Author's Note: At long last, it's here: The Aftermath – Overhauled. I know I owe you all an explanation for the long delay, so long story short. When I first started writing the story, it was at 2 a.m. after a long day. I finished the first chapter knowing it was bad, but I was too sleep-deprived to care and I just posted it without any proofreading. The second and third chapters were produced in a similar manner, both products of my half-asleep brain. Last year, I finally couldn't stand my own shitty writing and decided to give the whole story an overhaul.
I'm not saying the overhauled version's writing is that good, but at least it's better than the original. I've rewritten most of Chapters 1 – 3, but the "rewriting" is in the spirit of "extensive beta'ing".
Simply put, here's what has changed: Wording, Dialogues, Descriptions, etc.
And here's what hasn't changed: Plot, Characters, Events, Developments, etc.
In other words, if you've read the older version: you don't have to read the new Chapters 1 – 3 since the plot is exactly the same as before; but if you're interested in more humor and (relatively) better writing, then I recommend reading the new version of the first three chapters as well.
Sorry for the long wait, dear readers! With Chapters 1 - 3 cleaned up, the fic can finally move forward!
Thank you all for your patience and support! I love you guys!
Spider-Man: The Aftermath
Author – A Horse Called Hwin
Genres – Romance, Comedy, Action/Adventure
Pairing – Peter Parker/Harry Osborn
Rating – PG-13
Summary – "You really thought you can just be a jerk with no consequences?" The aftermath of the events in Spider-Man 3. Peter realizes that he needs more luck than he thought; meanwhile, Harry struggles to save Oscorp from a Peter-induced disaster.
Warning – This is a slash (Peter/Harry) fiction.
Spoilers – Probably all three Spider-Man films.
Disclaimer – I hereby declare that I am only torturing the characters with my twisted mind and there is no profit made. All original characters and companies are fictional, and any association with actual persons or companies is coincidental.
Reviews – They are treasures that I will always cherish! Please?
Author's Note – This story is based on the setting that Aayla Security and I create.
To the Piggy Jedi, ever a cheering company.
And to all my readers, past and present.
In Which We Take a Look at What Harry & Co. Have Been Doing
"The Board of Directors hereby grants you a second chance as the Chief Executive Officer of the Company."
Harry released a quiet sigh of relief at the verdict as the Chair, John Morgan, announced the Board's decision.
So Peter, his best friend, his brother, was Spider-Man, the monster who killed his father.
You're the only family I have.
He was an idiot to think Peter Parker was anything more than what he really was: a shameless, coldblooded murderer. Parker took his father's love from him, so he took M.J. from Parker, which was regrettably immature and vindictive, he must admit. Then M.J. realized her heart's desire and left him for Parker. He didn't mind, not after the initial shock, and they even had a friendly breakup. But the bug then decided to take his father from him permanently, right after he found out his father still loved him.
His so-called friendship with Parker was one screwed-up mess.
And that was only part of the problem he faced right now. He'd funded the wrong scientist, the wrong project, and now Oscorp was in a shambles and its stock price was just heartbreaking to look at. How could he be so stupid and believe Oscorp would achieve fame and fortune so easily when his whole life had been anything but easy?
Well, back to the drawing board. No point whining when there was his dad's legacy to save.
He'd take care of the revenge business later.
"Do keep in mind, however," the Vice Chair, John Andreoni, added, "that your failure with Otto Octavius was unprecedented, unforgivable. The opportunity given to you now is not to be taken lightly."
"I understand," said Harry earnestly.
"Very well, then." Morgan nodded and turned to the entire Board, "The Chair declares the meeting adjourned."
Harry didn't dare leave the boardroom until all the Board members had left, if only to show his respect (and fear) for them. After the last member of the Board walked out of the room, Harry started to turn off all the lights as it was almost midnight.
"That was a close call, eh, Boss?" a worldly voice spoke from the door.
Harry turned to greet his middle-aged executive assistant. Joe Kramer was a man in his fifties who was tall, stocky and slightly overweight. But contrary to first impressions, he was surprisingly healthy and could be fast in movement if he so desired. Having been the executive assistant of Harry's father as well, he knew everything there was to know about Oscorp.
"Actually, Joe," Harry walked towards the boardroom door to switch off the last of the lights, "isn't it just like them to be bloodcurdling but fair?"
"Looks like you'll live another day."
Dr. Goldberg then informed Harry of the car accident and cheerfully told him someone had been waiting outside.
Probably Peter. He did that all the time.
When the doctor asked Harry if he wanted to talk to his waiting friend, he gladly said yes. Goldberg smiled, "I'll let him in after you get a few minutes of rest."
Harry watched the good doctor go and relaxed into the hospital pillows under his head, ready to fall asleep.
