, staring at the ceiling, blinking the darkness away.  He can't hear the screaming and the yelling quite yet.  He sees the shadows on the wall and the ceiling contort.  The shapes of men and beasts form, attacking and killing each other.  

Tony hopes the beasts win.  


 

Penny made the suggestions months ago but it got held up due to a number of security concerns from Bourne.  That isn't to say that Blossom is one to ignore a suggestion from the owner of the company, especially when those ideas can be incredibly profitable with a bit of polish.  The Widow is ever eager to see her little spider grow into a formidable woman until then, Blossom is more than happy to expand her growing empire.

Including recruiting two very special individuals for Security and Legal. The first was a bit difficult since he's a runner with trust issues but the second was recently exposed.  There is no doubt in the assassin's mind that gaining one will net her the other.  Which is why Blossom sent one of her own widows to retrieve her.  It's also good practice head hunting.  The fact the girl is asian probably helps with this particular widow's transitioning.

Blossom runs her hand over the girl's photo, considering.  She's a pretty thing, with traditional asian features with the addition of bright green eyes and purple streaks of hair among her black tresses.  No doubt the colors are a side effect of her mutation.  She'd just finished a degree in political science and was applying for law school at Stanford University when something happened that lead to her exposure.

The poor girl's been on the run since.  However, they noticed she'd been making her way to the east coast, probably to New York or New Jersey.  Her final destination is unknown but that's she's coming to them is a good sign.  Still, meeting her and giving her an offer can't be too bad.  If she refuses, she still gets the option to get a ride as close to her destination as she feels comfortable making.  

No strings.

Blossom wanted that to be very clear.  This company was built by very unique individuals and its owner is Spider-Woman (cheeky girl needs to be better at keeping that secret but they'll work on that), so hiring more such individuals isn't just an option.  It's a necessity.  It would be incredibly discriminatory if they didn't hire mutants.  The problem lay in that there are no mutants who would ever willingly advertise the fact that they are, well, mutants.

Leading to where they are now.  Scrambling to find these people who are not only gifted but qualified, too.  Blossom is really hoping the girl is as impressive as her resume says she is.  Otherwise, she will be very upset at having wasted valuable time and resources.

Her phone rings.

"Blossom Liu."

The last name was decided at random.  She really likes the power of giving her name and knowing the person on the other side is immediately aware of the power she has.  She didn't have this at Jungle Village.  No, no, there her power was implied.  Here, it is clearly stated for all to know.  The gasp on the other side sends a thrill down her spine.

"You-you're really...," She struggles for a second longer before gathering her wits, a good sign, "So, this contract, it's real?"

"Why would it not be?"

"There aren't any companies willing to offer a mutant a salary, benefits and a 401k. In fact, I'm pretty sure there are none."

"Inovine does."

"Why?"

"Why not?"

The girl actually growls.  Blossom has to smile.  Cute.

"Are you actually going to give me an answer?"

"If I did, what would you like to hear?"

"That I'm not going to be cut open for the sake of science or the betterment of mankind!"

"Clarice Ferguson, Blink, you will not be cut open or experimented on for the sake of science or the betterment of mankind." Blossom cannot help but respond to the girl's bitterness and resignation, well hidden but audible to one who has heard it before. "If I wanted you dead, you'd be dead.  If I wanted more power I wouldn't need to chain you up or cut you open to get it. I am the CEO of one of the leading medical companies in the world and the Left Hand of one of the most influential young women in this country."

Blossom takes a breath, letting all of that sink in for a moment.

"I don't need you.  I don't even really want you." The Widow smiles as she weaves her web and tightens the threads around her prey, "However, there are benefits to having mutants on payroll, provided they are qualified, and one of them is that there is less of a chance you're a corporate or government spy."

"Oh."

"Quite." Blossom closes her file and opens the second. "So, sign the contract and you can start as soon as you arrive. Don't and the deal for a ride is still on the table.  It is the least we can do for holding you up."

"That's it?"

"We've already did our own background check.  There might be some media you'll have to contend with but just ignore them like everyone else and you'll be fine.  You'll be working in Legal so no one will be surprised that you refuse to answer questions."

