Johnny fiddled with his id card nervously. His id card forging skills, typical of a once-rebellious teenager such as himself, came in handy once again.
He began to stiffen his body, trying his best to fit in with the other scientists crowded around him, all waiting to be allowed onto the ship. A head scientist was calling out names, for each staff member, to enter the ship. Johnny noticed the head scientist’s bored attitude and figured it’d be easy to get aboard. His smile stopped suddenly when he noticed a figure walk by one of the ship‘s windows: Susan. She’d be a problem, but what could she do to Johnny once up in space…better stay out of her way, just to be safe.
“Fool! Remember that we are still on solid land and that I can still banish you from this project! Now be gone! Find that instrument in the next hour or your punishment will be severe!” Doom barked through his microphone.
“You still got a way with words, Doom. We need to delay the lift-off?” Sue questioned.
“Nonsense! That instrument is of little importance to the overall mission. The simple thought of losing it due to insolence is disturbing, though.” Doom said.
“So all your men…and doom bots in place?” Sue questioned.
“Of course, the real question is where is America’s golden child…Reed Richards?”
Reed laid down on his bunk with his hands covering his head. He heard the noise of the door opening and checked to see what the cause was. He saw the familiar figure of Ben Grimm.
“You okay?” Ben quizzed worriedly.
“Just thinking over things before we begin. Making sure everything is in order beforehand. I can’t mess this up, it’s my only chance to redeem myself in the government’s eyes and I need the funding for the future.” Reed spoke, deep in thought and worry.
“Bit too late now to worry, eh? Besides you’re just your usual worrying self. You’re a brilliant man, Reed, and I completely trust in you and your designs, nothing bad will happen, I swear.” Ben encouraged Reed.
“What if I don’t completely trust in me? I've made mistakes before, Ben, I’m not infallible.” Reed wondered aloud.
“Did you ever hear the saying: Someone who’s never made a mistake, never made anything at all? Now get your ass up and help me fly this son of a b****!” Ben boomed cheerfully.
“When you put it so nicely…” Reed quipped, smiling as he left the cabin with Ben.
“One last question: will we allowed beer once in space?” Ben queried.
“You’re piloting Ben…” Reed replied.
“Just my luck to be the designated driver.” Ben said.
“Does that not only apply when someone else is drunk?” Reed debated.
“Doom is on-board, there’s gotta be a drunk guy somewhere.” Ben joked as they walked to the cockpit.
Johnny peered out the viewing glass at the sight below, that of a familiar green and blue planet. It was beyond words, Johnny Storm was finally in space, he may of had to vomit for a good deal afterwards, but he was finally in space. His thoughts were interrupted by a familiar voice. “Has anyone here seen Karl Gleeson?” Susan asked the room. Johnny checked his name tag and breathed a sigh of relief, it turns out his name isn’t Karl Gleeson. The scientists either replied no or shook their head. Unfortunately Johnny couldn’t show his face so shaking his head wasn’t an option. He tried to disguise his voice and a mighty hoarse “no!” came out. Susan turned to the back of the strange scientist. “You…okay?”
“Yes, yes, just a bit…sick you know” the gravely voice of Johnny said, coughing.
“How did you pass the med check?”
“No, sick from the years of smoking, I’m not contagious.” the wheezy voice replied peering into the screen of the computer.
“But you look about 20...?” Susan questioned, confused.
“I regret my life choices…” Johnny replied.
“Okay, sorry for the personal questions.” Susan said as she rushed to another room, back into deep thought.
Johnny massaged his stinging throat and wondered how the improvisation worked. He was lucky Susan wasn’t good at engineering or else she’d know Johnny was studying the amount of storage space that bean cans take up.
Susan had already forgotten the encounter as her mind flurried. The first report came not long after the lift-off, that staff members were disappearing and Susan was searching to no avail. They could be avoiding duty, but in this many numbers, it seemed strange and they were “hiding” too well. She decided her next plan was to examine the blueprints from Reed for possible hiding spots.
“100% efficiency, sir.”
“Any infrastructure damage?”
“None detected, sir?”
Reed tapped his fingers nervously as he examined the screen in front of him. He had been repeating the same questions to his team, ever worrying of a flaw. He closed his eyes and slowly calmed his mind. He decided to stop worrying about seemingly nothing and dedicate himself to the task at hand. He studied the latest trajectory reports of the cosmic cloud and then began figuring out the trigonometry formulas in his head.
