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The Beginning part one

"The Accident"

by Chip Caroon

On a top-secret military base in the middle of nowhere, a top-secret spacecraft sits, ready for launch. This spacecraft was the objective of Project: Excelsior. Few people outside of the base even know of its existence.

Most of the scientists working on the project virtually lived on the base. The complex was self-sufficient, with quarters for everyone and their families, schools, restaurants, shops, and entertainment.

The chief scientist in charge of the project was Dr. Peter Parker. He stood about 5'10", had brown hair and eyes, and was rarely seen without a lab coat.

At the present time, he was on the phone with his father Colonel Richard Parker, head of S.H.I.E.L.D.

"So, dad, how is S.H.I.E.L.D.?" Peter asked.

"Well, you know how tough the espionage business is," Richard replied. "We're thinking of adding our own strike force, a team of super-humans. But that's all I can say. Classified. How's your work?"

"Bruce and I should be getting the go-ahead for launch soon," said Peter. "The ship is mostly built, and we've been running test-flights on the prototype and simulator."

"Any problems?"

"There's been some sort of anomaly lingering directly above Earth's atmosphere. It's shouldn't interfere with our experiments. We should have enough shielding."

Just then, Bruce Banner stuck his head in the room. "I hate to bother you," he said softly, "but they need you in the lab." He then closed the door.

"Uh, dad?" Peter said. "I have to go. Talk to you later."

"Good-bye, son."

Peter hung the phone up and ran to the lab. There he saw his partner Dr. Bruce Banner along with a group a scientists looking at something on a table. As Peter came closer, he saw that it was a bar of metal.

"What is it?" he asked.

"We call it . . . Adamantium!" Bruce announced. "Nothing can break it! It's virtually indestructible!"

"What can we use it for?"

"If we can make it in time, we can cover the exterior of the Excelsior and make it virtually invincible. Adamantium also has a high melting point."

All Peter could say was "Hmm."

The next day was spent trying to make an Adamantium skin for the Excelsior. Of course this meant added weight to the ship, and the test flights were changed accordingly. Pilot Dan Ketch didn't seem to mind at all. In fact, to him, it was just a bigger challenge to overcome. He compensated for the increase very well, completing his missions in better time and with better accuracy than before.

That night, Peter, Bruce, Dan, and Logan, the chief of security, all met in Peter's quarters for a secret meeting.

"Even though the Adamantium has pushed the schedule back a day or two, I know that the launch will be very soon," Peter was saying. "We've got to make sure that the anomaly won't harm the ship or the experiment."

"What does that have t' do with me?" Logan asked.

"Well," Peter replied, "you're chief of security. You need to be the one to make sure the ship isn't sabotaged. Someone might want that anomaly to be the cause of a 'tragic accident.'"

"What should I be doing?" Bruce asked.

"You have to lead your team of scientists to guide the Excelsior on a safe path. Dan, your job is to fly on the path that Bruce tells you too."

Logan interrupted Peter's instructions. "Parker, if yer jus' gonna tell us 'bout what we gotta do t' save th' ship, why all th' dadblamed secrecy?"

"That's a good point, Pete," Dan said. "I've been meaning to ask the same thing."

"All right," Peter said relunctantly. "I didn't want to alarm you, but we think there's a leak. The other night on the news, I saw a report on a mysterious military base in the middle of nowhere."

"How could it have gotten out?" Bruce asked. "Most of us here don't have outside contact, and we never leave the premises."

"I'm still trying to figure that out," Peter replied. "My dad has a small S.H.I.E.L.D. unit trying to solve that little mystery."

"So, because of the leak, you had to have a secret meeting," Dan interjected.

"You three are the only people I fully trust on something like this. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get some sleep. Tomorrow is the big test day. If everything is working, then we'll probably launch the day after."

Bruce, Dan, and Logan stood up and walked out of the room in a single-file line. Peter stood up from the table and walked into his bedroom. Within minutes he was asleep.

Peter Parker had a strange dream that involved him in another life. His parents were missing - dead? - and he was being raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben. He was still in school. Oh, the bad memories that brings up! He sees an experiment. Radiation? Yes. But wait, a spider is climbing into the shaft. Stop the experiment!

But the warning comes too late. The room blows up. Peter feels something on his wrist. It's a spider. It bit me, he thinks. Why?

Peter sees himself in the hospital for several weeks. He's growing stronger, not the weakling he once was. The scene changes. He's now rushing home from . . . somewhere, he doesn't know. He can see his house. It's bathed in red and blue lights. What is going on? He runs up. Uncle Ben. He's dead. Shot by a burgler, they say.