"You make it sound like hiring a mutant is no big deal."  The girl doesn't question the idea that she'll be discovered working for the company, which is also a good sign.  Blossom likes smart girls: they live longer.

"It isn't." There are journalists and photographers everywhere.  Not to mention the numerous fans that follow everything Penelope does, including her company, and it is in fact a given that the new hire for Legal is a mutant will make news.  Blossom is sure it will make waves.  "Despite what you may think, mutants are the new Indians-excuse me, Native Americans, and the new Jews and queers.  You're being prosecuted and hated because you're different.  You're not mainstream.  That gives certain parties power over you and mutants react like any group of people that are hunted and oppressed.  When mutants lash out it turns the public against them and give those same parties even more power.  Thus the cycle of abuse and exploitation continues."

"...but if we're mainstream, that power is diminished."

Very smart.

"Sounds like you should sign that contract."

"I'm already in the car."

"Human Resources is on the third floor.  Security will have someone ready to escort you when you arrive. Make sure you have your ID with you."

Blossom ends the call and picks up the other photo of a tall brunette with dark hair and a smirk on his lips. One Remy LeBeau.


Tony lay on the cot watching a spider in its web slink closer to its prey, a mosquito.  It pounced and in seconds the little bug stopped moving.  He stared at it, the spider, and wondered at the breed.  It had strips like a bee or something like it.  It was too far away for him to really see.

His dreams are filled with spiders.

They sit in large hammocks, lazing about and eating chocolate beetles.  Some gamble with dice or play poker.  There were even a few dreams of spiders eating the terrorists.  Those he really enjoys.  He wakes up to those with a smile on his face which he's pretty sure had freaked out a few of his captures.

Then there are dreams where a massive spider cradles him, careful in its large hairy arms like a large fuzzy blanket, and weaves a quilt before his eyes.  It's important, this quilt, but he can't make out a lot of details.  The only things he can see for sure are the ones right before he wakes up.  They're about the attack on the humvee, his capture and his torture.  What happens after? Why can't he stay asleep long enough to see it?

What happens to him?!

...unless was the point?  What happens after is unknown.  It's unknown because it hasn't happened yet. He might die here and he might not.  What determines that? Whether he lives or dies?  Is it fate? Tony huffs to himself and wonders if this is how his last days will be, filled wondering the meaning of life in the web of spiders.  Not that he's complaining...they haven't tortured him in four days since the camp became infested with spiders.  Some are large and tan, these are shot on sight but the shots don't always hit true.  Others are small and nearly white to look at.  These are Tony's favorite even if he's pretty sure they're venomous since they had several of the terrorist scream like a bunch of pre-teen girls.

Still, the little ones remind him of Voltaire, of Penny's little spider partner.  Small and unassuming. But packing one hell of a bite.

...maybe, just maybe, he can do the same...


"Tell me this is a joke."

 "No, sir."

Jack Rollins stood at parade rest as Director Fury drilled his dark and cold gaze into him.  He would have been calmer if the information didn't pose as a severe security risk for a lot of other people.  People who did not want the information Rollins had acquired to be true.  

"Blossom Liu and by extension Penelope Parker, is hiring mutants."

"Yes, sir."

It was a preposterous idea.  An insane move.  But there is was, plain as white bread and clear as day.  One of the leading companies in medical science is actually hiring mutants.  No blackmail, no intimidation.  Just the promise of a salary, benefits, and even a pension as if they were any other prospective new hire.  These types of actions brought considerable attention to the people involved.  Furthermore, it brought attention to past interactions between mutants and other parties, interactions that did not always end in the mutants' favor.  

There were a large number of mutants in the Raft, most who refused to join with SHIELD.  If Rollins memory served him right, there were also a hand full of pregnant mutants who were detained and their children, once delivered, throughly examined before given to agents for observation.  Unfortunately, most of the infants didn't survive past childhood and those that did became so violent that they needed to be put in the Raft or put down.

Which is just a waste.  

Other alternatives were tried but so far most ended in failure.  For a civilian to offer mutants alternatives so blatantly...it completely undermined everything they were trying to do.  Not just SHIELD but everyone.  Mutants and those like them were game changers.  The ones who had command or the most influence with them also commanded and influenced the future of civilization.

