The Chimera Within

Chapter 7


Connors suddenly awoke and sat up with a violent jolt. An unnatural clicking started emitting from his throat, as he looked around the room with wild eyes and a savage expression. The noise startled Gwen out of an uneasy doze. She quickly tried to soothe her patient, slightly increased his drip of the chimera trait restriction serum, and pressed a cold cloth to his forehead. He struggled to speak.

"Shh. Just rest. Your body is adapting to and at the same time fighting some of the foreign DNA from the retrovirus."

"That's to be expected," he mumbled.

"But the good news is your arm has already started to regenerate. So relax, and conserve your strength."

Connors' mind experienced waves of great clarity, coupled with periods beclouded with great confusion. After a week in the hospital, he was able to return to his home, for more doctor prescribed bed rest. The doctors and scientists were still keeping quiet about this latest development to protect the company and their research, for no one knew exactly what would happen. Connors was beginning to feel like he had vanquished a great adversary, and although a definite uncertainty yet remained, he happily returned to working from his home. After considering several documents on his computer, and feeling like he was regaining his former strength and intellect, he informed his wife that he was going to take a walk to further clear his head.

Julian Connors had always enjoyed walking. In imitation of many of his most respected thinkers such as Darwin, Nietzsche, Dickens, and Beethoven, Dr. Connors also felt that there was no better way to promote his scientific creativity and have these energies flowing the more abundantly, than when he was enjoying an outdoor constitutional. He even had a thinking path near his property, which he occupied when he was struggling with particularly complex problems. Now that he was convalescing in preparation for what would undoubtedly be his greatest achievement, to say nothing of the physical benefits, a brisk walk seemed in order. He was thoroughly enjoying the fresh air, the exercise, and the beauty of nature, when he suffered a cramp that caused him to double over in pain.

Groaning he said to himself, "Come on Julian, transcend the pain. You can do this."

The next thing that Connors remembered was waking up, after having rolled off the path into some leaves. He opened his eyes in a daze, wiping the foamy dribble from his face and mouth. "I could just sleep right here," he thought. "But why am I here?" Different memories started flooding back to him. His arm had some pain but was growing stronger by the day, even if it was not yet fully developed. Then a particular recollection flashed back to his reptilian mind.

"Norman Osborne," he growled. 'Yes, he is the threat. The threat to my research, the threat to my very existence, the threat to my company. Norman Osborne must be neutralized.' And with that, Dr. Julian Connors went off to stalk his prey.

Norman Osborne slept fitfully in his bedroom that he had converted into a hospice. He had nurses caring and checking on him every hour. He still owned shares and real estate outright in Oscorp tower, and by maintaining his residence on the 99th floor, he prolonged the projection of his power and control. He had no doubt in his twisted, egocentric mind than he would recoup his company and his health. Nothing less than immortality would satisfy his grandiose avariciousness.

But invincibility still eluded him. Thus he retained an army of private security and bodyguards, all men that could be trusted implicitly. His most elite and trustworthy resided in his room with him, at all times. So when Osborne stirred from his spasmodic slumber the first thing he did was call to his guardian. "Klaus? Klaus, come!" Then he felt a cool breeze gust across his face, coming from the suspiciously gaping window. Turning on his bedside light, he said "Klaus! Why is the window open?" But as the lamp illuminated the room, he saw not Klaus, but a figure much more menacing indeed.

"Sorry, Osborne," said a raspy voice. "Klaus had to step out for a moment. That makes it convenient for the two of us to catch up."

"Who are you? What are you doing here?"

"I see the treatments have extended your life. Even if you were left a bit disfigured, that was no reason to attempt to destroy me."

"Who are you? I demand an answer, for the love of God!"

"Yes," The owner of the rasping breath moved closer to the bed. "For the love of God!" Only when the lamp shone fully on the displeasing aspect of his face could Osborne attempt to identify his antagonist, but in analyzing the twisted features, he felt as if he was decrypting a cipher. When like an epiphany, recognition reared to the fore as an ancient fiend would rise from the depths. "Connors? But what are you doing here?" he said, with a trace of terror slipping out.

"I am here, because I have become the zenith of humankind. A prototype of what will prove to be the acme of human evolution. And you wanted to have me liquidated, so you could selfishly keep these discoveries for yourself? Fate has found you deficient, and seen fit to eradicate you. Good-bye, Osborne." And with that, the Chimera smothered Norman Osborne with a pillow, and escaped out the window, slithering down the outside of the building, 99 floors.

