Chapter 5: Aunt May
“It’s just a small injection,” Dr. Stillwell said. Mac Gargan had been conditioned and prepared for this part of The Scorpion Project. The injection of Stillwell’s ‘cocktail’ would begin Gargan’s infusion with the DNA of a scorpion. The infusion wouldn’t be permanent, but it would be enough to get Gargan used to the strength he would soon require if he was going to keep this up full time until Spider-Man was brought to justice.
“Just do it,” Gargan said, grasping the two metal rods positioned above him. He felt as if he were on some kind of jungle gym. “Jameson won’t pay until the job is done.”
“That he won’t,” Dr. Stillwell said, swabbing Gargan’s neck with a piece of cotton. “Cheers.” He pushed the plunger of his syringe, releasing the drugs into Gargan’s jugular.
“When should I start to feel different, doc?” Gargan asked.
“Soon,” Dr. Stillwell said, turning a knob near his work station. A thrumming went on behind Mac as the small doses of radiation coursed through his body. Stillwell said it was necessary to begin the bonding process of the scorpion’s DNA. Mac expressed worry about the radiation, but Stillwell was able to ensure him that it was low levels. It wasn’t enough to do any kind of cellular damage.
“Give it a minute and you should start to feel the change as your cells begin to mutate,” Dr. Stillwell said.
Mac climbed down from the apparatus as the thrumming stopped. He looked at fist as he opened and closed it. “I can feel it,” he said. He started to laugh. “This must be how Spider-Man feels all the time. I feel like I can knock down a skyscraper.”
“Not so fast,” Dr. Stillwell said. “I still need to run some tests.”
“Run your tests,” Gargan said. “But be quick about it. I’m itching to get out of here. There’s a spider that needs squashing.”
“So you’re the Gwen I’ve heard so much about,” Aunt May said, kissing Gwen hello. “Peter has told me so much about you.”
“Don’t act as if this the first time you’ve spoken,” Peter said. “I know you’ve both been setting me up for weeks.”
“Whatever are you talking about, Peter?” Gwen said, with a wink to May. “This is the first time your aunt and I have met you know.”
“You know what I’m talking about,” Peter replied. “You and Aunt May conspiring against me.”
“Oh, Come off it,” May said. “If I didn’t insist on having her over, I may have never met Gwen in person.”
“I would have brought her over for dinner,” Peter said. “Eventually.”
“Well she’s here now,” May said, smiling warmly. “And that’s what matters. I made a lovely roast for dinner. Why don’t you help me in the kitchen Gwen. Peter, you can set the table for us.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Peter said, walking towards the dining room. Gwen had made her way into the kitchen.
“Peter,” May said, getting closer to her nephew while Gwen busied herself in the kitchen. “She’s very pretty. Don’t let this one get away.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Peter replied.
“I want to hear more about Peter as a kid,” Gwen said. The dinner was served, and the three sat around the table talking and laughing.
“He was always such a smart boy,” May said. “He took after his father. Of course, Peter didn’t really come out of his shell until he was just about done with high school.”
“Aunt May,” Peter said, embarrassed. “Gwen doesn’t want to hear about how I used to be a wallflower.”
“Oh hush,” Aunt May said. “I remember your Uncle Ben used to say…” She stopped talking when the thought of her deceased husband flooded her mind. Her fingers moved to her trembling lip. “Oh my,” she said. “I’m so sorry. I seemed to have lost my train of thought.”
Gwen didn’t know what to say, but Peter knew his Aunt well. The two of them had both lived with the grief of Ben Parker’s death. “You were talking about how I never went out when I was in high school,” Peter said.
“Oh yes,” Aunt May said. “You’d stay up in your room, fiddling with this or that. I remember when we bought you your first chemistry set.”
“You thought I was going to blow the house up,” Peter said.
“You nearly did!” Aunt May said. “You should have seen it, Gwen. We hear this loud popping noise, and we go upstairs to find Peter with all of this gray goop hanging from the walls and ceiling. It took him all night to clean it up.”
