“Dinner!” Miss Edna’s voice sounded up the stairs and May looked up from the many pages of word problems and complex formulas. She and Logan had been tackling Mr. Rothenberg’s problem set in preparation for their unit three math test.
Logan tapped Hallie on the knee, bringing her back to reality. For the past twenty minutes or so, she’d been going through her usual chill-out playlist. She removed an ear bud and looked at them questioningly.
“Food’s ready,” Logan informed her. “Let’s go.”
May shoved all her notes haphazardly into her binder, set her pencil aside, and headed downstairs.
“Whoa,” she muttered upon passing a window. The sky was steel gray and threatening rain. It was only six o’clock, but it was dark enough to be midnight. The streetlamps hadn’t even come on yet and without their familiar orange glow, the street looked ominous and cold.
May felt a small hand slip into hers and looked down to see Elena following closely at her side.
“I’m scared,” she murmured.
“You don’t have to be scared, it’s only Zeus,” May said with a smile. “He’s angry because someone stole his master bolt.”
“Who took it?” Elena asked inquisitively.
“A very naughty little demigod,” May told her.
They hurried down the stairs into the kitchen to see Krissy and Kelly setting the table while Abby bounced up and down in her highchair, smacking her tray with her spoon.
“Someone’s impatient,” Hallie remarked, stuffing her earphones into her pocket.
“Eep!” Brenda squealed as a flash lit up the sky. She rushed to close the curtain by the back door.
Fiona squirmed in her seat. “I don’t like thunderstorms.”
“Why? ‘Cause they’re louder than you?” Kelly teased.
Suddenly there was a loud roar as the rain came down hard, beating loudly against the roof.
“Oh, that demigod better give Zeus back his bolt or he’s gonna blow us all up!” Elena cried.
“He’s not gonna to blow us up,” Logan said. “We didn’t take it!”
“What’s all this about?” Miss Edna demanded, bringing a glass dish of asparagus to the table. She looked up at them all and frowned. “Where’s Tricia?”
May scanned the room, only just noticing that they were one short.
“I don’t know,” Logan said.
“You haven’t seen her?” Miss Edna said, looking enquiringly at May and Logan.
Both of them shook their heads.
“Is she in the house?”
“I don’t even think she came home,” May said with a sinking feeling in her gut.
Miss Edna straightened up, her face grim. “Logan, call her cell, would you?” she said, heading back to the stove.
Logan dug her phone out of her pocket and scrolled through her contact list. She looked up at May with worried eyes.
“Um …” she muttered, biting her lip. “I don’t have her number.”
“What?” Miss Edna rounded on her, mouth open in shock.
“We live in the same house, it’s not like we need to text each other!” Logan protested.
“Oh, for heaven’s –” Miss Edna ran a hand through her wavy hair. “May?”
“I think …” May hurriedly pulled out her phone and typed in her password, pulling up her contact list. “Yeah. Yeah, I do.”
She hit the call button and put the phone to her ear. Everyone was silent as May listened to the low ringing in her ears. It rang five times before it went to voicemail.
May clicked her phone off, shaking her head. “She’s not answering.”
“That’s it,” Miss Edna said. “I’m calling the police.”
But before she could move, there was a deafening BOOM and the lights went out, plunging the room into near-total darkness. At once Brenda, Krissy, Fiona, and Elena started screaming. Abby, undoubtedly alarmed, began to cry.
“Okay, okay!” Miss Edna yelled over the noise. “Okay!”
The girls finally quieted down and Hallie picked up Abigail, trying to soothe her.
“Great,” Miss Edna grumbled. “The line’s dead and we’re still missing a child!” She sighed. “Does anyone have any idea where Tricia could be?”
“It’s Tricia,” Kelly muttered. “She’s not exactly the social type, so we’re basically screwed.”
“Language, Kelly,” Logan chided.
“It’s so dark,” Krissy moaned. “How are we supposed to eat like this?”
Miss Edna huffed. “Give me a second.”
They heard her rummaging around in the kitchen cupboards. She returned to the table with two old-fashioned candle holders and a matchbox. Miss Edna lit two candles and placed them at either end of the table, illuminating the wood and making the bowls glisten.
Miss Edna went back to the stove and brought the pot over, ladling soup into each of their bowls.
“Eat up in the meantime,” she said. “We’ll just have to wait for the storm to pass. May, try calling Tricia again.”
May pulled out her phone again and hit the on button, but nothing happened.
“What?” she said in confusion, spamming the button. “My phone’s dead. How –? I still had seventy percent left!”
Logan, Kelly, and Hallie all checked their phones.
“Mine too!” Kelly said.
“But that’s impossible,” Hallie insisted.
May looked at Logan with a dawning horror. “Aftershock,” she whispered.
“Okay,” Logan said, paling considerably. “Now I’m starting to get freaked out.”
“We’re all going to be fine,” Miss Edna assured them. “Now eat your dinner.”
Everyone ate in silence as the storm continued to rage outside. Lightning flickered for several seconds at a time, contrasting with the shadows, adding a creepy, haunted effect to the gloom. Though May’s spidey-sense was dormant, she was on edge.
