ALSO I'M GOING TO BE FIXING A FEW THINGS IN EARLIER CHAPTERS SO IF YOU GET A BUNCH OF NOTIFICATIONS (DO YOU GET UPDATED WHEN A CHAPTER GETS CHANGED?) JUST IGNORE THEM UNTIL THE NEXT NEW CHAPTER IS UPLOADED. I NOTICED SOME PRETTY NASTY GRAMMAR ERRORS. YUCK. ALSO, I TAKE BACK WHAT I SAID ABOUT THIS STORY BEFORE. I'M HAVING A LOT OF FUN WRITING THIS ONE. MIGHT MAKE IT LONGER THAN ANTICIPATED. WE'LL SEE. ENJOYYYY
Peter couldn't sleep. The same overwhelming urge to run from earlier that night kept him up. Today was Sunday, the day of the drop for that monkey totem burying a hole in his closet. He needed to get rid of it. He turned over toward the clock on the center dresser. "Three thirty," he said under the rapid clicking of Gil's XBOX controller, rolling out of bed and throwing on some sweatpants.
"Three thirty?" Gil said, his eyes glued to the screen of his television. "That's an hour earlier than you usually get up. You okay?"
Peter nodded, putting on his glasses. "I guess I'm still a little shell shocked from yesterday," he said, "nearly getting killed by a supervillain, suddenly dating someone who I had no idea liked me in that way, there's just a lot on my mind."
"Wait, wait," Gil said, pausing the game. "I was right about Bonnie?"
Peter shook his head, throwing his backpack over his shoulder. "Yeah, I guess. I'll be working on the engineering project, if you want to join. It's due this Friday, in case you forgot."
"I'll pick up the slack later today," Gil said, "we're doing your nanotech thing, right?"
"Yeah," Peter said. "I have the model and blueprints almost done. I have clearance to the engineering building through Vivian, so we could probably just build it ourselves tomorrow and just spend the rest of the week coding, coding, coding."
Gil paused again, turning to him with tired shock on his face. "You know that the schematic is the project, right? He doesn't want us to actually build the thing."
"Yeah, of course," Peter said, "I'm saying we can run it virtually, like the Google AI software. It'll be a little hard to envision, and all of us have worked too hard to not get an A because we couldn't show the class a viable product."
"Bro, chill," Gil chuckled. "All we need to do is some diagnostics on the virtual model to make sure it's physically possible, we don't need to make it perfect. We're also not selling it."
"I have no chill," Peter said, making him laugh, "and if I can't sleep, you and Ron suffer."
"Man, go run a lap or something, tire yourself out," Gil said, waving him off.
"So I'll crash face first in the sidewalk and some ravenous grad student will steal our project?" Peter said deadpan. "Not likely. I'll be in the lounge."
"Cool cool," Gil yawned.
Peter closed the door, walking to the stairwell and feeling a strong draft from above. "Interesting," he said, hopping up the flight of stairs to the door to the roof wedged open by a black grappling hook. He leaned his head out of the door, seeing Kim in her mission uniform sitting on the edge of the building with her laptop. He secured the hook and stepped out. "Strange study spot, Kim."
Kim turned tiredly toward him. Her hair was all over her head too, her intelligent green eyes open but exhausted. "Hey Peter," she sighed, turning back to her laptop obviously burdened.
"Mind if I join you?" Peter asked, walking over to the edge.
"You might fall," Kim warned, putting her hand out protectively.
"I'm alright, thanks," Peter said, sitting next to her with his legs dangling in the air. He pulled out his laptop, opening it up to a blank page on one half of the screen and a 3D model of an ant on the other. "You couldn't sleep either?"
"I haven't been able to, not for awhile," Kim said with a yawn, finishing a page of her essay and clicking through at least twenty tabs on her browser. "It's hotter in the lounge. The wind up here, it's nice. It's quiet. How about you?"
"I got a bit shaken up from last night, I guess," Peter said, "I saw the door open so I got curious. I figured that I should just finish my team's engineering project, get as much as I could done. Where's Ron?"
Kim seemed to flicker a frown at his name. "Out like a light," she said. "He took a pretty nasty hit to the head yesterday from Green Goblin's attack." She ran her hands through her hair in stress, letting out another sigh before going back to her essay. "I wasn't going to bother him right now. He needs the rest."
Peter looked her up and down. She was always so together, on top of herself and anything that came her way. She was disheveled. "And you don't?"
Kim closed her laptop halfway, looking out into the campus and seeing her rising city in the near distance. "Yesterday just felt different," she said, "it's been different ever since… he got here."
Peter made his blank essay tab smaller and smaller until it was fighting for existence in the corner of his screen. "Would you want to talk about it?" he asked, maximizing his model.
Kim opened her laptop again, typing out another line of her essay with bursts of words as sporadic and cluttered as her own thoughts. "I don't think so, not right now," she said softly. She erased the entire line. Kim's eyes focused on the screen, her paper on the downfall of puppet states staring back at her waiting for more.
Peter wasn't going to push her. He simply nodded, knowing her position fairly well.
"It's just," she started, "yesterday, I think, put just how much things have spiraled out of control in perception." She closed her laptop again, laying back and staring up at the stars. "Ron could have been seriously injured or worse. It never gets like that when I'm in charge. I'm always a step ahead, always at the top of my game. I didn't think about it before I checked him out, but after I saw it, I thought about everything that has happened to me and around me starting from two months ago. I'm losing control, and it's not because I'm not trying my best, I just feel like my best hasn't been enough to protect the people I care about." She turned to him, looking for assurance. "It's not black and white anymore," she said, "I thought I knew what that meant, what it felt like, but what I feel is right goes against everything I thought was right before, and I don't know if I trust myself to make the right decision anymore. I realized how wide of a safety net I had with..." He wasn't allowed to hear everything. "...my situation, that if I messed up, if I fell, I'd be okay." She sat up again, putting her head in her hands and rubbing her tired eyes. "It's slipping out from under me, Peter, and this time I don't know where I'll land if I fall."
Peter put his laptop next to him, looking out into the city that he now protected as well. "With great power," he said, "comes great responsibility."
Kim looked at him to say that it was obvious.
"What you should do with that responsibility may not always be clear," Peter said, "sometimes the right thing to do doesn't always feel like it, and that's okay. What you have to ask yourself is if you can live with that decision to stand against your own volition. Nobody else can do that for you. People on all sides will shout at you, overwhelm you until you convince yourself that you're wrong. You can't let them do that, Kim. Once they do, you've relinquished your responsibility, your great power is no longer your own." Peter realized he was probably coming on as preachy. "Not that you don't already know this, of course. I'm not trying to lecture."
Kim stayed quiet for a moment, pondering his words that mimicked her own thoughts telling her to push through into the unknown anyway. It no longer made her feel sad, with bitterness and anger forming a deep pit in her stomach and a cold streak up her spine. "I was worried you'd say that," she said, sitting up again. "I've never been so conflicted before. For once, I can't tell myself everything's going to be okay, because I know it might not be."
"When the time comes," Peter said with a stern but supportive voice, "you need to trust in yourself enough to make the right decision. You're the Kim Possible. You'll know."
Kim looked at him solemnly. "Kim Possible couldn't stop Ron from getting killed yesterday," she said with disdain, "but I guess just sitting here isn't going to change that."
"Yesterday was-" Painful. Dangerous. Exciting. "-surprising, to say the least. How were you supposed to know that a supervillain was going to jump the party?"
"I knew it," Kim said, "I always know it. I just wasn't prepared for it this time." She grabbed her grappling hook from the door and notched it on the edge of the building. "It won't happen, ever again."
"Where are you going?" Peter asked.
"I'm going to clean up for about an hour," she said, "then try to get some sleep."
"Are you sure you'll be okay?"
Kim nodded. "I think I just need to blow off some steam, clear my head," she said, repelling off the dorm wall.
Peter watched her run off campus and into the night, his Spider Sense making him ask himself if he was going to get through this as well.
"These bags are so disgusting," Bonnie said with disdain, passing boxes of empty clear bags over to Ron who tossed them in the back of a truck labeled "La Clinica" from the back of a small storage room behind a large hospital. "Why did you drag me out here to do this at eight in the morning on a weekend, Peter?"
Peter chuckled, handing a similar box to Kim. "Would it kill you to be a decent person for an hour?" Kim scolded. "We're helping people who don't have parents with government level medical insurance, Bonnie."
"Oh snap, Rufus!" Ron whispered to his rodent friend who helped push the stacks of bags into the empty box Ron was holding.
"Don't be jealous your weirdo parents are still stuck with Blue Cross," Bonnie said with a sassy hair flip, "I was asking why he has me in these ugly scrubs."
