By Adrian Tullberg.
The Civil War is very inspiring …
The man in the blue uniform and laboratory coat was furiously working on the device, in the dark.
Sue, Ben, Johnny perhaps even Peter … they didn't understand.
What he was doing was important.
No matter what they thought, no matter what they or anyone else said or did … he had to continue.
In his intensity, he didn't see the green nimbus form, grow and solidify into an image of an armoured man sitting on a raised throne.
The scientist didn't bother to turn around. "I'm busy, Victor."
An armoured hand gestured in the scientist's direction.
Three hours of careful work suddenly burst into an electrical flame.
"So I noticed."
Dr. Reed Richards rubbed the bridge of his nose while his left hand extended ten feet away to where the fire extinguisher was mounted.
"In fact, it was your recent endeavors that prompted this little conversation."
The scientist aimed the extinguisher at the fire and pressed the button, glancing at the time. Hopefully Victor wouldn't go on for too long …
"I have observed your government's recent actions with some interest, Richards."
Richards looked back at this visitor, puzzled. "I never knew you were interested in our Government at all, Victor."
"On the contrary. Men of vision have always enjoyed a good joke."
The image's eyes hardened under the metal mask.
"However, recently I'm having trouble with some of the punchlines. It would be rude for you not to explain it to an ignorant Latverian."
Reed turned away, his hands reaching for a dustpan and nearby box.
"The Superhero Registration Act - another one of your government's empty posturing to the masses. Then the Stanford disaster occurs prompting a groundswell of popular support."
Reed's hand twitched around the brush handle.
"However, esteemed scientist Reed Richards quietly expedites this new law's facilitation. No televised argument that leaves pundits a defeated rabble. No directly addressing Congress or the Senate with fine words and a history of finer deeds to support your position as you have done before."
The figure on the throne leaned forward. "Instead the boy who once spoke proudly of his uncle defying McCarthy's edicts not only stands in the back of the crowd and applauds with the sheep, he constructs a prison that would punish those who defy the raging storm." He raised his hand to his chin. "As I said, most perplexing."
Reed placed the cleaning apparatus down, not presently trusting his hands. "This ... it's very complicated Victor."
"On the contrary, I suspect it is very simple." Doom's voice grew harsher. " Answer a question posed by someone who has known you this long. Answer it truthfully and honestly - otherwise you will have no rest from me."
"And that is …?"
"What has frightened you?"
Reed turned back to Doom, trying to catch his breath.
Then his hands snaked across to the other side of the room, to the door of a wall safe.
"Once, before this started, Tony ... he predicted something like this would happen, and we should go along with it in order to defuse it. I refused to believe it."
"Personally, I would have paid more heed. Continue."
Reed's hands began to operate the multiple locks on the door.
"Then Stanford happened. I was prepared to mount a campaign - prime time interviews, testimony, I even was going to hire a lobby firm ..."
With a pneumatic hiss the safe door opened. One hand extended in, retrieving a large envelope, which retracted back to Reed.
"I received this in the mail the very next day."
The envelope had already been opened. Reed's twitching hands withdrew it's contents - two pictures from the envelope, and practically shoved them in the face of the hologrammatic image.
The first one was of Franklin Richards, the second his sister, Valeria. Both were in their beds, sleeping.
"The images are genuine. And they were wearing these pajamas the exact day before."
The image leaned forward, fingers stroking it's chin. "And you found no trace of the equipment used to take these pictures?"
"Nothing. Can you imagine the resources needed to breech my security?"
"Better than you do."
"There was also a message."
Reed turned the photos, revealing their backs. Written on Franklin's photo was 'SAY NOTHING'. Valeria's sported 'AND AGREE'.
"The day after that ... Johnny was attacked by that mob ..."
"Of course. When threatened, it is the nature of the animal to turn on each other."
Weeks of quiet demeanour vanished to reveal the incredible stress underneath.
"We can't even rely on public support Victor ..."
The image and the scientist regarded each other in the tomb-like silence.
Then the image spoke.
"I could not care less how the United Kennel of America treats those who would protect it. And the fate of you, your whelp, Susan, Grimm and Storm under this new law would be, at best, trivia."
The armoured image slowly rose from it's throne. "However, they have threatened Valeria. A child that Doom has sworn to protect. And those who had the power to monitor you would know Doom does not make such pacts lightly."
Reed looked up, confusion reigning on his features. "What ... are you going to … help ...?"
" No. But Doom will not stop you from benefiting from what consequences his actions reap. In fact ..."
The darkened monitor station had operatives manning a variety of consoles and dedicated stations. Several visual spectrums, energy emissions, radiation levels, all carefully watched and noted by the observers who's dutifully performed their tasks without reaction or emotion beyond their training.
A central hologram, half a metre high depicted the laboratory and the occupants that they were watching.
" ... one should never delay a formal declaration."
The cnetral hologram suddenly changed into a life sized image of man in a suit of armour.
The observers reacted. Badly.
"Overridden every monitor…"
"No other data flow…"
"You and your masters shall realise your sole purpose in this life. To serve as a warning to whoever, and whatever shall soon replace you and your organisation."
The surveillance supervisor found herself staring eye to eye with the image. She tried to tell herself it was complete coincidence.
"To threaten that child ... is to Invite Doom."