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All in the Family
Not so much a short story as a collection of paragraphs Wink These words started out as a simple flashback I was doing for a RPG character and gradually has taken on a life of it's own over the past year, as I occasionally slipped in another piece of the story. I play Beast. But my Beast isn't the bouncing blue avenger nor is he the Disney Reject. His further mutation wasn't as a result of experimentation while working at the Brand Corporation. This Mr McCoy had an unfortunate incident with some Asgardian Herbs, A Certain Mr Creel and a famous verdant hued character with a penchant for smashing things. Thus my Beast is an emerald bouncing ball of fur with the further ability of triggering a transformation into a larger Brute-like creature. This story is set in the days before he became the hairy furball and was only slightly hirsute and leader of the Defenders. It isn't finished yet, but I thought I would post a story so far. Enjoy.

The Fantastic 4, The Defenders, Dr Doom, and Silver Sable are all properties of Marvel. The story elements are mine Smile

Small Beginnings...
Reed Richards was missing, possibly dead, and the remainder of the the Fantastic Four had happened upon the Defenders while searching for him. After weeks of hectic searching and battling, the combined team still hadn't learned of Reed's whereabouts and the strain was beginning to show. Dr Strange had come up with one more lead, and that was why Hank came to them now. "Susan, Benjamin, Johnny. Stephen has given me another possible location for Reed." Ben looked up, wiping a tear from his rocky cheek. "Aw cripes Hank. Can't a guy get a minutes peace to hisself!" Ben was a born moaner, but when the chips were down, he could be counted not to back away from a challenge. He pushed himself up from the ground. "C'mon Matchstick, Suzy. Looks like we're needed to save the world again." growled Ben as he forced a smile. Johnny and Sue had been deep in a whispered conversation, and although Hank tried not to eavesdrop he could tell it was about happier times. Sue looked up surprised, as though she had only just noticed Hank standing there. "Oh Beast. Of course. Whatever needs doing you can count on the three of us." Sue was the first of the pair to speak, automatically taking control through years of practice. Johnny stood up, stretching as he did and looked first at Ben, then at Hank, then back at Ben before saying, "Oh great, stuck between a rock and a hairy place." They all smiled, although Hank could see it was a little forced. "Follow me. I asked Valkyrie to gather the rest of the Defenders."

Hank, Ben, Sue and Johnny returned to the Baxter Building as swiftly as the Fantasticar would carry them. They arrived to see the rest of the Defenders already assembled in the vehicle bay. Hank found himself smiling as Ben brought their transport to a safe landing, partly because it was good to see the rest of his team together again; but mostly because his Brun was there too. He leapt nimbly out of the the Fantasticar, and rushed over to greet his team, closely followed by the remaining three of the Fantastic 4. "Brun. Guys. It's great to see you agai.." he began happily, his joviality fading quickly however as he saw the looks of concern which clouding their faces. "Wha.. What is it? What has happened, Valkyrie? Is Reed..?" Sue's questions came out in a worried rush as she brushed past Hank. Her face was pale and drawn, the search for her husband had taken a lot out of her, but what could cause this dark look on their friends faces but his death. Hank looked around at Ben and Johnny, seeing the same worry in their eyes. He turned back. "Bobby? Warren? Brun? What's wrong?"

Brun looked at Hank, her clear blue eyes held a sadness he hadn't known in them. He could also see she couldn't bring herself to heap more pain on this family. "We have some bady news Hank. " Everyone turned to Iceman who managed to find the words everyone was struggling to say. "It's Franklin. He.. He's gone." Hank rushed forward to catch Sue as the news hit her like a sledgehammer, but he was beaten to it by Ben. "Suzy. Ooh Suzy." the pain and anger in his voice was difficult to miss as Ben easily caught Susan Richards, with a gentleness that was hard to fathom given his size and nature. Several minutes later they were all in the Richards quarters. Ben was still tending to Sue, Johnny had collapsed into a chair, holding his head in his hands, muttering "Not Franklin.. Not him too".

Hank quickly questioned the rest of the Defenders on what they knew. They had recieved a signal from the Baxter Building concerning Reed's whereabouts. The message appeared to have been passed on by Franklin Richards, Sue and Reed's son. This was the same message relayed to Hank and the others. Upon arrival however, an extensive search of the building had revealed no sign of the teenager. Some area's of the building, especially the labs above had been badly damaged in some sort of fire fight. It was surmised that the boy had managed to put up a fight before being captured. They also found something else. Something that most definitely shouldn't be here. Brun held out the object for Hank to examine. As he took it, his fingers brushed hers and he looked up into her eyes. "I love you" he mouthed at her. "I know" she mouthed back, a brief smile brightening her golden features. Hank looked down at his hand. It was a piece of cloth. A piece of green cloth. He looked up, his eyes met Sue's. The look of abject horror on her face spoke volumes. "Doom." growled Hank.

