The Chimera Within

Chapter 12

As Tom and Markus Vitaly busied themselves securing their captives in the animal research facility in Oscorp labs, Tom tried to ignore the nagging questions that were plaguing him. Gwen voiced one. "Do you think we need to alert the authorities about this one?" she asked, pointing at Frank Castle. "He must be some sort of hired assassin."

"That could prove problematic," said Harold.

"He's right," agreed Tom. "He's currently paralyzed from some sort of chimera spider venom, and if we turned him in like this, it will just invite unwelcome questions for answers that we don't currently have. We should try to treat him and then decide what to do with him."

"Well then we have the next patient," said Gwen, pointing at the black, hairy spider man. "Let's see what we can learn from him, and maybe we can obtain some of those undesirable answers."

Tom injected the venomous creature with more of the chimera trait restriction serum, and they waited. In the meantime, they set Connors up in a proper bed and helped him to be comfortable. He was awake, but was taking the opportunity to rest. Tom and Gwen returned to the lab, to continue their tests of the most recent chimera, while Harold was left alone with Connors.

"Ah, Mr. Augustus, I am greatly indebted to you, sir, for the part you played in getting me out of that unfortunate situation. Now, as a man of the world and an investor in our shared enterprise, you no doubt agree that it is imperative that I am allowed to leave so that I may attend the shareholders' meeting. Would you be so kind as to help me out of bed?"

"It was the very least I could do, under the circumstances," said Harold, offering his arm to assist the patient to his feet. "And I agree that the importance of the shareholders' meeting can not be understated. But, you do seem to have suffered some form of malady or another. Are you sure you are up to it?"

"Nonsense, my dear boy," Connors waved away Harold's concerns. "I am stronger than I have ever been in my life. And don't downplay your role today in bringing that unfortunate meeting to a favourable conclusion. Without a doubt, I will require men of your calibre to take a leading role in this company, and to bring a great vision to fruition. A powerful, scientific community that leads the world in health care innovation: that is the goal. And we are reaching out and seizing what, only a few short years ago, was a dream. I believe that today, you demonstrated the stomach and the aptitude that is needed by the future leaders of this company, with just the right amount of brass." Connors smiled warmly, and patted Harold on the shoulder.

"Thank you, sir. That would please me greatly to have a place in the future of Oscorp."

"Well let us see to it that we face such a brave future together."

Tom and Gwen carefully analyzed any data they could take off their new specimen. As the serum took effect and the creature started to look more human, Tom couldn't help but feel that he looked familiar. "I'm going to wake him," he announced.

"Okay, if you think that's a good idea," said Gwen futilely, as Tom injected the patient with a stimulant. Tom retreated to the other side of the locked door, as he prepared to watch the creature from the safety of outside his cage. Soon, he began blinking his eyes.

"Where am I?" he asked hoarsely.

"Who are you?" asked Gwen.

"Aren't you that guy from the Daily Bugle?" asked Tom, starting to remember where he'd seen him. "Yeah, you're that other reporter who so 'graciously' gave me those photos. Were you spying on me, or something?"

"Ah, calm yourself down, you little pissant," grunted Eddie Brock. "Can I get some water in here, or what?"

"Listen, Eddie Brock, wasn't it? You need to start cooperating with us, and right now. You are in serious trouble."

"Yes, Mister Brock, listen to us," Gwen tried the soft touch. "You've been the victim of a cruel experiment, and we need as much information as you can give us if we are to be able to treat you."

"Treat me? Do I look like I need treatment to you? You can't understand the raw power that I feel when I'm not drugged like this. This is one experiment that has resulted in great success, and I'm not giving it up."

"You may feel that way now, Mr. Brock, but that could also be the effects of the foreign DNA, altering you psychologically. Don't you want us to restore you so you can return to living a wholesome life?"

"Hell no! I was a nobody before. But everyone is going to respect me now, let me tell you! I like being important, and I like being strong." He looked straight at them. "When I finally get out of here, I'm going to kill you. Both of you."

