Author's Note: Wrote this for a comics crossover ficathon earlier this year, decided to toss it up on here for the heck of it. There's an apologia at the end of this story since I don't want to spoil the story for you. Takes place in the indefinite future (post Planetary 27 and ill-definedly in the F4 universe).
Disclaimer: Any and all recognizable characters aren't mine, they belong to their creators, I'm just borrowing them.
Elijah Snow had been to some strange universes in his travels. This one, however, took the cake. X-Men? The Avengers? SHIELD? And there was another group, one whose composition made Snow wonder about things. He shrugged as he drank his coffee in the Manhattan diner, waiting for the shift ship's crew to finish its repairs as it was held in a hover over Central Park. At least it wasn't that universe with those unbearably earnest Justice League people.
"Elijah, there's.....well, I don't really have any words," Jakita Wagner said, walking into the diner. "Drums tells me that they pass as 'heroes' in this world, but I can't shake the feeling that they bear way too some resemblance to them." Snow cracked a small grin.
"Let them in, Jakita. Talk to Drums, he'll clue you in," Snow said, sipping his coffee. The black-clad woman stepped out, holding the door open for four blue-suited persons. The man with flecks of grey at his temples nodded to the blonde woman and young man, Snow not quite seeing their fourth member except as a dark outline outside the door. The blonde and young man waited outside, as Jakita let the door close.
"I must say I am immensely pleased to meet you, Mr. Snow," the lean, blue-suited man said, his eyes wide and bright, walking to the table but not sitting. "I realize you're only here for a few more hours, and that SHIELD is mostly just looking to keep you all sequestered while you make your repairs to your 'shiftship,' I believe, is that correct?" Snow nodded. "I am curious, however, about a few things-" The white-suited man stood up, his long white coat billowing as it settled around him.
"From what I know, you are curious about many things, Dr. Richards, but rarely ever act upon them. There are excuses given, and rationales provided, but all of your work never seems to filter past your own interests and perhaps the government's," Snow said.
"Well, there's only so much material, and time, and the costs of producing just one can be prohibitive," Reed said. "Besides, even were I to spend more time developing my work, and I do end up producing an entire line of commercial products, bringing something to market could catastrophically affect the economy in ways we couldn't predict-"
"Your concern for the large multinational corporations is noted, Dr. Richards." Snow walked to the counter, the diner practically empty except for him, Richards, and a few employees. "Another coffee?" he asked the waitress. She nodded, going over to the coffee machine to pour him a fresh cup.
"Mr. Snow, it's not as if I can just walk onto a television set and say that I've cured some disease, or figured out how to lift impoverished nations out of their malaise," Reed wheezed. "Things have to be planned out, organized and structured before I could announce to the world something of that magnitude."
"Hmmm," Snow hummed. "So, have you at least made efforts to prepare such infrastructure for when you are ready to do such things?" Reed walked over to Snow, stretching his head so as to be able to look Snow in the eyes.
"No, I haven't, at least not what you think," Reed eked out. "Do I....have we met somewhere, and I don't remember it? You seem to have a vendetta of sorts here."
Snow snorted. "I once met a man much like you, Dr. Richards, so much so you could be twins, I'd think. The same curiosity, the same single-minded focus on his work and his interests, the same lack of interest in sharing anything with the rest of humanity....." Snow let out a small sigh at this, Richards' nostrils flaring. "But you, at least, didn't sell out this planet just so you and your team could gain superpowers from an alternate Earth that was going to collect that debt by taking over the planet. Drums didn't seem to find anything to suggest that, thankfully, although your record isn't exactly stellar."
"Drums? Is that the remarkable young man who seems to blank out all of my sensors and related instruments?"
"It is. I wouldn't try to pull one over on him, even you're not that good, Dr. Richards." The waitress came back with a fresh cup of coffee, Snow walking back to the booth to take his seat. Richards followed, sitting opposite of Snow, the steam from the coffee dissipating into the air.
"It just strikes me as odd that I resemble someone you knew so much, yet we had some sort of fundamental difference in our personalities, as if we were twins looking at each other through a mirror or glass...." Richards trailed off, his eyes going wide and face tensing in surprise after a moment.
"Something you wish to share, Dr. Richards?" Snow arched his eyebrows.
