To My Rapist’s Baby

This week, because of what happened with Roe, I’ve written a new short story.

Trigger Warnings: Rape and suicide.

Dedication: For all of the women (and people of other genders) this Supreme Court is going to kill. All. Of. Them.

Story

The letter starts with the words, “To My Rapist’s Baby,” but it’s scribbled out; written next to it are the words, “To My Darling Daughter;” each introduction breaks my heart in turn as I read.

* * *

I want you to know it isn’t your fault. I don’t blame you. And I tried to love you as if I’d loved your father, as if I’d consented to share my body with him. I’m sure there have been moments when I couldn’t be the mother you deserved, when I couldn’t help but see him in your eyes as he pushed me down, or hear the way he threatened me in your voice when you were angry with me.

I was still too young to be upset when the decision came, too naïve to know what Roe v. Wade had been to know what it meant that it had been gutted, to know what I’d lost until its protections weren’t there when I needed them.

I knew your father before; 8 in 10 know their rapists, while 1 in 5 are related. Your father isn’t technically the latter; his family were friends with ours, essentially treated like family without the blood. At the time I was young, and naïve enough that at first I thought it was my fault, that I misled him, that I hurt him. I actually… I apologized, when he was done. I couldn’t stop crying, and I felt like I couldn’t pull my skirt low enough, but…

I still don’t know if I ever managed to squeak, “No,” but that’s academic. Every inch of my body was screaming it. I was shaking. I didn’t move my arms or legs. I didn’t respond when he kissed me. My body didn’t respond, period. For a virgin, I didn’t understand how thoroughly I was saying, “No.” But he did. And he ignored it anyway.

It took me a long time to process it. To realize how he maneuvered me, made me feel older than I was, made our friendship into something other people couldn’t understand or appreciate, that I had to hide away from everyone else. What I think finally made me understand was how much more aggressive he became afterward about secrecy- how certain he needed to be I wouldn’t tell anyone.

Eventually I broke down and told your grandparents. Mom… wasn’t helpful. His family were friends from hers; and maybe she just couldn’t believe she failed to protect me. Dad was better. Wanted to kick his ass, at least. Wanted to make space for me, to cry, to rage, to talk to whoever I needed to. They fought a lot, in the days that followed; eventually they decided to take me to a doctor, and let me file charges.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to. I’d seen already in my parents that I was going to have to fight. If even my mother was going to call me a lying little slut…

The doctor was really nice. I was scared. And she walked me through the exam. She said she’d been through one, when she was my age, and so she knew how to make it less scary. And I remember her being good all the way until the end, when my tests came back, blood and urine they took at the beginning of the exam. She couldn’t look at me, anymore, after that, but read from a paper, that I didn’t have any STDs… but that I was pregnant. She handed another paper to my parents.

I barely understood what was going on, but… by law the pregnancy had already been logged into the state database. If for any reason I hadn’t given birth within ten months, there would be an investigation, and all three of us would be held criminally liable. We could go to jail. They could lose their home.

They fought every night after I went to bed for a week. To this day I don’t know which one of them wanted to stay and which wanted to go; they were arguing whether or not we should leave our home, move someplace we could still terminate. The arguments sucked both ways; there weren’t a lot of places you could go that record wouldn’t follow, and fewer still where both of them could readily find work. And they would definitely take a bath on the house; the downturn had been so bad they’d lose some of their equity- it would be harder for them to buy another home, and they might just end up renting the rest of their lives.

Finally I told them to stop. That I wouldn’t- I couldn’t– do that to them, either of them. It wasn’t an option on the table. We weren’t becoming fugitives over this. I think it was what they both wanted to hear, because just like that, we all decided I was becoming a mother. I… have complicated feelings about that. About them. But I don’t hate them for it.

I had to change doctors; my mom had it out with her, after months of canceled appointments. I half expected her to emerge with a head tucked under her arm. But her eyes were red from tears. “She’s a coward,” mom said, “or too soft-hearted for this world.”

I was a cautionary tale all of Senior year. I don’t know if people thought I couldn’t hear what they whispered about me, or if they deliberately whispered them loud enough so I could hear. But almost none of them asked what happened. Even most of my friends stopped talking to me. Their parents would freak out if they knew they were hanging out with someone like me. Worst of all, I knew there was every chance that if I had been one of them, and one of them was me, I would have done the same.

I barely dated that year. I think, in that regard, I was also a cautionary tale; nobody wanted the reminder that our young lives could be derailed so utterly violently. And truth be told, I don’t think I wanted anyone else to touch me; it was all still too raw, too fresh, and even my dad kissing my cheek goodnight made me flash back.

I think, too, that I wanted to prove everyone wrong. Every single person who saw my belly, after seeing that I wasn’t just overweight, wrote me off. My life was over. I was going to be on food stamps and welfare forever. And I had been such a bright young woman, too. So all of that time and energy I might have put into dates and friends, I put into books. Those were the two best semesters of my academic life.

It was good I wasn’t anywhere near valedictorian, because I missed graduation. You just had to come out. It’s honestly probably for the better; in my gown I looked like a pumpkin in a death shroud. And it also felt kind of perfect; my classmates were celebrating a threshold crossed, and so was I.

I don’t think, when I decided it would be less disruptive to our lives not to move, that I realized how the end of Roe upended adoption politics. I expected there was a mail chute or something I could drop you in- I’m kidding, obviously. I’m not saying I didn’t want you; really, I’m saying I hadn’t really considered that an option, at all. But when I started looking into adoption, it quickly became clear that wasn’t really an option at all.

And your grandparents were really supportive. I ended up staying home longer than any of us expected. They saved what they could for college, and instead of a state school, I did a community college, instead, and used the difference to pay a sitter. But dad got laid off, and suddenly my rainy day fund was our rainy day fund, and so I stopped taking classes and started working as a barista at the coffee stand on campus. Slow days they’d even look the other way if I kept you in a sling.

Then, one day I got served. Your father was suing me for custody. Dad got rehired, just in time for his entire salary to go to a lawyer to fight him. It didn’t matter that I didn’t press charges, she said; most DAs don’t prosecute a rape unless it’s iron clad, even when it’s statutory, and even a conviction wouldn’t have precluded him from suing me.

I slashed my wrists when I got home from meeting the lawyer; I couldn’t protect myself from him, no matter what I did, let alone protect you. Mom found me in the tub and got me to the hospital. I spent a couple of weeks in a facility, until they were convinced I wouldn’t try it again. I wasn’t anywhere near as convinced.

We talked about bringing it up in court, that your father was so dangerous and frightening that he drove me to the unthinkable. The lawyer suggested we keep the attempt out of the record; his lawyer could argue I couldn’t care for myself, let alone you. Somehow he found out, anyway, and told the judge, who told me if I made another attempt, he’d have no choice but to take you away, and either give you to my parents, or, more likely, to your father.

My lawyer was pretty great, though; she got the judge to only give him supervised visitations. That saved my life, and also my sanity, because as much as I hated the thought of him stepping foot in your life, at least this way you were safe.

In cause you hadn’t figured it by now, whatever we’d been to each other before, I was now very much invested in being your mother. I don’t know how or when it happened, other than it was definitely before your father served me, but I realized I loved you, despite your head looking mostly like a wad of clay that got stuck under couch cushions during the warm parts of summer- you’ve seen the pictures, you know what I mean. And you were still the most precious thing I’d ever seen.

Necessarily, the shape of my future changed. An advanced electrical engineering degree was out; I set my sights on trade work. I got a job working alongside dad; he was already starting to slow down- this was a few years before his heart attack. Between the three of us, we could do things in shifts, one of us always with you, one of us always working. At some point you stopped drooling and pooping (at least in the ways that required me to wipe up after you), and started walking and talking.

And I don’t think I really realized how much we were all burning the candle at both ends until dad keeled over. He was in the hospital for days, as they tried to fix his heart, and mom was with him the whole time, which meant I was trying to watch you, and get you ready for school in the fall, all while keeping his business going.

