- The Spider’s Seven #1 – The Trickster God
- The Spider’s Seven #2 – The Penitent Thief
- The Spider’s Seven #3 – The Enforcer and the Faceman
- The Spider’s Seven #4 – The Wheelman
- The Spider’s Seven #5 – The Plan
- The Spider’s Seven #6 – The Base
- The Spider’s Seven #7 – The Myth
- The Spider’s Seven #8 – The Genius (Part 1)
- The Spider’s Seven #9 – The Genius (Part 2)
- The Spider’s Seven #10 – The Genius (Part 3)
- The Spider’s Seven #11 – The Monster (Part 1)
- The Spider’s Seven #12 – The Monster (Part 2)
- The Spider’s Seven Annual #1 – The Team
Aidan Beck always felt he’d been born in the wrong century. His old life; working as an accountant for a small Austin area chain of stores, never appealed to him. Sure, he was good at numbers, but he hated having to work with them day in and day out just to earn enough money to survive. And he hated having to be pleasant with his employers, a couple of airheaded optimists that were always spending foolishly or putting extra work on him by using their stores to promote and collect for their pet charities.
Empty pleasantries always irked him. Why should he play that game with other people to get what he wanted? He longed to live in a time where a man could just take what he wanted at the end of a sword. His best fantasies involved open wilderness, a joint of mutton and a woman in chains at his feet.
As it turned out, he was actually born in the wrong millennium, for the power that came down in his blood was far more ancient.
He didn’t know or care how, he just knew that one evening, he’d gone to the hospital in pain and then transformed. His wants were different now, but they suited him; he took what he wanted, and instincts that came with his transformation told him that he was still changing, improving. And once he reached his peak, he could go where he pleased and no one would be able to stop him.
Not even the big, bad anti-superhuman marines had caused him much trouble. By now, he was sure he could take on a platoon single-handed. Superhuman. He was more than that; more than Aidan Beck. For a while, he considered giving himself a new name—but then who would lie to hear it?
So when voices, registered by his enhanced hearing, roused him from a light torpor atop a stack of soft mattresses stolen from around the city, he was sure he had an easy meal on the way.
“Normally, a place like this would have become a haven for the homeless.” A male voice explained. It had a rich Caribbean accent. “But from the looks of it, it’s been abandoned more than a month and no one has tried. They know that people who come here don’t come out.”
Aidan’s ears pricked. Interesting. The knew something dangerous was here, and yet they came anyway. Police, perhaps? Private investigators trying to find out where one of the missing persons reports generated by his appetite led? This could be fun. He stalked out in search of them.
The transformation had changed him. He’d been a short, stocky man, but now he topped six foot two and heavily muscled, bordering on the grotesque. His taunt skin was hairless and had gone to ashy gray; hairless, that is, except for tufts of coarse, brown hair that grew on his forearms, down to the backs of his hands and around the thumb onto the palms. His thick, flat fingers and toes were capped with thick, dark nails that were incredibly sharp without resembling claws.
Beneath the skin of his forehead, a bone ridge had grown, studded with knobs that almost pushed through. It was from there that a new sense was anchored: he could detect the electrical signals from the nervous systems of living things.
Armed with that sense and excellent low light vision, he hunted the intruders in nearly complete darkness.
A few minutes later, and one floor down, and he turned a corner to find something he didn’t expect: There was a wolf sitting in the middle of the hall. Maybe not a wolf, but close; it was gray with a white belly and reddish brown in its forelegs and on its head.
It sat calmly, looking up at him and panting with a doggy smile on its face.
Aidan flared his nostrils, taking in the hapless animal’s scent. Not as good as a human, but blood was blood as long as it was hot from the veins. He started forward.
“Strigoi.” The voice he heard earlier spoke. Aidan turned to see a man in ancient and worn traveler’s clothes and linen-wrapped hands and feet standing at the end of the hall he’d just come down. How had he gotten behind him?