Hank looked down at his hand. It was a piece of cloth. A piece of green cloth. He looked up, his eyes met Sue's. The look of abject horror on her face spoke volumes. "Doom." growled Hank. Everyone stopped to look at Hank as he spoke that name. "Are you sure Hank?" asked Warren, his face ashen. "He's dead. He died while trying to steal Galactus power." Hank closed his eyes for a second before opening them to look straight at the group. "It's him. I would know his foul stench anywhere. You forget Warren that I was one of the scientists he kidnapped in order to make that scheme of his work." Hank sat heavily on the couch his mind was racing with the memories of those weeks of tortuous labour in Doom's Castle. "So Doom has Reed and Franklin?" asked Johnny, his voice almost cracking under the strain of that thought. "I'm gonna crush that tin plated dictator for good!" cried Ben as his fist slammed into the wall, shaking the entire room. "Hulk like fight Rock Man. Rock Man fight good." everyone stood in silence as the Hulk's gravelly roar filled the room. He didn't speak often, so when he did people listened. "Rubber Man help Hulk. Make Army leave Hulk alone. Rubber Man Hulk's friend. Rubber Man Rock Man's friend. Rock Man Hulks friend. Tin Man hurt Hulk's friends? Rock Man crush tin man? Hulk crush tin man too!"

An unbidden smile came over Hank's face. He had known Hulk as a team mate for over two years now and yet still he was surprised at the simple natural intelligence that was hidden within his huge frame. "We will all crush Doom, Hulk. Doom will pay for what he has done to this family." As Hank said the word family, the entire team was startled yet again. This time however it was by the artifical hiss of the large view screen on the wall of the Richards' quarters. As they turned to look at it, Hank could hear everyone stop breathing. He braced himself and looked up at the screen.

"Well, Well, Well. Quite a gathering we have here." Doom's voice dripped from the speakers throughout the room."McCoy. So good to see you again my old friend. And looking so well." Hank growled but said nothing. "Oh Susan. Benjamin, Johnathon. Tut tut tut, such poor hosts. You haven't even fixed your guests some refreshments." Sue jumped to her feet, almost throwing herself at the image on screen. "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY HUSBAND?? WHERE IS MY SON??""

"Calm down Susan." Doom's calm even tones were beginning to grate on the entire group. "We will get to that in a moment or two." Hank had had enough "Enough! You arrogant @$$hole! That's enough! Tell us where Reed and Franklin are! Stop torturing these people." Doom's glee at the despair he was causing was palpable. "Mr McCoy, I would never have thought of such passion emanating from yourself. I am touched. As for the missing members of the Richards clan? Well why don't you see for yourself." With that Doom stepped out of shot of the camera. The sight that greeted them when the camera refocused brought a multitude of exclamations from the assembled viewers.

Before them hung the body of Reed Richards. His elastic body was being stretched almost to breaking point by a huge winding machine. He looked lifeless, beaten. Sue broke free of Ben's grip and rushed to the screen. "REED!" she called, unsure if he could even hear her. "REED! FRANKLIN?" She turned to look at Ben, tears streaming down her face. "Ben, I can't see Franklin!" A voice boomed out of the speakers behind her. "Mother! I am hurt that you do not recognise me." Sue turned, her hands moving to cover her mouth as she screamed silently at what she saw. Standing before them, Doom removed his mask, revealing the blond-haired blue eyed features that so mirrored Sue and Johnny. "There never was a Franklin, Mother. There has only ever been Doom!"

"There never was a Franklin, Mother. There has only ever been Doom!"

The words echoed like a thunderclap in the now silent room. Hulk looked puzzled, unsure of how to react to the sight his eyes beheld. Bobby and Warren looked at each other, mouths wide but making no sound. It was Ben's turn to collapse, burying his face in his hands, as Johnny looked up at the screen, fear and anger burning in his eyes. The resounding silence was broken only by the sobbing of Susan Richards, as she knelt on the floor in front of the screen, her hand pressed against it, on the virtual chest of the man child she had raised as her son. Hank rushed to her side, accompanied by Valkyrie. His eyes caught Brun's as they reach Sue, in them he saw a sadness that he was unused to seeing in the eyes of his norse maiden. Bobby was the first to speak, voicing the questions they were all thinking. "B.. Bu.. But how? When? Why?" Hank looked back at them, as he tried to comfort Sue, then back up at the screen. "Frankl.." he began to say, his voice drying in his throat as he saw the look of evil on the face on the screen, the familiar malevolence in the eyes. He cleared his throat as he stood, leaving Brun to try and bring some comfort to Sue Richard's shattered life. He looked 'Franklin' straight in the eye, wishing that they were in the same room, not seperated by a view screen. "I thought you were dead Victor." he said, trying to contain his rage and anger.

"You always were the eternal optimist McCoy." was the only reply he got. They stared at each other as an almost deafening silence settled on the room, the only sound to disturb it the heartrending sobs coming from Sue. Hank wouldn't have given Doom the satisfaction he so obviously craved, but they had to know what they were dealing with. And by the look of him, Reed didn't have much time left for them to play Doom's mind games. "How?" asked Hank "How did you engineer this...this..." He was lost for the word to describe the enormity of evil that Doom had perpetrated here. "This triumph?" the voice was Franklin's but the tone was unmistakably Victor Von Doom's. "How did I win my ultimate victory over Reed Richards and his irritating rabble?" His smile drew all the warmth from the room, leaving in it's place the cold chill of a dungeon. "Fortune favours the bold McCoy, and I have ever been bold!"

