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Leviathan

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The Interview

 

1. Where is your hero from?

Freedom City in general, Lantern Hill in particular.

2. How would your hero physically describe him/herself? Is this different from how others would?

Thin, mostly.  Black hair; I keep it fairly short.  Glasses, no jewelry.  Other people often comment on how young I look; once upon a time, that sort of thing bothered me, but it seems a petty grievance now that I can transform into a walking, scaly tank.  Leviathan is enormous, powerful, and frightening, like a bipedal alligator.  I imagine a psychologist might have plenty to say about that disparity.

3. Does your hero have distinguishing speech characteristics or recurring mannerisms?

I try to limit my vocabulary a bit as Leviathan, as part of the disguise.  Most people don’t expect him to be very smart.  In both forms, I can be quiet unless something excites me; I’m not much for small talk.

4. What is your hero's motivation?

To be a hero in and of itself.  I’ve wanted it for most of my life, and now I’m finally here.

5. What are your hero's greatest strengths and weaknesses?

I am impossibly durable, especially with regeneration; even against military-grade weaponry, I have no reason not to face threats head-on.  However, that focus and limited versatility is a weakness I’m sure I’ll need to remedy.  I also lack the practical experience of the heroes I grew up watching.

6. What does your hero love? What does your hero hate?

I’m fond of my work, of course.  Both in the lab and on the streets.  What I hate, hmm…I don’t think I truly hate anything.  Some people annoy me; I find various inconveniences in life to be tiresome.  But real hate, I don’t think I have.  Maybe that’s what holds me back from being the hero I want to be; all the greats seem to have something in particular to stand against. 

7. How would you describe your character's mental and emotional state?

As regular Tristan, I am usually calm and detached; Leviathan tries to portray the same, but I just have so much fun that sometimes it’s difficult. 

8. What does your hero fear the most?

Being discovered.  Or, rather, losing my secret life because I was discovered.  Alex and Delvin would make me stop; assuming I didn’t end up in a government lab somewhere, I might even have to run.  That would be terribly inconvenient.  Although…that could be the sort of defining motivation a hero needs for true greatness…

9. What is your character's greatest ambition?

To be among Freedom City’s best.  I take pride in my scientific studies too, but that has always come too easily to call it ambition.

10. How does your hero feel about the state of the world and his/her place in it?

The world doesn’t look so bad from where I stand; I’m sure other people feel differently if they had the misfortune to not be born a genius trust fund baby.  I see problems from a distance without having to experience them myself, and I think that position of privilege keeps me from properly understanding real hardship, while also obligating me to help make life better for everyone.  I can do that with chemicals and a scalpel, but I’d rather use my fists.

11. Does your hero have any prejudices? How does he/she get along with others?

I try not to look down on the less intelligent or wealthy; that’s the stereotype, after all.  Sometimes it probably happens anyway, whether I realize it or not.  Mostly, I can coexist with most people, so long as I’m in a sociable mood.

12. Where do your hero’s loyalties lie? In what order?

Sad to say, myself, the general public, and then my brothers.  I wish the arrangement was less self-centered.  When I become Leviathan, I try to put everyone else’s welfare ahead of my own, but let’s be honest: I’m out there because I want to be.  I can’t fail to notice, and it worries me to think that other heroes can see it too.

13. Does your hero have a lover or partner? How do they feel about the hero now?

The most I’ve ever managed, or wanted, have been some casual flings.  I spent my teenage years around older students and adults, which made dating difficult. 

14. Does your hero have a family? What is the relationship there like?

Just my brothers, unfortunately.  We could be friendlier.  Better to think of us not as siblings, but as a trained circus animal and his two demanding handlers. 

15. How would the people closest to your hero describe him or her?

I can be somewhat distant in my daily life; I’ve always been independent.  Still, I try not to be too rude.  I drift between wanting solitude and locking myself in a lab or library and scorning all company, versus needing to go out and suck up whatever social interactions I can.  I like other people, but only when I’m in the mood for them.

16. Is your hero a role model?

Ehhh…perhaps?  I’ve been a guest speaker at enough universities and high schools to say that other people think I’m a role model.  I believe I do good work as Leviathan too, even if I’m unhappy with my motivations.  So, perhaps I’m a role model through my actions, but less so in my thoughts.

17. How spiritual is your hero? Does your hero follow a religious tradition?

Ah, no.  I’ve spent too much time studying horrible deformities and diseases to believe in any all-knowing, all-loving deity.  Freedom City has seen a number of gods come through over the years, but even the effective ones would be hard to worship.  How do you pray to someone if you can sit down and have a drink with them, as one regular person to another?

18. Is your hero part of a team, or would he/she like to be? Why?

Oh yes.  Or rather, no-then-yes.  All the best heroes have teams.  Then again, some of my favorites prefer to work alone…Maybe I could sign on but grumble about it?

19. How does your hero feel about the place of metahumans and aliens on Earth?

I occasionally go out and turn into a quarter-ton mutant, by my own deliberate choice.  I’m in no position to judge anyone based on their biology and genetics.

20. If you could give one piece of advice to your hero, what would it be?

Learn to choose substance over appearance. 

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The HellQ

 

