A Spotty Record

BY : Keith
Category: Marvel Verse Comics > Crossovers
Dragon prints: 219
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters or setting of the Marvel Universe. I make no profit from this fanfiction.

I was beginning to fear that Marcia Dupree was going to become my nemesis.  I'd been hoping she'd become my boss.  But she kept fixating on a tiny part of my resume.  We covered my education, work experience, community involvement, hobbies, references….  But that 5-year stint at Ryker's Island just grabbed her attention. 

"See, we work with children, here, at Grab a Dream," she said, trying to explain the upcoming rejection in yet another way.  Her third justification.  As if anyone could know anything about Grab a Dream and not know about the terminal or at least very threatened kids.

"I'm not applying for a position with children," I pointed out.  "And my conviction had nothing to do with children, child care, schools, students, any of that.  I'm not a registered sex offender.  The terms of my probation don't mention schools or children in any way."  She nodded, pretending to note my point, but sighed as if, gosh darn it, that just wasn't enough to overcome her purely objective reservations.  Weird that an agency based on children's last chances was not going to encourage a con's second chance.

Just before she fobbed me off with something like, "We'll get back to you," or "I'll have to ask my Director," there was a commotion behind her.  The hallway ended in a door that popped open.  Someone inside was raising their voice to say, "We just cannot risk the exposure!"  Then a different person stepped into view.

Tony Stark glanced into the room.  There were only two of us at that moment.  He invited us with a wave.  "Marcia, and you, come here a second."  No hint of a 'please,' but it was Stark.  His idea of courtesy was dependent on his immediate needs.  He was here to accomplish something at the charity he had founded, so that was where his mind was centered.  Not on lowly workers or applicants.

We stood, Marcia moving much faster than me, and walked back towards him.  He stayed in the doorway, joined by whoever else was in the office.  The door said, "Director Rabin." 

"Marcia," Tony said, "I assume you know what we're talking about?"

"Yes, sir," she replied.  "And of course, we can't possibly-"

He cut her off and turned to me.  Without learning my name, he asked, "What would you do?  A kid submitted his Dream, and it's to meet Doctor Victor Von Doom.  What do you think?"

"He's a supervillain," the Director blurted.

"I'm sure the Fantastic Four would rather-" Marcia started.

"Ah-ah-ah," Stark said.  "We're asking this guy."  Have to give it to him, there was no pause when he realized he didn't know my name.  Very smooth.  But I think he's practiced at treating his minions as interchangeable and disposable.

"Easy," I said.  "Every ad for this place mentions the Child's Dream.  What the kid wants.  What they need or think they need, or what they want to do before they die.  Nothing in the brochure mentions needing anyone's approval to HAVE that dream.  Plus, sending the Fantastic Four to a kid wanting to meet Doctor Doom may be a supervillain origin story."

"Perfectly right," Stark said happily.  "Your job, therefore-"

"He doesn't work here," Marcia said, raising her voice.  "He can't work here."

"Oh."  And again, there was no pause as he went on, "Does he want to work here?"

"He's applied for the payroll position, but he's an ex-con.  Ryker's Island."

"Ah."  Stark looked at me, really looked, for the first time.  Face, hair, suit, cane.  He spent the most time on my cane.  There's no telling what was going on in his mind.  He could have been estimating how much of my leg was prosthetic.  Or designing a better prosthetic.  Or weaponizing my cane.  Finally, he was back to eye contact.  "What was your crime?"

"The accounting company I worked for was exposed as a front for money laundering.  By Daredevil.  The state decided I was complicit and locked me up."

"Were you guilty?" Stark asked. 

"Prosecutor thought so.  Jury believed her."  That was all that mattered.  Everyone in my cell block was innocent, but they were still in my cell block, so we can see what that matters.

"But were you guilty?" he pressed.  Rabin and Dupree looked surprised that he'd even ask.  Innocent people didn't go to jail in their world, I guess.

"I was as surprised as anyone by the discovery," I said.  "God knows, if I'd been dirty, I'd have been able to afford a better lawyer.  Like the three guys that managed the company and still walked off, scot free."

He nodded, thinking that over.  Or designing a flying toaster, who the fuck knows what goes on in that head?  "What about your leg?"

"That's none of your business," I said.  I really don't know who looked more shocked, Stark or his employees.

"I don't…  Usually, people don't tell me no," he finally said. 

"Really?" I scoffed.  "Because in the last ten minutes, everyone in this hallway has told you no at least once."

"Huh.  You're right!" he exclaimed.  "That's intolerable!  I'm Tony God-damned Stark!" He turned to Rabin.  "So, yeah, Director, we're going ahead with the Dream.  As set down in the application."  The Director sagged.  Looking at Marcia, "And you're going to hire him, because he's the one who's going to get Doom for," glance at the folder he held, "Little Kevin."

