Xander bustled around through his room in the Lowell House, checking in the mirror to ensure that his wig was fixed firmly against his skull and that his clothes would be acceptable for Buffy’s tastes. He was going Bronzing, where the Scoobies were having a ‘surprise’ going away party, and nothing was going to ruin it.
He immediately turned away from his reflection, eyes narrowing as they were drawn to the communicator laying on his bed, daring it to prove him wrong.
It remained silent, and Xander quietly smirked to himself as he turned back to the mirror, preparing to walk out the door. He took one step and the communicator began to flash red, releasing an obnoxious buzzing to grab his attention.
He slumped. Of course.
“Surge,” Fury’s voice came over the device, urgency clear, “We’ve got a situation. I need you in Las Vegas in te--”
“No, Fury,” he replied, cutting him off as he grabbed the communicator, “Not tonight.”
“The public’s in danger!” Fury called out.
in danger,” Xander snarled into the device.
“Kid, that did not work when my first wife tried it,” Fury growled back, “And it’s not gonna work when you try it. Now get to Los Vegas in the next ten minutes. Your buddies from the Baxter Building are about thirty seconds away from crashing a billion dollar space shuttle into the Vegas Strip, and a decidedly unfriendly alien ship is riding their asses!”
“But we already did the aliens,” he whined. “Can’t you get Thor to do it?”
“I’d love to,” Fury told him, “But the tree-hugger’s out of contact. Steve, Tony and Jan are in transit, but they won’t be there for at least an hour. You’re the only one who can get there in time... so get moving!”
Fury disconnected at that, and Xander groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose as he cussed out the idiot dumb enough to give Reed a billion dollar space shuttle to begin with. Seriously, he messed up the teleporter, he crashed the Fantasti-car, how did they expect this to go any better?
Xander faced the mirror again, dropping the communicator as he gazed at his reflection, eyes drawn questioningly to the brown wig on his skull.
“Dammit,” he sighed, pulling the false follicles away, revealing his electric blue hair as he began to fish around for his glasses and impact suit, “Reed, you’d better be dead or dying.”
He was out the door eight seconds later, and crossed the city limits ten seconds after that.
Jane Montoya was pissed beyond belief. Twenty years old, she was wandering the Las Vegas Strip, cursing the universe and the idiocy of American legislature, pulled along by a pair of thirteen year olds.
Australian by birth, Jane had arrived in Vegas several days ago, alongside much of her extended family, to attend the wedding of one of her aunts. She had learned extremely quickly that, though in her country of origin she was able to enjoy a fine liquor as she play the cards, state law dictated that she was a year shy of enjoying that same comfort in the supposed land of the free. Sure, she could still gamble (sometimes), but it turned out that losing money wasn't quite as fun without the alcohol.
Instead, she got to babysit her younger cousins as they dragged her to ride the roller coaster.
It was as they made their way to the Circus Circus Hotel and Casino, that one of her cousins, Mikey, noticed a fast moving object out of the corner of his eye, pointing it out to her just in time for Jane to witness a space shuttle crash to the earth.
She ducked, instinctively, as it collided with the ground, digging a gouge into the earth as it destroyed pavement and tossed cars, covering her cousins as tiny specks of debris peppered the crowd, the craft slowly coming to a rest a hundred meters down the street.
The sound of the crash was followed, seconds later, by a second collision, this one louder than the first as a craft more than twice as large as the shuttle and, if the glimpse in Jane’s peripheral vision as she turned her back was accurate, oddly shaped like a pteranodon.
“Whoa...” Mikey whispered, his sister Angela gasping in horror, as they and Jane watched a monster carved from stone punch his way out of the shuttle, followed closely by an elongated man in a blue jumpsuit, a similarly dressed blonde girl behind them.
Jane’s view turned to the second craft, bearing witness to a swarm of aerial aliens pour out of their wreckage and onto the pavement.
The crowd started to swarm itself, as terrified witnesses scrambled to escape the aliens assault, Jane and her cousins only barely managing to stay together as they were buffeted by the throng of people.
