Cold Fire

By Cybercerpent <cybercerpent@hotmail.com>

Rated PG-13

Submitted July 1999

Summary: An action-based story with "guest appearances" from a familiar superhero, Spiderman, and a couple of probably-familiar villains too. Peter Parker and Jimmy Olsen team up to solve a mystery in Metropolis, with an able assist from Lois, Clark, and of course, the big guy in the blue suit.

Welcome to my second fanfic. For anyone who had read the first one, this has a slightly different feel to it: More action, less romance and more jokes about Saturday morning cartoon shows. But there you go.

Thanks go to my editors: Belinda, in charge of grammar and spelling; James, in charge of technical and scientific problems; and Andy, in charge of plot and character development. Also special thanks to Tanya and Carol who emailed me with response to my first story; and my sister, for constant harassment!

For anyone who is into Spiderman, I tried to keep it close to what happens in the real cartoon, but there are some errors. Just consider it a parallel dimension! :) For anyone unfamiliar with Spiderman, here's a rundown of the important facts. Peter Parker, (Spiderman) is in love with Mary Jane. She has just broken off engagement with Peter's (ex) best friend Harry Osborne, who feels that Peter has stolen Mary Jane away from him. Harry's father is Norman Osborne, a scientist who runs chemical giant Oscorp. He also knows that Peter Parker is Spiderman. New York's answer to Lex Luthor is a man named Wilson Fisk, otherwise known as the Kingpin. For anyone unfamiliar with Superman: what are you doing on this site? ,)

***

Peter Parker settled down in the chair and waited for the lecture to begin. The room was pleasantly warm, and he felt more relaxed than he had in days. Life seemed to finally be getting back on track; for the first time things seemed to be going his way. Things had been as a quiet as New York ever got, and he was beginning to think he would forget how to wall-crawl if they carried on this way.

Not that that would be a bad thing, he decided. Most importantly, he was finally back with Mary Jane. Losing her had hurt more that any wound inflicted by any mutant villain.

He was currently waiting the start of a lecture by Dr. Robert Morley. He was a world famous expert in the field of biochemistry, especially in the area of bio-regeneration. Peter looked across at Kurt Conners, knowing this would be of special interest to his friend. Conners had once dabbled in bio-regeneration, with disastrous results. Fortunately for both of them, that was all in the past. Nobody wanted a return of the Lizard man.

"Where is he?" he wondered out loud, looking at the empty podium.

"Men are so impatient," Deborah Whitman complained with a sigh. "This is clearly a professional ploy to make us appreciate the lecture more." "I guess," Peter replied, but he was beginning to feel nervous. It's this super-hero business, he told himself, it's making you paranoid. Still, better safe than sorry. "I'm going to go and get a drink, do you want anything?"

"You'll miss the start," she warned.

"I'll be back soon," he promised, and hurried out of the theatre. Once out of sight, he found a dark corner and changed into his costume and scuttled onto the ceiling. He found this the best way to travel by far: you could pass right over people's heads without them even noticing you. Beginning to feel that he would never have an uninterrupted evening, he set off to find Dr. Morley.

He found a lift and headed down on a whim. Trouble, like damp, seemed to accumulate at the bottom of a building and spread out from there.

Stepping out of the lift he was greeted by a burst of spider sense. Ducking behind a crate he watched as a man walked past carrying a box of equipment. Looks like someone was clearing out in a hurry, he thought. There was a voice giving orders up ahead, and he recognised it immediately. That's Doc Oc! No wonder my spider sense was going nuts! What's he doing here?

Silently, he climbed up the wall to get a better look. From his vantage point, he could see there was a group of men systematically emptying the lab of its equipment and glassware.

"Six arms not enough for you these days, Octavius?" he inquired loudly.

"You've got to hire out all these extra hands?"

All activity stopped. One of the men pointed and cried, "It's Spiderman!"

"Give that man a cigar," Spiderman commented dryly, nimbly dodging the barrage of glassware that was thrown at him.

Octavius groaned, and picked up one of the men at random.

"Do you know how much that stuff costs?" He demanded, shaking him violently. Disgusted, he threw the man away like a rag doll and addressed the rest of the group.

"Carry on, I'll deal with the arachnid."

He launched a tentacle at Spiderman, who leapt over it nimbly and landed behind him.

"You're going to have to do better than that if you want to catch me," he chided.

"Meddlesome spider! Why must you always interfere?"

"Now, now, name calling isn't going to get us anywhere," Spiderman teased, shooting a web at the flying metal tentacles. Doc Oc burst it easily.

"I m going to crush you like a bug!" He roared.

Spiderman dodged his attack and landed on the wall. "Where's Dr. Morley?"

This question made Octavius smile. "In there, so to speak." He pointed to a side room. Spiderman followed his directions and entered the room. The lock had been forced off the door, and the walls were covered in blood. There was a body lying in the centre, charred and beaten.

"You killed him," Spiderman murmured in horrified disbelief. It was the last thought he had before the tentacles knocked him into unconsciousness.

***

Peter knocked on the door, which was opened almost immediately by a stern looking woman whose iron grey hair was pulled into a severe knot.

"Hi, Mrs. Watson. Is Mary-Jane there please?"

The woman sniffed, expressing her opinion that Peter ranked somewhere below cockroaches in her view of things. "Mary Jane! The Parker kid is here!"

There was a rumble of footsteps as Mary-Jane hurried past her aunt and into his arms. Peter hugged her back then led her away from the house. Behind them, Anna Watson sniffed again, before closing the door.

"We have to talk, MJ," Peter said as they walked down the road.

"What's up Tiger," she asked, putting her arm round him. "Oh, you're tense. Jamerson been giving you a hard time?"

"I'm leaving New York for a while," he confessed. Mary Jane stopped, an expression of dismay spreading across her face like a cloud across a summer's sky.

"But why? I mean, we've only just got back together and you're running off already."

"I'm not running away," he protested. "There's a conference in Metropolis, where some of the greatest minds in the country will be speaking. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The actual conference only lasts a week, but the only way Jamerson will give me the time off is if I take part in this exchange programme. That means I'll have to stay a month."

Mary Jane nodded, and he saw she had bought his story. It was not completely untruthful, either. Everything had been correct apart from the exchange programme. That had been his idea. He knew he would need access to the resources of a large metropolitan newspaper like the Planet if he was to get the bottom of this. It hurt to lie to her, but the line 'I'm going up there to kick some mutant butt because I'm Spiderman' was a real relationship killer.

"Maybe I could come with you? It could be romantic, alone in a strange city together."

He had not been expecting that. "Um, wouldn't you get bored? I know science isn't really your thing, and I'll be pretty busy."

