The Chimera Within

Chapter 6

"Well, that was really something." Gwen said to Tom, on the drive back to Oscorp dormitories. "I actually thought you were going to get my dad to demonstrate his jujitsu to get you to back down and stop defending this vigilante. Do you really identify with this guy or something?"

"I just think he probably has a good reason for what he did. And what's wrong with taking down a few bad guys and cleaning up the city a little?"

"Okay, I can see you're still worked up. Geez, what's with you? Ever since we've completed the equation you've been on edge. Is there something going on? Something I should know?"

Tom breathed heavily and stared out the window. When they arrived at their dorms, he said, "Okay, there's something I want to tell you. But it's not that easy to say." They got out of the car and walked through the parking lot towards the residence building. "Okay, listen. I… I did something that you're going to say is really stupid." Gwen studied his face, looking confused.

"What did you do?"

"I… Okay, it was late, and I had been working too hard, and…"

"It's alright, you can tell me. We're partners."

"I injected spider DNA into me and now I have weird abilities and I'm the Nacho Libre vigilante." All of the words came tumbling out in rapid succession.

Gwen could barely say anything. "You spliced your own DNA?" she finally said. "But how? Before you had the algorithm? So are the effects permanent?"

"That's a really good question actually. So far I have experienced many effects and I don't see them degenerating but it has only been a few days and with this treatment, basically it is all very experimental and I feel like I'm talking extremely fast." Gwen put her finger on his lips, having regained her composure.

"Well that explains how you had this stroke of genius to some up with the algorithm. But I am concerned for your health. I need to closely monitor your condition to make sure you don't suffer any adverse side effects. But tell me, how does it feel?"

"To tell you the truth, it feels incredible! I've never experienced such a feeling of raw power, endless possibilities. I did try to restrict what traits I passed to myself, focusing on nervous and brain enhancement. But I suppose it was inevitable that there would be other physical effects." Tom stared into Gwen's beautiful, clear blue eyes. "I feel like I've been thinking more clearly than I have in a long time." He moved close and kissed her deeply and with rugged intensity. She kissed him back, and continued until her phone rang.

Sighing, she answered. After a brief conversation, she said, "That was Mark Iraklis. He says that Dr. Connors was found in his office in some sort of distress and has been taken to the hospital."

When Tom and Gwen arrived at the hospital, the waiting room was full of would be comforters. Iraklis was there, in the corner, with his phone glued to his ear. Toby Auchmann was also there, looking concerned, with his pretty wife Kerry. Shortly after they arrived, Connors' wife, Lindsay, invited them into his room to have a look at him. Tom talked to the doctor while Gwen examined the patient. She silently motioned to Tom to look at Connors' stump. The unmistakeable form of a hand was visible and his arm was growing longer. Afterward, Tom and Gwen conferred with each other and decided the best course of action was to return to Oscorp labs. "His eye still reacted to stimuli, so he's not comatose," said Gwen, "but he seems to be fighting for his life."

"We have to analyze the serum and the retrovirus that he injected, to see if we can isolate what DNA traits he's spliced into his own. This is all very theoretical but maybe we can create something to balance out and level off the hybrid changes," said Tom.

As they arrived at Oscorp, there was a crowd of striking workers blocking the entrance. "Oh, what the hell is this?" Tom complained. As they slowly tried to drive through to the entrance, the police in riot gear arrived. They announced warnings to the crowd and then opened fire with water cannons. "Seems a little heavy-handed," said Tom, though relieved to have the crowd dispersed.

"I guess that's the way Iraklis deals with workplace dissatisfaction. I wonder what Dr. Connors will have to say when he's back on his feet."

Tom and Gwen worked rapidly in the lab. They understood well each others habits, work routines and idiosyncrasies, and thus were able to process information, perform tests, and operate the equipment more quickly than if they had been with anyone else. Much sooner than expected, they had prepared a chimera trait restriction serum, to for the time being keep some of the animal characteristics in check. Tom speculated, "I don't think this will automatically cause permanent constraint of the violent symptoms that he's experiencing. He probably should take a shot of this serum daily for the next few months. But it hopefully will allow him to enjoy the superior DNA traits such as limb regeneration while balancing out the rest of his system so it doesn't overload and shut down. But I've had to leave a few calculations to pretty much guesswork."

They got back to the hospital and Gwen administered the serum while they both watched anxiously to see if it would take effect. Gwen didn't want to leave his side, so Tom went out and collapsed in a heap in the waiting room. The excitement and stress of the past few days were beginning to take their toll.