He was almost in Sleep Land when Goldberg returned, sooner than expected, and offered him the handset of a cordless phone.
"Someone insists on talking to you," the doctor explained apologetically, clearly disgruntled that the caller had forced him to disturb his patient's rest.
Surprised, Harry took the phone and the doctor promptly exited the room again.
"So you had an accident, Harry?" The voice belonged to an old man who he could tell was very unsatisfied right now.
"Uh…yeah? May I ask who's –"
"And you don't remember anything between your father's death and your accident?"
"No, I guess – wait, what?"
"Do I need to repeat myself?"
Harry took a deep breath and tried to calm himself; this was ridiculous. "What I meant was, what do you mean by my father's death?"
"Harry," the old voice said condescendingly, "your father's been dead for quite some time now."
The old man then muttered something about "youthful irresponsibility", but Harry only vaguely heard what he was saying.
This guy is wrong. Dad's fine. He's just –
But Harry knew it was true. Maybe it was because of the blunt, matter-of-fact way the old man on the phone said it, or maybe because, somewhere in his mind, he knew it all along.
Closing his eyes weakly, Harry took a shuddering breath, pain and grief gripping his heart. His father, his dad, was gone. Had been gone. For a long time.
Getting no response from the victim of amnesia, the old man waited patiently for a while before he said: "I'll send Joe Kramer over after you're released from the hospital, and he'll tell you what you need to know – help you refresh your memory a little, so to speak. If you're suspicious about the information we provide, you can ask your butler for verification."
"Thank you, sir." said Harry as he reopened his eyes, barely collected himself. Joe Kramer? Wasn't he his dad's executive assistant? "I really appreciate it," he managed to force some cheerfulness he didn't feel into his voice.
But the person on the other end was obviously not amused as Harry heard an impatient sigh, one that often expresses frustration over someone's stupidity. Then the voice said, more than a little annoyed, "We will speak again after you get home."
"Okay, bye –"
The old man had already hung up.
Harry stared at the phone in confusion at the caller's bad mood before a nurse came in and he returned the handset to her.
After the nurse left, he wondered what his life had been like. The doctor said he got some kind of memory loss, which was true enough; the last thing he remembered was his dad promising to make everything right between them again.
I'm proud of you.
Sighing and feeling tired, he leaned back against the pillows and closed his eyes again, thankful that no one would see the tears that finally came.
Dr. Goldberg came back after a few minutes and asked gently, "Ready to see your friend now?"
"So you're saying I'm the current CEO of Oscorp, Mr. Kramer?"
Harry studied the long and painfully detailed list of events that he should know about his professional life as he sat down on a bench wearily.
Immediately after he was released from the hospital, he asked Peter, who'd volunteered to accompany him home, to let him visit his father's grave first. "It's been the only thing on my mind these days," he'd explained quietly, the sorrow at his father's death now a constant ache in his chest. Peter nodded, understanding as always, and took him to where his father was buried.
Harry had accepted the sad truth, but he still couldn't control the tears in his eyes as he stood before his dad's grave.
However, his mourning was cut short by the abrupt appearance of Joe Kramer at the cemetery, sent by Oscorp's Board of Directors, to inform him of his "professional obligations and duties".
"Do you, by any chance, know anything about my personal life?" Harry asked as he put down the list, feeling the beginning of a headache.
"Well, I am an informed man with many connections," Mr. Kramer said in a manner that only smug middle-aged people extremely pleased with their professional prowess could, "but I think you should ask someone actually from your personal life." He then eyed Peter briefly, who was standing a few feet away so they could have some privacy.
The problem with asking Peter was he seemed uneasy and anxious whenever Harry brought up questions about the senior Osborn.
"And by the way, the Board's decided to give you three weeks to recover your memory."
"But if I didn't after three weeks?"
"The Board would look for someone else fitting for the job."
Perhaps it had something to do with his attachment to Oscorp, Harry felt a surge of sadness at the idea of the company being taken away from him. "Okay…"
The words "the Board" sent a chill down his spine every time he heard them. Which was kind of stupid, considering the fact that those Board members were just a bunch of business guys. How scary could they be?
Very scary, apparently.
Turned out the short-tempered, unsatisfied old man who called him in the hospital was one Bob Schneider, member of the Board. And, as he promised, he called yet again after Harry got home and told him the Board had decided that, since their CEO had "displayed an unfortunate tendency to be involved in untimely accidents", Harry was not to cross any street or ride in any vehicle until further notice. In other words, he was grounded on this side of the road.
Unusual as the instruction was, Harry saw no reason to object since the good people of the Board were only worried about his wellbeing, right? He couldn't blame people for caring.
Besides, they probably didn't need the press picking up on their CEO's head injury. The last thing they needed right now was reporters swarming the Oscorp Building.