"I think it looks good on you," Peter laughed, switching to a pile of sterilized syringes and putting them in the last box. "If anything, this will look great on your resume."
"I guess," Bonnie sighed, following Peter out of the warehouse and back into the white van. It was a sunny Sunday morning, the mid to late-Fall air cool and crisp with a wind that ruffled the four volunteers' blue scrubs. "Then why are you in those ugly scrubs?"
Peter sat on a crate as the van made its way from the hospital in the heart of downtown headed toward the campus. "This organization helped Aunt May get medical attention while I was in between jobs back in high school," he said, "I figured I'd give back while I'm here."
"See, B?" Kim said. "Not everyone is completely self-serving."
"You're not even in a science major," Bonnie spat, "so why are you and the loser here?"
"It's called 'volunteering,'" Ron said, "I'm pretty sure they don't discriminate!"
"I also figured it'd be a good way for us to hang out," Peter said, "the second round of midterms is coming up, and I'd rather be doing this every Sunday than be stuck in the library again."
The rest of the van groaned. "Don't remind us about midterms, bro!" Ron whined, turning to Kim. "Your parents are out to kill us!"
"You'll be fine, Ron," Kim said, "just start studying two weeks in advance instead of two days this time, okay?"
"I pulled a B minus, okay?" Ron said, puffing out his chest. "The wham bam cram method works."
"Oof," Bonnie said with a cringe.
"You started crying after we left engineering," Peter said dryly.
"Those were the tears of a warrior!" Ron shouted.
"We should try to do something tonight," Peter said, glancing at Kim. "I can meet later though, probably after five or six."
"We're booked until then too," Kim said while pointing at Ron, her smile fading at that thought. "I'll text you though, if you'll actually answer this time."
"You we're sitting right next to me," Peter said.
"The professor was right there!"
"So you do something more noticeable?"
"Sorry to burst your friendship bubble, Kim," Bonnie said with a smug smirk, "but Peter and I have plans tonight."
"We do?" Peter said, catching Bonnie's glare.
"You're meeting my parents," she said bluntly, watching his face go white.
"So soon?" Peter said.
"Both of my sisters are in town," she said, "I figured tonight would be a better night than any so you can get approved."
"Get approved," Peter said with a scoff.
"You're no football star," she said, wrapping her arms around his neck, "but as long as you don't act like a total nerd, you'll be fine."
"Meeting parents, plans, that awkward and forced body contact-" Ron gasped.
"Peter, you didn't," Kim said, repulsed as if he was another one of her villains.
"That's right, Kim," Bonnie said victoriously, "it happened while you were off getting your butt kicked by Green Goblin or whatever. You jealous?"
"What did you do to Peter?" Kim exclaimed, pointing at the young man. "Did she hurt you? Ron, do something!"
Ron lunged across the van, slapping Peter across the face. "You were the chosen one! It was said that you would destroy her ego, not revive it! You were to bring balance to our friend group, not leave it in darkness!"
"I HATE YOU!" Peter shouted back in a pained groan, silencing the van.
Ron relented, sitting back on his crate while Rufus hissed. "You were my brother, Peter. I loved you."
Kim watched them with a blank stare. "What is happening?"
"Are you going to the con next weekend?" Ron asked excitedly.
"I can't," Peter said, "tag me in the pictures though, if they have those double sided lightsabers I can Venmo you for the-"
"None of that, nada, not while I'm around," Bonnie snapped.
"At least wait until we're out of the van," Kim said, rolling her eyes before setting them back on Peter, "but seriously were you sick?"
The van stopped and the back doors opened to a small clinic where mainly homeless people waited in line for doctors to call them back. Peter hefted most of the boxes on his shoulders. "I'll tell you later," he chuckled. "I can't stay for too long. I'm meeting a friend at 12."
"Who?" Bonnie asked intrusively.
"My research partner, it's for a tech talk " Peter said, "I can get you guys tickets if you'd be interested."
"I don't think we'll have time," Kim said.
"I just don't want to go," Bonnie said dryly.
Peter shrugged. "I'll tag you in the famous guy selfie, I guess."
Three hours moved along fairly quickly, with Peter and Kim setting the example for Ron and Bonnie. Peter changed in the bathroom, stepping out in a preppy but casual outfit. He clapped Ron on the shoulder and waved to the girls, parting ways toward the bus station. "See you guys later, see you tonight, Bonnie!"
Peter let his smile fade and his pace quicken as he hefted his backpack carrying the dreaded idol to the bus stop. He checked his watch and called Vivian. "Peter!" her cheery voice said. "Are you excited for the talk today?"
"Oh yeah," Peter said, shuffling onto the strange, musky beast of a ride. "I was calling just to say that I'm on my way. I didn't want you to get there before me and think that I ghosted you."
"Well thanks for letting me know," she said, "any idea of when I should start saving seats?"
"I should get there right on time, don't worry about saving seats." Peter felt another buzz in his pocket. "I have to go, but I can't wait to not have you shout at me about balancing a centrifuge for an hour and a half."
Vivian laughed. "I'll put a centrifuge in your seat if you don't hurry up. Bye!"
Peter hung up, quickly pulling out his other buzzing device, the discreet, black, unmarked flip phone used to talk in areas where he usually didn't have anyone else listening in. He hid it under his other phone, as if someone had called right as he hung up. He looked around for an open seat, sitting right in the front facing the inside of the bus by the radio. "Hey dad! How's it going?"
"I take it you're on your way?" Nick Fury asked quietly, a tad annoyed by the cheeriness in his voice.
"Yeah, I'll be there in about an hour," Peter said, keeping a passive eye on everyone else entering the bus. "I'm meeting with a friend beforehand, just so you know."
"See you there," Nick said, hanging up the call.
Peter let out a deep breath, putting his phone away and leaning back in his seat. The ride was longer than what an hour felt like, the closer he got to Denver the more anxious and restless he became. He didn't show it to any watchful eye, but he started to feel the source of the danger he felt building up over the past few weeks closing in. The bus stopped about a block away from a large convention center with a line of cars waiting to work their way in a mile away. "Thanks," Peter told the driver, stepping out onto the crowded sidewalk. The idol seemed to weigh a ton on his back as he pushed through people left and right, walking right past the long line to a pair of sentinels acting as bodyguards in front of the wide glass double doors. He vanished into a crowd headed around the back for the entrance on the other side of the building. Peter slipped out of the crowd into a small side door to the convention lobby where hundreds of tech-minded men and women talked amongst each other in front of the auditorium doors where more sentinels guarded them. They were humanoid robots, seven feet of gleaming gray steel, red glowing slits for eyes, and faces stuck in a permanent scowl from the way the face armor connected to the chin plate. Peter had fought hundreds of opponents during his tenure, but even now he wouldn't dare try to take one on by himself. He pushed through the crowds with a purpose and his phone to his ear. "Vivian, I'm here. Where are you?"
"Turn around," Vivian said.
"You're not there," Peter said.
"Just do it," she insisted.
Peter relented, looking over his shoulder.
"Made you look," she chuckled. "No, seriously, I'm by the doors going into the hall."
Peter moved through the crowds, stopping just in front of the red rope in between them and the door. He leaned forward, looking left and right until he saw the brilliant blonde. "There you are," he said, waving until she spotted him back. He slid through the people packing to rush the seats as soon as they lifted the ropes, eventually standing shoulder to shoulder with his lab partner. "I didn't realize Mr. Stark was this popular out here."
"Why not?" Vivian asked. "He's probably the most famous tech giant on the planet, he holds patents on at least three quarters of the tools in our lab."
"Trust me, it's far more 'in your face' in New York," Peter said.
"He's still holding back," she said, staring at one of the sentinels, "Jarvis out here is just the warm up act."
She did her homework. She must have been using an unconventional browser to learn about that right under the GJN's fat nose, or wasn't seen as enough of a threat to them. She was too smart for the second one. "You're definitely right about that," Peter said. "I can't wait to see what he has in store for us today."
"Anyone with advance tickets, please step forward," the sentinels said in unison with a friendly, British accent. They parted the ropes, with some people testing their luck only to get presented with a very unfriendly glare from the robots. Peter flashed his ticket.
"I don't have one," Vivian said.
"It's fine," Peter said with a smile, bringing her forward anyway. He walked up to the sentinel, giving it a wink as its scanner read his ticket.
"Ah yes," Jarvis said under the commotion in the crowd, "Mister Stark's missed you."
Peter feigned a gasp. "He has feelings?"
"Yes, and annoyance is one of them, kid," a cocky and smooth American man's voice said through the mask instead. "Get in here."