You starting school was maybe the thing that prevented us all from a collective breakdown, and possibly more heart attacks. It meant we all started getting more than 5 hours of sleep. It meant we could be people in our own rights again, have interests, and thoughts. We loved you, and we gave our time for you willingly; I only mean to say it’s hard to understand how much you’re giving until you suddenly have a lull.

And you started growing up into just the most wonderful little person. You reminded me mostly of me, but also so very much you, too. Most of the time I really only saw our odd little multi-generational family in you; you had mom’s weird, Skeksis feet, my rebellious eyebrows, and from a startlingly young age you impossibly had your grandfather’s barrel-chested laugh. But the older you got, the more I could see your father in you, too. The way your eyes crinkled at the corner when you were serious. And it hurt me, and I know, there were times, I let my hurt hurt you, too.

Things changed when your father drug me back in front of a judge. He was married, now, and a model citizen. No one had ever managed to file any kind of charges that ever stuck to him. So now he wanted unsupervised visits with you. I was terrified, because you were just the age that he started grooming me. Worse, he could afford a crueler lawyer, one who got the judge to forbid me from telling you all of this, from telling you who he is. I remember the judge yelling at me, that if I did, he’d give your father joint custody.

Mom and dad wouldn’t leave me alone for days; they could see how much I was hanging from a thread. I couldn’t let what he did to me happen to you- but the judge hadn’t given me a choice, so I kept vacillating between killing myself or your father. Neither plan got very far along; mom and dad were good at distracting me enough to keep the ideation in the early stages long enough for me to realize I needed to stay, for you, that whatever happened, I wasn’t going to fail to protect you.

But it was also the beginning of the end, because I realized I wasn’t living for me any longer; your father finally managed to choke the life out of me, and the only thing keeping me on my feet was trying to minimize the harm he could do to you.

I’m sure you noticed it, too. I’d tried dating, a few times, when you were growing up. Not anymore, not after that. And I know I became that mother, the one always asking about your bathing suit area, always talking about enthusiastic consent. Always insisting on meeting your friends, and staring into their eyes in the vain hope I’d be able to see that thing in your father I’d missed. You called me a prude; you said just because no one was seeing me naked I didn’t want anyone to be able to see you. That hurt little girl inside me agreed with you, but adult me was too scared of everything to stop, or at least be better at drawing those lines.

Around then mom got sick; the cancer took her quick. Dad didn’t last two months; she was the only thing keeping him going, after his heart attack. They left me the house, and their life insurance meant maybe there’d be money for your college after all.

I told myself I could wait until you graduated high school; it wasn’t that long until you’d be 18 and move out. It was every other day you spent telling me about a plan to move in with this friend or that, to go to San Diego, or Houston, or some other thriving metropolis. Then one day you walked in, beaming, holding a letter. I didn’t even know you’d applied, but you’d decided to go to the community college, to get your transfer degree, stretch out the money longer. I was proud of you, and thought that I could last a few more years, to support you.

Visitation ended, but by then you had enough of a relationship with your father you kept seeing him regularly, anyway. Worse, you stopped talking to me about it. I found little gifts around the house from him, and had to wonder if they were signs of a doting father, or a man grooming his own daughter. There were nights that I slept in the tub with a razor blade pressed against my wrist; I needed to know I could escape if I had to, that staying to protect you was a choice, and one I could revoke.

You took longer to graduate, because you got a part time job to help out with the bills, and stretch out the money from mom and dad. I tried to tell you you were getting the house, that so long as you downsized, you could buy something smaller and have as much money as you needed for school. But you wouldn’t hear it- you insisted I’d bury you, and you’d never take my home from me.

Eventually you got your transfer degree. But you didn’t go to the state campus, you went to the satellite campus in town, so you could stay home, and save money on food and rent. I didn’t mind… and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t treasure having two more years with you.

I want to stress that the problem was never you. It was always your father. Having to see him every other weekend. Having to smell his goddamned cologne on you when you came home, and having to remember the smell coming from me. Having to wonder if he’d done any of what he did to me to you. And I think, more than anything else, that is what breaks my heart. I let him make me a worse mother. I couldn’t tell you to stay away from him; even when you turned eighteen and he couldn’t threaten me anymore, you couldn’t hear me, and I know that put distance between us.

And I’ve read your latest email for the fifth time. It’s everything a mother could want. You’ve found an apartment. You’re getting on well at your job. And you’ve met someone. I hate that I won’t get to see the person you become, but I am so weary from this lifelong vigilance. I hope my loss won’t hurt your stride; I’ve spent my entire life eager for you to run.

But before I go, I want you to know that you are not the worst thing your father’s ever done; no matter what that judge said, you were always mine, always the best part of my life. The role your father played in our life was a stolen one, taken from someone more deserving, someone who could have loved us as we deserved. But that never made you any less my daughter, or any less at all.

Don’t be sad. Some parts of our story have been tragedy, but I promise you, this ending is a happy one. I raised a woman I could be proud of, one I’m happy survives me.

I’ll always love you,

Mom

* * *

“So should we send this to the daughter?” my junior partner asks me. He’s still new, though not as new as the asinine questions he asks imply.

“What have I told you? You take the stupid out of your mouth every morning before you come to work or I’ll slap it out of you.” He stares blankly at me, and I know he’s going to need the simplified version. “We failed this poor woman in life; we are not going to compound it by failing her in death, too.”

“So what do we tell the family?”

“Society failed to protect her twenty-five years ago. And it’s been failing to protect her every day since. This one’s on all of us.” I can see it in his puppy dog eyes that his heart’s about to break, and I sigh to let some of the anger off as steam. “And we tell her that her mom fought like hell to hold on for her, fought depression through years of suffering to get her where she needed to be, make sure she could handle herself before she let go.”

“You want me to write it up?” he asks, and he’s bounced back enough like a puppy I feel a twinge for kicking him.

“Sure.”

“And, uh, I’m sorry. I know this shit’s gendered, and sensitive, and I can be thick-”

“Christ, I don’t want you to apologize for your gender. I want you to do better than your peers. I want you to raise your boys to be better than their peers. I want you to be a part of the solution- including fixing reproductive rights into law- so twenty-five more years from now we aren’t standing over another woman we failed.”

“I, uh, hadn’t had the chance to tell you, we got some of the prenatal testing back. Apparently the sonographer was wrong. The twins are going to be girls- not a trace of y chromosome.”

On instinct, I grab him and pull him close. “Shit,” I tell him, feeling a little bit worse for the kicking now. “My condolences. You’re in the shit with the rest of us, now.”

DCEU ’22 Pitches 1: Milestones 2: Bound by Blood

The Windup: Wait, I haven’t even finished up with ‘21’s Marvel pitches, so why am I posting the first of this year’s DC pitches? Procrastination? Time travel? Nope. It’s Juneteenth. Last Juneteenth, the first where it was officially a federal holiday, saw the posting of Milestones 1, following Milestone’s (the 90s own voices Black imprint) premier superhero trio, essentially their Superman, Iron Man and Spider-Man. Well, this here’s a sequel to that one, introducing Milestone’s take on the X-Men, as well as continuing the story of Icon, Hardware and Static. I’ve tried to modernize some elements, but as with last year, my pitch notwithstanding, this kind of project would need to be written and directed by Black professionals. As such, I’ve taken a relatively light hand, because I know enough to know that I don’t always know what I don’t know, you know? My goal here is to highlight the potential of a Black franchise, not whitesplain the work of Black artists or Elvisize it.

The rest of the DC pitches for ’22 will have to wait; I’ve got more to finish from the MCU ’21 pitches, so it will be a bit before more of these DC pitches happen (tentatively scheduled for mid-August) . If you want notifications of pitches, you can always follow me on the bird app.

The Pitch:

Night, at Alva Technologies. For a moment it’s a peaceful corporate campus. It’s subtle, but Rocket zooms into a window on one of the upper floors during this establishing shot.

We cut to the inside of the facility, into Curtis’ laboratory, and see his Hardware exosuit. Curtis and his most recent handler/assistant, Tiff, hear a boom from nearby. “What was that?” she asks, flat-footed.

