Saturday, September 20, 2008

Kid, it never was a game.

From time to time I'll be putting some of my fiction up. This is from a project I'd been working on with Joe where we re imagined the Marvel universe for a story so big that they'd never approve it for anyone. The title it's sitting at right now is "Symphony of Babylon."

Some of the characters were built from next to nothing. Others bore a great resemblance to their inspiration. Greg Williams the Elusive Lizard Man falls into the latter category.

The following is his story

Greg Williams met Elizabeth Randal when the two of them were nineteen years old. Greg was
pre-med and taking his foundational chemistry classes, and Elizabeth was taking the one that would be required for her liberal arts degree. Greg had always excelled at all things scientific and this was no exception, whereas Elizabeth was close to flunking. Greg was short, scrawny, awkward looking guy who got tongue tied around girls he liked. Elizabeth was studying to be a photographer, she liked doing art photography and fashion, but photographing anything made her happy.

She wasn't quite as pretty as the models she shot, but she was closer than her modesty would allow her to admit. She was in good shape seeing as she'd been a cheerleader in high school until a knee injury ended that and cost her a scholarship.
Knowing she was a cheerleader isn't something that would surprise most people about her. She was always bubbly and energetic, and had the kind of smile that was so big and bright that you could offer it no other response than one in return. She could even make you smile at a funeral. Adding that to her curly brown hair and matching doe eyes meant that this girl had more than her share of admirers.

And she was a bright girl, but math and science were never her strong suits. She asked Greg to tutor her and he agreed. At first his nerves made it hard to cover the material (or even say anything) with her. At one point the two of them were even thinking of calling the whole thing off, until Elizabeth mad an offhand comment about how there was nothing interesting in math and science.

In response to this Greg talked for hours about speculative astronomy, the theory of evolution, the principles of algebra and logic, and he did so naturally with such genuine passion that Elizabeth gained a new appreciation for these disciplines. More than that, something deep inside of her clicked and said to her that even though she'd never noticed him... maybe even before that night, this was the man she was going to marry. The romance didn't blossom immediately between the two, but a strong and enduring friendship did.

The two were inseparable most of the time, with the sole exception being that she had her artist friends, and Greg befriended a number of his professors. Around his sophomore year in college he was invited by them to a special event.

Walter Jericho of the
TT Project was going to install a Godstone Power Generator on the campus and demonstrate it for science department who he ensured would be able to use the generator for numerous experiments. The last part was no lie save being a lie of omission. Those in attendance at this event would preform experiments using Godstone radiation, they would become experiments.

Years later the type of
Godstone Power Generator that Jericho installed so many places gained a well earned reputation for a special type of failure. Periodically these generators safety shielding would give way and anyone in the vicinity would be bathed in pure Godstone radiation.

Godstone was originally known for its mutagenic properties and the fact that power could be derived from it came as a surprise to most. In the years that followed rumors spread that not only was Jerico's generator designed to fail in this manner, but that he hadn't even invented it and he'd stolen the design from a colleague.

By this point it did not matter the world had been littered by individuals given powers from
Godstone, and the failure of the generators and the fact that the design was never improved convinced people that Godstone power was not in fact the wave of the future.

Upon exposure to
Godstone radiation a person is either mutated into developing powers, or is poisoned by the energy. Many times both. Over a dozen men and women at this event were granted powers, Greg Williams was one of them.

He'd been doing some experiments with different types of lizards. Over the next few days and months he realized he'd developed powers. He could turn invisible, he was faster and stronger, he could heal all the way to the point of regrowing limbs, and he excreted different types of chemicals, some were toxic poisons others allowed him to do things like climb walls.

He tried simply to hide this for a while until a number of his professors let the powers go to their heads and started breaking the law. At this point the police were extremely overwhelmed by powered criminals and needed help, Williams volunteered.

He developed some fabrics that would bond to him like a second skin, and turn invisible with him. He also developed some machines that could extract his venom in a more efficient manner and keep him from accidentally spraying it when he didn't want to.

He proceeded to stop the other men who'd been empowered at the time he was to a modicum of admiration. But after a while the remaining teaching staff began to turn on their former best pupil. His vigilante activities made him worthless in class and kept him from staying up with his homework. Within two years Elizabeth was the one making the deans list and Greg was the one flunking out.