He's angry, can't think straight. He runs away, to the top of a building. He puts on a costume. It's red and blue. It has black webs drawn all over it. Is he a superhero?

He lifts his arm. He doesn't know why. He pressed a button on the palm of his hand. A slinder piece of - string? No, not quite. Whatever it is, it shoots out. He's now soaring through the air. Am I flying? he thinks. No, he realizes when he sees the string at his wrists.

He arrives at a warehouse. The burgler is inside. Peter's mind flashes back to the murder scene. Uncle Ben is dead. This man killed him. Now I will kill him. He crashes in, throwing punches. The man is knocked out. Why can't I kill him? Peter asks.

The answer comes to him in a soft voice: "Because you can't."

Peter woke up suddenly, in a cold sweat.

Bruce Banner was also having a strange dream. He was out in a desert. He was testing something. Everything was fine except . . . something was wrong!

The boy! A boy was driving into the test site! He had to save him. Bruce turned to his partner. Delay the countdown, he says, I must get that boy!

Bruce leaves the safety of the shelter. The partner doesn't listen, he is a spy for Russia. He could kill a famous scientist. But should he? He decides. He can't let the motherland down. Banner must die now. Igor is the only one to do it. Bruce runs to save the boy. The boy sees him. What's wrong? he wonders. Bruce grabs him, takes him to the shelter. The boy objects. My bike! he shouts. Bruce tosses the boy in, but before he can get in himself, the bomb explodes. Gamma rays are released everywhere.

Igor! he screams in his head. How could you do this?!

Bruce looked at his hands. They were gray. Every part of him was growing large and changing color to gray. He was having a hard time thinking. Suddenly, he was changing colors to green. He couldn't think. The only thought in his head was - Hulk Smash!?!

Bruce sat up in bed abruptly. Why did he have such a weird dream?

In the next room, Dan Ketch was having a similar dream. Although his was different. It wasn't like a beginning. No, more like a middle of a story.

Dan was walking in a park talking to a girl. Is it his girlfriend? Maybe, he's not sure. They keep walking and talking. Then they see a pursesnatcher. The man didn't take Dan's girlfriend's purse. No, so why was Dan feeling weird? He felt his forehead. It was getting warm. So warm it was - melting?

Dan looked down, he was wearing a leather jacket all of a sudden. He felt himself slipping away. The girl was running away screaming. Dan saw his face slide to the ground. He grabbed his head again. It was on fire, burned down to the bare skull.

Dan was shaking his head as his consciousness was being pushed away. How could this happen? Why now? Why does Ghost Rider ruin everything?

Ghost Rider grabbed a chain and ran after the pursesnatcher. He caught the guy. Vengeance is served, he thought.

Dan woke up screaming.

On the opposite end of the complex, Logan was having a tough time sleeping. Not because of a nightmare, but because of a premonition. Finally, after a couple of hours tossing and turning, Logan was able to fall asleep. But after he fell asleep, his dreams quickly turned into nightmares.

Like his collegues, Logan was dreaming about other lives. He was dreaming that he woke up in a tank. The tank was filled with water and all Logan was wearing was a pair of shorts, and a few pieces of breathing equipment. He could see someone standing in front of him. The man was talking, but Logan couldn't understand a word of it.

Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain. His bones were hurting. It felt as though something was moving inside of them. Logan screamed.

The pain lasted for five minutes, then stopped. Logan felt the top of his hands itching. He tried to scratch them, but the itch wouldn't go away. Suddenly, metal claws popped out of his hands. He saw the man outside laughing at him.

That angered him. He lashed out at the glass in front of him. He was slashing with these new claws. The glass gave way. Water came rushing out. Lord knows what else was in that tank. Logan jumpped out and pulled off the breathing device. He ran after the doctor. The doctor was scared now. Why? He did this. He runs for the door and pounds on the emergency close button. Logan tries to stop the door. It is too much, too late. Something explodes. Logan turns. A hole in the wall. Perfect. Logan runs out of the building just as it explodes. Why did it explode? Logan doesn't recall destroying any equipment.

Logan is looking back, now seeing where he is going. He trips. He looks up and sees a monster with blond hair in a tan and brown costume smiling down at him. Logan is full of fear. The monster reaches down, tries to cut him, misses. Logan gets up, runs at the monster, his claws out. He tries to kill the creature, but it punches Logan in the gut. Logan has never felt so much pain.

The monster lifts him up, says something, laughs, and throws Logan down the side of a cliff. Logan is falling, falling, falling . . .

