Disclaimer: I don't own $#!%&*! *Cap in the distance* "Language!"
Well here it is, the 2nd (book?) of my SpideyXAvengers series. If you haven't read The Humanity of Spider-Man yet, please do, or else you will be very confused. Hope you like :D
It was around 2 a.m.. A frigid wind blew that night. The sky was matted with dark clouds that threatened to release their spoils on the sparse pedestrians below.
In an alleyway a few blocks down from Avengers Tower, a man was leaning with his back against a building. His head was sunken low into his collar as the leather snapped in the icy breeze. He gripped tight to the cellphone in his hand and spoke in a raspy, hushed tone.
"Are we just calling it quits, then? A perfect plan, flawless in design and years in the making, suddenly brought to ruins by the person who initiated its creation. Pretty damn poetic, don't yah think?"
His breath fogged away from his lips as he spoke, and his eyes darted left and right apprehensively. Only when his boss responded did he allow himself to relax a little.
"Thought so. This organization really lives up to its name, huh? Even when we're all tucked tail and scattered like dogs on the street, a choice few of us still manage to scrounge ourselves back together." Then he gritted his teeth. "Wouldn't have to be like this if we'd just kept quiet long enough for my chimera project to be completed. We basically had all of S.H.I.E.L.D. at our mercy with that stupid 'perfect army, protect the world' BS I fabricated, and all those monsters they whipped up for us would've done the job perfectly. Infected fleabags would've kickstarted an epidemic, sweeping the world with terror in an epic scramble for a cure, only to discover that we alone had the antidote. The entire world would've had no choice but to bow to us. Loyalty or death would've been their only options."
A woman strolled by his hiding spot, causing him to stiffen and flinch closer against the wall. Her heels clicked against the sidewalk, and she passed the alleyway without noticing his shadowy form. When she had gone, he scratched at his scruffy neck and heaved a quiet sigh, hating this feeling of being so exposed.
"Then that Spider-Man showed up out of nowhere with that magic juice and killed everything we worked for. Everything I worked for. I was so close. I'm telling you, I had it. It was there, and that bastard cheated me out of it. I've never felt so screwed over before in my life."
It's so, so cold...
The man balled his fist against the wall. His brow was furrowed, and his fingers were numb. "I know, sir. I understand. It's over. We're too sparse and insolvent to recreate anything on that scale now. But…there is a way for us to begin clawing our way back to our former glory. A way for us to begin our ascension back to the top. We'll have to be decisive about it, though—and cautious. We'd best remain in the shadows until we've uprooted our most problematic adversary.
"It's not only that. This is different. This is personal now. I know we've been targeting the lot of them since this thing's been incepted, but I don't care about the rest of those candy-colored pricks anymore. Not after this.
"No. I don't just want him gone. I want to make him suffer for humiliating us like this. I want to make a statement. I want him dead, and I want it to represent everything that we're about. I want to send a message to this city, and from there, a message to the world. Do you hear me?"
I need warmth! I need...I need...
"I'm glad you feel the same, boss. And don't worry. When he's gone, the rest of them will follow. I'm sure of it."
The man lifted off the wall and began strolling deeper down the alleyway, his free hand shoved into his pocket. The clouds had broken slightly overhead, allowing the moon to peek through the darkness and light his path in a silvery glow. After a moment, he stopped, and his face broke into a cruel grin. "I'll sort the details out with you later. I'm still in contact with some the scientists who escaped Oscorp, so that should take care of the development issue. I suppose now all we need are the proper candidates…"
It was then that the man felt as though he was being watched. Fear burrowed under his skin like a tick with a sudden tenacity, and he glanced left and right with his hand clasped over his phone's speaker. When he found no one to be there, he released a shaky breath, thinking surely that his paranoia was getting the best of him.
A crash sounded. An avalanche of broken bottles shattered from behind. In a flash, the man whipped around, his heart throbbing in his chest.
Scaling a mountain of garbage bags overflowing from a dumpster was a scrawny stray dog. Its skinny legs shivered as it trekked towards the top, sending bundles of trash tumbling to the ground boisterously. Its nose dug feverishly through the rubbish in search of the slightest morsel to ease its obvious famine. A shallow sigh escaped the man's lips, and he ran his fingers along the brim of his hat nervously.
