Pitchmas 2019, Part 9: A-Force

This is going to be delicate, so just like Blade, it should be mostly in the hands of female creators (though I might be comfy co-writing).

Nico Minoru is running for her life. At first it seems like she’s just being pursued through the underbelly of a rainy LA, but subtly we come to understand that the buildings, the street- all of it is alive and attacking her. That’s because she isn’t in LA, but a complicated assassination tool called Murderworld. She gets fairly beat up as she flees, eventually using either magic or an assist from Molly (a super strong member of the Runaways) to escape. Nico finds Dagger (of Cloak & Dagger) in the hopes of plugging more directly into the rest of the superhero community. Cloak is skeptical; he knows a few homeless people, being in the LA area, who competed on the show and actually won, which gave them enough of a leg up to get apartments, and jobs, breaking the cycle of homelessness. Dagger’s more skeptical, or perhaps just more receptive to Nico, and has one person she can connect Nico to, a lawyer who offered to help her and Cloak if they ever found themselves in legal trouble.

Cloak zaps them to New York. He sets up a return time, to meet them, but otherwise exits (the cast is already ridiculous in size and scope, so paring back on side characters is a must). Depending on how much we want to keep building the idea that the men are skeptical while the women are cautious (yep, this is in part an allegory about believing women), we could have Matt Murdock meeting with She-Hulk when they show, perhaps dumped directly into She-Hulk’s office by a slightly annoyed Cloak. They hear Nico’s tale, how the other Runaways were investigating a series of disappearances, mostly among other runaways, surrounding the Murderworld game show, when they were scooped up, into what Nico believes was a lethal version of the show. Matt notes an elevated heartrate, which could indicate untruthfulness. She-Hulk is having none of it: “Or she’s distressed, Matt. That’s why lie detectors aren’t admissible in court- they only measure distress, not veracity.” “Objection noted,” he says, and packs up his gear. “I remain skeptical. But if anything turns up, don’t hesitate to call.” “He’s wrong,” Dagger says. “When I touch people, I can see their hopes. All she hopes is that we can save her friends in time.” She-Hulk agrees to help her, but wants to make some phone calls.

It’s evening when they’re picked up in a Quinnjet, flown by Scarlet Witch and Wasp; they were in town for a Dazzler show, anyway, and brought the singer along. They have a conversation, about failing to get some of the men to understand- how one of the most dangerous things about being a woman is not being believed even the first time you cry, ‘Wolf.’ “That’s why we have to stand together.” They fly to the new Asgard to talk with their queen and her champion, where they recruit Valkyrie and Thor. Finally, they land on the Avengers tower landing pad. Pepper has maintained Tony’s old office there, and bored and annoyed by mountains of paperwork, agrees instantly on an adventure (if we need a sprinkle of pathos, it can be as a way to feel closer to Tony); if our Iron Protégé is a lady (and has been introduced by this point), she can also come along.

With their new Avengers assembled, She-Hulk lays out their plan- essentially to present themselves as a team of candidates for a superhero version of the Murderworld show, boasting deadlier traps, and the ability to do away with the foam weaponry, with millions guaranteed to the charity of choice for the prevailing hero. They get a meeting with Mojo (here hiding behind some hologram tech to only look like a really gross, morbidly obese human), the star of the show and its executive producer. He’s intrigued by the proposal, but hints that the team needs some of that Wakandan magic, letting slip something along the lines of, “Our Wakandan special did over 1.3 billion-” before realizing he’s said too much (and yes, sly viewer, I am hinting that the MCU as we’ve watched it has been framed through Mojo’s lenses). Okoye, Shuri and Nakia meet them at a Starbucks in LA. They pass along Black Panther’s regards, but that he’s busy with the kingdom’s business, but was concerned enough to send his three most trusted agents in his stead. Mojo waddles in (he has a very distinctive walk- because he’s not strictly human), and says, “Now we got an ensemble!”

Quick action montage, as our heroes wreck up the Murderworld test course. Mojo is there to sing their praises in the grossest way possible. “Test audience scores are through the roof. I suggested an all Playmate version of our show where the only thing the contestants were allowed to wear was maple syrup- provided gratis in exchange for promotional consideration aboot our Canadian partners- and even that pales in comparison. The show didn’t happen, anyway; apparently obstacle course plus maple syrup is just a magnet for lawsuits. Who knew?” He leads them through some doors that give them all a strange feeling (that’s because they’re a portal leading to an off-world location). “If you sign on the dotted line, for the duration of taping of the inaugural season of Heroines of Murderworld, you’ll be staying on campus at our state of the art facilities. As you might guess, we’re hundreds of feet under LA, so your phones won’t work, but you’re welcome to use our communications array to send texts, calls, whatever to the rest of the world.” “And if I and my clients don’t wish to be sequestered?” She-Hulk asks. “I’ll show them the door. That, I’m afraid, is non-negotiable. See, here at Mojoworld Enterprises, we’re basically sharks. If we ain’t moving, by which I mean innovating, we’re dead in the water. NBC would literally kill everyone in this building for a pitch as strong as Heroines of Murderworld, and all respect due you ladies, loose lips have sunk more than one of my battleships. If we’re going to do this, we’re doing it right, and by right I mean my way.”

In our first quiet moment with the group, the Wakandans discuss how they’ve been through the bowels of the complex, and seen things that definitely hint at Mojo having dark secrets and a worrying agenda. She-Hulk asks Scarlet Witch if they can expect reinforcements. She tells her she made the call, but it all depends on how much unrest there’s been in the rest of the galaxy. Shortly, when She-Hulk returns to her quarters, she finds Mojo there, freshly showered, sitting on the edge of her bed wearing only a towel. He propositions her, and she refuses him point blank. But then his face turns sinister (probably more sinister than a human face can convey- and somewhere in this scene is where he loses the hologram). He says he wants to get down to brass tacks. “I’m not one of your Earth villians who gets himself a silly hat or a gaudy glove and turns megalomaniacal. I’m a businessman, an entrepreneur. I think if we just find the right ways to work together, everyone benefits.” He knows they have an ulterior motive, but he does, too. He has cameras everywhere, and has been capturing all of their seditious gossip, and their more private moments, too. “What I’m proposing is that we agree to keep each other’s secrets, and make the show we all agreed to. I’m proposing tonight as a little signing bonus.” She flings him out the window, into what she’s surprised to find is the vacuum of space. Even more surprising, under his towel Mojo was sporting a strange metal platform with little robotic spider legs- and the platform has enough of a rocket built in that he’s able to fly himself back into the room. We now see Mojo for the horrific creature that he is, all blotchy yellow skin with weird techno-organic grafts. He strikes a few buttons on a controller, and She-Hulk is teleported to the Murderworld stage. An instant later, the rest of her team are there, too.

Mojo explains that he’s going to hold them to their contracts, on pain of death, and that waiting at the end for them is a fate worse than death. I’m assuming a straight up obstacle course wouldn’t quite cut it, so I’d propose a bit of a twist, a who’s-who of supervillainesses incorporated into the obstacle course, so say Ghost has been kidnapped and forced to take on say Scarlet Witch as part of the course. Especially if we can staff it with anti-heroes/converts, it’s possible we could even have them join up with A-Force come the end. Possibilities: Minn-Erva, Proxima Midnight, Vanessa, Mystique, Medusa, Elektra, Psylocke, maybe even Hela, if that doesn’t make them too powerful. They’re all under the direction of Spiral, who should make for an interesting character, visually. Regardless, our heroes are losing, slowly worn down by the gauntlet, and hemmed in enough by Murderworld that they can’t get an advantage. Until the arrival of Captain Marvel and the Milano, piloted by Nebula, Gamorra and Mantis, who disrupt the world enough for A-Force to regroup and turn the tides.

They also bring knowledge our earth-based heroes weren’t privy to about Mojo. “He’s an interdimensional dictator, using reality TV to anesthetize the masses into ignoring the greed, corruption and incompetence of his regime.” That gives She-Hulk an idea, and she dispatches the Wakandans to find the control room while they deal with Mojo and Murderworld. Mojo’s control of Murderworld is fairly complete, so as A-Force defeats/turns the last of his villains, Mojo crafts a giant mech suit to protect himself.

Cut to the Wakandans, kicking the crap out of the control room technicians. One woman doesn’t put up a fight, but instead offers to help them. She’s been sick for ages over Mojo’s waste, fraud, and abuse, and has been trying to work up the nerve to deploy the graphics packages she made to show his viewers exactly what they’ve given up for his sick games.

We watch through Mojo’s cameras as A-Force dismantle Mojo’s robot. With each piece they tear off it, graphics flash describing things the Mojoworlders gave up in exchange for Mojo’s programming, like an end to hunger in exchange for a show about orcas genetically modified with fighting fish DNA to kill one another, or universal health care given up for the latest season’s budget for Muderworld, or an end to child labor given up to settle Mojo’s harassment suits. The cheers from the live audience change over the course of this, turning to boos. Eventually, She-Hulk rips him out of his mech, and holds him up for the audience. They give a thumbs down and she flings him at the arena below. The ‘fate worse than death’ is hiding in a cave just off the arena, and approaches slowly with thunderous steps. The big bad is Devil Dinosaur (a usually red tyrannosaurus) in a Venom symbiote. Mojo tries to scuttle away, but his legs were damaged by the fall, so he’s more or less crawling to get away. “I’m not moving. You can’t eat me if I’m not moving. We had a contract, you son of a-” the dino gobbles him up in one bite.

A-Force help all of the captured peoples return home; the bulk of this will fall to Captain Marvel and the Guardians, since most of them aren’t from Earth. Nico is reunited with her friends (shown only as hands through the bars, if we’re thinking of recasting from the TV show for a movie later and don’t want to commit now). She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, Scarlet Witch, Wasp & Rescue make a pact to come when the others call. End Credits Scene: We see Devil Dinosaur hacking, like he’s got a hairball. We should be worried Mojo is getting loose, about to break free and seek revenge for his humiliation. The dino coughs up Mojo’s legs, and they skid to just in front of the camera. Fade to black as the dino smacks his chops.

Pitchmas 2019, Part 8, Heroes for Hire (aka the Iron Fix)

This is, for all intents and purposes, a soft reboot of the Netflix shows, but structure-wise it’s Ghostbusters for superheroes. I’d keep most of the good (the casts are fairly strong, with the possible exception of Danny), but view it a chance to fix the things that didn’t work (not to pick on Iron Fist, but basically that, and the ninjas). It is a fall from grace story- or, rather, a combo of them. An ascendant Kingpin has his convictions overturned thanks to Big Ben Donovan, linking Misty Knight to bad chains of evidence related to our heroes. But he wasn’t content to clear his name- no, Kingpin is tearing our heroes down at the same time as he pulls himself back up, and yeah, this is, if nothing else, a chance to get Vincent D’s Kingpin into the movies where he belongs.

Luke loses his club, Danny loses his company, Daredevil loses his secret identity (and subsequently his law license), Jessica loses her agency and maybe PI license, “It was only interfering with my drinking, anyway,” she slurs over a drink. Black Cat loses Spider-Man & her rep as a heroine (someone anonymously sends him proof she’s been stealing while working with him/seeing him- provided Sony will play ball), Colleen loses her dojo and Misty loses her job. We find that out in a series of quick cuts, before cutting to five months later with titles stating that over black.

Luke has been reduced to working as a bouncer at the club he used to own, squirreling away his pennies to buy Pops’ old barbershop as a base of operations for his new business venture. Misty and Jessica work under Hellcat’s PI license (she only gets a cameo this time, but she gets her blue and yellow costume as part of the end credits sequence, or at least a tease of it), when Jess isn’t too drunk to show up for work. Danny and Colleen are volunteering their time to teach underprivileged children martial arts at the city’s shelters. Black Cat is, for all intents and purposes, working as a thief for supervillains, trying to keep her profile low so she doesn’t run into Spider-Man. Daredevil is continuing to work as a superhero, but without any pretense of keeping up a real, normal life; he steals pocket change from muggers, and when that fails, he dumpster dives for his dinner. She-Hulk is pursuing him to help fight for reinstatement, and help her detangle the legal shenanigans that saw all of them so far stripped of their various positions and privileges- but he’s given up being Matt Murdock; mostly, his Catholic guilt is eating him alive, as he blames himself for Kingpin going after all of those in his life (if there’s space, he’s seen to it that Foggy loses his gig with Hogarth, and Karen gets bounced from the paper when she’s linked to the disappearance of one of Kingpin’s henchmen).

Luke gathers everyone (he has to trick Daredevil using a subsonic terrorist threat only he can hear), to announce his business idea: heroes for hire, bodyguards, investigators, restealers, with legal help from Daredevil and She-Hulk to keep them from doing anything too dangerous, legally speaking. Daredevil balks, uncomfortable with the idea of charging for what he does. “But we can work on a sliding scale. Someone like the old Danny Rand shows up, pockets heavy with corporate coin? You charge him the corporate rate. Jess brings you one of her hardcases, not a penny to their name, but in some serious need of justice? For them we work pro bono. Imagine how many jobs for your average New Yorker we could bankroll off one job from Stark, or Rand.” “That’s cold, man,” Iron Fist complains. “This is what we do. We’ve got these- gifts- and we weren’t meant to use them to hold down day jobs. We’re supposed to help people. This will let us do that again.”

Most everybody’s in, but Daredevil’s got itchy feet (likely from uncomfortably-sewn booties). “We do this, we can pay to finally get that fish-mask redesigned,” Luke teases. She-Hulk squeezes Matt’s arm. “With this, if we set up a legal fund, we could work to get your license back- to get back everything all of you have lost.”

This is the most Ghostbusters aspect of the entire movie, similar montage as they hero for hire, doing sometimes random (but always amusing) things around town for people, possibly cutting a similarly awkward and low-fi commercial.

I think around the midpoint there’s a big municipal contract- they work security/press the flesh at a Policeman’s Ball type affair, where they’ve been hired as a favor to She-Hulk (or somebody else with pull with the Avengers). Daredevil and the other costumes (Iron Fist and possibly Luke if we can get him a costume that isn’t just tight yellow shirt) are on stage while the commissioner talks about community outreach. Daredevil walks off stage, initially to boos, as he literally sniffs out a bomb; Jessica and Misty use their skills to find the bomber. Danny and Colleen handle the bomber’s hired protection, while Luke throws himself on top of the bomb to absorb the bulk of the explosion. This gets the police back on their collective side, which gets the rest of the city government on their side (fun idea: Luke and Jessica fill in when a ladder truck malfunctions, throwing firefighters into a third story window, and she says, “Throwing them’s the easy part; it’s catching them when they’re flailing around a big fire ax and a chihuahua with poor bladder control that’s less fun.”)

For the climax Kingpin hires them directly, offering to give them their lives back (he has a dossier of exonerating evidence Daredevil looks through), on top of paying double their fee. They don’t like it, and several of them voice concerns. Luke is about to lead all of them off when Daredevil, who had been silent to that point, breaks in, “We’ll do it.”

Cut back to their HQ, where Daredevil explains his thinking. “Fisk is up to something. Likely, he knows we’ll undo his handiwork, get all our lives back, then come at him- and this is a chance to dirty our hands for real, while making sure his original frame holds. So we figure out what he’s doing, and we undo it.” “What about our lives?” Danny asks. “What about our fee?” Luke asks. “We keep telling people we’re heroes. This is where we prove it.”

The ending is basically an Oceans 11 riff, with Kingpin planning an elaborate heist that our heroes pull off, while our heroes pull of their own elaborate heist on top of his. Kingpin’s plan makes use of each of their skillsets, but in obvious ways, so that there will be clear breadcrumbs leading back to them after the heist. Kingpin doesn’t tell them where they’re going, or what they’re stealing, and keeps them in the dark, literally, in the back of the van until they reach the destination. They only find out what they’re stealing when they get the vault open, a vault containing Iron Man’s armors. It’s then that their communications devices light up with a message from Kingpin; he doesn’t just want any armor, he wants the Hulkbuster, and he wants it unlocked so anyone can use it (he says something about everyone being able to get into the vault, the Latverians, Hydra, AIM, the Russians- but being able to use the tech they steal is usually the sticking point). If we’re trying to make Danny more fun, he can snark about that being the only armor that will fit Kingpin- because it’s obvious he’s planning to use it himself- which could form the basis of a running joke of Kingpin never wanting to confirm, but not really denying, either. 

They’re able to figure out enough about Pepper, the current CEO and only person with unlock keys for the armors, to log into her terminal and grant themselves access to the armor, likely using Jessica’s skills, with maybe an assist from Daredevil’s senses. They arrive, one of them wearing the Hulkbuster, to the meet with Kingpin. When they refuse to hand over the armor, he has police, who were standing by, come in to arrest them for stealing Stark property. That’s when Danny plays his ace: Pepper Pots, in a smart business suit, storms in with She-Hulk, presenting an agreement to temporarily lease select Iron Man tech during the conduction of a test of Stark’s security procedures by the Heroes for Hire. Kingpin’s upset, because they shouldn’t have been able to contact anyone- his henchmen were blocking cell and radio frequencies, even blocking them from using the internet inside Stark.  