She put her finger to his lips. "You're going to have to try harder than that to fool me Tiger. There's something important happening at this conference, isn't there? Something dangerous? That's why you want me to stay away." Peter nodded miserably. "That's sweet, trying to protect me, but if you want this relationship to go anywhere, you've got to learn I'm not the sort of girl who just takes a back seat." She looked at the dismay in his face and laughed. "It's okay, I wouldn't be able to come with you anyway, not for at least another week. I've got an important photo shoot. By the time it's finished, you will have sorted out the problem at the conference and I can join you then."

"I'd like that."

She looked round and saw the curtain of her house twitch. "I'd better go, Aunt Anna will think I've been abducted! And Tiger? Be careful, won't you?"

"I promise." He watched her go, then produced a copy of the Daily Planet he had bought earlier. I'm going to at least have to contact Superman, he decided. And I'm guessing that whoever he is, he's connected to the Planet. It seems that my counter part is one Jimmy Olsen, so I'll start with him. He knew that this was a long shot. Just because he was a photographer and a superhero, did not mean that Olsen was too, but on the other hand, what else did he have to go on?

***

"Did you find that file, Jimmy?" Lois asked. Her friend turned around guiltily.

"Lois, I didn't see you there."

"No, you were pretty engrossed in that computer. What are you looking at?"

"Nothing," he muttered, reaching out to shut it down, but she snatched the mouse away from his hand. The screen was filled with pictures of young tanned women, wearing the least amount of clothing they could tastefully get away with. A rippling title proclaimed them to be Cyber-chicks.

"What are you doing looking at this?" She demanded. "You don't need a virtual girlfriend."

"It's just easier this way," he admitted. "I haven't had a decent relationship in months, and I'm beginning to think I'm going to die alone."

"That's ridiculous! You're not going to die alone, Jimmy, you've just been unlucky."

"You reckon?" He asked hopefully. "Will I ever have what you and CK have?"

"Of course, you've just got find the right woman. And don't worry if she doesn't turn up straight away, just have a little patience. You're still young."

Jimmy nodded. "Thanks Lois. You're right. After all, I am almost ten years younger than you, and you've only just found Clark."

"Jimmy, there's some guy looking for you, he's over by the soda machine," someone commented as they walked past.

Jimmy hurried off, leaving Lois standing alone, and feeling much older than when she had woken up this morning.

Jimmy found Peter where he had been told, trying to get a can of coke from the machine. He clearly was not having much luck.

"You might as well give up," he commented, making Peter spin round nervously. "That thing's got an evil spirit in it. It takes your money then says 'have a nice day!'"

Peter gave the machine one last mighty kick. It groaned once, then spat out two cans. He handed one to Jimmy. "You just have to know how to hit them," he explained. *Although having spider strength helps.*

"I'm Peter Parker."

"Jimmy Olsen."

Peter looked surprised. "You're Jimmy Olsen?"

"Yeah, at least, I was five minutes ago. I wasn't aware I'd changed."

"Sorry. I'm the exchange, from New York. I was told you'd show me round."

"Sure. Have you met the chief yet?"

"Mr White? Yeah, he seems okay, better than my boss."

"He's all right on a good day. But on a bad day…"

He was cut off by the sound of Perry White shouting his name across the news room. Jimmy smiled apologetically. "Welcome to the mad house."

"It feels like home already," Peter replied.

***

Peter looked around the room again, at the various guests dressed in every possible shade of black, and sighed. They were here to cover the opening ceremony of the conference and so far the evening had gone smoothly. He felt frustrated, waiting for something to happen, but not knowing what it was. I suppose I should be grateful it's this quiet, he thought, but decided he would take an attack by the Insidious Six over waiting any day.

Jimmy walked over, holding a canap╚.

"Why do they make these things so small? You'd need thousands to make a decent meal."

"I don't think they're supposed to make a decent meal. They're just part of the decoration."

"I guess," he shrugged and ate it. "Anyway, what's up with you? You look like a man expecting a visit from his mother in law."

"I'm okay, I don't really like these black tie affairs, that's all."

"Tell me about it, I feel like a penguin."

"Peter!"

He looked round at the sound of his name and groaned. *This is the last thing I need.* "Hello Harry. What are you doing here?"

"I came up with my father. He warned me to stay away from you, but I just had to come and say hello to your new friend."

"Uh, sure. Harry Osborne, this is Jimmy Olsen."

Jimmy held out his hand, but Harry ignored it. "Do you have a girlfriend?" he inquired.

"Er, not right now," Jimmy replied in confusion.

"No, me neither," he agreed coldly. "That's what comes of being friends with Peter Parker." And he walked off.

"What was all that about?" Jimmy demanded.

"Oh, it's a long and boring story," Peter sighed.

"Yeah? I'm interested already."

"What do you know about Superman?" Peter asked, changing the subject.

"As much as anyone else I guess. He's a big blue alien from Krypton who flies around rescuing people. Whether that's his job, or just a hobby, I don't know."

"What if I wanted to talk to him? How do I contact him?"

"Find the tallest building in the city and jump," Jimmy replied with a grin. "Or talk to Clark Kent. He knows Superman better that anyone else."

***

"I wonder what Peter Parker wants with Superman?" Clark wondered out loud.

He and Lois were standing some distance away from the two photographers, but this did not stop him catching his name being mentioned.

"Hmm?" Lois asked, drawn out of deep thought.

"I overheard him talking to Jimmy."

"You mean you were eavesdropping," she chided. "And I thought I was the suspicious one."

"I didn't mean to, it's just hard when you have super-hearing. As for Parker, I don't know, there's something about him that doesn't sit right."

"I was wrong: you're not getting suspicious, you're getting paranoid! Anyway, he seems to be getting on all right with Jimmy."

"Yes, but Jimmy gets on with everyone." He looked at her. "What's wrong Lois?"

She looked startled. "What? Nothing's wrong."

"Don't try and hide it. I love you, and know when you're upset. Come on, we're going to be married soon, we can't keep anything from each other now."

"It's nothing, really. I was just feeling old."

"Feeling old?" Clark asked in astonishment. "What brought that on?"

She related her conversation with Jimmy from earlier that day. "And ever since, I've felt as if my life has been slipping away. I feel I'll wake up tomorrow with grey hairs."

"Well, you will if you keep worrying like this," Clark teased. "And even if you do, what difference does that make? Being old doesn't change who you are. Look at Perry: he proved hitting fifty doesn't have to stop you doing what you want."

"Are you suggesting I bungee-jump off a bridge?" She asked with a smile.

"Well, that's probably a little drastic, but maybe we could go flying or something. I love you now Lois, I'll love you when you're fifty, and when you're a hundred and fifty. I love who you are, and that will never change, no matter how old you get."

