Peter Parker picked up a pack of pickled peppers from the shop at Farpoint Station, idly turning over in his hands as he considered his next move. He was eagerly waiting to get on board the U.S.S. Enterprise-D to find out what his duties there would consist of, and to meet the illustrious Captain Jean-Luc Picard, inventor of the Picard Maneuver during his historic command of the Stargazer.
Peter’s Aunt May and Uncle Ben had always dreamed of Peter becoming a Starfleet scientist. Now, finally, he was ready to work in the field as a Cadet in training and make them both proud.
In a manner of speaking, this meant that he would be following in his parents’ footsteps. Though he knew very little about the details of their mission, he knew that they were working as high-ranking Starfleet Intelligence personnel when whatever incident killed them occurred.
It was classified information, but he didn’t know them well anyway. Uncle Ben and Aunt May were the only parents he’d ever known.
So as he toured what could loosely be referred to as the “mall” of Farpoint Station, he did his best to act the part of someone who was interested in what the place had to offer from a cultural, scientific and perhaps political standpoint. That’s what all the officers appeared to be doing; though, as he looked around, it seemed like all of his fellow cadets were busy buying trinkets and chatting each other up. He decided to wander close to a group of them who he’d been in a few classes with. They’d never really clicked…but then, Peter never really clicked with anyone his own age.
As he passed within earshot, he became acutely aware of the fact that it was him they were discussing.
“Hey, here comes cadet Parker,” Flash Thompson was saying to a couple of the more friendly young women they had both graduated with. “Starfleet’s first and only Ship’s Wallflower!”
The two girls shared a giggle while trying not to look Peter in the eye, and Peter glumly returned Flash’s sarcastic wave while trying to walk nonchalantly in the other direction.
Flash was a big guy, unlike Peter. And unlike Peter, who was going into science, Flash’s apparent calling was security. Naturally, he was able to parlay that into something women admired.
Even in the 24th century, thought Peter, men are men, women are women and guys like me just haven’t got what it takes.
Just as he was rounding the corner, however, he nearly bumped into Sally Straub--a cadet he would be working closely with aboard the ship.
She stopped abruptly, a look of polite patience on her face.
“I heard that there’s going to be some kind of traditional dance the Bandi are holding on level three to welcome us, and I was wondering if you’d like to go with me…”
“Why would I want to do that when Flash Thompson says he can get us a guided tour along with the rest of the security detail? Sounds, um…exciting…but no thanks. Bandi music doesn’t even get above thirty beats per minute. Guess it’s right up your alley.”
With that final jab, Sally walked briskly away from Peter and left him wondering if he should even bother to pursue other human girls. Certainly there were enough other races in Starfleet that he could find someone who he was compatible with. Perhaps Vulcans were the way to go…
“That tour you were speaking of with Parker…” he overheard, and turned around to see a young Vulcan woman speaking with Sally--and he could swear that she was smirking at him!
Straightening the duffel hung over his shoulder, he suppressed a small sob and started to stalk quickly away.
“Someday I’ll show them,” he muttered. “Someday they’ll be sorry--sorry they laughed at me!”
He retreated to a less populated area and set his bag down for a moment, thinking about just what life was going to be like aboard the flagship of the Federation. Leave the academy with high marks, travel to the edge of known space…and get treated like a loser? It certainly was a big old practical joke the universe was playing on him, but come what may, he would make the most of it.
He recalled abruptly that he was supposed to check in with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben as soon as he’d arrived at Farpoint Station. They knew how long his trip there was supposed to take, and they would be worried sick about him. He’d simply been so taken in by what the Bandi had managed to create in the short time that it took them that he’d been too distracted. It was surprising enough that their “space station” was planetbound, but then to walk around inside it was another thing entirely.
Still, as much as he knew that his coddling relationship with his aunt and uncle no doubt contributed to his reputation, he wanted to let them know that he was alright. Thus began the quest to locate a communications terminal.
