It was the dead of night when a freight train pulled into a New York City train yard. As the train came to a stop, one of the car doors opened up, and a large misshapen figure leapt out. It ran through the yard, staying in the shadows and doing it's best to avoid being seen. Once it was out of the train yard, it made its way to a men's clothing store. It pushed the door open, walking in and approaching the counter.
"Excuse me." the creature said in a voice that sounded like rocks rubbing against one another.
The teller turned towards the voice, only to see the creature before him. The teller then let out a scream of fear before bolting out of the store. The creature watched them go, then sighed.
"Great." he muttered.
The figure grabbed a pair of pants, a coat, and a fedora, leaving some cash on the counter before walking off.
After making his way across town, he reached a pay phone and proceeded to walk over to it. When he saw how small the buttons were, he let out a groan of frustration.
"What a revoltin' development this is." he lamented.
Luckily for him, someone had left a pen on the top of the phone. He rolled it into his hand, then used the pen to dial the number he wanted. After a few rings, the line was picked up.
"Hello?" A woman's voice spoke.
"Debs?" the creature replied.
"Ben? Is that you?" Debbie asked. "You sound strange."
"It's… been a long day." Ben replied. "Listen, think you can come outside?"
"Are you here, now?" Debbie questioned.
"Take a look." He remarked.
Just across the street, a light turned on and a curtain was pulled aside. A woman in a blue nightgown looked outside and saw the coat clad figure. She smiled lovingly, knowing who it was.
"I'll be right down." She told him. "I've got a little surprise for you."
"Yeah," Ben replied. "I got one for you too."
The phone went dead as the woman came out onto the street. She had a robe on as she approached.
"Ben?" she called out.
"Don't come closer." Ben called out from behind a bush. "This… this might come as a shock. Just remember, 'together, forever, no matter what.' right?"
"Yes..." Debbie let out, looking at Ben nervously. "What's going on? You're starting to scare me."
Ben let out a breath before finally stepping out into the light and taking off his hat. Debbie was horrified to see that Ben had been transformed into a man made entirely of orange stone. He had three fingers on each hand, and only vaguely looked human. She stumbled backward, shivering in horror.
"Oh my God..." She gasped. "What are you?"
"Deb, it's me." Ben told her. "It's still Ben. let me explain-"
"No, no!" Debbie cried, backing away. "Stay away from me!"
She quickly turned around and ran away, almost running into an oncoming cab before it hit the brakes. The cabbie watched her scramble into her apartment before turning to Ben.
"Hey, I'm calling the cops!" He shouted.
Ben quickly ducked out of the area before things could get worse.
The next day, Reed, Sue, and Johnny arrived at the city. They quickly took a cab over to Debbie's place and saw several cop cars outside her apartment.
"Looks like he was here." Johnny noted.
The three of them got out of the cab and made their way towards the apartment, where Debbie was giving her statement to the police.
"Debbie!" Reed called out, getting her attention.
Debbie turned towards Reed and immediately marched towards him.
"You." She let out, promptly slapping him across the face.
"Hey!" Sue snapped, stepping in front of her. "What was that?"
"What did you do to Ben?!" Debbie demanded.
"Ben's… going through a rough time." Reed tried to explain. "Just give us some time to find him, and we-"
"You turned him into a monster!" Debbie snapped. "I told him you would bring us nothing but trouble, and now Ben's-!"
She choked on her words, turning away. She then slid her engagement ring off her finger.
"When you find him, give him this." she insisted.
"Debbie, please." Reed insisted. "He's still the Ben you fell in love with."
"No, he's not. You made sure of that."
She dropped the ring into his hand, then turned and walked off. Sue walked up to Reed and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Don't take it personally, Reed." She told him. "She's hurting."
"I'm more worried about how Ben's taking this." Johnny spoke up. "He loved Debbie. He's gonna be crushed."
"Then we'd better find him fast." Reed decided.
