WEB-SLUNG – THE SPIDER MEETS THE MAN
My name is Peter Parker, and I’ve been Spider-Man since I was fifteen years old…
Peter’s eyes flew open as he checked the alarm clock. Memory resurfaced. No longer was he the mysterious Spider-Man. Ever since he’d given himself up on national television, Peter Parker had shown up everywhere. His high school grades, all of his college reports, and even his taxes showed up online the next day.
Face it, Peter, things aren’t the same.
Who was that voice in his head, anyway? Oh well, it didn’t matter. Careful not to wake up MJ, Peter put on his “work clothes” and crept out the window of the luxury room in Stark Tower. He needed some air.
Peter! What have you done?
I did what was best for me, though Peter. What was best for the world—what the people wanted. I—wait a second. Who’s talking to me?
Sorry for the confusion, Peter. I was just playing games.
Peter knew what he had to do now. He swung off toward Madame Web, not knowing just what lay on the horizon for himself and his family.
Madame Web’s Fortune Shop
“So, you’ve set up a business now?” Peter asked, walking in and taking off his mask.
Madame Web gave Spider-Man an indecipherable glance. “It’s what all of the respectable people do with their talents—use them to help others. And I called you here, so I know what side you’re on. Do not give me any lines about registration. I can handle the burden perfectly well myself.”
“Fine,” said Peter. “Why were you in my head this morning? I was sleeping pretty well.”
“Oh, Spider-Man,” said Madame Web with a chuckle. “You woke yourself up with nightmares about your grand reveal a few days ago. I merely waited until you woke up.”
“You can see me when I’m sleeping?! Hey, I almost feel bad for you!” Peter said.
“I can sense,” said Madame Web. “I know what’s going to happen to you. You don’t. Perhaps it’s you who should take a moment and listen.”
“That’s the same thing the doctors said when they took me in for wetting the bed,” Peter muttered, but he was ready to listen.
Madame Web gave a cryptic smile. “Your life has taken some turns recently,” she said. “First an alternate version of your Uncle Ben gets himself stranded on this reality, and you have no idea where he is right now. Then you go off and register and unmask yourself to the world. You could have gotten those two students of yours killed when Doctor Octopus attacked you the next morning.
“However, I’m not here to scold you…I’m here to warn you. Something is brewing…something sinister.”
“I heard Octavius didn’t even get to the Raft before he was broken out,” said Peter. “Does he have something to do with it? (‘Course, they all always have something to do with it, but you know what I mean…)”
Madame Web held out her hands. “You’re right. They all have something to do with it. Today, three people will die. All you can do is try to make sure that no more die than that.” She gave him a moment for that to sink in. “You have a job to do, and you’d best get to it. Farewell, Spider-Man. We shall not meet again.”
Spider-Man took off out the door. A full twenty minutes of web-swinging around town for any sign of trouble went by before he realized what Madame Web had said. When he got to her shop, however, all he found was her charred, blackened corpse, and a card that said, “From Electro, much love.”
“I had to call up Mattie Franklin,” Peter said, a tear trying to peek out of his eye. “I had to tell her to go to her grandma’s shop to pick up the body. You know, if Tony had seen it, all he’d have said was, ‘I’m sorry—by the way, Mattie, don’t you have powers? Not registering them is against the law.’ It sickens me, MJ, it really does.”
“Easy, Tiger,” said Mary Jane. She rubbed his shoulders. “You barely knew the woman. She just popped up every once in a while to let you know something crappy was about to go down. You couldn’t stop it. From what you told me, she knew it was coming and accepted it.” She nuzzled her face against his. “Chin up, Tiger. You have two more lives to try to save.”
Peter perked up. His wife was right. “Thanks, MJ, for helping me focus on that. For all I know, she died so that there was a chance I could save the other two.”
“I’ll go get your suit,” Mary Jane said. She disappeared into their room and returned with the red-and-gold Iron Spider suit. “Here you go.”
