Black Cat watched in triumph as her enemies retreated with Mary Jane on the brink of death. She had waited for this day for a long time; now there was no one between her and her lover's heart. Together they could rule the world as King and Queen…no, as husband and wife!
"I did it," she said, excitement growing. "I killed Mary Jane Watson! The girl next door no more! Ha ha ha ha!"
"My Queen," said Ms. Marvel, approaching her from above. "The King approaches. I suggest collecting yourself right now!"
Felicia abandoned her accomplishment almost immediately. "Right, of course! Ms. Marvel, you shall be my personal task manager for your services. Your first assignment is to make sure no one says a word about Mary Jane Watson. Use any means necessary, understood?"
Ms. Marvel bows before Black Cat and turns to greet Spider-Man and his troupe with a gracious bow. Moon Knight, Iron Man, and a host of symbiotes accompany their king.
"Felicia, darling, what a pleasant surprise. Tell me, what are you doing all the way out here?" Spidey asks.
"Nothing of too much importance, really," she answers. "A little birdie told me Daredevil and a group of rogues were spotted out here causing mayhem. I thought I would handle the situation myself, as not to distract you from leading our conquest."
Spider-Man hesitated before speaking for only a moment. "If I knew you better, I would almost say you were lying to me," he pointed to her. Black Cat was quick to react and approached him, dropping all her defenses.
"Oh honey, how could you say such hurtful things?" Felicia whimpered, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Aren't lovers supposed to trust each other?" Felicia kisses Spidey tenderly, his symbiote retracting from his mouth on queue.
"I suppose you're right," said Peter. "I guess if we're going to be King and Queen, we have to learn to trust each other. So I trust you, my love."
"Mmm, that's good to hear," Felicia cooed. "So what's my Spidey-widey doing all the way out here? I'd think you would be busy taking over the world."
"My Queen," bowed Iron Man, "the rogue named Toxin has escaped. Mulligan was able to temporarily succumb to one of our spawn but remain in control long enough to retrieve his symbiote and run."
"This means that any being that was once or still is under the influence of a symbiote can't be controlled by a copy spawn of another symbiote," Peter explained.
"Well, isn't this good news? Doesn't this mean that only people who had symbiotes before the invasion aren't controllable? We can just kill them and the problem is solved," said Felicia.
"Actually, it's a bigger problem than before," said Spidey. "I've received a disturbing report from the remnants of the Ryker Island raid party. It seems our old friend Carnage has learned how to copy his symbiote as well and is building his own army. That means that we won't be able to control hosts of a Carnage spawn if we attempt to turn them."
"So, it's a race now," whispered Black Cat, clearly sharing Spidey's concern. "'Who can build the biggest army the fastest?'"
"Hopefully it won't have to be that way," Parker said. "I've noticed that there is a huge difference between the symbiote spawn and the original symbiote, a difference that may mean we could turn Carnagelings into our slaves. The Tinkerer may not have the know-how to accomplish what we need, but he hypothesizes, as do I, that if we can turn a list of scientists he has provided, we may be able to win the rat race."
"Great! I can already guess that the list includes Reed Richards?"
"Him, and a few other recognizable names. But there is one of immediate concern. Vulture has warned me that Carnage is making his way to the Vault, a prison for superhumans in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, at a faster pace than our own forces. Carnage seems focused on turning superhumans more than normal humans, as seen in his attack on Ryker's. Unfortunately, one of the most important scientists on our list is being held at the Vault. Hopefully Carnage hasn't had the same idea as us, but it's still imperative we turn this guy before Carnage can."
"And who is our damsel in distress?" asked Black Cat.
"Dr. Otto Octavious, a.k.a. Doctor Octopus."
Toxin and Anti-Venom took refuge in a pawn shop after running from the horde for five minutes. Eddie cleared a space on the counter for Pat to place the cold, pale body of Mary Jane. Her shirt was almost fully soaked and dripping with blood by the time they arrived, and her heartbeat was faint and quickly failing.
"Brock, she's dying! We need to find a doctor, fast! She's already lost most of her blood," yelled the panicked Toxin.
"I wish I could help her, but my new powers are limited to killing symbiotes and removing poisons from the body," said Eddie. "Earlier I had rounded up some survivors from the invasion and hid them in an abandoned subway tunnel. A couple of the citizens are doctors, but the hideout is too far away. We would never make it in time."
Pat retracted his cowl to inspect Mary Jane with his own eyes. He put his ear to her mouth and listened for her whisper of a breath. He thought as hard as he could. "I got it! A symbiote can heal its host, right?"