Introduction
Who are you? Sum yourself up in one sentence.
Wealthy genius biologist who can transform into a reptilian crime-fighter.
Do you have any nicknames, street names, titles, or nom de plume?
Just Leviathan; I should try cultivating a few cover identities to make the most of my Morph.  Seems a Cowl-y thing to do. Also, occasionally “lazy brat” to my brothers (perhaps not unjustly, with all the time I miss from work).
What is your full birth name?
Tristan Nicholas Delacroix.  
Where do you live?
I’ve got a three-story apartment in Midtown. 
How old are you? What year were you born (if applicable)? 
21.  1994.  
Physical Traits
What is your gender? If not applicable, please explain.
Male.
How would you describe your heritage?
An old French family with branches throughout Europe still today.  Mine settled in Freedom City after the Revolutionary War, transitioned through various industries via old wealth, and currently thrives primarily from the Freedom Cross Institute, a pharmaceutical and biotech research company.  
How tall are you?
5’ 9”.
What is your body type?
Twiggy as Tristan, “Oh dear God” as Leviathan.  
Do you have any particular weaknesses, such as allergies or physical disabilities?
No.
How do you carry yourself? Are you graceful, or heavy on your feet? Can you be stealthy, do you walk with confidence? 
I’m not particularly graceful or clumsy, but as Leviathan, I lean toward the latter thanks to my size. 
Describe your skin, eye, and hair color. 
Pale, brown, and black, respectively.  For Leviathan, scaly, white and black vertically-rectangular pupils, and none.  
How do you wear your hair, if applicable? Do you have facial hair?
It can get messily ruffled when I get lost in hours and hours of lab work, but most of the time I keep it combed.  I’m more likely to grow wings than a decent beard.
Do you consider yourself attractive? Do others?
Oh, I don’t think I’m too bad.  I’m not the ruggedly handsome type, but few people have called me ugly.
Do you have any scars, tattoos, piercings, or birthmarks?
None to speak of.
Do you resemble anyone famous?
I could pass for about half of all the computer technicians in America, if that counts for anything.
Do you have a dominant hand?
Right.
What kind of clothing do you wear?
Comfortable, expensive, and tailored, for both casual and formal dress.  My last pair of pajamas cost more than most monthly car payments.  ...I’m not the thriftiest spender.  
Do you wear makeup?
Not since the last time I passed out around my less courteous friends.
What is your vocal range? Is your voice distinctive in some way?
I have a soft voice, normally, but Leviathan sounds like James Earl Jones gargled with scotch and paint thinner.  
Do you have any distinctive habits, nervous tics, or mannerisms? Where did they come from, and what causes them? Do other people notice and remark on these habits? Do they annoy you or other people? 
I sometimes adjust my glasses when I’m thinking, but I wouldn’t call it a real habit.  Not like when I used to play with my hands whenever I was nervous; that was a hard one to break.   
History
Where do you come from?
Freedom City, Lantern Hill.
Have you made any major moves, or do you live in your hometown?
I spent time in New York and Boston for college, and I’ve taken a few vacations to Europe and Asia, but I’m still based in Freedom City.
Do you feel loyal to your country of citizenship? Do you consider yourself patriotic? How do you feel about the government of your country?
I have a higher opinion of my city than my country.  Our government...is anyone happy with our politicians these days?
How do you feel about the place you come from? 
Freedom City is spectacular.  The superhero center of the world; what’s not to love?
Where is your home town? What was/is it like?
See above.
Growing up, were most of the people you knew similar to you, or were you somehow a minority? How did that affect you? 
I was surrounded by people who were rich, intelligent, or both, but they were almost always older than me by significant margins.  I suppose it left me ill-equipped to relate to children, as I hardly met any besides myself.  
Is there something you've always been really good at or really bad at? How has that affected your life? 
Scientific fields of all stripes come easy to me, biology in particular.  It gave me Leviathan—the best thing to ever happen to me.
Were there any traumatic experiences in your early years (death of a family member, abandonment, orphaned at an early age)?
This always sounds callous, but my parents’ deaths didn’t significantly affect me.  I hardly remember them from when they were still alive, either.  Still, I wouldn’t go so far as to call even their absent parenting traumatic.  Sad, perhaps, that I’m not close to anyone in my family, living or dead, but I rarely dwell on it.
Briefly describe a defining moment in your childhood and how it influenced your life.
I saw the Raven once.  The current one, not the original.  I was eight years old, coming home from a day at the library, and she swept down out of nowhere, landed on a car in the oncoming lane, and slid through the front passenger window, like it was nothing.  I made my chauffeur pull over; we watched as she kicked two men out of the car, brought it to a stop, and came out with the driver’s neck locked in one arm.  I don’t know what it was all about, but I’ll always remember it.  I wanted to be a hero even before that day, but that was the moment I decided to do more than just dream about it.  
What stupid things did you do when you were younger?
I went through a phase where I wanted to be a gadget hero.  Apparently using public computers to search for chemical bomb recipes will earn you a visit from some very tense people in black suits.  
Where did you go to school? How much school did you have, and did you enjoy it?
Three years at Cornell, another three at Harvard, and private tutors before that.  I’ve always liked to learn, although being about a decade younger than most of my classmates was sometimes tedious.
Do you have any mementos of your childhood? What are they, and why did you keep them? If you have none, why not?
I still have all the superhero posters that once hung in my bedroom on Lantern Hill, framed and in storage.  I would probably keep them in my apartment even today, but I decided to distance myself from that fanship a bit, once I made real progress on Leviathan.  Best to keep it under my hat.  
When did you decide to become a hero? Why? Did anyone influence you one way or another in the decision?
See above, about the Raven.  
Is the reason you give people for becoming a hero different than your real reason? If so, why?
Hopefully no one will ever ask; I plan to keep Leviathan a secret until I can really alarm my heirs on my deathbed.  
Do you have any deep, dark secrets in the past that may come back to haunt you?
Leviathan is the only notable skeleton in my closet, I’m afraid.  
Do you represent yourself as being different from who you really are? Why?
In terms of Leviathan, yes.  The truth would not sit well with the FCI, or my brothers.  
If you do have these secrets, what do you fear would happen if the truth became known? How far would you go to protect those secrets? 
I would probably face some legal issues over my use of the FCI’s company property; much of what I’ve designed for Leviathan, I subsequently watered down and submitted to our R&D department, so technically, it belongs to them.  Worst case, I might find myself sedated and on an operating table for study.  But what would I do about it?  Probably merely run away and start over somewhere new.  I don’t think I have it in me to kill anyone, and nothing but the grave ever truly keeps a secret hidden, yes?
Do you have any sort of criminal record? If so, is it public knowledge?
I had a public drunkenness and disorderly charge, courtesy of my 21st birthday, but it’s been wiped.  Amazing what a net worth of billions can accomplish.  Call it a mistake born of youthful overindulgence.  
Family
What are your biological parents' names? 
Emily and Wyatt.  
Were you raised by them? If not, please explain and describe who raised you.
Throughout my childhood, I saw my parents, on average, a few times a week.  In their place, I had a small army of rotating guardians and tutors; few of them stuck around long enough for me to get attached.  
What was their standing in the community? What did/do they do for a living?
They ran the Freedom Cross Institute, which I suppose made them stand quite tall.
Where are your parents now?
A Lantern Hill cemetery (not THE Cemetery, despite the money they threw at that idea when planning their wills).   
Did your family stay in one area or move around a lot?
Aside from vacations, business trips, and the occasional black sheep, we have lived in Freedom City since the Revolutionary War.  
How did you get along with your parents? How do you get along with them now (if applicable)?
What little time we spent together was mostly amicable.  
How do your parents view you now, or how would they? 
They would be pleased that I’m still taking part in the Institute.  Less pleased about Leviathan, if they knew.
Do you have any siblings? If so how many and what are their names? Describe your relationship with them.
Alexander and Delvin—jerk one and jerk two.  We tolerate one another from a distance, and little else can be said about the subject.
What was your birth order in the family?
I’m the baby.  
Where are your siblings now (if applicable)? Do they have families of their own? What do they do?
They both run the business end of the FCI (and Delvin dabbles on my side, much to my annoyance).  Alex has a trophy wife, two boys, and enough illegitimate children to run his own soccer team.  Delvin got married last year and wishes he had Alex’s talent for mistresses.  
Do you stay in touch with them or have you become estranged?
Estrangement would be lovely, but we have to work together too much for such an arrangement.  On a good day, I send them new biotech and they leave me alone.
Do you love or hate one member of the family in particular?
I wouldn’t go so far as to say I HATE them, but there is plenty of dislike to go around, between all three of us.
Is any member of the family special to you in any way (perhaps, as a confidant, mentor, or arch-rival)?
Sadly not.  
Are there any black (or white) sheep in the family (including you)? If so, please explain.
I might be the black sheep in terms of not trying to advance the family fortune more than I have to, as part of my work (which I do because I enjoy it, and especially because of Leviathan).  
Do you have a notorious or celebrated ancestor? If so, please explain, including how it has affected your life.
The Lantern Hill mansion is full of portraits of stuffy old people who made good business decisions.  The only one I care about was Roland Delacroix, the first to come to America; he met Lady Liberty, and his journals claim that they worked together in the war, but there’s no real historical evidence for that (aside from perhaps the monetary funding our family gave to the rebels in general), so he was likely boasting.  
Do you have a partner and children currently? If so, please describe them.
No on both counts.  
If you do not have a partner or children, do you want them someday? How firm are you in your opinion on this, and what might change your mind?
Ehhh.  Romance is nice when it happens naturally; I’m not one to chase it.  As for children, I have so little experience with them that I don’t know what kind of father I could be.  
What type of person would be your ideal mate?
Someone smart and independent, who has their own life; I think it’s a recipe for unhappiness, to define yourself solely by your spouse.  I already have pets; I don’t want a human who acts like one.
Relationships
Do you have any close friends? If so, please describe them, and how you came to be close to them.
I have plenty of people I can call if I want company for a night on the town, but most of them are casual friends.  Purely in terms of whom I spend the most time with, all would be my coworkers (and taking into account how often I fail to show up at the FCI labs, that probably says something).  It’s also just practical; maintaining a heroic second identity is easier when you keep most people at a bit of a distance.  
Do you have a best friend? If so, how did they become your best friend? How close are you to your best friend?
Not particularly.
If you were to go missing, who would worry about you?
Alex and Delvin would certainly worry about their production deadlines.  
Have you lost any loves? If so, how did it happen, and what did you do?
I don’t know if I’ve ever been in love.  Lust or interest, yes, and I think my partners in the past have felt the same.  When those relationships ended, it was usually a slow drift apart, rather than an angry or sad explosion.  
Do you have any bitter enemies? If so, please describe them and their history with you.
Unfortunately no, but I can’t wait until I make a few as Leviathan.  The best heroes have the best villains.  
If you have enemies, how do you think they might attempt to work against you in the future?
Hopefully with guns and fists, rather than information.  Searching for my life as Tristan would be much more painful.  
What is the worst thing someone has done to you?
Delvin killed all the pets in my first aquarium, when I was ten.  He sabotaged the oxygen filter.  I thought it was my fault for over a week, before he couldn’t help gloating.  I spent months setting it up; the mandarin dragonets in particular were just beautiful.  
Where do your loyalties lie? In what order?
Myself, and then a tie between the FCI and the general public. Sadly in that order.  I want to flip it around, but there’s a difference in what you want and what you really feel.  
Who or what do you trust the most? Why?
Myself.  Who else can you truly rely on?
Who or what do you despise? Why?
I don’t think I despise anyone or anything.  I want that fire—all the best heroes have it—but it just isn’t in me yet.  
What qualities do you admire most in other people? Are these qualities you possess?
Intelligence, courage, dignity, and basic goodness.  I’ve got the first, at least, but the rest...I don’t know.  I’m trying, but you can’t just wish for them to happen.
What qualities do you hate most in other people? Do you have any of those qualities?
Selfishness to the point of hurting other people to get what you want.  I’m hopefully not that self-centered, thankfully.  Worse is anyone who does this but denies it, or fails to consider the consequences of their actions because the axe falls at a distance, out of sight.  If you’re going to be a villain, at least admit it.  
Do you have a secret identity? If so, who knows it? Do you hide it from people who are close to you? Why? 
Leviathan, no one, yes, and because they would at best try to make me stop.
Do you work well on teams and in groups? Are you a leader or a follower?
Decently well, unless I’m in one of my solitary moods.  I try to be both effectively.  I think leadership should shift around depending on who’s the best at a given situation, rather than be a hat that one person wears all the time.
Are you on a super team? If so, how do you get along with your comrades? Do you trust them, or do you have secrets from them?
No, but I’d love to be.  
Are you a member of any church, fraternal organization, club, committee, political party, or other group? How much time do you spend on that?
At any given time, I’m the head of a few different teams at the FCI labs.  I spend, on average, a little less than a full-time job on it; I’m bad about skipping work, then I sometimes make up for it with long nights in the lab.
Personality & Beliefs
Who are your heroes?
Just about any proven superhero, but in particular, I’ve always idolized the Raven.  I’m also a big fan of the Atom family.  
Did you ever become disillusioned with former heroes or idols? If so, why and what were the circumstances?
No.
Do you like being a hero? If so, what is the most rewarding part? If not, what makes you keep doing it?
Oh yes.  I love just being one.  The feeling of making a difference is also great, when it works out that way, but the concept itself is exhilarating.  
Is there anything that would make you give up hero work, or even switch sides?
Complete and total failure.  Let’s hope it doesn’t come up.
What are your short term goals (what would you like to be doing within a year)?
A more effective and versatile Leviathan.
What are your long term goals (what would you like to be doing twenty years from now)?
To be known as a true hero, inspiring the next generation like the last inspired me.
What is your greatest fear? Why? What do you do when something triggers this fear?
To fail at being a hero.  Not just temporary failure, but to entirely collapse beyond all recovery.  I’ve wanted it for so long, and now, to get my wish...I don’t know what I’d do if I lost it.  
Is there anything you would give you life for? 
To save innocent people, I like to think.  There’s only one way to know for sure, and I hope I can avoid it for the time being.  
How do you feel about money and material wealth? Do you desire it or disdain it? Are you miserly with what you have, or do you like to share? Is it a mark of success, or a means to an end?
More often than not, I take it for granted.  I buy what I want and share as I wish, but that’s easy when you’ve never seen the bottom of the well, much less ran out of water.  
How do you generally treat others?
Polite but at least a little detached.  Leviathan can be grim and grouchy, but that’s usually just part of the image.
Are you a trusting person? Has your trust ever been abused?
Not really.  I know well enough to keep some distance, just for that reason.
Are you introverted (shy and withdrawn) or extroverted (outgoing)? Do you have a lot of self-confidence?
I’m normally confident and withdrawn at the same time.  As Leviathan, I’m less so, since the whole business is still new and unfamiliar. I hope to transfer more of my assurance once I get the necessary experience.  
How do you act around attractive, available members of your preferred sex? 
Interested but unhurried.  
What are your most annoying habits?
Refusal to fully trust, frequently disappearing from work and friends alike, and as Leviathan, undignified giggling when I do something cool.
Do you feel contempt for any general category of people? Who are they, and why?
Not really.  As I’ve said, I lack the burning drive that comes with something to stand against, much though I might want it.
What is your favorite food? Do you prefer any particular type of food? Do you take the time to enjoy your food, or do you eat as fast as you can?
I love a good lobster; growing up in a port city has given me a taste for seafood in general (which I shouldn’t be too proud of, given how well I understand human overfishing).  I savor my meals unless I’m in a hurry.
What is your favorite drink (alcoholic or otherwise)?
Jameson, no ice.  
What is your favorite treat (dessert)?
Tarte Tatin.  I don’t get it often unless I’m in New York, though; the Gotham Bar and Grill spoiled me.
Are there any specific foodstuffs that you find disgusting or refuse to eat?
Everyone thinks I’m crazy for it, but I don’t like chocolate ice cream.
What is your favorite color? Are there any colors you dislike?
Dark green.  I matched Leviathan’s scales for it.  I don’t have a least favorite color.  
What sort of music do you like? Is there any that you hate?
Instrumentals, of about any genre.  I don’t like songs with lyrics, especially when I’m working; it’s too distracting. 
If you have a favorite scent, what is it?
The sea.  
Do you have a favorite animal?
Octopus.  
What is your most treasured possession? Why?
Either my private lab, or the aquarium in my apartment.  The first gave me Leviathan.  The second, I love to just sit and watch, especially James, my pet octopus.  
Do you enjoy "roughing it", or do you prefer your creature comforts?
I appreciate nature, but the times I’ve endured it (mostly sailing trips), I needed professional guidance.  I’m a city man.  
Is there a job or a task you would absolutely refuse to do?
A distressing number of older students tried to get me to write their papers for them, back in college.  I always refused.  Plagiarism in general irks me; you should do your own work.  
Do you consider yourself a spiritual person? If so, how do your beliefs affect your life? How important is it to you?
Negative on all counts.  
Was your faith influenced or molded by anyone special?
I don’t have any atheist role models to point to; I just don’t believe there’s anybody out there worth praying to.  If you want gods, Freedom City gets them all the time.    
If you belong to a religious organization, how often do you attend? Do you have a specific place of worship, or friends within the organization? How much do you agree with the beliefs of your organization? 
Also no.
Could you kill? Have you killed?
I don’t think I could.  I hope I never have to find out.  Life ends easily enough on its own without giving it a push.  
What circumstances led to you forming that conviction, or taking that action?
I’ve devoted a large chunk of my life to medicine.  For the rest of my time on this little blue dot, I hope I can advance human health in general.  Killing seems very much at odds with that.
Are there circumstances under which you believe it is permissible to kill? What are they?
Ugh, fine.  If someone was certain to kill other people, and could not be stopped or contained, then perhaps there are no other options.  Given the choice between one life or several, I can approach it from a mathematical standpoint and pick the smaller number.  
How would you react to watching someone kill another person? Would your reaction be different if the killer was a friend or an enemy of yours? 
Depending on my physical state at the time, I think I’d either call the police or punch the murderer through the nearest wall.  I hope I wouldn’t be so biased as to let a friend get away with it, and an enemy tough enough to survive might get tossed through the ceiling instead, right up into the clouds.  
How would you react if something important was stolen from you?
I’m not much of an investigator, so I’d probably enlist help, either from the police or other heroes.  
How would you react to public humiliation?
Grumpily.  It isn’t the end of the world, but neither is it fun.
How would you react if a good friend or relative were purposely or accidentally killed? Has it happened to you?
Raging against bad luck is pointless, but as above, I’d react angrily to murder.  I thankfully haven’t had to find out first-hand yet.  
What do you consider to be the worst crime someone could commit and why?
What an unpleasant question.  I could try to think of increasingly disgusting acts, but I think it’s more useful to speak broadly.  Some crimes I understand; we have limited resources, so people have and probably will always steal and fight one another to get what they want.  That’s bad enough, to put your well-being over everyone else’s in a violent fashion, but sadism is something else.  Hurting people not because you “need” to, but because you want to.  It can come in all kinds of horrifying flavors, but that basic premise is always bad news.  
If your life were to end in 24 hours, what five things would you do in those remaining hours?
Get the city’s best lobster as my last meal, go free-running as Leviathan, tell everyone about my heroic identity, ask for an honorary position on the Freedom League, and make a cure for whatever peculiarly time-specific disease I’d been afflicted with.  
Career & Training
Do you have any special training in your hero skills? If so, where and how did you get it?
I’ve modified my muscle memory based on the videos I could find of other heroes and villains, to make myself a very accurate fighter (by average standards).
Who taught you the most about your heroing abilities? What was your relationship with that person?
No one.  I’ve had to figure this out on my own (although allies and mentors are hopefully forthcoming in the future, now that I’m spending more time as Leviathan and meeting other heroes).
Do you have any particularly unusual skills? How did you acquire them?
Everything about Leviathan is pretty unusual, but the regeneration is probably at the forefront.  I was also born with uncommonly high intelligence, and I’ve been to the nation’s best schools for biological and medical science, which led to Leviathan in the first place.  
Do you do something besides hero work for a living? Have you ever done anything else, or do you plan to?
I’m the lead researcher at the Freedom Cross Institute.  
What is your preferred combat style?
Punch until they give up.  If I can’t reach the problem, grab something heavy and throw it.
Have you ever received any awards or honours?
I’ve got all kinds of academic awards, but none of them were remotely as satisfying as my first transformation.  
What skill areas would you like most to improve in? Is there anything you can't do that you wish desperately you could?
I’d like to add more features to Leviathan.  Unfortunately, I can’t give myself the kind of experience and investigative knowledge that my favorite heroes have.  
How do you act around people who are more skilled than you in areas you'd like to improve? Are you jealous, or do you try and learn?
I’m both.  Better heroes make me regret my own limitations, but I’m also happy to use them as examples.  
Lifestyle & Hobbies
What is a normal day for you? How do you feel when something interrupts this routine?
I either spend it at the FCI facilities or my private lab for Leviathan work, or I roam the city.  I don’t have much of a routine, so variations don’t bother me unless I have specific plans.
Do you have any hobbies, or interests outside hero work? What are they, and where did you pick them up?
Marine biology.  Sea life is fascinating, perhaps because I was born in a port city.  I also like nightclubs and bars, if I’m in the right mood.
What do you do for fun?
Nights out on the town, alone or with friends, but the best times I have are as Leviathan.  How can you beat becoming stronger, faster, and tougher than a human could ever dream of?  Leaping hundreds of feet through the air, from building to building, outrunning sports cars...it’s beyond exhilarating.
Do you have a costume? What does it look like?
Leviathan is his own costume.  
How do you normally dress when not in costume?
I prefer simple but stylish, when I don’t have to dress up for the cameras.  Slacks and either polos or cotton buttoned shirts, with leather Oxfords.  Lab coat, gloves, and goggles at work.
What do you wear to bed most nights?
Pajamas so comfortable they might be made from angel feathers.  
Do you wear any special jewelry? What is it, and what does it look like?
No.  
Do you have a special place where you keep your valuables?
The only material possession I’d consider important and difficult to replace would be my private lab in Riverside.  
What's your preferred means of local travel? How about long distance?
By car or on foot for getting around Freedom City, and beyond that, I fly first class.  Private jets are nice but a little too wasteful for my tastes.
Miscellaneous
Have you ever made a will, or tried to make arrangements for your death? What provisions did you make? 
No.  If I died tomorrow, my estate would probably end up in Alex’s hands, and the only thing he’d be interested in would be my shares of FCI, which he already manages anyway, more often than not.  
If your features were to be destroyed beyond recognition, is there any other way of identifying your body?
Well that’s grim.  Dental records, I suppose?  This is a scenario where I’d be grateful for my shapeshifting talent.  
What would you like to be remembered for after your death?
A combination of medical marvels, and Leviathan, which I might reveal on my deathbed.  
Do you believe you pose a threat to the public? Why or why not?
Other than the occasional bit of property damage (and most heroes must say the same), I don’t think so.  
What do you perceive as your greatest strength?
My intelligence and Leviathan’s literal strength and toughness.
What do you perceive as your greatest weakness?
A lack of experience and versatility compared to many heroes.
As a player, if you could, what advice would you give your character? Speak as if he/she were sitting right here in front of you. Use proper tone so they might heed your advice...
Let your development as a hero happen naturally.  Other than making a point to be as good a person as you can, trying to force it won’t help. 
Edited by Blarghy