But as time went by, Harry started to grow increasingly bored and restless. Anywhere he went outside his home, Tim, his dad's trusty chauffeur, always followed him closely and looked like he was prepared to sacrifice himself should any accident come his employer's way.
Harry had tried to make him stop following him around like a paranoid bodyguard, but Tim insisted it was the Board's direct order. Harry tried to reason he wasn't crossing any street anyway, but Tim reminded him this was New York and dangerous things roamed the sidewalk all the time. Harry then said if something did happen to him, he wouldn't want Tim to "sacrifice" himself, but then Tim said it'd be an honor to die for Norman Osborn's only child. When Tim put it that way, how could Harry have anything to say? He understood the chauffeur's undying devotion; his dad was extraordinary. So Harry gave up on going out and decided to stay home, just to make sure a perfectly decent man like Tim wouldn't get himself killed.
Peter, as usual, never returned his calls because he was busy. M.J. only got in touch when she needed something. And Aunt May was, well, Aunt May – her priority list was rather obvious:
Peter and Uncle Ben
Little boy next door
Little girl living next to the little boy next door
Harry wondered what he'd done to deserve this from the people that were supposed to be his friends. He had a hunch that he was on the bottom of everyone's priority list. Looking back, he noticed rather bitterly that, whatever he did, in their eyes he was always the one to be blamed for any unpleasantness happened in his presence.
It seemed that he'd gotten pretty good at lying to himself that he meant as much to Peter Parker as Peter Parker meant to him.
The only people Harry got to talk to these days were Bernard, kind and always there, Tim, loyal and lived just three floors below, Joe (he really wasn't used to being on a first-name basis with his dad's executive assistant, but since Mr. Kramer insisted…oh well) and, of course, the Board.
Speaking of the Board of Directors, even though Harry was initially crept out by them, he now hoped they would call more often – not that he'd gone insane or anything, but at least the Board, just like Bernard and Tim and the rest of the folks at Oscorp, treated him like someone that mattered (their legal consultant Bob Lee even sent him a fruit basket while he was in the hospital). At least they contacted him, sometimes even visited him in person.
…Okay, maybe he had gone insane, just a little.
Thanks to his memory loss, Harry was deemed "essentially unqualified to work" by the Board, but they still kept him updated, however clueless he was. He suspected that they did all this for him only as a courtesy to their founder, his dad.
Thinking about his father always made Harry's heart heavy with grief.
They were both disappointed, he and his father. The senior Osborn was disappointed that his son hadn't inherited his gift for science, and Harry was disappointed that his father never bothered to try to understand. However hard he tried, he couldn't be who his father wanted him to be. He just didn't have it in him. Mutual disappointment hung between them like a wall that neither tried to break.
When one of those miracles of life finally happened and his dad promised to make amends, he was taken away from him.
Since his mother left them for another guy when he was five, he and his dad had clung to each other like shipwreck survivors, finding solace in the warmth of their love. Even when Oscorp grew and Harry entered his teenage years and tension strained their bond, his dad was always there when he needed him, supportive or not. The chief executive of Oscorp didn't have much time for his family, but he gave Harry the comforting knowledge that he was there, would never leave even when everyone else did. He was the one constant in Harry's life whereas people found it easy to cast Harry aside. Including Peter.
Aaand this started to sound like whining.
After wallowing in depression and dwelling on how pathetic his life actually was, Harry decided he was now suffering from an extreme case of cabin fever, and he needed to get out. And cross the street.
He knew it was a petty act of self-indulgence, but he called it an assertion of self. Or a cry of freedom from a much abused soul.
And he couldn't believe he just thought that.
There were people everywhere. Harry concluded that crossing the street was a good idea, after all. Looking at the joy and Spider-Cheer, he didn't feel depressed anymore – he still had Bernard, to say the least. Not to mention he'd managed to sneak past Tim while the selfless chauffeur was taking a nap.
Harry bet Peter was also here; everyone knew how close Peter and Spider-Man were. It was kind of ironic, really. Peter and a superhero were closer than Peter and him, and they were supposed to be "best friends".
Better not go down that slippery slope again. Harry warned himself with a disheartened sigh. It'll only make you depressed. Again.
Now, since Peter was definitely here, and he was with Mary Jane…
Exactly. There she was. Looking…pissed? But then again, she was always unhappy about something.
Okay, that was insensitive and unfair; M.J. didn't exactly lead an ideal life. Perhaps he should go cheer her up, just like friends would. And who knew? He just might find Peter yet.
It was a…Sandman? Anyway, the name of the supervillain aside, Harry and Mary Jane were surrounded by people screaming and running. He was about to suggest that they go somewhere safe when a familiar voice halted him.
