So… it's been a couple weeks since the last update… heh heh...
Well, c'mon, it's report card time! Lots of tests and projects and stuff.
Anyways, Happy Thanksgiving to the American lot, and now let's get to the chapter!
Chapter 7: Pay a Lot More Attention to What SHIELD's Doing
"Hello, Mr. Parker."
Peter's head shot up, eyes narrowed suspiciously. He was just outside of his school's entranceway, ready to head home and do his homework, goddammit.
(Yup, there was definitely something wrong with him.)
Oh, sure, it could've been a teacher who has called his name, but judging from the monotonic intonation...
Peter's eyes landed on a crispy dressed man standing to the side, next to a building's wall.
" 'Ello, Mr. Agent," Peter said, injecting as much cheerfulness into his voice as he could. He had to combat the boring tone somehow, right? "What brings you to Midtown Science on this fine day?"
"Let's walk," Agent Coulson suggested.
"No explanation, no meaningless small talk, just- 'let's walk'. If I didn't know better, I'd think that you were just here for business!" Peter exclaimed in a mocking tone.
"I would think that you wouldn't want any of your exiting classmates to notice your little rendez-vous with a strange man dressed in a suit," Coulson said.
"Oh, how considerate of you," Peter said sarcastically.
Coulson started to walk away, and Peter had no choice but to follow, albeit reluctantly.
"You know, you could've- I don't know, not met up with me at my school?" Peter pointed out.
"Your aunt is unaware of your... side job... is she not? If I had attempted to meet you at your house, she may have insisted on sitting in during our talk," Coulson answered. "Not helpful at all."
"You could've met up with me at the Tower."
"I'd prefer to talk to you alone first." Coulson gave Peter a cold smile. "If I may, Mr. Parker- it's not a good idea to keep secrets from everyone."
"This, coming from a secret agent? It's your job to keep secrets."
"But you see, you aren't a secret agent," Coulson said calmly. "SHIELD may condone the use of Spider-Man, despite the fact that he's a minor, but that doesn't mean we all like it."
"Oh, god." Peter groaned, rubbing his forehead. "Please tell me that this isn't yet another 'you're too young, we don't like it' talk. You're all gonna end up holding an intervention together if this continues."
"Yes, Agent Barton was most vocal about having you on the team," Coulson said dryly. "He seems to like you now, though."
"That's nice to know," Peter murmured, being genuine for once. "So what do you expect me to do? Announce my identity to the whole world? Go all 'the truth is, I'm Spider-Man'?"
"Not at all," Coulson shook his head, though it "I would just suggest not keeping your extracurricular activities quiet from your guardian forever."
"I told you, Aunt May has had heart problems-" Peter said hotly, before he was briskly cut off.
"- let's sit down," Coulson interrupted, nodding at a small coffee shop off in a side street, away from the bustling crowd.
"My aunt has heart problems. I can't just go and say to her that I'm Spider-Man," Peter hissed, following Coulson into the little shop. A bell rang, indicating their arrival. However, it seemed as though there were no waiters at hand.
(This place had SHIELD written all over it.)
"We are perfectly aware of your aunt's heart problems," Coulson said mildly, sitting himself down in a booth. Peter slowly lowered himself onto the seat across from him. "Better than you, I suspect. But you can't expect to keep your identity secret forever. What do you think will happen if- when- she finds out you're Spider-Man, if you're not the one to gently break it to her?"
Peter opened his mouth to shoot off a retort, then closed it after realizing that he had none.
(Congratulations, Mr. Agent, you made Spider-Man speechless.)
"But I'm not here to discuss your bad decisions in life," Coulson said. "I'm here to see if you know anything about the origin of your superpowers."
(Experiments, done by his father... Richard. Done by Richard.)
"As far as I know, it was that GM spider from OsCorp." Peter lied. "Why?"
"You see, SHIELD's been doing experiments on various animals. And yet none of them have experienced any gain of superpowers," Coulson explained. He smiled, but it had no sense of cheer to it. "You wouldn't have any idea why, would you?"
"Beats me," Peter shrugged, avoiding Coulson's eyes. "Maybe it affects only humans. Or maybe the spider bite activated latent mutations in my genetics. I wouldn't know."
"I see. Well, would you like SHIELD to examine your DNA? To find out exactly what caused your superpowers to manifest, that is."
"No thank you," Peter said quickly. "I don't want some SHIELD weirdos messing around with my DNA."
A frown briefly passed over his face.
Why was he so set on keeping the experimentation secret?
A short moment of thinking produced a satisfactory answer.
Peter didn't want to be treated even more like a kid than he already was. And if everyone knew about Richard's experimentation on him, well, he was sure that everyone would look at him pityingly, treat him like a poor little kid.
He barely even knew Richard! He died when Peter was four!
But he was sure that knowledge of the experimentation would colour the Avengers' opinion of him. And he had just started to really get along with them. Sort of.
Not to mention, SHIELD would probably want to know how he knew that he was experimented on- and then, they might found out about the fact that Tony… was his father. And that was one thing he didn't want anyone finding out.