Anansi held his staff across both shoulders, wrists resting on it. He took a step forward, the shells and coins in his braids tinkling. “You don’t know what you are. I’m telling you: a strigoi; a type of vampire known in what is now Italy created by a ritual that ends in suicide and resurrection as new creature—a predator that feeds on blood and marrow. Somehow, it seems you ended up with one in your family line. And now the same thing that allowed me to be as you see me allowed the monster your ancestor created to be born again through you.”
“Yeah?” Aidan’s voice was deep and rough from disuse, distorted by teeth. “And what are you? Some wannabe vampire hunter?”
In the low light, a knowing smile came to Anansi’s lips. “Oh, I am not hunting you, Aidan Beck. I’ve come to end your murders; put the hideousness in your heart to good use—but you will not die today.”
A growl reminded Aidan of the wolf. He turned to find it gone. Wary, he turned a glare on Anansi. “Who are you and how do you know that name?”
“I know, Mr. Beck. That is who I am, what I do. I am Anansi. And this is Coyote.”
Incredibly strong jaws suddenly locked on Aidan’s shoulder, straining even his unnaturally strong bones and muscles. He snarled in pain and reached back, grabbing the coyote by the neck with both hands. Pulling her away took a chunk out of his flesh, igniting even greater pain.
Swinging mightily, he lifted her over his head and bought her down was hard as he could on the hard floor, rejoicing in the snapping sounds. Except when he looked, he discovered, much to his confusion, that he’d just pummeled a bundle of sticks wrapped in faux fur.
His moment of shock left him open to take a blow to the jaw from Anansi’s staff. Even catching him off guard, however, the strike didn’t do much good. The strigoi grabbed the weapon and hauled on it, pulling Anansi into range for a super strength enhanced backhand that knocked him into the wall.
But Anansi didn’t seem fazed by the brutal hit and whipped his staff back toward his own body. Aidan found himself stumbling headfirst into a wall, his hand having somehow gotten tangled in the strip of linen wrapped around the end of Anansi’s staff.
His head swam, but he recovered in time to see Anansi fleeing up the hall. “Get back here!” He bellowed, giving chase.
Anansi turned left at the end of the hall and Aidan was hot on his heels. As he too turned the corner, he caught a quick glimpse of the coyote standing there just before he tripped and sprawled on the floor.
After a dazed second, he found the culprit: a skein of white linen had gotten wrapped around his legs. Anansi stood behind him, staff resting on one shoulder, a seemingly innocent length of that same linen waving in the air on the end of it.
With a grunt, Aidan snapped the fabric and leapt to his feet, lunging at Anansi once more. He didn’t see how the other man dodged, but his nails squealed against the wall behind him instead of sinking into warm flesh.
Something hit him in the head, a powerful blow, but nothing to his empowered physique. He rounded on his attacker and lashed out. To his surprise, he found himself pinning a Native American girl in her late teens or early twenties against the wall. She was holding a collapsible steel baton.
He leered down at her, eyes roaming over her body in the dark. “Too bad for both of us you’re not my type.” With that, he lunged, teeth seeking her throat. But once more, he was denied the pleasure of tearing into a body. This time, the sensation was replaced by sharp pain filling his mouth.
He stepped back coughing and gagging, finally spitting out a massive handful of cockle-burs. The girl was gone.
“Are you starting to see?” Anansi was at the other end of the hall now, standing in front of the closed elevator doors. “This thing hasn’t made you unstoppable or untouchable. It’s merely allowed you to embrace the worst in you.”
“Maybe I like the ‘worst’ in me.” the strigoi snarled, stalking forward.
“That is precisely the problem. And I think it is one of those things I am glad that I don’t understand.”
Aidan tensed, ready to pounce. “You’re really smug when you’re dodging around. You’re human though; you can’t do it forever. Eventually, I’ll run you down and then, I’m going to bleed you our real slow. And what was that you said about marrow? I didn’t know that part. Think I’ll try yours first.”
“You’re wrong.” said Anansi. “About a number of things. For one: you’re the only human here.”
The strigoi sprang, throwing himself forward with all his mass and strength behind it. Less than a yard from his target, his feet flew out from under him and he tumbled through the now-open elevator doors.