Angela lost her footing as she was bumped from behind, dragging Mikey down with her as her iron grip on his wrist never faltered. Jane struggled to stay with them, and it was only because of that that, by the time the street cleared, the Aussies were amongst the few to bear immediate witness to the resulting battle.
The Stone Monster crushed the alien creatures with unbelievable strength, as the Elongated Man flowed like water to avoid them, only to strike from an unseen direction. The blonde disappeared into the thin air, and many aliens were hurled or flattened without any seeable cause.
It was titanic, once started Jane could not turn her eyes away. She only did so in the end when a flash of blue light caught her attention, and a new player streaked onto the field.
And this one, she noted, as the streak blasted into one of the aliens, knocking it away from the Stone Monster as it solidified into human form, she recognized.
Xander crashed into the four armed alien at speed about twenty minutes after Fury’s call, carrying enough sheer momentum to send the monster flying far from Ben as he came to a sudden stop.
“What did you guys do this time?” He asked loudly, getting the others’ attention as he rubbed his rapidly bruising shoulder.
“Xander?” Ben dispatched his current adversary, dismissing it as he turned to face his electrical ally, “What the...?”
“Fury sent me,” he explained quickly, ducking out of the way of an alien’s lunge and slamming his electrified fist into its back, sending it into convulsions, “And ixnay on the anderxay. It’s ‘Surge’ in public.”
“Right, Surge,” Reed’s head stretched over to them, whilst his body attempted to entangle several of the aliens at once several meters away, “We had some communication with these creatures in the N-zone, the dimension we were exposed to when we gained our abilities, and our attempts at diplomacy turned, well, south.”
“See?” He said loudly, tasering another adversary, “This is why you should stop messing with other dimensions!”
“I’m beginning to see that.”
“Where’re Johnny and Sue, anyway?”
“I’m over here,” Sue announced, not far off and still invisible to the human eye, “And Johnny...”
“Is getting out of the shuttle,” Ben finished suddenly, causing Sue, Xander and Reed to immediately turn their heads to where the younger Storm was indeed emerging.
“Why isn’t he wearing any clothes?” Was all Xander asked, before Johnny ignited and the battle continued.
With both Johnny and Xander now aiding the others, the inter-dimensional aliens were swiftly defeated, including the leader of the assault, a monster by the name of Nihil.
That then left the fivesome with something of a problem, that being the fact that four of them were supposed to be a classified project and, as General Ross put it, destroying the Las Vegas Strip in a battle with inter-dimensional aliens had just about obliterated any secrecy they may have had left.
Granted, the general was somewhat mollified when Reed told him he could reverse engineer the handheld death rays the creatures had brought with them into the dimension, but that still left the public to deal with.
“We can’t go back from this though,” Ross groaned, in the middle of the wreckage that was once the Vegas Strip, “Everyone knows Surge, and in about three minutes the internet’ll be crammed full of the five of you fighting together, and with most of you wearing the matching jumpsuits--”
“Impact suits,” Reed corrected quietly, which Ross ignored.
“--they’re going to know that you’re connected,” the general finished.
There was a pause, as the five exchanged glances, before Ben raised his hand.
“Does this mean that I can go outside the Baxter Building now?”
Johnny watched, about an hour later, as an interviewer questioned an absolutely gorgeous girl, with the wreckage of the Las Vegas Strip behind her.
“British girls are so hot,” he muttered, watching her blush and grinning to himself as she described the ‘fire guy’ as ‘burning hot’, choosing to accredit that to his underdressed body rather than his wreath of flames.
“Don’t be stupid,” Xander told him, gesturing towards the TV screen, “I know British. She’s not British. She’s Kiwi. You know, from New Zealand.”
Sue rolled her eyes, knowing full well that the Australian girl would likely claw the boys’ eyes out if she heard them at that moment, before stealing their attention away from the hotel’s television set, and drawing it to the cyclops in their midst.
“We need to handle this revelation delicately,” Fury explained carefully, “The American public cannot be under the impression that we are hiding super-humans from them.”
The five of them, and Fury, were largely seated around one of several of Los Angeles’s safe houses maintained by S.H.I.E.L.D..
