Original Twist

AN: This particular story uses What If Volume 1 Issue #6 as its inspiration, but I consider it to take place in a universe of my own creation, so I will play hard and lose with Marvel continuity (even alternate reality continuity) as it pleases me. I will not directly say what year it takes place in at any point in the story, but to help you get a general idea, you may assume that this story starts in (prepare for irony) 2004.

Chapter one, Changes: In which Reed Richards loses everything except what matters to him most.

After taking care of a base need (and a few sanitary ones afterwards) Reed Richards returned to the bedroom that he and his, for lack of a more scientific term, girlfriend Susan Storm shared. Though she'd been asleep when last he laid eyes on her, while Reed had been busy she had woken up, and gotten dressed. A wide and lazy smile dwelt upon her face as she sat cross legged on the bed they shared. "We're gonna waste a lot of time today."

Reed's eyebrows immediately arched upwards. Among other couples given her position and attire such words might have been a request to join her on the bed for another round of lovemaking, but Reed knew better. What he didn't know was why Susan had waited until today to tell him that she thought his plan for the first civilian designed, funded, and piloted flight to the moon wasn't a good idea.

During the period of time (Reed profoundly hoped that it was less than a year because if it wasn't he'd forgotten all about having an anniversary celebration of having spent 365 days -- give or take a February 29th -- in one another's company) they'd gotten used to understanding one another's body language and Susan realizing he was perplexed gave him an answer before he could even ask the question. "I can only speak for myself of course, but I went to the moon and back at least three times last night."

Reed blushed, there were certain ares where he considered himself if not exactly unmatched, at least among the very best. Most hard sciences for example, he was a genius after all, but saddly there were things in life (regardless of what the Karma Sutra had to say) you couldn't learn in books, and at times he wondered just how much was his actual skill and just how much was Susan giving him extra points for effort.

The difference in their ages didn't exactly work in his favor after all, Susan was twenty-six, while he was at thirty-four only just barely nearer to thirty than forty. Then of course there was the difference in their bodies, Reed had always cared more about exercising his mind than worrying about the particular vehicle which housed it.

He was the taller of the two at 5'9 with brown eyes, and brown hair that was starting to go prematurely grey. In short the best thing that could be said about him physically was that he wasn't noticeably overweight or out of shape, which was probably something of a miracle given how he'd spent many a late night working on some particular project eating whatever was within easy reach.

Susan on the other hand was unimpressive where height was concerned, being only 5'6, but that the only thing about her body which wasn't fantastic in one way or another. She had almost golden (or maybe that was just Reed's imagination playing tricks with him) blonde hair that she wore in curls, and bright blue eyes.

While various colleges had been more or less trampling over one another to give him a chance to enrol by his sixteenth birthday, because he was (and could say so without feeling overly egotistical, it was only the truth after all) a genius, Susan hadn't been so lucky.

Not that she was foolish, Reed wouldn't have been able to stand being in a relationship with a woman who couldn't at least make a decent showing of keeping up with him mentally, but Susan seemed to have more knowledge when it came to reading people than reading books.

Of course this was probably in part due to the fact after the death of her mother her father had gambled away most of their family's money she probably wouldn't have ever been able to go to college if it wasn't for three things: the first was that she had a kindly aunt who was reasonably well-off financially, the second was that Reed had seen a few (only a handful of them at most but such events did exist) times when her sheer determination towards a certain goal had left even him feeling slackjawed thus leaving him with no doubts that if she wasn't as gifted as he was mentally, she'd tried harder regardless of how much she achieved, and the third was that she'd been an excellent swimmer which allowed her to obtain a fairly generous scholarship. Susan had swum throughout her college years and still found time to do it now and again after her graduation.

If Reed truly focused, he could bring himself to think that Susan had an aesthetically pleasing body when viewed through the lens of his society's current standards of beauty. But as she bounced from the bed with a smile on her face Reed's higher level thought processes were momentarily put on hold and he was forced to rely on more robust and primitive means of framing his thought processes: Susan Storm Hot!

Having reached that particular conclusion his mind now offered all sorts of helpful ways to expand upon it, for example she was so hot that Reed should have taken pictures of them together and mailed copies of it to every single person who he hadn't liked growing up just so that they could see what a kind of proverbial hot cheerleader digs nerd geek relationship he'd more or less stumbled head first into by sheer luck, or that she was so hot Reed should go down on his knees and thank Thomas, Nikola, Albert, and all the rest that even consider being a relationship with him.

It probably helped that he was rich, and it wasn't inherited either, straight out of college Reed had basically done nothing but invent and file patents for his various inventions. Of course he didn't care that much about the money, so long as it was enough to keep his laboratory stocked with whatever tools he wanted that was enough. Some poets said that they did art for the sake of art, Reed Richards did science chiefly for the sake of science.

Ideas seemed to spontaneously breed in his mind and would not go away until he'd forced them to by fully examining said ideas from every possible angle. There were times when he worried that if for some reason he wasn't able to keep inventing things then all the ideas he wasn't attending to would pile up in the corners of his mind and drive him mad.

"So do you want for breakfast?" Susan's hug caused the fifty different trains running every which way in his mind to all slam into each other creaking an astounding pile of debris which left him barely able to produce a single coherent word. "Toast."

"It'll be waiting for you when you finally get downstairs." Then she kissed him on the cheek. At which point a fifty-first train, angry that it had missed all the fun, slammed head long into the wreckage of the other fifty.

After having a mind that worked like clockwork for the better part of three decades, there were moments when Reed wondered why exactly he'd thought actively inviting hormones into that delicate equation would be a good idea. Sadly such thoughts were the equivalent of locking the barn door and waving a polite goodbye to the horse thieves who were making off with your four-legged former property. It was too late to do anything about it. Those particular lunatics were running the asylum and had been doing so for at least two months now.

There was only one thing left to do: politely acquiesce to their demands however insane. Helen of Troy had a face which had launched a thousand ships. Susan Storm's face was only going to launch one, but it was going to launch it from the earth to the moon.

He wondered which was the greater distance, the one traveled by those ships powered by rudimentary sails multiplied by the thousand of them that travelled it, or the distance his one ship propelled by powerful rockets was going to travel. Figuring out the answer would make an amusing diversion if nothing else.

But before he could consider checking the relevant data to solve that problem, there was another piece of datum much closer to home to check first. He opened up his sock drawer, and removed about half a dozen pairs about until he found the box he'd buried beneath them. It fit easily in the palm of his hand and Reed carefully opened it, taking a moment to marvel at the shimmering diamond ring within. Then he closed the box and returned it to the sock drawer after covering it once again with the socks he had previously removed. A true scientist prepared for every foreseeable possibility.

