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Bride of the Reptile (IC)

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Tuesday, July 12


1:47 PM

The day was turning out hot and cloudless in Freedom City, so it wasn't surprising this meeting had moved inside the cyber cafe. Starbase Coffee tended towards a retro Fifties styling that brought to mind the space race, Flash Gordon, and the original Star Trek; this one even had a four-foot long replica of the Enterprise hanging from the ceiling. Brian Harris eyed it with approval, being careful to keep his backpack from smacking into it. He scanned the cafe, noting the debris of the lunch rush, and spotted Dr. Sophia Marks sitting near the far wall, with a fresh cup of coffee in front of her. He waved to her and she returned it; the teen navigated the cafe floor deftly and pulled up a seat, shrugging out of his backpack and setting it on the floor. "Thanks for seeing us, Dr. Marks," he said, reaching across the table to shake her hand. "I'm Brian Harris."

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Etain was not so fond of this place. It looked nice yet, but such a place did like to make itself look more futuristic by increasing the number of metal panelings and decorations so it was more 'sleek' is what she heard it was called. However, the tables were still wooden, and the chairs were cushioned so she sat a bit more comfortably as she sipped her tea carefully to avoid spilling on her blouse, which appart of her summer outfits stood out considerably less than usual. Setting down her coffee she waved to Brian as he approached.

"Hello Brian, Dr. Marks and I have already ordered but I still have one so would you like to look at a menu? They have a lot of unusual mixtures."

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Wisp let herself get lost in the atmosphere of Starbase before spotting her classmates and appointment for the afternoon. She narrowly avoided colliding with another customer and spilling his coffee across her new shirt. When she reached the table she slipped her messenger bag across the back of the chair, though she kept her sunglasses firmly in place.

"Sorry I'm late, got held up after art and I missed the bus," she said as she sat down. Extending her hand towards the doctor, "Thank you for taking the time Doctor, I'm Victoria Knight."

When Etain mentioned ordering she nodded, "Oh yeah, something frozen might be nice."

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Brian shifted in his chair, imagining that he could feel his thin wallet. He flashed the group a smile and shook his head. "I, uh, I'll just get straight to business, Dr. Marks. We're writing a paper on DNA for our class, and we were wondering if you could give us some information."

The Astro Labs researcher sipped at her coffee before answering, glancing over the group of teenagers. "Do you have some more specific questions? I mean, there's a lot to talk about with DNA; alleles and gene coding and protein typing and RNA and mRNA and ATCG. Is there someplace you wanted to start with?"

Brian flipped through his notes, pen held at the ready. "Well, the paper is supposed to be about scientific myths, so let's start with a pretty basic one: Is DNA a blueprint? Could you take the DNA for an elephant's trunk and put it on, say, a giraffe?"

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Etain took a sip of her tea and set it down before folder her hands on the table,

"Yes, I am curious about that too. There have been many stories that talk about Chimara's that have been crafted by magic, I have always been curious if science gave a similiar result."

Just curious though, animals having to merge or become some other form not natural to themselves sounded very sad and very painful.

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Vicky, accepted the frozen vanilla drink before the questions began in earnest. While Brian asked his first question, she had reached into her bag and pulled out a five subject notebook and opened to a fresh page. At Etains comment she had to hold her tongue before going into a comment on alchemical-chimeras from one of her favorite mangas.

Lightly tapping her pen on the page she waited patiently for the good doctor to answer.

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Dr. Marks shook her head at the questions. "That's a fallacious point of view," she said. "DNA isn't like Lego blocks, you can't unsnap a part from one creature and just transplant it on another. It's more like chemistry. And you don't make cake just by taking a brownie recipe and making everything bigger right? Besides, DNA is a lot more complex than just 'find the bits for the trunk and snip them out.' There's a whole library of chemical interactions all through a fetus' development that allows certain body parts to grow; to make a giraffe with a trunk would be an enormous undertaking, and probably involve quite a lot of failures before it succeeded. Not to say we're not making progress on that field," she added. "Geneticists have made glow-in-the dark animals, you know."

Brian scribbled furiously in his notebook, trying to take down the doctor's words one-for-one, but that last comment stopped him cold. "Wait. Glow-in-the-dark? Why?"

Dr. Marks smiled at the teen's reaction. "It's easy to see," she said. "Once scientists could produce a batch of test animals with the glow-in-the-dark genes, they knew that their methodology, their techniques for inserting gene sequences, worked. Then they could move on to more complicated mechanisms."