“But, you are,” Johnny pointed out, turning away from the T.V..
“At our request,” Reed reminded him, “You might want to join the Ultimates, Johnny, but Ben, Sue and I would rather maintain our anonymity.”
“Dude,” Johnny deadpanned, “You and Sue are, like, world famous scientists, and doesn’t Ben want to be a football star?”
“If I ever manage to break outta my shell,” Ben said simply, “Stop being so shy, get over my anxiety issues and learn to deal with a crowd.”
Xander cracked a smile, Reed grinned wryly.
“And we’d rather not be known only as super freaks,” Sue pointed out.
“Bit late for that, I’m afraid,” Fury sighed, “Some of the former residents of the Baxter Building have seen the footage, and for all their genius they decided that the smart thing to do is to name Reed and Johnny.”
“What about me?” Sue asked carefully.
“The only shots they got of you are either from behind or you’re faded half out of view,” the Director explained, “But I give the so called ‘prodigies’ another five minutes or so before they make the connection between Reed, Johnny and the blond girl that was in quarantine with them.”
“And me and Ben?” Xander asked, “Nobody knows my identity besides you guys, and Ben, well...”
“Ben don’t look like Ben no more,” Ben finished as Xander nodded awkwardly.
“And no one at the Baxter Building ever met him in the first place, either,” Reed added.
“No,” Fury pinched the bridge of his nose, “Ben’s identity is safe... but people are already questioning his humanity. My people tell me that the forums are already debating whether or not he’s a human who can change shape, a robot designed by Reed and the military, or some kind of man-made abomination.”
Ben’s gargantuan form slumped, and a rocky knuckle rubbed against his brow, “And if we let’em all know about the ever loving blue-eyed Benjamin Grimm?”
“It’d probably be for the best,” Fury told him.
Ben nodded, “Then you can tell them who I am. Let everyone know that the government ain’t cooking up monsters.”
“Which just leaves me,” Xander noted, “And I’m keeping my name out of the papers.”
Fury groaned, knowing that that would be necessary, but thinking of all the new conspiracy theories that would spring up because of Surge’s decision to keep the mask after his ‘team’ is revealed to the world.
“So,” Johnny spoke up when it appeared no one else was going to speak, “What are we gonna call ourselves?”
Everyone looked at the younger Storm sibling incredulously, a moment of silence allowing them to catch the finishing lines of Jane Montoya’s interview.“They were heroes,”
she said over the T.V. screen, “They were... fantastic.”
“Fantastic,” Reed repeated musingly, a slight smile gracing his bespectacled features. “Five of us...”
Xander tilted his head, considering it, “Fantastic Five. It’s a little Enid Blyton, but it works.”
Xander was back in Sunnydale before the night was out, arriving at the Bronze to apologize for missing the party.
“I got jumped by a vampire on the way over,” he’d told them, carefully rubbing the bruised jaw he’d gotten fighting against the inter-dimensional aliens in Vegas, and displaying the expertly placed stitches in his brow.
They accepted the excuse with little skepticism. Granted, for Buffy a single vampire was barely a speed bump in her path, but Oz, Willow and Giles all understood that, for an ordinary human, even if the battle was swift, seeking the necessary medical attention after a battle gone bad could easily take hours, and not calling was easily explained by the simplicity of a head injury and absentmindedness, especially as the party was supposedly a ‘surprise’.
With their concerns mollified, and the night not too
far gone, the party went on as planned, and Xander enjoyed his farewell, promising to return within a few weeks.
“Remind me again why I have to do this?” Reed muttered darkly.
“Because Sue threatened to go invisible if we shoved a camera in her face,” Xander explained calmly, patting his friend on the shoulder as he eyed the array of filming equipment that surrounded them, the curtain hiding them from view of the live studio audience, “Ben scares people, and, well, the idea of Johnny being on national television, live, scares the crap outta me.”
“How did Fury even set this up?” Reed removed his glasses, pinching the bridge of his nose, “The fight was last night!”
“That would be Betty Ross’s super power,” Xander told him, gesturing to the woman currently arguing with the director of what was supposedly L.A.’s number one talk show about ‘approved questions’. “She knows everybody who knows everybody else that might be important.”
