Chapter 5: Lucius and Oswald
Lucius And Oswald
Lucius Fox was born in New Orleans, to a humble Afro-American family. His Father had distinguished himself, valiantly, in a segregated Black Unit in World War Two, and would only receive his Medal of Honor years later, just months before he would pass away with cancer. An uncle on his mother's side had been killed in the last few weeks of that War, as part of the celebrated Tuskegee Squadron of 'Blacks Only' Pilots.
He had been educated originally in a segregated school, having to be bussed in a 'Blacks Only' vehicle to school every day. He had moved with his family to New York, after his father, an inventor, had finally cracked the market in the world of vacuum cleaners and other household machines. His path through a predominantly Whites High School had been marred by distinct racial prejudice. In fact, Lucius would later wryly joke, that mainly segregation and prejudice 'colored' his background !
Lucius was incredibly intelligent, and, if he had been allowed, could always have taken the normal exams for a boy his age, several years earlier in advance ! But it was not socially acceptable for a Black student to be so intelligent. Black Americans weren't meant to be able to achieve anything like his level of intelligence, since they were more like an ' ape race' in the eyes of many Southern White Americans.
Like Oswald Cobblepot, the unusual young man, who was to become his best friend in College, he was a brilliant mathematician, but his real bent, as it were, was for science, technology and design. His Father had stumbled on the, as yet, secret development of computers quite by accident, through a friend, a fellow inventor, who was exploring that field at the time. Knowing he had not long to live, he shared his discovery with the young Lucius, in such a way, that left him thoroughly intrigued with the possibilities, that such technology could open up, and offer to the world.
Like Oswald Cobblepot, Lucius Fox had become an ardent humanitarian towards the close of his High School years, and was revved up and ready to go, by the time he entered what was a specialist Technical College, to explore ways in which technology could be best used to improve people's quality of life, at every level. He had a real vision for the most incredibly diverse use of, not only computers, but a wide range of computer-related technology and design. For instance, he was intrigued by the potential for robotics and automated technology. Lucius would complement Oswald perfectly. All they had to do was to meet, and that they did !
- Why hello, my name is Oswald Cobblepot.
- Hello. My name is Lucius Fox.
It was a brief meeting !
Lucius was intrigued by the monocle Oswald wore on one eye.
In the end, it was the fact that they both tended to sit in the same spot, while eating in the College Canteen, that brought them together. Computers...automation...humanitarian ideals...two individuals rejected by the society they were striving to serve. They were kindred spirits ! They were made for each other !
They became friends. They got to know each other well. Though Lucius had come to appreciate quite early on, that there was a rough edge to Oswald, a side to him that he tried to keep hidden, and managed to, at least most of the time ! For Oswald could have a temper, and, admittedly very rarely, it erupted now and again !
Their friendship blossomed, and so did their dream, ... to set up a business together, Humanitec ! They were both Triple A Grade students with a vision, which far outstripped that of any of their Professors or Tutors. The world was their oyster !
And then, ... after what he first saw as a chance meeting with a passing acquaintance at a party, and subsequently, passing out on the floor, Lucius found himself the subject of a drug bust investigation ! Apparently, an incriminating photograph had been taken. And yet, for some reason he couldn't at the time explain, everything was kept very hush hush. He was somewhat quietly released on bail, pending trial. Lucius, realising that his career in the technology business could be over before it had begun, felt he could tell no one, not even his best friend.
And Oswald had his own concerns. At first, it started very gradually, then as a steady stream. Whether it would be a phone call, or a personal visit, suddenly he was being courted by young heirs to vast fortunes, young Assistant Chief Executives from big businesses looking to recruit the leading names in Computer Technology and know-how, and all, every last one, his former persecutors from Gotham High !
Irony of ironies, he thought. Here we go again, he thought. They need me again, he thought. He took the most perverse satisfaction turning them down, one by one, with a bitterness and anger he would always solely reserve for his erstwhile enemies. Oswald loved the word 'Erstwhile'!
