Chapter 12: Uncle Ben
Peter Parker laid in his bed, looking up the ceiling. He had a lot going on in his head. The Scorpion, Jameson, and Dr. Farley Stillwell. The names crisscrossed over and over again. The Scorpion, Jameson, and Dr. Farley Stillwell. What did it all mean? He had resolved to pay Dr. Stillwell a visit at Stillwell Pharmaceuticals first thing in the morning. He wished he could have moved sooner, but his body desperately needed rest, and Dr. Stillwell wouldn’t be around until the morning.
On top of dealing with the mystery surrounding The Scorpion, he was assualted when he got home by the tag-team of his aunt and girlfriend. Gwen had apparently been so mad about Peter ditching out on her and their friends that she eventually made her way to Peter’s home to wait up for him with his Aunt May.
“Where have you been?!” Aunt May exclaimed as soon as Peter walked in the front door.
“Off taking pictures,” Gwen said, answering for Peter. “How could you just leave us like that? How could you leave without telling me that you were going?”
“I had to,” Peter said. “Jameson expects pictures of these things.” The photographer gig was the perfect cover as to why Peter was never around when Spider-Man needed to be in action, but the consequences of that double life still hurt the ones he loved. It wasn’t an easy price to pay, but it was the price he payed over and over again.
“But to run out on us and have Harry make excuses for you?” Gwen asked. “That’s low, Peter. I wouldn’t have expected that from you. Not in a million years.”
“You don’t understand,” Peter said. “The Scorpion was calling out Spider-Man and he was so close.” It was another half-lie. Another grating of Peter’s soul.
“You were hurt too!” Gwen said, spotting the same bruise that Joe Robertson spotted earlier. “We worry about you so much, Peter. Why can’t you see that?”
“What I do has to be done,” Peter said. “It just has to. I need the money for school. Books and supplies aren’t cheap.” He saw the look on his Aunt May’s face and wish he hadn’t said it. She felt guilty about their money situation ever since his Uncle Ben died.
“But you just left us all there,” Gwen said, starting to tear up. “You didn’t even say goodbye.”
“Your Uncle Ben would have been very disappointed with what you’ve done, Peter,” Aunt May said. Her own eyes were glossed over with tears. “He wouldn’t want you acting like this and not owning up to what you’ve done. He taught you better.”
Peter was stunned into silence. Gwen didn’t say anything either. She knew how much his uncle meant to Peter, and Aunt May bringing him up like that showed how mad she really was. This argument carried on for what seemed like hours. It ended with Gwen leaving in tears and Aunt May telling Peter that he’d be lucky if she was still his girl after ditching her and his other friends to put himself in danger, and he knew that she was right.
Peter wished he could tell them the truth. He wished he could tell them that he left his friends to stop The Scorpion from hurting others. He wished he could tell them he was Spider-Man, and that he dedicated his life to helping others because of the words of his Uncle Ben and his tragic death.
“It’s time to get up, Peter,” Uncle Ben said on the fateful day of the spider’s bite. “You’re going to be late for school.”
“Gosh, Uncle Ben,” a fifteen year old Peter said. “You’re worse than a room full of alarm clocks.”
Uncle Ben laughed, ruffling Peter’s hair. “Come on,” he said. “Your aunt’s making you some wheatcakes. She’s trying to fatten you up so I can’t out wrestle you any more.”
“My favorite!” Peter said, hopping out of bed. “I’ll be right down.”
The morning went on as usual. Aunt May gave Peter more food than he could handle and Uncle Ben joked and laughed with their makeshift family. A twist of fate had put the three of them together, but Peter couldn’t imagine anyone else he’d rather spend the time with.
After a normal day of being bullied and picked on at school, Peter went to the scientific exhibit on radioactivity. It was there that the spider descended from the ceiling, passing through the field of radiation, and biting Peter on his hand.
“Ow!” Peter exclaimed. “What? A spider? Why’s it glowing? Why does it burn?!” Peter ran out of the exhibit while the adults in attendance assumed it was because he had weak stomach. He found that the bite from the radioactive spider had miraculously transferred its power into him. He had super strength, agility, and the ability to climb on walls.
Once Peter was used to his newfound spider powers, he started his very short career as an amateur wrestler, using his agility and strength to best the competition. He soon redesigned his masked costume and started putting on acts of feats as well. It was after one of these shows that he made the mistake that would prove fatal for his uncle.
“Stop!” the security guards shouted. “Thief!”
Spider-Man stood aside, letting the thief pass. He caught a look at his face as he went past him. He had blonde hair and a crop of freckles across his face. He ran ahead, nearly jumping into a closing elevator. “Made it!” he exclaimed.
“What’s the matter with you?!” the security guard snapped. “All you had to do was trip the guy or hold him for a few seconds. I’ll never make it to the lobby to catch him now!”
“Not my job,” Spider-Man said. “I’m through being pushed around by anyone. From now on, I’m just looking out for me.”
“Real nice, kid,” the security guard said. “I should run you in.”
“Save your energy, pal,” Spider-Man said. “I have better things to do.”
Spider-Man crawled on the walls of the old ACME warehouse on the waterfront. The police officer that just broke the news to him that his uncle had been shot had told him where the burglar was hiding. He was apparently surrounded, but they’d have a hard time finding him in that maze of old wood and garbage. It would likely take an army to get him out of that warehouse.
