"Oh," said Ursula, for about the hundredth time that day.
"I don't ask this lightly," Peter said. "I honestly don't. I've lost one friend already, I nearly lost MJ just hours ago. But I'm pretty sure you have it in you, I've seen you, just as you've seen me."
She didn't know how to answer. And time was running out, Peter could go off the line any minute. "What do I need?" she asked. "I mean, for weapons."
"There's a taser gun under my bed. Take that, and take the pepper spray that's in the bottom drawer. You need to-" Suddenly his voice lowered. "They're coming down the corridor. I...I have to go." And he hung up. Ursula hung up her phone too, breathing deeply to calm herself down.
She went back to the bag. She took out the knife, then went into Peter's room to find what she needed. She could see the moon through the hole in the wall: someone might well call the cops when they finally noticed it. If they were still alive by that point...
She felt sick, felt terrible, but she collected up the weapons. Then she remembered something else- she went to the desk, opened the drawer, took out the letters. Maybe they'd be safer with her? But she instantly dismissed that idea. She looked at them.
One was for MJ, one was for Peter's aunt, and one was for Harry. Except- there was a fourth one, different envelope, more recent maybe. She turned it over. Ursula, it said.
It was for her, so she could have opened it, but she didn't dare. She put it in her pocket, put the rest on the table- and she ran.
She made a stop first at the 24-hour internet cafe at the end of the road, and printed out a map to Quest Labs. Not having a single printer in her own building, it seemed the best option. She tucked it into her pocket, and continued on.
Halfway there, standing in the dark consulting the map, her cell phone rang. She thought just for a second that it might be Peter, but then remembered that he didn't know her cell phone number. In fact, only one person did-
"Girl," said her father. "Mary Jane in stable condition. Andrei actually pretty good doctor. Where are you?"
Ursula considered lying. She loved her father, and she was thinking of the danger she could put him in. Then she considered how much danger he was in anyway. "Dad, I went to find Peter."
"Idiot," said her father. But there was something else in his voice, something Ursula had never heard from him, a sort of pride. "How you know where he is?"
"He called me. He's okay." Now she was lying. "Some people took him and locked him up, but they've gone now. Dad, I promise I'll be safe. You have to stay where you are and look after MJ, just in case, you know?"
"It not sound like you be safe," said her father. "These are men who nearly kill woman!"
"I have Peter's taser gun."
Her father was silent. "I too have gun, Andrei's gun. We on watch for bad men," he said. "Andrei is useless in fight, I can tell. ANDREI, THAT NOT HOW TO HOLD A GUN!" he suddenly bellowed, causing Ursula to jump. Then he swore in Russian. Ursula recognised the words 'blow' 'off' and 'scrotum'. "Ursula. You call me or send message every half hour. If not I take gun and come looking. Peter's woman have to take chances. You much more important. Now, tell me where you go!"
Ursula told him, her heart thumping in her chest. She instantly regretted it.
"Science lab! Science lab does not sound like safe place!"
"It's abandoned," Ursula lied. "Dad, it's okay, I promise."
"You got brave," her father said. "I don't like it." Then he hung up. Ursula worried about that: what if something had just happened to make him hang up...
But she had to shake it off, hard as it was. She placed her cell in her boot (its customary place, as it was too big for her tiny pockets) and kept walking.
When she reached the lab at last, it didn't look the way she'd imagined. It was a tall, threatening place surrounded by a high fence with signs marked DO NOT ENTER, true, but it didn't look the way her terrified imagination had made it look. She had thought she was headed for some dark gothic Frankenstein lab.
She leaned her head against the fence and looked at it. Some of the lights were on. She couldn't see any people, maybe they were all inside. It wasn't as if many people would be in on this sort of thing, she figured. But Peter was inside, and she had to get to him...
She put her hands on the fence and gradually, carefully, pulled herself up. She made it to the top, and in the process of climbing over to the other side, fell off. She hit the ground hard and very nearly let out a yell, but managed to stop herself at the last moment.
She pulled herself to her feet. She wasn't too badly hurt. Her knees and hands were grazed but that was it, she could at least still walk. Then she did the thing she suspected she should have done the minute she saw the building- she took the taser gun out. It felt weird in her hands.
