Whatever Peter had been expecting to find, it wasn’t this.
Justin Hammer was flying around his office, gripping handfuls of paperwork and models and throwing them into a haphazard pile in the center of the room. In his other hand he held a tank of gasoline- spreading it on every surface he could reach, not minding the generous amount that soaked into his own clothing.
His thinning hair was frizzy and standing on end, a victim to his crazed hair pulling and frantic movements. He was talking to himself, nonsense gibberish that had him sounding like one of the Russians. The purple bruise on his forehead matched the shade around his sunken, bloodshot eyes.
Hammer looked like he’d completely lost his mind. Peter’s spider-sense screeched in the back of his skull, but he’d taken one unsteady step backwards when Hammer caught sight of him and snarled.
“You caused all this. If it weren’t for you , I’d still have a fucking chance! That bitch wouldn’t be trying to kill the world and I’d be free ,” Hammer threw down the file he’d been holding as he swung around to face Peter, whipping a gun from his pocket and pointing it with a shaky hand at the boy. The other still held the gas tank.
Despite the rancid smell of gasoline making his head spin, Peter forced himself to push off the wall and face Hammer on his own power.
“What- what are you talking about? Who?”
“Zia Vaughn,” he spat, “using my money and my tech for her plans. She was going to have me killed! After all I’ve done for her!”
“This?” The boy gestured at the gas-soaked pile of work scattered around the office, confused.
“This, the experiments, the factory, all of it-” his whole body was shaking now, “she was using it to design a weapon that could rival the bubonic plague. Using you.”
He dropped the gas can, reaching into his other pocket and bringing out another lighter.
“All I asked of her was to let m-me have Tony Stark. Let me kill the man who k-killed me. And all she gave me was-was you. An itsy-bitsy spider Tony likes to play dress up with. What a fucking joke. My life was ov-over before they pulled me from that god-forsaken cell.”
He flicked the lighter, holding it up and staring dazed at the flickering flame. Peter shifted towards him, aching muscles preparing to lunge.
He shook his head sharply, dim eyes alight with the intensity of a madman. His voice cracked.
“Don’t trust him, kid.”
And with that, he dropped the lighter and raised the gun.
Peter clutched his ringing head. After a moment he realized he hadn’t been shot, and his body shook with tension and shock. The relief was short lived, however, when he slowly straightened and looked on in horror as the flames engulfed Hammer’s body, sizzling blood oozing out of the man’s skull. His pale blue eyes were still open- the insanity was gone, having leaked out with the blood. Fire consumed the room with a liveliness that wasn’t present when Hammer had burnt Peter’s suit.
Peter stumbled back, away from the flames, mind blank as he stared at the smoking form on the ground. The sound of emergency sirens and red lights shot a spike of adrenaline through his veins so he turned and ran.
Flames began spreading across the facility and no matter how fast he ran, they always seemed to be licking the walls at the edge of his vision.
Through the halls, sirens blaring, smoke, smoke, smoke, flames licking, lungs burning, stairs, stairs , stairs . . . out.
A blast of frigid air washed over him, soothing singed flesh as he slammed through the door. Smoke still filled his lungs and he hacked and coughed as he stumbled away, not pausing to look around as he ran to the street corner.
One moment, Peter’s feet pounded the icy pavement, the next he was flying bonelessly through the air, vision white, body weightless. He slammed against something unforgivably hard and everything went dark.
May managed to break one of the small metal rings of the handcuffs on her right hand, wrist bleeding freely. She scrambled over the table while her other hand stayed locked behind her and reached shaking fingers to the corner of the room where the deflated life jacket and cuff key had slid.
Emitting a frustrated growl she shifted and stretched a leg out, snagging the jacket with the toe of her scuffed sneakers and dragging it closer. Gripping the now blood-soaked key she ignored the water seeping from under the door, heart ramming against her ribcage, and unlocked her left hand. The skin on this wrist was bruised and swelling angrily.
May felt a sob rising in her throat and she swallowed it down, pressing her lips to the life jacket’s nozzle and blowing air into it as fast as her lungs would allow. She paused dizzily and glanced down at the water, which was above her knees and rising steadily.
The boat lurched and she grabbed the table, heart leaping. As she watched the water slosh freely around the small room she did something she hadn’t done since Ben’s death. She prayed.
Please please please if I don’t make it, let them find Peter. Let my baby be safe.
The thoughts circulated around her brain as a frantic plea, tears blurring her vision as she started filling up the lifejacket again.
Once it was mostly inflated she struggled to the door and pushed against the handle. It didn’t budge.
She pushed with all her might, and still the door didn’t move an inch. The pressure of the ocean outside the metal door was now too heavy.
The water was climbing up to her armpits, chilling her to the core. She felt her muscles clench in protest to the cold. Still crying, she pushed one last futile time before clambering up to stand on the table, numb fingers releasing the life jacket and letting it fall at her feat. It swirled around on the foamy water surface, knocking against her leg. It was a stupid symbol of hope. Zia knew that even if May did get out, she wouldn’t be able to use it. She’d timed this perfectly.
She decided right then that however much love she had for Peter Parker, she hated Zia Vaughn even more. She hoped that if Tony found the wretch, he wouldn’t be merciful.
Each second that passed another inch of freezing water lapped up her body, filling the small air pocket that marked what life May had left to live.
Sobs wracked her whole body.
. . .please find him . . .
Was that noise coming from the boat or something just outside it?
Breath caught in her lungs as she stood on her tiptoes, gasping inches beneath an unforgiving ceiling.
. . .Oh god, please. . .
That noise . . . wasn’t the boat. Or was it just her adrenaline-pumped imagination?
Icy salt water mixed with warm tears as she gasped one last breath, squeezing her eyes shut as the water touched the ceiling- and May Parker was completely submerged.