Peter Parker, Spider-Man, sobbed over the still corpse of his Aunt May. The beep of her heart-monitor had long since stopped. For at least the last five minutes it'd been silenced forever, but Peter found himself quite unable to leave her side. For all intents and purposes, she'd been his mother, far more than that obscure, far-off figure that was the late Mary Fitzpatrick-Parker. Even when Uncle Ben was shot, there'd been a certain comfort in knowing that Aunt May would always be around, the resilient matriarch that was just too stubborn to die, or so it seemed.
He'd lost everybody. His entire family. He was the last of the Parkers. May had never got to see the grand-nieces and nephews she'd always wished for, or give a speech at his wedding ceremony. She would never see him finally prove successful at a career in science and validate her faith in him on that account. Never again could she create another batch of wheatcakes to be shared between the pair of them. He'd waited too long, on too many things, and now she was gone forever.
What felt like the thousandth sob tore its way out of Peter's throat. It was an ugly, pitiful sound. Like the hoarse wailing of some damned creature. His chest shook, wracked with shudders and keening noises that couldn't quite escape through his mouth. He tried to be quiet, and for the most part he succeeded. This was a public place, after all, as secluded as this particular area was. However, his discretion had limits. Luckily, it only drew the attention of his ex-turned-partner, Mary Jane Watson.
Mary Jane had left him alone some time ago, polite enough not to intrude on such a momentous and tragic event as the passing of a loved one. Nonetheless, May Parker had been an important and respected woman in her life, too. Because of that, there was a certain dread that came with investigating the source of Peter's sobs. There was the signature hush of death in the room that alerted MJ to what had occurred from the moment she entered the room. The sight of the antiserum and mask set to the side, the immobile body of May, it was enough to send her into a fresh set of tears. He'd made the right choice, and she was proud of him, but that didn't make it hurt any less.
Timid as a doe, the red-haired journalist stood beside her friend and rubbed circles in his back. Peter's senses had been set off upon her approach, so he wasn't surprised, just comforted by the company. Unable to hold the cold corpse any longer, he stood and slid his arms around MJ, resting his head over her shoulder and hiding his tear-stained face in her neck. She was the first to break the deathly silence.
"You going to be ok?"
"Yeah," he croaked.
This was what May would've wanted. In a way, she'd saved New York through her own sacrifice. All she would've had to do was say the word, and Peter would've given her the cure in a heartbeat. There was no way he could've resisted a death-bed plea like that, from his last remaining relative, no less. Wherever Uncle Ben was, whether it was the void of nonexistence, a random reincarnation, or some sort of restful paradise, Peter was sure that his surrogate parents would find each other again. Nothing could keep them apart in his mind.
Now Peter just had to pick up the pieces. His life wasn't even half over, the state of adulthood only barely begun. He had to keep living, for them, do their memory proud every day for the rest of his days. He would start by giving the antiserum to Dr. Morgan Michaels to begin mass synthesis of a vaccine.
His mourning was interrupted by a loud crash from the front of the F.E.A.S.T. shelter. Peter stumbled back from MJ, spider-sense driving a shiver up his spine. Shouts rang out, and Peter unthinkingly snatched up his mask. He slipped it on just in time, as in the next few seconds a frazzled Morgan Michaels came charging into the office that had once been May Parker's. Eyes averted from the obvious body, the Doctor jabbed a finger at the red-and-blue-suited vigilante.
"You. Get out."
Peter was taken-aback by Michaels' sudden demand. It wasn't quite hostile, but it still left him confused and slightly hurt. What? Had he saved the good Doctor only to be sent away like a dog to the yard? "What? What did I d-"
"Sable agents," started Michaels shortly as way of explanation. He looked like he might say more, but MJ beat him to it.
"Oh God, someone must've left an anonymous tip!"
As soon as the news set in, Peter's blood went cold. Silver Sablinova had abandoned Norman's cause shortly after Peter's first "fight" with Octavius, if it could be called that, but her agents were another story entirely. They were firmly leashed by Norman, their principles dictated by their handsome payroll. The warrant for Spider-Man's arrest was still standing, and the commission and probable promotion that would accompany his capture was as ever an open opportunity.