The door to the hall flew open with a bang. Silence immediately fell on the room as everyone turned to see what had happened. There was a man standing in the doorway, a man whose very face was contorted with rage. He cast his glowering eyes around the room, before reaching into his pocket and producing a gun. Several women screamed, in fact some of the men seemed to be on the verge of doing the same thing.

Lois looked around for Clark, but he had already left. She smiled to herself. Whoever this man was, and whatever he wanted, he was not going to be shooting anyone.

Not if her fianc╚ had anything to say about it. She saw him land behind the gunman.

"That's far enough," Superman called. "Put the gun down."

The man spun round. "You can't stop me!" he growled.

"I will have my revenge!" He fired a couple of shots into the room. People began to dive for cover. The man grabbed one woman, who, in her panic, had run too close.

"Don't move, or I'll blow her brains out!"

Superman stopped, helpless. As fast he was, not even he could stop a bullet two millimetres away from a person's skull. "Listen, we can talk about this," he protested.

The man laughed, but his laughter was cut short as he watched his gun snatched out of his hands by a sticky white thread. Everyone in the room looked up to see Spiderman sat on the ceiling, holding the weapon.

"Didn't your mother ever tell you not to play with guns?" he asked cheerfully.

The ex-gunman pushed the woman away and leapt up at him, shrieking and waiving his fists. Spiderman shot him with webbing, leaving a neatly trussed up cocoon writhing on the floor. "All yours, Flyboy."

"Thanks," Superman replied, feeling slightly bemused.

"Don't mention it," he returned, and disappeared out of the window.

Around the room, people began to pick themselves up. The level of conversation had risen tenfold as people discussed the events that had just occurred. Clark emerged from a side door, straightening his tie. Over by the food tables, Jimmy searched for Peter, who had inexplicably disappeared. In one corner two men came out from under the table where they had been sheltering. One was tall and gaunt, with a lined face that made him look much older than he actually was. The other was also tall, but far wider than any man should be.

"An experiment of yours, I presume, Osborne?" The fat man inquired.

"Yes, one that worked perfectly. Tell me, was I mistaken, or was that Spiderman back there?"

"No mistake, unfortunately. What is that miserable wall-crawler doing here? Does he follow me around? I have very important business to take care of here. I do not want Spiderman interfering."

"I believe I can help you there, Fisk," Osborne replied smugly.

"Name your price."

"No price. Eradicating Spiderman will be my pleasure. I even believe I can get rid of Superman in the bargain. However, I do need some minor items."

"I'm listening," Fisk said quietly.

Jimmy walked out of the hall and into the parking lot.

The air out here was cool and crisp, compared to the stuffy warmth of inside. He strolled towards his car, but a nearby movement distracted him.

"Peter! There you are! Where'd you go?" he demanded.

"I, er went to call the cops," he replied quickly. "I was just leaving, actually."

"Where to?"

"Home," Peter responded firmly.

"You've just reloaded your camera. Is the hotel really that exciting?"

"I'm just being prepared. But you're not going to buy that, are you?" he sighed.

Jimmy shook his head. "You know something about that man, don't you? That's why you were so nervous, you knew something was going to happen."

"I didn't think it would happen like that, but I was expecting something to go wrong. You're not going to let this go, are you? So I guess I'd better tell you what I know. A few days ago, a famous scientist, Dr. Morley was murdered in New York. I saw his body. Yet, I saw him alive the next day. He was preparing to come to this conference. There's something fishy going on here, Jimmy. Dead men don't tell tales, and they certainly don't give science lectures!"

"So, where were you planning on going now?"

"I thought I'd see what the gunman knew."

"I think we can do better than that. I happen to know that Dr. Morley has a second home, right here in Metropolis. Why don't we check it out?"

"We? I don't know about that. I'm kind of used to working on my own."

"Yes, but you don't know the address. So I guess you're stuck with me."

***

"Pull up here."

Peter stopped the car outside an imposing house surrounded by a tall wall. The iron gates were firmly locked, suggesting that if anyone was inside, they were not in the mood for visitors. The house itself stood some distance from the wall, leaving them with a wide expanse of lawn to cross.

"There are bound to be dogs," Peter warned, trying without success to deter Jimmy. "Huge, savage Dobermans, fed on a diet of human flesh."

"Don't be such a wimp. You're not a chicken, are you?"

*No, I'm a spider,* Peter thought miserably, *and that's just as bad.* "No, but let's get this over with quickly."

"Right then. Help me over this wall."

Between the two of them, they managed to scale the eight foot wall. Of course, Peter could have just walked up it, but that wasn't the sort of secret you wanted to reveal to someone you had only just met. *What am I doing here?* he asked himself.

*I don't know this guy, don't know how far I can trust him. And even if I can, I'm just going to get him killed, bringing him into situations like this. What if Doc Oc is there? Jimmy doesn't stand a chance.*

"Are you coming?" Jimmy's impatient voice drifted up. He dropped lightly onto the ground beside him and looked around. They were facing the side wall of the house, a dominating slab of brick, embedded with dark windows. Dark closed windows.

There was a little wooden door, but this too was resolutely locked.

"Go 'round that way," Peter directed. "See if you can find an open window."

Jimmy did so, and when he had disappeared, Peter climbed stealthily up the wall. He had noticed one of the third floor windows was not quite shut. He eased it open and slipped inside. He stood in the room, expecting a blast of spider sense. But there was nothing. As his eyes became accustomed to the gloom, he could see he was standing in a little storeroom, cluttered with junk.

He could hear no sound other than his own breathing, which suddenly seemed very loud. Amazingly, the house seemed empty.

Cautiously, he pushed open the door and moved out onto the landing. The faded floral carpet stretched out either side of him, and in front was a set of steps, leading down to the ground floor. To save time, he ignored the steps and lowered himself down on a web-line. He found the little door easily: It was not locked, but merely bolted. He pushed it open and found Jimmy.

"Where did you go?"

"I found a window."

"Where? They all looked shut."

"That doesn't matter," Peter hissed. "Come on."

They re-entered the house and headed off into its depths. "What are we looking for?" Jimmy inquired.

"I'm not sure, anything that looks out of place."

"Ah, one of those," he said knowledgeably. He had been in this situation several times.

By now, they had reached the main hall. Stuffed animals stared down with glassy eyes, as if still resenting their decapitation. *I bet that bear feels out of place,* Jimmy thought.

There were three doors ahead of them.

"Split up?" Peter suggested.

"Are you kidding?" Jimmy retorted in alarm. "I, mean, er, shouldn't I stick with you, because I'm bigger. I could protect you."

*I doubt that,* Peter thought, but nodded. "I'm pretty sure the house is empty, but it's better to be safe than sorry."

They chose a door at random and pushed it open. The stepped through into what appeared to be a study. Shelves of books dominated the walls, while photographs paraded across the mantelpiece of a huge fireplace.