“Thanks,” said Peter. “Oh, and MJ? I want you and Aunt May to stay here in the Tower today. Don’t go out for anything. Stick with Jarvis and Sentry. They didn’t go to Europe like all the others. You’re better off here, where there are people to protect you.”
Mary Jane gave Peter a peck on the cheek. “I wouldn’t dream of going out there the way things are right now, anyway.”
“I love you,” said Peter, before pulling the mask over his face and jumping out the window once again.
“…the hostile takeover at a dinner party, halted by what appeared to be a superhuman with speed or time-stopping powers. Iron Man refused comment on the superhuman involved, stating that the matter was an ‘internal affair.’ We turn to news correspondent Joan Etcher for more details: ‘The party for the Vorezheikan Prime Minister Druig took a radical turn for the worse two nights ago when gunmen appeared and kidnapped scientists who had been invited to the party. The party was hosted by Sersi of the party organization of the same name. The woman refused comment…’”
The radio in the Iron Spider suit continued to spout more and more information that always had some sort of tie to the Superhuman Registration Act. Why wouldn’t it go away? Peter always thought that the hassle about registration would disappear once he actually registered. Ha! So much for that.
The real joke was the things that Iron Man was trying to get Spider-Man to do. “Spider-Man, would you please come to this press conference? No, leave your costume at home.” “Spider-Man, use a lint-brush—you can’t go out like that!” “Spider-Man, make sure my coffee’s warm by the time I’m done kicking Mandarin’s butt!”
It got old fast.
But hey, what do you expect when you volunteer to unmask yourself and basically sign yourself up as Iron Man’s whipping boy?
“I will kill you, Spider-Man,” muttered a crazed man, his octopus tentacles working furiously on something new. Otto Octavius flipped up the protective lenses on his goggles and peered at the machine he had created greedily.
With it, he could finish his goal from the moment he met Spider-Man. With this machine, Spider-Man will die…and Octavius could not have been more proud.
Outside Central Park, New York City
“I will kill you, Peter Parker!” shouted the stupid recurring villain of the week. This time he happened to be the Vulture, flapping his way back around for another attack on Spider-Man.
“Take a number, Vulture,” said Spider-Man nonchalantly. “Where do you get off fighting me anyway? Is it my good looks? Or are you just suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder?”
“Laugh, Spider-Man!” shouted Vulture. “It will only make my victory that much sweeter!”
Peter jumped off a rooftop, firing his newfound organic webbing at the Vulture’s ankles, landing solidly. He braced himself for the whiplash as the Vulture changed directions. They had done this many a time over the years, and it never turned out the same way twice. Peter was jerked to the right, nearly feeling his arms pulled from their sockets.
The three mechanical arms that were on his back from the Iron Spider suit began to ascend the webbing, helping Peter do what his normal two arms couldn’t do while holding onto the end of the web. Another jerk to the left, and his arms slid two feet down the webbing, but he quickly made up the distance again. Jerk right again, and climb back up. It went like that for another twenty seconds before he reached Vulture’s ankles. Then, it was a new story.
His foot swung up and caught the Vulture in the left side of his rib cage. He doubled over from the blow, unable to take the hit very well being an old man in a flying suit. The mechanical arms pinned Vulture’s arms to his sides, forcing him to stop flying. They crashed down through the trees, unable to stay aloft with the Vulture out of flight.
Spider-Man managed to land on top, letting the Vulture take most of the impact from the landing. Inside the suit, he commanded it to send a message to S.H.I.E.L.D.—the Vulture was ready for pickup. As he finished webbing him up to a tree, Peter was confronted by a little girl with a football.
“Hello, Mr. Spider-Man, sir,” said the girl. “Did you really show those people who you are?”
“Yeah,” said Spider-Man. “I also showed them where I live, my social security number, and my mother’s maiden name, but hey, what d’you expect?”
“Okay,” the little girl said, walking away with the football. “Just wondering, ‘cuz that guy with metal arms wanted to know.”
