Eyes flicked over the screen as fingers flew across the keyboard.
Almost, almost, almost...
With a final exaggerated click of the Enter key, Peter sat back, watching as the progress bar reached 100%.
"Congratulations, Spider-Man. You just managed to successfully leak every dirty little secret ever held by one of the largest conglomerates in the nation to the public in under an hour. New record. By morning every major news outlet will be scrambling to cover the downfall of Oscorp and the inevitable and 'shocking' arrest of Norman Osborn."
Peter grinned widely at MJ's pixelated image on his monitor, where she and Ned were video chatting with him through his latest accomplishment.
"I told you, man. The Bro Code never fails. It's, like, the back door of back doors. No system will ever stand a chance against this baby."
MJ snorted as Ned boasted about his and Peter's ultimate cyber creation.
"'The Bro Code'? Really?"
"What? It's a good name!"
"Yeah, if you're twelve."
The two continued to banter via video call until Peter decided enough was enough.
"Guys. Really? I just exposed freaking Oscorp and you're arguing over the name of the - admittedly awesome - coding I used? Seriously?"
He laughed, still slightly in shock at how smoothly the operation had gone and how it was finally over. Weeks of planning, research and programming had gone into the take down and now that it was over and done with Peter just felt in awe. He had done it. Freaking Oscorp.
Peter looked at his friends on screen as he leaned back into his chair, his spine stiff and neck cramped from sitting hunched over for so long.
"Another successful mission-" He began.
"Another celebratory feast!" Ned finished.
"Same place, same time?" MJ added on.
Stretching, Peter nodded in affirmation.
"Of course. You bring the movies, I'll cover the snacks. May's working the overnights this week so if you guys wanna spend the night you can."
The next day at school was exactly as predicted. The campus was abuzz with the news of Osborn’s arrest and the pending investigation. The media hailed the mysterious Spider-Man a hero, as evidence pertaining to unethical human experimentation as well as highly taboo genetic research came to light thanks to the anonymous hacker's efforts.
There were some, however, that were a tad less enthusiastic about his contributions.
“‘Spider-Man: Coward, Coder, Criminal’? Is this really what people think of me?”
Peter looked at the phone in his hands with a frown. The latest “Spider-Man” article glared back, mocking him.
“I mean, at least Jameson thought of a catchy headline this time.” Peter glared at Ned, who raised his hands in a show of surrender, “Hey man, I'm not saying it's true, but like, that alliteration though. You gotta admit it's not that bad.”
Peter shook his head, a look of exasperation on his face as he turned towards the front of the class. Honestly, how could people like J. Jonah Jameson look at the work he's done, the people that he's saved and discredit that? It made no sense! The world was safer because of his efforts; and taking down massive corporations like Oscorp and A.I.M. was no easy task. Well, for people not named Peter Parker, at least. The boy himself was a wiz with a keyboard and a genius in his own right. Hacking wasn't that much of a challenge for him, more of a puzzle to be solved. A very tedious, very time consuming puzzle with the fate of innocent lives in his hands.
Peter continued to sulk even as the teacher walked in the room. As the day's lesson started, he pushed the thoughts to the side. If the Daily Bugle was the most of his problems, he knew things couldn't be too bad.
The Daily Bugle was the least of his problems.
Peter had fucked up and he had fucked up bad .
With quivering hands and numb fingers, the shaken teen pulled out his phone and calling the first person he could think of.
“Peter? Dude, what the heck, it's like four in the morning. Wha-”
“Ned! Holy shit! Holy shit, dude! You gotta help me! I-I screwed up and-ohmigod it's bad. So, so bad. I don't know what to do. I-”
“I mean at first I thought it was some sort of sick joke but then I kept looking a-”
“And Ned, it was bad. Like- like makes Oscorp look tame bad. I've never felt so sick. I- I don't even think this could go public. It's just so-”
“ Peter! Dude! You've got to calm down, you're not making any sense. What do you mean? What's bad? You're kinda freaking me out, man.”
The hacker ran a trembling hand through his curls, gripping his phone tighter in the other as he took a shaky breath before explaining.
“I- I got a tip. From a guy. He… he's helped me before. Given me leads to other cases, told me where to look for info, stuff like that. He goes by Daredevil in the chat and stuff. Remember how I said I wasn't alone on the Alchemax thing? That was him. He seemed pretty reliable, you know? Like, he's always given me what I need, and I give him code in return. Y'know, kinda like equivalent exchange from that anime we were watching? Yeah. He gives me tips for my cases a-”
“Dude, take a breath, you're rambling. What was the tip?” Peter was working himself up, which to be fair, was normal. His tone, however, was not and it put Ned on edge.
“Right, right. Sorry.” Peter gave another long, heavy sigh as he collected his thoughts before continuing, “So, you remember in history class last month how Mrs. Davis was talking about how Captain America was a major feat for the scientific community? A- and how he lead the fight against that Nazi group in the western front? Hydra?”
“And you remember when we asked about what happened to Hydra after Cap crashed the plane and she said they were destroyed during the war?”
“Yeah, yeah I remember. After Germany surrendered the remaining Nazi forces were rounded up. Captain America killed Johann Schmidt when the Valkyrie went down and Hydra fell apart without their leader. We aced that topic at Decathalon, why are you quizzing me?” At this point Ned had no clue where his best friend was headed. Why would he be talking about history class if the situation was as dire as he was making it out to be?
“Because Mrs. Davis was wrong. Hydra is still alive! I found their database! It's all here! E-e-everything, Ned! Locations, targets, codes, branches, blueprints! Daredevil's tip led me straight to it! After the war, they didn't disband, they went underground. Like S.H.I.E.L.D. but, y'know, evil!”
“What? ” On the other end of the line Ned sounded winded. It was a lot for anyone to take in, let alone a fifteen year old kid who occasionally dabbled in the underbelly of the dark web. This was too much even for him. And he'd seen some shit, it came with the territory.
