MWDC: Part 2 Book 9:
Chapter 1: Tests and Experiments
Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.
September 21st, 2012, New York City
Captain Benjamin Grimm groaned as he was woken by the morning rays of the sun peeking through the windows of his rented apartment. Slowly, he reached up and rubbed the sleep from his blue eyes, creating a grinding sound that caused Ben to growl in annoyance. The floor creaked under his shifting weight as he sat up on the mattress laying bare on the floor. With a groan, he stood up and was greeted by a sight that had been haunting him for the past few days.
A full length mirror sat in front of his bed, causing his reflection to stare back at him. Ben glared at himself, grumbling under his breath. He stood over seven feet tall and was incredibly muscular. His skin was covered in an orange, rock-like substance. His large hands now only had three fingers and his feet only three toes. His rock skin had covered his nose and his ears and he was completely hairless. He was dressed in only a pair of boxers, which were extra-large to fit his larger frame. Only his blue eyes remained as his recognizable feature.
Grumbling to himself, he stood up and walked over to a pile of clothes he had created in the corner of the room and retrieved a pair of large sweatpants, which he haphazardly put on. Looking at himself in the mirror, he growled again before he began looking around his new apartment, consisting of little more than a bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom. As he did, there was a knock on his door. Walking over to it, he opened it, revealing a young man standing outside.
He was young, only about sixteen, with spikey blonde hair and blue eyes. He wore a brown leather jacket, blue jeans and a black t-shirt. He smiled as he removed the sunglasses he was wearing.
"What's up, big guy?" he asked with a smile.
"What do you want, Johnny?" Ben grumbled.
"Reed sent me up to check on you," Johnny replied as he walked in, "Mind if I come in?"
"Yes," he growled.
"Well, I'm already in, should have said something earlier," Johnny quipped as he looked around, "This place is a dump."
"If you just came here to insult me, Matchstick, I'll show you the door," Ben growled.
"Sorry, sorry," Johnny said, holding up his hands defensively, "I really did come here to check on you. Also, Reed wanted you to come by this place he and Sue have."
"You know I don't like going outside anymore," Ben grumbled as he turned away from Johnny.
"Look I know, I wouldn't want to show my face in public if I was you either," Johnny said, earning another grow from Ben.
"Sorry," Johnny said again, "That was mean."
"Ya think?" Ben asked.
"Just come with me to Reed's. What do you say?" Johnny asked, receiving only a grunt from Ben in reply.
"Look, big guy," Johnny said, a serious look on his face, "I know you got the short end of the stick when it came to what happened to us. That's why Reed's been working day and night to find a way to get you back to normal. But he needs your help to do that."
Ben sighed and Johnny smiled, knowing he had got through to the other man.
"You should probably still try to make yourself more…presentable," Johnny said, indicating towards the way Ben was dressed. Ben only grunted in annoyance.
Ben growled in annoyance for what seemed the hundredth time as he and Johnny rode the subway. The rest of the riders were giving them a large berth, going so far as to crowd to the other end of the car and looking at them with fear and suspicion. Ben had donned a light grey trench coat along with a matching fedora, both doing little to hide his true appearance.
"This had better be worth it, Matchstick," Ben growled.
"What's the matter, big guy? Don't like the attention?" Johnny asked with a smirk.
Ben only growled in response as the subway came to a stop. Pulling his hat down, he followed Johnny as he exited the train and made their way up to the city streets. There was not much hustle and bustle happening in the area of the city they were in. Near the harbor, there were numerous warehouses, many of them looking abandoned. Johnny and Ben made their way to one in particular, before knocking on the rusted iron door that led inside.
A few moments later, the door was opened, revealing a young woman inside. She had bright blue eyes and long wavy blonde hair the same shade as Johnny's. She wore a light blue blouse and white capris pants along with red and white tennis shoes.
"Ben!" she exclaimed happily, "I'm so glad you decided to come!"
"Yer brother can be pretty convincin', Susie," Ben grunted as he shrugged.
"Tenacity is part of my charm," Johnny said with a smile.