Latverian Memories...
"Fortune favours the bold McCoy, and I have ever been bold!"

"I had not realised how deep your hatred of these people was Victor, how low you would stoop to gain a victory." The anger in Hank's voice was tempered by his desire to know how Doom had done this thing. "I should have known that if anyone could cheat death it would be you. And just how did you work that miracle?" As he waited for Doom's answer, Hank's mind went over those what had happened when apparently all of Doom's plans had come to naught.

Eight and a half months earlier...
The dull hammering of the inumerable metal fists slamming him into faded as he slipped into unconsciousness. The sound of hammering was replaced by the distant sound of Wagner. At first Hank thought he was simply reminiscing about the opera he just seen, but the cold, hard metal bed against his cheek told him otherwise. "I wish he would stop playing that stuff" said a voice in a broad canadian accent. "It make's me feel like I am in a bad east european movie." As Hank struggled to make sense of what was going on in his head, the sound of laughter came from another direction, followed by the unmistakeable tones of a New Yorker. "As long as our host doesn't turn up in full bondage gear and start doing the time warp I'll be happy." There was a pause before the American continued "Say, I think our sleeping friend is stirring." Hank forced his eyes open, wondering where the hell he was, as two slightly bruised and dishevilled faces topped by blond hair swam into focus. "Er.. Hello?" said Hank, shakily pushing himself up into a seated position. "You ok fella?" asked the canadian, a broad shouldered cheery looking fellow. "Yes.. yes I think so." replied Hank, as he looked around what was obviously a cell "Where am I?" The two men looked back at him blankly. "We were just discussing that." said the canadian. "and we honestly have no idea. Our host has neglected to make him or herself known to us. By the way, the name's Walter, Walter Langowski. Walt to my friends." "And I am Henry Pym." said the new yorker offering Hank his hand, which he shook glad to check he wasn't dreaming. "Hank McCoy, pleased to meet you."

The three men sat talking quietly, trying to determine why they might have been abducted. Hank was pleased to learn the two men were fellow scientists. Henry Pym was a specialist in the manipulation of sub atomic particles, as well as being a biochemist much like Hank himself. Walt's speciality was radiation. As they considered who might have kidnapped them, they heard the sound of footsteps outside the door. The door to the cell was flung open and a quartet of guard robots entered, with some sort of laser pistols levelled against the prisoners. From the shadows of the corridor beyond the door came the sound of metal footsteps on the stone floor of the corridor. A tall figure, clad head to toe in gleaming metal covered by a flowing green cape and hood strode purposefully into the cell. "Greetings Gentlemen." the tone was clipped and authorative, the voice of a man used to getting what he wanted. "I am Victor Von Doom. I have a project which I feel your specialist knowledge makes you ideal for. You will be my guests during the course of this undertaking."

Although a skilled scientist himself, Doom had known it would take the best minds in several fields to bring his intended project to fruition. Confident in his supremacy, Doom had relayed to the scientists that he had been tracking another self proclaimed Herald of Galactus in a nearby star system. Utilizing his advanced analysis equipment, he had been able to duplicate the Herald's signal, with the intention of drawing Galactus to Earth. Doom had then sought out the resources he needed to safeguard his plan to draw Galactus' vast cosmic power within himself - Walt, Henry and Hank. Fearing the vast stores of energy he believed was contained within the shell that was Galactus' body would have torn his body into subatomic particles, he told them how he had set traps for the scientists he felt would be of most use to him. This had led to the capture of renowned physicist Henry Pym and cosmic energy specialist Walter Langowski; and Hank himself, there for his knowledge of biochemistry and mutations.

With no hope of escape from the ever watchful eyes of Doom's Doombots, the three scientists had spent the past few weeks working together, often without sleep for days at a time and had almost perfected a way of syphoning cosmic energy via a complex series of specially constructed lenses, something that Langowski had apparently had some success with in the past. With Pym's knowledge of electronics and particle physics, and Hank's own formidable knowledge of what the human body was capable of withstanding, they were only a few short hours away from presenting Doom with his prize, and much to their shame they admitted quietly to each other that they were enjoying the challenge.

As they worked on those final adjustments, Doom burst in to the laboratory ranting about Reed Richards, and his meddling family ruining his plans yet again. When Hank and the others tried to question him on what had occurred, Doom's rage only deepened, and he quickly activated a series of controls on one of the main panels sending a small metallic projectile hurtling up into the sky over Latveria. Turning to the scientists, his rage still apparent, Doom told them "The syphoning device will be completed within the hour." The implied threat in those words was apparent to all.

The Silver Surfer was patrolling on the edge of space, tracking the signal picked up by the Fantastic Four's sensors shortly before his former master's arrival and subsequent defeat at their combined hands. The Surfer was still bound to Earth by Galactus' barrier, and so was only able to trace the signal to the environs of the moon. Deciding to track back along the path of the signal, the Surfer was intercepted as he flew over the skies of Symkaria by a metallic device, which halted before him. A screen rose from it's upper surface as the Surfer watched, a message appearing on it. It was an invitation to meet with a Dr. Doom in his castle. Intrigued by the invitation and how this Doom knew he would even be there to get a message, the Silver Surfer accepted the invitation and followed the automaton down through the mountains crossing the border into Latveria.