It’s after he storms off that the final piece falls into place, and Ant-Man grows to normal human size. “If they needed a heist, they called the wrong hero.” We find out Danny didn’t just call Pepper, he called every billionaire in the city with rare/exotic tech who might be hit. It was when he called Hank that Hank offered them Scott, who was able to get a message out through his ants to She-Hulk, who got Pepper. Pepper is steely-eyed, staring down She-Hulk, who doesn’t give an inch, either. “This time, we played ball, because Fisk is a monster. But next time your clients break into one of Tony’s-” she pauses, hurting for an instant at the thought that it’s no longer Tony’s, before continuing apace, “a Stark facility, we will press charges to the fullest extent of the law.” Pepper then glares at whoever is in the Hulkbuster. “That’s my ride your sitting in.” They get out of it, and she gets in, and flies off.

Daredevil plays back audio of Kingpin trying to extort the armor off them, before cutting it off abruptly. “Fisk took his best shot at us, and failed. We don’t have our lives back, yet, but he knows that even vulnerable, we’re a force to be reckoned with. That he took this shot at all proves he’s scared of us. Good. We’re going to give him reason to be.”

Mid-credits scene: Close on artist’s concept sketch showing the “Iron King,” along with that title hand-written beside it. It’s basically the Hulkbuster suit repainted to look a lot like comic book Kingpin in a white suit with a purple vest and purple pants and ridiculous jeweled cane for no reason, which he hides when someone comes into the room.

End credits sequence: Several packages are delivered. The eagle-eyed will recognize a few of the recipients, in particular Hellcat, Punisher and Spider-Man (but all of them heroes/characters who might or have historically had a bone to pick with Kingpin). Punisher, wearing the red skull from his Thunderbolts stint, opens the package to find a phone that starts to buzz as it receives a text. “Invite from Heroes for Hire to join Operation: Kingfall.”

Pitchmas 2019, Part 7: Thunderbolts

Shorter: Suicide Squad by way of the Dirty Dozen, with a central mystery and surprise villainy

Longer: General Thunderbolt Ross wakes up soaked in sweat, breathing heavily. He’s wearing one of the heart monitor’s Bruce Banner wore in the Incredible Hulk. He rolls out of bed, catching himself in a push-up and immediately beginning an intense exercise regimen as he starts narrating. “I dedicated my life to serving the United States, and put my faith in her military to get the job done. When the size of the threats escalated, and tanks and planes were no longer up to the challenge, we started looking for other solutions. Against my better judgment, we put our faith in gods,” cut to Thor from Infinity War, “and monsters,” and Hulk in IW. “But whether due to arrogance,” show Tony being stabbed in IW, “or hubris,” show Captain America getting beaten down by Thanos in IW, “they lost. I couldn’t save half of humanity. Not even Betty.” Ross tries to comfort his daughter, when she turns to dust. “It’s taken five years, five years of planning, of preparation. The world needs heroes- soldiers. And I need recruits.” Zoom in on his eye, the iris almost imperceptibly shifting color as we disappear into the pupil.

Ross exits his tent wearing military gear without insignia, ever-so-subtly shaded red. He’s in the Middle East. A title card flashes, stating they’re in Yemen. He’s joined by another man dressed similarly. “General, I appreciate your discretion, seeing as none of us are here.” “I appreciate the audience with your operative.” “Truth told, General, the request made me squirrely. I’d hate to lose Antivenom- even to you.” “Well, if all goes as planned, we’ll both be able to make use of Lt. Cervantez. His symbiote’s a renegade from the batch that tore through New York in ’19? What the tabloids called ‘The Brock incident?'” “Officially, no such incident occurred, General, sir. But I’ll introduce you after-” they’re interrupted by gunfire. “Here,” he says, and hands Ross an earpiece.

Over it we hear an operational officer yelling, “Why the hell were we using live munitions?” “”Had to look real enough for them to break cover,” says a voice with Venomy reverb, “but I’m handling it.” A Humvee careens out of an alley, smashing bricks from the corner of one building as it goes. A red and black version of Agent Venom is standing on top of the hummer, blasting down into the cab with twin MP5s, before flipping off and landing as the vehicle crashes behind him and explodes.

“Excellent work, Lt,” Ross says, saluting, and Antivenom salutes back; underneath the mask it’s Hector Cervantez (Flash Thompson was blipped away and is still in high school, and we need a combat veteran who lost his legs).”You went to Midtown, right? I hear Spider-Man was something of an unofficial mascot there.” “Wouldn’t know, sir. He disappeared, during the blip. Some kids said he showed up at a party, once. The Colonel’s told me you’d like to ‘borrow’ my expertise. What’s the mission?” “Same mission, soldier, different stakes.” “Not sure I follow, sir.” “All respect due, what you’ve been doing could be accomplished by a Ranger fire team or two- but what you’re capable of doing… I want to make sure the taxpayers are getting the most bang for their buck.” “Wasn’t under the impression your little mission was sanctioned by Uncle Sam.” “Not officially. But someone’s got to keep the lights on.” “More deniable ops? Think I prefer that to being out in the sunshine.”

Cut to a daring daylight raid of a mobster’s palatial estate. Mafioso fall by the dozens as the sound of gunfire nearly drowns out the sound of a helicopter. Ross drops out next to the Punisher (I’ve been happy with Bernthal’s take on the character, personally, so I wouldn’t mind if he stuck around), laying fire with an M60. “You’ve been busy, Captain Castle.” “Ain’t a captain anymore, General.” “What happened to you and yours? You should have been promoted, not discharged. I’d like to see that rectified.” “Not interested.” “You haven’t heard my pitch yet.” “Don’t need to,” Frank tosses a grenade. “You’ve been working your way up the ranks, but there’s always a bigger fish. You can handle the mutant henchmen, the science monster hired muscle, but you don’t have the firepower to take on your Thanoses, or to so much as dent a Chitauri invasion force.” Punisher pauses his firing. “I can get you access to the kind of ordinance not even mafia millions can buy you, Frank.” “How much gun we talking?” “Enough to put anyone in your sights, soldier.” “And what kinds of trade are we talking?” “One for you, one for me.” Helicopters arrive, at the same time as a dozen limos, all spilling out more guys. “Any chance on an advance?” “You’re no good to me in the ground,” he says, and starts unbuttoning his shirt. Cut away before he starts to noticeably redden.

“I tried to talk her out of it,” Leonard Sampson tells Ross. “And I told him I don’t let ex-boyfriends boss me around any more than my father,” Betty says, and kisses Ross. “I called Bruce; it isn’t him; and he has an alibis, on the other side of the country, for the last time this Red Hulk was spotted.” We pan around the room, and see surveillance equipment and photographs, and a board with several potential Red Hulk suspects on it, including Bruce Banner. “Haven’t you had your life disrupted enough by Hulks?” Ross asks. “It’s because of how much trouble we’ve had with Hulks that I have to find out… there aren’t very many people who know as much about gamma radiation as we do- me, Bruce, you- if we put our heads together-” “I lost five years with my little girl. I can’t stand the thought of losing another second.” “Then you don’t have any excuse not to help out.” 

We’re in on Ross’s face. “I don’t get it,” the other man says. We recognize the voice, even if we don’t place it yet. “For one, the Canadians have been much more accommodating than their American counterparts.” “Not only did they give me a pension, but I gave myself a promotion to Colonel- though I couldn’t get them to spring for a lifetime supply of chimichangas.” We now see it’s Deadpool Ross is talking to. “Wade, if you weren’t an accomplished military man in your own right, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” “What I meant is, I could be an X-Man, or follow-through on that threat/promise of doing an X-Force movie, or just wait until they’re finished with the next John Wick so we can shoot Deadpool 3.” “Or you could stop being a lunatic long enough to use your gifts to help some people.” “He-elp? Pee-pull? I don’t understand those words… though the second one sounds dirty.” “Maybe you’re content being a joke just because you pretend to be in on it, soldier, but I think you can be more. And I think standing next to the Punisher-” “That’d make a hell of a poster- could sell the shit out of that movie.” “Should I take it we have an agreement?” “So long as you buy the popcorn. And let me cut a hole in the bottom.” “Whose lap is it going in?” Ross asks, wearily. “Like you don’t know,” Deadpool leans in and strokes his upper lip, and whispers, “with your secret sex moustache.”

“Have you ever considered shaving it off?” Betty asks Ross. “Never more than yesterday.” “It just, it makes you feel old. Older than I think you should feel.” “Well, it’s not how old you are, it’s how old your children feel you should be.” “Ahem,” Sampson mutters. “Right,” Betty hands him a grainy picture. “That still was taken from some kid in New York’s instagram two days ago.” “So the Red Hulk was here. In New York?” Ross asks. “Right in our back yard. And Bruce is still working on that gamma emissions detector…” Ross puts his hand on her shoulder. “We’ll get to the bottom of this, with or without ‘Bruce.'” 

Antivenom is on a rooftop, watching through binoculars. On an adjacent roof, Ross meets with a woman in shadow. Eventually, we see that it’s Elektra, in red and black garb. She shakes Ross’s hand, and then leaps away into the shadows. Antivenom swings over to Ross, who isn’t surprised to see he was being followed. “A ninja and assassin. I thought this was a military unit.” “The kinds of people we’re hiring, they don’t go quietly into that good night. Who better to remove a deniable asset.” “I’m not sure I’m comfortable-” “I’m sure I didn’t ask. Dismissed, son.”

Castle’s phone buzzes with a message from Ross, and he switches it to off, and shotguns another smuggler at the docks. Antivenom swings up behind him. “I’m not some Collie,” Punisher says.  “Because you don’t come when called?” Antivenom asks. “Wait, is that why they call you the Punisher?” Deadpool asks. Punisher doesn’t acknowledge it. “But that’s why we’re here, to help you clean up,” Antivenom offers. Action scene, with the three of them shooting up smugglers.

Cut to Ross’s war room, where the three of them are waiting for their briefing. As Ross speaks (and Deadpool interrupts), images flash on a projector. “I appreciate the three of you making it. Time is short, so these are your targets. Helmut Zemo-“ “He engineered the conflict that broke the Beatles apart,” Deadpool says. “Goliath,” Ross continues. “Ate David and probably some other Israelis.” “Beetle.” “Known to come in at least two varieties, blue and dung.” “Screaming Mimi.” “Screams. Mimally.” “And Moonstone.” They all pause, waiting for Deadpool to chime in again. He deadpans (get it?), pretending not to know why, then says, “I was throwing that one to Frank.”

“What’s the mission?” Antivenom asks. “We’ll get to that, but first, I’d like to introduce you to another asset. Frank, I hope I can count on you to keep it in your holster.” “Depends who walks through that door,” Punisher says. It’s Elektra. “My intel on her says she’s been walking on this side of the angels recently,” Punisher says, “or I’d put one between her eyes.” “Or at least you’d try,” she replies.

Ross continues: “She’s going to be assisting on this mission; you three make up the central team, but she’s there to provide, well, you three are the pointy end of the spear, she’s the knife slipped between their ribs from behind.” “You missed metaphor day in basic training, didn’t you?” Deadpool asks. “I would love to get you in a room with Drax.” “How do you know that name?” “Oh, come on, who didn’t see Guardians? It made only $10 million less than my first movie, despite releasing with a PG-13 rating. We didn’t feel the need to tart Vanessa up in green paint and tight leather- only the tight leather- is what I’m saying.”

“May I ask why these five are a target, sir?” Antivenom asks. “When I proposed the creation of a military response team to extrahuman threats, the DoD put the idea out for bid. Zemo nearly won, until I exposed him and his group as terrorists with a rap sheet that would make Bin Laden blush. Elektra.” “When Zemo’s been drinking, he calls them the ‘Masters of Evil’ with a fairly straight face. Their plan is to infiltrate the superhuman population, embed themselves in the popular consciousness, and then commit massive-scale acts of terrorism to discredit the entire superhuman community.” “Not a bad plan,” Ross starts; “their hearts are in the right place.” “No they aren’t,” Punisher says; ‘they’re still in their chests.” Deadpool whispers “Punisher,” gleefully.

Elektra continues. “They have hired a team of mercenaries to stage a terrorist attack on Stark Tower.” “Our intel suggests these men operate under the aliases Solo, Madcap, Masacre, Slapstick, Foolkiller, Terror and Stingray,” Ross adds. “Zemo’s team will thwart the attack, immediately ingratiating them to the public and the heroing community at large. I insisted that we have a failsafe in place, to prevent unforeseen complications; the attack will not begin without hearing from Zemo at 12 noon.” 

“Our window opens at dawn- the place is going to be filled with henchmen until then, but they’ll have to clear out of the place, in preparation for the Thunderbolts’ public debut.” “I don’t mind going through henchmen,” Punisher says. “Unfortunately, Zemo chose their base well. Their building butts up against lower-income apartments; the walls are toilet paper. An assault of any magnitude using conventional arms would also go through these civilians. We have to wait. I suggest you catch some shut-eye before then.”

Cutting back and forth between the two groups. “Why did I get stuck with you?” Punisher asks Elektra as they infiltrate. “Because no one likes you.” He glares. “And I’m the only one who could handle you.” She leans on the word very subtly. Antivenom and Deadpool are infiltrating together. “I don’t know,” Deadpool observes, “don’t we both kind of look like ‘Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can.” “I don’t see it.” Punisher and Elektra again, he says, “I meant why the two unpowered operators are paired together, while the unkillable moron and the difficult to kill space creature work together.” She’s quiet a moment. “Because no one likes you, and they trust I can make it out alive.” 

Tense moment as both groups infiltrate, before running into each other in the central room. They fight, subduing the MoE, save for Goliath; Goliath bursts into the room, grows to immense size, then pummels our heroes. It’s then that the Red Hulk (with moustache- very important- you don’t have this stache, it won’t make that cash) bursts into the room and starts fighting Goliath. For the uninitiated, he’s like Hulk, but maintains his tactical intelligence and also there’s fire, for some reason. And a moustache, or so help me. The Thunderbolts rally, and win the day. The battle leaves Red Hulk diminished, and he collapses, transforming back into Ross. Punisher and Deadpool carry him out. “I always knew,” Punisher says. “I didn’t know it was a secret,” Antivenom replies. “I’d have sworn it was She-Hulk in a He-Man costume she painted red in the comics,” Deadpool says. Pull back, to reveal Betty, with a big weird gamma scanner, watching from a nearby rooftop. She’s on the phone, looking shocked. “Yeah, Bruce, I’m telling you, it worked. I found Red Hulk.”

Ross is in a military hospital, buttoning up his shirt, with the doctor speaking “-still putting a great deal of strain on your system.” “But at least he’s becoming easier to control,” Ross says. “Who is?” Betty asks, entering. “No one,” Ross says, “figure of speech.” The doctor excuses himself hastily. She hands Ross a folder full of camera phone images of the Red Hulk crashing into the building, then Ross carried back out minutes later, with the gamma device going off in the foreground (though we don’t need those details to be seen). “Daddy? Why didn’t you tell me you’re the Red Hulk?” “I was trying to protect you. I hope someday you’ll understand that’s all I’ve ever tried to do.” He jabs her with a syringe filled with a bright red, shimmery fluid. Cut to black, cue credits and something metallic in the score. 

Mid-Credits Scene: We do a Gollum thing, panning around the Leader (because it would be a crime not to bring back Tim Blake Nelson), having arguments with himself (though this isn’t immediately clear) over who is most responsible for his mutation and his pain- primarily Banner or Ross in contention (overlapped somewhat by the seeds of gruesome plans for either of them)- and whether or not he owes that person his thanks or a return in kind before finally answering both questions when he snarls, “Ross.”

End Credits Scene: A phone rings, and we see the caller ID: “Ross, Betty.” It rings, as we pan around the room, showing we’re in the Avengers living space, rebuilt after Endgame, and finally Smart Hulk answers. We hear a raspy, winded, and angry Betty say, “Bruce” with enough urgency that he cracks the phone in his hand, before we cut to black. White text, “The Hulks Will Return…”

Pitchmas 2019, Part 6: Sinister Six

Note: If it confuses you why I’m suddenly posting part of a different thing, there’s a reason: I’m going to be posting the unposted Pitchmas, 12 MCU pitches, from last Christmas, on days when I’m not posting new Breed chapters (Monday-Thursday, unless I fall behind). So without further ado, enjoy:

Sinister Six

Opens with a daring raid on a Stark warehouse filled with surplus Iron Man & Chitauri tech. Doctor Octavius is there, technically the seventh member at that moment, because he understands the tech they’re after; he moves around badly, still healing from the accident that grafted his arms to him. The rest are Kraven, Venom, Scorpion (wearing only half a scorpion suit- the raid is to complete his gear), Vulture, Hobgoblin and Spider-Man. Despite this crew, Spider-Man, wearing the Superior Spider-Man costume, is the most vicious of them all, to the point Ock has to talk him down from going too far with the incapacitated guards. Ock is able to complete Scorpion’s ensemble, then and there, and Scorpion single-handedly fights their way through a wall of cops. A sinister voice says through an earpiece to Ock “Was it everything you hoped for?” “More,” he says, watching Scorpion tear through police cars. 