"Payroll doesn't usually…" she started to object.

"Another no?" he asked incredulously.  "Stop doing that.  He's payroll, AND he's going to be the guy getting us Doctor Doom."  He turned to me. "And you…   Who are you?"

"I'm Raymond Malone," I said.  Then added, "Your Administrator of Payroll.  Doomgetter."

"Right.  I'm going to look your leg up on the internet.  And if you ever mess up MY accounting, I'll sic my wife on you.  You don't want to mess with Pepper.  She'll make you explain your crime to my five-year-old daughter.  Two hours of 'why?' That'll learn ya'."  He clapped his hands.  "Okay, any more business?  Comments?  Complaints?  Philosophical evaluations of the human condition in the age of metahumans?  No?  Then Iron Man, away!" 

And then it was just the three of us, looking at each other uncomfortably.  Well, they were uncomfortable.  I had good news for my parole officer:  a job. 

---------

The Latverian Embassy was easy to find, difficult to enter.  There's an outer perimeter where you get put on the provisional schedule to then be put on the operational schedule to enter and there be cleared to enter.  My ID was checked three times.  The cane was checked four.  The leg, seven.  But both were furnished by the New York State Prison System, so they're probably state-of-the-art 1955.  As threatening as a rolling pin.  Eventually I was inside the inside and started working my way through the receptionists.

I was never sure how much of my story got transmitted with each advance, so I just repeated myself.  At the fourth desk, the first one with a chair for visitors, I sank down in the cushions and presented my ID and work badge.  "Hi, I work for the Grab A Dream Foundation.  One of the kids we work with has expressed a desire to meet your monarch, His Highness Von Doom."

The receptionist scanned the folder I was holding.  I realized it was a mechanical scan.  She was a robot.  So that '833' on her nameplate was her identity, not the desk's location.  As I understood it, older versions of Von Doom's 'Doombots' got a less threatening casing over their chassis and demoted to less important positions.  According to my reading, Number 833 would be at least as smart as a college Freshman, but no more lethal than the 82nd Airborne. 

There were some relays opening and closing inside her somewhere.  Then she spoke.  "The Supreme Commander reserves his charity activities to Latverian charities.  Benefiting people of Latveria."

"I understand," I said.  "But I would still like to submit this request for his consideration.  It could be good press outside of Latveria, for him and his country.  And there's a disabled child, so it's worthwhile for its own sake." 

More relays clicked.  "Wait here," she ordered.  But she didn't go anywhere.  I stared at her stiff form for about ten minutes.  Then a Doombot-classic walked in.  His number plate showed he was 107.  So, not the ambassador.  Double-digit Doombots had the ability and authority to take Von Doom's place in certain functions of the government.  This guy was JUST too unsophisticated to be that crucial.  Aide-de-Camp, maybe, or the art liaison.

But he was imposing.  He sailed in like a warship, all steel and rivets, big cape hanging over his back.  You couldn't miss him any more than miss a battle tank pulling into the parking space beside your SUV.

"Who sent you?" he asked as he loomed over me.  I stood, not quite to attention.

"Grab A Dream," I explained.  "Specifically, Tony Stark gave me the job of contacting Von Doom."

"No American child wants to meet Doctor Doom," he stated.  "Perhaps the Fantastic Four can give him a firetruck.  Or a PlayStation."

Careful not to raise my voice, I held the folder out where he could take it.  He ignored it. "Kevin Hall is the only son of two very successful fashion models.  He was being raised as a model.  He's even posed for three catalogs.  But an accident scarred his face and one hand, disabling it.  His parents have no idea what to do with him, they never considered any other life.  He, on the other hand, has become fascinated with your Leader.  All he has accomplished, despite the scars he's known to possess.  He wants to meet the genius king who isn't afraid of anything."

"You will stop blowing smoke up my armored skirt," 107 said.  I wondered at what number they got a sense of humor.

"I'm actually quoting the kid's application," I said, waving the folder just a bit. 

The Bot snatched it out of my hand.  "The ambassador will review, and maybe escalate, this request.  Expect a reply within six to forty-two business days, not counting Latverian or American holidays."  Then he turned and marched out.  I nodded to 833 and left.  A brochure in the lobby listed Latverian bank holidays.

---------

I reported the status to my superiors and reviewed a desk calendar.  Between the two countries national holidays, I might get a reply before Christmas.  I wasn't holding my breath.

In the meantime, I worked the small payroll requirements of Grab A Dream.  Most everyone in the building was a volunteer, but there was a core group that got paid for keeping the place running.  And no one was really happy.