It was his mother's wish.
Not to mention, every father figure he had ever had died. Peter's luck with keeping people alive seemed to be as crappy as hell. What if he told Tony that he was his kid, and he ended up dying?
(Even putting aside the completely awkward conversation it would be.)
"- I can't promise you much, but I will attempt to keep SHIELD from doing any experiments on your DNA against your will."
Coulson's previous words had been lost to Peter's musings. He hoped that Coulson didn't say anything important.
"Thanks," Peter said, smiling. It was surprising that the agent wasn't forcibly going to test his DNA, given his permission or not. "I'm surprised. I guess you're pretty cool after all."
"Agent Barton said the same thing." Coulson stood up, brushing invisible dust off his pants. "It's funny how first impressions can be deceiving. I wonder what I've missed about you?"
"Nothing, I'm sure."
"Perhaps." The bell attached to the door rang out as Coulson opened the door. "Or perhaps not."
Getting up from the booth, he kicked the table bad-temperedly, a scowl decorating his face. The table rattled a bit, but didn't break. Peter had gotten a slightly better handle on his strength than before.
(Why did people have to act so cryptic and mysterious?)
"Bruce!" Tony swung the door to Bruce's labroom open, a grim look on his face. "You might want to see this."
"What?" Bruce asked. He put down a test tube in his hand onto the stand. Glancing at Tony, he frowned.
Tony brought up a holographic screen of what seemed to be a list of some sort. "These are all places that were attacked, robbed, yada yada yada, the other day. Well, that were reported to the police or that SHIELD took note of."
Bruce barely had the chance to skim through the first few locations before Tony quickly scrolled down the list. Stopping after a few short moments, he double tapped on a location.
A file came up, complete with a 3-D model of the building in question and a description.
"SHIELD archives? I thought it was all online?"
"SHIELD's been around a while, since before computers took over the world. They've got plenty of paper records," Tony explained. "Also, who would expect a high-tech organization like SHIELD to keep non-digitalized stuff?"
"So they keep all the old files there?" Bruce clarified. A frown marred his face. "Isn't that a little unsafe?"
"I wasn't able to get much information. There was practically nothing on the SHIELD database," Tony said distastefully, probably not liking the fact that he couldn't get all the pertinent information by himself. "I had to ask Agent, and he was unsurprisingly tight-lipped. But it's true that there are times when a tightly secured building is much safer than an online database. And besides, this is SHIELD we're talking about. I'm sure they keep at the very least two copies of everything."
"Old files, huh..." Bruce muttered. His eyes widened as his head jerked up towards the holographic screen. "Steve."
"Not just Steve," Tony corrected, a bitter tone entering his voice. "Apparently, SHIELD thought it would be a good idea to put all the really classified stuff about the Avengers- and other superheroes- in this SHIELD archive house. Without asking us."
"Don't tell me you're surprised. They're SHIELD."
"Oh, I'm not surprised," Tony said. "I just realized that I'm gonna have to pay a lot more attention to what SHIELD's doing."
"But our files... You think that someone's trying to blackmail us or SHIELD with this information?"
"No." Tony shook his head. "It's possible that whoever this thief is looked at all our files, but the files that were apparently messed with... were all about Steve and the super soldier serum. Turns out that it really didn't matter that our files were there after all."
Bruce paled, the implications of the theft sinking in.
"Someone wants to try to recreate Erskine's formula?" Bruce said haltingly. The sentence was phrased as a question, but both Tony and Bruce already knew the answer.
Tony gave a short nod.
"Dozens of people... maybe even more... have tried to recreate the formula along the years. All ended in failure." Bruce said bitterly. "I would think that people would learn their lesson already, especially after me."
"People do crazy things for power, Bruce." Tony shrugged. "Besides, you know about the whole superhero craze. Everyone wants to be one. And after Captain America came back from the dead and you turned out to be a genuine hero, reservations about experimenting to find the Super Soldier serum probably dissipated."
"Are you saying that this is partially our fault?"
"No way. Come on, don't think that, Bruce. A plan like this must've taken like years to plan out. Or at least several months. Well, maybe a couple months if they were good." Tony shook his head and waved a hand in a shooing motion. "Anyways. Nothing to do with us. Um, other than the fact that the place broken into had our files."
"So you're saying that Peter would have decided to go around in a red and blue spandex suit, beating up street thugs, even if we weren't here?"
"Hey, hey, why are you bringing up the kiddo? We weren't talking about Spidey, we were talking about the thief. But to answer your question, yes, he probably would."
"Really. The vigilante business I might accept, but you really think that he would've decided to wear a spandex suit while doing it?"
"Sure! Who knows, maybe he would've gotten into wrestling or something and made his mask for that! Then he could've designed the rest of his suit based on that. C'mon, doesn't that mask kinda look like a wrestling mask? If you turn your head to the side and squint."
"Whatever you say, Tony. Anyways, does SHIELD have any way to figure out who took the files and where they are?" Bruce had to ask, in the futile hope that the whole matter could be dealt with quickly and easily.
