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Volume 1 Issue #1

"The Valley of the Shadow of Death"

Written By Jason McDonald






CONTINUITY NOTE: Parts of this story take place after 2099UGR Unlimited #14 and 2099UGR: 100 Words


- - FROM THE PRIVATE JOURNALS OF VICTOR VON DOOM - -
Entries 125.6B through 127.09A
Tags: presidency, Myridia, the Point, Shadow Lord, The Grand Design

I was the President of America once. I conquered the country through right of revolution, killing the Senate and the puppet government in one sweeping blow. My end game had been to save the world from itself using the country's resources against it, effectively eliminating the short sightedness of one nation from affecting the world.

 It should've been a simple matter. But Doom's reign is over, now. My gambit is momentarily undone. America - and the vile coalition of mega-corporations that run it - has cast me out as its president. It found an agent from deep within its dark heart to depose me of my throne: John Anthony Herod.

He used Wave Spiders destroy the White House. As their belly cannons terminated my carefully constructed presidency, he forced me to watch as he dropped a necro-toxification bomb upon my homeland of Latveria. My countrymen were liquefied before my eyes. I barely escaped the barrage with my life. Few have come so close to murdering me.

In the time this parasite controlled the presidency, he began enacting a Five Year Plan to murder the planet for profit and start over elsewhere. His arsenal was the Chicago Reserve, a hidden underground bunker storing technologies forbidden to mankind for the last century: Air Calvary zombies used to execute the Latverian nation. Living Carnotech monoliths that positioned themselves around large populations of people, letting their spores mix with city air.

But I survived. I removed the madman from power, dissolved his Red House and rewrote his nervous system to give him agony for the rest of his life. My vengeance, for now, is sated. But, the world at large still thinks I died by the hands of Herod's merciless Wave Spiders. Beneath the cloak of anonymity, I carefully plot my next move from deep within the shadows of the world.

As a president, I was vulnerable. Visible to all, I was a constant target. Ripe for the picking. Too busy controlling one country's affairs to see the hidden cancers ready to strike at any given moment. As a Shadow Lord, I am invisible. My vision now extends across the horizon of the world.

The country of Myridia - my newly-adopted homeland - uses its massive spy network to collect and store information for later sale and trade. Every day, agents transmit pictures and video in real-time from New York, Halo City, Western Europe, Transverse, Madripoor, Wakanda, even the Savage Land, filling the servers inside Myridia’s golden towers with events big and small throughout the world.

I failed in my goal because I was unaware Herod existed. I will not be so grossly misinformed again. I sit atop my crystalline throne as the Myridian dataweb filters information from everywhere in the world into my mind.

Doom has made enemies. Powerful enemies. Unknowable monsters skittering like vermin in the shadows, hiding from the light. Chasing them down one by one is a fool's game, a distraction from my true purpose.

I have devised a better strategy.

I will effect changes on the world - small changes, unnoticeable changes. A corporate buyout here. Political maneuvering there. A quiet destruction of a mega-corporation or two. Hundreds of agents throughout the world enact my goals, yet less than a dozen know a puppeteer pulls their strings. My changes are carefully calculated - each ripple thoroughly tracked and monitored. Each ripple adds to the greater tapestry of cause and effect that will change this planet for the better.

My enemies will be helpless to prevent me from saving the world from its own violent tendencies.

So swears Victor Von Doom!

 

- - END PLAYBACK - -


Some Time Ago...

Wire sits in the dark room, hugging his knees and shaking violently in grief. His eyes are puffy and reddened - he's been crying for hours. Sitting there, staring out into the darkness that enshrouds his soul, a single thought uncoils in his tortured mind:

Xandra's dead. Wire rolls the odious thought around in his mind over and over, letting it engulf him, swallow him in an endless sea of hellish grief...

Friend. Confidante. Would-be lover. Now just rotting flesh. Killed in some stupid attack, so far away from Latveria. So pointless. It's all so pointless. Everything is just...so...pointless....

"So pointless," Wire mumbles, his eyes glazed over, mind devoid of thought or feeling, "all so pointless..."

Wire lifts the gun to his temple, closing his eyes.

"So horribly pointless..."

He pulls the trigger and in a single moment, Wire's world blinks out in a haze of bright light.

...in the next moment he's curled up in a fetal position, wild cyberspace architecture swirling around him in the void. The theories of Digital Nirvana swim around in his confused mind, and he briefly decides this could be a reward for all that suffering he'd endured. Suffering which, now, seems so far away...

Then, Wire sees the figure.

“….Doom?” Wire asks hesitantly.

“Yes, Wire. It is I. Doom still exists, as do you.”

Wire shudders slightly. He doesn't just hear so much as feel Doom's powerful voice. A voice that is almost palpable - something Wire feels straight down to his bones (or whatever it was that resurrected holograms had in their place). It figures Doom would have to be here to mess up his afterlife.