Logan's eyes then popped open suddenly as he hears the shouts of Dan Ketch.

Both Logan and Bruce heard Dan's screaming. Bruce was the only one to check up on him, because Logan was too tired to walk across the entire complex.

When Bruce ran in, he saw Dan sitting up in bed, sweating.

"What happened, Dan?" he asked.

"Oh, sorry," Dan replied. "Bad dream. Don't worry about it. I'll be fine."

"Okay," Bruce said as he walked out and back into his own room. But he was somewhat afraid of his dream returning. After much thought, he decided that it was nothing, and was able to fall back asleep.

The next day started off like any normal day. Only nobody suspected that by the end of the twenty-four hour period, everybody's lives would be changed forever.

The engineers of Project: Excelsior were fitting the Adamantium sheets to the exterior of the craft. At the same time, scientists were busy trying to discover the best travel route once the spacecraft was in space.

Peter Parker was on the phone, working on all of the final details. He was on the phone for one call after another. First he was calling the White House to get confirmation of the final launch date. He wasn't having an easy time.

"Look, Senator Kelly, I know the President wants to be at the launch, but we need to launch as soon as possible. We cannot wait a month just for him!" Peter argued into the cell phone.

"Dr. Parker," Senator Kelly replied. "The President needs to be more involved with this project. The results could have major results on the American people."

"But why does he need to be at the launch?" Peter asked. "He doesn't know a thing about what we're doing, plus the only people who know about this project that don't reside on base is Congress. And on top of that, only a handful of those Congressmen even know."

"Look, Parker," Kelly fired back, getting a little irritated. "The President needs to be at that launch. I intend to see him there."

"No guarantees, Kelly. As of now, the launch date depends on the situation up in the air. Good-bye!" Peter shouted as he ended the call. "Politicians!" he shouted in disgust.

Just then, he realized that he still had more calls to make. His next call was to his dad at S.H.I.E.L.D.

"Hey, dad," he said when Colonel Parker answered.

"Peter," Richard said, somewhat coldly. "We have word of a leak inside of the project."

"I know. I found out the other night on the news."

"No, it's worse. The leak might be to another government."

"No!" Peter exclaimed. "Are you sure?"

"Not quite, but I have a team working on it."

"I'll double my security. Can I rely on your's to back me up?"

"I don't know yet." Colonel Parker paused. Peter heard alarms in the background. "I'll call you back, son. We have an emergency."

With that, the call was ended.

It was late afternoon when the government agents arrived. They walked right into the lab and announced their presence.

"Doctor Peter Parker?" one of the suited men asked.

Peter looked up from his work. "Yes?" he replied.

The man walked over and showed Peter his badge and gave him a note. "Senator Gyrich."

Peter opened the note. "WHAT?" he shouted when he had read it. "Washington is taking me off the project?"

Bruce spoke up. "They can't do this!"

Gyrich looked at both of them. "Of course they can," he said calmly. "They fund this project. Parker, you may remain on base for thirty days. After that, you and your entire staff had better be relocated."

With that, Gyrich turned and left. As he walked out, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent walked in.

"I am Sgt. Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D.!" he shouted. "I am now in charge of Project: Excelsior."

"Why you dirty freaks!" Dan Ketch shouted.

Fury turned to one of the agents accompanying him. "If you will, escort this man to the holding cell."

The agent walked over to Dan and grabbed him. Dan tried to resist, but the agent was stronger and overtook Dan easily. A minute later, they were out of the room.

"S.H.I.E.L.D.?" Peter asked. "Why wasn't I told of this?"

"Yer connected to S.H.I.E.L.D. to closely. The government considered you a conflict of interest. Now, if you and yer collegues would kindly vacate the lab facilities."

Bruce looked as if he was going to start a fight, but Peter stopped him. "Not now, old friend. Not now."

As the scientist were walking out of the lab, Fury stopped Peter and Bruce.

"I understand that the control keys are part o' yer badges. Give 'em up."

Peter and Bruce both unclipped the badges from their lab coats and handed them over. Fury turned to the remaining agent.

"Escort these two to the holdin' area."

Several hours later after dusk, Peter, Bruce, and Dan were in the same cell, looking out at the Excelsior, watching the agents prep the ship for launch. Then, Dan saw a nuclear weapon being loaded onto the ship.

"Why in the world are they putting a nuke on the ship?" Dan asked. "They can't be blowing it up, else they wouldn't have prepped it for launch."

Peter and Bruce were sitting on the bunk on the opposite side of the cell.

