Ant-Man & the Wasp

Defy the Porcupine

Center City was home to many things. Business, government work, and everything in between co-existed inside the city and out of it. At the lone military research center just outside the city proper, one person in particular was reflecting on the types of work available.

"Garbage!" Alex Gentry fumed. On a table before him was a disassembled suit, hundreds of tubes sticking out of it. "That's what they think, eh? I'll show them!"

Gentry was a research scientist. He had been shuffled around to various labs throughout most of his career; a career that at best could be described as lackluster. Due mostly to his seniority Gentry had a small work lab available to him, and it was there his latest idea came about. "Nature is full of perfect beings. Killers, divers, all that we need already exists in the animal kingdom." The suit had been based on a porcupine. Hundreds of quills lined the outside, each one capable of different tasks either offensive or defensive. "The suit would be totally self-contained, capable of working in almost any environment!"

Long months of labor had finally paid off. Gentry had finished the labor on his new battle suit only hours before, but now hard facts began to come down on him. "Why should I show this to anyone? Those fools would say it costs too much, or it needs more testing." Other thoughts came to him. "But then what if they like it? Successes are always a team effort, but failures belong to individuals, isn't that right?" He glowered at the suit. "If the brass like it, then what? I get a small pat on the back and shuffled off to another lab while pimply-faced undergraduates get to build on my genius."

Gentry slipped off his oil splattered lab coat. "Oh no, not again. This time, I'll get the money!" He wiped his hands on a days old newspaper. Glancing down at the headlines, an idea struck him. "And I know just where to go!"

The Center City First National Bank was, after several long weeks, finally being opened to the public. Boasting state of the art security, designed by the Van Dyne Corporation, the bank was being promoted as the first in a new wave of buildings. The crowd gathered outside seemed impressed.

"I can't believe this is finally happening." Janet Van Dyne nervously rubbed her hands together. Janet had taken the initiative, securing the bank's contract through her company. She had even led the design team.

"Well, you deserve all the credit." Maria Pym smiled and took her hand. "I never knew you had such skills as an architect."

"I know." Hank Pym glanced at the three story building. "Designing costumes is one thing, but you've really knocked this out of the park."

Janet beamed with pride as she saw the mayor gesture towards her. "Excuse me, duty calls." She made her way up the small stairs and was given a large pair of golden scissors.

Unseen and ignored by the crowd, a large figure in a bulky overcoat slipped around the crowd and moved towards the main door. Gentry listened intently under his suit as Janet began to explain the various security features.

"Ladies and gentlemen, what you are looking at now is a marvel of modern design; elegant, yet fully capable of withstanding the modern criminal." She had cut the ribbon and ushered the people inside. Gentry lingered near the door.

"Shatterproof glass that can withstand the most up to date firearms," She gestured towards the windows that looked out onto the street, "and, even if the glass is shattered, tempered steel plates will fall into place once the glass is broken." Gentry, still outside, listened via a small radio. As Janet began to describe the safe, Gentry marched into the bank and threw off his coat with a flourish.

"That is all that concerns me!" Gentry's voice boomed over the loudspeaker in his helmet.

"Who the devil are you?" Janet fumed with both hands on her hips.

"Men shall call me…the Porcupine!" Gentry pressed a button on his torso. Several quills sprang up, noxious gas spraying out. People gagged and collapsed as Gentry moved past them.

A security guard, his gun drawn, tried to radio the police on a hidden receiver in the wall. Gentry saw his actions and pressed another button. Acid shot out of another quill, scorching the receiver and melting the line. A quick slap to the man's head rendered the guard unconscious.

Easily making his way to the vault, Gentry used his acid quills to loosen the steel door. Freezing gas on the rest of the door made it brittle. One solid punch later and Gentry boldly walked into the vault. Seeing the recently transferred funds made him smile, although the effect was lost under the helmet. "I should have taken more bags." He chided himself as he emptied a few deposits boxes into a large sack.