Curtis dives for the assistant, pushing her out of the way as the metal door flies off its hinges where they had just been. We hear gunfire, as Icon walks into the room. Alva’s security, using high-tech assault weapons, are firing on him, hanging off him, desperately trying anything to even slow him down, and failing. He throws the one holding onto him into another shooting at him, as bullets ricochet near Curtis and the assistant. When the assistant tries to speak, Curtis covers her mouth. You can go one of two ways with the assistant; she can be Curtis’ protege that turns against him in her own suit of armor, Technique, or you can have him be the white supremacist patsy Curtis frames for joy-riding in the Hardware armor- I’m going to assume we do the former, because I want to play with all the action figures.

Icon looks up into the security camera pointed down at him. “You didn’t think that just because you stole Metcalf’s tech and expertise I’d let you keep them, did you?” Icon asks, before blasting the Hardware armor. If we’re looking for an opening credits montage, molten metal dripping off the armor could work. Icon turns his energy blasts next to the camera, before flying through the wall.

Cut to later, after Alva and more security arrive. He’s mid-lecture.

“You have close to a billion dollars worth of tech at your fingertips in this room, Curtis, and the second most impressive mind I’ve ever seen at work.”

“Yeah, the same tech your security used and he shrugged off- or that he melted without even having to try hard.”

Alva sighs. “Enough posturing, Curtis. Neither of us believe that armor was still nonfunctional, and we’ve both seen footage of someone wearing it out on the streets of our fair city. What I think happened, is you decide to steal my technology, and sell it to Arnus Freeman, only you tried to hardball him, and instead, well, you’ve cost me enough for a lifetime, I should think. You’re fired, with cause, so expect no severance, and if I can tie you to this catastrophe, you will be held liable to the fullest extent of the law, both criminal and civil. My lawyers will feast on whatever remains hanging off your bones.”

“Sir,” the assistant says, turning a screen towards Alva, “you should probably see this.” We see files rapidly changing in a server log, too quick to really understand.

“I’m too to important to guess at the significance of this.”

“Well, I believe it started with this.” She calls up security footage of Rocket accessing servers in their server room, attaching a drive of some sort. “It’s a worm. It crawled through our servers, and deleted everything Curtis Metcalf has ever touched. So far as I can see, that includes any consulting he did on other projects he wasn’t technically on. And… it happened just as the nightly back-up occurred; the worm was transferred to our offsite back-ups as well. It’s all gone.”

“You’re both fired,” Alva sneers. “And it might be prudent of you to flee the city, or possibly the state, in the event I’m feeling vengeful later.”

Alva’s security escort both of them out of the building at gunpoint. The assistant is hostile, clearly blaming him. “Tiff, I’m sorry,” she storms off.

Curtis walks past his company car, that security have already booted. “Company car,” one of them says to him, and he keeps walking with his box of goods.

We cut to deeper in the city. Curtis passes an alley, and is grabbed and pulled inside. “You didn’t think you’d evade me that easily, did you?” It’s Icon, but aside from projecting menace, he’s paused.

“Were we followed?” Curtis asks over an earpiece.

We cut to the sky above them, where Rocket is surveilling from just beneath cloud cover. “Clear skies,” she says over their radios, then dives, landing at the entrance to the alleyway, seemlessly moving from flight to walking. “No drones, no cars, no foot pursuit. You were right- Alva got so pissed he acted without thinking.”

Curtis touches a brick in the wall, and it scans his fingerprints. The bricks start to slide away, creating a doorway, that they all go inside. This is a hole new lab, better than the one at Alva, outfitted by Arnus, and supplying him with myriad alien tech, as well. At the center of the room is the real suit of Hardware armor, newly upgraded, augmented and visually redesigned both to sell a whole new series of action figures and to hide the stolen tech from Alva (and his lawyers).

“Think he bought it?” Icon asks.

“Not sure it matters,” Curtis says. “This tech is 9 generations from the suit he knew about. Even if they can reconstruct the data- which I doubt- they don’t have anyone left on their payroll smart enough to tie it to their tech. Tiff might have been able to, but he canned her with me.”

“You think we should bring her in on this?” Rocket asks, because she’s emotionally the most intuitive of the trio.

“Thought about it. But there’s no safe way out if we do. She says no, she’s a liability to us- it’s coercive even to ask. She says yes, and she could have Alva chasing her for payback the rest of her days. I’ll email her in a couple days, offer to get her a letter of recommendation.”

“I could offer her a job,” Arnus says.

“Same problem. We let her be with us, no matter how clever you are about hiding her in some shell company, and Alva will come after her. She’s smart, she’ll bounce back.”

We cut to the alley. She’s listening on a bug she planted in Curtis’ things. She hits the brick wall, we think out of frustration. But then she plugs a wire from a gauntlet into the hole she made, and hacks his transformer wall. “Screw that,” she says testily. “Who do you think you are freezing me out like this?”

“I think that settles your moral conundrum,” Rocket says, bemused.

“Tiff, why don’t you come inside?” Curtis asks. She does, and the door closes behind her. “Tiff, this is Arnus and Rocket. I think maybe we should talk.”

Static gets his own action scene, since he’s the more popular character of the group. He’s flying along on a manhole cover, chasing down a couple of member’s of Francis’ gang. I’m thinking they’ve stolen a backpack with a laptop in it from a fellow classmate on the way to school, and are trying to run away with it. Static swoops in among traffic, to much honking. He’s got his finished costume, now, and is clearly more steady flying. He zaps one on the butt, making him bonk his head on a street sign, then yanks a stop sign off its post, slides it under the running thug then pulls it out from under him to get a nice, satisfying, Home Alone style fall. Static is standing there triumphant holding out the girl’s backpack when off-screen we hear the sound of breaks squealing, a crash, and horns honking, and he realizes he hasn’t put the stop sign back. He winces, pantomimes “Sorry” and floats the sign back in place.

Static slides into his seat by the classroom door as the bell rings; he was in enough of a hurry he neglected to remove his mask. Rick is seated next to him, trying to get his attention whispering, “Dude” and miming removing the mask. He takes a moment to understand, and tears it off just as the teacher turns and notices him (just missing the mask).

At lunch, Rick tells Virgil he’d really like a chance to talk, that if he’s got a moment after lunch… but Virgil already promised he’d meet with the friendly gang leader to talk about Francis. He’s the same friendly-ish character from the last movie, only now he’s resembling, more and more, the Blood Syndicate’s Tech (sometimes called Tech-9 in the comics, but we don’t want to open up a trademark dispute- we’d lose- and Tech is a better overall name, anyway). He’s appreciative of what Virgil did for their sister (in the communal, not familial, sense), retrieving the girl’s bag during our chase scene, and once again offers Virgil the opportunity to join. But Virgil is savvy enough to know better, and declines. That hurts Tech’s pride, a little, because he’d prefer to have asked Virgil for help as a peer- but now finds himself coming hat in hand.

A quick aside, on Tech’s entourage. Masquerade is a shape-shifter; assigned male at birth, she’s been female since Freshman year, but once she got her powers, was able to look how she always felt. She’s got it bad for Tech, and he’s mostly playing like he doesn’t see it. Also with them are Fade, who is gay, but closeted, and might be the last person to know that he’s in love with Wise Son. They’re all a little skeptical of Static; Tech views him as a partner, even if he won’t join up, same as the ministers he distributes food through (his gang is modeled very much more on the Black Panthers- a civic-minded organization); some of that is Masquerade’s influence; she’s always been the angel on his shoulder.

One of their members was hit especially hard by her transformation. She was always autistic, but had been at least somewhat towards the Asperger’s end of the spectrum, but the mutagen interacted poorly with her condition, and she’s been really struggling since. Tech befriended her when they were kids. Because of her conditions she was teased, bullied for being “thick as a brick.” Boys stopped teasing her when she got older (and prettier); they didn’t understand that calling her “Brickhouse” would call back to their cruelty, and ensure she’d never want anything to do with them. Tech’s looked out for her his entire life- though this has its flaws- he steered her towards the same gang he was in for protection.

