Agony tore through May like a knife. Her burning eyes remained fixed on the screen, tears clouding her vision as blood pounded in her ears, drowning out all further sound. She couldn’t hear Hallie’s hair-raising shriek or the sound of shattering glass as Kelly’s plate fell to the ground. She didn’t register Tricia’s staggering footsteps as she ran off to throw up or Logan’s frantic whispering in her ears as her best friend tried to contain the inevitable explosion.
May could only watch as something red fluttered to the ground next to Peter’s head: his mask.
That’s when the fury kicked in. The Goblin is going to DIE. He’d killed Ben Reilly, he tried to kill her as a baby, and now her dad.
And suddenly May was on her feet, driven by a savage emotion. Her face was white-hot, her nails digging into her palms. The Goblin was going to die and she was going to be the one to kill him. Logan desperately tried to restrain her, wrapping May in a fierce hug.
“May, look. Look!”
Civilians had come pouring into the square by the masses, rallying around Peter’s broken form, locking arms to create a dense circle. Some of them even knelt by his side to see if he was still breathing. The rest glared up at the Goblin in pure hatred.
“IF YOU WANT SPIDER-MAN, YOU’LL HAVE TO GO THROUGH US!” someone bellowed.
The others roared in approval, yelling insults up at the sneering Goblin hovering several storeys above them.
“Your loyalty is wasted on a man as breakable as you,” he spat. “Tonight the Goblin reigns supreme and your pathetic excuse for a hero is dead!”
“Nooooo!” Kelly wailed.
“So long, fools!” the Goblin cried, rising into the air. “I’d love to stay, but I have a funeral to plan!”
And with that, he zoomed away into the sky, trailing green smoke.
“I have to get down there,” May whispered to Logan. “I have to.”
“May, the security down there is going to be ridiculous!” Logan hissed back. “How do you expect to get in?”
May was silent for a moment as she watched a team of medics load Peter onto a gurney and wheel him through the crowd, two of them trying to staunch the bleeding while another pressed an oxygen mask to his face.
“I’m gonna find my mom.”
Not ten minutes later May found herself wading through a sea of people outside New York Presbyterian Hospital, trying to fight her way through the crowd. Everywhere she turned there were photographers and reporters, witnesses giving their accounts, and hundreds of people shedding tears over the condition of their web-slinging hero.
The police had formed a barricade in front of the entrance in an attempt to hold back the flood of people. So far the wall was holding, but May was going to make it through.
“I’m here – to see – my grandmother,” she panted upon reaching one such officer at the front. “She’s very ill and – we fear she won’t last the night.”
“Oh yeah?” the cop said in a New Jersey accent. “Then what’s her name?”
May blurted the first thing that came to mind: “Natalie Portman.”
She cursed herself internally. Nice one, May!
“Yeah, and my barber’s Deadpool!” the officer scoffed. “Move along, kid! No one gets in to see Spider-Man ‘cept close family.”
But I’m his daughter, May wanted to scream.
She withdrew from the teeming masses until she had a bit more room to breathe and fished her phone out of her pocket.
May hurriedly dialed M.J.’s number and pressed the phone to her ear, straining to hear the faint ringing over the noise of the crowd.
“Come on, Mom, pick up,” she muttered.
But the phone went to voicemail. May shoved her phone back into her pocket with an irritated huff.
And then someone spoke up behind her: “Excuse me, miss?”
May turned to see a tall, buff man in a police uniform with a captain’s badge gleaming on his chest. He was dark-skinned with full lips and a cap pulled low over one eye. The one she could see was sharp and piercing.
“Yes?” she said uncertainly.
He leaned in closer and lowered his voice, jerking his head in one direction. “Follow me.”
May hesitated a moment before following him away from the crowd and toward the side of the hospital. Her spidey-sense may be dormant, but she had every right to be suspicious.
The captain led her to a back entrance and forcefully kicked the door open. “Quickly,” he told her, beckoning. “We haven’t got much time.”
“For what?” May demanded, speeding up to match his brisk pace.
“Your father is dying.”
May froze in her tracks, feeling as if she’d walked into a glass wall. Every nerve and fibre in her body was on red alert as she looked up at this strange man. “How do you know who I am?”
He stopped and removed his cap, turning to face her full on. His second eye – the one he’d been concealing – was hidden behind a black eye patch. May gaped as realization dawned. It couldn’t be…
He smiled grimly. “Are you gonna gawk all day or are we gonna get moving?”
“Well, you’re famous!” May cried as she hurried after him. “Can you really blame me? What are you doing here?”