Tom looked at Gwen. "Well so much for reasoning with a mindless beast, though I'm not sure that we can put all the blame on the spider DNA. Something tells me that he wasn't playing with a full deck before this happened. Let's see what we can do for patient number two," he said, moving on to Frank Castle.

"So his breathing is less shallow than before, so that's good. I've been analyzing the venom that Brock secretes, and it is identical to the paralyzing venom produced by common spiders. It should, then, just temporarily paralyze the victim. I'm hoping that with some antidote, he will make a full recovery."

"Good, that leaves our other dilemmas," said Tom, looking up as Harold and Markus joined them in the lab. "What was Connors doing there, fighting like a lizard?"

"And what precisely, was he doing in the office of Wilson Fisk?" asked Harold.

"That's easy. Fisk is a political supporter of Oscorp," answered Gwen.

"But Fisk is not your average, run of the mill businessman," said Harold. "Judging by his level of security and powerful influence, it's suggestive of mob connections. I'm going to make some discreet inquiries."

"I guess we'll stay here and keep a lid on this situation for the time being," said Tom.

On the way to the shareholders' meeting, Connors received a call from Maxwell Dillon. "How are you Dr. Connors? A little bird told me that you were suffering a bit of the flu. Is that true?"

Connors scowled. "No, that is not true. You should know better, Mr. Dillon, than to pay heed to office gossip."

"I'm very sorry, sir. I promise it won't happen again sir. It's just that your wife was concerned."

"My wife was concerned? Was she indeed? Listen, and hear me well, Mr. Dillon. Leave the concerns of my family to me, sir. It is not in your job description to worry about them."

"You are right, of course, sir," said Dillon. "Then am I correct to conclude that you are going to be in attendance of the shareholders' meeting, sir?"

"If God wills, who is he that can stand against him?" grinned Connors.

Toby and his band of fellow scientists met up with Connors out in front of the hotel where they were hosting the shareholder's meeting. His personal assistant, Jonas Harrow was also there to greet them. Connors greeted them all cordially. Then he said, "Jonas, I hope you have your wits about you today, and you weren't up all night at some rave. This meeting should be a walk in the park, but our opposers grow many, while we have grown somewhat complacent."

Jonas responded, "Complacent is a little harsh. But you're right, we need to be ready for everything."

Connors proceeded to greet all of his Oscorp scientific colleagues. "Welcome Dr. Kasady. And Dr. Toby Auchmann, I didn't expect to see you here. Thank you for coming to support your coworkers. Good morning, Dr. Morgan, Dr. Smythe. I'm so elated to see all of you here. Now we may present our discoveries in the field of medicine as one united team, and show what one company, when properly motivated, can accomplish for the health and well being of humankind. Come, gentlemen. Let us make history, as one." Mark Iraklis walked into Connors' little motivational speech. "Oh, good, Mark. You made it. I was a little afraid that your date kept you up too late last night to support your scientific researchers today as they change the course of medical policy."

"Not at all, sir. Rest assured that this day is just as important to me, a most loyal supporter."

"Well then, in that case, I must be ready for my presentation. And look, we are also loyally supported by Drs. Li, Lincoln, and what? even Dr. Foswell. Well gentlemen, and ladies," he said, nodding to Janice Lincoln. "I have quite the hour of scientific edutainment prepared for you and our investors. I hope that you will feel afterwards that I have done you and your research credit by my presentation."

"There can be no doubt that we are fully behind you, Dr. Connors," lied Spencer Smythe, "and we will be loyally behind you in whatever endeavour." The others nodded, perhaps a bit too forcefully, in agreement.

Back at the lab, Tom was wrestling with a thought that kept plaguing him. Gwen seemed to notice that something was weighing on his mind despite their two prisoners. "Are you okay? If it's the death threat from that guy, don't worry about it. That would rattle anybody, but we should be able to contain him."

"It's not that. Well, not exactly. I'm more worried about myself."

"Well he should be worried about you, as well. He's fortunate you didn't kill him back there."

"That's just it, you see. I wanted to kill him. I really wanted to. I even tried, but, the thing is, I couldn't."

