By Emily M. Hanson <email@example.com>
Submitted: September 2004
Summary: This is a sequel to the Purple Chaos series. It's a crossover with the Marvel universe featuring Spider-Man and the X-Men. Jimmy goes undercover in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Magneto gains control of the Sentinels (mutant-hunting robots featured in the X-Men comics). He unleashes them in New York and Metropolis. Can Superman and the Marvel heroes stop them?
Author's Notes: This story takes place in the same universe as the Purple Chaos series that I wrote a few years ago. If you haven't read it yet, you might want to go back and do so. This is an alternate universe crossover with the Lois & Clark TV series and the Marvel universe.
Disclaimers: I don't own any of the recognizable characters. However, the original characters are all mine. Please don't borrow them.
Thanks, Dave, for the beta.
Spider-Man was not having a good day. It was 8:45 am and he'd already stopped several petty criminals on his way to work. If he was lucky, he'd just barely make it in at 9, but his usual lack of luck was asserting itself.
Two crooks, one of which happened to be a mutant, were robbing a bank. The mutant was shooting electric blue laser blasts at Spider-Man with his eyes. The other guy was firing a gun. Though it was a mundane weapon, the gun was still lethal. Spidey realized that he had to draw their line of fire away from the gathering crowd, but where?
He kept up the snappy patter, taunting the crooks as he swung from building to building. "You guys really ought to get some target practice in before you start shooting."
Soon he led them into an alley and ducked again as one of the mutant's blasts nearly fried him. Spider-Man landed on the ground and lashed out with his webbing, taking the gun away from the other guy.
"Uh uh, playing with guns is a no-no. Didn't your mother ever teach you that?"
The mutant shot at him again. Spidey leapt up, did a somersault in mid-air, and landed behind him. He punched the mutant, who doubled over in pain. The other guy tried to hit him, but Spider-Man ducked and the blow landed across the masked mutant's jaw.
"Moron," the mutant shouted at his companion. "You were supposed to hit him, not me."
"Screw you," the other guy replied. "You're the one with the super powers. Why should I have to do all the work?"
"Guys, I'd love to have a heart-to-heart chat, but I have to be somewhere in less than 15 minutes, so can we get this over with quickly?" Spider-Man replied. He punched the normal human, who went sprawling.
"Nobody asked you to show up," the mutant responded.
"Yeah well, nobody asked if I wanted spider powers either, but I've got 'em."
Spidey let some webbing loose. A few moments later, the mutant was completely covered with the sticky strands. Spider-Man also tied up the other guy. As he emerged from the alley, he caught sight of a few cops running towards him.
"Hey, web head! Wait," one of the cops shouted.
Spidey thwipped a web line and swung away. A few blocks later, he landed in another alley and quickly changed into his clothes. The only way he was going to get to work on time was by flying. Peter Parker could fly, but his alter ego couldn't. He didn't dare use his newer abilities as Spider-Man. People would wonder if there was a connection.
A few years ago, there had been a mutant terrorist organization called Purple Chaos. Their leader was a Russian named Tatiana Alexander who created a gas formula that gave ordinary people X- factors in their DNA. The terrorists attacked several cities around the world, including New York. Peter had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he'd been caught without his costume. Since he didn't have an X-factor before, the gas affected him. He'd gotten telepathy and telekinesis, which allowed him to fly.
Working with Superman, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen, he'd helped to put Tatiana behind bars. But she escaped. Lex Luthor helped her in return for gaining mutant abilities, which he wanted to use to defeat Superman. His body rejected the enhancements and his DNA broke down at the end. As a result, his body died. At the last moment, Luthor transferred himself into Tatiana's mind, but that wasn't discovered until later.
The mutant managed to escape a third time, thanks to Lex's cunning. She was going to build up her terrorist organization again, but Spider-Man and Superman defeated her with the help of Jimmy Olsen, who had gotten mutant powers during one of the attacks in Metropolis. Tatiana was now in a maximum security prison designed especially for super villains.
The terrorist organization had also managed to attack the Daily Bugle building. J. Jonah Jameson had been there and was affected by the gas. He'd gotten telepathy. It was a constant effort for Peter to shield his thoughts, lest his boss pick up something about his alter ego. At least J.J.'s ability wasn't that strong.
A short time later, Pete landed in front of the Daily Bugle building and checked his watch. It was 9:04. He grimaced.
"Parker!" J. Jonah Jameson bellowed as Peter walked through the door. "You're late! I would think that you of all people could manage to get here on time, especially since you don't have to deal with traffic like the rest of us."
"I might be able to fly, Mr. Jameson, but I'm not Superman."
"Good thing, too. Imagine what would happen if he was late all the time. It'd be a catastrophe."
Peter rolled his eyes in response. If only you knew what I had been doing, he mused, and then clamped down on that thought before it got loose. No sense in tempting fate.
Jameson could sense the younger man shielding his thoughts, and that his shields were stronger than usual. Parker was obviously hiding something. His curiosity was definitely piqued.
His employees were wary enough of him before the telepathy, and now most of them walked on eggshells. He'd become somewhat less belligerent as a result, but it wasn't doing much to gain their trust. Being nice was not exactly in Jameson's character, but he made the effort.
Still, it seemed like no matter what he did, it wasn't enough. He'd had half a dozen people quit already, and several others were threatening to. Peter Parker, Betty Brant, Ben Urich and Robbie Robertson were the only ones who treated him like nothing significant had changed. He was secretly glad about that, but he'd never admit it to them.
"Well, as long as you're here, I've got an assignment for you," Jameson said.
"Oh?" Peter asked.
"Yeah. There's going to be a protest at city hall in half an hour. Why don't you get a few pictures and an interview or two?"
"Sure thing," Parker replied.
He went over to his desk to check his e-mail. There was one from Mary Jane, whom he'd been in touch with lately. They were on better terms lately. She was even speaking to him now. They spoke on the phone at least once a week.
Mary Jane wrote:
I'm coming to New York on Friday afternoon. I'm staying for a few weeks. My producer wants to shoot a couple of scenes here. We should get together and have dinner or something. I'll call you when I get there. BTW, your Aunt May offered me a place to stay. I haven't decided yet whether I'll accept.*
He wrote back:
Glad to hear you're coming. I'm looking forward to seeing you again. By all means, go ahead and stay with us. I'm sure Aunt May would love to have you over. I'd be happy to sleep on the couch.*
Peter went through the rest of his e-mail. It was mostly work- related stuff — nothing too thrilling. He was researching a new activist group called Mutants for Justice. It attracted many high school and college-aged mutant kids who felt that their communities were doing too little to protect their civil rights.
One of the group's members had recently been arrested for setting fire to someone's car during a protest with his powers. The kid claimed it was an accident because the car's owner had made him angry and he'd lost control. Thankfully, no one had been inside the vehicle.
He considered joining the group on an undercover basis to find out what they were up to. But his photos of the terrorists were famous and too many people recognized him lately. He'd never expected to be half as recognizable as Spider-Man.
On the bright side, he finally had his own desk at the Daily Bugle. For years, he'd been stuck with the floater desks, which were assigned to freelancers and contractors. He'd also been covering some minor news stories that had nothing to do with science. His career as a reporter was really taking off.
He logged out of his computer and stood up just as his phone rang. He grabbed it. "Daily Bugle. This is Peter Parker."
"Stay away from the protest rally today," said an anonymous male voice. He sounded vaguely familiar, but Peter couldn't quite place him.
"What? Why? Who are you?"
"Just stay away." There was a click and the phone went dead.
That was odd, but I'm not letting it stop me, especially when there might be a larger story to cover, he thought. Peter made sure that he had his camera and some extra film before leaving the newspaper office.
It was a bright summer day as mostly young people gathered in front of New York's City Hall for the rally. Peter was one of the few reporters present. He'd flown straight there and landed in the parking lot. A couple of young men who were getting out of a mini-van and carrying protest signs gaped at him, as though they'd never expected to see a mutant who wasn't part of their group.
"Hey, Parker," he was greeted by Sam Davis, a journalist from the New York Times. Sam was in his mid-fifties and mostly wrote human interest articles. Peter had met him at press conferences before. "How's life treating you? Haven't seen too many pictures of the bug these days."
"Spiders are arachnids, not insects," he replied out of habit. "Anyway, I've been busy doing other stuff."
"Yeah, I've read your stories. You're getting into some serious journalism now. If you ever decide to work for a real newspaper, give me a call."
Surprised at the compliment, Peter grinned. "Thanks."
He checked his camera to make sure the lens cap was off and that he had film loaded, and then headed across the parking lot to the building.