Wire's binary heart pounds ones and zeroes through his body of reflected light. He feels computer programs within his holographic matrix manufacture sweat on his expertly-textured face. Somehow wading through a mind addled with a combination of disbelief and utter horror, he chokes out a weak reply to his resurrector.  “I’m….in c-space…?”

“Of course,” Doom says.

“…how…how am I….what…?”

“The last time I resurrected you, I provided you with a new body. That was an error. It seems your mind was incapable of a simultaneous existence bridging the world of cyberspace with that of flesh. You went quite mad.”

Wire's head starts to pound as images of recent memories flood his recreated mind: Visions of his first death at the hands of Margaretta Von Geisterstadt and her all-too-lethal security system. Being reborn in a new body grown especially for him while at the same time being reborn in the digital reality. The haunting, vibrating, irreconcilable visions that carried over from his cyberspace life into his real life - visions of two lives forming a parallax that drove him mad. The pounding headaches that would halt his thoughts. The voices that spoke to him in cyberspace. The surreal blur of colors that the real world would sometimes degrade into. The new body that Doom had grown for him had simply been too weak to withstand the pressures of existing in two realities at once.

And then the memory of his beloved Xandra, dying half a world away. Despite his new powers, Wire was helpless to prevent it.

Why even have this cursed existence, he remembered asking himself, if he couldn’t help those close to him? That was when Wire ended his second life in a haze of smoke and gunfire. Now, in his third life, he remembers the information more clearly than ever before.

“Mad….yes, I remember that data. It just happened..." Wire says.

"Incorrect," the tyrant's voice booms, "your suicide occurred months ago..."

"Wicked," Wire breathes out, placing a hand through his reconstructed hair in disbelief, "it...felt...like a minute ago..."

"Your demise has altered your perception of time." Doom says, turning his attention toward the glittering array of cyberspace architecture around them. "It shall pass.."

"Yeah. Sure. It's all good, though. Not the most pleasant memory, anyway...”

“Indeed. Although, before your descent into madness and your ultimate self-destruction, you had served me quite well as an agent in this intangible surreality in which we find ourselves. This field of information will be your new permanent base of operations.”

“Wait…what? Run that by me again, D-man.”

“You will crawl through cyberspace, gathering and sorting information for my purposes. I have outfitted your new archetype with several algorithms and key features that will give you access to previously inaccessible areas of the net.

“But you’re good at cyber-surfing yourself….what do you need me for?”

“I have other affairs that need tending." Doom waves his cape behind him in a regal gesture. "More to the point, I have been declared legally dead. My plans would be better served were the world to continue operating under that assumption.”

“So basically I’m doing biz that’s beneath you?”

“On the contrary. Your role may very well be the most important one in my New Global Agenda. Besides, considering your abysmal luck with flesh and blood bodies, your new existence as a pure cyberspace avatar would seem to be ideal.”

“Did I hear correctly? I think you just made a joke!”

“Obviously not. Doom does not make jokes.”

Wire laughs, musing at the irony of Doom’s comment. He always knew the old monarch had a sense of humor, dark as it may be.

But, Wire feels much better now. The ghostly voices are gone; the vivid colors that burned at Wire’s eyes are fully adjustable in this environment. Wire’s brain isn’t multi-tasking between having conversations in cyberspace and the real world simultaneously. That, and Wire gets to punch deck in the cyberspace landscape all day long as a fully sentient hologram.

Wire smiles.

Life is finally good again.


November 26, 2099.
Skamania County, Washington
Just Outside Mount St. Helens

Thanksgiving Day.

Most American families are celebrating the holiday with their loved ones. Turkey meat greased with delicious gravy fill the gullets of hungry consumers and the age-old tradition of watching heavy gravball games fill their spiritual void. The commercials and subliminal ads laced in these broadcasts leave each viewer ready and willing to empty their wallets and max out their creds just in time for Black Friday and the beginning of the Christmas fiscal quarter.

The families in Skamania County, Washington - the area just outside of Mount St. Helens - are spending Thanksgiving as wisps of carbon floating lazily toward the upper atmosphere along a chill autumn breeze.

The winds whip cold and fierce through this desolated valley. The faint smells of burnt plasti-steel hang thick in the air, festering among the blackened debris field that was once a bustling metropolis. Tri-tanium pikes that were once buildings and walkways lay welded together in impossible shapes, charred beyond recognition. In the cracked debris, the outlines of what were once humans lay visible in their last, horrible moments of living.

Far above the wasted valley, the dark figure of a man stands at the summit of a mountain overlooking the destruction. His velvety green cape whips behind him in the chill autumn winds like a schizophrenic animal, driven mad by the screaming ghosts of the dead.  Crossing metal arms across his chest, the man casts his gaze skyward to the swirling black hole of the sky. Ashen clouds hang heavy with the stench of ozone and fire, crackling fiercely with intermittent streams of lightning. Most people would heed the warnings from this scarred earth, and run from this desolated pocket of the world for dear life.

