Author's Note: It's here! It's here! The long-awaited fourth chapter of the epic baseball story! Boo-ya!

Chapter Four: Pre-game

The day of the baseball game had finally arrived. The sun was shining; there was not a cloud in sight. It was a perfect day for the ultimate showdown.

Most of the heroes were arriving to the stadium via the X-Jet. Nick Fury stood among them, relaying last-minute changes and instructions.

"Alright, then. The Silver Surfer can't make it, so Cap, would you mind being umpire?"

"It would be an honor, sir." Captain America was a fair and just hero, so he would be wholly accepted by both sides.

Fury continued. "Okay, that means we'll need a new right fielder. Someone tell Sue Richards that she'll be needed for the starting lineup. Elektra, you'll be a new bench player. Along with you, Luke Cage."

"Is one of the other players unavailable, Colonel?" Luke asked.

The head of S.H.I.E.L.D. nodded. "Dr. Strange said he had changed his mind and he'd rather watch than actually play. Is everyone set? Well, that's good, then. We're almost at the stadium."

Spider-Man picked up a bat and experimentally swung it at the air. He wasn't wearing a uniform, but had a baseball cap perched over the top of his mask.

"I'm so excited," he said enthusiastically. "Let's just hope the baddies play fair."

Wolverine, who was absentmindedly popping his claws in and out, spoke up. "Don't fool yourself, Spidey," he said. "You know that they'll never play fair. And while you're at it, why don't you put that bat away before you crack someone's frickin' skull open?"

Spider-Man sighed and grudgingly put the bat away. "Geez, you never let anyone have any fun, do you?"

"I just hope that they don't try to pick fights before the game," Storm said, continuing the conversation.

"Oh, you know they will," Deadpool piped up. "And I'm betting on Doctor Doom himself to cause trouble."

"Doom would never do something so foolish," Luke Cage countered.

"Hey, you never know."

"Buckle up, guys. We're landing," Cyclops called out from the cockpit.

Tony Stark swiftly glided down into the stadium. He checked out the hero dugouts, but no one seemed to be around. Hmm, he thought, guess I arrived earlier than I thought. Pepper and Jarvis weren't going to arrive until later, so he wandered over to the supervillian side of the field.

Iron Man observed that he wasn't the only one to have arrived early.

He spied Mandarin talking to Ultimo in hushed tones. They were both wearing baseball caps. Ah, so they decided not to opt for uniforms. In the end, the heroes had decided to trash the idea of uniforms also. Instead, they would wear team caps. Everyone who tried out received one, regardless of whether they were chosen for the team or not.

After all, who knew what would happen?

Tony Stark walked smugly over to the two villains. "Hello, Mandarin, Ultimo," he said politely.

"What are you doing here, Iron Man?" the Mandarin sneered. "You just want to figure out our plan to win, don't you? Well, you're not going to!"

Iron Man shrugged. "I'm doing no such thing," he said, "because I know we're going to win anyway."

Mandarin scoffed. "Pah! I will defeat you one and for all, Iron Man!"

Tony shrugged again. "Well, at least I didn't name myself after a citrus fruit."

Iron Man's greatest foe fumed in the bright sunlight. "Now you will face my wrath! Ultimo, kill him!" Mandarin roared.

Tony braced himself for a fight, but before Ultimo could move, the robot tipped over, paralyzed. "What are you doing, Ultimo? Kill Iron Man!"

"Initiating self-destruct sequence 10…9…8…"

Mandarin flipped around to see Magneto, who was obviously very amused. "You stop that and you stop that now, Magneto!"

Magneto made a tsk sound as he came closer, followed by other villains. Waving his hand nonchalantly, he ended Ultimo's countdown. "I am so ashamed of you, Mandarin," he said with a hint of sarcasm. "I thought that you of all people would not be so rash as to start a fight before the game."

The villain in question attempted to defend himself. "What's a pregame without a fight?" he said sheepishly.

"I don't know," Magneto shrugged. "But it's against the rules. You know that."

"He is right." Doctor Doom now stood behind the villains, towering above them. "Let us not bother with these petty fights and wait for the game to engage in battle. But for now, let's go back to the dugout." All the villains promptly left.

Tony was left standing dumbfounded. I'll never understand evil dudes, he thought to himself.

"Buncha weirdos." Iron Man turned around to see Wolverine standing behind him, arms folded in a relaxed manner. Wolverine did a double take. "Tony? You're here early? That must be a miracle in itself!"

Iron Man sighed. "Well, this isn't a meeting, Logan. You know how much I hate meetings."