Most of the kids protesting looked fairly normal, though a couple of them were clearly mutants. One was a man in his twenties with blue skin and yellow eyes. Another was a teenage girl with several fingers on her hands that were slightly fused together. If Peter wasn't mistaken, she also had gills on her neck. Apparently breathing air wasn't a problem for her, though. He raised his mental shields just in case any of them were telepaths. No sense in letting them learn anything they weren't supposed to.
He glanced around before raising his camera to take a picture. Suddenly his spider-sense blared. Everyone looked afraid as he snapped the photo. The sound of something huge and metal clanking nearby sent shivers down his spine.
What the heck is that? Peter wondered.
He turned around and saw not one, but two Sentinels approaching steadily. They were very large, not to mention purple and silver. Who in their right mind had decided that purple was a great color to paint a robot? If they didn't have such a deadly arsenal, he'd have laughed at how ridiculous they looked. Unfortunately, Sentinels were no laughing matter, especially if you were a mutant. Quickly, he took another picture.
"Oh crap," one of the protesters standing very close to the microphone said.
That was an understatement. Sentinels were very large robots built for one purpose: destroying mutants. They were supposed to have been demolished by the X-Men, but for whatever reason, these two had not been.
Peter gaped at the robots. He hadn't thought that the Spidey suit would be necessary today. Apparently the universe had decided to prove him wrong. He wondered if he could get away with using his mutant abilities to stop the Sentinels without revealing his secret identity.
Then one of the Sentinels raised its arm. Peter realized what was happening and raised his voice. "Everyone, look out! They're going to open fire on us!"
"What the…?" someone remarked.
Just then, a crimson laser blast streaked through the air. People ran. It hit the ground right where Peter had been standing a moment ago. A giant scorch mark was in his place.
"My God, it shot Parker," Sam exclaimed, looking back as he ran.
"I'm not dead yet, Jim," Peter quipped. He was floating in the air about a dozen feet up and looking very annoyed.
The other reporter gaped at him. Then he grinned. "You've got to be the luckiest guy on the planet, you know that?"
"Yeah. Get out of here. I'm calling for help." Peter held up his cell phone. "Scotty, one to beam up," he cracked.
The reporter nodded before turning around and running.
Then the robot shot at Peter again. "Nice shooting, Tex," he shouted while dodging rapidly. The crimson laser blasts hit nothing but air as he flew past in a blur. "Try aiming next time!"
"What the hell are you doing?" some guy yelled. "You're gonna get killed! Are you suicidal or something?"
As if to punctuate his remark, Dumber fired its laser cannon again. Meanwhile, Dumb headed for the escaping protesters.
It was going to be a massacre if Peter didn't do something. He felt mad. What good were super powers if he couldn't do what he needed to do the most? To hell with it, he decided. Those kids were going to die if he didn't stop the Sentinels.
"Over here," he yelled, hovering in mid-air and waving his arms.
Dumber turned around and loomed over him menacingly. Peter led the robot towards its twin while dodging laser blasts. Dumb aimed at the retreating kids. Some of them were frozen with fear. The girl with gills stood gaping in terror as the robot approached. She looked very pale.
"Hey, tin can," Peter yelled, trying to distract it. "Why don't you go back to the Battletech game you came from?" His spider sense was going crazy.
Dumb craned its head around. "Weapons locked on target," it reported. "Fire!"
"Firing," Dumber agreed.
Both Sentinels fired simultaneously. As they launched plasma bursts, Peter waited until the last possible second before ascending higher into the air. He heard people on the ground yelling at him to watch out. While he skyrocketed, the plumes of plasma crossed paths and struck the robots. The Sentinels exploded into flaming chunks of metal. The teenage girl recovered her senses and ran.
"Woohoo," Peter shouted.
He was on cloud nine. He'd just taken down two Sentinels without using Spider-Man's abilities. With any luck, no one would connect him with Spider-Man. The crowd below erupted into applause as he landed nearby.
"Way to go," someone said.
"Man, that was amazing! When are you going to join the X-Men?" a teenager asked.
Peter shook his head as blood rushed into his cheeks. "I'm not."
"But you just took out two of those Sentinel things. That was way cool!"
"I just did what had to be done. That's all."
A cop approached with a concerned look. "Mr. Parker," he said, "I'd like to ask you a few questions. Do you have a moment?"
Peter nodded, realizing that was going to be a very long day.
"So," the cop said, "why'd the Sentinels go after you?"
"Gee, I don't know. Maybe because I'm a mutant?" he suggested sarcastically.
The cop rolled his eyes. "You're about as funny as Spider-Man on a bad joke day, you know that?"
Peter shrugged. Uh oh, he thought. The cop had already made one connection between him and the web head. He needed to be extra careful.
The cop continued to press for answers. "Why did they target you first? There were more kids protesting, unless most of the reporters in this town are closet mutants." The cop's eyes narrowed. "You're a telepath too, right? That means you'd know something like that."
"Not necessarily," Peter replied. "If someone's in the closet, that means they're actively going to hide it. If they were concerned about other mutants who can read their mind, they'd be trying not to think about it. Believe it or not, having telepathy doesn't mean that you automatically know everything about everyone you meet. There are very few mutants on this planet who are that powerful. I'm not one of them."
The cop nodded. "Okay. If you're not that powerful, then why did you take on the Sentinels?"
"Because they shot at me, and I really didn't have much of a choice at that point. The other robot was going for the kids. I was the only one who could do anything to stop it. Really, I'm just lucky. If my powers didn't include flying, I'd have been crispy-fried."
Peter decided that it wouldn't be a good idea to tell the cop about the threatening phone call. His journalistic instincts told him that there was a story here. If whoever warned him knew about the Sentinels, perhaps they worked for the person or group behind the attack. If the caller caught wind of the cops sniffing around, he'd probably disappear. Parker didn't want to risk that.
"So there's no reason you can think of that the robots would go after you, other than the obvious?" the cop persisted.
"None," he replied.
"Okay." The cop snapped his notebook binder shut. "You know, what you did today was incredibly stupid. It was very brave, but stupid. If you made one mistake, we'd have been scraping your body off the ground right now. Most heroes die young. That's why they're called heroes."
"I'm aware of that," Peter responded.
The cop nodded. "Don't make the superhero thing a habit, okay? We've got enough vigilantes in this town — Spider-Man, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four, you name it. We don't need another one."
"Trust me, officer, I have no intention of being caught dead in spandex," Peter answered truthfully. A stray thought made him grin: that doesn't mean I won't wear it, though.
The cop managed a grim smile. "Good. Don't take this the wrong way, Mr. Parker, but I don't ever want to see you again."
Understanding his meaning, he nodded. "Same here."
Peter wondered just how much trouble he was going to get into at work. If his boss had seen him on TV, he was going to have a fit. Peter hoped that he would be able to avoid Jameson for a little while, at least.
Peter Parker tried to keep a low profile as he walked into the Bugle's office. So far, so good. Nobody noticed him. He walked past the main receptionist's desk as she surfed the web on her lunch break. A TV that was tuned to a news channel replaying the Sentinels' attack had caught most people's attention.
Just as he walked by, the shot of the Sentinels exploding and him flying away unharmed appeared. The receptionist's jaw dropped. "Oh, my…"
He quickly turned the corner before she saw him. Then he passed several people chatting and standing around the water cooler. One of them was Robbie Robertson, the Editor-in-Chief. Another was Ben Urich. The third was Jim Johnson, one of the accounting managers, whom Peter didn't know very well.
"Parker?" Robertson asked, glancing up.
Peter couldn't help but look disappointed at having been caught. He held up his hands in mock-surrender.
Robbie chuckled. "Trying to be invisible only works if you have that particular ability," he remarked.
"Yeah, I know. How mad is he?"
"Jameson? When he saw you on TV, he went into his office and slammed the door shut so hard that it knocked a Styrofoam cup of coffee over. He hasn't come out since."
Peter looked worried. There was no way he was going to get out of this without being fired. He knew it. Robbie and the people he'd been talking to were thinking it. Losing his job was the inevitable outcome. What made it worse was the potential that Jameson had figured out his secret identity. He sighed and ran his fingers through his brown hair.
"I'm dead," he muttered. "I might as well quit if he's just going to fire me anyway."
"You can't quit," one of the other employees said. He was an accountant named Jim Johnson. "We need you here."
"You're the only one who's not afraid to stand up to Jameson." Hell, he thought, you're the only one who can.
"No," Peter replied. "Robbie's not afraid of him. Neither is Betty. Ben Urich's not afraid, either, and none of them are mutants."