Slinging it over his shoulder, he left the vault and made his way to a window. Using the acid again, he hopped through the hole before the steel shutters came down, trapping the people inside. Steadying himself, Gentry pressed another button. Smoke poured out from his heels as the rockets in his feet ignited. Before anyone could move, the Porcupine blasted off into the sky.

When everything was settled, Janet was furious. Maria was still laid up in bed thanks to the gas attack. The doctors wrote it off as an allergic reaction to the chemicals used in the gas. Hank was furious but baffled. "Who was that guy?"

"Who cares, he hurt Maria and he made my company look bad!" Janet kicked an ottoman in frustration. "If only there was some way to track him!"

Hank slapped himself. "Of course!" Hank jumped from the couch and rushed towards the basement. "Our antennas! Remember, we have the whole city wired. If the Porcupine was ever in sight of an ant, we'll know about it!"

Taking the basement stairs two at a time, Hank planted himself on a beat up stool and powered up the machine that now took up most of the side wall. Twisting various dials, Hank slipped a pair of earphones on and began to monitor the wavelengths. "Ok, the order has been sent out, but it may take a while."

"Why is that? Can't they just tell us?" Janet carefully made her way down the rickety steps.

Hank slipped the headphones off. "It's not like I'm asking our neighbors. The words have to be translated into something the ants can understand, and likewise so we can understand." He patted the machine. "If this Avengers thing pays off, I'm going to as Mr. Stark for more funding. This idea could be big!"

Twenty-four hours later, the ants had succeeded. The Porcupine had robbed another bank, with the ants tracking his every moment. Maria, despite still being ill from the gas tried to get out of bed when Hank told her. "This could our only chance to stop him!"

"No, you're still sick." Hank was firm. "That gas inflamed your lungs. If you get hit again…"Maria trudged back to bed, coughing.

Hank, already in his costume, opened a window. "The ants spotted him flying back towards the military base at the edge of town."

"So why don't we call them?"

"Not enough evidence, and besides, the Porcupine could be one of the higher ups. No, we need to catch him red handed with the loot. I'll have my radio on, so keep your ears peeled, ok?" Hank shrank down and hopped on the back of a flying ant.

Changing steeds at various points, Hank made his way towards the military base. "Ok, that suit of his was pretty high tech, so where could he work on or store it?" Seeing an outlaying building with the sign 'Experimental Research' made Hank shrug. "Well, that seemed easy enough."

Slipping into the vents, Hank carefully made his way into the heart of the building. "Ok, this guy may not be the brains of the outfit. What if he's spy and just stole it?"

Peering through the vent cover, Hank ducked when he saw the Porcupine emerge from the floor of one of the labs. The suited villain removed his helmet as he tossed a bulging sack onto a table. "Ah, cool air! I must remember to compensate for the overheating." He stripped off the armor and dumped the sack's contents out. "Another sixty grand easy!" He chuckled. "At this rate I'll be a millionaire by the end of the week!" He continued to laugh as he walked around the lab. "Good thing I installed that hidden tunnel under my lab. Those fool MP's never bother to check that far out into the woods, and this suit made it all possible!" He patted the large quills on the suit's chest plate.

"Well, that convinces me!" Hank slipped out of the air duct with a few ants. Using them as steeds, he crawled down the wall and onto the floor. The Porcupine continued to talk as he crept around the corner of the room.

"Yes sir, a few more jobs and I think I'll put in for retirement. Heck, I may just quit all together!" Gentry clapped his hands loudly before snatching a glue gun from a table. Spinning around, he fired a blast of super adhesive at Hank, pinning him to the wall. "You think I wouldn't be prepared?"

Gentry marched over to the struggling hero. Looming over him, Gentry smiled as he watched Hank fight the glue. "I wouldn't bother. I use that stuff that glues steel beams together." Gentry pulled a pair of tweezers from his pocket. "I admit I am largely in the dark about your abilities, but I'm willing to bet that this helmet is more than a decoration."

With one smooth yank he removed Ant-Man's helmet. Holding it up to the light, Gentry gave a low whistle of amazement. "Impressive! Your own design?"

