Summary: How Victor Von Doom joined the Future Foundation.
Notes: Written for bofoddity for Yuletide 2011.
Victor Von Doom is not in the habit of negotiating with four-year-olds.
Valeria Richards, however, warrants an exception. Against all expectations, she's a thoroughly intriguing child; she clearly takes primarily after her mother, with perhaps a degree of her paternal grandfather's tendency towards scheming. The role of Reed Richards in her development appears to have been limited to the provision of the raw materials for innate intelligence, which is definitely all that he's good for.
Certainly, she shows greater sense than expected in recognising that Victor is the person to contact when her father's attempts to convince the world of his brilliance veer towards inevitable disaster. "Uncle Doom" is an impertinence, but one that he'll let slide; the thought of the likely reactions to such a title do lend it a certain charm.
And the problem she presents him with certainly merits his involvement. An inter-dimensional council made up solely of versions of Reed Richards, meddling in events across the multiverse? If Victor had been less capable of controlling his reactions, the thought of that appalling scenario would surely have raised a shudder.
Admittedly, his control over his body and mind is not as complete as he would like right now. Valeria's proposed alliance has come at a convenient time. While of course he would eventually find a way to reverse the brain-damage caused by those who laughably consider themselves his intellectual equals, delegating that task to Richards and his team does have its advantages. Richards does need to be regularly reminded how much more important Victor's mind is to the world than his own. And it's as well to make the child understand early that she cannot expect to ask favours of him without offering something of value in return.
That will come in useful, once she's matured enough to see just how flawed her father's pretence towards genius truly is, and how much greater a mentor she could find in Victor. In a dozen years or so, she could make him a highly competent second-in-command.
And the thought of her father's reaction to that is... delightful.
He makes arrangements to leave the country under Kristoff's rule when he goes. It will be a good test of the boy's ability - and his loyalties. Naturally Kristoff embraced him as a father again as soon as Victor enlightened him to the lies others had fed him, but still, it remains possible some corrupting influence still lingers. Victor will observe his actions from afar and make corrections as necessary.
He has too long neglected the business of training a worthy successor. His experiments on the Asgardians have provided promising new avenues of research in the search for immortality, but nonetheless a backup plan must be in place. The world needs a Doctor Doom - and while by all rights that should be Victor himself, if all else fails he must ensure there is another shaped in his image to take his place.
His current weakened state is not the only thing to have turned his mind towards the prospect of mortality. It's highly inconsiderate of one's long-standing enemies to die young and at someone else's hands.
He attends Jonathan Storm's funeral, as a mark of his respect. It's to be the last time he wears Latverian royal green in public for a long while.
Adopting the white costume for the duration of his association with the Future Foundation is a carefully considered gesture, and it amuses him to know that Richards will tie himself in perhaps literal knots trying to understand the symbolism behind it.
To take on the traditional blue of the Fantastic Four... that would be an indignity beyond his ability to bear. But this is a new uniform, not yet worn out in public, not yet claimed by his old enemies as wholly their own - and now Victor has marked it as equally his. Already in the eyes of others he will be a founding member of this new group, and soon, very soon, they will find themselves turning to him as its leader.
Besides, on a more juvenile note, it will panic Richards into running multiple security sweeps, trying to understand how Victor could know of the change mere hours after it was decided. If he's to be forced into this unpleasant proximity for any length of time, he has to find his minor entertainments where he can.
He intends to avoid giving in to Richards' usual extreme provocation. For all her advanced intelligence, Valeria is still a child, and unthinkingly loyal to her caregivers in the way that children are. She must be allowed to see and understand for herself that Victor is her father's superior in every way.
This is a long game he intends to play - and there lies his advantage, for none of his old foes, not even Richards with his much-vaunted intelligence, have ever had the ability to see beyond the immediate. They will expect him to double-cross them as soon as he can, take the first opportunity to stab his unwanted allies in the back. None of them will understand that aiding them to the best of his ability will bring its own future rewards.
He smiles under the mask as he steps out onto the upper floor of the Baxter Building and Valeria rushes to meet him. She thinks she's manipulating him, of course, with her childish attempts at guile - as if he couldn't see past "Uncle Doom", bold flattery, bright smiles. It doesn't matter.
It doesn't matter that it's not yet real, for one day soon it will be. What matters now is that Richards is watching, his own inadequate excuse for a father standing by, and later he will remember this and the doubts will start to grow.
Victor acknowledges his presence with a slight incline of the head. "Richards."
"Victor." Richards is tense. He's wrong-footed, lacking his usual tone of bold accusation or obnoxious attempts to sound calm and reasonable. He's subordinate to his father's authority for a change, not happy with Victor's presence in his home, but not in a position to overrule it.
It's highly entertaining.
Victor makes a point of talking over his head to Nathaniel. "Your granddaughter informs me that you have a problem that requires my unique abilities to solve."
He doubts Nathaniel Richards is particularly pleased to see him, but he plays this game of diplomacy much better than his son. "We would certainly appreciate your help," he says with a polite smile. "Perhaps we should all sit down together and discuss it." Richards junior hovers by his shoulder, sullen as a teenager.
"This way, Uncle Doom," Valeria says, trotting ahead. Victor can see Susan Storm waiting for them at the end of the corridor, wary but too naturally level-headed to attack him without provocation. She'll give her husband a chance to explain himself first, and Richards, reluctant as he is, will likely make a hash of it - leaving Nathaniel or even Valeria to step in to smooth things over. Then Grimm will inevitably try to pick a fight, and Richards won't be able to stop that either...
Victor smiles to himself, secure in the knowledge that no one will see if it he doesn't want to show them. Richards is waiting for his attack; he doesn't yet understand that it's started already. Victor's been in the building three minutes, and already his enemy's role in the group is all but obsolete.
Richards has assembled his new foundation on the premise of gathering the architects whose minds will shape the future.
Victor looks forward to proving to him that he doesn't have a place in it.