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/ Fantastic Four

VOICE (O.S.) There a problem, Vic?

They turn to see...BEN down the hall, leaning in a doorway. Victor tightens, looking at Ben's massive rock-hewn body.

VICTOR No problem, Ben.

He turns back to Reed. Close, quiet. Lights flicker.

VICTOR (CONT'D) Just pay your goddamn electric bill, and get to work on a cure.

Victor steps away, toward the elevator. He passes Ben, who just smiles and waves "goodbye." Before Victor's finger taps the down-button, the button lights up (as if the circuit responded to him). Reed exhales, shaken. Victor steps into --

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - ELEVATOR - DAY

The doors close, and Victor really LETS LOOSE. He SLAMS his fist into a STEEL WALL. The wall BUCKLES, steel DENTING.

Victor shakes out his hand, and sees...a rippling METALLIC SHELL under the skin. He stares at it in horror. The dark surface pulsates with electric energy. What is he becoming...?

INT. BAXTER BUILDING LABS - DAY

Sue works the controls. Reed approaches Ben with an ELECTRODE NEEDLE. He tries to stick the needle into Ben, but it SNAPS.

BEN You got a chisel round here?

REED If we're going to identify the source of the mutation, we need to isolate your recombinant DNA so we can activate positional genomes.

Ben looks to Sue for translation.

SUE We need to give you a physical, so we know what got zapped.

BEN Well why didn't you say so? You want me to lift some weights or something?

Reed shakes his head. He approaches with an X-RAY MACHINE.

REED No, just sit back. We have a good sense of your strength from the firetruck. We need to find the source of your strength.

He turns on the X-ray machine. The graph shows SOLID ROCK. The rays don't penetrate. Sue and Reed look confused.

BEN How bad is it? You know I used to smoke.

Reed grabs a BLOOD PRESSURE MACHINE, but the strap is way too short to wrap around Ben's arm. Reed stands stumped. He looks at his tray full of instruments. He picks up the little rubber REFLEX-HAMMER. But it looks miniscule compared to Ben.

Reed has an idea. He opens a drawer full of HARDWARE TOOLS. He pulls of a real HAMMER. He approaches Ben.

REED Okay, this might smart a little.

He taps Ben's knee lightly, and BEN'S LEG KICKS! SLAMMING UP! RIGHT BETWEEN REED'S LEGS! The ultimate kick in the crotch. Reed STRETCHES UP a few feet, then SNAPS BACK, wincing.

REED (CONT'D) (high-pitched voice) We'll...continue this later.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING LABS - DAY

From their second level control room, Reed and Sue observe Johnny in an enclosed fire-proof chamber. Flames escape through the vents of the chamber...he's fully torched!

Reed watches the read-out: it climbs from 2000 to 4000 degrees Kelvin. They are essentially taking his temperature.

INSIDE THE CHAMBER: Johnny turns white hot, blinding to look at: the chamber walls begin to glow red. Machines go haywire.

His feet even start to LIFT OFF THE GROUND, LEVITATING a foot or two. He looks down, excited, burning hotter and hotter.

REED Back it down, Johnny!

JOHNNY I can go hotter!

He won't stop. Reed pulls a switch on the wall. FOAM sprays out of nozzles, dousing Johnny's flames. He stands there, covered in thick FOAM. His body steams. So does his temper.

JOHNNY (CONT'D) You're really cramping my style here.

SUE You were at 4000 Kelvin. Any hotter, you're approaching supernova --

JOHNNY Sweet.

SUE That's the temperature of the sun.

REED Not only could you kill yourself, but you could set fire to Earth's atmosphere and destroy all human life as we know it.

JOHNNY Gotcha. Okay. Supernova bad.

Reed looks at the control panels.

SUE He cooked the equipment.

Frustrated, Reed looks at the smoking system. And we CUT TO --

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - LAB - DAY

Reed and Ben sit in chairs, facing each other. A beat passes. Ben taps his fingers on the chair, making small DENTS. Reed looks down at his clipboard. A little awkward.

REED Okay. I've uh, got some questions, from Sue. That she thought might be better coming from me... Can you, you know, go to the bathroom...like normal...

BEN Yeah. (a beat) You don't wanna know the details.

REED Ben, I'm afraid I've got to ask --

BEN Not unless you want that clipboard stretched up your --

REED O-kay. We'll skip that question.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - LAB - DAY

Reed and Johnny now. Johnny exercises. Reed stands nearby. Clipboard in hand.

REED Is there something about flames? About flaming, that you --

JOHNNY What are you trying to say? Just because I dress well and like to dance --

REED (confused) What? No. I'm trying to figure out why we each ended up with different symptoms.

JOHNNY Oh, well that's easy: I'm hot. You're...well, you're a little limp. Sue's easy to see through. And Ben's always been a hardass. (a beat) Why aren't you writing this down?

Reed sighs. It's going to be a long process.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING LAB - DAY

Reed and Sue, tables turned: Reed observes her through a prismatic device measuring light refraction. He "sees" her through the device: lit up like some heavenly creature. He's having a hard time concentrating. He focuses on his work.

REED It's not "invisibility" per se. You're bending the light around you with some kind of malleable force field. That's what you projected on the Bridge.

SUE What about you? You haven't eaten in days. How come you're never on this side of the microscope?

He tightens, uncomfortable with being center of attention. She reaches for his arm, like a specimen. He pulls away, but she sees a glimpse of BRUISES on his ARMS. She slows down.

SUE (CONT'D) Bruises...from the bridge?

He nods, rolls down his sleeves.

REED Have you had any side-effects, from your powers?

She considers. A little vulnerable.

SUE I've had some headaches. Migraines.

A beat. Reed drops his eyes, makes a note, back to work.

REED You should be able to bend light around other objects, even people, if you could control your emotional state better --

SUE Excuse me?

She is annoyed. Reed is oblivious.

REED I'm saying, if you had a little more self control, you could locate the trigger. Can you remember the exact emotions when --

SUE Anger. Rage. Frustration.

REED Okay. Is there any way to duplicate that feeling? Some memory or...

SUE (staring right at him) I'm sure I can come up with something.

She looks at Reed, eyes narrow. She becomes invisible. As she focuses on Reed -- and gets angry -- a small, clear FORCE FIELD forms around her body. The force-field BENDS LIGHT around a MICROSCOPE, which goes INVISIBLE. Reed steps out to ask...

REED How's that coming -- whoa --

The FORCE-FIELD shoots in all directions, knocking everything over in a fifteen foot radius. Reed is thrown from his chair.

SUE I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to do that... You must think that was some kind of latent hostility or --

REED What in the world would give me that idea?

An awkward beat.

REED (CONT'D) I mean, you broke up with me, right?

SUE Are you kidding?

REED No, I distinctly remember: you walked out my door. Ergo...

She didn't want to get into this. She looks down, vulnerable.

SUE Reed. I was ready for the next step, you weren't, ergo, I walked.

REED I think it was a little more complicated than --

SUE I just wanted to share an apartment. What was so complicated about that?

The question stumps him. A beat. He struggles.

REED There were a lot of variables to consider --

SUE No. There weren't. There was you. And me. No variables, no math. It was actually the simplest thing in the world. But your head got in the way... like it always does.

Her words penetrate. He knows she's right. He looks away.

REED Sue...I just...I thought...

He struggles for the words.

SUE Same old Reed. Too much thinking...

He opens his mouth, but...WHAM! Doors open. Johnny enters, wearing a CHARRED SHIRT. He points to the burned scraps of his shirt.

JOHNNY Okay guys, we have a serious problem.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING LABS - DAY

ANGLES of Reed in the lab, grabbing their space uniforms from various closets/containers:

REED (V.O.) Our uniforms were exposed to the storm like us. So they can transform like us, becoming invisible, changing size on demand or remaining impervious to flame.

REVEAL: Reed, Sue, and Johnny step out to look at themselves in a mirror wearing the uniforms. No boots, no gloves. Not yet. (The uniforms will develop, like our heroes).

BEN You look like an eighties rock band.

SUE (to Ben) The suit will stretch. You should try it --

BEN I wouldn't be caught dead in that.

JOHNNY He's right. These costumes are... missing something. I can't put my finger on it --

REED They're not costumes.

SUE We're not taking them out. Johnny, we need to stay here till we've stabilized. Johnny shakes his head, frustrated.

JOHNNY I'm getting sick of being trapped here. NASA wasn't even this strict!

He marches out. Sue turns to Reed, who says nothing. Sue heads out, leaving Ben and Reed. A beat. Ben looks at Reed.

BEN (looking at uniform) Maybe it's missing a utility belt.

Off Reed's dark look, we hear:

VICTOR (V.O.) So what's the prognosis?

INT. VON DOOM INDUSTRIES - VICTOR'S OFFICE - DAY

CLOSE ON: an X-RAY. Victor's ARM. The metallic transformation is higher now. PULL BACK TO REVEAL: Victor and his DOCTOR. In the wall behind them: ancient armor (maybe we noticed it before, maybe not). It adds a little menace to the room.

DOCTOR Your tissue, your organs, your entire biophysical structure is changing. Every system is still functioning, somehow --

VICTOR And they're changing into...

DOCTOR I don't really know. A compound organic-metallic alloy. Stronger than titanium or carbon steel. Harder than diamonds --

VICTOR Like the shields Reed said would protect us. (cold fury, deadly focus) How long?

DOCTOR At this rate, the infection should be complete in two, maybe three weeks --

VICTOR What do you mean "complete"?

DOCTOR I wish I could tell you. I can't pretend to know what we're dealing with here. I'll notify the CDC and --

Victor hardens, razor sharp.

VICTOR What?

DOCTOR The Center for Disease Control. If this thing is contagious --

WHHM! Victor GRABS the Doctor by the throat.

VICTOR Look at me. I have a life. I'm the face of a billion-dollar-company... We need to keep this confidential, understand?

Victor's grip TIGHTENS around the man's throat.

DOCTOR But...this disease...is progressive... degenerative...

VICTOR That's terrible news...

With one cobra-swift move, Victor thrusts his metallic arm into the doctor, killing him instantly. Victor retracts his arm, and looks at it, shocked by his own strength.

VICTOR (CONT'D) ...but I think I'll get a second opinion.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - REED'S OFFICE - NIGHT

A SERIES OF TIME-LAPSE SHOTS: REED works around the Baxter Building, spending hours searching for the cure. He checks charts, writes equations, paces, frustrated.

Finally, he sits at his long desk, looking at a wall where Ben's CHARTS are projected (both Ben and Thing's anatomies). Reed wears the uniform under his labcoat. He checks his equations over and over, making notes upon notes.

REED Nothing...nothing...nothing...

He hits the end of the slides. The wall fills with white light. Frustrated, Reed SLAMS his head into his desk, CRASH! Something FALLS off the end of the desk.

Reed raises his head, revealing his flattened face. He steps over to see...a PLANT SAMPLE from space, glass box shattered. Red sparks swirl around the plant, like the cosmic storm --

REED (CONT'D) Of course...of course...the cloud...

