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Strange developments.



    "Return Dumas and thine other mortal to thy forms from whence they came before thou theft took place."
    Kane spreads his hands. "That I cannot do. The necessary level of magical energy required to affect the switch would require the presence and subsequent defeat of another powerful entity like Chthon. Besides, this body --" He gestures at himself. "-- is a construct of my own devising whose purpose is to hold my essence, so to speak. I suppose I could remove Von Doom from the body of the coma patient, given time to research the problem, but that would result again in his death, which is, of course, his rightful state of existence since he was murdered by the KGBeast. By my way of thinking, I have performed three most charitable deeds. I have given Von Doom life again, given new use to a body which would have only continued to atrophy in a hospital bed, and freed myself from centuries of imprisonment in Limbo."
    Kang pauses. His form ripples, shifts, and changes in appearance. Gone is the clay-like facsimile of Von Doom. In its place is an apparently flesh and blood man of above height, regal demeanor, with black hair and piercing blue eyes, dressed in something that resembles medieval plate armor made from a strange greenish metal.
    "Now, if there is nothing else, I really must be on my way." And with that, he was gone.

    Across the city, in Mercy General Hospital, Victor Von Doom wakes with a start. He is alarmed to discover he cannot breathe, and yet he is breathing. In a momentary panic, he painfully pulls the tube from his trachea and sits up in bed. IV tubes lead to his arms. Heart and lung monitoring devices flank the hospital bed. Calming himself, Victor looks about to determine what has happened. It is this way that he gazes into the mirror to the left of the bed, just above the sink, and stares directly into the eyes of Reed Richards!
    "Intriguing," Victor said as he carefully pulled the I.V. tubes and the various monitoring devices. He looked over on the side of the bed and saw a nurse call button. Victor retrieved the device and pressed the button.
    "....Yes. I've woken up. Could you call a doctor here to stitch up the trachea hole in my throat," he says with a rasp from the open wound. "For I wish to leave as soon as possible. Also could you bring a phone to my room immediately. I......have some family to call." As soon as Victor has the phone he dials Alfred at his apartment in Manhattan.
    "Alfred. I know you've come to expect the unexpected from me...."
    "I'm sorry. But who is this?" Alfred asked.
    "This is Victor. I've..." he looked at the people in the room, "...suffice it to say, I've had my voice altered and I need you to come to the hospital and pick me up. I'm at..." he looks at the label on the name tags "...Mercy General Hospital. Come as soon as you can please."
    He looked at the doctor and smiled and then turned his head a bit and whispered, "I'm in the room of Reed Richards. I'll have to explain a lot to you when you get here." Not sure if who he is talking to is actually Victor Von Doom, none-the-less Alfred is a curious man and deems it profitable to investigate on behalf of his employer. "Very well then. I will be there shortly," Alfred answered and replaced the receiver on the handset and stood there for a moment in thought.
    Surely his employer had done many things that would be considered far beyond the scope of common living. In fact he had even ceased to live and subsequently returned. The voice was surely not Victor Von Doom's, but it was damaged some how.
    Alfred retrieved his driving gloves, derby and automobile ignition keys and departed for the hospital.
    Once at the hospital, after avoiding all the fuss with S.H.I.E.L.D., he walked up to the main desk and asked for the room number of Reed Richards.
    Alfred rode up the elevator and walked out into the hallway. This was the ward for comatose patients. It was very quiet he observed. Deathly silent he thought to himself.
    With a deep breath, he walked down the hallway and located the room of Reed Richards. Inside, sitting on the bed was none other than Reed Richards. A man who was Victor Von Doom's oldest friend in America. A man who had been put into a deep death like sleep, a coma, after the rocket flight into orbit that would forever change the lives of those who survived and ended those who did not. Alfred's thoughts momentarily drift to the pictures of Benjamin Grimm and Jonathan Storm. The two astronauts who did not survive. Alfred only remembered them from the obituary photos in the Times and the story that Victor had told him.
    They had all climbed into a rocket and up into space they went, like some modern Buck Rogers or Captain Proton. But unfortunately, the adventure that they had was not quite what they expected. Their ship was bombarded by some sort of cosmic energy. Victor told Alfred that when they crashed back to Earth, he and Susan Storm exhibited powers that allowed them to phase through matter and energy. Benjamin Grimm and Jonathan Storm perished while Reed Richards.....had apparently slipped into a deep coma the likes of which the doctors said he would never awaken from. Well these last few weeks seem to prove doctors and gods incorrect. So Alfred was willing to believe anything at this point.
    "Ahem...Hello there Doctor Richards I presume. Is Doctor Dumas present?" he asked.
    Victor turned his head towards the doorway and smiled. He looked down at the attending medical personnel and shooed them off and started motioning for Alfred to enter.
    "Come in, please, come in Alfred," he said in his raspy voice.
    "I'm sorry, but we've not met," Alfred extends his hand. "I am Alfred Pennington. I am the manservant for Doctor Dumas. Its certainly nice to see you are awake sir."
    "Alfred its me Victor." he leaned in towards his best friend, "I've somehow changed bodies again. Though this time its not the grey body, but somehow I've been sent into the body of Doctor Richards."
    Alfred's face contorted a bit. He had actually suspected this was to be the scene presented to him upon his arrival.
    "Forgive me if I ask for some sort of proof that you are the good Doctor Dumas and not Reed Richards," Alfred asked.
    Victor rubbed his chin as he always does and thinks for a moment, "The chess match with Fisher. I suggested that he would finish off Boris with his knight and you out-witted me and successfully predicted that he would use the Bishop to take the final round.
    "Master Dumas! It is you. How in the world....?" Alfred started to ask.
    "No time. I'm not sure how, but I am and I need you to get me to Fifth and Melencamp ASAP," Victor asked.
    "Quite right then lets go," he said. Victor had already gotten dressed before Alfred arrived and sporting the original spacesuit that Reed had been wearing when he was brought to the hospital, the two started to leave the hospital.
    As they got to the end of the hall and spied the open elevator, two large orderlies stepped in their way with a doctor standing in front of them.
    "Hold it right there Doctor Richards. We need to run a battery of tests on you to see how you woke up," the doctor said with his hand outstretched as if he was stopping street traffic.
    "Sorry Doctor, we have a city to save," Victor said as he grabbed Alfred's wrist and the two men passed through the doctor and orderly as if they were ghosts. As the surprised men turned around Victor waved and the elevator doors closed.

The End

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© 2001 Mark L. Chance et al