--

Susan allowed herself a satisfied smile as she descended down the stairs towards the first floor of Reed's house, in her joy creating a racket that her rambunctious brother Johnny would have been proud of in the process. But then she'd had a number of reasons to be happy. Reed Richards was indisputably at the top of that list for various reasons.

She felt a certain amount of chagrin of course because Reed could truthfully be described as both "loaded" and "older man" but by the same token, an eight-year difference in their ages wouldn't be all that noticeable a few decades down the line. As for the money, it was the money, there was simply no equivocation possible.

Susan would have loved Reed, either way, but there was something rather wonderful about the concept of being financially secure. About being able to just sign checks, swipe credit cards, and hand over hundred dollar bills without batting an eyelash. She'd lost the naive belief that money grew on trees shortly after her father, and marrying Reed wouldn't bring it back, but she would be able to act like she was blissfully ignorant of the fact. Not that she intended to: Susan had spent too much time being practical with money to make plans about squandering it, but still...

It'd been a task and a half to find a way to pay her own tuition, getting her brother through college was proving to be at least three or four tasks worth of work. Mainly that was because Johnny had wanted to just go to some dinky two-year trade school before becoming a mechanic, and while Susan couldn't actively force her brother to pick a more dignified career she could damn sure see to it that he was thoroughly over-qualified for the one he wanted, and (thanks to the fact that Johnny had gotten plenty of experience realizing why he didn't want to argue with sister when she put her foot down) he was now just two semesters away from pulling that particular task off.

She'd make sure he finished them, not the least because money was a little looser now that Reed was paying for her room and board. Susan shook her head as she took a moment to get to work on preparing breakfast. Once she'd gotten all the necessary mechanical parts working towards producing a meal she went back to thinking about the future.

Today was the day. Susan took a moment to ponder just what that would mean. She'd be the first woman to set foot on the moon, if nothing else that'd probably be worth a good for at least fifteen minutes of fame. If she played her cards right, she might be able to leverage those fifteen minutes into doing a great deal longer period of time with any luck. Becoming a defacto celebrity would probably give her acting career (which was mostly theoretical at the moment) a shot in the arm.

She should probably write a book at some point if she really wanted to try and wring every single drop of blood she could from that particular turnip. A smile came to her lips at that moment every bit as as easily as the title to that particular work in the fields of exploitation came to mind. "How I cooked breakfast for the smartest man in the world: the Susan Storm story."

It'd be true enough all things considered, since her 'pet' scientist had definitely improved his diet after Susan had moved in and provided him with the first daily contact with members of his own species on a daily basis. It wasn't that he was a bad cook, a horrible cook, or even an atrocious cook, the problem was that Reed Richards was a ridiculously good chemist and sooner later any culinary attempt he made turned into a laboratory project. The end results of which were pretty darn predictable, to pick one sterling example, he'd seemed unduly pleased with himself the time that he'd actually found a way to light a pot of water on fire while trying to bring it to boil just by adding a few special 'ingredients' along the way.

So she left him alone in the lab, and he left her alone in the kitchen, as cliche as it sounded, they made it work. If nothing else, the last few months of her life had certainly been 'interesting' in the sense of she'd gotten to understand why it seemed so like so many famous authors, scientists, and mathematicians were known for their aberrant personalties as their various creations.

Luckily the close to two decades she'd spent playing mother to her younger brother Johnny had in turn left her quite well prepared for being a relationship with a genius who one day doubtlessly would come up with a brilliant idea in the middle of a bath, shout "Eureka" because he felt it would be appropriate, then jump out to try and run for his lab.

He would only 'try' of course because he had a tiled bathroom floor and would probably fall before he got five steps from the tub, hopefully only not breaking his skull in the process. At which point it would be her job to call 911 and listen to the brilliant idea (possibly even going so far as to write it down with ye olde pencil and pad of paper like a good little secretary) so that Reed's jaw could properly wired shut to prevent him from driving the hospital staff mad by attempting to diagnose (and possibly even operate on) himself.

At least it somehow seemed less exasperating then when her brother acted like an idiot, probably in part because with Reed it was case of him being so smart that he went around the proverbial bend and started acting foolish in entirely new ways. The other part to that equation was that because they weren't related by blood, she didn't have to be doing this, she did it because she wanted to.

For some reason do something "because she wanted to" had always been a very attractive proposition to Susan, but that in turn was probably due to the fact that it was such a rare event in her life.

--

After the two had their meal they drove off to the launch pad that Reed had put many hours of work into by means of mass ammounts of paperwork and money. As Susan drummed her hands on the car's dashboard she couldn't help but contemplate the dichotomy between the vehicle and its owner.

Since he wasn't exactly constrained by finances, someone who was meeting Reed Richards for the first time would probably expect him to drive something eye-catching, something sleek and scientific-looking, equipped with all the latest doodads and whatchamacalits and with extra special thingamabobs.

As her eyes came to rest on the car's tape deck, Susan enjoyed a chuckle at that proverbial person's foolishness. Reed invested for the long haul, she hadn't asked but Susan thought it was a safe bet that he'd bought this car after graduating college (or possibly shortly after he'd turned 18) and because of the fact that he hadn't put much stress on it (he flew to all the important scientific conferences he went to and that made up about half the time he'd ever left his house after graduating) it had never broken down, thus he'd never bought a new one.

It had four metal seats covered by some material that acted as a cushion, it had a steering wheel, it had four windows, it had four doors, it had four wheels, it had one tire on each of those wheels, it had a trunk, it had air-conditioning, it had one internal combustion engine, it had an internalized clock, radio, and said cassette tape player all within reach of the driver. To describe it beyond those components would have been overselling the vehicle.

Besides, she'd come to realize that the semi-dilapidated state of Reed's favorite mode of conveyance was a good thing where Susan Storm's future was concerned. If Reed Richards could stick with such a machine just because it'd been loyal to him, then in turn would suggest that he'd feel the same way about people, like his wife.

Of course a car wasn't a person, but it was all she had to go on since Susan couldn't just out and out ask Reed if he planed to dump her the moment that some younger better-looking woman came along. "Penny for your thoughts?"

Never had there been a more inopportune usage of that particular phrase then that one, it made Susan want to reach her arms back through time, wrap them around whoever had come up with the annoying saying and strangle them, slowly. "Because its smaller then the Earth and subsequently there's less gravity I'll weigh less on the moon right? Too bad it can't decrease my dress size also."

It might have worked if she hadn't been dealing with a genius. As it was, Reed just flashed one of those "checkmate in fifteen moves" smiles that reminded everyone around him he was the smartest man in the room, not that he was trying to rub it in, it was just an indisputable fact. "That wasn't what you were thinking."