"That's Dr. Morley," Peter commented, picking one up.

Jimmy picked open the lock on the desk and began to rifle through the papers. "There's not much in here. Just old bills, a couple of letters, and something hard.

ýIt won't come out." He pulled the draw open farther. "Oh, it's a button."

"That's probably an alarm."

"Or a secret passage," Jimmy suggested.

"Oh be serious. This is reality, not a Saturday morning cartoon show."

"Only one way to find out." He pushed it. There was a grinding sound and one of the book cases slid aside. "See, I told you so," Jimmy grinned. "There's always a secret passage."

*That's the problem with criminals,* Peter thought, *they're always so unimaginative.* He followed Jimmy into the passage. It was cold and dark, and seemed to be sloping downwards. Eventually, they reached another door. Jimmy pushed it open and stepped out into the room. It was some sort of laboratory.

"Well, I wasn't expecting that!" Peter commented sarcastically.

"What is this place?"

"It's your typical villain's secret underground laboratory," Peter replied.

"It's compulsory, along with the torture chamber and the wall safe stuffed full of dollar bills. What did you do with your Saturday mornings?"

Jimmy ignored his acrimony and hurried over to a terminal. "Let's see what's on the computer." He began to type furiously, and within a few minutes, had got into the locked out files.

"I'm impressed," he commented.

"This is how I spent my Saturdays," Jimmy replied with a grin. His face fell. "It's all in code. It could take ages to crack this."

Peter handed him a disk. "Download it. We can look at it back at the Planet."

Jimmy complied. "Now, let's see what else is in here."

Peter turned round, and was greeted by a wave of spider sense.

"Jimmy! Duck!" A metal tentacle sailed over their heads. *Doc Oc, I wondered when he'd show up again,* Peter thought. *And there's Scorpion as well. This is turning out to be a real party.* Quickly, he slipped into a corner and changed into his costume.

Scorpion wrapped his tail around Jimmy's waist and lifted the struggling photographer off the ground.

"Where's the other one?" Doc Oc demanded. "There were two of them."

"Talk, kid," Scorpion ordered, shaking the terrified Jimmy. "Who are you? What do you want here?"

"Hey Scorpion, pick on someone your own size. Although, in your case that could be difficult."

He looked round. "Spiderman! So, this is a friend of yours. You're the spider, so what does that make him? The fly?" He tossed Jimmy away, laughing. "It's been a long time since we last met. I'm going to enjoy flattening you."

He lumbered towards him, swinging his tail. Spiderman leapt out of the way, avoiding a spray of corrosive acid. He dodged under the lethal tail and straight into the waiting tentacles of Doc Oc. One of Octavius' real arms grabbed his shoulder, and he felt a brief stinging sensation. *What did he do to me?* he wondered, but had little time to ponder the matter, as the tentacles closed around this chest. The room began to grow darker, until there was a crash, and the tentacles loosened their strangle-hold. He looked round to see Jimmy pelting Doc Oc with test tubes.

It did not hurt him, but it did distract him enough to give Spiderman his escape.

He leapt out of the tentacles and onto the ceiling. He saw Octavius go for Jimmy, but had no opportunity to rescue his friend: Scorpion was already attacking again.

He left the ceiling and landed neatly beside the computer where he withdrew the disk.

Scorpion threw another acid attack which only just missed him.

The fluid landed on the keyboard, eating away at it and revealing the live wires beneath. Scorpion launched himself at Spiderman who caught his tail in a web.

With all his strength, he dragged it towards the terminal and thrust it in the live wires. Scorpion screamed as the electricity ripped through his suit. Satisfied, Spiderman watched him collapse.

There was no time to gloat, however, as he heard another groan.

He looked round to see Doc Oc grab Jimmy. It was clear that his friend had taken considerable punishment from the six-armed menace, who was now proceeding to squeeze what little breath he had left out of his body.

"Leave him alone, Octavius."

"Spiderman! What have you done to Scorpion?" he demanded.

Losing interest in his previous prey, he dropped Jimmy and stalked towards Spiderman. The photographer moaned once, then lay still. Spiderman knew he would not be able to outsmart this opponent as easily as he had Scorpion. His one opportunity lay with a heavy looking cabinet on the other side of the room. Gradually, he drew back towards it, dodging tentacles. Finally, he reached the end of the room and leapt onto the wall. From his vantage point, he shot a stream of webbing at Octavius' eyes, temporarily blinding him. As Doc Oc struggled to remove the webbing, Spiderman pushed at the cabinet. At first he thought it would never move, but finally it tumbled and plummeted down on top of Doc Oc.

He quickly webbed over to where Jimmy was lying. He came round at his touch.

"Spiderman?" He murmured groggily. "What are you doing here?"

"Saving your butt, Olsen," he replied cheerfully, picking up his friend.

"Come on, let's get out of here."

"No, I meant here, in Metropolis. Don't you live in New York?"

"Yes, but even superheroes have to take a holiday."

Doc Oc watched them leave, then lifted the cabinet off himself. He saw Scorpion try to follow the disappearing hero. "Leave them."

"What? Are you mad? The Kingpin wants him dead."

"Spiderman will die," Octavius assured him. "And Superman is going to kill him."

Outside, Spiderman deposited Jimmy on the lawn, and disappeared. A few moments later, Peter came round the corner. He helped his friend to stand.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, it's just bruises, I think. What happened to you?"

"I went to get help," he replied as they walked back towards the car.

Jimmy looked at him curiously. "You're not related to Clark Kent, are you?" He asked.

***

Lois and Clark arrived in the news room the next morning. Clark was worried that Lois had not got over her hang up about getting old yet: he had caught her looking for grey hairs in the car mirror. He made a mental note to warn Jimmy to be slightly more tactful around her than he normally was. He saw Lois beckon to him from the doorway of Perry's office.

"Come and look at this," she grinned.

He joined her and looked in. The office was a mess. Sheets of paper, many of them covered in doodles, were scattered across the floor. A laptop computer rested on the desk beside a bowl empty except for a couple of popcorn kernels.

In the mists of the carnage, the culprits were sleeping peacefully: Jimmy on the couch, Peter curled up in the chair.

"Should we wake them?" Lois asked.

"I don't know. They look like they've been here all night."

"Let me put that another way: Should we let the Chief wake them?"

Clark grinned. "No, that wouldn't be fair on them." He shook Jimmy's shoulder. "Come on, time to wake up."

His friend stirred. "Go away mom, I don't want to go to school," he mumbled and rolled over. And fell off the couch. "Ow."

Peter awoke with a startled cry. "What happened?"

"Easy, it's only us," Lois soothed. "What happened to you two?"

Jimmy repeated what Peter had told him the previous night, and then related their exploits in the secret laboratory. "And we got attacked by these weird mutants," he continued enthusiastically, "but Spiderman turned up and rescued us. It was awesome, and he did it without any help from Superman."