Gwen laughed as Peter reflected. He didn’t want to admit that the incident she was referring to was an early test of the web shooters he eventually used as Spider-Man. Aunt May was the one he worried about the most when it came to his dual identity. He didn’t know what he’d do if she found out. Then he thought about Gwen. As the two grew closer, it became harder and harder to keep secrets.
“I wondered what Peter did with his spare time,” Gwen said. “I’m sure he’s out to invent something amazing.”
“That’s my boy,” Aunt May said. “I’m sure he’ll do something that will help a lot people. That’s what Ben would have wanted. It’s like he always said: With great power comes great responsibility.”
“Those are words to live by,” Peter said, smiling at Gwen.
“Enough of this,” Mac said, tossing the barbell to the ground with a loud clang. “Get me the suit.”
“I don’t know if you’re ready for the suit,” Dr. Stillwell said. He was scribbling something down on the chart he was working on. He had Mac going through various feats of strength and agility to test his boundaries. So far, he was surpassing expectations.
“I don’t think Jameson wants me resting on my laurels,” Mac said. “I can jump through hoops, run on treadmills, and lift weights until my arms fall off. At the end of the day, Jameson wants his Scorpion.”
Dr. Stillwell sighed. He knew what Gargan was doing, but he had a point. If Jameson knew he was holding back on getting Gargan in the suit, he would blow his stack. As apprehensive as Stillwell was about moving onto the next step, Jameson was impatient. He still needed Jameson’s funding, and the only way to get it was to show him results.
“You’ve done spectacularly with the tests so far,” Stillwell said, arbitrarily flipping through his notes. “You’ve shown the proportionate strength, agility, and speed of a scorpion. All you need is the tail.”
Gargan smiled a smile that chilled Dr. Stillwell to the spine. “Now you’re talking, doc.”
Peter and Gwen were on dishes duty while Aunt May prepared dessert. She busied herself icing a strawberry cake in the other room while she let the young couple wash, dry, and talk amongst themselves.
“Your aunt is really nice,” Gwen whispered. “Why were you keeping her from me?”
Peter didn’t have an answer. His life of Spider-Man prevented him to do a lot. Even balancing a relationship with a girl like Gwen (who had shown a lot of patience for Peter’s absences) seemed like an impossible feat. Having the two in the same room at the same time with the thoughts of Spider-Man ticking around in his head seemed like a chemical mixture he didn’t want to test. He was glad that he was wrong about it.
“I’m glad you came tonight, Gwendy,” Peter said, sneaking a kiss when he was sure his aunt couldn’t see (he wondered if his spider sense would have told him otherwise).
“Of course you are,” Gwen said, putting the last dish on the rack and holding Peter’s hand. They smiled at each other as Aunt May called from the other room.
“Dessert is ready!” she nearly sang. “Gwen, would you be a dear and bring in some plates and forks.”
“Sure thing, Mrs. Parker,” Gwen said.
“Please,” Aunt May said. “Call me May.”
Peter watched Gwen head back into the dining room with three plates and forks. He hoped everyone was having a night like he was.
“It fits like a glove,” Mac said, now in the Scorpion suit. His hands felt powerful in the gloves, specifically made for his hands. If Stillwell was right, then his hands would grip like a vice, crushing anything he caught in them. The hood felt snug over his head, but he relished the feel of it. Only his eyes and mouth were visible. He had the appearance of a greet and black-striped creature.
“How does it feel?” Dr. Stillwell asked. “Can you move around?”
“It’s light,” Mac said. “It feels like my own skin.”
“That’s the mesh’s main function,” Dr. Stillwell said. “Maximum protection while being light enough to still move about with your newfound agility and speed. Can you feel the tail?”
Mac looked behind him, at the seven-foot long tail he was dragging along the ground. “How do I get this thing to work?” he asked. The process of hooking the needles through his skin and into his spine was painful, and he had hoped it would have been worth it.