Ben smiled. He finally had some peace. The headphones were helpful in blocking out Doom’s constant barrage of mocking and arguing. Course, it also had the bonus of playing Ben’s favourite music. A sudden shrill beep made Ben jump in his seat.
“An epiphany?” Doom questioned.
“How can I…” Thing wondered aloud before realizing his headphones were connected to the main computer. This allowed them to shut off and alert Ben of any notifications.
“It’s simple, you think about your life and how much better it could be” Doom retorted.
“Ah shuttap! I’m working here!” Ben shouted as he looked at the computer screen.
“Really? Today is indeed a day of miracles!” Doom boomed.
“ No I’m serious, shiup! Someone is trya get me on the mic.” Ben explains all the while intently listening to his headphone.
“Ben, we need to move the ship slightly to intercept as much of the storm as possible. I’m sending you the co-ordinances now.” Reed spoke through the speaker.
“Sure thing, Reed.” Ben said preparing to control the ship.
As Reed was sending the data, he heard a familiar voice behind him. “Hey, you busy, Reed?”
“Oh hi Susan, ehh, I'm just done now, why do you ask?” Reed replied as he finished on the computer.
“Could I ask you a favour?” Sue asked.
“Yeah, sure, of course. It depends on what it is. I’m sure, though, that it’s not illegal or against my responsibilities” Reed said nervously, scratching the back of his neck.
“Thanks, could I see the blueprints for the ship?” Sue said calmly.
“Sure, mind me asking what for?” Reed asked as he began searching the computer’s files.
“I have been missing staff members and the ship isn’t exactly big, they must be in a hidden section or something.” Sue claimed examining the screen Reed brought up.
“Good idea. You find the cause yet? Having missing crew is extremely suspicious, it’s worrying definitely. Do you want a 3d map?” Reed asked.
“Oh yeah, sure. We haven’t found the cause yet. No one seems to know a thing, staff members just seem to disappear without a trace, hopefully this will change that. Oh it’s definitely worrying, I haven’t told anyone the extent of it yet, the imaginative ones would spread chaos like a plague and still don’t have proof of anything sinister yet.” Sue explained.
“There’s large touchscreen monitors in the meeting rooms. I think the nearest is…” Reed checked the computer. “…C. I’ll send the link onto there and you can examine it more easily and without getting bothered.” Reed helpfully claimed.
“Ah, thanks very much, Reed. Listen don’t worry about the missing crew, I’ll look into it. You’re doing great work on the project and I don’t want to bother you anymore. I’ll get out of your way, thanks for everything, bye!” Sue exclaimed as she left for the meeting room.
“Ah you’re fine, I don’t mind…” Reed replied before realizing Sue had left. Reed sighed and thought of a word Sue said: sinister. It trembled his skin. There was a lot at stake in this project and even worse is the amount of people who were at stake. Reed breathed in and out calmly. All aforementioned things at stake were depending on him and he needed to get his head back into things. When thinking about his conversation with Sue, he realised he had rarer reaction than his typical paranoia: affection.
Sue spent a while in the meeting room examining every remotely-hidden section and noting their location. She then brought up a list of non-essential personel and sent them to examine the aforementioned areas.
Sue then relaxed, or at least tried to. This waiting felt strange to her. She was most comfortable when busy, used to heavy responsibilities since a young age. She worried about her safety, especially during these troubling times, for Johnny’s sake. He wasn’t yet independent minded enough to survive on his own and Susan’s death would devastate him. Though perhaps her mind exaggerated the effects, she still worried deeply about Johnny’s future, she was his sole family member now after the losses throughout their lives. Just to be safe, she walked to her room, mind full concentrated until she reached her case.
She reached inside a hidden compartment and soon a sleek figure appeared, that of a Glock pistol. She stared at the vile weapon for a moment before gripping it tightly and closing her eyes. She sighed and concealed the weapon before continuing back to duty.
She barely has a moment to plan when a voice spoke through the microphone; “Ma’am this is Herman Jones, we’ve eh, found something strange.”
“Could you explain further?” Sue asked.
“To be honest, we’re not quite sure what it is yet. We’ll investigate further.” the microphone buzzed modestly.
“Maintain radio contact as much as possible.” Sue ordered.
“Yes ma’am, we’re approaching…” the radio cut off.
“Herman? Herman? Do you copy? Herman?! Is anyone there?!” Sue yelled into her microphone but was only met by static.
She urgently began selecting the appropriate channels and began ordering to reach the appropriate storage immediately.