"I wish I had the answers," Peter replied. "I just wonder why my dad didn't tell me about this, and why do I have the strange feeling that my father knows nothing about this?"

Just then, the three of them hear a whisper outside of the cell door. They walk over. They see Logan on the other side of the door.

"Hey, guys," he whispered. "I got the key t' this cell, but I need to know what we're gonna do when I break ya out?"

"The only thing to do is to follow the Excelsior and stop it!" Bruce exclaimed.

"How?" Logan asked.

"The prototype!" Peter exclaimed. "It's the only way! Hurry and get us out of here, Logan!"

Logan quickly unlocked the door and let the three men out. They all ran to the lab. Peter unlocked a secret closet. Inside, he found four spacesuits. He grabbed them and tossed one to each of the men standing beside him.

After all four were suited up, they heard a rumble. Peter rushed to the window and saw the Excelsior rising off the launchpad.

"There it goes," he said. "All of our work."

Within a few minutes, the quartet was on the prototype's pad.

"Here we are," Peter announced. "The prototype doesn't have the Adamantium shielding as the Excelsior does, nor do we have the flight paths. Dan, you have to be careful."

They climbed onto an elevator and rose to the hatch. Then, they climbed in and buckled up. Peter and Bruce entered the final input codes. No one could stop them.

Within a minute, the ship jolted as it came to life. Dan initated the countdown. Ten seconds later, the prototype was leaving the ground.

Meanwhile, in the control room, the government agents learned of the prototype lifting off. They tried to stop it, but couldn't.

The prototype reached the upper atmosphere with ease. Getting out of the atmosphere was tougher, thanks to the anomaly. The four could see the Excelsior, as well as several other spacecraft.

They saw the Excelsior pull up to the heart of the anomaly.

"No!" Peter shouted from the co-pilot's seat. "They're going to set off the nuke in the heart of the anomaly. They think they'll destroy it, but in reality, they'll make it worse."

"How so?" Logan asked.

"It'll cause a major explosion full of harmful radiation! We have to get out of here now! Forget them! They'll destroy themselves!"

Dan tried to turn the prototype around and return to Earth, but it was too late. The nuclear bomb had already detonated. Radiation levels were reading off of the scale. Radiation flooded the compartment. Alarms were blaring.

"THE PAIN!" Logan shouted.

Peter felt a small prick on his wrist. He looked down and saw a spider crawling out of his glove. Just like the dream! he thought.

Meanwhile, Bruce was exposed to the gamma rays in the explosion. He screamed as the prototype began its descent back to Earth.

"Banner!" Logan shouted. "What's wrong? Oh Lord!" he shouted as Bruce transformed into a green giant. Then, Logan's hand started itching. "NO!" he whispered. Then, he hands seemed to explode as bone claws popped out of them.

Meanwhile, Dan wasn't having a joyride. He was trying to pilot the ship so it would land somewhere safe. Suddenly, he got hit with a powerful blast of radiation. The flesh on his face began to burn off. 'Gotta save the others!' he thought as the ship began to burn up as it entered Earth's atmosphere. "Abandon ship!" he yelled.

It was the longest minute in the lives of the four men on board. At the end of it, their lives were changed forever as the ship crashed on Earth.

The four men had been separated. The ship was in pieces. Earth was forever changed.

Continued! Peter Parker and crew learn of their amazing new powers and how to use them!
Writer's Note: The idea for this concept came after I read Wolverine #148, starring the "new" Fantastic Four. After reading it, I wanted to write a story about them as the FF. Only, I didn't know much about Ghost Rider or Hulk, nor about the four as a team. Then it occurred to me, what if they were the original FF? What if they were the ones to get their powers by radiation? This had possibilities. I knew this could be a concept that could be spread to the entire Marvel Universe. It couldn't be contained in a What If . . . ? issue. I had to make it an event. The only way I could think of was to write it as the annual. The name of the concept came after five minutes of brainstorming, I knew 'time' had to be a part of it. 'Switch' came after I realized that the whole premise was based on the fact that the heroes had switched roles.

I got help from Fantastic Four Vol. 2 #1, Spider-Man: Chapter One #1, and Incredible Hulk #393. I also got help from the Giant Sized X-Men #1 CD-ROM. These were used mostly for the dream sequences, but FF #1 was used to make the basic plot. Without these great sources, this story probably couldn't exist.

Now that this story is started, I hope to come up with more TimeSwitch stories. For instance . . . what if the Thing was like Spider-Man, misunderstood and shunned, the object of public scrutiny. Enough ranting, I have to go write more issues. Enjoy the rest of the story and concept!