Chapter 1—Saved by S.H.I.E.L.D.
Author's Note: After several months, and after some nice reviews and requests to pick this back up, here I am, doing so. I really don't need to explain too much here, so just enjoy! And please review! A little review can go a long way!
Nobody knew until it was too late.
Even Colonel Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D., the expert on such things as cataclysmic catastrophes, wasn't aware of the problem until he was powerless to stop it…
It was a normal day on the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier. Normal, of course, meant busy. Nick Fury was at his desk, multitasking; writing out forms, sending and receiving email, and there was that call to the mayor of New York City he had to make today…
But busy was good for him. Took his mind off other things.
Suddenly, a young S.H.I.E.L.D. cadet rushed into the room, out of breath. "Colonel Fury?"
Fury looked up, annoyed that this kid had decided to barge into his office unexpectedly. "What do you want?" he growled accusingly.
The young cadet trembled a little. He, like all the other newbies on the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, knew that it was best not to piss off Nick Fury. "Sir, I wouldn't bother you otherwise, but it's a matter of national security," he said. "Sir," he added, as if adding the moniker would calm down the director of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Fury raised his eyebrows. "Matter of national security?"
The cadet nodded fervently. "Yes, sir. There is a—"
"Well, why didn't you say so?" The colonel pushed himself out of his chair, standing up and facing the cadet.
"This way, sir," the cadet said nervously. They began to walk down one of the long corridors of the helicarrier.
"So, what's the problem? Do you know?" Fury asked.
The cadet shook his head. "I don't have the clearance to know that, sir," he admitted. "All that I was told was that something was headed for Manhattan."
"Manhattan? What's headed for Manhattan? A meteor? Spy planes? Hulk?"
He shook his head again. "I'm sorry, sir. That's all I know."
They walked in silence, the door automatically lifting open as they entered a room filled with computers and people. The cadet excused himself, and Nick Fury walked up to Dum Dum Dugan, his closest confidant.
"Dugan," he said as a way of greeting. "I want to know what's going on here."
Dugan motioned Fury over to one of the large computer stations, where a techie sat in front of the computer screen. The techie looked extremely upset.
"Fury, we have an incoming crisis on our hands," Dugan told him. He pointed to the screen, where a green triangle blip was shown on the radar. "Curtis, you explain the mumbo-jumbo to the colonel."
The techie hit a couple of keys on the computer, and the blip got a little bigger. "See that, Colonel? That's our problem."
Fury squinted at the blip on the screen. "What is it?"
"What Carter calls an 'unknown nuclear device,' sir. It's headed straight for Manhattan."
"Well, can't you stop it?" Fury exclaimed.
Another person walked up to Fury. "Not that we know of, sir. It's barely visible on radar. We can't seem to get a lock on it to blow it up or destroy it."
Fury ran his hand through his hair, exasperated. "Why wasn't I informed of this sooner?" he yelled. "How much time do we have before it hits Manhattan?"
One of the techies shook his head. "Not long, sir. Not even an hour."
Nick Fury stood up. "Put me on the ship-wide comm.," he ordered.
"Listen up, people! This is Colonel Nick Fury. We are under attack! A nuclear device is headed for Manhattan. Do NOT panic, but we are in a lot of danger here. Pilots, I want you to get us out of here ASAP. Take us to the Virginia coast; that should be far away enough from the initial blast if it DOES happen. I and everyone else here is going to try to prevent it. Stay calm." He closed the comm. channel and glanced over at Dum Dum Dugan. "I want to know more about this as soon as any news comes up. Keep me updated, Dugan. I have to make some important phone calls."
"Yes, sir." Fury began to walk away.
"Fury?" Dugan called.
Fury whipped around. "What is it, Dugan?"
"Um, just one more thing I forgot to mention. Otto Octavius is trying to hack into S.H.I.E.L.D. databases again. Do you want us to take care of it?"
"Yeah. Keep that criminal out of our files…" Just then, something dawned on Fury. "Actually, wait. Don't do anything. I'll take care of it in a few minutes."
"Wait… Nick, are you sure? What do you have planned?"