The doors opened to a red auditorium that was well lit with a wide stage that looked like it was more meant for an orchestra performance than a presentation. Similar sentinels like the ones outside flew back and forth toward the back of the stage on rocket propulsion, fixing the lights and centering them on the three men standing on the stage.
"Test the mics again, Jarvis," the cocky voice from before said, pointing to the robots working the sound booth, "we're not starting until my voice makes the Wizard of Oz look like a mid-pubescent smartass with a megaphone."
"I was that kid for awhile, wasn't I?" Peter said, grinning up at his old mentor on stage to catch his attention. Vivian followed behind, eager yet nervous to meet her idol. He was a man in his late thirties of average height and fair skin with short, neat but easy going black haircut and blue eyes that were playful but genius at the same time. He sported a trimmed goatee with red tinted glasses, a combination with his black suit that screamed wealth, power, and a matching confidence in using them.
"Yeah, just without the megaphone, get up here so I can show Jarvis that I'm not mean to all children," he said with a smirk, gesturing him to come up onto the stage. Vivian looked around, watching the other advance ticket holders take their seats save for two seats right in the center of the front row. They were the only two up there, she realized, leading to her entire face turning red.
"I have a friend who's been dying to meet you," Peter said, pulling her up on stage. "She's a genius bioengineer, she even brought you a present!"
"OhIwouldn'tcallitapresentIdon'tknowit'sjust-" Vivian's eyes widened at the man of the hour's extended hand.
"Is she okay?" he asked.
Vivian carefully accepted the handshake, her limp hand nearly getting crushed from his firm, hardy grip. "N-nervous," she gasped.
"Well, nervous, I'm Tony Stark," he said with a grin. "Just take a deep breath. I'm just your average billionaire- is it the shades?" He looked up at Peter. "It's the shades, isn't it? Pepper told me they were too much."
"Vivian, show him what you made," Peter said, standing beside her in case she fainted. Tony did his best to keep his smile, but with her mumbling, he was losing his patience fast.
"No, really, is she okay?" Tony asked again.
"I-I just wanted to say thank you, Doctor Stark," Vivian managed to get out, trying her best to look him in the eye, "your story, your inventions, all of it inspired me to become a scientist to change the world." She shakily reached into her purse, pulling out the bright device that nearly blinded everyone on stage. "I knew you were coming awhile back, so I built this. It's- it's not industry level yet, but I'm your biggest fan, and I hoped you'd appreciate it."
Tony took it earnestly in his hand, glancing down at his chest and back at the device. "Where did you get the blueprints for it?"
"I wrote out all the schematics myself," she said, beaming with nervous pride. "I had to infer a lot from its function before building it, I don't think you made anything like this accessible on the internet."
Tony felt the intricate grooves on the back and raised his eyebrows, looking at his two associates to make sure he wasn't just seeing things. This took work, and was incredibly well done. "I'm impressed," he said to make her melt, looking at the back once before putting it in his pocket. Peter scoffed, knowing that he would have said much more if the cameras weren't on him. "I'm glad to have touched a few minds of this generation," he said, shooting a joking glare at Peter, "maybe one day you'll be up here instead of me." He winked at her with a Hollywood grin. "Keep tinkering. At your age, others might tell you to build up to what's in my chest, well I say sometimes it's better to run before you can walk."
"I'm so glad you like it, thank you so-"
"Here, you know what," Tony said, gesturing one of his robots down from the lights and tossing it his phone. He gave her a friendly side hug, looking toward the camera. "Get a picture with me and Vivica, this is going to replace the photo of her in braces winning the science fair back in high school for her profile picture, let's go for the most likes, okay?"
"Isn't this way better than a selfie?" Tony said, chuckling to himself. "Peter! Get a picture of the robot taking a picture of us, it'll be funny."
"Why don't I do that in a selfie?" Peter said.
Tony's smile faded, staring at Peter as if he had three heads. "Why would you do that?" He shook his head. "Okay, I don't care anymore- Happy, take a picture of the kid doing what I just asked."
One of the two men accompanying him onstage was a tall, heavyset man with fair skin, short but curly brown hair, and tired brown eyes wearing a black suit. He simply sighed, pulling out his phone and aiming it at Peter.
"Luke!" Tony called out to the other man on stage. He held a different aire than the rest, while Tony exuded power from his mannerisms, this man had power just in the way he stood. He was young, maybe a year or two older than Peter and Vivian, with dark brown skin like midnight and striking amber eyes that seemed to glow fiercely under the lights. He was tall and muscular under his black turtleneck and jeans, with short, curly black hair and a short and neatly trimmed beard and goatee. "Extend the chain by one more guy."
"I do not work for you," he said with a rich, authoritative Xhosa accent that crushed Tony's momentum.
"Please?" Tony insisted.
Luke rolled his eyes, pulling out a sleek, ultra thin smartphone. "Happy, please move in so I can get all of you in the shot."
"Do you make me act polite out of spite?" Tony asked.
Vivian grinned from ear to ear as all the cameras went off at once. "I cannot thank you enough, Doctor Stark."
"Actually yes, you can," Tony said quickly, "but whatever makes you happy. Take a seat."
Vivian wanted to skip to her seat, but settled for giggling like a schoolgirl. "He's a bit eccentric," Peter said, "but how did you like-"
"He said I impressed him," Vivian said, melting in her seat. "I can die happy."
"Not while Doctor Possible's around," Peter said, "she'll have a seance right in the middle of the lab to ask you why she didn't receive her two week notice."
"Thank you so much for doing this," she said graciously, "let me treat you to Boba, dinner, something!"
"Don't worry about it," Peter said, keeping his eye on Luke as he swaggered backstage next to Stark. He had only ever seen him once before, he certainly didn't remember seeing him with SHIELD. The lights around the auditorium began to dim, with AC/DC's "Back in Black" playing over the speakers as the doors opened like floodgates for the eager engineers pouring in. Luke and Peter locked eyes, with Peter receiving a deceivingly subtle smirk before he faded into the shadows. "Oh, here we go," he said, smiling at Vivian's excitement as the sentinels started flying around Tony.
"It feels so good to be back!" Tony said with a laugh to the applause, clicking his heels once and floating from red soles on the bottom of his dress shoes. "Jarvis, let's remind them who's talking."
"Of course, Mister Stark," Jarvis said. Some of the sentinels guarding the doors flew over the entranced masses, spinning around the billionaire until he was lost among steel.
"I don't think that's loud enough, Denver!" he shouted, the sentinels parting and flanking behind him to reveal a sight that drove the crowds absolutely wild.
Tony gave a charismatic grin to the crowd, floating in a red and gold suit of armor with the facemask tilted up like a knight's visor. It looked like the sentinel bots, but his suit was not as bulky and a tad shorter. It still shined brightly under the lights, fit with a triangular arc reactor that appeared to sink right into the center of his chest. "I love it when he does that," Vivian sighed, "so cool. I wonder how advanced that AI interface is under his mask!"
Tony landed on his feet in the armor, gesturing the crowd to quiet down. "The last time we talked, I told you about inspiration, I told you how to get into the business, but today I'm here for probably the most important part of the job— ethics. Take this suit, for example. I didn't just up and build it because I could. This had a purpose with the consequences that lingered in the back of my head, knowing that every military, every mercenary, every wrong hand, would grasp at what I had achieved. All of you, whatever field you're in, will deal with this same conundrum. My conundrum was a bit special, mind you-" He paused for the crowd to laugh. "-but let's use it as an example. Imagine you're me, as awesome as that is, and think to yourself what you would do in the following situation."
As Tony presented the crowd with his captivating ethical problem, something else caught the young hero's eye. A glint of black, silver, and purple zipped from the front of the stage to the back, so small that it was unseen by everyone but him. "I'll be back," he whispered, standing up and awkwardly shuffling past people's legs.
Vivian looked at him with a hint of disappointment. "He's missing the best part," she whispered to herself.
Peter slipped out of the auditorium and let his instinct guide him through the empty center and up an escalator to a dimmed hall of conference rooms. He leaned up against one of the walls, staring at the opposite side of the hall as Luke's amber eyes shined out from the shadows he had webbed himself in. "They got you to work with them too," Peter said.
"Now that some of my rightful acquisitions aren't where they belong," he said bitterly, "I'm holding them accountable for letting it fall into the wrong hands."
Peter's face softened into silent surprise. "It's yours?"
He nodded. "I'll explain later. After this show, head to the second pickup spot."
Peter glanced around.
"Don't worry, Peter," Luke said, knocking on the air as if there was an invisible glass wall. "No one can hear us, at least not our real conversation. Head to Denver International Airport. The pickup will be waiting for you in a private terminal. Make sure you aren't followed."
"As always," Peter said. "Your Highness."