She wound up being the first person to discover his secret. One time after he missed all of his classes she walked into his bedroom and saw him half in his costume half out with wounds that would be fatal for anyone else. She stayed with him and kept his room mate out until he woke up. She asked him with calmness and kindness for his whole story and eventually he told her. As a result Elizabeth did a fairly decent job of keeping Greg out of trouble and doing his homework. He almost got back on track until a long brutal series of fights around finals.

Greg was kicked out of school and never made it back in.

Elizabeth had started working as a professional photographer by this point. Not doing fashion or editorial work, she was a paparazzo. She hated it but at least she was being a photographer and it paid the bills. And the bills needed paid since Greg kept getting fired from one dead end job after another. But she knew his secret and she loved him.

After a while his vigilantism got completely out of control. It was one thing when he only targeted men with powers like him. But he never seemed to last more than a month at any job before he left unexpectedly to go stop a robbery somewhere, or came in late because he stopped a mugging.

It started to wear on the couple after a while, until one night Elizabeth solved their problems. She'd follow Greg on his patrols with her photography set-up and take exclusive photos to sell to the press. This made everything better for a long time. They were able to spend all kinds of time together Greg didn't have to keep a day job for a long time, long enough he wanted one again and was ready to do it right. The former
pre-med student who in his private life was one of the world's foremost experts on human Godstone mutation finally took a job back in his chosen field. He took classes at odd intervals and online and earned his degree to become a nurses assistant.

It wasn't what his dream was, but neither was Elizabeth's. But somewhere between making a difference, both working close to their chosen fields, and just having a deep abiding love for each other, they found real happiness.

The only problem came from a loose end. At first Elizabeth managed to hide herself very well, but eventually Greg's regular enemies knew she'd be nearby. Most of his enemies weren't killers though, so they would either ignore her or mug for the camera.

There was one exception to this rule. Greg's closest professor friend was the only man more awkward than himself around women. Greg and everyone else assumed this man never had a woman he didn't pay for. In his day to day life he was sweet, kind, and shy. But his mutation affected that. The professor's power tied into adrenaline. Using his powers got him "high." For a man who lived such a timid, rigid, controlled life, the idea of REALLY letting go was intoxicating.

His initial crimes, were simple enough, thefts which escalated as the thrill wore off. But each time he fought Greg something became more clear to him. He was jealous of Greg. Greg would never have a career like he had, but he was close enough to be happy. And his wife was the happiest person he'd ever known.

The professor had long harbored an unhealthy crush on Greg's young wife. It started becoming scary as the teacher's stories of "a different person being in charge" when he became a monster started to fall apart. Elizabeth started to suspect there were no multiple personalities in this man at all, he was just a psychopath who'd never been unleashed before.

He finally unleashed himself. In the past the transformations had been temporary and triggered. The teacher who'd dubbed himself Nemesis' final transformation was intentional. And he had the ultimate exclamation point for this fact in mind.

He managed to get Elizabeth alone while Greg worked his day job. He then proceeded to put Elizabeth through 8 hours of hell. By the time Greg knew she was missing the trail hadn't gone cold yet, and on some level Nemesis wanted to be found.

Greg tracked the trail down to an abandoned warehouse. Once there he saw something he never expected. He saw photos strewn out all over the floor, humiliating, violating, disgusting photos of Elizabeth taken with her own camera. He also saw his wife so weak and close to dead he thought she already was before upon later inspection he saw that she was still breathing shallowly.

He scooped her up and took her to the hospital where he unmasked in front of the whole crew, including his coworkers. After this there was an initial buzz because a famous superhero had publicly unmasked. There were countless people with observations, requests and insults.

In the 72 hours his wife stayed alive in that hospital he had to sign countless autographs. During this time he was also told that "he was no Agent 76" "He was nowhere near as cool as the Wrath." There were a number of kids who didn't know or likely care why this superhero was at this hospital unmasked, he was just there to serve them.

After a while being as emotional as he was, his being unmasked in his form fitting costume made him feel uncomfortably naked in front of a growing unintentional audience. One of his friends from work felt sorry for him and sneaked Greg a set of scrubs to wear over his costume. One by one his friends and co-workers made their way over to him in the waiting room, the cafeteria and the on-call room. A few of his bosses expressed regret for ever getting mad at him for being late or unavailable. A few acquaintances became a little starstruck by him but still tried offering general "it'll be
ok" kind of messages. A couple of the old widowed janitors and senior doctors tried to give him advice about how to get through grieving. But she still died on her third day there, and no amount of surgery could help her.