Tom was very excited to have Mariah with him at Oscorp labs. He had explained to her some of the techniques, many of which were still in the experimental phase that they were preparing for her operation. Like most heart conditions, Mariah was afflicted with defective heart valves, but the regenerative medicine that Tom was studying was working on growing heart valves from her own cells. And Tom was hoping to use the new treatments to guide Mariah's own body to grow the valves so that surgery would not be necessary. But being able to actually show Mariah the lab, the equipment and the other scientists made it all much more real, and the exciting possibilities that Tom's hypothesis implied.

As he was happily showing Mariah around, Gwen came in. Tom felt a twinge of embarrassment, but he wasn't sure why. He wasn't betraying Gwen by being with Mariah, was he? Gwen was making her choice of Julian Connors over him anyway! Then why did he feel a pang of guilt?

Gwen was very gracious with Mariah. Then she asked to talk to Tom privately. Leaving Mariah in the bullpen, Tom asked, "What's up?"

"Norman Osborne is dead, murdered."

"Whoa. What happened?"

"Seems like one of his bodyguards suffocated him in his sleep and then jumped out the window. 99 floors."

"Yuck. Who was this guy? Just an employee with a grudge? And a death-wish?"

"I don't know. There are a lot of unanswered questions. Anyway, just wanted to let you know. Also, one more thing. Dr. Connors is putting together his team to go the World Medical conference in Paris. He's asked me to go."

"Oh, that's great, Gwen. Congratulations. You've earned it. Although I'm definitely going to miss you around here."

"Something tells me you'll find ways to keep yourself occupied," she said, looking over at Mariah.

"Yeah, I guess you're right," Tom said sheepishly. "But I'm serious when I say I'm really happy for you. Come here, let me give you a hug."

They made their way back to where Mariah was waiting. She had seen them talking and gave Tom a curious look. Tom explained, "I was just congratulating Gwen. She's been chosen to be one of Oscorp's representatives at one the world's biggest medical conferences in Paris."

"Wow, congratulations! And in Paris! That's a bonus. I hope you'll have time to do some sightseeing. Maybe find some romance?"

Tom and Gwen looked at each other. She just said, "You never know. Anyways, it's been a real pleasure meeting you."

"Likewise."

Tom sent Mariah home, while he got to work on the logistics of her operation. Toby came to tell him some disappointing news. "I was running the computer simulation for your patient. We can't generate the heart valves from the patients DNA in the time window you provided. But it would be possible to grow them if we extended the window from six to eight months. Does that work?"

"No it does not. Are you absolutely sure?"

"I ran the simulation twenty times. I'm sorry." Toby walked away.

Tom punched the wall. 'There had to be another option.' He went to his desk, and poured over studies, documents, and calculations. He was not going to be thwarted now, not when he was so close! There had to be a way! Then he started thinking of possible chimera possibilities. This was an untried source of solutions. He just knew he wouldn't rest until he had explored every option.

Finally he felt he had it. He went to the computer model simulator. It was true, if he used just Mariah's DNA to generate the needed heart valves, it would take too long. But if he added the hybrid technology, specifically orang-utan DNA, what would happen? After running it many times and making light adjustments, it was theoretically possible to generate the desired orang-utan/ Mariah hybrid heart valves in just over two months. "Eureka!" Tom yelled. Even though he knew he was being corny, he didn't care. He immediately got to work on the bio-moulds to grow the valves and engineered en vitro the fusion of the human and orang-utan DNA.

That night, as he lay in bed, he hovered in that state between wakeful and asleep, when he thought he saw an old man, who looked vaguely familiar. He spoke as if he knew everything about Tom, but in a language very difficult to understand. Then he caught Tom's attention: "But spider, thou art no thy lane, In proving foresight may be vain."

"Why do you speak in rhymes?" asked Tom, angry. "And how do you know I'm part spider?"

"The best-laid schemes o' spider-men, Gang aft agley," the old man continued in his joyful singsong. "An' lea'e us nought but tried an' pain, For promis'd joy!"

Tom awoke with a start. As he vainly tried to fall back to sleep, he began to understand his dream's meaning. He felt disturbed as the message was all too clear and kept repeating in his ears.

'The best laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry.'

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