Ignoring Hank's response, Gentry placed the helmet on a side table. "I might have to look at that more closely later, but for now let's take a look at you."

Hank was thankful the suit had an extra cowl to keep his face covered, "but that won't do me any good if he yanks that off too."

"That belt looks helpful too, better get rid of that as well." Gentry picked up a scalpel and sliced through the belt and harness, removing them easily. "Now, hopefully that takes care of any surprises you might have, so what can I do with you?"

"You mean to kill me, right?" Hank kept the fear out of his voice, but only barely. If Gentry picked up on it, he didn't let on.

"Of course, but how? A gun would draw too much attention." Gentry looked at the lab tools lying around him. "A blade would be efficient, but I'm hardly a sadist." Gentry's eyes fell upon an emergency shower over in the corner. "Oh course!"

Spraying Hank down with a chemical to loosen the glue, Gentry plucked him from the ropey mess and dropped him none too gently into the shower stall. The sides and floor were too slick to climb, and with his belt gone he lacked the methods to even attempt. "I'd been complaining about this thing for months. It has the rather bad habit of filling up then immediately flushing the water down the drain. If you aren't drowned in the tub, I figure the drain will finish you off." Spinning the dial and setting the stopper, Gentry gave a mock salute. "And in the off chance you're still alive when I get back; well, I do have some acid somewhere in here. Goodbye Ant-Man." Gentry slipped the suit back on and left through the floor.

"Huh, I know people died in the shower, but not like this I'd bet." Hank glanced around his prison. The walls, by his standard, were over ten feet tall with slick linoleum sides. The drain latch was near the spout, making over fifty feet away.

As the water sloshed over his ankles, Hank reached down to his waist. "The Porcupine may have taken my belt, but he didn't take everything!" In a sealed patched near his navel, he tore open a flap and pulled out a small transmitter. "Ant-Man to Colony, Ant-Man to Colony, over!"

Several miles away, Janet dropped her magazine and picked up the microphone. "Ant-Man?"

"Janet, where's Maria?"

"Still in bed, what's up?"

Hank quickly relayed the events of the past few minutes. Janet gulped and glanced towards the doorway. "I'm not sure I can make it there in time and Maria-" the door flew open.

"Is going!" Maria stood on unsteady legs in her costume. "Janet, just drive me to the base. Tell them you're thinking about bidding on something." She shakily walked out to the car as Janet signed off.

As it turned out, an attractive lady had very little trouble getting access to the base. Maria, despite a few bouts of intense nausea, managed to shrink down and hide in Janet's purse. As the socialite was escorted around the base by a fresh-faced private, Maria had no trouble slipping out of the bag.

Summoning several ants to carry her, the Wasp flew towards her husband. Using a tracker installed in his emergency transmitter, she easily found the lab and flew towards the correct lab. Seeing the shower, she half-jumped/half-fell from her steed, enlarging in the process. "Hank!"

The scalding hot water was bad. The fact that Hank was a lousy swimmer compounded the problem. The suit was protecting him to a certain extent, but as soon as it was over his face he knew it would be over. Seeing a giant figure looming over him, he closed his eyes. "I guess this is it. Funny, I never figured to go out like this."

A massive hand plunged into the water and surrounded him. As he was lifted out, Hank opened his eyes. "What?" Maria's face filled his vision like an angel. She then toppled over backwards.

Hank struggled to free himself from his wife's hand as he raced down her stomach. He kicked open a compartment on her belt, snagging some of the formula he concocted and doused himself with an open tablet.

Rolling off his wife, he returned to normal size instantly. "Maria!" He gently cradled her head as he checked her vitals. "Fever's real bad, but thankfully her helmet protected her head. He picked her up and looked around. "The Porcupine has to be stopped. If I inform the base, they'll just go on high alert and he'll slip away. I know he comes back here, so this is the best place to set a trap."

Maria opened her eyes. "Thinking of setting a trap?"

Hank, despite the blistered skin and soaking costume, smiled. "How did you know?"

Maria slowly got her feet. "Call it a hunch." She glanced around the lab. "There is plenty of stuff to use; where do you want to begin?"

