It is several moments after the explosions have gone off and Adrian Veidt is staring at the myriad screens in triumph. As the others look on in horror his arms are open wide.
"I did it!" He screams. "I did it!"
The others heroes look to one another as, slowly, the prospect of what they'll have to do, what they'll have to ignore, in order to preserve this peace dawns on them.
And only one among them remains unwilling.
It is two minutes to midnight, and two roommates at Empire State University are arguing. It is the last exchange they will ever have.
"Victor, I really think you should look at those equations again. By my calculations…"
"Doom does not make mistakes!" He slams the door open. "Your concern is unwelcome and unnecessary."
"Fine," Reed snaps. "But don't blame me if… do you hear something?"
In a moment, their world is taken apart. Victor blacks out for only a moment before he rises again amidst the rubble and discovers that the body next to him is still. As he wakes he feels blood on his face and he presses his hand against it, enraged that something might have damaged his visage. Then he sees the body.
"Richards?" He shakes the body. "Richards! Get up you fool! Richards? RICHARDS!" He screams from a vague, confused sense of loss, the feeling that he has forever lost somebody who should have been something to him, even if it was something to hate. His rival is gone and in death there can never be any satisfactory answer to the question of who would have won, of who was the smarter.
He sets his old work aside in that moment. That was something between Richards and him. And now so much has changed. His screams bellow and nausea rises in his belly, overwhelming him. In between blackouts he manages to crawl away from the rubble and the emergency crews find him hours later. He points out the other body to them, hoping they will do something with it. It deserves something. Anyone good enough to truly be his rival does. But half of New York is gone and the dead are being left to bury their own. And as he is taken to a makeshift hospital, his pores briefly begin to ooze metal and sweat.
It is an hour before the attack and three high school sophomores are spending those last moments before the world goes up in flames together in a penthouse. Inside, masks are waiting to be set loose.
"Okay, important decision here. Super Mario Bros. or Duck Hunt?" Harry holds up two cartridges and looks from the boy sitting in front of him to the girl sitting in front of him. "Thoughts?"
"Mario," Peter answers. "I still can't believe you got one of those. They only came out, what, two weeks ago?"
"Hey, it helps to have a dad with connections. Even if he doesn't do anything else. Kitty? What do you think?"
"Mario," Kitty agrees.
"But I can't stay too long," Peter warns. "I should probably be out taking pictures."
"It's night," Harry protests, fiddling with the NES. "You have to work now?"
"Now's the best time to work. It's when stuff happens."
"I wish you wouldn't work for that paper," Kitty sighs. "They're crazy and anti-Semitic. I don't know why a guy as nice as you would work for a paper like that."
"Didn't know you were that observant," says Harry. "Not that I'm saying what they're doing is right."
"Observant or not, it still bothers me!" She sits up and grabs a controller. "Wouldn't it bother you? If Peter was working for a paper that hated your people?"
"Probably," he admits.
"I don't agree with what they say but I need the money," Peter frowns. "Especially since Uncle Ben lost his job. You know how hard it is finding a job, especially when you're a kid. No legitimate place will hire me."
"I said I'd help you. I'd be happy to help you. I'd be thrilled to help you." He glances over. "What, my money isn't as good as that of a bunch of right-wing racists?"
"We've had this conversation. Let's just drop it. If I can find another job, I will, if not, well, at least I feel like I've earned my paycheck even if the New Frontiersman is not the best place to earn it. Anyway, I only take pictures of legitimate stuff. Not my fault how they twist it. So can we just get back to the game?"
They play and play, frittering away those final minutes with banter and electronic beeps. Finally, when the pizza has run out and the game is getting old, Harry looks at them again.
"Hey, you guys want some music?"
"Put on Safety Dance!" Peter suggests.
"I think you might be the only person in the world who admits to liking that song." Kitty rolls her eyes. "Look in my book bag. I just bought Dancing in the Dark."
"Springsteen it is," says Harry. Peter and Kitty turn to watch him and his fingers barely touch the needle when their world suddenly changes into a burst of light and a thunderous crash.
It is two weeks after the explosion has taken apart New York and so many other major cities, two weeks of relative peace and rebuilding. Adrian Veidt still believes he has won. But it is too late; the wheels have been set in motion for Adrian and for the boy beside him.
"I was so glad to hear you weren't there, Adrian." The brunette cuddled up next to him. "Hell, scared me to death. Worst thing I'd ever seen in my life. Couldn't believe I made it out. Musta cried for an hour, though."
"Well I am glad you survived too Bobby," Adrian says with a smile and kisses his temple. Untrue; his death would have saved Adrian trouble. But it is of small concern.
At least in Karnak the boy will have one marvelous evening, as all his lovers do, before they must inevitably go their way down the path of the pharaoh's servants. All so beautiful, Adrian thinks. Beautiful and anonymous and never around long enough to spill his secrets.
"You wanna go another round?" Bobby grins.
"Perhaps in a bit," Adrian chuckles. "I am not as young as you, you know."
"Yeah, but you're twice as gorgeous." Bobby reaches out to brush Adrian's hair and Adrian almost feels a pang at the thought of the poison he will slip into water or wine or soda. Almost.
"Flatterer," Adrian teases and strokes Bobby's spine, just like he likes.
Bobby giggles; then his expression twists. He sits up and clutches at his stomach. "Adrian…" He breathes.
"Adrian, I feel cold." He starts to shiver and begins pulling up the purple blankets. "Adrian, is it cold, why do I feel so cold?" His brown eyes fix onto Adrian's for a moment, have one last moment of soft lucidity before the ice starts to creep upwards.
"Robert!" It is the only word Adrian utters before he springs from the bed and dashes out of the room. Karnak is a fortress and equipped as such. So once outside the door, he presses the security code and locks him inside.
"Adrian!" Bobby screams and looks down at his hands which are turning into ice crystals. "Adrian what's happening to me!" He runs towards the door but slips and slides, spreading ice as he moves. "Adrian!" He pounds against the door, icy splinters shattering off of his limbs as he does.
"I don't know Bobby!" Adrian yells through the wall. "I'll try to solve it, I'll try to help!"
Instead, he runs elsewhere in his fortress, securing each level as he goes. And when he gets to the control room, he floods the bedroom with a toxin. Little matter, he tells himself. It was to be Bobby's fate anyway, so what if it was moved up a few hours or days?
Whatever just happened to Bobby, however, is his concern. He decides to go back and find the corpse, examine it for what caused it to change. But as he goes to leave, he looks at his monitors and sees that the ice has spread. A step into the hall and he hears the echoes of his name being screamed. Whatever he has done, it has not killed Bobby.
And the ice is spreading.
Uncertain about how to proceed for perhaps the first time in his life, Adrian quickly heads to the hanger where he docks his ships, both aerial and ocean-born. He needs to put distance between them. One by one, his disables all of the ships save for the one he will take. And then he escapes, hoping that the Antarctic ice plains will be enough of a wasteland to contain whatever just happened.
It is his first, personal glimpse of unintended consequences.
A/N: So a crossover like this was coming. Lot of Ultimate influences. And, with the exception of Bobby/Adrian, probably not slashy. I must be getting het in my old age. ;) But I'll try to keep this and all my more recent fics decently updated. Oh, and even though he doesn't really show up this chapter, Dan will be the focus of the Watchmen side of this story. Him and Adrian, but more Dan than Adrian (even though it doesn't seem that way right now).