THE COSMIC STORM swirls, terrifying. We slowly PULL BACK TO --

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - MAIN LAB - NIGHT

The STORM is a computer-image on screen now. Behind the screen are six chalkboards full of Reed's calculations and the scribbled beginnings of a MACHINE.

We PULL BACK to see his arm stretched across the room writing on the end of another chalkboard.

He's moving fast, excited, almost a little manic. He hears...a CREAK. He slows down, but doesn't look up to see SUE enter.

SUE What are you doing?

REED (fast, charged) The plants, from space. Their particles are still charged. With the right amount of energy, those ions could create the elemental profile of the cosmic storm.

He rifles through a desk drawer, then heads out. Sue stands there, looking at the storm. Concerned. Then we CUT TO --

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - HALLWAY - NIGHT

Sue follows Reed. He flips through a file, excited.

REED If we can build a machine to re-create the storm, we can reverse the polarity --

SUE (realizing) And reverse the mutations --

REED (talking more to himself) Curing countless diseases, not just ours.

She looks at him.

SUE But we're the focus, right Reed? Reed...?

REED Of course. Of course.

SUE And you sure you can control this thing? Last time didn't work out so well.

REED (preoccupied, mind spinning) With the right energy, we can stabilize the storm. Maybe tie into the city grid...

He keeps his head down, making notes, entering --

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - STOREROOM - NIGHT

Reed and Sue enter. Reed is looking for something. Sue slows down, staring at this sprawling space, jam-packed with GEAR, GADGETS, BLUEPRINTS, INVENTIONS. Awe-inspiring, overflowing.

SUE You really need to get a janitor.

She stares at shelves upon shelves of overcrowded clutter.

SUE (CONT'D) This must be what it looks like inside your head.

Reed finds his electron microscope. He turns to Sue, defensive:

REED There's a system to it.

She starts to pull out a MODEL of the FANTASTICAR.

REED (CONT'D) Wait! Sue, don't touch tha--

The little car sets the whole shelf off balance. A WAVE OF INVENTIONS COME CLATTERING DOWN! Reed moves fast:

He LUNGES toward Sue, STREETCHING his ARMS AROUND the SHELF, pushing Sue away, just as the INVENTIONS SMASH TO THE GROUND!

Reed and Sue hit the floor. A close call. Now more closeness: Sue and Reed lay face-to-face, with Reed's wrapped around her. A heated beat. Their first real intimate moment.

SUE Sorry. My fault. I won't...touch anything.

As if suddenly made aware of their vulnerability, Sue and Reed stand, backing off. As they part, we see:

BEN watching from the doorway. Melancholy. He disappears. We slowly MOVE TO...A SURVEILLANCE CAMERA in a VENT GRATE.

INT. VICTOR'S OFFICE - NIGHT

Victor watches a bank of videoscreens. He has the Baxter Building under surveillance. He sees Reed and Sue on monitors. He toys with Sue's diamond ring in his gloved hand.

A door opens. Leonard enters. He sees the screens.

LEONARD Is Reed any closer to a cure?

Victor looks at that image of Reed and Sue on the screen.

VICTOR The only thing he's closer to is Sue...

But Victor sees something between Reed and Sue on the wall. He leans closer, and the camera ZOOMS IN, as if responding to his will. He ZOOMS all the way to a CLOSE UP of:

REED'S BLUEPRINTS FOR THE TRANSFORMATION CHAMBER. Victor's eyes narrow, mind ticking, a plan forming.

VICTOR (CONT'D) Make me a reservation for two at Cipriani tonight.

Victor opens a drawer, pulls out an old VIDEOTAPE.

VICTOR (CONT'D) And get this over to Ben Grimm.

Victor leans forward, fixated on that machine. As he gets closer, his screens go STATICKY. He absentmindedly picks at his SCAR. In shadows, we see skin peeling off.

WOMAN'S VOICE (V.O.) Close your eyes, baby. Keep 'em closed.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - MEDIA ROOM - NIGHT

BEN GRIMM stands front and center. Not the Thing. But BEN GRIMM. A normal man. He smiles wide, shaking his head.

WOMAN'S VOICE (V.O.) You surprised?

Now we PULL BACK to reveal DEBBIE and BEN on a SCREEN. The Thing watches the old videotape. He smiles sadly at his old life. He mouths the words -- he knows this tape by heart.

BEN (ON SCREEN) Yeah I'm surprised. Surprised the fire department didn't shut this down.

ON SCREEN: the handheld camera whips around, revealing...a SURPRISE PARTY. Full of people. Ben Grimm is a popular guy. On screen: Reed hugs Ben. They pose for pictures together.

THE THING God. I was good looking.

We hear the party sing "HAPPY BIRTHDAY." Debbie kisses Ben. Thing's eyes start to mist. On screen: Ben blows out candles.

DEBBIE (ON SCREEN) What did you wish for, honey?

BEN (ON SCREEN) I already got it. Everything I want.

As they kiss, a tear runs down Thing's cheek. The tape ends, and he sits in darkness for a beat. A long, lonely beat.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - HALLS - NIGHT

Ben stalks the halls, slipping into his ragged trenchcoat. As he passes a crossroads, he sees a strange sight:

REED'S HAND is TIED to a latch in the wall. His ARM is STREEETCHED THIN, spanning around the corner. Ben just shakes his head, keeps moving. And we FOLLOW REED'S ARM...

UP THE HALL...ROUND A CORNER...DOWN ANOTHER HALL. The muscles and tissue STRETCH, going taut. Finally, we reach...

REED. He steps slowly. He holds a digital TAPE-MEASURE in his other hand, measuring distance. His skin STREEETCHES. His face tightens, pained. We hear the faint SQUEAK of his skin.

VOICE (O.S.) Damn, Stretch!

Reed turns his head around, seeing JOHNNY come down the hall.

JOHNNY How far's that rubber bend?

Reed keeps moving, slowly. His muscles and tendons laboring.

REED That's what I'm trying to calculate. And it's not rubber. It's muscle, tendon. I seem to have the ability to manipulate the malleability of my molecular structure and redistribute my density to --

JOHNNY Right, whatever, have fun.

And Johnny is GONE, ducking under Reed's arm into --

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - KITCHEN - NIGHT

Johnny opens a cupboard, pulls out some JIFFY POP. It starts to POP in his hand, the bag swelling. He casually turns on a TV, flipping to...the X- GAMES. The Jiffy Pop swells, ready to blow. He rips it open, eats popcorn, and watches the games:

Cool stunts, hot girls. Johnny's brow furrows, a thought forming, a mischievous smile on his lips.

EXT. BAXTER BUILDING - SIDE EXIT - NIGHT

A FIGURE exits, wearing that ragged trenchcoat and fedora. Ben disappears into the dark night, and we CUT TO --

EXT. BROOKLYN STREET - NIGHT

Dark. Lights flicker. Steam rises through the grates. A shadow emerges. Ben. He heads toward O'DONNEL'S PUB, a classic Brooklyn tavern. Neon sign. Music, life inside. Ben pulls his hat low, turns up his collar, and squeezes through the door into --

INT. O'DONNEL'S PUB - NIGHT

A big photo of Ben Grimm in his astronaut heyday occupies a place over the bar. Ben enters, and the bar goes SILENT. He moves through the crowd. People clear out of the way.

Ben reaches the bar. He sits on a stool, and CRUNCH! SMASH! The stool SNAPS like a toothpick. He hits the ground hard. Glasses shake. A few PATRONS smile, laugh softly.

BEN That's not funny!

They go silent. They drop bills onto tables, filing out, scared of this monster. ERNIE works the bar.

ERNIE Hey, that's Ben Grimm there, the first mook from Brooklyn to go to outer space, so pay him some respect!

But the patrons keep filing out. Ben looks down, weary.

BEN Ernie. Sorry for killing your business. I'll take the usual, then I'm out... Better make it a double.

Ernie heads for the booze. Ben gives a sad shake of his head. Then he notices...one lone patron at the end of the bar. A beautiful young woman nursing a drink. Meet ALICIA MASTERS.

ALICIA Who killed the party?

She turns to him, unafraid. He notices her blank stare, lack of focus, and white cane. Alicia is blind.

ERNIE (O.S.) Make it a triple. On the house, Benny.

Ben takes his drink, but SMASH! His grip shatters the glass, spilling all over himself. He smiles ruefully.

BEN If there's a God, she hates me.

He grabs a bar-rag to dry off.

ALICIA I don't think She's real big on hate.

BEN You wouldn't say that, if you could see me.

She knocks back her drink, grabs her cane, steps toward Ben.

ALICIA Can I...? See you...?

Ben doesn't say anything. A little unnerved by this woman.

ALICIA (CONT'D) It's okay, I won't bite... (feeling his arm) ...not that I could.

She puts a hand on his face -- something in her tone and gentle touch allows Ben to let her. She smiles softly.

ALICIA (CONT'D) Such a sad face... You know, sometimes being different isn't a bad thing.

BEN Trust me, this ain't one of those times.

She smiles softly, takes her cane, and starts to head out.

ALICIA See you round, Benny...

Right as she hits the door, over her shoulder --

ALICIA (CONT'D) I'm Alicia, by the way.

Ben watches her disappear. He sees a few people staring. He lowers his head, turns back to the bar, and finds a new drink, in a steel MARTINI SHAKER. He knocks it back.

EXT./INT. UPSCALE RESTAURANT - NIGHT

Lights twinkle. A MAITRE D' leads us through fancy digs. Heads turn, whispers flutter. SUE steps out, joining... Victor at a prime table. He pulls out her chair, wearing gloves.

VICTOR Thank you for coming out to see me.

She nods, a little self-conscious.

SUE You said it was urgent.

VICTOR It is. There's something we need to talk about. Something I need to ask you...

Sue senses where this is going, and she cuts it short.

SUE (slow, careful) Victor, wait, slow down a second. I want you to know I appreciate everything you've done for me, but I just don't --

VICTOR Susan. What are you doing?

He is cold as ice. If he's hurt, he'll never show it.

VICTOR (CONT'D) You think I brought you here to talk about us? Please. This is business. (leaning forward, intense) I need to know: how close is Reed to finding to a cure?

She pauses. Then:

SUE He's working round the clock. But the data needs to be tested, analyzed before --

VICTOR Same old Reed. All analysis, no action. Wasn't that the problem with you two?

She holds tight, keeping cool.

SUE If these molecules aren't stable, they could make us worse, maybe even kill us.

VICTOR Then why is Reed dragging his feet? Maybe he likes having his prize specimen under glass... (closer, cruel) It's ironic, isn't it? You're finally the perfect woman for him...because you're his science project.

The words sting. She can't help but hear some truth in them.

SUE Please don't make this personal --

VICTOR Oh, I think you already have.

SUE Victor, we can't do anything until the research is ready.

Victor's fist CLENCHES -- metal SFX.

VICTOR "We," huh?

Victor SCREECHES his chair back, PUSHING the table so hard that he SPILLS water. Heads turn, all eyes on Sue. Victor gets close to her, too close, a hand on her shoulder.

VICTOR (CONT'D) Don't forget who you work for, Susan. So get to work. And do your job.

He walks out. As he goes, he slips the engagement ring out of his pocket. He crushes the diamond to dust, leaves the dust in an ashtray, and disappears into the night.