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Ready for Work

 

Tristan Delacroix’s modern, professionally decorated apartment only had two features he particularly loved, the rest being taken for granted after growing up in the family mansion on Lantern Hill; he couldn’t properly appreciate luxury without any other experiences to which he might compare it. 

 

First, he chose this location because it overlooked the City Center.  The southern and eastern walls of all top three stories were mostly windows.  From any floor, Tristan had a clear view of Freedom Hall.  He couldn’t easily watch the heroes who came and went at this distance, but the building itself predictably fascinated him.

 

His second favorite was his enormous aquarium.  The cylinder dominated most of the apartment—twelve feet in diameter and almost thirty of height, rising through every floor, from the living room to the game room and finally to Tristan’s bedroom at the top.  Real coral and a sandy bed took up the ground floor, then gave way to ledges and a maze of transparent tubes above, and in the bedroom, a pair of floating islands supported by mesh wire.  Guests mostly noticed the parrotfish swimming about, but Tristan designed the aquarium around James (or The Captain, named after Captain James Cook), his white-spotted octopus.  When he wasn’t playing in the maze, he hunted hermit crabs in the coral and added their shells to the “garden” around his small cave at the bottom. 

 

Tonight, Tristan spent a minute looking for his favorite pet, then gave up and started picking out clothes.  He pulled from the back of his closet some XL blue coveralls and boots; next to them jeans, a white T-shirt, hoodie, and sneakers; and for his third choice, cargo pants and a black, long-sleeved shirt, both about four inches too tall for him. 

 

He stepped in front of the full-length mirror.  Last time, Tristan wore the face of a middle-aged African American man.  A buttoned dress shirt, pleated slacks, and penny loafers.  He didn’t like to use the same disguises repeatedly, especially not leaving his apartment, so that one was shelved for the time being. 

 

To start, I’ll be bald, he decided.  His straight black hair, just washed, receded into his scalp until it disappeared.  Tristan wormed his way into the oversized coveralls, buttoned them, and filled out the space with rolls of fat.  He started working on a curly red beard when his phone rang.  The Jaws theme made him sigh; he didn’t want to get bogged down tonight arguing with Delvin, but if he didn’t answer, his older brother would just keep calling.  Or worse, come by in person. 

 

“Hello?”

 

“Where’ve you been?  Thomson said you haven’t come to the lab in over a week.”

 

“My deadline isn’t until the end of next month,” Tristan protested distantly.  His attention settled on his teeth; he opened his mouth wide and adjusted the spacing, added a faint yellow shade to them. 

 

“I won’t have you scraping something together at the last minute.  I hope you’re…what is that, in the background?  Are you listening to ‘Jingle Bells?’  What kind of a lunatic plays Christmas music right before the New Year?”

 

“I probably won’t take down my tree until February,” he taunted.

 

Delvin made a sound of mild disgust on the other end of the line.  “…Listen, I want you back at work tomorrow.  The last report from your team showed virtually no progress.  You’ve been stuck at a mere 2.5% increase in mitochondrial efficiency, and we promised the directors at least 6%.”

 

“We” meaning you and Alex, Tristan thought to himself.  He made his cheeks sag and brought his eyes, now a dark green, slightly closer together.  “I probably won’t make it tomorrow,” he answered casually, smiled at the angry sputter in his ear, and then added, “but I’ll get it done.  Six percent by the end of January.  Eight if you don’t bother me until then.”

 

He could feel the cool, silent anger, and pictured Delvin’s pinched stare, furrowed eyebrows, and twitching mustache.  But after a moment, the older man just said, “Eight percent.  I’ll hold you to that.”

 

“Hold away.  Happy New Year, Delvin.”

 

“Not until tomorrow,” he grunted, and hung up. 

 

Tristan tossed his phone on the bed.  “You’re a mean oooone, Missster Griiinch,” he hummed. 

 

Ten minutes later, satisfied with his disguise right down to the leathery but pale complexion of skin that once saw daily sun but now worked indoors, Tristan topped it off with a ball cap and headed for the door.  Freedom City could get a little disorderly around the holidays; maybe someone out there was spending the night doing something punchworthy.  He could hope.

Edited by Blarghy

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The Ocean Blue

 

While he knew he shouldn't be, Tristan Delacroix was in a pensive mood.  

 

The past year had been full of adventure, new faces, and a fair amount of victory.  No longer was he limited to beating up gang members; now he pummeled their bosses too, full-fledged villains with strange and sometimes terrifying powers.  He had met heroes from his childhood fantasies--the Atoms, even Edge.  He traveled across dimensions to help save an alien civilization.  He encountered a god.  Two gods, even, unless he chose to count them as a package deal.  If Tristan went back in time and relayed these wondrous things to his younger self when the Leviathan transformation was still only a dream, he would've been ecstatic.

 

And yet...Tristan couldn't help but feel that he was merely touching the careers of other heroes, rather than developing his own.  Aside from a handful of people who shared those experiences with him, who knew what he'd done?  Where were the news stories?  Where were the fans?

 

"Don't be petty," he mumbled to himself.  "Don't be childish."  Easy to say, hard to practice.  

 

He strolled aimlessly through Riverside as he wrestled with his disappointing psychological id.  More than any other lack of success, or outright failure, Tristan hated how he still didn't feel like a hero.  He had merely done some heroic things, often for mediocre reasons.  By now, he had expected to put that behind him, to experience some moment of personal sacrifice that wasn't too painful or inconvenient long-term, yet sealed his selflessness and brought a wave of public adoration.  That's how the stories went.  It wasn't supposed to take so long.  

 

"Tsss," Tristan wordlessly mocked himself.  He knew such thoughts were foolish, just like he knew the kind of person he wanted to be.  What he didn't know was how to bridge the gap between the two.  

 

Whether through fate or subconscious effort, he soon found himself in front of his secret Riverside lab.  The young doctor was already in disguise, or else this might be alarming; today he wore a smooth, ebony face with a much nicer jawline than his own.  It clenched tensely as this location brought about another immature complaint.

 

"I don't even have a cool lair."  

 

Or, for that matter, anyone to show it off to--and wasn't that half the point?  

 

Tristan repeated that back to himself in his head, this time sarcastically, like prodding a cavity with his tongue.  Maybe if he humiliated this part of himself enough, it would just go away.  

 

On he walked.  Many of Riverside's streets were built for just this, being open to only foot traffic; Tristan passed other people enjoying an afternoon stroll, along with clusters of young skateboarders, shoppers local and touristry alike, artists on benches capturing the bohemian atmosphere that he quite appreciated even if he wasn't part of it himself...he began to feel a little better, until he came to the waterfront in the late afternoon.  Riverside Park was a lovely place, complete with an iconic monument that turned his mood sour again.  The Sentry Statue stood tall and proud, reminding him of everything he wanted to be, yet so far, couldn't.  

 

Tristan put one hand on the metal plaque at the base of the Centurion's enormous memorial and sighed.  Here was someone who had real problems, who loved and hated and didn't have to pretend all the time.  Someone with a spark.  

 

He moved just past the statue to the end of the peninsula.  Here, the shapeshifter sat down and looked across the Great Bay.  He thought about the Centurion, about this city and what it had endured, the people who kept it safe and whole over so many years.  The sun dropped lower and lower in the sky until it settled on the horizon; its burning reflection made the fiery globe seem to be half under water, and its shimmering orange "shadow" cast far over this tiny corner of the ocean, brilliant lighting rivaled only by its normal deep blue shade.  

 

"...Huh," Tristan thought.  

 

"...Huuuuhhhh.  Hmmmm."

 

He stood up hastily with his eyes still on the bay.  Long fascinated by this planet's seas, Tristan never second-guessed himself when he rooted his heroic persona in them.  Maybe the ocean still had more to give.  He hadn't yet been able to change the person, the hero, that he was, but Leviathan's trappings and equipment were limited only by his imagination and the effort he decided to invest.  One problem at a time.  And maybe in the process, he could help more than just himself after all. 