Even though he was behind the wheel, they were currently cruising down a dirt road so Susan didn't worry that the light shove she gave Reed's shoulders at this point would her to finally discover whether or not their current mode of transportation possessed airbags. "Great, so now you can read my mind. I see you've gone right past brilliant and head fist into psychic apparently.

All right then, if you can read my mind why don't you save my lips and lungs the effort and hold both sides of the conversation yourself?" Reed took her gentle teasing in stride. "I'm not that smart. It was simple pattern recognition. I know the look you get on your face when you're thinking about feminine matters and you had a different look on your face before I asked."

Susan just harrumphed and then sighed submitting (as was customary) to the all knowing mind of Reed Richards. "All right fine, I was thinking about me and you, and where this is going, and before you say anything I don't mean to the moon." Reed took a hand of the wheel to scratch his chin. "I take it you're referring to our relationship as opposed to our rocketship?"

He made the two sound enough alike that Susan was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt humorwise. "Yeah. The way I'm currently seeing things: we go up, come back down, lots of cheering crowds, hands get shaken, more money gets made, you put a ring on my finger, I jump and down with joy, and if you let me know in advance I promise to 'forget' to put on a bra that day, be the stereotypical blonde trophy wife who'll try not to lose her figure as she provides you with some genius brats who'll probably be winning logical arguments with me before they go through puberty.

But I think the fact that I'll be able to go swimming through piles of your money will probably do something to lessen that particular sting." Susan herself wasn't quite sure how much of that was serious and how much of that was a joke. But what she did know was that something in her speech sparked something within Reed, for he returned the hand that had scratched his chin to the wheel, took his other one off of it, and placed it about as close as he could get to her thigh.

"Well if its any consolation, I think you'll look good pregnant." Of course Reed hadn't descended to the age old cliche about 'birthing hips' he'd just let his hands do the talking, not that Susan was about to tell him to put said hand back on the wheel. "You know I think you telling me that that I'd 'look good pregnant' is about the most blatant down-to-earth sexual come-on I've ever managed to wring from your lips.

Most of the time I feel like you're going to wheel out a slide projector and charts to show just how exactly your..." "Corpus cavernosum." "Is going to get inserted into my.." "Fibromuscular tubular tract." "And it isn't weird at all that you can finish that sentence."

Reed shrugged and put both hands back on the wheel. "Any standard medical doctor worth his salt would have been able to as well." Susan leaned back, though since Reed's car did not possess a sunroof the view wasn't all that spectacular. "Only if they'd wanted to.

That's what really sets you apart, it's not that you know so much, it's just that you keep spouting it off on every subject every time you possibly can. You should consider yourself lucky that I find it charming. I'm flexible like that, I really don't care if you want to use more Latin in our daily conversations than you're likely to hear anywhere else this side of a graveyard."

The "dead" language "joke" fell flat but Susan hadn't particularly expected to get a laugh out of Reed with it. Instead (as he was prone to) he changed the subject. "We're making history today. Rather makes you wonder about what other people in places to similar to ours have said, like the Wright Brothers preparing to proved that they'd invented the world's first flying machine that lived up to the name."

In turn as she was prone to, rather than try to match him thought for thought Susan took the easy way out. "Probably something along the lines of 'hey Wilbur aren't you glad we decided to sell that bike shop and do something meaningful with our lives, oh and you can have the first flight, no need to thank me for letting you have first shot at the glory.'" "Orville actually took the first flight." Susan threw up her hands in mock frustration. "You'd drive a lesser woman insane Reed Richards, you really would."

--

"And finally here comes the big-brained professor himself!" Reed blushed as he brought his car to a complete halt (given that they were more or less in the middle of nowhere any patch of dirt could be considered a reasonable parking space) and got out. "Sorry about being late Ben, when we got in I noticed the tank was only a quarter full so I went out of our way slightly to refuel it."

No one who met Benjamin Grimm and Reed Richards separately would have suspected the two of being friends, let alone college roommates. Ben was just about everything Reed wasn't, he was two years older than Reed, but he looked to be the younger of the two since he kept himself in much better shape.

He'd gotten into college with the help of a football scholarship but Reed had found that he had a fair amount of brains to go with his brawn, and more important Ben was in possession of a considerable amount of sheer bloody-mindedness that seemed to keep cropping up in the people that Reed knew well, possibly because anyone who didn't have it tended to fade to the back of his mind while he worked on certain scientific matters.

Ben had blue eyes, and his hair was still all brown. After majoring in engineering he'd gone on to join the Air Force and after he'd served his tour of duty he'd come back home for various reasons. One of which had been seeing how Reed had been doing, which had been if not exactly bad hadn't been all that wonderful either.

Someone with a puerile sense of humor would have found the concept of an all-around tough guy like Ben playing matchmaker out-and-out hilarious, but Reed was smart enough to know (and humble enough to admit) that Ben had more or less played midwife to his and Susan's relationship. Without his guiding hands said relationship would probably have ended up stillborn among the numerous monosyllabic sounds of awkwardness exchanged between the two during their first few meetings when Susan had been deeply afraid of appering too foolish and Reed had been just as afraid of frightening her off by appearing too smart.

But it'd all worked out in the end, and so now Reed was repaying Ben for a lifetime of loyal friendship that he hadn't done anything in particular to deserve by giving him a chance to serve as the pilot to their little expodition. Ben had of course jumped at the chance, even if he frequently insisted on seeming to be every bit as dour as his last name would suggest.

"Well glad to know you weren't getting cold feet then. Normally I wouldn't exactly complain, what with it being your rocket after all, but I could only take so much of Junior pestering me to talk to him about every single plane I ever flew."

"The name is Johnny!"

Susan's younger brother Jonathan "Johnny" Storm had blond hair and blue eyes like his older sister, but sadly any attempts he was going to make at look tall and imposing next to Ben were about as likely to succeed as your average dog's attempts to look imposing next to your average wolf. Ben was both taller and more broad of shoulder, not to mention Johnny was noticeably short of tooth compared to the taller man.

After finding out about how Reed had offered to allow Susan a seat on this particular expedition Johnny had begged, pleaded, and otherwise cajoled the three older members of the expedition into believing that it would be more work to keep telling him that he couldn't come then it would be allow him join them.

The two brown-haired men shook hands, and then Reed turned toward the rocket. "If you want to back out now, you still can." Ben chuckled and shook his head. "Yeah right, Aunt Petunia's favorite nephew ain't exactly about to leave you in the lurch at a time like this. I mean how much money did you have to pay to buy us a window of cleared airspace for us to put this little field trip in motion?"

Reed shook his head, preferring not to think about the exact figures. He'd spent enough to accomplish a goal, that was that mattered. Ben saw the look in Reed's eyes and just nodded slowly. "Well anyway, I trust you checked the weather reports and made sure everything is going to be clear from here to the moon and back?"