She sipped her soup quietly, her eyes flicking from one girl to the next. They looked as unsettled as she felt, not to mention Abby wasn’t eating.
Suddenly, there was a noise on the fire escape outside and May’s head jerked up at once. Without further ado, she got up and ran up the stairs two at a time, the others stampeding behind her.
May reached the second floor and hurried up the second set of stairs, straining her ears for any further sounds. She burst into the dorm to find a soaking Tricia standing by the open window, her face framed by long curtains of sopping black hair.
“Tricia!” May cried.
Tricia looked up in alarm as the rest of the girls poured into the room.
“What happened to you?” May demanded.
“I missed the bus,” Tricia said bluntly, throwing her wet bag to the ground.
“You don’t take the bus,” Logan said slowly. “You walk. And you usually get here before me and May.”
“What, I have to come straight home after school?” Tricia snapped. “I went out, alright?”
“Well, a little warning would’ve been nice!” Miss Edna said angrily, pushing her way to the front of the crowd. “It’s late, it’s raining, you didn’t answer your phone –”
“It’s dead,” Tricia said, extracting her phone from the pocket of her wet jeans and holding it up for them to see. “And it’s probably garbage now.”
“That’s beside the point!” Miss Edna said. “You’re supposed to tell someone where you’re going before you decide to take off! We’ve all been worried sick! I was just about to call the police!”
“Okay, I’m sorry,” Tricia muttered, not meeting her eyes. “It won’t happen again.”
“It better not!” Miss Edna warned. “Now come, we need to get you out of these wet clothes.”
Not long afterward, the power was back on and May was clearing the table while Miss Edna loaded the dishwasher, Tricia was drinking soup with a towel wrapped around her shoulders, and Kelly and Logan were having a heated battle on Super Smash Bros. for Wii U in the living room.
Miss Edna was still in a fury, muttering darkly to herself while she put the cups away. May was able to make out phrases like “so irresponsible” and “had me worried out of my mind”.
“Where were you anyway?” Miss Edna shot suddenly at Tricia.
“I got bored, so I went to the library,” Tricia said indifferently.
May stiffened as another tingle went through her and she froze in the act of stacking empty soup bowls. She turned slowly to look at Tricia as she beheaded a piece of asparagus. Her expression was unreadable.
Why did May feel like she was missing something when the answer should’ve been clear?
Just then Kelly gave a triumphant cheer and Logan threw down her controller. “No!”
“In your face, sucker!” Kelly yelled, jumping to her feet. “Kelly wins again! Woo! Kelly wins again!”
“Oh, you hush up!” Logan said miserably as Kelly did her victory dance. “I’d totally kill you if I had Meta Knight.”
“Nah, Link is where it’s at, baby!”
“Logan,” May blurted, unable to take it. “Can you come here for a sec?”
“Gladly,” Logan said, getting up from the couch. “Next round you’re dead!” she told Kelly before following May behind the stairs. “What’s up?”
“Okay, so you know how my spidey-sense is supposed to forewarn danger and all that?” May began in a low voice.
“Yeah,” Logan said.
“Well, today it’s been going off for no reason, but I feel like it’s trying to tell me something,” May told her. “I don’t know why, but I’m getting these weird vibes from Tricia.”
“Tricia?” Logan repeated.
“Yeah, it happened with Allison earlier too, but it didn’t seem like a big deal. This time was … stronger.”
Logan frowned. “What do you think it means?”
“I dunno,” May muttered, biting her lip. “I just feel like I should be on my guard or something as if the danger isn’t direct like … Hulk’s about to go on a rampage and trample the whole street,” May invented, “but indirect like something’s going to happen, something seemingly small and insignificant, but it’ll just wreck everything.”
“Hmm,” Logan said, her brow furrowed. “I think you should run it past your dad.”
“Yeah,” May nodded. “And while I’m at it, I should ask him about this whole Aftershock thing.”
“Please do,” Logan said. “This is the second time he’s caused major blackouts across the state and I don’t think he’s done yet.”
The next morning the whole school was buzzing about last night’s storm. At almost every table May passed in the cafeteria someone was telling their side of the story: “All the traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge, every single car just stopped and broke down. My dad turned the key – nothing. He checked under the hood and the battery was totally fried.”
“I was working on my history paper when the blackout hit! I didn’t even get a chance to save! I was ticked!”
“There used to be this really old tree in my backyard. It was huge, at least thirty feet tall. But you gotta remember, this is a city and there are buildings that are way taller. So explain to me how the tree got struck by lightning! It just burst into flames! We had to call the fire department and everything!”
Aftershock has certainly been busy, May thought.
She found her usual spot and pulled up a chair next to Logan.
“Hey,” she said.
“Hey,” Logan replied. “So, how much are the cookies again? I’m going to get one when the line –”
“Hey, May!” said a voice, and May looked around to see Isaac run over.
“Hey,” she said brightly. “Um, you remember Logan?”
“How’s it going?” he nodded at Logan.
“Not bad.” Logan gave May a sly grin.
“There’s a team meeting in the gym,” Isaac told May. “We’re getting our schedule for the season.”