"Right," the accountant said. "Well, some of us have work to do. See you later, Robertson. Hey Urich, we should do lunch sometime."
"Jameson's not going to fire you," Urich added. "He'll probably yell and swear a lot, but he won't fire you because he still needs you around."
"Me?" Peter asked. "What for?"
"Like Johnson said, you're the only one who can convince everyone that they don't have to be afraid of mutants. If it weren't for you, we'd be the only ones left working here."
Parker looked stunned. Yeah, he'd been catching quite a few paranoid thoughts lately, but that was normal when Jameson was having one of his temper tantrums. "You're kidding. It's not that bad, is it?"
"At least you have the ability to keep him from reading your thoughts. The rest of us aren't so lucky." Ben wondered if Jameson knew that he knew Daredevil's secret identity and suspected that Parker was Spider-Man. Then his eyes widened as he realized Peter must have heard that. He looked embarrassed. "See what I mean?"
He knows? Peter's jaw dropped. "Uh, yeah." If he knew that, than Jameson probably had figured out his secret identity. He sighed. "Man, I am so dead."
Robbie shook his head. "Keep your chin up, Parker. Good luck."
Jonah did not even look up when the boy — young man, he corrected himself — entered his office. Parker was not a boy anymore. He'd matured from the recent high school grad Jameson had first met into a young man with a knack for getting good pictures at the right time, and a brilliant mind that could be useful for investigative reporting. That was one of the reasons he'd encouraged Peter after the terrorist attack. Jameson suspected that he could become a great reporter if he really wanted to.
Peter also had his faults — he was cocky, even arrogant at times, with a strong stubborn streak that often got him into trouble. Jonah thought it came from having been bullied so much in school. To deal with the other students, he must have been forced to develop a backbone. But up until the mutant terrorist attack, Jonah had always assumed that Peter was an average, ordinary human. That was a mistake — he could see it now.
Peter Parker and Spider-Man were the same person.
Jonah couldn't figure out how he'd missed it. Peter was the first person to ever get a clear photograph of the wall crawler. He often came in with dozens of blurry shots and one or two decent ones. Then there were the camera angles, which were usually so off-kilter that Jameson often wondered how anyone could have taken them at all. The only way for him to do it would've been to use an automatic camera.
Jonah hadn't really suspected until today. The footage of Parker fighting the Sentinels costumeless had done it. Sure, all Peter did was fly, and he hadn't used any obvious super powers besides that. But the way he dodged the robots' attacks, as if he'd been reacting to a sixth sense or something — that was how most witnesses described Spider-Man's fights.
Jameson knew without a doubt that if Peter hadn't used any powers besides flying, the Sentinels would have fried him. He had to have super fast reflexes. Not to mention, there were the smart remarks he made during the whole thing. They were exactly the type of comments Jonah would have expected the web-slinger to make.
Peter looked as if he'd rather be anywhere else. In fact, he eyed the large window nervously. There was a sliding screen on it to let the breeze through, but it could be easily opened.
Not a smart move for someone with a secret identity, Jonah thought.
Peter gulped. He knows. I'm screwed. Then he steeled himself for what he figured was going to be one of Jameson's famous tantrums. After all, if he could take on the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, and a pair of mutant-hunting robots, surely one enraged boss wasn't that bad.
Jonah finally looked him in the eyes. "I could fire you," he said. "Hell, I probably should, but that would be too easy. Then you'd never have to face me again."
"S…Sir?" Peter stammered.
"Give me one reason why I shouldn't print the story of the century on the first page of the afternoon edition."
It took him only a heartbeat to come up with an answer. "Mary Jane."
Of course, Jameson realized. Peter would be worried about the safety of his family.
"Just give me 24 hours so I can get MJ and Aunt May out of town. Don't print the story until tomorrow morning. That's all I ask," he requested.
Peter had never expected to be pleading with his boss not to print the story revealing his secret identity. Yeah, he'd always know that it was a possibility, but somehow, he'd never believed that it might actually happen.
It was three years after he had defeated Doctor Octopus. Three years after he'd saved the people from the train Ock had wrecked the brakes on, nobody had come forward to identify him. No one had gone to the cops or the newspapers, as far as he knew. Peter wondered if any of them knew who he really was, especially after the mutant terrorist attacks had made him a minor celebrity.
Harry was in prison for the crimes committed as the Hobgoblin, but he'd never told anyone. He was also in drug rehab. Peter thought that might have something to do with it. No one ever believed drug addicts when they claimed to know stuff.
As a result, Peter had gotten overconfident. He realized that he'd made the mistake of assuming that his secret identity was nearly impenetrable, and it was about to cost him everything.
"No," Jameson said, realizing that Parker still thought he was going to be fired.
Peter looked crestfallen. His boss was going to announce to the world that he was Spider-Man. As a result, the bad guys would come after Mary Jane and Aunt May before he had a chance to get them to safety. They'd probably get killed and it would be his fault, just like Uncle Ben. He sighed.
"Okay. I'll go. But if MJ and Aunt May die because of this…" he let the words loom threateningly in the air. Not that he would ever do anything, but he thought it was his only chance to convince Jameson not to print the article.
"Parker, use your brains. That's what you're good at, isn't it?"
He stared at his boss uncomprehendingly. "But you just said…"
"I said no because I'm not going to print the story. You don't have to leave town, and you don't have to worry about your wife and aunt."
Peter's jaw dropped. He'd been so focused on Mary Jane and Aunt May — well, mostly Mary Jane — that he hadn't picked up on Jameson's thoughts.
"You're serious? Why aren't you going to print it?"
"Because there are more important things than headlines." Jameson took a deep breath. He had never told anyone what he was about to say. "Also, because I've always felt that you were like a son to me. My son John never wanted to go into journalism. He had to shoot for the moon, literally. Not that I'm not proud as hell of him, but sometimes I wish there was another journalist in the family. Don't you dare tell anyone I said that," Jonah warned. "If you do, your secret identity will be the story of the decade."
Peter's eyes widened even further. "So I'm not fired?"
"No. But don't think I'm going to go any easier on Spider-Man because of this. As far as I'm concerned, he's still a menace until you prove otherwise. Now get out of here before I change my mind."
He nodded and hustled toward the door.
"Wait. You got pictures of the robots this morning while you were flying around, right?"
"Good. Go get 'em developed, then. What are you waiting for, Christmas?"
Ben Urich and Robby Robertson were still chatting by the water cooler when Peter left J. Jonah Jameson's office. They looked at him with concern.
"How'd it go?" Robby asked.
Peter grinned from ear to ear. "I still have a job. I'm not fired!"
Robby nodded. "I knew you wouldn't be."
"Great going, kid," Urich replied. "Hang in there."
Peter nodded. He headed to the darkroom to develop his photos. With any luck, they'd be front page material.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Olsen was working undercover in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. They knew who he was. He'd spun a well- concocted lie about hating the rest of humanity for the way they now treated him, especially Lois and Clark at the Daily Planet. After Jimmy had proven himself by hacking into a bank and stealing a million dollars, Magneto had let him join. It was a good thing there were no telepaths in the group, or he'd have been dead meat.
His mutant abilities included a psychic gift that worked sporadically, as well as the power to alter his molecular structure and make himself insubstantial. Jimmy also had the ability to time travel, but not more than five minutes into the past. He couldn't go into the future for some reason, maybe because the future was not yet fixed. He'd read up on time travel theories since gaining his powers, but most of it didn't make sense to him.
Olsen was glad that he'd managed to call Peter Parker and warn him about the impending Sentinel attack. This was Magneto's latest plan — control the Sentinels and make them hunt down those who opposed the Brotherhood of Mutants. The Sentinels had been controlled by Bolivar Trask at one time, but he was dead now.
Magneto did not know that Peter Parker was really Spider-Man. The Brotherhood's leader only knew that Peter was a mutant and that he worked for the Daily Bugle. The Bugle was known for being critical of people with super powers, even heroes. The Sentinels were sent to the protest because Magneto believed that the X-Men were secretly behind Mutants for Justice. Jimmy had no idea how Magneto knew that, but Olsen knew that Peter could stop the Sentinels if he got there in time as Spider-Man.
"Check it out," Pyro said, gesturing to the TV. The young man flicked his cigarette lighter on and off. It was an annoying habit. "Magneto is going to be pissed."
Jimmy glanced around. He saw Peter Parker flying around. The Sentinels were shooting at him. What's he doing flying around without his costume on? Oh, yeah, Spider-Man can't fly. Still, that's a huge risk for someone with a secret identity, he thought.