"Now hurry up," Luke said, walking through the invisible wall and leading Peter down the stairs. "Your girlfriend is waiting."
"She's not my girlfriend," Peter said behind him with a red blush, opening the door and sneaking his way back to his seat. Vivian hurriedly patted his seat.
"Where were you?" Vivian whispered.
"Phone call," Peter said, "it was important."
"Is everything alright?"
"Yeah, yeah, it's just, I'm meeting up with a friend visiting after this… what did I miss?"
"I'll tell you later, just sit down," she said, half-yanking him back to his seat.
The rest of the presentation went by smoothly, with Tony getting a standing ovation at the end. The crowds shuffled out, with Peter and Vivian gasping for breath as soon as they broke free outside. "I think I can taste someone else's breath," Peter said with disgust.
"Don't focus on that," Vivian said, "what did you think?"
"He delivered, as always," Peter laughed, "he could have had another robot or two."
"Or ten, but that's just me-" Vivian heard the screeching of the bus at the bus stop. "We should probably hurry on, unless we want to wait here and count everybody else who has to play musical chairs with the mysteriously sticky seat. What are you doing tonight? I was planning on getting together with a couple friends and studying, maybe getting some boba for a break."
Peter chuckled. "You know something, Vivian?" he said. "You sound just like him, when your mind is racing. I'm down to study after I meet my friend, I have another plan tonight so I wouldn't be able to join you until late, and I'd probably just be left in your brainy dust."
Vivian rolled her eyes with a smirk. "I won't humiliate you too much then. Who's your friend?"
"An old friend from New York, he comes in every now and again to ski in Aspen so I'm picking him up," Peter said. "When I get back to campus, I'll introduce you to him. I think you'll like him."
"You're not coming back now?" she said, glancing at the bus filling up fairly quickly.
Peter looked at his phone. "He said he just touched down."
"I'll go with you, keep you company while you're waiting for him," she said. "How are you picking him up without a car?"
"There's a zipcar service at the airport," Peter said, "and you don't have to go, I don't know how long we'll be sitting in traffic. Besides, you might want to get on the bus now before you lose at sticky musical chairs."
"You sure you'll be okay?" she said.
"I'm from Queens," Peter said, "I can handle Aspen."
"I don't know, Peter," Vivian said, walking toward the bus, "skier gangs might just disorient you long enough to rob you."
"No, Vivian," Peter said, waving at her with a smile. "I am the danger."
Vivian laughed, walking up the stairs. "Sorry, lady," the bus driver said, pointing his thumb back. "We're full."
Vivian looked in the bus, seeing every spot for sitting and standing entirely occupied. "Oh, well, that's okay," she said with a hint of disappointment as she stepped off the bus. "When is the next one?"
"In two hours," he said uncaringly, closing the doors and peeling off. Vivian was left with her mouth open, staring for a moment in disbelief at where the bus was.
"Two… hours…" she stammered, turning around and expecting to see Peter. "Peter!" she called out, receiving no reply. "Peter?" she said again, pulling out her cellphone and texting him aggravatedly. "Why does he always do that?"
Kim and Ron sat across from each other in the helicopter dropping them and their mercenary squad off to where the jade idol pickup was reported to be. They wore sleek battle jumpsuits in white with glowing blue stripes down their arms and legs and white gloves and boots with black magnet-like pads on the soles and palms. It was colder up there, the overcast, gray skies over the airport providing an ugly backdrop for what was about to transpire. "You okay, Kim?" Ron asked, feeling a bit nervous himself with Kraven loading his hunting rifle right next to him.
"Yeah," she said detachedly over Deadpool's pleasant humming, "I'm just exhausted. It's been a long couple of days."
"Tired? No," Bullseye said, "nerves are more like it." He scoffed. "I hope you don't get in the way."
"Cut her some slack," Deadpool said, "everyone's first time is always awkward."
Winter Soldier rolled his eyes. "They shouldn't be here. We don't have room to mess up here, you all honestly think he's going to be alone?"
"Of course not," Kraven said, "but they should not worry. It is an honor to hunt such an elusive and rewarding prey for their first outing. Betty has faith in them, so for now I say we set our own doubts aside."
"The stone cold killer does have a heart," Omega Red said, "but Bullseye's right. That bug's been crawling up our asses for too long. I wouldn't want to stomp you or Ron under the same boot, not that I'd lose any sleep over it."
"Approaching the drop," the pilot announced, overlooking a terminal with a wide window looking out toward the runway and taxi areas where passenger and commercial flights went in and out on the busy weekend. "I'll be on standby in terminal four."
The five mercenaries jumped out, landing on the airstrip and receding under the main terminal to the more private taxi areas. Kim followed reluctantly after Ron, the card in her pocket now digging into her thigh. "Spider-Man seems to know all these guys," Ron said, "it looks like the Director isn't the only one who wants him captured, right?"
Kraven scoffed. "Capture."
"Yeah, that's it," Ron said, "we're going to nab him this time!"
The other men laughed, but Kim clearly looked disturbed. "I don't think that's what they're here for, Ron."
Ron's laughter faded at the graveness in her face. "Come on, Kim, the Director wouldn't do that. You and I both know that for a fact."
She didn't know that, but she would never tell him that. "Get out of sight," Bullseye said, loading a sniper rifle and perching himself on two crates aimed at a tall wire fence. "If all goes well, it'll only take one shot."
Ron's face went white, seeing him put on a silencer and load the longest, shiniest round he had ever seen. "That's a stun round, right?"
"Get down," Kim said, pulling Ron into hiding behind some of the crates with the rest of the team.
"One spider, one black backpack, one round," Bullseye said with a sadistic glee, lining up the shot. Bullseye smirked as the familiar webhead came into view. He was moving fairly quickly toward the gate, dashing toward it with such great speed that any ordinary sniper would have missed. Bullseye was no ordinary sniper. Kim's heart sank with a muted pow from the gun, looking over the crate to find Bullseye no longer smiling.
Spider-Man saw it coming a mile away. He leaned to the side as the bullet grazed his cheek, sinking into the mud a split second later. He flipped over the fence and yanked himself onto the landing gears of a plane touching down. He felt the wind from several other shots fly past his head and he ducked behind an airline van. "We've been found," Spider-Man said, tapping into the earpiece in his mask. He ducked from a bullet going through the car and whipped a crate through the air at the gunman still a mile away.
"How many?" Luke answered.
"One-" Peter slid under another near miss and jumped as another blast took a chunk out of the ground in front of his knee. "Two-" A loud crack of a hunting rifle told him to jump with the bullet just grazing his inner thigh. "Three, wait-" Spider-Man locked eyes with a man wielding a machine gun with a metal arm, sliding his crate cover in front of him to reveal the blonde, pale man waiting on the other side. "Five, I think-" He twisted and flipped to dodge a spray of bullets, jumping onto an empty commercial flight to see a familiar pair of red and blond hair hiding among the gunmen. "Seven, seven assailants in between me and the pickup site. I can take them, but-" He flipped back to the other side of the plane as another sniper round pierced the plane with ease. "-it'll take me awhile. I'd imagine these guys are past the point of the 'let's talk' banter. I'm running a bit low on webbing, but I'm all set to engage."
"They have made a grave mistake," Luke said mysteriously, leaving Peter with them.
"Hey, Bullseye!" Peter shouted, swinging under and over planes to clear the distance. "Do they call you that because you're colorblind or that you can't aim to save your life like an actual cow?" Spider-Man yanked the sniper rifle from Bullseye's hands and wrapped the barrel into a bow with ease. "Now which one of you likes animal balloons? Kraven, right? Hate to break it to you, but I don't think you can kill this one!"
None of Kraven's shots seemed to land, with him coming dangerously close. "Move," Omega Red said, pushing Kraven aside and aiming his hands at him. Kim and Ron's eyes widened as shining metal tendrils shot from his arms, shoulders, and hands with spikes on the end of them, stabbing at the agile spider left and right. "I like where this is going," Deadpool joked, pulling out his swords.
"Gross, dude!" Ron spat, looking at the tag on his suit.
"What is he talking about?" Kim asked with concern, making Ron's face go red.
"You don't want to know," Ron said with an embarrassed laugh, Rufus backing him up with an affirming nod. He read the name etched on his power suit. "Nightcrawler? What kind of name is that?"
"Press your palms as if you're clenching a dead lion's tail in your hands," Kraven said, "that damn monkey's power will come to you."
"As a grandmaster in monkey kung fu," he said, closing his palms. He blinked, reappearing behind Spider-Man with Rufus falling flat on his back. "I resent-" He looked at his palms, closing them again and reappearing above Spider-Man to throw a drop kick. "Whoa! Kim! Check this out!"