But Victor Von Doom is not most people. Once and future ruler of Latveria. Former President of the United States by right of revolution.

Deposed ruler. Dead man walking. Avenging angel of steel.

Freedom fighter. Revolutionary. Tyrant. Castaway.

Most recently, he plays the part of invisible overlord of the entire world, ruling benevolent from the shadows of Myridia by controlling the ebbs and flows of global information to suit his omnipresent purposes. His existence stays shrouded in secrecy, for the enemies that deposed him from his American throne would have no need to hound him if they believed him dead.

Things simply run more effectively that way.

Yes, Doom has held many titles over this past year.

But right now, Doom stands amidst this barren wasteland simply as a man - helpless witness to a slaughterhouse. Bright, burning anger wrapped in regal armor.

The silent figure bores his steely vision deep into the centerpiece of this sweeping county. He gazes coldly upon the rocky peak of Mount St. Helens, a volcanic masterpiece nestled contentedly below the swirling whorls of cloud cover.

But the volcano, inactive for over a century, is not the cause of this unacceptable tragedy.

Doom watches the dormant peak in the distance, noting the black shapes moving and crawling all across its edifice and then disappearing into the clouds. On the peak’s outer edge, he sees the outline of massive spider legs framed by beams of incandescent twilight peeking timidly through the heavy stratus clouds. The beast hoists its massive body up across the rocky incline before a wisp of gray smoke wraps him up and shrouds him from view.

Doom clenches his fists tight, remembering their rampage on the Night of the Long Knives.

They are Wave Spiders.

Guerilla war life forms created by a paranoid American government half a century ago. Fearful of invasion by South American forces and ruled at the time led by a power-mad Hitler-esque fanatic, they grew the Wave Spiders in genetic vats to combat their enemies in this Eugenics Cold War. Their cruel, predatory minds were tied into the computers beneath Chicago for direct control by their political masters.

Born during a time obsessed with genetics, the Wave Spiders were of course grown with all the evolutionary advantages. Their hard exo-shells, a combination of alien alloys and tree-trunk thick calcium, are highly resistant to conventional weapons and bacterial weapons. And even on the off-chance a bacterial agent managed to break through their thick hides, their bodies released a powerful corrosive agent that would eliminate all trace of said bacteria, allowing their systems to self-repair at a geometric rate with nary a scratch to show for it.

In combat, they were designed to feed off of enemy radio signals, effectively cutting off battlefield communications in the target countries. Their belly cannons, one of many technological growths built into their DNA, can eradicate miles of land in a single blast. They are able to control the power of their blasts for their mating rituals however, so as to not inflict unnecessary damage on one another. However, their masters sought little use for this control, and it is therefore a highly-undeveloped aspect of their minds.

In the end, the South Americans cannibalized themselves and the beasts were banned in the Xenogenesis Treaty of 2064. Their masters, sobered to the insanity they created, destroyed them and all traces of their existence.

The singular exceptions to this decree were a long-forgotten dossier containing dusty Wave Spider blueprints hanging innocently in the halls of the Chicago Reserve and the once-frozen genetic samples from which Herod had cloned them from. However, when Doom stopped Herod’s mad quest for power, he annihilated the Chicago Reserve, and all traces of the dossier that documented the method used to stop their spread. And without the mind control stations set up in the Chicago Reserve to limit their actions and movements…

...they have begun to breed in industrial quantities.

Doom watches as an army of Wave Spiders suddenly lifts itself off the mountain, separating itself from the hive and turning their attention towards the devastated wasteland that was once a county full of people. The beasts sink their manufactured bulk into the blackened debris, slicing the rubble with legs of metal and hard bone. Suitably warmed by their nest on the side of the volcano, they go back to lazily playing amongst the garbage of civilization. Hard, crunching sounds echo across the valley as the children play-fight, gazing each other with their subdued stomach cannons. Territorial ones spit tracks of acidic ruin upon the last patches of grass and turn them into lines of fire. Others sound like automobile repair shops in daytime, bustling with mechanical whirrs and clicks as they mate indiscriminately.

The skittering giants center themselves around satellite dishes they instinctively preserved during their relentless onslaught. They bathe and dance in the bursts of radio signal, gorging themselves on the chatter of abandoned television stations and automated emergency signals. With satisfied whines that sound like elephant trumpets, they soak up the lonely artifacts of the dead.

Doom stalks the mountain range, slapping metal boots across the mud with his hands tucked behind his back. The beasts are primarily centered here, in this valley, procreating as all animals do. There are dens near Utah and southern Texas, but none that usurp an entire county. 

Two days ago, Doom thinks, Mothers and fathers played with their children here.

Since their liberation from mind control, their sheer numbers have allowed them to swallow up entire cities and towns. And the Western indycorps have been covering up their existence since Herod‘s fall from grace. Doom knows why, of course. His spies have told him all he needs to know.