"Damn doggie just about gave me a heart attack. The nerve of you, sneaking up on a man like me. You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
Upon hearing the voice, the dog turned around to stare at the man clad in dark. It stumbled down from its perch and crept up to him skittishly, eyes dull and dreary and head low to the ground. The man crouched down and extended his hand, causing the animal to flinch before giving his fingers a few experimental sniffs.
"There you go, doggie. I'm not going to hurt you. What's a fellow like you doing out at this hour, anyway? You look like you could use a rest."
The dog lapped at his fingertips, and he gave him a firm scratch on his mangy head. His tail offered a small wag, and the man smiled solemnly.
"You're a lot like us, y'know. All alone, wandering aimlessly, separated from your pack and scavenging for whatever you can in order to stay alive. But listen hear. Don't you worry, my friend: it's beasts like us who survive. We always bounce back with a vengeance. We've done it before, we'll do it again. Don't you fret."
The emaciated creature snorted unsatisfactorily and turned back around, padding up to a ruptured trash bag and resuming his tedious hunt. The man chuckled and rose to his feet once again, smoothing out the front of his coat with his palm. He needed to get back to headquarters before daybreak. The NYPD as well as Fury's men were still after he and the rest of what remained of their people, seeing that only a few of them had managed to escape S.H.I.E.L.D.'s security cleanse after Project Chimera had fallen to pieces. All this sneaking around at night was utterly exhausting, but he knew it would be worth it in the end. After all, even after everything that S.H.I.E.L.D. had uncovered after their archive security had been breached, they still had yet to discover one very important detail...
A sound like fingernails screeching against a chalkboard suddenly met his ears, followed by a terrified yelp that was quickly cut off. The man glanced up in surprise, and his eyes grew wide in alarm.
The dog was gone. Its patchy fur and wiry body were no longer visible. In the place where the animal had once stood sat a pulsating glob of black sludge, which continued to release unearthly shrieks as it struggled to keep its prey contained. Stunned by the sight, the man watched the alien-like creature in horror, his mouth partially agape as it jerked around before him and screamed into the night. The organic oil squirmed sporadically a few moments longer until finally growing calm, and its terrible screeching eventually subsided into a quiet purr of contentment. A bead of fearful sweat slipped from the man's brow.
"What the hell?" he breathed, inching forward cautiously with his nose wrinkled in disgust. The creature was unlike anything he had even seen. It appeared to be some sort of living tar, which moved about fluidly and apparently had a monstrous appetite for flesh. With shivering fingers, he reached beneath his coat and drew a metal sphere, which hummed to life as he activated the switch with his thumb. He stooped down, laid the sphere against the ground, and rolled it towards the feasting mass. The moment the object touched the sludge, an electrified current pulsated from its shimmering form and ensnared the creature in an electric field. The sludge screamed in agony and twitched like a sea of black maggots in an effort to escape the trap, but its attempts were fruitless. The electric net grew smaller and smaller, luring the creature deeper inside the metal sphere, until finally the monster's entire oily form was crammed inside the ball. The electricity ceased, and with a sharp click, the cage sealed, leaving the alleyway quiet once more.
Tombstone? You still there? the phone garbled in his hand, jarring him from his frozen state. With caution he strode forward and scooped the orb into his hand. He held it in front of his face in wonder, feeling the creature stir against his fingers furiously through the cold metal of its prison. Almost instantly, his fear transformed into tangible and glorious curiosity at the gem he now clutched in his fingertips. What was this strange and ferocious organism? Could it tamed, controlled, or utilized as a weapon? Perhaps step one of his perfect plan to rid the world of that cursed masked vigilante was now sitting right here in the palm of his hand.
Slowly, he lifted the phone to his ear. "I'll meet up with you in a second, sir. I've got something you need to look at."
He nodded absentmindedly, slipping the sphere beneath his clothes once again. He wrapped his coat around himself briskly, giving a shiver as the icy air met his ghostly white skin. He hunched his shoulders, glanced from side to side apprehensively, then held the phone up to his lips. He cupped his hand around his mouth.
In a soft but affirmative whisper, the man spoke:
Then he hung up.
(Three months later)
Gwen Stacy glanced up in surprise right as a bright flash went off, leaving her temporarily stunned and causing her to wince.
"Hey!" she exclaimed, giving the perpetrator a shove as he laughed loudly. "What the hell are you trying to do, blind me and give me a heart attack?"