But, just when his hitherto unremitting thirst for revenge seemed at last to be abating, and when that sense of satisfaction was bringing a sense of happiness back into his life, two great blows were to shatter Oswald's dreams, all over again.
The next time the two friends met, Lucius dropped a bombshell.
- Oswald, I don't know quite how to put this, but...hell, I better just come straight out and tell you anyway ... I can't go into business with you. I've been offered a very lucrative deal with a company called Weaponstec, and it was an offer that I simply couldn't refuse !
The Company had big important contracts with the Government. These contracts were vital to the country's National Security, and so was Lucius himself, apparently. If he agreed to accept their offer of a job, arrangements could be made with the State Department, and his felony forgotten. It was as simple as that.
- But why ? I would have thought that Hell itself would freeze over, before you'd be prepared to fit even a screw into a weapon !
- Oswald, my friend, I'm afraid it's all top secret. We get our College Degrees next week, and I start the next day. I'm sorry, Oswald.
And so, not for the first time in this little man's life, he was absolutely devastated. He felt betrayed. He resented Fox. He was relying on their joint savings to open up an initially private little advice and repair business, before setting out on their quest to change the world for the better, and make a decent living too !
However, despite reckoning that his chances of securing a sizeable investment loan would be absolutely nil, having firmly shut the door in the faces of his 'Erstwhiles', and in no mood to return to them 'cap in hand,' Oswald Cobblepot was absolutely dumbfounded one day to find himself leaving the First Gotham Bank with a loan great enough to start a full-blown computer and software business !
- I see you're looking for a loan to set up a business, that will design and maintain computers. Wel,l this Bank is poised, even as we speak, to make the switch to computers, but we can't find a business to deal with. But, of course, you're just the man we need to do that business with ! I'll draw up the Investment Loan now. .. (And a few moments later) Here 's the loan, now let's do business !
Hardly devastating news, I probably hear you say, and you'd be right. In fact things just got better and better for the brand new Humanitec ! Word soon spread amongst Gotham's other Banks, which were also looking to modernize. This led to more contracts and more investment loans ! Then, what he had always wanted, a contract with Gotham General Hospital ! First of all ,it would only be administrative. The deal was this. Oswald would offer the General a cut price deal, on the condition that the not insignificant savings on Administrative Records costs would be directed exclusively to patient care.
This way, he could feel that, at long last, his computer expertise would directly benefit people's health care ! The next stage involved consulting with surgeons and other specialists in the field of medicine, to see how computerization might revolutionize the whole process of health care at the coal face, as it were ! And these consultations were indeed bearing fruit. At long last, he was fulfilling the commitment asked of him by his Father.
Oswald Cobblepot was now heading up his own burgeoning Information Technology company ! But not for long ! Now for the devastating part. Back came the ' Erstwhiles ' again. They were headhunting again. They were looking for Oswald and his expertise again. And Oswald, politely this time, said 'no' …, again.
Only it would be different this time. For some of the biggest Corporate Investors in the banks, which had invested in him, were the fathers of the very people he had shunned ! In an arrangement with the Banks, they bought up all the shares in Humanitec, and, on one fateful afternoon, ousted Oswald ! For this poor self-made, self-effacing, would-be tycoon, business success was a case of ' Now you see it now you don't !' The headhunters had finally come hunting for his head, literally ! One of the ' Erstwhiles ' threw a photograph on the table as they broke the news. It was a copy of the photo taken of him looking like a penguin, all those years ago ! Now, piled one on top of the other, were reason upon reason to seek revenge on Gotham's sporting, cultured and financial breed ! His repressed desire to avenge rejection by the football fraternity, and his ritual humiliation multiplied tenfold. He looked hard at that photograph, and a perverse idea began to circulate throughout his mind.
The night of the now infamous Prom, Oswald must have thought that, short of killing or physically wounding him, these ' Erstwhiles ' couldn't possibly have caused him greater grief or pain. That night, those so-called cultured young men had stolen his dignity. That day, they had stolen his very dreams !