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From the Smallest Seed, Part 1/5

 

The beginning is the most important part of the work.  ~ Plato

 


Tristan sat on the cold concrete floor surrounded by books.  His personal library filled the storage unit; the four adjacent units held the rest of his old Riverside lab.  Getting it all here took some work, in light of recent events with Bonfire.  Tristan wasn't willing to return to the old apartment personally, disguised or not; he hired independent contractors to haul it all out, then another team to move the trucks to a temporary facility, then a third group to bring everything here.  Only now did he feel comfortable enough to rejoin his property, and of course, he wore someone else's face when he did so.

 

Clumsy jerks broke half my Erlenmeyer flasks, he thought.  I'll have to replace them from the OCEAN stock too.  If only as models for the final products...

 

All the same, he maintained a sense of excitement as he flipped through his research materials.  He was so, so close to starting the Great Bay lair.  Planning it proved more difficult than he expected; he began with only vague ideas of what he wanted, but those led to more questions, and hammering out the details had taken him the past few weeks in his spare time.  Tristan's work at the Freedom Cross Institute once again suffered.  His brothers were not at all pleased with him lately; although he couldn't really blame them, neither could Tristan stop thinking about Leviathan's new home.  

 

He ran into a huge problem right at the start: how could he, one person, even an enormous and powerful one when he chose to be, manage such a titanic construction project alone?  Logistics aside, Tristan lacked the essential knowledge.  He barely knew how to hold a hammer, much less the specialized skills needed for property development at the bottom of the ocean.  

 

So, after much thought, he chose a different path.  

 

This is gonna be great! the doctor beamed.  

 

Even once Tristan finished refreshing his memory, he stayed on the floor with his legs folded beneath him.  For hours, well into the night, he sat in place.  Sometimes he reached for a book or adjusted his position to stretch, but little else appeared to happen, until at last he stood up.  

 

"Ok.  Let's...let's make this happen."  With a slow breath, he left his scattered texts where they were, went outside into the cold December air, and shut the rolling metal door behind him.  

 

He took a cab from Kingston to the winding roads of North Bay, not far from the Yacht Club.  After the driver vanished over the nearest hill, Tristan altered his appearance again, largely out of habit, and walked the rest of the way to the shore.  There, in the light of the moon, he became Leviathan and waded out into the water.  Before fully submerging, he lifted one of his hands.

 

A tiny lump had formed on his palm.  Under his gaze, it rose upward until it only connected to his scales by a thin thread.  Leviathan gently pinched it between two of his blunt, triangular claws and broke it free.  It might've been half the size of an unshelled pistachio.  The surface resembled his own reptilian exterior, though these scales were of course much smaller.  

 

Lacking pockets--I should look into that at some point--he tucked the seed against his teeth while he swam.  The great beast dove through the Great Bay's icy water, feeling his way along the ocean floor as it went deeper and deeper.  His vision soon became limited at best, but Tristan had carefully scouted out the location he wanted in days past.  He paddled along until he saw the glowing beacon he left behind among the rocks and sand.  

 

He scooped out a handful of sediment and took the little green seed from his mouth.  Now that it was no longer a part of him, the clock had started; its scales on the pointy top had begun to peel back.  Leviathan planted it tip-down and raked the sand back over his creation.  

 

With a smile, he turned around and swam back to the beach.  Now he could only wait.

 

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From the Smallest Seed, Part 2/5

 

Land is the secure ground of home, the sea is like life, the outside, unknown.  ~ Stephen Gardiner

 


By the first hour, the seed had more or less tripled in size.  The original shell remained, a kind of oval-shaped bulb just beneath the soil, but underneath that, it sprouted roots.  They did not so much burrow as devour their way deeper underground; for this lifeform, "nutrition" formed a broad category.  Inorganic material that would normally become waste product, at best, was broken down with an unnaturally effective system that even Tristan's own enhanced stomach couldn't hope to match.  The heat produced might've been sufficient to draw in a small colony of marine life above it, but this too was trapped and redirected as much-needed energy.  It ate sand and stone.  It ate the forgotten bones of dead fish buried nearby.  It ate metal shards whole and wished for more.

 

Leviathan swam down to check his special project as often as he could, but a full week passed before he dared to risk disturbing it.  He waited until the budding dock-port broke through the surface on its own.  Eventually this entrance would be much larger, but now he could barely fit through it.  He painstakingly coaxed the door, interlocking sheets of bone, to peel apart rather like flower petals.  Inside was a vertical tunnel.  

 

Venturing through it probably wasn't wise, he knew; he had to swim with only his feet, as the tunnel was too narrow to use his arms.  His wide shoulders almost scraped the interior walls as it was.  What if the first cavity, to eventually become the docking bay, hadn't matured enough yet for him to turn around?  He'd have to swim out backwards without accidentally tearing open the delicate tissue around him.  From what little he could see at the doorway, the inner scales hadn't yet developed.  Someday they'd be even stronger than his own--or rather, they would be his own scales, only layered thicker--but newborns were so fragile...

 

The reptile decided to risk it.  Fast as this project was designed to grow, he had to make sure that nothing was amiss already.  Even a simple problem now could compound until the results were devastating, and he would have to start all over.  

 

Bioluminescence lit his way, a gentle and comforting blue light that issued from evenly-spaced nodes along the tunnel.  Moving slowly, Leviathan went down, down, down.  He smiled to himself; in roughly seven days, the full length of the twenty-foot entrance had matured, even if it wasn't nearly as wide as it needed to be.  At the end would be a second sealed hatch, but this had not yet taken shape, for which he was thankful.  Past it, he came to a slightly larger room, for which he was very thankful.  

 

The walls around him still looked raw.  Only a thin, partly-translucent membrane covered the muscle tissue underneath; he could see the outlines of the rings of curving young bones that provided support.  Any other visitor would probably feel disgusted; it was the kind of view that one might expect from the inside of giant esophagus, not a place for habitation.  Thanks to his surgical experience and his vision of what it would become, Leviathan had no such worries.  

 

Might want to tone down the blue, though, he mused.  Looks kind of like a rave in here...

 

But he didn't need a doctor's knowledge to experience a spike of fear when he brushed a wall with his foot and the whole place shuddered harshly.  This was followed by more violent movements, which in turn was followed by Leviathan's curse; it came out as a stream of bubbles from his gills.  

 

The muscle spasms became worse by the second.  Even as his mind raced for a solution, he glanced over his shoulder to see the entrance tunnel folding in on itself, blocking his route of easy escape.  

 

Leviathan came to a decision, aimed downward, and kicked his webbed feet.  He shot to the bottom of the docking bay, where he found another tunnel in the center of the floor; this would ultimately run through most of the lair as a huge elevator to access every level, but at the moment it was still underdeveloped.  Nonetheless, it might lead him to the control room.  If it had grown yet.  

 

He didn't have a lot of options.  Leviathan paddled his way down the nearest tunnel as fast as he could; after about fifteen feet, the blue lights around him revealed what looked like a more open space deeper below.  This good news was balanced by the slight problem of the walls closing in on him.  

 

He struggled another few feet before warm muscle tissue clamped against his arms.  Whether he was willing to risk damaging the vulnerable flesh or not, he no longer had much choice, unless he chose to rip it apart entirely.  Desperate times called for desperate measures; the brutish Leviathan couldn't move freely, but twiggy Tristan might.  

 

Shifting back to his human form deprived him of more than size and strength: his gills vanished as well.  Fast as he could--which wasn't very fast, deprived of his giant webbed hands and feet--he clumsily half-swam, half-pulled along the thrashing walls until he was able to squeeze through to the young control room.  There, bathed in blue light, was an underdeveloped podium topped by a bulb of compressed threads, like muscle strands or woven fabric.  By the time he finished, it would be part of a larger control and monitoring system that would allow him to--

 

Focus!

 

With both his brain and his lungs screaming at him, Tristan fought his way lower to the podium.  At his touch, it unraveled into hundreds of waving hairs, red-orange, dancing in the water.  They engulfed his hand tightly.  He felt a thin ray of relief and hope when it performed as designed: the threads pressed against his bare skin, their smallest branches too tiny to see, designed to fit into his very pores.  

 

His world went dark, and the scientist and lair became one.  

 

Tristan felt the dimensions it had grown to; he could imagine the shape now, far from complete but certainly on its way.  The roots reached deeper than he expected, and now, even they had begun to twitch.  Higher up in the bulk of the structure where he resided, the seizures were cracking fragile bones, in some places tearing the tendons that bound them.  Despite being unable to think, this "creature" was certainly alive and still connected to the scientist who birthed it.  His own panic fed it, making the problem worse.  Only by leaving behind his body and immersing himself in the foreign-but-familiar anatomy around him was Tristan able to soothe his creation.  He remembered how it felt to breathe casually, relaxed--although by that point, his seemingly-distant lungs burned so badly that he feared this would be his final accomplishment.

 

The muscle spasms slowed; after what seemed like an eternity, they weakened to the occasional faint, lingering shiver.  Obeying Tristan's last command as his thoughts went dim, the upper docking door closed and the fluid in both the rooms and tunnels hurried to drain.  The sole occupant here floated with the diminishing water level until he at last lay on the spongy floor, one arm held upright and pinned to the podium.  When it finished and the threads of neurons released Tristan, he could again feel the full shrieking discomfort of his body.  His first act upon returning to himself was to cough up a distressing amount of saltwater.  

 

He lay there for some time, struggling to breathe normally again.  When he at last sat upright, he was surprised by a powerful hiccup.  

 

"Now you've got me doing it!"

 

Edited by Blarghy

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From the Smallest Seed, Part 3/5

 

We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.  ~ Marshall McLuhan

 


"Alright, now comes the complicated part."

 

The thought made Tristan laugh a little, looking back on what he'd been through to reach this point.  He continued to break new ground, but this time he wasn't sure how well his idea would work.  He decided to test it out away from his adolescent headquarters, just in case something went horribly wrong.  Besides, he needed to modify the submarine anyway.  How dumb would it look if he just used a regular one?  The theme would completely shatter.

 

So, he had yet again used his charity organization to acquire new equipment.  The modest submarine bobbed hidden in a little isolated cove south of the airport, almost exactly opposite to Lonely Point at the other end of the bay.  Much like he had with his lair itself, Tristan spent most of the day painstakingly using his mutable biology to craft what he needed within his own body.  He made the new seed rise to the surface of his hand; this one lacked the stiff shell of his first project, given that this was more of a virus than a gigantic pseudo-plant.  Tristan pulled it from his skin, waded into the icy winter water with a shiver, and pressed it into the layer of nutritional mush that covered most of the vessel's hull.  He then hustled back to dry land to both warm himself and watch the show.  

 

This wasn't a quick process at first, but once it began, it snowballed.  The spot of infection took root by eating away metal, breaking down what it could and destroying the rest.  Unlike Tristan's underwater base, this small design lacked the power to consume almost anything in its path; he had to supply most of its food and be content with merely copying the sub's base mechanical design, with some select modifications.  By the time his "virus" reached the stockpile of organic materials in the cockpit, it had turned bright yellow steel into clean ivory, which soon afterward covered itself with more of Leviathan's own scales.

 

He could hardly contain himself when the operation went as planned.  Tristan hurried into the water again, swam around the submarine to check for flaws, and climbed atop it.  In addition to turning a modern instrument into this purely organic creation, he also instructed the propellers to lengthen out, like long, flat ribbons or leafs instead of the traditional blades.  Manta ray wings stretched from either side.  The reinforced glass dome, while still tough, was slightly flexible now; he modeled it after the lens in a living eye.  

 

Making a sentient submarine seemed both unnecessary and questionably ethical, but in addition to the basic functions that it needed to live and regulate itself, Tristan decided to add instincts that he could use to summon his vessel, via pheromones in the water.  No sense in having to hide it somewhere it might be found when it wasn't safely in his lair.  He tested his handiwork with a bit of concentration; under his palms, he could feel a slight vibration through the scales, and the propellers twitched.

 

"Not quite the purr of a well-tuned engine, but I'll take it," he said breathlessly--which might've come in part from the cold winds that cut across his wet skin.  It was one more reason to become Leviathan; he definitely wasn't strong enough to load his gear into the sub without transforming anyway.

 

"This is actually going to work!"

