Kudos to anyone who figures out who the villains are. And my little cameos, of course. Come on, you guys, you like kudos, right?
Chapter 6: All My Bad Luck Has To Be Cancelled Out Somehow, Right?
"I would like to start the first ever meeting of the first ever Spider-Man fan club!"
"How do you know it's the first ever fan club?" Peter cut in, a disinterested look on his face.
"Come on, it probably is." Flash whined, scribbling 'Spider-Man Fanclub' on the whiteboard in bright red letters.
"I can't believe I'm even here." Peter groaned.
"Look, I really appreciate you coming, Parker- I needed five people to start this club, and I only had three other than me." Flash gestured towards the rest of the room. "And I'm glad everyone else came too. The turn-up is disappointing, but maybe there'll be more in the future!"
A brunette scoffed, putting her smartphone on a desk for a moment. Her hair was tied up in a messy ponytail, and a pair of thick glasses were placed on her nose.
"I hate to admit it, but I hope the same thing." she muttered. "Spider-Man's underrated. Sure, he's no Avenger-"
Peter smiled awkwardly. Apparently, even his 'fans' didn't think that he could be an Avenger.
"-but it still takes guts to go around and deal with all that petty crime. I'm telling you, I'm not here because of you. In fact, you made me almost decide not to join this club."
"Thanks for coming anyways, Carlie." Flash said, setting a fixed smile on his face. "I know that I wasn't a great guy in the past, but I'm trying to change that."
"Trust me, Flash, I'm more surprised that Parker's here." Carlie nodded at Peter. "Gwen probably felt sorry for the jerk, and Kenneth obviously is just here because he's friends with Flash, but you, Parker? Wouldn't have pegged you as a big Spidey fan."
"Yeah, well, you could say that I'm a fan, I guess," Peter said. His ears pricked as he took in the sound of someone softly snorting.
It was probably Gwen.
"I'm only here because Flash said that unless he got this club started up, he would quit the football team." Kenneth corrected. "If he just asked as a friend, there's no way that I would join a Spider-Man club. Captain America all the way, dude!"
"Anyways." Flash interrupted. He underlined the 'Spider-Man' he had written on the board twice. "In this club, we can talk about recent Spider-Man exploits, plot ways to meet him, try to figure out how to get him better publicity- the sky's the limit!"
"We're a group of high school students, and half of us don't even want to be here. I don't think we can do much." Peter deadpanned. "Also, I think Spider-Man's publicity is something we can't tackle. People will think what they want to."
"We can try," Flash said stubbornly, slamming his hand on the table. "I think we should start out by hosting a toy drive for poor kids. In the name of Spider-Man."
Peter raised his hand.
"Uh, yeah. That has nothing to do with Spider-Man," Peter pointed out.
"I'm sure that Spider-Man doesn't even know about or approve of this toy drive," Gwen added sweetly.
"Well, I think that if Spider-Man did know about the toy drive, he would approve of it," Peter objected, turning around to look at Gwen. "It's not like he hates poor kids or anything. Probably."
"Oh! You're talking to me! I thought that you were just going to ignore me for the rest of our lives." Gwen said sarcastically.
Peter winced at her words.
"Right, let's leave personal problems at the door, okay?" Flash said, glancing between Peter and Gwen. "Why don't we get back at to the topic? So Parker! You brought up a good point. But, the point is to get better publicity for Spider-Man- so it doesn't matter if it has nothing to do with Spider-Man!"
"I see your considerable intelligence is rearing its head, Flash," Carlie said. She had resumed texting on her phone, clearly bored with the whole meeting.
"Thanks!" Flash grinned.
"That wasn't a compl- never mind." Carlie sighed. "I see my considerable wit is lost on you."
A cellphone's ringtone suddenly echoed throughout the room. Peter laughed awkwardly, taking out the cellphone from his pocket and glancing at the caller ID.
Avengers, it said simply.