Reed nodded as he slowly walked towards the rocket that he'd spent much of the last of few months of his life designing and then either working on himself or paying people to build. "Takeoff conditions down here are ideal as you can clearly see. As for in space, well such things are harder to measure, and there seem to be some unusual strong cosmic ray fluctuations out there but I'm sure the ship's shielding can handle it."

Ben made some kind of noncomittal noise indicating that he wasn't going directly disagree with Reed in matters of science, but at the same time he wasn't exactly thrilled by what he'd just heard. "Come on Ben, if we don't do it today then not only will Reed have wasted a lot of money but we'll probably have to wait months till we can permission for another shot at it."

Ben looked up into the sky and sighed. "Well not like I'm gonna say no to a lady, besides if nothing else I can always find a certain amount of solace from the fact that today's June sixteenth. About two weeks ago everybody celebrates another undertaking whose commanders decided that when presented with a choice between going ahead under less than ideal conditions, or delaying until ideal conditions, they'd make the best of what they had to work with. Let's get suited up."

--

The process of getting suited up was a fairly simple one, the spacesuits they were wearing could be put on without help (probably a good thing considering that it was just the four of them out there, so there obviously weren't any handy female assistants around to provide Susan with help if she'd needed it) and underneath the spacesuits they were all wearing simple purple jumpsuits that covered them from neck to foot.

Getting to their seats was tricky but doable, so before noon they were all strapped in and ready to make history. "Well if anyone's gonna get cold feet now is your last chance to get off without doing it into the vacuum of space."

No one said anything, they had all been preparing for this too hard to think about turning their backs on it now, so after making sure the crew was ready Ben began to flip switches slowly. "All right then. Let's do this thing and come home just like any other mission." He flipped the last switch and then conversation became impossible as all of them were pressed back firmly into their seats and the sound of rockets bursting to life completely filled their ears.

--

They had been in outer space for about an hour when it happened. All of a sudden the entire shuttle was bathed in some kind of red light and warning signals began going off. "Reed old buddy whatever the hell is going wrong, you better have some way to fix it, because we can't exactly just pull a lever and ride our ejector seats back to safety!"

Reed's fingers began to dance across the keyboard in front of him. "No, this isn't possible. The level of cosmic radiation, it's increased exponentially, it's never been this high before not even close..."

The entire ship began to shake slightly and Ben tightened his grip on the controls. "Let me guess. The guy who fell asleep at the wheel said the same thing about the iceberg that hit the Titanic!"

Even in the face of dire peril Reed Richards wasn't about to let a incorrect metaphor escape him.. "Not even remotely close to the same thing. The iceberg that struck the Titanic was hardly of record-breaking size! This on the other hand..."

Ben cut him off before he could go any further. "You better not be about to say it's a 'once in a lifetime event' because at the moment it's starting to feel like that might wind up being true in all kinds of unpleasant ways..."

Reed looked at his screen and then back at Susan. "We've got to ride it out Ben, if we try and turn it'll only get worse. Ben nodded and his vision narrowed as he looked straight ahead. "Great, nobody on earth managed to ever shoot me down so now I gotta deal with interstellar flak..."

After about ten seconds the warning sirens died but the red light still gave the ship's entire an unearthly glow painting everything crimson. Reed couldn't do anything but sit there and watch as the ships shields were battered by the seemingly endless barrage of cosmic rays, and then the inevitable happened as the rays began to penetrate the interior of the ship itself.

"Wooahh... what's going on I feel like I'm getting goosebumps all over my body..." Reed shared that particular feeling as well. "It's the cosmic rays Johnny, they're invisible to the naked eye, but they're still capable of damaging the ship's systems..."

It was at this point that Susan's younger brother asked a question which while entirely appropriate given their situation, was also a question Reed would rather not have answered. "What about us?"

Reed felt himself starting to develop a migraine. "Can't be sure... no human has ever been exposed... to such large amounts... of cosmic radiation. Our suits will provide... some protection... but probably not enough... Could be nothing... could cause cancer... could be something... that no one... has ever seen before. Won't know for sure... till we get back... to my lab..."

"You mean if we get back... to your lab." "Johnny if my arms... were a little longer... and weren't strapped to this... seat I'd slap.. you for that." Johnny turned his head slightly and behind his helmet stuck his tongue out at his sister. "Well they aren't... and you are... so what... are you going to do about... it?"

Before Susan could come up with an answer, all of a sudden the red lights went out, the ship stopped shaking, and the unnatural feelings racing up and down Reed's body subsided, even though his migraine remained for some reason. Ben let go of the controls and let loose with a long sigh. "There, I ain't never had a bird blown out from under me yet. So what condition is she in at the moment?"

Reed slowly began to run the necessary diagnostics. "The damage is fairly light for the most part, but one of our main engines is damaged, and a fair bit of the equipment related to landing... There's no way we can make it to the moon and back in this condition." Ben chuckled as he slumped in his seat. "Why don't we forget the moon for a bit and you talk to me about what our chances are of getting back home?"

Reed pressed a few more buttons and managed a smile. "Excellent actually. We've still got more than enough fuel, the ships still in good enough condition to handle reentry, and I even installed an autopilot which was designed to take us back to the exact spot we lifted off from which is still intact.. Of course the landing will be a bit rough and probably wreck the ship, but we shouldn't be putting ourselves in any actual danger..."

Ben nodded slowly as he returned to looking at the mostly empty void of space. "Great, however you do that, do it. I need to close my baby blues for a moment and get some well-deserved shut eye..." Reed nodded and activated the emergency autopilot, he felt strangely tired himself as well, perhaps if he could just sleep for a few moments by the itme he woke up his headache would be gone.

--

The emergency escape door fell away, and the would be inter stellar travellers climbed out still dressed in their purple jumpsuits. Just the feeling of getting good old terra firma underneath her soles again was a surprising and unplanned for joy for Susan. Then she saw the look in her brother's eye and got a pretty good idea of exactly what he was thinking.

"Johnny if you say 'let's do that again' right now there isn't a court in the world that would convict me." Johnny made as if those words had been the furthest thing from, his mind. "Actually sis I was about to comment on what a total bust this turned out to be, guess our tour guide wasn't all that smart after all..."

Susan didn't feel that bad about dealing her brother a small whack upside the head, though for some reason her brother's head felt even harder then normal. "Jonathan Spencer Storm! The only reason that we're still alive is because of the brilliance of Reed Richards so you should at least give him a certain amount of respect..."

Since it was clear Johnny wasn't about to do this Susan decided it was time to fight dirty. "Besides, he's also the man who is dating your sister." Because of all the time she'd spent playing mother to him, Johnny tended to take the prospect of her dating about as well as the children of most widows who'd lost their husbands while their kids were still growing up.