Cut back to a rooftop at night. Venom, quasi-heroic (grr, thanks Sony) is there with Ock. He doesn’t want to hurt the kid, and is uncomfortable with what’s going on. Ock says he understands, but Venom may be the only one of them who can– he sees any other attack coming before it starts- and that they’ll need Spider-Man’s help to deal with Venom’s kid, Cassidy, that it’s only a matter of time before he figures out you can do so much more with a symbiote than make knives. “Like what?” “Anything,” Ock replies. 

Venom complains that they’ve been standing on this rooftop for hours, and is it even the right place. Ock says Kraven tracked the boy to this spot, that he returns at least once a night. Venom states again that he doesn’t want to hurt the kid. “We just want to talk,” Ock says, receding into the shadow as Spider-Man swings by. He lands, and takes off his mask, winded from his evening patrol. He doesn’t notice Venom growing behind him until he’s engulfed by the symbiote’s black ooze.

Ock gives a speech about the forgotten men of Manhattan, left behind by the wealthy, by the beautiful, that they’re finally going to have their day in the sun. Even though it’s speaking to him directly, Vulture isn’t so easily influced, and he and Ock bird-dog one another, possibly even sniping at each other in a later scene. As Ock’s wrapping up, Venom finally arrives, and Ock chastizes him, and says they were beginning to think they’d have to get Stark’s sonic weaponry without him. His symbiote is clearly intimidated by the idea of sonics, but he tries to hide it. They arrive at what remains of Stark Tower, turned into an academy for people with powers or just exceptional skills. A sign on the construction says, “Future site of the Young Avengers Academy,” with some silhouettes we recognize flying out of the larger images of Captain America, Iron Man and Black Widow. They break in, midday, sending civilians scattering and yelling. Ock smiles on, pleased by the screams. Spider-Man is, once again, the most vicious.

Cut to a dark room. Ock hovers over a table with Spider-Man strapped to it. “This is going to hurt, Peter, but not as much as it should,” he takes a lot of blood. “Look, I just bought this Spider-Man costume at the corner store and was going to freak out my friend Ned,” he says, but he stops, “wait, Professor Octavius?” “I chose you, Parker, because you were brilliant. Your mishap with the arachnid was happenstance, but the work you were doing as my assistant… we were going to transform lives. But Tony Stark flashes a smile, and suddenly you’re off in Germany playing flag football with the Avengers.” He steps into the light, and we can see that he’s been horrifically scarred, that the metal arms are fused to his torso, skin and flesh melted together, and a metal ring is burnt into the skin of his forehead, usually covered by his bowl cut. “You did this to me. You selfish, arrogant brat. J. Jonah Jameson’s a hack; his smear alone won’t ruin you- not when St. Anthony blessed you as his heir apparent. But I will fuel that fire until even your own aunt won’t be able to look at you… if I deign to leave her alive that long.”

Otto leaves that room into an adjacent chamber. He hands the blood-filled syringe to the Jackal, who immediately starts doing fake sciency things to it. “How long until it’s ready?” “It’s not a pizza pocket. Or do you want another Kane on our hands?” Close in, as a spider crawls across a desk in the foreground. “I don’t need him pretty- he just needs to be able to do whatever a spider can,” Ock punctuates it by smashing the spider.

Cut back to the present, at their planning space. A Palladium ring is all they took from Stark’s tower, and Venom, furious, clocks Ock. “You used me, you piece of-” he’s clobbered by the rest of the Six, and thrown out the door. He storms off. Spider-Man looks shaken, and takes a walk to clear his head, going to the bathroom. He’s having trouble breathing, and takes off his mask, to reveal a horribly mutilated face, like half of it’s been melted. “What the hell?” he asks, looking at the damage to his face. Ock opens the door behind him, and Peter zones back out, and begins mirroring everything Ock does. “There,” Ock says, “much better.”

Cut to Spider-Man, in his superior costume, dreaming badly, jerking around. He wakes up, and follows his Peter tingle into the basement. He sneaks past Ock, who fell asleep at his table, stirring to create tension a couple of times without waking. “Why do I remember this?” he asks, tracing his hand along a table. He comes to a heavy door, and recognizes it, too; “Epigenetic memory,” comes a small voice in the room. “In laymen’s terms, you remember it because I do.” Superior uses his sticky fingers to break open the slit from the outside so he can see in. Original flavor Spider-Man is strapped to a table, with sedating fluids flowing into him. He frees Peter, before they’re interrupted by Vulture, without his wings. He’s concerned his family could be in jeopardy, that there was no way to refuse Otto without endangering them, and he’s seen enough to want out. “I don’t work with amateurs,” he grumbles, before storming out.

The two Spider-Men team up to take on the remaining six, including Ock and a glass-jawed Jackal. Ock used the Palladium to supercharge his arms, and is no longer the pathetic wretch he’s played all movie; and yes, this does mean dueling motormouth commentary during the fight. As they gain the upper hand, Superior starts hearing Ock in his head. “Did you think I wouldn’t have a fail-safe, in case Parker’s gentle nature infected you?” Superior screams, as he grows additional limbs and turns into a were-spider (Man-Spider, technically). At one point, Venom swings in long enough to web Ock’s feet to the floor, so he’s flat-footed for a double punch from both Spider-Men. “I owed you one, kid.” He frowns, noticing Man-Spider. “And who’s your friend?” “He’s my clone but they put a fail-safe in him that mutated him into even more of a spider-” Venom puts up his hands, “Very sorry I asked. Did you get hyperspeed babbling as part of the spider ability package?” “It’s mostly just nervous energy, but you really are welcome to stay and hit a few more bad guys.” “You look like you’ve got it handled, and I only owed you the one.” He swings off.  

The Peters continue fighting, losing a few of the villains who slink off during the fight, but capturing some. Ock manages to hit Man-Spider hard enough to take him out of the fight, and Peter webs Ock down, first his feet, then each of his metal arms, before finally hitting him hard enough to disrupt the controls on the arms. “Otto, we can help you.” Ock cackles maniacally. “By making me normal? Do you long to be normal, Parker? Keep your pity.” He webs up Ocks mouth, then he checks his phone. There have been a lot of missed calls, from Ned, MJ and from May. “I am so f-“ cut to fun, happy ending music.

Mid-Credits Scene: Peter brings Man-Spider to a high-tech lab. Peter is running at the mouth, thanking the person who is there for helping, because he’s not sure what he could possibly do without his help. We keep the man in shadow, though at one point you can tell he’s missing a limb, before Peter thanks him by name: Dr. Connors.

Pitchmas 2019, Part 5: Iron Man 4

Iron Man 4: The Iron Candidate (or maybe “World Without An Iron Man”)

When he was killed, Vision’s AI tried to dump his back-up onto Tony’s server. Because of Thanos tearing him out of time in order to retrieve the mind stone, this back-up became corrupted. This corruption sets off a failure cascade when Pepper tries to inventory Tony’s various inventions and thoughts, crowbarring what had been an attempt to store Tony’s personality and genius in a Jarvis-like AI into Pepper’s mind, temporarily gifting her Tony’s brilliance (and perhaps even tics of his personality); so it’s a superhero take on Flowers for Algernon as Pepper gets back some of Tony (and his genius), but has to feel him slipping away all over again. Throughout Pepper talks aloud to Tony, though if he talks back it’s in her head.

After the failure of Peter and Edith, Pepper realizes the world doesn’t just need another genius, no matter how good-hearted- it needs another Iron Man (or Woman), so she decides to use her/Tony’s brilliance while it lasts to track down a suitable candidate. She accomplishes this in part through drone versions of her armor she calls Pepper bots (yes, this pitch was entirely a long walk to get to this pun- don’t judge me). She develops her own fans, who call themselves “Pepper’s Pott-Heads” to her chagrin.

The US military, which has long been surveilling Pepper and Tony in the hopes of eventually getting enough intel to develop their own Iron Tech, steal Pepper’s idea and opens up bids for an Iron Man-alike armor they can purchase for the next generation of soldier. Pepper recognizes the danger of letting that kind of tech out into the wild (and reveals that Tony had a side hustle in sabotaging other efforts in similar directions). Unlike Tony, she doesn’t think that she can stymy the research forever, and will need to prove that these are essentially nuclear level weapons, and we shouldn’t be proliferating them, or one day it will fall into the wrong hands.

Pepper’s quest to find the next Iron Person is also a chance to seed other smarts-related characters for other movies and occasions, like Moon Girl and Amadeus Cho (imagine a motor-mouth-off between him and a Tony’d up Pepper), as we meet other potential Iron Candidates. One of the rejected candidates is Ezekiel Stane, son of Obadiah Stane, the Iron Monger. He uses design secrets originally stolen by his father to create a 3D printable suit, so that ‘patriots’ can have their own Iron Man without having to deal with regulation, or learning how to program a whole tech suit themselves. The Iron Candidate could give us an in to bring in Riri Williams (probably my preference), Young Kang the Conqueror as Iron Lad (both setting up Young Avengers and the eventual use of adult Kang as a big bad villain), Arno Stark, or if you’re a complete monster, young Tony a la Iron Man 2020 (though obviously you’d have to adjust that date).

I’m imagining Pepper giving a press conference to announce this initiative, saying she doesn’t want to live in a world without an Iron Man, so she intends to find the next one. Reporters start asking questions, starting with dumb ones like whether or not she’s sold the show to HBO. Finally, one asks how you can replace the smartest man on Earth. That’s when Amadeus Cho stands up and says, “Sixth. I’m Amadeus Cho, the Seventh. Seventh smartest human on Earth, just ahead of Vision, not the seventh Amadeus Cho in an unbroken line of self-importance. I believe Ms. Potts is currently number 6, though I don’t expect that to last. ” Pepper, intrigued, pulls him aside. He tells her, “You won’t choose me; there’s too much of Tony in me, and if you’re building a new Iron Person from scratch, why would you start off with the same hubris and relative character defets? But you’ve a better chance of success if I work with you. It’s taken me years to develop my models- it was helpful, the five years half the population was missing; not a lot happened, so I had a nice, solid chunk of time to refine my models.” (added 8/20/21 to set up Incredible Hercules pitch).

I’d probably have a Dr. Doom guest spot (though you could always swap in a Tinkerer or someone similar); he’s one of Pepper’s candidates who is actually on a similar mission, though he’s headhunting talent to kidnap back to Latveria- where the eventual choice Macguyvers together a suit to escape while Pepper lays siege to the castle, eventually the pair of them combining forces to take down Doom (at least long enough for a getaway); that would give the Candidate the opportunity not just to wear Tony’s armor, but to have their own, which to me is important. 

But the real threat is still the military’s pursuit of their own Iron Soldier program. Pepper attends, in her Rescue armor, to try and talk to them, as Ms. Iron Man, a hero in her own right, and the current controller of all Iron tech. “Tony was scared. No matter how hard he tried to stop making weapons, he just kept making better weapons. But the one thing he did he was proudest of- too proud even to admit it to the rest of the world- was keeping them out of anyone else’s hands.” She shares a graph, showing the Iron Man tech or something like it sending man hurtling past the singularity, and instead towards an extinction cliff, where the increase in sophisticated tech so far outstrips the ability to regulate it that the odds of humanity killing themselves off approaches 100%.

By this point there are several different contractors each with their own competitor bidding for the contract, and it’s a good excuse to bring in a bunch of bucket-headed villains (like Whirlwind or Crimson Dynamo). There are several specs, and the military basically decide on doing a Battle Bots style competition to separate the strongest from the weakest. The candidate breaches the security of any remote drones, taking them over and crashing them into one another in the skies overhead, before flying the rest towards the sun. Then they take over the suits with security vulnerabilities, and has them punch each other like Rock em Sock em robots. A further third Pepper bribes to join her side. The remaining handful Pepper, her newly hired mercs, her bots and the candidate fight off, until the last ones standing are Pepper (just barely- she takes a licking) and the candidate, standing triumphant over a field of defeated foes. The General roughly in charge (I’d use Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, because Will Hurt has a fun glare) admits that maybe this tech is still too unstable, and the protocols to safeguard it still too new, to entrust our safety to it. “But we can’t ignore that our country’s enemies may not view the situation as pragmatically, and we can’t unilaterally disarm- especially not forever. There won’t always be an Iron… Person whose skirt we can hide behind.” “Maybe not, General,” Pepper says, “but (s)he’s going to bury us both.” 

I’d bring back Robert Downey, Jr. for a farewell scene that could be worth the price of admission all on its lonesome. It’s in Tony’s memory fortress while the candidate tries to get as much of the data as can be salvaged before the entire thing comes apart. Pepper finally really understands what it’s like to be him, and he’s sad that she has to- because it always made him miserable. A support collapses, narrowly missing her. “It’s like that thing the kid says, ‘If you can do great things, you kind of have to.’ I always thrived under pressure, but no man- or woman- should have to hold up the weight of the whole world. It’s too much. It was for me. You want a little advice? That weight? Don’t pick it up.” “Tony,” she soothes, “you never had to hold it alone.” She lifts up the support beam, and together they brace it. As he’s starting to fade, he says, “Tell the kid ‘goodbye’ for me.” “Which one?” she asks, as if to prompt about their daughter. “Both. Tell them,” “You love them 3000?” A tear slides down his cheek. “Yeah. Bye, Pep,” he says, and kisses her as he fades away, and the fortress is engulfed in white light.

“How much did you get?” Pepper asks back in the real world, her first thought of Tony’s legacy. The Candidate grins, wide. “Everything. Well, except… the AI, Tony, I couldn’t copy him.” “I didn’t think you would. He was stuck in my head.” “Yes, but that wasn’t insurmountable; a human mind is just a different kind of media. But when I tried to copy him, he wouldn’t go. I think… I think he was holding the whole thing together, making sure we could get and use as much of his work as we could, that he made himself a part of the structure.” “It’s okay,” Pepper soothes. “He deserves his rest.”

Pitchmas 2019, Part 4: Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four

The Fantastic Four, the world-famous explorers and adventurers, are all that stand between the planet Earth and an extinction-level asteroid heading for Earth. It’s LBJ who gives a speech as their rocket leaps into the air, about the fulfillment of Kennedy’s vision for space travel aboard a ship of Richard’s own design. We cut to black and white coverage of the launch, as a Walter Cronkite like character speaks to camera. “Joining the four intrepid explorers aboard this historic mission is Prince Victor, heir to the throne of Latveria, a nation most folks have never heard of. Victor, the world’s self-proclaimed smartest man, helped Richards, Grim and the Storm siblings construct the ship, as well as a device intended to change the asteroid’s path using… ‘worm’ ‘holes.’ What a strange, exciting time to be alive.”

Exterior shot of the interior of the solar system as their ship flies, and it’s perty. “According to the trajectories you two eggheads gave me, we won’t be within range for another 2 hours. Nothing right now to do but admire the view.”

Cut onto the ship as Ben flies. Reed is the oldest, barely 30, and already graying at the temples. Ben and Sue are in their mid to late twenties, with Ben looking and sounding older than he actually is. Johnny is 17 or so, still technically a child, and still very childish. Victor is in his early 20s, and gorgeous.

“Are you monitoring the pressures on the craft’s fuselage, you ignoramus?” Doom asks. “5% more torque than spec and you could twist us in half.” “Twist you in half,” Ben grumbles. “Settle down, Victor,” Reed says. “Ben’s been flying this ship since before you and I completely redesigned the engines, the wings and the life support system. He knows how she handles by feel- something neither of us could duplicate.” Doom glares, and is about to launch into a secondary tirade when Sue breaks in. “How are the figures for the, what did you boys decide to call the blasted thing?” “It’s an interuniversal relocation device,” Victor says, momentarily distracted, until the possible implication hits him, “and the figures are perfect. Doom does not make mistakes!” “So you’ve double-checked them, Victor?” Reed asks. “Because we’re talking the difference between the extinction of all life on Earth and safely redirecting the asteroid onto a similar trajectory to Haley’s comet. There’s no shame in having someone else go over your figures.” “Doom does not make mistakes,” he fumes. “But how would you know, Victor?” Sue asks gently. “If you never double-check, and no one else goes over your figures…” “Insolent,” he stops himself, “I have been tutored by the finest minds in Eastern Europe, and through my veins flow the finest genetics the species has ever produced.” He sighs. “I am weary. I would rest.” He stomps out of the bridge.

“You shouldn’t wind him up like that,” Sue says. “I wasn’t,” Reed insists. “My concerns are genuine. Victor earned his spot on this mission by being the only person on the planet smart enough to help me design a system to safely redirect the asteroid; I tried Howard Stark, and he fell asleep on the phone as I was describing the problem; fatherhood has sapped him. And Victor may well be smarter than me, Sue, but for the fact that I’m careful, and he isn’t. I triple-checked the figures for this ship; for every error of mine I found 2 of his- errors he never would have found himself, because he refused to even look- and forbade me from looking. And each uncorrected error compounds, because he continues to reuse compromised formulae and apply flawed understandings-“ “An unexamined mistake isn’t just one mistake, but the beginning of an array of errors. Or if you prefer an unoriginal thought: ‘He who mocked and laughed at correction should blame nobody for his shame and doom.’” “I prefer an original Sue Storm, no matter how apt the quotation.” Reed wraps his arms around her.