"Sorry, I have to take this," Peter apologized. He quickly clicked on talk, heading towards the door.
"Hello?" he said as soon as he was out of hearing range.
"Peter," a voice came out of the cellphone. "It's Tony. Tell me, have you seen any… animals lately?"
"I saw a couple cats and a rabbit on the way to school…" Peter replied, deciding to take the question seriously. "I thought it was a little weird, but I didn't think much of it."
"Well, we just got a couple exploding doves at the Tower a quarter-hour ago. Ten minutes ago, some squirrels and cats exploded in Central Park. Security footages show that there were at least twenty. Five minutes ago, a number of various animals exploded in front of the New York Public Library. There've been no fatalities just yet, but a lot of injuries. The entire police department is up in arms over this. Well, a lot of it at least. And if the pattern continues…"
"What are we gonna do? Collect every stray animal in New York City?" Peter asked quietly. He didn't want to risk anyone overhearing as he rushed down the hallway. "That's obviously not viable, even with the whole NYPD. And even if we did manage to, where would we keep them all?"
"We haven't managed to grab ahold of one of these animals yet. Once we do, I can get working on figuring out how it works- and how to stop them all. But from what I've gleaned from the broken pieces of the bird, it's likely powered by electricity." Tony answered.
"Wow. It's powered by electricity. Like everything else nowadays?" Peter said sarcastically.
"If you were Barton, you would be laughing."
"Well, I'm not Clint, and I have no idea what you're talking about. Anyways, so we need a localized electromagnetic pulse generator. Might blow out someone's WiFi, but that's a small price to pay to get rid of a bomb."
"Way ahead of you, Petey. I was working on a mini EMP generator a few months ago for my suit. I've still got a lot of prototypes left that we can use. As for containment, there's a SHIELD building specifically made to contain small bombs that we can use to keep the animals in one place. The important thing is to find them as quickly as possible and to deactivate them."
"Not everyone has fancy-dancy scanners… -"
"- uh, no. Don't you dare finish that sentence. It's Tony- or Iron Man, if you have to. And I know that you guys don't have scanners, but it's gonna take time to rig up some rudimentary metal scanners- time we don't have. I've outfitted Thor with a pair that I had lying around my workshop- he can fly, so I figured it would be most useful to give 'em to him. I'm going to be heading out in a couple minutes- let yourself into the Tower and grab an EMP generator. I'll leave it with Bruce."
Peter grinned. He had already been referring to Tony as Tony in his own head, but he figured that it would be rude to call him that to his face. He was glad to learn that it wasn't.
"Do we know if the animals are controlled remotely or if they're on a timer?"
"Not yet. Bruce's on it, though, since the Hulk wouldn't be that useful in this situation- probably explode the things instead. And when we get an unexploded animal, we can probably find out more. Gotta go."
A click could be heard from the other side of the line.
Sometime during the conversation, he had left the school. Groaning, he slid his cellphone back into his pocket. He eyed a bird nesting itself in a tree suspiciously.
"You gonna blow up?" he accused loudly. Belatedly, he noticed the guy exiting from a door across from him.
The blond gave Peter an incredulous look before shaking his head and inching his way away across the wall.
"I'm not crazy!" Peter objected, putting what he believed to be a friendly smile on his face.
Judging from the guy's expression, it probably ended up more creepy than friendly.
"Is this the EMP generator?" Peter asked, picking up a device from the table in Bruce's little workshop. It was about the size of a cellphone, but weighed slightly more. The cover didn't seem to be made out of metal, but it did have a metallic sheen. A blue button graced the edge of the device, no doubtless to activate it.
"Yeah," Bruce said. He glanced up at Peter, a worried look on his face. "Look, Peter-"
"- I fought a freaking giant lizard." Peter slipped the device into one of his pockets. "A few exploding animals is nothing. Just because I'm fifteen doesn't mean I can't fight. Or, in this case, deactivate a few robots."
