Cloak and Dagger
By: Mahiri Chuma
Disclaimer: I do not own any recognizable characters, themes, settings and the like; they all belong to Marvel and Fox as well as the genius that is Stan Lee.
Summary: Hothead Johnny Storm has proved himself a hero to the world countless times. As mankind has always known, however, trust is fleeting and one meddling plan turns millions against one. A hero struggles to survive and a family is torn apart. Johnny-centric R/S.
A/N: Hello all! This is my first F4 fic and I hope it is well received and enjoyed! I love the movies and hope for a third and this is merely to stave the F4 fandom hunger. I promise you plenty of angst and drama as well as action and adventure. I love the Human Torch so I will be focusing quite a bit on him but I promise the others will be in it just as much. Also, this tale begins with the end so please do not be alarmed…it shall be a long story…Enough said. Please enjoy and of course, review!
Prologue: Da Svidaniya, Tovarich
Johnny Storm couldn't recall anything in his life that had felt so bitter, frustrating and tormenting as the cold steel pressed stiffly into the back of his skull. He had been within inches of reaching his goal and could still taste the victory in his parched mouth.
He had left his home and family and had come halfway around the world following the trail of a man intent on ending his life but only after he had been broken, humiliated and defeated. This person wanted him to die the most painful death possible and he was mere seconds from achieving his goal.
"Stoy…" Though Johnny had never accelerated in the Russian language classes offered by NASA, it was clear that the man wanted him to cease moving.
Johnny sighed heavily, the taste of blood thick in the back of his throat. The various clicks of cocking guns proved that he had walked into the trap he had avoided for the past week whilst on the run. He was dirty, exhausted and injured and he had let it get the best of him.
"Kragoff was right, da? You would run into trap soon enough."
Johnny pushed his body into overload as he tried to summon the energy necessary to provide his escape. He could feel his skin begin to heat up, traveling away from his body and warming the air around him. Reed had once so graciously informed him that a lead bullet melts at a minimum of 620° Fahrenheit and that when he achieved that temperature, if he could be caught, the bullet would nearly evaporate upon contact with his superheated body. However, that was how it should work in theory, as Reed stressed, and to this unfortunate day it had remained a theory.
This theory wasn't to be tested, within seconds of attempting to pull some energy from his core he could feel his temperature fall allowing an even deeper fatigue to pull at his weary frame. Even if he could achieve a more 'bullet-proof' form, he wouldn't be able to maintain it for long or even attempt to leave the ground.
Reed had given him fair warning that exerting himself would lead to an inability to 'Flame On.' He could only surmise that the week of flying around the world, avoiding Air Force missiles and those of bounty seeking civilians and his lack of communication with his family had drained him of every resource he had…that and the whatever drugs had been forced into his system just hours before.
If only Ben and Suzie could see me now.
Neither his reputation nor his family could protect him and he found himself in enemy territory within New York City and after several attacks on his home and plenty of run-ins with various high-power government agencies, he had taken off. If he made it out of this Sue would never let him hear the end of it.
"Pryed." He was pushed forward, the gun digging deeper into his skull and he could only assume that the man behind him wanted him to move forward.
"Watch it, Igor. My head might just break that gun of yours."
The effect of his apparent bravado was greatly reduced by the fact that his voice was just about as hoarse as nails and his chest heaved with the exertion of walking and talking.
Never been a great multitasker anyway…
The man he had attempted to insult gave him a quick, jabbing punch in the kidneys causing him to lurch forward, biting back a groan of pain. His body had certainly taken a beating and he would be sure to sleep for at least two weeks when he got out of this mess. He curled his arm around his side protectively and winced as the ribs he had cracked and bruised sometime during his journey grated against his skin, threatening to make an unwanted external appearance.
He almost wished that Sue was there to fuss over him. The mere sight of him would send her into a tizzy. The last time he had looked in a mirror, though in reality it had merely been a shattered remnant of glass, was three days prior in Al-Quwayr, a small northeastern village in Iraq. His eyes were sunken and shadowed by dark rings, his face was bloodied, his lip split and swollen and he was covered in dirt, sand and mud.