“Gross,” Johnny says, squirming in his seat. “Hey, just last weekend I had to watch you spend an entire movie trying to crawl inside Cybill Shepherd’s mouth- like a butterfly trying to wriggle back inside its cocoon.” “She tasted like strawberry Starbursts… and maybe if you’d let me choose the movie.” “You’d have picked Batman again- and I can’t watch two grown men run around in tights for another two hours.” “Yeah, but no one should have been afraid of Virginia Wolf. She wasn’t even a real wolf.” “Why did we bring Johnny along again?” “You never know when you’re going to need someone to test to see if a planet’s atmosphere is deadly, or a potential food source is toxic,” Reed deadpans. “Good one, stretch,” Ben says from the controls. “Think you might want to worry about yourself, blockhead,” Johnny says, before shooting a spitwad into Ben’s ear. “Why you crummy little,” Ben climbs over the pilot’s seat lumbering after Johnny.

Cut to the crew quarters. Victor is sleeping fitfully. We zoom in on his face, and we’re inside his head, where his mother teaches a young Victor how to perform magic, specifically of the healing variety. When her back is turned, the young Victor adds a flower to the concoction. Dissolve, and a few days later, Victor’s mother is tense. “Victor, honey, you have to tell me. If you added a poppy to the tincture, mommy won’t be mad. If we don’t give the princess the antidote, she’ll die. But the poppy antidote is fatal if she hasn’t had any poppy, understand? So you have to tell me, did you add poppy?” “No, momma.” Victor, now an adult, but still being talked to like he’s a child. “Your mother didn’t simply fail to save our beloved princess- she poisoned her. Therefore she’s been exiled to the steppes. Do you know what that means, Victor?” “She’ll die of exposure. Perhaps tonight, but certainly by the solstice.” “Yes. And you, you will be our new prince. A child for a child.”

Victor wakes up, wild-eyed. He pulls out a sheaf of papers, and glances at them. He hesitates, because it all looks correct to him. He glances nervously around, and removes a different slip of paper, this one torn from an assignment with the name “R. Richards” at the top of it in ink. He puts the pages side by side and compares. His eyes go wide as he notices a slight difference in calculation. He scribbles, quickly, with increasing agitation, before his equation completely matches Reed’s. “I’ve doomed us all,” he mutters, and runs from the room.

In the cockpit, Ben is flying again. “We’re approaching our intersection with the asteroid, stretch,” he says. “Want I should wake his highness?” “Given that Victor refuses to share his equations with the rest of us, I don’t see a reason to wake him.” “Are we ready to begin start-up procedure on the generator?” Sue asks. “Go ahead,” Reed says, and she pushes in a button. The ship trembles, and Reed and Sue look at one another, concerned.

Elsewhere, Victor is shaken nearly off his feet. He glances between the corridor back to the cockpit and the escape pod. “There’s no time to warn them,” he says, and runs to the pod, which launches an instant later.

“What in heck?” Ben asks as a light on the panel flashes. “The life pod launched empty.” “Not empty,” Johnny says, peering into space. “Victor took it.” “Why would he-“ Reed starts, before the ship begins to shake, more violently than before. The wormhole generator kicks on, tearing a hole in spacetime. “It worked,” Johnny says, excited that he can see a star at the other end of the hole. “Except it’s supposed to be a quarter mile in front of the ship,” Sue says, “not fifty feet.” Reed frowns, and scribbles some notes on a sheet of paper. “Goodness,” he says, “we’ll have to fly the ship right into the asteroid to get it into the wormhole, unless…” “What are you thinking, stretch?”

“I think I need you to land on the broad face of the asteroid. Sue, I need you to keep that field generator going.” “It wasn’t designed for long term use.” “I know. You’ll have to keep it powered enough to stay on, without drawing so much power we’re left floating dead in space, waiting to become a bug on that asteroid’s windshield.” “What can I do?” Johnny asks. “Make sure anything that can be secured is, because this is going to be an exceptionally wild ride.” Ben turns on the intercom. “We’re pulling up parallel to the asteroid. I’m going to need one last burst of speed. Sue, can you spare it?” “So long as you can give it back before it hits- otherwise there’s no guarantee we don’t pancake on impact.” “Johnny?” Reed breaks in. “You almost ready?” Cut to the crew compartment, where Johnny’s found Victor’s notes. He holds down the intercom button. “Be there in twenty seconds.” Johnny runs into the room and buckles into his seat. Then he hands Reed Victor’s notes.

An alarm goes off. “What else could go wrong?” “God,” Sue whispers, “it’s the advanced warning alarm. A cosmic radiation storm is incoming, ETA 30 seconds.” “Right,” Reed says. “We can get behind the shielding, and save ourselves… or we stay the course, and prevent all life on Earth from going the way of the dinos. Team?” “You get,” Ben says. “It only takes one of us to fly this heap.” “And one of us to keep the generator going. Reed, take Johnny.” “You might need his big brain,” Johnny says. “And if anything happens to blockhead, neither of you could fly your way out of a paper bag…” “He’s right,” Reed says. “Hey,” Ben complains. “Not about your head. We’re going to have to manually fire the wormhole generator, and get it precise- no mean feet, with two objects hurtling through the cosmos at these kinds of speeds.” “I don’t think I want to go out with Cybill again, anyway,” Johnny says. “She doesn’t even like Batman.” The ship is bathed in colorful light. “It’s been an honor,” Reed says. “I don’t feel so hot,” Ben says, slumping in his chair. Johnny’s there, and helps steady him in the chair. “I got you. Just help me, keep her, steady.” “Ship’s fighting us, stretch. Not going to hold much longer.” “She’ll hold a few more seconds,” Reed says, “because she has to. Susan?” “Ready, darling.” “Gross,” Johnny moans. “Now!” she hits the wormhole generator as the ship is struck from behind by the asteroid. Both slingshot around the curve of the nearest planet, striking Victor’s escape pod as all three objects disappear.

“Victor?” Reed asks, before the pod shakes loose and bounces away, disappearing when it strikes the colorful walls of the wormhole. To black. Slow titles appear on screen “Five Decades Later” The wormhole opens up, and fires the asteroid into the sun. In a tense scene, Johnny and Ben try to get the ship to turn while Reed and Sue try to get the ship repaired enough to steer; it’s been through so much it’s nearly dead stick- where their trajectory would carry them into the sun. They’re close enough to the sun, now, that it’s getting impossible to survive it, though they’re all starting to change, subtly, Ben swelling through his suit, Sue flickering. Sue and Reed get the ship repaired enough, as Ben passes out. Johnny, for some reason, isn’t impacted by the heat. “Get him out of here,” Johnny says, taking the controls. Reed and Sue start to drag Ben out. “You won’t make it,” Sue says. “If I don’t, none of us will,” Johnny says, sweat dripping down his brow. They get into the shielded crew compartment, and she turns, panicked, to Reed. “How long can he survive that heat?” she asks. Reed pauses, before looking at her, haunted, “I don’t know how any of us did… if my figures are correct, the four of us just became the first human beings to survive atmospheric temperatures of more than 100 degrees?” “That isn’t Fahrenheit, is it?” “My equation outputs Celsius.” They wobble as the ship jolts. “He’s done it.” Johnny comes over the intercom, “Think we’re out of the woods, if you want to come back into the cockpit.”

When they do, Johnny’s on fire. Sue grabs the extinguisher and puts him out, and is surprised to find that he’s largely untouched, except for a few singes on his uniform. “How, how are you not burned?” “I told the fire not to burn my clothes, and it worked. Sort of.” Ben’s swelling subtly, but also, his skin is getting harder. Subtly, as he scratches his face, small pebbles roll off, and the noise is audible.

They’re all starting to change as they make it back to Earth. The ship is damaged enough they aren’t going to make it to an airstrip, let alone to Florida where they launched. Ben manages to crash the ship into New York harbor to dump heat from their reentry. They’re picked up by harbor patrol, who hand them off to the NYPD. They ask to be taken to 4 Freedoms Plaza, home of the Foundation that backed their asteroid shot, only to find that the Four Freedoms Plaza has been turned into the Latverian Embassy. A portrait of a slightly older Victor hangs in the lobby. The moment they enter, the entire embassy goes into lockdown, with the screens showing wanted posters from Latveria showcasing the Four (as Ben gets increasingly more craggy, he’ll resemble his less and less). The lobby is stormed by Latverian marines, modernly trained but dressed and equipped for a different century, think the Vatican Swiss Guard, but dressed in grey and greeen. The lights go out, and there’s noise as fighting happens in the dark. “Come on, I know I can do this… flame on?” Johnny summons a fireball in his hand, and his eyes go wide, “Dude, look.” In Johnny’s flames we can see their rescuer. I’d pay Chris Evans to show up as Old Cap as a favor to Nick Fury (wearing what’s basically the stealth suit from Winter Soldier), though you could get some of the same mileage from having Winter Soldier. “We’d better go. We’re trespassing on Latverian soil, standing here.”

Cap (or Nick or Bucky- or Sam, if we’re not too worried about the number of movies left on his contract) lead them to a safehouse. Johnny stares at him for a good solid minute without saying anything. “Nick thought you could use a friendly face, from someone who’s been where you’ve been. And few know what it’s like to come back to a world that’s grown decades since you saw her last.” “Wait,” Johnny breaks his silence, “you’re Captain America.” “That’s right,” Steve says, standing up a little straighter. “Dude, you got really old.” “That’s true.” “You were old when you disappeared- not like Reed old- but still old, but now? You’re like Reed’s going to look next week.” “You should probably just ignore him, Mr. America,” Sue says. “Mr. America was my father’s name- well, it was Joe. But you can call me Steve.” “Steve, what the hell happened back there?” Reed asks.

“Near as Nick could tell, Victor Von Doom ejected during your mission in the 60s. He showed up ten years ago, and went to work hoovering up all of Reed’s old work. If you weren’t a genius, you might not have known that he was burying everything the Future Foundation ever patented, but SHIELD had its share of those on the payroll. As far as we can tell, Victor’s pissed off, at Reed, specifically. Not only has he disappeared all of his innovations, but he prepared that little welcoming committee in case you ever did show up.” “But why?” Sue asks. “What did Reed do to Victor?”

In the penthouse of the Latverian Embassy (or Castle Doomstadt, he keeps both identically adorned), Victor looks pristine, giving an easy smile before hanging up a video call. His smile fades, and he peels off his faux face, technically metal but also mixing some space age plastics, to a point where it is mostly flexible. It should be the stuff of nightmares, as this face’s mouth seems to scream as he peels it away from himself and then throws it in into a trashcan. We play coy for a moment, before revealing that he bears a scar from his trip through the wormhole; it’s not overly large or hideous.

“What did I do to Hitler? What did Milli do to Vanilli? What did Thor do to Loki? Some people are just born mean, determined to grind those around them under their heel.” “Who’s Vanilli?” asks Johnny. “One of Tony’s favorite musicians. But the important take-away is this: your old rival is now the richest man on the planet, leader of a sovereign nation with diplomatic immunity, and seriously wants to hurt all four of you.” “Who’s Milli?” Johnny asks. “Tony’s other favorite musician. They had a feud, or battle of the bands or- it’s not important right now. Nick told me to bring you here, and to consider this safehouse burned. All the tech here is yours to use, and the location is yours, too- though the longer you come and go from here, the more likely Victor tracks you back to it.”

“Is there anything else you can do to help us?” Reed asks. “Von Doom is one of the most brilliantly ruthless men on the planet, and because of his position is virtually untouchable by anyone in law enforcement. He’s also crooked; his regime has been linked to terrorism, human trafficking, arms and technology smuggling. I wish I could give you your lives back. But Nick did give me one last thing, something that might be enough for you to take them back yourselves.”

Reed follows Cap’s gaze to a table, with a single folder on it. Reed picks it up and begins to peruse. Cut to later, Reed still reading. “Fascinating,” he says, and pulls up a news clip on the screen at the rear of the room. “Following the Sukovian tragedy, Victor Von Doom, the often elusive Latverian ruler, challenged the Iron Man, better known publicly as billionaire Tony Stark, to a contest, to see whose armor was superior. The challenge read in part, ‘Anything that preening industrialist can do, Doom can accomplish to an even greater degree of precision, and with a more impressive pedigree of engineering elegance. There is not a task at which his armor is superior, and several for which I have designed brilliant solutions to problems which he has scarcely considered.’ “Stark famously declined the contest, replying in an open letter that Doom ‘can shove that low-rent knock-off armor where his Iron Throne pokes him.’” (I imagine they hire an amusing sound-alike, billed as ‘Tony Snark’ to read the quote) “What’s an Iron Throne?” Johnny asks as he helps Ben hobble to a chair. “Where an Iron Man pops an iron squat?” Ben suggests. 

Cut to later. Johnny is looking out over the city, at 4 Freedoms Tower (possibly through a web or traffic cam on a nearby skyscraper). “I want to go home,” Johnny says, wrapping his arms around his legs. “I know,” Sue says, “me, too. But it’s not our home anymore.” She wraps an arm around him and leans her head on his shoulder.

Sue wakes first, roused by the smell of breakfast cooking in the kitchen. She follows it, to find one of Reed’s arms flailing somewhat wildly as it cookies (looking kind of like the Swedish chef from the Muppets). She follows the arm into the next room, where Reed is. “Ah, Susan. My models suggested there was a 57% chance you would wake before the others, which I was hoping for, since I wanted talk.” “What’s going on with your arms?” “That was what I wanted to discuss with you,” he says, and turns, and she can see that one of his eyes is missing- because he’s shifted it onto the arm in the kitchen to be able to see what he’s doing in the kitchen. She gasps, and starts to fall, and he catches her. “Oh, no,” he mutters, as dishes clatter in the kitchen, and an instant later his own hand rubberbands into his own face, knocking him off his feet (though he manages to steady Sue on her feet before he falls).

Reed picks himself off the floor, picking eggs off his cooking arm. “It’s a bit discombobulating, like rubbing your stomach while using a graphing calculator, but it should be a surmountable difficulty.” He sees that she’s still just as confused and concerned as he is. “We were exposed, both before and during our trip through the wormhole, to cosmic radiation and other exotic energies. As a result, we’re changing. That’s why Johnny was able to survive the extreme heat, or create fire. It’s why Benjamin has been swelling, why his skin is petrifying and now has a hardness of 9.5 on the Moh scale- and might well hit a ten before its done. Obviously, my tissues have become incredibly flexible, while also granting me extraordinary control over said tissues. I’m uncertain what- Susan?” She’s invisible. “I’m here,” she says. “Fascinating,” he says, stretching his fingers out towards the sound of her voice, before one stops. “Ow. What the heck was that?” “I can’t see you,” Reed says. “Can you?” “Of course I can, oh, I can’t. Is this safe?” “Theoretically. Of course, I know of no scientific explanation that would account for mutations such as these. Which admittedly make safety estimates less certain. But I’ve been running tests on hair and skin samples.” “Reed, did you ask any of us for samples?” “Most of them were mine. Though I did brush a few of Ben’s skin flakes off the couch, just to be certain my results weren’t an outlier.” “And?” “And our results appear to be retreating from entropy, rather than rushing towards it. Meaning, our conditions are stabilizing- but stabilizing as a new status quo. Epithelial cells in the small intestine are all replaced within a 2 to 4 day window. Sampling indicates my altered genetic profile has gone from 40% when we arrived last night, to over 66% this morning. Incidentally, I can see you.” “I’m learning to turn it off, and turn it on.” She disappears again. He reaches for her again, “Ah, ah, Mr. Handsy.” This time his fingers stop in a perfect cylinder around her. “Susan… how to put this delicately… has your body-shape become more cylindrical?” “What? No, of course…” “Then do me a favor, and push, not with your hands, but with your mind, push back against me…” his hands start to spread further as her invisible forcefield expands. “Whoa, I can… I feel it. That’s so strange.” “Goodness,” Reed says, “I didn’t tell you to push so hard, but I… you’re much stronger than I am.” The forcefield drops, and she’s actually standing beside him. She pecks him on the cheek. “I’ve always known that, but I’m proud you could finally admit it.” He narrows his eyes, and swings his hands to grab her, but misses. “Gross,” Johnny says sleepily from the door. “I followed the smells of breakfast, and instead find the two of you literally playing grabass.”

“Somebody say breakfast?” Ben asks from the opposite door; he’s really starting to resemble the ever-lovin’, blue-eyed Thing we know and love- but they haven’t grown to love him yet, so his appearance causes a stir. “Jesus,” Johnny says, “I’m suddenly thankful I haven’t had breakfast yet.” “Johnny!” Sue says, reappearing. “Jesus,” Ben yelps, stumbling back, and when he does, his footsteps shake the building. Johnny holds up something reflective for Ben to see his reflection, and Ben moves his hands, at first not putting together that he’s the rock monster he sees. “What a revoltin’ development,” he says, his voice hollow.