Peter let out a small sigh. He might consider himself less strong than the other Avengers, but he wished that Bruce could trust him enough with this small task. It was just searching and deactivating stuff.
Then again, it might just be natural aversion to putting a kid in danger. But anyways, he had that special sensing power. He could probably use it to figure out if an animal was going to explode or not.
(That little power might be useful for stopping the explosions too…)
"Doesn't mean that I have to like it," Bruce muttered. "You'll need this too."
He put a small earpiece in Peter's hand. Peter examined it, frowning.
"Something like that, yes. You better get going. I need to concentrate on this robot thing, anyways."
Bruce nodded at the haphazard pieces of metal scattered across the table. Peter regarded them doubtfully. If Bruce could get any useful information from that pile of scrap metal, he would be extremely shocked.
Peter attached the earpiece and turned it on.
"Hello?" he said hesitantly, pulling his mask back over his face.
"Heya, Spider-Kid." Clint's voice rang straight into his ear, causing Peter to wince slightly."Took you long enough."
"Yeah, well, I'm sorry but superheroing isn't my fulltime job," Peter shot back. "Can I use that window, Bruce?"
Bruce waved him away, nodding.
"We still haven't managed to grab ahold of one of the animals yet." This time, it was obviously Captain America talking. "New York is just way too big, and we've only got two flyers. SHIELD is on it too, but there's only so much they can do. They're mostly trying to keep everyone from going into a full-scale panic. Unfortunately, we can't have a complete evacuation, in case the animals are controlled remotely and the culprit explodes them all at once."
Peter opened the window, sliding himself out and on the outside wall. "There's gotta be a pattern to these attacks."
"Exactly!" a computerized voice shot out of the earpiece. Peter assumed it was Tony. "The explosions are targeting famous New York landmarks- except for the Tower. Not places with a lot of population, but landmarks in particular. It's possible that we're dealing with a terrorist here, a terrorist who obviously has some interest in us. But more importantly, if it's landmarks the culprit's after, we can predict where they might be next. I've already divided up most of the likely targeted places, but it'll be a while 'till Birdhead-"
"-that's weak, Stark-"
"- gets to the Met, since he's going by car. The NYPD is already there, but there's only so much they can do. Head over there, would ya?"
"- Iron Man-"
"- oh, if Cap thinks it's alright. I mean, I'm the one doing all the calculations here, and we're practically going in blind otherwise, but hey! If the Capsicle wants to argue-"
"- I'll trust your judgment on this, Iron Man. It's true that we really don't have much to go on other than your calculations. I would've sent Spider-Man near there anyways, considering that most of us aren't close by."
"Now you call me Spider-Man?" Peter asked, wondering why Captain America had suddenly decided to stop calling him Peter.
"It's best to refer to each other with our superhero names when on a mission." a woman answered. Obviously it was the Black Widow, since she was the only female on the team.
Was that sexist?
Peter took a moment to genuinely consider the question, before deciding that if they couldn't be called racist for not having any Asians, they couldn't be called sexist for only having one girl.
He leaped off the wall, letting loose a string of web fluid. It attached itself to a nearby building, allowing Peter to safely swing down.
"So, the Met, right?" Peter asked rhetorically. "Aye aye, Cap'n."
He made his way through the streets, people pointing at him from down below. It took a few minutes more to get to the Met, minutes that could've been spent searching for explosive animals. Logically, he knew that what he was doing was better than randomly searching for boom birds, but emotionally, actively searching and destroying would feel better.
Peter landed himself on the roof just as a trail of smoke made its way into the air some ways away.
"Any of you catch that?" Peter asked, a frown painting his face.
(He didn't expect anyone to say yes, but he could hope, right?)
"No," Clint said grimly.
A chorus of nos followed Clint's statement.
"Judging from the general area, it's probably the Museum of Modern Art. Dammit all!" Tony swore. "Thor, where are you right now?"