Harry involuntarily took in a mouthful of cold air and turned around in horror, "Mr. Schneider!"
Bob Schneider looked positively displeased. And unsatisfied. "It's good to see you out and about."
Harry knew he'd better change subject fast. "You here to see Spider-Man, too?"
"I'm here to see our CEO." Mr. Schneider said slowly, emphasizing every syllable, deliberately conveying the message: We knew you would be here and you truly never disappoint.
How could the Board member be so calm when it was all screaming and pushing and sandstorm? He didn't even bat an eye when the giant mass of sand soared past them over their heads.
Harry didn't know what to say to him. Maybe the only wise thing to do was drop to his knees and beg for absolution?
"You wouldn't mind a little stroll, would you, Harry?"
"No, no, of course not!" Harry said quickly, then turned to Mary Jane, who was slightly puzzled but wisely decided to stay out of this, "I'll see you around, M.J."
M.J. nodded and gave him a sympathetic look.
After the commotion of the Sandman (Harry just knew that would be the name the press eventually decided on), a "stroll" and a spine-chilling conversation, Harry dutifully went home.
Bob Schneider was one creepy old man when he wasn't pleased; he just gave Harry the passive-aggressive talk to end all passive-aggressive talks.
Joe must have been joking when he said Harry and the Board used to be on a first-name basis. Harry would never dream of calling the Board member "Bob". That was just crazy. And suicidal.
"I'm beginning to see a pattern, Bernard." Harry said as he took off his shoes in the foyer while Bernard closed the front door
"And what might that be, sir?"
"Every time I try to take a chance, it always backfires right back at me."
"The way of life, I suppose. May I ask…if there was any consequence?"
"I'm now officially grounded inside this residence and 'shall not leave until further notice'."
"'Until further notice' again?"
"Yeah, I'm under house arrest. Oh joy."
Harry found that once he'd accepted his boring fate, it actually wasn't all that bad. Sure he couldn't even go out anymore, but he'd learned to entertain himself with his surroundings and cope with boredom without being depressed (for too long).
Having nothing better to do in the meantime, Harry decided to build a crossbow out of broken electronic equipments that his father kept around for spare parts. Bernard always hid them strategically from sight for his love of a clean and tidy Osborn Mansion. And he'd succeeded. No outsider would be able to tell there were old electronics all over the place.
Harry was by no means a scientist, or a genius, but he was good at building stuff. Gadgets, robots, weird gizmos that turned out to be just super-advanced nightlights. His dad used to lament how God had a cruel sense of humor and, of all his many talents for various sciences, endowed his son only with his mechanical inclination.
But after the crossbow was complete, Harry once again found himself with nothing to do.
Turning the crossbow in his hands, he heard the sounds of Bernard moving about outside the workshop. He wasn't sure why, but his hearing seemed to have improved. He could always hear Bernard's movement in the mansion, sure, but never so clearly that he could tell when Bernard exhaled in weariness or paused to take a brief break from all the responsibilities of the mansion. He could tell Bernard got tired more easily than before.
His father's passing away and his own brush with death had reminded Harry just how frail human life could be. Now, listening to the very proof of Bernard's age catching up with him, he was acutely aware of his beloved butler's mortality.
He glanced at their old desktop computer in the corner.
Bernard just came out of the kitchen when he saw Harry standing in the middle of the living room, a nervous smile on his face.
"Is there something I could do for you, sir?"
Harry took a deep breath and said with a hint of excitement, "Bernard, I would like you to meet our newest member of the family." He then stepped aside to reveal the small pile of metal and wires behind him. "Crossbow-1." he pronounced proudly.
It took Bernard a few seconds to understand why the pile had a name and was named the latest addition to the family – it was a robot.
Crossbow-1 was a fitting name. The construction of the little robot was based entirely on the crossbow that the young master built a few days ago. It only reached Harry's knees, and was clearly still a work-in-progress as its wires and chipsets were all exposed to the extent that Bernard could tell which parts of the robot were from which equipments.
Bernard didn't want to admit this, but Crossbow-1 truly looked like the disastrous result of throwing various electronic devices into a blender. It didn't even have matching "eyes" on its head.
Harry gave the robot a gentle nudge, and Crossbow-1 tentatively rolled towards Bernard on the small wheels it had at the bottom. It whistled and beeped – Bernard didn't think he was imagining it making sounds resembling those of R2-D2 – as it reached Bernard and looked up at him uncertainly. But how could it have facial expressions without a complete face?