 

The beach had piles and piles of equipment underneath sand-colored tarps, and in some cases partially buried.  Leviathan packed what he could into the new biological vessel; with several trips ahead of him, he'd have plenty of time to test out his creation, but Leviathan was also very eager to try his other "viruses."  Most of the mainframe computer components fit on the first trip.  He figured that was as good a place to start as any.

 

The bizarre sub, its long propellers spinning behind it in a blurry cone, buzzed along the Great Bay's floor to a hidden port.  That door of thick, overlapping horn-plates had finished growing; its dull tones blended in nicely with the surrounding environment, and even if it hadn't, most of the time sand naturally covered it anyway.  In his previous trips, Leviathan had to open it manually by touch, but now he parked the submarine just over the top of it and pressed a carapace-like button on the console; after an impatient moment, the plates shuddered upward.  They pushed away sediments and scattered some curious fish, and slowly the sub flapped its fins into the tunnel beneath.

 

By the time he descended to the second hatch, his lair's natural protocols had double-checked his "credentials;" he passed again without incident and hovered down to the floor of the docking bay.  The entryway sealed behind him to maintain water levels in the tunnel while this room drained.  Once it finished, he was left sitting in one of the landing pools.  Leviathan didn't mind getting wet, but his electronics weren't so easygoing--yet.  

 

He popped the sub's lid, climbed out, and surveyed the bay with pride.  Its walls and ceiling now closely resembled his own scales: they might've been identical, rounded tiles at a glance, but these were far tougher than most earthly materials.  Smooth to the touch and rapidly drying as his lair sucked up lingering moisture, they felt like snakeskin.  Glowing bulbs broke up the pattern and added extra color.  After some consideration, he had toned down the blue in the lights; a faint tint remained, which he thought was peaceful, but the place no longer felt like a Las Vegas stage.  

 

Leviathan left his submarine bobbing in the first of six pools.  Someday he might fill them all with similar vessels, but for now, the rest had "fallen into disrepair since the ship's crash to this planet."  Without needing to be told, a tube snaked its way up from the bottom of the resting tank and hooked into his lone craft.  Essentially an umbilical cord, it would refuel this living but thoughtless creature with vital nutrition while he went about his business.

 

 Now Leviathan unloaded his cargo onto a large cart.  Like all the furniture here, it was made of pearly ivory, matched after his extra-durable teeth, and padded with natural layers of sponge.  He wheeled it to the elevator platform in the center of the room; fully developed now, two Leviathans could lay comfortably on it end-to-end.  He tapped the keys on the narrow podium at the edge and gently descended to the control room.

 

"Guess I should really call it the bridge..."

 

Whatever the name, this was the second largest room in the base, composing most of this floor.  It arranged itself around a spiraling, snail-shell-pattern ramp, the base of which ran smoothly into the elevator platform.  Leviathan pushed his cart up it; he passed other terraces that branched off of the sloped path, most of them decorated with empty, semicircular desks and huge, egg-like chairs, ivory and sponge-padded like his cart.  The amenities were sized to Leviathan, but a regular human might still lounge comfortably in the oversized thrones, albeit while perhaps feeling tiny.

 

The ramp ended in a dais similar to the others, but larger and with more table space.  It overlooked the rest of the room, and could be seen easily in turn from any corner.  A partial wall curved upward from one section of the desk; it was here that Leviathan unloaded his equipment.  

 

After arranging everything the way he wanted it, he piled raw nutritional material around the electronics, took another carefully-planned seed from his palm, laid it in place, and waited again.

 

Life spread across cold metal and plastic for a second time.  Like a plague that would be horrifying if it wasn't purposeful, the wave passed across this workstation to copy, destroy, and replace the human-made models.  Leviathan designed it to go even further; the "infection" climbed up the nearby wall to cover it with an enormous, shiny carapace that would be his primary monitor.  It and most of the other new components were smooth and colored a glossy black.  

 

The other stations below and surrounding his own desk--the captain's chair, as it were--would turn out similarly.  Each would have human aspects too by the time he finished, hidden away in fold-out compartments, such as English keyboards.

 

Leviathan tested out his personal console with a click.  Like the rest of the lair, it used the Latin alphabet...which wasn't as different from modern English as he'd prefer, but between the choices of ruining his cover here on the off-chance that an untrustworthy guest ever invaded his work-space and combed it for discrepancies, or not being able to use his own equipment, Leviathan took the prudent option.  He twisted and stylized all the letters as best he could while still being able to recognize them, and he hoped that was enough.  At a glance, like everything else he had built here, it all looked quite alien.

 

And that was the story.  Although he didn't usually take advice from infants, Quirk's sister made him realize a solution to his problem: sure, Freedom City had all kinds of strange people, many of them heroes, and a history of secret identities, but that didn't stop the public from being curious.  Now Leviathan had a background--flimsy in some places, but a background nonetheless.  Reptilian space alien, crash-landed here in the Great Bay at some point in the past, now fighting crime because that's just what stranded aliens do in Freedom City.  Living in the surprisingly-well-maintained-but-landbound ship that brought him here.  And most importantly, in no way secretly human, and especially not connected to Tristan Delacroix.

 

The only people who know anything close to the truth are Edge, Monsoon, Punchline, and Bonfire.  The first two shouldn't care, if they remember me at all.  Bonfire might be an asset instead of a liability, and...well, no telling what the clown might do, but three out of four isn't bad.

 

Today was a rare day when Leviathan couldn't bring himself to fret about such things.  He smiled cheerfully as the carapace-screen came to life; a few tapped keys brought up a local news station.  Brilliant colors, crisp images, and the speakers positively boomed.  Amy Feng loomed over the room like the god of reporters.  Behind her was a wrecked side-street somewhere in the city; Dr. Metropolis stoically worked to repair it along the corner of the screen.

 

Despite the familiar sight, everything else still looked rather menacing, this stark blend of bone-whites, beetle-shell-blacks, and toad-greens.  Leviathan had solutions planned to make this house a home, but for that he needed to build his lab.  He slung his heavy cart over one shoulder and went back toward the elevator for another ride in his new submarine, whistling pleasantly the whole way.

Edited by Blarghy

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From the Smallest Seed, Part 4/5

 

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.  ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

 


Honestly, the lab was too big.  Leviathan really needed staff to make full use of it, but those were a little harder to build than the other life he had been designing.  For now, he just enjoyed all the top-of-the-line equipment that he had to himself.  He might've gone a little overboard; some of his employees at OCEAN-Freedom seemed to be suspicious by this point, but given that he paid for every bolt and beaker here--twice, when he then replaced it for the charity labs--before transforming everything into a larger, biological version of itself, he didn't feel guilty.  Just cautious.  He made a show of hiring an investigator to oversee future shipments, leaking the information to his staff, but if anything else went missing, it'd be an actual crime.  For the moment, Leviathan had everything he required.

 

He kept losing track of time in this four-story maze of honeycomb rooms.  The extensive lab space blended in with multiple infirmaries and a library of everything from standard texts to microfilm to digital books to a few ancient scrolls, although those were mostly to back up his cover story.  It occurred to Leviathan that he was better off claiming his ship crashed long before he was born, to explain any hesitation he'd probably have if asked about his home culture, plus the presence of Latin script throughout the lair, for whoever managed to see past his ruse in that regard.  If he had hatched here, spent his life mostly alone with only the outside world's media to spy on, then that would also justify his...eccentric reaction to most heroes.  

 

An ancient crash also tied into his massive, ongoing project: to make the ship more comfortable and pleasant, he wanted to fill it with lush, overflowing life.  Creating new species whole-cloth would be a lot of work, however, so Leviathan happily pilfered his base stock from various Earth animals and plants.  Playing with their DNA for both efficiency and alien appearances turned into a fun hobby rather than labor.  Any similarities to local creatures, especially on a genetic level, could be explained by saying that potentially thousands of years on this planet, even if isolated, was bound to bleed through thanks to sampling the outside environment.

 

So, he arranged for piles of genetic material and started tinkering.  The lab in which he worked--a research wonderland of black chitin machinery and ivory tools grown to Leviathan's exact needs--slowly became a garden paradise.  Vines decorated the walls and hung down from the ceiling, heavy with flowers and fruit; off of the footpaths, layers of rich, dark soil provided for larger plants.  Mindless evolution might accomplish wonderful things given enough time, but Leviathan turned a scholarly, expert eye to efficiency.  Down here at the bottom of the sea, he designed fantastic health and nutritional options--although that was just the start.

 

Making better vegetation required better dirt, when he didn't just tie it directly to the lair's own functions and grow right out of the scaly walls.  And of course, for proper ecosystems you needed something like bees, so he took their basic genome and played with it until he was satisfied.  They could hardly live in a vacuum, so he brought in neighboring insects.  Might as well add in some pseudo-birds too.  And worms--can't forget the worms.  Now alien lizard worms with superior soil-regulating capabilities.  Why not tweak the bioluminescent lighting next, for ideal growth conditions?  And adjust oxygen output from all this flora?  Heck, that opened up a whole arena of possibilities, so he--

 

"...How long have I been down here?"

 

The sound of his own voice startled Leviathan.  He looked around his lab, pulled off his big, goofy safety goggles, plucked a piece of fruit that dangled from the ceiling--this one was yellow and fuzzy, inspired by a picture of baby chicks that caught his eye in one of his textbooks, and tasted vaguely like a pear with loads of health benefits--and went for the door.  Similar to the docking bay hatches, it was made of pearly bone and opened outward like a unfolding petals when he came close enough.  

 

Instead of the central elevator, he took the stairs.  Four sets of them ringed the structure, one at each corner--to the extent that this design had corners--from top to bottom.  He liked to jump, climb, and sprint up and down them, reveling in his speed and power.  Past the habitation levels, Leviathan went for the park.  When he wasn't in his lab or library, he spent most of his time here.  

 

This enormous, sprawling space was about three stories high.  Human stories, anyway, totaling over thirty feet tall.  He wanted the space to grow trees here, mostly because he could.  This kind of weighty layout was part of the reason why his "ship" wouldn't fly, no matter how cool Leviathan thought that'd be.  NASA was stingy with its elbow-room for a reason.

 

The floor was carpeted with soft, red, clover-like plants.  His "birds" fluttered between branches and the smaller growths, eating bizarre fruits and cooing to one another.  They more closely resembled dinosaurs than modern avians; their feathers were halfway to scaly spines, yet they still flew well.  "Bees" had a similar theme, being leaner than the real insects he based them on, covered in hard, hairless shells.  Greens, blues, and golds buzzed through the air, vivid blurs of motion in the tinted light.

 

Overlaying it all was the sound of rushing water.  The elevator shaft came down through the middle of the room, and around it flowed a waterfall.  This fed a series of interconnected ponds throughout the park; small reptiles lounged on the banks, some of them even relatively normal.  Leviathan decided not to mess with the turtles at all, because who doesn't like turtles?  

 

Most of his filtration system was hidden away elsewhere, primarily the lowest levels near the roots.  The "kidneys" Leviathan built would make Brita cry itself to sleep.  Each pool had additional measures in place--mostly engineered microbes--to ensure that anyone could drink directly from them, nearby animal life or not, but by the time it reached the waterfall at all, every drop tasted spectacular.

 

Leviathan strolled through the garden, savoring the colors and smells, and approached the elevator.  His blooming-petal-door opened to shield him from the cascading water, like an arch.  The platform carried him up to the control room.  By this stage, it flashed and beeped with an ecosystem all its own; the lower workstations beneath his captain's area were all fully developed.  Like every other user-accessible area of the "ship," attractive and edible vegetation grew from seemingly everywhere.  The ceiling of this tall room had something extra special: a latticework of interlocking thorns provided structural support and also perches for a sky of flowers.  They changed their pigments randomly about once a week; the results looked like unique Pollock paintings to liven up the bridge.  

 

Leviathan rambled rather aimlessly to the top of the spiraling ramp, slouched in his throne of ivory and padded sponge, and took one of his favorite new snacks from the armrest, a disk-shaped orange fruit that reminded his tongue of strawberries.  After drying the juice from his chin, he tapped the keyboard.  If he was taking a break from work, then he might as well see what was going on in the world above.

 

About sixty missed calls and texts, apparently.  One of his first tasks after setting up the computer was to hook his personal electronics and accounts to it; regular cell reception wasn't too ideal here, at the bottom of the sea.