The Western corps have no idea how to stop them. They are simply buying time with the public until the knife falls and slaughters them all.

According to Doom’s calculations, with their current rate of spawning….the Wave Spiders will invade the entirety of the American continent inside of a year, destroying everything around them that would compete with their habitat. Doom knows full well that the Wave Spiders are fiercely territorial creatures, mind control or not.

But perhaps even more galling to Doom than the corps covering up the deaths of millions of people to cover their own ignorance is the fact that Doom himself has no idea how to eliminate these monsters. The same aspect of their physiology that makes them resistant to bacterial infection also makes them highly resistant to nanotechnology.

Doom has dropped vats of nanotech on these nests. The infectious robots will eliminate one, maybe two of the beasts over the course of a day before the entire viral attack force is wiped out by the corrosive agents of their brethren. He has had Billy Zedd - a newly-acquired mutant agent who worked wonders with technology - inventing new permutations of nanotech to attack the beasts with, but to little avail.

The Spiders gets more resistant after each attack. And their young are completely immune.

Perhaps I cannot vanquish you foul beasts yet... Doom thinks, surveying the skittering forms of the arachnid monstrosities in the valley below. but I will not let you destroy the utopia I am so carefully constructing beneath the notice of my enemies. I will not let you destroy the hope I'm building for a new tomorrow."

Leveling his eyes at the monsters still ignorant of his presence, a simple, solemn vow escapes his lips: "So swears Victor Von Doom.”

Doom runs his fingers along his dark green cape and suddenly a strange, inexplicable feeling of utter paranoia overtakes him. It’s as if something were watching him, studying him. Recording his every move.

Impossible, thinks Doom, I've disabled all stray recording devices in this valley.

Doom glances toward the heavens and sees a lone Wave Spider hovering two hundred feet above his current position.

Ah. The monarch realizes, it seems I’ve been careless…

 Time slows to a crawl as the monster hovers above him, clicking and humming with childlike curiosity. Doom notes the changing of the noises the beast makes, from slow and calm to frantic and deafening. A whine, like the priming of a cannon, echoes across the barren landscape.

“Perhaps, a strategic withdrawal.” Doom muses calmly, clicking on the phasing aspect of his armor as the Wave Spider unleashes nuclear hot fire upon the ground beneath him.

Doom floats weightless to the sky, scanning the heavens with his visor for the telling electromagnetic signature of his personal Environmental Maintenance Platform - the Ortus Phoenum.

Latverian for "Phoenix Risen", the stunning command platform sits high above the ruined landscape under a powerful cloaking field. So named after the destruction of his first command EMP - the Libera Cielo - the Phoenum is a defiant statement to all of Herod's remaining creatures that Doom and his vision will not be swept aside so easily.

Like a phoenix risen from the ashes, Doom rises from the dead earth below toward the Phoenum, his vision still trained upon the attacking creature. The lone Wave Spider’s bleating whine alerts the others in the valley toward its fleeing prey. Hundreds of Spiders chase after the still-visible Doom as he floats toward his invisible ship. The Wave Spiders pepper the area with cannon impacts, and selectively target the Phoenum as the beasts become aware of the cannon impacts against its shields. The Ortus Phoenum fires its cannons at Doom’s attackers by remote as a distraction, allowing him safe passage into the platform.

From within the mighty ship, Doom withdraws quickly, outrunning the blasts of the Wave Spiders. Once the shield impacts stop, the Phoenum once again becomes invisible to the naked eye.

“Herod, you bumbling fool,” Doom curses under his breath. “You may have doomed us all.”

As Doom repairs the damage to his vessel, he cannot help but feel a sense of foreboding. The presence of an unseen enemy that will threaten all he holds dear.

Something worse than the Wave Spiders.


Some Months Later
The Island of Myridia, inside the Point
The Nanotech Control Room

Surrounded on all sides by a beautiful coast of purple and red reflections of sunlight, the shining spires of the quiet city-state lap up streams of information from all around the world. Inside each plasti-steel wall lay the secrets on a global scale, available for trade in every cyber dive café and on every street corner. How else could the island that knows everything build wonderfully elaborate public fountains designed to flow upwards in frenetic arcs? How else would they design buildings that loop around one another in feats of miraculous and impossible gravitational engineering?

Myridia remains a triumph of human ingenuity and a symbol of the tenacity of the human spirit.

And lying at the heart of this miraculous new-age architecture stands the brightest building in Myridia.

It is a glittering golden spire, shimmering with unseen and unending potential. Information from all over the world streams in waves toward the towering structure - collected effortlessly, but carefully from satellites, phones, cameras, wall sensors, and anything else with an ability to transmit data. Datastreams whirl in invisible tornados around its superstructure, filtered through the superconductive diamonds that line its inner walls into a form that can be easily accessed and understood by human minds.

