The Chimera Within

Chapter 14

Oscorp didn't have to wait long to be rocked by another disclosure. Iraklis was hoping to win the support of the board by opposing further research into transgenics, but he was losing support amongst Connors' supporters.

Then Harold dropped the bombshell. He announced in a press release that he was embracing the name of his father, as he had just legally inherited all of his father's assets. He would henceforth be known as Harold Osborne, as he was Norman Osborne's illegitimate son, who had grown up in Russia. Many were shocked, but now that he possessed all of his father's shares and holdings, when they were incorporated along with what he stood to inherit from Connors, he would be the single largest shareholder at Oscorp. This greatly influenced his position amongst the Board, where Iraklis was increasingly losing popularity. As Iraklis' opposers grew, he then found himself in an awkward position. If he were to renege on his compromise amongst the Liberators in allowing them to retain their positions in the company, he risked alienating the board entirely, where Baker was influential in his position that they were virtuously justified in the action that they took. But if Iraklis continued to maintain his support for his concessions of the Board, especially with the freeze on hybrid research, he was losing traction with his claim on Connors' legacy to Harold.

He continued to wield a lot of power as President, but he ended up losing his case in court against Harold and was forced to handover all of the official CEO responsibilities and authority, while at the same time he was losing support amongst the shareholders as well.

Then Baker tried to put the final nail in the coffin on Ocsorp's research into animal-human hybrids. He proposed that maintaining the experiments and partial organs in the lab, they ran the risk of these falling into the wrong hands. Thus, he said, all research was to be liquidated immediately. Now Tom felt compelled to act without delay.

That night, wearing his Nacho Libre outfit, Tom was scaling the walls of Oscorp labs to break in from the roof where there was less security. Unfortunately, he didn't count on the board of directors hiring a private army to guard the lab to prevent exactly what Tom was trying to do. Tom was able to sneak past most of them by crawling along the rafters (the last place a guard would think to look), and by jumping across bigger rooms in a single leap. When he got to the bottom floor where the lab was located that contained the organs they were growing, Tom was forced to take a more confrontational approach. There, he faced two big men dressed in black and brandishing automatic weapons, standing right in front of the door. Tom was able to sneak behind the first one and muffling his face with a thick sweater he found in the coat room, he in one motion pulled the guy down and punched him with all his might across the jaw, knocking him unconscious. Unfortunately the other guy noticed something was off and approached to investigate. With his gun raised, he called, "Kyle, hey Kyle. What's your status?"

Tom moved quickly. As the guard strained to see in the dark, Tom came sliding along the floor at lightning speed until he was directly under the other guy, then he jumped with as much force as he could, clocking the guy under the chin with his own gun. He made a bit of a clatter, and the man's jaw slamming shut made a dull click before he slumped to the floor. Tom just hoped it wasn't loud enough to bring the rest of the guards on top of him.

"Impressive, but not even you will be able to get out of here with whatever it is that you're stealing." A voice with a soft Texan accent came through the darkness. "They'll figure out that you're here in about two minutes. Then they'll seal off this floor, create a kill box as your only escape route, and it will be game over for you."

Tom realized that he was talking to the hired assassin, the man he had learned was named Frank Castle. "Why are you telling me this?"

"Perhaps we could strike up a deal. Break me out of here, and I'll keep you alive so that you can walk out of here too."

"Why should I trust you?" asked Tom, sceptically.

"When I worked as a sniper, sometimes I'd observe my targets for hours, even days. It might seem like you're more distant, but because of this careful observation it can be very personal, even intimate," Castle said. "I had you in my scope, not because you were my target but because you had your own battles you were fighting, and I can tell that you're a good man. I've killed a lot of people in my time, and I know every person that I've killed was evil, in one way or another. I had a good cause on every shot. They all deserved to die. You on the other hand, do not." He spoke with a simple sincerity that was somewhat convincing.

"What are my odds of getting out of here alone?"

"Simply not good. These new executives here have hired an army of private security contractors. All Blackwater types. I know because I've worked for Blackwater in the past. Now it's called something else. New name, but the same players. So I realize that we have different agendas, but we both want out of here. What do you say?"

Tom thought about it quickly but knew that he was running short on time, and more importantly, so was Mariah. Without a further thought, he had Castle's cage open and a split second later, the big man was out and running around the room. He went to one of the unconscious guards and proceeded to strip him of his weapons. Tom meanwhile went into the lab to gently place the heart valves into a special cooler for transporting organs. When Tom came back to the room where Castle was waiting, he found him all suited up and ready to go. "What if you have to kill one of these guards for us to escape? That doesn't go against your 'code?'" Tom asked.

"Everyone of these guys are savages who kill for money," Castle grimly replied. "Killing them won't bother me in the least."

As it was, Castle did kill a few of the guards. Some he silently incapacitated by knocking them unconscious, but others he killed to prevent them making a sound. When they got so close that the entrance was within sight, the alarm was sounded and they got into a firefight with the remaining guards. They were all trained killers, but Castle was trained in Special Forces and knew how to get out of sticky situations. He launched a grenade that took out a few attackers, and then before the smoke cleared, he shot their way to the door. Soon they were out of the building and hiding in the shadows of the street.

"Alright, this is where we part ways," said Castle. "I hope to God that we never have to see each other again." Tom nodded in agreement.

Now the dilemma Tom faced was, that although the valves were pretty much ready to take to the operating table, he needed to find a surgeon to perform the operation. Being in possession of stolen, experimental organs was a federal crime, and no reputable surgeon would perform such an illegal operation. In the meantime, Tom drove as fast as he could to his old campus at the University of Pittsburgh where, he called in a favour from a friend to hide the organs in their lab in the McGowan Institute. He told his friend it would be better if he didn't know what it was, just that it was a secret project he had been working on. The friend agreed without any discussion. Tom slept hard that night, relieved that he had at least bought Mariah some time. He decided that the next day would bring it's own problems, and that for now, resolving one problem at a time was sufficient.

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