But since the accident she’s been different, more volatile, more susceptible to anxiety and triggers. She’s been staying with him as he tries to care for her, but he’s always viewed her as a sister, while for her he’s always been her knight in shining armor. Not wholly understanding the situation, she made a pass at him; even if he were interested, at that moment, when she’s most vulnerable, and most dependent on him for her survival, would not be the right time to consummate it. Tech blames himself when the combination of the anxiety and rejection makes her leave. But it gets worse. Ever since her mutation, Francis has been sniffing around, trying to recruit her for his gang. It’s predatory, and creepy.

Static is, of course, immediately sympathetic, and wants to help. This might be a good moment to clarify our status quo. Clearly, Hardware and Icon are working together. But Static is still an independent operator. Part of the reason Tech approaches him is hoping to call in the big guns; Static tells him what they did- that he’s a kid, and this is a war– they’re not going to encourage him to fight in it until he’s grown enough to make that call for himself. Tech’s disappointed, but still happy for the help, since Static can fly, and is quasi-friendly with the cops in a way that Tech and his syndicate aren’t. On that note… we probably shouldn’t call his gang “Blood Syndicate;” I think you could get away with tying a gang to a real-world one in a 90s comic, but in a 2020s movie, I don’t think that’ll fly. On the other hand, my subtitle for the movie is clearly a reference… so I’m conflicted, obviously.

But Static is clever, and asks if she’s got a phone. Tech says she never goes anywhere without it- it’s got this cat game she’s addicted to. He has Tech call it, and can feel the signal pinging off of cell towers. Problem is, he can also feel Francis and several of his other gang members closing in through their phones. Tech wants to fight; Static says there’s no time- which is likely also true, but he mostly didn’t want to get in the middle of yet another gang war. Static tells him to keep up, then flies off.

We cut back to Curtis’ lab. He and Tiff are working together. “I’m telling you, this is a bad idea,” Rocket says to Icon.

“Why’s that?” he asks.

“She’s still pissed. She’s not going to be able to just stow it.”

We cut to Tiff and Curtis, laboring over his redesign. “So what’s the plan?” she asks.

“I’m still not happy with the handling. Struts shimmy any time I pass the sound barrier, and it feels like I’m going to lose an arm.”

“I mean with us,” she touches his arm meaningfully, just long enough for us to start to wonder if we’ve missed something between them before she laughs. “And Alva.”

“Oh. I suppose you deserve the truth. He’s… involved in all kinds of shady things.”

“Really? The wealthy old white man’s up to no good?”

“More even than you’d guess. He supplied the mutagen the cops deployed last year. And he controls at least one of the gangs that started the brawl in the first place.”

“He turned a neighborhood into a petri dish. That’s dark, even for me.”

“So, mostly, we’re trying to counter his next moves. Trying to get ahead of him.”

“Since all of this has stayed out of the news, I assume he sues, threatens, or,” she drags her hand across her throat, “anyone who could point a finger.” They spend a moment silent. “That’s not going to work with the cops.”

“Oh?”

“My dad was a beat cop. Most days, they act like any other gang, scrap for turf, beat on anyone who doesn’t give them their proper respect. One way they’re different, is they won’t turn tail. I’m not talking about bravery; there are plenty of cowards in blue. But most gangs, you shine a light on them long enough, and they go to ground- they have to. But the cops… their pride won’t let them. Their whole mythology is about how much we need them. Mutated cops are going to be a problem- their pride won’t let them go quietly.”

“Then we need to fix this armor, so we can be part of the solution.”

Static runs into some trouble when he finds Brickhouse. Francis kind of freaks her out (he was one of her bullies growing up), so she’s kind of trying to hide from him in a warehouse when Static arrives. But she doesn’t know him, either- nor trust him. Tech realized that, and tries to call her. Now… I would pay Disney to use enough bars for an A Whole New World ringtone- though frankly I imagine they’d probably let you use it just for the cross-promotion if you said pretty please, but Tech’s ringtone is the song from Aladdin. She tries to answer, but she’s freaked out, and freaked out plus super strength and rock-hard fingers equals smashed phone. But again, Static is clever. He grabs an old throw rug and tosses it on his manhole cover so it looks like a flying carpet, and offers to help her get back to safety with Tech. Static is charming, but in a sweet, innocent sort of way, when he offers her his hand and quotes, “I can show you the world.”

“Shining?” she asks, taking his hand tentatively. “Shimmering?”

He helps her somewhat awkwardly onto the manhole cover, which was not designed for two people, as he says, “Splendid.” They fly off, over Francis and his goons. A few blocks away, they hear a car honking frantically below, and land. Tech and his crew, along with Rick, get out.

“He with you?” Fade asks of Rick. “He said he was, and tagged along.”

“Dude, you followed me. I’m the one with the find my friend app.”

But then Tech notices Brickhouse, wobbling on the manhole cover, not quite sure how to gracefully get off. He gives her a hand down. “Marta, I was so worried.” She wraps her arms around him, then recoils, feeling self-conscious that he doesn’t share her affection. “Hey,” he puts his arms around her, “I spent my whole life looking out for you. I don’t want to stop being here for you.” She latches back on again. “Why don’t you hop inside the car, huh? We’ll get you home. I’ll make you some cocoa.”

Tech helps her in, and the car sags noticeably, before he turns to the two of them. “I owe you, both of you. And I know this is a lousy way to start repaying you, but car’s full up.”

“We’ll manage,” Static says. Tech and crew ride off. Static walks with Rick.

“You sure you don’t want to take me on a magic carpet ride?” Rick teases.

“Figured we could use the walk. So what’d you want to tell me?”

“I didn’t know how to say it earlier, you know, in mixed company, but your fly has been down. All day. From the moment you left your house, to when you left me to stop a robbery. I’m pretty sure you exposed some pipe, while you were flying on your somewhat ironically named manhole cover.”

“I’d know. You get quite a breeze flying. So… what is it really?”

“Seeing the two of them… they’ve been friends as long as we have. I don’t know if that’s sweet or demented. It seems like there have been times in my life when your mom was more my mom than my mom was.”

“I didn’t hit my head, if that’s where you’re going with all of this…”

“I think I want you to remember the history, because… I’m worried it won’t be enough. That… what I’m going to say to you, you’re going to be different with me. And that is the last thing I want. You know?”

“I… don’t.”

“Of course not. That is practically the opposite of context. Okay. Um… I’m not looking for anything to change. Between us. About us. I just… there’s something I need you to know. About me. Because it hurts feeling like there are parts of me I don’t share with you.”

“I already know you watch My Little Pony. Like, way more than any human being should.”

“It’s a great show. And that is actually almost a mislead, because it is a super-straight fandom. Oh. Crap. That was… not how I meant to broach that.”

“That is legitimately hilarious.”

“Not the reaction I was hoping for…”

“No, I mean, I’ve heard you rehearsing pieces of your speech for weeks. You’ve obsessed over getting it across perfectly, and then… just blurt it out. It’s very you. That is hilarious. You coming out? Is cool. It’s brave. I’ve been rooting for you. Because I never want to be someone you have to hide from. Not even My Little Pony.”

“You need to watch it.”

“I need churros. I maybe should watch it. But I’m glad you told me.”

“Me, too. But it was hard. You’ve always been cool with every other gay person in school.” Static gives him a confused look. He becomes more confused with every new person mentioned. “Like Ms. Ellen, the Librarian. Pete on our soccer team. Pete’s boyfriend. Your gaydar may be completely broken.”

“Maybe I don’t see orientation.”

“At this point I’m not convinced you see, period. How many fingers am I holding up?” It’s three.

“Two more than I’m about to,” he says (this is all playful, if that didn’t read).

“Regardless, I knew you weren’t, yourself.” Again, Static is confused. “I have seen you literally fall over when a cute girl bares the tiniest amount of cleavage.”

“Bi is a thing.”

“Dude, the day you stare as hard at any guy as you did at Brickhouse, I will hand-sew you your own bi flag.”

“You sew?”

“Because sewing’s gay?”

“Is it?”

“I… don’t know. And of course I do. Who do you think fixed that awful sewing job on your costume?”