She went to the building, right up to the nearest door, examining every shadow before she stepped into it...and no-one shot her. She took a deep breath, tried the door, it didn't open. She'd expected that, but what now? Maybe break a window? What if breaking into the building also triggered an explosion? What if...
She deliberately didn't let herself think about it. She edged around to the nearest window, and hit it with the butt of the gun. A few hits and it broke. She leaned through the broken bit, located the latch, unlatched it-
-her hand came out bleeding.
She winced in pain. It wasn't a deep cut, but it hurt- why hadn't she thought to bring bandages? Or something? Now she was dripping blood down her t-shirt. Oh, and half the city was in danger.
She crawled through the open window and landed in an office. To her relief, it was empty. There were computers, scanners- all the normal office things. A good lack, she thought, of giant monsters.
But was she anywhere near where Peter was? She didn't know. But she did know it was time to send a text to her father, so she did- she set her phone to silent, too. And raised her gun in what she hoped was a threatening manner, and went to the door-
The door was locked with a keypad. Nine numbers glowed invitingly at her, but she didn't have a clue what the code was. She tried to think about what Peter would do, but it didn't work in this case, he could just rip the door off.
She tried to think of something that would work. Harry had something to do with all this, maybe the number was something relating to him? But she doubted he picked the security numbers of a company he didn't work for. Maybe it was just something easy, something everyone would remember-
To her surprise, an old newspaper article she'd once read came into her head. It had said, most people didn't bother picking security numbers and just used 1-2-3-4. This was a big company, they probably wouldn't be so lax with their security, but it was worth a try-
She typed it in. The door opened. She darted through it, and praised her luck on the other side. What were the odds? But there was no time to stand around, there wasn't time for much at all. To her right was a flight of stairs, and she headed that way. She thought there was a chance that the top half of the building was where things were happening: that was how it was in films-
A distant memory fluttered into her head: a memory of being six or seven years old and climbing up to the unstable roof of the apartment they'd lived in then. It was a sunny day and she wanted to see the birds on the top of the building. She had crept away from her father and climbed all the way up there, oblivious to all danger. She had stared out at New York spread beneath her, the birds forgotten, until her father snatched her from the wonderful new place she'd discovered and shouted at her til she cried...
"I already lose wife," he had said to Ursula's grandfather, who had lived with them then. "I not lose daughter too. Stupid girl!"
She was on the ninth floor now, listening for sounds but hearing nothing. She wanted to call out for Peter, but she knew that would be a foolish move. She thought about her father. It was probably time to text him again-
Someone whacked her on the back of the head.
It hurt but it didn't knock her out. She yelled; a foolish mistake.
She stumbled around to face her assaliant. It was a man, a man about her age, a phone in one hand and a thin metal pole in the other. He wrenched the taser from her hand and flung it aside. He moved to hit her again, but he wasn't fast, she had the upper hand. Or she thought she did, she thought she had a chance, until he threw his weapon aside and grabbed her by the throat.
"Who sent you?" he roared.
A thousand possibilities flew through her head. "I'm-I'm a journalist. You're up to something terrible!" He responded by pushing her hard against the wall. "Let me go!"
"Oh no," the man said. "You're not going anywhere."
"Bart!" called the man to someone else. Another man came into the corridor, this one welding a gun. "We gotta little rat sniffing around."
Ursula struggled as the gun was pressed to her face- and she was terrified, and she was showing it. "Please don't!"
"What d'ya think, Bart?" said the first man. "She hasn't got long to live anyway."
But Bart ignored him and pressed the gun even harder against her forehead. "Did Spider-Man send you?"
"What?" Even in her terror, she managed to lie...and she was getting very good at it. "Has he got something to do with all this?"
Slowly, the gun was lowered. "Lock her up." Bart said. "She might be useful later. Oh, and take her stuff, she won't be needing it."
The man ripped the bag from her, and shoved her away from the wall. Between them, they pushed her into the nearest room- another office, a smaller one- and slammed and locked the door. She was trapped in the darkness, and she was all alone.