"...the police were at aunt May's that night," Peter said, voice cracking, before he stopped for a moment to close his eyes and take a deep breath. This was always the hardest part. "There'd been a break-in. My uncle Ben tried to stop him... but the guy was armed."
"Losing uncle Ben was my fault," he continued, his eyes closed and his back slumped as if an enormous weight crushed his shoulders. "If only I had convinced him to sign up for cryonics... he always used to say that with great power comes great responsibility, you know? Well, I had the power, and I didn't use it. I kept telling myself that there was no need to depress him with that kind of talk, that I could get to it later. But as I remind myself every day now, there are fifty million people each year for whom 'later' never comes."
But suddenly, Peter straightened. The folds in the gray suit he wore reverted once again to the straight lines the attire was meant to project, and when he opened his eyes, something like a spark of light radiated from behind his pupils.
"That's when I decided to sell the patent on my biodegradable 'web fluid' to an adhesive company and used the funding to create this!" he exclaimed, an extended arm sweeping over the walls around him, and the rest of the building beyond, "the Institute for the Spread of Cryonics." Peter was beaming now, his life's work on display as he talked.
"Our most important service is advertisement and awareness building. You'd be surprised how many people simply don't know about cryonics, even among target demographics like science fiction fans. Oh, sure, they've all seen stories about eccentric billionaires who spend their fortune turning into a human popsicle before being revived to have wacky adventures in the future, but there is a big difference between that and knowing that there are real companies out there who will professionally preserve and store you for the low monthly cost of a life insurance policy!" Peter said, his voice now ringing with excitement.
"We've also streamlined a lot of the paperwork. I know what you're thinking, 'what kind of Einstein gives up his chance at immortality because of a few forms and trips to the commissary', right? Well, actually, a lot of people do, and while it may be pretty silly objectively speaking, I don't think that kind of mistake quite warrants the death penalty. Thanks to us, signing up is not much more difficult than opening a bank account."
"Finally, another thing we do is publish conversational flowcharts for people who are already committed, but would like to convince their friends and family members to do so. We empirically tested several different models, and strategies for working within those models, before we arrived at the current versions up on our website. So far, the success rate is on the order of 2%, which is amazing when you think about it."
"All together, we estimate that the institute has brought in about three thousand new cryonicists, and that's just within the first five years. We've got some other stuff planned, but I think it's a little early to spoil the surprise" he finished, grinning at the man in front of him.
Eddie Brock, a stocky reporter who worked at The Daily Bugle, nodded in satisfaction as he scribbled down notes with the practiced ease he had developed during years of interviews. In the armrest, his tape recorder continued spinning as it created an audio copy of every word that was said; it was always good to have a backup. "That's amazing, Mr. Parker," Eddie said as he looked up. "But there's something I think our readers would like to know. What did happen to the man who shot your uncle?"
"Oh, him?" asked Peter, then shrugged. "Well, remember how I said that earlier that day I had let a thief go? Long story short, turns out he was the one who did it. The cops arrested him at the ACME warehouse and he's been spending his time behind bars ever since."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Parker. That must have been terrible to learn," said Brock solemnly. "But I'm surprised that this episode led you to dedicate your life to spreading cryonics; I think other people would have been more likely to start a crusade against criminals of some sort. Did you never feel a need for revenge?"
"Revenge?" asked Peter, a slight note of shock in his voice. Then he shook his head. "Nah, the problem was not with that specific thug, or even with crime in general. The problem was death, plain and simple, and what we're trying to explain to people is that it doesn't have to be a problem anymore. Besides," he added, with a slight chuckle, "what would a crusade on criminals have looked like? Me dressing up in my old wrestling costume and beating up gang bangers and bank robbers on back street alleys and rooftops?" he asked, struggling to contain his laughter. "Don't be ridiculous."