Back at the Castle Doom...
Arriving at a large castle, dwarfing the buildings of the hamlet which sprawled outsite it's walls, his attention is immediately taken by its dark gothic architecture so different was it to most of the buildings in his adopted home city of New York. Guided to a small platform overlooking the central courtyard of the castle, the Surfer is greeted by an imposing human wearing an armoured suit, covered by a verdant hooded cloak. "My name is Victor Von Doom, Welcome to my home." The Surfer introduced himself, although it obviously wasn't necessary, and voiced his appreciation of the art and architecture of the castle. Noting this, Dr. Doom, a master of deception, begins to expound on the wonders his small nation has given the world. Telling the Surfer of his admiration for his actions in saving the Earth from Galactus, Doom says he is honored to invite him to enjoy the grandeur of his home. The Silver Surfer, still relatively naive when it comes to human motivation, takes Doom at face value and follows him into the heart of the castle, all the time Doom pointing out the treasures he has collected, including some reclaimed from the neighbouring Symkaria. Doom expertly begins to turn the conversation to travel, and the wide expanses of open space, knowing earth must feel like a prison to the Surfer after all he has seen. As he does this, he leads the Surfer into a special chamber containing two large chairs - his 'Astroviewer' as he describes it - where Doom recreates a hologram of an area of space distant in the universe. Doom claims he is a great admirer of the cosmos. Silver Surfer says he can tell him much of what he saw when he was herald to Galactus. Doom invites the Surfer to sit, taking a thronelike chair opposite. Doom proceeded to question Norrin on the wonders he has seen, continuing to attempt to put him at his ease. As they talk a small display inside Doom's mask lights up, it's message bringing an evil smile to Doom's face behind the mask. Activating a hidden switch on his own chair, an eerie hum fills the chamber. Suddenly the Surfer begins to feel his power draining from him, he looks at Doom a sudden realisation that he has been tricked gripping his features. Unable to move from the chair, his power slipping away the Surfer manages to gasp one word - "Why?". Doom laughs, as he feels the energy begin to flow into him."You and that accursed Richards' clan denied me Galactus himself" he told the Surfer "It seems only fitting that you should be willing to give up your own life in payment instead!"

In Doom's Laboratory...
Hank, Henry and Walt, stood monitoring the various sensors of the syphon device. "Walt. Do you see that.. in the flow.. almost a repeating pattern." called Hank as he watched his bank of dials. "I thought I saw something Hank, but I figured it was my mind playing tricks. Henry? Any thoughts?" Henry Pym turned to look at Walt's readings, before comparing them with his own. "There is certainly something there. I can't understand it, it is almost as if the energy is trying to reverse it's direction on it's own. But how is that possible?"

Before either of the other two scientists could respond they were all thrown backwards a blast of heat and sparks as the syphon control panel burst into flames in front of them.

In the Astroviewer Room...
Doom sensed almost immediately that something was wrong as the energy from the Surfer began to surge into him unchecked. Flicking the switch at his arm frantically, he found it did not disengage the beam. "No... No.. this can..not.. be..!" The cosmic energy began arcing like electricity over the surface of his armour, stretching back across the room, reaching for the metal body of Surfer. "I... sha..ll.. no..t" cried Doom, as his worst fears were realised. He felt as though each molecule of his being was being forcible ripped from each other. "D.oo..oooo. M.." His words were lost in a deafening roar and blinding light as his body, armour and all disintegrated split into it's component particles which were carried throughout the room by the arcing energy as it tried to regain it's place within the Surfer.

As he stared at Franklin's face in Doom's Armour on the screen, Hank shuddered. He had tried to put out of his mind how he had almost caused the death of the Silver Surfer. It was only the supposed death of Doom for tampering with forces beyond his control that had allowed Hank to sleep at night, and that sleep had beenmany months coming. He repeated his question "How did you do this Doom?"

"It is a day that has been etched in my memory for almost 16 years..." began Doom but he was interrupted by Johnny who all but threw himself at the screen, flames licking around his face and shoulders as he struggled to control his anger. "LIAR!" he shouted as Ben put his hands on his shoulders trying to restrain him. "That can't be true." Johnny's voice trailed off as Ben succeeded in calming him.

"Please keep the boy silent, or you will never learn the truth." It was Franklin's face on screen. It was Franklin's voice coming from the speakers. But the tone was unmistakeably Doom's. "The only person I believe could truly begin to comprehend the subtle nuances of my work, is I'm afraid.. a trifle indisposed." He waved his hand over his shoulder at Reed Richards, who was still hanging in the machine behind him. "But I am sure even your feeble minds might grasp the broad concepts. Unfortunately it seems my confidence in my choice of McCoy and his fellow scientists as those best able to further my plans at the time was sorely misplaced. As my body was ripped to pieces, the energy released arced through my home, carrying my consciousness with it. What I had failed to account for in my calculations was that the power which flowed through Galactus and indeed the Silver Surfer was not simple radiation, but something far more.. almost sentient energy. Energy that responded to a strong will or desire."