Fury gave his long-time friend a knowing look. "I've got it under control, Dugan. Trust me." The head of S.H.I.E.L.D. walked quickly away down the corridor. There was a lot to do…
It was just another busy day for Reed Richards, well-known genius and head of the Fantastic Four. He was in his lab in the Baxter Building, laboring over a computer screen while he did various other things at the same time.
Having skin that could stretch like Silly Putty was most certainly useful at times. It allowed Reed to get a lot more things done than he could have before.
The phone rang abruptly on one of the many surfaces in Reed's lab. He expected it to be Susan, his wife, probably wanting for him to stop working for a minute to eat something or get out of the house. Mr. Fantastic hesitated; after the fifth ring, however, he reached over and picked up the cordless phone, snapping his arm back to normal length and holding it to his ear. "Hello?"
"Dammit, Reed! I thought you were never going to pick up."
"Colonel Fury?" Reed replied, a little surprised. And irritated. He didn't like people disturbing him while he was working. Even if it was the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. "Listen, Fury, can you call back another time? I'm in the middle of a breakthrough here."
The man on the other end of the line growled, "If you don't want to die in the next twenty minutes, Reed, you better listen up. And fast."
Reed was instantly all ears; dropping the tools he was holding in his other hand on the ground. "I'm listening, Colonel."
"There's an unknown nuclear device heading for Manhattan, Reed. I would advise you to find appropriate shelter immediately."
"But can't you stop it?" Mr. Fantastic exclaimed.
"We're trying our best, but we can't get a fix on it. My advice to you would be to gather all the superheroes and find shelter that would sustain a nuclear attack."
"Well, the Baxter Building has an underground bunker built for situations like that, but—"
"Then I would advise you to get as many superhumans as you can and gather them there. Now." The head of S.H.I.E.L.D. nearly hung up, but Reed stopped him. "Wait just a minute. One more question."
"What? We're losing precious minutes as we speak."
"Who else knows about this?"
There was a pause on the other line, and then, "Not too many. Me, most of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s top agents, you, and one other person."
"Who's the other person?"
Nick Fury sighed. "Dr. Otto Octavius."
"Wait. Doctor Octavius knows? You told him? Why did you—"
"No time to explain. Just do as I say and you might all get out of this alive."
Reed was left holding the receiver, but not for long. He bounded out of the room as fast as his rubbery legs could carry him to inform the others.
Within fifteen minutes, the Fantastic Four had gathered themselves, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Daredevil, Iron Man, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Doctor Strange, Bruce Banner, and, to the slight annoyance of the others, the Punisher in the sub-basement of the Baxter Building.
They all stood uneasily in the underground bunker that Reed had built several years ago. He had thought that it could possibly come in use someday, but although Johnny had slept down here several times for the pure joy of it, they hadn't used it. Until now. Perhaps this decision he had made long ago would now save their lives.
Spider-Man was on his cell phone, urging someone called "Aunt May" to get out of the city NOW. Wolverine was smoking a cigar, which irritated Mr. Fantastic a little. The smoke from the cigar drifted up towards the ceiling. Iron Man had taken off his helmet and was looking around the underground bunker with interest. The Punisher, sub-machine gun still in his hands, was burning holes through the ceiling with his eyes.
Sue Richards glanced at her husband with worry and fear, asking the question all of them had been thinking but had been too afraid to ask.
"What do we do now?"
Reed took his wife's hand in his. "Now we wait. We just wait."
Meanwhile, in a lonely warehouse in the industrial district, Doctor Otto Octavius squinted at the computer screen, his eyes bloodshot from working for 20 hours straight. After all of this work, he had finally hacked into the S.H.I.E.L.D. databases. Now just to get those files he needed…
Which would mean several more hours of hacking. Otto sighed, taking his fingers off the keyboard for a minute. He leaned back and cracked his knuckles. He was getting a crick in his neck and his eyes were getting sore. He rubbed his eyes, wondering what was keeping him awake. It was amazing that he hadn't fallen asleep yet.
However, he needed those files, and Doc Ock was nothing but persistent when it came to getting what he wanted.