“Saving Parker’s butt,” Fury said shortly. “We’re having him relocated to a safer location. He’s much too exposed being holed up in a common hospital. The moment Osborn learns he’s alive, we’ll have some serious trouble on our hands.”
“Where are you taking him?” May asked as they rounded a corner.
“S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier. It’s untraceable, thanks to our cloaking device, and protected by some of the finest tech in the world.”
“Awesome,” May said. “Wait, how’d you find me?”
“I make it my business to find people,” Fury said. “We tracked your phone signal. You called your mother at precisely 1:08pm. She knew you’d be somewhere outside.”
“Okay, so where are they now?”
“Private ward,” Fury said at once. “S.H.I.E.L.D. has the whole building under lockdown. We make our escape on the roof.”
“So you’re telling me that there’s a big, honking, invisible flying warship stationed over this building as we speak?”
“Yes,” he said impatiently, stopping outside a ward. “Was that not clear? Teenagers,” he huffed.
And with that he pushed the door open.
Peter was in a hospital bed while the doctors tended to his leg, now reduced to a bleeding stump. The hem of his pant leg was ragged and singed, the entire boot gone. Two guards stood sentry by the door carrying very large guns and M.J. leapt to her feet at the sight of them, her face tear-stained.
She instantly wrapped her arms around her and May blinked back tears, trying to keep it together for her mom’s sake. This poor woman had suffered so much.
“I should’ve been there,” May swallowed uneasily. “I could’ve helped.”
“No, you can’t blame yourself,” Mary Jane told her firmly, pushing a lock of hair behind May’s ear. “Injury is unavoidable in this line of work and I couldn’t bear it if it was you.”
“Well, h-he’s gonna be okay, right?” May said, wiping her eyes.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Fury, but it’s too soon,” the nurse argued. “He’s lost too much blood already. Move him now and he won’t make it.”
“You’re saying it’s impossible?” Fury pressed her.
“Given his current state …” The nurse trailed off with a sigh. “It’d be too risky,” she said finally. “He needs to rest and replenish himself.”
“My medical team is more than capable –”
“Doesn’t he have a healing factor?” May asked.
“Well, yes,” M.J. said slowly. “But it depends on the extent of the damage, May. Cuts and bruises aren’t an issue and broken bones take only weeks to heal. He doesn’t scar either …” Her bottom lip trembled. “… but he can’t grow back limbs.”
“No, he certainly can’t,” Fury muttered, “but I have an idea. We need to get him out of here,” he told the doctors. “Wrap it up as best as you can, use a tourniquet, whatever.”
“But –” said the nurse.
“The longer he stays here, the more lives are at risk,” Fury said firmly. “And there may not be a hospital left for them.” He sighed. “It’s a short trip up to the roof. He will make it.”
The doctors had finished prepping Peter. “Okay, let’s move,” one of them said, and they wheeled him toward the door, held open by one of the guards.
May, M.J., Fury, and the other guard followed suit.
Mary Jane took Peter’s hand as they made their way to the elevators. There was so much love in her eyes that May almost felt like an intruder. The two of them had been through so much together. For some reason the words ’til death do you part rang in May’s ears…
They emerged on the roof to face the full-on glare of the sun, which threw Peter’s figure in sharp relief: his battle-worn suit torn by shrapnel and black with soot in places, the drops of blood that spattered his face, the wet bandages that grew darker by the minute…
A loud roar tore through the silence and the wind picked up. May shielded her eyes as a gigantic ship appeared overhead, seemingly out of nowhere.
It looked like something out of another world: sleek and black with an oblong body and four round thrusters, two on each side of the behemoth, its powerful blades whirring loudly as they worked to keep the ship aloft. A loading hatch hissed open, coming to rest on the ground ten feet away.
“Quickly!” Fury urged them, and as they reached the bottom of the ramp, several people – the medical team, May assumed – rushed out to intercept them.
May jogged to keep up as Peter was handed over to the newcomers, who rushed him up the ramp. She looked back to see the hatch close behind her and staggered as, with a powerful burst from the thrusters, they were lifted into the air.
At once the medical team rushed off, leaving May to scramble after them. She couldn’t help but gawk at the interior of the ship as they raced past: all metal and glass with sterile lighting, huge windows overlooking labs, rooms with all sorts of gadgets, weapons, and tech, and guards walking past in full battle gear. Even the floor was a magnificent sight with steel grating, vents and metal panels arranged in different patterns.
