Fantastic Force #5

FANTASTIC FORCE #5

Castle Doom, banquet hall

“We’re not going to let you kill Longshot,” said Sue to Doom. “He’s an innocent, and there are other ways to prevent the sacrifice.”

“You purport to stand in my way?” said Doom. “You have no replacement plan, and you lack the resources to prevent me from going through with mine. Forgive me if I fail to be intimidated.”

“We’ll find a way,” said Jen. “We always do.”

“Hear, hear,” said Jim.

“Let’s get out of here, everyone,” said Sue, looking at Rocket and Emma.

“It’s nice that you care about Blondie,” said Rocket, “but I hardly know the guy. Mask Dude here seems like our best bet for stopping, if you’ve forgotten, an elder god who will consume your planet. That’s a scenario I’d like to avoid, personally.”

“I’m afraid I agree with the awful little one,” said Emma. “I’m not going to let this Chthon break loose if I can help it at all, and if stopping him means losing an acquaintance, my choice is rather clear.”

“Then the sides have been taken?” said Doom. Everyone nodded.

“Very well, then. Be gone from my sight, you three.” Doom waved his hand and Sue, Jen, and Jim vanished.

“What now?” asked Rocket.

“Now,” said Doom, “we plan our assault. We will need to attack shortly before the time of the sacrifice, which should be at noon tomorrow. This will require both a large assault to divert the Darkholders’ forces, and a stealthy entry to eliminate Longshot before he can be used to summon Chthon.”

“I’m going to go out on a limb,” said Emma, “and predict that you’re going to have Rocket in charge of the assault, giving him access to all of your robots and weapons and such. You’ll insist on taking care of Longshot yourself, and bring me along to follow you and use telepathy to get us through enemy lines.”

“That…” said Doom, “is correct. However, you failed to account for the key factor that will assure our success. I still possess a gemstone filled with Longshot’s probability energy. It is on my person, and will turn the odds so strongly in our favor that the Darkholders have no hope of success.”

“Well, then,” said Emma, “I suppose we have nothing to worry about.”

“Can I keep this?” said Rocket, holding the whip taken from the demonic driver in the catacombs.

“That whip is nothing,” said Doom. “A simple negative energy enchantment, which I could easily replicate. I have no reason to expend an ounce of care if you wish to hold on to it.”

“Radical,” said Rocket.

Elsewhere, in an unknown realm of darkness and horror, a demon made a decision. The time is now right, he thought. They have forgotten me, and their numbers have been reduced. I will eliminate the trespassers once and for all. The driver sent his horses forward, and emerged in Castle Doom around his whip, clutching it in his hand once more.

“Shit!” said Rocket. “Where the hell did he come from?!”

“He must have had a binding enchantment on the whip,” said Emma, turning diamond. “Let’s take care of him quickly.” The driver drove his chariot over the table, and cracked his whip at Doom, striking his armor but not fazing the metal-clad tyrant.

“Oh, come on!” said Rocket. “Doctor Dark or whatever he’s called wasn’t even an intruder in the catacombs!”

“I don’t think this fellow is very smart,” said Emma. She lunged at the driver and wrested the whip from his hands. Doom blasted him with a laser from his armor, reducing him to ash on the banquet table.

“That was unexpected,” said Rocket.

“It was a momentary distraction,” said Doom. “It will not interfere with my plan to—CURSES!”

“Hm?” said Emma, only slightly interested.

“The accursed fiend!” said Doom. “His whip shattered the gemstone. We have no probability energy to use tomorrow.”

“Oof,” said Rocket. “Whoopsie.”

“Is that all you have to say for yourself?!” said Doom. “You brought a demonic artifact capable of summoning a hostile demon into my home, and you attempt to shrug it off? This is entirely your fault, rat.”

“Excuse me?!” said Rocket, as Emma quietly left the room. “You yourself said it was harmless! How was I, someone who’s never in his life used magic, supposed to know it would do that? Screw you and the ego you rode in on. I’ll still help you tomorrow, but only because I get to explode stuff. Bye.”