"You mean, you couldn't bring yourself to….?"

"Out there on the ledge at the top of the Chrysler Building, I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't pause for an ethical reflection of what was wrong or right. No, rather, I thought I could kill him by crushing him with all my strength against the building. So I tried, and I think, if this had happened last week, I would have succeeded."

Gwen's eyes widened. "Do you think you're feeling weaker because of exhaustion?" Tom shook his head. "Then you're probably right. The foreign DNA is being replaced out of your chromosomes with your human DNA. Because you didn't have the complete equation to create the retrovirus for your own serum did you?"

"No, and now I'm worried that I may have corrupted my RNA sequencing. Maybe it was a mistake that I actually used an adenovirus instead of a retrovirus, and I'm disappointed to be losing my enhanced abilities before I've successfully completed the operation for my patient. But better to return to being as I was, rather then end up some sort of mutation, I suppose."

"Let me try and examine you."

As they started analyzing the data and running different tests, Gwen acted like she needed to air a grievance, or at least a nagging thought that had started to plague her. "You always talk about working until you've completed your operation and research for your patient. Do you ever think about what you'll do afterwards?"

"I don't know," said Tom, his eyes staring down the microscope. "I guess I'll probably carry on as before."

"I'm not convinced that you will." Tom paused and looked at her. Gwen smiled shyly. "You have so much passion, so much conviction and determination now, while you're fighting to save someone's life. Someone you obviously care a lot about." Her voice got softer. "Once Mariah has recovered, will you stick around?"

"Yeah, sure, I think so," Tom said shrugging. "I'm sure there are lot's of people just like her, that need hope."

"There is no doubt about that. But will you be a part of the solution, or will you leave, having accomplished what you set out to do?"

"Where is this coming from?"

"It's just that, my aspirations aren't so easily achieved. So do you care enough about me, or our partnership, to fight to help me make a difference, once you've done what you set out to do?"

Tom frowned at first, but his expression softened when he looked at Gwen. "Hey, I'd say I owe you at least that much, partner." He gave her a gentle punch in the shoulder that although painless she still said 'Ow!' and punched him back, but harder. "And I believe that your goals are important for the world. I'll do my best to see them through." Gwen smiled.

As the conspiring scientists continued to put their plans into motion, they took their places in the meeting room of the hotel where the event was taking place. Toby nodded to Spencer, who then went to approach Mark Iraklis. Toby watched breathlessly along with the others to see if Spencer would be successful in distracting Iraklis. The two of them spoke in hushed tones as Spencer gestured towards the entrance of the hotel. The plan was to tell Iraklis that he was needed to address an issue raised by a small protest that had formed in front of the hotel. One of the items on the agenda addressed the manufacture by Oscorp of components that were often used to construct land mines. The conspirators had decided to exploit the publicity and controversy over this issue to further their scheme.

As they watched carefully to see if their first stage of their plan would find success, their patience was soon rewarded as Spencer and Iraklis left the meeting room to go to the entrance of the hotel, just as the meeting moved on to the proposal on the agenda on whether to eliminate this production or not. At this point, Maxwell Dillon spoke up at the meeting and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is a very important ethical and humanitarian issue. First, I firmly believe that you should be allowed to listen to Dr. Janice Lincoln, who has prepared a fine presentation on the factors involved, and thus you can make an informed decision whether to launch a protest vote."

Toby looked at Connors' face, searching for any sign of suspicion. He could see the outlines of a frown beginning to form, but as the seven of them rose from their seats to help Janice with her supposed presentation, Connors visibly tried to put on a blank face, and perhaps only appeared a little surprised. "So far, so good," Toby murmured.

Martin Li gave Peter a gentle shove to stand in front of him in the line that had formed in the aisle as the little group approached the front where the executives and the CEO sat. At this point, Connors spoke, "Are all of you ready for this presentation?" He asked the audience. "I'm a little surprised that so many of you have taken such a personal interest in this aspect of our company. But I suppose that different people hold different things precious. And I value the fact that you can present your ideas and values to us, this body of individuals. And so thus, we can compare and receive all the pertinent information with welcome eyes and use everything according to its value."