"Oh no," Anti-Venom said gravely. "I'm reformed. It's only because of the situation we're in that I'm allowing you to keep your symbiote, otherwise I would kill each and every symbiote on the planet. They're a cancer, not a blessing!"
"I know you despise the symbiotes, but allow another symbiote to live just this one time! For Mary Jane's sake!" Anti-Venom growled, but then sighed in defeat.
"Very well. For Mary Jane. Just let it be known that this is not for Parker, not after what he did to me, and especially not for what he has become," he said. "But I strongly advise not using a Venom spawn. Superhumans may be able to avoid the influence of the original symbiote for a while, but Mary Jane is not a superhuman."
"I know, I know," said Toxin. "But if Venom and Spider-Man can do it, why can't I?"
"I see your point, but don't get any funny ideas," warned Brock. "Just this one time."
"Don't worry, I myself like to keep the population of symbiotes countable on one hand, if any at all." Toxin placed his hands above Mary Jane's wound and concentrated for the life of him. The symbiote began to pump like blood veins around his hands, and Pat felt the strangest pain shared by the spawning symbiote. Toxin screeched in agony until at last part of the symbiote tore itself off and into Mary Jane's wound. Anti-Venom caught Pat as he fell back, dazed from the incredible pain.
Both men watched as the new Toxin spawn covered Mary Jane's body and got to work on repairing its new, dying host's injury. The symbiote color remained the same as its original, but rearranged the patterns into a new, unique one. Mary Jane's face remained free of the symbiote and began to regain its color. She suddenly awoke with a large gasp for air, coughing in a fit. Brock and Mulligan reached out to support her as she tried sitting up. After coughing into her hand, she opened her eyes, which immediately went wide with fear.
"Oh my god," she whispered in a coarse voice. "What…what happened…why is there…?"
"Miss Watson, please don't panic," said Toxin. "We had no other choice. You were dying, and there wasn't enough time to find a doctor, so desperate measures were taken…"
"You put a symbiote on me," Mary Jane yelled. Another fit of coughs interrupted her rant.
"Don't worry," Brock reassured her, "the symbiote has replaced all of the blood you lost, and you may be feeling like you're about to drown. It's just the symbiote doing its job of healing you, and if you wait a few moments you will feel better."
"I don't want the symbiote to heal me," Mary Jane said angrily and began to try to tear the symbiote from her body. "I want this parasite off me! The symbiotes destroy life, and I would rather die than be a host!"
"Mary Jane, please! Don't fight it," said Toxin.
"MJ, please don't," said Brock. Mary Jane stared at him, surprised by the way he talked to her. "I understand your hatred towards the symbiotes. It may be the one thing we have in common now, but understand that you are too important to let die."
Mary Jane's eyes filled with tears and she began to sob. "Why? Why am I so important? Why couldn't you just let me die? Why did you have to put this…thing on me?"
Eddie motioned to put a hand on her shoulder, but immediately remembered what his faux symbiote could do to a normal symbiote and returned it to his side. Pat helped Eddie by embracing her, his cowl still retracted.
"You're important because in the end, you may be the only one who can stop Parker," said Eddie. "I know that you can convince Parker to abandon his symbiote and stop the invasion."
"But I tried," she sobbed. "I tried warning him, he knew what would happen if he allowed that thing back into his life! But Black Cat…he still loves her, and she got him, and now…and now…."
"He loves you more than anyone in the universe," said Brock. Toxin could tell he was really straining to say all this. "And though I think he doesn't deserve to love, or even to live, that doesn't change the way he looks at you! I can see it in his eyes."
Mary Jane looked at Brock, thinking heavily about his words. Never had he been so comforting to her after their history, and what he said could be true. She loved Peter more than anyone in the universe, too. Maybe there is hope for him.
"Fine," she said. "But when this is all over…"
"I know. I'll kill it myself," said Brock.
"I never knew you were so concerned about Peter and me," Mary Jane chuckled.
"With Venom, our hate towards you and Parker were doubled. But don't be fooled, I still blame Parker for ruining my life, and now for ever bringing Venom into my life. I'm only setting aside our differences until this war is won."
Suddenly all three of them went silent in hesitation as the distant screeches of a symbiote horde echoed through the streets.
"I have a feeling this is going to be a long war," said Toxin. The same thought ran through Eddie and MJ's heads. They all looked at each other, nodded in agreement, and exited the pawn shop, bound for safety.