“Ma’am we’ve searched the immediate area, none of the men you mentioned were found, what’s the next plan of action?” A security personnel asked Sue who was overseeing the operation intently.
“Continue searching the area and order your men to search for anything strange, I’ve to talk to someone.” Sue calmly ordered as she began to leave.
“That burn mark hardly counts, does it?” a nearby security staff member asked as he pointed at the dark patch on the ceiling.
“From the engine or some piece of equipment I’d imagine Jenkins, continue searching.” the leader ordered.
“Only we’re at the far end of the ship from such things.” Sue thoughtfully pointed out.
“What, what could it mean?” the leader asked worriedly.
“I don’t know, yet. Hopefully I know someone who will” Sue declared exiting.
Sue was out of her league here, she was definitely not trained for this. Confused about which solutions to choose, she decided to ask the one man who never seemed to run out of them.
Reed entered the viewing room. It had only windows and has no use beyond viewing objects easier with eyesight. It was now functioning as a private meeting room for a most drastic situation. With the cosmic storm almost upon them, the staff were all elsewhere preparing instruments and defences, it was a good spot for a meeting without arousing suspicions.
“Hi Sue, why’d you call, you sounded worried?“ Reed greeted.
“Worried is an understatement, Reed, the situation is dire.” Sue declared grimly.
“How so” Reed’s mood suddenly lowered.
Sue explained the situation, much to Reed’s dismay.
“Who can we trust?” Reed asked grimly.
“I don’t know anymore, Reed, I only told you.” Sue admitted.
Reed realised that out of all the people on board, she trusted him the most, though it gave a refreshing bit of optimism amongst the tension, he quickly got his mind back into the current situation.
“Should we inform Doom?” Reed asked.
“Not yet, he might be behind this behind this somehow, never underestimate Doom’s deviance.” Sue explained while pacing deep in thought.
“There is one who I trust completely, Ben Grimm.” Reed suddenly explained.
“The pilot?” Sue asked.
“Yes, I’ve known him since college and never known a more loyal man, he still believes he owes me, no matter how much I say otherwise. I know my back is safe with him.” Reed declared.
There was a momentary pause.
“Make the call, Reed.”
Johnny patrolled the empty corridors with a chocolate bar in one hand and a mobile phone in the other. He eagerly munched the snack while concentrating on an arcade game. He strolled into a generator room and sat against the wall. He relaxed.
He was tired of hiding from Susan and needed time to relax. Barely anyone went down here so Johnny chose this as his place to chill. It was a corridor full of spare storage rooms and various rooms with things powering and keeping the ship going. Since most of these were controlled and maintained in other rooms, these rooms were generally free and this is Johnny “lived”.
He quickly got bored of the game and switched to music and lay down on his sleeping bag, out of focus from the world. Everything was normal for a while until he was switching his play list. He heard a noise and noticed a shadow coming from the corridor. Fearful of being found, he hid sleeping bag quickly and then peered into the corridor.
He saw a shadow disappearing around the corner away from the corridor. He breathed a sigh of relief. He was about to return to his music when something caught his eye. A plate of the wall seemed out of place and as he thought about it, he realized this was a new addition to his little corridor.
Interested, he walked rapidly over to the mysterious plate and moved it out of his way. Beyond it he found an opening. As any impulsive young person would do, he crawled in. Upon looking up, he gasped in surprise. He found various computer systems and long metal crates cramped in a small area. Curiously he opened one of the crates and his eyes widened with fear.
There inside were several advanced looking weapons, neatly stacked and with a sinister sleek look about them. He began to examine the other crates and found similar results, with the odd exception of strange instruments and objects that were more than likely explosives of some kind. Johnny stood back to take it all in.
He feared of a terrorist attack, but yet in a strange way it also gave him excitement. His initial instinct was to flee and never speak of this, lest he become a target. This suddenly changed his mind of potential targets. This was usually reserved for leaders and that meant…Sue. Johnny’s heart rate increased and his breath seemed to stop. He must warn Susan at all cost, no matter the consequences, all other thoughts seem to be abandoned as Johnny ran. He ran like the wind, never stopping, never obstructed and concentrating solely on one thing: Sue’s safety. He thought of a world without Sue but his mind simply couldn’t comprehend the sheer thought of it.
Beyond the sinister metal mask of Doom, a grin was seen. The secret alert had been sent to Doom to tell of Reed’s location, and the timing was right. With the encroaching cosmic collision, the trap must be set. One factor delayed it, though. He seen Ben leave and curiously asked of his destination. Upon hearing of it, he realized he may be able to eliminate two obnoxious fools for the price of one. Silently a chip penetrated Ben’s back, Doom then removed his hand from the button on his gauntlet. Ignorance was bliss, Doom thought. Ben would never know of his doom.
