CHAPTER ONE

Pandemonium reigned in the emergency room at Mount Sinai Queens Hospital. More so this night than most others.

Two gangs — Brooklyn Danger and Kings of Queens — accidentally encountered each other at Frank Principe Park. Not an uncommon occurrence, but tonight someone threw a soda can. Which quickly escalated into throwing rocks. Which inevitably resulted in vehicular property damage on one side and a minor head wound on the other. Police arrived on the scene before the gangs rushed each other, and both sides scattered into the night. But dispersing the gangs wasn't enough. Somewhere in the ensuing series of brawls, stabbings, drive-by shootings, and one impromptu firebombing, Emergency Services Dispatch Center got their signals crossed and sent ambulances carrying members of both gangs to the same ER.

If it was just the patients — injured BDs and Kings — there wouldn't have been a problem. Most of them weren't even conscious when they arrived. When their families got there, the shouting started. When more members of both gangs came in to protect and support their comrades, the brawling started. With police presence thinned by continuing violence in other parts of two boroughs, the brawl quickly devolved into a small riot.

Gang members and their families were at each others' throats. Police were trying to break up individual fights. Hospital security was trying to keep the fighting contained in the ER waiting area. Orderlies were trying to get patients safely out of the waiting area. Waiting patients and their families were cowering in corners or running for the main exit. Nurses were trying to keep the gangs from targeting wounded rivals. Doctors were trying to treat traumatic injuries before more were inflicted.

This was the scene when Spider-Man arrived. He came into the ER at speed on the end of a long swing, using momentum to bowl over a knot of brawlers, and using the impacts to shed enough velocity to roll and land on his feet in the middle of the waiting area.

He took a deep breath and shouted, "STO-O-O-OP!"

The entire room, already shocked to stillness by the abruptness and force of his entry, turned to look at Queens' own homegrown superhero. They took in the small frame, the blue sweat pants and shirt. The sleeveless red hoodie, gloves, socks, and balaclava. The welder's goggles with scratched lenses. The spider drawn on the hoodie in marker. They looked at their friends and relatives groaning on the floor where they had fallen when Spider-Man swung through them, knocking them down like bowling pins. They looked back at the self-appointed vigilante in the shabby, home-made costume.

He had enough time to say, "Everybody OUT of the E—" before he was tackled by half the people in the room, driven through the double doors and into the emergency treatment center by their charge. A mass of bodies weighed him down, punching and kicking indiscriminately at the red and blue clad hero, missing as often as they hit, but hitting often enough to make him curl into a ball to protect his midsection with his knees and his head with his arms. "Stop OW! You're not OH! Supposed to fight AGH! In a hospita-a-A-ARGH!" Blows continued to rain down.

Spider-Man continued to absorb the blows until a particularly lucky punch caught his cheekbone and bounced his head off the hard tile floor. He shook it off, then rolled onto his back. "CUT!" He kicked out with both legs, sending two men sliding across the tiles and three more reeling. "IT!" He swung both arms wide, knocking four more assailants away. "OUT!" He drew his legs back up to his chest and kipped up onto his feet in a fluid motion.

Then the webs started flying. Where someone was down, he webbed them to the floor with a wide spray. Where someone was attacking someone else, he used a web line to yank them away, some tumbling to the floor with their legs pulled out from under them, some strategically flung across the room into other combatants. When he was done, seven Brooklyn Danger, six Kings of Queens, four affiliated family members or friends, two orderlies, and a police officer were fixed to the walls and floor of the ER in various states of consciousness and agitation.

Spider-Man's head darted back and forth as he surveyed the room, making sure no one else needed to be knocked down or webbed up. He stepped toward two nurses who stood side by side to block a treatment area, a doctor tending an injured child behind them. Their name tags read "Temple" and "Parker".

"Are you...!" He paused and cleared his throat, then continued with his voice an octave deeper. "Are you all right?"

"Parker", a woman with dark brown hair just starting to gray, let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. "Yes, thank you! Are you hurt?"

"I'm fine."

"Temple", a tall Latina whose expression was both resigned and quizzical, asked, "Are you making your voice deeper?"

"What? No, I—!" The short hero with the suspiciously deep voice suddenly tensed and crouched as if to jump, but instead spun around as the doors from the waiting area burst open. A boy no older than fifteen strode in, firing a revolver as he came, shooting at Spider-Man as the ER staff and patients screamed in terror.

The shooter and his target moved straight toward each other. Spider-Man never dodged, keeping himself firmly in place between the shooter and the nurses he was speaking to a moment before. The shooter never faltered, although his hands shook enough to throw his aim off wildly. Bullets hit the ceiling, a glass cabinet door, a fire extinguisher, Spider-Man's left arm, an EKG cart, and Spider-Man's right rib cage. The hero flinched and cried out when each bullet struck, but continued moving toward the shooter. The empty revolver clicked in time with each step as the boy kept pulling the trigger. When they closed to arm's reach, Spider-Man grabbed the gun in one hand and his assailant's collar in the other. He threw the boy up against the ceiling, following up with a steady stream of webbing that fixed the shooter in place, hanging over the ER with a shocked expression.

Temple and Parker rushed up to support the hero as he stumbled, trying to staunch both wounds with either hand.

"Whoa, easy there, let's get you onto a table over here and check you out." Temple tried to steer Spider-Man to an empty station.

"No, it's fine," he grunted, obviously in pain.

Parker quick-stepped over to a cabinet, pulling supplies from the drawers. "Hey! Get on that table, mister!"

Temple was surprised when the vigilante meekly walked over and gingerly climbed onto the examining table. While Parker continued collecting iodine, scissors, sutures, sterile pads, gauze and bandages, Temple tore Spider-Man's sleeve open. "This is a flesh wound, clean through-and-through the outer left bicep." She pulled up his vest and sweatshirt. "And the other is a graze between the third and fourth ribs on the right side. You are one lucky kid."

"I'm not—"

"Please!" Temple held a hand in front of his face. "I have leftovers older than you. Now let's take this stuff off and get you patched up."

Spider-Man's head whipped around to look at Parker, them back to Temple. "What? No!" He slid off the table and took a step toward the exit.

Parker dropped supplies onto a tray so she could put a hand on his shoulder. "You can't just go, you've been shot! Twice!"

Temple stepped back, staying close but not impeding Spider-Man's progress. "Easy, calm down, nobody's going to touch the mask. I promise," she whispered.

Spider-Man cocked his head at Temple for a moment, then stretched his left arm out to shoot a strand of webbing through the open doors into the waiting area. He yanked hard on the line, which was apparently fixed to something very sturdy as the motion launched him forcefully out of the ER all the way into the ambulance bay. Another "thwip" and he was gone.

Parker and Temple stood silent for a moment, staring at the shambles the ER was left in. Eventually, Temple's mouth tugged into a smirk. "'Get on the table, mister'?"

"'I've got leftovers older than you, kid'?"

Both women laughed, shook their heads, and began tending to the people trapped in webs around the ER.