They say spider silk is about the same strength as steel. They’re right.
How do I know? It all started when I got home from school. I’d just put my books down when Nelson barged into my room wearing his GUTC coveralls and carrying a sword on his hip.
“Come on, Jack, you’re needed.”
“What? Don’t you have girlfriends for this?” My older brother is a member of the Girls’ Ultra-Technology Club, a bunch of teenaged adventurers. He’s an honorary girl. I’d thought now that he was in college the weirdness would have ended, or at least stopped involving me. I was wrong.
“Jan’s at the doctor and Lanie and Becky are tending to a Christy meltdown.”
“We’re rescuing Heather.”
“Psycho killer kung-fu Heather? We should be calling the Navy Seals!”
“No time. She’s been captured by the Spiders.”
He pulled out his multi-projector, kind of like a big TV remote, and activated it. A shimmering doorway opened in the air and he immediately dragged me through to Spider World.
If you haven’t been following along, Spider World is in the Foam. The Foam is what the Girls call the cloud of pocket universes that are continually spun off and reabsorbed by this one. Most of them last for seconds, some last for months and some, like Spider World, hang on for years.
Spider World is inhabited by spider-like humans. They have six arms and two legs, and also have the ability to produce and shoot sticky silk from a gland between their legs. It’s disgusting; being shot with it is kind of like being peed on.
Spider society is weird, too. You could call it a bully-ocracy. Stronger females lord it over weaker females and keep them under control with regular beatings and webbings. And the males? They don’t have much of a say because part of “getting the girl” involves “being eaten by the girl.” Even though about three-quarters of the babies are boys, men are very rare.
“Why are we here, Nel? I thought these guys couldn’t hop dimensions.”
“They can’t. Heather and I were here a couple of hours ago on an errand. We got discovered and Heather was webbed. She asked me to go get help.”
“She asked you?”
“Well, ordered me. The girls were busy, and Seal Team Eight is off defending democracy somewhere. So it’s you and me, bro.”
“Uh-huh. So what do we have to do to get this over with?”
“Simple. We rescue Heather and get her multi-projector back. Otherwise the Spiders do have dimension travel.”
Nelson pulled out his multi-projector and fiddled with it, then pointed to something that looked like a small farm covered in cobwebs.
“Heather’s in that complex over there. The barn. The projector’s in the house.”
I sighed, “You’re going to tell me we split up now, aren’t you?”
“I love how we think alike, Jack. I’m going into the house, which will be crawling with Spiders, and you go into the empty barn.”
“I doubt the barn is empty.”
“It will be. All we need is an appropriate distraction.”
“I hate you, Nelson. You know that, don’t you?”
He played with the projector some more and shot one of the pigs. It died instantly and the trough beside it caught fire. Pretty soon the place was heady with the aroma of smoke and bacon.
“Okay Jack, here’s a few vials of web dissolver; go get Heather.”
“Don’t I at least get a weapon?”
“You’re going to rescue someone from an uninhabited prison. You don’t need a weapon.”
A half-dozen Spiders came out of the barn in response to the fire and the promise of food. I snuck around back and found a smaller door in.
It wasn’t a barn, it was a laboratory. The place had been subdivided into multiple rooms, each set up for some strange project that only a Spider could think of. A couple of them were occupied. So much for nobody being home.
Heather was in the third room I checked, coccooned from neck to toes. Her mouth had been webbed shut too, and the whole thing stuck to the table. Obviously the Spiders had spent time with her.
Pretty soon two things became apparent. First, it was going to take all the web dissolver I had to get her free. Second, she’d been stripped naked.
I debated not uncovering her mouth, but she did it herself with a drop of web dissolver. The first words she said were, “Give me your tee shirt.”
As an aside here, Heather is a very attractive and physically fit blonde and draws appreciative stares from the guys. That’s because they don’t know her. She’s also very touchy, which is to say if you try to touch her she’ll break your fingers. If you’re lucky.
I did as I was told. She snatched the shirt out of my hands just as three Spiders came in. They were wearing the usual Spider ensemble, which was a vest and a skirt that was open exactly where a skirt should be closed. That left their silk spinner uncovered.
Heather leapt at one of them and delivered a knee right to its silk spinner. Then the guard was airborne, flying in a nice short arc and landing flat on her back.
I would have watched more but I had a Spider of my own to deal with. She came at me with all six arms and I could barely defend myself. The Spiders are still girls, which means I have the advantage in raw muscle power. But she’s got the advantage of numbers. Four arms impaired my two while one landed rabbit punches and the other slapped my face back and forth.
I heard the thump of Spider number three going down and my Spider looked over my shoulder. One arm grabbed my leg and five pushed me, slamming me face-first into Heather’s stomach. There was a hissing sound and I felt gooey stuff on my back and shoulders.
Heather tried to dodge but ended up slamming back into the wall with my face pushed into her belly button. It was apparent after a second or so that we were webbed to the wall. Did I mention the webbing is strong as steel?
The guard took a closer look at me. “Oooh, this one’s a male! I could really enjoy this. Are you available for mating, male?”
“Please don’t,” said Heather, “I hate watching other people do that stuff, and I especially hate watching other people eat.”
“Too bad, ape girl. I assume this male was your property; now he’s mine.”
The Spider leaned in. That was when she and I found out that Heather’s arms weren’t stuck to the wall. She grabbed the Spider by the head and twisted violently. It fell to the floor dead.
“That’s the last of them. Now use your web dissolver to get this stuff off, Jack.”
“I haven’t got any more. Nelson has it.”
She sighed. “I’m just glad your face is stuck in my navel, not lower down.”
“Uh-huh. So why are you naked?”
“Did you know that any piece of clothing can be used as a weapon? I strangled one of the guards with an ankle sock because she touched me inappropriately.”
“Point taken.” After all, she had a tee-shirt.
After a minute or so a question came to mind.
“Why did you and Nelson come here in the first place?”
“To retrieve your mother’s jewel box.”
It sort of made sense. Mom had died the first time we encountered the Spiders and they’d stolen her jewel box for some reason. It was just a memento, but I could see why Nelson wouldn’t like them having it.
“Why’d you come along?”
“Because it was your mother. I, uh, lost my mother six years ago and I know how he feels. Anyway, Nelson’s one of my friends. So are you.”
“Okay then, why have you tried to kill each of us at least once?”
I could tell as soon as I said it that it was the wrong thing to say. The wall that separated her from being close to anyone was back up. We waited in silence for several more minutes until Nelson showed up.
He raised an eyebrow, but got to work with the web dissolver and had us free post-haste. When we popped home we appeared at Becky’s place.
Becky stared at Heather and gulped. Lanie addressed me.
“You’ve been working out, Jack. Soon-Yi must be a very lucky girl.”
Jan came in while I was blushing, stooping slightly to get her uncannily tall frame through the doorway.
“Jan, I have something to…”
“Nelson, I have something to…”
They both laughed, then Jan gestured to my brother to go first.
“I have something to ask you. I’ve been meaning to for a while now, and I finally can.” He opened the jewel box and took out my mom’s engagement ring. “I’d like for you to marry me, Jan.”
Tears welled up in her eyes and her lower lip started to tremble. “Of course, Nelson. But we’re going to have to do it quickly, or else wait until after the baby’s born.”