The volunteers came there expecting to meet Captain America, Sue Richards, Dazzler, any number of heroes and/or celebrities.  Plus be present to see the delight in the eyes of kids with cancer, recovering from surgery, underdoing chemo.  But the workforce was too small to pass up on the available bodies.  Rabin had a system.  Each time a volunteer worked an admin job, they got their name put in the hat.  When they needed someone to escort Spider-Man, or Thor, or Black Widow to a kid's bedside, he picked a name out of the hat.

Employees weren't supposed to have their names in that hat.  We got straight-up monetary compensation.  He didn't need to bribe us to show up daily.  But I noticed that now and then, Rabin or Dupree did get to be the on-site coordinator on a Dream.  Once in a great while, he'd toss 2nd tier heroes to the other employees.  Requests for the Defenders, maybe, or some of those barely on the side of the angels like Punisher or Paladin.  I didn't care.  After a while in the prison system, seeing power abused isn't even a slight shock.

So, I was keeping busy, and offering to take some admin jobs off of people's hands.  Nothing blatant.  I'd listen to someone bitch about dealing with the print shop, maybe, offer to help, mention experience getting forms made for a previous employer.  I'd let them ask for a little help, then a lot of help.  Then I'd soon end up being the only person who knew which printer we were contracted with and what phone number to use.  They still got 'name-in-hat' credit for the work they brought me, so they got their superhero escort raffles.  Work got done.  Morale improved.  Everyone won in the end.

Three months after my visit to the embassy, Marcia was walking by my desk, suddenly interested in how I was occupying my time.  Lucky for me, I was actually cleaning up the payroll files.   "I've audited the pay records for the last seven years, Marcia.  Turns out you were underpaid for two of them.  You'll be getting the balance in your next check."

She stared at me.  I knew she wanted to accuse of me trying to bribe her, but did she really want to risk the money before she actually had it?  "How much?" she asked, trying to make it sound like she wasn't really interested.

Before I could answer, there were some shouts in the outer office.  Devon, our senior receptionist, was backing into the 'Dream Room,' as they called it, apologizing a mile-a-minute.  "I'm so so so sorry but without an appointment I can't really let you into the back room, see, there are medical records and-"

"SILENCE!" The Doombot commanded.  He pushed Devon (gently) aside and scanned the room.  I levered myself up with my cane, and stepped to my right.  That got Marcia out of being directly between me and the Bot.  If I was being punished for my temerity today, didn't want any collateral damage.  Even to my boss.

As the Bot approached, I saw that this one was number 27.  Very good chance this was THE highest ranking Doombot in North America.  He stepped to within arm's reach.  Marcia whimpered and stepped back.  Devon ran to Rabin's office.

"Kevin Hall," Number 27 said, "has physical therapy at Metro-General Hospital at 1345, room 2368-B.  Be there."

"Yes, sir," I said.  Because I'm not insane.  The Bot nodded to me, spun on heel and toe like a Marine in formation, and marched back to the exit.

Rabin rushed out of his office and tried to introduce himself in passing.  "Hello, sir, sire, um, my liege, I'm-."  Devon peeked from the hallway.

"Fool," the Ambassador said and continued without stopping.

"What did I do?" Rabin asked the room.  I think he was being rhetorical. 

I still answered.  "He's not your liege, Director."

"What?  He's a king, that's what you call kings!"

"He's royalty, so you can call him Your Highness, maybe, but that's a term of rank."  I grabbed my coat and started heading for the door.  "Only people who owe him fealty call him their 'liege.'  It's like anyone can call you Director, that's your title.  I can call you 'Boss,' but not everyone who comes into the building is your employee."

"What?"  He was lost.  I gave up trying to correct him.  He could look it up with Google.  Or, with any luck, he'd never meet Von Doom or any of his replicas ever again.

"Where are you going?" Marcia asked.

"I need to make sure my suit is cleaned and pressed," I said.  "I gotta be at a Dream tomorrow."  I left total silence behind me.

---------

Chemical burns had marred half of Kevin's face.  The scars were extensive and there were some complications in using surgery to repair them, due to the chemicals involved. 

His right hand was missing two fingers, and the rest were also withered, scarred.  Today, the therapist was helping him master a keyboard with 7 fingers, one thumb.  He was short tempered and easily frustrated.  I was in the hall, watching through the windows.  His mother was pacing the hall, decidedly NOT watching her son go through this.

The elevator door opened and Doom walked in.  Man, I thought the Bots had been imposing.  This was the real deal.  The man just broadcast his presence, radiating his personality out like a small sun.  I hadn't really noticed the noise of his Bots until I didn't hear him glide across the linoleum.  Not a sound.  But I felt him.  I half expected the ceiling tiles to flutter at his passage.