"It's like a kid showing his mom the stick he found on the ground," Spider-Man said, his eyes trying to follow Ron bouncing around him, "but I'm impressed at how fast you're learning how not to suck at teleportation."
"Man, you sound like an angry YouTube commenter at best," Ron said, throwing three spin kicks and blinking behind him to sweep him off his feet.
"No you, times a hundred," Peter said dismissively, throwing him over his shoulder and plastering Rufus to a nearby crate with a ball of webs.
"Kim, you wanna help or what?" Ron grunted, rolling out of the way of a punch that crunched through the asphalt with an imprint of his fist left in it.
She'd have to keep up appearances for now, she told herself. She'd be outnumbered, and possibly stranded by both sides if she didn't do anything at all. She read the name tag on her suit as the six closed in on Spider-Man slowly but surely. "Electro?" she read, clenching her fists. "That's easy enough, I guess," Nothing seemed to happen at first, but within moments her entire body became a living conductor. She didn't have time to bask in the amazing new power she contained, aiming both hands at the Spider and chucking lightning bolts at his feet.
"Are you trying to hit him or not?" Bullseye shouted, diving out of the way with the rest of the squad.
"And you're living up to your name?" Kim retorted, gliding forward from an electrostatic boost through the air to land a nasty shocking punch right in the center of his chest.
Spider-Man's head shook from the blow and his limbs felt like static was running through them, but he'd taken similar blows before.
"Bullseye, keep your distance," Winter Soldier ordered, "Omega, Deadpool, stick with me, Kraven, take the interns and pinch him in."
"Who are you to shout orders at us, Bucky?" Kraven asked.
"Yeah, Bucky," Spider-Man taunted, rolling between Omega Red's legs and yanking him to the ground with a pair of weblines. He stood up again in the center of all seven opponents. "Getting leadership in this crew? Man, that'll cost you an arm and a leg!" Spider-Man cleared his throat. "It looks like you're halfway there."
"Put one in his shoulder," Winter Soldier said, "then the rest in his mouth."
"Your buddies brainwashed you again, yeah?" Spider-Man said, ignoring the cold sweat on the inside of his costume. This was bad. "Steve's gonna be pissed."
Winter Soldier flickered a frown at that name and raised his gun at Spider-Man's head. "You can't punch your way out of this one," Kim said, "don't make them hurt you, Spider-Man."
"Betty said we could bring him in alive," Deadpool said, "but she didn't say by how much."
"I'm fine with keeping him on life support so I can laugh in his face," Kraven said, "because the only one among us who gets to kill the Spider is me!" He rushed forward wielding a machete and Peter slid underneath it, sweeping him to the ground and rising to deliver an uppercut to Bullseye before he could draw his pistols. Several shots grazed Spider-Man's shoulders and arms from Winter Soldier but a solid spin kick threw Bucky off him for a brief moment. Tendrils caught Peter's arms from behind and a third stabbed Peter's hip.
"Now you die!" Omega Red shouted, preparing to stab the other side.
Peter let out a roar in pain, yanking his arms forward and whipping Omega Red through the air. Two shots sunk into his shoulders from Bullseye and Ron blinked in front of him to deliver a palm strike to the face. Spider-Man ducked and returned with a punch that rocketed Ron across the airstrip, turning to Kim and barely dodging another lightning bolt. He lunged toward her, spinning through the air with a high kick that was counted by another tendril that smacked him into the ground. "Can you not," Spider-Man shouted, gripping the tendril and spinning Omega around.
Kraven and Bullseye jumped over their ally but Bucky and Deadpool weren't as lucky. Ron took Kim's hand and Team Possible hopped over their partner, rushing toward Spider-Man with lightning buzzing on Kim's hands. She barely dodged a kick from the webhead and sent him tumbling back with a lightning fist. "Ron, catch!" Bullseye shouted, tossing him a grenade just a he teleported.
"Ron, no!" Kim screamed, seeing him toss the grenade at Spider-Man's back as he rolled to his feet.
Ron realized what he was throwing as it left his hand and he yelped in regret, reaching for it with his hand closing around nothing with his heart dropping into his stomach. Spider-Man whipped around, gasping at the green egg of death passing by his face. Peter kicked Ron out of the way as the weapon blew up in his face, blowing him back headfirst into the wing of a plane. He hit the ground hard on his chest, his head spinning and pounding from the throbbing pains at both ends. "Sorry, Kim! It was a reflex!" Ron said, catching his best friend's disappointed, raging glare. "I didn't mean to do-"
"Oh, shut up," Deadpool said, "he's not even dead."
Ron and Kim reached him first with the mercenaries quickly running behind them to finish the job. Spider-Man climbed to his feet, revealing his mask had been partially burnt away from the grenade, wild brown hair, fair, cut up skin, and an intelligent brown eye settled in a deep grimace that Kim nor Ron had seen before. "You want the Jade Idol, yeah?" Spider-Man said, his voice settled and serious. "You're going to have to kill me, that's gonna take more effort than a grenade or two."
Ron reached him first, leaping into the air to attack again. "Look, you gotta believe me, I didn't mean to-"
Spider-Man cut the excuse short with a punch that shook Ron's vision and arched the young man over his fist. Ron felt a burning pain from his stomach that traveled through his chest and out his throat as a loud groan that left him rolling on the ground in misery. "And when you make claims like that," Spider-Man said, dodging multiple lightning bolts and tossing Kim aside, "you'd better deliver!"
Peter leaped through the air with his seven opponents surrounding him, preparing to engage them all in a fierce, bloody fight until he could walk away as the last man standing. He felt bad for Kim, a little less for Ron, but the others were going to taste his full fury- if they could ever see him. Black smoke bombs covered the entire airfield and Spider-Man vanished, leaving seven agents with no visual on their target built for stealth. "Where the heck did that come from, Kim?" Ron asked, standing back to back with her conflicted friend.
"Just as blind as you are, Ron," Kim said.
"Didn't Wade build some smoke-vision goggles or something like that?" Ron asked, still finding it hard to stand from the hit.
"The Director took everything," Kim said, for once starting to feel helpless and lost under pressure, "we haven't had contact with Wade since this started. He's not even answering his regular phone."
"She doesn't trust him either, huh-" Another blow to the same spot shut him up again, with Kim merely getting swept to the ground. Kim looked up at the smoke began to clear, seeing a tall, looming, muscular figure in black with the head of a man with sharp panther ears and piercing purplish silver eyes. He fought like a demon with the enraged spider back to back, holding off the five mercenaries with speed and dexterity that outclassed what Kim thought was ever possible- Spider-Man had been holding back on her.
"I had everything under control," Spider-Man said to the mysterious new challenger putting every mercenary on the ground with swift and fierce attacks. Kim and Ron were astonished by the sight, he stood at easily six and a half feet tall with a jet black jumpsuit crafted from a metal mesh material that bounced every bullet Bullseye shot at him away. He wore a silver teeth necklace embedded in his suit, the teeth long and sharp like a tiger's with a similar big cat motif on his mouthless, intimidating helmet that only allowed the opponent to stare into his eyes. His claws were made out of a shining, silver metal, with the entirety of his suit holding a thin, purple aura.
"You and I have drastically different definitions of 'control,'" he said with Luke's deep, grave, and smooth Xhosan accent.
"Badass hero entrance, knocks all the baddies to the ground to show skills, arrives just as the main character was about to get wrecked," Deadpool rattled off, "can I get a superhero pose?"
The warrior from an unknown land set his sights on the sniper scrambling back, falling into a fighter's stance rolling his shoulders and brandishing his shining claws.
Deadpool scoffed. "Predictable. This writer's a hack."
"I'm not sure who I want to shoot more right now," Kraven grumbled, taking a punch from Spider-Man.
"The one punching you?" Spider-Man answered for him, ducking twin katana slices from Deadpool driving him back.
"The next quip is mine, you dialogue hogging asshole," Deadpool spat.
"No promises," Spider-Man growled, flipping over his opponent and kicking him in the spine.
Deadpool yelped in pain from the crunch through his spine, dropping him to one knee. "H-harder, daddy!"
"That settles it," Peter said, kicking his head so hard that it spun around. Deadpool shot at Peter several times as the spider flipped back. "You are definitely more annoying than me."
"I'll take that," Deadpool grunted, twisting his head back the right way and standing up, his spine clicking back into place, "you owe me a nice congratulations card from Hallmark though, and don't get the cheap ones without the songs in them or else I will fucking shoot your dog."
"I don't have a dog," Peter said.
"Look under your seats!" Deadpool said in his best Oprah impression, charging him again.
"Who is this guy?" Bullseye asked the other three mercenaries trying to pierce his armor.
"I have-" Winter Soldier was interrupted by a harrowing kick. "-no idea, but he's in our way."