“That isn't even the worst part though. There- there were videos, man. Like… really, really horrible videos. It looked like they were running tests? I-I couldn't really tell. The footage was all grainy and they were speaking German so I don't really know what was going on. I don't want to know what was going on. They - I mean - these scientists I guess, had this guy strapped to a table. They tortured him. For hours. And th-there were dozens of videos like this. Ned I swear I almost threw up like three times. I'm not gonna be able to sleep for, like, a year. Oh my god. How is this my life? I don't know what to do? What can I do? It's not like it's normal for some fifteen year old kid to walk around with some highly incriminating encrypted files on a thought to be dead terrorist organization from the forties!”
“Can't you take it to the FBI? The CIA? The President? Mr. Harrington?”
“Dude no! Of course I can't! Hydra is everywhere! Look, Ned, you didn't see what I saw but if you did you'd understand. I can't take it to the police. I can't trust anyone.” Peter's tone was solemn, grave. The seriousness with which he said those words was not to be taken lightly.
“Not even me?” Ned sounded horrified at the very implication.
“No, Ned, I don't mean you.” Peter rolled his eyes in exasperation, “If I didn't trust you we wouldn't be having this conversation right now.”
“Oh. Right. Sorry.”
“Sir? We have movement. You're going to want to take a look at this.”
One and a half sets of eyes started back at her, one fearful - though she obviously was not the cause of such expression in this case - and the other cold if not slightly irritated. “And just what, Agent Hill, could be so important as to warrant the interruption of our debriefing?”
Maria Hill looked between the Director and the agent he was currently addressing. “Please, sir. We've got a blip on our radar. Project Olympia is in motion.”
Fury stiffened before excusing himself from the meeting room, much to the relief of the agent that had just no doubt been saved from a thorough chastising. Maria took one last look at the man before following the Director down the hall.
Reaching their destination, Fury quickly made his way to the nearest active monitor. Upon seeing the readings currently displayed on the screen, his expression darkened. He had only one order, two words.
Wow. I can't believe I'm doing this. It's finally happening. My first posted work... ever. Idk how this is gonna go, so feel free to tear me to shreds in the comments. I'm posting this from my phone, so I'll figure out how to mark it wip instead of complete later, just know that I'm hoping to aim for ~10 chapters give or take depending on how much time and motivation I have.
I have no set update schedule as I am both working and a full time uni student.
If you somehow like this brief intro, please let me know either with a kudos or a comment! Positive feedback is much appreciated! (Please be Gentle, I'm Fragile.)
Also it's literally 1:30 am have mercy on my poor unbeta'd soul.
UPDATE: I have fixed a few typos and punctuation errors, and changed the status of this fic to "in-progress."
Thank you all so, so much for all the love and support this first chapter has received! When I saw the comments this morning I cried. Like full on Ugly Tears™. I'm currently in the middle of writing chapter 2, but it'll be a while before I can get it up; hopefully within a week if I stick to schedule.
Until next time!
Chapter 2: The Video
Peter was frantic. Pulling at wires and shoving various tangled cords into a bag, the boy looked like he was running from the Devil himself.
Which, to be fair, he kind of was.
ATTENTION! IMPORTANT NOTE BEFORE READING!!
There are brief mentions of torture, human experimentation, and non-graphic gore in the first part of this chapter. If you find that triggering you may want to skip from "Lasst uns anfangen." down to "Exiting the video," okay? The last thing I want to do in my writing is to hurt someone by neglecting to put warnings up.
Additionally, please don't skip over the end of chapter notes as it has the English translations for several lines of dialogue in this chapter. Thank you!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Peter was frantic. Pulling at wires and shoving various tangled cords into a bag, the boy looked like he was running from the Devil himself.
Which, to be fair, he kind of was.
After his talk with Ned, Peter's mind wandered back through the Hydra files he had discovered. It had been grotesque. Traumatic. Horrifying. Basically any negative adjective Peter could think of, this situation was it.
The first file he had come across had been relatively tame - some sort of schematics for what looked like a bionic arm? From there the information had gotten progressively worse. Granted, everything was in German which Peter didn't understand, but he got the gist of it.
There had been blueprints; maps made of top secret facilities, some of which Peter recognised - the Kremlin, the Pentagon, and the British Parliament building to name a few. The next thing he found were the lists: names, corporations, locations - you name it. Whether they were targets or partners, the boy couldn't tell.
And then there were the videos. At first the hacker did not quite know what he had uncovered. It was a video file and was of abysmal quality. No matter how much he played around with it, the image could not be sharpened any more. A crime against HD, really.
The grainy scene in front of him was of a blank room with heavy lighting focused in the center floor. There were a few figures in lab coats wheeling different machinery in and out, hooking up wires and calibrating equipment.
It wasn't long until the men, scientists apparently, rolled in a… cot? Stretcher? with an unconscious man atop it. Straps bound his arms, legs, neck, and chest to the table, striking black against the sterile white of the gown swathing his restrained figure.
What came next was, in the lamest of terms, without a doubt one of the most traumatizing experiences of Peter's young life, barring Ben.
It started when a man, obviously the boss, entered the room. He said something that Peter couldn't understand, to which another scientist in the room nodded before dimming the lights. It was at that point Peter realized exactly what was happening.
It was an operating theatre.
“Lasst uns anfangen!”
Peter's eyes focused back on the head scientist, now wearing gloves and a surgical mask. Peter may not have understood the exact meaning of what the man had said, but seeing as the others in the room jumped into action, he could make an educated guess. The events that quickly followed had him swiftly reaching for his waste bin, where he quickly and violently dumped the contents of his stomach, the screams of the man strapped to the table still blaring through the speakers. There was so much blood; sinew and viscera were visibly outside the victim's body. And he was awake.
The hacker suddenly thanked whatever higher beings there may be that the image was such poor quality. He wouldn't ever be able to handle it if the scene were clearer, at least this way it was pixelated enough to grant him censorship to some degree - though not by much.
The video lasted hours. Hours of torture, gore and screaming, of cold calculations and studious note taking. After not even twenty minutes, Peter felt both wrung out and wide awake. He had skipped past a good portion of the footage, only seeing enough to try and fully comprehend what the purpose of the experimentation was, if there were any at all. From what he'd seen, both from the actual torture and the scientists’ reactions, it appeared as if they were trying to test the man's physical limits.