Peter had no idea why Norman was gunning for him, though he had a semblance of possible motivations in his head. At first Peter had thought that his alter-ego was simply a scapegoat for Norman to escape blame. That was part of it, probably, but it didn't explain the sheer ferocity that he'd channeled into Sable International to take him down. Sable and her men had been playing for keeps, when they should've been focusing on the prison break or even the plague. Rather than just tolerating their aggression, Norman appeared to approve of it, encourage it, even. Maybe some underlying resentment was the cause? More unnerving was the reminder that Norman Osborn had more than a passing interest in Peter's powers. It wasn't exactly a secret. He'd published papers under his own name on the subject, contributing to the myriads of articles that made up a thriving scientific community dedicated to "The Spider-Man Problem". MJ had mentioned some experimental spiders being bred in Osborn's penthouse lab, too.
"I'll stall them. You head out a back way." Dr. Michaels' voice shook Peter out of his thoughts. The man was gone in a heartbeat, jogging down the steps. Mary Jane was eyeing Peter with concern. For a second Peter considered switching identities, but there might not be time to find a pair of clothes before Sable's agents came barging in to find him half-dressed.
Under different circumstances, he might've engaged them. Compared to him they were chumps. As it was, though, these past days had taken their toll on the wallcrawler. First the Jonah-dubbed "Sinister Six" had handed him his ass and left him for dead in the East River. He'd received fourteen broken bones out of that deal, most of them ribs. Then, he'd gone up against the Six one by one, sometimes in pairs. His first hostile encounter with Dr. Octavius and his arms had left him in an even worse state than before. Concussed, bleeding out... he very well could've died if not for Silver Sablinova, Dr. Michaels and the volunteers at F.E.A.S.T.. Not a few hours later and he'd been racing up the side of Oscorp Tower for a second showdown. In that one he'd succeeded in retrieving the GR-27 antiserum, but not without some grievous wounds. At first his new armour had protected him, but over the course of the battle it'd been stripped away, leaving him vulnerable. A piercing shoulder wound inflected by the claws of one of Octavius' tentacles was the worst of it. Since then it'd stopped gushing blood, congealing into an ugly, splattered circle on his suit, but Peter was still sore and light-headed because of it. It was a wonder he hadn't dropped dead from the sheer stress alone, even more so that his old college ulcer hadn't acted up at any point during the city-wide crisis.
"Peter," MJ hissed loudly. "You have to get the hell out of here."
"Don't have to tell me twice."
It was hard to be driven away from what remained of his Aunt so soon after she'd breathed her last, but there was nothing to be done about it. Before abandoning her altogether, Peter cast one last, doleful look at her body, his throat tightening. Without further ado, Peter clung to the wall and crawled out a window that Mary Jane had previously opened for him. Usually he was comfortable in this position, but right now it hurt to move like this. Gritting his teeth, Peter slipped outside and ducked around a corner. Inside, the shouts had reached new volumes. With his sensitive hearing, Peter was able to pick up some of the words.
"You can't come in here-!"
"-Confiscate the cure-"
"Leave him be!"
"-go through me-!"
He didn't have the luxury of truly processing what he heard, but what did enter his ears made Peter feel a little warm inside. The warmness was a welcome change to the temperature of May's cadaver, or the icy fear that'd rushed through him upon the agents' arrival.
"Time to go," Peter muttered to himself, hopping over to the adjacent building with some effort. Now that he was further away, he was able to make out the bigger picture. The F.E.A.S.T. shelter was surrounded by Sable forces. White, vehicle-mounted cannons scanned the skies, and a patrol was just now coming Peter's way to cover the wall he'd just escaped from. It was a wonder that they hadn't spotted him yet.
Swearing, Peter stealthily clambered up his current wall and snuck across the roof. Meanwhile, the Sable squadron was spreading out, probably aware that he'd been warned and was on his way out. Peter kept pace with them, but took pains to remain hidden. His spider-sense helped in that department, always warning him when he was about to be spotted, and so allowing him to move unseen. The crackle of a nearby radio halted Peter in his tracks. Shit they were close. Forty feet, tops.
"No sign of target. Should we rendezvous at Bravo point?"
"Negative. Continue search. This may be our last chance before he becomes a full-on martyr."
"I don't know about you, but I want that bonus-"
Shaking his head, Peter continued onward. So lovely to be valued. It wasn't in the way he craved, but hey, at least Sable International appreciated him. Like a steak on a plate. Or a bone for a dog. Focus, Pete.
Whether it was from the blood loss or the bone-breaking exhaustion of the earlier fight, Peter failed to heed his spider-sense when it next screamed at him. The blue light of a pointer-dot-sight lined up with Peter's leg before it disappeared into some shadows. Regardless, it'd been enough to arouse the suspicions of the Sable agent holding the rifle. Voice low so as to not forewarn the skittish Spider-Man, the agent spoke into his com and advanced into the alleyway where he'd seen the sign of movement.