To be fair, the entire place was unfamiliar--alien--to Peter. He didn’t even know what their terminals looked like or if they even had them. He was totally unaware of what their regulations were for using them, or how they were supposed to function. Nonetheless, he wasn’t about to leave the two people who loved and cared about him more than anything else in the world hanging and wondering how he was if the situation could be remedied. Thus he at last located what appeared to be a comm board and pressed a blinking yellow button to activate it.
The console did nothing for about ten seconds besides playing some surprisingly soothing jazz music. Peter’s head dropped as though he anticipated utter failure.
He looked up at the sound of a familiar voice, and was looking at the warm, gray-haired smile of his Uncle Ben.
“Hehey, Petey-boy! I wondered when we were gonna hear from you!”
“May! Come say hi to Peter! He’s gotten to that fancy space station finally. Looking a bit beat up, Peter! Everything going okay?”
“Yeah…hi, Aunt May.” He forced a weak smile as his frail but cheerful aunt entered the picture.
“Hello, dear!” she beamed at him across the light-years. “So how is it out there?”
“Well I sure do miss your incredible wheatcakes, Aunt May. There’s nothing else like them in the known galaxy.”
“No substitute for good home cooking,” she reminded him for the umpteenth time.
“There are some incredible things out here, though. You wouldn’t believe this place if you saw it. It’s like home in lots of ways, almost like they’re going out of their way to make us happy. I commented to one of the Bandi about how I thought it would be great to see what their chemistry sets looked like. The next thing I know he’s pulling one out for me to look at!”
“That sounds wonderful, Peter,” May replied.
“Yeah. It is kind of a weird place. I mean, stuff keeps just…appearing that wasn’t there before. I don’t know how to explain it. And I’ve never seen people so eager to make someone happy. I wonder what their real deal is, you know?”
Just then the image of his aunt and uncle began to break up and twist on the screen.
“Well, Peter, just remember not to take advantage,” Uncle Ben advised. “The Federation must be a big deal to them; with great power comes great responsibility.”
“Sure, Uncle Ben, I won’t ever forget that. But it really is a strange place. I have a feeling that--”
The screen started flickering and fragmenting, and this time it didn’t stop.
“U-uncle Ben? Aunt May?” Peter looked at the buttons and back at the screen, but he hadn’t the faintest idea how to fix the problem.
Then it went blank. Leaning against the console on his palms, he lowered his head and shook it, exhaling loudly.
“Everything alright, Cadet?”
It was a very gentle voice, and not one of the Bandi. Peter immediately straightened up and did his best to look like nothing was wrong as he spun around to face his Chief Medical Officer-to-be…and a young man of his approximate age.
“Yes ma’am, everything’s fine. I was contacting my family and the console or the connection stopped working.”
Doctor Beverly Crusher smiled a warm, comforting smile at him.
“I’m sure the Bandi will have it fixed pretty soon. They seem to know what they’re doing, and they’re very eager to please us.”
“Yeah…” Peter agreed shyly, and then amended it to “Yes, ma’am, they absolutely do.”
The smile never left her face as she said, “At ease, Cadet. I’m the ship’s doctor. I need you to be relaxed in my care.”
“Have you been crying?” her no-nonsense attitude was obviously redoubled in her son, whose guileless question was not delivered as an attempt to mock or belittle Peter in the manner of so many of his fellow cadets. This boy reminded Peter of himself already--brown hair, open face with intelligent eyes, somewhat scrawny…
“I’ve been having a remarkably long day and um…my eyes water when I’m frustrated…”
He mentally kicked himself. Yeah, that’s it. Way to go, Parker.
“Well, things’ll be different up on the Enterprise,” the boy assured him as his mother smiled approvingly. “My name’s Wesley.” He held out his hand to shake, and Peter gratefully accepted it. “Maybe we’ll be friends.”
“I’m Peter,” he replied, “and you’re right, it sounds like things could still get a lot better. I’ll see you on the ship!”
Peter watched them depart with the distinct impression that Wesley’s mom was eager to get on with exploring Farpoint, which suited him just fine. He would have liked to stand there getting to know Wesley better, but there was plenty of time for such things aboard the ship. There was enough to see here, and Peter was just as eager as they were.