Peter Parker peeked from behind a wide lens and offered her a sheepish grin. "Haha, sorry. Just wanted to test this sucker out on some photo-worthy material. I can see it now, splayed across the front page of The Daily Bugle's next big sell-out: The Amazing Gwendolyn Stacy: Proprietress of the 'Hottest Girl Alive' Title for the Third Straight Year, Owner of Five Nobel Peace Prizes, and Girlfriend to the Most Handsome Arachnid on the Planet."
Gwen rolled her eyes and shook her head with her arms crossed against her chest. "Uh huh, you're cute. But the next time you decide to sneak up on me like that, you'll have a knee in your crotch and a face full of pepper spray. Growing up with a policeman for a father has its perks."
Peter chuckled nervously. "I'll make sure to remember that."
"Where did you come from, anyway?" she asked him, stepping closer with her eyebrows raised. The early summer breeze billowed gently through her bright blonde hair, and the warm sunlight beaming from overhead sparkled in her vibrant green irises.
"Camera shop. Finally saved up enough for a new one after my old one got busted during that little incident with Thor a while back. Lesson learned: do not try to teach an Asgardian what a selfie is nor allow him to use your camera in the process. But look, this one's even digital. What do yah think?"
He held up the screen for her to see. She looked somewhat startled in the picture, with her eyes wide and mouth slightly agape, and Gwen giggled quietly.
"The quality's great, but I look like crap." She pushed a hair out of her face and glanced over her shoulder. "Anyways, I gotta get to Oscorp. We just got assigned a new project that I'm really geeked up about, seeing that our company finally got the green light after all that mess from earlier, and my boss will kill me if I'm late. We're looking into some sort of bio-electric technology studies for clean energy production or whatever. You should come by if you get the chance."
She was so beautiful when she was being nerdy. "Sounds cool, but I've got my own job to worry about, and my own murderous boss to keep at bay," he reminded her with a grin, slinging his camera across his torso. "And besides, Tony and I have been looking into that clean energy stuff for months now, and his nuclear arc reactors are a lot more promising than whatever that mad science lab you're work for could concoct."
Gwen snorted amusedly. "Whatever, web-head. See you around, then?"
Peter pecked her on the forehead and grinned like a dork. "Absolutely."
She smiled back bashfully, gazing into his eyes for a moment longer, then let out a giggle and went back to strolling down the street, her steps brisk and purposeful. Peter watched her walk farther and farther away until even he with his advanced vision could no longer distinguish her among the crowds flowing down the walkway, then ran his fingers through his messy brown hair. He allowed himself to grin vacuously for a moment as he stood there, alone on the sidewalk. As dangerous as it was for him to admit it, it seemed that for once in his life things were actually going his way. With his aunt's now stable job as a nurse paired with his meager Bugle salary, their small family was enduring well. Since Uncle Ben had died, the two had been having trouble balancing their income and keeping track of bills, but it seemed that their financial situation was finally stabilizing more or less. To add to his rapture, it was now the summer before his senior year, and Peter had a lot more time on his hands. Although college-searching was becoming an ominously stressful thorn in his side, the majority of his free time was well-spent on being a science nerd alongside Bruce Banner and Tony Stark every now and then, helping his aunt test out a bunch of new baking recipes she was scrounging together to possibly make into a cookbook, and hanging out with the always-astounding Miss Gwen Stacy.
And then there was the whole Spider-Man thing.
Since Peter's near-death experience after stopping the chimera invasion on the city, the small crimes he was foiling nowadays seemed like a walk in the park. Burglars were a breeze, muggers were absolutely pathetic, and your everyday thugs were a yawn to defeat. As he'd grown more accustomed to the powers The Other had bestowed upon him, it now seemed that he arrived home each night with an increasing number of baddies bagged and a declining number of injuries to count. No longer was his body constantly embellished with purpling bruises, jagged scrapes, or bloody lacerations, and no longer did his enemies view him as a just a skinny kid in spandex, but rather a force to be reckoned with. Peter couldn't be more satisfied, and while his aunt was still uneasy about his late-night endeavors as a masked vigilante, she nonetheless expressed her support for him with hesitant enthusiasm. What, he wondered, could possibly bring him down from the exhilarating thrill ride that his life had become?
Then Peter turned around to face the opposite direction. The sinister building loomed in the distance, seemingly overshadowed by a dark cloud despite the clear blue sky that beamed from above, and he let out a sigh. There was, to his dismay, one obnoxiously alliterated name that always insisted on being the rain to his happy parade. He really hoped that this time wasn't going to be as bad as the last.