"The culprit didn't take the files- they just took pictures, most likely. SHIELD only knows that someone was in there because they tripped an alarm in one the innermost sections of the building," Tony explained, scowling. "And by the time the guards, distracted by the pretty explosions, came to investigate, the culprit was nearly out of the building. I am going to have words with Fury about his crap security, and it's gonna involve a lot of fund cutting."
"If they can't properly secure their buildings, why wouldn't they keep it all digitalized?" Bruce agreed. "But you really have to tell Steve about this."
"He already knows. Coulson told him, then Steve told me," Tony explained. "Before that, I had no freaking idea what the possible target of the thief was. All the places attacked were equally mundane and boring."
"I'm sure it wasn't very mundane and boring to the victims, Tony..." Bruce sighed. He sat himself down on a chair behind him and stared up at the ceiling. It had started out a light green, but now had the occasional multicoloured spot. His experiments tended to be relatively tame, but that didn't mean that there weren't a few stain-inducing incidents. "So we should watch out for a new supervillain on the horizon?"
"Nah. I think that we should watch out for another idiot dying in vain." Tony corrected. He stepped back to open the door, giving Bruce a flippant wave. "I'll let you get back to what you were doing, Brucie. Tell me about anything interesting!"
Bruce shook his head, a small smile on his face. He picked up the test tube he had been using, examining the contents.
"I don't trust him."
"I know you don't, Nat, but can't you give him a chance?" Clint complained. He was crouching precariously on a shelf above Natasha and Coulson. The three of then had met up in Clint's room/floor so that Coulson could catch them up with recent SHIELD news (read: gossip). "I mean, he's risked his life for the superhero gig already."
"It's our job to be suspicious." Natasha shot back, her arms crossed. "Parker seems like a genuinely nice kid. But it's downright creepy sometimes, the way he says things like Stark would and doesn't even i/notice/i. You know, the other day after gushing over some of Banner's science stuff, he said that he would take this over Banner turning into a giant green rage monster anyday."
"Okay, I admit it's a little weird," Clint said. "But Coulson, you said that Peter idolized Stark or whatever, right? Maybe he's just really stalkerish or something."
"A stalker? I doubt it, Barton," Coulson craned his neck up towards Clint. "Parker doesn't seem like the type."
"It's true that he might be," Natasha amended.
Coulson raised one incredulous eyebrow at Natasha.
"But some things he couldn't possibly know." Natasha continued, ignoring Coulson's scepticism. She had less faith in SHIELD's information gathering skills and personality analysis than Coulson. "Like, for example, 'giant green rage monster'."
"He's smart! He could totally figure out what type of things Stark would say, and say them!" Clint argued. He paused, thinking over his words. "Why am I supporting the 'Peter is a stalker' theory?"
"Because you know it's better than the other option," Natasha said calmly. "The possibility that Peter is an enemy."
"Working for who?" Clint demanded. "Look, we don't know anything yet. I trust you guys, but there's no concrete proof that Peter's an enemy."
"Coulson, you say that he was definitely lying today about how he got his powers?" Natasha asked.
"It seemed so," Coulson answered. "At this point, however, it would be better to gain Peter's trust than to do DNA tests that may or may not produce results."
"You could ask Banner," Clint interjected reluctantly. "Peter likes him- while he might refuse the weirdo SHIELD agent's request to test his DNA, if Banner asks the same thing, he might accept."
"I'll do that," Coulson said. "But it's possible that his powers have more to do with his parents than Parker himself. For some reason, we haven't been able to find out exactly where the two of them were working after they left SHIELD. Unfortunately, records on small-time biologists aren't very well-kept."
"No surprise there," Clint muttered.
"Just keep an eye on him, both of you." Coulson sighed. "Better safe than sorry, as they say."
"Mr. Osb- sir. Are you alright?"
"Quite. Better than ever, in fact. Those files were most useful, even if they were woefully incomplete."
"I'm glad to see that."
"I'm sure you are, Doctor. Please, no need to put on airs."
"Did you need me for something?"
"Yes. I heard that you're familiar with a few... supervillains for hire?"
"A couple, yes. I considered making a supervillain team, once, but it ended up too disorganized, especially with no common goal."
"Would any of them be useful for a kidnapping?"
"A kidnapping? Do you need them to be discreet?"
"Then I'd suggest Mark. He's had a little trouble with finding a job after his... accident. I'm sure he would stage a kidnapping for the right sum."
"Tell him that he would get a five thousand down payment, and an extra fifteen thousand once the job is successfully completed."
"And what is this job?"
"Oh, no, Doctor. I'll get in contact with him directly about the details of the job. I'd rather not deal with a middleman with sensitive information. Must I remind you again who is signing your checks?"
"No need, sir. I wouldn't suggest meeting Mark in person, though. He can get... nervous."
"Then I'll contact him by phone. Surely he can use one."
"Good. Get contact information when you talk to him."
"I'll take my leave then."
"I would hope so. I want a response by the end of the day, Octavius."
"... Very well, sir."
Transitional chapter, yeah, I know. Anyways, we've passed 100 reviews, peoples. And after only six chapters! You guys are awesome.