There was one moment when he thought that Peter was going to get toasted for sure. Both Sentinels closed in on him and fired. He waited until the last possible second before flying higher. The laser fire missed him, hitting both of the robots instead. They exploded as a result. Olsen's jaw dropped in disbelief.
"Who is that guy?" Pyro asked. "He's not one of the X-Men, unless he's a new recruit and they stopped wearing spandex."
"Peter Parker," Magneto answered as he entered the room. Jimmy and Pyro looked at him. "He is a photographer for the Daily Bugle. He's known for his photos of Spider-Man and other super heroes, as well as the Purple Chaos terrorists. The organization disbanded after its leader was captured a third time." The tone of his voice made his disdain clear. Magneto did not tolerate failure in others.
"Is Parker a threat to us?" Pyro wanted to know.
"That is a good question. I don't believe so. He barely managed to destroy the Sentinels. It was sheer luck that he survived. I think we can safely ignore him for now. Let's concentrate on our main goal, which is destroying Mutants for Justice."
"How do you know for sure that they're part of the X-Men?" Jimmy asked.
Magneto smiled coldly. "Let's just say I have my sources."
Professor Xavier's School for the Gifted offered training classes for those who had gotten their mutant powers as a result of the Purple Chaos organization. There were a dozen people in the group. Since they were all adults and hadn't had to adapt to their mutant abilities as a teenager, they were particularly vulnerable to losing control. Everyone had families and jobs, and didn't want to risk harming the people close to them.
Peter's challenge was to use only his mutant abilities and not his Spider powers during these training sessions in the gymnasium. He'd nearly slipped up a couple of times already. One of Xavier's rules was that anything which happened in the sessions stayed there, but Peter wasn't sure that he could trust everyone.
Since everyone else had no idea that Xavier was the leader of the X-Men, their sparring sessions were held in the gymnasium and not the Danger Room. The Danger Room combined holographic technology with real equipment to create battlefield simulations, much like the holodeck featured in Star Trek. But Xavier would not risk it with these students. They weren't being trained for combat situations, just self-defense and to learn better control.
He dodged an attack from a woman who was a former martial arts instructor. She was average height and slender with short brown hair and brown eyes. Her name was Beth. She had recently quit her day job after becoming a mutant over her superiors' worries that she might accidentally harm someone. Her gift was super speed.
It was all Peter could do to avoid being hit. He dodged, jumped, and did a back flip in mid-air before landing behind her and swinging a punch. She ducked.
"Impressive," she said. No amateur could have done that. "Have you studied the martial arts before?"
"No," he replied honestly. His style of fighting was largely self-taught and suited to Spider-Man's powers.
Peter's spider sense told him to leap as she launched another attack. Beth spun around and kicked at lightning speed, but he wasn't there any more. Instead, he was hovering inches from the wall. He'd stopped himself from sticking to it just in time. Peter breathed a sigh of relief. He landed in front of her.
"For someone who hasn't had martial arts training, you have really great reflexes."
"Thanks," he answered. Hmm…I'd better let her hit me, he thought. If I'm too good, she'll start to wonder why.
She threw a punch at lightning speed. Peter's spider sense blared, but he took the hit across his jaw instead of ducking.
Beth winced as he grimaced. That had to have hurt. I hit him hard enough to knock a normal human unconscious. I know I did. "Sorry."
"That's okay," Peter replied, rubbing the sore spot.
"All right, everyone," Charles Xavier shouted. "Let's take a short break."
Beth smiled. "You did really well, Peter."
He looked slightly embarrassed. "Thanks."
As everyone filed out of the gymnasium, Charles said, "Peter, I'd like to have a word with you."
Once everyone had left the room, the Professor looked at him. "Mr. Parker, you came here to learn about your gifts. I can't help you if you're unwilling to do your best."
Peter looked guilty. "I trust you, Professor, but how can I trust everyone else here with my secret identity?"
Charles nodded. "Trust is earned, not freely given. That's understandable. But if you're not ready to put every amount of effort into learning about yourself, then how do you expect to get anything out of my classes? You're highly gifted, Peter, and I don't mean just your powers. Surely you can figure out that you can't learn about a few of your gifts without exploring all of them."
Peter stared at his feet. He really wished that he had the power of invisibility. "But what about my secret identity?"
"You'll have to trust your fellow students."
That idea terrified him. The one thing that Peter feared the most (other than something happening to Mary Jane or Aunt May) was being exposed as Spider-Man. He had always found it difficult to trust anyone with that information.
"I'd almost rather face the Goblin, Doc Ock, Venom, and Electro simultaneously."
Professor Xavier nodded. "Trusting others can be frightening, but sometimes, it's the only way to progress. Do you want to tell them? It's completely up to you."
It was a tough decision, one of the hardest Parker had ever made. If he told them, he'd gain the knowledge that he needed. Peter could decide not to tell them and walk away. In that case, he'd end up having to learn the hard way. It was far better to stay and discover what he needed to.
"I'll tell them."
Charles smiled. "I think you've made the right choice."
After the break, the other students entered the gymnasium. Professor Xavier turned his wheelchair to face them. He cleared his throat. "I believe that Mr. Parker has something to say."
They all stared at him. Peter could feel a bead of sweat dripping down his forehead. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been this nervous — probably the first time he'd asked Mary Jane out on a date.
"Um…" I just remembered I have a doctor's appointment, he was tempted to say, but didn't. Peter swallowed a lump in his throat. Man, his palms were getting sweaty. He wiped them on his shorts. For the third time that day, he wished that he could disappear. "I'm, uh…I'm Spider-Man."
A few jaws dropped. Several people smiled. Most of them looked amazed. He expected at least one person to laugh and say "Yeah, right," but nobody did.
"But if you're a mutant now, then how did you get your other powers?" a man asked.
His name was Jim Smith. He was about 40, with average height and weight. Jim had brown hair and brown eyes. He wore glasses and was an insurance salesman. His abilities included enhanced sight, hearing, and smell. That was as much as Peter knew.
"I was bitten by a genetically engineered spider."
"Seriously?" someone else asked.
"All right," Professor Xavier said, "I want everyone to continue sparring as you were before. Peter, don't hold back this time. Show us what you're capable of."
Beth grinned as they faced each other. "Come on, Peter. Let's see what you've really got." I can't believe I'm sparring with Spider-Man!
He laughed. "You're just lucky I left my web shooters at home."
She let loose with a flurry of punches and kicks. Peter jumped into the air and somersaulted over her to avoid them. He dodged as she spun and tried to hit him again. After a few minutes of that, he found her weak spot.
Beth had a habit of not blocking his moves for a few seconds, right after she had just thrown a punch or kicked him. She was able to move so quickly that an ordinary person wouldn't have caught it. Peter took advantage of it and kicked her in the shins — not as hard as he could have, but hard enough that she had the wind knocked out of her.
"Oh, no. Are you okay?" he asked as she stumbled.
Beth nodded as she regained her composure. "I'm fine. I just didn't expect that." She managed a smile. "You put up quite a fight."
"Thanks. So do you."
Professor Xavier called for everyone to stop sparring. "That's enough for tonight. You've all done very well. Peter, can you stay for a minute?"
"Great. I look forward to seeing everyone on Thursday."
As the other students left, Peter looked at Xavier, wondering if he had done something wrong.
"No," Charles said, "you haven't. In fact, I would like to make you part of the team. I think you would benefit from being part of a larger group."
Peter realized he meant the X-Men. "Thanks, but I don't think so."
"I have too many responsibilities as Spider-Man. My boss also just figured out the truth about me and Spider-Man today. I won't risk him finding out about the X-Men, too."
Charles nodded. "The offer remains open in case you reconsider."
He was completely aware of how much Xavier must have thought of him in order to make that offer. "I'll think about it, but I won't make any guarantees."
Peter had a lot to contemplate. As he flew home, he wondered what was in store for him.
The sun slowly sank below the horizon. Its golden rays reflected across the windows of the skyscrapers that surrounded him. The late summer weather couldn't have been more perfect. This was usually when the first criminal of the night decided to do something really stupid, like rob a bank or mug somebody. But for some reason, the criminals hadn't shown their ugly faces yet. Spider-Man wasn't about to complain.
He shot a web line towards the Empire State Building and zipped across, then climbed to the top. It wasn't the first time he'd taken advantage of the view since he'd gotten his spider powers. The panorama was breathtaking. Spider-Man couldn't imagine a more perfect view, except perhaps when he looked into Mary Jane's eyes. Tomorrow, she would be coming to town.
They hadn't really talked since he'd gotten his mutant abilities. Sure, he'd called her on the phone, but that wasn't the same, especially since they had to avoid mentioning Spider-Man. He wanted to tell her so much. There was a lot MJ didn't know. He wondered if she still loved him.