Bernard looked from Crossbow-1 to Harry, and realized they were both anxiously awaiting his reaction. He was reminded of the last time the young master presented his handiwork (a wires-covered bouncy ball with an advanced homing system) to his father. Mr. Osborn wasn't too thrilled by the purely mechanical device, but he wasn't uninterested, either. He'd examined the bouncy ball passively and remarked that, though it wasn't something as exciting or profound as physical sciences, he was pleased his son at least had his talent for mechanics and weaponry. Harry was relieved, the smallest praise or approval from his father could light up his day immeasurably.
"Harry," Bernard smiled at the little robot and its maker, "he's adorable." He because if the young master built Crossbow-1 to sound like Artoo, then it was most certainly a he. Harry was enthusiastic about Star Wars like that.
Harry let out the breath he'd been visibly holding, while Crossbow-1 released a metallic noise that sounded very much like the robotic version of a relieved sigh.
Bernard couldn't help but smile, feeling a fondness for the small robot. Although Crossbow-1 wasn't particularly good-looking, he was indeed quite lovely and charming in his own little way.
"Thanks, Bernard." Harry said, relieved, "I mean, yeah, he does look like the Metal Disaster from Hell, but he's still lovable."
"Very, sir." Bernard said, gently patting Crossbow-1 on the head, who took that as a sign of acceptance and happily leaned his head against Bernard's knee. "Are those chipsets from the old computer?"
"Yep," Harry nodded, then added with pride, "Did I mention he's solar-powered?"
Bernard chuckled, "And you've created an artificial intelligence." He glanced at the obviously sentient Crossbow-1 and was fairly impressed.
"Nah, it was an accident." Harry said, trying not to look too delighted at the compliment, "I was just lucky."
But then he tensed up and glanced at Crossbow-1 hesitantly before looking at Bernard again. Bernard recognized the tensed posture and hesitation – insecurity. The young master seemed to be mustering up his courage and steeling himself for something. He then looked resolute, having apparently made up his mind.
"He's for you, Bernard!" Harry blurted out.
Bernard was surprised. "For me?"
Crossbow-1 had looked up at the exchange as well, curiosity in his eyes.
Harry nodded, still tense and anxious, and started what amounted to "spilling his guts": "Yeah, well, you know, you've always been taking care of me, of the family, and I know how lonely and boring it sometimes can get just staying in this place all by yourself. Not that I'm going anywhere any time soon. I know he's almost ugly – hell, he's downright hideous, but he's well-mannered and harmless and he's programmed to follow you and be all attached to you and things like that. I just thought you might appreciate a little company."
After he was done, Harry waited anxiously, as if anticipating rejection.
The hasty speech filled Bernard's old heart with warmth. "I do, as a matter of fact. Very much."
Harry's face brightened and his shoulders sagged in relief.
"Thank you, Harry." Bernard smiled at him, touched.
Harry returned the smile wholeheartedly, and then he stepped forward and hugged Bernard.
"You're welcome," the young master murmured as he tightened his arms, a gesture which the old butler warmly returned.
For the first time since he lost his memory, there was genuine happiness on Harry's face, and Bernard was glad.
The next morning found Harry reading the Wall Street Journal in the dining room. Not that he was especially fond of the newspaper – he still couldn't believe that he, of all people, used to read Wall Street Journal regularly before he hit his head – but you couldn't be too picky and choosy when you had nothing better to do.
Right next to him, Crossbow-1 was enjoying the morning sun beside the large windows, charging with his solar panels splayed open. Relaxed and content.
Harry sighed; if only his life could be so simple.
To his satisfaction, Bernard and Crossbow-1 had quickly become attached to each other, and the little guy now followed Bernard around and helped him with his work. Harry was confident that, before long, Crossbow-1 would be able to do most of the stuff for Bernard, and all Bernard would need to do was supervise.
Bernard had given Crossbow-1 a nickname: Charlie. According to him, he picked "Charlie" because it was the first name that came to his mind which started with a "C". Harry thought the random nickname was a good choice. He'd chosen "Crossbow-1" only because "crossbow" was the first thing that came to his mind when he laid eyes on the little guy.
Now that Harry thought about it, "Crossbow-1" probably wasn't the best of names. It was straight to the point, but too obvious. Then again, he always knew he sucked at naming.
"If I may, sir," Bernard put down a plate of breakfast in front of him, "For what reason did you build a crossbow in the first place?"
"Well," answered Harry, shrugging, "I was thinking of using that crossbow to get rid of some spiders."
Bernard's eyebrows rose slightly, but other than that, he remained calm and composed.
"Yeah, we've got plenty of those here." Harry put down the newspaper, "I never minded them before, but now I find them extremely annoying."
"So they are," Bernard agreed casually, though Harry got the distinct impression that the casualness was somewhat forced.
Charlie suddenly straightened up, solar panels folding back in, and a blue ray fanning out 60 degrees emitted from his front panel. Harry recognized it as the activation of Spider-Scanner, his pride and joy (okay, Charlie was his pride and joy, but Spider-Scanner was a close second), which meant the ever diligent, ever vigilant Spider-Detector was working at full blast.