“My mom?”

“And you think she just fixed your costume and let you continue your life as a teenaged vigilante without a word?”

“Until this moment, I think I did.”

“Then thank God for both of us you reacted sweetly; I honestly don’t know how you’d survive without me.”

We cut to a news broadcast. “Violence erupted today at the downtown police precinct. An internal affairs investigation into the day shift found several officers had broke in, working in concert with one of the city’s main gangs. They have since seized control of the precinct, leading to a siege.” Footage of cops outside the building from different angles.

Rocket shows them a social media video on her phone. It’s Oro, a policewoman acting as a spokesperson for the cops holed up inside. “They’re trying to silence us. We were set up. The weapons Alva gave us changed us. They told us we could keep their secret, and work for him, or they’d get rid of us. But some of us can’t just keep going. A third of our guys can’t work, period. They took Gina off a respirator this morning. Alan will never walk again. This is about more than those of us still fit to serve, it’s-” the feed disconnects abruptly.

“We’re out of time,” Icon says.

Curtis kicks up his welding mask. “I need two minutes. I’m no good to you if the armor won’t stop a spitball.”

“Fine. We need to talk strategy, anyway.”

“I’ve been thinking about that. I think you need to stay out of sight.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because the cops can get their head around a man in a metal suit. It’s maybe stolen military tech. Maybe just a clever entrepreneur. But you? A bulletproof Black man who can fly, throw a building? Racist cops won’t sleep again.”

“Sounds all right to me…”

“That’s because your bulletproof.” Curtis finishes, and steps into the armor, which closes around him. “Cops are so much worse when they’re scared; we don’t want to make them feel cornered- at least not until we’re ready to move on the ones who are dirty. But I can draw fire without freaking them out too much.”

“While I get the mutated ones out. Any ideas?” He lifts his arm, and a projection from his gauntlet shows the sewers flow right next to the building’s basement. “Clever.”

We cut to the cop shop. Hardware lands in front of the line of cops hiding behind cars. He broadcasts through external speakers, “I’m going to handle this situation. Disperse, so we can avoid violence.”

The cops, predictably, overreact, and open fire. Hardware is careful not to cause more damage than necessary, mostly taking and breaking police firearms. To that end I’d put a powerful electromagnet on his back, one that rips the guns out of the hands of the cops nearest him.

Icon flies through the sewers, going on foot when his GPS says he’s close. He finds a S.W.A.T. team manned by mutated cops who played ball, setting breaching charges. “I’d ask you to desist and let me peaceably through… but I’d rather put you in the sewage where you belong.” Icon tears through them in the confined space. It should be a pretty wild action scene. We can intercut between Hardware on the street and Icon beneath it. After Icon finishes dealing with the S.W.A.T. team, he walks through the wall. Cops open fire on him.

We cut to the police line outside. “That came from inside. Did our team breach?” They try to reach S.W.A.T. on the radio, but can’t reach them, so decide to breach. They ignore Hardware (though one does try to pry his shotgun off Hardware’s magnet, Sword in the Stone style, before giving up), and instead break down the door, only to find the precinct empty. Stacked in front of the hole in the wall is the unconscious S.W.A.T. team, preventing a timely pursuit.

Icon leads the mutated cops, including Oro, away. “I appreciate the assist, and everything,” she says, “but where does this leave us? They weren’t negotiating; they didn’t even try. They were going to execute us.” They exit the sewers, to find Hardware.

“I had a thought about that on the flight over, and called some friends.” Static lands beside him, and a moment later, Tech arrives in his car, and the rest of his crew arrive in other cars.

We’re now at a warehouse where Tech and his gang hang out. Tech agrees to help smuggle most of the cops away, that the other cops will keep trying to kill them if they stay. He offers to protect anyone who does stay, that they could use strength, since Francis has been jostling for control.

Fade arrives, tells them that Francis is doing a charm offensive. Only it’s more offensive than it sounds- he’s been straight-up threatening people who don’t join, but the get-together in the park is the carrot. Oro recognizes him- he threatened her, too- and realizes that Francis is working with Alva and the cops. They realize they have to show up in force, fight if necessary, but show them that it’s safe to say no to Francis, or he’ll gather enough metahumans to be unstoppable.

At first blush, it looks like public outreach, snacks, games. But there’s an undercurrent of fear and intimidation; the stick is the threat of Francis turning his wrath on those who don’t sign on. Tech and his crew arrive, and tell Francis it’s not okay to threaten people. Francis claims that Tech’s the real aggressor, and attacks.

Initially Hardware, Icon and the mutated cops (I’d throw in both Donner and Blitzen, too, since they’re locals, even if we may not be able to give them better screen time until 3) are able to stem the loss of life/bloodletting, but it’s also clear they can’t hold Francis back forever. Tech is preparing to fight- to make it bloody. That’s when Masquerade intervenes. She tells him that he’s more than he thinks he is- that he knows what they need, even if he hasn’t let himself see it. They don’t need guns- there are more than enough of those on the street. But he can do so much more than he realizes- he can make so much more than guns. He teams with Static to instead create a microphone, and gives a rousing speech into the park’s speakers. Some stay with Francis, but most walk away; a few stay and fight. Eventually, the good guys win.

Epilogues: Masquerade spells out for Tech her feelings- shifting to who the boy he used to know, then back into herself, sad that he can’t love her for who she is, because he’s hung up on who she was. He tells her it’s not that. She’s beautiful, and she’s always been one of his best friends- so much so he wondered growing up if he liked men. But when she came out, he realized he always knew, and loved her for who she’d been even before then- and if that makes him bi? So what. But… he’s been trying to wave her off because of Brickhouse. She loves him, and she’s fragile. And he loves her like a sister, and always will, but can’t hurt her… only Brickhouse overhears this, and confronts them. “Don’t.” She takes his hand. “I love you. Enough to want you happy. Even if it can’t be with me.” She gives Tech’s hand to Masquerade.

I’m not deep into Milestone lore, to know if Static has a better love interest, but personally, I’d likely set up Brickhouse with Static in the sequel. To start in that direction, after Tech and Masquerade walk off to talk, she sees Static being sweet and heroic and community-spirited (so many of the things that attracted her to Tech to begin with), helping to make a young girl frightened by all the violence smile and feel safe again. He notices her looking at him, and smiles, giving a dorky little wave. She waves back.

Rocket talks to Icon, milling about the edge of the park. She chides him, because this is exactly the kind of thing she wanted, and exactly the kind of thing he’d removed himself from by being above it. “You’ve missed out on a lot of this. But what matters is you’re here, now. You helped create this. You helped people who couldn’t help themselves- couldn’t protect themselves from Francis. You made an impact.”

Credits. Mid-credits scene: Hardware and Tiff are working on a new piece of tech. “I want to do more- I can do so much more.” It sounds like they’re having a fight. “I’m wasted as a glorified lab assistant.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” he says, and hands her a breastplate for a new suit of armor, one fit to her dimensions. She holds it up, and we zoom in on it to go to more credits.

End credits scene: We follow Alva into a secretive base, some kind of high tech/elevator Hallway. I’m assuming we won’t have the entire Shadow Cabinet cast- though we can have Donner and Blitzen here, if we’ve had them kicking around for 2 movies. I would like to cast Dharma for this scene, as he’s the one Alva’s meeting. Dharma greets him as an old friend, before asking what brings him to the Shadowspire.

Alva smiles. We know it’s a wicked sort of smile, but others, Dharma included, need to be able to see him as friendly. “Same reason I always visit. I want to help you save the world.”

We pull back, and can see Alva’s wearing some kind of high-tech equipment under his clothes; it can be a bracelet or something subtle, but the idea, I think, is that Alva’s found a way to disrupt Dharma’s ability to see the future and past of any object he touches. He’s going to use this to turn the Shadow Cabinet against the other heroes. Next Juneteenth is going to be fun.