"I guess it doesn't matter," Omega chuckled, exchanging equally hard punches left and right.
"Another trophy for my collection, that's what he is!" Kraven blew Luke to the ground with a point blank shotgun blast and Luke rolled to his feet unfazed with a glowing purple ring around the site of impact. He moved fast yet carefully toward Bullseye, dodging bullets left and right until he was right upon the gunman.
"You're an idiot, fighting me at point blank!" Bullseye laughed, switching to his pistols again to turn Luke's chest glowing purple. "Do you know who I am?"
Luke twisted Bullseye's arm and broke several ribs with a single kick, the blow carrying the purple glow on his suit with it. Another punch slammed him into a large crate, with a spin kick sending him right through it. "I don't care," he said dismissively, turning toward his other opponents.
"Switch with Ron, he's just pissing him off," Winter Soldier said, pushing Omega toward Spider-Man.
Omega Red tossed Ron back and the young man came face to face with the new opponent. "You practice Monkey style kung fu, yes?" Luke asked him.
Ron threw a volley of strikes at the Spider's ally, finding him moving just as fast if not faster than his previous opponent. "Has S.H.I.E.L.D been keeping an eye on the temple too?" he asked, getting knocked to the ground. Ron watched Kraven take an elbow strike to the chest and Winter Soldier eat a kick to the face.
"The Jade Idol that bestows your entire order its power," he said, "it is not yours."
"Uh, I think I'd know?" Ron said, blinking behind him and kicking his back as hard as he could.
"If you did, then you would know why I am here," Luke said, throwing Ron through several crates and into the side of a van. "The Jade Idols belong to the Jabari, and the Jabari answer to me."
"Who are you?" Ron asked him, peeling himself from the car. He looked up in his daze, his eyes widening in fear as the lion man appeared as a black phantom with glowering silver eyes, his deadly claws shining under the sun.
"I am King T'Challa, the Black Panther," Luke roared, landing a heel strike on the ground that sent all three of his opponents flying through the air, "and you all will show me respect!"
"All we need now is Kendrick, then we're set!" Deadpool said, firing at the quick spider darting in and out of his three opponents throwing everything they had at him.
"Just shut up!" Omega shouted, batting Spider-Man across the airstrip to jump away from the merc with a mouth.
"That is no way to solve our intermarital disputes, Greg," Deadpool said, leading Kim over to the fight.
Spider-Man rolled to his feet, pulling grenade shrapnel from his face below his eye. "What's taking so long, kid?" Tony said from inside his helmet. "The pickup is waiting on you."
"Things got a little heated," Peter said, dodging multiple lightning bolts and letting out a yelp in pain as Deadpool's katana sunk deep through his shoulder. Peter glared at the mercenary in red with seething rage, gritting his teeth and yanking the blade right out. He kicked Deadpool in the chest and flipped onto his head, catching him in a chokehold that snapped his neck with ease. "But Black Panther and I have it under control."
Tony was silent for a while, leaving Peter just as worried as Omega Red's endless tendrils made him. "You and I have drastically different definitions of 'control,'" he said, sounding more scolding than T'Challa.
"Wait, Mister Stark, you don't have to come, I got-" The communication line cut off with a lightning kick to the head that shook him to the core. "Hello?" Peter cursed under his breath, bouncing in between shots from Deadpool.
"It's me," Deadpool answered in an Adele impression, still cracking his neck. "I just came back from the other side, not very impressed."
Omega pierced his knee while Kim punched him in the chest, knocking the wind out of him. Spider-Man rolled to his feet and ripped one of Deadpool's grenades from his belt with a webline, spinning it around Omega's chest. Spider-Man yanked Kim toward him from the explosion and ran forward, throwing her to the ground with ease and breaking Omega's jaw with a flying knee strike to put him down in pain for a few seconds. "Come on!" Peter shouted, pulling the mercenary to his feet and planting several bone crunching strikes into his head and chest. An explosion of tendrils slapped him away, batting him into the side of a plane where his head crashed through the glass. Peter slid down and off the side dazed, seeing his own hot blood dripping before his eyes.
"Now why'd you go and encourage the crazy bastard, Spidey?" Deadpool said, "the guy's a walking kitchen swiss knife, he'll turn you into a pudding if you're not careful."
"Whose side are you on?" Omega hissed.
"Whoever's got dental insurance," Deadpool said, pulling out his pistol and putting it up to Spider-Man's head. "I wonder if S.H.I.E.L.D.'s is better though, wanna take a look?"
He put his finger on the trigger and the strongest gut feeling Kim had ever experienced threw her forward.
"Sorry, senpai," Deadpool said, pretending to blush, "maybe you will notice me now, from heaven!"
A lightning bolt blew him aside and Omega Red scowled at Kim in disgust. "I almost had him, incompetent little shit!"
Peter rolled to his feet, dodging a blast to the face from Kraven and stunning him with an uppercut. Spider-Man slid behind him with a webline around the hunter's neck and stuck him to the ground, hog-tying Kraven with webs over his eyes and swinging him around like a garbage bag. "Jump," Spider-Man warned the king, swinging Kraven into Winter Soldier and whipping him into the side of a plane with a satisfying crunch of his leg. Black Panther rolled to his feet and swept Winter Soldier to the ground as the fight surrounded to two heroes. Another smoke bomb was thrown down by the king and Omega Red was the focus of a brutal beating from the two young men, driving him to cry out in rage from a black fist to the gut and a red fist to the face.
"I've had enough of this," Omega Red spat, firing a Kraken's worth of tendrils at the two young men fighting for their lives and making the rest of his team run. The tendrils shot through planes and crates, drilling holes through airline vans and crushing them with ease.
Kim looked up at the wave of death rushing toward them in frozen fear, but a webline yanking her away from the fight snapped her back to reality. Kim turned toward Spider-Man and caught his glare, but nodded to him earnestly and followed him. "I'll explain later, if there is one."
"Rufus!" Ron screamed back in terror, seeing the crate his little friend was stuck to get crushed. Rufus was nowhere in sight.
"Omega Red, stand down!" Winter Soldier barked. "Director specifically told you to hold back in case you damage the cargo!"
"Fuck the cargo, Bucky!" Omega roared. "That spider's gonna get what's been coming to him, and if Betty's got anything to say about it then she could just come here and kill him herself, this is why we were hired!"
Ron's jaw dropped, staring up at Winter Soldier quickly leaving him and Deadpool in the dust in surprised rage. "I thought she said to bring him in alive!"
"Some things aren't said for a reason, kid!" Winter Soldier shouted back, leaving Deadpool and Ron to fend for themselves.
"Which is why I kept my mouth shut about this," Deadpool said, shooting Winter Soldier in the back of the leg and making him tumble headfirst into the gate. "Ironic, right?" he laughed, taking Ron by the arm and flipping over the gate.
Ron looked back and winced as Bucky was overrun by the tendrils, vanishing just like his rodent friend. "Damn it, Wade!" Bucky screamed.
"Wha- you- I-" Ron stammered, getting half-dragged behind Kim and the SHIELD heroes.
Deadpool reached into his pants, pulling out Rufus from his underwear and handing the scarred rat back to his owner. "You're welcome, now hurry up! You run like your entire diet is nachos!"
The confusion was overwhelming, but he didn't have time to think about that as a long barrier of black and white suits with guns sprouted in the distance. "Oh no…"
"SHIELD!" one of the agents shouted in a megaphone. "You are operating under an area within GJN jurisdiction and we have this entire airfield surrounded! Any attempt to escape will be met with lethal force! Kim Possible, Ron Stoppable, Wade Wilson, subdue the belligerents and return to HQ immediately!"
Kim looked back, seeing Omega Red's attack leaving a sharp wall on one end. She looked forward, watching a firing squad aimed at her on the other. She felt a pit in her stomach again as she was being dragged along by Spider-Man, the feeling of uselessness, helplessness, and conflict between what was right and what was safe making her want to split in half to make them fight it out against each other.
"Sir, they're not stopping," a gunman said to the agent with the megaphone.
"Then eliminate them."
"What about Possible?"
The agent scoffed. "She's no longer useful to us."
The gunman nodded, raising his machine gun and leading the others to do the same. "Aim!"
"Uh, Kim?" Ron shouted. "Are they really gonna shoot at us?"
"Fire!" the gunman shouted.
Black Panther leapt in front of the group, throwing a purple bead that formed a shield around the running agents. One bullet slipped through before the shield fully formed and Ron gasped in pain, falling flat on his back and screaming in pain from the long round lodged in his shoulder. "Ron!" Kim shouted back, watching helplessly as Spider-Man whipped around and yanked Ron to him with weblines.