His flight, or rather his fleeing, had been interrupted over the Persian Gulf by the US military and after nearly being obliterated by a set of heat seeking missiles he crash landed within miles of the small village. He sought refuge in a rather rundown lean-to, surprising a small family almost to the point of drawing a rather broken and sand encrusted AK-47; no doubt salvaged from one of the wrecked M939 trucks laying wrecked on the town outskirts.
He believed it was that particular encounter that left him with most of the multitude of scrapes, abrasions and contusions that covered his body. His ears and nose were still filled with the desert sand and he had never had the chance to wash the filth from the reopened head wound he had suffered at the hands of one Corporal Cartwright.
As he was led to what appeared to be certain death he pushed back the ringing in his ears, the mind numbing migraine and the crippling fatigue to think about his family.
Reed had done all he could to clear his name, though the evidence against him was devastating. He had spent days analyzing the incriminating footage and evidence, trying to find a viable explanation. Any other man would have just accepted the fate of his brother-in-law but Reed knew Johnny and knew that if Johnny said he didn't do it, he didn't do it. Eventually the masses won and the Baxter Building was invaded by CIA and FBI alike intent on claiming the Human Torch.
The last time he had seen Sue, she was beside herself with worry. She couldn't believe what Johnny was being accused of or that Johnny could count his allies on only one hand. After all he had done, after the sacrifices that they had nearly had to make to save the world from Galactus, not one person doubted his apparent guilt. He had promised her that he wouldn't try to handle this himself, that he would wait for them to find out more and formulate a plan. He had grinned and given her a warm comforting hug and made a promise.
He thought they knew him a bit better. There was no way he was going to put his sister in danger, or Reed and Ben for that matter.
Nevertheless, Sue truly would be quite cross.
Ben knew what he was thinking from the beginning and was the first to warn him not to take off alone like the hothead he is. Ben knew Johnny better than anyone could have guessed. Having been his Commanding Officer in NASA for countless years, he could tell when Johnny was going to pull something and what situations would set him off.
He had developed a rather reluctant fondness for the kid and Johnny had seen evidence of the fact for the first time when Ben had put his large stone hand on his shoulder and said, "Don't go doin' somethin' stupid, hothead." Johnny had returned the gesture, placing his hand on Ben's shoulder and proclaiming with a grin, "I probably will, Pebbles."
This earned him a slight push and annoyed grumbling followed by some heated reprimands but Johnny had seen the fear in Ben's eyes. He knew what Johnny was thinking and knew he would have a hard time stopping him. The fact was killing him.
He was thrown out of his reverie when he was suddenly forced to his knees, landing in an ice-cold puddle of filthy, oil-stained water. Though his body temperature was slightly below his regular 200° he was blissfully unfeeling to the biting cold of the Russian spring and for that he was thankful. Any other man would have succumbed to his injuries and the elements by now.
Heavy, metallic steps signaled the arrival of a new player and Johnny looked up, attempting disinterest, at the man descending the rusting iron stairwell. The heavy-set man wore a heavy brown coat, typical of the Russian lifestyle, his scarce white hair stuck to the sides of his head, falling upon his shoulders only accenting his double chin. He cleared his throat as he closed the gap between himself a Johnny and stopped before him, pulling out an old Makarov pistol.
He observed it casual before pulling it back swiftly to deliver a rather painful blow to his new prisoner.
Stars exploded before Johnny's eyes and for a moment, he forgot where he was and why he was feeling this immense pain. He could feel his cheek open up, warm fluid that could only be blood making it's way down his face and neck.
The man before him laughed a guttural laugh, slapping his knee. It would almost sound friendly had it not been for his current predicament.
Johnny lifted his head and let out his own chuckle, his brows arched in mock amusement. He reached out a hand, palm open and facing upwards clearly demanding the gun.
"Okay, okay. My turn." This only earned him another painful encounter with the butt of the small handgun; the cut on his cheek expanding in size. He felt an intense form of vertigo as his head tilted backwards, his eyelids fluttering in an attempt to remain awake. He could hear his blood rushing in his ears, deafened by the sound for a moment.