"I think I might have something. Converge on my location- WAIT! CODE SM-ONE I HAVE A SIGHTING."
The jig was up. In his injuries Peter had become clumsy. The Sable agent started to shoot at him, but Peter was already booking it away. For now he had to abandon the stealthy approach, at least until he was a safe distance from here. Now that there was no need to stay grounded, he didn't hesitate in loosing a webline, yanking himself off his feet with its elasticity once it was attached.
Soon, he was in the rhythm of swinging. There was a slight problem in that, though. During their battle Doctor Octopus had ruined Peter's webshooters and his supply of other gadgets. On the way to the shelter Peter had stopped by the lab to pick up a spare pair of shooters to make the journey go by twice as fast, but there was no telling how much web fluid he had left in the few spare cartridges he'd snatched. He'd been in a bit of a rush at the time. Consequently he would have to act preservatively with his webs if he wanted to stay ahead of the Sable strike force.
"CODE SM-ONE CODE SM-ONE," someone hollered in seamless repetition at his back. Peter was impressed that the guy hadn't twisted his tongue by now, saying it over and over like that. More voices took up the chant. An army of footsteps hit pavement, but Peter was high above them. He just had to watch out for their nasty stun guns, nets, and what Peter had come to call "shocky-hurty-capture-ropes". Just then Peter heard a combustive sound that he knew too well, and his hopes of an easy escape were promptly dashed.
Jetpack troopers. Great.
By now he'd left the main ground force in the dust, but these guys were harder to shake. At any other point, Peter might've felt confident that he could lose them, but he wasn't exactly operating at peak performance. A half-dozen jetpack units drew up along either side of him. Feeling kind of playful in spite of the situation, Peter dropped down just as each group fired some of their capture-ropes. Consequently, about half of each group ended up entangled in their own traps. As professional as they were, they were still human. Peter, on the other hand, was something more.
"Whoops! Careful with your toys!" Peter quipped upon his next swing. Some Sable agents stayed behind to help deactivate the bonds holding their allies, but most resumed the pursuit, their resolve unbroken.
One of them called for Peter's surrender, his voice amplified. He was especially feisty with firing his weapon, and closing in faster than the rest. Peter's response was a firm, swinging kick to the man's side, his strength splintering the guy's armour. A cry rang out in the air before the Sable agent started to plummet, his jetpack also damaged by the attack. To prove he wasn't heartless, Peter hastily constructed a web-trampoline to catch the guy before he could hit the ground.
"See ya sweet cheeks!" Peter snickered, but it was forced. He was really only jesting out of habit. His quips were of a pathetic quality and rang hollow. May's passing was still weighing heavily on his heart.
After some confusion the jetpack battalion regrouped and unleashed a barrage of energy "bullets" at the retreating webslinger. The wall of gunfire was thick and dense, but since it was in clumps, Peter was able to dodge it relatively unscathed. Unfortunately, there was another surprise in store for the superhuman. A second detachment of jetpacked agents was incoming, straight ahead. Peter swerved mid-swing to avoid them, heading down a different street. Unknown to Peter, that was exactly the direction they wanted him to take. Up ahead, a trap laid in wait, set up by ground-based Sable troops while he was being chased in circles.
Time seemed to slow. Peter reacted to his spider-sense too-little-too-late. Around the corner was a wall of Sable towers and men, at least two dozen, weapons raised. Almost simultaneously, all of them unleashed electrified capture-ropes and nets. The spider-human was able to dodge most of them, but inevitably a few shots got lucky. Peter was good, but not that good.
Unable to get completely clear, Peter yelped when a capture-rope nicked him in the ankle and immediately constricted around it. That first slip-up made him vulnerable to the next volley, which brought him down with a weighted net. Peter plummeted, crying out at the impact. He was pinned, swathed in metallic fibres that buzzed and crackled with energy. The weights weren't so heavy so as to bar him from moving altogether, but as soon as he struggled to his feet, they served to help tangle his limbs beneath him. In the end, Peter was only able to hobble a few feet before he was too impaired to remain standing.
Sable agents swooped down on him like scavenging vultures on a dying animal. Before Peter could tear the net and capture-rope apart and off of him, which he was in the process of doing, they unleashed a bombardment of stun shots and a few extra capture-ropes for good measure. These ones had tethers on the ends, which the agents were able to touch without the danger of being shocked themselves. They scooped the ends up and pulled, helping to keep Spider-Man immobile. Peter felt a pressure along his chest, neck, and splayed-out limbs when they did so.