Peter looked up as the trees around him began to shake. “Oh, ####,” he said, his spider-sense screaming out of control. “She was right…damn, I hate when that happens…”
May Parker was in an extremely worried state. When that happened, she cooked. A lot. In fact, the amount she was cooking could very well serve Iron Man’s entire team of Avengers upon their return.
“May, you must stop worrying,” said Edwin Jarvis, the Avengers’ butler. He placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. “You’ve nearly cooked enough to feed an army!”
May sighed. “I know, Edwin. I just worry. It’s the same thing I’ve done every day since I’ve known my nephew is Spider-Man. Would you like a slice of cherry cobbler?”
“Heat mine, would you?” asked a sinister voice, laced with the crackle of electricity. “And can you put ice cream on top?”
“Electro!” shouted May in horror, backing away from the stove. The crackling, electrified man walked forward.
Jarvis stepped in front of May. “You shall not hurt this woman, madman!”
“I plan on hurting every living, breathing person in this tower,” said Electro. “The only thing that matters is who dies first…”
“Peter Parker! Peter Parker!” shouted Doctor Octopus. “Do you know how many times I’ve escaped just to try to figure out how to exact revenge? Do you know how many times I could have made that revenge true? I nearly married your aunt, Peter Parker!”
A tentacle whipped down toward Peter, who deftly dodged it by propelling himself with two of his own into the air.
“You always were a nutcase, Doc, but now, you’re just plain old obsessed! Did you Google me last night, too?” he asked, shooting webbing toward Doctor Octopus. The webbing was whipped away by another of the tentacles. “’Cuz you know, you just don’t Google me the way my wife does…”
“Stop with your quips, Parker!” shouted Doc Ock. “I will kill you! I will render you limb from limb! I will pack you into a box and send it to your dear Aunt May! I don’t care as long as you’re dead!” With each word, the tentacles began to fly at Peter.
Peter’s spider-sense warned him as they came—getting out of the way was another matter completely. Only due to his enhanced mobility from his own tentacles was Peter largely able to escape harm.
As he dodged a second onslaught, Peter, launched himself directly at a tree trunk, flipped in the air, and used it as a springboard, propelling himself back toward Doc Ock with his fists outstretched.
Tentacles tangled with each other as Peter struggled to pummel Doctor Octopus with his fists. His spider-sense flared out of control, but Peter had no time to act as a tentacle flew up and bashed the side of his head. A second tentacle tore into his shoulder. As he struggled not to black out, Peter jumped backwards, escaping the reach of the writhing metal arms.
“Parker! This ends today!” shouted Doc Ock, as he stood up to continue the attack.
“No, really,” said Electro. “I did my research. Spider-Man’s in Central Park; Iron Man is in Europe, and I think he took Spider-Woman, too. Cage and Cap are in London, too. That doesn’t leave you many options, you fossils.”
Jarvis and Aunt May stood with their backs pressed against the stove. Still, for a woman her age, May was not one to bow to pressure. “You young people have no sense these days!” she broke loose. “I cannot remember the last time I have seen a young person give respect to their elders!”
Electro looked at May bemusedly. “Who’s gonna stop me?”
“I am,” said a new voice on the scene. The voice was strong and steady, backed with unseen power. That voice came from the Sentry.
“Oh, crap,” said Electro. “I thought they said all the damned heroes were in London!”
The Sentry gave Electro a small, hidden smile. “At least you didn’t faint this time.” Before Electro could move, however, the Sentry flew forward and brought his fist to Electro’s jaw.
After all, with all of his power, Electro was only human.
“Is he…?” asked May, somewhat worried, especially after hearing reports of the Sentry fighting back in the Raft.
“He is alive,” said the Sentry. “That’s more than I’ll be able to say for anyone else who plans to harm others who seek refuge here.”
May looked at the Sentry slightly warily. “Good man,” she finally said, before turning to the oven. “Now, who wants some pie?”
“Spider-Man,” mocked Doctor Octopus. “What possessed you, Mr. Parker, to choose a name for yourself like that? Spider-Man…oh, wait. I forgot—you started out at fifteen! You gave me my first trouncing when you were FIFTEEN!” he raged.