Peter visibly flinched the moment he stepped out of the elevator. His fingers curled rigidly at his sides, and he hunched his shoulders defensively. After taking a second to muscle up some courage, he hesitantly raised his gaze to meet the stony glare of his boss across the room. The man's eyes were like daggers, piercing through the wave of hurried newspaper employees darting back and forth between them with terrifying sharpness, and his lips were curled back into a disapproving snarl. Between his teeth sat a hefty cigar that smoldered and sprinkled his desk with ash. His fingers drummed aggressively against the dusty wood, and his nostrils flared in disgust.
"Where the devil have you been, boy?"
"Mr. Jameson, I—"
"I told you you had twenty-four hours to show up here with something besides the usual asswipe garbage you bring me on a regular basis. Twenty-four hours. It's five minutes past two. You're damn well overdue, boy. Unless you have pictures that will blow this town out of the water, you'd best just waltz right back out that door and never show your miserable face in here again while I'm still in a decent mood."
Peter suppressed a snort. Wow, only a passive-aggressive threat this time. Wonder if he's on some new medication. Then he shook his head dismissively and marched forward. "Yes sir. I mean, yes, I do sir." He produced a deck of photographs from his pocket and spread them across the desk for him to see. "Well, I have some from earlier this week that I forgot to show you. There are some pretty good ones in there, I think."
J. Jonah Jameson stared up at Peter, glanced down at the pictures, then stared back up at Peter again. "You're joking. Tell me you're joking. I told you get me pictures in twenty-four hours. Fresh, current, newsworthy pictures. I did not tell you to recycle some crap you had shoved under the desk from last week after having been dancing on thin ice with my patience for the past four months!"
Peter scratched the back of his head nervously. "Well sir, I, um, I sorta broke my camera last week, and the camera store didn't open until this morning, so there was really nothing I could've done in time to—"
"Nothing you could've done? Nothing you could've done? I'll tell you what you could've done, boy! You could've been combing every inch of this city looking for that useless web-crawler and snapping some pics of his red and blue ass for my front page news story before having the gall to come into my office without a single useable photograph to your name!"
Peter could feel the entire room staring at the back of his perspiring neck, half of them pitying the poor teenager and the other half snickering at his pathetic floundering. He swallowed laboriously.
"Please, Mr. Jameson, if you could just give me one more chance, I promise I will—"
"No!" the man interjected, practically chomping his cigar in half as he shot from his chair. "No more second chances! No more empty promises or pathetic excuses from your scum-sucking lips! You're fired! F-I-R-E-D! Now get out of face, out of my office, and out of sight for the rest of your damn life! Got it?!"
Peter stared helplessly at the fuming man who stood before him, watching the veins on his neck throb furiously. The room had gone painfully quiet besides the rhythmic tapping of fingertips against keyboards. Seeing clearly that there was no appealing to his less-than-miniscule better nature this time around, Peter sighed defeatedly, gathered his pictures into a messy jumble, shoved them into his pocket, and began the long trek of shame back to the elevator. Within moments, the office returned to its usual chaotic thunder, and Peter grew increasingly embarrassed with every dejected step. What a rotten turn of events this was. Now he'd have to go return his fancy new camera, and he seriously doubted the salesman would refund him in full. And he was now officially unemployed. How was he going to explain this one to Aunt May? Jameson was such an ass.
Once he reached the unwelcoming doors, he jammed his thumb against the button and waited miserably with his hands shoved in his pockets. Although it stung, he was vaguely glad to be rid of jolly ol' Jonah once and for all. At the very least, his elevated blood pressure from being beneath the man's deadly glare might be temporarily lowered.
That's when Peter felt his spidey sense suddenly buzz inside his skull, and a gasp from an employee by the window erupted simultaneously.
"Mr. J!" the man cried, gawking down at the street below. "There's something down there! It looks like—like a man! A man in some kind of super-suit, shooting beams from his hands!"
"What, you mean Iron Man?" Jameson snorted, crossing his legs casually and holding his cigar between his fingers. "Old news, bud."
"No! Not Iron Man! He's—he's dressed in all yellow. And he's attacking civilians!"