Brian returned to his note-taking and glanced over at Victoria, seeing her pen moving quickly as well. He snuck a look at Etain too, and noticed that she was just sitting there, watching the doctor. He decided it wasn't any of his business and turned a page in his notebook, opening his mouth to ask another question. He was interrupted, however, by the sound of smashing glass and turned around to see half of a car imbedded in the front wall of the coffee shop! It was hauled out of the way and a scaly, frilled head with vertically slitted pupils poked in, quickly locating and staring at the group. "Sophia," the creature hissed, a long purple tongue darting out and in rapidly. "I've found you, my love! Come and join me, forever!"

Dr. Marks, for her part, had dropped her coffee mug on the floor when the car came through the wall. Now she was staring at the yellow-eyed monster, spine rigid and holding onto her seat. "Coo... Cooper? Is that you?"

The monster disappeared from the hole, just long enough to smash a larger one and step into the coffee shop all the way. Now the young heroes could see that it was a thick, man-sized lizard, covered in dark brown scales and with a long, muscular tail trailing behind it. "No, Sophia," it replied. "I'm not Cooper. Cooper is dead. Now, I'm Goanna -- and you shall be my bride!"

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Brian dropped his notebook and pen on the table, standing up fast enough to knock over the chair. He didn't pay it any mind, though, instead touching a ring on his left hand. The simple metal band expanded to cover his hand, then his arm, and soon his entire body. In the blink of an eye he was wearing a loose silver jumpsuit that covered his hands and feet, with a red demi-cape hanging from his shoulders. He stepped away from the table and his force field flickered to crackling light around him as he held up one hand at the lizard, planting himself between the monstrous thing and the scared-rigid research scientist. "I don't the lady's interested," he said in his best authoritative voice. "Why don't you and I go outside, and we can talk about how you're going to pay for that wall?"

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As Brian changed into Glowstar, Victoria let her fist fly at Cooper/Goanna's face, narrowly missing the monster-man's sharp fangs. As her fist finished connecting, she vanished in a cloud of sanguine and snowy smoke, her chair overturned though her bag was missing. If she'd still been at the table, she'd have seen she 'poofed' before all the momentum of her swing had imparted into the monster's jaw.

Landing in an empty stall in the lady's room she quickly locked the door then began changing into her costume, stuffing her civilian clothes into the bag.

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Wisp hit harder than her slight frame suggested she should, but Goanna was packed solid with abnormally dense muscle tissue; he rode the blow and came back swinging, but by then the teen hero had already disappeared to the bathroom stall. He didn't let the change in the situation dissuade him, though. The lizard-man leapt from the floor, to the ceiling, to the near wall before leaping past Glowstar and grabbing the startled Dr. Marks! There was a cloud of dust as he impacted with and tore through the wall behind their table; when it cleared Glowstar and Etain could clearly see the scientist hanging limp and unconscious in the monster's grip. One shirt sleeve had been torn off and they could see blood welling from a deep scratch there; other than that she looked unharmed.

Goanna crouched in the kitchen -- apparently the doctor had been sitting with her back to it and he'd just crashed on through. "Meddlesome heroes," he hissed, his long tongue adding an extra sibilance to his speech. "If you would just leave us well enough alone! This is true love you're fighting, and no force in the universe is stronger than true love!"

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Etain was gone, pure and simple. She had simply disappeared in thin air. The person who reappeared was Changeling in full garb. She looked over at Glowstar and gave him a light nod as she walked over to the large grotesque retilian man who was holding their interviewee hostage. She didn't see the benefit in being merciful on this person as his intent was clear as she narrowed her eyes and rose a hand that a cutlass formed in.

"I am sorry to say, that such a thing only works if the love in mutual. Otherwise it is just violent obsession."

The sword came down hard onto the monsters shoulder piercing through the tough skin and flesh like it was tissue as she pushed through.

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Gonna reared and shrieked with an inhuman, almost unholy sound as Changeling's immaterial blade punched straight into his brain, sending waves of agony through his body. He convulsed and tossed Dr. Marks into the fay heroine, before sprinting to a nearby water drain and smashing through it to the sewers below. Glowstar zipped over and glared down into the dank, smelly tunnels for a long minute, but the monster didn't seem eager to reappear. He dropped the force field and dropped to the ground, walking back over to the other Claremonter and kneeling next to her, examining Dr. Marks quickly. The scientist was still unconscious, her head lolling loosely; the former Scout frowned and prodded the scratch on her arm, with was oozing blood slowly. The flesh around the would was turning yellow, and dark green veins stood out on the flesh of the woman's skin. "This isn't good," he announced unnecessarily. "Wisp?" He stood and glanced around, looking for the teleporting heroine. "Wisp, one for your ambulance special!