Logan nodded. "Yeah. Riiiight. I heard that Johnny Storm was going to be the commentator. I wanna go see if those rumors are true or not."

"Sounds like a plan." Though Iron Man seriously doubted that the rumor was true, he couldn't help being curious.

Unfortunately, when the two of them reached the commentator's box, the person that turned around was the Human Torch in the flesh. "Hey, guys! What're you doing here? Did you come to see my amazing emcee skills?"

Wolverine groaned. "You have got to be kidding me," he said, rolling his eyes.

"Oh, no, of course not!" Johnny grinned. "I was the only one that could get the job. Fury had no choice but to accept my exceptionally superior announcer charisma."

"And it attracts the ladies, right?" Iron Man asked.

"Hell yeah it does! Why, you wouldn't believe what happened when Elektra came in here…"

Logan tugged on Iron Man. "C'mon, let's get out of here while we have the chance."

As they headed back to the dugout, Logan couldn't help but say, "You really should be talking about 'ladies,' Tony."

Iron Man punched him.

Doctor Stephen Strange had not planned on babysitting. In fact, the thought had never even dawned on him.

But here he was, sitting in the bleachers, watching over Franklin Richards when he could be at home, studying an occult magazine or watching Antique Roadshow on television.

But how could he have refused Susan Richards? Though she was married, all of the male superheroes thought that she was hot, and Dr. Strange was no exception.

But Strange was not sure that Sue Richards' amazingly hot bod was worth all the pestering and questions of her only son.

Suddenly, he saw a flash of light near them. Ah, he thought slyly, a distraction. "Look," he said to Franklin, "it is Thor and his friends."

Franklin got excited at this. "Oh, really?"

"Yes, they come from another dimension called 'Asgard.' They seem to be headed in our direction."

Indeed, Thor and the Asgardians were coming to sit by Strange and Franklin Richards. Thor greeted Doctor Strange, shaking his hand. "Stephen Strange," he said, nodding. "It is good to see you, my friend."

"The same to you, Thor," Doctor Strange said politely. "This is Franklin Richards."

Thor shook Franklin's hand also. "Are you excited about the game, Doctor Strange?" the God of Thunder asked.

No, not really, he thought to himself, but aloud he said, "Of course I am."

"Are you really?" Tyr, one of Thor's friends, asked.

"I am, really," Doctor Strange said unenthusiastically.

Heimdall grinned and said, "We should play this strange game for Asgard."

"FOR ASGARD!" Thor bellowed, swinging his hammer.

Tyr rolled his eyes. "You just had to get him started, didn't you?"

Meanwhile, in the dugout, the superheroes were starting to prepare for the game. "We are so going to kick some whiny criminal butts," Spider-Man said eagerly.

"I am definitely looking forward to that," Luke Cage replied just as fervently.

Storm shrugged. "I'm just surprised to see that the villains haven't tried anything stupid yet."

"Well, I was put up by Mandarin…" Tony Stark began, only to be interrupted by Ghost Rider.

"Oh, stuff it, Iron Man," Ghost Rider said. "We all know that you instigated the fight."

Tony stood up. "Who told you that?" he asked defensively.

Ghost Rider shrugged and Captain America moved to change the subject. "Well, who knows," he said nervously. "There may be a bomb or explosive device in this very dugout."

"Do you think so?" Kurt Wagner spoke up. "Well, what is that, then?" The blue mutant pointed to an object on the ground. Elektra walked over to pick it up. The ninja's head flipped around as a look of panic swept across her face. "Let's get out of here! It's a pipe bomb!"

Nightcrawler immediately teleported out of the dugout, while the others hurriedly rushed to escape the bomb. After they were all safely out of the vicinity, the bomb went off, at which point Nick Fury rushed over to the heroes. "Is everyone all right?" he asked.

"Yeah, now you come over," Spider-Man said angrily. "We could have been killed!"

Nick Fury shook his head. "Whoever set off that bomb didn't intend to kill anyone. I've got S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in there right now removing the bomb. Everything is fine now. We're ready to play the game."

"And now, folks, for the first time in history, we have superheroes playing super villains in a heated game of BASEBALL! I'm your host, Johnny Storm, here to take you through this momentous, historic game. There was just a little trouble earlier – some baddie had set a bomb in the heroes dugout. Well, to whoever just did that – we are going to whoop your asses! All of you! But for now, the game is beginning, the heroes are up to bat, and I am PUMPED! Woo-hoo! LET'S PLAY BALL!"