Reed humphed, almost sulkily, as he noted several of the stagehands staring at them.
“Not used to the attention?” Xander asked, peering through his darkened shades. Reed nodded. “I know the feeling. I keep expecting them to ask me for my lunch money rather than my autograph.”
Reed was about to reply before their host walked out on stage, the audience cheering at his arrival, swiftly giving them their cue.
“And now,” TV persona Dove McMiller, “I am pleased to welcome, from the ‘Fantastic Five’, the heroes of Las Vegas, Dr. Reed Richards and, my personal friend, Surge!!!”
“Smile,” Xander hissed discretely, giving Reed a shove into the spotlight, “And try not to bore them.”
Reed stumbled onto the stage, Xander right behind him, the speedster swiftly making his way to their host with a grin on his face and a hand outstretched.
“Dove, my man,” he said cheerfully, pulling the older man into a quick embrace as he played along, “It’s good to see you again.”
“It’s great to have you back here, Surge,” Dove told him, before moving on to Reed, taking the more uncomfortable of the duo’s hand in his own and shaking vigorously, “And you must be Dr. Richards. Please, have a seat.”
He directed the pair to a lounge that sat at an angle across from his own chair, allowing them to see each other without blocking the camera’s view of any of the three.
“Now, Surge,” Dove began graciously, “Last time you were here, we talked about your exploits with the Ultimates, now you’re going to tell us about your new team, the Fantastic Five.”
“Old team, actually,” Xander corrected with a grin, “S.H.I.E.L.D. poached me.”
“Really?” Dove looked to Reed for confirmation.
“Uh, yes,” he said, awkwardly, “X-- Surge, gained his powers alongside the rest of us. Director Fury recruited him just over a month later.”
“And,” Dove continued, curiously, “Exactly how did you gain your fantastic abilities?”
Xander nudged Reed with his elbow, prompting him to explain.
“Well, since I was a child, I’ve been theorizing about the possibilities of accessing dimensional planes beyond our own,” he explained, growing more confident as he shifted into 'lecture mode' and his passion for science became apparent to the viewers, “When I was young, I succeeded in opening small portals into a dimension I’ve come to know as the ‘N-Zone’. For this, I was recruited into the Baxter Building in New York, where I was able to continue my research in using the N-Zone to teleport objects instantaneously across the globe.”
“It’s there that I met Dr. Franklin Storm and his children, Sue, a genius in the field of biology, and her brother Johnny,” Reed continued, “As well as a boy named Victor Van Damme.”
“Van Damme?” Dove asked, bemused, “As in the Belgium Van Dammes?”
“Yes,” Reed nodded, “He was another resident of the Baxter Building, a genius in his own right specialising in robotics. After many years, he and I worked on a few collaborations. I helped him with his projects in robotics and, in exchange, he gave his insight to my work in the N-Zone.”
“Three months ago, we finished work on a prototype in the Nevada desert,” he explained, “We were ready to test it, we’d generated the coordinates for a landing pad in Guantanamo Bay, but, well, Victor was arrogant. He came to me at the last moment with new coordinates and, when I refused, he changed them without informing me.”
“I take it that’s not a good thing?” Dove asked.
“He didn’t take into account the vast array of calculations necessary to manipulate the portal,” Reed exclaimed, “When we activated it, it grew out of control, sucking in myself and the other spectators, which included Victor, the Storm siblings, and my childhood friend Benjamin Grimm.”
“And Surge, of course,” Dove added.
“Of course,” Xander interjected bashfully, “Though I was actually a bit to the side. I wasn’t up there with the eggheads and friends.”
“No,” Reed agreed, “We didn’t actually know that Surge had been caught in the accident until he called from a hospital in Tianjin.”
“Which was an experience and a half, let me tell you,” Xander said.
“I can imagine,” Dove laughed, “So where did the rest of you end up?”
“Johnny was transported to an area just outside a small town in the north of France,” Reed told him, “Ben went to Mexico and Victor was found in Denmark. I was actually only transported a few feet from the device.”