Over a breakfast spread, mostly finished, the four sit, contemplative. “I can’t be sure about our prognosis,” Reed says. “I’ve looked over his data,” Sue starts, “and while it’s hard to call any of this good news, I think Reed’s right. We’re stabilizing.” “At least as best we can tell with his equipment.” “What’s wrong with the flasks, and flanges, and…” Ben asks, clearly out of his depth. “We’ve spent fifty years outside of time, but most of this was low-tech even before we disappeared.” “We need cutting edge equipment if we’re going to verify our condition,” Sue agrees. “But Victor’s seen to it we can’t move publically,” Reed says, turning on a monitor. News footage is looping of their escape from the embassy, with the title, “Terrorists strike Latverian Embassy in the heart of NYC.” Artist renderings of each of them looking extra disheveled and ‘murderer’ flash across the screen; Ben’s is especially grotesque and hurtful. “We need to clear our names if we’re going to find the equipment we need. But it’s worse than that. The story he planted wasn’t a lark- he’s left no tragedy unexploited. Victor has put in place a plot to ensure that we’ll never be able to repair our damaged reputations.”

Reed puts four images up on the screen, four people bearing at least a passing resemblance to them; as he describes them, the image zooms (we can also cut to CCTV security and other footage captured of them at various crimes). “Victor has assembled these four convicted criminals, who called themselves the Wrecking Crew. His internal documents describe them as the ‘Frightful Four,’ a play on the name the newspapermen gave us back before Victor joined our expedition. On paper, they appear to have no connection to Latveria or Victor, but Fury’s dossier proves links to mystical artifacts or operatives of Doom. Wrecker has a degree of military experience, and uses a crowbar forged using the largest extant sliver of Mjolnir after Hela destroyed it, combined with infernal magics. Piledriver’s gauntlets were based on those worn by Crossbones, a deceased mercenary, but have been augmented with an exoskeleton. Reports indicate Doom acquired the helm of the champion of Cytorrak, and gave it to Bulldozer, granting her a degree of extrahuman strength and durability. Thunderball uses a wrecking ball once owned by one Crusher Creel, and seems able to absorb the properties of items when he’s touching the ball, though his real weapon is his intellect. It’s no coincidence there are four of them. Victor’s plans include dozens of potential targets, all dependent on the circumstances of our return, and designed to give him maximum flexibility in undermining us.” “So we’re screwed?” Johnny asks.

“No. Victor, as always, is too dependent on his formulae, which I’ve been able to increment upon. I know, with 90% certainty, which target he’ll choose first, and with 98% certainty which two are the likeliest targets.” Johnny: “Am I the only one who notices the hubris involved in him noting Doom’s hubris?”

Wrecker smashes in the glass façade of Latveria’s embassy. “Doom wants property damage,” he bellows, “mutilated corpses, fire. We’re going to make Reed Richards, the Storms and that Thing famous- let’s get those pricks on the evening news.” Wrecker falls to the ground, the pavement cracking underneath him. “That’s no way to talk to or about a lady,” Sue says. She’s immediately speared by Bulldozer, who rams her into a wall. “I’ll tell you if I see one,” Bulldozer says, then yelps, as Reed uses his arm as a snare to fling her back out of the embassy, past Ben who is running inside. He collides with Piledriver, and they trade blows before Ben is knocked over from behind with a wrecking ball by Thunderball. He hovers over Ben, preparing to smash him with the wrecking ball when it catches fire, causing him to drop it next to Ben’s head.

“Try not to set the whole place on fire,” Reed says. Johnny helps Sue up, “How is it I’m doing this with my older sister and somehow he’s the mother hen?” He’s knocked back by Bulldozer; Sue pops her into the air, and yells “Reed!” His fists swell in the air before he brings them down on Bulldozer, knocking her so hard onto the marble floor that she bounces, groaning after the second landing. Wrecker, who’s gotten back up, punches Reed in the back with his magic crowbar, but Reed forms around it, then uses his torso like a fist to tear it free from Wrecker’s grasp (he’s surprised when his hand comes out of Reed empty). “What?” Reed smacks him in the face with his own crowbar. Thunderball grabs Reed, temporarily absorbing his stretchiness long enough to get Wrecker’s crowbar back. “Think we made our point,” Thunderball yells, tossing Wrecker back his crowbar, and leading their retreat. On the way out, Wrecker smashes one of the four corners of the building, threatening to bring it down. Reed coaches the others through lifting, supporting and then welding it in place. By then, the Fearsome Four are gone.

“I… may have put my phone in the girl one’s pocket,” Johnny says. “We’re going to have to have a long talk about the appropriateness of putting your hands in women’s pockets without their permission,” Sue tells him. “It was only so we could track them. It’s not like I make a habit of it or anything.” “Is it a habit if it happens more than once?” Ben asks. Reed uses his phone to remotely activate the microphone on Johnny’s phone. They hear the Fearsome Four talking to Doom; he demands they continue with the plan, they demand to be given the tech they were promised to complete the job. He refuses to budge, but Thunderball has figured out where the cache is, and they decide they’ll help themselves.  

They track the Fearsome Four to a memorial for those killed in the Chitauri invasion (designed similar to the 9/11 memorial), where Doom has a weapons stash because he’s a monster. They gear up, and Reed & Co. think they’re going to have a hard fight, with the linchpin being they need to capture them without letting them destroy any of their equipment, so it can be traced back to Doom. Doom, pissed they’re robbing him, floats down from the sky. He’s wearing green robes over his powered armor, looking more like medieval plate male than what Iron Man wears. His face (specifically his faux face) is exposed; he refuses to cover his face in public, even during a fight. Doom quickly takes down the Fearsome Four all on his own (if we’re somehow under budget at this point, we could always have Reed and the rest fight all five of them, but I’m assuming we’d rather have Doom be the big bad on his own, and it ups his threat for him to one-hit take out the other bad guys). “I am DOOM!” he booms, and it’s a very dramatic moment, until Johnny asks, “Wait, are you our doom or are you our Doom? That’s kind of confusing.” Doom attacks, zapping Johnny first, “Insolent pup!” he bellows. “Arrogant, uh, what’s the opposite of a pup? Old dog?” “Dick!” Ben suggests, ducking under one of Doom’s blasts.

“He’s wielding some kind of exotic interdimensional energies,” Reed says as one of Doom’s blasts zings past his head. “Say ‘magic,’” Ben yelps, “you can just call it ‘magic.’” “That nomenclature only applies if we lack sufficient knowledge to quantify-” Sue yanks him out of the way of another blast with a forcefield. “Don’t pull his string unless you want him to keep talking,” she yells.

Sue uses one of her forcefields to absorb one of Doom’s magic bolts, seeming to disappear. Doom considers a moment, before casting a spell to transmute the air in her field into chlorine gas. She collapses, gasping and coughing. “Sue!” Johnny yells, banging on the forcefield. Doom opens a portal similar to those opened with sling rings, venting the chlorine at Johnny, making it harder for him to breathe and putting out his flame. Doom then manages to goad Ben into lunging at him, dodging at the last second so Ben gets caught up in Reed’s extended torso, and gets rubber-banded several blocks away.

Reed sighs, pulling his limbs back to his body. “Victor, I’m sorry, truly, for everything that’s happened to you. But this fight? It diminishes us both. Do we want to be children slap-fighting at a memorial? Or should we take our rightful places at the head of a pantheon of intellects, building a better future because we could stand on the shoulders of men like Stark and Pym?” “A false dichotomy, Richards. I choose instead to take my place uncontested at the top, standing triumphantly on your corpse, held aloft on the shoulders of the men you admire so.” “That was uncalled for, Victor, and beneath you.” “The only thing beneath me here is you, Richards.”

“Very well, Victor,” Reed says, filling his lungs and inflating his chest, growing increasingly large. “You know what they say about the bigger the foes.” “Wrong lesson, Victor,” Reed says, and lets the air go, blowing the gas clear or Johnny and Sue. “You’ve rescued the Storms, who I’d already subdued. I’m scarcely quaking in my boots.” As we pan down to his metal boots, a street sign, from Yancy Street, embeds like a spear between his feet. “We taking off the kid gloves?” Ben asks. He’s holding a few more makeshift weapons formed from street signs, lengths of rebar, etc. “Yes, Ben.” “Then it’s clobberin’ time.” Ben cracks his knuckles as he advances. He uses a stop sign as a shield when Doom tries to blast him, then flings the sign into Doom’s metal chestpiece with a loud twang.

“How are you, Sue?” Reed asks. “Going to have one hell of a headache, tomorrow.” “I need you to reverse an invisible field around Doom- so he can’t see us or what we’re doing to him.” “I… think I can do that.” “Hold it as long as you can- or until we’re in place.” Cut to Doom, suddenly floating in a black hole. He tries to use his blasts to light his way, but can’t see anything but himself. “Johnny, I want you to heat the air around the forcefield; when Sue drops it, I want him to think we’ve dropped him on the sun.” “You got it.” “And me?” Ben asks. “I don’t care what kind of exotic materials that suit of armor’s made of, you can’t both protect the wearer and redirect the heat. He’s going to be worse for wear when Johnny lets up, his armor will be at its weakest. Rip him out of it.”

Cut inside the bubble, where Doom howls, attacking the forcefield. Outside, Sue screams, the force of his attack hurting her. “Sue, drop it. Johnny!” Doom says, “Finally” as the forcefield starts to dissipate, only to be replaced by a wall of flame. Subtly, he covers his face with his gauntlets to protect his faux flesh. Johnny continues to pour the flames on, but Doom continues to advance. “Not sure how long I can keep this uh,” Johnny falls, his flame extinguishing. “Ben!” Reed yells, pulling Johnny away as a glowing red doom, most of his robes burnt away, swipes at him. Ben hits him so hard he leaves a big rock-fist-shaped dent in Doom’s shoulder. They trade blows, becoming more savage as they go, until finally, Victor hits Ben with a haymaker that splits a new crack in his face. Victor grabs Ben by the head, levering the considerable strength in his armor to try and crush Ben’s head. It’s working, new fractures showing in Ben’s face as he cries out.

“Let him go,” Johnny says. Ben screams as his rocky skin cracks under Doom’s continued pressure, “Let him go!” Johnny yells, blasting Victor in the face with the last of his flame. Doom screams, his faux face having been melted by the heat, scalding Victor’s face. He stumbles away, the molten metal and plastic melting into his flesh and dripping off in sizzling globules. He covers his face as he runs. A moment later, a doombot, in full face mask, appears, and blasts at Red and Sue. She hits him with an invisible forcefield square in the chest, smashing his armor inward on the edge of the memorial as a helicopter arrives, lighting the battlefield with a spotlight.    

Cut to Ben, in the hospital, recuperating, trying (and failing) to eat his Jell-o cup (I’m thinking a montage of him, first trying to open the cup with his big stony fingers, then shattering his spoon, then squeezing the cup too hard, firing ballistic Jell-o at one of the nurses). Eventually Johnny opens it for him. “My he-ro,” Ben says, and spends a moment staring at the open cup. “I mean it, matchstick. I wouldn’t be breathing, if you hadn’t” he tries to pick up his spoon, and it’s a puddle. “You melted my spoon.” “In my defense, I didn’t know you were going to get all-” “Genuine?” “Yeah. You’re the dumb older brother who I play pranks on for picking on me. But when you get all maudlin, I start to feel-” “Mean?” “Like a jerk. But yeah. Pretty much.” “Tell you what. You get me another spoon, we’ll call it square.” “Okay. Sure, Ben.”

Johnny passes Reed and Sue in the hallway. Reed sighs. “I knew Victor was dangerous, that his arrogance, that his ego, made him a ticking bomb. I thought I was smart enough I’d know when it was time to disarm him, and how. And I called him arrogant.” “We needed him,” she soothes. “Without him we never would have been able to stop that asteroid.” “And with him? We have nothing. No identity, no home. Fury’s rations won’t last forever-” “Especially not at the rate Ben and Johnny have been eating through them.” “I put all of you in harm’s way. Victor hurt you, all of you, to get to me- left us with no one willing to help us, with no resources, with nothing.” “We have each other,” Sue says, guiding his gaze to Johnny, bringing Ben a new spoon. Ben tousles Johnny’s hair. Pull back, keeping Ben and Johnny in the background, but now we can see Reed and Sue, too. Reed stretches his arm so he can wrap it around Sue, then we fade to black.   

Pre-credits scene: Johnny runs into Cybill Shepherd (or any other beautiful celebrity woman who would have been born around 1950 or so). “Johnny Storm; you haven’t aged a day.” “Did you used to babysit me or something?” “Haven’t gotten any smarter, either.” His jaw drops. “Cybill? Oh, man, I made out with an old lady.” “Nor have you gotten any more mature,” she sighs.

Mid-credits scene: Johnny emerges from a second-run theater with “Batman v Superman: Moms of Justice” on the marquee. “Something really bad happened to Batman. And Superman’s kind of a humorless jerk, too.” Ben, in a trenchcoat and hat, loudly sucking at a huge soda, walks behind him. “Eh, I kinda liked it.” “Yeah,” Johnny snatches his hat, “that’s cause you’re a humorless jerk, too.” “Gimme that back, matchstick.” Ben runs after him offscreen to the right, and after a moment he runs back on screen and stops, panting as Johnny flies off in the opposite direction. “It goes with the coat.” Johnny sets his trenchcoat on fire. “Then don’t look behind you.”

Bonus: Pitch 1.0

Note: Around the time of Fant4stic, I wrote up a pitch to do a version as unlike that movie as possible set within the MCU, so it jumped off the Ultimate FF, and used a then-alive Tony to do for them what he did for Spider-Man in Homecoming.      

Tony Stark starts and partially funds the Baxter Initiative, a mostly-US collection of scientific upstarts. It looks like an international Science Fair, but really it’s an excuse to bring together some of the world’s greatest young minds to figure out the Chitauri portal. Their entries are just that- their entry into the Baxter Initiative.

The initiative is headed by the other funder, eccentric, wealthy, handsome and brilliant Victor von Doom. He is the only noble remaining in the small country of Latveria, but wishes to transform his nation’s economy into the first completely tech-based economy, where it is currently purely agrarian. He’s essentially emptying his country’s coffers to future proof. To that end, he has been granted exclusivity rights to 50% of the initiatives work (and 100% of his own). We’re introduced to him when Dr. Storm introduces Sue to him; he’s discussing a political matter at home with the current Prime Minister, Lucia von Bardas (or somesuch).

The primary technology they’re focused on is the teleportation used to push the Chitauri invasion force to Earth. To that end they have countless Chitauri artifacts, as well as every item that ever came into contact with the portal, including Iron Man’s armor (which he disarmed personally). Tony introduces the initiative, and explains he believes things should always be run by the smartest guy in the room, and that’s why, the moment he’s gone, Victor will be in charge.

Victor is approximately Sue Storm’s age, both on the cusp of adulthood (somewhere in the 17-20 range), and are the oldest prodigies there. Sue was volunteered by her military father, a DARPA scientist who is one of the elders overseeing the prodigies. In tow, because their mother is dead, is Sue’s younger brother Johnny. Not an idiot, but not quite a genius. He is, however, enrolled in the sister piloting program, having the kinds of reflexes (honed in gaming) thought to be necessary for flying drones, and potentially one day piloting a craft through one of these portals. Also enrolled is Reed Richard’s childhood friend, Ben Grimm, something of a flying prodigy who already has flight experience, and has pre-qualified for a pilot’s license (which he’ll receive once he’s old enough).

We hit the usual beats, Doom is a little too aggressive/entitled with Sue, so she chooses the geekier Richards for her workmate (also pointing out to Doom that he scored one point higher on their ASVAB test [or whatever might be more appropriate]). Initially, several different teams coalesce with different ideas/proposals, but as each fails in succession, they disband and join the still flourishing teams of Doom and Richards. Doom’s prototype uses a suit similar to Iron Man’s, designed to work both as life support in the unknown area they’re trying to open, as well as a power source and projector for the portal.

Doom’s proposal fails, and Doom is only saved when Reed pulls him out of the portal at the last minute; his face is nearly sheered off by the closing portal, which cuts the metal mask off his face (a tease, since Doom getting his face mangled is part of his origin), but aside from a few minute cuts he heals. The next day Reed gives it his try. And also fails. It’s only when Doom and Reed combine their intellects (and research) that all of the puzzle pieces fall into place. Sue is somewhat the unsung hero in this, proving to have not just scientific but managerial acumen, and balancing the needs of the various team members to allow the now massive team to work in tandem. They manage to open a portal.

The first portal is small, just large enough to permit the drones to enter, flown by the best pilots, including Ben and Johnny, flying with the first squadron. The drones fail. The portal creates enough electric feedback that they aren’t able to communicate back with their pilots. Even their back-up programs, meant to automate the drone’s return in the event of a lost connection, is killed by the electricity.

They fly one more volley of drones; Reed attaches rope to one, and is able to pull it back through the portal, and get some reading off of it. The military-minded want to bomb the portal. Reed and Sue argue that it’s wrong to bomb a people they can’t even see, that they don’t even know if they’ve succeeded in opening a portal to the Chitauri. Doom doesn’t back them up, mostly due to uncertainty, driving a further wedge between them and allowing the military minded (led by Stark and Dr. Storm) to decide on a preemptive strike.

