The Fantastic Has-Beens? Part 2: Upstaged and Upended

December 06, 2015:

Reed and Ben talk shop until it appears that they're needed in Times Square. But that's the thing, looks can always be deceiving.

Times Square

The Hub of New York

Characters

NPCs: Wizard, Medusa, Sandman, Trapster (Paste Pot Pete)

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: Instant Crush - Daft Punk and Julian Casablancas


Fade In…

Baxter Building
2:13 PM
MONDAY

"I'm not sure how we'll be able to pa" Reed begins before being cutoff by the CFO. Jaina was an ally, but even that couldn't prevent her from delivering the bad news. "No, no. I understand. I understand, but there has to be another way. There are people who rely on that healthcare, we can just put them on the government plan. Maybe we can pay for medical procedures out of pock" Reed sighs. "No, I don't know how much that would cost. Look, can we talk about this tomorrow? Maybe if we rest and come back to it we might think of something new."

Thinking is all Reed Richards has been doing lately. He's sold a patent for $74,000—a spray that industrial companies can spray onto keyboards to make the paint last just a bit longer. And as a benefit, it's not carcinogenic! Whoo!

The bad news is that $74,000 is a drop in the bucket when you're Q rating is down, your movie just tanked (or is that Tranked?) at the box office, and when the comic publisher just cancelled your book.

Reed sits back in his chair and rubs at his eyes, unsure of how to proceed.

*THUD, THUD, THUD…*

The sound of Ben Grimm's heavy footsteps herald his arrival as he strolls casually into Reed's office, scooping ice-cream out of a large tub with a big salad-spoon. The rocky-skinned fellow makes slurping noises as he licks the spoon clean, and drops it back into the almost-empty container.

He has icecream on his nose, and around his mouth.

"What's got yer tights in a twist, Reed?" he asks as he draws nigh. "Yer usually good at gettin' outta stuff like that. Oh, and yer outta icecream. Sorry." He looks away from Reed and down at to the left, guiltily.

Reed's eyes bulge bigger than humanly possible as he exhales and laces his fingers behind his head. He leans back in the chair and just looks tired. "I'll send out for it. Sue and Johnny will probably want some soon."

Another beleaguered sigh. "It's the money, Ben. Our CFO thinks that if we don't sell our unstable molecules technology to the government we won't be able to cover our costs in the first quarter of next year. We're looking at either layoffs or cutting benefits. Or both. Our movie lost us about 50 million dollars, and we've only pulled in about 12 million from merchandising this year."

Reed looks up, "At least this month you sold more action figures than Johnny."

No one really buys Mr. Fantastic action figures, unless they want to complete the set.

Grimm chuckles.

"'Course they will," he replies - referring to the icecream. "This is Johnny's. Or was." He sets the tub down, belches mightily with a fist to his chest, and walks over to Reed's side as his expression sobers.

Grimm frowns.

"Okay, I heard the words 'cover costs' an' 'layoffs', an' 'cuttin' benefits'… Ya can't do that, Stretch. Layoffs… ain't you. Anyway I can help?"

He pauses for a while, frowning even more.

"I could give ya what I got fer my action figures?"

"To be honest, it'd save some engineers their jobs, as well as some of the support staff. Your personal earnings this year reached a quarter of a million dollars. I figured you'd want to do that, but I didn't want to speak for you," Reed says. "Johnny pulled in 700-thousand. Sue at 500. We can see what they have to say about it. In the end, it's not a fundamental change that we need to make it through next year, but it will get us past Christmas at least."

Reed Richards says, "I think that if we all—"

But Reed can't get the words out before the warning klaxon's begin firing. HERBIE, as it were, is going crazy. "Ben! Reed! There's a situation near Times Square! Large, mutated, sludge giants of some sort are threatening to take over!" The robotic voice seems worried even though the computer program certainly couldn't have emotion, could it?

"

"Ya could always get them to make a better Human Torch action figure…" Ben offers with a shrug. "'Course, that'd mean gettin' a better Human Tor — " he stops mid-jibe as the alarms go off, and turns around. Listening for a moment, he throws up his arms and looks at Reed.

"Fer real? Sludge giants? 'Know I saw that movie, once… Well? Are we goin' ta Times Square, or d'ya wanna sit here mopin' so'more?"

Within four minutes the Fantasticar is screaming down the caverns between the large New York buildings, heading the short distance to Times Square. Reed is riding in the front cockpit with the earpiece, while the Thing is riding in one of the back seats. "Coming in hot, Ben. There they are."