They had bled him out, electrocuted him, sliced him open, suffocated him, and more. However, as soon as the man seemed on the verge of passing out, the assailants would stop and jot something down before injecting the guy with some sort of mystery drug.
Exiting out of the video, Peter saw that it was only one in a series of what looked like dozens of similar trials and sessions, all dated, with the earliest marked back in 2014 under the title “der Wintersoldat.”
Now, Peter was in Advanced Spanish II and couldn't speak a lick of German, but even he knew what that meant. Hydra.
After that he quickly clicked out of the folder containing the videos. He didn't need to see any more nightmare fuel after that first video. Nuh-uh, no sir.
Now that he knew who he was dealing with, in the most basic of terms, he poured over what little data he had so far uncovered looking for any sort of context clues that would queue him into what Hydra's purpose behind such gruesome torture may be. After all, Hydra may be full of mass murdering, batshit crazy Nazi psychopaths, but even he knew that whatever they did, they did for a reason. And there had to be a reason for such an extensive list of "experiments," to put it bluntly.
As he continued to furiously sort through the information assaulting his screen, one line sticks out to him, "Ende deiner Weld." 'End of the World'? A chill runs down Peter's spine. That can't be what it means… right? He navigates his mouse over the phrase, hovering over it for a few seconds. Where will this lead him? Does he really want to know what Hydra has in store? If it's anything like the shit he's seen over the course of the past few hours his answer is a resounding Hell No.
But what about all the innocent lives at stake? He thinks. With that question echoing through his mind, Peter steels himself, his decision made. He clicks the link.
Automatically the screen goes black. Peter's heart jumps into his throat while his stomach simultaneously sinks through the floor. After half a second of nothingness, the monitor bursts to life, line after line of letters and numbers flashing before Peter's eyes as he watches helplessly, his computer non-responsive to his commands.
After what feels like an eternity, the screen freezes before a textbox appears, the neon green cursor blinking sluggishly against its black backdrop. As soon as the letters start appearing, Peter knows. This isn't the computer talking, it's a person. It's Hydra.
"Da bist du, kleine Spinne."
The screen goes dark, and this time it doesn't turn back on.
Back to the task at hand, Peter continued to wildly shove his makeshift set up into various boxes and bags. If Hydra could reverse his programming, that means they could trace him. They knew he was here and that thought alone was more horrifying than anything he could ever dig up digitally; hell, it was because he had seen first hand what Hydra was capable of that he was scared shitless. His hands were shaking and his mind was racing as adrenaline courses through his veins.
How much of his server were they able to access before his security protocols shut down the system? How many of his firewalls had they been able to breach? While he ensured every measure to insure his identity remain anonymous, Peter couldn't help but be terrified. His main computer had been made up of dumpster-diving parts, and he never worked from the same site twice. None of his personal information - or any information that could be traced back to him or anyone he cared about for that matter - was located on the device nor in any of his files in the cloud. There was absolutely no way anyone could trace Spider-Man's cyber activities back to sixteen year old science prodigy Peter Parker through his digital footprint. Not even Peter's phone activity could be traced back to this location, even with his mild freak out on Ned earlier. It was bulletproof. Yet he still worried.
He quickly glanced around the abandoned office floor He was currently residing in. It was in the Flatlands, part of Brooklyn's southern industrial district and a good 30 minutes outside of Queens.
Too close for comfort.
Within minutes Peter had his entire set-up broken down and packed away. It was time to move.
"Do you know what this is?"
"Not good is what it is. But what does it mean? And why am I involved? I'm just a consultant."
"It means, Stark, that Hydra is on the move. We got a ping out of an abandoned office building off East 40th. And it is your job to figure out what triggered it."
Tony tensed once hearing just how close the enemy was - practically underfoot. "Do you think it has anything to do with the Oscorp bust this morning?"
"I have no idea. That's why I called you in. Find out if it has anything to do with that Spiderweb thing everyone keeps on about."
"Spider-Man." Tony corrected, knowing full well that Fury had said the wrong name on purpose; he was testing to see if Tony was listening. Plus the S.H.I.E.L.D. Director didn't quite trust the anonymous vigilante that seemed to be taking the world by storm, and proceeded to mock the persona the hacker had apparently adopted.
After the short but tense meeting with Popeye the angry Sailor Man, Tony retired back to his temporary lab deeper within the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility. Entering the room, he quickly made a bee-line for the chair in front of his work bench before dramatically throwing himself upon it. Bringing a hand up to swipe down his face, the engineer let out a long suffering sigh as he looked towards the ceiling.
"What's your game, Spider-Man? Why are you doing all of this?" He voiced these questions out loud, expecting no answer and receiving none. Eventually, after a few minutes of deep contemplation, the man finally pulled himself into an upright position. Stretching, he activated his holo-screens, alighting the room in a blue glow.
"F.R.I.D.A.Y? Get up, girl. We've got work to do."
Holy CRAP it's been 3 months and this garbage has over 1000 hits???? I'm sorry?????
Life got a little crazy this summer - finished school, bought a car, quit my job, car broke down, went out of state, family visited, etc. and to top it all off the new semester starts in 4 days and I signed up for classes from 9-5 and am preparing to DIE.
But the show must go on!
So here is Hot Garbage Take II. I doubt I will ever like a chapter that I put out but that's bc I'm an insecure 20 year old with crippling self doubt lol
Translations in this chapter:
"Lasst uns anfangen!" - "Let's begin"
"Ende deiner Welt" - "end of YOUR world." (It is important that Peter misinterprets 'your' for 'the' in this scene. He takes on the responsibility of knowing lives are at stake but puts his on the line in search of the truth. Hydra uses this to their advantage and takes a gamble that any non-German speaker would fall for. Spoiler: it works.)
"Da bist du, kleine Spinne" - "There you are, little Spider." Whoever is on the other side of the screen says this as they access Peter's location.
