Chapter 15: In the Beginning...

As Spider-Man stood there taking in the appearance of what an older version of Liz and Harry's son would look like, he found himself just a bit lost on how he paradoxically looked both so much like his father and also so different. He has a similar facial structure, hair-style, and hair and eye color, but there was something else about his face. Perhaps it was just that he was younger, or perhaps it was because he had an earnestness to him that the last time Peter had seen Harry he lacked for obvious reasons. But whatever it was, there was a difference between the two of them, and truth be told it made Spider-Man more inclined to trust Normie than Harry.

"So the future not too good where you come from I take it?" Spider-Man asked. Green Goblin nodded in response. "Yes. The future I come from is a terrible place, one that owes it's current state in part to your premature death. Do you remember your fight with Carnage?"

Spider-Man nodded. "You're saying Carnage was supposed to have killed me there?"

"Yes. And had he, then my father would have been denied his revenge, at which point he would have gone forward with the rest of his plans."

"And what plans were those?"

"To achieve power beyond his father's wildest dreams." Green Goblin replied gravely. "To show that he was no one's inferior, but rather the greatest Osborn to ever draw breath. So it was that he set out to take the world by force. One of the ways in which he did this was a devil's pact with Trask Industries..."

Spider-Man felt his blood freeze at the mention of that name. "Aren't those...the guys who made the Sentinels?"

"Yes. Under the combined efforts of Oscorp and Trask Industries, the most powerful Sentinels ever seen were created. The greatest of them all was a machine known as The Tri-Sentinel, a nearly unstoppable six-armed behemoth. With these machines, my father could sweep aside any who would stand in his way. The world was his for the taking."

"But then something went wrong didn't it?" Spider-Man asked. "The Sentinels go all 'sky-net' on you?"

Green Goblin nodded. "It's nothing to joke about. They grew so powerful they became impossible for anyone to control. They began mass-producing themselves, spreading across the planet like a virus until soon there was almost nothing left. They didn't discriminate either. Mutants, humans, non-Mutant metahumans, animals, plant-life, everything. The Sentinels just kept going. The world governments tried using nukes to stop them, but that only wound up doing the Sentinel's work for them. My world is a dead one. Countless lives were lost, including..." Green Goblin lowered his head sadly. "...including my mother."

"And what about Harry?"

"My father was driven mad with how in a cruel joke he had attained ultimate power only for it to turn on him. He bonded with the Venom symbiote, which had miraculously survived where much else did not, and this drove him madder still. He then managed to reprogram some of the remaining Sentinels, including the Tri-Sentinel, and turned the remnants of New York into his own small kingdom. What few superheroes had survived the Sentinel Wars and then the Nuclear Winter where hunted down. I'm one of the only ones left. In fact, I may be the only one left."

"I can see why you wanted to change your future." Spider-Man said grimly.

"No, there's no erasing my future from existence unfortunately." Green Goblin said. "That's a temporal paradox for you. If I go back and change the past, the timeline that created me still needs to exist somewhere, otherwise how could I have ever come back to change history in the first place?" Green Goblin shook his head sadly. "What I do is not for my timeline. My timeline is a lost cause. What I do is for you. So you don't have to have the future that I was given."

"So what now?" Spider-Man asked. "I mean, Carnage failed to kill me, and so did Harry and Hobgoblin. That means what happened in your future won't happen right?"

The grave look on Green Goblin's face did not change as he gave his reply: "The timestream is a resistant thing. It does not like attempts to alter it in any way. It fights you. Hence why I had to alter history not just one time but several times. And I can tell you now that my future, or one just like it, could still befall you. This fight is not yet over."

"But Harry died! I saw him get shot and plummet off the edge of a bridge! They froze his assets! Oscorp is dead..."

"No, Oscorp will survive with or without my father. The exact events that led to my future may have been averted, but I'm not about to pack up and return home just yet. Not until I'm absolutely sure your future won't be mine."

