FANTASTIC FORCE #10

“When is he gonna be done?” asked Rocket.

“Indeed,” said Emma. “Tony Stark only takes a few seconds to put his armor on, you know.”

“Brilliance cannot be rushed,” said Doom, emerging from his bedroom in his backup suit of armor. “I believe you’ve used that line yourself, Ms. Frost.” Emma grumbled under her breath.

“What’s the plan?” asked Longshot.

“We should really call the Avengers,” said Jen.

“That would be unwise,” said Doom. “Introducing the Avengers would escalate the conflict, increasing the risk of collateral damage. If they choose to introduce themselves, that is beyond our control, but we need not expedite that process.”

“So we blow their base to smithereens,” said Rocket. “This future Doom is smart, but no brains I’ve seen can stop a nuclear warhead after it’s been dropped.”

“There are hundreds of brainwashed SHIELD agents there,” said Sue. “Out of the question.”

“If we can’t bring in more firepower,” said a newly-repaired Jim, “we need to find a weakness to exploit.”

“The nanites,” said Emma. “If we can break his control over the SHIELD agents, the other Doom loses both his hostages and his manpower.”

“The only way to do that would be introducing some agent into their bodies that can target the nanites and quickly disable them,” said Doom. “It will take some time to devise.”

“It’ll take less time if you let Rocket help you,” said Longshot. Doom hesitated, but then summoned Rocket with a wave of his hand. The two technicians departed for the lab.

Sue, Emma, Jim, Jen, and Longshot stood awkwardly in the hallway.

“What are we supposed to do now?” said Jen.

“Anyone got a deck of cards?” said Longshot.

“You have luck powers,” said Jim.

“I wasn’t gonna suggest playing a game!” said Longshot. “That would be unfair. I just learned this neat card trick I wanted to show everyone.”

“That’s gonna have to wait,” said Sue. “We’ve got company.” Sue waved her hand, and a dozen SHIELD agents became visible, along with Xandra.

“What—how did—“ Jen stammered as the agents drew energy weapons.

“The other Doom must have figured out a way to copy my powers when I showed up,” said Sue. “They stowed away on the plane with us and have been waiting for a chance to attack. I’m just glad I noticed them when I did.”

“Are you done?” said Xandra. “Fire, minions.” The SHIELD agents fired their weapons, hitting a force field Sue had already made around the heroes.

“Do we tell Doom?” asked Jen.

“We need him and Rocket to finish what they’re working on,” said Jim. “That means keeping these guys contained to this hallway.”

“Eliminate their weapons,” said Sue. “Do whatever you feel like to the sword lady. Don’t hurt anyone else.” The others nodded.

Your friend was able to resist me, thought Emma at Xandra. I doubt you will be the same.

Emma telepathically overcame the warrior, gaining control of her and ordering her to yell “Drop your weapons!” at the agents.

“That was quick,” said Jen.

“I’m talented,” said Emma.

“That was you?!” said Longshot. “I figured she just decided to be nice.”

Jen stepped out of an opening in the force field and gathered up the guns, then tapped Xandra on the head with an open hand, knocking her out. Jim melted the weapons, reducing them to a pile of metal and leaving a nasty scorch mark on Doom’s floor. Sue pushed Xandra and all the agents into a corner with a force field, then made one to confine them there.

“Future Doom needs to step up his game!” said Jen. “If that’s the best he can throw at us, he doesn’t stand a chance.”

***

“Can you hand me a socket wrench?” asked Rocket.

“Get it yourself,” said Doom.

“Little arms,” said Rocket. Doom groaned and handed it over.

There was a loud noise from outside the laboratory. “Do you know what that was?” asked Doom.

“She-Hulk probably knocked something over,” said Rocket. “Don’t worry about it.” Doom mumbled in agreement. The two continued working.

A couple minutes later, Rocket asked Doom, “Do you have anything to drink? I’m parched.”

“I can summon a Doombot to retrieve you a bottle of water from the kitchen,” said Doom.

“You really that lazy?” said Rocket. Doom threw his hands up in frustration and teleported to the kitchen. Rocket instantly ran to one of the lab computers, typed something in, downloaded something onto a USB drive, and returned to the workbench. Doom came back with a bottle of water immediately after.

Doom and Rocket worked, mostly in silence, for an hour more before the cure was ready. They left the lab, Rocket scampering with the syringe containing it in his mouth. They came out to the hallway and found the other five guarding twelve SHIELD agents and one Wakandan-Latverian warrior in a force field.

“Oh, hello there,” said Emma. “Don’t mind us, just saving the day.”

“Why did you not alert me that my castle was invaded?” said Doom.

“You needed to finish your nanite cure,” said Jen. “Alerting you would have slowed that down. Speaking of, is it done?”

“Yeah yeah yeah,” said Rocket. “Don’t get your leotard in a twist, we got it right here.” Rocket handed Sue the syringe.

“I gotta say,” said Longshot, “it’s pretty lucky that some test subjects showed up right at the same time we were making a cure. Especially since they were so easy to beat!” He said this right as Sue was injecting one of the agents with the syringe.

“Oh god,” said the agent. “What’s going on? Where am I? Why is Doctor Doom here?”

“Wait a second,” said Sue. A look of sheer panic went over her face, and she immediately threw a force field around everyone in the room but the agent she had injected.

“What’s going on?” said Jim.

The injected agent began to glow orange, and a second later, there was a massive explosion. A few minutes later, the dust settled, and the seven heroes looked around. Castle Doom had been reduced to rubble.

“The nanites aren’t just mind control,” said Rocket, a horrible realization coming over him. “They’re also a failsafe.”

“And in this case, a suicide weapon,” added Jen, looking down in shock.

“Was anyone else in the castle?” asked Jim.

“Only… only Doombots,” said Doom, looking away from the others. “Forgive me. This is… this is unexpected. I… do not know what to do now.”

“Wow,” said Rocket. “The big guy’s looking kinda small.”

“Excuse me?” said Sue. “You, of all people, don’t know what to do?” Jen attempted to hold her back, but Sue stomped in Doom’s direction.

“Forgive me for being a tad distraught that the my home has been destroyed!” snapped Doom, turning back to face Sue.

“The Baxter Building’s been destroyed before!” said Sue. “Hell, you yourself shot it into space once! Did the Fantastic Four stand around and mope afterwards? There are people who need saving right now. The whole world might be in danger. You said you were ready to be a hero. Well, guess what? Heroes don’t back down when they lose their toys. Getting knocked down and kicked is part of the job, and maybe that’s a new concept for you, but if you can’t jump back up, then maybe you don’t get to be redeemed.

Sue turned to the other five. “Come on, everyone,” she said. “We’re gonna call the Avengers.”

“No,” said Doom. “As I said, they would merely escalate the situation. Fighting an enemy with an intellect equal to mine requires surgical precision, and I do not believe the six of you are capable of accomplishing as such without my guidance. Losing the castle was a setback, and it momentarily clouded my vision. No longer. We shall attack this other Doom, and we shall prevail.”

“Woohoo!” said Longshot, clapping. He looked around. “What? Is no one else excited?”

“He’s still Doctor Doom,” said Jen.

“Indeed I am,” said Doom. “And that is a name to be feared.”