"Looks like Superman's got some competition, doesn't it Peter," Clark commented cryptically. Peter said nothing.

"So, what did you find out?" Lois inquired.

"Not much, the code was fairly hard to crack," he admitted. "But there are several references to someone called Norman Osborne, and something called Project Prometheus."

"Great shades of Elvis! What happened here!"

All four turned round to see Perry in the doorway. Jimmy once again explained what had happened the previous night. When he had finished, he stood waiting for some word of praise from his editor, but there was none coming.

"I want you to drop this case," Perry ordered. "Turn it over to one of the professional journalists."

Jimmy looked as he had been slapped. "What?"

"You're not up to something like this. Look at you: You look like you've gone a round with Superman."

He touched the purple bruise on his face subconsciously. "It's nothing. Besides, Spiderman was there."

"Spiderman won't always be there. Now, haven't you got work to do?"

Jimmy nodded miserably and headed out, followed by Peter.

"Wasn't that a bit harsh?" Lois asked.

"I don't want him getting hurt," Perry said firmly. "I know how much he wants to be a journalist, but he's got to learn to walk before he can run. Besides, what's Jimmy doing investigating a science conference? His idea of chemistry involves a man, a woman and a lot of hormones!"

***

Lois pulled up outside Star Labs. "Are you coming?" She asked. There was no reply from her partner. "Clark?"

"Sorry," he responded, realising she was speaking. "I was thinking."

"I can see that. What about?"

"Spiderman. What's he doing here? What does he want?"

"I don't know. I've heard some of the stories about him. Do you think he means harm?"

"No. I think he's okay."

"You sound very sure of yourself," she commented dryly.

"Well, his other half seems okay."

"You've changed your mind about Peter Parker?"

He looked up at her. "You've worked it out too?"

She smiled. "I've had firsthand experience unmasking superheroes."

They walked into Dr. Klein's Office. At the far end of the room, a glass screen separated the main lab from a separate holding cell. They could see a figure curled up on the floor which they quickly recognised as the shooter from the conference. Dr. Klein came to greet them.

"Is he dead?" Lois demanded.

"No, just sedated, but with the amount he had to give him, he should be."

"What have you found out about him?" she inquired

"Not much. We weren't able to get anything out of him, the drug has almost completely destroyed his mind."

"Drug?"

"We took some blood samples and found large amounts of adrenaline, as well as traces of an unknown organic substance. It seems to be causing a hormone imbalance in his brain. ThatÝs why the hospital turned him over to us, they didnÝt know how else to help him."

"What does that mean?" Clark asked.

"Basically, he's gone mad with anger."

"But we still know nothing about who he is?"

"Not entirely true. His name is Lewis Grieg. He worked in the biochemistry department of Lex Industries."

"Now why does that not surprise me," Lois commented.

***

"Yes, I remember Grieg. If you had asked me about him two months ago, I would have never thought him capable of something like this. Now, though, it doesn't really surprise me."

"What do you mean?" Clark queried. They were sitting talking to the head of the biochemistry division of Lex Industries.

"Well, he has been acting strange for the past few weeks. Coming in late, presenting sloppy work, becoming moody and arrogant all of a sudden, things like that. It began soon after the dismissal of one of his colleges, Dr Mortimer Harris."

"Harris and Grieg were close friends?" Clark enquired.

"No, actually, they hated each other. In fact, Harris accused of Grieg of getting him fired."

"Do you know where we can contact Dr. Harris?" Lois asked.

"No, but if you want my opinion he's probably gone back to New York. He worked for a man named Norman Osborne. Harris once saved Osborne's son's life, so they have good relationship. I'm willing to bet he's gone back to Oscorp, because that's the only place he can get employment."

"Why do you say that?" she queried.

"Mortimer Harris will never achieve employer of the year. He's so determined to get what he wants, he'll cut every corner possible, no matter what the consequences."

***

Jimmy found Peter coming out of the darkroom. "So where do you think we should go from here?"

"What do you mean?"

"The Dr. Morley story. Don't tell me you've given up? I did not get my butt kicked by the human octopus to spend the next day making coffee!"

"But weren't we told to drop it, hand the case over to the professionals?" Peter asked. He had no intention of doing either, but he felt he had to try and discourage Jimmy before he got more than his butt kicked.

"Oh, the Chief worries too much," he replied dispassionately.

"Are you sure, it could get pretty ugly? Are you really up to it?"

Jimmy's eyes narrowed dangerously. "What? Am I suddenly not good enough to work with you, Parker?" he demanded. "Don't forget, I wasn't the one who legged it the moment trouble started."

"Hey! That's not fair!" Peter cried, then checked his anger. His head ached, had ached since the previous night, and it was making him irritable. He knew he had to control his temper, or he would be liable to make a mistake.

"Sorry. It's just that I know these guys, know what they are capable of. And they are definitely not the sort you want to introduce to your grandmother."

"But I'm not your grandmother, so that's okay," Jimmy replied amicably. "So what do you think? I reckon they're out to steal one the discoveries from the science conference, but which one?"

"That's the question," Peter agreed. "Let's run a search through the computer. Run the names of each of the people speaking at the conference with the names Robert Morley and Norman Osborne. See how many connections it comes up with."

Jimmy complied and the computer began to chatter away to itself. "This might take awhile," he warned. "I'll go and get us some lunch. "Frank's" on 4th street does a mean hot dog."

Peter smiled. "Sure, sounds great." He reached in his pocket and pulled out his wallet.

As he opened it, a photograph fell out and floated to the floor. Jimmy picked it up and studied the image of the girl depicted. She was tall and slim, with vibrant red hair and sparkling blue eyes.

"This your sister?" Jimmy asked hopefully.

"You wish," Peter replied, laughing. "That's my girlfriend, Mary Jane." He looked up. "In fact, that's her over there." He hurried to the elevators, where Mary Jane had just emerged.

"MJ! What are you doing here? I thought you had in important photo shoot?"

"Hi, Tiger. No it was cancelled, So I came up here straight away." She looked round, noticing Jimmy. "Who's your friend?"

*Am I not interesting to people anymore?* He wondered angrily. *That's the second time someone's seemed eager to meet him, and this time it's my girlfriend.* "This is Jimmy. He's the copy boy here."

Jimmy glared at him for a moment, the smiled at Mary Jane. "Well, I was, but now I'm a budding photojournalist."

"That sounds exciting," Mary Jane agreed. She held out her hand to him, and he reached for it.

"Don't touch her!" Peter cried, pushing him away violently.

"Peter?" Mary Jane asked in confusion.

Jimmy just looked bewildered. He took a step towards Peter, who raised his fist. "I'll go and get those hot dogs," Jimmy muttered.

