Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy couldn't have picked a worse day to come to Central City for a tour of their prestigious university. Because today is the day when a black hole threatens to devour not only the city, but the whole world as well.
Of course, the day will be saved by not only The Flash, but Spider-Man as well - and soon, more heroes join forces with them. But what other unexpected effects will the black hole cause?
(Part 1 of the Spidey & Speedy Trilogy. Set between TASM 1 and 2, and begins at the end of the S1 finale of The Flash. Any and all OC's are owned by me. The Amazing Spider-Man is owned by Sony. The Flash is owned by DC, WB, and Greg Berlanti. Nightwing is owned by DC. iZombie is owned by Vertigo, Spoondoolie, and WB.)
For my first time outside of New York, I don't think I can do much better than going to California. Sure, it's not the sun-kissed, Hollywood-starlet-filled section of the state. But when your school is arranging a special tour of Central City University, one of the best schools for science in America, you want to be the first to sign up.
I was the second, though. Naturally, our class valedictorian was first.
That's right. Gwen Stacy's going to be better than me at everything, now and forever. Better at biology, at physics, at chemistry, and of course at kissing. Not that I'm complaining. Especially not about the last one. Unlike a certain cinematic race for the Holy Grail, the various "competitions" between me and Gwen are the sort of challenge in which there is, in fact, a silver medal for finishing second.
Okay, maybe there isn't a silver medal. But that's okay, I don't need one. I'm a superhero. I don't need more glory. The only reason I get the glory I do is because most people are unaware of who I really am. If they knew New York's most high-profile unofficial crime-fighter (otherwise known as a more polite way of saying "vigilante") was a kid who was still in high school (not to mention still a minor), there would be concerned parents all over the city demanding that I stop doing whatever a spider can.
I'd bet a gajillion dollars - and win - that Aunt May would be joining the ranks of those parents. Never mind that she's not an actual biological parent - since she's helped raise me since I was five, she definitely counts.
On the bus ride from the hotel to the campus, I sit next to Gwen, who's in the window seat. We'd had a Thumb War to determine who would get it - I'd suggested we do a tickle fight, but there was no chance of either of us would do that in public - and, as usual, I found myself coming in second best. But that's okay - if our places were reversed, Gwen would probably have a bit of trouble trying to appreciate the view while peering around my big, bushy-haired head. As it is, though, I still have to look around Gwen to get a really good look out the window if I want to. And by the time I do, whatever I'm looking for has usually gone by. For example, the row of blue-and-silver CCU flags lining the street.
"Look at that," Gwen says, pointing out the window.
"What am I supposed to be seeing?" I ask, cursing inwardly as I once again miss whatever it is I'm supposed to be looking at.
"There's another one," Gwen says. "Maybe it repeats itself every so often?"
I lift my head so I can look over hers a bit better. Then I see it - a piece of graffiti on the wall. It's a yellow lightning bolt inscribed in a dark red circle.
"Wonder what that means," I say.
"Maybe it's the logo of the school's sports team?" Gwen asks, laughing at her own joke.
"Totally clashes with the flags, though," I say, laughing alongside her.
When we finally get off the bus, we're supposed to gather on a grassy field on the other side of the Student Union Building from our bus stop. Along the way, Gwen and I spot a few little brand-name eateries, including Pizza Hut and Starbucks. Instead of stopping at any of these, though, we get our refreshments on the lawn, where a big blond dude (who looks like he could be Gwen's older brother or something) is serving ice cream cones.
To our delight, they have the incredibly hard-to-find sea salt flavor. Gwen and I thus spend the next ten minutes or so trying to eat up the delicious pale-blue ice cream before it melts out of our cones under the early-April sun. It's much warmer here than it is in New York at this time of year - unseasonably so, according to this morning's weather report, which predicted 75 degrees for Central City's daytime high today.