Spidey fired a web line across the street and swung away. Below him, twilight wove shadows on concrete.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Olsen was drinking coffee and staring at a computer screen. The lines of code were starting to get to him. If-then statements merged with for-next loops as algorithms danced across the screen. He yawned and rubbed his eyes. Yep, he'd definitely been staring at the computer for too long.
Suddenly his surroundings started to fade into blackness. This was not a side-effect of too much computer programming, however. It was the precursor to one of his psychic visions, which he really hadn't gotten used to yet, even though it had been over a year.
Jimmy saw the giant Sentinel robots blasting their way through the streets of New York. The X-Men and Spider-Man were trying to stop them, but to no avail. There were just too many Sentinels. The good guys were badly outnumbered.
Peter Parker was eventually forced to use his telekinetic abilities. He flew, but one of the robots blasted him with plasma fire. There was no way he could have survived the burns, let alone the fall to the ground. Jimmy gasped. One by one, the X-Men were shot down. Wolverine was the last to fall. He managed to take several robots with him, but there were just too many remaining.
Then Jimmy watched in horror as the Sentinels turned on Magneto and tore through their base, destroying everything in their path. The Brotherhood fought against them uselessly. Jimmy saw himself die. The Sentinels eventually destroyed everything and everyone in their path.
How could Magneto be so stupid? How could he not have foreseen something like this? The monsters would eventually turn on their masters. It was the plot of many horror movies. Was Magneto blind?
The answer came like a laser blast out of thin air. Magneto was blinded by his own power and ambitions. He couldn't clearly see the fallacies of his plot. But Jimmy knew that if he tried to warn him, Magneto would kill him. There was only one chance.
When Jimmy recovered from his vision and found himself facing the computer again, the logic in his mind had reached a conclusion. Peter Parker had to be warned so he could warn the X-Men. That was the only thing that Jimmy could do. He just hoped that it would make a difference.
It wouldn't be safe to use any of the phones on the base. They were almost certainly bugged. Super villains didn't trust each other any more than they trusted other people. He would have to use a pay phone, just like he had before. Going outside would be worth the risk, however.
Jimmy phased so that it would be difficult for others to see him if he stayed in the shadows. While in that semi-transparent state, his footsteps were nearly impossible to hear. He could have been a great thief if he'd really wanted to. He supposed it was one of his abilities that Magneto planned to use to his own advantage.
Behind him, someone moved even more stealthily in the shadows. Mystique had been watching Jimmy Olsen for quite a while, under Magneto's orders. The mutant leader didn't trust him, and for good reason. Mystique knew all about Jimmy's first phone call, and suspected that he would make another. She didn't know why he had bothered to call Peter Parker of all people, but she assumed that he had a good reason. Jimmy was completely unaware of her presence as she followed him outside.
In New York, Peter had gone home for the night. It was almost ten, but Aunt May had waited up for him. Inwardly, he groaned. She must have seen him on the news. What was he going to tell her? He crawled in through the window, changed into his regular clothes, and went downstairs.
"Peter! It's about time you're home."
He looked abashed. "Sorry, Aunt May. I was a little busy today."
"Yes, I saw. You could have called, you know. I guess you were a little too busy playing super hero." *But it wasn't the first time, was it?*
His eyes widened as he realized that she suspected the secret. "Aunt May, you have to believe that I had no choice."
She nodded. "Ben always said that with great power comes great responsibility. I should have known you'd take his advice to heart after…what happened."
A tear welled up in her eye as memories of Ben came unbidden. *Something else must have happened, too. Peter's never told me the whole story. Why does he feel so responsible for Ben's death? Surely there's more to it. That would explain why Peter became who he is.* It was hard for May to admit it to herself, but she knew that Peter was really Spider-Man. Somewhere along the way, she had realized it.
Peter winced as he overheard her thoughts. "We'd better talk," he said.
May nodded. "I made a pot of tea."
He smiled. "You always make the best."
There was silence as May set a plate of ham sandwiches on the table and poured the tea. "Have you eaten anything for supper? I've just had a bite, that's all."
Peter shook his head. "I haven't had time to eat. Thanks."
As he began to eat, the phone rang. Peter's spider sense went off. "I'd better get that."
The voice on the phone sounded vaguely familiar. "This is very important. Tell only those you trust. There is going to be a Sentinel attack in New York sometime within the next couple of days. I don't know exactly where they'll hit, but there will be more Sentinels than before — about a dozen or so. Make sure that Spider-Man warns those who can help him. The Sentinels need to be stopped before they destroy everyone."
This time, the caller had stayed on the phone longer. Peter thought he knew who it was. "Jimmy Olsen? Is that you?"
The line went dead.
Aunt May looked at him. Her eyes and thoughts were filled with questions, but she didn't speak any of them aloud.
"I need to make a call," Peter said. "This will only take a minute."
Peter dialed the number for Xavier's school. Storm's voice was on the answering machine. "You have reached Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. Our hours of operation are between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm. Please leave a detailed message and we will get back to you as soon as possible."
"Professor, it's me, Peter. I just heard from someone I trust that the Sentinels are going to…hello?"
There was a click as someone picked up the telephone and turned off the answering machine. "Peter Parker?" It was Charles Xavier. "What about the Sentinels?"
"There's going to be another attack in the next couple of days. My informant couldn't get any more specific, I'm afraid. He only knew that the Sentinels are going to be somewhere in New York. He called to warn me about the first attack."
"Do you trust him?"
"Yes," he replied without hesitation.
"Then I'll take your word for it. Thank you, Peter."
"No problem. If there's anything I can do to help…"
"I'll let you know," Xavier assured him.
Peter hung up the phone and turned around slowly. He took a deep breath. "There is an explanation for all this."
"I'm sure there is," Aunt May replied. "I would like to hear it very much."
He sat down and sipped his tea. It was going to be a long night.
"Do you remember the time in high school when I came home from that field trip and got really sick?"
"Yes, of course. Ben and I were very worried. You slept for so long." Where is he going with this? May wondered.
Peter nodded. "During the field trip, one of the genetically engineered spiders escaped. It bit me." He swallowed a lump in his throat. "It changed me somehow. You see, Aunt May, I…I'm really Spider-Man."
There was a silence that seemed to last for an eternity.
"Oh, Peter, I wish you had told me this sooner. Don't you know that I'll always love you, no matter what?"
He nodded and tried to fight back tears. "I didn't want you to worry about me. I'm sorry, Aunt May."
"There's something else, isn't there?"
He nodded. "If you don't hate me for being Spider-Man, you'll probably hate me for this, anyway."
"Peter, you've always been a son to me, and you always will. Nothing can change that."
"This might." He took a deep breath. "Uncle Ben died because of me. It's my fault he's dead. All my fault." He couldn't fight the tears anymore.
Her eyes widened. "Don't say that. I feel responsible, too. If I'd been able to talk him out of driving that night…"
He looked stunned as he realized that she'd been blaming herself all this time. "No. It was my fault, not yours. I had to go and wrestle that night for the prize money. They wouldn't pay me. Then a thief robbed them. All I had to do was trip him, Aunt May. But I let him go because I believed that it wasn't my problem. Instead, he shot Uncle Ben because he wouldn't give up his car. So you see, it was my fault."
May stared at her nephew. Peter had been carrying that weight around for all this time, and she hadn't even known. How could she not have seen it? Slowly, she got up from her chair. Peter stared down at his tea as she hugged him. "You're very brave, you know. It took a lot of courage to tell me that."
He shook his head. "I'm not really that brave. One of the reasons I wear a mask is so people don't realize how scared I am out there."
"But you save lives."
"I'm Spider-Man because I have to be. These powers are my responsibility."
May nodded. "You know, super powers don't necessarily make someone a hero. We all have a hero that is part of us. That hero gives us the strength and the courage to do what's right against the odds, even if it means giving up our dreams. That's why you're a hero, Peter. It's not because of the spider bite, or Uncle Ben, or even because you're a mutant now. You're a hero because you have the determination to fight for what you believe in."
Peter smiled. "Thanks, Aunt May. I think I needed to hear that."
"No problem, dear. You'd better finish your tea before it gets cold."
He chuckled. "Yes, Aunt May."
My nephew knows Superman? May was amazed. She was definitely going to have to get used to thinking on him as being strong. In Peter's younger years, he'd been sick a lot. It would be nice to get to know him. She felt like she'd been living with a stranger ever since Ben died. Now that she knew why, a lot of things made sense. She still had a lot of questions, though. This was going to be a long night.