Peter's eyes grew wide. His sensitive ears picked up an eddy of people screaming, and a sound like a bomb going off rang out repeatedly. Jameson blinked in surprise, then slowly rose to his feet. After a long and tense moment, he carefully turned to stare at Peter, who was still standing rigidly across the room. He wrinkled his nose into a frustrated scowl, and threw his hands up in disbelief.
"Well, what are you waiting for, Parker?" he bellowed, crushing the butt of his cigar against his desk. "Redemption time! Go get me some dominants that will shatter our sale records, and maybe I'll reconsider your termination." He whipped to the left, jamming his pointer finger at a young man sitting in a chair with a pen and notepad in his hand whom Peter did not recognize, who stiffened beneath Jameson's fiery glare. "And you! Newbie! You wanted to interview for a job here, huh? Well, here's your audition: go down there and gather enough juice to write a front-page news report to pair with Parker's crap photos of this psycho in action, and the job is yours. Now both of you wailing infants get out of my sight, now!"
Peter Parker and the other flustered teen shared a mutual look of panic paired with jittery excitement. Then the elevator doors pinged jubilantly from behind, and Peter slipped through them as soon as they slid open. Jarred into action, the young man stood from his seat and offered the grumpy man a frantic nod. "Yes sir, thank you sir!" he exclaimed with haste, then sped across the room, dropping a few sheets of paper along the way. He was surprised to see that the other guy was holding the door open for him, and he scrambled into the elevator as quickly as he could. Peter moved his hand and pressed the "close door" switch, slammed his fist against the button that read "bottom floor," and the two began their slow descent back down to Earth.
It became noticeably quiet all of sudden, punctuated only by the blonde teen on his left as he fought to catch his breath. Peter realized that he wouldn't be able to change into his Spider-Man costume with this guy in the elevator with him, and hoped he could slip away somewhere once they were out on the street. He shifted about for a moment, examining his shoes and feeling a bit uncomfortable in the deafening silence, when to his surprise the young man spoke.
"Is he always that angry?" he asked cautiously, laying his notepad against his side and puffing out his cheeks. "I thought he was going to throw you out the window or something."
Peter chuckled exasperatedly. "Who, Jameson? Nah. What, he didn't strike you as the absolute embodiment of happiness and rainbows? You've got a lot of learning to do my friend."
The boy laughed softly. "Guess so. What'd yah do that made him so pissed at you, bro?"
"The dude's hellbent on convincing the world that Spider-Man's a menace to society," Peter grumbled, holding up his camera, "and I'm saddled with having to provide his lies with photographic evidence, which I wasn't able to bring him in time."
"Your job sounds a lot more difficult than mine," he noted as he twirled the pen between his fingers. "If you can't find a subject to snap pictures of, then you're outta luck, right? And I'd imagine that spider guy's not the most cooperative model out there." He grinned slyly. "At least as a reporter you can bend the truth a little and make any old run-of-the-muck affair sound newsworthy, with the right amount of fluff and exaggeration."
"Looks like I'm in the wrong business," he chuckled, then shrugged his shoulders, "although there's always photoshop."
The young man crossed his arms and leaned against the wall. "Well, I'd say the two of us are in the same sinking ship, bro. Why don't we have each other's backs in this, you and me? I really need this job, and I assume you're in deep just the same. I'll have yours and you'll have mine. We'll be like a team against the jolly dictator Jameson. What do yah say, bro?"
Peter stared at the young man beside him in vague surprise. The teen was tall for his age with broad shoulders and a strong build. He had sandy blonde hair smoothed back casually and a sharp jawline. He probably would've been intimidating if it weren't for his friendly blue eyes and welcoming grin. After coming to his senses, Peter smiled back at him with equal enthusiasm.
"Sounds awesome, bro," he replied with a chuckle, and held out his hand. "I'm Peter Parker, by the way."
The teen clasped his hand in his and gave it a firm shake. He clapped Peter on the shoulder a few times to follow, almost knocking him off balance, and spread a grin wide across his face.
"Nice to meet yah, bro. I'm Eddie. Eddie Brock."
Soooo what do yah think? Literally all the college searching crap Pete is going through in my story is EXACTLY what I'm going through right now (2 more weeks of junior year!), so it's very easy to write about. Man, it feels cool to be on here again. It feels like it's been forever. :,) *sniff* anyhoo yep there it is no promises to when I'll post the rest of it but when I do it'll probably be when I'm pretty much finished so I can do all the chappies quick repetition. For real though, any critisms or suggestions are sooo much appreciated :D Later gators