A fatal plunge was caught short teen feet down by a net of linen strips strung across the shaft, which he found himself promptly entangled in. And breaking these would mean falling to his death.
“That was uncreative.” Aidan, in his panic, looked up to find the girl he’d tried to bite standing on the ledge formed by the doors to the next floor. Anansi stood across from her, balancing impossibly on a bit of architecture that stuck out a scant few inches from the wall.
The Spider smiled and stepped out onto his web, headless of how precarious the move should have been. “Creativity is a wonderful thing. However, sometimes, themes and concepts bear repeating. Besides, this is no leopard.” he laughed at some unfathomable joke and crouched next to the struggling, cursing Aidan.
His eyes went cold, his expression stern, as he spoke. “You have used this form, these instincts as an excuse, but what you’ve done, you chose to do. You have murdered. You have raped. You have taken. And you have reveled in it. Few would balk if you were destroyed.”
A glance at Coyote, and he added, “My associate feels I should destroy you even now. Part of me agrees. There is no redemption for you, no excuse. You were a monster before this thing came to you; it only gave you a means to act on it. But you will not die today. Not today.”
Anansi leaned closer, not flinching when Aidan tried to snap at him. “Oh? You want my blood? Is that what you’re so desperate for? One more victim of your wants? Is it the satiation or the power you crave?”
Deep growls rose in Aidan’s throat. “You smug bastard. I’ll get out of this and then I’ll rip your throat out. It doesn’t matter which is more important, because I’ll have it.”
Without another thought or word, Anansi silenced him by forcing his wrist into the monster’s mouth. After a moment of shock, Aidan bit down hard, slurping on the flowing blood.
Coyote looked ill. “What are you doing?”
“Giving him a gift.” said the Spider. “Not what he wants, or needs—but what he deserves.”
Suddenly, the slurping stopped and Aidan started gagging. “Wha—urk—what was?”
“The current mythology of the vampire is of a creature that drink human blood.” Anansi stood up, his arm caked with blood, but unwounded. “And those they feed on, but do not kill will rise as their kin. In older legends, the vampire would have to feed his own blood to a mortal to turn them.”
Aidan roared, the sound turning into a choked scream. His body spasmed and compacted in on itself. Darkness clouded his vision and the scents and sounds became less clear.
“But I am no human, though they made me what I am. By taking my blood, I have afflicted this ‘vampire’ with humanity.”
“You son of a bitch!” Aidan screamed. “You can’t do this! How did you do this!? Put me back! Oh god, put me back!”
Anansi folded his arms and shook his head. “You’ll earn no pity from any gods that can hear you here, creature. You will walk as a man except when I allow otherwise. If a human being dies by your hand, you will remain human forever. If you does what is required of you, and you still desire a return to that dark form in the end, I will return it to you. Do you understand?”
“What if I say ‘no’?” Aidan rasped.
“Then You will remain human and will be handed over to the Austin police. I understand that DNA is not altered by the curse of the strigoi. And I remind you that this is the last state in the union with the death penalty.”
“I’ll kill you for this.” Aidan snarled.
Coyote set her eyes on him and he was suddenly afraid to the point of silence. The same instincts that drove him to seek out blood knew that those eyes had seen the life flee creatures far greater than him.
Tommy jumped as a strange, pale man was shoved into the back seat of the car. Moments later, Anansi got in beside him and Coyote came around and got into the front passenger seat.
“That didn’t take as long as I thought.” he said, feeling relieved to have them back. “Who’s this?”
“Tommy, this is Aidan.” Coyote said, “Aidan, Tommy.”
“Hey, how’re you do… why’s he tied up?”
“Mind your business.” the former strigoi snapped.
“Back to the airport if you don’t mind.” said Anansi, “We’ll all feel much better once Mr. Beck is under lock and key.”
“I know I will.” said Coyote. “Though I’d rather we not bring him with us.”
“Hold on,” Tommy looked Aidan over in the rearview mirror. “That’s the vampire?”
“Oh no, Tommy.” Coyote turned around in her seat and made eye contact with Aidan. “There’re no vampires here.”
To Be Continued in The Spider’s Seven Annual #1