"I am patrolling the grand Statue of Liberty!" a booming voice came out of the earpiece, leaving Peter's ear ringing. His webs almost missed the next building, but luckily, his spider reflexes kicked in at the last moment, saving him from free-falling.
"Should we stay around the major landmarks?" Clint asked. "The police's assembled around a lot of those too, but…"
"Stay in one place. Test out any animals you find. It's the best chance we've got to catch one of these things," Captain America ordered. "We need to prevent any more injuries- or future fatalities."
Peter could half-hear some soft agreements over the earpiece.
Catching a glimpse of something moving across the rooftop, his hand moved to the side, shooting a string of web. He heard a slight thump, indicating that he had succeeded in hitting the animal. Finally turning his head to see what exactly he had caught, Peter realized that it was a squirrel.
He approached the struggling animal, EMP pulse device in his hand. At the last moment, he hesitated, recalling the Bluetooth-thing in his ear- and the cellphone in his pocket. He slipped the device back into one of his few pockets.
Peter noticed that strangely, the squirrel wasn't making any noise. His eyes narrowed.
He couldn't be that lucky, could he?
(But then again, the universe had to cancel out all of his other bad luck somehow.)
"Come on, please be stupid, please be stupid…" Peter breathed, picking the animal up and ripping the webs of it. Examining the animal with a sharp eye, he finally noticed a small, strange bump on the squirrel's head.
Sometimes, he loved the fact that a lot of supervillians were so stupid.
When he pressed on the bump, the squirrel burst open, revealing its evidently non-organic insides. He very gently put it on the rooftop, examining the insides.
There was no timer. There was nothing even resembling a timer, which left only one other possibility.
It was activated remotely.
Peter felt a grin spread across his face, unbidden. If the bomb had a timer, then it would be nearly impossible to find the original culprit. But a remotely activated bomb, well then, that was a whole different story.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, he realized that he should probably tell the rest of the Avengers that he had successfully captured a robot-animal. But unfortunately, that little realization was drowned out by the thoughts racing through the forefront of his brain, trying to understand the inner workings of the robot and how to route the signal back to its sender.
Peter was always a loner, after all. His first response wasn't to find someone to help; it was to figure out how to deal with it himself.
(Somehow, during his long, lonely years of elementary, he had accepted the (false) fact that he would always be alone. It was a special type of conditioning that was brought on by his peers, and it was not one that would easily disappear.)
The electromagnetic pulse generator had been thrown to the back of his mind for the moment. Activating the pulse would successfully disable the bomb, but would ruin any chances of a signal getting through to the animal.
Without the signal, there would be no way he could find the culprit.
As Peter got out his cellphone, preparing to connect it to the squirrel, a tingling feeling fiercely assaulted his head. A white tinge crept across his face as the feeling steadily dampened his vaguely good mood.
"My spider sense is tingling," Peter muttered, feeling as though he had to let out a quip.
"Your what?" Tony's voice hit his ear, reminding him of the fact that he was part of a team now.
(On the bright side, 'spider sense' sounded pretty good. He could use that from now on.)
"Spider sense. It's this… tingly feeling I get when there's danger afoot," Peter drawled, his hands flashing between his cellphone and the animal. The EMP generator had been placed to the side, close enough so that he could easily hit the button, but not so far as to get in the way.
"There must be one of those animals around you." Captain America said sharply. "If you can't spot it, you should back off. If you get hit by one of those explosions, you could sustain first degree burns, if you don't die."
"Hm, yeah, I spotted it." Peter said nonchalantly.
His cellphone would probably get fried after this, but as long as he figured out exactly where the culprit was and how to stop the explosions, it was worth it.
"What?" This time, it seemed to be Clint's incredulous voice spitting into his ear. "Then use the cancelling device, whatever it's called. Problem solved."
"Not necessarily. If it runs on a timer, then it's perfectly plausible that the bomb part might continue on work- oh." Tony suddenly cut himself off. "Peter. It's controlled remotely, isn't it?"