…All right, he definitely sucked at naming.
As Charlie swept his surroundings with the Spider-Scanner's blue ray, he gradually approached a bookshelf. Bernard seemed puzzled and on the verge of asking what the little robot was doing.
Charlie fired a homemade bolt from his crossbow towards one of the corners of the ceiling. Bernard was shocked and looked like he almost had a heart attack, and Harry realized he probably should have given him a heads up before he was hit in the face with Charlie's spider-killing. As much as Harry didn't want to acknowledge it, Bernard was now an old man.
He shoved the unpleasant thought aside and stood up to inspect the bolt instead.
After Harry was done programming Charlie, he got lazy so the crossbow bolts were all sloppily made from scrap metal. At least they worked okay. Without a doubt, the bolt had pierced through the body of a spider. He smiled and patted Charlie's head proudly, "Good shot, Charlie."
Charlie whistled and beeped smugly before returning to his sunny spot by the windows.
Bernard seemed to have recovered from the fright. He cleared his throat softly, "Is that why I no longer see spiders in the mansion, sir?"
"Most likely. Charlie was a spider hunter bot before I made him sentient." Yeah, so, that probably wasn't such a good idea when Charlie was supposed to be Bernard's constant companion. He should've made Charlie a…flower-planting bot. Or golfer bot. You know, something peaceful and fitting for senior citizens.
"That was, very creative of you, Harry." Bernard then went into the kitchen, vaguely apprehensive.
Harry frowned as he picked up the newspaper again. He couldn't for the life of him recall why he now hated spiders, or was it something related to spiders that he wanted dead?
Why did Bernard look so worried about his newfound dislike for spiders?
Bernard had banished Harry from the kitchen after he nearly burned down the whole place during his cooking attempt. Not that Harry liked cooking in any way, oh no, his life was just too dull at the moment that he had to try something without crossing the borders of the Osborn residence.
Perhaps he could build another robot? Never mind. He preferred Charlie to be the one and only sentient robot of the family; the little guy deserved that much. Besides, he didn't think Bernard's old heart could stand two robots rolling around the house.
So no more A.I.s. Then maybe a non-sentient robot? For reasons he had yet to remember, Harry liked the idea of building a robot whose sole function was hunting down spiders.
Huge spiders, even.
Better yet, human spiders.
…Wait, wasn't that Spider-Man?
Why would he want to hunt down Spider-Man? There was something about the guy Harry didn't like, but not to the point to actually send a killer robot after him.
Unable to remember much in the meantime, Harry admitted defeat and went into his study to begin drawing the design of his brand new Amazing Spider-Killing Machine – only for killing regular spiders, of course.
Huh, that could be the title for a comic book series. Just sayin'.
But in the end, his Amazing Spider-Killing Machine never even had its blueprint finished. After he told Bernard about his spectacular project at dinner, the thoughtful butler became concerned. Soon afterwards, Bernard announced that he had decided to lock down Harry's study along with all his tools and designs. He then assured Harry he was doing this for Harry's sake, because focusing on killing and death couldn't be good for his health.
There went his boredom-killer.
Harry knew Bernard was just worried about him (for whatever reason he wouldn't let on), so he nodded understandingly and surrendered to his boring fate once more.
"Sir, you might want to rediscover your talent in painting, perhaps?" Bernard suggested as he cleared the table.
"Please, Bernard," Harry laughed self-deprecatingly. He knew Bernard was somehow desperate to find him a "healthy" pastime, but not that desperate. "Have you seen my old 'masterpieces'? They're like deranged drawings from a nightmare."
"You were five years old,"
"AndI took the lessons only because it was what my mom wanted." Harry couldn't help but snort inwardly at the thought of his uncharitable mother, for whom he had an equally uncharitable title: The Bitch.
"This is not about the former Mrs. Osborn, Harry," said Bernard gently, knowing all too well the bitterness and anger his mother could provoke in him. "This is about you doing what you enjoy."
"And I don't enjoy painting," Harry said emphatically, "I was young and stupid. I wanted to make Mother Dearest happy." Which was decidedly a complete waste of time. The end result was him sitting through hours of boring painting lessons while his artsy mother didn't appreciate what he had to go through to please her. And she wasn't even pleased. His mom really didn't deserve his childhood attachment.
Bernard smiled understandingly.
Oh. His internal whining was that obvious?
Clearing his throat in embarrassment, Harry forced his thoughts back to painting and Bernard and Bernard trying to talk him into painting. He didn't find painting appealing when he was five, and he definitely didn't find it appealing now. Painting was boring, and he had just about zero interest in it. But this was Bernard, so he considered.