Sue sits embarrassed. She slowly...disappears. People gasp. She walks out, invisible, save for her clothes, which DRIFT through the air. At a TABLE FULL OF BUSINESSMEN --

BUSINESSMAN I wish my wife would disappear.

The other men laugh, but WHHM! The man's wine SPILLS into his LAP! Sue walks out. The restaurant is left buzzing. Lights twinkle. And we FADE OUT. A beat. Then we CRASH INTO --

EXT. NYC ARENA - ESPN MOTO X GAMES - DAY

The X games in full effect: A maze of mountainous dirt hills and ramps...where MOTO-BIKES launch into the air to the delight of 20,000 fans. The Riders spin and flip, performing aerial acrobatics on their 250CC motor bikes.

X GAMES ANNOUNCER (V.O.) And now, ladies and gentlemen, we have a special guest for you... Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four!

JOHNNY emerges, wearing his blue uniform, waving to the crowd. He steps up to the pit where RIDERS prep. He beelines to RONNIE RENNER.

JOHNNY Hey, Ronnie Renner! I'm a big fan.

Ronnie gives a tight nod. He doesn't like being upstaged by this circus freak.

The other bikers approach.

KENNY BARTRAM Heard you like to ride. Wanna take her for a spin?

He motions to his BIKE. Johnny eyes this mean machine.

RONNIE RENNER Come on, bro. I'll teach you some tricks...if you can keep up.

We PUSH IN on Johnny, his ego getting stoked, as we CUT TO --

INT. NYC ARENA - TRACK - DAY

Ronnie jams down the track, kicking dirt back at Johnny. Johnny now wears a MOTOCROSS OUTFIT over his uniform, with the number "004" on the back and a small 4 over his heart. Ronnie hits the first hill, and CATCHES AIR, FLIPPING HIGH!

X GAMES ANNOUNCER A rock-solid double-flip!

The CROWD goes wild. Now it's Johnny's turn. He hits the hill and pulls the exact same move. With even more height!

X GAMES ANNOUNCER (CONT'D) Look at that lift, ladies and gentlemen!

Johnny sticks the landing. The crowd swells. Ronnie tightens, pulls his throttle harder, taking the next jump, and...MAKING AN INSANE MOVE, CORKSCREWING IN THE AIR!

X GAMES ANNOUNCER (CONT'D) Frontside 360! He's totally flat and whipped!

He lands clean. The crowd is ready to explode. Johnny REVS his engine, his body starting to STEAM, adrenaline burning. He hits the hill, and pulls an even gnarlier SPIN!

X GAMES ANNOUNCER (CONT'D) Whoa! That's a...what is that? A 720?

Johnny lands. The crowd roars. Ronnie bears down on the last hill. He leans over his handlebars.

X GAMES ANNOUNCER (CONT'D) He's going for a Kiss of Death!

Ronnie hits the hill, pulls this JAW-DROPPING DEATH-DEFYING STUNT! The crowd is deafening! Ronnie smiles. And... JOHNNY SPEEDS FASTER, FASTER. Trails of FLAME start to streak off his back! He RACES LIKE A ROCKET UP THE HILL! LAUNCHING TO IMPOSSIBLE HEIGHTS! SPINNING LIKE A TOP! A FLAMING BLUR!

And now for the really impressive part: Johnny's bike starts to drop, but JOHNNY KEEPS RISING! He FLAMES ON, spiraling upward! For a few seconds, he's actually...almost...flying.

X GAMES ANNOUNCER (CONT'D) (hand over mic) Is he......flying?

A beat. Time suspended. And...WHHM! He PLUMMETS back down! LANDS on his bike in mid-air! And sticks a perfect landing, maybe even kicking a little dirt up at Ronnie. Johnny swerves to a stop, with a "holy shit" look on his face. What the hell just happened??

X GAMES ANNOUNCER (CONT'D) Unbelievable, ladies and gentlemen! You've just seen the first...the first...TORCHFLIGHT! The McTORCH!

A new name is born. The crowd goes berserk. Standing ovation. Riders rush up to Johnny. Kenny sees his bike:

THE SEAT MELTED, WHEELS BURNED OFF. Johnny smiles.

JOHNNY My bad. Sorry about that. (a glance to Ronnie) Thanks for the lesson, bro.

HOT GIRLS swarm. As Johnny gets swallowed by fans, we see a scary thing flicker in his eyes: the birth of a star.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - KITCHEN - MORNING

Sue stands alone, sifting through piles of mail. She focuses on one piece of mail that she's holding. Her hand begins to disappear and then the envelope slowly begins to disappear as well. Sue smiles at the success. Intrigued. Quiet:

SUE That's new...

Reed enters -- overworked, unshaved. He keeps his head down, preoccupied. Sue shifts focus.

SUE (CONT'D) Have you read these...? From all over. People want us to fight crimes... save their kids...solve their problems... (no response from Reed) ...when we can't even solve our own.

She puts the letters down, steps closer to Reed.

SUE (CONT'D) Reed. How close are we to a cure?

REED No way to know. Without more tests, experiments.

She considers. Victor's words echo in her head.

SUE We're not specimens, we're patients. This isn't just another science project to you, is it...?

Reed looks up, a little surprised. He opens his mouth, but --

BEN (O.S.) NO...NO...NO FREAKIN' WAY!!

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - MEDIA ROOM - DAY

CRASH! BANG! Ben stalks around the room, furious. Reed and Sue rush in.

REED BEN! What? What's going on!?

Ben points to the wall-sized TV: the ESPN MOTO X GAMES.

X GAMES REPORTER (ON TV) So what can you tell us about the outfit?

REVEAL: JOHNNY standing next to an X GAMES REPORTER. He is peeling off the burned remains of his motocross outfit, revealing his FF UNIFORM, with a "4" STITCHED ONTO THE CHEST.

Behind them, STEP UP RIDERS launch their MOTO-BIKES off huge 18' high mountains of dirt, thirty feet in the air.

JOHNNY (ON TV) Not too much, but I will say that it's all weather and no leather. Kind of Armani meets Astronaut.

Ben, Sue, and Reed stare at the wall-sized TV. Mouths agape.

SUE He didn't.

BEN Oh, he did.

SUE What did he do to the uniform?!

She turns to Reed, who gives a sheepish shrug, and peels back his labcoat revealing a "4" stitched onto his chest too.

REED He talked me into it.

X-GAMES REPORTER (ON TV) So what are your superhero names?

JOHNNY (ON TV) I go by the Human Torch. The ladies call me Torch.

X-GAMES REPORTER (ON TV) What about the rest of the team?

Johnny hadn't really thought about them. He spitballs:

JOHNNY (ON TV) Uh, we call my sister the invisible girl...the Invisible Girl.

SUE Girl...?!

X-GAMES REPORTER (ON TV) That's easy to remember. And Reed Richards? He's the leader. So what's he? Mr. Fantastic?

JOHNNY Well, I wouldn't say he's the leader.

Reed shrugs. He doesn't hate the name.

BEN Could be worse.

Case in point: a photo of Ben fills the TV.

X-GAMES REPORTER (ON TV) What about this one? What do you call this Thing?

Johnny smiles, looking right into camera.

JOHNNY That's it. Just The Thing. We would have gone with The Rock, but it was taken. And "Thing" pretty much sums it up.

A LAUGH from the studio audience.

BEN (matter-of-fact) Okay. I'm gonna go kill him now.

He turns to go. Reed wraps an arm around Ben.

REED Ben! Slow down a second and --

He sees a photo of himself on screen.

X-GAMES REPORTER (ON TV) Is it true what they say? That he can expand any part of his anatomy?

JOHNNY (ON TV) Actually, between us, I think he's got some problems staying rigid.

REED (finishing his thought to Ben) ...wait for me...

X-GAMES REPORTER (ON TV) Which may explain why this woman's not smiling.

They put up a shot of Susan.

SUE I'm driving.

JOHNNY (ON TV) Dude. That's my sister.

EXT. NYC ARENA - DAY

The Thing rounds the corner. Sees a crowd of girls lined up near a red PORSCHE parked out front...with "TORCHED" on the plates. Ben slows down, smiles.

EXT. NYC ARENA - A LITTLE LATER

Johnny and the Hot Babe exit, signing autographs for girls in the line. Sue and Reed approach, glare like angry parents.

Johnny finds the Valet, who looks ill...his car is gone.

JOHNNY (looking around) Where's my ride?

The Valet blows his whistle...and a 4 X 4 solid cube of RED JUNK METAL slides down the street and stops at the curb in front of Johnny. The Valet timidly holds out the keys...

JOHNNY (CONT'D) What the?! Is that my --

Before he can finish, Johnny gets PELTED IN THE HEAD with the license plate. It rattles to the ground, face up.

Johnny rubs the sting out of his head. Looks up and sees Ben in the distance, dusting off his hands.

JOHNNY (CONT'D) (shouting: to Ben) You're gonna pay for that, Pebbles. (seeing Sue) What?!

SUE You gave us names? What are you, the "face" of the Fantastic Four now?

Ben marches up. Hands balled into fists.

BEN It's about to be a broken face.

REED This isn't permanent, Johnny. We need to be careful until we're normal again.

JOHNNY What if some of us don't want to be "normal" again? We didn't all turn into monsters like --

Ben reels back a FIST the size of an anvil. Stops himself. Instead of attacking, he starts to walk off.

Johnny hurls a FIREBALL that SMACKS Ben in the back of the head. Ben stops. Turns around more shocked than hurt.

BEN Did you just --

Ben gets hit with ANOTHER FIREBALL. This time in the face.

BEN (CONT'D) Okay, that's it, tinkerbell! You want to fly? Fly.

Ben charges like a bull, fist cocked back, and...Reed steps in the way! Too late! WHAMM! Ben's fist PUNCHES INTO REED'S CHEST, which INDENTS. Reed's BACK EXPANDS with Ben's fist, PUNCHING into Johnny, launching Johnny off his feet.

BAM! Johnny SLAMS into a moving ADVERTISING TRUCK, with a BURGER KING flame-broiled WHOPPER on the side. WHOOSH! He leaves a flaming imprint on the all-beef patty.

The crowd stands stunned. So do Reed and Sue. Cameras pop.

Johnny slowly pulls himself up. The paint on the truck begins to bubble around his hand. Beaten, bruised, he stands. Heating up. Both his hands are now flaming fists of fury.

JOHNNY Let's see if we can get blood from a stone.

He and Ben lock eyes, with a block of sidewalk between them. High Noon. They start to RUN toward each other...

When they are almost within range, Sue STEPS BETWEEN THEM, stops them both in their tracks with just a look. Like a mom:

SUE You two need a time-out.

JOHNNY Blockhead started it!

Ben just stalks off. The crowd clears, scared. A PAPARAZZI snaps a picture. Ben GRABS his camera, and flicks the lens.

EXT. STREETS - DAY

Sue looks at Johnny, more disappointed than angry.

SUE Damn it, Johnny.

She goes after Ben, leaving Reed and Johnny on the sidewalk.

REED You need to control yourself and think before you --

JOHNNY Act. Here we go again. Reed, what if we got these gifts for a reason? What if we have some, you know...like, calling?