It was constructed secretly, to be a conduit for all intelligence gathering in the information center of the world.

It sees everything there is to see.

It is called The Point.

And it is where Doom plots to save the planet from itself. 

He stands firm overlooking the massive technical achievement in front of him. They are computer monitors - nothing truly special in this century. But thanks to the efforts of Doom’s newest employee Billy Zedd (or more often known as ‘Billy the Kidd‘), these monitors are composed out of a special kind of nanotechnology that makes each one appear to be made out of water, rippling up impossibly from the elaborately-tiled floor.

Eagerly tapping his armored gloves together, Doom regards the plethora of monitors in front of him with an almost visceral interest. Each of the three dozen screens shows a different scene of carnage. Most show close-ups of tracts and tracts of nanotech devouring walls from different angles, some show the dissolution of long-forgotten machinery and long-hidden relics from a darker era. Dormant guerilla machines cannibalized in mere moments; workers running rampant as the waves of microscopic machines latch onto them and disappear them from reality just as quickly.

Dooms dark heart pounds with righteous fury until Billy’s voice disrupts his silent reverie.

“You vidding this??” Billy shouts excited, watching the destruction on the screens.

“Billy Zedd. You have a knack for stating the blindingly obvious.” The regal monarch states bluntly, straightening his armored form. “Of course I am ‘vidding’ this. I ordered this.”

Billy the Kidd crosses his arms. “Yeah, yeah. Spare me your ‘cool, collected tyrant’ routine, buddy. I--”

Doom turns toward Billy ominously, completely cutting off the young mutant‘s train of thought. “Billy. You are treading dangerously close to offense.”

Doom stares coldly at the careful mutant, until Billy lets out a nervous chuckle. He scratches his head playfully, pacing back over to the monitor screens. “Heh. Hee hee. Well, there is that….”

A moment later, Doom turns his back toward the monitors, watching the nanotech sweep across the building floor by floor. “I trust this brand of nanotech robots is collecting the data I require?”

“Absolutely,” Billy says, “I grew these babies to your specifications. Everything that these nanotech are shredding in the Oregon Reserve right now is being transmitted to the servers in Myridia for later study. Every piece of illegal tech locked up tight in their secret vaults is now yours.”

Doom smiles beneath his mask as the cameras inside the nanotech robots show close-ups of Roderick Voight, keeper of the Oregon Reserve, being completely dissolved in an epileptic fit of bubbling agony, his screams muffled beneath piles and piles of nano-machines.

One less creature hidden inside the machinery of the American mega-corporations to worry about.

“Excellent.”

With a curt nod, he turns away from the screens, leaving Billy Zedd to his work.


Momentarily...
The Worldboard Sanctum

The armored monarch strides into the Worldboard Sanctum, trailing his intricately-designed green cape behind him. His eyes trail across the trappings of the command center with a predator's gaze. The command center is filled with three-dimensional holograms showing hundreds of images from across the world. He resolves his focus on the Worldboard control pad - a conspicuous bright blue shade of patterned translucent light.

His eyes follow the movements of the gentle hand that manipulates the control pad. His eyes trail up the young woman's arm and trace the curves of her voluptuous figure. She is Dominique Montonario, one of fifty survivors of the Latverian massacre.

She stands in the midst of holographic floodlights, surrounded by holograms of megacorporation board rooms, sweeping views of Main Street in the boisterous city-state of Rezhenkdekoff, revolutions in three countries where Doom has covertly introduced the miracles of nanotechnology, live satellite images of the Gammadion clouds, and a hundred other real-time video feeds throughout the world. The holograms being the only source of light in the darkened room, Doom strides toward Dominique's holographic "Worldboard" channel. 

Doom has employed her as the master coordinator of all information received by the Point, able to see patterns in various unrelated pieces of data. Her role in Doom's inner sanctum is to prevent threats to the world before they become threats - to see everything in the tapestry of this dark future that cannot otherwise be seen to prevent any more Herods from popping out of the woodwork. She is his ace in the hole. His most valuable asset.

There is only one problem at the moment.

"Dominique!" Doom booms at the young woman, "I have repeatedly told you to wear more respectable accoutrements. Your current...provocative attire will not do."

Dominique, still deeply focused on the Worldboard, smiles devilishly. While simultaneously viewing two different satellite views of New York City, she seductively trails her hands along her fishnet catsuit. She taps the stilettos of her leather thigh-high boots excitedly against the floor, and lays her delicate fingers to rest upon her leather corset. Her attire, clearly, leaves extremely little to the imagination. Licking her lips and not taking her eyes off the Worldboard for one moment, she gives her reply. "If you are displeased with my attire, by all means come over and strip it off of me. Who knows, I might even let you do so without a fight..."

"Dominique." Doom sighs, taking deliberate strides towards the woman. "I employ you because your artificial nervous system and brain stem are capable of processing information far more quickly than mine. I have not employed you simply for your agreeable figure."