**PLEASE NOTE THAT I TOOK THREE YEARS OF GERMAN IN HIGH SCHOOL AND STILL DON'T KNOW SHIT IF ANY OF THESE ARE INACCURATE PLEASE TELL ME**
So idk how long it'll be before my lazy ass gets up the motivation to bang out Chapter three, and I'm not making any promises, BUT I think I'm going to have this next chap in Tony's POV?? Mayhaps.
Also! Final note!! I made a Tumblr for my writing so come feel free to scream at me there @a-stark-spangled-banner m'kay?
If you like this chapter or want to leave POSITIVE and CONSTRUCTIVE criticism, leave a review and a kudos below! If you've made it this far and choose to be a disrespectful clown and leave a nasty message, Congrats! You suck.
Until next time, Cait.
EDIT: Noticed some grammatical errors in the chapter and in one of my translations. Fixed! Sorry about the inconvenience!
EDIT EDIT: ok idk What happened to the line breaks but there were a bunch randomly placed breaking up dialogue?? I didnt place those there but I went back and got rid of them. Sorry again.
Chapter 3: Itsy Bitsy
Peter and Tony play a game of cat and mouse. Someone's bound to lose eventually.
I'm baaaack!! Life gave me a big kick in the ass and I've been trying to recover ever since. I hope you guys enjoy this chapter! I know it's long overdue, but I am very proud of this one.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Damn it all! Friday, keep running that code."
Calloused fingers ran through greasy hair for what must have been the twentieth time in the past ten minutes. Tony had been working on getting that trace ever since Nick assigned him the task. Two goddamn days. Who the hell was this guy?
Tony was beyond frustrated at this point, but also thoroughly impressed. The fact that someone out there was able to go toe to toe against the most advanced AI in the country, and likely the world, was no small feat. He found it especially intriguing considering the incredibly low likelihood that whomever he was dealing with had access to tech anywhere near the same calibre as the Tony Stark.
So, yeah, whoever this Spider dude was, they had Tony's respect- and also his ire. After all was said and done Tony might even consider snatching up the guy himself to work for SI. Anyone able to stand on near even ground with the genius was worthy of note and Tony wasn't about to risk losing him to a competitor or, god forbid, S.H.I.E.L.D.
But for now, he had to focus. "Hey, Fri? Can you do me a favor? Track Spider-Man's history. Previous busts, tips, anything you can get your cyber hands on. Let's narrow our window a bit, shall we?" He honestly should have done this from the beginning, but the man hadn't expected this much resistance. A mistake on his part, clearly.
"Boss? There seems to be a vague pattern between Spider-Man's online activities. Here's a map of all the areas where Spider-Man's internet presence have been linked to over the course of the past six months." Throwing up a holo screen, Friday projected a map with points marked across nearly the entirety of New York City.
"These are areas of activity that I have isolated based on timestamps and signatures coinciding with Spider-Man's data leaks as well as security breaches of multiple corporations targeted by the vigilante, including but not limited to Oscorp and Hammer Industries. It seems as though Spider-Man first appeared roughly six months ago, infiltrating Hammer Industries' internal database and bringing to light illegal weapons productions spearheaded by Justin Hammer with the help of Ivan Vanko, son of disgraced Russian scientist and engineer and former Stark Industries employee Anton Vanko. Both Hammer and Vanko have since been incarcerated and all of Hammer Industries' resources have been liquidated or disposed of.
"From there, Spider-Man's movements head northwest, through Brooklyn and across the river into Manhattan where several smaller incidents have been reported. In total, over 30 criminal take-downs, including the exposure of corrupt politicians- most notably Senator Stern of Pennsylvania, a recognized member of Hydra- as well as the arrest of multiple police force members affiliated with the crime lord Kingpin, Wilson Fisk, have been accredited to Spider-Man."
Studying the map, Tony let out a low whistle. Looks like the spiderling has been keeping busy. "Alright Fri, start compiling everything you find our Spider friend into a folder. Let's call it… 'Project Itsy Bitsy.' Also? Draw up a contract for me. As soon as we get this guy's name I want him on my team. Taking out both Hammer and Stern? I might just kiss whoever lies behind that screen. They're my new favorite person."
"On it, Boss."
"Two days, Ned! They're so close! Do you know how many times they've almost made past our security? I haven't slept in almost seventy two hours. I don't know what to do. May's already starting to get suspicious and I can't miss anymore school if I want to stay on the Decathlon team and I'm so tired and freaking Hydra is hunting me down and if I'm in danger, May's in danger and I can't lose May, Ned, I just can't. Especially not after what happened Ben and if anything-" Peter's voice was a harsh whisper as he exchanged is calculus book for chemistry.
"Peter, stop! You're psyching yourself out dude, and if you start panicking I'll start panicking and then MJ will beat both our asses and-" Ned looks around nervously, as though saying her very name would somehow conjure Michelle and unleash her wrath.
"Ok, ok I get it!"
"How'd you even get in anyways? And what about that creepy message? Do you know for sure it was," Ned glanced down either side of the hallway before leaning in dramatically, "Hydra?"
" Yes, Ned! That's what I've been saying!"
"Shit dude, what are you gonna do?"
Shutting and leaning against his locker, Peter ran a hand down his tired face. "I don't know, man. I really don't. If Hydra finds out who I am, they'll find out who May is and she'll be in just as much danger as me. The whole reason I became Spider-Man was to protect people after… after everything. I can't lose her too, Ned. Not May."
"I'm sorry, Peter. That really sucks. But, hey, look on the bright side. You're fluent in Spanish, right? You could always just, like, run away to Mexico. Change your name to Pedro and uh, I don't know. Live as a farmer or something?"
"A farmer, seriously? And why Pedro?"
"Look, dude, I've never been to Mexico, I don't know how jobs work. And Pedro is like the Spanish version of Peter right?" Ned shrugged.
Peter snorted. "Ned-"
"Yo Dickwad, Tubs, get a room already!" Both boys sighed. It had been too quiet this morning. Peter had beat out Flash for the top test score in Mrs. Higby's class. Again.
"What do you want, Flash?" Peter could feel himself losing brain cells at this interaction. So, so many brain cells.