REED A higher calling like getting girls and making money?

Johnny nods, totally missing the sarcasm.

JOHNNY Is there any higher?

Reed looks at him, disgusted. Johnny waves to the crowd, hand flaming. People SHRIEK, snap pictures. Johnny smiles at Reed.

JOHNNY (CONT'D) This is who we are Reed. Accept it. Or better yet: enjoy it.

Johnny steps into the sea of fans. Reed stands alone.

EXT. STREET/ALLEY - DAY

Sue wades through the throng of New Yorkers. Tries to catch up with Ben...whose presence parts the crowd like Moses.

SUE Ben! Slow down...

Ben glances sideways at her, doesn't stop. She catches up.

SUE (CONT'D) He didn't mean it. You know Johnny. He's always been a hothead --

BEN It's not him. It's them. (pointing to crowd) I can't live like this.

SUE Just give Reed a little more time. You know how he works -- analyzing every little step before he takes one --

BEN It's easy for you to be patient.

SUE No, it's not. I thought I was done waiting for Reed... We're all in this together now, Ben.

He slows down, gets closer, intense.

BEN Together? Look at me, Susie. You got no idea what I'd give...to be invisible. Your nightmare...is my dream.

She opens her mouth, but has no response. She doesn't know his depth of pain. As he disappears into the alley, we CUT TO --

INT. INVESTMENT BANK - CONFERENCE ROOM - DAY

The news plays on the TV. Head Banker Ned Cecil freezes the screen on an image of...THE THING. He turns to Victor, who sits with the rest of the bankers. Cold, sterile environment.

NED CECIL This is how you "turn things around"? These freaks are on the front page and your company's in the obituaries.

Victor has a larger bandage on his face now.

VICTOR I have a plan to use their publicity for --

NED CECIL Victor, stop. The bank's lost enough already. This isn't a negotiation. It's a notification. We're pulling out.

A cold, silent beat. Victor leans forward.

VICTOR You need to look long-term here. Without risk, there's no --

NED CECIL Reward. We all know the sales pitch, Vic. And frankly, we're done buying... Gentlemen.

He motions to his men. They all stand. Victor is the lone man sitting. PUSH IN on Victor's face, his inner rage palpable. A few quick surges of electricity emanate from his body. This man is getting stronger, more electric.

INT. BANK - UNDERGROUND PARKING GARAGE - DAY

After hours. The floor is slick with water -- puddles in every direction. Ned Cecil comes out of the elevator, heading for his car. As he goes, the structure lights start to flicker. Ned looks up, watches the lights go out one by one, furthest to closest. He looks around. Unnerved by the darkness.

NED CECIL Hello...?

A hanging beat. Victor steps out from shadows.

NED CECIL (CONT'D) (relieved, almost) Von Doom? Gave me a little shock. No hard feelings, right? Nothing personal.

Victor says nothing. Ned keeps going.

NED CECIL (CONT'D) You know, you could always move back to Latvura, start fresh.

He mispronounces Latveria, dripping condescension.

NED CECIL (CONT'D) Maybe that's where you belong, back in the "old country."

That does it. A surge of electricity courses through Victor. His eyes narrow, and the electricity crackles down his leg to THE GROUND. The electric spark hits the water and...

ELECTRIC CURRENTS RACE ACROSS THE GROUND, SLITHERING LIGHTNING-FAST ACROSS THE WATER (like deadly electric snakes), heading straight for Ned. His eyes go wide. And... NED IS ELECTROCUTED! His body spasms. THUD! He slumps, dead. Smoke rises from his body. Victor stands, power swelling.

For the first time, his SCAR SPLITS OPEN, revealing a METAL GLOW beneath the skin. He remains scary calm.

VICTOR It's pronounced Latveria. (looking down at the dead body) This meeting's over, Ned.

Victor walks away, the final lights going to DARKNESS.

INT. VICTOR'S OFFICE - DAY

Victor enters, still adrenalized. He turns to the light switch, and the lights come on. He approaches his screens, and the monitors flicker to life. His powers are growing.

One MONITOR rolls the news. IMAGES of the FANTASTIC FOUR. Victor leans closer, and the VOLUME automatically goes up.

NEWSCASTER (ON TV) ...the Fantastic Four put on quite a show last night. They landed in every major headline in the northern hemisphere. In related news...

An IMAGE of VICTOR on screen.

NEWSCASTER (ON TV) (CONT'D) Reports have surfaced that Von Doom Industries may be filing for bankruptcy. You may remember that it was Victor Von Doom who...

Victor turns away from the screen. The volume goes down. He focuses his eyes on REED.

Leonard enters, stepping closer, seeing the faint flicker of VICTOR'S METALLIC SCAR. His eyes narrow, concerned.

LEONARD Sir, is everything okay? What happened to your...?

Victor keeps his eyes on the screen, totally engrossed.

VICTOR (under breath, seething) Reed... He got what he wanted... (looking at Sue) Everything he wanted...he took from me.

He leans ever closer, so the static starts to swallow Reed. A hard, deadly beat. Victor's eyes narrow, zooming into...REED'S RESEARCH: SLIDES on the wall. He zooms into key words:

DANGER, UNSTABLE IONS, MUTATION, OVERLOAD. And Victor gives a slow, thin smile. A new plan forming.

VICTOR (CONT'D) Now I'm going to take it back. Piece by bloody piece...

His fist clenches. We hear METALLIC SFX.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - TRANSFORMATION LAB - DAY

Reed enters the room carrying a stack of boxes that no normal man could balance. But he is not normal. His arms are wrapped around the boxes five times over -- like human twine. He stops short, and drops the boxes when he sees...

VICTOR overseeing a group of TECHNICIANS. They are boxing up Reed's work -- all of his equipment, research. Victor wears a bandage, covering his scar. Reed eyes a glint of METAL.

REED Victor, are you...are you okay?

Victor turns away.

VICTOR Don't worry about me. Worry about yourself.

Reed looks around, seeing his lab turned inside out.

REED What are you doing here?

VICTOR What I should have done a long time ago. Applications and patents, Reed. This all belongs to me.

Reed reaches out, grabbing a folder from a box.

REED But I'm not done with the machine --

VICTOR Which is precisely the point. Analysis is over. It's time for action. My men could have mass- produced this by now.

Reed shakes his head, defending himself.

REED Mass-produced? This isn't a toaster. You have no idea how it works.

Victor pulls the folder from Reed's hand, and whips out the intricate DIAGRAM of the MACHINE. He points to parts:

VICTOR Re-create the storm, invert the polarity here, reverse the mutation there. Don't talk to me like I'm some schoolboy. I've got the same Phd you do.

Reed is a little surprised that Victor is so familiar with his machine. He points to a SECURE CHAMBER on the blueprint.

REED The storm needs to be handled exactly right, or it could make our mutations worse, much worse, maybe even kill us...

Victor slows. Is Reed getting to him? Or giving him ideas?

REED (CONT'D) Victor, please. We need time to verify the data... We can't afford any mistakes -- there's only enough ions for two or three attempts.

Victor considers. He seems to enjoy watching Reed dangle.

VICTOR Reed. I'm not asking permission. (a final verdict) We'll build it, while you check the specs.

Victor walks out. Reed looks unsure, as we CUT TO --

INT. BAXTER BUILDING TRANSFORMATION LAB - DAY

The SHIELDS slowly rise. FIVE TECHNICIANS go to work. They wear the VDI jackets. Reed watches, worried.

Sue enters. She sees the shields, the technicians, the VDI logo. And she is deeply worried. She steps over to Reed. Sparks fly behind them. Drills scream.

SUE Can I talk to you?

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - REED'S OFFICE - DAY

Sue steps into the office, followed by Reed. Quiet, urgent:

SUE Don't let Victor push you into making a mistake --

REED He was going to take away all my data, equipment --

SUE Better than your life. Victor's not the one who has to get into that thing. We are.

Reed starts to snap, losing his studied cool.

REED Which is why I'm working twenty hours a day, checking every variable --

SUE Every variable but yourself. You don't eat, sleep. You can't live in your head like --

REED (finally losing it) I'm not the only one in there. I got you, Vic, Ben, Johnny, all rattling around in there.

Sue stands there, shocked by his outburst. A beat.

SUE So clear it out. Get out of your head. Get out of here...

He looks at her, knowing what she means. Where she means.

EXT. BROOKLYN STREETS - DAY

Ben nearly knocks people over as he stomps down the street, mind tossing and turning. People stare, point. A LITTLE GIRL and FRIEND run up to him.

LITTLE GIRL Mister, Mister! Please help me! My kitty is stuck in a tree.

She gestures to a tree next to Ben. Looks up.

LITTLE GIRL (CONT'D) Please save Miss Lucy.

Ben rolls his eyes. Looks up. Considers climbing the tree, but thinks better of it. He has another idea...

Ben grabs the tree with one hand, and starts shaking the crap out of it. MEEEEEEOOOOOOOWWWWRRRRRRR!!!!

The cat falls into frame. At the last instant, Ben sticks out his hand and the cat lands safely in his palm. He hands the cat to the girl. Barely acknowledges her profuse thanks. He just moves on.

EXT. ANOTHER BROOKLYN STREET - NIGHT

Ben passes a window in a gallery, and almost misses A LARGE SCULPTURE of his bust.

He stops, steps back to take a look. It's exquisitely rendered, capturing not just brute physicality, but the haunting anguish in his eyes. Ben is amazed, and touched, but...

BEN (under breath) Eyebrows are a little big...

A beat. He stares at these images of himself.

VOICE (O.S.) I figured the only way to get you here was to stick that in the window.

He turns to see...ALICIA in the doorway.

BEN How'd you know it was me?

ALICIA I'm blind, not deaf. Wanna come in?

He steps toward her. But he sees...a PARTY in the back part of the gallery. Ben pauses, a little insecure.

BEN I'm not really dressed for a party.

ALICIA Relax, it's casual.

BEN No, I mean...I'm a little...dusty...

She smiles, a thought forming, as we CUT TO --

INT. GALLERY - STUDIO - NIGHT

WHOOSH! A SCULPTOR'S HOSE sprays a thin stream of water at BEN. Alicia cleans Ben with her hands, using thin CARVING CHISELS for his cracks. Intricate, intimate work.

Ben enjoys every moment. He eyes a couple, large PUPPETS in the corner.

BEN Those yours too?

ALICIA My step-dad's. I'm strictly into stone. I was wondering when you'd walk by.

THE THING You know, you could'a run an ad in the personals.

ALICIA "Sensual blind chick seeks three-ton, rock-hard he-man for deep spiritual relationship."

THE THING This ain't permanent. My friend Reed's working on a cure...I think.

She gets closer, running her hands across his arm.

ALICIA Bennie. You feel pretty good as is.

Ben bristles. He doesn't want to stay this way.

THE THING You don't know what it's like out there. Walking around like some kind of circus freak. People staring, whispering --

ALICIA I wouldn't know anything about that.

THE THING I mean...

ALICIA Tell me. When you grew up in Brooklyn, how many astronauts did you know? (a beat) You went your own way then. You didn't listen to people. So why start now...?