"You call it tenacity," Ben grumbled as he squeezed through the door into the warehouse, "I call it bein' a pain in my ass."
"That's part of my charm too," Johnny added as he entered the warehouse as well, smiling as he did. Sue merely sighed and rolled her eyes as she followed them, closing the door behind her.
As they made their way into the warehouse, they saw that most of the large building was empty. No crates or any form of storage container was to be seen. Instead the floor was littered with cables of various sizes and color, running from the walls of the building to the pieces of machinery that had been set up in the middle of the room.
Standing in front of one of the machines, typing away at a computer that had been attached to it was a man. He was tall and lanky, appearing to be the same age as Ben, with dark brown hair and light brown eyes. He wore a blue button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up along with brown slacks, a brown leather belt and brown leather shoes. He was typing so rapidly on the keyboard that his hands seemed to be a blur of motion.
Sue looked concerned as she moved over to him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Reed," she said, getting his attention, "why don't you take a quick break, okay?"
"Can't Sue," he replied not looking up from his work, "I have to understand what's been done to us before I can help Ben."
"I appreciate the thought, Stretch," Ben said with a chuckle, "But ya won't do either of us any good if ya work yerself ta death."
"Ben!" Reed exclaimed happily, before his arms stretched to unusual lengths as they wrapped them around the other man in a hug, "It's wonderful to see you!"
"It's good ta see ya too, Stretch," he chuckled as he returned the hug.
"I see Johnny was able to get you to leave you apartment," Reed commented.
"I can be persuasive if I want to be," Johnny said with a proud smile.
"Like I said before," Ben grumbled, "Yer persuasive by bein' annoyin'"
Johnny shot Ben a dirty look, but the other man didn't seem to care.
"So Susie said ya wanted me here ta run some experiments?" Ben asked.
"Yes Ben," Reed affirmed, "I'm sure that the more I study our conditions, the closer I will come to understanding them. And when we understand them, then we can find a cure."
"I appreciate it, Reed," Ben replied, giving Reed a genuine smile.
"That's what friends are for," Reed stated, reaching up and putting his hand on Ben's shoulder.
"All right," Ben said with a determined nod, "So what's first?"
Ben lay on a metal gurney in the middle of the warehouse, with Reed and Sue standing over him with protective masks over their mouths.
"So, uh, what exactly are we doin'?" Ben asked, looking nervously at his two friends looming over him.
"We're going to take a sample of your unique ectodermal tissue," Reed explained.
"…What?" Ben asked, clearly confused.
"We're going to take a skin sample," Sue elaborated.
"Oh okay," Ben replied, "How are you going to do that?"
Wordlessly, Reed held up a high-powered drill that took him two hands to hold. As Ben's eyes widened in surprise and horror, Reed flipped a switch, causing the drill to whirl to life.
Ben stood with Reed and Sue, scratching his chest with an irritated look on his face. Reed looked at the ruined, still smoking drill in his hands before setting it on the computer panel in front of him and observing the experiment at hand.
Before them stood what looked like a giant, metal box. A few cables and tubes extended from the box and a reinforced door with a view window sat on the front of it. Looking through the window, Johnny had an uncertain look on his face.
"So what am I doing again?" he asked.
"We're just reading how hot you can make your fire," Reed explained, "So just burn as hot you can."
"You got it!" Johnny announced before stepping back, "Flame on!"
With that, Johnny's nude body was suddenly engulfed in flames, burning red as they licked the air around him. As he did, Reed looked over the readings on the computer screen, studying them for any important bits of information.
"Can you go any hotter, Johnny?" Sue asked.
"Are you kidding!?" Johnny asked with a laugh, "How's this?"
With that, Johnny clutched his hands into fists and his fiery aura roared as the flames sprung out, touching the metal of the box around him, heating it up.
"Sue," Reed said with an astonished voice, "Look at these readings."
Sue glanced over at the readings, her eyes going wide as she read them.
"That can't be right," she whispered in shock. Both of them turned to look at the metal box, which had begun to glow red from heat as wisps of steam rose from it.
