The Doctor's Take 2
By Michael Weyer
I don't own Marvel or any of its characters. This hit me after reading "She-Hulk" #18 and "World War Hulk: Worldbreaker." All comments welcome.
At the pounding at her door, Jennifer Walters grit her teeth and stalked over to it. She was not a happy camper today. Not surprising given her recent travails. First finding out her cousin had been blasted into space by men she considered good friends. Then, finding out Tony had been using her to capture gamma-radiated villains just so he could use them as lab rats. Then using her as the guinea pig to test his new method of depowering metahumans. To top it all off, she now had Doc Samson, the man she thought cared about Bruce more than anyone besides herself, Rick Jones and Betty, was working on this plan to get rid of him all the time.
So it was understandable her mood when she yanked the door open, her mouth opening to rail into whoever was on the other side…
And died in her throat as she stared at the man before her.
"Ms. Walters," Doctor Victor Von Doom stated. He moved his eyes up and down her body. "I must say, I hardly recognize you."
Jennifer just stared at him in disbelief. "Doom?"
"I see your observational skills are as keen as ever. May I come in?"
Jennifer blinked. "You're…asking for permission?"
The slightest shrug shifted his cape. "I thought a mild sense of decorum might be warranted for the occasion."
Jennifer just stared before suddenly reaching up to grab at his mask. An iron grip encircled her wrist and she felt a slight burst of electricity. As she gasped, Doom's eyes narrowed, the civility leaving his voice. "Do. Not. Touch. Doom."
Jennifer pulled her arm away as soon as he loosened it, rubbing her wrist. "Sorry. Just making sure you weren't Ditto pulling some sort of joke." She watched Doom enter, studying him carefully. "It is you, right? Not a robot? Because I know you use so many of them. Stu's going on about how it's an easy way for writers to excuse you being out of character sometimes."
Doom turned to her with an obviously baffled air. "I have heard you had a unique sense of humor. I am waiting to see it." He paced before the apartment, gazing about. "A bit squalid for one of your success."
Jennifer snorted. "Well, let's see…I lost my job at the firm when I was conscripted to SHIELD and now I've been fired from them and a borderline fugitive. Sort of crimps into the bank accounts. Course, you wouldn't know anything about hard work, would you?"
Doom did not rise to the bait but turned to face her. "I will keep this brief as my attentions are required elsewhere. I know what was done to your cousin, Ms. Walters. And what has been done to you." There was a pause and somehow, Jennifer knew he was smiling under the mask. "I also know what you said to Stark."
"Which part?" Jennifer asked.
"How he was more like me than he realized," Doom replied. "I made much the same point to him but of course, he denied it." He shook his head. "A futurist he may be but it appears he is not a realist."
Jennifer sighed. "Okay, if this is the part where you offer me the chance to join you, figuring that now that I've been betrayed, I'll be in the mood for it? Save it, Doom, I'm still a hero and no way am I-----"
"He's coming back."
Jennifer stopped. "What?"
Doom reached into his cape and pulled out a large folder. He tossed it onto the table. Jennifer bent to open it, revealing a CD-ROM and several photos and charts. "Those are the latest long-range scanners courtesy of the recording stations on Titan," Doom stated.
Jennifer looked up in surprise. "You have a station on Titan?"
"No, I merely accessed theirs," Doom said as if it was not important. "They've picked this up a while ago, no doubt believing it to be simple asteroids. But as you can see…" He let his voice drift as Jennifer checked the papers. She came to an image of a ship more massive than any she could imagine. "Holy…"
"Far from it," Doom rumbled. "I have taken the trouble to run those images and data through my private scanners, the more rudimentary ones having no trouble deciphering things."
Jennifer knew that Doom's "rudimentary" systems were stuff so advanced Bill Gates wouldn't be close to making them for years. "And?"
Doom motioned for her to keep reading. She did so, flipping to an image of what looked like an infa-red outline of the ship highlighting numerous alien forms. "What…what are these colors for?" she asked as she took in the sheer number of aliens.
"The large green one is your cousin," Doom stated. "I assure you, the color coding the computer gave is a coincidence. Red is for those whose power levels are on a par with you or Leonard Samson. Blue is for those of strength like Ben Grimm."
Jennifer frowned as she studied the image. "Um…they're almost all red or blue."