After stretching for a minute, the villain returned to his work, taking a sip off of a fresh cup of coffee as he hacked further into S.H.I.E.L.D. databases…
Suddenly, without warning, his computer froze. He couldn't do anything at all on the laptop. Otto groaned. Not this again… The last time this had happened it had meant he had gotten caught. And that had meant a trip back to Riker's Penitentiary for what seemed like the fiftieth time. He had just broken out of there two weeks ago. Doc Ock wasn't going back there again if he could help it.
But then a window popped up; a web-cam window. The face of the person Otto would least expect showed up on the screen.
Colonel Nick Fury himself, head of S.H.I.E.L.D. and one of the banes of Otto's existence.
The villain glared at the colonel. "You've caught me," he growled. "I'm surprised your S.H.I.E.L.D. agents haven't swarmed the place yet."
There was an urgent look on Nick Fury's face that Otto had never seen before. "It's actually lucky for you that you were hacking our databases, Doctor," he said. "If you didn't, you would have been unaware of what is going on. And I wouldn't have told you otherwise. Personally, I think you deserve to die; but since I could reach you, I figured you had the right to know."
Otto was intrigued. What could be so deathly important that Fury would go out of his way to warn him about? He leaned in closer to the monitor. "Please explain, Fury," he replied.
It took a minute or so for the Colonel to explain the situation, and by the time he was done, Otto's mouth was hanging open in shock. "But—but a nuclear device of that power could—no, WILL kill everyone! We wouldn't stand a chance!"
"Warn the other criminals," Fury urged. "We're going to need all the help we can get if this does happen. As much as we don't like you, you could be useful."
"Thanks for the concern, Fury," Ock growled. "I'll see what I can do."
"Thank you, Doctor Octavius," Fury replied, actually a little sincere for once. "I'm counting on you." The screen went black.
Otto didn't even bother putting his coat on. He was in a hurry. Using his tentacles, he smashed through the skylight of the warehouse, vaulting out of the building. Luckily for the others, he knew where most of them were right now…
In another abandoned building just a couple of miles away, Doctor Doom had assembled villains from all over the city for a new incarnation of the Masters of Evil. The iron masked villain looked over the criminals talking and thought that this was a decent turnout. He didn't know how long he could keep this new team together, but it was better than being defeated by the Fantastic Four again…
Four metal tentacles smashed through the metal doors of the building as Doctor Otto Octavius rushed in, looking nearly exactly like the bumbling, timid scientist of years past. "Hi."
Doctor Doom looked at the scientist indifferently. "What's the rush, Octavius?" he boomed. "Have you decided to join the ranks of the Masters of Evil after all?"
Ock shook his head, gasping heavily and obviously out of breath. "No, Doom, I haven't."
"What for, then? I am not in the mood, nor is this the right place or time for idle chatting."
The scientist continued breathing heavily for a second. Finally, catching his breath, he said, "I've come to warn you, Doom. You and all of the rest of you."
Doom raised his eyebrows underneath his mask. "Warn me? Of what?"
"If we don't find shelter, we're all going to die in… oh, about twenty minutes."
Doctor Doom and most of the other villains laughed. "You have GOT to be kidding me!" Electro guffawed. "Are you tripping on acid, Doc?"
Doc Ock glared with steely eyes at the villain in particular. "No, Max, I have not been 'tripping."' He turned away from all of them. "Since no one is inclined to believe me, I will now make a pathetic effort to save myself." He began to quickly move away.
"No, wait!" Doom boomed. "Octavius may be telling the truth," he told the others.
Ock shook his head. "Now you believe me. Hurry, Doom. There isn't much time." Octavius quickly gave the rundown of what was going to happen to the other villain.
The iron-masked villain nodded understandably. "That is believable, Octavius. Luckily, there is a place where we can all be safe from a nuclear blast." He waved a hand. "Come, my fellows. Follow me."
And the rather large group of villains, with Doctor Octopus and Doctor Doom leading them, made their way towards Doom's underground hideout.
Where they, too, waited for the inevitable…