The prodigees can’t sleep in their dorm. Sue is restless, and wants to act. Reed has an idea of how they can. He says they’ll need pilots, dragging along Ben and Johnny. Reed offers Doom a chance at redemption, to come and help them. He reluctantly agrees.

Reed’s initial entry was a flying car design, which was meant to be modular, cheap and easy to reproduce with 3D printing. With some quick design tweaks, they’re able to print out four more, which interlock into a proto Fantasticar.

Reed tests his design remotely first, with Ben flying it into the portal. It’s designed to be as electronics free as possible, and EMP-hardened, for safety reasons. Ben loses control of the drone as soon as its inside, but this time the tweaked ship is able to return via the portal. What readings they get don’t indicate any known radiation or danger. It’s a risk, but less than blindly firing nuclear weapons, possibly at peaceful alien worlds. They decide to chance it.

Doom insists on wearing his Iron Man derived suit, in part because he has designed his own offensive capabilities into it. Reed is against it, given that the tech might react similarly to how the drones did to the portal. Doom reasons that Stark managed to fly his suit through the portal without incident, and he’d feel better to be prepared for the unknown.

They fly into the portal, this time projected over New York to allow room for the Fantasticar to fly through it. Doom’s suit immediately shorts as they pass through the portal, reacting violently to the unknown physics of this strange environment. The violence is enough that his part of the Fantasticar explodes, and hurtles away from the other cars, crashing against a vaguely alien monolith. More subtly, they all start to react to the strange dimension.

Back on Earth, Dr. Storm discovers the portal is open. He’s about to turn it off when he decides to check the cameras in the facility, and realizes his children and some of their equipment is missing.

Ben and Johnny work together to guide the plane down to Doom. Johnny takes a picture of the monolith with his cell phone, which survived the portal by being shut off. They argue, briefly, about what to do. Reed says it isn’t safe to help him, Sue says it isn’t right to leave him. Ben complains about not feeling well, while Johnny freaks out about them going there secretly, that they shouldn’t have gone without the adults. Sue tells him the adults wouldn’t have helped, and she’s not going to be like them, and reaches for the button to open her hatch.

But Reed’s already out of his ship. He tells Sue he knows her well enough than to think he could talk her out of helping Victor. He tries to lift him, to get him into his part of the car. He can’t lift him. Matter works differently- especially on his metal suit- and he can’t even lift him. In fact, when he tries it feels like his arms are stretching (and we see it, ever so subtly).

Suddenly they’re attacked, with blasts of strange radiation hitting the ship. Reed tells Ben to fly off, get the others to safety. Ben tells him he’s not abandoning him. Sue’s about to get out of the car, and Johnny tells Reed they will come back for him, but he doesn’t want to have to explain to his dad why his sister’s been irradiated. Ben gets out of the plane, and they try to lift Victor. Johnny flies off, trying to save his sister, as the blasts follow the plane.

They still can’t lift Doom. Ben apologizes, then cold-cocks Reed. Johnny brings back the plane- because Sue wouldn’t let him leave them, either. Ben dumps Reed in and they fly off. Ben promises Sue they’ll come back for Doom as soon as they can.

They take evasive maneuvers, even breaking the Fantasticar in half (with Reed and Ben flying in one part and Johnny and Sue in the other). This destabilizes the car and they’re both barely able to crash back through the gate, which, to their surprise, has been pulled back inside the lab, so they crash against tables and equipment.

Ben is screaming, but the sound he makes is becoming increasingly less human. Johnny looks fine, but says his skin is on fire. Reed can barely keep his mind together. That’s when the thing pursuing them starts to push through the portal. Reed is able to shut down the portal as it enters, severing the creature’s hand but leaving it stranded in its own dimension. But Reed is still across the room from the portal controls, with his arm stretched to it. He screams, and his arm snaps back like a rubber band, knocking him to the floor.

Except he doesn’t hit the floor. He’s caught, by something invisible. Sue realizes she’s holding out her hands, as if to catch him, and pulls them back, and he immediately falls.

Lady Sif arrives from Asgard. She explains that the portal opened on an area called the Negative Zone. It’s essentially been used as an interdimensional prison for a monster some other reality couldn’t destroy. The Asgardians accidentally found their way there, once, when the Bifrost malfunctioned. He killed several of their warriors before they were able to lock him back in his prison, a fight that broke Thor’s arm.

We cut back to inside the strange zone, with Doom, his flesh essentially melted into his suit, being tortured by the creature (It’s called Annhilus in the comics). It uses an ancient magic in its torture of him, trying to figure out how to get out of its prison.

Reed translates the hieroglyphs on the monolith Johnny got a picture of while Sue argues with her father. She wants to mount a rescue operation to get Doom back. Storm is more convinced than ever that they should nuke the area. She isn’t making headway. A haunted Reed tells them that the glyphs are a warning, not to release the creature. “He is annihilation, plague made flesh. Release him, and all worlds will die.”

The portal opens again, for a moment, and they see the creature, and can hear Doom’s screams. Dr. Storm is now more adamant about said nuking. The F4 are escorted by soldiers back to their dorm, to be kept there under guard until it’s done.

Reed asks Johnny for his phone, then has Ben and Johnny create a distraction. Or at least, that’s the plan. Ben and Johnny starting picking on each other loudly. Johnny starts smoking- smoke billowing off him. The room starts to fill with it, and the guards come in. Johnny bursts into flames, and goes running down the hall screaming. As he picks up speed, he starts flying down the hall, through the window at the end of it and out into the sky over New York. He falls, screaming, but the scream becomes jubilant as he realizes he isn’t falling at all, he’s flying.

Back in the lab, the military are prepping a tactical nuclear weapon. On the main screen Lucia pops up, and says that while Doom is considered their head of state, and while he remains in the portal, any attack launched against the portal will be considered an act of war against Latveria. At that moment, Reed, Sue and Ben arrive, pursued by their military guard. Von Bardas thanks Reed for the message. Ben sends the guards flying into the wall when they try to lay a hand on him.

Dr. Storm is pissed off. Reed interrupts him, and says they need to go, now, if they want to have any chance of saving Doom or preventing the creature from reverse-engineering the tech they left behind. Storm wants a proper military intervention.

Johnny crashes through the skylight. Storm sprays him with a fire extinguisher, and covers him in his lab coat. Reed explains that there’s clearly some kind of unknown energy in the other dimension, and that they’ve already been exposed, and he can’t even guarantee that their continued presence on Earth isn’t a danger to all of humanity. They can’t send anybody else- they’re the only ones who can or should go.

Sue has to convince him that it’s the right thing, and to be a soldier, not a father. He relents. They stitch the Fantasticar back together. Dr. Storm sends them with some energy weapons, just in case. They reopen the portal, and the creature flies down into an unsuspecting New York, landing in Times Square. New Yorkers are pretty freaked out, given that the portal resembles the Chitauri one.

The creature immediately blasts the buildings around it, sending people scattering. Johnny pops the cockpit on his car, and goes flying out, on fire, of course yelling, “Flame On.” He engulfs the creature in fire, and Johnny, assuming he’s won, lands in front of a crowd, and extinguishes his flames. They immediately start snapping pictures of him, and he flies off. 

But the creatures isn’t dead. It gets back up. Ben is circling in the car, trying to see what’s going on. The creature fires a magical blast through his windshield. It’s absorbed by his flesh, that has already started to rock out, causing him to crush the controls in his hands. He continues to grow until he pops, like a piece of popcorn, out of the bottom of the car. 

The creature stands, still burning, in front of the terrified crowd. Thing lands on him, smashing him into the concrete. He gives a confused wave to the crowd. An instant later he’s flung by the creature, flying several streets.

Reed flies the car, badly, as Sue coordinates with her dad to get control of the Times Square boards. Reed is then projected there, so he can coordinate Johnny and Ben, to tell them they need to get the creature back through the portal, that if they can get him into the air, he’ll do the rest. Johnny distracts him, strafing him with fire, while Thing makes the long slog back from where he landed. He’s dragging a street sign from Yancy Street with him. 

Thing glances at the car overhead, and then smacks the creature in its crotch, knocking it into the sky. Reed smacks into it, and the momentum of the car sends them flying through the portal.

The weapons don’t make the trip. Reed is unconscious, and the creature is about to attack, when it’s blind-sided by Thing. Punching ensues. The creature is too strong, and gains the upper hand, until Johnny, on fire again, attacks it. They give it a run for its money, but eventually it wears them down. Sue, meanwhile, is trying to get Reed to wake up. She notices the creature getting closer and tries to use one of the guns, but it fizzles. The creature towers above her and Reed, and she holds up her hand as it’s about to strike a killing blow. The blow lands on thin air, and she and Reed are gone.

The creature is confused for a moment, before figuring out that she has invisible forcefields. He uses some of his alien magic to make her appear to him. Then he blasts her with more magic, slowly compressing her bubble. Until Johnny and Thing come back for round 2. Sue changes her tactic, and uses her forcefield to hold the creature in place while Johnny and Thing beat on it. Reed wakes up, and assists, tying up the creature, freeing Sue up to join in the smashing, while he studies the hieroglyphics. He realizes there’s a way to seal it back in the monolith, if they can get it back inside.

That’s when things start to take a turn. The creature winds enough of Reed around it’s fist to use him as a whip. Sue, in trying to protect herself, hits Reed. The creature manages to deflect Johnny’s fire into Thing’s eyes, temporarily blinding him.

That’s when the creature is hit from behind by a blast very much like his own. A bleeding, humbled Doom hobbles out of the monolith. In his hand are pages torn from the alien’s magical text. It asks how he could wield power it took him millenia to absorb. Doom replies that he’s a quick study, and unleashes another blast.

Thing grabs the creature’s right side. Sue gets on one side of the creature, and uses Reed as a rope with her power to lever in the opposite direction. Doom and Johnny hit the creature down the center with fire and magick, and he tears in half. It’s gruesome… but it’s not dead, either. The pieces are already starting to mend themselves back together. Reed scoops it up in his belly with everyone else’s help, then stretches the creature inside the monolith. Sue and Thing hold the broken pieces of the monolith back together, and Johnny superheats them so they fuse back in place. Doom also whispers some magic underneath his breath, though he doesn’t want them to know that he’s the real power binding the creature to the rock.

Their plane is screwed, so they can’t fly back out of the portal. Sue concentrates, and is able to create a platform to lift all of them (except the flying Johnny) through the portal. When Reed tries to help Doom onto the platform, he pulls angrily away from him, and steps up himself. They land safely on the ground back at Earth. Military ambulances meet them, to take them into quarantine. Doom is intercepted, and taken into von Bardas’ custody, instead.

Cut to a secluded military hospital. Dr. Storm asks Hank Pym if his children will be all right. He says that their cellular structure is unlike anything he’s ever seen. It might be unstable, and could kill them tomorrow. Or they could be immortal. But there’s nothing wrong with them, that he can find. Storm then asks Pym how he’d handle their other problem, and turns up the volume on the television. Video taken of the fight in Time Square shows Reed and Sue on the plane, along with plenty of video of Johnny and Ben, asking who were those fantastic four? Pym shrugs, and maybe says it’s too late to sweep it under the rug, that if he’s learned anything it’s that you have to embrace your legacy, let your kids make their own mistakes. 

Inside the quarantine, Reed is doing research. He stretches a pair of boxer shorts that he’s working on, and they stretch with the same flexibilty as he does. Sue asks what he’s working on, and he says he’s trying to adapt Dr. Pym’s particles into a material to make clothes for all of them- mostly so they can have pants that will keep up with Johnny and Ben (who is wearing only an oversized beach towel). It’s a light moment, we see the beginnings of their little dysfunctional family growing.

Cut to a gothic castle in Latveria, lit mostly by candle and torch. Von Bardas wants to have doctors remove the suit from Doom, she says they have some of the best surgeons in Europe standing by. He refuses, and retires to his private chamber. Alone, he stares into a mirror. He’s wearing regal green robes over the metal suit fused with his skin. His fingers curl over the edge of the mask, and he pulls. His face has been badly burned and scarred, and there’s some tearing as he pulls the mask away, where the burnt tissue scarred or healed around the metal, and we finally get to see the grotesque deformity. He screams Reed’s name as he smashes his hands down on the counter, shattering the marble countertop and the mirror, too.

Pitchmas 2019, Part 3: Blade

Blade: Vamp Lives Matter

I feel a little odd working on this one, since it would definitely be best to put it in the hands of an African American writer & director, but assume I’ll put my foot in my mouth a little (usually a fair assumption with me anyhow).

An African American woman runs through the wet streets of Harlem at night. She’s pursued by vampires, white ones, because if we’re going to do this we’re doing it right. Subtly, she’s leading them on a merry chase until they hit an alleyway and think they’ve got her cornered. Blade follows them into the alley, and makes short work of all but one, who gets the drop on Blade enough for us to worry. A metal hand ruptures through the vampire from behind; it’s now that we recognize the woman, and see the characteristic steel in her eyes: it’s Misty Knight.   

“Damnit,” she says, noticing one of them is wearing a policeman’s uniform. “I didn’t want you to be right,” she says. “Neither did I,” he says, and cleans his sword before sheathing it. Vampires have been working to infiltrate local police departments, especially on the night shift (usually turning the nightshift management into thralls or blackmailing them, so they can still influence policy during the day). They bury vampire-related assaults and deaths. “Shit,” she says, noticing the one in uniform had a bodycam. She takes it off, and turns it off. “Wired or wireless?” Blade asks. “We’re already in the cloud,” she says. “Can you erase it?” “No easier than you could.” “How long before it gets reviewed?” “Probably not until morning, unless someone reports them missing before then.” “Could you review it before then?” “Not anonymously. Why?” “It doesn’t matter if I’m on the footage. Risks aren’t worth preserving my anonymity. Yours?” “I appreciate the chivalry-” “I need someone embedded in the police. You can’t be if you’re suspended and under investigation.” Blade scoops the bodies into a nearby dumpster and sets them on fire, to make sure it will take longer for identification. They decide she’ll check first thing at the start of her shift in a couple of hours, stop at an all night diner to plan that contingency. It’s a recurring thing that Misty teases Blade for not having a life, social, romantic or otherwise.

We find out that the vampire cops have been preying primarily on African Americans. “Another black body drops in the hood, nobody blinks.” Misty tells Blade that if she’s on the tape, she’ll need him to erase the system- any footage manually deleted gets backed up for a week so it can be reviewed by superior officers. “It’s right next to the evidence lock-up. Take something valuable, and they focus on the likely suspects for a robbery without much concerning themselves over their buggy new camera system having another bad night.”

Misty shows up a few minutes early and proceeds right to the review equipment. She tells Dale, from the Nighshift, that the line for coffee was short today, so he can punch out early, and she starts reviewing the dead officer’s bodycams. At first she’s elated, she isn’t on the tape and she can wave Blade off. She takes out her phone to call Blade, then she notices, as he’s killed, that the officer falls mostly into a puddle, and in the reflection of the water you can see her, clear as day. She calls him, and he assures her that he’s got a distraction that should clear all the dayshift out of the office, leaving only the nightshift remaining- and suggests she check their CO’s files while everyone is dealing with his distraction/him.

Blade’s distraction sets a building on fire, cooking off a bunch of blanks so it sounds like gunfire started the blaze. With the dawn coming, the nightshift cops are on edge about staying, start slathering themselves with sunblock (not screen, which will make the white cops whiter still) nervously, knowing something’s up. That’s why when Blade smashes through a window, they immediately turn a wall of fire on him without hesitating. He’s not 100% sure who’s a vampire and who isn’t, so he’s reluctant to completely open up against the night shift, but fights his way to evidence. He’s been carrying heavy leather saddlebags the entire time, and after he barricades himself inside the evidence room we find out why: he had a bomb designed to disperse aerosolized garlic that he left outside the room. The smarter of the vampire cops flee the building; a couple of the stupider ones catch the brunt of the garlic, and it eats at their skin like acid (nightshift cops are going to have to make it look like a flesh-eating bacteria tailored to only survive short bursts outside of its blast- which likely brings Feds down on Blade’s head). Blade swipes the drives from the body cams, and ends up leaving with 2 saddle bags of coke that they might use in the end to frame the corrupt daylight officers from the precinct.

Misty finds Blade after the raid, with the bad news: he’s all over the precincts cameras, and he is now the subject of a citywide manhunt (and only that because they’re fairly certain he hasn’t skipped town). It seems like virtually everyone at the precinct is now determined to take him dead, not alive. “It’s a whole precinct of corrupt cops; the dayshift work for the highest bidder- whatever gang or syndicate is offering the best pay. The night shift have been taken over by monsters; they cover each others backs. That’s more manpower than even you can take head on.”