Johnny's skin seemed to become noticeably paler and his eyes bulged out in shock slightly before his shoulders slumped and he focused on walking. "Fine, you pretend I'll never said those particular words and I'll pretend you never said anything in response to them." This agreement left Susan free to focus on walking, which was a good thing, because Johnny was making it an unusually difficult task.

He felt heavier, and not just had put on a pound or fifteen while he was at college and thus could eat whatever he wanted, it felt like he weighed at least thirty to fifty pounds more than he used to! As she struggled along Susan realized something else that was out of place, given that he wasn't helping his good for precious little younger brother stumble along their pilot should have passed the two Storms almost at once, and yet he was still hanging behind them. "Something the matter, Ben?"

Susan turned around as she asked the question and Ben waved a hand in a gesture of reassurance. "It's nothing, you think this was bad? You should have seen some of the rough landings I ended up being involved in a few years back, but I walked away from all of them and I'm gonna walk away from this one also!"

The words on their own were comforting, but Ben's tone of voice suggested something completely different than what he said, as did the way that both of his hands seemed to be clutching his shoulders for dear life. Deciding that since the worst Johnny needed was a chance to lay down and catch his breath Susan gently helped him sit down and once she'd done that she raced to Ben's side.

In the process Susan couldn't help but notice that all of a sudden every step she took made her feel decidely... weird. With every step she took it felt as if the world was pulling down on her especially hard, and then especially softly a few moments later.

But any concerns she had over her own state of being were pushed aside as Ben let loose with the kind of cry you'd normally expect only to hear in a gritty action movies when the valiant hero was mercilessly tortured by the evil villains. He sank to his knees with tears starting to form in his eyes. "My shoulders... something wrong with my shoulders..."

Susan gently brushed aside Ben's hands trying to get a look at what could possibly be causing him the pain. But sadly all she saw beneath his hands was the purple jumpsuit. For a moment she contemplated asking him to pull down some of the jumpsuit so she could see what was bothering him beneath it, but before she could decide a strange ripping sound filled her and she jumped away from it out of pure instinct.

Instinct had something going for it that day, because much of the back of Ben's jumpsuit was suddenly torn to shreds as a pair of large purple wings suddenly sprouted from his back. As this happened Ben let loose with such an ear-shattering scream, that it made Susan wonder if she'd lost her hearing for a moment after it ended.

In reality it turned out that Ben's scream had led to an unexpected calm. Now that the wings had finally worked their way to the surface they apparently weren't tearing him apart on the inside, so the only sounds that filled the air after his scream ended was the gentle swishing of Ben's wings as first the right flapped, then the left, then the right again.

He gingerly reached over his shoulder and began to feel out the texture of his wings, to Susan's eye they weren't exactly leathery like a bat's, or winged like a bird's, but instead had segmented plates like they belonged to some kind of insect. "Well I'll be..." Those three words uttered Ben's wings began to beat together in a rhythm that grew quicker and quicker until she wondered if her eyes were deceiving her and Ben was rising off the ground.

Then she knew her eyes weren't as Ben shot upwards into the sky and did a quick loop-de-loop, evidently just for the fun of it. Susan just stared in amazement. She wasn't as smart as Reed, but she was smart enough at a moment like this. So faced with the impossible much to her surprise she found a certain serenity in reciting the facts she had been living by up to this moment. "There's no way that can work. Birds have hollow skeletons which weigh less. A human with a pair of wings that were of the same scale as the ones birds have would never be able to fly. Never..."

Sadly, much like the bumblebee, at the moment Ben was showing blatant disregard for what human knowledge had to say on the subject of aviation, quite easily staying airborne and pulling off an impressive series of maneuvers until he finally came in for a landing that was every bit as smooth as the group's last one was rough. "I'm not exactly sure how it happened but a guy could get used to this..."

Johnny apparently had other ideas as he slowly rose to his feet. "You're happy? Look at yourself Ben, you're a freak! I bet that weird cosmic ray storm we ran into had something to do with this. I'd gladly punch Reed Richards in the face hard enough to knock a few of his teeth loose right about now, but since he isn't around and you're his oldest friend I suppose you'll have to do."

As Johnny spoke his skin became paler, and paler and paler until it lost all trace of color, and became white. Then it went even farther, finally acquiring a silvery metallic sheen to it. He walked towards a large tree, leaving very deep footprints in the ground, wrapped his arms around the trunk and pulled.

He somehow managed rip the tree (roots and all) out of the ground and turned around holding the tree in both hands like an oversized bat. "Now why don't you step away from my sister so I've got some room to swing this thing and can properly crush you!" Ben took to the air, easily ascending to a height beyond which Johnny could strike him, even with the aid of his huge weapon. "Why don't you calm down for a moment kid? Johnny swung away even if all he could hit was empty air.

"Calm? I am calm! I just don't recall signing a disclaimer about how his little trip might involve unexpected mutations!" Susan took a moment to evaluate the situation, and then a single step forward. "Johnny, put down the tree." Her brother stopped swinging away a Ben for a moment to glare a her, leaving the tree to rest horizontally pointing towards her, though she was perhaps about three feet between the end of it and the start of her body.

Granted if Johnny stepped forward and swung that thing unless she managed to go flat on the ground very fast it'd connect, and if it connected it turn whatever part of her body it hit to mush. "Why should I?" There were a great many smart moves someone could made in Susan's situation, but the action she decided on, taking another step forward was doubtlessly not one of them. "Because I'm your older sister and I told you to put it down."

The response she got was more or less word-for-word exactly what she expected to get from Johnny when he was in one of his snits, even if he previously hadn't been able to cause quite so much havoc with just his bare hands. "I'd like to see you make me." "Then make sure to keep your eyes open."

Susan could feel that there was something different about her body, she wasn't sure what, but at some point after getting off of that ship she'd changed, even if it wasn't as obvious as with Ben and Johnny. She slowly curled her hands into fists and all over her body she felt muscles tensing, winding up, compacting, storing energy, as if every single atom of her being was on up on its non-existent legs cheering its heart out, pouring out all the energy it could muster for her.

She allowed her gaze to dip slightly towards the tree, the distance she'd have to cross, then her eyes focused on her brother, the goal she had to reach. Susan dived in without the slightest ounce of hesitation.

Getting from where she currently stood to Johnny would be tricky, luckily her body seemed unusually obliging, in the sense that it seemed to be trying to lengthen itself to make up the difference. No, her body actually was lengthening itself, as from her waist up Susan felt herself growing longer and longer like a tape measure slowly being unwound.