Pitchmas 2021, Part 5: Spider-Man and the Future Foundation

Just so we’re all clear, this starts as a sequel-ish to Fantastic Four as I described it. If you don’t want to read that pitch, the gist is Doom has sullied their names, and they’re time-displaced from the 60s, broke and largely without any tech to their names- so they’re in a remarkably similar position to Spider-Man at the end of No Way Home. This is also being bumped up a few weeks, because of some timely casting thoughts.

We start with Reed and Sue in bed. No, not like that. They’re sleeping. Reed mumbles a name in his sleep, then sits bolt upright. Sue asks him what’s wrong. “What’s a Peter Parker?” he asks.

Sue yawns. “I don’t know. Did he pick a peck of pickled peppers?”

Reed is using some kind of 3D hologram computer thing to search online. “I think that was Piper. Nothing on the internet- I mean, nothing useful– there are dozens of Peter Parkers in this borough, but… it’s a tickle in my brain. I can’t even describe it, let alone explain. But that name. It’s important, somehow.” He gets up, and is already on his way out of the room. “I’ll be in the lab, honey.”

“I guess I’ll just try to go back to sleep then…” she drops frustrated back onto the bed. She closes her eyes and sighs wearily. “No, I’ll make coffee.”

We cut to a little later. She enters his lab, with two cups, now dressed. “Oh, thank you, darling,” Reed says, stretching across the room to take his. “So I have fascinating news. One, magic really is just technology we didn’t previously understand, though I’m in the process of inventing a new branch of mathematics to be able to- but more importantly, someone used it to make us all forget ‘Peter Parker.’”

“Who?” she asks, because the spell has already made her forget him all over again.

“Right. I’ve been able to change the shapes of the impacted neurons in my own mind to circumvent the spell, but I also invented an innoculation,” he’s already stretched an arm with an injector, and shoots the serum into her arm, startling her.

“Reed, we’ve talked about this. It’s not okay for you to inject people with new inventions without consent- informed consent.”

“Sorry. I get caught up in my train of thought and completely forget. The spell made all of us forget Peter Parker.”

“You mean Spider-Man.”

“Precisely. But the reason this has been on my mind, is that the morning of the spell, I received this email.” He pulls it up as a hologram. “Purported to be from Tony Stark, but clearly arrived after his death. It’s supposed to be automated, triggered by Jonah Jameson outing Parker to outrage and vitriol, apparently asking me, as the currently most intelligent adult available, to take Parker under my wing. My to-do list kept trying to ping this information; I don’t know if it was a flaw in the spell, my coding, or just the spell not being calibrated to handle a brain made of chewing gum, but his name kept creeping into my dreams.”

“Should I be worried you’re dreaming about underaged boys?”

“He’s an adult. College-aged. And just the name. My dreams are typically equational, not prurient; I’m not Johnny.”

We cut to Johnny, and show bouncy bed springs from below, and his face, bouncing, sweaty, from enough of an angle for a moment we worry what we’re about to see. Then we pull back, and see he’s jumping up and down on the top bunk of a bunk bed.

“Come on, I’m bored.”

“It’s night,” Ben grumbles, “you’re supposed to be sleeping.”

He drops onto his butt, bounces to the floor. “I’d say you’re supposed to be grumping, but you’re holding up your end on that.”

Ben sighs. “Matchstick, I got a complexion you could only fix with an angle grinder, and most of the rocks on my face are still cracked from our last fight. Stretch still don’t know if they’ll ever properly ‘heal,’ and somehow I’m still sore. I need my beauty rest.”

“Why, are you worried about getting uglier?” We see he’s actually hurt by this, and Johnny flops down beside him. “Oh, come on, Ben! I always teased you about your mug.”

“Yeah, but it used to be subjective. Now… well, look, it’s a face only the blind could appreciate, even then, only from afar.”

“Okay, it’s just sad when you rag on yourself. So let’s go. Let’s do something. Anything has got to be better than moping around here. We could mini golf.”

“No, we can’t. Last time we tried, I snapped the club like a toothpick.”

“Right. Motion control games.”

“They suck.”

“They suck a lot less than having to replace controllers every time you try to hit ‘X.’” Ben sighs, resigned. “Or, I could make us some BLTs.”

“Now you’re speaking my language.” Okay, it’s at this point that I’m actually forming an interesting casting thought. We raid the Community closet for this movie. Jeff Winger as a brainy but dickish Reed (or Abed, and lean into Reed on the Spectrum, and use Jeff for the antagonist, instead). Donald Glover as Johnny. Either Annie or Britta could work for Sue (their takes would of course be different, I’m not suggesting they’re interchangeable). And Chang for the Thing. He’s already played a Jewish Asian in Community. It… works better than it has any real right to, frankly.

“Sorry to interrupt, but I actually have something for us,” Reed says from the doorway.

Now, for this sequence, I’d probably do a Sinister 5 kind of thing; Spider-Man’s bench continues to be impressive enough that I think that could work. I’d stay away from characters we’re using in Sinister 7, which does limit us somewhat.

Spider-Man is fighting a team led by Kraven featuring Lady Octopus, Rhino, Electro & Sandman. At first he’s quipping, doing okay… but they’re wearing him down, just too many villains, especially now that Kraven has pegged that all they have to do to make him act recklessly is threaten civilians. Lady Octopus knocks Spider-Man back with her metal arm, and Kraven catches him, ready with a ceremonial dagger. He plunges it down, but it hits an invisible forcefield.

The Fantastic Four arrive, and make short work of the villains, who expected a 5-on-1, not a fair fight, and Spider-Man rallies. As part of the fight, Sue ends up in the water, and uses an invisible forcefield to make an air bubble around her.

After the fight, Spider-Man is apologetic. “I’m so sorry,” he says, as they watch from a rooftop while the cops cart the bad guys away. “I wanted to handle it myself. I should have called the Avengers- would have…”

“But they don’t remember you,” Reed says. “Well we do, Peter.”

“Uh…”

“Magic is just science we don’t understand. Well… I’m working to understand it. So we know who you are. And just as importantly, we want to help. You’re practically a kid. You shouldn’t be taking this kind of weight onto your shoulders. Not alone. We don’t have a lot. But what we have is yours.”

“Reed, did you… read?” Sue asks. “Like the whole email? Because what we have just got a lot more substantial. Tony Stark didn’t just ask you to look after Peter. He gave you a grant of millions of dollars to do it.”

“We should probably talk to someone about that.”

We smash cut to a legal office (you’ll see what I did there in a second). My preference is always for She-Hulk, because I like the character more, but Matt Murdock is all but certainly cheaper. She explains, “The money is coming out of a fund Starkset up for philanthropic enterprises, nominally overseen by Pepper Potts. Her administration has been largely hands-off, because Stark set up automatic triggers using his Friday A.I. to watch out for certain circumstances. Like this one. The money is yours if you agree to watch out for a Peter Parker’s well-being. There isn’t a lot of detail as to what that entails.”

“I have some thoughts,” Reed says. “But one thing I did want to check in on… does it say the funds can only be used to see to the well-being of Parker… or can they be used more expansively.”

“As I read it, you have a wide degree of latitude. It’s always possible Ms. Potts or the foundation could ask how the funds are being used, or even seek an injunction if they feel they aren’t being used wisely, but even in that scenario, I’m not certain there’s even the possibility of a clawback, since there doesn’t seem to be an enumerated mechanism.”

Now, this idea basically builds off the one that I mentioned in the Iron Man 4 pitch; I’m going to both assume, for our purposes, that happened, but also like it was a blip, and didn’t create any kind of permanent infrastructure, that this is basically an attempt to codify that and make it lasting.

We do a quick build-up montage, as Fury’s dingy hideout is turned into a state of the art laboratory. Peter enters. “This is amazing.”

“I’ve always been partial to fantastic,” Reed says, “but it’s all thanks to you.”

“All I did was get found by Mr. Stark.”

“You impressed Tony- and not many did. Tony wanted to provide for your future. I’m… trying to build on that idea. And before anyone else arrived, I wanted to thank you. Plenty of people in your situation would want to, what’s the phrase, take the money and run?”

“I’ve learned the hard way that it shouldn’t be about me. The world is bigger and better than just me. And I’m excited to meet it.” Here’s where it gets fun.