Spider-Man bounced around from tree to tree, dodging tentacle after tentacle. “Whoa, Doc! Calm down! You’d think we were mortal enemies the way you’re talking!”
“Laugh now, Spider-Man!” shouted Doc Ock. “I shall have my vengeance!”
Peter’s spider-sense went off again, but once again, he reacted too slowly. His over-confidence had built too high. One of Doc Ock’s tentacles caught him and flung him from outskirts of the park across the street into the side of a building. Peter shook his head to clear it, only to find four tentacles force him back into the ground.
“No more, Peter Parker! No more!” shouted Doctor Octopus, as a tentacle whipped across Peter’s face once, twice, three times. He felt his limbs strain as the tentacles pulled at them, trying to tear him apart. Blackness poked into the edges of his vision until that same field of vision was colored in red.
Peter was vaguely aware of the weight atop his body, but it took longer to realize that it was not his own blood that played into his eyes—longer yet to figure out just how close Doctor Octopus had been to finishing the fight once and for all.
“Get up, Parker,” said a voice all-too familiar to Peter.
“It hurts, Frank,” said Peter, looking into the face of Frank Castle, the Punisher. He forced a chuckle. “I doubt you ever registered those guns, let alone yourself, hmm?”
“You’re out of the loop, Parker,” said the Punisher. “Things have changed today.”
“What did you do to Ock?” asked Peter, still slightly out of it.
The Punisher looked back at the limp, dead body of Doctor Octopus. “I killed him. He would have killed you. You’re decent. He’s not. It wasn’t a tough decision.”
Peter didn’t know what to feel. As Spider-Man, for years upon years he had fought Doctor Octopus. He seemed to always be a constant. Even when he had been presumed dead, others just like him took his place until he came back. At the same time, a threat to the entire city was gone. Numerous occasions, Doc Ock had threatened all of New York, or even the world.
Could Peter even afford to feel saddened?
The Punisher grimaced. “Look, Parker. Let’s get you fixed up. Then, you gotta get caught up on some current events. Things just changed, and I’m thinking you picked the wrong side…”
Peter sipped a mug of coffee, sitting in a low-end café on the bad end of town. “Is this place safe?”
“You haven’t heard what they’re all talking about, still, have you?” asked the Punisher, jerking a thumb toward the television in the corner. “It’s all over the news.”
“Just say it, Frank,” said Peter, his eyes glued to his mug. “If it’s something Iron Man said, don’t bother. I’ll probably finish the quote halfway.”
“You’re far from it,” said the Punisher. “Things just changed. Iron Man took a huge squad of registered heroes to London because he figured Cap wanted to use the Scarlet Witch to change reality if he had to. She really set up a new life and erased her own memory, we’re thinking, but it doesn’t matter now.”
“Why not?” Peter asked glumly.
The Punisher grimaced again. “She’s dead. Guy by the name of Bridge aimed for Yellowjacket. Pym dodged, and she took the hit without him as a shield, or so I hear.”
“She’s…dead?” asked Peter. Again, the conflicting emotions. He was sad, because he had known Wanda, even if she had changed reality just to mess with their heads (or make the world a better place, but who sees eye-to-eye anyway?) He was also relieved, though, because it meant that with her death, Madame Web’s prophecy was over.
Once he was over his roller-coaster ride through emotion, Peter looked up from the mug into Frank’s eyes.
“Now what?” asked Peter. “You said it yourself. Things are about to change.”
“What happens next is your choice. You can either come with me and we’ll call Captain America’s house-sitters up and ask where the sign-up sheet is, or you can chase me around town until I sign Tony Stark’s piece of crap. What’s is gonna be, Peter?” asked the Punisher.
“I’m going back to Stark Tower,” said Peter, making his decision once and for all.
“Fine,” said Frank, though he had been certain it would work. “Can I get a head start?”
Peter looked Frank in the eyes. “I’m going to Stark Tower to get my family and some different threads. No point in wearing Tony’s suit when I join the Secret Avengersa