Maybe I’ll catch up with them…
Then he saw the ship’s first officer, Commander William T. Riker, striding purposefully after them and heard him call out “Doctor Crusher!”
On second thought, I might as well just make myself scarce.
Walking for a long time through the arboretum and studying all of the uniquely fascinating plants the Bandi had on display, he crossed into different sections of the station eventually. Before long he found himself outside of a room with a sign next to the door in a language he couldn’t read, presumably Bandi, and his curiosity seized him. He wasn’t sure he was welcome on the other side of the door, but he very much wanted to know what it was.
Just as he was contemplating ignoring it and walking away, one of the Bandi sidled up to him.
Mostly the Bandi resembled older humans, with grey skin, white hair and tall, lean figures that bordered on bony. This one had a bit more spring to his step, as well as a high, nasal voice and a mischievous gleam in his eye.
“What are you waiting for, boy?” He asked, almost conspiratorially. “Do you know what’s on the other side of that door?”
“Don’t be nervous! You’re allowed in, I know for a fact. Behind that door is a demonstration of how the Bandi harness the marvelous geothermal energy of their planet to power this facility! Wouldn’t you like to take a peek?”
The stranger’s words were bizarrely persuasive, and he knew that hearing it directly from one of the Bandi meant that there must have been some merit to it. He very quickly thanked the stranger and proceeded through the door.
Wait, but isn’t he a Bandi? Why did he call them “The Bandi”? Peter suddenly thought, and he looked back as the door was closing…but the stranger was gone.
There were no other cadets at this particular demonstration, but if that was a problem for the Bandi scientists who were present they made no outward sign of it. Instead they proceeded to outline the experiment they were going to perform in very broad strokes, explaining only that it involved exploring new ways to harness radiation and the power of the atom.
As Peter watched, he couldn’t help but ask all sorts of questions relating to the functions of different devices in the lab and how they related to geothermal energy. They answers he got were less than informative. He went as far as to inquire about wildlife on the planet’s surface, surmising that it might be a topic they would be more forthcoming about.
“On Earth there are wolves, canaries, bears, squirrels…right on down to spiders!”
Not long after he had finished explaining this to the patiently listening but clearly befuddled Bandi scientist, the experiment was in full swing. Machinery was glowing and humming, and Peter’s attention was fully focused on a globe that was radiating odd light in all directions, contained within an energy field which was automatically erected the moment the experiment began…
…and, unnoticed by Parker, or anyone else in the room, for that matter, was the unappreciated presence of one of the spiders he had been speaking of earlier. Descending from the ceiling on an almost invisible strand of web, this spider was given a brief but important role in the future of young Parker as it accidentally absorbed a fantastic amount of radioactivity. The dying arachnid, in sudden shock, but the nearest living thing at the split-second before the life ebbed from its body.
“Ow!” Peter exclaimed. “A-a spider? But why is it glowing--why is it burning like that?”
The scientist was smiling serenely at him, as though somehow satisfied that the creature had turned up, even if it appeared to die immediately afterward.
“You recognize this creature, then? This is good! You seemed to possess a certain longing for one of your Earth animals.”
Peter wasn’t hearing the scientist at this point, as focused as he was on how he felt after what had just transpired.
“My head--it feels strange! I-I need some air!”
As he stepped out of the room, the scientists were heard to remark, “Looks like our experiment has unnerved young Parker!”
“He must have a weak stomach!”
Were he in a different state of mind, he might have wondered at the two Bandi, not quite as obsequious as the rest of their people whom he had met. He wasn’t concerned at the moment. He felt instead as though he should lie down, or locate Doctor Crusher to make sure the alien spider hadn’t poisoned him. Wandering desperately through unfamiliar, glowing hallways, he tried to figure out what part of the station--or old adjoining Bandi city--he was in--but it was difficult to concentrate.
“What’s happening to me? I feel--different! As though my entire body is charged with some sort of fantastic energy!”