As he ponders that, we hear a CROWD SWELLING on the CUT TO --

EXT. STREET - NIGHT

Fans swarm JOHNNY. He signs autographs, poses for pictures. Then his eyes move to...an incredibly long stretch LIMO. A tinted window rolls down. Victor's face emerges.

VICTOR Need a ride, Johnny?

EXT./INT. LIMO - NIGHT

Johnny climbs in, sees...three impossibly gorgeous MODELS.

VICTOR A few fans. Hope you don't mind.

JOHNNY Gotta take care of the fans, right?

He smiles, sitting down in the middle of them.

VICTOR Look, I built my business knowing what people want. And right now, the people want you.

Johnny eyes the models, all lusting.

JOHNNY And we don't want to let the people down now, do we?

VICTOR No we don't. Which is why we need to strike while the iron's hot. I'm talking action figures, videogames, sponsors --

JOHNNY Videogames? You serious?

Victor nods, knowing he has Johnny on the hook.

JOHNNY (CONT'D) You talk to Reed and Sue about this?

VICTOR Johnny. Let's be honest here. Ben, Reed, Sue. Good people, all. But stars? (shaking his head, a beat) I don't want to break up the band, but you're the one they want. Don't you think it's time to go solo...?

Victor subtly nods to the models. They envelop Johnny.

VICTOR (CONT'D) Take the car for a spin. Think about it. Is this the life you want? Or would you rather live in Reed's lab...?

The car stops. Victor gets out. He stands on the pavement. As he shuts the door, we see the women climbing onto Johnny. The door shuts, and...

WHHHMMMPF! The windows all suddenly STEAM UP!

INT. HAYDEN PLANETARIUM - NIGHT

STARS on the ceiling. A VOICE drones about the galaxy. In the LAST ROW, we find: Reed and Sue. Reed is thinking about work.

REED I could get Ben to tap into the Baxter's main power to generate enough voltage --

SUE Reed. Shh. Just be quiet. And look up.

He slowly looks up. The stars seem to calm him.

SUE (CONT'D) Remember our first date here...? God, I was so nervous.

REED You were?

SUE Of course I was. I'd read all your papers on bioethics. Some of them two times just so I'd have something to say to you.

Reed smiles softly, thinking back.

REED You know, I bribed the projectionist ten bucks to keep it open late?

SUE I gave him twenty.

They laugh. Sue looks up to the stars. Quiet:

SUE (CONT'D) I didn't want that night to end.

Reed looks at her. Wrestles with a decision. Then quietly:

REED Sue, you were right. It wasn't complicated. I just wasn't ready to be...to become... (a beat) You can be a little intimidating.

She knows. He trails off. Sue looks at him.

REED (CONT'D) You always talked about how you liked the kind of man who could approach you...speak his mind. One who wasn't afraid to tell you what he wanted.

SUE I did. I did, Reed...but I wanted you to be that man.

Someone SHUSHES them. They slump down further. Closer.

SUE (CONT'D) When I walked out, I waited ten minutes outside your door. Ten. Waiting for you to come find me.

REED Why didn't you say something?

SUE That would have kinda defeated the purpose. And Reed... (closer, emotional) I'm saying it now.

Their eyes lock. A heated beat. No more secrets. Their faces are close. A kiss is coming. Closer, closer. Sue disappears.

SUE (CONT'D) (quiet, playful) Come find me.

Reed tentatively leans into the kiss, and...

SUE (O.S.) (CONT'D) That's my nose, genius... These are my lips.

Reed's face is SQUEEZED on both sides by Sue's invisible hands. She pulls him into a KISS. Lips touch. Soft, tender. Stars twinkle. And we slowly DISSOLVE TO --

EXT. KIRBY GALLERY - NIGHT

Ben and Alicia step out together. The crowd quiets, turns. A few whispers flutter. Alicia leans close to Ben, and slips her arm into his. The party goes back to normal.

ALICIA Look around. I'll get us drinks. They always let blind girls cut the line.

She walks off. He watches her go. The way her hair moves. The lines of her neck. The light on her skin. This woman is the most beautiful thing Ben has ever seen. He's falling hard.

Ben steps through the crowd. The swanky guests give strained smiles, polite. Ben is starting to feel comfortable here. He keeps his eyes on Alicia, who talks to guests. Ben hangs back, happy to watch her. A few patrons pass him, thinking he's just an inanimate statue.

PATRON I don't know about this one. It lacks a certain...realism.

Ben keeps his eyes on Alicia. He overhears two BOHEMIAN GIRLS, who assume he's a statue.

BOHEMIAN GIRL #1 She's always had a thing for runaways and strays, but this is ridiculous.

BOHEMIAN GIRL #2 I know. Did she really think these sculptures would sell?

BOHEMIAN GIRL #1 Like anybody would want this thing in their house. That girl's a one-woman charity.

Ben just stands there, frozen. His eyes dart around the room, paranoid now. Aware of people staring, laughing. He glances at Alicia, who giggles at something else. Ten seconds ago, this would have been dreamy. Now it's damning.

We stay with Alicia, who cuts through the crowd, emerging where she left Ben. She has a PITCHER of wine in hand for him. But Ben is gone. She looks disappointed, hearing his heavy FOOTSTEPS get softer and softer in the distance.

THUNDER booms on the CUT TO --

EXT./INT. DINER - NIGHT

A pitstop in Queens. Heavy RAIN swims down windows. BEN sits at the COUNTER, with his hat pulled low, coat tight. Nobody sits within four chairs of him. He sips coffee in a metal bowl. A long beat. Then...

VICTOR (O.S.) This seat taken?

Ben turns to see...VICTOR.

BEN What are you doing here?

VICTOR I'm worried about you.

BEN About me? How sweet.

VICTOR Come on. Let me buy you something to eat. Looks like you could use the company.

Ben considers. A man deeply alone. A beat.

INT. DINER - LATER

Victor and Ben sit in a window booth. A waitress sets a foothigh stack of pancakes in front of Ben, removes huge plates he's just cleared. Victor's aware of the other customers in the diner staring at Ben. Ben burps: it rattles the plates.

THE THING 'Scuse me.

VICTOR I know it can't be easy. Life hasn't changed that much for Reed, Sue and Johnny. At least they can go out in public. But for you? People staring. Whispering behind your back...

THE THING If you're trying to cheer me up you're doing a helluva job --

VICTOR I'm just saying, I know what it's like to lose something you love. To see it slip away, and know it's never coming back.

The Thing shoves a huge piece of pie in his mouth.

THE THING Reed's gonna fix me up --

VICTOR For your sake I hope you're right. I'm sorry if that sounds a little skeptical.

THE THING Skeptical...?

Ben doesn't trust him. But Victor is hitting pressure points.

VICTOR Look, he's a brilliant man, we should trust he's working as hard as he can. You're his best friend. So what possible reason could he have for taking his time? (a beat) I mean, other than getting close to Sue?

Off The Thing: a seed of doubt has been planted. He can't help but find truth in the words. And we CUT TO --

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - TRANSFORMATION LAB - NIGHT

Reed and Sue return, laughing quietly, bodies close. Reed turns on the lights, and they flinch when they see...BEN. He sits waiting, scowling. They stop laughing immediately.

BEN Yeah, I have that effect on people.

The construction of the TRANSFORMATION CHAMBER is complete. The Technicians are gone now.

REED Ben --

BEN Oh, you remember my name do you? You happen to remember what you swore to do with every breath in your body?

REED We're working as hard as we can --

BEN Yeah. I can tell. Victor was right.

He motions to Reed and Sue together.

REED Come on, this is nothing.

Sue looks a little hurt.

BEN Glad "nothing" could take you away from your work.

REED Ben, I don't know if this thing'll change us back or make us worse. I need you to be patient for a little while longe--

He POKES his finger into Reed's chest, which INDENTS around it like the Pillsbury Doughboy. Ben pushes Reed back. Hard.

BEN Look at me, Reed. Look at me!

He grabs Reed's face, his fingers INDENTING the skin. He THROWS Reed back. Reed slams down to the ground.

REED I am looking. That's why I can't make a mistake! I've got to get it right, and it's not right yet! We need to test this.

Ben shakes his head, looking down at Reed.

BEN I spent my whole life protecting you, from the schoolyard to the stars. For what? So you could play Twister with your girlfriend while I'm the freak of the week?

Reed tries to stand, but Ben KNOCKS him back. Reed slams into the wall, and stays down this time.

SUE Ben! Stop it! Or I'll stop it.

She starts to raise her hands to throw force-fields.

BEN Stay out of this Susie.

As Ben turns to her, Reed takes this opportunity to WRAP Ben up like a python. They struggle. Ben runs back into a wall to shake Reed. Their faces are close, heated.

BEN (CONT'D) Good thing you're flexible enough to watch your own back. 'Cause you're on your own now.

Ben seems to relax and Reed lets go. Ben walks out. Sue comes to Reed's side. He's bleeding.

REED I'm OK. Just go, go after him. Stop him.

She heads out. Reed slowly stands. He looks at the transformation machine. It's not ready. But...Reed steps toward it. As he walks, his image goes grainy in --

INT. VICTOR'S OFFICE - NIGHT

Victor gets closer to his screens, watching Reed's every step. This is what Victor has been waiting for. His screens flicker with static -- he's too close, but he can't pull back. He sees: REED TURNS ON THE MACHINE. Hits a countdown. And he grabs his UNIFORM...

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - HALLWAY - NIGHT

Sue hustles down the long hall. Ben turns a corner, passing the elevators, heading toward a FREIGHT ELEVATOR. She gets there too late. Doors close, going down.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - GROUND FLOOR - NIGHT

Ben pounds across the lobby. He sees Johnny coming in.

JOHNNY Christmas come early! Check it out!

He holds up an ACTION FIGURE of BEN: a horribly bloated body topped by a tiny pinhead. Johnny pushes a button and --

BEN ACTION FIGURE IT'S CLOBBERIN' TIME!

WITH ONE ARM, Ben shoves Johnny into a wall. With his other hand, Ben grabs the toy and SMASHES it into the wall, inches from Johnny's head. The toy lodges into the plaster.

JOHNNY Hey! That's a prototype!

BEN Go back to the drawing board.

He strides away.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - GROUND FLOOR - NIGHT

DING. Sue speeds out of the elevator. No sign of Ben. She runs into...JOHNNY who shakes off the encounter.

SUE Johnny? Did you see Ben?

JOHNNY Yeah, for the last time, I hope. I'm done with this freak show. I'm moving back to the real world.

SUE Is that what you call it? "Real"?

JOHNNY At least it beats living in a lab like somebody's science project.

This hits home. Sue is quiet. Johnny turns to go.

SUE Johnny, slow down. Think. You know mom didn't raise us to --

JOHNNY Look around, sis! She's not here. So you can stop talking to me like I'm your little boy --

SUE As soon as you stop acting like one. Come on, you're smarter than this. You think those people out there care about you? You're just a fad to them.

He pulls away from her, taking a step out the door.

JOHNNY Let's try something new: you live your life. And I'll live mine. (beat) And just for the record: they LOVE me.