Spider-Man fired a thread of webbing with a THWIP to a nearby lighting pole and swung into a window. He was quick enough to elude the police that had the place surrounded. It was dark inside, but he was able to navigate on his instincts alone. He started listening for the sounds of a man walking over the scurrying of rats and dripping of water.
“I just have to wait for the moon to go down,” a voice said from a dark corner of the warehouse. “Once it’s dark enough, I can sneak right past ’em, and I’ll be free.”
“You’ll never escape, murderer!” Spider-Man shouted.
“Who said that?!” the burglar exclaimed, turning with his gun in his hand. He looked around in the darkness. He looked up, spotting Spider-Man crawling down on the wall. “What the…?!”
“Surprised?” Spider-Man asked. The burglar turned and started to run. Spider-Man leapt from the wall, blocking the burglar’s path. “Not half as surprised as you’re going to be.”
The burglar swung with his gun, trying to pistol-whip Spider-Man, but he knew of the danger before it was there, and he moved his head. The gun found nothing but air. “You’re going to have to do better, sunshine,” Spider-Man said.
The burglar aimed his gun at Spider-Man, thumbing back the hammer. Spider-Man fired a line of webbing, covering the gun and the burglar’s hand before he could pull the trigger. The burglar’s hand was frozen in its cocoon, unable to put an end to his target.
“Stay away from me!” the burglar said, stepping backwards and falling over. “Keep away!” He got up, still backing away from Spider-Man.
“There’s no place on the earth you can hide from me,” Spider-Man said, punching the burglar in the face. “Not after what you did you my uncle.” Spider-Man approached the form of the burglar laying on the ground. “GET UP!” he shouted, picking him up by the lapel of his dirty, brown coat.
The burglar’s hat fell off as Spider-Man picked up his unconscious body. The blonde hair. The freckles across his nose and under his eyes were all too familiar. “That face!” Spider-Man said. “It can’t be!” It was the very same burglar he had let slip past him only days before.
Peter was stunned. He leaned against a wall and let himself fall to the floor. His uncle would still be alive if he had helped stop that robber, and all he had to do was extend a foot to trip him up. “It’s all my fault,” he said. He vowed from that day on that he would use the power given to him by fate for good. He lowered the the burglar to the police with a strand of webbing and went off into the night.
Uncle Ben had always been the voice of chivalry and good. He had even gone as far as almost fighting a bully that chased Peter home from school. Aunt May would often talk about how Ben was in high school since they were sweethearts. Ben looked out for his brainy little brother, Richard, and would likely slug any of the bullies that would try and pick on him or any of his friends. He wore every bruise like a badge of honor while he fought the good fight.
That’s why it hurt so bad when Aunt May said that Uncle Ben wouldn’t approve of what he was doing. He donned the mask of Spider-Man to use his power to help innocents, and he knew it was what his uncle would have wanted him to do with his power. Sometimes Peter wondered if Aunt May knew that he was Spider-Man she would approve of what he was doing. He wondered if Gwen would understand why he had to run off the way he did and the way he will in the future.
Peter got up from his bed. He walked to his small desk where he had the magazine he took from Jameson’s office still open. The sun was peeking over the horizon, which meant that he had fallen asleep for a few hours while thinking about his uncle Ben and trying put the pieces of his latest foe together.
A piece of the answer was somewhere in the magazine article about Dr. Stillwell. Peter read it three times before brooding on his long day. Dr. Stillwell’s forte was the splicing of animal DNA. It was incredibly similar to what Dr. Curt Connors was doing when he injected himself with lizard DNA to regrow a lost arm. The rest of his body mutated, and he became The Lizard. There was a possibility that whoever The Scorpion was succumbed to a similar fate.
Peter became frustrated, hurling the magazine across his bedroom. “I won’t let you hurt anyone else, Scorpion,” he said. It didn’t matter how he came into being or how deep Jameson’s involvement went. The only thing that mattered is that The Scorpion needed to be stopped, and Farley Stillwell might have the only key to stop him.
No longer waiting for morning to be completely upon him, Peter put on his Spider-Man costume and snuck out his window. He headed in the direction of Stillwell Pharmaceuticals.
The Scorpion woke up on the floor of Mac Gargan’s office. He clutched his gut. The Scorpion suit absorbed the blast from the rifle, but he still felt it under the rubber and wire mesh armor. The pain had lessened now that he slept it off, but his abdomen was still sore. He supposed it was The Scorpion DNA at work.
He walked through towards the door trying to put the pieces together of the night before. He defeated Spider-Man twice, but he failed to kill Jameson.
“Jameson,” The Scorpion said, sneering. “Spider-Man won’t always be there to save you.”
The Scorpion walked towards the front door when something on the floor caught his eye. He picked up an envelope and opened it with a claw. He pulled the letter inside out and read it in the dark.
“MacDonald,” the note read. “This has gone on long enough. Jameson and I want to help you. Return to where this all began and we can undo the damage. Please come quickly. It will soon be too late. You can still be saved.
-Dr. Farely Stillwell.”
“You think you can end this?” The Scorpion said, crumpling the letter in his hand. “I’ll end you and Jameson, Stillwell. I will be the end you all.”
The Scorpion wrapped his tail abound his abdomen and put Gargan’s large black trench coat around his shoulders. It was time to pay Stillwell one last visit.