***

Having been teleported to right outside the gate of Castle Doom an hour ago, Sue, Jen, and Jim sat in a Latverian bar, Jen back in her human form to avoid suspicion.

“It makes sense that the Darkholders would ramp up security before the sacrifice,” said Sue, “since we’re the only ones who know about Longshot right now. We need to strike while the iron’s hot and get him ASAP. Jim, can you arrange SHIELD transport to get us to Transia?”

“No dice,” said Jim. “They might start asking questions about how I found out about this and why I’m in Latveria, and I don’t want them knowing I was working with Doom.”

“Fair,” said Sue.

“Can’t you call for the Fantasticar?” asked Jen.

“It’s offworld,” said Sue. “Diplomatic visit to the Skrulls.”

“We could just take civilian transport,” said Jen.

“I checked, and Transia just closed their borders yesterday,” said Jim. “My guess is Darkholders in the government know about the sacrifice.”

“Well,” said Sue, “if we can find any vehicle at all going to Transia, I can turn us invisible and we can stow away.”

“There might be Darkholders traveling in to help out tomorrow,” said Jim.

“We have no way to track that,” said Sue, “and it’s a hundred miles from here to the Transian border. We need to teleport in.”

“Well,” said Jen, “the only person in Latveria with teleportation tech is… goddammit.”

***

Doom lay in his bed that night, surrounded by robotic guards and tortured by his own mind. That infernal Longshot, the man who could spell doom for the entire world, kept running through his mind. Longshot is an obstacle, Doom thought. Nothing more than an objective to complete. Why, then, can I not cease to think about him?

The other figure who weighed on Doom’s mind was Darnocha. Darnocha, who had every reason to hate him, and who had somehow outwitted him on Wundagore that day. How could I have been so… so blind? thought Doom to himself. Is this demon wench some sort of reckoning for what I have done in the past? If so, how will I be judged?

Just then, Doom was jolted by an alarm and by Doombot guards running in to his room.

“Your Highness,” said a Doombot, “there has been a break-in. A teleporter has been hijacked. Based on the fact that we could not see the intruders, we believe it was likely Susan Storm-Richards and the others you sent out of the castle. They went to Mount Wundagore. Shall we pursue them?”

“Leave them be,” said Doom. “They will merely be another factor to plan for when we attack tomorrow.”

***

Longshot lay on a stone table, gagged and bound at the wrists and ankles. Darnocha stood over him and placed a foot on his neck.

“You, my Prince,” said Darnocha, “are going to be the key to this world’s judgment and salvation. And on top of fulfilling my destiny by slaying you, I’ll have the chance to personally destroy the man who killed my sister! Oh, I’m just so excited. It really is a pity you have to be Chthon’s vessel, though—you’re cute.” Longshot let out a muffled scream and rocked from side to side.

Jim saw this scene with his advanced robotic eyes, from the base of Mount Wundagore. “We have to go up there and get him,” said Jim. “He’s suffering.”

“I want to, Jim,” said Sue, “I really do, but now isn’t the time. We have to make sure they don’t have him at the time of the sacrifice, and that means getting him right before.”

“Then we wait?” asked Jen.

“We wait,” said Sue.

***

That next morning, Emma and Rocket woke up in the castle. Emma went to the kitchen and had breakfast, while Rocket inspected the armada of drones, Doombots, and other war machines he had to work with. Doom was nowhere to be found. Eventually Emma decided to look for him, and came upon him still in his bed, tossing and turning and muttering under his breath.

“Victor,” said Emma, “you need to wake up. It’s almost time to go.” Doom did not respond. Emma sent a telepathic blast at him, jolting him out of bed. Doom instinctively fired a laser in her direction, but she leaned out of the way.

“Is something wrong, darling?” said Emma.

“Nothing is wrong,” said Doom. “We will attack Mount Wundagore, and we shall be victorious.”