***

The knock on the door startled Peter away from his thoughts. It was only then he realised he had been sitting in the dark. Slowly, he eased himself off the bed and towards the door. He hoped it was not Jimmy, or worse Mary Jane. He did not know how to explain his actions to himself, let alone his friends. He opened the door: it was Clark standing here.

"Hello Peter," Clark said simply.

"If you've come to ask me what happened, I can't explain it. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is."

"I came to talk to you. I know hard it is."

"How hard what is?" he asked nervously as he closed the door behind Clark.

"Don't try and hide it, I know who you are, Spiderman."

"That's preposterous!"

"Really?" Clark smiled. "As preposterous as this?" He began to spin, faster and faster until Clark was gone and Superman was standing there instead.

"Oh," Peter said simply, "that does change things, I guess."

"Is there somewhere we can talk, man to spider?"

"I always found the roof a good place to think," Peter suggested, and Clark nodded.

A few minutes later they were standing on the roof of the hotel. Both were now in costume, partly for disguise, but also because they felt more comfortable talking to each other this way. Peter wandered to the edge, and looked down on the traffic crawling past. Hundreds of people, each with their own lives, their own secrets. *But I bet none of them have to deal with the scum of New York, while juggling a personal life, a job and a secret identity at the same time. It's especially hard when no one appreciates what you do.*

"How did you work it out?"

"Come on Peter, it wasn't that hard. You turn up in Metropolis, and suddenly, so does Spiderman. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to put it together."

"But hundreds of people come into this city every day."

"Yes, but not all of them have your connections to Spiderman. Not all of them were there when Jimmy broke into Dr. Morley's house."

Peter looked worried. "Do you think he knows too?"

Clark smiled. "I don't think you have to worry about Jimmy. I've known him for more than two years and he still hasn't clicked about me yet! I wanted to ask you, do you know a Dr. Mortimer Harris? I understand he worked in New York for a while."

"Sorry, the name means nothing to me."

"What about Norman Osborne?"

"Yes, and unfortunately he knows me too."

"What do you mean?"

"He knows I'm Spiderman. I don't know how he found out, but he knows. And if he's involved in this, it means everyone who knows me is in danger too. I guess I should send Mary Jane back to New York."

"Does she know?" Clark asked kindly.

"No. I want to explain, but I don't know how to. I've only just got her back, I don't want her running away because she knows my secret. I don't know if you knew, but Spiderman doesn't get such a good press in New York."

"I know. It took me two years to tell Lois. But it is worth it when you do. Being a superhero is a very lonely business, and having someone who can sympathise, if not completely understand, is a great asset. Trust me, Peter, if Mary Jane really loves you, she'll accept who you are."

"Thanks." He sat down on the edge of the building and sighed. His head was beginning to throb again. He realised Clark was still talking, and struggled to focus on what he was saying.

"Anyway," he finished. "When you need my help, just call."

Peter felt his temper snap, like a dog breaking free of its leash. "What makes you think I need your help?" He demanded. "Just because the rest of us weren't born invincible doesn't mean the planet needs you to baby-sit it constantly!"

With that he leapt off the building and swung off into the city.

Looking round, he could see Superman watching him, but not making any attempt to follow him.

The night was cool, and this was a welcome contrast to the heat of anger. He could feel his rage fading now, leaving behind a cold realisation. He recognised just how close he had come to thumping Jimmy earlier, and now he had thrown away a valuable ally in Superman. But what if he was not an ally? What if he was involved and this was an elaborate set up. Part of him, the deep, logical part, told him that it was crazy, but he could not shake that idea. Nothing made sense right now, and until the pain faded, nothing would.

***

"'Morning CK," Jimmy commented cheerfully as Clark walked into the news room.

"Oh, hi Jimmy. Listen, have you seen Peter this morning?"

"No, he hasn't arrived yet. Is he okay? He went psycho yesterday."

"I think he's just worried about what's been happening, but I'm not sure. Just try and be a little tactful around him, okay?"

"Of course. Tact is my middle name."

"That's what I'm afraid of," Clark commented dryly.

Jimmy grinned, then noticed Peter coming out of the elevator. "Hey!"

Peter looked up. "Oh, it's you. Listen, I'm really sorry about what happened yesterday."

"No problem. I if had a girl like that, I'd want to keep her from other men too. Mind you, if I had any kind of girl I'd want to keep her from other men, because they all seem to run off with them. Anyway, I got the results >from the computer search after you left."

"And?"

"Not much. Every one at the conference seems to have some connection with Norman Osborne or Dr. Morley."

"Maybe there was something on the disk we took from Morley's lab." He loaded the file up on the computer. "Here, the Prometheus Project. What do you think that means?"

"That we're dealing with a stereotypical villain who put more effort into finding a cool name for his scheme than he did masterminding it?" Jimmy suggested.

Peter ignored him. "In Greek mythology, Prometheus stole the fire from the gods. I wonder if that has any relevance?" He called up the list of events taking place at the conference and read out loud from it. "'Demonstration of cold fire technology.' That's what they want! And the demonstration is today. We've got to get there and stop them."

Clark watched the two photographers disappear and stood up to follow them.

Just at that moment, the phone rang. He picked it up with a sigh.

"Hello, Daily Planet."

"Hi, can I talk to Peter Parker please?" inquired a pleasant female voice.

"Sorry, you've just missed him. Can I give him message?"

"Just tell him Mary Jane called and I'll try and get back to him," she replied. Clark wrote this down, then looked up as the elevator opened, expecting Lois. He was quite surprised to see Mary Jane step out.

"Can I ask where you are, Miss Watson?" Clark asked the woman on the phone.

"What? I'm at home. Why do you want to know?" She sounded confused, and slightly angered.

"Sorry, it was very important. I'll get Peter to call you back," he replied firmly, and hung up. A piece of the puzzle had just clicked into place, and the picture it revealed was not a good one.

***

Lois arrived at the Planet feeling tired. As hard as she had tried, she had not been able to shake the feeling that she was steadily losing control of her life, that it was slipping rapidly away to a little country cottage and a vegetable patch.

She supposed she would like that someday, but not yet. She picked up a file lying on her desk and flicked through it. They had very little on the Lewis Grieg story, in fact Jimmy seemed to know more. And being scooped by Jimmy Olsen was probably the worst humiliation imaginable. The phone rang and she picked it up.

"Hello Lois Lane. Yes. What? Why didn't you say something sooner? Okay, okay. I'll find him." She put down the phone, a feeling of dread growing inside her. She looked round and saw Perry coming out of his office.

"Chief! Have you seen Clark?"

"No. Have you seen Jimmy?"

"Not since yesterday. Do you know where they might have gone, it's vital I find Clark. There's been a break in at Star Labs— Kryptonite has been stolen.