People in the rooms he passed scrambled to the door and peeked out.  Was this really HIM?  Should they evacuate?  Call the cops?  Call the Avengers?  Eventually I noticed two people in suits walking behind him.  They waved ID and introduced themselves as State Department. 

Mom was pacing in my direction, away from the elevators, as he slid up behind her, then passed her.  She saw the cape and looked a little worried.  Hey, it's NYC, any costume could be good guy, bad guy, or someone who can fight the entire Fantastic Four.

He got to me, turned, looked in the window.  "Doom is in time," he said.  I opened the door for him.  He marched in.  The suits took up station on either side of the door.  I backed away, across the hall.

"What's that?  Who is that?  What's going on?" Mom was starting to get agitated. 

The man moved to block the door, the woman stepped forward.  "Ma'am, we're going to have to ask you to calm down."

"Calm DOWN!?!  Is that Doctor Doom?  With KEVIN!?"

"Ma'am you need to stop shrieking, this is a state visit, he's not going to harm-"

"Face," I said.  Everyone turned to me.  I nodded towards the big bay window.  "Look at Kevin's face."  Everyone but the man at the door turned.

Despite the scars, Kevin's face was very visibly animated by pure joy.  Every part of his expression that could move was one big lopsided smile.  Doom knelt to shake his hand.  At a gruff aside from him, the therapist retreated to leave them to their conversation. 

"He's smiling," Mom Hall said in wonder.  She stepped up and placed her hands on the glass.  Kevin didn't notice her.  The woman in the suit kept everyone else back from the immediate area.

After a long, quiet talk, Doom stood and waved the therapist over.  He handed a box of something to Kevin and a notebook to the nurse.  Then he actually RUFFLED KEVIN'S HAIR and turned to the door.  Behind him, they opened the box and the book.

Doom identified Kevin's mother and stepped up to her.  "Mrs. Hall.  Doom has given Kevin a present."

"He loves it," Mom said.  Whatever was in the box, Kevin was jumping up and down in glee.

"Doom offered him a mask, but Kevin does not feel a need for one."

"He doesn't?" she asked.

"No.  He told Doom, 'I would rather force bullies to look me in the eye.  So I can spit in theirs.'  Doom thought it was a wonderful sentiment."  I could hear a smile somewhere under that armor. 

"I…  I didn't know he felt that way," she said softly, still looking at her son.

"What he did accept was a hand.  Not a full hand.  It will not replace his hand, but it will augment his abilities.  Brace his weakend digits, replace the missing ones."

"Thank you," she said, but without much enthusiasm.

"It contains a taser," Doom went on.

"IT WHAT?!?!" she raged.  "You come in here, handing out weaponry to my BABY!  You-"

Before she could use an offensive term, like 'you monster,' the suits started to lunge.  I was already close and I touched her shoulder.  "Perhaps we could let His Excellency finish?"

"His excel…?  Who are you?"

"Not important," I said.  "I processed Kevin's Grab A Dream application.  But you were saying, sir?"

He nodded thanks at me.  Or acknowledged that I hadn't told a lie.  Or marked me for some attention later, I don't know.  It's Doom.  But he didn't kill me, then went on.  "In case the bully has a face shield, Doom has incorporated a taser into the hand assembly.  There is one charge.  It will not kill or maim a child assailant, but it will make a bully regret pushing Kevin to the edge."  He produced a small box from within his cloak.  "And you can control his recharger."

"I, what, control?" she asked, taking the box.

"If I may," I interrupted, "I think he's saying that Kevin has to come to YOU after he discharges the taser.  Which means he has to tell you every time he shocks a kid.  And you get to decide when to recharge it.  So you and he might work out rules for when he can and cannot use it.  And maybe withhold the recharge if he hurts the wrong person."

"Oh."  She nodded, putting the charger into her purse.  "Like, like grounding him if he's the bully."  Doom nodded.

In the room, Kevin had gotten the assembly on and his therapist was helping him put the hand through some actions, referencing the notebook frequently.  I couldn't hear anything from within the room, but I would bet money that both of them kept saying, 'Wow.'

Doom turned to go.  The Staties dropped into formation behind him.  After two steps, he stopped and spun to face me.  "Raymond Malone.  If you visit any Latverian embassy in the future, your requests will be advanced quite rapidly.  Do not abuse this privilege."

"I, um, thank you.  Sir." I managed to reply.  The State Department suits stared at me for a second.  Great.  Now I'm a person of interest to two governments.  But then Kevin ran out and started telling his Mom about his great new augmented hand.  "Look what Doctor Doom gave me!"

"That's unutterably cool," Mom said.   She knelt down to listen to him talk about range of motion and strength and voltages.  Doom left by the elevator.  I waited for the next one.



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