"May I begin by saying," Janice began, "that although we are a corporate entity, we are still a company of human beings that belong to the human race. And at this moment, I believe that the world's highest economic need is higher ethical standards - standards enforced by strict laws and upheld by responsible business leaders. And as scientists and engineers, we must consider the ethical implications of our work."

"Now if I may interject here Dr. Lincoln," interrupted Connors. "Let us be clear that we have not tabled for this meeting the issue of production of weapons, but rather, we are discussing the production of components that in turn, could possibly be used to produce land mines. Let us be sure that we do not muddle the issue under consideration. And while it is true that we produce these components, they have many other practical, non-lethal uses. While I respect your opinion, we don't want to over inflate our responsibility in this field."

"But if I may say so, Dr. Connors, it would be absurd to not take responsibility and blame the external circumstances, while we make ourselves responsible for any noble and pleasant consequences of our research and products," argued Janice. "How can we take credit for such wonderful accomplishments and proclaim to the world our virtuous mission statement as a company, while we at the same time proclaim that these more base exploits are not our fault? This argument is illogical."

"While I concede this point, that it is not the gun that kills, but rather a tool in the killer's hand," Toby reasoned. "It would be a denial of justice not to stretch out a helping hand to the poor and the helpless that are suffering because of something that we are aiding in the production of. The offering of relief is the common right of humanity, something that is within our power to do. He who spares the wicked, injures the good."

Connors, who looked like he had allowed his mind to drift, suddenly pricked up his ears. "Excuse me, Dr. Auchmann, but what did you just say?"

"We are demanding justice!" Guy entered into the discussion. "Justice is a contract of expediency, entered upon to prevent men harming or being harmed."

"You would have me thoroughly convinced," said Connors. "If I didn't begin to feel like the substance of your argument had begun to drift somewhat. I sense a palpable, politically motivated, underlying subtext in your reasoning, and hence I implore you to speak plainly, sirs and madam. Your accusations that this company sacrifices their values and upright morals for profit are simply untrue. But that is not what lies at the base of your convictions, now is it? You are attempting to call into question something more fundamental about our company, or to be precise, about me. What is it? What could it be?" Connors eyes bored holes into the frightened faces of each of the conspirators. "I believe that you are in fact, calling into question our research and development in the medical field. Specifically the field of trangenics, I suspect. Well it was a specious appearance that you have put on to raise these issues here today. But now that our cards are out on the table, why don't we address this little difference of opinion? If I were a man of weaker convictions you might have been able to sway me in my stance of where the future of medicine will take us. But as it is, a firm 'no' that arises from an article of faith is better than a 'yes' merely offered up to please and score political points, or worse still, to avoid confrontation. As it is, I am in a position of power in that I am authorized to perform qualitative work with my quantitative passion. I back this up with my compelling convictions and guide it by a propelling purpose, with a denouement that fulfills a divine destiny. Without question, that is power! And may I remind you that this is only just the beginning!"

"But Dr. Connors…" stammered a terrifying looking Martin.

"Do not be afraid, Dr. Li," Connors voice boomed. "But if you are seeking to confront fate, remember that it is a gift that cannot be taken from those to whom it is bequeathed."

"Please, Dr. Connors, sir…" Maxwell Dillon advanced a little closer to the CEO, with the others close behind.

"Well, Mr. Dillon? Do you confess to your ulterior motive before this assembly, along with your colleagues?" insisted Connors. The conspirators started to crowd Connors, causing him to take a step backwards. He held out his hand for them to stay where they were, and then motioned to turn and put some more distance between them. At that, Dillon grabbed hold of the collar of Connors' suit jacket, and pulling hard, he ripped it, causing a gasp to come from the disconcerted audience.

Connors turned around slowly, and with eyes burning with rage shouted, "Why, this is getting rather violent, sir!"