Nope. Still didn't feel like painting.
"Bernard, I haven't touched a paintbrush ever since my mom ditched us. And even then I sucked at it."
"All the more reason to improve your skills, then."
"Did I mention that I don'tenjoy painting?"
"I believe in miracles, sir." Bernard sounded sincere and just this side of desperate.
Harry sighed in resignation. He hated it when Bernard did the emotional manipulation thing, because he'd never be able to say no. "You want to make sure I wouldn't find a way to get past the lock, don't you?"
Bernard only gave him a noncommittal yet somehow earnest inclination of the head and returned to the kitchen.
On the next day, having reread The Wall Street Journal five times, Harry finally decided to give painting a shot. Not that he'd changed his mind about painting, but at least it was better than reading over and over again about how the Fed wanted to get a pound of flesh out of Ken Lewis. Okay, the Shakespeare reference was kind of funny, but also a little disturbing.
Harry found that one corner of the living room had been set up as a temporary painting studio. Well, Bernard had actually got the whole thing ready for him. Frustrated but resigned, he picked up one of the many paintbrushes and examined it.
He suddenly had a flash of genius and knew exactly what he wanted to paint.
Charlie was rolling around the mansion. It'd been three days since he was "born" and he still wasn't done exploring. This place was huge.
Bernard said he'd be back after going to a place called "post office" and Harry had decided to take a break from painting. Actually, it was more like "take a nap". Now that he thought about it, his maker had been sleeping quite a lot lately. Maybe he had that thing called "cabin fever". Excessive sleeping was one of the common symptoms, after all.
Charlie gave an electronic hum when he spotted the painting Harry had been working on all day. He then whistled in amazement as he noticed it was the detailed design of an amazing spider-killing machine's interior. He knew it was spider-killing because his maker had even painted a big fat red-blue spider that was pierced in the middle with its blood spilled everywhere.
According to the National Geographic Channel, spiders had blue or green blood. Funny how this one's was red.
When he woke up from his nap, Harry noticed his painting of the Amazing Spider-Killing Machine had been taken away by Bernard. Knowing this was coming, he shrugged and went back to the temporary studio in the living room, intended to paint another one.
As it turned out, Bernard had not only taken away his design but also pointedly put a large vase and some fruits on a small table, complete with a cloth.
Fine, Bernard, I get your point.
Harry sighed, wondering why Bernard never had a problem with his dad making all those weapons, and studied the vase and fruits. He soon found that he had no desire to paint these objects.
Well, better than nothing. Harry gave himself a mental pat on the back as he started painting.
He was halfway there when the phone rang. Surprised, he put the paintbrush down and answered the phone, wondering who it could be. He just got off the phone with Joe five minutes ago, and the Board wouldn't call him until tomorrow.
"Hey, Harry, it's M.J."
And of course it was Mary Jane. Who else could have called, anyway? Definitely not Peter "I'm too busy to remember my best friend's existence" Parker.
"I need some company…"
And of course she needed something.
See, that was the problem with being too perceptive. When Harry made those depressing assessments of his friends, he was hoping he was wrong about them. But no. He was always right, always sadly accurate.
Story of his life.
"Are you doing anything? Can I stop by?"
"Yeah, sure, come on over."
At least cheering Mary Jane up was better than painting. Besides, since Bernard had taken Charlie to the robot exhibition at Rockefeller Center, the kitchen was practically unguarded. Perhaps he could cheer her up there. What could possibly go wrong?
The government inspection was yesterday. Why couldn't he recover his memory earlier? The Board must be so pissed at him right now, and Morgan probably wanted to skin him alive. Not that Harry blamed them, it wasn't everyday that CEOs ran off getting their heads hit and rendering themselves unfit to show up at facility inspections. But he was confident the inspection went okay; Joe was more than capable of handling those holier-than-thou agency schmucks. And, if all failed, Phil could make up the best bullshit in town – his CFO was good like that.
Harry decided he should tell Joe to send in the contracts with Epsilon and schedule a meeting with the Board…
Harry was worried not because Schneider might go around telling fellow Board members how stupid and pathetic their CEO had been without full memory. He knew he wouldn't. He was worried because Bob Schneider had always been one of those people who'd remember every detail of your wrongdoing even after decades, who let the annoyance and displeasure build up until they found the earliest opportunity available and explode.
He was worried because he just knew Schneider would give him hell next time he saw him.
He'd better discuss his impending doom with Joe, who hopefully hadn't lost all respect for him since he'd already seen his boss embarrass himself numerous times. Probably more times than ideal.
And don't get him started on that sickening, shameless Peter "Spider-Man" Parker. The very thought of that bug-wannabe disgusted him.