“Um, Isaac,” May said, rising to her feet. “I quit the team.”
And it was true. May had gone to Coach Bailey before the first practice and told him she had to back out.
Isaac gave her a blank stare. “What? But you made it, you can’t quit.”
“There’s just a lot going on right now,” May informed him. “I didn’t think I’d be so busy, I – I’m just not up for it.”
“I don’t believe that for a second,” Isaac shook his head. “If you weren’t up for it, you wouldn’t have tried out.”
“Well, plans change,” May said shortly.
He nodded, clenching his jaw. “I guess I’ll see you around then,” he mumbled.
And with that, he turned and walked away.
May blinked hard in frustration and sat down heavily. Logan patted her sympathetically on the back.
“That was the one guy who actually liked me,” May muttered.
“He’ll come around,” Logan said. “He’d be stupid not to. After all, you’re his mystery girl.”
“Mystery girl?” May repeated in amusement.
“Yeah! Let me paint the scene for you: the science geek with mad basketball skills suddenly bails on her teammates right after making the cut. What?” Logan says dramatically, feigning shock. “So naturally, the cute guy with leaf-green eyes pursues her, trying to figure out what went wrong. But when he asks her about it, she shuts him out!” Logan’s eyes widen. “And then he begins to wonder, ‘Could it be me?'”
“No, I never meant –” May said quickly, but Logan cuts her off.
“Wait, wait! I’m not done yet! This in turn peaks his interest and will guarantee that he makes a reappearance some time in the near future.” Logan rests her chin in the palm of her hand, her dark eyes sparkling.
May fidgeted, gently kicking the leg of her chair. “You think so?”
“I know so!”
May felt a small smile tug at her lips. “You make my life sound like a movie.”
“Don’t I?” Logan said with a grin. “Now, I’m starving, and since Kelly finished all the cookies, I’m going to go get one.”
“Did she, though?” May said as Logan got up. “Did she really?”
Logan doubled back as May pulled out a small plastic container and slapped it down on the table. “Voilà.”
Her mouth fell open. “You!”
“Hey, you snooze, you lose!”
Logan punched her on the arm.
“I’m kidding!” May said. “You know I always share with you.”
“‘Cause I’m special?” Logan said, throwing herself into her chair and giving May her best scrunch face.
“Love you too!” Logan said brightly, and she dug in.
“So what are we doing today?” May asked.
She was back on the factory rooftop for another lesson with Peter.
“I think it’s time we make you a master web-slinger,” he said, pulling off his mask.
May was stunned. “You’re serious?”
“Yeah, I think you’re ready.”
“But what about my secret?” she asked. “Won’t people notice a flying redhead swinging through town?”
“Ah, that is why –” Peter said, producing a cardboard box from behind a large L-shaped vent, “— I brought you this.”
May’s eyes flicked up to his face before she peeled back the tape sealing the box shut and opened the flap. Inside was a red and blue Spandex suit and sitting on top it was a second Spider-Man mask.
For a moment, May couldn’t breathe. Then, with trembling fingers, she reached inside and picked up the suit in her hands. At once she realized there was a slight change in the design: a giant black spider was splashed across the chest, two of its legs on each side creeping up over the shoulders. The red and black web design only reached as far as the torso, but halfway down the side of each leg it made a reappearance. The rest of the suit from the waist down was blue as well as the sleeves, which ended in silver cuffs that May recognized as custom web shooters. She picked up a glove and saw that three fingers on each hand – the thumb, index and pinkie – were also red.
“You may not know this,” Peter said softly, “but at one point there were two Spider-Men.”
May looked up at him in astonishment, silently urging him to continue.
“There was me, the first,” he said. “The second was my clone, who was later known as Ben Reilly.”
“You had a clone?” May spluttered.
A smile twitched at the corner of Peter’s mouth. “We weren’t always friends. In fact, we started out as enemies. He believed he was the real Peter Parker and I the imposter. The two of us were put into an arena to fight to the death, and by the end of it we were allies.
“When your mother got pregnant with you, I retired from heroics to be your father and Ben took my place. The Bugle saw the new costume and declared that there was a new Spider-Man in town, but we threw them off the scent to protect Ben’s true identity as my clone.”
“But you were still Spider-Man after I was born,” May said. “What happened to Ben?”
Peter’s eyes were sad as he looked at the costume. “He died in battle protecting me. Intercepted the Goblin’s glider, which damaged his spine. Landed on a taxicab. He told me I had to go on and reclaim the Spider-Man identity. So I did. This,” he said, picking up the mask in his hands, “is more than just a costume. It is the battle armor of a fallen hero and now it belongs to you.”
“Oh, no, I couldn’t.” May shook her head, feeling thoroughly overwhelmed. “I mean, this is sacred …”
“Take it,” Peter told her. “Honor his memory by revitalizing Spider-Man 2.0. Or in this case: Spider-Girl.”
Spider-Girl. The name rang in May’s ears. Was she really ready for this? Was she going to accept her birthright?
May looked at the suit in her hands and grit her teeth in determination.
“Okay,” she said. “I’ll do it.”