If we want yet another cameo, the FBI bring in She-Hulk as a deputized fact-finder, but she punts when Blade tells her the truth. “My cousin’s a ten foot tall green rage monster that once killed a space whale with a single blow, and that still might be the craziest shit I’ve ever heard. And I want to help. But I’m a little too conspicuous for this kind of job.” “You’re the wrong color. You can’t blend in like that.” “No. But I do know a guy who is the right color to blend in in Harlem. He’s an ex. Seems like he’s everybody’s ex. But you’re going to have to go to him. He doesn’t like to leave his club. ” Blade rides his motorcycle beside Misty’s car, and the ladies talk. “Luke’s always had a… way with women, but I wonder if, maybe, that’s part of your feelings on not liking knowing you were the other woman, emotionally, counselor.” “Sound like you might know something about that yourself, detective.”

It’s Luke Cage, at (wink wink) Cottonmouth’s old club, where he’s made himself comfortable, gotten pretty good at keeping the gangs and the gangsters from warring. This is part of the reason the vampires saw an opening with the cops- they both wanted to return Harlem to the bad old days, where it was a playground for their less forgivable appetites. Misty’s bemused, since she could have taken them to Luke’s. She-Hulk shrugs. “Like I said, he’s everybody’s ex.” She leaves.

But how perfect is that? A man whose skin vampires can’t bite through. It doesn’t take much to convince Luke to enter the fray, though it may take some convincing for him to leave his posse behind; he’s been playing Godfather long enough he’s forgot how to vigilante. Maybe Blade convinces him, “You take your goons, for every one that falls, we got to kill them all over again. We go in lean, and tight, and we don’t make the problem any bigger than it already is.”

As they’re trying to figure out the best place to lure their prey (time is easy since during the day the vampires will be more vulnerable), when a cop brings a phone into the club, and hands it to Blade. It’s a hostage, someone who will up the stakes for the ending, make the heroes have to act rashly. Maybe I don’t know Blade mythology deeply enough to come up with a better person, maybe I’m just tired of merry Marvel matricide (and obviously don’t want to damsel Misty), but I’d go with Blade’s mom. See, she didn’t die giving birth to him like he was always told. Everyone thought she’d die- and that’s why they were all focused on little Blade- but she managed to survive, kept captive by an old, sewer dwelling faction of vampires (the same who eventually took over the precinct). “Mom?”

The cops have fortified the precinct, having seen how Misty and Blade entered it the first time. They put bars on the window he crashed through, bolts anywhere there hadn’t been. Misty demands to go in alone first, to make sure there aren’t any clean cops left in the building. She tries talking to a couple, but they start towards her, looming menacingly. She tries a couple more, to convince them to leave with her. “You’re not leaving,” they tell her. “That’s what he said you’d say,” she says, and pulls the fire alarm.

Cut to the basement. “That’ll start the silver in the suppressant systems, right?” “Fire starts the suppressant systems,” Blade says, “or flooding the system with so much pressure the seals all start to burst. You do the honors?” Luke takes hold of a wheel attached to some pipes, with a new junction grafted on to attach a large tank. Back inside, the sprinklers all come alive, spraying the room with water infused with silver nitrite (maybe some garlic, too). The nightshift vampires all start reacting, though the corrupt dayshift cops keep coming for Misty. She draws, and starts laying down suppressing fire, backing towards the exit. But she isn’t running; she stashed a heavy rifle by the door, and falls into a firing position as Luke and Blade crash through the wall at the other end of the building. Big old action scene, the three of them take down as many of the corrupt officers as possible; a handful flee, not all are fatally wounded. Just as they’ve nearly won, a bunch of the vamps, who smartly ran for the showers, burst in for one last wave of bad guys before the last of them takes momma Blade hostage. Luke and Blade are too far away; Misty’s got the drop on him, but no kill shot. Blade tells her to buy him a half second, and she shoots the vampire in the shoulder, knocking him away from his hostage long enough for Blade to carve him up. Blade is fast enough to catch his mother as she falls, still too weak to hold herself up without help.

Blade helps his wounded mother out and onto his motorcycle, then lights the building on fire, as Luke and Misty put together the why as they watch it catch. “A precinct that corrupt?” Misty asks. “Half full of vampires,” Blade adds. “People would lose their damn minds, if they knew what just happened,” Luke agrees. Blade concludes: “It’s better if I fight my war from the shadows. People get too close to me, they get hurt.”

Blade jumps on his bike and screams off. Luke awkwardly asks Misty if they should get coffee. “You didn’t call me,” she says, and stomps off. “Yeah,” he says, looking at a card in his hand, from the Alias Detective Agency, “it’s a bad habit I’m working on.”  We watch Blade driving way too fast for someone having to keep someone else balanced on his bike, but it looks cool, as Blade monologs to take us out, something along the lines of, “Losing my mother gave me something to kill for. Getting her back, maybe I’ll find a reason to finally live.” 

Mid-Credits Scene: An old, desiccated man with a red gem in his chest struggles to breathe. “Elsa,” he whispers. “My light is fading, my millenia of vigilance is at its zenith. You must watch the door, for the agents of the Helix and its monsters. Only a Bloodstone can stop them.”

End-Credits Scene: We see the armrest of an overly ornate chair, where a red hand with sharp fingernails rests. “Lord Mephisto, the vampire plot is foiled.” The hand tenses, the fingernails tearing into the chair, which bleeds. Close, on an evil eye, quietly smoldering. “Bring me my Ghost Rider.” [Yep, this is the beginning of a build to the Midnight Sons- though I’m not a fan of that name, maybe Nightstalkers: Moon Knight, Werewolf by Night, Brother Voodoo & Elsa Bloodstone]

Note: In light of 2020, I’d probably tweak the story just a hair to more closely address police brutality.

12 Days of Pitchmas, Part 2: West Coast Avengers

West Coast Avengers

Note: Just saw one of the WandaVision stills which makes me think the show may be covering some of this territory… but this pitch was already written, and all I could really do was bump it up the schedule a few slots to try to get it ahead of any other reveals…

Avengers cast-offs, mostly, people who didn’t make the cut, kind of appropriating the name they don’t have any rights to. Simon Williams (played by Nathan Fillion again, even if his scenes were cut from Guardians 2) takes down Hawkeye’s portrait and heaves a heavy sigh, the rest of the West Coast Avengers portraits are hanging still, and I’m thinking there’s an alternate Quicksilver, who was a mutant in an alternate reality before ending up here. “Didn’t even last long enough to get his name added to the lease… Stark’s outfit might not have standards, but here on the West Coast, we don’t tolerate that kind of behavior.” We don’t see who he’s sparring with. “Don’t you have a sex tape, Simon?” “Yes, and I performed beautifully on it- and I didn’t resort to any rough stuff. Didn’t get my TV show out of it. That was for-” “Being a washed-up has-been of a” “redundant retort? And besides, we’ve got a perfectly servicable Hawkeye right here.” It’s Kate Bishop. “Why Simon Williams, you could charm the pants off a cat.” “Like you wouldn’t take back-end points to co-star with an animated cat…” he mutters.

I’m going to tell you now: large sections of this will be based on Tom King’s The Vision; I will spoil the crap out of it, and it’s worth reading if you dig contemplative sci fi; it also presents a challenge, since so much of the story is told through prose. But I’m a glutton for punishment, so here we go. 

It’s a dingy, dismal, rainy LA night. As Victor walks under the street lights, they flicker, with a blast of electricity shooting down from the last as he reaches his destination, bathing the storage unit in darkness. He looks flesh and blood, what of him we can see. Victor opens the unit, switching to a low-light vision mode; we see his blank, expressionless face as he performs various maintenance tasks to chambers that will resemble the one from Age of Ultron. Over this, the sound of Dr. Bruce Banner’s voice lecturing a hall breaks in. “At the time, we knew Ultron and Vision were engaged in a high stakes game of chess for the codes to the global nuclear stockpile, while we were trying to find and shut down all of his bodies. What we didn’t know until later was that Ultron was really more of a virus, leaving his malicious code everywhere he went. But Vision knew, and he did the same to his own code; turning it into a virus specifically designed to co-opt Ultron’s coding. When he was alive, Tony, he let me think he programmed Jarvis- the AI that became the Vision- to do that. I may never have known otherwise, but when he passed, he left me his notes on Vision and Ultron, even bolded the words so I couldn’t miss it. Tony was like that. Brilliant. And a dick.”

We cut back to the low-light vision as the first cradle opens, and a very Vision-like hand reaches out. “Vision was my friend, like too many, taken too soon. The things we could have learned from him, could have discovered with him.” A whole new Vision pulls himself out of his cradle. He turns to Victor, and they shake hands before saying, “Brother” each in turn. Vision then opens a second cradle, this one housing a female Vision named Virginia. Two smaller cradles sit in the corner, conspicuous but unopened as the pair embrace.

Cut to a very normal suburban home, notable only for the hovering mailbox out front. Cut inside, where Vision and Virginia are seated in front of the television, watching footage of Vision on the news, with a scrawl stating that he died five years ago. “I’m afraid you are dead, my love,” Virginia states coldly. “And yet, I function,” he says. They are both dressed a little too old-fashioned. “Are the children yet returned from school?”

Cut back to Bruce at the lecturn again. “What we found out, only later, was that Vision created himself as much as Ultron, Tony or I did. After Ultron attempted to shred his programming, he reached out into the bowels of the internet. There weren’t other AIs like him in existence, let alone ones connected to the web. But he did find a project at UCLA. Simon Williams,” the audience burst into laughter, “yes, the star of Some Kind of Wonderful, he had been in an on-set VFX accident. Doctors weren’t certain he’d ever wake up, so they were endeavoring to digitize his thoughts and personality. Vision used this code to replicate the missing pieces of himself, taking on Williams, ahem, dynamic personality.” More hoots from the audience. “Easy for a physicist to take potshots at a celebrity,” Simon says, standing up in the audience. “I see the Avengers sicced their attack dog.” “My cousin is our attack dog- and she’s a hell of a lot more reasonable than I am.” “And I take it I wouldn’t like you when you’re unreasonable.” “But for all I care, you’re infringing on the Avengers copyright.” “Your killer robot infringed on my mind, first. I think that puts us square.” “Having seen it at work, I’m surprised he could button his own cape- proving in this instance the copy is better than the original.” More laughter, and Simon storms out.

“Darn,” Vision says, looking at his phone in his quaintly suburban home. “Mr. Lee left the artwork in the office; it needs to be at the printer within the hour. I’ll have to fly in. I’ll be home as quickly as possible.” He kisses her cheek demurely, and leaves out the front, running into Vin and Viv, their children, on the porch. “Greetings, father,” they each say in turn. “Children. Our dinner conversation will be postponed while I return to the office. Perhaps you could attend to your studies while I am away.” “Yes, father,” they say in turn.

Outside the lecture hall. “I told you not to match wits with the Professor,” Hawkeye says to a dejected Wonder Man. “I thought the Hulk am dumb.” “You’re thinking of that lunkhead brother of yours. The, what’s he call himself?” “Lunkhead?” “When in Rome, and with you, lunkhead seemed appropriate.” “You’re not going to start hounding me about him, too, are you?” “Implying there was ever a point when I intended not to? The clown calls himself the Grim Reaper, but looks like a pride float drove into a knife store.” “That feels a mite homophobic.” “Only if you feel criminals and floats should wear the same gaudy attire.”

Cut back to the Vision home, where there’s a knock at the door. We see the silhouette of a reaper- I’m thinking play up the cloak aspect and a skeletal mask, rather than the one he clearly stole from Hela’s closet. Close in on Virginia, worried, and not sure how to react to being worried.

Back to the lecture hall, Hawkeye pointing her phone at Simon. “Look at that helmet. I bet he gets great AM/FM reception.” “Kidding aside, he’s unwell,” Simon says seriously.

Cut to the Vision home, the door kicked in, splinters flying through the air as the doorknob becomes a projectile. Virginia, barely contemplating it, phases through it. Viv is nearer to the door, so when he turns his weapon and fires, it’s into Viv’s stomach. He’s approaching Vin, menacingly. Slow pan in on Virginia, as we hear screams, crying, Viv repeating, “Mother, mother, mother, mother,” on a loop. We can barely make out Reaper screaming, “You took my brother” and “You’re not real,” as it’s drowned out by the other sounds.

“Seriously, he needs help,” Simon says.  “I’m sure if we report him to the fashion police he can get all the help he needs. Now come on. I’ll buy you a cheeseburger, and you can forget all about the big green man who made fun of you.” He starts to follow her, and she stops him. “What have I said? Respectful distance. The last thing I need is anyone thinking we’re together.” “But we are together.” “In that we shared a car here, and are in the same room currently. But you’re only about one Cheeseburger from paradise, if you know what I mean.” “I know Buffet- but I’m not entirely sure you know what you mean.”

Cut back to the Vision home. Vision has his sleeves rolled up, and is trying to fix his daughter to no avail. Virginia is only semicoherent, repeating words at random as she explains that she chased off the Reaper before he was able to cause their son more than a flesh wound. “Her power systems are failing,” Vision says, lifting her from the floor. “I require more energy to reboot her, before the failure becomes irreversible.” He flies into the sky, and she’s about to follow, when she glances back at Vin, grasping the flap of ‘skin’ hanging off his arm and staring at the fluids that poured out of his sister. Virginia walks over to their son, while calling Vision. “Where are you going?” “The Palo Verde nuclear facility has the largest capacity available in the area.” “She can’t handle that kind of charge.” “Correct. I intend to use myself to absorb enough of the overage to protect her systems.” “You’ll die,” Virginia says, betraying her first real hint of emotion. “Perhaps. But if I expire, it will be resuscitating our daughter. I love you, Virginia.” He hangs up. Vision bursts through a metal door into the dam, and finds a large coupling and tears it out of the wall. He strokes his daughter’s hair, and says, “I love you, Viv.” He grabs the sparky end of the coupling in one hand, and touches the other to her shoulder. For a moment they both are lit by the arcing electricity, before the power dies and the room goes black. We see the room in Vision’s low-light mode. “Damage detected” flashes in the bottom right, as he looks at his daughter, motionless. Then she sits upright, gasping.

Phone ringing, before Kate picks it up. She sees it’s Simon, and makes a face. “No, no no no and ew.” “What? Oh. The time. Sorry. It’s not… what it seems like.” “Better not be. I’m an excellent shot.” “It’s my brother. He’s been missing. Days, now.” “And you think Clint gave me a doofus-seeking arrow. Actually, he might- nope. Boxing glove, one that says ‘Long Distance Gerbil Delivery System’ with a Post-it about needing a new gerbil.” “I figured, you spent some time with him, maybe he taught you how to, I don’t know, track people.” “In the hit a moving target sense, yes. In the Sam Spade one? No.” “Normally I wouldn’t ask. Or, normally I’d ask someone else, but Quicksilver ran down a list of every single place he’s used his debit card in the last seven years.” “I’m assuming a lot of adult bookstores.” “More than you would have thought there were in the area, yeah. But, Kate, please. I’m freaking out, here. Even if it’s just moral support, keep me from making matters worse.” “I bet he had a whole quiver full of doofus-seeking arrows, but used them all up on you, didn’t he?” “That a yes?” “I’ll meet you at the least adult bookstory place you want to check first.” 

Cut to school. Vin is flexing his fingers, staring at the repaired tear. CK approaches him. “Hey, you’re, uh, Viv’s brother, right?” “Correct,” Vin says noncommittally. “I’m her lab partner, in chem. I heard you guys had like a break-in, right? Must have been intense. And she’s… okay?” “She is recuperating. My parents believe she will return to optimal operation shortly.” “Right? Cool. Um, say, I, I said we, we’re lab partners, right? Mrs. Arcuda gave her an extension, but I’d still, like, we were working together really well, and I… I’d like to be able to call her, keep up work on the project. So, could I get her phone number? You people have phones, right? Are you even listening to-” Vin seizes him by the throat, holding him in the air. “Viv believes we are not so different from humans. Example, I’m depressing a nerve sensor in the walls of your carotid artery- for all intents and purposes your off switch. It exists to prevent the heart from flooding the brain with blood; currently, it is preventing any bloodflow to your brain at all.” CK’s face is going blue, and Vin drops him into a ball on the floor.

The Visions are sitting in the principal’s office. “Frankly, were it up to me, I’d bounce your kids so hard from here they’d land on the sun.” “That seems unlikely.” “I don’t see you sending them to my school as any different from a kid bringing a gun. They’re deadly weapons.” “They are sentients, children.” “Yeah, well, the Superintendent’s kid’s got all your merchandise. And your friends brought her husband and her other kid back, after Thanos… so today, against my better judgement, you and your screwed up kids get a pass.” He grabs Vision by the wrist. “But I swear, either of those kids of yours screws up at all, and I will hold a press conference, torpedo my entire career. Because those kids are my responsibility, and I’m not going to let a pair of overprivileged toasters-” Vision phases through the principal’s grip. “I believe that the amicable portion of our discussion has ended, and suggest we cease, lest the situation prove hazardous. You have been drinking, after all, and in your elevated condition may act out unwisely.” The principal narrows his eyes, recognizing the implicit threat.

