Alternative Strategy

By Adrian Tullberg.


Peter Parker noted that the Oval Office wasn't quite what it looked like in the movies. A little … smaller, to be honest.

The newest roster of the Avengers, along with Mr. Fantastic were standing near the big desk.

The President himself was standing near the window, letting the light frame his body. "I guess you know why I've asked you here today."

"You want to discuss the hunt and capture of Nitro?"

Someone briskly entered the Office. "That's being taken care of."

So the Vice President didn't set off his Spider-Sense. Weird.

"The new bill … the Superhuman Registration Act … Congress is going into emergency session tomorrow. I expect it's going to pass."

The heroes quickly glanced at each other before turning back to the President. "Frankly sir, I don't see how …"

"It'll stop another Stanford from happening again, that's for sure."

Mr. Fantastic raised a finger. "Actually … considering the power levels Nitro displayed, his abilities had been considerably enhanced beyond his previous recorded limits. This couldn't have been conceivably anticipated ..."

The Vice President butted in. "This situation clearly shows that we need to control those heroes that don't know what they're doing."

As Richards launched into a dry spiel about the probability of Nitro's power increase along with any hero's ability to adapt to such an extreme situation, Steve Rogers frowned under his mask.

Once, after walking away fuming from an unsuccessful negotiation in London, a guy named Appleby had pulled him aside for a talk at an upscale bar. He explained about a truism known as Politician's Logic.

In a panic situation, when a solution quickly presented itself, the thought process ran along the lines of Something Must Be Done/This Is Something/We Must Do This.

Of course, if you followed the same line of logic, you ended up with Cats Have Four Legs/My Dog Has Four Legs/So My Dog Is A Cat.

The Superhuman Registration Act was the right piece of paper at the right time. Drafted and on the table. In the short term it made the government look like it was on the ball, presenting an immediate solution to a now increasingly maddening question about superheroes.

Persuading the President and his Vice President was the key. But how … ?

Rogers stifled a grin as he raised his hand. "Mr. President?"

"Captain."

"Is there no way we can persuade you to reconsider the Superhuman Registration Act?"

The President glanced at the Vice President. "I'm afraid not."

"And I regret to say this sir – but I cannot in good conscience support this law. Once it comes into effect I will resign, effective immediately."

Captain America turned towards the other heroes. "And so will every other hero in this room."

Iron Man was stunned, to say the least. What the …

… that expression on Cap's face was unseen by the President and the Veep, but pretty clear; Play Along.

"I agree with Captain America."

"Same here."

"Sue's insisting I spend more time with the children."

"Should quit for the baby anyway."

"Better get out while I'm still getting book deal offers..."

The President tried to assimilate this. "Well, I understand…"

"Then it's settled." Captain America moved the group closer to the center of the Office, still keeping the Leader of the Free World in earshot. "The important question being … what are we going to do with all our spare time?"

Reed Richards, living with a short tempered creature of living rock, and a brother-in-law with a touch of ADHD, knew a cue when he heard one.

"Well, we could make the world a better place. In … different areas."

"Areas we couldn't impact normally because all our time was taken up being superheroes."

"Any area in mind, Cap?"

Captain America gave the President a wicked grin before turning back to the group. "What about … pollution?"

"Pollution's good."

Iron Man cocked his head slightly. "According to Google, car emissions are one of the major causes of air pollution world wide."

Luke Cage looked at Iron Man. "You get the Internet in that thing?"

"You have no idea what I get in this thing."

Spider-Man leaned over Mr. Fantastic's shoulder. "What about that idea you e-mailed me a few months back?"

"Oh yes …" Mr. Fantastic pulled out something a few generations beyond a PDA and tapped it's screen. "I was waiting for Johnny to get off the phone … talking to some girl … and I devised a method for creating artificial gasoline."

The Vice President's eyes widened.

"You invented a new form of gas?"

Mr. Fantastic shrugged, tapping away at his computer. "I never liked Sudoku. In fact, now that I've had a little time to refine the idea …" He smiled at the result. "This should burn just as efficiently as regular gasoline. However, it produces seventy-three per cent less carbon monoxide, only ignites when inside the unique conditions of an engine … should stop a few nasty accidents … can be made with household or regularly available chemicals – and even with creation, labor, refining methods, marketing, distribution and a more than generous profit mark-up…" he gave a quick look to the Vice President "… we could sell this for 47 cheaper than any gasoline on the market."

The President concentrated. This didn't sound good.

"I've just had confirmation – Stark Industries will be more than happy to get behind this. Apparently there's a bunch of chemical plants operating well below capacity that could use the contracts. A fleet of tanker trucks too." Iron Man looked at Captain America. "Since you have some free time, can Stark Industries interest you as spokesperson for this new product?"

"Well … I will need a retirement fund. And standing behind a cleaner alternative to gasoline sounds like a good way to earn it."

"Now … just hang on …"

Cage raised his hand to cut off the President. "Hey … you mind? Big boys talkin' here." He turned back to Iron Man. "There's a whole bunch of abandoned gas stations in every city. I reckon Stark Industries could buy 'em cheap, fix 'em up – there's your point of sale, know what I'm saying?"

"A lot of those stations were left derelict because the locations there were situated weren't profitable."

"If you can sell this stuff at half price, they gonna get real popular real quick."

Mr. Fantastic looked around. "Seems like we have a plan …" He glanced at his notes. "Oh."

"Oh what?"

"It occurs to me that this formula can be made very easily at home with commercially available equipment and chemicals from Home Depot. If this leaks on the Internet …"

"And it will."

"… then everybody in America will be making their own gas, cheaply and safely, at home."

The Vice President slowly reached for his left bicep and started rubbing away the sudden pain that had materialised.

Iron Man shrugged. "So it's a short term marketing campaign."

"Lot of people in cities and suburbs wouldn't bother brewing their own."

Spider-Man looked over Mr. Fantastic's shoulder. "Still … this means that the market leaders in these ingredients here would have a big jump in stock prices, wouldn't they?"

"Oh yes. Any person investing now would enjoy an astronomical profit in the next few months."

Cage looked at the list, then exchanged a high-five with Spider-Man.

Mr. Fantastic pocketed his computer. "Then it's settled. We can … replace the entire North American gasoline industry within one month, two weeks if we start tomorrow. The World Fuel Industry in seven."

"That's … an interesting conjecture, but …"

"Not now, not now. How about the power industry?"

The President felt a little light-headed.

"All that coal … nuclear energy … ain't good for the environment."

"There's the power cell technology for my armour."

"Really?"

"Yes. A simplified power cell could be installed in any house and power it for decades. Same with apartment buildings and factories. No pollution or radiation."

"You can do that?"

"I've got a whole series of them a quarter inch from my skin. They give off less radiation than a cell phone. Increase the shielding, incorporate a transformer, wire it into the mains …"

"No more blackouts or price hikes …"

"I was thinking, you could use the footage of some of your biggest battles for the commercials?"

"They'd sell real big in California …"

"All right!"

The heroes stopped, and looked at the flustered President. "Sorry sir?"

"I'll veto the bill if it comes across my desk. Send it back, and bury it in committee." He looked at Captain America. "Can you catch this Nitro fella?"

"We've got an operative sniffing him out now sir. We were going to go an help him before, but you asked us to …"

"Well go get him!"

Captain America snapped his arm up in a perfect salute. "Yes sir."

The heroes quickly left the room, Cage musing about losing his new BMW.

The Vice President nodded to Cap, who was last out the door. "Interesting bluff."

A cool gaze met the Veep's.

"I promise you sir, I wouldn't waste your valuable time with a bluff."