There are rows upon rows of folding chairs arranged in front of a podium where a hyper, hyper-caffeinated black woman is working the crowd with a Jeopardy!-style quiz about CCU campus life. We can't sit in any of them, though, because it's literally standing room only. So we end up standing behind the final row. I keep sneaking looks at Gwen as she mutters answers to the lady's quiz questions. Most of them, I can't answer, because I either don't hear them or don't know the answers. Maybe I should have done a tad bit more research before coming here. But it's hard enough to keep up on my school requirements and balance that with being Spider-Man - something I do almost every night, and even sometimes during the day.
"All right, all right!" the woman cries as someone else gets another question right. "Okay, who wants to come up and do the next question? This is a bonus question on local knowledge, so it's one that you're not likely to get right if you're not from around here!" She pauses, then looks down at the crowd before picking one of the many people with an upraised hand. "You there, come on up!" As soon as this person, a dark-skinned girl, makes her way up to the platform, the woman says, "So where are you from?"
"Radcliffe," says the girl.
"All right, Radcliffe representing!" I actually cringe at the sound of this lady's outdated "hip" slang, and I see Gwen doing the same out of the corner of my eye. "Now, your question, in Local History for $400 - or perhaps just a CC Jitters coffee machine, which I honestly need to lay off of" - she pauses to give the crowd, myself and Gwen included, a chance to laugh - "anyway, here goes. What are the two names that have been given to Central City's speedy hometown hero?"
"The Flash," the girl says, "and..." Here she falters, trying to recall what the second name might be. Eventually she gets it. "The Streak."
"Nice save!" the woman says. "Someone's been keeping up with the Flash's press cuttings, haven't they?"
"Hey, Peter, check this out," Gwen says, showing me something on her phone. I take a look and see the name of this "speedy hometown hero" alongside the same logo we saw in the graffiti on the way in to the campus - red circle, yellow lightning.
"I'm sure this guy's cool," I laugh. "But not as cool as I am, right?"
"You keep telling yourself that, Peter," Gwen laughs back. "You just keep telling yourself that."
At this point, I hear a distant, thunder-like booming noise. It takes me a while to figure out where it's coming from, but then I see it - a huge, swirling cloud somewhere over the city center.
The hyper lady on the platform comes to a halt as she, too, is distracted by the menacing cloud. As I walk over to the edge of the lawn to get a better view, I hear Gwen say, "Guess that weather report was lying, huh?"
"Yeah. I guess." I'd snark back at her, but there's something telling me this is even more wrong than it looks. I feel like we should get the hell out of this place, right now.
And all those Spidey-sense-enhanced thoughts run through my head even before the cloud starts sucking up the Central City skyline.
"Oh my God," Gwen says. "Oh my God! What's happening?"
"It looks like a black hole or something!" I yell, pointing at the now-glowing cloud.
"A black hole in the middle of the city?" Gwen yells over the sound of screaming people fleeing the scene. "Is that even possible?"
"No!" I yell. "Uh...it shouldn't be."
"Come on, we gotta get out of here!" Gwen yells, tugging on my arm.
"And go where?" I ask, holding up my camera to take a picture. It's a digital one - I prefer film, but Aunt May convinced me that it would be a terrible idea to bring such expensive equipment cross-country when it could so easily be lost at baggage claim. "It's not like we can just run into a fallout shelter and hope for the best!"
"Everyone seems to be doing exactly that, though," Gwen says, pointing at the crowd as they run into one or another of the buildings around the lawn. With a sigh, I turn from the otherworldly display and follow them, as does Gwen.
As soon as we find ourselves hunkered down in the basement of one of the old brick buildings alongside a bunch of equally terrified high schoolers from all over the country, I take a look at the one picture I was able to take.
To my surprise, there's a yellow streak running up the side of one of the buildings just as it breaks apart and starts getting pulled into the black hole.
I zoom in as much as I can. Could it be? Is that the (distorted and barely perceptible) shape of a person in that lightning?
Is that the Flash?
And, more importantly, why am I not helping him to save the day?
Before Gwen can stop me, I slip out of the basement, leaving my street clothes piled up near the door. Wearing only my Spider-Man outfit, I haul ass off the campus, hoping I can still lend a hand to my fellow superhero.
And hoping that I don't die in the process, or else Gwen and Aunt May will be getting in line and taking numbers to resurrect me only to kill me all over again.