The cold blue eyes that looked down on them from the screen were almost unblinking. Hank still heard Susan's quiet sobs from somewhere below the screen, but he kept his eyes fixed on Doom. "Somehow in the process of bodily disincorporation I had become part of the energy. I was disoriented at first, simply carried along, directionless, arcing in random directions. The prospect of remaining as a fleeting wisp of energy did not sit well with me. As I realised what had happened my superior mind formed a plan. Willing my energyform to move deep within my castle, to my most private chambers, I prepared to put the plan into effect." Doom waved his hand again and the camera panned around the chamber, settling on an apparently empty area of Doom's Lab. All that it seemed to contain was a shiny metal platform, which was raised perhaps an inch of the floor.

"That's Doom's time whatjamacallit.." Hank was surprised to hear Ben's voice in his ear. He could move surprisingly quietly when he wanted to. "hmmmm.. Displacer.. thats what Reed called it anyways.." Doom appeared on screen in front of the device. "My my my, Mr Grimm I am impressed. And there was me thinking that you only had rocks in your head. Yes that is indeed my Time Displacer. You wanted to know how I had accomplished this McCoy. This is how. Even in energy form I was able to activate the simple controls. Or so I thought anyway. I had intended to travel back a short span of time, to prevent myself from beginning the syphoning process. 16 minutes was all it would have taken. Little did I realise then as my energy form hung waiting over the platform, that the trailing edge of it; perhaps still containing some remnant of the Surfer's will changed the settings. 16 years I went back. Back to the very day of this body's birth. At the very place and time that the Richards' child was screaming it's way into the world, so was Doom."

The youthful face on the screen smiled, but there was no warmth there. "But enough of these happy reminisences, I have work to do. Please feel free to call on me when you are next in the area." The screen went dead, and static from the speakers filled the room.

Flight to the Death...
Johnny stabbed at the button on the table, turning off the viewscreen and speakers. "C'mon everyone we have to go get Reed, and get that monster out of little Franklin." He sprang over the couch behind him, rushing for the elevator to the hangar bay, the flames already licking through his cropped blond hair. "Johnny! Calm down." Everyone turned to look at the source of the voice. Susan Richards stood looking defiantly at the group. Her eyes were red with tears, and her face looked more drawn than normal, but it was obvious that she wouldn't brook any dissension. She was been this family's center, and now she found herself in the role of it's leader. "We can't just rush in there blindly. You know Reed would expect more from us." As she spoke she moved over to her younger brother, placing her hand on his cheek. "It will take about an hour to reach Latveria by Pogo-plane. If we all put our heads together on the way I am sure we can come up with a plan. Ben. Go power up the jet."

Benjamin Grimm's mouth flapped open a couple of times before he managed to get the words out. "Are youse sure youse should be goin' over dere Susie? it's not gonna be pretty." "Ben. That is my husband and my s.." Sue's voice broke a little as she fought back a sob. " son. I can't sit here at home when I know they are in danger. I know you worry for me Ben, but I have to do this." Ben looked her in the eye for a few minutes, then simply said "Youse da Boss. Boss. One pogo plane coming up." as he entered the elevator to the Hangar.

"Henry, I want to thank you all for your help, but I can't ask you to do thi.." Hank held up his hand to stop Sue as she spoke. "We are already in this Susan. What sort of friends would we be if we let you do this alone." He looked around at his fellow Defenders, their nods of agreement telling him what he needed to know. "My only worry is that your pogo plane might not be big enough for us all." Susan smiled, something that seemed to surprise her. "Oh Henry. Thank you. For everything."

50 minutes later...
"Hulk! Will youse stop fidgetin'! Youse is shakin' da whole plane!" Ben roared irritably back from the cockpit, as Hulk caused the plane to swerve wildly once more. Hulk sat looking fed up, squeezed into the back of the passenger area. "Hulk not fidget! Bird Man feathers make Hulk sneeze!" Hank couldn't help but smile. "Warren, try and keep your wings closed inside the cabin." He gave Brun a wink.

Ben roared something unintelligable as the whole craft rocked violently again. When he had regained control once more he called back. "Right. Dat's It. Get dat big green palooka offa my plane." Susan moved forward into the cockpit. "Ben. That wasn't Hulk. Check the scope." "Youse Right Susie." The plane rocked twice as two further explosions narrowly missed them. "We've got company. Everyone hold tight." Ben threw the craft into a series of steep turns, bringing the plane closer to the ground, hoping to get away from their pursuers. "What's out there Ben?" asked Hank as he stood in the cockpit doorway gripping the sides ferociously. "What's firing on us?" "I dunno Hank. Can't get a decent fix on 'em. But I would give ya odds that Doom is beh.." Hank didn't catch the rest of his words as another explosion almost took the pogo plane's nose off, causing Ben to veer the craft violently downwards. "Please put youse seats in tha upright position and eggstinguish all cigars. We's goin' in!!" Ben shouted, the ground looming in the window. Hank had barely managed to buckle himself into the cockpit's third chair when the plane hit a tree ripping it from the ground and sending it crashing through the windscreen.