"Get some cuffs over here!" someone clearly in charge ordered.
"And contact Mayor Osborn. Get us some extra support and a containment unit."
Peter's hearing was fading. There might've been other voices joining in on the conversation, even the shapes of civilians come to check out the scene, but they felt far away. It was getting harder and harder to move, to get his muscles to respond. At first he writhed like a downed bird, but eventually those struggles descended into defeated twitches and spasms as he lay on his side. Fuck, he was a failure. The only upside he could see to all of this was that May wouldn't have to see him like this. She must've worried so...
"Hey!" a rowdy, middle-aged man in a housecoat strode forward. He wasn't the only one. "What's going on here, assholes? Can't you see we're all trying to sleep?!"
"This is now a restricted area, leave now or we will be forced to put you under arrest," snarled a Sable agent.
"On whose say-so?" he spat in challenge, arms crossed. The rousted man got a seething, scathing response.
"Mine and the Mayor's."
Some curious citizens were gathering around, drawn by the commotion. It wouldn't be ideal for the agents' operations if they were to interfere, so the Captain discreetly called in for a second squad to detain any rabble-rousers that refused to vacate the premises. A lot of New York's populace was loyal to Spider-Man, which could prove a problem if word of his detainment became too public. First there would be angry New Yorkers, then there would be the press... Osborn would not be happy. The agents attempted to form a barrier between the civilians and their catch, but it was too late. As soon as the first person saw that Spider-Man was the one confined under the netting and cables, he yelled it aloud, confirming everyone else's worst suspicions.
"Oi! They got Spider-Man back there!"
"Leave Spidey alone you animals!" a woman shrieked. The cause was quickly taken up by the ever-growing mob. Feeling cornered, the Sable agents backed up and considered opening fire on the crowd. On that decision, they waited for the word given by either Osborn or their Captain.
"Yeah! He's the one trying to help us!"
"I'll kick your ass, get the hell out of our way-!" Someone lunged for the net and got the butt of a gun in the face for his troubles.
A desperate wail rang out, "You can't do this! What about those Rykers escapees?"
"Spider-Man's the only one that protects us!"
A six-year old girl did not hesitate to get involved. Tucked in the skirts of her mother, she screamed, "WET SPIDEY GO!"
In contrast to the exclamations of support for Spider-Man, a few lone voices had less-than-savoury opinions that they expressed on the spot. Though they were mostly drowned out by the wave of outrage, they were still there, a piercing and powerful minority. Likely they were influenced by the angles taken by J. Jonah Jameson in his paper and later podcast, or else they had their own reasons for agreeing with what they saw. Spider-Man was far from being universally loved, after all.
"Finally... took long enough, you incompetent-"
His patience waning, the Captain bellowed, "BACK, BACK!" His men surged forward, shoving citizens over like they were dominoes. Some spectators took that as a sign to get out of there, but others were just more incensed. Only the threat of being shot kept them at bay, however reluctantly. To the agents, they were like prowling wolves, ready to pounce on even the slightest opening.
"You can't do this! We have rights, and so does Spider-Man!" a college-aged man with glasses and a beanie said in outrage. "I don't remember voting for Osborn as my dictator!"
"Yeah! You can't just push us around! We're people!"
Reinforcements finally arrived just as things were about to come to a head. Vehicles pulled in front of Spider-Man, boxing him in and forcing the civvies to jump out of the way lest they be plowed under their massive tires. The people's protests were disdainfully ignored by the drivers and passengers emerging from their vehicles. A particularly large transport truck-and-trailer combo opened its back end to allow for loading. Inside was a case, made of see-through material that could pass for a type of glass. It took up the entire interior of the vehicle's cargo area.
Four of the assembled agents grabbed hold of one of the loose cords and started to pull Spider-Man up the ramp. He was limp, mostly unconscious, body dragging after his limbs. Just as the first dredges of the press started to swarm the scene, taking pictures and video where they could peer through the makeshift blockade, Spider-Man was already inside. One agent was in the middle of administering a proper tranquilizer to the prisoner. The mask was half-rolled up for this purpose. He was careful with the needle, not wanting to accidentally damage an artery. Peter felt only a prick, if anything. The onlookers lost sight of what was happening after that, as the back of the vehicle began to close...