She looped herself around the tree over and over again as she raced along its length. Johnny in surprise dropped the thing, but even as the tree hit the ground Susan only felt a slight bump, and didn't let it deter her. She hadn't become captain of her high school swimming team by pausing when she'd reached the middle of the pool to see how the other swimmers were doing, she did it by picking a target and not letting anything come between her and it, so what if the distance seemed to grow longer?

Water played tricks with the way the eye perceived distance, you kept stroking all the same, or in this case stretching. She reached the end of the stump of the tree and then "leapt" (in the sense of her body arched upwards though she had no idea what was propelling it) and her hands grabbed hold of her brothers.

It was easy from there, her hand elongated wrapping themselves all along the length of her brother's arms before growing even longer so as to bind his midsection and finally his metal legs. Susan pulled, and even if it felt like her brother weighed several hundred pounds, she had all the leverage in the world and subsequently he toppled like a statue.

While he was on the ground he began to get some of his wits back and started to thrash about, achieving. about as much as your average fish did while it flopped about on board a boat with a hook still firmly attached to its jaw. Eventually he lay still with a petulant look on his face.

Ben landed softly next to them gazing at the latest round of squabbling between the members of the Storm family in amazement. "Jeez Susy, I've heard of girls getting bent out of shape before but..." Now that she'd accomplished her goal, Susan finally had time to catch her breath and think about what she'd done.

The first thing she did was look behind her, directly behind her, in the sense of her neck twisted about like to a degree that would have sent plenty of people running to try and find the nearest priest, allowing her to see the 'lengths' to which she had gone, and the fact that her legs were still standing there back where she had been a couple seconds ago as if nothing at all out of the ordinary was going on.

Susan pressed a hand to her neck for a moment and felt the twist she'd put in it. The human body wasn't supposed to be able to bend like that without wrenching the wind pipe, which led to suffocation, so how was she still breathing? Granted the human body wasn't supposed to be able to stretch itself out until it was longer than a tree with arms that had to be over five feet!

Putting aside all the things that she was doing which she wasn't supposed to be able to she returned her attention to her brother and the thing he had been explicitly told by her (and apparently today Susan Storm was proving to be a harsher mistress then common sense) not to do. "Johnny say you're sorry." Johnny squirmed about in the purple part-cocoon part-straitjacket made of his sister's limbs that he had been trapped in.

"No fair, since when could you go all bendy like that! I got used to the fact that you had a longer reach then me growing but this is totally ridiculous!" Susan caused her right arm to elongate slightly, and made as if she was about to tenderly drape this extra length of her body over her brother's mouth.

"Say it now or I won't let you say anything for a long while." Johnny gave in. "Okay fine, I'm sorry Ben. But seriously guys somewhere between almost getting blown up in space, nearly getting killed coming back to earth, you growing wings, is it really so much to ask for one minute for a man to properly freak the hell out so he can at least get losing his shit over and done with before he winds up with post-traumatic stress disorder?"

That was about as close as Susan expected her brother to come to an actual apology and given their less than conventional situations it would do. "No more trying to hit people with trees, promise?" "I promise all right? Just let go of me, the sooner you do that the sooner I can start trying to forget how my sister beat the crap out of me, again."

Susan began to unwind herself slowly, hoping and praying all the while that everything would go back to its proper place. Her current appearance was convenient for the task that used to be at hand, but if she couldn't reverse it then she'd probably end up spending the rest of her days with her head in one room, her belly-button in another, and her ass in a third, not exactly the most enjoyable of arrangements.

Slowly but surly however everything did flow back together. Her arms returned to their original length, her midsection retraced and she found herself once again looking just like she normally would. Or almost like normal. "Very funny guys..."

She wasn't talking to Ben or Johnny but to he index and middle finger of her right hand, she'd crossed them at some point and while she'd been getting the rest of her body back in order they'd just kept right on crossing themselves, at the moment they'd overlapped one another so many times that they now gave her the appearance of having a malformed hand with only three fingers, one of which was far larger than the others. Luckily the situation quickly remedied itself as her fingers untwisted themselves.

Johnny and Ben slowly approached Susan (one on the wing, the other on foot) as if afraid she'd suddenly launch herself at them as her body lost all definition transforming into something resembling the monster out of a bad black-and-white horror film. Well they were all a little unnerved by one another at the moment so at least thing where equal among the three of them. The three of them?

Susan's face met her palm with such force that she was sure she could feel her nose and flattening out before springing back to their normal appearance as she removed her hand. "Reed! We were all so busy worrying about ourselves that none of us realized that Reed's still in the ship. He might have gotten hurt or need help getting out for some other reason."

She tired to make "some other reason" sound as if she was saying he was currently pinned underneath some piece of equipment that had come loose. What she was thinking of course was that given that Ben had grown wings, her brother had apparently turned into some kind of robot and she, Susan decided she'd waste time worrying about her own situation later, logic would seem to dictate that Reed would have changed in some way as well, and that change might be why he hadn't joined them outside the ship.

She took all of one step back towards the ship, and then showing the kind of pinpoint Diabolus Ex Machina that didn't make atheists because anyone who saw such an event would know it couldn't have happened by random chance alone, the ship exploded.

Susan just stood there, she vaguely felt several pieces of flaming shrapnel which ranged in size from about as large as a tick to one that had to be about the size of a baseball struck her body. Susan barely felt the impacts. When the dust finally settled she look down, not one single rip in her purple jumpsuit, no sight of her pink flesh, none of said skin torn open with blood oozing from the cuts, and a nice collection of wreckage various distances from her feet that had apparently tried to go through her and bounced off.

Susan was somehow reminded rather distinctly of some Greek (at least she thought it was Greek she could have been wrong) tragedy about how some famous warrior had been cursed with an indestructible body by a god he'd angered for some reason or another so that he'd never die and subsequently never be reunited with his dead love in the afterlife.

Looking down at the pieces of razor sharp metal which should have torn her open like confetti, but instead had apparently hit her, and only made her body distend slightly before they were slingshotted away with close to the same amount of force as they struck her, a singular thought ran through Susan's mind. Immortality was going to suck.

As that thought passed she found at least a slight silver lining: clearly hanging herself would only leave her with a absurdly long but still functioning neck, putting a gun in her mouth would lead to the bullet bouncing back out, jumping off the Empire State Building would probably leave her two dimensional but doubtlessly for less then a full minute, sticking her head in an oven would probably melt her into a puddle, but poison would probably work.

At least so long as it was the right type of poison, sitting in a closed garage with the car engine on seemed like a fairly good plan also, or better still she could hurl herself into vault of industrial acid.

Of course in the time it'd taken Susan to go over all the plans for suicide that would (and wouldn't) work, she'd also had time to disregard the concept entirely. Johnny didn't deserve to have her remove herself from his life so suddenly, and the entire idea of giving up now seemed disrespectful to Reed's memory. Die in some over-elaborate experiment gone wrong, that perfectly suited him of course, but to actually engineer ones own destruction?