Kim looked at the pain in her friend's face and the blood running down his arm, soaking his suit red. Rufus sat on his other shoulder to try to comfort him. The pit of conflict that weighed her down shot up her throat and through her head in a swelling of rage and regret and lightning surged through her arms. Spider-Man yelped from the shock and let go, watching Kim aim two beams of lightning straight at the firing squad. "Kim, what are you doing?!" Ron said. "We're GJN agents too!"
"We're heroes first," Kim said, with a new resolve and an old determination Ron saw when she was absolutely certain of a fact. "Agents second!"
The agents in the front line hopped back, looking at the scorched ground and back up at the former part time agent with all sights on her. "Sir? Do we fire again? Betty told us not to hurt-"
"She failed her mission, now she attacked her fellow agents," the leader said, "it's clear as to what her convictions are now, and I will protect my men!"
Kim growled in fury and leaped through the air, her body becoming alive with electricity. "They don't need to die, no one does," she said, channeling lightning through her foot and slamming it down in the mud, "but if that's the goal, then I can't stand by and let it happen!"
An electric pulse shot through her foot and up, sending an electric spray across twenty feet into the agents and slamming them into the vans behind them. "Wade! Take her down!" the lead agent barked.
"Sorry, agent with the megaphone!" Deadpool said. "But it's time for yet another plot twist that'll surely knock your socks off and possibly the socks of whoever's reading this shit!" He leaped through the air with a katana in one hand and a pistol in the other, diving toward the agents with a wolfish grin under his mask. "I'm going to shove my fist so far up your tight ass that I'll work your mouth like a puppet for everybody watching at-" Deadpool gasped, cutting one agent's hand off and kicking a second gunman away. "This is rated T, sorry everyone."
"Wade's a double agent!" a GJN agent cried. "Take him down!"
Another burst of power shot right in the center of the growing chaos, with the sound of a chopper roaring overhead. "That's enough, all of you," Tony's voice said from the dust, revealing himself in his full armor glistening crimson and gold bouncing bullets away left and right. "Spider-Man, you and I are going to talk, revisit a couple things we decided to put away when you told me that you were certain everything was going to be just fine."
Peter hung his head in silence, hefting Ron and the backpack. "I-iron Man?!" one agent stammered, nearly falling back with his gun.
"Yeah, hi, you do realize that you're shooting at kids four months out of high school, right?" Iron Man said with Stark's impatient snarkiness. "Jarvis, put up shields and get them out of here."
The entire team huddled together as a giant, red ring of steel from the sky crashed the ground around them, completely impervious to bullets. The chopper overhead without a pilot started to hover over the ring as the agents scrambled to take it out of the air. An air gurney attached to rocket thrusters lowered into the center of the ring and Spider-Man carefully laid Ron on it. Kim looked down at her injured friend, still caught up in her rage.
"The artifact drop is here," Tony said, covering his face with the golden steel grimace. "As soon as Omega Red gets taken down and we retrieve Bucky, get on it, and it'll take all of you home. Kim, take Ron and get up there. The four of us will handle the rest."
"But I can-"
"You're done, kid," Tony told her bluntly, seeing her bruised, scratched, and shaking with adrenaline. "Omega Red's above your paygrade. Get to the chopper." Iron Man took off with T'Challa scaling the shield tower and Deadpool followed with a grappling hook.
Spider-Man and Kim caught each other's eyes again, with the heroine receiving a nod as Peter shot into the air. "So, you were working with us all along?" Peter asked.
"Yeah, pretty convincing, right?" Deadpool asked with a laugh, ducking and dodging bullets as they hopped back over the fence and surrounded a fuming Omega Red.
"You stabbed me, shot me and shot at me, and let me nearly get killed by a grenade to the face," Peter growled, diving out of the way as a blue beam of light and energy shot from his hands and arc reactor to blow Omega aside and melt the ground.
"I had to look the part, webhead," Deadpool said, "and you snapped my neck, twice!"
"Because I thought you were trying to kill me!" Spider-Man said, webbing up Omega's legs and swinging him to the ground.
"You were very convincing," Black Panther said, snatching a grenade from Deadpool's belt and crushing it in his hand to turn the entire suit purple, "but you could have blown your cover earlier in the fight."
Omega took the right hook from T'Challa, spinning around with the force of a grenade centered in his temple. "I wasn't sure how things were going to play out," Deadpool said, "plus a guy's gotta eat, they were paying out the ass for me to pick off all eight of your legs!"
Omega Red stood up, stumbling toward Iron Man and taking a ferrous fist to the chest that knocked him flat on his back. Tony and the other agents stood over him. "Stay down," Tony ordered, the high pitched humming of his energy blaster on his hand acting as a warning.
Omega droned out a groan and lifted his head, giving into the pain and passing out. "I'll take Bucky boy back to base," Deadpool said, strolling over to the hibernating Winter Soldier and slinging him over his shoulder. "See you at the chopper!"
Peter, Tony, and T'Challa rushed toward the gate, dodging and ducking the agents' guns as they shot through the airfield.
"This is exactly why I didn't want you to leave New York," Tony scolded, knocking over a squadron of agents by simply moving through them.
Peter took them out with agility and speed, appearing to them only as a red and blue blur. "It's my responsibility, Mister Stark. I moved here to get an education, an opportunity you would have never passed-"
"That isn't going to matter if you're dead, alright?" Tony said with angry concern. "I had to talk your aunt down to even get you here. I told you to stay low, that I would take care of SHIELD, and more importantly to stay out of the way."
"What, was I supposed to let the GJN find others like me and do who knows what to them?" Spider-Man said. "AIM was just as bad as these guys, where was the worry for me from you when I was getting shot at then?"
"I was there to protect you!" Tony shouted.
"I don't need anyone's protection!" Peter shouted back, hopping back into the shield ring where Kim was climbing up the rope ladder alongside Ron's floating gurney. Kim looked down, the realization of what she had done hitting her in the face as Betty herself glared up at her from within the chaos of her own agents with such hatred that it filled the young woman with dread. Betty turned away, vanishing among the black suits without a word. She wasn't the only one who was sitting in hot water, however. "It got out of hand today," Spider-Man said. "I admit that, but I had-"
"Newsflash, if Black Panther wasn't on standby, Kraven would have been eating you over a campfire," Iron Man said, "you weren't ready to leave."
"Weren't ready?" Peter said in disbelief, swinging himself into the chopper while T'Challa simply jumped in. "I'm not a kid anymore," Peter said, "I already told Director Fury that I wanted to stay independent while I was here, like you asked. I didn't expect GJN to put me on its most wanted list, and I'm fairly certain I can take myself off without you holding my hand!"
"Who built that suit you're wearing?" Tony said, helping Kim and Ron into the chopper while Deadpool scrambled up the ladder with Bucky over his shoulder.
Peter rolled his eyes. "Mister Stark-"
"Who built that suit?" Tony asked again with more force.
"I've shown you time and time again that I'm capable of-"
"This isn't Vulture, or Hobgoblin, not even Loki, this is an entire organization dedicated to killing people just like you, and you were too headstrong to ask for help early on. Nick might have been covering for you before to try to let you figure this out on your own, but when I see that suit, I know that in the end, I am responsible for you. What if somebody had died today? Your classmate down there is bleeding out, if that shot was any more to the right, he would have died."
"How is that-"
"The daughter of one of my closest friends from college is out here fighting you with an organization planning on wiping you out, and you refused to let anybody back home figure that out until we found you caught up in your own web. Thank god he didn't die today, but if that kid died, that would have been on you. But if you had died?" Tony's suit unfolded around him, fitting inside a suitcase that slid neatly in between the seats. His stare was cold yet feeling, twiddling a pen between his fingers to curb some of the anxiety. "That would have been on me. You weren't ready for today. Until this mess you're in gets sorted out, I'm putting you back on SHIELD's registry directly under my supervision."
"You can't do-"
"This isn't about what I can or cannot do," Tony scolded, "all you had to do was deliver the drop and get out of there, not instigate a fight with a secret organization as soon as you unpacked your dorm, and until that fight is over, I'm going to be watching you like Clint, got it?" He turned to the distressed, scared, and visibly shaken Kim. "What are you doing with mercenaries, Kim?" he asked, his voice softer but more disappointed.
Kim wanted to cry. "At first, I thought it was the right thing to do. Ron and I, we both did."
"You guys can go all over the world, I don't care how much experience you think you have, all three of you are still kids," Tony said, "there's a lot of stuff happening right now that you have yet to understand, and it's so easy to just blindly follow whatever you feel is best or protects you, but guess what? You're no longer dealing with guys who wanna take out a teenage girl, you're dealing with guys that can take on the world and have a fighting chance. Why is your dad even letting you do this? You shouldn't be out there, fighting those guys in the first place."