"Tell Hill she can come in. You're dismissed." If the Director were capable, the file in his hand would be a smoldering pile of ash from his gaze alone.  But his job wasn't to appease the man, it was to wait.  

"Yes, sir."

The power this one civilian welded is beginning to concern him and others, no doubt.  It is the kind of power that should be in under his superiors' command and not some twenty something pacifist.  Ms Parker, and those who follow her, need to be brought to heel and quickly.  Before the power they amass becomes a threat to the world and those who seek to bring true peace to it.  

If he is ordered, Rollins will be all too happy putting her in her place.  After all, only those who are willing to make the hard choices are allowed to lead the world into the New Age.

'Hail Hydra.' 

Chapter Text

Clarice had a lot of plans for her future.  One which included passing the bar and helping mutants get a chance in society.  It would have been an uphill battle but it would have been worth it to give mutants even a smudge of a chance at a better life.

All of it came undone in a matter of moments.

Because some guy had a thing against having competition.  So she earned top spot in her graduating class only to be exposed and be prevented from taking the bar. 

...for now.

Working for CEO Blossom Lang, however, offers a lot of promise.  

She took a chance and so far, she isn't regretting anything.  There is a packet for insurance and retirement, healthcare, and a packet on company policy.  There were several packets for security that she had to get through but they also look pretty normal for a medical company.

That's not to say she doesn't feel like she's signing her soul away but considering how big the company has grown, she isn't surprised.

This might not have been where she originally wanted to be but there are clauses that promise safety from experimentation and testing against her will, something she's never seen before.  Seeing it in writing, in a legally binding contract, fills Clarice with hope, as dangerous at that is.

Hope can lift you up, it can save you from despair and depression.  It can give you wings when all your life it's felt like steel chains threatened to hang you.  

On the other hand, it can drown a man in false belief and expectations.  Like fireflies in the night, gorgeous and bright but quick to die at the break of dawn.  Like sinking to the bottom of a Great Lake, choking on water and still looking to the surface, waiting for a miracle to help pull you up.

Hope is dangerous.

She signs on the bottom line. 


It wasn't a new sight to see Penny in the lounge, textbooks and notes cover the table.  

No doubt it is strange for the other patrons to see a college girl studying in a lounge filled with trained mercenaries and assassins but at the same time, Penny knows no one will actually bother her here.  There's no agent walking up to her to ambush her when she needs to finish a paper for her final or an agent dosing her food, trying to get her to talk or comply with whatever they want.

There's no senator trying to bulldoze his way into her patents or into a contract while she's trying to have lunch with her aunt.

What is new is her focus on the lounge screen.  The news is running another segment on Tony Stark. There is still no sign of him and there is currently speculation about what will happen with his company.  There's a bunch of talk about inheritance and new directions for the company.

Like Tony Stark isn't a person who deserves to be missed.

"You miss him."

Penny doesn't even flinch anymore, so familiar with her ever present shadow. Pandora barely gives Wick a passing glance as he takes a seat on Penny's side.  

"Does that really surprise you?"

"No." Wick gestures to the bartender. "But I am surprised at how sure you are that he's going to survive."

"Why?"

The hitman gives a half smirk, or something close to it.  His drink is put down in front of him and he takes a sip. "He's unpredictable that's a fact.  But you're the first person I've heard to have any faith in him."

"Sometimes, all people ever really need is for someone else to believe in them." Ruth is sipping some fruity drink to her other side, careful and elegant to keep it from spilling. "I believe Tony can do great things and I refuse to give up on him because everyone else thinks that's the best thing to do."

"You're not really good at doing that, either."

"Doing what other people tell me? Blossom would disagree."

"I meant that you don't give up."

Wick turns to give her a Look. It's one of those things that Penny can't really describe.  It's soft, almost, but hidden behind a wall of steel.  Like, he's got his answer but he's still trying to find more or something.  She's not any god at the double speak/think operation that spies and hitmen use.  

"I"m going to take that as a compliment."

"It is." He salutes her with his glass.

"We're not leaving for a while, aren't we?" Penny takes a guess because his drink looks a little like bourbon and not whiskey.