"What do I want? I want to be captain of the Decathlon team, I want you and your little freak trio off of it. I want to never have to see your face again. But that's not why I'm here." Flash cracked his knuckles in an attempt to be intimidating. God, he was an asshole.
"Then why are you here, Eugene?" The look on Flash's face at the newcomer's voice was priceless as he turned around.
"Oh yeah, that's one for the notebook." Peter and Ned had to try to hold in their laughter as MJ sketched out Flash's features before the bully huffed and stalked away.
"Whatever. See you at practice, Penis." With that, he disappeared around the corner towards the cafeteria.
Michelle rolled her eyes. "Always so creative."
And just like that, both boys burst into laughter as MJ stood proud with a smirk and a new sketch. The panic that had been plaguing Peter the past couple days was temporarily forgotten as he made his way to lunch with his two friends in tow.
"Boss I think I may have a lead in Project Itsy Bitsy."
"Yeah? Throw it up Fri, show me what you've got." Tony slid out from under his car, trading in his torque wrench for a rag and wiping his face as he stood.
Friday obliged, projecting her findings in the middle of the room. The mechanic slowly made his way over, wiping the grease off his hands as he looked on. Blinking in surprise, he reread the screen, trying to make sense of the information in front of him. "What the fuck? This can't be right."
"Actually, sir, it is. From all of the data markers and time stamps I have gathered, this is the only profile within the approximated 5 mile search area that meets all the requirements."
"Well I'll be damned. Looks like we're taking a trip to Queens."
"I'll clear your schedule."
"Hey, May, I'm home!"
"Hey. How was school today?"
"It was okay. There's this crazy car parked outside…" The words die in Peter's throat when he sees who's on the couch next to May. He stares, not quite trusting his eyes. Because sitting there next to his aunt was Tony Stark.
Tony. Freaking. Stark.
"Oh, Mr. Parker. Glad you could join us."
"Um…" The words weren't coming. Peter's brain felt like Internet Explorer, constantly lagging and about 3 steps behind. "Hey! Uh, hi, I-I'm Peter. Parker." Oh god, he was stuttering in front of Tony. Freaking. Stark. His voice had actually cracked. He might as well go ahead with that plan to change his name and move to Mexico, because there was no way he could show his face in New York ever again after this.
Luckily the man seemed to brush off the blunder, only replying with a nonchalant, "Tony," in way of greeting as if Peter didn't already know that he was Tony. McFreaking. Stark.
Clearing his suddenly dry throat, "What are you doing here, man?" Man?!? Of all the things to call him!?! Oh great, here comes the panic.
"It's about time we met. You've been getting my emails, right?" This stopped Peter in his tracks and he opened his mouth to ask "what emails" when he saw Mr. Stark's painfully obvious winking. Better play along, then.
"Yeah. Yeah. Right. Regarding the…" He trailed off, having absolutely no clue what emails the genius in front of him was referring to. Nothing about this scenario was making any sense. May made a gesture with her hands, capturing Peter's attention, "You didn't even tell me about the grant!"
"About the grant! Right!" What grant? Peter never signed up for any grant. But if Tony Motherflipping Stark tells you to play along, you play along.
"The September Foundation." Tony chimed in helpfully.
"Right. Yeah. The grant. For… science." Way to sound convincing, Peter.
"Remember when you applied?"
"Yeah." Peter felt like a bobble head with all this nodding.
"I approved, so now we're in business."
"But you didn't tell me anything. What's up with that? You keeping secrets from me now?" His aunt raised a brow in a subtle show of annoyance.
His heart dropped thinking about his, uh, nighttime activities. God that came out wrong. His… Spider-Manning? Yeah, that sounded better. "I just know how much you love surprises so I thought I would let you know…" In an attempt to diffuse the situation Peter deflected, turning to Mr. Stark. "Anyway, what did I apply for?"
"That's what I'm here to hash out." The man rose from his spot on the couch, gesturing to Peter's room where they could talk without the risk of the kid's unusually hot aunt overhearing.
"Okay. Hash it out, okay." And what the hell was that supposed to mean? Why would renowned genius, billionaire, innovator Tony Stark come to his crappy little apartment on the bad side of Queens? There was only one way to find out. Steeling himself, Peter lead the way to his room.
"Whoa, what have we here? Retro tech, huh? Thrift store? Salvation Army?" Tony eyed the entire setup occupying almost a quarter of the boy's room from the doorway. It was impressive for sure, but no surprise though considering, you know, the whole anonymous arachnid situation. He quickly shut the door behind them.
Now that they were alone, Peter seemed more subdued than their interaction in the living room, his responses more hesitant, "Uh, the garbage, actually."
Tony felt his eyebrows raise. The kid was able to do what he did with trash? "You're a dumpster diver?"
"Yeah, I was…" He wasn't anymore, not after Ben. Rather than continue down that path, he decided to bite the bullet, "Anyway, look, um, I definitely did not apply for your grant…"
"Ah-ah! Me first." At this point Tony had made himself comfortable sitting on the edge of Peter's bed.
"Okay," was Peter's only reply, unable to come up with anything else to say. Who was he to deny Tony Stark?
"So… taking down Oscorp, huh? That's no small feat. And outsmarting FRIDAY? I gotta say, I had a hard time believing that some 15 year old from Queens could outdo the smartest AI in the world. So I gotta ask; who taught you to code? Where'd you learn this stuff? Obviously you've had someone coaching you through this whole thing, because I highly doubt anyone, let alone a teenager who hasn't even hit puberty yet, could pull this off by themselves."
Automatically, Peter's face goes through a multitude of emotions before settling on a mix of confusion and trepidation. He looks down as he speaks. "I don't- I- what are you talking about Mr. Stark? Oscorp? Isn't that the thing that that hacker took down a few days ago? I didn't- I didn't have anything to do with that, sir. I'm just a kid. I'm just Peter."
Tony nods slowly, pursing his lips as he takes in the kid's appearance. The boy was small and his hunched posture and bowed head of unruly curls did nothing but make him look even younger. His hands fiddled with the tattered threads of his worn hoodie cuffs. Lord, he looked terrified- the spitting image of a baby deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.