Sometime later...
"Henry. Wake Up." The soothing tones were unmistakeably Brun's. "Just five more minutes darling." Hank rolled over, a rock poking him sharply in the cheek. "Ow!" he said as he opened his eyes. "What happen..? Where?" He could tell he was not in the plane anymore, nor in the comfortable bed the sound of Brun's voice had conjured in his head. "Plane's a write off." said Bobby, who was sitting off to the side rubbing his ribs. "I hope the Richards' have a good insurance policy. As for where we are, all signs point to Symkaria!" He indicated a large sign a few hundred yards away. You are now leaving the Republic of Symkaria

Hank sat up rubbing his cheek and looked from the offending rock which he had rolled onto, up to where Bobby Had pointed. You are now leaving the Republic of Symkaria read the sign. "Is everyone ok?" he asked as he pushed himself unsteadily into a crouch. Brun's strong asgardian hand grasped his shoulder, steading him. "Careful Henry. Thou took quite a tumble from yon flying machine." Hank looked around at the plane, what was left of it. Getting to his feet with help from Brun, he walked slowly over to the remains. The cockpit and nose sat upside down in a broad trench which stretched back into the distance. A little way back along the trench Hank could make out the main fusilage which laying awkwardly on it's side. Of the wings and engines he could see no sign, other than the spray of twisted metal which glittered in the later afternoon sun which hung low over the mountains. Sitting on the edge of the trench was Benjamin J Grimm, looking at the shattered remains and shaking his head. "Reed's gonna kill me." he said as he raised his eyes skyward in a silent prayer. Looking around at Hank as he approached him, Ben said sadly. "He'd just finished refurbalising that doohickey."

Hank tried to stifle a small chuckle. Clasping Ben's rocky shoulder in his overgrown hand, he looked into the other man's eyes "Ben, don't beat yourself up over it. I'm sure he won't mind you breaking one of his little toys. It was in a good cause after all." Ben nodded, but still looked unhappily towards the plane. "Hulk would youse stop playing with that." he called suddenly, seeing their large emerald companion rocking the already unsteady cockpit section. Hulk grumbled something that was lost over the squeel of metal as the cockpit settled unsteadily back onto the ground. Hank shook his head, as he turned back towards the others. "I take it everyone else came out of that more or less unscathed?" he asked looking at Brun. "Aye Henry. Thou must hath hit thy head on the way down. The rest of us managed to brace ourselves." She brushed her fingers softly against his temples as she brushed his long brown hair out of his eyes. Hank smiled, enjoying the feeling of her skin on his. He was about to turn back to Bobby when Warren and Sue appeared suddenly out of the clear sky.

"Well look who woke up!" said Angel as he landed gracefully in the middle of the group, setting Susan Richards carefully down on her own feet. "While you were enjoying you're beauty sleep, we decided to do a little bit of scouting." "Invisibly of course." interjected Sue. "Yes. Thanks to Sue we were able to have a good look around the area. Whatever attacked us has gone for now." said Warren "We tried flying over the border, but the barrier stopped us so we found a village a couple of miles south of here. We might be able to find a way across the border with a local guide." Hank nodded, causing his head to ring a little. "Good idea Warren. The faster we get there the faster we can head on."

A Silver Lining?...
The trip across the quiet countryside of Symkaria was uneventful allowing the motley crew of Beast, Valkyrie, Iceman, Angel, Hulk, Thing, Invisible Woman and Human Torch to make good time to the small Symkarian village of Echsalburg, 10 miles from the Symkaria/Latveria border. The quickly and quietly skirted the edge of the town, staying under cover of the dense brush which almost threatened to overrun the houses which marked the boundary line. Life in this small hamlet nestled in the lush forests of eastern Symkaria had remained virtually unchanged in hundreds of years. Yes, there were now more cars rattling down the cobbled streets than horse-drawn carriages, and a few satellite dishes adorned the tops of thatch-roofed farmhouses that had seen the birth and death of many generations. However, for the most part, these people lived the same way as their grandfathers had, and their grandfathers before them. As the assembled Defenders and Fantastic Four circled the town, looking for signs of Doom perhaps having a hold on this village so close to his borders they spotted a large military truck pulling up outside one of the more nondescript tiny houses which backed onto the woods. Crouching low they watched as a tall slender silver almost white haired young woman climbed down from the cab and moved to the back of the truck, climing inside.

"Susan." whispered Hank, turning towards her, "I am going to try and get closer, see if I can hear anything. Do you think you can keep me invisible as I cross the road?" Sue Richards nodded and as the others watched Hank McCoy, erstwhile leader of the Defenders faded from view. "Thanks Susan." said Hank, the smile in his voice apparent even without a face to back it up. He waved his hand in front of his face, marvelling at the transparency of it. "I wondered if I would be able to see myself." he mused as he looked along the road. "Back in a few minutes." With that he took of in a low bounding run, his powerful arms and legs eating up the distance to the house easily. As he crouched down beside the window he caught the sound of low voices from within.