"No. Coulson has a few agents camped outside." He pulls the hotel menu and puts it in front of her. "Normally, I wouldn't care but these agents look like field agents and not the usual desk sitter.  I'd rather avoid a scene at this time."

"Is Blossom and the others okay?"

"They're fine but you've got a few meetings with her about PR and your future plans for Stark Industries.  There's a lot of talk right now," Wick tilts his head toward the screen where the news anchors are still talking about Tony's company. "about everything and several other companies are making big offers.  The CTO is making some waves, too."

"Stane is a creep."

"Which we've taken into consideration. Blossom got an offer from him, too.  She hasn't confirmed anything, yet."  John reassures when she whips her head around so fast she nearly gives herself whiplash.

"Good. That's good." Penny exhales a shaky breath. "Okay. This is fine.  We can do this.  My schedule is already set up, right?"

"Your assistants will be giving you an update in an hour or so.  Something about restrictions?"

"Oh." Her tone catches the hitman's attention. "I...may have given a list about people to avoid?"

"A blacklist. You." John Wick deadpans. Something about it just embarrasses the hell out of her.

"Shut, shut it!" She can feel the flush coloring her cheeks. "It's not like that. Just people I wouldn't trust being alone with, for me or anyone."

"That." He puts his glass down. "I can work with."

"I don't understand."

"We're entering a corporate grey area right now.  A sort of power vacuum.  Tony Stark stood at the top along with several other billionaires.  With him gone, it's a free for all and you, being a friend, is up for grabs."

"How am I-"

"-association. You are the head of the quickest growing medical companies in the world.  That means power and prestige.  Paired with whatever deals you have with Tony, that means a lot of money, too."

"The big three."

"They're going to be coming after you. Hard."

Penny swallowed and stared at her homework, laid out like it's just another normal day.  She knew Blossom and the others carried the biggest weight of the company so that she could finish school and do her patrols.  She knew, intellectually, that the others protected her from the worse of the corporate giants. It's only now, that John is saying it, laying it all out, that she is getting a picture of just what that looks like.

"Do you honestly believe Tony Stark will be found?"

Penny turns to him.  To looks the hitman, John Wick, a dear friend and confident, in the eye.

"He will. I know it."

They're quiet for a long minute or two.  The sounds of the hotel filtering around them, keeping total silence at bay.

"Okay. We can work with this.  Give a few statements and take the time to lay out a rough framework of where you want Blossom to go from here.  You have to take the lead, though.  Not a lot but enough to remind people that you are still in charge."

"Yeah. That all sounds good. I can do that." Penny frowns, remembering Wick said they were going to be here a while. "Not sure what I can do from here, though."

"Recruit." 

She blinks at him. Is he joking?

"What?"

"There's a rumor going around that a few guns are looking to 'retire'."

"But I thought no one really retires."

Penny almost feels her heart stop at the dark amusement that flickers around her bodyguard's face, there and gone within a flash. 

"Like, I said, recruit."


Two months later...

Tony hears the blade of the helicopter before he sees it.  

He staggers a bit but turns in the direction and laughs when it comes into view. American. It's an American chopper. 

Tony falls to his knees and Rhodey, his Rhodey, his platepus, is there.  Holding him, letting him lean on him, sheltering him from the world for a long blissful moment.  He takes it in and lets those strong arms hold him together for a bit longer.

He's going home. 

Chapter Text

“I told you.” 

Blossom huffs a laugh at her bubbly little boss lady.  Penny had been adamant that Tony would return.  If she had been a lesser woman Blossom would have assumed there was something between them.  As it was, she knew better.  They were close, yes, but it was the same closeness that Blossom felt with her girls, family beyond a matter of blood.

The large plasma screen, captures every detail of the press conference.  Now, as the former weapons manufacturer declared himself Iron Man and spread his arms out wide, she feels a sense of...something.

Something new and different. Like the winds of change have caught up to her and instead of being in the eye, she stands at the sidelines.  It is unsettling but also, invigorating.  It feels like the calm before the rush of battle.  

“You did.” Blossom smiles. “I always believed you.”