“It’s part of you now,” Dr. Stillwell said. “You have the scorpion’s DNA, its very essence, flowing through your veins. You can use it as you use your own arms.”
Mac looked as if he were trying to think his way through calculus. “I… Can’t… Find… It.”
“You’re trying too hard,” Dr. Stillwell said. “Do what comes naturally. Use your instinct.”
Mac relaxed his body. He was no stranger to instinct. His instinct is what, as a private detective, had gotten out of trouble and possibly saved his life a hundred times over. He closed his eyes and imagined the tail moving into the air. To his surprise, it finally felt lighter.
“You’re doing it,” Dr. Stillwell breathed.
Mac opened his eyes and turned his head to see that the tail of the suit was actually off the ground. The tip was poised above his head like the scorpion’s natural state. He smiled. “What do you have that I can try this out on?”
“I’ve had some sandbags hung,” Dr. Stillwell said. “They’re sturdy, so you shouldn’t destroy them unless you use the blade.”
“The blade?” Mac asked. Just by thinking it, a long blade sprang from the bottom of the tail’s tip, ready to skewer. The tail lowered past Mac’s head so he could examine it. “Excellent.”
Dr. Stillwell took a step back. He was impressed that Gargan had taken to the suit so quickly, but horrified by the savage look on his face. He prayed again that he made the right decision.
Spider-Man swung through the skies of New York City. He took Gwen home using the subway, and walked her right up to her building’s front door, but he had no intention of taking the long way home. Not on a such a perfect night for web slinging. A web fired from his shooter with a THWIP, and he swung from the building, feeling the night air whip against his body.
He was so happy that Aunt May was getting along so well with Gwen. He didn’t know what Aunt May would do, seeing as she had spent a good amount of her time trying to set him up with her friend’s daughter, Mary Jane Watson. She had aspirations to do some modeling work or acting, but Mary Jane always seemed more interested in his friends Flash Thomson or Harry Osborn anyway. She didn’t seem to be too much into the bookish Peter Parker. Even if Aunt May thought they were a fit, he knew that Gwen was the best choice for him.
Things were going so well with Gwen too, but he still feared the moment when he’d either have to tell her the truth or let her go. There’d never not be a Spider-Man, and nobody knew this better than Peter Benjamin Parker. One day, Gwen would have to choose to live the life of a super hero’s girl, or go her separate way… If Peter let her make that decision.
Peter knew that he’d have to be the one to do the choosing. He’d have to decide whether or not putting Gwen’s life in danger would be worth having her in his life, because he knew that Gwen would chose him, Spider-Man or no Spider-Man.
Spider-Man heard a woman’s scream from far below him, and made a quick descent towards the street. At least fighting a few muggers or rapists would help clear his head of his dilemma with his girlfriend.
“Good evening,” Spider-Man said, hanging upside-down from a streetlight. “I guess it’s time for my nightly workout.”
Jameson was working late in his office when his phone started ringing. His private phone didn’t ring unless it was something important. Betty and Robbie were gone, giving Jonah his privacy. “Jameson,” he said into the receiver.
“Jonah,” Dr. Stillwell’s voice said on the other end. “I just finished with Gargan. He’s had the serum and he’s tried on the suit.”
“How’d he do?” Jameson asked.
“Incredible,” Dr. Stillwell said. “Better than we had hoped.”
“Any issues?” Jameson asked.
“I’m not sure about Gargan’s mental state,” Dr. Stillwell said. “He nearly ordered me to get the suit for him. After that, he destroyed every piece of training equipment put in front of him. We should really do an in-depth psyche evaluation before giving him another dose of the serum just to be on the safe side.”
“Nonsense,” Jameson said. “He’s just a little enthusiastic. I like that in people in my employ.”
“I really think you need to reconsider moving forward, Jonah,” Dr. Stillwell said.
“This will work out just fine,” Jameson said, lighting a cigar. “Besides, I think it’s time for Mr. Gargan to start doing some field work.”