Wrapped in his thoughts, he eventually surfaced in the middle of the old city. He stared at his hands, unnerved, as though looking at himself would provide answers. He didn’t hear the runaway antigrav cart which narrowly missed him until the last instant. And then, unnoticed by peddlers and pedestrians on the street nearby, he unthinkingly leapt to safety--and it was an impressive leap indeed. The next thing he knew, he was clinging to the side of a building across the street and pulling himself up by his fingertips.
“Mother!” one of the Bandi children cried out. “Look at the man walking up the side of a building!”
The mother, completely uninterested, kept up her marching pace as she pulled her son along by the hand. “There are lots of different species in the Federation that can do plenty of marvelous things. You’ll have ample opportunity to meet them.”
But Peter was all but oblivious to them, caught up as he was in the adrenaline rush caused by the near-miss. When he got to the roof of the building, he gripped a steel pipe jutting from it and crushed it.
“It’s incredible! I reached the roof in a matter of seconds! What’s this?! I crushed this steel pipe as though it were paper!”
He clambered up all the way to stand on the rooftop, staring at his closed fist in awe.
“It’s the spider! It has to be! Somehow--in some miraculous way, his bite has transferred his own power--to me!”
Still feeling the rush, still eager to discover the effect of what had been done to him and not thinking clearly, he scrambled over to the side of the building and located a way to climb down…a most unusual way.
“I can walk down this cable as effortlessly as the spider can glide along its web!”
It was more of a crawl, but remarkably quick. When he got to the bottom, his mind was racing with possibilities.
“I really should find Doctor Crusher. There might be some kind of illness…but these abilities…I could get into security and be just like Flash! I can jump far, crush steel and run up walls…”
“And you dodged my cart even though you didn’t see it coming,” interjected the voice of the Bandi who had been pushing it. He offered Peter a sneering smile and a slow clap. “Yes. Remarkable.”
Peter paused, collecting his wits as he focused on the Bandi.
“You…you were pushing the cart? But you’re the one who suggested that I go into that lab! You’re the one who…” he trailed off. Clearly this man could not have been prepared for this outcome. How could he have foreseen…?
“I suppose I should have expected such mental sloth from a being of your caliber, still with so much to learn…”
Peter advanced angrily on the alien. If he had answers, Peter wanted them.
“Just what do you know?” he demanded.
At this, the Bandi rolled his eyes. “What could I possibly know?” he inquired, touching his chest with his fingertips for emphasis. The sneer never left his face as he spoke, it merely became animated. “You’re the one who is experiencing a remarkable transformation, and I am but a humble observer.”
“You don’t sound very much like the others of your species,” Peter said, eyeing him warily.
Sighing, the stranger said, “Do I have to spell it out for you? Very well then.” With a wave of his hand, the Bandi was enveloped in a bright white flash and a rush of sound. In the very next instant he was human, and clad in an odd-looking costume. It was but one piece, a swirling, gaudy uniform done in bright yellow, blue and red…and extremely tight. With his fists on his hips and his chin thrust defiantly upward, he introduced himself.
“I am Q! Newest and greatest superhero in the cosmos, come to defend it from the forces of evil!”
Peter’s skepticism grew. “How…what…”
Rolling his eyes, the man said, “Just call me Q. Look, between yourself and your Captain Picard, you two couldn’t find your way to the end of a book. Isn’t it obvious what’s happened to you by now? I was trying to offer you a hint.”
“That I’ve become a superhuman?”
Q pointed at him with a long index finger. “Correct. And now,” Q continued as he began to pace in a slow circle around Peter, “the question is, what are you going to do about it?”
“I…I had thought I should speak with Doctor Crusher, see if she could reverse it, or--”
“Reverse it?!” Q appeared thoroughly disgusted. “My dear boy, you have been given a supreme gift! All the generations your pathetic race have spent eking out a living by scratching in the dirt, finally constructing interstellar vessels and reaching toward the cosmos, seeking advancement, evolution--you have taken a great leap forward on behalf of your race, and you want to give it up?”
“If it’s not going to hurt me…” Q had finished circling, and now Peter was staring at his feet, shuffling, and he began to pace back and forth. “…well, my other option is to use it. Think what an asset I could be to Starfleet with abilities like mine!”