She believed sweet Penelope believed he would come back.  She believed that Tony Stark had a warrior soul, honorable and strong.  He would endure or he would overcome.   

“I never imagined he would take after you, though.”

Penny laughs, joyous and child-like. “He’s always loved heroes. I’m not surprised at all.” There’s a gleam in her eyes that says there’s a lot more to that than she says.  Blossom doesn’t press, she understands that somethings are beyond words.


His chest aches and every inhale reminds him of his changed reality.  It’s almost enough to distract him from the throbbing, gaping hole where his Genie used to be.

Genie, his Gardevoir.

The Pokémon he first bonded with when she was a little ralts.  Pepper had been the with her when she...

JARVIS says time was called a few hours after he was taken.  Tony can only speculate, there’s no way to say for sure, but he can guess she’s the reason he’s still alive.  How else could Yinsen have been able to save his life? In an unsanitary cave? With his chest full of shrapnel? Genie gave her life for his in that dark cave, believing he’d get out or not, Tony will never know.

The only distractions he has are few, his armor, his bots, and his other Pokémon.  

Bolt, his Jolteon is as cuddly and timid as always.  Looking for attention but careful not to try too hard, aware his spikes can poke and stab if he’s not careful. Tony used to joke his Pokémon had an anxiety problem but now, now, he’s not laughing.  It’s not funny.  So, he cuddles the hell out of him when he gets home.  Just scopes him into his lap and holds him close.

He can’t say they same for his Metagross, Ironheart, the overgrown puppy.  He’d taken one look at Tony and Bolt cuddling and promptly wrapped both of them up in his arms as best he’s able.  He soaks up the comfort like a man dying of thirst, something he’s uncomfortably familiar with, and almost forget to introduce his little family to their new addition.

”Hey guys, sorry I’ve been away so long.” He tries to joke but it comes out flat. “I made a new friend though.”

”Gible.” The shiny little Gible waves his arms, happily greeting everyone in the lab.  Another testament to just how young the little tyke is.  He gestures the little Pokémon closer to him and isn’t surprise when he cuddles into his side, up close to Jolt, not at all bothered by his spikes.

”Welcome to the family, buddy.”

He’s too tired to think of a name. Later, much later. After the shock of Ob-Stane’s betrayal, then. Yes, then.


 

This is one of the worst parts about being the owner of her own company. The parties. Well, no, its not the parties. It’s the people at the parties that think they can do or say whatever they want to her and she’ll be okay with it.

It’s really old and she’s getting really tired of it.  She can’t decide who is worse, either, between the men and the women.  The men think she’s too young, too stupid, or that she needs a good strong man.  Everyone tries to proposition her, old and young men alike. As if marrying her will in some way shape or form “leash” her.  

John is a godsend.

All he does is open his jacket, putting his gun on full display for most of them to back off.  For the rest, he’s only had to break one finger to get his point across.  Normally, she’d argue against this but Blossom gave her a throughout lecture about appearances in high society and at these functions before she ever stepped foot in one.  She’s got a role to play in these things and showing anything less than a united front with her security could invite dangerous opportunists.

It doesn’t make it any less exhausting.

Escpailly, the women.  Women can be just as terrible as the men.  Some implying she had to sleep with her professors or the contest judges to get where she is and that hurts.  But at the same time, those words fill her with a sense of indignant fury.  The few times she’s lost her temper are enough to stop those kinds of rumors, or so Blossom says.

Another headache is walking toward her, right now.  Fortunately, one of the waiters brought over a tray for her Pokémon and she silently hopes its enough to keep them distracted.  

Not a single one of them can stand Norman Osborn.

”Good evening, Ms. Parker.” He smiles but they don’t reach his eyes. “You look especially lovely tonight.”

Penny had chosen a pretty baby pink off shoulder gown.  It stopped a little below her knees and it glittered in the light.  She liked her dress.  She didn’t like the way Osborn looked at her.

”Well, I didn’t know I didn’t know I looked terrible all other times I’ve arrived.”

Penny is only slightly thankful for Blossom’s lessons.  It still annoys the hell out of her because she could be studying for the last classes for her degree. 

“Of course not,” Norman takes a seat, without asking as Blossom would glare at. “I merely meant how exceptional you appear this night. I haven’t seen you in a few years now.”