"I'm gonna guess that that ain't suppose ta happen," Ben commented, nodding towards the box. Reed and Sue merely shook their heads in shock.
"Johnny!" Sue shouted, "You have to stop!"
"No way!" Johnny replied with a laugh, "I can go hotter!"
"Johnny, no! Wait!" Reed shouted, but his words went unheeded as Johnny concentrated on his fire, covering the entire box in fire as he began to rise into the air from the heat. A panicked look on his face, Reed slammed his hand on a button on the panel. A second later, various openings in the box erupted with extinguishing foam. Johnny let out a confused shout as the interior of the box filled up with white foam. After a moment, the door to the box was pushed open and foam poured out, flooding the foam around the still red hot box. Johnny stumbled out covered from head to toe in white foam.
"What was that for!?" Johnny demanded.
"Johnny, you were about to go super nova!" Sue exclaimed.
"Is that bad?" Johnny asked after a moment.
"You could have started a reaction that would burn up the planet's entire atmosphere!" Reed explained.
"That sounds bad," Johnny observed.
"It is," Sue stated with a sigh, "So please don't do something like that again."
Johnny gave her a thumbs up in reply.
"And go put your pants back on," she said adverting her gaze.
Reed and Ben stood in the middle of the warehouse, some of the machinery having been pushed to the sides to make room. Johnny and Sue stood to the side, Sue watching with a nervous expression on her face.
"You sure this is a good idea, Stretch?" Ben asked, uncertainty written across his face.
"I don't have the equipment to properly study the extent of my elasticity. Therefore, we'll have to make do with what we have," Reed explained.
"Alright, if you're sure," Ben said with a shrug.
Reed nodded, before stretching his body and reaching up to one of the rafters. He quickly coiled his arms around the steel beam, before turning and nodding to Ben. Ben nodded back before reaching down and grabbing Reed's legs. Picking him up, Ben began walking towards the other side of the warehouse, stretching Reed as he went.
"How you feelin'?" Ben asked when he reached the wall, looking back at Reed who was stretched across the room.
"I feel fine, keep stretching!" Reed called. Ben nodded before grasping Reed's torso and pulling on him hand over hand like rope. As Ben pulled, Reed grew tauter and tauter and he began to vibrate from the stress.
"Reed, don't you think that's enough?" Sue asked concernedly.
"No, I can keep going!" Reed shouted back, "We have to see how far I can go!"
"Not to be a bad scientist or anythin' but I'm not sure it's worth findin' out if I end up rippin' ya in half!" Ben interjected.
"It's okay, Ben!" Reed replied, "Just keep pulling!"
"If ya say so," Ben sighed before he continued pulling on Reed. As he did, Reed grew tauter and Ben's grasping grew slower.
"I don't…think…I can…stretch ya…anymore!" Ben shouted as he struggled to hold onto Reed.
"Excellent!" Reed exclaimed, "Now, if my calculations are correct, that means my maximum stretch length is-"
Reed never got to finish his sentence as Ben lost his grip on Reed, causing Reed's body to snap back towards his head and wrap around the rafter like a window shade. Reed blinked as he tried to clear his head, his body entangled around the rafter.
"Ah geez," Ben sighed, scratching his head in embarrassment. Sue let out a panicked squeak as she rushed over to where Reed hung, while Johnny laughed in amusement.
"Reed!" Sue exclaimed, "Are you alright!?"
"He looks a little tied up!" Johnny laughed, causing Ben to tap in on the head in annoyance, resulting in Johnny yelping in pain.
"Put a sock in it, Matchstick," Ben grumbled, "You get ta help me get him down."
"Aw man," Johnny groaned.
"I'm not so sure about this, Reed," Sue said nervously. They stood in the warehouse before a large stack of crates and barrels that Ben had found and set up.
"Don't worry, dear," Reed assured her, "All you have to do is create a force field beneath the stack and see if you can lift it. Just a simple stress test."
"Okay," Sue replied with a calming breath. A focused look on her face, Sue held out her hands and pointed them at the stack before concentrating. A slight shimmer beneath the stack was the only sign that the force field, shaped like a saucer, had been created. Gritting her teeth, Sue lifted her hands up and slowly the stack began to rise as well, the barrels and crates shaking from the movement. Sweat formed on Sue's forehead as she struggled to lift up the stack higher and higher.