Amadeus Cho (Note: this comes after Incredible Hercules), Riri Williams, Moongirl, Prodigy and any other child geniuses/prodigies we can think of enter the room. “Welcome to the Future Foundation,” Reed says. “The minds in this room are some of the greatest of your generation. You will build a future that will make men like Tony Stark, Hank Pym and myself pale in comparison. You have the opportunity to build something beautiful and utopian, solutions to problems that don’t devolve into punching. Spider-Man here is our example; what he did to help people some would have written off as villains speaks well to his character, and well of those who raised him.”

“I’m just… Peter. That’s already enough pressure. I guess, I’ve seen enough people who just wanted to provide for their family, or right an injustice, who ended up on the wrong side of things… I don’t like people getting hurt, when what they really need is help.”

We pull back, and see that Sue is feeling left out already. We hear Johnny before we see him, “I can’t believe you’re jealous of his test-tube babies.”

“I used to be his test-tube baby,” Sue says sadly.

“Gross.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I was worried my sister might be sitting sullenly in a lab somewhere being gross.”

“You are such a dork.”

“Did you know dork means whale dong? The internet is awesome.”

“Don’t believe everything you read on wikipedia.”

“That sounds like what you’d name an encyclopedia of micropenises.”

“Then you’d be all over it,” Ben says as he enters.

“Hot foot,” Johnny says, setting Ben’s foot on fire. Ben hops on one foot as he smothers it with his hands.

“Real mature.”

Sue sighs. “This was weeks in the making,” she says. “When it started, we were partners. But every day, he’s gotten a little more distant. This is such a great thing we were doing… and now it’s a great thing he’s doing, while I watch from the sidelines.”

“So,” Ben says, “why don’t you get off the sidelines?”

We follow her into the room. “Ah, Susan,” Reed starts. “You all know Susan. Most of you spoke to her on the phone. I would posit myself as the brain of this operation, but the heart, the soul, the hands- the rest, really- is her. I have been known to disappear into my puzzles and problems, but if you ever need something, she’s the person who can help. I hope I’m not signing you up for more than you want, dear.”

She smiles, awkwardly. This story is, in part, about Sue feeling unseen and neglected, and I absolutely want to display the emotional truth of that… but it’s also a balancing act, because it won’t have the depth, either, if we don’t show the moments of true and genuine affection between them, too.

Later, Sue is sitting with the geniuses. “So,” Amadeus leans forward, “what are you hoping to accomplish, here?” She’s confused. “I guess I assumed we’re like a think tank, right? So we’re here to solve a particular problem.”

“Yes, and no,” Sue responds. “You’re here to solve the future. Reed, if he hadn’t been ripped out of our own place in space-time, likely would have single-handedly advanced human technology twenty years. But he sees the same possibility in all of those here. You have all, already, single-handedly created math and technology that could change the world- should change the world. Ms. Walters has already put us in touch with a good patent attorney. What we’d like to do is, with your individual permission, of course, file those patents under your names, but place royalties accrued into a general fund that can be used to continue the Future Foundation indefinitely. No funds or fees will go to any of the adults here. But if you’d prefer, we can set aside all or some of those funds for your family or your personal use, as well. You’ll be provided an opportunity to speak to Ms. Walters or Mr. Murdock individually- while we will be compensating them for their time from Tony Stark’s grant, in these matters they are your representatives- to help you understand whatever elections you make, and of course any selections will require, for those of you under 18, parental signature, as well.”

“What about rent? Or food?” Peter asks.

“The stipend we have from the Stark foundation should be enough to pay room and board and cover the cost of this facility for this inaugural class. After that, it all depends on contributions, and how quickly Reed’s patents and any others become profitable.”

At first Sue does get to be involved, but what she complained about continues to happen. Quickly, what looks like the A story, about the Foundation, is going to become the B, as Sue spends time at the harbor, trying to deal with her melancholy and loneliness.

It comes to a head when Sue, on one of her sabbaticals, misses a mission with the other 4. Spider-Man subs in, and she arrives home to see their triumphant return. She watches, invisible, as they celebrate, as she feels more and more like a fifth wheel as they celebrate one another.

She leaves, but on this walk, she’s approached by a strange man. He’s handsome, and offers to walk with her. As they hit the waterfront, he invites her to his place out on the water. He takes her to the dock, and she asks where his boat is. He says where they’re going, they don’t need boats, and jumps in the water. His clothes go floating up behind him, and she says “You’re insane if you thinks I’m skinny-dipping with a man I just met… “she drops off as he climbs out of the water, his moist skin glistening in the moonlight. “Okay, that might be the single greatest possible argument for skinny-dipping with a man in the moonlight I’ve only just met…” He assures her she doesn’t need to remove her clothes, but she will need to her own supply of air, which he’s seen her create before. “You were there,” she says, putting together that he saw their fight with the Frightful Five.

“I was. And I was instantly enchanted, so much so that I scarcely remembered to intervene. But please. Come with me. We both know I could scarcely touch you if you didn’t allow it, and I would lay my life down at your feet before I allowed harm to come to you- even from myself.”

She pulls away from him. “But why? Why me? Why like this? When not just call it a night, and get coffee tomorrow?”

“Because I know you’d go back to him, and that would break my heart. Not for myself, but because you deserve a man who adores you like I do. You deserve to be treasured, and cherished. And he doesn’t. He won’t. I doubt that he can. Even if it’s just to spend a night away, even if you never allow me the touch of your skin, I plead that you not return, just this one night. After that, if you still want to go back, I won’t seek to stop you, and you won’t have to wonder if you’re stuck, staying with him in a rut because he’s convenient and there.”

Sue texts Reed to tell him not to wait up, that she got a room near the pier, and a glass of wine and just needs an evening away. His phone buzzes on the laboratory table; he doesn’t notice it.

I think it’s Amadeus who brings it up to the kid geniuses. “So, this is weird, right… but my equations are incredibly predictive. I knew Reed Richards was going to start the Future Foundation likely before he did, and guessed his initial line-up with 93% certainty. It’s not a brag it’s just… behavioral modeling. And… my modeling predicts something bad is going to happen?”

“Should I start polishing my helmet?” Riri asks.

“Uh…” he really wants to make the dirty joke on the tip of his tongue, but Moongirl is super young and he’s hoping he can stall long enough for the temptation to pass.

“It gets dents and scuffs I have to polish out- never mind. Is it a helmet kind of problem, is the salient question?”

“I’m not sure. Sue’s unhappy. Reed’s been spending more of his time with us, and she’s feeling left out, and unfulfilled. Missing out on an emergency situation just, it makes that worse.”

“You can really predict what’s going to happen?” Peter asks.

“Not what. That. I can predict that something will happen. Sue’s not coming back tonight. Maybe she meets somebody. Maybe she gets mugged in the park. Bad things happen tonight.”

“Helpful,” Moongirl says.

“Actually… knowing that something will happen is half the battle,” Riri says, wearing her helmet. She holds out her gauntlet, and projects some camera footage of Sue going into the water with a stranger. “From there it’s just a matter of tracking her phone to the docks, and pulling up a camera when her phone stopped moving.”

“Um… is anyone else worried she’s not coming up for air?” Peter asks.

“With him? I’m not sure I can blame her not wanting to come up for air,” Riri says. “What? Like I haven’t seen the way either of you look at Sue.”

“Fair enough,” Amadeus shrugs. “But then the question becomes… what do we do with it?”

“We shouldn’t tell Reed,” Peter says. “If it’s nothing, if it’s innocent, then we’re inserting ourselves in their relationship in a way that isn’t healthy for them or us.”

“And if it’s not?” Riri asks.

“Then it’s probably better it come from family.”

Ben and Johnny investigate, Ben in his hat and trenchcoat. It’s a relatively quick scene, since the video mostly tells the tale. But they find some lockers nearby, with her phone inside, and her keys and wallet. There’s no sign of a struggle. They reason one of two things have happened, that either she went willingly, or there’s some kind of coersion. And they can’t verify which without Reed.