He smiles at her, it looks indulgent, as if she were still that little girl he fondly joked should marry his son.  The same son he sent away.

”You’re no little girl anymore, Penelope.”

”I think my company more than proves that.”

”Of course, of course, you’ve certainly done well for yourself.” Something flashes across his eyes. “It is something my son can learn from.”

”And, how is Harry?” 

Penny doesn't want to talk about Harry, about why Norman doesn't think Harry is any good.  But the man has laid that out, that’s where he wants the conversation to go and Penny isn't a master at this yet. But she also knows she really isn't up for what other kind of conversation the man will want to have.

”Oh, the usual disappointment.” Norman shrugs but Penny isn't fooled. “He pins after you like some lovesick fool. I tell him all the time he needs to do something with his life if he hopes to turn your head.”

Penny swallows carefully, fighting the faint taste of bile. This man disparages his son while undressing her with is eyes, is a well of contradictions.  She doesn’t think she’ll understand him or if she wants to.  Ever. Harry is a tool to this man a means to an end and Penny? She’s another means to whatever goal he has in mind.  A piece on a board for him to exploit.

Her temper burns.

”Well, I’m more interested in my Heart Song, whoever they are.” Penny keeps her tone even and dares him to say something against her soulmate, something taboo in high society. “Perhaps you should encourage him to be better than you. Isn’t that what all parents want for their children?”

Maybe it’s a trick of the light but...Norman’s smile looks a bit strained. Penny will take that as a victory.


Across the room, Blossom spies her liege where she sits across from the parasite Osborn.  Blossom despises the man. Not for his business sense or his ruthlessness in certain political circles but because he reminded her of a lion. Fat and lazy, but no less dangerous.

She sends one of her girls to Penny and Wick, to keep any incident from cropping up.  Ruth won’t tolerate too much needling of her human and having her set the pest on fire would not be a good look for the company.

”Madam.”

The barely concealed scorn turns her head to the perpetrator. Unpleasantly, it belongs to a familiar annoyance. Really, most of these people are but they have their uses, so Blossom keeps her serene smile in place.

“Thunderbolt Ross.” Her voice a purr and relishes how the general fidgets slightly before standing at rest. “What a surprise.”

”I doubt it,” His eyes hard and unwavering. “Especially considering I’ve sent you and your company numerous requests-“

”-Through the military, yes, I’m aware.” She runs her hand over his tie and doesn't react to how the man stiffens. “We do not accept military contracts. Something you well know. You get the same access to our products as everyone else.” 

“And I’m sure you know the benefits of having the military as a friend.”

Unwavering, stubborn man. But she is also not ignorant to the calculating gleam in his eyes.

”Just as I’m sure you know the dangers and issues having a pharmaceutical company on call to the military.” 

Ross gaze turn piercing.  If Blossom were someone else, it might have intimidated her.  After all, this is a man who fought in the Vietnam War and rose in rank.  This is also the man responsible for the creation of the Hulk.  He is neither stupid or reckless.

”But not as dangerous as a company with it’s own private security.”

Ah. 

Now she sees what this is about.

”You almost sound jealous General.” Her smile grows.

”No.” He denies, because of course he will, but he denies it a second too quickly. “I’m merely concerned. There are some...dangerous individuals you’ve decided to employ.”

”No more dangerous than you, oh sweet General.” Blossom takes a drink from one of her girls. She doesn't take a drink that hasn’t come from her own stock and refuses to start now. “However, there is nothing the owner, our employees, our consumers, or myself have to worry over.”

”You’re that confident they won’t turn you.” He says it mockingly. As if he knows better than her because he succeeded in creating, not one but two monsters.

”Of course.” Her smile turns cutting, baiting. “After all, I’m not the one violating basic human rights.”

“Those...” He clenches his jaw. Line. “Those individuals are not human.”

Blossom wants to giggle. Sinker. He truly walked right into that. Really, you’d think he would know better than to try that argument with the CEO of a pharmaceutical company.