The men's voices whispered in heated debate around a large meeting table. "Other than running water, sanitation, public safety, transportation, medicine, education, and comfort of living, what has that tin-plated despot ever done for us?" the balding man at the head of the table asked. A man on the left side of the table raised his hand. "Better crops?" Before the balding man could say anything else, there was a rap at the front door. Hank crouched lower beneath the window incase his invisibility was unexpectedly reversed. The men all looked startled, and glanced around at each other and at places they could hide. The balding man nodded to one of the others at the table. That man got up and walked to the door. He opened up a small slot on the door just a few inches high, peeked out, and asked, "Who's there?"

A pair of feminine grey eyes met his. "It's Silver. We need to talk." The man at the door turned back to the others. The balding man asked, "How do we know it's really her?" The man at the door turned back towards the slot to ask the woman outside the same question, when her hand shot in through the slot, grabbed the man's nose with her middle and ring finger in an iron grip, and yanked his head against the door with a resounding 'thump'. "Let. Me. In. Now." Silver Sable said, seemingly ready to pull the man's head through the tiny slot.

The men at the table all looked at each other. "It's her, all right." The balding man stated. "Let her in, Kurt." Kurt fumbled for the lock blindly, hoping his nose didn't get separated from his face, and once finding it, unlatched it quickly. Silver let Kurt's nose go, and opened the door. The platinum-haired Silver Sable walked up to the balding man. "You asked to see me, Johann?" she asked. Johann nodded. "Yes. While we of the Latverian Democratic National Party are grateful to the people of Symkaria for allowing us to take refuge in your country, we have decided that we would like to free our homeland from the dictator that has lorded over us for all these years. To do this, however, we shall need weapons. Weapons that we hoped you and yours would provide." Silver placed her knuckles on the table and leaned forward. "We of Symkaria are neighbors to one of the most ruthless, most powerful dictators of our time. My job is to keep my land safe and at peace, not incur the wrath of Doctor Doom so a bunch of Latverian rabble-rousers can stage a hopeless revolution." Silver stood up straight and looked at each and every man in the room in the eyes, one by one. "We offered you and your families sanctuary at great personal risk to ourselves, and now you want more?"

Silver turned around and walked to the door, with Johann on her heels. "B-but Silver…," he began. "Doom will not be content forever just ruling Latveria. Someday, and probably someday soon, he shall come for your country! He will-" Silver cut him off short with a wave of her hand. "Enough, Johann. This has all been discussed with King Stefan and his advisors. Our decision is final." She then pointed to a canvas-covered truck parked a few yards away. "However, I did bring food and…supplies…for your needs." She turned and put her hand on his shoulder, and peered intently into his eyes. "I hope they serve you well. You may keep the truck." A silver Mercedes pulled up, the driver clad in the orange and blue jumpsuits of Silver's Wild Pack. Silver Sable got in the back seat, and they drove off. Johann watched them briefly, and then turned to the truck, downhearted. He walked toward it, the other men in the house also came out to collect the supplies. Johann lifted the canvas and peered into the dark back of the transport truck. He slowly smiled when he saw the light reflect off the gun barrels within.

Taking the men's distraction as an opportunity to retreat to the rest of the team, Hank leapt to his feet, rushing back across the street as quickly and quietly as he could. "I think I may have found a way to get into Latveria and help it's people take on Doom." he said with a grin as Sue let the invisibility field drop.

Families Matter...
"Are youse gonna keep us in suspenders all day McCoy?!?" asked Ben irritably, still out of sorts at the loss of the plane. "Or are youse gonna tell us the plan?" Hank smiled over at the Thing. "Relax Benjamin." he said, "From what I overheard these men are Latverian refugees. The silver haired woman , Sable, seems to have been providing them with supplies and sanctuary. I am unsure how long they have been here, but now they feel that the time is right to stage a little revolt. Judging by the reaction to the truck's contents, it contains a little more than the food and medicine she said it did." Hank looked around at the rest of the group as they crouched in the dense brush that bordered the roadside leading into the town. Across the way the some of the men were talking in an extremely animated fashion. "I think we should offer them some.. assistance." said Hank as his gaze moved across the street. "Even if Sable has provided them with weapons I doubt that they would last five minutes against Doom's troops but with our help thy might provide enough of a distraction to allow us to get into Castle Doom. Hank's face became more serious as his mind drifted back to the previous time he had spent as a 'guest' of Victor Von Doom. The opportunity to revisit the location of that incarceration did not fill him with pleasure.

"We have to get Reed out of there as quickly as we can Henry." said Sue as she gripped Hank's arm drawing him away from his unwelcome reminisences. Her gaze flicked between him and the men unloading the truck as she spoke, her voice halting with emotion. "If you think we can use these men to help us do that, then we should approach them!" Hank rested his large hand on Sue's as he looked into her blue eyes. "I think it is the only way we can get through the barrier Susan. These men managed to leave Latveria before, I presume they mean to reenter their homeland via the same route." As he spoke his eyes never drifted from hers. It was if he was drawn by the conviction, the need to be with her husband and child that was plainly visible there. "We will get them back Susan. Both of them." he continued softly. How could he deny her wish to be with the ones she loved? To be with her family. Hank's eyes flicked momentarily to those of the rest of his team. They were his family now. Brun, Warren, Bobby and even Hulk. Lover, brothers and friends. He knew they would follow his lead.