Their footsteps echoed off the walls as they turned corner after corner, and for the first time, May saw Peter move. His head jerked to one side, eyes squeezed shut in pain, and May began to wonder what happened to his mask. Did anyone pick it up while he was surrounded? Did the medical team leave it behind in their haste to get him to the hospital?
Please let him be okay, she pleaded silently. Please.
May lost track of the hours that went by as she sat at Peter’s bedside with her mom. Hopefully Miss Edna wouldn’t mind her being gone this long.
Fury had mentioned calling for Mister Fantastic some time ago. It only just occurred to May who he was talking about: Reed Richards from the Fantastic Four. The idea that she could be meeting two legendary figures in one day was mind-boggling. How did this become her life?
A loud groan jerked her out of her reverie and Peter sat up groggily on his elbows. He looked back and forth from May to Mary Jane, both seated on either side of him and blinked in confusion.
“Am I the only one seeing double here?”
M.J. laughed and even May cracked up. It felt good to smile again.
“I swear you two could be sisters!” Peter said, the sparkle returning to his eyes.
M.J. took his hand. “How are you feeling, Tiger?”
“Like I’ve been baked and broiled, and thrown around like a rag doll!” he chuckled. “Aw!” Peter massaged the bridge of his nose. “That Normie Osborn can really pack a punch.”
“Normie?” May repeated. Why would her dad have a cute nickname for him?
“You didn’t think that was the same Goblin, did you?” Peter said, sitting up on his pillows with a slight wince. “Nah, that was Norman Osborn Jr., grandson of the original Green Goblin.”
“Wait, that was a kid?” May spluttered. “A kid did this to you?”
“May,” her mother reprimanded.
“Did what to me?” Peter demanded, looking from one to the other. “Why can’t I feel my toes?” What little colour he had regained drained from his face.
M.J. looked to be on the verge of tears again. “Peter,” she said slowly, “this won’t be easy for us to tell you, but …”
Wordlessly, she gingerly pulled back the blanket to reveal what was left of his right leg. It stopped just below his knee. The wound had been cleaned, sewn and a sterile dressing had been placed over it. Still, the sight was so heartbreaking to know that something had once been there, but nothing could compare to the shattered look in Peter’s eyes.
Before May could blink, his eyes were swimming with tears and he slowly leaned forward with shaking fingers to touch his knee. The physical confirmation made it absolute and he broke down in sobs.
That was the final straw. It was too much. Before May knew it, they were all hugging and crying until they could cry no more.
“This is it,” Peter said finally, sniffling. “I’m incomplete, I can’t walk anymore, I can’t be Spider-Man …”
“Hey, don’t talk like that,” M.J. chided. “The Goblin has already taken so much. Don’t let him take your spirit too. Fury’s calling Reed, they’re going to find a solution. We can get through this.”
Peter didn’t look entirely reassured, but May didn’t blame him. Losing a leg would definitely take a toll on his mental state. She just hoped the damage wouldn’t be critical.
At that moment the door opened and in came Fury followed by a handsome, bespectacled man wearing a lab coat over a blue body suit. On his chest was the symbolic silver 4. May felt her jaw drop.
“Peter, how are you?” Reed said, striding over, concern creasing his brow.
“Feeling like I’ve been ripped to pieces.”
M.J. gave him an irritated smack on the arm.
“You know Mary Jane,” Peter said, nodding at his wife and Reed shook her hand. “And this is our daughter, May.”
Reed looked at May with intrigue. “The long-lost May Parker. It’s a pleasure.”
“Hi,” May whispered, shaking his hand. She couldn’t explain why she was suddenly acting like such a fangirl, but hey, if you meet a world-famous celebrity, you’re bound to go a little crazy.
“So, to get straight to business,” Reed said, pushing his glasses up his nose. “Now, I know this is going to be incredibly difficult for you, but I’m here to help make the transition a little smoother. Obviously this will take some time to get used to and you may experience some phantom pains in your knee, for which I recommend medication. What I’m proposing won’t be a perfect fix, but it can get you up and moving again. Fury has asked me to make you a bionic leg.”
M.J. looked up in bewilderment. “You’d do that?”
“I’d be more than happy to,” Reed assured them.
Peter looked sullen. “I appreciate the offer, Reed, I do. But let’s be honest, guys. It wouldn’t be the same. I’ve known this was coming for a while.”
“What do you mean?” May asked.
Peter shrugged in defeat. “I’m past my prime. I was going to retire a long time ago, but I just couldn’t give it up. Now I have to face the facts. My time as Spider-Man is over.”