Ben meanwhile, was sitting on top of the Brooklyn Bridge, moping about what happened with Debbie.
"Yeah, Reed, just a few days in space." Ben lamented. "What's the worst that could happen? I'll tell you what the worst that could happen is. Me turning into a monster and Debbie not being able to stand the sight of me."
As he bemoaned his fate, a pigeon landed on him.
"Hey there, little guy." Ben spoke. "You don't think I'm so scary, do ya?"
The pigeon just flew off, leaving a small dropping on his shoulder as he did so.
"Great." Ben lamented, brushing it off. "Thanks."
As he leaned back, he saw a distraught man in a business suit holding a briefcase slowly approaching the edge. The man drops his briefcase, allowing it to fall towards the river below. Ben just rolled his eyes as the man prepared to step over the edge.
"Hey pal." Ben spoke up.
The man turned to Ben, almost shouting in shock when he got a good look at him.
"You think you got problems, pal?" Ben asked. "Take a good look at me, and then talk to me about problems."
"You… you're one of those mutants, aren't you?"
"Nah, just some guy who got the world's worst bad luck." Ben leaned back on one of the steel beams.
"You really wanna debate that? Come on, what was so bad it made you wanna take the ten second exit from life?"
"Well… I lost my job at the office… my wife left me… and my apartment is being foreclosed.
"Ok… that's rough, I'll admit. But still don't seem like reason to end everything."
"I've got nothing left… no reason to live."
"You've got friends, right? Family? People who depend on ya? Bet they'd pretty upset if they heard on the news some fisherman dragged you out of the Hudson."
"I… I guess I didn't think of that."
"Understandable. Look pal, I get what you're going through. The woman I love thinks I'm a monster, but you? You actually have a shot of coming out ok. So why don't we get you down off this bridge and get your life back on track. At least you can still have one."
The man sighed.
"Alright." He got to his feet, then turned to Ben. "You know, maybe it's not too late for you either. I mean, you look scary, but you're a good guy."
"Thanks." Ben replied. "Nice to know there are some decent people out there."
Ben got back to his feet and moved to help the guy down off the bridge. As they moved away from the edge, something seemed to cause the man to trip, causing him to fall towards the road. He quickly grabbed onto a metal beam above the highway as Ben watched on in horror.
"Hang on!" Ben called out. "I'm coming!"
Ben slowly inched his way out on the beam, taking great care with each step. He then reached his hand out towards the man, hoping to pull him back up onto the beam. The man reached his hand towards Ben, hoping to grab hold of his oversized hand. Unfortunately, he lost his grip as he fell onto the streets below, just as a large semi came barrelling towards him. Thinking fast, Ben leapt down onto the street and used his body to block the oncoming truck, totaling it in the process. This unfortunately caused several other cars to pile up behind the truck, causing some to even crash and create a massive traffic jam.
On the far side of the bridge, Reed, Sue, and Johnny were in a cab trying to follow Ben's trail from the other night and figure out where he would go next.
"You think Ben really came this way?" Johnny asked.
"It's the only lead we have." Sue reasoned. "I just hope he's ok."
Suddenly, the cab came to a halt, much to the three's surprise.
"What's going on?" Reed asked.
"Some kind of pile up going on." the Cabbie reported, trying to get a look at what was going on. "Hey… I think there's something out there."
The three of them looked at each other in worry before climbing out of the cab. Thinking he could get a better view, Johnny climbed on top of the cab to see farther out on the bridge. As he did so, he caught sight of an orange shape out on the bridge.
"I see something out there!" Johnny called out. "It might be Ben!"
Realizing this, Reed and Sue darted forward, with Johnny following close behind.
Back with Ben, he helped the man from before get back to his feet as patrons got out of their cars.
"You alright, pal?" Ben asked.
"Yeah." the man replied, brushing himself off. "Thanks."
"Just wish it didn't make such a mess. You'd better get out of here before the cops show up."