***

"So, what exactly is cold fire?" Jimmy inquired, as the car sped along the road.

"It works on the principle of resonance." Peter replied, and seeing his friend's blank expression, continued, "Everything vibrates, right?

Even when they don't appear to be moving. And different substances vibrate at different frequencies. What the cold fire device does is work out the natural frequency of an object, and applies waves of the same frequency, causing the object to vibrate more and more, until it explodes."

"Cool," Jimmy responded.

"Not cool. In the wrong hands, just think what that could do. I think I've worked out what's going on and how they plan to do this. From what I've read, the cold fire weapon has some tight security protocols. For one thing, it will only respond to the touch of one person: the inventor."

"So? How does that help solve your reappearing scientist?"

"Back home, I encountered a man called Chameleon. He has the ability to morph into a likeness of anyone one he sees. He has obviously killed Dr Morley to take his place at the conference and find out about the cold fire weapon. Then he's going to simply walk away with it after the demonstration."

He looked at his watch. "Which has just finished. We're going to miss them!"

"Relax, we're here," Jimmy responded. They had pulled up round the back of the large field where the display had taken place. A tall fence blocked their view, but from the sounds of the people on the other side, the display was over and they were packing up to go home. Peter spotted a large van coming round the corner towards them.

"Stop them!" he yelled.

"How do you expect me to do that?" Jimmy demanded. "Throw myself in front of the van?" Nevertheless he hurried towards it, not quite sure what to do next.

Risking a glance over his shoulder, he saw that Peter had completely vanished. "Oh, well that's just great," he muttered to himself. There is definitely something weird about Peter Parker, he decided.

"That is far enough," a voice over his shoulder called. Jimmy felt a tentacle coil around his waist, lifting his feet off the ground.

"Hey you!" Doc Oc turned and saw Spiderman approach.

Distracted, his grip on Jimmy loosened and the photographer slipped out of his grasp.

"Yes, you. The reject from the black lagoon," Spiderman continued. "I haven't finished with you."

Jimmy scuttled away to a safe distance and began to photograph the two enemies. Funny how Spiderman keeps turning up, he thought. Must be Peter's guardian angel or something. Only Peter doesn't need one of those, because he legs it as soon as there's any danger. A movement to his right distracted him. He looked up and saw Mary Jane coming across the gravel towards him. He hurried towards her.

"Hey! What are you doing here? You'll get hurt!"

"I came to find you," she responded. "I need to talk to you"

"What, right now?"

"Yes. I haven't been able to stop thinking about you, Jimmy," she murmured seductively. "I couldn't get you out of my head. I even dreamed about you last night."

"Er," Jimmy replied. There did not seem much else he could say.

"You're the most amazing person I've ever met."

"But you've only just met me!" he retorted, finding his tongue again.

"That just proves it," she said and kissed him.

On the other side of the parking lot, Spiderman had just knocked Doc Oc to the ground. The pounding in his head was back, but he found it was helping him. He was able to use his anger to beat Octavius harder than he had ever done before.

"Give it up, Octopus, you're never going to get away with the cold fire weapon."

"Really? You think you know who your enemies are, Spiderman, but maybe you should be more careful. Look over there." He pointed a tentacle towards Jimmy and Mary Jane.

"No," he murmured in horror. He tried to launch a web line at Jimmy, to drag him out the way, but the cartridge was empty.

"Here," Doc Oc responded, handing another couple. "Try these."

Spiderman grabbed them without thinking and dashed over. He seized Jimmy's shoulder, pulled him round, and punched him hard. "Leave her alone!" he yelled.

Jimmy struggled to his feet, holding his bleeding nose. "What? Spiderman, I didn't do anything!"

"I told you, before. She's mine!" Peter snarled, backing Jimmy against the fence, still punching him.

"What do you mean, yours?" he asked, then a look of realisation dawned on his battered face.

"It's you isn't it? You're Peter Parker." Peter's fist smashed against his face, knocking his head against the fence. The world spun for a moment, before coming horribly back into focus. "Please, Peter, I don't know what you thought you saw, but it wasn't like that. Give me a chance to explain!" This time the blow caught him in his stomach. He dropped to his knees, struggling to breathe.

"Leave him alone, Peter," a commanding voice called out. Peter turned to see Superman landing.

"Stay out of this," he warned. "This is between me and Olsen."

Superman walked slowly towards him. "You don't know what you're doing, Peter. Let Jimmy go, he hasn't done anything."

Peter looked down at Jimmy, who had been trying to crawl out of the way, and kicked him back.

Jimmy's head struck the concrete, and he lay still. "I said stay out of this, Flyboy." Spiderman dangerously.

He fired a web-stream which wrapped itself round Superman's wrist. He expected him to shake it off easily, but instead he dropped to his knees in pain.

Superman felt the webbing fall across his arm, but instead of feeling cold and sticky, there was a burning sensation in his skin. He cried out and collapsed, feeling the strength drain out of his body. There's kryptonite in this webbing! He realised. Through fading vision, he saw Spiderman coming towards him. "Peter! You don't know what's happening. You're being set up!" There was a sharp crack as his boot struck Superman's head.

"You're in on this too, aren't you? You want to steal her away as well!" Spiderman hauled him to his feet.

"Come on, Man of Steel. Fight like a man." Superman punched him, but he did not waver. Spiderman laughed. "Ha. Even Jimmy was better than you!"

"The kryptonite," he gasped. "Please. It's killing me. Peter, it's all in your head. You've been drugged."

"Liar!" Spiderman screamed, knocking Superman to the floor.

"It's true. That Mary Jane isn't real. I don't know how they've done it, but she isn't real. The true Mary Jane would never cheat on you Peter. You know that, but you can't see it right now because the drug is clouding your judgement."

Peter stopped, and looked at him hard.

"You believe me, don't you?" Superman murmured. The world was spinning away, and he knew he only had a few minutes more before the kryptonite killed him completely. "Fight it, Peter. Fight the drug, I know you can."

Peter paused again, then Superman saw his hand coming down towards him. He closed his eyes, waiting for the blow that would probably finish him off. It never came. Instead, he felt the webbing ripped from his wrist. Peter threw it as far away as possible, then helped Superman to his feet.

"Are you okay?"

"I will be in a moment. What about you?" he asked Peter.

"That might take a little longer. What happened to me?"

"Somebody tried to set us against each other. They somehow gave you a drug, the same one they gave to Lewis Grieg, the shooter at the conference, which made you emotionally unstable. Then they created a fake Mary Jane and used Jimmy as bait."

"Jimmy! I'd forgotten about him. Have I killed him?"

Superman knelt beside his friend. "No, he's just unconscious. I'm going to get him to a doctor. You stay here, I'll be back in a second."