"But how long will that take?" Spider-Man asked. "How long will you have to stay here making sure everything goes a certain way?"

"Not for too much longer." Green Goblin said. "We just need to make sure that no matter what Oscorp and Trask Industries never enter an alliance. So long as that turn of events is avoided, the Tri-Sentinel and it's kin will never see the light of day and my future will be averted. In the meantime I'll stay here, and keep doing what I can from behind the scenes to make sure everything goes as it should."

"Not that I want your future to come to pass but...is there any hope for it? Any chance it could be saved?"

Green Goblin shook his head. "No. It's too far gone. We had our chance and we squandered it. But you don't have to suffer the same fate."

For the longest time, Spider-Man was silent, before then Green Goblin broke the silence and continued: "Look, Spider-Man let me give you some advice: this whole time, despite my best efforts and my recruitment of Venom, I knew I could not be everywhere I needed to be at once. And in fact when I stopped and acknowledged this I feared my efforts would all be for nought. That at most I would only slightly alter the events that led to my future. But then you did something that ensured your own survival and your future's survival: you sought help. You made yourself a part of a team and recruited allies. And that I believe is what has allowed you to overcome my father and his collection of supervillain stooges. The fact that you sought out help of your own." Green Goblin walked up to Spider-Man and dared to place a hand on his shoulder. "It's a heavy burden you know. You shouldn't have to bear it alone. Abandon the loner. Embrace your friends. I know I wish my friends were still with me. But instead I saw them die, one by one. Don't let that be what happens to you."

Spider-Man nodded wordlessly as he took in what Normie was saying. But then he said: "You do know...that if this works...if we do change history, then you...you might not become who you are now. You might not become a heroic Green Goblin...what if you wind up following in your father's footsteps? In your grandfather's?"

Green Goblin sighed before saying: "If my becoming a villain saves your entire timeline, it's a cost I pay gladly. And besides..." he formed a slight smile as he said this: "If I do lose it, I can always count on the Amazing Spider-Man to stop me."

Spider-Man smiled underneath his mask at this. Green Goblin also smiled before re-donning his helmet and saying: "You should probably go now. If I ever need to see you again, I'll call on you..." he turned his head to look at Venom, who had been observing the conversation silently the whole time. "...or he will."

Venom growled but said nothing. Spider-Man nodded and then left the condemned building, as he did though turning to look at Venom and saying words he'd never thought he'd say: "Thanks for all your help Eddie."

Venom waved one of his hands dismissively. "Just get out Parker."

Spider-Man obeyed and was again swinging through the city, as he did thinking: Me and a Green Goblin fighting together. Spider-Man thought. The future must be bad if something like that's happening.

-X-

Peter returned to his apartment and took his costume off. His thoughts were now constantly altering between what he had learned from the future Green Goblin and his and Black Cat's kiss. It soon became clear though that Peter was thinking much more about the latter than the former, and as he found to his grim frustration, he was still no closer to feeling comfortable or at peace with any of it.

What was he to do? He found himself facing love again but also being uncertain with the prospect of loving again. He didn't want to be hurt that way again, especially considering how his relationship with Felicia hadn't worked out the last time...

Peter heard a knock on his door. It couldn't be his landlord, he knew that, so who could it be then? Hoping it was his aunt and fearing that it might be Felicia, he walked over, and opened the door.

The face that greeted him was beautiful, but not Felicia's. Hers was a demeanor of innocence, with long blonde hair and blue eyes that contained both compassion and confusion. Peter's own eyes widened in surprise, disbelief, and horror. He never, ever thought he would be seeing this woman again after that fateful night…

"Gwen?"

Author's Note: And with that cliffhanger Spider-Man Downfall comes to a close. I hoped that you all enjoyed this story as much as I enjoyed writing it. It really has been a fun ride throughout. And don't despair. All that has been left hanging will be revealed in future installments. But for now, Excelsior!