At some point after the blast, the two surviving male members of the craft had taken up positions on either side of her, Johnny put a heavy metal hand on her right shoulder. "I'm sorry about what I said a bit back. "Reed was a great guy, definitely the Fredrick Von Fronkenstein of mad scientists. He sort of reminded me of myself sometimes actually, because behind all of those words that went right over my head, at the end of the day he was a just a guy who wanted to play with his toys."

She also felt one of Ben's arms on her left shoulder, and one of his wings rubbing up against her back. "Reed wasn't the first friend I've lost like that, when his bird basically blew itself to bits around him. It would have been quick like that, and painless as you could ask for."

Somebody disagreed. /Ouch...\ Susan felt her eyebrows just about jump off of her head. "Did either of you two just here somebody say 'ouch' by any chance?" From the surprised and downcast looks on their faces they evidently hadn't, which in turn meant that they probably thought she was either just plain crazy or at least too stricken with grief to be thinking properly.

But she was sure she had heard that voice, well maybe 'heard' wasn't the right word, it was more like she had sensed it, but voices didn't just pop into people's heads for no reasons. "Fine go ahead and call me crazy you can even make the little swirling index finger gestures while you're at it, but even after a blast like that there's probably something left of him that we should find so that we can bury something more than a coffin full of dirt with his name on it!"

They couldn't argue with her on that, so regardless of whatever they thought the chances of finding something alive among the ruins was, the three of them began to sort through the rubble. In the process both Storm siblings showed off considerably. Johnny was easily able to lift even the largest bits of rubble and hurl them aside while Susan found that she could extend her fingers to any length that she wanted them to be, sending them crawling this way and that among the wreckage hoping to find something that felt organic in nature.

Though sadly Susan's probing fingers failed to locate any trace of Reed, she did realize something about herself. There was no denying that she'd been in "L" "O" "V" "E" "LOVE" with Reed Richards. He'd doubtless meant a lot more to her than just some old (well older) guy who she was throwing down with in exchange for some monetary favors (room and board instead of actual cash changing hands) or some eccentric genius who she hung around with because his foibles amused her, if he was just either of those things then there was no way she'd be feeling the way she currently was.

Whoever had said "you don't know what you have till you lose it" had been right on the money, no doubt about it. Except that at the moment Susan was still clinging to the impossible hope that she hadn't lost it. Okay maybe not impossible, as Reed would say nothing was impossible until it was directly proven, until then it was just an implausible theory, like that Reed had been changed in such a way so as to survive having a front row seat to having a rocket which still had enough fuel left in it for a one-way trip to the moon blow itself to bits.

Despite Susan and her brother's advantages slow and steady won this particular race, it was Ben who the first to find something worth talking about among the wreckage, and what a something. "Wow, we can probably get at least a page in Ripley's for this if not two. The entire rocket goes up like a string of firecrackers and yet somehow his brain is left in perfect condition. Couldn't ask for a much more fitting representation of him."

In Ben's hands he held what to Susan's eyes was apparently a human brain. Just a brain, no remnants of a skull, no actual damage done to the brain or any other sort of suggestion what exactly had destroyed the skull or the rest of the body. /Forgive me for being overly dramatic, but rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.\

Susan was quite sure that she wasn't the only one who had heard it this time around, chiefly because Ben suddenly decided to treat the brain like it was hot enough to scorch his palms and dropped it. Without even thinking about it Susan's right arm shoot out her palm flattening in the process so as to catch the vital organ without harming it.

Johnny pointed at the brain and his voice two full octaves above normal and a slight stutter in his voice. "I'm not the only one who heard that right? Except that I'd have to be crazy to have heard that, I mean it's a freaking brain, how is it suppose to talk, it's like a dog with no nose smelling..." It was one of the oldest jokes in the book which was probably why Reed actually knew the punchline. /Horrible. I wasn't sure at first but I think it's probably a fair bet that in addition to being able to survive in my current less than ideal environment, I'm also psychic.\

More looks were exchanged among the three who still had eyes to gives looks with. In the end Ben's cold practicality won it. "Well they say, anything is better then being dead." Johnny nodded slowly and solemnly. "Let me guess, much too soon to be making jokes along the lines of how he always was the brains of the operation?" Susan nodded curling her left hand into a fist (since her right was busy holding Reed) and emphasis was added to the gesture by the way her hand promptly grew to around three times its normal size. "Much too soon."

Her hand shrunk back to its normal size as quickly as it had grown. Ben shook his head as he turned his back on what was left of the wreckage. "Seeing as the autopilot did take us back to our take-off point more or less we can probably reach civilization fairly easily, though that assumes that civilization doesn't get out the torches and pitchforks the moment it catches sight of us."

Johnny playful drove his metal elbow with enough force that it should have cracked one of Susan's ribs, luckily she didn't seem to have any at the moment the impact just distorted her body slightly. "Well we will just have to send my sister ahead first. At the moment she looks like something that was actually born and didn't climb out of a foul-smelling bog beneath the light of the full moon, or was created as part of a plot to take over the world."

Susan didn't disagree, her body hadn't grown any extra appendages, her skin was still the same color, as long as certain parts of her didn't start growing long or getting shorter all of a sudden she could probably pass for human. "And after that?" She'd expected it to be one of those question that hung in the air so forcefully that it all but cast a physical dark cloud over their heads. Instead her brother snagged it like a dog would a Frisbee the moment it left her mouth.

"After that we become superheroes." Susan and Ben both glared at him, but Johnny just shrugged. "Hey, if you guys can think of something better to do with your superpowers than fight crime I'd like to hear it." Susan could think of all kinds of better things she'd rather spend her time doing, like work how she felt about deciding she was in love with a man before finding out that all was left of him was his brain, his living psychic brain that could talk, but just his brain none the less.

/I think Johnny's' idea has a certain amount of merit to it.\ She wasn't sure if Reed had been observing her thoughts (he officially claimed to be psychic now) or just throwing his general opinions into the ring. Either way they caused Susan and Ben to harmonize over the exact same two words. "You do?"

If Reed had been able to nod or otherwise give ascent he probably would have. /We've gifted with great powers, and should try do some good with them. Though I suppose that we should try to focus on the problems at hand before we go about making long term plans. I could be wrong, but I think my car is still intact...\

It was, the pickup truck that Ben had used to transport himself and Johnny to the area hadn't been so lucky, to judge by the crater that was left of it Susan would guess that some piece of flaming debris from the exploding rocket had struck its fuel tank. Reed's car on the other hand had only picked up a couple new adornments -- pieces of jagged metal sticking out of it here and there -- but none of the tires had gone flat and it seemed to still be road-worthy.