The man nodded before heading off, leaving Ben with a rather large mess to deal with. As he looked around at the sea of people pulling themselves out of their cars with various injuries, he caught notice of the man in the truck he smashed, sporting a massive bruise on his head. Fearing the worst, Ben moved towards him.
As Reed, Sue, and Johnny made their way towards Ben, a crowd of curious onlookers started to form. The three of them maneuvered as best they could through the massive amount of people in their way. As they got to the front of the crowd though, the police had started to arrive, forming a barricade around the crowd, preventing them from going further.
"Everyone needs to stay back!" an officer announced. "Please return to your vehicles and we will let you know when you can leave!"
"Officer!" Reed called out. "Officer, you need to let us in."
"I can't do that."
"But we have a friend back there who is suffering from a genetic breakdown. He needs our help."
"I'm sorry sir, but my orders are not to let anyone pass."
"Forget it Reed," Sue told him, pulling him back. "We're not gonna get past these guys. We need another way to get to Ben."
"Maybe you can stretch us over." Johnny suggested.
"We still don't know the extent of our powers," Reed reasoned. "I don't know if I can reach that far."
"How about up there?" Johnny suggested, pointing up to one of the girders. "You can grab that, and swing us up and over."
"Could work…" Reed pondered. "Though I don't know if I can carry both of you over."
"Then don't." Sue reasoned. "You take Johnny over. I can get through on my own."
Sue concentrated for a moment before she finally turned invisible. Unfortunately, her clothing did not disappear along with her.
"Um… Sue, your clothes." Reed pointed out.
"Oh... " Sue let out, realizing what she had to do. "Right."
"I don't wanna see this." Johnny let out, turning around as Sue shrugged off her jacket.
She then proceeded to unbutton her blouse, slipping it off before kicking off her shoes and socks and wriggling out of her pants. She prepared to undo her bra, but stopped when she saw a rather uncomfortable amount of people staring at her. She then turned to Reed, who seemed a little uncomfortable himself.
"What?" she asked, only to look down and see what everyone was looking at.
Her invisibility had worn off, leaving her standing in a populated crown in nothing but her underwear. She yelped in shock before instinctively covering herself.
"What happened?!" Sue let out.
"I… I don't know," Reed admitted, finally turning towards her. "Wow, you've been working out."
"Not now!" She snapped.
Back with Ben, he made his way over to the truck and tore off the door, much to the drivers surprise.
"Hey there." Ben greeted. "Sorry about the truck. How about we get you out of here?"
The driver tried to undo his seatbelt, but seemed to have trouble with it.
"Everything alright, there?" Ben asked.
"It's stuck!" the driver let out.
Groaning in response, Ben grabbed hold of the seat and just yanked it right out of the truck. Just as he did that though, several police officers had made their way through the wreck and caught him in the act.
"Freeze!" they yelled, causing Ben to freeze in place. "Put the man in the seat down!"
Not wanting to cause any more trouble than he already had, Ben obliged and slowly put the driver down on the ground.
Back with the others, Sue had tried to make herself invisible again, but it seemed to no avail. She grabbed her jacket off the ground to try and cover herself, frustrated about today's turn of events.
"Well this has been a disaster," She remarked.
"I hate to be the one to say it," Reed told her. "But this was your idea."
"Right. Maybe next time, you can strip down and have a hundred people stare at you!"
As Sue fumed, her body started turning invisible again, something Reed quickly caught onto.
"Sue," He spoke up.
"What?!" Sue snapped before looking down and saw her reactivated transparency. "Oh."
Sue then dropped the jacket and continued to undress.
"Reed, think you can make a device that can erase this moment from my memory?" Johnny asked, doing his best not to look.
Her undies dropped to the ground with the rest of her clothes as she disappeared into the crowd.
"Well, that was unsettling," Johnny commented.
"Come on, Reed ushered, scooping up Sue's clothes as Johnny wrapped his arms around Reed's neck.