Q snorted with disdain. “Unbelievable. You humans are so short-sighted. That is your answer? You want to live in service to those who are clearly inferior to you? What a waste of your talents that would be. What a tremendous waste.”
“What are you talking about? The crew aren’t all human. There’s an empath, a Klingon, and the android Data--! He can do such amazing things…”
“And I’m telling you, you are superior to all of them. Don’t you see? You’re stronger than the android and nearly as fast. You’re definitely smarter than the Klingon, as well as far outclassing him in strength. And of what use, truly, is some pathetic empathic counselor?”
“Nevermind all of that. When you tell them what’s happened to you, what do you expect them to do? Suppose the situation can’t be reversed. Suppose they have to isolate and experiment on you…suppose they’re all afraid of you…” Q’s voice had dropped, becoming more slithering, sinister…
“No!” Peter could not help but see the logic in Q’s words. Yet…
“You did this!” he said, pointing at Q. “You can change me back!”
Q seemed taken aback. He put his palms out in front of him defensively. “I? I am not responsible for you or for your actions. You would have gone into that room with or without my interference."
Peter had had just about enough of this alien’s smug charade. He leapt at him and swung the broken piece of pipe right at Q’s head, and in a blinding flash, Q was not there anymore. From behind him, Q said, “If you want my advice, which I give freely…get out of here. Make something of yourself with those powers of yours. Show the galaxy that you’re worthy of more than being some invisible servant to a balding, pedantic Starfleet captain.” His arms were folded across his chest as he delivered this final message. Then, with a nod, he disappeared in a flash of light.
Filled with excitement, Peter charged through the station with a renewed sense of purpose. Seeking out the right shops, he purchased an inconspicuous set of clothes and fashioned a mask for himself, then went in search of something to do to demonstrate his newfound abilities.
There was a musclebound Bandi, practically a giant--challenging anyone who wanted to take him on. He was calling himself “Crusher”, and he was supposedly undefeated among his people. Peter saw the evidence of this: people lined up in a box at the side of the ring, bruised and beaten, but waiting for a challenger who would vindicate them.
Leave one Crusher behind and I’m right on to the next. Peter noted the irony of the situation, but shook it off and eventually found himself staring right into the eyes of the vicious-looking Bandi.
“Now just relax,” Crusher told him, almost as though he were placating him. “I’ll try to make this as painless as possible!”
Crusher came at him, and Peter leapt clear of his rhino-like charge, placing his hands on the back of Crusher’s head and pushing off of it.
“It works!” he marveled as he grabbed Crusher’s torso and lifted him clear off the floor with one arm. “I have the speed, the agility, the very strength of a spider!” He clung to the side of the ring and climbed up more than twenty feet.
“Put me down!” Crusher cried. “You win! You win!”
After Peter put him back on his feet, Crusher remarked, “Nobody can do that!” To which Peter glibly replied, “Wanna bet?”
The crowd was in a state of shock, and some among them were calling out for more people to challenge this newcomer. Peter, however, needed time to think.
“Listen, come back here at this time tomorrow and I’ll show you what I can really do!”
He leapt out of the ring and away from the crowd. Thinking quite suddenly of his Aunt May and Uncle Ben, he realized he should probably continue with Starfleet. What else was he going to do? Continue to cavort and clown around the galaxy? At least in Starfleet he could make a difference. He resolved to beam his things up to his new quarters after overhearing that the ship had arrived, when…
“Stop! Thief! Stop him!” a Bandi cried out. Peter, still in his mask, turned to watch as an alien from a race he’d never seen before bolted down the corridors of the station with some kind of package. The creature was blue, with tufts of orange hair. It stopped in the middle of the street and activated a teleportation device. Within seconds it was gone. The shopkeeper stared at Peter, angry.
“What’s the matter with you? All you had to do was trip him or hold him for a moment!”
“Sorry, pal. That was your problem. I’m done being pushed around--by anyone! From now on I just look out for number one!”