"You sure? I remember you enjoying my 'agreeable figure' a great deal."

"You remember incorrectly."

"Remember incorrectly. I, with an artificial nervous system that duplicates each of my biochemically-stored memories into binary files and stores them into a back-up hard drive within my upper spinal column. I, who can access one of billions of terabytes of memory files in crystal clear detail with but a thought, remembered incorrectly?"

"The possibility is there."

"Well, if that's possible, then I suppose anything's possible, love." She sighs, shaking her head in irritation.

"Dominique, your allusions to a romantic relationship between us give me great pause."

"Give you pause?" She says sarcastically, "I would never have thought one lone woman could do that to the great Victor Von Doom."

Doom crosses his arms defiantly. "How long has it been since you recharged your cybernetic immune system?"

She rips her eyes away from the Worldboard and looks at him with a sudden, fiery anger in her eyes. "Not long enough."

"I need you in your fittest form if you are to fulfill your functions in this Worldboard Room."

Clenching her fists, she storms toward the armored monarch. "You treat me as if I am a machine, Victor. When I..." Closing the gap between them, she traces her finger in an idle pattern along his metal chest plate,"...am just as flesh and blood as you are. Well, the real you. The you that exists under this metal coffin."

"It is hardly a coffin..." He says softly.

"And that is the difference between you and I." She looks up at the tyrant with hard-edged eyes. If looks could kill, then Doom would surely be dead. "You embrace the cybernetic, while I resent it..."

"That is illogical, Dominique. Were it not for your immune system, the airborne necrotoxin particles you inhaled during your escape from Latveria would have eaten your nervous system from the inside-out. You would not be here to debate the subject with me."

"I'm aware of that, Victor." She taps her fingers on his chest plate in frustration. "But sometimes I wonder just how much of me is still human as a result."

Doom's eye visors light up green for a moment, scanning her body. "Approximately 79.5% of you is still fully human."

"Thank you, Victor. You're very helpful."

"Sarcasm does not suit you, woman."

"Sure it does, Victor." She smiles again, eyeing the monarch seductively and licking her lips. "One of these days, I'll strip that armor off you and see just how much humanity still lies inside that armored shell."

"We shall see."

"Now, for the boring sort of business you - for a reason that is far beyond me - thrive on...we have lost another EMP transmission in the Gammadion."

"Another? Unacceptable."

"Don't worry. Billy is working on the problem right now. He believes that the smog and radiation from the Gammadion is interfering with the guidance systems. He's working on building stronger EMPs, reinforced to specifically withstand the region. I will update you as soon as he's finished."

"Remind Billy that it is of great importance that the Gammadion be cleaned up. The environmental impact of that much radiation spread by the prevailing winds would cause severe global impact."

"Yes, Doom. I'll remind him," She rolls her eyes and smirks, "Wire is sorting through the data you are currently downloading from the Oregon Reserve, desperately searching for what killed the Wave Spiders the first time."

"Good."

"Your introduction of nanotechnology to poorer European nation-states is going just as planned."

"The nation-states are revolting against mega-corporate rule?"

"Revolting? Most of them have set up new governments by now," She smirks, "Revolting's old news."

"See that these countries are provided everything they need."

Dominique laughs, "Don't worry. I've got your dummy corporations giving them regular shipments nanotech and weaponry, and none of it is traceable to you."

"Very good. What else?"

"Your previous affiliations: Nkrumah, Static Annie and Sharp Blue have gone to ground, and are safe in the holes they have dug for themselves."

"Excellent," Doom exclaims, pulling up the images of his previous affiliations on the monitors, "They have served me well. It would not do to lose such...valuable resources as these. See that they are kept hidden from my enemies."

"Of course, love." Dominique says. She smiles wickedly as Doom turns his head towards her suddenly, and before he can protest, she continues her update, "There are also some strangely-encrypted transmissions I just intercepted, sent out to multiple recipients."

Doom cocks his head. "How is this of any importance?"

Dominique studies the monitors intensely, her fingers moving quickly and gracefully along the keys. "They're just...odd. They don't fit into the rest of the patterns I see in the streams of cyberspace data. They're anomalies, possibly signs of something larger looming.  I will have to study them further to be certain..."

Doom nods his head in assent.

"And finally, my attire has left me a bit chilled. Perhaps you and I could do something to raise my body temperature..."

"There are warm jackets your quarters. I suggest you use one of them to raise your temperature."

"Victor, you are a stubborn one." She smiles.

"My scans also indicate that your nervous system has a thirty-three percent charge. You must recharge soon before it reaches dangerous levels."

"But.."

"Now."

Dominique's tone turns dark and she glares at the armored monarch angrily. "Yes, sir." She turns away from her regent, and he does not see her wipe a small tear away from her face.

"Dominique," Doom says as he regards the Worldboard, "Your survival depends on your artificial immune system. Just as my survival depends on you. And your exceptional skills."