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Wisp reappeared behind Brian in a plume of smoke, just as he began calling. "No, no it isn't. You call nine-one-one, I'll get her to a hospital," the young woman said. Scooping the woman up gently, Wisp vanished again with hardly a noise to betray her moving.

In a series of 'jumps' along rooftops and fire escapes, Wisp and Dr. Marks were at the nearest emergency room in minutes. Finding the doors needlessly slow, one last teleport brought her inside. "Got a civilian poison victim here!" she called into the, thankfully, nearly empty waiting room.

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Watching the monster go she let out a breath as she looked at Victoria take away the hurt Dr. Marks. She probably should of switched places when she had the chance, but the beast was gone for now and Dr. Marks was being treated immediately if Victoria was sucessful. Reaching into her purse she pulled out her cell phone and dialed Victoria's number as she moved towards Glowstar.

"I am going to ask which hospital she has gone. The monster will return quickly I am certian. Would you carry me to the hospital, the wings on my dress are just ornamental."

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The staff at the Freedom Medical Center weren't wholly used to patients appearing out of thin air, but they knew how to handle an emergency. Before long Sophia Marks was in a gurney and headed to the ICU while doctors and nurses hovered over her, shouting medical jargon back and forth and thoroughly shutting Wisp out of the proceedings. Just as well, really, as a police officer stepped up to the young hero and took her aside, starting to ask her some pointed questions. Back at the coffee shop Glowstar used the store's phone to call the police and he and Changeling settled in to do the whole dance themselves.

An hour or so later, the two other Claremonters joined Wisp at the hospital. The staff had let the suited teen hero stay outside of Dr. Marks' room in the ICU, and Glowstar brought chairs (carefully choosing plastic ones) for the three to sit on. They weren't allowed into the room with the injured scientist, but it was bad enough just to watch; the slim woman seemed to have shrunk in the last few hours, the pale yellow tinge to her skin spreading rapidly to her face and opposite shoulder, and the sickly green veins were all over her body. The staff had changed her into a hospital gown and she was lying under a thin sheet, but she was sweating enough for a steam room. Medical monitors beeped and IVs in each arm fed a steady drip of chemicals and fluids into her; for now it was a waiting game, and Glowstar could just barely stand it. After a minute he spoke up, eyes still locked on Dr. Marks even as he addressed the other Claremonters. "We really messed up, didn't we?"

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Wisp answered the officer's questions with as much detail as she could remember. After the questions she paced, mentally kicked herself, and paced some more. When Brian spoke, she felt a new rush of guilt. "I did, that's for sure. I probably could have grabbed her and gotten her out of the line of fire. But my first instinct said 'attack, try and get his attention'. That worked out... poorly," she sighed as she stood and looked in through the narrow window so common in hospital doors.

"There has to be something we can do to help," she said, frustration in her voice and an urge to shove her fist through the wall barely contained visible in her body language.

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"You were brilliant in your efforts Wisp, I should of switched places with her when I had the chance, or hidden her from sight the moment that creature appeared."

Changeling leaned forward and let out a heavy sigh.

"We need to find the beast and bring it down before it can attack again. I sent Custos to search, but well he is too large to move freely through the pipes, I do not know how the beast manages it."

Looking at Dr. Marks she straightened up before turning towards the others,

"I am curious though, what tale woven from the past of these two which could result in such a beings creation."

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"I should've done... something." The teen looked down at his hands and curled them into fists, feeling especially impotent. His friends had powers with versatility and nuance; what could he do besides blow things up? He was a big, dumb wrecking ball, and he very obviously didn't deserve the chance Summers had given him.

Similar dark thoughts were chasing themselves around his head when he noticed a man standing by the window to Dr. Marks' room watching her monitors intently. He was average height, pale and skinny, with dusty brown hair that he didn't seem to bother with combing; he was wearing a lab coat, but didn't have a stethoscope and didn't seem to be dressed in scrubs. After a moment the other man turned and caught the teens staring at him. "Oh. Um. My name's John Horner, I work at Astro Labs. Well, not at the moment. I don't mean that I was fired or anything, it's just that right now we're running this drug trial here and... Well, I heard they brought Dr. Marks in. I had to come see her." The scientist glanced around carefully and stepped closer to the group of teen heroes, lowering his voice conspiratorially. "Is it true you fought Dr. Seidel? Goanna, I mean?"

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Wisp nodded numbly, not wanting to admit that she'd been getting into costume while Changeling had dealt with the rampaging monstrous stalker with a crush. "Yeah, he crashed through the wall of a local Starbase, made a few comments about his old identity being dead and planning to take Doctor Marks and make her his bride."