“Suuuuuuuuuuueeeeeeeeee!!!!” the roar echoed around the small viewing room.
“Johnny?” Sue responded confusedly as she and Reed turned to face the approaching voice.
The door was open and in the threshold was an exhausted Johnny.
“Do you realize how trouble you cause, being on board!? My job! Your safety! Does none of this matter to you!” Sue argued but Johnny cut her off.
“Sue, I know how much you love to lecture me but now is not the time! There are terrorists on board and god knows what the hell they’ll do!” Johnny explained gasping for breath in between words.
“How do you know?” Reed suddenly cut in, interested in Johnny’s information.
“Found their hideout, full of weapons, explosives and I think their computers were hacking the ship.” Johnny explains, emphasizing with his hands.
“It’s worse than I thought…” Sue muttered.
“Why didn’t the hideout show on the blueprints” Reed questioned.
“They obviously must have added it on secretly themselves.” the three turned to see the tall body of Ben Grimm.
“What do you mean? How would they do this without anyone noticing?” Reed asked.
“If they got on board they could have helped build the thing, it ain’t stowaways you got, it’s traitors.” Ben bluntly spoke.
“Where is these weapons” Sue suddenly spoke.
“They were down in…” Johnny suddenly wasn’t able to speak and landed in a heap on the ground. A feeling of déjà vu came over him.
“Reed…what is…happening” Sue struggled to speak. Johnny noticed all of them were in the same situation.
“The gravity…something…triggered…it” Reed explained.
“The terrorists?” Johnny asked.
Suddenly the conversation was interrupted by the noise of a klaxon and an announcement booming around the ship.
“Cosmic Storm imminent! All staff to their stations and all preparations must be in order!” the PA announced.
“Need…to be at my station.. mustn’t fail” Reed declared as he struggled for the door. He soon flopped back down, his effort in vain.
The whole ship was a flurry of crew going back and forth, concentrated fully on their duty and the preparations for the incoming storm. Meanwhile a lone scientist was running through the living area of the ship, he clumsily forgot a necessary instrument and need to recover it before his superiors noticed. He took a shortcut through a public lounge and glanced briefly out the window. The glance was enough to interest the scientist as he spotted a small object in the distance gradually approaching the ship.
He thought it was an asteroid or a satellite but upon closer examination, it was indeed a craft of some kind. Curiously he called a friend of his, on the upper decks, to check the scanners for anything in the area. Nothing was detected. Though he said nothing to his friend of his reasoning for the random scan, his mind was abuzz. He could see it clear as day but yet no instruments could pick it up. He began to contact Doom but he noticed movement out of the corner of his eye. He saw the shadow of a figure with a weapon shape in front of him. His eyes widened, but it was too late. For less than a second his ears heard a vile sizzling noise.
Having given up hope of escaping their predicament, the four silently slumped in their areas. The silence was broken by a booming voice;
“Lockdown imminent, Cosmic Storm incoming!”.
Reed heard the sound of Ben sighing but noticed a look of fear on Sue’s face. Curiously he followed her glance and gasped.
“Oh my god…” Sue exclaimed. Johnny and Ben looked to see the shielding coming down outside the window, or rather trying to.
The noise of the metal crashing behind them confirmed Reed’s fears.
“Wonderful” Ben muttered.
“Are we… going to… die?” Johnny asked fearfully.
“Not…if…I can…help…it!” Sue strained, as her shoulder tried to edge towards Johnny.
Reed heard Ben take a deep breath. He looked at him and noticed he appeared to be doing some sort of mediating. Ben’s eyes were closed and his body was still. Then Reed noticed “it”.
It was a quickly approaching cloud getting larger by every second, and Reed couldn’t help but stare at the beauty of the phenomenon.
“Johnny…don’t…worry…” Sue strained as she slid closer.
The mixture of colours began to swirl towards the ship.
“I’m…here…just…remember…” Sue strained, her tears dropping like stones due to the heavy gravity.
There were explosives in the cloud, causing greens, blue, reds, yellows, purple, any thinkable colour to burst out.
Electrical storms crackled throughout the cloud, energy surging from every flash.
The cosmic paint palette was now huge and imposing, thundering throughout the room.
“Mom…will be there…”
A huge flash caused Reed to close his eyes.
Then came the silence…