***

Superman landed beside Dr. Morley's house and took a step towards it. "Do you really think they'll be here?" There was no reply. "Peter?"

"Hmm?"

Superman walked back to his friend. "It wasn't your fault. They tricked you. You don't have to blame yourself for what happened."

"But I might have killed him, Clark. How am I supposed to go on, knowing that?"

"Because whatever happens to Jimmy, if you give up now, they'll get away with it. You can't let them win Peter, not now."

Peter nodded. "Let's get this over with."

They headed into the house and towards the study. There was no sign of anyone else, and Peter was becoming increasingly worried he had made a mistake. They could be out of the country by now, he thought. But then again, why should they? They need to examine this device, and what better place to do it but here, in a secret laboratory. *They think that no one else knows it has been stolen yet, apart from us, and we're supposed to have torn each other to shreds by now.* He found the drawer and pressed the button. The bookcase slid open. He turned to Superman. "Let's do it."

***

Lois sat, trying to control her impatience as the computer carried out its search. She had never been any good at sitting still, especially in times of crisis. She needed to find Clark, need to warn him, but so far she had been unable to get hold of him. Which means he's out there as Superman and I may already be too late. The computer finished and she began to scan through the data it had produced. Peter said he came here to find a Dr Morley, but so far we know nothing about him, she thought to herself. Maybe there's something here that can tell me where Clark's gone. As she scanned through, she found an article detailing Dr. Moley's departure from the army, where he had worked as a weapons developer. *If someone got hold of Morley's notes, they could find out how to build his weapons. And the only place that information might be is in the laboratory at his home.* She made a quick note of the address before hurrying out of the news room.

***

Spiderman leapt out of the tunnel, knocking Doc Oc away from the computer where he had been working.

"Spiderman! You are alive!"

"Am I?" he asked in mock confusion.

"So I am. Well, I guess I can do this then!" and he hit Octavius again, this time knocking him to the floor.

"You're not going to get away with it this time. This time I brought help."

He pointed to Superman.

"Scorpion! Bring it now!" Doc Oc cried. Scorpion emerged from a side room, bearing a glowing green rock. Its effects were instantaneous: Superman cried out in pain and collapsed. Spiderman turned to knock the kryptonite from Scorpion, but Octavius grabbed him, pinning him down with a tentacle.

"I thought there was a chance you would not be killed by each other, so I was prepared. Not even the combined forces of Superman and Spiderman were enough to stop us. On this disk is a map containing the location of secret ammunitions stores all over the country. With the help of the cold fire weapon, we can take them all. And now, I will kill you." Peter felt the tentacle tighten around his waist, squeezing the breath from his body. "As I always say," Octavius continued cheerfully. "If you want a job done properly, do it yourself."

"Too right," a voice agreed.

"Lois!" Superman murmured, looking round.

Scorpion stalked towards her. "You picked the wrong party to gate crash lady," he warned, raising his tail. Lois threw herself out of the way and landed beside Superman. She grabbed the kryptonite and threw it as hard as she could back up the passage. She helped him to stand.

"Get out of here," he urged, pushing her out of the way as Scorpion fired acid at them.

"No way," she replied firmly. "You obviously can't survive without me."

"Still feeling over the hill?" he asked with a grin.

"No, I'm feeling just fine."

Clark could feel his strength returning rapidly. He turned and grabbed Scorpion's tail, picking him up and flinging him into the back of the lab. Scorpion collapsed with a groan. Superman turned on Doc Oc. After pulling Peter free, he seized all four tentacles and tied them in a knot. Octavius, realising he could do nothing against an enemy this strong, ceased struggling.

"We never had this problem with Spiderman," he muttered as he and Scorpion were flown out of the building and towards the police station.

Lois hurried over to Peter. "Are you okay?"

"I will be," he gasped. "Lois, we've got to destroy the cold fire weapon. It's too dangerous."

"Yes, but how?" she asked looking at it

"Set it to find itÝs own natural frequency.

Then fire it. There should be a large red button which will do that."

"How did you know that?" she asked in amazement.

"Oh come on! Where have you people been? There's always a red button!"

Lois grinned and pressed it. The machine began to hum. She returned to Peter. "Come on, let's get out of here before it explodes."

They ran up the tunnel. The humming sound was getting louder and more threatening, like a swarm of angry bees. Then a huge thundering roar cut through the air as the cold fire weapon exploded. Peter grabbed Lois and webbed to the safety of a nearby tree.

***

The next morning Peter arrived at Jimmy's apartment and knocked on the door. It was opened by Perry.

"Hi. Is he up to visitors?"

"Sure. Come on in son," he replied letting him in.

"He's okay then?" Peter asked hopefully. "I mean, the hospital didn't keep him in so there can't be anything too serious wrong with him."

"No, fortunately," Perry agreed. "He's got cuts and bruises, a fractured arm and a concussion; nothing that won't heal with time. And the doctor said there's a good chance he'll get his memory back as well."

"His memory?"

"He can't remember anything from the last twenty-four hours or so. It's fairly common with head injuries I've been told."

Peter nodded and pushed open the door to Jimmy's bedroom. His friend was sitting up and smiling, but looking very battered. One arm was held in a sling, and there was a large sticking plaster covering the gash on his forehead.

"Hi, how are you feeling?"

"Sore. Even my bruises have bruises," Jimmy admitted. "But it's not too bad. What's worse is knowing there's a whole day locked up in my head that I can't get to. I feel like I should know stuff, but I can't remember it. I feel I've forgotten something important about you."

"It'll come back, I'm sure. I've got to go, I just wanted to make sure you were okay," Peter finished hurriedly.

He left quickly, but out in the corridor he passed Clark who was going in the other direction.

***

"Peter?" Clark asked, coming out onto the roof of the building. He found him sitting in his costume, watching the traffic below.

"Jimmy knows about me," Peter said simply, and Clark could hear the tension in his voice.

"He knows and it's only a matter of time before he remembers."

"I think you can trust Jimmy. He'll keep your secret," Clark assured him

"I know, but, but I never meant for any of this to happen. How do you do it, Kent?" he demanded suddenly.

"Do what?"

"Lead such a normal life. You have friends, a good job, Lois. And you seem so calm about all your powers.

I don't know if I can ever go back to being Spiderman, knowing what I did. What I'm capable of doing."

"Trust me, it's not as normal as it looks," Clark replied with a smile. "And you can go back to being Spiderman. I think you'll find it's not just a costume, or even an identity. It's who you are. Power or not, that's who you'll always be. There will always be people with power, Peter, good and bad. But the difference is the good guys have friends they can rely on when they need it."

"Thanks. That helps. Listen, do you know a good restaurant in the city."

"Sure. Is Mary Jane coming up?"

"Yes, the real one this time. I wanted to take her out to dinner, because I think I have something important to tell her."

THE END