 

"Ugghhh.  Of course it's Delvin."  

 

Grudgingly, Leviathan melted away, leaving Tristan behind in his oversized chair, feeling like a child in this room designed for giants.  He had to lean forward to work the keys and call his brother back.

 

"Where the hell have you been?!" the older Delacroix demanded immediately.

 

"...Not wherever you're looking?"

 

"This isn't a joke, Tristan!  Have you noticed the damned blizzard that's tearing through the city?  Or did you go on vacation without telling us, again?  And what about your deadlines?!"

 

"I assume that's in order of importance," he mumbled under his breath.  Tristan squirmed to the edge of his seat and leaned as far as he could to bring up his research files.  "...Ok, so I'm behind on the...what am I working on right now?  New medication for Cushing's disease?  Hm.  Well, I don't have it at the moment, but how about..."  Click click click click...  Why not offer some of his recent personal work?  He certainly had plenty of it.  Some small piece that could be useful, without revealing the entire product and seeming more suspicious than he already did.  Yes, why not?  

 

"Here.  I've been toying with muscle and bone structures.  These new compositions are much stronger; I guess we could turn it into a way to better heal skeletal breaks?  It might even apply to certain cases of arthritis.  Pretty cool, right?"

 

"What?!  I don't care about bones!  I want you back in the lab!  Today!  I wanted you in the lab yesterday!"

 

"I'm near a lab.  Does that count?"

 

"Is this about your stupid charity?  Because I don't have time for--"

 

"Listen--Delvin, listen, I'm--ok, listen, you're breaking up.  Must be all that snow.  You should really watch yourself; speaking as a doctor, it's just not safe to be out in this kind of weather.  You should stay home and take it easy.  Speaking of which, I need a leave of absence--ok thank you byyye!"  

 

He cut the call as the audio became a sputter of rage.  With a mischievous chuckle, Tristan vanished and Leviathan hopped back to his feet.  For a minute there, his lair seemed too quiet, but now it felt exactly as quiet as it needed to be.  

 

"...Alcohol.  Natural, flavored alcohol in a fruit.  That's what I need.  Yesss."

 

Back to the lab he went.

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From the Smallest Seed, Part 5/5

 

Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets.  ~ Paul Tournier

 


The hab-blocks took up most of three floors, just below the park.  Unlike the rest of the ship, which remained fairly stable from concept to creation, Leviathan adjusted these rooms as he went along, to better enhance his cover story.  A keen observer might guess as much; this area had more corners and edges, right down to the scales themselves, square instead of rounded.  Leviathan realized that this "newness" could add to his alibi in and of itself, given the features of these levels.  He liked the idea that the ship had changed over the ages; it left him with justification for any future modifications.  

 

The first two floors had a mix of communal quarters and small dorms, which Leviathan figured was appropriate for a ship.  Many of them appeared older in their designs, but shifted from gentle curves to straight angles near the central rooms.  Here, he built Roman-style bath complexes and gyms, including a circular running track at the center of each floor; the elevator came down through the middle of the course, surrounded by ivory weights and other such equipment.  To either side were the entrances to a bath house (two to a level, possibly implying some kind of segregation among the crew, perhaps along gender lines), and from those branched the hallways that connected the sleeping quarters.  

 

Above that, the third habitation level had fewer rooms for more space, about a dozen or so full suites with greater luxuries and only one, bigger, bath house.  Here, floating in the warm pool, was Leviathan.

 

"I thought, why not just go all out, you know?  I've got the Latin script on everything.  And those scrolls, and a few other ancient artifacts.  Nothing too good, just some pottery and iron pieces.  How would the old generations have gotten those just from spying on the surface world from the bridge?  Obviously, someone had to go out and bring them back, along with information about humanity.  So, I decided to ramp up the illusion.  Made some fragmented reports about various historical periods, then damaged them; it's easier if a lot of our data has been 'lost' over the years.  I'm not a historian, so this helps explain any mistakes or vagueness.  And this way, I get cool Roman baths."

 

His conversational partner merely blinked.  The little creature looked like a reptilian monkey, about a foot tall.  Most of them stayed in the park on the next level up, but Leviathan allowed this one to follow him down here; he felt increasingly starved for company.  

 

He shooed the animal away from an ivory bowl sitting by his elbow, on the edge of the pool.  It held a handful of small, dark beans, from a special plant he kept in the captain's chambers. 

 

Leviathan now had several different kinds of intoxicating vegetation, marked with red vines and leafs instead of the usual green; he designed them with weak alcohol content, each fruit or stalk no more than a beer and heavy with hangover-fighting ingredients to boot, but he'd have to eat a mountain of those to feel any effects.  For his own use, he made these beans much stronger.  As a result, the taste was very bitter; he countered this with a thin, sugary shell.  

 

It wouldn't do to let them accidentally fall into a normal human's hands, but...that wasn't really a problem at the moment.  Which was a problem.

 

"So, the story is that my ancestors made the occasional excursion to the surface world, taking stock, but never revealed themselves.  I wrote up a brief report about the Deep Ones, and how my people were afraid of being caught up in their negative press.  Plus, they wanted to wait for rescue, I guess."  He paused to eat another bean.  "Made reports about that, implied some vague problem on the home-world, but specified that we didn't know why no one ever came for us.  And generation after generation, we lost bits of our old heritage.  By the time it gets down to me, Leviathan, I don't really know anything of where I came from.  Never even met another alien like me; I was the last egg being kept in cold storage, down in the labs, until the ship's automated systems let me hatch as a last-ditch effort.  But kids are kids, you know, so I'm out there doing the hero thing instead of worrying about getting back to a home that probably isn't even there anymore."

 

The little lizard tilted its head and cooed at him.  

 

"No telling if anyone'll buy it," Leviathan murmured.  "But I think it's reasonable.  Mostly.  Kind of."

 

He munched in near-silence; aside from the crunch of his jaws, the gently flowing water lapped rhythmically against the sides of the pool.  

 

"I should think about putting speakers down here.  Get some music..."

 

The smaller reptile jumped atop the larger one's head and sat there.  If it had an opinion on this matter, it kept it to itself.  After a long moment, Leviathan sighed.

 

"I know, I know.  I'm stalling.  But it's not easy.  The last step--that's where this might come crashing down on my head.  Inviting real attention, bringing outsiders down here...what if it's a huge mistake?  What if I've missed something, and it points to me?  The real me?  What if someone finds out?"  

 

The lizard cooed again.

 

"Maybe it's worth the risk.  Being Leviathan at all is a risk.  But...I guess that I let myself get excited these past few weeks, and now that I've got to finally put all these plans into action...It's not easy, you know?"

 

His companion hopped back down, having realized that no food was forthcoming, and ran nimbly out the door.

 

"...I'm talking to animals now," Leviathan said glumly.  "And to myself.  Great sign.  Grrrreat sign."

 

With less coordination than usual, he climbed out of the pool.  Around him, growing from the scaly walls, were living statues made of vegetation.  Most resembled Leviathan himself--distinguished ancestors, he figured, could add a nice touch and some decoration too--but as he wobbled into the hallway, he passed human images too.  A young Julius Caesar posed by the door; his hair was made of black, gently curling grass.  

 

"Bet you never had to design the relics of a fake alien civilization and get away with it," Leviathan complained to the ancient emperor.

 

Down the corridor, out into the large, open gym, and past the sandy racetrack he went, dripping with every clumsy step.  The captain's suite had a convenient location near the central elevator; bioluminescent nodes winked to life when he entered.  Like the other officer quarters on this level, these rooms had plenty of space, ivory furniture, a small pool for sleeping (or private baths), and a shallow pit with terrace steps, lined with sponge and full of organic pillows--also for sleeping, in the event of gill-less guests; Leviathan justified this with a few vague alien medical records about common, minor diseases that were best treated by resting in the open air.  

 

The final touch were the walls themselves.  Most here were solid aquariums, interconnected with other rooms on this floor.  Earth marine life was often strange already; by the time Leviathan finished playing with his base DNA stocks, he created a colorful ecosystem that rivaled his work in the park above.  

 

Squinting and swaying, he watched his handiwork swim around.  He smiled, but hesitation and worry still lingered in it.  

 

"Just get it done," Leviathan scolded himself.  With a deep breath and a sigh, he looked down to the floor and added, "...Tomorrow."  Sobriety might help, and procrastination wouldn't complain about the delay.  

 

The huge beast turned to his sleeping pond, waded in, and flopped beneath the water for some uneasy rest.  Soon he'd have to start making calls. 

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From the Smallest Seed, Epilogue

 

For there to be betrayal, there would have to have been trust first.  ~ Suzanne Collins

 


The two men sitting across from one another, separated by a huge desk of polished mahogany, seemed quite different despite their shared heritage.  On one side was Delvin, who followed in his family's pale, slim tradition; his black hair reflected the light with a gleam of oily gel.  His counterpart, Alexander, had a fairly muscular figure and enjoyed sunny vacations, or failing that, tanning beds.  Handsome and well aware of it, he maintained a default pose of aristocratic snobbery, except for rare instances when he spoke to a near-equal, or more likely, someone young and pretty.  In the latter cases, he could appear reasonably charming--except for his eyes, which took on a predatory glint.  

 

Alex would rather spend this afternoon doing just that, but instead his posture was a strange blend of outward relaxation and undertones of annoyance.  While Delvin ran hot and needed little provocation to scream at his underlings, yet usually soon forgot what made him angry, Alex rarely raised his voice and never forgot anything.  He savored the slow build of vengeance, carrying it out with a smile.  Besides, what was the point of power, if you didn't use it to hurt people who bothered you?  Sometimes he seemed less like a man and more like a cat in a forty thousand dollar suit.  

 

Today he was foremost annoyed at Tristan, but not particularly happy with Delvin either.  The middle brother demanded to discuss the youngest's latest behavior, and in the process took up valuable time that Alexander would rather spend cheating on his wife.  

 

"It's different this time, I'm telling you!" Delvin ranted.  "I know it.  He's always been insufferably irresponsible, but now, now he's disregarding his projects altogether.  Bad enough that he never could hold to a deadline; at least in the past, he eventually came through.  It's his damned charity; he's off to save the oceans or some nonsense, and he doesn't care if the family business suffers while he plays Activist.  The brat doesn't understand how much hard work goes into supporting his lifestyle.  That's his problem; he doesn't appreciate what he has, because he doesn't have to earn it like we do."

 

Alex privately agreed with that point.  Tristan's distaste for business worked to his and Delvin's advantage, but came at the price of irritating disobedience.  Their little biologist didn't realize the effort it took to run an international, multi-billion dollar empire, much less the...ethical flexibility it required.  Tristan had a simple world, they knew, and the things that the two older brothers did from this lavish office and the labs below it would just boggle his innocent mind.  Thinking about white-collar crime made Alexander smile frostily, reminding him of two important points.  

 

The first: "What, exactly, did he send you?"

 

This calm response deepened the angry red of Delvin's cheeks.  "Do you really not see the problem here?"

 

"What, exactly, did he send you?"  This time, Alex put a hint of warning into his voice.  

 

"...Some hypothetical designs for stronger, tougher cortical osseous tissue.  That's the outer layer of our bones.  He also improved the skeletal muscles that attach to them, specifically the myofibrils--those little strands that make up muscles, like individual threads in a piece of rope.  It's...alright, his work isn't bad, but this isn't something we can turn into a medicine.  You'd have to implement it via gene mods or extensive surgeries."

 

"And the effect would be a stronger person, I assume?"

 

"Yes.  Potentially much stronger, with minimal changes to appearance.  It should be safe and stable, too, which is more impressive.  Someone my size could probably lift a small car with this, and not suffer the kinds of long-term side effects that you usually see with controlled mutations."

 

Alex leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers.  "Good.  I can find use for this, yes.  Don't send it to the usual FCI teams; we'll sell this through our other channels, off the books, just as it is.  I think that many of our special clients will be interested in such a toy."  And some of them were nice people, too.  Sort of.  Not wanted for war crimes in any of the wealthy, important parts of the world, anyway.

 

Delvin's skin flushed again.  "But that's beside the point!  Maybe Tristan got lucky this time, but what about the future?  He's betraying us, no better than if he stole right from our pockets.  We can't just let this stand!"