If he didn't already know what he did, Tony would never have pegged this boy as the genius behind the screen.
Too bad, Tony knew everything.
Suddenly the man stands, Peter's head jerking up to watch him as he slowly crosses the room. He comes to a halt by the old wooden desk in the corner of the room. Maintaining eye contact, Tony crosses his arms and leans his hip against the edge, accidentally spilling miscellaneous computer parts that had been precariously balanced onto the floor. Peter doesn't look away. If anything, the teen was even more tense than when Tony had first entered the room and made his claim.
The sleeves continue to fray as Peter plucks at the ends. Tony makes a mental side note to get this kid a damn fidget spinner to stop the assault on his poor clothes. The eye contact still doesn't break.
Tony can tell it's taking a Herculean effort on the boy's part not to let his intimidation show on his face. Unfortunately for him, the kid's got the poker skills of a rock. Anxiety oozes out of every pore of the poor boy and Tony can read him like an open book. Still though, the eye contact does not break.
Deciding enough is enough for fear that the kid'll melt into a pile of goo should their staring match continue, Tony looks away first. Then, he reaches into his pocket before revealing a thumb drive. Peter's confusion is obvious, his guard still up.
Tony turns away from him to face the DIY computer setup. Finding a USB port, he sticks in the drive before Peter can protest.
The computer comes to life as Tony's master key infiltrates the system. Words and numbers and images flood the monitor as one file after another is pulled up until the entire screen is suffocated by information. One symbol stands glaringly obvious, repeating on almost every piece of information. A red ring around a skull bearing eight tentacles. Hydra.
Peter's face pales as Tony turns back towards him.
"Wanna try again, Spider-Man?"
Once again, sorry for the impromptu hiatus! If you liked the chapter please drop a kudos or comment, they make my day!
Also! Feel free to come pester me on Tumblr @a-stark-spangled-banner for more writing related things or follow @theheartofastark for some high quality shitposting.
EDIT: Several grammatical errors and spelling mistakes have been fixed. Please have mercy on my unbetad soul.
Chapter 4: Of Bathrooms and Briefings
Being stuck in a cell in the middle of S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ would usually be cause for panic. Peter really needs to get his priorities straight.
WARNING: GRATUITOUS BULLSHITTING OF COMPUTER KNOWLEDGE AHEAD. I DON'T KNOW WHAT A SINGLE WORD OF THIS MEANS. I'M SORRY IN ADVANCED.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Peter's day was turning out to be quite shit. As a matter of fact, his entire week had been shit. Ever since he'd stuck his nose into Hydra's servers it was one thing after another.
He wanted a refund on the last seven days of his life, honestly. 10/10 would not recommend to a friend. 0 stars on Yelp.
His current situation, however, was without a doubt the shittiest one yet. For the past four hours, Peter had been stuck in a holding cell somewhere deep within a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility. He laid sprawled out on the ground, tired, hungry, and cold. His stomach growled, his eyelids drooped, and he really needed to pee. Curse his teenaged metabolism; he'd forgotten breakfast in his rush to school and forgone lunch today in favor of sitting in the library and checking on his systems. He'd had a couple bottles of juice to tide him over, figuring he could just eat when he got home.
And then Tony Stark showed up and whisked him away to a secured government facility with maximum security, glass walls, constant supervision and damn it, Peter really needed to pee. It seemed like forever that he'd been in here, since a couple of agents took him from Tony in the lobby and chucked him like a sack of potatoes into his eight by eight glass and concrete prison, before he heard footsteps down the hall. He made no move to get up from his position on the floor.
Two, no - three, figures approached, one of them cursing under their breath as they came to a halt in front of his cell door.
"Damn it, Nick, why the hell are we keeping the kid in a cell like some kind of animal? He's intelligent, not enhanced."
"Cool it, Stark. It's just a precaution. We can't risk the kid wandering off, nor can we ignore the possibility that Hydra potentially has sleeper agents within the building. This is more for his safety than anything."
Peter's heart rate spiked at the thought of Hydra, of what they would do with him if caught, but there were more pressing matters at hand currently. "Uh, hello? ‘The kid’ is right here and can hear you. And really, really needs to pee. Do you have, like, a bathroom in this place or do superspies not have bladders?"
"There's a toilet in your cell," Fury deadpanned.
"Yeah and? There's cameras in here and a wall of glass. My dignity would never let me."
“Are we sure we’ve got the right guy? Hell, where’d you even find this kid? The playground? How can we be sure no angry parents are going to come busting down our doors crying about an Amber Alert?”
“One, I’m fifteen, not five. And two, jokes on you, my parents are dead, asshole.” Peter made no move to get off the floor, seemingly speaking to the ceiling. Tony didn’t even try to hide his snort.
“Is this a joke? This has to be a joke. Tell me, Stark, how long did you think you two could keep this up? I’m paying you to bring me a vigilante, not your secret love child.”
Peter’s indignant “Hey!” was overshadowed by Tony’s somewhat irate response. “Paying me? I’m a billionaire, Director Douche, I don’t need your money. See, I’m doing this because, as much as it pains me to follow your orders, I was already interested in Underoos over there. And as surprising as it is, that kid right there is a genius in his own right. I had nothing to do with that. Don’t insult me or him by implying anything else. You asked for Spider-Man and I brought him. And as soon as all of this is over, I’m taking him back to intern for S.I. Not because he’s my ‘secret spawn’ but because he’s proved that he, a fifteen year old student from Queens, is more capable than your entire league of underlings.”
“Well unfortunately for you, you don’t get to make that call. You’re just the consultant. What we do or don’t do with him is above your clearance level.”
“Do you really want to play it like that, Fury? What would the public say about you essentially kidnapping a high schooler for your own twisted benefit?”
“Oh, really? In that case, how do you think ‘the public’ would take the fact that you practically dropped him in our laps? You’re just as involved as any of us, Stark, don’t forget that.” Any retort that Tony may have had died on his tongue. His jaws clenched and his nostrils flared as he narrowed his eyes as S.H.I.E.L.D.’s director, unable to formulate a proper response, much to his frustration.
Fury noted the reaction with a satisfied look. Check and Mate.
