Geography class went by like nothing and then it was time for gym class. I wasn't surprised when there was a large canvas net set up at the far side of the gym and thirty buckets of baseballs were at the other end with twenty baseball bats beside them.
“Parker, you're up!” Coach Wilson said as soon as he saw me.
I chuckled and walked over to the middle bucket and picked up one of the bats. I frowned at it, because it felt off, and I put it down and picked another. This one seemed fine and I picked up a baseball, too.
“I know you can't see it from there, so I'll tell you there are distance markings on the canvas.” The coach said. “The higher up, the farther the ball would have gone on a real field.”
“What's the line for a home run?” I asked, even though I actually could see it.
“It's about three-quarters of the way up.” The coach said. “Get ten HRs and you can go.”
“You're making this easy on purpose.” I said with a laugh.
“You're only allowed ten balls.” Coach Wilson said with a smile. “Go ahead.”
“Ha!” I said and tossed the baseball a little, then I took a swinging stance. “To hit a spot three-quarters of the way up to simulate a home run, with the ball weight of 5.25 ounces and the weight of the bat swung through a 270 degree arc... using Newton's third law, I'll need about 4,100 pounds of force. Without air resistance, for the one thousandth of a second the bat will be in contact with the ball, I can impart anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 pounds with a straight swing. Easy peasy.”
Complete silence fell in the gymnasium and I couldn't resist the opportunity that gave me.
“Hey, Liz!” I said and she looked over at me. I pointed to the far corner of the room and she blushed. “I'm aiming for out of the park.”
“Geez, he just called his shot and he hasn't even hit a single ball yet.” Max said and rolled her eyes.
I chuckled and tossed the ball up high, twirled the bat over my shoulder, then swung when the ball was just above my chosen sight line.
The wooden bat sent the ball across the gymnasium in only a second and the thump as it hit the top corner of the canvas was almost as loud.
“Holy shit! He actually did it!” Someone shouted.
“Hey, Max.” I said and picked up another ball and bat. The one I had just used was sightly off-balance.
“No, thanks.” Max said and crossed her arms. “I don't like showoffs.”
“Fair enough.” I said and pointed to the other top corner. Another crack was heard and another thump.
“That's amazing.” Coach Wilson said.
“It's basic physics, math, and geometry.” I said. “Middle bleachers.”
The bat was okay this time and I hit another ball and hit the top of the canvas in the middle.
“Jackson! Give him some pitches.” Coach Wilson said.
A guy I didn't know grabbed a bucket and walked about 30 feet away.
“Keep them in the strike zone or they don't count.” I said to him.
“Yeah, whatever.” He said.
“You do realize I can send the ball anywhere I want, right?” I asked him and he shrugged. “Are you wearing a cup today?”
His face drained of color.
“Strike zone.” I said and he nodded.
“Players usually don't threaten the pitchers.” Max commented.
“I don't want him aiming for my head. The last thing I need is another concussion.” I said and readied for the pitch. I would need to rely on my spider-sense for this, so I concentrated solely on the ball in the guy's hand.
“They still need to be home runs.” Coach Wilson said.
I ignored him and waited. The guy did the classic pitch pose and whipped it at me. The ball came in down to the right, so I was hitting it up to the right. I stepped forward with my left foot and swung. At the last second, my spider-sense went off and I adjusted my aim and the force I was using.
The bat broke near the handle and luckily stayed mostly intact as the ball sailed across the gym and barely managed to hit above the three-quarter mark. A lot of the force had gone into breaking the bat and I carefully examined it. It hadn't been good after that last hit after all, despite the balance being fine.
“Sorry, coach.” I said and held up the bat.
“Parker, I can't believe you broke it and still managed to get the ball to be a home run.” Coach Wilson said. “Grab another bat and try again.”
I shook my head. “This almost broke off and went flying.” And would have if my spider-sense hadn't warned me. “It could have seriously hurt someone, so I'm not playing around with this anymore.”
“You're giving up already?” Flash asked with a laugh. “What a wimp!”
“I'm sorry that you think not hurting other people means I'm weak, Eugene.” I responded and put the bat down.
“What about pitching?” Coach Wilson asked.
“No interest at all.” I said.
“Catching?” He asked.
“At the plate?” I asked back and he nodded. “No, there's still a danger with face and head injuries.”
“Ooo, he's afraid of getting his head bonked again!” Flash said and picked up a ball. “Think fast!”
I knew it was coming and I could easily dodge as my spider-sense screamed at me. I trusted it completely, though. So, I turned my head to look towards the ball while also moving my head in small increments to lessen the danger feeling.
Time seemed to slow down as I tried one of the most subtle uses of the ability I had done so far. It gave me some intriguing insights into the level of danger it could sense and the degree of difficulty I could put it under in different situations.