Peter hesitated, not sure if he should tell the truth or not. As he finished the final preparations on his little makeshift tracer, he decided not to lie.
"Yes." Peter said bluntly.
"Don't do it, Peter! You're not the one in the multi-million dollar suit- you're in a steel alloy and megamesh suit, which granted, is safer than a spandex suit, but is still not good enough."
"I have good reflexes. I'll press the button in time."
"Could someone please explain for the non-scientific minded here!?" Clint practically shouted.
"If it's timer-based, our best chance to stop these explosions is to get a bomb squad to deal with the bomb, then examine the remaining prices." Tony explained. "But if it's activated remotely, well, the fastest way to find the villain would be to trace the signal. Unfortunately, you would have to wait until the last moment to activate the EMP, or the signal would disappear."
"Iron Man- Tony. Were you going to do this?" Captain America demanded.
"Not without checking with you-I mean- that's not the point right now!"
"Too late." Peter said in false cheer. His eyes fixed on the cellphone screen, his hand touching the button that would activate the EMP.
The screen stayed still. That tingly feeling grew, making it a little hard for Peter to concentrate.
Suddenly, an address appeared the screen, showing where it was on the map.
181 Lispenard Street, New York.
His hand shot out, slapping the EMP generator. As soon as he hit it, he jumped back, just in case he was too late. Peeking out from behind a stone decoration on the roof, Peter let out a sigh of relief.
"181 Lispenard Street," Peter said. "That's where the signal's coming from.
"Did the bomb go off?" Tony demanded.
"No. Obviously." Peter answered, eyeing the robot-thing cautiously. "I'm fine, but more importantly, the villain?"
"Wait for backup, Iron Man," Captain America said sharply. Apparently, he knew Tony well enough to predict his next move. "You don't know what might be waiting."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever," Tony said, seemingly giving in, which was a surprise.
But then again, Peter supposed that him kind of risking his life was bad enough. But it wasn't like he was in that much danger.
Sure, the explosion probably would've inflicted some unhealable scars, but it wouldn't have come to that. He trusted his reflexes.
(Peter chose to forget the fact that he had raced backwards as soon as he had hit the switch, just because he didn't trust his reflexes.)
"...We're going to have a talk when this is over, Spider-Man." Captain America said.
A lecture from Captain America. This was going to be great.
"So, Cap chew you out enough?"
Peter's hand froze on its journey to the elevator's down button. He was back in his regular clothing, a generic backpack slung over his right shoulder. He probably looked just like any other teenager in his school.
Placing a smile on his face, Peter turned around.
"Yup. You going to put me through round two, Mr- Tony?" Peter asked, leaning against the elevator doors.
You may have the skills, but you need to remember that you're part of a team, the Captain had said. If you can't do that- if you can't tell us what you're doing before you actually do it- you're not cut out for the Avengers.
And I don't want that, Peter. Not from what I've seen thus far.
It wasn't as if he hadn't known that, but teamwork couldn't be built up overnight, right? Wasn't Captain America being a little unreasonable?
"Nah, I'm sure Steve covered all the bases." Tony shrugged. "Heading back to your aunt's, I guess?"
"Yeah. She gets worried if I'm out too late. I've got a curfew." Peter's smile turned somewhat sheepish. "Have to respect it, or she'll make it earlier."
"The woes of a teenage boy," Tony mocked, the light smile on his face showing that he was just joking. "Anyways… look, Peter- I won't try to pretend to understand what's happened in your life, and why-"
"I'm not suicidal. Not one bit." Peter cut him off, scowling.
(Maybe a little self-deprecatory though.)
"I tried to find that signal because I knew I would be fast enough to hit that button in time," Peter continued. "I've had enough practice with my skills to know that much."
"I wasn't gonna claim that you were suicidal. Your skills aren't as trustworthy as computer algorithms, but if you really believed in them- who am I to argue? Actually, scratch that last sentence, I am arguing. Don't do that again. At least, not unless there's less than a ten percent margin of error. Preferably five percent."