“As entertaining as this has been, Director, we are on a schedule and this little spat is greatly cutting into our time. You have a debrief with Agents Scott and Ciraulo in an hour and a half.” Maria Hill was generally a woman of few words, stoic and to the point when on the job. Yet not even she could completely hide her irritation at the immaturity of this metaphorical pissing contest. They were here for a reason, and this pointless fight was sure to set them back.
The tension slowly dissipated, both Fury and Stark backing down and refocusing on the matter at hand; Peter.
Having sat up during the two men’s heated exchange, Peter fidgeted under the gazes of the three adults. The newfound attention caused him to break out in a cold sweat as he fidgeted his weight from side to side.
“Is it too late for me to go to the bathroom?”
If the cell was cold, the interrogation room qualified as freezing. Seriously, any colder and Peter thought he might be able to see his breath. The temperature combined with his nerves meant that Peter was about to vibrate through the floor. Honestly, he was twitching more than a toddler hopped up on caffeine.
Across from the boy was Director Fury, his elbows on the table’s steel surface and fingers steepled in front of him.
“So walk me through this,” Fury spoke slowly, words calculated and tone not unlike how an adult speaks to a misbehaving toddler. Every syllable was enunciated, "How could a damn kid manage to crack into a system that even some of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s best couldn't handle?"
Peter's eyes widen at the implication, "I got into a system that beat Tony Stark?"
"No. Technically Stark is just a consultant for the Avengers task force. He doesn't work for us." What Fury didn’t say was how they hadn’t even asked the billionaire to try to gain access to Hydra’s Network. They had plants within the enemy organization and hadn't deemed any further measures necessary. Hindsight was 20/20.
Peter’s awe apparently wore off at the explanation and he leaned back in his chair as if disappointed. "Oh. Well then, that's why."
"Excuse me?" The boy’s nonchalant reaction made no sense to Fury, and his question came out harsher than intended.
Shrinking back at the tone, Peter started fiddling with his frayed sleeves again. A nervous tick, apparently. "Not to sound pretentious, Mr. Nick Fury sir, but I've been working on perfecting my software specifically to break into absurdly secure networks for over two years. I've looked at it backwards and forwards and eliminated pretty much any viable loopholes it could have. I even developed my own IDE and debugger to run through and double check every line of code. It’s unlike any standard coding software available to the public. It’s no Python or Java, sir, it’s a custom-made procedural programming paradigm. There's no way you could get in through conventional hacking."
“And what, in layman’s terms, does that mean? Dumb it down for us non-genius types.”
“Alright, I think I got the gist of it. Basically you used that big brain of yours to create some sort of magic key that lets you open any door you want, and only you have a copy of that key, correct? Which begs the question, why this door? Why hunt down the big wigs and bad guys? What’s your motive, Spider-Man? What makes you tick?” At this point Nick Fury was full on leaning on the table, arms crossed, taking note of every single one of Peter's microexpressions.
The boy tugged at his sleeves again, mouth opening and closing several times as he struggled to find the right words. Finally, timidly, he spoke. "I… I do it because I can, sir."
"What do you mean?" The Director's eyebrows furrowed. The words themselves could be taken as cocky, yet the kid had sounded anything but. He'd sounded sincere.
"When you can do the things that I can, and you don't," Peter closed his eyes, and Fury didn't even have to be a master spy to decipher the look; the pain was clear as day on the teenager's face, just as the conviction was in his voice, "and then the bad things happen… they happen because of you."
The silence in the room was palpable, the remnants of Peter's confession ringing heavy in the air.
Fury sighed. Clearly the kid had his own shit to work through. People aren't born into that kind of mindset, they're beaten and broken and lead to believe the world and all its sin is their responsibility to bear. However, Nick Fury was no therapist. He didn't do emotions. And it was obvious that he wasn't going to get anymore out of Mr. Parker following a statement like that.
Relenting, the Director accepted that this interrogation was over for now and stood. Peter jumped at the sound of the chair's legs scraping the linoleum. Fury turned towards the viewing room with his good eye and made a signal with his hands, which in turn unlocked the door. Peter made no move to get up even after the man was long gone. He looked down at his beat up converse, emotionally and mentally exhausted by the day's events. The door remained open.
Later, be it minutes or hours, another pair of shoes stepped into his periphery. Dress shoes.
"Hey, kid." Tony Stark's voice was uncharacteristically soft, nothing like the flamboyant personality Peter knew from television. Or rather, thought he knew. "Let's bust you out of here. One-Eyed Willy says you can't go home yet, but there's a room waiting for you at the tower whenever you're ready. You can even call Aunt Hottie. Just, you know, leave out all the parts about child imprisonment and interrogations." The mechanic waved his hand flippantly, drawing a small snort out of Peter.
"Yeah, okay. What should I tell her, then?" Peter finally looked up, catching the billionaire's contemplative gaze with a tired one of his own.
"Let's roll with the Grant thing. Play it off like we're having a super awesome science bros weekend where I show you around the lab and we work on programming your own A.I. and let her know that you're having a great time and I need to keep you a little longer before next month's conference."
"Mr. Stark, I'm a terrible liar. May knows this. She's never gonna believe it."
Tony pursed his lips. "She will if it's true."
Peter looked thoroughly confused, like he couldn't quite comprehend what Tony had just implied. Tony pinned it on the fact that it was currently pushing eleven at night and the kid had had a long day, if the bags under his eyes were anything to go by.
"It's a Friday, Spiderling. Fury said he has to report back to the council in D.C. this weekend over some spy jargon I could care less about, and won't be back to talk to you again 'til Monday at the earliest. And since you can't go home because of the security risk, you're stuck with me in my ivory tower. So, let's have a super awesome science bros weekend where I show you around the lab and we work on programming your own A.I."
"Really?" God, the poor kid looked like he was about to implode. At least now he seemed awake enough to walk to the car by himself. Tony doubted he could carry him, even as small as the boy was, to the parking deck where Happy waited. Years of bad decisions and the stunt in Afghanistan left him with aching joints, a bad back, and a defunct heart.
