Chapter 1: Peter Parker
Peter dropped the newspaper onto the table with a sharp thwack, and the elderly woman by the sink jumped, quickly turning around.
"Peter!" She chastised him. "Don’t do that to me!"
"Sorry Aunt May," Peter said dutifully, then nodded to the table. "Mail’s here, and it's once again bad news."
"Oh?" She queried, and scooped the paper up, unfurling it. "Ah, that is very bad indeed. But you know, it's nothing we need to worry about, I don't think. After all, this person is only going after superheroes, and neither of us is that!" Peter nodded, but his heart wasn't in it. This killer was dangerous, somehow able to get the drop on half a dozen heroes already! The Black Panther, the White Tiger, Daredevil, the Black Cat, Iron Fist, and Wolverine. The last vigilante was the one in the paper this time, and was the most worrying of all. It was said that Wolverine was for all intents and purposes practically immortal, and yet he'd been found two blocks from the X-Mansion, impaled through the chest on a flagpole. His own weight and struggles seemed to have been his undoing, pulling him further down the pole by his own weight. Peter shuddered. According to the Bugle, it had been a horrific sight for the flag raisers to have found early that morning, blood trailing down the pole in rivulets, forming a rusty puddle around the base.
But the worst part in Peter’s eyes was the fact that the killer was leaving little, nearly insignificant clues at each body to reveal who would be dying next. The Panther's body had been found lying on a rug of Bengal tiger fur. The White Tiger had a blind man's cane next to him. Matthew Murdock had been found brutally beaten and killed, covered in the bodies of black cats. She had been discovered, mostly coated in a shell of once-molten iron which had been solidified on her. She had died painfully, her insides cooking from the liquid metal. Iron Fist had been found covered in slashes. However, Wolverine had been discovered to have a spider on his bracelet. A very specific spider, the very one he wore on his costume, the Bugle had reported quite gleefully. And it was too much to hope for that it was some other spider-donning hero, either.
Erstwhile, Aunt May had finished reading the article, and for the life of her, she couldn't figure out why her dear nephew seemed to look so sad.
"Cheer up, Peter. They’ll catch that horrible man. But I suppose they should at least hold out long enough for him to take care of that terrible Spider-Man!" Peter smiled at her reassuring constancy, plastering a fake smile on his features so she wouldn't be worried.
"But then I'd have to find someone else to take pictures of!" Aunt May smiled, and patted his cheek.
"You’ll do fine, Peter. You’re a smart and very creative boy. But, don't let that boss of yours convince you that you should try and take pictures of this killer! Even if you can keep up with that Spider-Man menace, this one is much too dangerous!"
"I understand," Peter smiled, but inside he was curled in a ball, rocking back and forth in sadness. He doubted he'd even live long enough to get that phone call. He trudged up the stairs to his room, and flopped on his bed, feeling too weary to even look at his textbooks. Is this what people considering suicide feel like? Peter asked himself. It was almost as if nothing mattered anymore, as if it somehow shouldn’t. But really, what was the point, if his days, heck, probably hours now, were numbered? Instead, he should be doing things he enjoyed, instead of being inside fretting about when the mystery killer was going to swoop down and take his life. Who knew, he'd been pretty careful about his identity. Perhaps he would be skipped over? No, Peter realized. If that was the case, then they'd just get him in his costume instead. That was, after all, what they'd done to daredevil. And he'd never told a soul outside of him, but he'd only learned by accident. He decided with refreshed resolve, that he’d live his remaining time starting tomorrow doing what he most enjoyed. And with these worrying thoughts, Peter fell asleep, and never woke again.
"Peter?" Aunt May stepped inside her dear nephew's room, and paled. "Peter!" She shrieked and hurried to his bedside. Peter’s body was cold. Quickly and with shaking hands, she picked up her nephew's cell phone.
"911, what is your emergency?"
"My nephew, I think he's dead!" Suddenly, Aunt May’s gaze was drawn to an opened niche in the wall, one she had never seen before.
"May we have your address?"
"20 Ingram Street, Forest Hill-oh dear heavens!" She had pulled it open, only to be faced with the impossible. Inside the hidden cache was a Spider-Man suit, web-shooters, and capsules of web fluid. Aunt May gasped her final words, clutching at her chest, and collapsed.
Ten minutes later, ambulances had pulled up and had immediately checked on both bodies, pronouncing them dead. But upon finding the cache, the paramedics were immediately cleared off, the scene promptly relabeled a crime scene.
Chapter 2: Observations of the Octopus
“Did you hear about Spider-Man?"
"I can’t believe he’s dead!"
"It’s about time he did, though. But really, just a kid?" Doctor Otto Octavius, the 'esteemed' supervillain dubbed Doctor Octopus, was once again listening in to the conversations of those on guard duty. He’d often found it to be the source of invaluable information, anything from blackmail material, to modern news, to escape routes. Certainly, it had caused quite a ruckus when one of the presidential candidates was discovered dead in their hotel room, but all it meant was that Trump was practically guaranteed the position of President. Good lord, what was the world coming to? If he got out in time, he’d be voting for the Green Party. He’d been rapturously following the slaughter of superheroes over the last few weeks, and while it was generally nothing of import, this particular vigilante struck a chord with him. So he listened even more eagerly.