"C-C'mon…my face has two sides you know…" The man before him did not react, he was well aware of his captives more annoying personality traits and that it was merely a mask the young man was wearing; his quips may have hidden his fear but his body betrayed him. His breaths came in ragged gasps and his muscles quivered with exhaustion and tension.
"Such a brave face you wear Johnny Storm." The Russian turned away from his captive, idly reloading his pistol. It wasn't in need of a new of a new cartridge but he had learned from experience that nothing was more frightening to a prisoner than watching the slow loading of their possible murder weapon.
"With the whole world against you, you act as though you have something up your sleeve," Johnny felt his chest tighten as the man observed his fire arm with a detached interest, "and you run from your semya, from your family. You have always been a man of mistakes."
I've always been a man of mistakes?
Johnny was now getting the terrible feeling that he had perhaps encountered this fellow at some point in his life; super villains always made remarks like that when they a had a history with you.
"I am hurt, Johnny Storm. You do not remember the man who helped bring you to space?" The man pulled a thick cigarette from his pocket, awaiting an answer.
Johnny furrowed his brow in concentration. He couldn't remember any Russian CO or pilot when he was with NASA, he was sure he would have recognized the accent… Kragoff was right, da? You would run into trap soon enough. That's what the man who had been …and still is… pressing that gun into the back of his head had said.
"Light?" The man held the cigarette in front of Johnny's face and chuckled. The smell of the tobacco stung his nostrils. It was a rather powerful combination, one he hadn't smelled in a long time…
"Kragoff…" Kragoff had turned away towards one of his men, being offered a small heated rod, similar to a car lighter, to light his cigarette. He wouldn't allow a live flame to come within inches of the man they called the Human Torch.
"Ivan Kragoff…you're the monkey guy!" Johnny could see the corner of his eye twitch with the remark but the man remained turned away.
Johnny took the moment to take in the information he had just acquired. He had been flying across the world, avoiding missiles and nearly killed to find the primate specialist of NASA?
"The monkey guy," the last word was spit as though it had tasted foul. He had never enjoyed American slang, "you are a brash, stupid man, Human Torch. It was my studies in 'monkeys' that led to the specifications for the craft that brought you into space. I must admit, I may have made a couple mistakes in my design…I hear the ship's computer may have aided in Reed's stray calculations concerning cosmic clouds?"
Johnny knew what the man was implying but for the life of him, and the stakes were in fact that high, he couldn't figure out why the man was holding a personal grudge or what they had done in the first place to become the target of his anger.
"You still do not know? Perhaps the name Ivanka ring bells?" Johnny could feel the blood drain from his face, removing what was left of any color he had held. Only Ben and himself had known of Ivanka and the events that had led to her death and his extermination from NASA.
He hadn't spoken to anyone about that particular event in years and now that he was being forced to think about it he was beginning to see a connection.
"Da. You see it now, "Kragoff took a deep breath, the end of his cigarette burning a bright red, "I will enjoy watching you, Johnny. You turned your back on your only allies and I look forward to destroying them."
The implications of his word hit Johnny like a punch in the gut from an angry Ben. He had walked into the biggest trap of all even though he had been warned countless times to not do anything stupid.
Johnny hung his head, sweat and blood dripping into his eyes. His lungs stung as his breaths became even more difficult as his mind whirled with the repercussions of his actions. He had made a mistake and it was back to haunt him; worst yet, it was going to destroy those close to him first.
The Human Torch looked into the eyes of Kragoff, his gaze filled with rage and the promise to make the other man's life miserable.
"You will be easy to break, Johnny Storm."
There you have it! And now we have to go alllll the way back to the beginning, how cruel. You'll know what happens in, I don't know, ten or so chapters.
I hope you enjoyed the first part of this story, The villain comes from an actual F4 villain. I just took him and made him more realistic and molded him to fit the story a bit more…
I implore you to review with any suggestions, criticism and of course, kind comments. I'd love to know what you think and it will only make me write faster!
Until next time , my friends!