The scanners pale in comparison to the real deal down below. Gigantic monsters in mudflavored sludginess stomp down on the streets. There are four of them and though it's not clear what they want or what they're doing, or even if they're actually hurting anyone, they certainly look menacing.

"Ben, let's have you run point and I'll come in from above," Reed reasons. He wants to get another pass to get some readings before he heads down and hasn't decided whether he's going to stay in the Fantasticar or fight with fists.

"Sweet Aunt Petunia's petunias…" Grimm exclaims as he leans over the edge of the Fantasticar; he glances back at Reed and then again to the menaces below, blinking. "Alright then. If I don't come back, keep the runt away from my action figures — hell, what'm I sayin'? I always come back."

With that, Grimm jumps out of the Fantasticar and falls in a trajectory that will have him land directly on one of the sludge giants. "It's clobb…!" The rushing wind robs the Thing of his voice, and thus his battlecry.

Splooooosh!

Ben hits the sludge giant just as the Fantasticar disappears on a hard right turn—looks like Reed is going to make a second pass.

The consistency is not unlike water, except thicker. Rather than feel the true brunt of Ben's force, however, the Sludge Monster just sort of envelopes the hero and takes him within!

As Ben says, the Thing always comes back. And, since they've had such a good record since they first started doing this job, the people of New York have a sense of (false) security. Rather than run away, they come toward the battlefield, eager for a front row seat!

So this is what it feels like ta be gello…

Grimm bobs around inside the sludge-creature, holding his breath - which is relatively easy, for a while - as some of the more-brave (or less-sane) pedestrians nearby stop to take pictures.

The Thing starts thrashing with his arms and legs to get out of the monster - only to find himself rather weightless, almost. The creature appears able to keep Grimm's feet off the ground. Instead, he opts for a different tactic: and mightily claps his hands together inside the giant blob, creating a massive explosion of sound and air…

Mighty claps of air and pressure press out of the SludgeMonster's stomach with mighty force. It looks almost like the beast is pregnant. Pregnant with a superpowered baby from Yancy Street about to punch right through! The monster holds its stomach before the stress of the moves finally bursts a hole where Ben can find a way to get out.

The sludge monster is totally making the D: face.

Meanwhile, Reed is back making his second pass, scouring the readouts. "Ben, I have some notso good news. The bond of the water and the sand that makes up this beast is not your normal sort of mud-chemistry."

No duh, Egghead.

"To cut right to the quick, it's been done technologically. These things aren't alive. At least, not in the way we would think of being alive. There is no cellular activity. I'm scanning for surface briain waves and -blahblahblah <sciencestuffsciencestuffsciencestuffBendoesntcareaboutatafriggintimelikethis>

The Thing…

Looks rather like a sludge monster himself, covered in the goop of the creature whose belly he just vacated. Now there's an image. Dripping from everywhere, Grimm eyes the monsters and his surroundings, searching for something to give him an edge.

"Got anythin' fer me I can use?" he asks Reed over the radio in his ear. "I can't just smash these… whatevertheyare." The rocky fellow's eyes widen when he spots a passing cement truck, and he runs over in front of it.

"Hold yer knickers, bud!" he tells the driver, right before tearing the 'mixer' part of the truck free. Holding that half of the truck with ease, Grimm rips open one end and tosses its contents all over the nearest sludge-thing…

"Not on the Fantasticar currently." Come on, Reed. Think. Perhaps superheating them might bring them to a stop. "I'm going to try and get Johnny on the horn. Sit tight and keep them away from the bystanders."

One of the sludge monsters is on to Thing's game! When the cement starts to come out towards them, they are hit with a blast of sludge! The sludge mixes with the cement, hardens, and falls to the earth in nasty clumps, of course, but the monsters themselves seem to be free of the danger.

Reed punches the wheel of the Fantasticar, "Nice thinking Ben. That should have worked."

Frustration is mounting and Reed is taking this worse than usual. Most times he's the cool and calm one. Perhaps it's all the weight on him now.

Or perhaps what the National Enquirer said about them is true. They are has-beens.

Either way, the sun above the Fantasticar flickers, as a group of four descend out of a spaceship looking vehicle. One man in purple takes to the skies. He's unmistakeable by his gigantic helmet. Falling towards the ground are three others: one dressed in some sort of combat fatigues; another, a female, with long red hair; and finally a normal looking guy with a horizontally striped shirt in green and black.

Grimm blinks.

"THAT AIN' PLAYIN' FAIR, YA HEAR?!" He bellows in accusation and righteous indignation at the sludge-monster that just thwarted his 'Hail Mary' play. Grimm glances to the side at pedestrians whispering amongst themselves whilst filming the whole deal, and grunts.