He strides into the night, leaving Sue alone. A dark night. The Fantastic Four is no more. The family is split apart.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - TRANSFORMATION LAB - NIGHT

The transformation chamber is up and running. Numbers count down. The storm swirls in the chamber. Reed now wears the UNIFORM. He opens the door:

HE'S GOING TO USE IT ON HIMSELF. HE IS FINALLY TAKING ACTION.

INT. VICTOR'S OFFICE - NIGHT

Victor sits enthralled. He leans forward, breathless.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - TRANSFORMATION LAB - NIGHT

Reed gets closer. His heart races. So does Victor's. A moment of truth for both of them. REED STEPS INTO THE MACHINE.

Reed looks up at the cosmic storm. He opens his arms, ready to risk his life. And...WHHHM! He JOLTS in JUMP-CUT-MOTION, RECONFIGURING, JERKING out of control, and we CUT TO --

VICTOR'S OFFICE - NIGHT

His screens GO BLACK. He looks out the window to see...a flash atop the BAXTER BUILDING. The tip of the Baxter glows. The rest of its lights GO OUT, FLICKERING in a power surge.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - GROUND FLOOR - NIGHT

Lights go haywire. Sue knows immediately...

SUE Oh god, Reed.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - TRANSFORMATION LAB - NIGHT

Lights flicker in darkness. The door rips open. Sue lunges inside. She sees through smoke and sparks...REED sways in the chamber. A beat. Did it work? Then...

Reed SLUMPS TO THE GROUND. His eyes flutter back. Dead...? His body is warped, twisted -- one half remains tense, hard, while the other half is loose, soft, almost melted.

SUE What did you do, Reed? What did you do?

INT. VICTOR'S OFFICE - NIGHT

Victor watches every second on his monitors.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - TRANSFORMATION LAB - NIGHT

Sue struggles to lift Reed -- half of his body is STRETCHED OUT, devoid of any semblance of bone structure. One side of his face looks like it's MELTING OFF.

REED I can...make it work.

SUE Reed, stop, you need to rest your --

REED The power...I need...more power...to control...the storm --

SUE You need a doctor.

Reed loses consciousness. Sue carries him out.

INT. VICTOR'S OFFICE - NIGHT

Victor watches, his eyes narrow, looking at his hands.

VICTOR More power...?

He reaches out for his phone, and...his SPEAKERPHONE AUTOMATICALLY TURNS ON. His powers growing.

VICTOR (TO PHONE) (CONT'D) Leonard. Bring me our lab rat.

EXT. UNDER THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE - NIGHT

Ben sits alone, looking at city lights. A man without a home. Without a family. A hard beat. HEADLIGHTS slash across Ben. He slowly turns, blinded in the lights of...a LIMO.

LEONARD Ben! They need you back at the Baxter building. It's...Reed.

Ben considers. Despite it all, he's a good friend. And a good man. As he gets into the car, we hear THROBBING MUSIC IN --

INT. MANHATTAN NIGHT CLUB - NIGHT

LOUD MUSIC and PULSATING LIGHTS. A young crowd dances and grinds to the beat. Among the colorful lights, STREAKS OF FLAME swirl around the ceiling. We follow them to:

A BALCONY, where we see JOHNNY sitting in a cozy VIP section. He's surrounded by "groupies" climbing over each other to get a look at his various parlour tricks.

He leans closer to a YOUNG WOMAN. Closer. Candles around them start to melt. Beads of sweat drip down her face.

JOHNNY What do you say we get out of here?

She pauses. And...a very LARGE MAN steps up.

JOHNNY (CONT'D) This your boyfriend?

The Boyfriend doesn't look too happy.

BOYFRIEND Is that all you do? Bar tricks and stealing chicks...

Johnny does one more trick...taps the guy's drink...igniting it into a burst of flame. The Boyfriend drops the glass, which SMASHES on the ground...catches the floor on fire.

The boyfriend quickly moves in and stamps it out.

GIRLFRIEND What are you doing?! You could have burned somebody!

The boyfriend takes his girlfriend's hand, they start to walk off. She turns back for one last comment...

GIRLFRIEND (CONT'D) You know, if I had your power I'd be doing something with it, not wasting my time doing cheap bar tricks, hitting on some other guy's girl.

Johnny looks a little embarrassed. The couple leaves. Johnny glances around. His FANS look down, away. He sees how quickly they can turn. The crowd parts slightly. He looks very alone.

INT. TRANSFORMATION CHAMBER - NIGHT

Leonard leads The Thing inside. The ominous chamber sits with its door open. Victor enters from the control station.

VICTOR Ben, come in.

BEN What is this? Where's Reed?

VICTOR Where do you think? With Sue.

Ben looks at the flickering lights. Suspicious. Victor turns to Leonard, who looks a little scared by this dark room.

VICTOR (CONT'D) (quiet) I'll take it from here, Leonard.

Leonard nods, all too eager to get the hell out of here.

LEONARD Yes sir.

Leonard disappears fast, as Victor turns back to Ben.

BEN What do you want, Vic?

VICTOR To help you. I've run every test known to man. And they all yield the same result: the machine is ready.

Ben shakes his head, wanting to believe, but...

BEN Reed said it'd be weeks till --

VICTOR He also said we'd avoid that storm in space. And we know how that turned out.

Ben nods. Reed was wrong before. Ben gets closer to the machine, drawn to it. He wants to believe, so badly.

VICTOR (CONT'D) He couldn't generate enough power for the machine to reach critical mass. Yet another mistake for "Mr. Fantastic."

BEN And you can? Power it up?

Victor stands in shadows, but we see the tiniest little SPARK around him. The lights...? Or his skin...?

VICTOR Yes. I've found a new energy source.

He keeps his arm behind his back -- his fingertips course with ELECTRICITY. It starts to build, sparking up his arm.

VICTOR (CONT'D) Tell me...do you want to be Ben Grimm again?

Ben keeps his eyes on the machine. His dream is alive.

BEN Let's do it.

INT. TRANSFORMATION CHAMBER - NIGHT

The chamber doors open. Thing enters. He looks around this sterile box. An animal in a cage. Victor pushes a control; the doors of the chamber slowly close and seal. Thing shuts his eyes. He just wants to be Ben again.

FROM THE CONTROLS: Victor initiates the transformation sequence. As lights go on inside the chamber, they dim in the lab. Energy pumps into the chamber. The storm swirls faster. Lights flicker...there's not enough power, until --

-- Victor walks over...grabs hold of the machine with both hands...and WHHHM! A countdown begins in the control panels.

SLOW MOVE IN on the chamber, The Thing's face in the window. The chamber activates. The storm strikes hard.

The Thing opens his mouth, a beat, then he screams in agony. Struggling violently inside. To escape? Extend the moment: Condensation obscures the chamber window: The Thing vanishes.

EXT. MANHATTAN SKYLINE - NIGHT

The city lights fill the sky, and give it a quiet, eerie glow. Suddenly, a BRIGHT FLASH emerges from the window of the Baxter Building. The rest of the city lights dim slightly.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING LIVING QUARTERS - NIGHT

Reed lies in bed, weak, recuperating. When the power surges, we MOVE in on him: he looks up in alarm, knowing that someone's using the chamber. He starts to get out of bed, straining to stand with every muscle left in his body.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - MEDICAL SUPPLY ROOM - SAME TIME

Sue sifts through a cabinet full of medications. The lights dim. Power failure. She looks up...

EXT. CLUB - NIGHT

Johnny walks alone. A WAVE OF LIGHT spreads through the sky. He looks up. His eyes adjust to the blast, as he realizes where it's coming from. He starts RUNNING toward the Baxter.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - REVERSION LAB - NIGHT

INSIDE THE MACHINE, the RED CLOUD swirls with debris, crackling with light. The chamber rattles dangerously, as the power seems to SHAKE the very foundation of the building.

And then it's over. The light dies down...somewhat. It still pulses along with the chamber. The chamber door SLIDES OPEN.

Beat. And...BEN GRIMM steps out. Not The Thing. No more rocks. BEN GRIMM. Naked, tired, but finally A NORMAL MAN.

He slips on his trench-coat -- now way too large. He collapses. He stares at his hands, his arms...it worked.

BEN Oh my God... Th-thank you. THANK YOU...VIC?!

Ben sees a SPARK in shadows. That spark is...

VICTOR'S ARM. Victor steps forward, and reveals himself to Ben: ELECTRICITY PUMPS THROUGH HIS BODY. His skin is part flesh, part metal. Cheekbone exposed, steel tissue.

HE IS DOOM.

BEN (CONT'D) Vic... What the...?

DOOM Everyone thought I was safe behind those shields...

BEN Victor, the machine worked for me. It can work for you --

DOOM It did, Ben. It worked perfectly.

Ben starts to realize...

BEN You planned this...?

Doom smiles, reaches out his hand -- ELECTRICITY builds from his shoulders, coursing down his arms to his fingertips.

DOOM I've always wanted power. Now I've got an unlimited supply...

BEN And no Thing to stand in your way.

DOOM smiles, nods, stronger than Ben now.

DOOM Take a good look, Ben. This is what a man looks like who embraces his destiny.

Doom clenches his fist and BLASTS Ben, sending him flying backwards across the room -- knocked unconscious.

DOOM (CONT'D) One down, three to go.

Suddenly, WHOOSH! The lab door flies open. Reed enters. Doom steps back into the shadows.

DOOM (CONT'D) Right on cue.

Reed's eyes go wide. He sees Ben crumpled in the corner.

REED Oh god Ben. Are you okay? (amazed) You did it, you really did it...

DOOM No, Reed. I did.

Reed slowly turns to see...DOOM. His body, his face.

REED Victor...? What, what happened to you? What did you do to your --

DOOM Exactly what I said I would: I built a better, stronger being. And outsmarted the great Reed Richards --

REED Victor, this isn't the way to --

DOOM (a dark smile) You always know best. So tell me. What happens when you superheat rubber?

Doom BLASTS an electrical BOLT at Reed, KNOCKING Reed through the huge window! Reed's body RUBBER-BANDS from the blast.

EXT. BAXTER BUILDING - NIGHT

Reed SLINKIES down the face of the building, skin rippling.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - REVERSION LAB - NIGHT

Doom looks out the window, smiling at his old friend's fall.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - FRONT LOBBY - NIGHT

DING! The elevator opens. Doom strides out. He passes our friend O'HOOLIHAN, who looks scared.

O'HOOLIHAN Mr. Von Doom? Are you oka--

Doom casually SWIPES, sending him through revolving doors.

DOOM Never better, Jimmy. And it's Doctor Doom now.

EXT. BAXTER BUILDING - NIGHT

Reed MELTS down the sides of an AWNING, like a Salvador Dali watch. He tries to GRAB HOLD of window ledges, but he can't get a grip. His ARM streeetches, and SNAP! He falls like a SLINKY, out of control. Half his body loose, half hard.

He drips to the sidewalk, where...Doom steps out. He catches Reed's face, holds it close.

DOOM Why the long face?

Doom whips Reed into the night. As Doom turns, people cower, horrified by his face. They clear out, and...

