"Pete you gotta let go. I'll catch you."
"But you said save the wizard!" Peter pulled his mask from his face, hoping the removal of the thin fabric would bring some oxygen into his lungs. He rasped, "I can't breathe."
"You're too high up." Came Tony's voice from over the com. "You're running out of air."
"That makes sense," he panted between words. Black closed in from the side of Peter's vision. His lungs ached and the back of his head was ready to split open. Despite his efforts to remain awake, Peter's eyes slipped shut of their own accord.
Peter knew he was falling, though it didn't register until the thousands of nanobots wrapped itself around his body. His suits heads-up display was in front of his eyes and oxygen was in his lungs. Immediately, Peter could move again. He latched onto the ship.
"Mr Stark, it smells like a new car in here!"
He stood up straight reading to help.
"Happy trails, kid. F.R.I.D.A.Y. send him home."
It wasn't until the parachute deployed and Peter hurtled towards the ground that he realised that Mr Stark wasn't letting Peter come with him.
"Oh come on!" He yelled. All he wanted to do was help. Was that too much to ask?
"Hey Karen, where am I?" Peter looked around the rolling cornfields where he had landed. A trail of flattened crops showed the path of where Peter had rolled after making impact with the ground. There was no road, no buildings, and besides a few buzzing insects, no life.
"The suit's location data says that you are in North Pennsylvania." Peter groaned at the AI's answer. He didn't know why he expected to land in New York. With how fast the earth spins, it's a wonder he didn't land in the middle of the Pacific. "You are quite a distance from home. Would you like me to alert May that you're going to be late for dinner?"
Peter shook his head. "Not yet." He contemplated how he was going to get home. There were no buildings or trees to swing from. He'd have to walk. "How far is the closest road?"
"Approximately ninety-three miles to the east is the Interstate 81 highway. Would you like the quickest path?"
Peter paled at the distant. It would take him days to walk that. "Can you patch me through to Happy, please?"
The AI agreed. "Contacting Mr Hogan."
It took three rings before Happy picked up. Ever since Coney Island, the two agreed that if Peter was just giving Happy an update he would use his phone. If he needed help, however, he was to use the suit's inbuilt phone system.
"You good kid?" Before Peter could continue to answer Happy continued. "Please don't tell me you're on that ship. I already have Pepper hounding me to get Tony back, I can't have your aunt screaming at me as well."
"No no no. I'm not. Well, not any more. I was. But Mr Stark sent me back. Oh god, I hope he's okay. All I was supposed to do-"
"Peter." Happy cut Peter off before his rambling could get out of hand.
"Right, right. Sorry." Peter took a breath. "I- I need someone to pick me up."
God, he felt so stupid. Happy was always going off at Mr Stark about how he wasn't his driver. He was the head of security at Stark Industries. Yet, here he was asking for a pick-me-up. He was sure Happy had other things to worry about.
Happy huffed down the phone. "Where are you?"
"North Pennsylvania." He phrased it as more of a question than a statement. "I can get Karen to send you the exact location."
"Don't bother. I'll get it." Happy went silent for a moment, presumably shouting orders to someone. "Stay where you are, I'll get a chopper out for you."
"Ok." He wasn't going to have to walk for thousands of miles. That was a relief. "Thanks, Happy."
On the way to school the next morning, Peter caught Ned up on what had happened. He explained how he chased aliens to rescue a wizard, how he almost exited the Earth's atmosphere, and how Mr Stark sent him back just as things were getting exciting.
Despite the disappointment of not being able to join Mr Stark on a mission, Peter was genuinely concerned for him. He had gone to space, a territory so unknown to humans that there was no way to know where Mr Stark was. When Peter had been picked up by a helicopter, he had heard Happy's frantic calls with SI personal trying to locate Tony. Once he'd left Earth's vicinity—out of the range of Stark Industries many satellites—it became impossible to find where Ironman had gone.
With Ned trailing behind him, Peter reached into his locker to retrieve his books for the next period.
"I can't believe you almost went to space," Ned exclaimed in a hushed voice. "That must have been so cool."
Peter smiled and nodded. Ned didn't need to know about those helpless few moments when Peter was sure he would suffocate in the thin air.
As he pulled his textbook out of his locker a painful sensation stabbed Peter in the back of his head. Goosebumps littered Peter's arm and it took every ounce of self-control to not look around in panic.
Danger! Danger! Danger! His spidersense screamed.
Something was wrong. Something was very wrong.
"Hey Ned," Peter turned slowly, trying to remain calm. If Peter panicked, then Ned would panic.
When Peter turned, he was met with a cloud of ash. Then the screams began. Peter looked down the hallway frantically. Someone just a few feet away brought their hands up to their face. The girl looked at them quizzically as ash-like particles emitted from them. She looked up to her friends in confusion before falling forwards. When her body hit the ground, she evaporated into thousands of dust-like particles. The people around her screamed in panic.
Danger! Danger! Danger! The spidersense screeched louder.
What was happening? What was wrong?
People were screaming. People were crying. There was panic. The hallways were filled with dust. No one knew what was happening. Peter took a breath. He was okay. He'd figure this out. He just needed to breathe. He needed to go outside.
Outside was no different. It was more chaotic than inside the school. The sound of car alarms overwhelmed Peter senses. One car was crashed into a nearby lamp post with no driver inside the vehicle. Others were running to aid those stuck inside a bus after the driver had vanished and the vehicle swerved into the side of a building. People were running around in panic. And screaming. There was so much screaming.
Ash filled the air and it dawned on Peter. Those were people. Those floating grey particles were living, breathing, human beings. Peter felt sick to the stomach. People were now dust. Ned was dust. What was happening? Were they dead? They couldn't be dead. People didn't just disappear. That's not how the body worked. The human body was made of thousands of cells. Those cells couldn't turn to ash. And if they could, it would take years for that to happen. This just had to be a bad dream. A really bad dream.
Peter tried to convince himself of that. Tried to force himself awake. He knew it wasn't a dream though. He knew this was real. Peter was aware that he was wide awake. Shoving his hand into his pocket, Peter fumbled for his phone. He almost dropped it in his panic but still manage to open the device and call Happy. When the phone went to voicemail he almost vomited. Was Happy ash? Was May ash? Had everyone he'd ever known just crumbled to dust never to return.
For the next hour, Peter would continuously call Ned, Happy, May, MJ, Betty, and even Flash. No one picked up. Then, at 12:15 pm, when the school had been deserted and the chaos on the street was yet to die down, Peter's screen lit up. He almost cried with relief when he read the name.
Happy was calling him.