"-just a teenager! Had the proof not been there on display for all to see, I never would have believed it!" This was said by the younger guard, fresh out of training, his youth still evident by the numerous pustules on his face.
"Yeah," said the second, older man in a more gravelly tone. "Only seventeen and a hero! And they said he was a genius as well. Now imagine, who in their right minds would waste such potential?"
"Well, that octopus guy certainly would."
"Hmm, you've got a point, but it wasn’t completely his fault you know. Hey, Octavius!" Otto sat up, leaning towards the bars.
"Aye." This was normally an unusual experience, but not for him. Usually, the guards were leery of talking to the prisoners, especially him, in fear that they would accidentally tell him something important and classified. But then again, the guards for some reason had always had a soft spot for him, and it seemed like they just couldn’t help but pull him into their conversations. Perhaps it was the fact that he didn’t look the part of a supervillain aside from his mechanical arms, and the fact that he was playing off the idea that he wasn’t in complete control of them due to their artificial intelligence.
"Got a question about the latest killing. Spider-Man was killed, turned out he was a teen by name of Peter Parker-" Otto gasped, which quickly turned into a coughing fit.
"Parker?” He wheezed. "I can’t believe it!"
"Wait, you knew the boy?" pustule-face demanded.
"Knew him? Of course! For a while, I ran a science camp! He was there one summer, stuck out as a scientific mind to one day parallel my own. I had his name written down somewhere in the hopes of joining his and my mind up to make advancements in the field one day." There was a momentary silence.
"Well, the cops checked every inch of him and his surroundings for a clue about the next person, but haven't found a single one. In fact, the only odd thing is his cause of death." The older guard resembling a toad said. "Anyway, just wanted to see if you could figure out who the next victim will be, or if this means that the killer is done."
"What was he poisoned with, and how?" Otto frowned. The younger one bobbed his head excitedly.
"Apparently, he was dosed with arsenic in his food at some point. Although how it got in there, no one knows. The aunt would be charged for it post-mortem, had the neighbors not testified in her defense so strongly." Otto mulled these new facts over in his head. There were multiple things to take into consideration here, everything from the atomic number, atomic mass, the actual letters, the color, and the symbols in regards to the bottle...that thought got snagged, and he mentally envisioned a bottle or arsenic. Dark, black and white label, multiple warning labels on it, including one of a skull and crossbones...
"The Punisher. The next victim will be Frank Castle." Otto said smugly, and the two guards gaped at him for a moment, before quickly turning and leaving almost simultaneously, as if they had planned it. Otto reclined back on his bed, pleased that he had tinkered with his mechanical arms, allowing them to fully retract. He had many things to think about. At this rate, there would possibly soon be no heroes left, and he and the other supervillains would have their pick over the world. Naturally, he intended to carve as much of a profit as he could for himself, but his main objectives would be the creating and perfecting his nuclear fusion reactor.
Moving on to other things, a small part of him rankled at the feeling that he’d lost to a teenager, repeatedly, but the rest of him was grieving for the wasted talent. He almost felt that Peter would have been the one to mention something useful, to finally figure out how to stabilize it. But regardless, the half of him despising the pesky web-head was gleeful he was dead, gone, and would no longer hinder his plans. He only wondered how long it would take for the Punisher to be killed, and who would be clued the next time. He’d share this information with the others…speaking of sharing, the food bell rang, and the bars along the back of the cell slid open to reveal the secured hall. Otto walked out, falling into step with five of his closest associates; Spencer, Quentin, Norman, Maxwell, and Adrian.
“Have you heard?” He asked them, and they blinked.
“Likely not, Otto. None of us have ears quite as sensitive as yours, nor such a fine working relationship with the guards.” Norman sniped, but he looked eager regardless. Otto had been keeping them up to date with the hero killings, and judging by the pleased look on his face, this one would be celebratory. Otto leaned close.
“Spider-Man is dead,” he said conspiratorially, and they stilled.
“Well? Who did he end up being?” Quentin demanded.
“Ah, Norman, you’ll get a kick out of this one. Spider-Man was a teenager, named Peter Parker.”
“Peter?” Norman gasped. “Peter was my son’s best friend!”
“Huh, small world. I taught him at a science camp a few years back,” Otto responded.
“Well, I’ve never heard of him,” Adrian grunted.
“Nor have I,” Max sniffed.
“I’ve heard of the Parkers,” Quentin said slowly. “I once heard that there was treasure hidden in their house. Anyways, I soon found out there wasn’t.” Norman scoffed.
“Come on, Quentin! In a home like theirs, had there been any treasure, they would have used it.” Now at the cafeteria, they chose their customary table.
“Now that Spider-Man is out of the way, we will have open access to succeeding in our goals!” Adrian crowed.
“But what about the other heroes?” Max mumbled around his burrito.
“What about them?” Spencer asked irritably, trying to eat around the carrots in his beans.
“Well, wouldn’t they try to stop us?” Max queried, swallowing.
“For the man who designed the New York power grid, you really are an idiot. Maxwell, all the heroes are falling out of the sky like stones. Dead,” he emphasized, when Max continued to stare at him blankly. Then suddenly, there were several shouts, as a man collapsed to the floor on the other side of the room.
“I knew it would be Castle next,” Otto smirked.