The Trickster extends greetings to her Loyal Minions from her secret lair! I decided to venture a short foray into the Spider-Man fanfic mainstream, at around the same time I decided to try writing a short story (as in only seven chapters. My ottofics can sometimes run twice that.) So, happy reading, and whether old or new, read and review! Questions, comments, complements, and constructive criticism are all welcome. Flames are not and will result in a sarcastic reply—or worse. Enjoy…

Quirk of Fate

The future is never fixed; there are some times when just a small quirk of fate can affect the world in a big way…

Disclaimer: All characters involved belong to Marvel; I only wish I made money off any of them.

Dramatis Personae: (major) Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson, J. Jonah Jameson, Dr. Otto Octavius; (minor) Norman Osborn, Eddie Brock, "Uncle" Benjamin Parker

Chapter 1: Chance Meeting With Destiny

"Our indiscretion sometime serves us well

When our deep plots do pall; and that should learn us

There's a divinity that shapes our ends,

Rough-hew them how we will."

--William Shakespeare, Hamlet

To him, this high school field trip was exciting. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and to look at such revolutionary genetic experiments as these—even someone like him, who fell firmly into the category of "nerd" in the school hierarchy—well, all he, Peter, could do was look around, with his jaw open.

To her, this field trip was utterly boring, and full of things she didn't exactly understand. However, she knew that he had nursed a crush on her for quite some time, and if she found something here sufficiently interesting to warrant an explanation, she could always ask him, because he knew about that sort of thing. Not within earshot of others, of course; a Popular girl like her, associating with a Nerd like him would be roughly the equivalent of an East Indian Brahmin, for example, associating with an Untouchable. It just wasn't done. In the autonomous world of the American High School, it was social suicide. Unfortunately, she found him sort of cute, and she really liked him. It was better though, for her, Mary Jane, to leave him hanging for a while.

His camera, a Christmas gift from his aunt and uncle, was hanging around his neck; his passion for photography almost equaled his passion for science. The tour guide leading the students through the lab was droning on about spiders, and he was quickly getting distracted by her. His best friend was standing next to him, posture slouched, as bored as the rest of them, wondering why he didn't take after his brilliant, wealthy scientist father. He thought of trying to talk to her, again, but every time he had tried to in the past, all that came out was mumble, mumble, mumble.

The tour guide was going on about the three major genii of spiders: "Arachnids from the three major groups each possess unique strengths that help them in their constant search for live prey…" He shuddered. He didn't like spiders very much. He focused his attentions on her; heart pounding, he gulped and prepared to try to talk to her for the umpteenth time.

At that moment, one of the Popular guys, the captain of the football team, quickly moved in and put his arm around her smooth shoulders, nuzzled her sinuous neck. He muttered under his breath.

The teacher yelled at the rest of the class, who was looking at and talking of anything but the spiders. Now that he saw that Popular jerk put the moves on her, he was the only one of the class who was remotely interested. As long as the spiders remained in the cage, he didn't mind. It was if they ever got out that he got nervous. He didn't like spiders.

"The genus Salticus can leap up to forty times its body length, thanks to a proportionate muscular strength vastly greater than that of a human being…" the tour guide droned.

He lifted the camera up to his face. "Okay to take a few pictures—for the school paper?" he asked. The tour guide nodded her assent.

But just at the crucial moment, some jerk (most likely Popular, no doubt) bumped into him, jostling the camera do that it produced a perfectly good photograph of someone's elbow. He cursed under his breath.

"The funnel web spider, genus Atrax," the tour guide continued placidly, "spins an intricate, funnel-shaped web whose strands have a proportionate tensile strength ten times that of an equivalent strand of steel."

He raised the camera again. He was jostled again, producing another useless photo. His best friend intervened, telling the jerk to knock it off. The Popular guy made a snide comment in retort.

"The crab spider, genus Misumena, has neural reflexes so fast it borders on precognition…"

He gawked at the giant images of spider DNA strands displayed on the computer screens, and immediately recognized that he was the only one who found them interesting.

The tour guide's pride showed in her voice as she announced that the scientists had, through the miracle of genetic engineering, succeeded in creating hybrid spiders that had the strengths of all three spider genii. To top that off, the mutant hybrids had been injected with something called the Oz formula, which enhanced their strength, endurance, and speed even more. When a particularly arachnophobic student inquired as to why they would wish to do such a thing, the tour guide shot her a look of withering condescension in reply, as if to say that if she didn't know why, the whole implications of the experiment was entirely lost on her and she wasn't worth an explanation.

She, Mary Jane, the most Popular and Beautiful of the class, was leaning into the glass cage where the spiders resided, and began to check her makeup in the reflection. He, Peter, the School Science Nerd, was anxiously leaning toward her, trying to get a picture. "Can I take your picture? I need one of a student…"

"Of course," she replied, pouting like a model. She loved the camera as much as it loved her. "Don't make me look ugly."

"That's impossible," he laughed. He raised the camera and snapped a picture. "And one more…"

But she jerked away from the frame.

One of the hybrid spiders had escaped from a miniscule crack in the seal, scuttling its way toward freedom. It spun a delicate web, down towards the large, bipedal primates below, and in one last, desperate gesture, lunged.

A girl's high screech, echoing of pain and terror, pierced the air.

"Mary Jane! What happened—?" Peter called. Other students, too, were making muttered expressions of concern.

"It bit me! The little bastard bit me!"