Children of the Revolution...
"Hey McCoy! Wake up!" The rumbling voice was accompanied by a heavy hand on his shoulder. "Hmm? Oh Ben. Sorry I was miles away." Hank smiled at his rocky friend and then turned to the rest of the team. "First thing we need to do is get their attention.." he mused, rubbing his chin with between thumb and forefinger. He looked across the road at the men bustling around the truck Sable had left and then back at the rest of the group. "And seeing who we have gathered here that shouldn't be much of a problem. Come on." Without another word Hank stepped out into the road, motioning Sue and Ben and Warren to follow him. "Brun. You go with Hulk, Bobby and Johnny. Head around back of the house. They may decide not to help us and it would be nice to keep a surprise or two up our sleeves." He smiled as she nodded agreement and caught Hulk's attention by tapping him on the butt with Dragonfang. Hulk looked around sharply his lips drawn back in a snarl until he saw who had hit him. His shoulders dropped and he turned to trudge after the other three, mumbling something under his breath about wanting to smash something. Hank shook his head, and tried to suppress the chuckle that was bubbling in his throat.

Walking briskly along across the road and around the side of the house, Hank waved at the men unloading the truck. "Would one of you gentlemen be Johann?" he asked as Sue, Ben and Angel rounded the house after him. The sudden appearance of Hank and his people left the men standing slackjawed, boxes of weapons in hand, for long minutes. "Karl. Quit gawping and take this crate before I drop it on you." The voice Hank recognised from earlier as Johann's came from the beneath the tarpaulin which covered the truck. A loud thump followed as the crate was presumably dropped on the floor of the truck and a figure bounded from within the canvas covered interior onto the ground and strode purposefully towards 'Karl'. "I said get back to work you lazy fo.." He had begun to berate the hapless Karl and then seeing he was getting nowhere had followed his stupified gaze, hoping to find the source of his sudden idiocy. Johann's own jaw dropped open. "I'm sorry if we startled you. Please. Relax. We were sent to help you." Continued Hank, secretly pleased at the effect that their sudden appearance had elicited. Hank nodded towards the truck. "I trust you found the 'medical supplies' to your liking? The supplier thought you might need a little extra manpower." Hank took a couple of steps towards the men, his palms spread outward. "Our mutual friend would have liked to make the formal introduction, but could not for fear of external reprisals." Hank turned towards the others, motioning them forward. Johann seemed to have gained control of his mouth and walked towards Hank somewhat hesitantly. "S-Silver sent you?" he said softly, looking around as if afraid of being overheard. Hank nodded, trusting the others to follow his lead. "We were asked to come aid the revolution. Against Doom you will need all the help you can get."

Johann looked at Hank not sure wether to trust him or not but Hank could sense he was wavering. "Are there only the four of you? Could no more be summoned?" he asked, obviously his desire to reconquer his homeland overcoming his natural wariness. "There are others" replied Hank. "We did not want to overly alarm you by turning up en masse. Perhaps we should get inside off the street and I will alert them it is safe to come forward." Johann looked around at his men and then back at Hank. "Yes. Yes. Of Course. Forgive me. You're arrival did surprise me. I thought we had recieved all the aid we would. I should have known not to doubt our friends." He ushered them into the house, signalling his men to hurry up unloading the truck. As Ben, then Warren walked past him into the darkened interior Johann shook his head and said a silent prayer. "Demons and Angels. Now I've seen everything." he muttered under his breath as he followed them inside.

The inside of the room seemed much smaller than it had from Hank's earlier position at the window, although that might be as much due to Ben's large form taking up one corner of the room. Moving over to the window Hank opened it wide, letting out a low intermittent whistle. Almost immediately Valkyrie appeared in the opening, with Iceman and the Human Torch not far behind. Brun smiled up at him as Hank held out his hand to her, helping her into the room. "Good to see you my love." he whispered as she moved past him to allow Hank to help the others in. As Bobby cleared the window, a large shadow fell across the opening, and the emerald hued chest of Hulk blocked the view. "Oh." said Hank as he turned looking at the others for some help. Turning back to the window Hank leaned out and looked up at Hulk. "Sorry Big Guy. I think you are going to have to sit out here by the window and listen. There just isn't enough room inside for you too." Hank put his hand on Hulk's arm and waited as he sat heavily on the ground. "Always Hulk odd one out." he said in a low grumble and poked his finger petulantly into the ground, puncturing a waterpipe which ran just below the surface. A jet of water sprayed up and over the Hulk, plastering his hair to his forehead and drenching his purple pants. The green behemoth looked up at Hank for a moment or two and then stuffed a rock into the hole he had created. "Hulk Wet." he said, in a voice that matched his sullen features. Hank shook his head again and patted Hulk on the shoulder. "I'll see if we can get you some food while you wait." he said as he turned back to see Johann staring at Johnny, Sue and Ben.

"I-I Know you. You have fought Doom before." he was looking between the three of them, a large smile forming on his face. "You have defeated him before. Now I know that it is fated you help us."

~~~~~~~~ To Be Continued ~~~~~~~~~

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