“And Ms. Storm?” Dove asked.
Storm,” Reed corrected, “And we’re actually unsure of where she was teleported.”
“Sue was kidnapped as soon as she reappeared,” Xander explained, “By a maniac who launched an attack on New York not long after. New Yorkers might remember seeing Godzilla coming out of the ground a couple of months ago? That was his work.”
“Yeah,” Xander agreed, “Luckily, the experiment had changed all of us and we were able to stop him.”
“Yes, for a split-second, the six of us were in a state of dimensional limbo,” Reed explained enthusiastically, “And, with the calculations skewed due to Victor’s alterations to the coordinates, we each underwent a change in our phase-state conditions, essentially...”
“Don’t bother, Reed,” Xander interrupted, turning to Dove and the audience, “He’s tried to explain this to me so many times and all it does is make my head hurt. Basically the N-Zone mutated us, giving us our powers.”
“Well, actually,” Reed interjected, before Xander interrupted again.
“Okay, not the N-Zone specifically,” he allowed, “But being teleported with the calculations all out of whack screwed us over.”
“Yes, about your powers,” Dove moved onto the next topic of discussion, gesturing for a stagehand to activate the projector screen behind him, causing it to display an image of the Fantastic Five in the midst of the battle at the Vegas Strip, “I was hoping that you could pin them down for the viewers at home.”
“Well, everyone already knows mine,” Xander said modestly.
“So, the others?” Dove asked, as an image of Johnny’s flying form appeared on the screen, “Johnny? How is he flying?”
“That’s actually a very interesting question,” Reed began, “I’ve theorized that the heat he generates makes his body lighter than the surrounding air, allowing him to float and propel himself by generating bursts of flame.”
“Fantastic, he’s like a human rocket,” Dove grinned, as the picture switched over to show Sue’s insubstantial form, “And this invisible girl?”
“They’re still trying to work that out,” Xander told him.
“It should be impossible,” Reed stated, “But she’s somehow able to bend light around her body, rendering herself invisible, but somehow she’s still able to see even though, by all means, light shouldn’t be hitting her retinas. That, and the force field thing is just weird.”
“That is fascinating,” Dove agreed, “And yourself?”
“Reed’s pretty much a human rubber band these days,” Xander explained, “He can stretch, he can compact, and, according to Sue, his inner organs are seriously freaksome.”
“Thank you,” Reed said sarcastically, before turning to Dove, “All of our changes have brought about rather unusual physiological anomalies.”
“But none more so than this...” The screen behind them switched to an image of Ben, “Thing?”
Reed’s brow furrowed in annoyance, as he leapt to the defense of his friend, “Benjamin Grimm is a hero and a great man and I assure you that--”
“What Reed means,” Xander interjected, trying to calm his friend with a hand on the shoulder, “Is that Ben may look different, but he doesn’t deserve to be judged for that.”
“I’m sorry,” Dove apologized, “I didn’t mean any offense.”
“Yeah,” Xander accepted, as Reed calmed down, “Well, we’re all a little sensitive about Ben’s looks. He may be indestructible, but he’s been shot more than once because of his appearance and that’s enough give anyone a complex.”
“That’s awful,” Dove agreed awkwardly, before, again, switching to a lighter topic, “Now, Surge, I have to ask, you said that you were recruited for the Ultimates?”
“Why weren’t the others?” Their host asked curiously, “Surely their abilities could have been of use to S.H.I.E..L.D.?”
“Well, Sue and I have preexisting contracts with the military,” Reed explained, “Our situation didn't suddenly void those, and we can do more good for the world with our intelligence than we could ever do with our abilities.”
“Yeah,” Xander nodded, “And Johnny’s too young for recruitment and Ben, well, he took the change hard, you know? He just wasn’t ready to be put in the spotlight.”
“Of course,” Dove nodded, as the conversation continued.
The remaining interview was largely uneventful, save for Xander’s guffaws at Reed’s reaction to Dove’s queries into his and Sue’s romantic life. The elastic man had turned as red as a tomato with the power of his blush. It seems that the supposed geniuses who once populated the Baxter Building had done more than just name names.