"What? I'm shocked! It seems like you actually care."
Tony waved the accusation aside. "Barton likes you, kid. He'd probably descend into a depressive state or something if you died. Bruce enjoys your company too. And Steve, well, he doesn't like the idea of a kid being here- after all, since the war is over, he thinks America doesn't need to recruit kids anymore. But he likes you as a person, all the same. Probably. And, well, all of us wouldn't want to have the death of a fifteen-year old on our conscience."
"Glad to see how morbid you are."
"No problem. Anyhow, Peter, my point is… did I have a point? I think I had a point. Whatever. Anyways, don't die. Or get severely injured. Or do anymore possibly sacrificial things. That's my area of expertise. You're, what, thirteen? Too young to go out on the sacrificial alter, anyways. Leave it to the rest of us."
A tight smile wound up on Peter's face.
"So if another situation like this one cropped up- you would expect me to sit back and relax as someone else took all the risks?"
"Yes. Oh, take that look off your face. You're fifteen-"
"- so you do know my actual age-"
"-Most fifteen-year-olds wouldn't be jumping at the chance to throw themselves into dangerous situations."
"Most fifteen-year-olds aren't superheroes."
"Touché. But like I said before, we don't want to have the death of a fifteen-year-old on our conscience. Even if SHIELD and all of us accept you as an actual Avenger, it would be an unspoken rule- don't let Peter die. We want you to be alive and kicking way after all of us are dead. Hell, you could practically be my kid, you're so young! Just accept that you're gonna be treated as a kid- because you are. Doesn't mean you have to act like one though, of course- in fact, please don't. Emo teenagers are my Kryptonite."
Peter stiffened slightly at what Tony had said unwittingly. He knew that Tony didn't know- there was no way that he could know- but unfortunately, his body still acted on an emotional level.
"Right," Peter muttered. He hesitated before bringing up another subject. "About today, the exploding animals… the guy in that warehouse, he couldn't really be…"
"… the culprit? Yeah, I have to agree with you there." Tony smiled grimly. "He's obviously got a boss. We took care of him way too easily. And since neither this mysterious hypothetical boss or the henchman in the warehouse gave us a reasonable reason as to why they threw a bunch of explosive animals all over New York…well…"
"It was a distraction," Peter muttered.
"Exactly. We've all come to that conclusion, I think. Unfortunately, we don't know what exactly they were trying to distract us from."
"Great. Just, great."
Peter's eyes flicked to the window, noting the steadily dimming light. Tony seemed to notice his momentary distraction.
"You gotta go, right? Go on." Tony waved him away. "Don't let me stop you."
Peter nodded, waving a goodbye before pressing the down button for the elevator.
Maybe he had been wrong about his first assumption about Tony Stark. All that he had seen up to this point, and the conversation just now just seemed to prove his assumption wrong.
Maybe the newspapers had been mistaken.
Sure, the way he had said it had been roundabout and awkward, but it did seem as though Tony had expressed his worry, in his own way.
Maybe Tony Stark wasn't such a dick after all.
"I must say, Mr- I mean, sir, that was quite the ingenious plan."
"Of course it was, Doctor. It wasn't villainy for the sake of villainy. Everything has a point to it."
"The man you sent to take the rap- will he spill?"
"Probably. But he has no important knowledge- he's unaware of my identity. He's just an idiot who still believes that he'll get paid at the end of all his troubles."
"What do you plan to do with the information you got?"
"That is for me to know, Doctor. I'll tell you if I feel I need your expertise. I have yet to fully examine the files, after all."
"Very well. About my payment-"
"-Oh, stop fidgeting. It's even more annoying when you do it- more of you fidgets than a normal person. Don't worry, I still have need of you yet. I've forwarded the money to your account."
"Thank you very much, Mr. O-"
"Don't say my name!"
"Right. Sorry. I'd best be going now."
"You do that, Doctor."
I forgot how much I love writing PLOT…