She turns her head back to meet his gaze. "And don't you forget it," she stammers out weakly.

She begins to walk out of the room before turning back toward him, giving him a view of her bare back. When she speaks again, the hurt in her voice is all but gone. "I expect you to come to my quarters to check on me, see if I'm okay. I may need you to help test my nervous system. Bring some champagne. 2057 Dom Perignon, I think. Don't be late."

With a wink, she turns away and is gone.

Doom takes the Worldboard controls, studies the holographic world around him, and vehemently denies the fact that he is seriously considering her invitation...


Three Hours Later
Cyberspace
Within Doom's Private Database

Wire cruises the binary inside Doom’s hidden servers.

The man resurrected through the miracles of cyberspace weaves and dodges at the speed of thought through massive tidal waves of data splashing in chaotic fractal patterns along the surreal information highways. Through his trademark neurotech shades, Doom’s right hand man watches the video transmissions from the nanobots currently gorging themselves upon the smoldering remains of the Oregon Reserve with a vacant stare. Though charged by his armored sovereign to ensure that the transition of stolen data from the secret reservations of the mega-corporations goes flawlessly, Wire’s mind is naturally somewhere else.

It’s easy to daydream, Wire thinks, when one’s mind is bombarded by the whirlpool of color and insanity that defines the immense digital landscape.

Something about soliders and bombs and death and a woman he once knew. It was a memory that had been important to him once...

PING PING!

Wire’s neurotech shades suddenly flash with a sheet of bright blue light as a pinging sound vibrates in Wire’s holographic ears.

“Oh, we’ve got a hit now, do we?” Wire asks no one, surfing calmly towards the source of the pinging.

As he dives along the streaming waterways of binary code, following its watery tributaries cascading across the server space, he recalls the order Doom gave him to scan each transmission received from the nanites one line at a time. Apparently, when his sovereign destroyed the Chicago Reserve, he also destroyed the only records of the Wave Spiders in existence. And with them, the means of how they were killed the first time out.

That would be a “Whoops!” in any category.

Doom had surmised that, with all the knowledge held in each of the Reserves spread throughout the world, there might be information contained somewhere that could destroy the Wave Spiders once and for all. Wire managed to program an algorithm into his shades to automatically search for any mention of “Wave Spiders.”

Wire’s lips curl up in a grin.

Coiled up inside a dusty server in the Oregon Reserve are the binary remnants of a decades-old e-mail. Wire’s textured eyes go wide as he reads the scattered, broken words inside a degraded document that most likely had a security clearance above Presidential. It contains the words “Wave Spiders.” It also contains many other words. Perhaps, some very useful words.

Wave taps a button on his shades and a giant, man-sized, three-dimensional image of Doom’s head suddenly materializes in front of the floating cyber-surfer. Wire almost loses control of his surfboard and recovers, letting out only the slightest gasp of utter panic.

‘Not intimidated in the slightest,’ Wire thinks to himself.

“Wire?” The monarch speaks. “You have news?”

Wire smiles smartly and flashes Doom a thumbs-up. “Time to turn that frown upside-down, D-man!”

“So you’ve located what I was looking for?”

“You tell me. Vid this bad boy.” Wire casually stretches his arms out and mentally forwards the decoded e-mail strands wirelessly into the cyberspace uplink inside Doom’s helmet.

The young Latverian idly surfs along the last bits of data swirling in from the Oregon Reserve, laughing as the nanobots finish their mission of murder and covertly make their way to the next Reserve on their hit list. As the bits of information dry up, the glider does a quick ollie, and jumps his surfboard off of the datastream.

He snickers, bemused, as he lands directly atop Doom’s holographic head.

Wire bends down on the surfboard, waiting for Doom to turn his head up at him and say something aloof, but the monarch is completely and utterly enthralled by the text of the e-mail. For perhaps the first time ever, Wire revels in the joy of leaving the normally-verbose Doom speechless.  “Liking what you see there?”

“Intriguing.” Doom says in his aloof manner.

Wire snaps his fingers. All his fun spoiled by one word. Typical Doom.

“So as you can see, there are diagrams and blueprints for the laser they used, but no mention of where they could have kept it. It’s way too big for a megacorporation to have in a building, so maybe somewhere underground?”

“Incorrect.” Doom interjects, turning up towards Wire. The movement sends the glider sliding off of Doom’s holographic head, tumbling out of control. Quickly, the young man gains his bearings and stylishly swings his surfboard around to Doom’s glaring visage.

Doom glowers at Wire.

“Whaaaat? I meant to do that! Anyway, you’re saying it’s not underground? How do you know?”

“I have seen these designs before.”

“Of course you have. Look who I’m asking.” Wire shakes his head. “So where is it then? With a weapon that big, you’d be able to see the thing from outer space!”

“Precisely, Wire. You would indeed be able to see it…from outer space...”