Running a hand through her hair she sighed, "Do you know anything about Goanna? Specifically what kind of venom he might have now that he's all scaly?"

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Changeling didn't ask questions, at least not direct ones. Wisp had that covered. Instead she watched this new person, he did not seem bad, or at least dishonest about what he was saying. Though he seemed a bit excited for whatever reason there was some geniune concern in the situation which probably meant he was less likely to be more directly responsible otherwise guilt may have set in by this point. It had already set into the group themselves afterall, and they were not in any direct fault for the happenings of that monster. Looking over at Dr. Marks she watched the woman lay and let out a sigh as thoughts of a similiar person entered her head.

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Horner shrugged. "I don't really know much about what happened. Most of it was before my time, and the executives don't really like talking about. From what I gathered though, Cooper Seidel was a herpetologist working on a universal anti-toxin. He and Dr. Marks were engaged, but when the anti-toxin was disapproved for human testing by the FDA he went nuts. Injected himself with the stuff and, well, you saw what happened. I heard the Freedom League took him down the first time; I guess he escaped from wherever they put him." He paused and thought about Wisp's question. "I don't know what kind of venom he used. Back in the day he was supposed to be a genius with that sort of stuff, though."

The scientist's story was interrupted when the monitors in Marks' room suddenly went crazy, sounding off with dire tones and summoning a flood of medical personnel. The doctor herself started flopping around on the bed, her limbs limp and flying in the air. One nurse flung herself bodily over the thin doctor, trying to hold her down, only to be flung off Marks and through a window for her troubles. As the teen heroes watched, the scientist's body split open like a ripe fruit and a scaly, reptilian creature burst through. It leapt straight up and clung to the ceiling, hissing angrily at the gaggle of gob-smacked doctors and nurses. It lashed out suddenly, and another nurse went down with blood streaming across his face.

The teen heroes surged to their feet and lizard-Marks snapped up to watch them. The tension stretched for a moment and then the transformed scientist scuttled around and surged through the window, breaking through the glass and scrabbling up the outside wall!

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Glowstar jumped through the shattered window, force field snapping on with a thought. The teen hero paused, judged the distances, made a flight-assisted leap over the heads of the doctors and nurses gathered around the empty bed, and finally went out the far window himself. He glanced around and spotted the transformed scientist easily. He lithe green form was scuttling up the side of the hospital, claws tearing into the white stone facing of the building. The energy controller grinned widely and drew back one fist, preparing to launch a bolt of energy at lizard-Marks. He stopped just short of attacking, though. This was a hospital they were fighting around, not an empty warehouse or some villain's base. If he missed, he could blow into a surgical theater or a patient's room and kill someone. Even if he hit an empty room, chances were that he'd cost the hospital millions of dollars in repairs.

Glowstar let the energy fade, cursing softly. "Wisp! She's head to the roof! Meet her there! Changeling!" He gestured the other woman closer to the window. "C'mon, we've gotta go up!"

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At Glowstar's call, Wisp vanished in a cloud of her characteristic smoke. Need to keep her occupied. the young heroine thought to herself. With a soft click of her shoes landing on the cement roof she watched as the lizard formerly known as Doctor Marks leapt over the railing and onto the roof. Unable to resist herself, she watched the she-lizard land fairly gracefully and interrupted her next move by saying, "Eh..., what's up Doc?"

She then punctuated this by driving a fist at the good doctor's face.

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Changeling grabbed onto Glowstar as he brought up to the roof in time to see Victoria clock Dr. Marks. She jumped off immediately and looked over.

"Wait, do not hurt her, she is not doing this on purpose. A forced change can easily warp someones perceptions, make them only able to rely on baser instincts."

Walking forward she looked the lizard in the eye and concetrated her power to put the creature back into a deep sleep so that she could be examined.

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Lizard-Marks either wasn't as tough as Goanna or not as experienced, because Wisp could feel her scaly snout breaking under the impact from the heroine's super-powerful fists. It was Changeling's magic that downed the transformed woman, though, her eyes sagging and her body finally collapsing onto the roof itself. She was sleeping soundly within seconds, brought all the way under by the heroine's fay magics.

For his part, Glowstar felt a spell of dizziness sweep over him where he floated just off the edge of the roof. The teen edged forward until there was something solid directly under his feet, then sat down very suddenly. He held his head in his hands and breathed deeply until the world wasn't spinning anymore, then looked up at the two young women. "Huhn. Well, that was... a thing. Think she's going to wake up anytime soon?"

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