Reed stretched out an arm up to one of the girders and pulled the two of them upwards.
"Alright, take it easy," Been insisted. "I don't want any trouble."
"Just put your hands over your head!" the cop ordered.
Before Ben could make another move, one of the cars suddenly exploded, catching fire and giving Ben the chance to get out of there. People began scrambling for cover, trying to shield themselves from the blast, the police included.
"Go after him!" one of the cops ordered. "I got this guy"!
The cops nodded, then took off after Ben.
Meanwhile, Reed and Johnny had managed to get past the blockade, Sue putting on her clothes after rejoining them.
"I can't believe I actually did that."
"That makes two of us," Johnny commented.
"We'll worry about it later," Reed insisted. "Let's just find Ben."
The three of them quickly got to work, making their way through the wreck in an attempt to find Ben. Sue leapt onto one the cars to get a better look.
"Ben!" She called out.
Just then, Ben came out from one of the cars, coming in full view of the three. All three stopped in their tracks, even wise-cracking Johnny finding himself at a loss for words.
"Ben…" Reed let out in shock. "Oh my god…"
"Hey guys," Ben greeted, trying to sound nonchalant. "Some day, huh?"
"Man..." Johnny let out, Debby's reaction now hitting home for him. "I am so sorry..."
Before anything else could be said, the fire from the wrecked car had reached some toppled over gas tanks, causing a massive explosion that shook the bridge. The explosion began to extend towards the group, prompting Sue to act. Without knowing how, she managed to summon a large, barely visible forcefield that engulfed the explosion, keeping it at bay. She didn't quite know how she was doing this, but she was very grateful it was working.
Unfortunately, while Sue was doing that, an oncoming fire truck came down the bridge to try and help with the fire. When the explosion went off, the force of it sent them spinning out of control and almost off of the bridge. They snapped several more of the support cables, the truck ending up halfway off the bridge with its ladder extended all the way.. Some of the firemen clung to the ladder for dear life, one holding onto the very last step, dangling over the river below.
"Help!" One of them shouted!
Ben looked at the truck, which was already beginning to tip. Recalling how he'd been able to literally rip trucks apart, he steeled himself and moved to the front of the truck. Planting his feet, he grabbed the truck by its front bumper, using every ounce of his strength to keep it from falling. As the truck teetered, one of the girders broke loose and began falling to one of the dangling firemen. Seeing this, Johnny quickly tried to think of something. With only a flimsy idea in mind, Johnny snapped his fingers, creating a small flame and actually threw it at the falling girder, knocking it away.
"Yes!" He punched the air. "I can't believe that worked!"
Suddenly, one of the firemen lost his grip on the truck and began falling. He fell about ten feet before he was grabbed by Reed. Reed had literally wrapped his body around part of the bridge, stretching himself out as far as he could before reeling himself back in.
"Don't worry!" Reed called out. "I got you!"
Ben meanwhile continued pulling the truck back onto the street, his feet literally cracking the asphalt from the amount of pressure he was under. Finally, he got the whole truck back onto the bridge, allowing the firemen to drop down safely to the ground. The second the truck was secure, Ben stepped back and took a breath, suddenly set upon by several police officers.
"Hands in the air, freak!"
"Aw, great…" Ben let out.
Ben and the cops turned to see the man Ben had saved earlier running out, getting between him and the police.
"This man saved my life!" He insisted. "He just saved all those firefighters! This man is a hero, not a monster!"
Slowly, the crowds joined in with the man, insisting that Ben was a hero. Eventually, the cops lowered their guns, seeing no reason to pursue the matter further. Reed meanwhile finally managed to reach Ben, meeting his friend's eye.
"Are you alright?" he asked quietly.
Ben didn't answer, shaking his head and looking down.
"Debs…. She was afraid of me..."
Reed just put a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"I promise, I will do whatever it takes to fix this. No matter what, you will be Ben Grimm again."