Clearly offended, the shopkeeper sucked it up and stalked away.
Peter decided he should strip off his costume and get back to his quarters…he had something he needed to work on.
A spider needed a web, and he got some chemicals together, along with the chemistry set he’d seen earlier. With his advanced knowledge of Starfleet science, it was child’s play for him to fashion a very strong adhesive polymer, as well as two wrist-worn shooters that could easily be concealed beneath his sleeves. But that wasn’t enough. He couldn’t beam up to the ship without something that would mask his advanced life signs and make him read on ship’s sensors as just a normal human. So, carefully fashioning a tiny device that would fit inside one of the web-shooters, he perfected his disguise. He then fashioned a better costume for himself. Red over the head and chest, with crisscrossing black lines, large, threatening white eyeholes and blue for the underside of the limbs. There was a red spider on the blue back and a black spider on the chest. It was a work of art. It was perfect. Then the news came. As soon as the comm terminal in his quarters beeped at him, he went over to it to take the message. It was a Lieutenant from the Enterprise.
“Peter Parker?” the man asked him curtly.
“Yes? I mean, yes, sir. Cadet Peter Parker.”
“”The Captain, the Counselor, the First Officer…everyone is busy with a bit of…<ahem>…a crisis, at the moment. Well, uh, I was assigned the task of informing you…there was a robbery at the colony where you live…your uncle has been murdered.”
Suddenly he felt every bit as awkward as he had felt before the spider bite. His legs nearly slipped out from under him, but he clung to the console.
“The person who did it…well…I’ll send you the media file with all the information. I’m sorry for your loss.”
The screen blinked out, leaving Peter shaking his head. “No…no…” He hesitantly opened the media report and saw something that made the tragedy a million times worse. He would never live it down. It was his fault. All his fault.
The blue alien fleeing the scene of the crime was exactly the same one he had allowed to get away earlier. First he punched the console so that it cracked and pieces of it flew across the room. Then he put on his costume and headed out to hide from the world, his shame and his grief.
Night had fallen over the station, and most of the residents were asleep. Most Starfleet officers were already aboard the Enterprise. It was quiet and lonely as Peter crouched on a rooftop and sobbed into his mask. How would he tell Aunt May? Well he wouldn’t. He couldn’t. Could he burden her with that kind of knowledge after she’d already lost Uncle Ben under such circumstances? Could he burden anyone with this? Anyone at all?
Footsteps in the street. He abruptly held back his sobbing, listening and keeping his eyes peeled. When he saw what he saw…he just couldn’t believe it.
Maybe that blue bastard lived here unbeknownst to the Bandi. Maybe he went out and stole from various places and kept a stash here. Peter really didn’t care. He cast out a single gossamer strand of webbing from a shooter on his wrist, using a building across the way to swing down to street level just as the burglar…or whatever it was…entered a dilapidated building. Kicking his legs forward, he slammed his body weight into the criminal’s back and knocked him into the building on his face. He started to roll over, and Peter held himself back long enough to get a good look into the burglar’s--no, the killer’s--unapologetic eyes.
His fists were clenched, his muscles tensed, his body poised. He was ready to end it. Images, memories of Uncle Ben flashed through his mind, and he said, “You’re not escaping again, murderer!”
The criminal, the monster, started getting to his feet and pulled out a palm-sized device--probably the one he used to travel great distances.
“There’s nowhere in the galaxy you can hide from me!” Peter told him. Casting out a quick webline to grab the device, he said, “First we’ll relieve you of your escape route…and then my fists will do the rest!”
A mighty wallop caused the criminal to collapse, and then Peter bound him up in webbing and hung him from a pole on the side of a building to await discovery by Bandi authorities.
Peter stalked off into the starlight, thinking on his guilt as he went to remove his costume and begin his posting aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise.
“My fault--all my fault! If only I had stopped him when I could have! But I didn’t--and now--Uncle Ben--is dead…”
He resolved to remember always what his uncle taught him, that with great power must also come--great responsibility! Thus Peter Parker began his new mission--bringing great power where no one has gone before!
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