Jimmy hung up the pay phone. Suddenly he sensed someone watching him. Quickly, he spun around, but saw nothing.
"I must be getting paranoid," he muttered to himself.
"A little paranoia is healthy," said a feminine voice from the shadows. "It keeps you on your toes."
Jimmy groaned as he realized that he had been followed by Mystique. His undercover stint was over.
"How exactly did you find out about our plan?" she asked, still hidden.
"I had a vision," he admitted. "Look, can we talk about this before you try to kill me? The Sentinels have to be stopped because they're going to turn on you. If Magneto lets them loose, they will hunt down and destroy every sentient being on Earth. I saw it happen, Mystique. I saw everyone die."
"You must have seen the possibility," she replied, "but that doesn't mean it's going to happen."
"My visions haven't been wrong yet. Why is Magneto taking such a huge risk? Doesn't he know this could happen?"
"He's not stupid," she answered defensively. "Don't underestimate him."
"Then why is he doing this?"
"Because he's willing to use any means necessary to bring down the X-Men." She wasn't going to tell him about the bigger plot — that Magneto planned to gain control of New York and Metropolis, and use both cities as bases for his war against humanity. With the Sentinels under his command, he could destroy any superheroes who tried to fight him. The Brotherhood would eventually gain control over the entire United States, and then the world.
Mystique leapt out of the shadows and revealed herself. Her naturally bluish-black skin made her almost invisible in the darkness. She wore a tight-fitting, black leather outfit. Her yellow eyes gleamed in the streetlight's glow, appearing to be pools of fire.
"It's a pity that I'm going to have to destroy you. You've got potential, but you're working for the wrong side."
"You're the one who's on the wrong side," he answered.
Jimmy phased as she swung at him. Her fist connected with the telephone instead, causing her to curse.
"How do you think your normal human friends at the Daily Planet feel about you? They're afraid, that's how. They hate you for being different. They're probably jealous too, but they won't admit it."
He solidified behind Mystique and aimed a punch, but she dodged quickly. "You're wrong," he replied.
"Lois Lane and Clark Kent hate you," she continued as she aimed a kick.
Jimmy suppressed a laugh as he phased. He wondered what she would do if she knew that Clark was really Superman. It was a good thing that no one in the Brotherhood could read minds.
"You're wrong. Lois and Clark are my real friends," he answered.
"They hate you because you're a mutant. Can't you see it? Your only hope is to join the Brotherhood for real."
Jimmy phased as she spun around to kick him. "Never," he responded before disappearing into the shadows. This was a battle he couldn't win. She was more powerful and had more fighting experience. It was safer to retreat and stay alive.
"You'd better be careful, Jimmy Olsen. Your days are numbered," Mystique threatened before heading back to the base.
In downtown Metropolis, the doorbell woke up Clark Kent. Lois was snuggled up against him, still sleeping peacefully. He glanced at his alarm clock. The glowing red numbers said 1:10 am. Being careful not to wake up Lois, he pulled on a pair of jeans and found his glasses. Clark used his infrared vision to avoid running into things. He switched on the table lamp in the living room before he opened the door.
"Hey, CK." Jimmy was breathless, as though he had been running. He was in his Shade costume with the mask on. He also looked very frustrated. "Sorry about coming here so late."
"What is it?"
The younger man took a deep breath. "I screwed up. They found out."
Clark blinked in surprise as he realized this could only be about Jimmy's undercover assignment. "The Brotherhood?"
Jimmy entered the house and took off his mask. "Yeah. One of them followed me to a pay phone. I was trying to warn Peter Parker about the Sentinels. They're going to attack New York."
Jimmy nodded. "Magneto is controlling the Sentinels. He wants to destroy the X-Men. So I warned Peter Parker, and then I found out that Mystique had followed me the whole way. She went back to warn Magneto." He looked mad. "I blew it, CK."
"Blew what?" Lois asked. She had woken up and put on a white robe over her light blue nightgown. She stood in the bedroom doorway.
Clark shook his head. "You didn't blow it, Jimmy. From what it sounds like, you warned Peter just in time. Don't beat yourself up."
Jimmy sighed. "You're right. Man, I'm really sorry to wake you guys up."
"No problem," Clark answered. "Why don't you spend the rest of the night here? We'll find you an extra pillow and you can sleep on the couch."
"Good idea," Lois said. "The Brotherhood might decide to go after him anyway. At least, he'll be safe here."
"Thanks guys," Jimmy replied. "You're the best."
Peter noticed that he'd made the front page of several local newspapers that morning, including the Bugle and the Times. Headlines ranged from "Rampaging Sentinels Attack Mutant Protestors" to "Bugle Photographer Saves the Day." None of them disputed that his actions were heroic. The Times journalist suggested lightheartedly that Peter should ask Spider-Man who designed his costume and get one made for himself. He groaned at that.
He worried about what would happen if his identity was made public. His nightmares dealt with some psycho like Carnage going after Aunt May and Mary Jane. What if he couldn't protect them? Peter would never forgive himself if anything happened to them, especially if it was his fault. He landed in the parking lot of the Daily Bugle building and joined the crowd of employees entering. It was just before 8:00. For once, he was early.
"Parker," his boss shouted above the clamor, "you're actually here before 9:00 am." Jonah glanced up. "That's strange, the sky isn't falling yet."
The corners of his mouth turned upward into a quirky grin. "Well, that's because I'm holding it up telekinetically."
A few people who had overheard snickered.
"Right," Jameson responded. "Since you're here so bright and early, I've got a job for you." And you're probably the only one who'd be willing to take the risk, he thought.
Peter's eyes widened at that. "I'll do just about anything, as long as it doesn't involve robots."
"Good. The mutant protestors have rescheduled their rally for Central Park this morning at 11:00. We need someone there to cover it. Try not to get shot at this time."
He rolled his eyes. "Great. Can I get hazard pay if the Sentinels show up again? I really should get some kind of bonus for surviving yesterday. That was sheer luck."
"Parker, the only hazard pay you'll get is if you bring back decent photographs."
Peter nodded. He got to his desk and looked for Jimmy's telephone number in his address book. Hopefully, he'd be at work by now.
In Metropolis, Jimmy answered the phone. "Daily Planet, this is Jimmy Olsen."
"Hi," Peter greeted him. "How's life in Metropolis these days?"
"Hey, Peter. It's not bad. I heard about the Sentinels in New York. You cut it pretty close there."
"Yeah, I know. You uh, haven't heard anything else about them, have you?"
"About the Sentinels? I know a few things. Somebody followed me last night when I left to call you."
"So I was right. Who followed you?"
Peter's eyes widened as he realized just what Jimmy had been doing. "Uh oh. You'd better be careful. Believe me, you don't want to fight those guys. Not alone, anyway."
"Yeah. I figured that. The Sentinels are headed your way, though, possibly as early as today. Magneto is going after the X-Men, but you might get caught in the middle."
"Thanks for the heads up. Take care, man."
Peter hung up. Since he had some time to kill, he checked the airline's web site to make sure that Mary Jane's flight hadn't been cancelled or rescheduled. It was still scheduled for 7:30 pm. He was supposed to pick her up. Aunt May was the backup plan in case he couldn't make it there. Hopefully, nothing would go wrong.
Meanwhile, Magneto was planning his latest attack. He had taken control of the Sentinels after their original creator, Bolivar Trask, died. Trask's son Larry, a mutant, was killed by the first wave of Sentinels. Upon realizing the tragic error he had committed, his father sacrificed himself to destroy the lead Sentinel, Master Mold, and the rest of the robots.
In the chaos that followed, no one realized that there were still Sentinels left. Magneto found them and gained control by stealing the medallion that had suppressed Larry Trask's abilities. He used it to trick the Sentinels into believing that he was a human. He took it off whenever he wasn't around the Sentinels, but carried it at all times. The Sentinels followed his orders.
Jimmy Olsen, whom he hadn't trusted from the start, had warned a reporter in New York about the plan. Well, the young mutant believed that was the plan because that was what Magneto wanted him to think. The X-Men would be defeated, but only with half of the Sentinels at his disposal. The others would attack Metropolis. He had given a few of them Kryptonite lasers, designed specifically to defeat Superman. He had gotten the Kryptonite from one of Lex Luthor's former associates.
With both New York and Metropolis under his control, Magneto could easily gain control of the US. He could develop more Sentinels to guard his borders. He was only limited by time. His plan would take months, but it would work.
Mutants would no longer have to live their lives in fear of being discovered by their normal human neighbors and colleagues. They wouldn't have to worry about losing their jobs or homes. No longer would they be treated like second-class citizens. The government would hunt no one simply for being a mutant. Normal humans had a lot to answer for. When the Brotherhood of Mutants gained control, they would pay.