Ben just let out a sigh, his face showing his hopelessness.
Later, the four regrouped in a medical tent, with Ben just sitting by himself feeling melancholy. Johnny sat next to him, looking surprisingly stoic. He held out his hand, which had Debbie's ring in it.
"Reed wanted you to have this."
Been took it, feeling even worse as he crushed it in his hand. Johnny couldn't help but feel for the guy.
"Hey, it's gonna be ok. Reed's gonna fix you."
"Why are you being all chummy? I thought you'd be having a blast making fun of me."
"Dude… I'm a joker, not a jackass."
Ben smirked a little before returning to his gloomy demeanor.
"But if you want me to joke, I was wondering where your ears were," Johnny remarked in a good naturedly. "I see some ear shaped rocks on the side of your head… I wonder."
He reached over and covered said rocks.
"Can you hear me?"
"Yeah, yeah," Ben replied, shoving him aside. "Though right now I wish I couldn't."
Johnny removed his hands.
"Sorry, was legit trying to lighten the mood."
"... I know, kid. Sorry."
As the two just talked with one another, an M.D. looked over Sue. As he finished up, one of the firemen from earlier approached the group.
"Hey, there are some people out there who want a word with you."
"Uh, no," Reed decided. "We're not prepared to go public with this."
"Think it's a little too late for that."
The fireman turned on a TV, showing a report of the entire incident of the bridge. It took note of their individual acts of heroism and described their powers with surprising detail, calling them the Fantastic Four.
"You guys are big news. Everyone wants to know more."
"The Fantastic Four, huh?" Johnny read off. "I like the sound of that."
"Johnny, we're scientists,: Sue insisted. "Not celebrities."
"We can be both. I know Ben wouldn't be into it, but as long as we've got these powers, why not do some good with them. Could be fun."
"I have to admit, Johnny does make a good point," Reed conceded. "We have been given… extraordinary gifts, and while the cause may have been messy, today showed how we can best use them. I say it's at least worth a try."
"If it'll get the cops to stop trying to shoot me, I'll give it a shot," Ben decided.
"Well, if everyone else is on board, then so am I," Sue agreed.
"Then we're all in agreement," Reed noted. "I guess it's time to meet the press."
"Guess so," Sue agreed as they all walked out.
Together, the four walked out into the group of reporters, all of them clamoring with questions. As they all spoke up, one question was a bit clearer than the rest.
"Which one of you is the leader?!" One reporter asked.
"This guy right here," Johnny declared, slapping Reed on the back. "Dr. Reed Richards!"
"I, uh… suppose so."
"How did your group acquire their powers?" another reporter asked. "Is this another case of genetic mutation?"
"No," Reed answered. "During a recent mission to the Von Doom space station, the four of us were exposed to unknown cosmic radiation."
"Radiation?" One reporter asked. "Are you radioactive?"
"Is it permanent?"
"We don't know anything yet," Reed answered. "There are still things about our abilities even we don't know yet. We plan to learn more before engaging in further heroism so as to not endanger the city and its people."
Across the city, sitting in his penthouse home, Victor von Doom watched the broadcast with surprise and curiosity. His gaze slowly shifted into that of anger as the broadcast continued, with the crowds loving the Fantastic Four more by the moment.
"Heroes… they're seen as heroes..."
He slammed his fist down on a table, denting it hard. He blinked, looking down at the table before lifting his hand. To his horror, the skin on his knuckles had been peeled off, revealing metal knuckles underneath.
"What the hell…?"
Elsewhere, someone else was watching the Fantastic Four's grand appearance with a much different reaction.
"It was supposed to be my work they would report on, not these freaks. All the same, at least this proves it works."
The man turned to a pile of glowing clay on a table, picking it up and beginning to sculpt.
"This was just the first step. Before long, every person in the city will be my puppet."
He began carefully working on four different sculptures, a malicious glint in his eye.