Spider-Man is with them when they tell Reed, who is largely nonchalant. His posture is mostly, “I don’t want Susan to feel obligated, not to me, not to us, not to the Foundation.”

“Sure,” Johnny says, “and I get that. But what if she was threatened. There are any number of ways she could have been coerced. If she’s okay, we can leave her alone. The bigger issue is going after her.”

“Best we could come up with was having you stretch into a diving bell,” Ben says.

“Depending on how far down, I don’t know that I could hold a bell shape indefinitely. We might be better off figuring something else out.”

“I… might have a solution.” Peter is… weird about bringing it up. “But none of you can ever say anything. To anyone. Ever. Not even to me.” Quieter. “Especially not to me.”

They go to Stark Tower. There’s a secret elevator that goes down. “Did Tony have Iron Man diving suits?” Reed asks, his curiosity clearly peaked.

“It’s just better if you see it for yourselves.” Peter shows them an undersea bachelor pad. It is just as Love Motel as you might initially assume. Johnny is enamored. “One time, when Mr. Stark had a martini, he told me about this place. Before he and Ms. Potts started dating, he’d bring women down here to, seal the deal. Apparently bringing women underwater, or taking them for a ride on his private submarine, was sometimes what it took.”

“What I think the kid is saying is this whole place is six degrees from Tony’s undercarriage,” Ben says.

“Likely less,” Reed remarks.

We go back to Sue. Namor’s underwater palace is phenomenal, beautiful, but also exotic. And he really is into her, in all of the ways that Reed just hasn’t been able to be. So she’s legitimately torn. Namor seems like he really values her, and Reed… doesn’t need her. He’s found his calling, his people, his place. I think that is what makes this arc work- it feels like a tragic ending to their love affair…

And then she finds out that Namor, while absolutely adoring her, is going to completely screw up the world. He was there to begin with doing reconnaissance for his entrance to the United Nations. He was going to demand they recognize Atlantis as a nation, and then the ceding of all bodies of water connected to the oceans to him- that humanity had proven themselves bad stewards, and he was going to take over where they had proven incapable. That would mean no more territorial waters for countries, that instead the beaches would become shared territorial property. He is fanatical in his description; refusing to hear that no country would yield to his demand, let alone all of them, that what he’s demanding would at best make him a rogue state, but likely a global ecoterrorist.

She argues for another solution, that his problem is exactly the kind of thing she and Reed built the Future Foundation to solve- that they can solve pollution and garbage and make the oceans clean and habitable again. But he doesn’t trust humans. Even if Reed manages a solution, humans can’t even get ahead of climate change, even as disasters ramp up and kill increasingly more of the population. That is why they aren’t right for one another- Sue’s is ultimately a hopeful view of the future, and Namor’s isn’t (and maybe can’t be, because he’s responsible for so many sea lives that hang in the balance).

It’s then that Reed arrives, having heard enough of Namor’s rant to know the score. Namor’s sad, and when Sue looks like she wants to go, says, “I won’t stop you.”

But she turns, and squares to him. “I’m afraid I have to stop you.” They have a big old fight, culminating in the destruction of Namor’s palace. He’s essentially too strong for them, especially in the open sea, but Sue makes sure that he knows he’d have to destroy her to get to them- that he relents, and departs.

I’m in a weird mood today (or maybe I’m just incensed by the misogynist fury pointed undeservedly at the actress), so I’m going to suggest Amber Heard as Sue Storm. And I’d wave just so much money at Jason Momoa to be Namor, because it would be hilarious (and because he has, thus far, actually been a stand-up dude and supportive of Heard). Come on, think about it. Ridiculous, trolling casting. Otherwise, any dude who can rock a tiny pair of green trunks will do.

Back in the lab, Reed confronts Susan about her betrayal; Reed, for all his aloofness, is genuinely hurt to find that Sue went with Namor willingly. “I don’t understand, Susan. I know I can be an imperfect partner, immensely flawed, even. But even in your disappointment, I don’t see how you could choose to treat me this way.”

“I didn’t think you’d notice I’d gone,” she says, then quieter, “I didn’t think you’d care.”

The pain in her voice absolutely melts him. “Susan…” his voice catches. “That’s my fault. I get so caught up, in trying to fix things, things that are my fault, things that happened because I wasn’t where I should have been, or who… and I neglect the most important people in the world to me. I don’t want to pursue invention for invention’s sake, or to make a better world in the abstract. I want to make a better world for you, for us, for our family, for our children… but I recognize that a single-minded pursuit of that cannot come at the expense of our relationship, cannot come at the cost of me neglecting you, neglecting to tell you that, Susan… I would be lost without you. And I don’t mean in the sense that you compensate for my faults, and make me a better man that I otherwise would be- though you do. I mean that without you I am far from fantastic; I’m not even a man, clanging tools together in a cave. I can imagine a life without limbs, without my intellect, but a life without you? Blackness. Bleakness. Empty. And it should not take a fishman in a tight bathing suit to prompt me to tell you that you are my world, and I am truly sorry for that.”

“That fishman did fill out his bathing suit,” she teases. “But I’m sorry, too. This is not how you should find out I’m unhappy, or feeling alone. You might not always be the partner I want… but I still have a responsibility to be the partner you deserve, too. And, nicely though he filled out his bathing suit, Namor is not the kind of man I could ever fall in love with, because he lacks the quality I need most in my life: hope. Hope that the future can be better than today, and that we can get there, together, if we work hard enough to build it. Which means I’m stuck with you.” He wraps an arm around her.

We pull back, and can see that the future geniuses have been watching. To make it cute, silly, and marketable, they’re watching through a Spider-Bot (as seen at a Disney Theme Park near you). “We did a good thing, guys,” Riri says.

“And ladies,” Moongirl adds.

The girls leave, and we linger with Peter and Amadeus. “Want to talk about it?”

“I don’t know if I’m ready,” Peter hedges.

“Well, if you ever need-

We go to high-speed nervous rambling Peter, “So I think I had what they have but then she forgot because of a magical spell and I thought at the time it was best to leave her alone so she didn’t have to worry about being attacked for knowing me but seeing them work through things makes me miss her and wish, well, wonder, if maybe I made a mistake, if it should have been a love conquers all moment instead of me sacrificing my happiness to protect her, and now I’m sort of seeing this other person who’s really neat and sweet and I feel like my heart and my head are clacking like those weird little silver ball desk things constantly.”

“You understand I’m the only person in the world who could keep up with that, right? I am… not well-versed in women and adjacent issues. But what I can say is this: what happened in there happened in part because you are one of the most emotionally intelligent people I’ve ever met. I think you listen to the Peter in here,” he points at Peter’s chest, “that you’ll know what you want, and what’s right, and how to navigate the differences between those two things.”

“Could your equations tell me what to do?”

“No. They might be able to tell me what you will do, but figuring out what you should do… that’s something only you can figure out.”

We start credits. Mid-credits scene. Lawyers and repossessors exit the elevator just behind Peter and Amadeus. The lawyers hand Amadeus paperwork, as the repossessors begin to box everything up.

“What the hell?” Peter asks.

“It seems Victor Von Doom, which apparently is his real, legal name, somehow, sued Reed for damages done to his face. And won. The entirety of the grant and all assets procured therewith are being seized. Dr. Doom just beat the Fantastic Four without lifing a finger.” More credits.

End-credits scene. The elevator opens again, this time it’s She-Hulk. “You’re to cease and desist all seizure,” she says, handing the paperwork to the overseeing lawyer. The FF arrive from the other room. As the repossesors and layers leave.

“What’s going on?” Sue asks.

“Doom seized the grant. Apparently they served illegal notice, but managed to force a trial anyway. Matt and I did our best to fight it when we found out, but… he’s taking all of the money Tony gave you. But, Reed’s patent for unstable molecules has already been approved, and a licensing deal struck with several chemical-producing conglomerates. Licensing fees alone are going to keep the lights on in this place for the foreseeable future, as well as cover the cost of any equipment already purchased with Tony’s funds. Wisely, the unstable molecule patents were all filed under the Foundation’s name, so Doom can’t access them. So the Future Foundation is here to stay.”