In New York, Peter had just arrived at the protest. He was desperately trying to keep a low profile. He wore the Spidey costume beneath his street clothes this time. He recognized Logan, Storm, Bobby, Rogue, and Scott among the volunteers. Peter stayed far back in the crowd of journalists and kept his head down, hoping that he wouldn't be recognized right away. Unfortunately, his luck had a knack of turning bad.
"Parker!" he heard Sam Davis from the times say. "Great, you're here. I hope you brought spandex in case the Sentinels show up."
Peter froze, wondering if everyone had figured out his secret.
"Relax, I'm only joking."
"I'm not laughing. You think it's fun having those things shoot at you? You think I asked for this? Well, I didn't. I'd give just about anything to be normal again. I still remember what that was like." Even though it was back in high school, he didn't add.
A few people were staring at them, wondering if anything was going to happen.
Davis's eyes widened. What is he going to do? "Okay. Take it easy, man."
Peter looked taken aback. Oh jeez, he's afraid of me now. Great. Just great. "I…I'm sorry. All right? Just forget it."
The reporter nodded and walked off as the small crowd dispersed. Peter wondered just how worse his luck could get. As the crowd gathered for the protest, he took pictures. The protest was about to get underway when the first rumblings of what sounded like thunder caught everyone's attention.
"Oh, great," Peter muttered as his spider sense went off.
He quickly snuck away from the crowd and found a shady spot to change into his costume. Just then, a dozen Sentinels appeared on the horizon. Five of them landed in the middle of the park. The others headed off in different directions. Peter had no time to deal with them because one approached him while the others went after the protesters and the X-Men.
"Mutant target sighted," the robot said in a metallic voice as it aimed a gun. "Target will be destroyed!"
Spidey catapulted from his hiding location onto a nearby tree branch, then leapt into the air as the robot fired its laser canon. With his mid-air acrobatics, he just barely managed to avoid being hit. The wall crawler landed on solid ground, but he was soon forced to leap again as more laser blasts targeted him. He really hoped that the X-Men had a plan, because he didn't.
In Metropolis, it was a perfectly ordinary morning until three Sentinels showed up and began to lumber through the city streets. Cars smashed into each other. People panicked and fled. A mother with a baby carriage was hurriedly crossing the street in the middle of the chaos. The baby was wrapped in blue blankets. One of the Sentinels stopped in its tracks beside her.
"Mutant target sighted," it announced.
The woman gasped. It couldn't be talking about her baby, could it? She wasn't a mutant, but her baby was the only other one nearby. Everyone else was running away. Even if her son was a mutant, surely he didn't deserve to be killed for it. She did the only thing she could think of besides fleeing. "Help, Superman!"
Out of the sky came a flash of blue and red. The mother gaped as she saw the Kryptonian land nearby. "You should get to someplace safe."
She nodded and quickly ran, pushing the carriage faster. The robot didn't go after them. Instead, it locked its sights on Superman.
"Primary target sighted. Target will be destroyed."
Superman's eyes widened. He wasn't a mutant, and he was pretty much immune to whatever the Sentinels could dish out, unless someone had armed them with kryptonite. He really hoped that wasn't the case. The Sentinel aimed its laser cannon at Superman, and sure enough, emerald blasts fired from it. Superman dodged them with super speed.
Questions ran through Superman's mind as he avoided the laser blasts and occasionally fired back with his own heat vision. Who would have done something like this? If Magneto really was in control of them, as Jimmy had stated, why was the mutant going after him? They had never fought before. Jimmy must have been wrong about the X-Men being the Brotherhood's only target. Perhaps Magneto wanted to use Metropolis as some kind of diversionary tactic. But then, why would he go to all the trouble of getting kryptonite? It was definitely a mystery that bore resolving.
In Metropolis, Superman destroyed the first of the Sentinels with his heat vision, but the other two still posed a threat. He dodged their kryptonite beams with lightning speed. The robots fired more rapidly, but they weren't able to keep up with him. He focused on their laser cannons and froze them with his breath. Then he blasted the weapons with his heat vision. Bits of plastic and metal rained down as they exploded.
The Sentinels sluggishly moved forward and launched a pair of rockets each. Superman caught each one in mid air, and then hurled them far into the sky. The rockets exploded.
"Come on," Superman said. "Surely you must realize that without kryptonite, you can't possibly hope to beat me."
The robots ignored him and let loose with plasma cannons. As searing heat tore through the air, Superman flew around the robots and blasted them with his heat vision. Finally, both of the robots exploded. Superman quickly doused the flames with his freezing breath so they wouldn't damage any nearby buildings.
Back in New York, Wolverine slashed through the nearest Sentinel with his adamantium claws. Wires dangled from the robot's leg. Meanwhile, ominous thunderclouds gathered in the sky as Storm summoned them. Most of the normal humans were running away. Frantic parents tried to find their kids, hoping that the Sentinels wouldn't target them.
Spider-Man leapt and dodged laser cannon blasts as one of the robots fired at him. Avoiding the weapons fire was his main concern. Suddenly, the automatic camera he'd webbed into one of the trees nearby went off. He'd completely forgotten about it. Well, at least he'd have a decent picture or two to bring back if he survived.
Bobby had transformed into Iceman and was hurling javelins at one of the Sentinels. Rogue was punching another. Storm's lightning bolts damaged the fourth robot. Cyclops fired crimson energy blasts at the one Spidey was fighting.
"You look like you could use a hand," Scott Summers remarked.
"Yeah, I could use a few extra hands. Never mind, forget I said that. With my luck, I'd end up with eight arms like Doc Ock or something."
Spider-Man catapulted over the laser fire and landed on the Sentinel's arm. He smashed its head with his fist. Simultaneously, Cyclops' laser fire struck its torso. The robot began to explode. Spidey jumped into the air, did a back flip, and landed in a crouch beside Cyclops.
"Thanks," he said.
"No problem," Scott replied.
A well-placed hit from one of Storm's lightning bolts blew up her opponent next. Bobby looked like he needed help. While the robot shot plasma at him, he narrowly avoided being hit by one of the bursts.
Wolverine clambered up one of his opponent's legs and punched through its torso with his claws. White hot sparks flew everywhere. The Sentinel's destruction was imminent. Logan leapt off just as the robot fell to the ground with an enormous thud. He caught sight of Scott and Spider-Man running towards him.
"Hey kid," Logan said to Spidey. "Way to go, Bub."
Surprised, Spider-Man nodded.
Iceman reached out to touch the Sentinel. In less than a minute, the robot was encased entirely in ice. Bobby ran as Storm blasted it several times with lightning. When the Sentinel detonated, chunks of ice flew everywhere. Luckily, nobody was hit.
Rogue got in one last powerful punch at her target, smashing through the protective plating that covered the robot's head. "Take that," she exclaimed. The Sentinel shorted out and blew up soon afterward.
"What about the other Sentinels?" Spider-Man asked. "We're going to have to go after them too, aren't we?"
Cyclops and Wolverine exchanged glances. Someone in the parking lot was listening to the news on the radio in his car, and had the volume turned up loudly. Now that the Sentinels had been destroyed, they could actually hear the radio.
"This just in: Word has it that various mutants, including Spider-Man, have attacked the Sentinels in Central Park. Five of them have been destroyed. The Fantastic Four and the Avengers are dealing with six of the seven remaining Sentinels. The final one is heading straight for the Daily Bugle building. We urge everyone in the vicinity, mutants and non-mutants alike, to take cover if you haven't already."
"Crap," Peter muttered. "I think this is my exit cue."
Logan nodded. "Take care of yourself, kid."
"Sure thing. And I'm not a kid."
Wolverine snorted in reply.
Peter quickly climbed up a nearby tree and retrieved his camera. Flying was the only way he'd be able to catch up to the robot now. Using his mutant powers to save the day again was what he had been hoping to avoid. If he flew fast enough, maybe everyone would mistake him for Superman.
Please, don't let me be too late, Peter thought.
J. Jonah Jameson was shouting as usual in the Daily Bugle's bullpen. He realized the potential for panic and took control of the situation. "Everyone, go down to the basement. That includes you, Brant."
Betty looked up. She was still on the phone with her mother. "I gotta go, Mom. Yes, I love you too."
She got up from her chair and grabbed her cell phone and purse, just as the Sentinel's laser blast shattered the window. Shards of glass flew everywhere. Most people nearby screamed. Spider- Man landed on the Daily Bugle's outside wall, but no one noticed.