It took a moment for it to sink in and Jennifer looked up, her face white. "No…"
"I must admit, the irony of this is truly and deliciously macabre," Doom said as he looked out the window. "In their attempts to rid this planet of a major threat, Richard, Stark and the rest of those fools have brought an even greater one down upon them. A ship full of aliens, the least of which could level half a city by themselves. All led by the most powerful human this world has known enraged beyond belief."
"Oh, God…" Jennifer whispered. "He can't…he couldn't do this…Not Bruce…"
"If I recall," Doom said. "It was the loss of life in a Hulk attack that pushed Stark and Richards into this."
Jennifer's head shot up, her face flushed with anger. "I don't care what line of crap SHIELD gave them. I don't care about all these fanboys arguing it's impossible no one's ever died in a Hulk rampage. I know my cousin, Doom. If he thought for one minute he'd caused the death of an innocent person…he'd have put a gun in his mouth years ago."
"True," Doom admitted. "But I highly suspect there may be nothing left of Bruce Banner. His power was always tied into his emotions. Imagine how it must be being betrayed by friends and left to rot on some backwater world. No…it is the Hulk who is returning, Jennifer Walters. A Hulk without any humanity or reason. Just pure rage that will be unleashed upon this world."
Jennifer was quiet as she put the folder back together. "What do you want from me, Doom?"
Doom cocked his head. "From you? Nothing, truly. I merely believed it was important you knew this. Oh, I'm sure you can go ahead and tell SHIELD and have them mobilize their forces. But we know that won't help. We both know that Stark's nanites will not work on the Hulk now. If that child simpleton Cho could figure out a way to reverse it, what's left of Banner's intellect can."
Jennifer bit his lip. "Cho told me he's trying to get some people who can help Bruce…Hercules and Angel among others."
Doom shook his head. "That will not be enough and you know it. I see no way to reason with him now, Walters. The line is clear. Either he must be destroyed once and for all or this world will suffer."
Jennifer shook her head in denial. "I'm not going to kill him. I can't…He saved my life…" She wiped her eyes. "This isn't his fault."
"One leaves such questions for philosophers," Doom said. "Or those self-help gurus who dominate the airwaves in your nation. What I care for is the fate of this world."
Jennifer studied him before sniffing. "Of course. Why would you want this planet trashed before you get a chance to take it over, huh? You're not fooling me, Victor. You're going to step aside until this is done and then move in and take what you can for yourself."
Doom's eyebrow arched. "And they say your cousin was the one born with the brains." He turned to pace carefully toward a window. "I admit that is part of the reason. But there is another."
"Which is?" Jennifer asked.
Doom was quiet before speaking. "Have you truly considered all that's happened in the last year, Walters? The Avengers breaking apart, the House of M, the Collective, the Civil War and now this? On top of all that, the Kree and Skrull are torn apart by a force that nearly ahnilliated the universe and yet we on Earth barely heard of it."
Jennifer shrugged. "Hey, company crossovers, what can you do?"
Doom gave her a baffled look then decided not to pursue the matter. "Something…is going on. Such events coming so close that turn hero on hero and lead to such out of character actions…Something is pushing it all. Someone is playing this world, Walters." His gauntlets tightened. "And Doom is not one to be played."
Jennifer stroked her chin. "When you put it that way…it does sound weird. So, what? You're going to find out the truth and save the world?"
"Perhaps," Doom says. "Perhaps I will simply see why this mysterious architect has gone to such lengths. Perhaps I will show him the price to trifle with Doom. Or perhaps I shall simply let him go on his path and see how it plays out." He crossed his arms. "You may inform that to Stark or Richards if you see them. Let them know that while they play their games of control, there is one person who seeks the truth and wishes to help others."
He turned back to Jennifer. "Regardless, you have a much greater problem at hand, Walters. It's time you made your choice. I'm sure you wish to stand with and aid your cousin against those who betrayed you both. But consider that the man is dead and only the beast remains. Consider the death toll that he can bring when he strikes. And consider that even if you reach the man, his army will remain. I daresay they did not travel halfway across the universe just to give up because he changes his mind."
He moved a hand to a gauntlet. "I suppose it is time to address the age old question, Ms. Walters: Do you fight for justice…or for what is right?" He hit the button and with a flash of light teleported away.
Jennifer sat back, going over the files before her and thinking of what he said. "God, Bruce.." she whispered. "I don't know if I can save you this time." She put her hand on her heads as his words echoed. "You or this planet, Bruce…you know where I have to be…"