Simon and Kate meet on the street. “I thought you were coming in costume.” “No. Makes people nervous, and it kind of makes people assume I’m a sex worker- which is not the kind of attention we need if we’re keeping it low-key.” They track him down to a low-life bar, mostly supercriminals wearing their civvies, along with some Pride-associated henchmen. Simon unrolls a few hundreds for one of them to tell him his brother got agitated when the Alex Jones-alike program in the bar discussed rumors of a return of the Vision. He got hammered, then went looking for their residence. Most of them assume nothing happened, that Grim was always getting upset over this or that, throwing a tantrum, then got found sleeping it off in a park or the gutter. “Seems like all roads lead to Vision, huh?” Kate asks. Simon shrugs noncommittally.

Viv is back at school, and CK offers to walk her home. “You know, I could carry your books, if that would help.” “They are not heavy, and my repairs are complete. But a walk. I think I would like that.” They have a pleasant bonding walk, teenage romance blossoming for about as long as we can stand it before cutting.

There’s a knock at the Vision home, and Virginia tenses. She edges to it, opens, and finds a phone, with the code on a post-it note on it, and the instructions to “Play video.” She does, and we see her digging in the back yard, covering something up. The shakey phone footage moves to a different angle, where we can see the remains of the Grim Reaper that she’s burying. The phone chimes, with a text message, directing her to a house down the street. She’s halfway out the door. “Who is it, Virginia?” Vision asks. “One of the neighbors,” she says, “believe their dog has gotten loose. I told them I would help find it.” She leaves, and walks several blocks to the house.

“Come on in, Mrs. Vision.” He’s got a gun tucked into his pants. “It’s Virginia.” “Virginia. My son’s CK, the boy, the boy your son nearly strangled in the cafeteria. I wasn’t, I was over there to talk to you, when I saw what you… I didn’t mean to see what I saw. But after what your boy did, what you did. You don’t belong here. I want you and that little electric slut of a daughter-” “No,” Virginia says. “This is our home. We will not be, be threatened out of our home.” “Dad?” CK asks, coming into the room, “why are you yelling?” “You stay back, you, you metal,” as Virginia phases through the gun, he fires, hitting CK several times in the chest. “You, you killed my boy,” he says, crumpling to the ground. “No,” she says, making a fist. “Just you.” She hits him in the head and it’s a nasty impact, then to black. 

“You should have called sooner,” Mockingbird (that’s right, Adrienne Palicki- in general I’m for giving the hard-working Marvel TV folks a shot at the big leagues, personally) tells Simon. We might recognize the location from earlier, the storage where the Visions were first found. “I have access to SHIELD resources, and a rolodex, you don’t.” She steps out of the way to reveal Tigra. “Anything, Greer?” “It’s like you suspected, we’re the first people in this room in years.” “But the records on it say it’s been being paid in cash monthly, registered to one Victor Mancha.”

Cut to, as his name is mentioned, Victor, looking more normal than before, like a regular kid. “Honey, could you get that?” his mom asks from elsewhere in the house. “Shuh,” he says around a mouthful of pizza. He opens the door wide, only to be hit with electricity. His eyes roll back in his head and he falls to the floor. “Victor?”

They’ve taken him back to the storage shed. “Like I said, access to a better rolodex.” Whoever the ‘new’ Iron Man from IM4 turns out to be, they’re here, take a poke around in Victor’s head (Note: like I said, I bumped this pitch forward).

“I don’t know… what you’re asking for, it’s like, trying to use an unbroken bronco to pull a carriage full of eggs. Even if we can I don’t know if it’s wise.” “I don’t think we have any other options.” “I can try and put in some failsafes, so he can’t hurt anyone… but his core coding is an offshoot of Ultron’s.” “I need to know what happened to my brother,” Simon says, “even if it’s to know we need to hold a funeral.”

Cut to the Vision home, the back yard. Dirt flings past camera, and we pan over to a hole, the hole Virginia had dug. The neighbor dog is standing on the Reaper’s corpse, wagging his tail. He barks, then nips the Reaper’s bladed gauntlet. Pan back and away, there’s the sound of electricity and then an explosion. Inside, Vision hears it, and goes outside. We see the most emotion on his face we’ve ever seen as he sees the Reaper’s corpse, along with the neighbor’s dog.

Knock on the Vision front door. Vision opens it, and he and Victor shake hands, and say, “Brother,” in turn. “I heard,” Victor starts, “that the family was having some… difficulties adjusting.” “Difficulties may perhaps be understating the issue. Please, enter.” The home has been destroyed. “Remodeling?” Victor asks. Virginia is there, in the background, but she’s frightened, trying desperately to blend into the background. “Yes. I have read that to truly create a home, one must start from the most primordial elements. I do not understand completely; it puts me in mind of p and not p- p, problems solveable by computing, and not p, those that cannot.” “Yes, and p vs np is itself a question that may be either p or not p- unless or until an artificial intelligence can decipher an efficient test of p.”

Cut to an art museum, Vision and Victor about town. Victor: “You’ve got a really great family. But does it ever, is it hard to keep them great? Feels like that would be a lot of pressure. I guess, my mom’s human, and I’d do anything for her, but the idea of trying to keep a family like yours together… I want that, some day, what you have, but it just seems like it would be so much, you know” Vision doesn’t reply, but stares on.

Victor is walking through the snow outside, talking on the phone. “There’s something, something Vision won’t tell me, but he wants to. He’s a blank slate, but I know he knows something about your brother, Simon, and he’ll…” “Who’s Simon?” Vin asks, dropping down from the sky; he’s only just starting to become afraid. “Are you… spying on us? Who’s Simon?” he asks, sounding much more like a human boy his age. “Vin, calm down, I can explain,” Victor grabs his shoulder. “You’re here to hurt us,” Vin says, trying to break free. “Shh, if you’ll calm down, I can,” panels in Victor’s arm opens, and starts to spark with electricity. Recognizing the threat, the jewel on Vin’s head starts to glow. “Wait, Vin.” Vin is electrocuted, and his charred body falls into the snow. “Vin? Oh, God, no,” Victor says. He runs.

Inside the kitchen, Vision and Virginia are having a tense moment. “I’m sorry,” she says. “I did what I thought correct in the moment, to protect the children, and I hid it to protect you. If I could undo it, even at the sacrifice of myself-” the electrical explosion in the back catches Vision’s attention, and he phases through the wall into their backyard. His son is smoking on the ground, the snow melting where his body has touched down. He picks him up and cradles him.

“I thought you said you were programming in failsafes,” Simon barks at the Iron Man replacement. “I did. But I failed to specify sentients… I hard-coded into Victor a superceding directive to shut down rather than risk injuring a person, but… his programming didn’t consider the Visions people.” “He’s going to come for all of us,” Victor says. “I don’t want to die.” Montage as they try to set up defenses to make Simon’s mansion more defensible against Vision. Vision’s a bad ass, wading through all of the West Coast Avengers; they put up a good fight, but they’re outclassed, and one by one he puts them down.

The Iron Man replacement is the last one standing, because they’re guarding Victor. Vision shows, and IM explains they put a failsafe in Victor, that if Vision kills him, his electrokinesis will kill Vision just as it killed Vin, but implores that it doesn’t have to end with more death. Suddenly, IM is blasted from behind by Virginia, who has already phased her fist through Victor. “I explained to Viv my culpability in CK’s death. She was quite upset. Your presence has always calmed her.” “Virginia, don’t-” “I cannot lose you to my mistake,” she says, and tears out Victor’s circuits, before being engulfed in a ball of electricity.

She phases enough through it to still cling to life. Vision lifts her. “Please, take me home,” she says. Cut to the Vision living room, where Virginia sits on the couch. “Come, sit, let me lean against you. My head is heavy, and I would enjoy resting it against you.” She projects a hologram, of Vision in his superhero guise circa Age of Ultron. “A version of you was a hero who saved the world. It felt good, to save… you…” she dies, and we fade to black.

Viv is playing with a green Vision Dog, scritching his little belly. “Would you care to walk him with me?” she asks Vision. “I would,” he says, and rises. There’s a knock at the door. It’s Simon. “You… should not be here,” Vision says. “Were it just me, I might well have stayed away. But power like you have… we need you. The world will. And her. Maybe even the pooch.” He gives Vision his card with his agent’s name and number on it, and also his phone number scrawled on the back. “But while I’m here, please, whatever’s left, I’d like to be able to bury my brother.” “Burial,” Vision says, contemplative. “I do not understand the purpose.” “It’s about finding closure, about feeling like while some of your family is gone, their struggles are over. They’re at peace. I think we could all use more of that. Eric was a flawed guy, and I’ve known for a long time he had a bad end coming. I’m sorry that ending cost you so much, truly.” “We have lost much,” Vision looks back at Viv, “but we have the future to safeguard. If you require my assistance, I will provide it.”

12 Days of Pitchmas 2019, Part 1: Nova

To make a long story short, these were written last December, rather than finish the NaNo I was working on; my assistant was having some health problems, and I didn’t realize until this week these never got published to the blog, so I’ll be putting them up on days that I’m not posting new Breed. It’s a silly project: the 12 Days of Pitchmas. For 12 Days, I pitch a ‘new’ Marvel movie. I’m staying away from any of the announced movies I know virtually any plot of (Blade right now is the only one announced I’m pitching). The names are mostly silly and punny rather than real, because we mustn’t get too grimdark with our silly productivity preventer.

Marvel Cinematic Universe Pitch: Nova

We’ll start with an easy one, one that’s had the groundwork laid, and is grounded in recent events, but is otherwise fresh and interesting. This one’s going to have shades of Flight of the Navigator and the Last Starfighter, with maybe a little bit of ET if we were led to believe the little brown squish had a full interior life.

Starts off with Thanos’ attack on the Nova Corps. to steal the Power Stone. Richard Ryder, the sole Terran inducted into the Corps., standing with John C. Reilly and Nova Prime (Glenn Close), holed up in the area where the Stone is guarded. Outside, we see the few new Nova ships failing to stop Thanos’ fleet. Reilly asks for permission from Prime to use the stone to repel the invaders, and is denied; the stone could wipe out all life on the planet if he can’t contain its power. Ryder asks for permission to deploy the new Nova Power Shell. Reilly barks that it’s still untested; he could kill all of them just as easily as the Power Stone. Thanos bursts through the doors, and Prime comes over comms, telling all Novas to activate their new weapons. Outside, we see hundreds of Nova Corpsmen launch into the sky, sheathed in yellow light, making a dent in Thanos’ ships (it’s a moment of joy- we forget for a moment we know how this story ends). Back inside, Ryder steps to Thanos and blasts him, giving him the full force of power in his suit in a blinding flash. Thanos is still standing, and backhands him through a wall, and we watch him falling until the last second, his shell flickering but failing to activate. Back inside, Reilly trades blows with Thanos, lasting several before falling. Nova Prime is last, and backs into the stone, grabbing it in her hand almost by accident. Thanos wraps his hand around hers and squeezes, shattering the bones in her hand until she drops the stone. Reilly is back, tackles Thanos through the wall, leaving Prime in the building. They fall together, with Reilly using all of his power to fly Thanos towards the ground. They impact, and Reilly lays dead on the ground, not having reserved any of his power to save himself from impact.

Ryder kneels over Reilly (Rhoman Dey), and gets a message. “Buddy, if you’re hearing this, then I’m gone. I know, you’ll want to blubber for a while, and I respect that, but I need something from you, first. Take care of my wife, and our daughter. You know I’d do the same for you- if you ever got a woman plastered enough to agree to marry you.” “Crap,” Ryder says, before launching into narration. “So that’s how I ended up stuck on this dirtball millions of miles from Earth. But how did I get here?”

A slightly younger Richard Ryder, wearing his Dairy Queen uniform, flees from one of Ego’s spores. “That’s a long story.” It sure is. So we’re going to montage this. “Weird alien shit happened.” In a dark room Ryder is interrogated by a Nova alien demanding he renounce his fealty to this Queen of Dairy and explain what happened. “The weird alien shit police- themselves also weird- picked me up for questioning. I think they questioned me too hard, because,” Ryder flops onto the floor, foaming at the mouth. “my brain fossilized for a bit. They took me back to Xandar and fixed my brain.” We see Xandar from his hospital bed as he sits up. “As an apology, they offered me an honorary title in the Nova Corps, which I refused,” (he demands to be a real Corpsmen). “I served for a few years with distinction, even got a promotion, before I made it back to Earth, to tell my mom and little brother, Sam, I was okay.” He says, “I’m going off to save the stars… kidding, I got an internship at a prestigious technical program- prestigious for Jersey, anyway.” He toussles Sam’s hair. “I also, kind of, left him something, my first helmet, as a keepsake. But I didn’t want him to have it, yet; it was for when he was old enough not to do something really stupid with it.”

Cut to Earth, where Sam is crawling through the family crawlspace, through cobwebs, before bonking his head on his brother’s old Nova helmet. “Hey, little bro, if you’ve found this, it’s because I’m in trouble. Nah, I’m screwing with you. It’s because you’re old enough I told you where I hid it. Or you’re a little clod going through my stuff, and I am so telling mom when I get home.” Sam grabs the helmet and runs out of the crawlspace. He puts it on, and we jump into his head as text displays across the visor asking for his name. “Sam Alexander” (daddy took off before he was born, so mom gave him her maiden name). The helmet scans his face, then projects an image of him in full Nova gear. “Cool,” he says. The helmet grows the suit around him, and he’s surprised and a little worried, running outdoors as he tries to get it to stop. He accidentally takes flight, scorching his mother’s front lawn.

Cut back to Ryder, walking along Xandar’s surface. The destruction wrought by Thanos’ army is near-total; he’s walking through a post-apocalyptic world. We hear his voice distorted as he tries to broadcast. “This is Nova 9176, to all points, please respond, Nova 9176.” Ryder finds a single home, relatively protected amongst the devastation. There are scorch marks in the yard, and the charred remains of the Nova who died defending the home. Ryder rushes into the home, to find Rhoman Dey’s wife and daughter, huddled inside. She’s shocked at his intrusion, but recognizes him almost immediately and embraces him. “Richard! Is Rhoman-” “I’m so sorry…” Pull back from the house, through the window in the front door, continuing to recede. We start to hear Ryder’s distress signal. “Nova 9176 to all points, May Day. Xandar has fallen. Remaining Nova forces are insufficient to effect an evacuation of the remaining populace. This is Nova- this is Richard Ryder, of Earth. Any Nova within the sound of my voice, please respond.”

We hear the last two sentences again, this time through Sam’s helmet as he’s flying through the air back on Earth. “Rich?” he asks, before the helmet automatically responds to the distress signal and launches him into space. He’s flailing as he breaks atmosphere, yammering that “I can’t survive in space, you’re going to kill me,” until he realizes, “wait, I am surviving in space. Cool. Lets go save my brother.” Sam flies off into space.

Rich leads Dey’s family towards a rally point elsewhere in the city, where other Novas would have gone to make their final stand. On the way they hear the sound of a wounded Nova, and plan to help her until they realize she’s being tortured for information by Proxima Midnight and Corvus Glaive, left behind to ensure that the Nova’s can’t rally to help fight Thanos. Richard asks for a threat assessment from his helmet; they are classed as threats that would each require a powered Nova to combat, and he does not have enough residual power to fight either, let alone both, and trying to save her would likely mean the discovery of all three of them. Ryder has the Deys hide in a nearby building, and collapses a building on Midnight, Glaive and the Nova.

Sam breaks atmosphere on Xandar, both impressed by being on an alien world and awed at the devastation. He’s not quite sure what he can do, but sends out a broadcast on all channels- one picked up by Midnight and Glaive, who Rich and the Deys are now following. They set a trap for Sam, which he nearly falls for, except it’s clearly an alien Nova and not Rich. Sam blasts the both of them frantically, buying enough space for Rich to step in. They have a reunion, and Rich splits Sam’s power between the two of them so they can fight. Rich tries to teach Sam the Nova capabilities on the job, with some hilarious and mixed results. At one point, the Novas are on the ropes, about to be killed, when Dey’s daughter starts throwing rocks, distracting them. Her mother joins suit, flinging rocks from the other side (for my money, they both should eventually join the Corps outright as Novas). The distraction is enough to get the Novas on their feet, and they’re able to detain Thanos’ henchpeople long enough for them to receive a message from Thanos about another stone located on Earth, and they depart.

The fight sapped most of their remaining power, and they’re not going to be able to make it off world as is. They are able to find and repair the Nova power source and communications arrays (damaged in Thanos’ assault), allowing them to power back up. 

End Credits scene: Sam and Rich are flying through space, with Rich in the lead. “Now what?” Sam asks from behind Rich. “Now we rally the remaining Novas, track down the Mad Titan and stop him from wiping out half of all life.” “No,” Sam says weakly, “I meant what’s happening to-” he stops as he turns to dust. 

Bonus pitch: Nova 2 takes place over 2 time periods, the five years Sam is gone during the Blip, with Rich spiraling after the loss of his brother, becoming somewhat of a drunk and derelict Nova (that he saved the Corps at the moment of its greatest vulnerability is the only reason they don’t bounce him- but I can see them attaching like a breathalyzer to his helmet so he has to hero responsibly), and his eventual reunion and redemption once Sam comes back and breaks him out of his funk. (Note: It ended up happening a little differently, but you can see the result in my pitch for Nova 2).