 

With a cat's smile, Alexander reached across his desk and pressed the intercom.  "Lori?" he asked silkily.  "Would you send in Mr. Strickland, please?"

 

He cut off Delvin's questions with a wave of his hand.  While they waited, Alex poured them both a glass of scotch that, for the price, should've served itself along with soothing song, and perhaps a massage.  Soon the office's double doors opened; in came a wiry man no bigger than Delvin, but with graceful steps and a lean power to his movements.  He had a smile and swagger that instantly soured Delvin's opinion of him; what was the world coming to, if the peasants were so bold?

 

"Mr. Delacroix," Strickland said to Alex; he made a flourish and nearly bowed.  "And Mr. Delacroix."

 

"Don't be cute, Strickland.  Just report.  Tell him what you told me, about my little brother."  

 

"Certainly, sir.  Ahem.  The young doctor has been out of town lately, as best I can tell; he sometimes sends in reports to the new OCEAN-Freedom foundation, but he hasn't shown up in person for weeks now.  I regret to say that I'm not sure where he's going; he's surprisingly hard to tail."

 

Delvin tried to interject, this news having only reinforced his fears, but Alex silenced him with another gesture.  

 

"His transactions aren't so cautious, though," Strickland continued.  "I've got tabs on all his bank accounts, and on the OCEAN funds too.  It appears he's not too good with money, or the things he spends it on.  In the last month, Dr. Delacroix has lost at least nine million dollars of lab equipment, including an entire submarine.  He orders expensive things from a handful of companies, supposedly for his charity, but they never arrive.  So he buys more.  His luck has recently improved...just as the people at OCEAN started asking questions.  The doctor was noble enough to hire some private investigators to check it out, but they aren't looking very hard, and he declined to involve the police.  I guess he feels bad for whatever clumsy postal worker keeps misplacing his machinery."

 

Alex's smile grew; Delvin's eyes widened.  "He's embezzling," the middle brother said softly.  

 

"Or at the very least, committing some form of tax fraud," Alex agreed.  "It seems our little boy is finally growing up."

 

"But this is horrible!  If he's being so clumsy about it, then what if he draws attention to us?  What if--"  he paused sharply, remembering that they weren't alone in the room.  Alex took his meaning and waved his hand at Strickland, dismissing him.  

 

Once his back was turned, the agent had a smug grin of his own, as well as a secret.  He knew more about the numerous Delacroix crimes than Alex could ever guess, and worse, Strickland's allegiance wasn't nearly so clear.  He had other employers, so shadowy that even he didn't truly know who he was passing information to.  At the top of that chain was an ancient horned monster, resting at the center of a maze made of lies and legal documents instead of the old stone walls in Crete.  Fortunately for Tristan, that canny beast had reached the same incorrect conclusion about his activities as his brothers had.

 

For the moment.

 

"You're looking at this the wrong way," Alexander told his sibling.  "We now have a few possibilities: if we're lucky, Tristan is maturing in a positive direction, and we may soon be able to bring him into the fold, trust him with most of our dealings, and order more profitable medicines and procedures than we have in the past.  Worst case scenario, he's preparing to strike out on his own and start a rival corporation."

 

"That's what I've been trying to--"

 

"In which case, we already know what he's doing.  We have evidence to use against him, we have far more experience in business than he does, and I promise you that the FCI can mercilessly crush our competition, just as it has in the past.  Tristan may be the best at what he does, I'll grant him that, but if he thinks to move against me, then I'll gladly teach the boy a lesson he won't soon forget.  As you said, his recent activities are quite clumsy.  He needs our help, whether he realizes it or not.  Furthermore, at least for once his personal hobbies are productive.  I remember when he spent his free time dancing around the manor in his Raven pajamas; I don't care about this OCEAN business, but it brings us all good press.

 

"At the end of the day, I've allowed him a very generous leash so far, but if he misbehaves, then I'll simply have to show him how much he benefits from playing by our rules.  So dry those tears, little brother.  Rest assured that I have our family well in hand."

 

The silence stretched between them.  With his word choice and disdainful tone, Alex reminded Delvin quite thoroughly of his own past bids for power.  Delvin looked down at his glass; his red cheeks began to pale again.  He recalled his youthful hope, then crushing failure, and the indignities that had followed.  

 

"...Perhaps you're right," he agreed without looking up.  

 

"Perhaps I am.  Now, kindly be on your way.  I've got a busy schedule today, and now that we have this ugly business out of the way and you know how to proceed, I think you have work of your own, too."

 

"...Yes."  

 

Without a farewell, Delvin rose from his chair and exited.  Alex waited until he had time to reach the elevators, then pressed the intercom again.

 

"Lori, what does the rest of my afternoon look like?"

 

"You have no more meetings scheduled, Mr. Delacroix."  

 

"Good, good."  He swirled his glass, watching the liquid splash around.  "In that case...why don't you come join me in my office?"

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Kinship and Kidnapping

 

 

Ownership of the ancestral Delacroix mansion came to be a sore point among the current generation of the family's American branch.  When Emily Delacroix died some years ago, cousins from all across the New World made their play for power; many had long-since turned to other industries, but the Lantern Hill home had symbolic value for the family's traditional enterprise, The Freedom Cross Institute.  It sparked legal battles without respect for the previous owners' will; as battalions of attorneys went to war and FCI investors quietly chose different sides to support, the young Alexander Delacroix--only just eighteen years old when his mother passed and he became the caretaker of his brothers--revealed astonishing ambition and ferocity.  He pushed aside his competitors, fully ruined some of them and put fear into all but a few others, and won control of not only his home, but the family corporation as well, regardless of what stock distribution might say.  

 

Delvin Delacroix never entirely forgave him.  The middle brother's own bid for leadership was another story, but as soon as he came of age, he arranged for his own property in the North Bay district.  With the clear goal of showing up his sibling, Delvin let price tags and square footage dictate his designs instead of taste.  His mountainous five story castle of marble and rare imported lumber sat on the bay's shore like a bloated, pale mushroom; tall arches, unnecessary support pillars, and full window-walls made the exterior look cluttered rather than impressive, and inside was even worse.  No visitor felt comfortable in this sea of pearly decorations, from the pure white carpet to white-gold fixtures.  Even accounting for guests who were too afraid of marring the visage to actually touch anything, Delvin needed an army of housekeepers.  That was actually a rare positive outcome, as the staff kept his gaudy palace from feeling as empty as it really was.  Delvin and his new wife, Audrey, had no children, few family, and fewer friends.  At least they shared one commonality: their short temper.  Their frequent arguments echoed from wall to wall in this joyless home.  

 

From one of the many third-floor balconies, Tristan looked down at the patio--despite its own size, it couldn't help but seem cramped, enclosed as it was between the massive house and the rarely-used dock at the water--and guessed correctly that his brother and sister-in-law finished one such vigorous discussion just before the party.  Audrey sat at a round table with two other women; her mouth drew up in a spiteful sneer as she spoke, the words lost to distance and Tristan's frank disinterest.  

 

He didn't want to be here tonight, especially since he knew full well that half the point of this gathering was to punish him.  After he abandoned his FCI projects in favor of--supposedly--the OCEAN charity, Delvin took over, or at least started directing Tristan's team in his absence.  Whether because of his screamy management style or in spite of it, they made some progress on the new Cushing's medication.  Human trials might start by the end of the year.  And so, to celebrate, Alex and Delvin invited the board of directors, high ranking researchers, and important stockholders to the North Bay residence.  

 

"Invited" probably wasn't the right term to describe Tristan's involvement.  He only attended because of contractual obligations; as part of limiting interference in his company labs, he grudgingly agreed to six events or public appearances a year, determined by the board in theory, and by Alex in practice.  It never occurred to Tristan to wonder why both his brothers were so accommodating in helping minimize oversight for his work.  

 

He also never thought to question his recent kidnapping attempt.  Pride clouded his judgment, and he failed to see beyond the implications to his reputation and ask why the supervillains wanted him at all.  Instead, he took it as a compliment: he would prefer that Leviathan attracted this kind of attention instead of his normal identity, but this too was quite flattering.  Surely it just meant that the rest of the city--and perhaps the whole world--was beginning to recognize his brilliance.  The Atoms, or Miss Americana and Dr. Archeville before her, they probably had to deal with "problems" like this all the time.  

 

I'm on my way up!  I've been so focused on building Leviathan's public image with Bonfire that I didn't think about regular old Tristan too.  Maybe I can drink in fame and glory from two fountains.

 

Tristan would much rather spend tonight following up on that incident.  He remained in the midst of negotiating an extended visit to Blackstone Federal Penitentiary to see the two strange superhumans.  Just looking through the cell doors was complicated enough, but setting up a medical examination--probably several--and then using the data he collected to alter the prisoners, even with their consent, was a different matter.  Even Tristan's own FCI lawyers spoke out against the risk.

 

He stood there, leaning against the railing and immersed in his thoughts, when Alex walked up behind him.

 

"You aren't mingling?" the taller man asked.  He had two glasses of ice and gold-brown liquid in his hands, and offered one of them to Tristan.  The gesture immediately set him on his guard; never in more than twenty years had these two been on friendly terms.  

 

"I guess I'm just not feeling it," Tristan said a bit sarcastically.  

 

"No, you don't want to be here."  The bluntness of this increased Tristan's wariness even further.  Usually Alex was the type to hide behind a shield of courtesy and attack more subtly.  He long-since mastered the art of delicate contempt, the smile-and-taunt tactics, feints and snide implications, that he and his peers so loved.  

 

Tristan wasn't sure what to say, and so he merely shrugged and sipped his drink.

 

"Well, you are here, so you might as well be down on the veranda with the rest of us.  It's an important night for Delvin; we should support him."

 

Truly alert now, Tristan tensed when Alex put one arm around him, but didn't resist as his brother pulled him back toward the stairs.  By the time they came around to the unnecessarily-large glass doors leading outside, Tristan thought he had puzzled out his brother's motivation.

 

"I can feel chastised anywhere," he pointed out sullenly.  "I'm sorry I dropped the ball on this project, but come on, we're just wasting everyone's time with this display.  Just let Delvin shout at me for a while; you'll both be happier and no one squanders their evening."

 

To his astonishment, Alex looked convincingly sad.  "You hate us that much?"

 

"...I...  Come on, this isn't only about me.  I mean, our whole life--"

 

"I understand.  Family can be complicated.  But Tristan, I want you to know that I'm here for you.  Delvin too.  Truly, we are.  Lately I feel like we're growing apart, and that worries me."

 

Tristan stared at him as though he had grown an extra head.  What are you hinting at?

 

"At the end of the day, family is all you can depend on," Alex continued.  He smiled and waved to a board member, clinked his glass against an FCI doctor's as they passed, and let his eyes stop only momentarily on a beautiful woman walking toward the hors d'oeuvres.  As usual, he didn't bring his wife or sons to the party, for predictable reasons.

 

"You see, Tristan, the rest of the world is just so unforgiving.  Other people don't take the time to understand you.  No second chances or charitable doubt."  He stopped at an empty table, pulled out two chairs, and forced Tristan into one by a hand on his shoulder.  "I remember years ago when Delvin first took his place in the FCI.  I sent him down to South America to oversee resource acquisition for our R&D and open up new markets.  Have I told you this story?"

 

Tristan silently shook his head, feeling like the hand on his shoulder was instead squeezing his heart.  Something terrible was about to happen; he knew it in his bones.

"Well, really it was just an over-inflated misunderstanding.  Delvin hired some local groups to assist him, as is common.  Guides, translators, protection, helpful people in good positions to grease the right wheels, that sort of thing.  But soon we realized that his new friends had unfortunate reputations with their governments, as well as, if you can believe it, one or two human rights organizations.  It could've been a nasty incident, not just for Delvin, but us too, and the whole FCI.  Potentially very embarrassing.  But he notified me, and I stepped in to clear up the confusion.  I made some calls, explained our position, made the necessary arrangements and campaign donations, came to agreements with certain media outlets..."

 

"Why are you telling me this?" Tristan asked almost in a whisper.

 

"Because family looks after family, of course.  Delvin is my brother, and I love him, so I did what was right.  You're my brother too, and I love you for it."

 

Tristan's mouth worked helplessly.  "...I...  I-I don't..."