But he did feel bad about M.J. kissing him. Then again, it wasn't like he asked to be kissed or something – M.J. kissed him. He was just, dear god, painting and answering the phone and then trying to cheer her up. But still. No matter how much Parker deserved to die, he wanted nothing to do with his relationship problems. He might give Parker the wrong idea so he could get to him, but not actually take away his girlfriend, though the bug had no qualms about taking away M.J. when she was his girlfriend.
Now there was an idea.
Anyway, time to get things organized. Call Joe, look at the contracts, talk to the Board, hopefully survive Schneider's wrath, and clean up the kitchen. Oscorp wasn't going to revive itself.
He'd take care of the revenge business later.
Bernard had an ominous feeling all evening.
The young master had recovered his memory recently. Although he put Oscorp before vengeance, the fact he insisted that Bernard should take Charlie to the Empire State Building and enjoy the night view tonight was rather troubling.
Beside Bernard, Charlie was making robotic sounds of appreciation at the sight of numerous lights blinking below them.
Bernard was about to enter their apartment building with Charlie when he noticed shards of shattered glass on the ground. Fearful of what that might mean, he looked up at the Osborn Mansion located at the top of the building.
Charlie was scanning the glass shards when Bernard started running. The little robot whirred in surprise and followed.
Bernard ran as fast as his old bones allowed, all the while praying Harry was all right. He punched the elevator button harder than necessary, and was thankful that the building used high-speed elevators.
As he and Charlie finally reached the top floor and rushed into the mansion, the little robot beeped in panic and rolled into the study.
The study, usually clean and orderly, was now a disturbing mess and Harry was nowhere to be seen. Bernard took in the smashed balcony doors and windows, the broken pieces of furniture and décor – the mirror concealing the passage to the laboratory had been shattered.
Charlie suddenly gave an urgent whistle and went into the passageway. Bernard, taking a shuddering breath, quickly followed behind.
Harry was woken by the feel of cool metal touching his hand and Charlie's distressed whirring. Tired and in pain, he opened his eyes and saw Charlie worriedly nudging his hand with his small head.
"It's okay, little guy," he whispered hoarsely, "I'm fine."
When he saw the sad look on Bernard's face, he knew he wasn't.
This was not the first time Harry suspected that Parker had somehow bribed Bernard into siding with him, which was a low and filthy tactic, not to mention shameless and undignified. And very appropriately Peter Parker-style.
"The blade that pierced his body came from his Glider. I know you're trying to defend your father's honor, but there's no question that he died by his own hands."
"I loved your father, as I love you, Harry. As your friends love you."
Not the emotional manipulation again. But Bernard was a master, so Harry didn't even stand a chance, as much as he appreciated Bernard's sincere declaration of affection (he loved Bernard, too). He nodded.
He had no choice but to – wait a minute.
"Actually, that's debatable." Harry said. He'd finally found the huge, glaring loophole in Bernard's argument that he knew was there. "That lowlife Peter Parker could have just used the Glider as a weapon and pierced my father with it."
Bernard became silent. Then he relented, "Truth be told, I was hoping you wouldn't notice that."
"So he did bribe you." Harry stated dryly.
"No," Bernard shook his head, "I was bribed by my conscience."
Harry sighed. Not again.
Seeing Harry's stubbornness, Bernard, presumably taking a different approach, simply left the secret lab after a brief bow of the head.
Well, that was weird. Harry stared at Bernard's retreating back, surprised he just gave up so easily. But then again, he didn't exactly give up; he merely employed an all-new method – which was doomed to fail – to shake Harry's resolution to leave Peter Parker to die.
Speaking of leaving people to die, Parker didn't leave him to die after he'd hit his head (all thanks to Parker for making him hit his head in the first place, by the way). Although Parker may have done it out of much deserved guilt, he did save Harry's life by sending him to the hospital.
Perhaps Harry should return the favor?
With due consideration, no.
Unlike that one time where he hit his head, he wasn't responsible for the danger Parker was in now. Besides, all of Parker's past crimes aside, the bug had mocked his father's memory and gifted him with so presentable a face that the Company's stock price would just soar after the Shareholders took a look at it. Did he mention his right eye was now completely, irreversibly, noticeably blind?
Sighing bitterly, Harry didn't dare imagine what the Board would say once they saw Parker's work of art.
So, would he go risk his life for someone who'd wronged him in every possible way right from the beginning of their "friendship"?
It was Peter. He couldn't just leave that idiot to die, never mind he might have killed his father, tainted his father's memory, scarred his face, ruined Oscorp, and didn't even apologize when he came crying for help.
That ghost was right, whoever he was – if you didn't call that weak, he didn't know what was.
Bravo, Bernard. Turns out your new approach works, after all.
To be continued...