February 23, 2100.
The Retribution

Outer space.

The peace and quiet of the dark heavens stretches vast and unchallenged, surrounding the spinning blue orb with its everlasting reach. White hot stars sparkle against the black, and the Earth spins lazily around a fiery yellow ball of blinding light. A dusty white moon encircles the lonely planet, its orbit tracing a calm, lazy trail around its master.

However, unbeknownst to nearly every man, woman and child on the planet, something else orbits the shining blue planet. Something deadly, built for a long-forgotten and extremely classified war. Something whose secrets have been buried in space for many years. So many years, in fact, that the original purpose for existence has been long since forgotten.

That something has recently come out of hiding, currently in the possession of a particularly righteous individual.

Something that, two days ago, incinerated the United States Senate chamber and turned the corrupted politicians inside it into little more than ash. Something that was once heavily-classified under the un-original banner of the Alchemax Satellite Laser.

Its current master believes a name like the Retribution is more appropriate.

It lies in space, two hundred miles above the Earth’s surface, surrounded by a cloaking field that renders it completely and totally invisible to anyone who would wrest its colossal power from its current master.

A master who is, by all rights, clinically psychotic.

Vendetta is a beautiful synthetic woman, a Gene Doll, who had been programmed and created for the express purpose of sexual slavery. She somehow superseded her programming and escaped sexual slavery, delivering brutal punishment to the evil men of the world ever since.

The woman sits at the massive computer screen, a hard, sharp intensity etched in the lovely curves of her face. Her black shirt bears a Punisher emblem, symbolic of the mantle she has taken up in recent months. She scans the images with wild, unstable eyes.

The red haired vixen taps across her computer screens, scanning satellite photographs from across the world.

"Hmmm...the Theatre of Pain has a new operation in Nevada. Interesting....a good first target." She mutters under her breath.

A few gentle keystrokes, and more images come up. In New York, five men in surgical gowns stand in plain sight, covered from head to toe in the life's blood of a poor, nameless transient. In Nevada, ten Theatre of Pain prisoners are tied together naked inside a bushel of genetically-mutated poison ivy: their skin red, discolored and puffy from a day's worth of endless attacks by five hundred thousand angry wasps. In Transverse City, a gang of bikers swing a mace into an old woman, spraying the remainder of her face across dirty, blistering-hot asphalt.

Enraged, Vendetta nearly focuses the satellite on Transverse City, but another image appears that sends Vendetta into an instant homicidal fury.

In Washington D.C., Vendetta sees a line of women stepping single-file out from a deep space ship. From the audio receptors and the heartbeat sensors, she knows they're Gene Dolls - synthetic pleasure women created for lonely, brutal, abusive miners in the outer Earth colonies. The three miners line the women up in a row, the mass grave behind them already dug and set, payment for their objections against sex slavery.

"You sons of bitches." She screams, "You stupid sons of bitches!!"

With a sudden quickness her synthetically-manufactured body gives her, she taps the controls for the laser and centers the targeting beams straight at the forehead of the murderous miners. She listens as the laser powers up beneath her feet, heart pounding as the miners stand away from the women and click the safeties off of their guns. She wonders if the precise laser strike will save the woman in time when suddenly, the screen goes black and all the lights in the room shut off at the same time.

Vendetta furiously fumbles around in the dark for a seeming eternity as the seconds tick by, and she knows that the women below must be dead by now.

"What the fuck...? No no no no no!!" Vendetta gasps, moving her lithe body in the darkness and grabbing her assault laser as the emergency lights finally come on.

"I'm sorry. I couldn't let you do that." A voice - deep, harsh and unforgiving - filters in from the shadows behind her. Instantly, Vendetta trains her weapon at the source of the noise and fires like a woman possessed.

A flash of red comes from the darkness, and her rifle super-heats and melts against her synthetic hands. Feeling the burn, she drops it instantly, cursing up a storm as her enemy steps into the light. His regal green cape flutters as the emergency lights cast an eerie sheen across his metallic armor. She looks into his facemask, and from his eye visor she can just make out his cold, calculating gaze. 

Vendetta recognizes him immediately and growls.

"Doom."

 

I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader
because of extraordinary circumstances.
~~Nelson Mandela


TO BE CONTINUED


Next Issue:

Victor Von Doom is back in the spotlight! And he's brought a whole lot of trouble with him, to boot!

Can even Doom win this battle against the Wave Spiders? Who is Dominique Montonario and what is her angle? What is Doom's purpose aboard the Alchemax Satellite Laser (nicknamed The Retribution) and what will Vendetta have to say about it?

And most of all, what is this foreboding feeling of darkness that Doom senses is just over the horizon?

Get ready for the battle of the century: Doom vs. Vendetta! Tune in next time, my friends for "Doomed Plans". And don't worry, there are plenty of gambits and bold moves left in the match before the armored monarch is left in checkmate.