"Excellent, Sue!" Reed congratulated her, placing a hand on her shoulder and squeezing it.
"I feel…dizzy…" Sue struggled to say as blood began to tinkle from her nose. She let out a cry of exhaustion before falling to her knees and dropping her hands, causing the force field to disappear and the crates and barrels crashed to the floor.
"Sue!" Reed cried as he caught her before she collapsed further, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," she replied, leaning against him and holding a hand to her head, "I just felt really lightheaded. I'm feeling better now. Should we try again?"
"No," Reed replied with a laugh, "I think that's enough for the day."
"So now what?" Johnny asked.
"Now we collect the data, review it, probably run some more tests," Reed explained, "We still have a ways to go but we're a step closer to understanding our conditions."
"Thanks, Reed," Ben said, smiling at his friend, "Don't know what I'd do without ya."
"Probably still be wallowing in that crappy apartment of yours," Johnny quipped with a smirk, earning a flick in the head from Ben, causing him to yelp in pain. Sue, Ben and Reed laughed as Johnny grumbled, rubbing his head in pain.
They were silenced however, when the ground suddenly began to violently shake beneath their feet. Numerous cracks formed in the concrete of the building and the rafters vibrated wildly, sending dust and small pieces of debris falling on them.
"Was that an earthquake!?" Johnny exclaimed.
"In New York?" Ben questioned.
"I don't think that was an earthquake," Reed said.
Suddenly, there was the sound of a loud, far-off crash.
"Come on!" Reed said, helping Sue to her feet before leading the others outside. Rushing out, they looked towards the city, where a large plume of black smoke was rising from somewhere with its confines.
"What's happening?" Sue asked, a worried look on her face.
"I don't know," Reed replied, looking at the smoke with astonishment.
"I'm going to go find out," Johnny said, shedding his jacket and pulling his shirt off.
"What!?" Sue said, spinning around, "Johnny, what are you talking about!?"
"I'm going to go check it out," Johnny explained as he pulled off his shoes and pulled down his pants, "It will be faster if I fly."
"Johnny! No way!" Sue exclaimed walking up to him, "You have no idea what's going on! It's too dangerous!"
"Sue, come on! I can fly and shoot fireballs!" Johnny exclaimed as he moved away from her, pulling of his socks as he did, "I think I can take care of myself."
"Johnny, don't you dare!" Sue shouted at him.
"Hey, don't worry about me. I'll see you guys later!" he said before turning around and diving off the dock, "Flame on!"
Johnny ignited, burning off his underwear before shooting off into the air, skidding along the water as he did. He let out a whoop of joy before flying towards the city.
"What an idiot," Ben grumbled as he, Reed and Sue watched him leave.
"Reed!" Sue exclaimed, whirling to face her husband, "We have to stop him!"
"Right!" he agreed.
"Quick! Let's get to my car and we can catch to him," Sue said, before turning to Ben, "Ben can you…oh"
Sue paused as she looked over Ben's large frame, realizing that he wouldn't fit in her car.
"Don't worry about it, Susie," Ben said, "I'll help ya bring back Matchstick, and I don't need a ride. I may not like lookin' like this but it does come with certain advantages. I may not be able ta fly, but for me, where Matchstick is headin' is only a hop and a skip away."
With that, Ben turned away and took two long strides before leaping which sent him soaring through the air, before landing in the street at the end of the pier and leapt again, sending him flying out of sight.
"Alright, that was impressive," Sue commented before grabbing Reed's arm and dragging him along as she ran off, "Now come on! We have to hurry! Ben can't save my idiot brother alone!"
With that they rushed towards Sue's car as smoke continued to rise ominously from the city.
A/N: Fantastic Four time! I'll admit that there are other heroes I like more but you can't get past how important they are to comics. I hope you guys like this one and a shout out to banditobane for helping me come up with the plot to this fic! Please review! Later, True Believers!