Gesturing to the door, he answered, "Yes, really. I've got 48 hours before Agent J and the rest of the Men in Black come back and I plan on picking your brain apart and seeing what you can do. Testing your limits and whatnot. Come on, kid, let's walk and talk."
The ride to the compound was more nerve wracking than anything, Peter decided. After spending the rest of the journey to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s garage honest to god chatting with Tony Stark about potential weekend plans, the conversation had dwindled out. Mr. Stark currently sat up front next to his driver, Mr. Happy, or "forehead of security" as Mr. Stark had called him, typing away on his phone. Happy himself was staring intently out the windshield, a perpetual frown on his face as he focused on driving, occasionally honking at drivers and grumbling about traffic after they re-entered city limits.
The past hour had been in relative silence as the two men up front focused on their respective tasks. Peter, on the other hand, simply sat back and watched the world pass by through the window. He thought about calling Aunt May sometime during the two and a half hour long ride to the tower, but the thought of her baby-talking him about how much she loves him and will miss him this weekend anywhere within the vicinity of Mr. Stark's hearing range actually made him want to curl up and die, so that was a no-go.
Sleeping was also out of the question. While exhausted, the chance of catching any sleep in the car was slim to none. Peter's nerves were too shot at the prospect of actually staying at Stark Tower, the unofficial headquarters of the Avengers. He wondered how this was his life.
In the span of eight hours (had it really only been eight hours?), Peter had been (unofficially) abducted by his childhood hero, interrogated by the leader of a super secret spy organization, offered a room in Tony Stark's own home, given a faux-internship with the very genius he'd be temporarily living with, and the opportunity to work in said genius's highly coveted personal lab.
Yep, seems about right.
Peter looked down at his phone to check the time. One twenty eight. They'd left S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ a little over two hours ago, meaning they should be back at the tower in just under half an hour. He could see the building from where they were, glowing like a beacon over the rooftops of the city that never sleeps.
Despite the time, the streets were still buzzing with people. Like Mr. Stark had pointed out earlier, it was a Friday night, a warm one at that, and New Yorkers were sure to take advantage of the good weather with a night out on the town. Traffic wasn't as bad as it was when the city was in full swing, obviously, but it would still take them the full half hour to maneuver through pedestrians and narrow one way streets to reach their destination.
"You ok back there, Spiderling? You've been awfully quiet." Mr. Stark's voice cut through the quiet like a knife.
"Huh? Oh. Yeah, yeah I'm fine. Just tired is all, Mr. Stark." Tired was an understatement. It felt like his eyelids were made of cement and his brain was made of molasses, yet he refused to fall asleep.
"Well, I just got your room all squared away with Pepper. Ms. Potts, I mean. You'll be in a guest room on my floor just down the hall. It's the safest place for you, right now. Being a billionaire ex-arms dealer and part-time pseudo-superhero and all, I've made a couple enemies here and there. My personal floor is equipped with some of the best security in the country, as well as reinforced walls and top of the line ballistic proof windows. Plus there's F.R.I.D.A.Y. who runs the place. Nothing ever gets past her.
"I had one of my guys run and grab some stuff from your apartment while we were at HQ too. Well, technically Pep had someone run to your apartment, but I'm the one who suggested it which counts for something, right? Just some clothes, your bookbag, and your computer. Anything else you want or need we can get after you're all settled in, just say the word."
"You really don't have to do that, Mr. Stark. Thank you, but I'll be fine with what I have. It's just for the weekend, right? It would be a waste to buy something for a two day trip." Peter was honestly a bit overwhelmed at the lengths the man had gone to for him. On the one hand, it left a warm feeling in his chest having someone care after him like this, but on the other it made him feel incredibly guilty for intruding. "I don't want to impose any more than I already have-"
"Bzzt! Wrong." The unexpected noise made Peter jump.
"You're wrong, first off. A, you're not imposing. I offered to let you stay at the tower. Ran it by Fury and everything. And B, stop with the whole 'Mr. Stark' thing. Mr. Stark was my father, it makes me feel old. Call me Tony."
"Nope. Nuh-uh kiddo, that's not going to fly. No more of that 'yes sir, no sir, Mr. Stark' crap, got it? All those formalities give me the hives. In fact, they're banned from here on out. Make note of that, Hap."
"Got it, boss."
Peter made to reply, but stopped in his tracks as they approached Stark Tower and pulled up to the curb. He had never been this far into Manhattan, never had any reason to be, therefore had never realized the sheer size of the building in front of him. It was way more impressive up close, by far the largest building he'd ever seen.
Getting out of the car, Peter stared up at the magnificent skyscraper. He craned his head up in an attempt to see the top of the tower, his lips parted in awe, eyes wide with wonder.
Off to the side, Tony stood with his hands in his pockets watching the kid in amusement. This was the guy that had brought down some of New York's most vile?
"Boss? The kid's stuff is already in his room. We'd better get inside before we're noticed. Last thing we need is his face on the front of tomorrow's papers." Tony nodded in agreement. Pepper would throw a fit, he could see it now, 'Billionaire Playboy seen entering Stark Tower with Young Boy in the Dead of Night!' Sounds like something the Bugle would write, no doubt.
"Hey Underoos, pick your jaw up off the sidewalk, you'll catch flies. Come on, we're heading up. You look like you're about to fall over and I'm not in any shape to be carrying anyone. There's some food and a nice, warm bed waiting for you upstairs. Let's go, before you blow away in the wind."
Holy crap an update in less than a month??? It's a Christmas Miracle.
Happy New Year everyone! I hope you enjoyed this chapter, it was a fun one to write. :)
Couple little pop culture references in this chapter in the form of Stark-given nicknames:
-Agent J is Will Smith's character in M.I.B.
-One-Eyed Willie was the legendary pirate from The Goonies.
Alrighty I gtg. I'm typing this on my phone while watching Return of the Jedi. TROS killed me so I'm coping with the original trilogy.
If you liked this chapter or have any suggestions, please feel free to drop a like or a kudos! As always, you can scream at me on Tumblr @a-stark-spangled-banner and @TheHeartofaStark! Until next time!