 

Alex brought his hand down to Tristan's elbow and leaned in closer.  "I just want you to know that you can come to me with your problems.  Don't feel like you need to struggle alone.  Remember, the world is unforgiving.  The world doesn't understand.  But I do.  I know that sometimes we do things, good things with the best of intentions, and outsiders still take offense.  At times like that, family is all you can rely on.  If we don't support one another, then how can we survive?"

 

He squeezed Tristan's arm tightly, hard enough to make him cringe.  Alex's smile was friendly and kind, but his eyes sparkled with something more.  "You understand, don't you, Tristan?"

 

...No, he can't mean...He can't...If he knew, then he...

 

Satisfied by the doctor's look of shocked horror, Alex gave him a condescending pat on the cheek and stood up.  "Food for thought, that's all.  Take care of yourself, little brother.  Or better yet, stay close to me, so I can do it for you.  I would be so heartbroken if some misfortune befell you."

 

Tristan stared as he walked away, mind racing and hands trembling.  He almost spilled his whiskey when he reached for it, and in an attempt to hide his anxiety, instead took a napkin and gripped it tightly, then dried beads of sweat from his forehead.

 

No, no, he can't know about Leviathan.  He can't possibly.  I've been careful.  I--

 

He felt someone's eyes on him and looked up instinctively.  Across the patio, by the bar, stood Delvin watching him.  Their gazes met, and Delvin's lips parted in a slow, evil grin.

 

Noooooo, nonononononononono!

 

He very nearly stood up and bolted.  Tristan finally took his glass in both shaking hands and drained it.  The cup lowered back toward the white tablecloth, but never touched down, because it was here, posed in mute and timeless terror, that Julia Cole found him.

 

To the rest of the partygoers, in the blink of an eye, Tristan Delacroix was simply gone.

Edited by Blarghy

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Sanguine Sensibilities

 


Tristan spent his Christmas as he did the year before: at the bottom of the Great Bay, alone.  

 

His current project wasn't so ambitious as the biological lair in which he worked, but he hoped it would propel him forward all the same.  Over and over again, his recent adventures as both his frail human self (although he hesitated to call his kidnapping an adventure) and the mighty Leviathan revealed weaknesses that no muscle could surmount.  Many of his fellow heroes proved superior in this regard.  Miracle Girl, Sea Devil and her kin, and others demonstrated firsthand that raw power was good, but being able to see where you were aiming was better.  Whereas Leviathan was easily left obscured by imperfect conditions or the tricks of his enemies, better champions could still act.  

 

But even now, his pride hindered him.  Tristan knew both as a biologist and from firsthand experience that vision was a fantastic sense, superhuman vision even better, and could've asked these other heroes to let him model his improvements on theirs, but he didn't.  Fantastic eyes were relatively common.  He didn't just want to be effective; he wanted to be special.

 

So, here he was, putting the finishing touches on a nose that could sniff out God.  

 

"Olfactory epithelium looks good," the reptile muttered to himself as he double-checked the screen's projections.  It depicted a lump of specialized tissue about forty times the size of a human's.  That was just the start.

 

By nature, Tristan had a few million receptor neurons in his nose.  Good bloodhounds could boast around 250-300 million; they not only smelled further and keener, but could detect scents that lesser animals had no means to even recognize.  If all went well, Leviathan was about to have 1.2 billion receptors, making him a rival to the North American brown bear.  Furthermore, his new nose would have a chamber for breathing and two more full of mucus-coated hairs to trap odorants.  The olfactory bulb in his brain got a major upgrade too, as did its corresponding cranial nerve.  Tristan tweaked his mitral cells for maximum efficiency, his piriform cortex, and a dozen other related organs and subsystems.  

 

"Nothing tangible is ever going to catch me by surprise again," he promised himself.  

 

These improvements weren't only limited to Leviathan, either.  Tristan was incorporating a few of them into his own body--but only a few.  Spatial constraints were part of the problem, but aside from not wanting a nose that Pinocchio would envy, he also couldn't risk changes so severe that they threatened his secret.  Not again.

 

He awoke in a hospital bed, months ago.  The last thing he remembered were hazy flashes of violence.  Cold.  Indescribable fear.  How did he get here?  He had been...they kidnapped him, those kids and their fire-ghost master.  Tristan remembered fighting one of the teenagers, only barely winning.  He remembered watching Luca die.  

 

Anxiety started to bubble in his stomach, driven by all the things he didn't know.  When he turned his head and saw his older brother Alex sitting there, it evolved into real panic.

 

The eldest Delacroix wore a small frown, which meant he was furious.  A clipboard rested on his knee.  "Good morning," he said coldly.  

 

Then Tristan remembered the moments before he was abducted.  They had spoken at the party that night, he and Alex.  Ice filled his heart; his breath stuck in his lungs.  He tried to think of something to say, but when he opened his mouth, he could only whimper.  

 

His clear submission didn't seem to amuse Alex, which was the clearest sign of his fury yet.  "I trust you're feeling well," he continued; his tone implied a hidden grievance behind the ordinary comment.

 

Tristan struggled to speak.  "I..."

 

"I strongly trust it, in fact."  Alex held up the clipboard.  "You suffered an impressive variety of injuries.  Abrasions, contusions, lacerations, puncture wounds, multiple fractures, even hypothermia, and yet, I trust you're feeling well."

 

In any other circumstance, a non-physician reviewing his personal chart would enrage Tristan, but now he only continued to gape.  "Alex...Alex, please..."

 

His brother stood up.  "How could you hide this from me?  How could you be so stupid?"

 

A hint of confusion began growing in the back of Tristan's mind.  Something wasn't right here--well, something else beyond his obvious troubles--but he couldn't see it yet.  

 

"You're forming granulation tissue faster than you should be," Alex gestured sharply with the clipboard.  "Your leukocyte count is a third higher than normal.  After what you endured, you should've had a significant concussion, but based on your scans, your cerebrospinal fluid has an unusual consistency that makes it better at shock absorption.  This goes on for pages!"

 

And yet, those alterations paled next to Leviathan's capabilities.  Tristan didn't understand; if Alex already knew about his special hobby, then why was he so angry about the stepping stones that led to the Leviathan transformation?  

 

"I-I thought...at the party, you said..."

 

"I was talking about how you've been stealing money from your stupid little charity!  I didn't know you were using those funds for your own black budget!"

 

"I'm not stealing!  It's my money!  I just--"

 

"Quiet!" Alex snapped.  "Your clumsy, foolish antics have gone too far this time.  Yet again, I've cleaned up your mess.  The doctors who ran your tests have accepted contracts with the FCI's Paris branch, complete with strong non-disclosure agreements.  I also have my people keeping watch for anyone poking into your charity; I'm not about to let you embarrass me by going to trial for tax evasion or the like.  But my altruism has its limits, Tristan.  No more secrets.  You will share your research with Delvin and myself.  You have profited from our hard work all your life, and it's time you gave back to the family instead of leeching from it.  Do you understand?"

 

He doesn't know about Leviathan, Tristan thought.  I almost gave myself away!  The fear from such a close call drowned out any relief he might've felt, and the anger too--although that would come swarming back later.  

 

"I understand," he managed with bitterness and dread.

 

Implementing the improvements was relatively simple, once he had all the details prepared.  Leviathan's body was full of stem cells ready to specialize at a moment's notice, usually to regenerate; all he had to do was command them.  Oddly, making the watered-down alterations to his human form was perhaps a bit harder, so he "reset" like a computer shutting down to update.  Now as Tristan in this giant's lab, he slowly inhaled through his nose.  

 

The vibrant scents around him were almost overwhelming.  He had grown accustomed to all the plants growing from the walls, ceiling, and floor, to the point of hardly noticing them, but they came rushing in like he was discovering them for the first time.  Tristan put a hand on the chair beside him--now the seat raised almost as tall as his shoulder--for balance.  Everything was so vibrant and sweet!  He designed the flora in his lair to appeal to the eyes and nose alike, but with this new power, he could detect subtle intricacies that he never even intended.  

 

Tristan took down a piece of fruit and savored the new appreciation for its flavor.  "Merry Christmas, me," he told himself.  But then his smile wavered a little.  "...I still have to give Alex and Delvin their presents too."

 

He could hide this research from them, true.  He certainly wasn't about to share the full extent of what he'd added to Leviathan.  However, his brothers probably already wondered what he'd been working on in his spare time for the past month, and the last thing he wanted was for them to snoop further into his business and discover his real secret.  Better to give them a little, so that they didn't take all he had.  

 

Up in the lair's command center, he struggled to climb into Leviathan's huge captain's chair and forward the basics of his research.  At least he could test his efforts in the process; even as a human, Tristan could tell when one of his bizarre animals was getting close to him, although he wasn't able to track the buzzing insects as precisely as he hoped Leviathan could.  Still, a useful new asset.  

 

Then he eagerly returned to the central elevator, ready to try out the real meat of his labor.  He decided to transform in the gardens for full effect, and because he loved that part of the lair second only to his extensive labs.  He stepped from the platform, through the waterfall around the elevator, and walked with bare feet onto the soft, alien clover.  Tristan took a breath, triggered the change, and breathed again.

 

It was awful.

 

All the mechanics of his olfactory system worked as intended, but even though his brain had the technical capacity to analyze the input, it was in no way prepared.  Unimaginable stimuli crashed over him like ocean waves; he fell under scents that his ancestors hadn't consciously noticed for tens of millions of years, scents he had no names for.  And suddenly, the garden wasn't so peaceful.

 

He could smell the deathly fear of a bug being eaten alive mere feet from him, as well as the less sharp, but more lasting, panic of an unsuccessful hunter across the room.  He smelled a plant above his head "scream" with bursts of chemicals as its leafs were chewed apart.  The pheromones of hopeful predators clashed with terrified prey all around Leviathan; he gasped, choked, and stumbled toward the nearest pool of water, where he dunked his head, but that was no better, because it too was full of death.  

 

As he started to come to grips with the world of pain he'd created, Leviathan began smelling the other side of nature's coin.  Anything that wasn't killing or dying was seeking out, preparing for, in the midst of, or just finishing mating--a more pleasant state of affairs, but no less overwhelming to his new nose.  Tristan Delacroix called himself a biologist when most boys his age were still learning cursive, and while he logically recognized that life was just a cycle of sex and necrosis, he had never experienced it like this.  

Maybe that was the core of his character: the man who knew so much but understood so little.  

 

He couldn't rally his concentration enough to return to human form.  Leviathan slipped forward, fell into the pool, and sunk amidst the fish and amphibians who loved and warred together without end.  He slipped into a kind of trance; as he ascended above his own apprehension, he was able to watch himself in a detached way, smelling the fear-hormones his body emitted.  The garden took shape in his mind until he saw its entirety, clearer and more detailed than his eyes ever managed.  

 

Time passed; he couldn't tell how long.  But eventually, Leviathan reached a meaty hand over the side of the pool, sunk his triangular claws into the rich soil, and pulled himself out.  He became a thin, pale man again by the water's edge and knelt there, subdued.  

 

Tristan couldn't put it into words, but some realization had dawned on him.  If he tried to explain it, he knew it would seem cliche.  To call it "the circle of life" seemed too clean, too pretty, and didn't do justice to the desperation he witnessed.  It belittled the relief of the victors, whose violence meant their struggle would continue a little longer, and the horror of the victims, whose failure meant that theirs would not.  

 

An urge came over him to end the cycle, sterilize the garden and perhaps his entire lair, because nothing else would stop all this pain...but life's agony extended far beyond his domain, didn't it?  And then Tristan saw himself on the cliff that so many villains had fallen over, looking down at the realization that life was suffering and death was peace.  He understood what he had once considered madness; now it seemed all too sane.  

 

With effort, he pulled back, clinging to any counterargument he could find.  Most of them felt hollow compared to the visceral proof all around him.  The only solid reason Tristan could maintain was simply, Because I must not submit to that trap.

 

His experience hadn't brought him answers, but rather, haunting questions.  In a way, that was more wisdom than he'd ever felt before.  As wisdom often did, it hurt.

 

He leaned forward onto his elbows, then rolled to his side, lying there on the soft clover.  Thoughts without words draped over him like a blanket, until at last, he fell asleep. 

Edited by Blarghy

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