As if to confirm that statement, Peter produced his knife and lunging at Connors, attempted to stab him in the neck. Dodging the blow, Connors rapidly turned fully around and seized Peter by the arm, almost lifting him off the ground. "Peter, you villainous scum! What are you doing?" he cried. Connors welcomed the warm embrace of his reptilian disposition overtaking his namarupa, or physiological being.

Peter, whose arm was being crushed in Connors vice-like grip screamed, "Somebody help me, for Christ's sake!" The terror flew out of his mouth as spittle from his lips.

For what was in reality a passing moment, but that felt like ages, the group hesitated, losing their nerve. That is, until Toby darted forward and behind Connors. Connors batted Toby away like a fly. As Toby lay on the ground, facing the Chimera, Connors reached with his arm to touch what felt like a slight pinch in his shoulder only to find a discharged syringe stabbing him. He looked down on Toby as his eyes filled with realization, that he had been injected with the chimera trait reduction serum. Connors hands dropped to their sides in resignation, sending Peter crashing to the floor. As Connors' face took on a look of passive acceptance and while the rest of the group drew their weapons to swarm in for the kill, Connors maintained his despondent gaze on Toby.

After the first few stabs found their bloody marks, Connors did attempt to get away, possibly more out of instinct than reason. But as soon as he turned to flee, blood flowed into his eyes and he tripped and fell, as all of them, including Toby, continued stabbing him as he lay defenceless at the front of the meeting room.

The deed done, only then did the conspirators turn to see that all of the shareholders had fled in terror, as they had been deafened to their screams by the sound of their own hearts pounding in their ears.

They paused to stare at one another, adrenaline still pumping through their veins. Martin spoke first, "We did it. We've protected the human genome from mutation." His lips quivered so violently he could barely get the words out.

Guy motioned with his bloody hand towards him. "You're right. And we need to get our story out there as soon as possible. We need to explain that we did this out of moral duty to our country and to the human race."

Toby spoke with calm reassurance. "Don't be afraid, my friends. Don't run away either, but rather, we need to cooperate with the authorities and the investigation. We'll turn ourselves in and tell our story. That by our valiant actions, universal destruction resulting from reckless ambition has been prevented."

Peter spoke up, "You should call a press conference, Toby, before we're arrested."

"Guy should speak in our defence as well," said Dillon.

"Where's Janice?" asked Toby.

"She's here. She's pretty shaken up," said Martin.

Janice swallowed hard and tried to slow down her breathing. "I'm okay. But we need to stick together. Otherwise some friend of Connors is going to come after us."

"Don't worry about it, Janice. We'll be okay. No one is threatening us, nor will they. We often suffer more in imagination than in reality. But the reality is that injustice never rules forever. He would have been stopped, if not by us, than by someone else in the near future," soothed Toby.

"But we should get her someplace more secure," said Guy. "Just in case things get a little rowdy in here. At least until everything is calm."

Spencer came running into the room. "Where's Iraklis?" asked Guy.

"He took off. When he heard the panic, he hightailed it out of here. And you should have seen the stampede that went through the hotel into the street. Everyone was screaming and running as if it were doomsday," said Spencer.

"Gentlemen, may I complement all of you on your bravery today. And your readiness to stand up to evil will long be remembered. Fate leads the willing, and drags along the unwilling. It takes a whole life to learn how to live, but we have proven that if we accomplish nothing more in this life, we have already learned how to die," said Toby.

"Death is no concern of ours," said Guy. "For as long as we continue to breathe, it means death has not yet arrived. And when it does come, it still will not concern us because we will no longer exist."

"It's true. No one knows whether death may not be the greatest of all blessings for a man, so then we are counted among Connors' true friends to have freed him from this fear and monstrosity that had overtaken him. But our time is not yet. Let us continue to maximize our time that we have, and declare to the world, 'sic semper tyrannis!' We will prove our case of necessity and justifiable homicide, first in the court of public opinion, and if it comes to it, in the justice system of this country."

"Well, shall we go?" asked Dillon.

"By all means, then, let us be off. Toby has the head of a lawyer, and the heart of a soldier. Let us all follow his lead, with our hearts filled with pride and magnanimity for our fellow Americans," concluded Guy.

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