As exhausted as Tom was, sleep eluded him. He thoughts began to drift to Mariah, as well as feelings of guilt, for his conscience told him he'd been neglecting her. As he sat, waiting, he got out his notebook and stared at the blank pages. Sometimes inspiration to compose a few lines of poetry just struck him like a lightning bolt, electrically infusing him and then discharging through his fingers onto the white blank page. But today, as much as he wanted to sort out his thoughts and feelings through literary composition, weariness drained his faculties. But as he indulged his woolgathering, the figure of Mariah began to materialize before him. Her beautiful brown eyes, her self-effacing smile, her ebony skin, her Rubenesque figure. She had a zest for life and beauty, yet the evanescence of life tinged her with sadness and loss. While Tom's conscious mind dictated that a cure for her was not only possible, but now within his grasp, sentiments of compassion and empathy began to ripple through his soul. Tom wept.Now he began to write as if his fingers had a spirit of their own.

To Mariah

Do you remember?That time I said to youWe are all just passengerson this starship we call Earthwith all the luggage that we hold dearin the belly of a black-winged bird

So where is that we go?Once we're at journey's endWe gather our mementosholding close our belovedas the rain pours downanointing my coronal head of woe.

I will be with you alwaysand I beg not to release meEven if we must pass through the darkyour firm grip on my hand and heartWe will hold each other fastAs we wait again for that nameless spark

For if we find a shining light in this lifewhile the world is enshrouded in deathand the ugly is too often our focusWhen we find somethingso beautiful in it's truenessThen we must not trade that for anythingNeither death nor hate nor greedcan conquer a self-sacrificing love.

The mortality of your soulmakes it all the more precious to mefor when you are moved to help the helplessthen you have charmed the eyes of Godthe one who bequeaths life and love and truth and beautywhile you enjoy the blessing in its wholeThere yet remains hope

And where there is hopethere exists will and joy and wisdom

After Tom finished writing, his whole being felt energized with vigour and creativity. He needed to see Mariah and right away. He went to Dr. Connors' hospital room, where Gwen was faithfully by his side. "How is he?" asked Tom."Stable. Not much has changed." She tried to wipe the tiredness from her eyes."I'm going to go.""I'm staying," Gwen said resolutely."Call me if anything changes, and try to get some rest, if you can."

It was morning, and the mist was slowly lifting as Tom arrived at Mariah's house. It was relatively early, but she answered the door fully dressed and looking like she was about to go out. She hadn't put her contacts in, and so was wearing her nerdy, horn-rimmed glasses. Tom thought it made her look even cuter. "Hi Mariah, I felt bad that I hadn't been around to see you in a while. Are you on your way out?""I was just about to take the dog for a walk, but come in. How have you been?""Good. I didn't want to come empty-handed this morning. I got you some fresh roasted coffee-beans, and these are for you," Tom said, handing her some flowers. "They're to celebrate that we've had some breakthroughs with organ regeneration. We're hoping to be able start the preliminaries this week. You need to come down to the lab, where we'll run some tests and then, if all goes well, we'll start growing you the new valves for your heart. But with your own DNA, so there will be no risk of rejection.""That's good new, right? What's the bad news? You seem to be in a cloud of melancholy.""No, no. I'm probably just tired, is all. There's been some drama at work, and so I've been up all night, but that shouldn't affect the time frame of your treatment.""Great," said Mariah, as she started making the coffee. "And I know this didn't all happen by accident. I will be indebted to an incredible amount of hard work by you and your colleagues. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.""It's true, everyone I work with truly believes in this project, and their passion and commitment has produced results. But I need not be mentioned."Mariah sat down at the table with him and cocked her head sideways. "Why not?" she asked with a teasing smile.Tom took a breath. "Because you're not just another patient for me. I've always wanted to help you because I think you're a good person who deserves to live, and my conscience compelled me to consider all the options and investigate any possible opportunity." After a pause, he said, "Here," handing her his notebook where he'd written the poem for her. "I wrote this for you."She gave him an arch smile, "I thought I was the one who was supposed to write you the poem.""You were. You are, don't think I'm not going to hold you to that. But I wanted to write you something too.""Read it to me. It will have more meaning if I hear it in the poet's own voice. You can read it with the proper rhythm and intonation."Tom read her the poem. As he was finishing she got up, cupped his face with both hands and kissed him ardently. "Did you like it?" he managed to say. As they kissed, she started running her hand up the inside of his T-shirt, to his chest. Tom stopped her hand with his. "Are you sure we should do this? I don't want your heart to suffer."She gently drew her fingers down his cheek with her other hand. "I want to. Just be gentle."They continued kissing, as Tom's single-minded resolve to find the remedy to Mariah's heart condition remained firmer than ever.

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