When he finally left the hospital he made an appointment for making funeral arrangements that he would miss. He burned the photos Nemesis had taken, and started the hunt for his wife's murderer.

Nemesis didn't hide. He went straight to his apartment where he'd had the Williams' as guest countless times, and was prepared to have the only living one as a guest one final time. So the timid young professor turned psychopathic 7 foot giant sat on his couch watching his door and windows for Greg Williams. Williams had never learned that his invisibility didn't work on Nemesis, he could hear too well and he could smell Greg, especially when he was invisible.

"You know Lizard boy, I always wondered if that sweet piece of meat you called a wife was any good or if she was too frigid. All I have to say is that no matter what you do to me, she was worth it" said Nemesis as he licked his lips in a lewd and mocking manner.

Williams turned visible and dove for Nemesis in a blind rage. Nemesis possessed an eerie calmness however. He grabbed the 5'4" man by the throat and tossed him out his third story door wall. Williams was thrown all the way into a building across the street. After he recovered Williams stuck to the wall and started scampering around looking for Nemesis. Nemesis was already on his tail. Nemesis' arm reached around over Williams chest grabbing him tightly and slamming him to the ground.

This battle raged on raged on for hours, Williams trying to use his speed to overwhelm Nemesis, and Nemesis using his strength to play with Williams like a cat that wasn't ready to eat the mouse he'd captured.

In a final moment of desperation Williams tore off the machines used to regulate the venom he fires. They were all blasting at full strength and full speed from his wrists with no control. Williams grabbed Nemesis by the head and held on until all the venom had been drained from his body. It was a toxic mixture of paralytics,
neurotoxins and acids.

Nemesis lay on the ground jerking in a seizure fist clenched jaw locked and half of the skin on his face and torso eaten nearly down to the bone. Williams leaped along walls dragging his quarry until he reached the police station and dropped him from five stories onto the ground in front.

Williams told the police what Nemesis had done and the police didn't know what to tell him. Williams never stuck around after he made a vigilante arrest before, but after taking Nemesis in he'd wished that he had.

Usually when a superhero stops a bank robbery the crime is technically never committed. There's no evidence to be gathered, there were no Miranda rights offered so the police usually had little choice but to let the criminal go. Learning this explained to Williams why he'd had to fight the same people so many times but the thought sent a chill down his spine this time.

Williams offered as much information as he could about his wife's murder. But by design there were a number of holes he couldn't account for. He didn't know when his wife was taken, he didn't know when Nemesis had taken her or where from. There was DNA left on her body but due to the nature of the mutation his DNA had shifted multiple times. It was never the same from one transformation to the next and it didn't match his baseline "non-mutated" DNA that was taken from his last visit before a transformation. In a word it was useless.

The only thing that
might've stuck were the photos, the ones Greg burned. Out of courtesy to a man who'd helped them numerous times and just suffered the ultimate loss the police did their best to question the man who would only be referred to as Nemesis as long as they could. Ultimately they knew they would have to release him because there was no evidence.

Around the time the police were preparing to let him go nemesis sat up in his seat. Most of his skin and muscle had already grown back in this time. An evil smirk crossed his face as a single statement escaped his lips.

"Aggravated kidnapping and first degree manslaughter, I'll plea to that. The pathetic little twerp deserves that much."

A few moments later he was dragged into custody wearing a matching set of diamond manacles on both his hands and feet. Williams watched this parade with tears of fury as he screamed across the room at his former friend.

"I hope you're happy how our little game ended!"

Nemesis fought off everyone holding him and then approached Williams where he quietly said to him.

"Kid, it never was a game."

In the days and weeks which would followed Greg asked himself many questions which he never would've during the days when he looked at things through "Elizabeth colored glasses." His life had seemed wonderful no matter how many times he had to go into work with injuries that
should've left him as a patient, not caring for any. He always felt like he was making a big difference when he put the costume on, even though he rarely was liked or respected for it and he couldn't remember the last time he'd actually enjoyed his activities rather than done them out of habit. Had life as a superhero actually been worth losing a career that meant more than anything to him as a youth.

At the age of thirty five he was barely employable in his chosen field of work, fired from every job he'd ever worked, med School drop-out and widowed. The thought was almost enough for him to want to put a bullet through his brain, the only thing stopping him was his fear he'd heal and survive it.

Nemesis would go on to only serve one year of his sentence before being given a full pardon to work on a government think tank with Walter Jericho dedicated to the study of
Godstone mutation, where he would work along side Williams.