The three would be astronauts turned would be superheroes and gathered around the vehicle like it was some kind of blessed holy shrine. It was locked, and all the doors were shut of course, so Susan quickly turned her attention to the fourth member of the group who she was still carrying. "So where are the keys?"

If Reed's brain had possessed sweat glands they would have been kicking in full blast to judge by the tone 'voice'. /Well they were in one of the pockets of the jacket I took off and stored in the rocket when I put on my jump suit. So they're probably melted scrap...\ The sound of Johnny's metal hand hitting his metal head was a cross between the ringing of a bell and an industrial accident in the making.

"Well that's just great. Okay fine, seeing as I'm able to tear through whatever kind of metal your rocketship was made of like tissue paper, something tells me that I won't have too much trouble breaking a window with my bare hand. Sis if you'd stand aside I'll just punch through the driver's side window, and unlock it that way, then I'll pop the hood, we hot wire and we ride back."

He sounded a bit to confident that someone in the group would be able to successfully hotwire a car for Susan's liking but she wasn't exactly surprised. /I'd prefer that you didn't.\ Johnny sighed his shoulder's slumping slightly. "Listen, I of all guys understand why you don't want me smashing one of your windows, but considering everything else it has been through it's more or less a lost cause no matter how you look at it.

Besides if we're gonna be superheroes we'll need a mode of transportation that looks WAY cooler than this thing did even when it was new, back when fossil fuels meant killing a dinosaur grinding up its bones and pouring the powder into the tank." It was a long way to go for a bad joke, but Susan's found it rather reassuring, as long as the four of them could laugh and joke among each other then they weren't completely screwed the way they had all felt back up in that ship when those, whatevers had started pouring in and doing, whatever to their bodies.

/I actually do have an alternative suggestion. Susan would you mind handing me over to Ben, you'll need both hands free before too long.\ Susan nodded and slowly did hand Reed's over, trying not to think about the sound that it made in the process. /See that hole where a piece went through the driver's side window? Put your hand against it, then see if you can work a finger or two through the hole and open the door from the inside.\

Part of Susan wanted to ask how exactly Reed could see anything given that had no eyes, but she wasn't particular enamored of any of the possible answers she might get. So instead she simply pressed her palm against the crack in question, which was plenty big enough to have slipped a penny or even a quarter through. She had to work at it for a few moments but she managed to fit her entire hand through it, then it was just a matter of making that hand attached to a long enough arm let it firmly grasp the small lever which had locked the door and jerk it into the unlocked position.

Susan only had to think about it to get her arm to zip back through the minuscule hole in the window, and she tenderly began to stroke as if to make sure it really was that easy. While she had been doing that Johnny had brushed past her, opened the door and climbed into the drivers seat. "All right, now it's my time to shine. Now let's see to pop the hood I should just need to..."

He got no farther before Reed interrupted again. /Actually Johnny I want to have Susan try something first...\ Johnny grumbled slightly but shifted over to the passenger's side seat the car protesting his weight slightly. Susan climbed into the driver's seat and waited for the orders she knew she was going to get.

/If you think you can handle driving one handed, why don't you try turning your left hand, or even a single finger should be enough really into a mockup of the key...\ Susan couldn't help but wonder just how much enjoyment Reed might have been getting out of 'watching' her twist and contort herself in all kinds of unnatural ways. That said, she had a rather sick fascination with it herself. Johnny was clearly a lot stronger then he used to be, Ben could fly, and what was she exactly?

Not wanting to look like a fool, she decided to use her entire left hand, sending it flowing into the ignition, and then carefully shaped it by touch alone so that it perfectly matched every ridge and bump waiting for her. Only after she was certain her 'handiwork' was perfect did she close her eyes and twist her left wrist.

Even after being peppered with shrapnel the engine came to life almost at once. So apparently she could exert enough force on her body to have it pass for a metal car key, she wasn't sure why that discovery made her feel so good, but it did. Of course while she expressed that confidence with a small well dissevered smirk her brother was a bit more vocal. "Wow Sis you're turning into a veritable Swiss Army knife!"

Before Susan could respond there came a slight tapping at one of the car's slightly shrapnel-studded windows. She twisted her neck around to see it was Ben doing the tapping, he was still standing outside the car. Susan quickly looked and saw that the car didn't have a polite little button to press in order to unlock all the doors, if she wanted to unlock the door that Ben was standing at either she or Johnny would have to do it.

Sending Johnny to do it would probably cause him to do another hundred dollars or so of damage to the interior of Reed's car, but if she'd do it hen she'd either have to stop using her left hand as a makeshift, key... or she'd need longer arms. As Susan stretched out her right arm to unlock the necessary door she reflected that she would have slapped herself in the face to punish herself for her stupidity.

It was just as her right hand got a firm grip on the lock that what could only be described as a tentacle sprang from her left arm and rapped her softly across the cheek before it vanished back into the limb it had sprung from in the first place. Johnny chuckled at the sight and Susan glowered.

For a moment she contemplated slapping her arm, but while Susan might not be as much of a fan of slapstick as her brother she was fairly certain she'd seen a cartoon along similar lines and could guess how it would play out. She'd slap her left arm and then one of her feet would find a way to kick her in her own posterior, by the time she had finished fighting herself she'd be such a mess that Ben and Johnny would spend the rest of the day fixing her, and now was no time for squabbling amongst each other, of any type, so she let it go.

Ben climbed in and closed the door, adjusting himself as best he could so as to hold onto Reed, buckle in, and not have his wings get in the way. Once he'd done that Susan attached her own seatbelt and glared at her brother until amid protests of how he was made of harder stuff then the car he buckled up as well. Then she put her foot down, despite the fact that it was leaving carrying several times the weight it had originally brought to the site, Reed's car managed to reach a respectable speed fairly quickly.

"Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway, we're the best of friend insisting that the world keep turning our way, and our way, is on the road again..." "Johnny the driving manual suggests that the you should use only one foot to work the pedals regardless of whether it's accelerator or brake. "I've got one hand for a key so that our engine runs, and one hand on the wheel so I can more or less steer. If you do the math, that still leaves me one leg free to strangle you if with if you make me want to hard enough." The three of them listened to the sounds of silence, all the way back.

End of chapter one.

AN: As some of you can probably guess by this point, obviously this story is intended to serve as a prequel to my other story Swelling With Love (which I've posted about 3/4ths of on ) That said, this story will eventually stretch itself out to the last chapter of this story perfectly book ending the first chapter of SWL.

If you haven't read my other story then this chapter alone should at least give it a more solid grounding then a simple paragraph long author's note at the start of it. If you haven't, then hopefully I've wetted your interest.

Either way hope you enjoy , I'll probably update this story about once every two weeks, and know that I crave reviews like a vampire does blood.