"Imagine, if you will, that there's some basic blueprint for a default person, who shares basic traits and similarities with me and this person you once knew. No matter what universe in which you might manifest him, there is much that doesn't change except for this one parameter, their regard or disregard for their planet." Snow looked at Richards, eyes boring into Richards' forehead, hoping he got to the point soon.
"It's as if someone were to switch me and this person you once knew, this parameter changed completely and I went from a force of attempted good into a force of relentless evil. I obey Fermi-Dirac statistics," Richards dreamily gazed off through the window.
"Fermi-Dirac statistics. Certain elementary particles, such as protons, electrons, and neutrons, if you were to rotate them 360 degrees, the wavefunction that describes them changes by a phase factor of -1. It would be like....well, let's say an electron started out on the second floor of a two story building. It *has* to end up on the first floor after going around the building once, no matter what. We call these sorts of particles fermions. In order to bring it back to where you started from, you need to rotate it 720 degrees, or to have it go around the building twice. Other particles, such as photons, obey Bose-Einstein statistics. There, if you rotate them 360 degrees, the wavefunction changes by a phase factor of 1 – it's a wash, in essence. Or, to use the electron in a two-story building, if you send it around the building once, it returns to its original position. These particles we call bosons. It also applies to interchanging two particles of the same type, switching one fermion for another fermion, or one boson for another boson. You've have a phase change consistent with its behavior under rotation. So you can interchange one boson for another boson, you'll have a phase change of +1, and that will be that. But with exchanging fermions, you'll have that phase change of -1, and what was up is now down. This is due to something called the spin-statistics theorem. Exchanging me and this counterpart you've referred to would be analogous to this inversion – him completely amoral, myself the opposite - and to bring us back to our original states you've have to exchange us back one more time, to our original universes."
"I think in your case, Dr. Richards, you switch between seeing the tree in focus versus the forest. Not because you're out to do harm, you're just don't get people like you do your technology and research."
"I wouldn't say that," Richards defended himself. He clicked on his watch. "Ben, I just had an idea. I'm sending instructions to that camera you've got with you, stay away from the guy with the drumsticks and ask that woman if you could take her picture." He faced Snow again. "Well, thank you for your time."
A loud CRASH and BOOM were heard by the two men. Snow walked out slowly behind Richards, using his power to look outside the door as quickly as possible. Jakita had a self-satisfied grin on her face, while Drums was just looking on placidly. Susan and Johnny had their jaws agape.
"Where's Ben?" Reed yelled.
"He tried to take my picture after I asked him not to," Jakita said.
"She just drop kicked Ben into the East River," Johnny said in shock. Snow smirked.
"Let's go," he said. "We have that weird and wonderful world to get back to." He turned back to Richards. "By the way, that counterpart of yours? He's dead. No need to worry about anyone exchanging the two of you."
Apologia - I had this idea a while back, thinking it would be funny to have a conversation between Elijah Snow and Reed Richards. Given that Planetary is criminally under the radar of too many readers, a brief recap. Snow's main adversary in Planetary is a Reed Richards analogue named Randall Dowling who sells out the planet in order to get powers for himself and his three fellow space travelers, and who doesn't help humanity in the least. Richards is the mirror image of Dowling, without the entire blatant treachery aspect of course, but who, let's be honest, has not really passed along the benefits to the rest of mankind. Given that it's Reed we're talking about, he's probably find a frame from science to think about this information, and I thought the most entertaining one was this idea.
FYI - yes, my opinion of Reed has declined since Civil War - had it not happened, I might have had the idea but may not have been as inclined to actually write it. Reed may or may not be OOC depending on your perspective - I'll admit to him being perhaps somewhat OOC, but I figure since he's confronting Snow, the Ghost of the 20th Century could get anyone to act uncharacteristically, especially if one is the doppelganger of his now-deceased adversary. Unfortunately, I think my amusement in what was originally just a short scene may be diluted in a longer story such as this, but such it goes. I wrote it and now it's out of my head.
Yes, while I do have a soft spot for the Fantastic Four, I adore Planetary. If you haven't read it, give it a try. Also, given Jakita's speed, I bet that and her superstrength *could* let her drop-kick Ben into the East River. Heh.