Doom sees his REFLECTION in a window: scarred skin, metallic veins. A monster. Infuriated, he SHATTERS the window with an iron fist, and bounds into the night.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - LATER - NIGHT

Smoke billows, windows are shattered. Sue races inside, seeing Doom's devastation. Silence, deadly silence. Then...she sees a pile of WRECKAGE shift. BEN crawls out.

SUE Ben?!

She helps him out of the rubble. He is beaten, battered.

JOHNNY (O.S.) Sue!

Johnny comes running in. He sees the wreckage.

JOHNNY (CONT'D) I'm sorry, sis, for leaving you guys --

SUE No, I'm sorry, for pushing you out.

He nods. A beat between them. He looks around, sees Ben.

JOHNNY Jesus, Ben! (eyeing him) I go away, look what happens. You got a lot of explaining to do.

He motions to the wreckage.

BEN (struggling, weak) The machine works. And Vic's gone Mister Hyde on us --

JOHNNY Really? With a name like Von Doom? Never saw that one coming.

Sue looks around. Only one question. Dead serious:

SUE Where is Reed?

BEN Victor must've taken him.

INT. VON DOOM - CONFERENCE ROOM - NIGHT

Doom sits at the head of the table in an eerie parallel to the opening scene. Those mysterious CRATES loom in shadows. He wears a green HOOD, and METAL MASK over his scarred face.

Doom's eyes turn toward...the other end of the table.

DOOM Chemistry 101, Part Two. What happens to rubber when it's super- cooled?

We now see what he sees: Reed sits in a chair with TUBES INJECTED into his skin FREEZING HIM SOLID! Ultra-cold vapor coats him. Doom steps closer, a sadistic smile.

Reed tries to move but can't even ball his hand into a fist.

DOOM (CONT'D) Allow me.

He PRESSES DOWN on one of Reed's fingers, which makes a horrific CRACKING SOUND. Reed's face twists with pain.

DOOM (CONT'D) Painful...?

Doom seems to enjoy every CRACK. He leans closer.

DOOM (CONT'D) You don't know the meaning of the word.

Doom lets up on Reed and reaches into a crate, and pulls out a military-issue ROCKET-LAUNCHER. He aims at the city skyline, locking onto his target: JOHNNY STORM.

DOOM (CONT'D) But you will.

Johnny's HEAT SIGNATURE glows. The screen flashes: TARGET ACQUIRED. Doom looks back at Reed, his launcher aimed casually over his shoulder.

DOOM (CONT'D) Flame off.

BOOOOM! He fires without looking! A MISSILE blasts into the sky. THE MISSILE LIGHTS UP THE DARK NIGHT beginning its wide turn towards its target.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING

Johnny, Ben, and Sue hear the missile being fired and turn to the window -- it BANKS, coming STRAIGHT for them. They move to --

EXT. BAXTER BUILDING BALCONY - NIGHT

Johnny rushes toward the edge, to get a good look at the missile streaking closer. As he moves, the missile SHIFTS slightly with HIS MOTION! His eyes narrow, thinking.

He FLAMES ON a HAND. He waves his flaming hand, and the MISSILE locks onto the fire! Johnny darkens, realizing...

JOHNNY Great. Heat-seeker.

His mind races. He makes a decision, and steps up onto the ledge, hundreds of feet above the street.

SUE What are you doing --

JOHNNY Sis. Let me take care of you for once.

SUE But Johnny...you can't fly.

Johnny considers, a half-beat. He looks out. Under breath:

JOHNNY Well then this'll be one hell of a basejump.

Sue reaches out to stop him, but Johnny DIVES HEROICALLY OFF THE EDGE! He FLAMES ON! The missile follows his arc. As he drops, his clothes BURN OFF, revealing his UNIFORM.

JOHNNY (CONT'D) (under breath) Come on...come on...come on...

He falls lower, lower. And...he...BANKS! SWOOPS UP! FLYING!

JOHNNY (CONT'D) FLAME ON.

Sue watches, with fear, and a hint of pride.

BEN We need to help Reed --

Sue shakes her head, sympathetic.

SUE Ben, you got what we all wanted. You need to stay here. It's too dangerous.

She heads off. Ben watches her go, helpless.

INT. BAXTER BUILDING - REVERSION LAB - NIGHT

Ben steps back into this ravaged room. Through the shattered window, he sees Johnny's FLAMES streaking away. A hard beat.

BEN What...what have I done?

EXT. NEW YORK - NIGHT

Johnny zigs and zags, but the missile takes every twist and turn, gaining on him, bearing down. Cars slow, stop. More people look up, scared, pointing at this stunning sight.

INT. VON DOOM CONFERENCE ROOM - NIGHT

Eerily silent. Reed tries to move, but he is FROZEN. He hears a footstep. But the room is EMPTY. No sign of Doom even. A beat. He hears a CREAK. Another CREAK, closer. And...

A FREEZING TUBE starts to SHIFT. It goes taut, clearly being manipulated by a hand -- an INVISIBLE HAND. Sue APPEARS next to Reed, tube in hand. She tries to stay calm.

SUE What has he done to you?

Reed's eyes shift to see...Doom emerge from the darkness.

DOOM (O.S.) How romantic.

SUE Victor, please --

DOOM It's Doctor Doom to you.

He steps closer. Electrodes course over his metal skin.

SUE We know the machine works. It worked on Ben, it'll work on you. We can turn you back --

DOOM Do you really think fate turned us into gods so we could refuse these gifts?

She hardens, a little force field starts to emanate from her.

SUE Victor. You always thought you were god.

Doom has a hand behind his back, generating an energy blast.

DOOM Sue please, let's not fight.

SUE No, Victor... Let's.

She HURLS a force-field at him. It CONNECTS, KNOCKING him back a half-step. But he simply shakes it off, and steps up. Too powerful. He smiles. His arms CRACKLE with electricity.

DOOM Susan...... You're fired.

BOOM! He FIRES an ELECTRIC SHOCKWAVE that LAUNCHES her back. She spirals through the air, crashing into the wall, THUDDING to the floor. As Doom stalks closer, Sue gathers her strength to...GO INVISIBLE.

DOOM (CONT'D) Marco...

A hanging beat. We see: a FAINT OUTLINE of Sue behind him.

DOOM (CONT'D) Polo.

He SPINS, GRABS her! Doom grips her neck, SLAMMING her to the ground beside Reed. She lays there, beaten, visible.

In the distance behind Doom, city lights BLINK, fading in and out. Lights flutter softly here (like when Ben went through the machine). Reed looks up. Could it be...?

EXT. EAST RIVER - NIGHT

Johnny jets over the water with the missile only twenty feet behind him. He's running out of options, when he spots:

A GARBAGE BARGE floating in the water ahead. Thinking fast, Johnny does a fly-by and HURLS a fireball at the barge. VWOOSH! The flames ignite and spread quickly.

He loops back toward the flaming barge as the missile closes in on him. Fifteen feet...ten... Just as it's about to hit --

JOHNNY FLAMES OFF and falls toward the water. As he tumbles through the air, we CUT BACK TO --

INT. VON DOOM CONFERENCE ROOM - NIGHT

From their vantage point, they see the missile explode. Flames dance. Sue's eyes darken, as Doom grips her neck.

Reed tries desperately to move, but he is FROZEN. It takes every last ounce of strength to lift one finger, which makes a CRACCCKKKKING sound.

DOOM One more down. Now it's just the scientist and his specimen.

Sue and Reed lock eyes. Reed tries to move his mouth. He has something to tell her, struggling just to move his lips and get the words out.

REED Sue. The only thing I ever knew without thinking was... (his lips fully freezing) I...love...

He starts to say "you," but his lips FREEZE, mid-word. Sue whispers to him:

SUE Me too, Reed.

Doom steps toward Sue, about to deliver the final blow.

DOOM (quiet, cruel) And so four became none. It's my time now.

BOOOOM! An elevator DOOR FLIES INTO THE ROOM! SMASH!

VOICE (O.S.) Actually, Vic...

Reed recognizes the voice. So do we. Doom turns to see...

BEN GRIMM, AKA THE THING. Back in rocky, fighting form.

BEN IT'S CLOBBERING TIME!

Doom turns, just as --

BAM! Ben HITS Doom harder than any living thing has ever been hit. The force sends Doom back through the air, toward the far wall, where he SMASHES into the massive "V" sculpture. It SNAPS, crashing onto him. A few sparks. Then nothing.

Nothing at all. No more movement. Doom is dead.

Ben turns to Reed.

BEN (CONT'D) Damn, I've been wanting to do that.

Reed manages the thinnest smile as Ben starts disconnecting the tubes from Reed.

BEN (CONT'D) (Reed's words) Victor's "not that bad," huh? Just "a little larger than life"? Maybe you'll listen to me next time before --

WHMM! The WRECKAGE shifts. They turn to see...Doom EMERGES. He stands, power coursing. And he CHARGES at Ben! Ben charges back. And these two behemoths...

SLAM INTO EACH OTHER, CRASHING THROUGH GLASS, INTO THIN AIR!!

EXT. VON DOOM BUILDING - CONTINUOUS

Doom and Ben PLUMMET, wrestling in mid-air. On the ground, PEOPLE scream and duck for cover. Doom and Ben SMASH through the large GLASS roof of a lower building across the street.

INT. HOTEL - INDOOR POOL - CONTINUOUS

BOOOOM! Doom and Ben, locked in combat, drop through the glass, landing in a large HOTEL POOL. People scream, run.

INT. HOTEL - INDOOR POOL - NIGHT

UNDERWATER: Doom and Ben LAND HARD. Their combined weight CRACKS the floor of the pool. A YOUNG BOY watches underwater through his MASK. Doom and Ben square off, but...

The CRACKS OPEN WIDER! And they're PULLED toward the HOLE! WHOOSH! The water is all sucked out of the hole. The boy holds tight to a ladder, as Ben and Doom crash down to --

INT. HOTEL - HALLWAY - NIGHT

A HOTEL GUEST sees water FLOOD into the hall. Roaring rapids head straight for him. He jams his key into the lock, turning desperately, just barely leaping out of the way as the wave carrying BEN and DOOM SMASHES through a window to --

EXT. HOTEL - CONTINUOUS

SMASH! Ben and Doom fly out the window, thrashing in the TEN THOUSAND-GALLON WATERFALL TO --

EXT. NEW YORK CITY STREET - CONTINUOUS

CRASH! Water floods the street. Doom and Ben land in a large GARBAGE TRUCK. The truck rocks back and forth, DENTING from the inside. Grunts, growls.

CRASH! The truck suddenly STOPS. COP CARS SPEED CLOSER, sirens screaming. And --

BOOM, A HUGE SHAPE explodes from the truck. SMASH! Ben lands on a CAR filled with two OLD LADIES -- his head cracks the WINDSHIELD. Doom steps out of the garbage truck, water flooding the street around him. COP CARS converge on Doom.

Doom turns his attention to the cops. His limbs SPARK with electricity, ready to fire at the cars.

EXT./INT. CAR - CONTINUOUS

Ben sees the cops and Doom. He knows the cops are dead meat. He turns to the OLD LADY in the driver's seat.

BEN Excuse me, Maam. Can I borrow your car?

She nods and quickly gets out, shaking.