"Figures."

At the arrival of the newcomers… from space? the Thing takes a few steps backward, his hand raised to shield his face from the sun - and accidentally treads on the hood of a parked car. The hood dies. "What in th' blue blazes..?! Reed! Reed, you gettin' this? We got bogies comin' in. Four of 'em! Ah, stupid sun's in my eyes!"

"I'm scanning it. Definitely terrestrial. Some sort of mod—"

But their conversation is interrupted as their frequency is hacked in to. "Greetings Fantastic Four! Or should I say, 2 of 4?" There's definitely some sardonic connotation in that jab. "I am the Wizard! And my cohort is here to help with—well, whatever mess you both have found yourself in."

MEDUSA gets to work by ushering some of the throngs of people back off the sidewalk. "Listen! We cannot ensure your safety in this! You must step back!"

Meanwhile the TRAPSTER and SANDMAN arrive on the sidewalk and flank one of the monsters. With attacks from both sides, their weaponry (some sort of pot-paste from the Trapster and a sand attack from the, well Sandman) combine from each side to freeze the first Sludgemonster in place.

The WIZARD, flying high above the fray, reaches his hands down sending some sort of wave attack at another of the beasts, where it explodes into a rain of mud!

The Thing stares.

Open-mouthed.

Arms dangling at his sides.

"I don't believe it…" he murmurs to himself, not caring if anyone hears him - either Reed, over the radio, or passers-by - as he watches the Wizard and his cohorts do… the Fantastic Two's job for them.

"Upstaged by… Dumbledore! In my own city! Hey!" The big fellow strides forward, pointing a thick orange digit (a finger) at the newcomers in accusation as he draws nigh to the sludge-monsters just as they each get frozen. "Hogwartz! Yer interferin' in official Fantastic business! Take yer hat and her wiz-stickers somewhere else!"

The Wizard reaches high into the air and lets out an angry shriek as if he is mustering all of his internal energy for one massive attack on the final Sludgemonster. As he's about to unleash it, though, he breaks character for just a second to listen to The Thing's words. The small grin on the man's face is unmistakable. Another epic groan and KABLOOOOOOOEY!

The Sludgemonster is gone.

The people begin to cheer madly! Frat boys highfive each other with backwards hats and big muscles and yelling in each others faces as young, attractive women hop up and down with their hands together under their chins. Rich businessmen give their nods of approval as elderly women shake their hands at this new Four after a job well done. Medusa even smiles as someone asks her to sign their baby.

The Fantasticar sets down quietly behind where the Thing trudges; Mr. Fantastic gets out of the vehicle and begins to make his way over, but not before the Trapster tries to strike up a conversation with Ben.

"Hey, no harm no foul man. We're all the same side here, right?"

"Pete," says Sandman, looking towards the Thing worriedly.

This was not part of the plan, this consorting. The Wizard never likes it when they deviate from the plan.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever," is the Thing's terse reply, his arms folded over his chest, his face angled away from both Trapster and Sandman. "Look, 'preciate th' help 'n all, but we gotta code, we heroes. Yeah. We do."

And he turns back to poke a hefty finger at the newcomers' chests, one after the other.

"Ya don' go glory-grubbin' on someone else's turf - an' this is Fantastic turf. Got it, chum?" Grimm glances over at Reed with a plaintive expression on his face. "About them action figure sales, now…"

"Ben," Reed says with a tilted head, wishing his friend would just let it go. Arguing out here in front of the public is just not going to win them any-

"Oh, is that a fact, Rocky?" asks the Trapster. "Maybe next time you better take better care of your turf so hundreds of people don't die while you try and figure out the best way to put your finger up your a—"

"Pete, that's enough!" the Wizard says as he sets down to the ground, staring at Reed Richards. "There is no reason to fight, Trapster. This argument is over."

"We were doin' just fine 'til you jokers showed up!" Grimm retorts, leaning in so he can bellow in Trapster's face. "I had the-the…monster-blob on the ropes! I — " he stops arguing as Wizard steps in and scolds Trapster. Scowling darkly, Grimm stalks back over toward Reed and the Fantasticar, grumbling aloud - even if most of his words are unintelligible. Somewhere in there, one can hear the words, 'drink' and 'beer' and 'a good whallopping'…

"I hope you'll excuse my friend," Reed says to the Wizard. "He's had a rough day and we're both under a lot of stress.

The Wizard gives Mr. Fantastic a long look but says nothing. Instead, he waits until old Stretch reaches an impossibly long arm around Ben and begins speaking in hushed tones as they both make their way back to the Fantasticar.

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