When I was at the point that my spider-sense was almost gone, I stopped moving my head and time resumed as the ball smacked against the corner of my forehead, right on the thickest part of the cranial ridge, and bounced away. I wasn't going to let this opportunity pass me by, so I rolled my eyes up into the back of my head and dropped to the floor like a ragdoll.
“NO!” Several girls yelled and ran over to me.
I was tempted to throw in a twitch or two and decided that what had already happened was going to be good enough of a scene to milk and there was no need to go overboard. I kept my eyes closed as they fussed over me and kept asking if I was okay. I didn't respond. When someone shook my shoulder, I stayed limp and let my head roll from side to side.
“Back up. Back up!” Coach Wilson ordered and knelt beside me. He put his fingers at the side of my throat for several seconds and then did the same to my wrist. “His pulse is steady.”
“Oh, thank god.” Someone whispered. I was pretty sure it was Max.
“Someone get to the office and get them to call for an ambulance.” Coach Wilson said.
“I'll do it!” Liz exclaimed and I heard her run away.
“Oh, come on! He's clearly faking it!” Flash said.
“You.” Coach Wilson said in a deadly voice as he stood. “You are suspended for the rest of this year. If I have any say in it, it'll be for the rest of the school year. At least.”
“Wh-what? Why?” Flash asked.
“You intentionally hurt another student. You also gave him an injury just like the one that made him lose his memory and set him back months of schoolwork!” The coach said, his voice full of menace. “What do you have to say about that?!?”
“He's faking it. He's always been faking it.” Flash said. “Who in their right mind wants to be called Penis Parker?”
“That's your explanation for assaulting Ben? Because he took your bullying and didn't fight back?” Max asked. “You're an even bigger asshole than I thought you were!”
Several sets of shoes came back into the gym.
“The ambulance is on the way.” Mary said and knelt beside me. “Ben? Ben, can you hear me?”
I didn't react, even when she lightly stroked my face.
“His pulse is even, so hopefully there won't be any concussion.” The coach said.
“That's good. He's breathing okay, too.” Mary said and her hand rested on my chest. “I just hope he doesn't lose his memory again. He's worked so hard to catch up...”
“He's fooling you! Why are you all so blind?” Flash asked.
“I've already told the hospital and the ambulance who to send the hospital bills to.” Mary said. “You better hope they don't sue you over this!”
“My dad's lawyers would destroy them.” Flash said in his defense.
“You are officially the worst person in the school!” Val spat.
“Not for long.” Principal Morita's voice said. “I think I'll take Coach Wilson's advice. Bullying will not be tolerated in my school. Physical assault causing bodily harm is grounds for immediate expulsion.”
“You... you can't do this! My father donates a lot of money to this school!” Flash exclaimed.
“Yes, and I regret ever giving you any leeway with your behaviour.” Principal Morita said. “A little strife in a person's life should be expected and they need to learn to deal with it. You have taken strife to a whole new level and you will be paying the consequences for it.”
“You're not kicking me out! I'll sue! I'll sue this school for everything it has!” Flash said.
Everyone stopped talking and moved back from me. I heard the side doors of the gym open and two sets of feet ran over to me.
“How long has he been unconscious?” A female voice asked and I felt small fingers touch my neck.
“Coach?” Mary asked.
“About fifteen minutes.” Coach Wilson responded.
“That's not good.” A man's voice said and he touched the spot where the baseball hit me. “That's a huge bump. How hard was he hit?”
“We all heard the crack of the ball when it hit his forehead.” Liz said.
“Bat or thrown?” The woman asked and pulled up my shirt sleeve. My spider-sense only barely tingled as she tapped my arm and then put something in my vein, I assumed it was an IV.
“Thrown by an idiot that hates him, so it was pretty hard.” Max said.
A cold disc was placed inside my shirt for about five seconds. I assumed it was a stethoscope.
“He's stable, so get his neck wrapped and his head still. I'll grab the stretcher.” The male paramedic said and ran out of the gym.
“This isn't the first time he's hit his head.” Liz asked. “Is he going to be okay?”
“We won't know that until he wakes up.” The female paramedic said.
“How long does that usually take?” Mary asked.
She didn't respond until my neck was wrapped. “There's no real answer to that. All I can say is that the longer he's unconscious, the worse it could be.”
“He could just be asleep, couldn't he?” Someone asked and I couldn't tell who it was.
“It's always possible.” The female paramedic said.
The sound of a stretcher's rattling wheels came into the gym and stopped beside me. I was carefully rolled onto my side and something hard was placed under me. I was then lifted up and placed on the stretcher, strapped in, and the IV was placed just above my shoulder on a little rack. I wasn't sure how I knew that, because I wasn't looking.
“Please keep us informed of Mr. Parker's condition.” Principal Morita said.
“That's up to the parent or guardian.” The male paramedic said. “Let's go.”
I was loaded into the ambulance and we were on our way. I didn't want to worry people too much, so I pretended to wake up when we drove over a particularly large pothole.