“Well, I’ll be sure to let all the red heads, the color blind, the bald, people with blue eyes, people with dimples, patents with Progeria, Hypertrichosis, SCID, Ectodractyly, Proteus Syndrome, and other such mutations that they’re not humans and are completely undeserving of basic human rights.”

She takes a sip from her glass and Ross’ expression turns sour.

”And I’ll be sure to let them know exactly who let me know that.”

Having said her piece, Blossom walks away. The man really should have known better. After all, to a pharmaceutical company, all humans are mutants. 


 

Agent Bronn ignored the sweat congealing between his shoulder blades.

Barely half an hour ago, they’d gotten the intel that Agent Coulson made contact with Spider-Woman. The heroine was hard to keep track of and even harder to get a read on.  Bronn didn’t trust how “good” she appeared to SHIELD and it was a mentality that was shared.  Her partner added to this.  Who let a shiny starter fight crime? Who let a Pokémon like that get in the line of fire? Who leaves their partner to wander the city without backup?

So a plan was made.  They might not be able to track the “hero” but her partner doesn't have her same abilities.  Similar, yes, and it’s agreed that these similarities make them an excellent fighting duo.  This means that Greninja can be caught for a short time, tagged, and followed. They used tech stolen from poachers to set up their trap.

The poachers were caught by Interpol and SHIELD confiscated their tech to see its potential use against people with dangerous Pokémon.  The tech itself is like Pokémon version of a taser cage. It is designed into four spiked balls, like a mace head.  They only work in proximity with each other.  They just need to lure the Greninja to their location, away from her chosen.

It’s taken months to get this far and now is the time.

The shiny Greninja, it’s coat glossy and flush, a sign of good health and diet, touches down a step away from the trap.  It rises up onto it’s two legs and looks around critically.  It’s gaze is cautious but sharp.  Bronn holds his breath, tense.  He silently commands it to take a step, just one.  They only need one.  Spider-Woman will only be distracted for so long.

Greninja takes a step.

The trap triggers.

From the ground, four metal balls spring up and the spikes spark to life.  Electricity snaps and connects to each other.  In the same instant that it creates a circle around the Pokémon, it also sends a large volt toward the Greninja. It happens in the blink of an eye.

The version the poachers used would have been too slow for this particular Pokémon. Preliminary reports suggest the partner Pokémon of Spider-Woman to be incredibly fast.  Fast enough to out maneuver electric attacks from Pokémon in the city. Fortunately, the element of surprise works in their favor. If they’d tipped their hand a second too soon, Bronn had no doubt the shiny would have slipped through their fingers.

He ignores how long it screams.  Which isn’t long, thankfully. They don't need the attention.

It falls to it's knees and struggles to get back up.  But the trap the holds and the voltage stays steady.  They don't want to kill it.  That would bring a lot of unwanted attention.

”We’ve got it.” He calls into his comm and moves forward to secure their target.

They’ve barely stopped a foot from the trap when it all goes wrong. A bright light envelopes the trap spheres and then they’re exploding. The concussive blast Bronn and his team away from the downed Pokémon. His ears are ringing and there’s a throbbing pain on the back of his head. He lifts himself up on one arm and tries to piece together what happened. 

He looks at where their target sat, the smoke settles just enough for him to see purple light envelope the Greninja, fold it into the smoke and disappear. Fuck.

His heart skips a beat, another, and then starts to race. Bronn struggles to get his feet under him but he grits his teeth and scrambles back up.  He pulls out his flashlight and scans the area.  The rest of his team is getting to their feet except one, who is frighteningly still.

”Negative contact.” Bronn reports, he still can’t hear anything. “Target rescued. Possible psychic partner.”

Whether That partner is human or not remains to be seen. But if it is a Pokémon? They're going to have to re-evaluate their approach. Psychic Pokémon are among the most dangerous but reclusive of Pokémon. In fact, the only publicly seen are the two belonging to Tony Stark before his capture brought it down to one. 

Speculation about psychic Pokémon taking on a chosen is controversial. On one hand they’re supposedly only bonded to people who are destined for greatness. On the other, they more than any other, they’re psychic Pokémon, capable of reading minds and causing hypnosis. Pokemon whose abilities make them the most dangerous of all.

And now, it was likely one belonged to this “hero”.

Fuck.