Fantastic Force #8

Castle Doom

“So,” said Doom to the four superheroes facing him, “you journeyed to Latvia to tell me that someone impersonating me appeared, seemingly from nowhere, and took over the minds of an entire base of SHIELD agents?”

“You sayin’ you don’t believe us?!” said Rocket. “Because I was there, and—“

“Calm yourself, Rocket,” said Doom. “I merely meant to express incredulity that you thought I was unaware of the situation. Such an event would never go beneath my notice.”

“Do you have a plan to deal with this person?” said Jim.

“I am formulating one,” said Doom. “I know certain details of which the four of you are almost certainly unaware. The impostor is a time traveler; I detected a temporal disturbance in the area shortly before he arrived at Fort Hammond. Similar disturbances have since occurred in five other locations in the northeast United States. It therefore stands to reason that our foe is either accompanied, or is being pursued.”

“So in any case,” said Jen, “if we track down the other time travelers, we can find out more information about the other Doom.”

“This person is not me,” said Doom. “And I will prove this by my ease in eliminating—“ Doom collapsed, Jen catching him. He saw the inside of a hospital room, and heard a voice.

“Oh, hi Doom!” said Longshot. “Sue tells me we’re psychically linked after you took Chthon out of me. Pretty neat, right?”

Doom came back to his senses. “That was… unexpected,” he said. “But it is no matter. Our best strategy would be to target just two of the disturbance sites, concentrating our manpower while maintaining a backup in case things should go awry at one site. Theoretically, we only need to find one time traveler.”

“Ooh, who’s my field trip buddy, Teach?” asked Rocket in a mocking tone.

“Rocket, you travel with Ms. Walters and Ms. Frost to Pittsburgh,” said Doom. “I will bring Mr. Hammond with me to Albany.”

“Joy,” said Jen.

***

Baxter Building

“So,” said Reed Richards, “are you saying you trust Doom when he claims he’s reformed?”

“Seems like a long shot ta me,” said Ben Grimm.

“I’m not saying I trust him,” said Sue. “I’m thinking pragmatically. If there’s a possibility that he’s being earnest, it’s in our interests and the world’s not to antagonize him and jeopardize the new leaf he might have turned. If he’s lying, we need to wait it out and see what his scheme is. We should stand ready to be betrayed, but a pre-emptive strike doesn’t accomplish anything.”

“You make sense, sis,” said Johnny, “but I still have a bad feeling in my gut.”

“Eh, that’s just the Indian food from last night,” said Ben. “Ya always get indigestion from that place.”

“Your analysis of the situation is sound, dear,” said Reed, “as always. I’ll announce the Fantastic Four’s intent to reconcile with Doom tomorrow.”

“Oh, one more detail,” said Sue. “Doom seems to be psychically linked to Longshot now, after one magically pulled an elder god out of the other.”

“Fascinating!” said Reed. “Do you realize what this means?”

“‘Fraid none of us have caught up to ya yet, Stretch,” said Ben.

“It means we have a tool for keeping tabs on Doom,” said Reed.

“Hell yeah!” said Johnny.

Sue sighed. “No it doesn’t,” she said. “If the link sends information both ways, which is typically how these things go, then Doom would be able to find out if Longshot were working with us. He would deduce that we were spying on him, and boom! There’s the pre-emptive strike.”

“Sometimes I wonder why yer considered ‘the smart one,’ Stretch,” said Ben.

“I wonder that too,” said Reed.

***

Pittsburgh

“So,” said Emma, “where do we get started finding a time traveler?”

“If they arrived in the city, it would have been hard to keep it a secret when it happened,” said Jen, pulling out her phone. “Social media is saying there was a bright light and loud noise on Veterans Bridge around the same time faux-Doom showed up, and that the cops showed up and brought someone into custody. We should head to the nearest precinct and see if they’ll let us talk to the detainee.”

“Works for me,” said Rocket. The three took a light rail, attracting many odd glances and a few autograph requests. They arrived at the precinct.

“Hey, pigs, we need to talk to the time traveler you brought in,” said Rocket.

“Pardon him,” said Emma. “We heard you brought in someone from Veterans Bridge a while ago, and we were wondering if we could talk to them, since they might have information we could use dealing with a bigger situation.”

“Oh, of course,” said a cop. “Anything for you, Ms. Frost. This way.”

“Did you really have to use telepathy?” whispered Jen, crossly.

“That wasn’t telepathy, dear,” replied Emma. “I’m just pretty and famous.”

They arrived at a holding cell, where they saw a blue-haired man in a green coat floating above the ground, seemingly meditating.

“Tacky,” muttered Emma.

“Who are you working for?” said Jen. The man gave no reply.

“He hasn’t said anything since we found him,” said the officer.

“Peachy,” said Rocket. “Hey, wake up, moron! I’ll blow up this whole damn building if you don’t!”

The officer eyed Rocket. “Please pay him no mind,” said Jen. “His bark is worse than his bite.” Rocket nearly responded, but Jen’s glare stopped him.

“Looks like I’ll have to go hands-on here,” said Emma. She placed one hand on the detainee’s head, then drew it back sharply a few seconds later.

“What did you find?” asked Jen.

“Not much,” said Emma. “He put up a strong resistance; felt like a magic user. All I got was the year 2099, Doom’s name, and the word ‘correct,’ used as a verb I think.”

“Thank you, officer,” said Jen. “I don’t think we can do anything else here, so we’ll be on our way.”

Just then, Emma, Rocket, and Jen all collapsed. The cell door came open, and the man floated out.

You must be agents of this world’s Doom, said a voice in the three heroes’ heads. I was warned you might come for me. But you can’t stop me.

***

Albany

“I can magically search the city for someone temporally out of place,” said Doom, “but it may take some time.”

“That sounds—wait,” said Jim. “I just got a SHIELD alert that there’s just been a hijacking at the Albany International Airport, using some kind of laser sword. That might be our person.” The two took to the skies and soon reached the airport. They walked in the front door, attracting stares and murmurs, Doom more so than Jim.

“Is there anything we can help you with?” asked a terrified TSA agent.

“Which plane was hijacked, and which direction is it heading in?” said Jim.

“It was a 767, and it looked like the hijacker was heading southeast, maybe toward Connecticut,” said the agent.

“Thank you,” said Doom. The two rushed off, leaving the TSA agent and the crowd in the airport dumbfounded. Doom and Jim took to the skies, catching up to the plane over Massachusetts. Doom warped them inside once they were close enough. The cabin was empty, and Doom and Jim walked forward to the cockpit.

“Ha!” said the short-haired woman flying the plane. “This time’s Doom, gone astray. I could kill you right now, but my Doom would probably get upset at me. He wants to take care of you himself.”

“Leave the cockpit and allow me to turn the plane around,” said Doom, “or I will be forced to resort to violence. It will not end well for you.”

“What time did you come from?” asked Jim. “And what do you mean, gone astray?”

“So many questions!” said the woman. “Am I to leave the cockpit, or do I need to stay and be interviewed?”

Doom magically levitated her from the seat, and threw her against the cockpit wall. She collapsed, her eyes closed.

“Guess she’s out cold,” said Jim, taking over flying. Suddenly, the woman jumped back up, stabbing Jim with her laser sword. He shut off. She then planted some sort of device on Doom’s armor that completely immobilized him.

“This is Xandra,” said the woman, turning on her earpiece. “I’ve got our prodigal Doom and his android friend on a plane, headed your way.”

“Excellent,” replied Doom 2099.