"How was I supposed to know you were going to show up with a helicopter?" Kim snapped back. "I've fought evil ever since I was in middle school, and-"
"I know exactly who you've fought, and believe me, you haven't truly fought anybody yet," Tony said. "Spider-Man cleared out your entire rogue's gallery in a month, and he's your age. Betty was using you as a pawn to gauge how tough she'd have to fight, and you helped answer that question exactly. You shouldn't have been out there, and now that you've betrayed them, they're going to be on you twice as hard as they will him."
Kim was silenced by that, looking down at Ron and out at the open chopper doors to process what she had done. The GJN knew everything about her, who she hung out with, her family, everything she loved, if Tony was right, would be in their crosshairs. Dread washed over her and she sat forward in the chair, burying her face in her hands. "No, Ron," Kim said, nearly sobbing, "what- what have I done?!"
"Not always, will what is right be clear to you," T'Challa said, "but you had the volition to push forward despite everyone moving against you. Do not think of what happened today as a loss, Kim Possible, because you gained something more valuable." He pulled out two beads that glowed black and purple, attaching them to Kim's suit. Like a magnet, thousands of tiny cameras and earpieces shot from the suit and onto the beads. Kim looked around nervously at her company that saved Ron and kept her from Betty's wrath, seeing everyone she had considered an enemy up until now debugging her suit. "Now, the communicator."
Kim reluctantly pulled it out, waiting for Betty's grimace to pop up at any moment. She was right to be worried, but this time, Betty stared right into Tony and T'Challa's favor. "Tony Stark-"
"We have the idol and your top agent," Iron Man said mockingly, "I'd say we're going 2-0 right now- maybe we'll get the suits next?"
"Tell Kim Possible that she's fired-"
"No longer yours to control. Farewell, Betty," T'Challa finished before her, tapping the bead to the screen. He handed it back to Kim. "Give it a moment." The screen went black with an uncertain static, before blinking back to life with a familiar voice.
"Hey, Kim!" the short, chubby, and young, freckled African American boy with dark skin, short, wavy black hair, and bright brown eyes on the other end of the video chat wearing a plain blue tee shirt said excitedly. "I've been trying to hack back into your comms channel for months! What happened? I mean, I heard about Spidey, but the GJN kept shutting me out!"
Kim sighed in relief, hearing Ron chuckling on the gurney. "You have no idea how glad I am to see you, Wade, but," Kim's happiness faded fast. "Things are complicated right now. I don't want you dragged into this too."
"Thetha igama lakho," T'Challa said, as if nearly demanding it.
Wade stopped mid sentence nearly biting his tongue. "S-sorry?" he stammered.
"Thetha igama lakho," Black Panther said more insistently.
Kim watched Wade hurriedly dash from the computer panels that surrounded him booting up. He darted back into the camera. "Be right back."
Kim looked up at T'Challa with the same shock on her face present on Tony, Spider-Man, and Deadpool as well. "He's one of yours?"
"The world is much bigger than you know," T'Challa said, "I too have just begun working with SHIELD."
"Who said I'm working with you?" Kim asked, feeling overwhelmed.
"Sorry, kid," Deadpool said, "but you don't just screw over the GJN like that and walk away. Until this settles down, thanks to your buddy with half his face blown off over there, we have to keep you and your family safe."
"How can we," Ron grunted painfully, "trust you? You're all agents too!"
"I'll take care of that," Tony said. "I got into the hero business to privatize world peace, to stop agencies like GJN and even the government from getting in the way of doing what's right. Our director already has the heads up on your situation, and, apparently, our new contact here already has a liaison for you."
"How do you know Wade," Ron asked, "Mister…"
"T'Challa," Black Panther finished for him. "I cannot tell you who we are, not yet, but I have watched every man in this helicopter for quite a long time. Your exploits at such a young age were of interest to me, thus I installed a set of eyes to keep watch on your activities, to make sure you stayed a beacon of light to the rest of the world."
"I'm back, Kim," Wade said, half-pulling a tall, African American woman Kim assumed to be his mom into the computer room. "Ixesha, umama!" he said in a language she had never heard him speak before.
Kim turned the screen to the king. "I'm so confused…"
Ron turned his head weakly to the screen, watching Wade and the woman cross their arms in an X over their chests. "Wakanda ngonaphakade!" they declared, receiving the same symbol from the king himself.
"I guess he'll be watching your professional operations until you're settled with us," Tony said, "as for Spider-Boy and I, we'll be in the area, him at least for the next three years."
Spider-Man scoffed, leaning his head back against the seat and closing his eyes. "Now you're just being petty."
"I'll be contacting you shortly, maybe our director too," Tony said. "Your high profile status makes your family an instant target, thus I'll drop by to let your parents know what the sitch is." Tony chuckled. "It's a good catchphrase."
"He did a thing!" Deadpool exclaimed.
"I don't want me nor my family caught between what's going on with you and the GJN, not anymore," Kim said, "my job is saving the world, not acting as a pawn for a man in a suit."
"And you don't need to be," Tony said. "Superheroes have other jobs, for some, like me, it is their job, but that's besides the point. We don't expect you to fully commit to us right off the bat, no one does. You're in danger, Kim. We have to keep you and Ron from feeling Betty's retaliation, because she doesn't pull any punches against people on her list."
Kim looked at her kimmunicator again, Wade's smile giving her some confidence in her new company. "I'll need some time to think, to process all of this."
Tony nodded. "Of course. For now, we're taking your dynamic duo and webhead home."
"Do you have the idol?" T'Challa asked.
Peter nodded, handing him the backpack. T'Challa opened it to reveal a bright green glow that the idol exuded when it touched his hand. "It only glows when it's around its creator or master, yes, Ron?"
Ron nodded. "You didn't explain your role in that very well, or maybe I got hit in the head too…"
"You will learn that in time," T'Challa said, "but now I must return this to where it rightfully belongs."
"Kim, Spidey, I'll drop you off now. I'll take Ron to a hospital and have my guys keep him company until he's discharged. I'll see you soon, Possible." The helicopter landed on top of the dorm building and Kim was let off, looking up bewildered at the insignia of the eagle behind the American flag shield as copter took off again.
They continued to fly until they were over the city again, looking down on it moving along fine and unknowing of what was about to transpire. "This is my stop," Peter said, walking to the edge of the copter doors.
"We'll keep in touch," Iron Man said just before he was going to jump out, "and kid?"
"Stay out of danger, I know," Peter said, at least happy that he cared.
"Oh, no, I was just going to tell you to, uh," Tony cleared his throat. "Your fly was down the entire fight."
Peter simply sighed. "See you later, Mister Stark," he said, diving off the side into the evening city.
"Call me!" Deadpool shouted, getting slapped in the back of the head by T'Challa.
"You think he'll be alright?" T'Challa asked. "From what I've seen, although he is quite versatile, holding his punches over that girl and Ron hindered his effectiveness. If there is ever another moment like that in the field, he may not return."
Iron Man leaned back in his seat, crossing his arms while staring at Ron and Rufus. "Yeah, he'll be fine. I was worried about him coming here at first, being the only one and all, and I was right to be. Now that they've hurt one of our own, I wouldn't be surprised if we'll be crawling up and down the West Coast in a week."
"You are a genius," T'Challa said, "but sometimes short-sighted."
"He is not the only one," he said. "Although not without ulterior motives, a movement fronted by a woman whose name I won't say freely has begun to combat the GJN in their territory. They will be pinched, if the size of this organization is as large as my contact says it is."
"What 'ulterior' motives?" Tony asked.
T'Challa smirked. "They do not particularly care for Spider-Man either."
Tony sighed and rolled his eyes. "We certainly have our work cut out for us."
T'Challa chuckled. "Then let's not waste any time. Wade, your thoughts?"
They turned toward the double agent, wanting to smack him again watching him play a fighting game on his DS. "Oh, sorry. Wasn't listening. Whatever it is, I'm sure it's very interesting and frankly I'm just glad to be here taking part."
T'Challa turned to Tony. "Are you sure we need him?"
LONG ASS CHAPTER BBS, CLASS HAS KILLED MY TIME BUT I AM NOT DEAD
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE CHAPTER? HOW WILL KIM DEAL WITH HER CHANGE OF ALLEGIANCE? WHAT ABOUT RON? WILL BETTY RETALIATE AGAINST HER FORMER ALLY? ENTER BLACK PANTHER AND DEADPOOL! WADE'S /TRUE/ ORIGIN WILL BE DISCUSSED LATER. IRON MAN DIDN'T HAVE MUCH OF AN ACTION-PACKED INTRO, BUT THAT'S FOR LATER ;)