“Uhhhhh.” I groaned and tried to move. I was strapped down, so I couldn't. I pretended to start panicking and the female paramedic stood up to place her hands on my shoulders. She held me still and looked into my eyes.
“It's okay. You're okay.” She said in a reassuring tone.
“No, I'm not. I'm paralyzed.” I said in a soft voice.
She chuckled. “You're only strapped down to a stretcher and a rigid board. Just relax. We're almost at the hospital.”
I blinked my eyes at her. “What... why... what happened?”
“What do you remember?” She asked me instead.
This was going to require all of my acting skills. “I was... at a science fair... no, a lab... an experiment?”
The woman blinked her eyes at me, because she knew that wasn't where we just were. “Go on.”
“I don't... I was with my science class... we were... there was a bus, no a taxi... I left because I was sick. I didn't know what happened next. I fell asleep and now I'm here.”
She sat down beside the stretcher and stared at me. “I know this might sound weird; but, I have to ask.” She paused and took a deep breath before she spoke again. “What's your name?”
“It's Peter.” I lied, quite convincingly. “Peter Parker.”
Her mouth dropped open slightly and she looked surprised. “But... they said... your name was Ben.”
I gave her a confused look for several seconds, then I started laughing. I laughed hard, because pretending to be Peter had been pretty damn hard and I couldn't even manage it for five whole minutes. There was no chance at all of me pulling it off well enough to convince May or anyone else that I was Peter again, even after such a solid hit.
I could milk it and change my behavior again, though. It would let me explain the changes to my life when I started going out as Spider-Man, too. I would need to be a little more reserved, a bit less outgoing, and maybe I'll refrain from teasing anyone for a while. I really had been pushing things more than I should have.
Yes, that was what I was going to do. I thought and smiled at her. “I'm sorry for the joke. A few of Peter's old friends and enemies wanted him back. One even went so far as to do this to me.” I said and glanced towards the corner of my forehead with my eyes.
“So, you remember that?” She asked, clearly interested.
“Yeah, Eugene is an idiot and has been bullying me every chance he gets.” I said and took a breath and let it out. “He used to verbally abuse Peter constantly, probably to make himself feel superior. When I hit my head the last time, I took the verbal abuse and then ignored him, so he stepped up to physical abuse instead. He's tried tripping me, knocking me over, grabbing me, and now he's throwing things to hurt me.”
She reached over and lightly stroked the side of my head. “I don't think you need to worry about that for much longer.”
“What? Why not?” I asked, even though I knew. “No one's done anything about it before now.”
She frowned and then smiled. “It looks like he's being suspended, possibly permanently.”
I blinked my eyes at her for several moments. “Wait, I can go to school and there will be no more flashing pervert?”
“F-flashing what?” She asked, surprised.
“His name's Eugene and he chose to be called Flash instead. Like the crime.” I said. “I would do the whole 'opening the trench coat to flash you' move to show you; but, I'm a little tied up at the moment.”
She chuckled. “I'm glad you can joke about this.”
“It's not like crying or screaming would do anything to make things better for me.” I said and she nodded. “So, do you come here often?”
She gave me an amused look. “Lines like that never work.”
“Of course they do. I just need to find the right one for you.” I said and felt the ambulance take a turn. “I don't have much time, so I'll have to be quick about it.”
She smirked at me. “Go ahead.”
“Okay, here goes.” I said and grinned. “Besides being so damn sexy, what do you do for a living?”
She rolled her eyes and waved for me to keep going.
“My nickname is StarkOS, can I crash at your place tonight?”
She chuckled and waved again.
“Do you believe in love at first sight, or should I get assaulted again?” I asked and she clamped her mouth shut. “Feel my shirt. Do you know what it's made of? Best Lover material.”
She waved again.
“Did you just come out of a raging fire? Because you're burning hot.” I asked and she groaned. “No? Okay... um... Oh! Whoever said that Disneyland was the happiest place on Earth, has never been between your legs.”
“Oh, god!” She said and laughed.
“They always say that nothing lasts forever.” I said and gave her a pointed look. “How would you like to be nothing together?”
The guy driving the ambulance laughed.
“There's something seriously wrong with my cell phone. Your number's not on it.” I said and she shook her head. “I could still fall for you in zero gravity?”
“Nope, keep trying.” She said.
“We're coming up to the drop-off.” The driver said and slowed down.
“You're so distractingly beautiful that you made me forget my pick-up line.” I said and she smiled. “Are you secretly a library? Because you have everything I've been searching for.”
“Ha! Good one.” The driver said. “One minute.”
“If being sexy was a crime, you would be on the FBI's most wanted list.” I said and she beamed a smile at me. “That was close! I almost had it!”
She laughed as the ambulance came to a stop and she opened the back doors. “All right, out you go, Casanova.” She said and her partner caught the end of the stretcher and they dropped the wheels for me. They stood on each side and pushed me towards the hospital doors.