"Hey, tin can. That's right, I'm lookin' at you. Over here!" The wall crawler waved his arms, hoping to distract it.
"Two mutant targets sighted," the robot said. "They will be destroyed."
Betty's eyes widened. "I thought Spider-Man said he wasn't a mutant in the past."
"He probably lied," Jonah answered. "Everyone who isn't in the basement in the next five minutes will be fired!"
The threat was enough to make her run.
I really hope that doesn't include me, Peter thought, slightly amused. Because I'm going to have to distract this thing long enough for everyone else to get to safety. J.J., why aren't you going with them?
"This is my ship," he answered gruffly. "I'm the captain, and I'll go down with it if I have to."
Jonah Jameson still wasn't comfortable with his telepathy. He often answered out loud when he didn't need to. It tended to really annoy people, especially when they hoped that he wasn't reading their minds.
"Okay, Pops," Spidey quipped. "I'm sure the former CEO of Enron said that, too, right before he got arrested."
That really got Jameson riled. "You wall crawling menace! Why, I ought to…" Remembering at the last moment that he couldn't fire him, Jonah resorted to glaring.
Will you take it easy? Peter thought as he dodged laser blasts with acrobatic dexterity. I'm just doing what people expect. And for crying out loud, don't just stand there! I have enough on my mind without having to worry about you getting hit by a stray shot. "You ought to what? Get a new toupee? I'm not a mind-reader, you know," he said out loud.
Realizing that Spider-Man was right, Jameson ducked under a desk as plasma fire erupted from the robot. The wall crawler yelped as plasma scorched part of his arm. Part of his costume had burned away, leaving his wounded flesh exposed. It reminded Jonah that the Sentinel's weapons were very lethal, and that he really did not want to be hit by them.
Spidey looked around for something he could use as a weapon. Well, there were power lines nearby. Perhaps they would short out the Sentinel. It would be easier to telekinetically bring them closer, but Spider-Man wasn't supposed to be able to do that. He would have to lure the Sentinel there and make it look like an accident.
Spider-Man shot a strand of webbing and zipped from the Daily Bugle's building to the skyscraper across the street. The Sentinel turned to follow, which was the reaction he had hoped for.
"Hey, over here!" Peter waved his good arm.
The Sentinel stomped after him and fired its laser cannons. Spider-Man dodged the blasts as he climbed up the wall. The robot approached slowly but steadily. Spidey perched near the power line, being extremely careful not to touch it. He concentrated with his telekinetic abilities. The power line snapped, sending a current of electricity towards him. Spider- Man leapt over the cable and landed on the wall, crouching.
Closer came the Sentinel, not registering the threat that dangled above it. Finally, when it was close enough, Spider-Man concentrated and sent the power line flying into the robot's head. Sparks flew as the electricity overloaded its circuitry. The Sentinel exploded in a brilliant inferno. Spidey catapulted himself across the street to the Daily Bugle and climbed in through the broken window.
"Woohoo," Spider-Man remarked. "Score: Spidey 2, Sentinels 0."
Jonah rolled his eyes, but his thoughts belied his concern. *That arm looks bad.*
*Hurts like hell,* Peter admitted. *But I heal fast.*
He headed to the men's room so he could change into his civvies and then went to the first aid cabinet, where he found some antiseptic and bandages. As he wrapped the bandage around his arm, Peter noticed the time. He only had ten minutes to get to the airport.
"Oh no, MJ!"
Peter ran out the door, hoping that he wouldn't be late.
Magneto was enraged when he found out that the last of the Sentinels had been destroyed.
"It was the perfect plan! I sent more than enough Sentinels to New York and Metropolis. How could they have been defeated so easily? It's almost as if the X-Men knew they were coming, but how could they have? Olsen must have warned them somehow. Damn him. I will destroy the X-Men one day!"
Magneto took off the medallion he had been wearing and angrily threw it to the ground. He crushed it with his powers.
"We must retreat before the authorities find us. If Olsen betrayed our plans, he has certainly revealed our location."
"Where are we going?" Mystique inquired.
"To the secret base in Antarctica."
Pyro chuckled. "You're lucky you have me around, then. It's going to be cold there."
"Indeed. Everyone board the jet. We'll take off as soon as possible."
About five minutes after the jet had taken off, Superman flew above the hidden base and X-rayed it. Everything was gone, except for a strange medallion that had been crushed by someone with super powers. Superman picked it up and examined it.
"Interesting. Someone at STAR Labs should see this," he mused aloud before flying off.
Mary Jane Watson-Parker gazed out her airplane window as it circled the airport. Soon, she would be in New York again and back with Peter. It seemed like she always ended up with him. Maybe they should just work out their differences and get back together. In her recent conversations with Peter on the telephone, he'd said that he had changed a lot, and not just with his new powers. He always told her that he missed her.
Maybe she was kidding herself. In this latest escapade of his, which she'd seen on the airport TV, he'd used his mutant powers to save the day without the Spider-Man costume. Was he crazy? People were going to start wondering just how heroic he was, and what other aspects of his personality he had been hiding all this time. Maybe she was just paranoid. After all, most people though that Spider-Man was a mutant already. So why would they put two and two together?
Mary Jane feared that J. Jonah Jameson would find out Peter's secret via his telepathy and plaster Spider-Man's identity all over the front page. Her life as an actress would be over. She'd need twenty-four hour protection. So would Aunt May.
Poor Aunt May. How had the elderly woman dealt with Peter flying around and fighting robots? Mary Jane hoped that she was all right. She'd always viewed Aunt May as a surrogate mother. MJ's own mother had been too weak to stand up to her father, so she had learned to fight her own battles. Spider-Man was added protection, but she didn't really need him. Or did she?
Back in Metropolis, Lois, Clark, and Jimmy met with Perry White in his office. Clark held up the crushed medallion. Perry White and Jimmy both knew his secret, so it was all right to tell them about it.
"I found this after I searched Magneto's base. Everything else was gone."
"What is it?" Lois asked.
"Magneto wore it so the Sentinels would think he was a normal human," Jimmy said. "It inhibits mutant powers somehow."
"Jimmy, you didn't hear anything about a secondary base, did you?" Clark asked.
"No. But I wouldn't be surprised if Magneto had one or two additional hideouts."
"Well, at least we still have a story," Lois said.
"Uh Chief, there is something else," Jimmy said.
"What?" Perry asked.
"You know that secret bank account you had set up as bait?"
"Yeah?" His eyes narrowed.
"We're never going to see that money again. Magneto had me transfer it to an offshore bank in the Cayman Islands."
"Do you know which account it was in?" Clark inquired.
"Yeah, but I checked just the other day, and it was gone. They must have transferred it to another bank."
Perry sighed. "Great shades of Elvis."
"It's not your fault. We set it up to get the story, and this is going to be one helluva story if I ever saw one. Jimmy, I want you to write all about what it's like to work for a terrorist scumbag like Magneto. You can leave out your secret identity."
Olsen nodded. "No problem, boss."
"Good. Lois, why don't you and Clark 'interview' Superman about fighting the Sentinels? And somebody get an interview with Peter Parker."
"The guy who fought off those two Sentinels in Central Park yesterday?" Jimmy asked.
"Yeah. People ought to know that it's not the costume that makes a super hero."
"Okay, Mr. White." He wasn't sure that Peter Parker would want to be interviewed, given his secret identity and all, but it was worth a shot.
"That's it for now," Perry said. "I want those stories ready for tomorrow's edition."
"You've got it," Lois replied.
In New York, Peter arrived at the airport with a bandaged arm. He'd flown to avoid traffic. Mary Jane's plane was due to land soon. He stood near the gate with a bouquet of roses and felt very nervous. What if she decided that she hated him? What if she regretted coming? What if MJ decided that she didn't want to stay with Aunt May because of him?
The announcement of MJ's flight distracted him. "Universal Airlines Flight 150 is now arriving at gate 10. For those going to Los Angeles, your flight is scheduled to depart on time. Please have your boarding passes ready. Thank you."
Sunlight gleamed on the wings of the 747 as it taxied down the runway. Peter waited impatiently for it to stop. Shortly thereafter, the passengers filed down the ramp. He searched their faces for Mary Jane. She was one of the last people to disembark. As their eyes met, hers lit up. MJ smiled.
"Hello, Tiger. Long time, no see." He bought me roses? I can't believe it.
Somewhat shyly, he held them out. "Hi. These are for you."
She accepted the gift. "You sure know how to make a lady feel appreciated."
"How was your flight?"
"Not bad. I missed you."
He grinned. "I missed you, too. We have a lot to catch up on."
"Yeah. We do."