Hank was surprised that no one entered the lab. "Either this Gentry fellow is a genius or a jerk." Hank glanced around at Gentry's letters and books as he and Maria rigged up several small improvised explosives around the lab.

"Ok, I'll get back in the shower and you hit the button when he comes closer." Hank shrank down inside the tub. They had drained it without issue, but Maria was still a bit weak.

No sooner had Hank laid down when the Porcupine entered the lab. "Still alive Ant-Man?" He lumbered over to the shower. "Hmm, I see you escaped. Careless on my part, but a blast from my flame quill should do the job." The Porcupine aimed his torso at the tiny prone figure.

"Wasp, hit it!" Hank shouted.

Maria's lightheadedness returned with a vengeance. "No, I have to save Hank!" She slumped against the wall. The trigger slipped from her fingers. Her torso felt like rubber. "Wait, I have an idea!" She pulled a capsule from her belt and broke it over the trigger. The devices shrank. "Good, now I can save him." She blearily thought as she rolled over. Pressing the button on the now small trigger with her weight sent a signal to the small line of tubes circling the room.

At once the tubes fired, pelting the Porcupine's suit with fast acting glue. The quills were sealed at once. Enraged, the Porcupine spun around, desperate to shield himself. A banging on the door stopped him as he prepared to use his acid quill. "Blast!"

The criminal scientist barreled through the window as Janet and several MP's burst through the door. "There he is!" Janet shouted as the police opened fire.

The Porcupine, ignoring the bullets and clogged quills, pressed a button hidden in his glove. His rockets engaged, sending him flying away from the assembled troops. "Damn it all, I left my money in the lab!"

As he sailed away from the base and his old life, Gentry still managed a smile. "Not a total failure though, the suit works. Once I've cleaned it up, I'll sell it to the highest bidder. Oh yes, the Porcupine will have the last laugh!"

Later, after the money had been found and the proper authorities called in, Hank and Maria were both sitting in their bedroom. Hank, bundled up with blankets, sneezed miserably as Maria put a washcloth on his head. "Poor Hank, I'm sorry you caught a cold from running around in that wet costume."

"Maria," Hank removed the thermometer from his mouth, "I'm going to tell you something."

"Yes darling?"

"I'm retiring." Maria gasped. Hank held up a hand. "I'll still work with the Avengers as Ant-Man of course, but as far as going around nearly getting killed in my own home? I've had quite enough. The city is safe, or as safe as it's been in a while. Let the legend of the Ant-Man be enough. What do you say?"

"What about the Wasp?"

"What about her? If you want to do this and I know you do, then do it. I've said this before darling, I'm a chemist. I belong in a lab, not getting out of death traps set by bank robbers."

"I know Hank, and I understand, but are you sure?"

"At this point yes!" Hank shivered. "Maria, I want to help you, and if you need me to don the costume again I will, but for now, I'm just going to be plain Hank Pym for a while, ok?"

Maria nodded and embraced her husband. "Should I tell Janet the news?"

"I suppose, but later. The kid seems to have her heart set on helping us. Why don't I take her into the lab, see how she slings the test tubes?" Hank leaned back under the blankets and turned off the lights.

The end

Mail to Astonish

Next issue: The birth of Giant Girl! The Living Eraser!

This tale was based "Ant-Man and the Wasp Defy the Porcupine!" which first appeared Tales to Astonish I#48 (October 1963), with credits to Stan Lee (plot), Earnest Hart (script), Don Heck (pencils and inks), and Sam Rosen (letters)

And thanks to Darci for the proof-reading.

From They Call me Bruce

Simply marvelous!

Thanks!

From Darci

Wow, you made a lot of changes from the original story for this one! The cast is different, the locale is different, the one who sabotages Trago's trumpet is different, and Korr doesn't make the supreme sacrifice. Did you debate including the TV broadcast?

Different is good, right? Yeah, for this tried to keep the overall flavor (jazz musician crook) while moving it into another direction. Also, I figured Trago would want to keep things simple.

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