OLD LADY The clutch sticks a little.

BEN Not gonna be a problem.

Ben LIFTS the car and THROWS it at Doom. WHMM! It FLIES through the air, and WHAM! Hits hard, knocking Doom back twenty feet! As Doom FLIES back, a BUS enters frame, and --

EXT. NEW YORK CITY STREET - NIGHT

BOOM! Doom SMASHES into the OUT OF SERVICE BUS! CRASH! Windows shatter. The bus SLAMS into an ELECTRICITY POLE, snapping the pole. Doom steps out, unharmed.

Ben CHARGES toward him. Doom grabs the broken ELECTRICITY POLE, FLIPS it into his hand, and wields the pole like a giant STUN-GUN! Electric sparks FLY through the air into --

BEN! The BLAST of VOLTS launches him off his feet! He goes FLYING backward, ELECTROCUTED in mid-flight, and --

WHOOMPF! Ben LANDS HARD, face down, CRATERING the street! Water rushes into the crater. Ben lays there, incapacitated.

EXT. NEW YORK CITY STREET - SAME TIME

On the street, cars SCREAM to stops, people GASP. Doom strides up to Ben, and raises the ELECTRICITY POLE for the death-blow. Currents surge. Right before he swings down --

VOICE (O.S.) I can't let you do that.

Simple, strong. Doom turns to see...REED. Alone. Bruised and battered. Slowly stepping toward him. Doom smiles.

DOOM And you can't stop me.

He turns back to Ben, raises the pole, but...he CAN'T SWING DOWN! Something is HOLDING the pole in mid-air.

Something invisible.

DOOM (CONT'D) Hello Susan.

She turns VISIBLE, holding back the pole with a FORCEFIELD. Using her power, she FLINGS the pole from Doom's grip. It skids along the street. Reed helps Ben to his feet.

Doom turns to these three wounded soldiers.

DOOM (CONT'D) What is this? The pitiful three?

Doom steps toward them, but --

VOICE (O.S.) Four.

WHOOOSH! Johnny SWOOPS DOWN, hurling a FIREBALL like a flamethrower, KNOCKING Doom back.

Johnny takes his place alongside the others. The four of them stand as one. Johnny turns to Thing.

JOHNNY Had a little relapse, huh?

Thing starts to retort, but Johnny gives a warm smile.

JOHNNY (CONT'D) Welcome back.

They turn to Doom, who stands with metal skin slightly singed and melted, making him look all the more menacing.

DOOM This is going to be fun.

Electricity starts to course through his body. He stands at the foot of the crater Ben made. He THRUSTS down, grabbing a thick POWER CABLE, RIPPING it out of the street!

He SNAPS the cable into two snaking, lashing strips. He holds tight, ABSORBING the power. Lights FLICKER and DIM in buildings around him. Windows BLOW! Doom GLOWS, amped up.

He LETS GO of the cables! The two deadly wires SNAKE out of control! PEDESTRIANS scatter, panic. Reed sees the wires SLASHING through the air. He makes a move:

Reed STREEETCHES HIS ARMS, reaching for the deadly cables.

Doom FIRES superpowered ENERGY BOLTS. The electric charges surge through the air toward the Fantastic Four, but --

Sue TOSSES her FORCE-FIELDS, exploding Doom's blasts in mid- flight. She keeps her hands up, BLOCKING blows like a prize fighter. One of Doom's BOLTS glances off her force-field and --

SMASHES into a concrete stanchion of a BUILDING! The pillar starts to crumble, with PEOPLE huddled under the overhang! They're about to be CRUSHED by the falling concrete! But --

Suddenly, the concrete roof HOLDS STEADY...because...BEN is holding it up! He stands beside the stanchion, like Atlas holding the world. People run out, safe.

ON THE STREET: Reed finally grabs both ends of the wire.

REED JOHNNY! SPOT-WELD!

Johnny FLIES toward him, and uses his flames to WELD the wires back together. Sparks fly. The cables start to FUSE.

Doom keeps FIRING. Sue struggles with her force-fields. The impact is too much. Her nose starts to bleed.

SUE Can't...hold...on...

Doom smiles. Reed sees her. She is about to drop her hands, vulnerable, but..............REED STRETCHES HIS WHOLE BODY!

He EXPANDS himself across the street, and GRABS a TREE, so he forms a WALL between Sue and Doom.

Doom keeps FIRING his bolts. They SLAM into Reed's body, RUBBERBAND his skin, and DISTEND OUT his back without breaking. He strains, agonizing.

REED Johnny. SUPERNOVA.

JOHNNY But all these people...

REED Now.

Johnny charges toward Doom -- flames on his body starting build to a blinding white intensity, ENGULFING everything. Johnny GRABS DOOM.

THING (quiet, smiling) Flame on, kid.

FLASH! Johnny explodes in a PULSE of BRIGHT WHITE LIGHT, which starts to HEAT UP everything surrounding it. Reed doesn't miss a beat. He's in total command now.

REED Sue, I need some of that anger, rage, frustration --

SUE (looking at Doom) I'm sure I can come up with something.

She concentrates. She sees Johnny holding onto Doom -- and the GROWING HEAT and LIGHT.

Sue shuts her eyes. A GIANT FORCE FIELD EXPLODES FROM HER BODY. A massive WAVE OF ENERGY. It SWOOPS past a car, which WARPS, MELTS (half the car is not inside the force-field).

Thing turns to the crowd, extending his arm, blocking them. Sue's force-field ENVELOPS JOHNNY'S SUPERNOVA, containing it in a BRIGHT SPHERE OF ENERGY. The light increases, to the point that it's blinding. People look away.

Finally, Johnny's supernova fades. He collapses to the ground, exhausted, smoking. Sue exhales and falls to her knees. Her force field fades. The light flickers out. As everyone's eyes adjust, we hear...THUD. THUD. And --

DOOM steps through the smoke. Unharmed. His metallic body GLOWS WHITE, TRAILING MOLTEN METAL. Sue, Ben, Johnny look devastated. They can't beat him. He looks at Reed.

DOOM Is that the best you can do...? A little heat...?

Reed stays perfectly calm. He shakes his head.

REED Time for your lesson, Vic. Chem 101: what happens when you supercool hot metal...? (to Ben) Ben...

BEN Got it, teach.

He KICKS OPEN the FIRE HYDRANT. The water GEYSERS UP! Ben kicks down with his foot, deflecting the water so it sprays toward Reed, who...TWISTS HIS TORSO so...

The water CURLS around his chest, RACES down his arms, and SHOOTS right off his wrists toward Doom!

DOOM No.

Doom RUSHES TOWARD Reed, but the WATER FLIES OUT, DOUSING DOOM. GIANT CLOUDS OF STEAM fill the air from the cooling metal. DOOM screams. His shrieks finally fade to SILENCE.

The water stops, thick steam clouds roll, completely obscuring Doom from view. A beat. The steam clears to reveal:

DOOM. A true statue now -- a hard, cold solid piece of METAL. Frozen forever. Reed, Sue, Ben, and Johnny -- The Fantastic Four -- exhale. They stand as one, in roiling smoke. A beat.

JOHNNY Damn, I love this job.

Reed and Sue slowly lock eyes, thinking the same thing.

BEN Job, huh...?

Will they accept their mantle? Reed shrugs.

REED Well, we do have the suits...

They give weary smiles. A team. Sue gets close to Reed.

SUE You know, about what we said up there, I think maybe --

THHM! He KISSES HER. His neck extending. Strong, powerful. He pulls back slightly, smiles at her. A new strength in him.

BEN Funny how things turn out, isn't it?

Sue looks at Reed. A long way from that conference room.

SUE Hilarious.

As they kiss, people emerge, stepping out of hiding. The sun rises around them. The Fantastic Four step into the new dawn of a new day. And we slowly DISSOLVE TO --

INT. CIRCLE LINE BOAT - BANQUET ROOM - DUSK

Reed and Sue kiss on the deck of the Circle Line as it chugs around New York City.

JOHNNY (O.S.) Dude, that's still my sister.

A PARTY IN PROGRESS. Drinks, food, music. We see in the crowd a familiar faces: O'HOOLIHAN (cast on his arm), bartender ERNIE, others. JOHNNY and BEN stand behind Reed and Sue.

Reed and Sue pull apart. Reed turns to Ben, excited.

REED Ben, I've been crunching the numbers on the machine. I think if we can rework the power settings...

BEN Forget it, egghead. I'm good as is.

ALICIA (O.S.) That's my Benny.

She hands Ben a big METAL MUG. Ben takes the mug. He CLINKS, but SHATTERS her glass.

ALICIA (CONT'D) We're going to have to work on your touch.

BEN I like the sound of that.

Alicia gets close. A soft smile. Reed turns to Sue.

REED Sue, can I talk to you for a second?

Reed leads her out. Ben and Johnny swap a glance.

EXT. CIRCLE LINE BOAT - DECK - DUSK

A romantic view of the city-scape. Reed stands with Sue.

REED I found a broken gasket, from space --

SUE A gasket? Reed, we're at a party.

He opens his hand, revealing a circular piece of metal, just about the size of......a RING. Sue slows down.

REED If one of us were to wear it...

She sees Johnny and Ben inside, watching -- in on a secret.

Reed looks her square in the eye. Unflinching.

SUE Reed. What are you doing?

Reed drops to his knees. His head stays eye-level, while his body drops. Sue gapes, so emotional she starts to DISAPPEAR.

REED No more thinking, no more variables... Sue Storm...will you... (she's gone) Sue? Sue? You there?

Dead silence. And then...

THE RING DISAPPEARS. SUE IS WEARING IT.

SUE (V.O.) Yes.

Reed goes to kiss her.

SUE (V.O.) (CONT'D) That's my nose, genius... These are my lips.

Reed's face is SQUEEZED on both sides by Sue's invisible hands. She pulls him into a KISS and reappears.

INSIDE: the party applauds. Ben, Johnny, and Alicia move through the crowd to join Reed and Sue. As they go --

BEN No more cracks about how I look.

JOHNNY Hey, I'm Mr. Sensitivity now. (weaving around bodies) Clear the way, wide load coming through.

Ben glares, fists clenched. Johnny smiles, mischievous, as they hit the balcony. And he FLAMES ON, taking off into the air, blazing the NUMBER "FOUR" enclosed in a circle of flame (their future callsign), over the city skyline. The crowd oohs and aahs. Ben watches, unimpressed.

BEN Showoff.

People drink, laugh, dance. We slowly PULL BACK from the party, the boat, the city, and...CUT TO --

EXT. HARBOR - DAY

CLOSE ON: the MELTED FACE of DOOM. He is placed in a wooden crate. LEONARD oversees the operation, listening to his cell.

As two workers move the heavy door in place -- a crackle of ELECTRICITY moves over Doom's body. Leonard's CELLPHONE goes STATICKY. His eyes narrow. Could it be...? And --

SLAM. The door closes. We can read the destination through stenciled lettering: LATVERIA. And we pull back to reveal the box is on the deck of:

A FREIGHTER SHIP. The ship pulls away, steaming into the horizon, as we...

FADE OUT.

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/ Fantastic Four.
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