From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
Venin Hiss is a villain from the Rogue Isles
Venin Hiss, to strangers, appears calm, jovial, and even a little goofy. He keeps abreast of the latest trends in popular culture and politics, and has a surprising number of stories he seems to enjoy telling. Witty and engaging, he is rarely without a measured comeback to any given insult, turning potential enemies into at least grudging friends. He appears to be a sharp-featured young man of middle-eastern descent, and wears his green hair long (complaining that it hurts him to try to cut it). His ready smile is also often the first indication that something is amiss with him - his teeth are entirely canine, his jaws hosting a powerful set of fangs. In public, he rarely dons more than a T-shirt and jeans, eschewing shoes as being "too uncomfortable."
In privacy, another side of Venin emerges. Freed of the burdens of social tact, Venin's keen mind turns elsewhere. He views everything as a competition, a contest of dire survival - one that he is determined to win. The two sides of his personality, those of a loyal Longbow member and those of a destructive Devouring Earth aberration, afford him a myriad number of viewpoints on any given issue, granting him a great amount of patience and insight, though often paralyzing him with choices. As such, he tends to move forward only slowly, and with great caution, though revels in the moments when he is free to act as violently as he pleases.
His current psychologist is the retired supervillain Dr. Sophia Maniakos, whose unorthodox treatment procedures keep his personality in check.
Reaction to Heroic Culture
Deep down, Venin really wants to be a hero - he wants to soar through the skies, and free others from both real and figurative shackles. The only way that he can understand being Good, however, is through acts condemned as Evil. Refusing to compromise his personal morality for that of the public at large often leaves him bleakly depressed, and nothing infuriates him more than seeing recognized heroes acting irresponsibly.
Seeing that he can never become the next Statesman, then he's made a decision to be the best villain he can. If it takes a monster to save people form themselves, then they're going to have one.
Venin Hiss underwent an aborted attempt at creating a Devouring Earth Devoured, and while he mostly survived the trauma, his mind and body were irrevocably altered. Infected with a devouring culture, his body became a literal tug-of-war between a variety of barely-sentient plants, each one motivated to take over his body. In the normal process of "Devouring", the most powerful plant would then receive the most nutrients from their gestation chamber and quickly subsume its peers, but no such situation existed with Venin, leaving the hyperevolutionary pseudo-mammalian plants to assume different roles, as they absorbed and replaced Venin's body. Composed of roughly a dozen lifeforms that exist in a state of near-perfect symbiosis, each plant has taken the role of one of Venin's former bodily systems, adding a unique twist. The nervous and reproductive systems, for example, monitor the creation of his psychoreactive spores, while his Endocrine and Intergumentary systems link to produce powerful neurotoxins and stimulate the regrowth of lost thorns. Every part of Venin is a weapon, from his acidic digestive fluids to his toxic blood, even the air he breaths.
Born to Brian and Nadimah Heise August 29th, 1980, Venin Hiss is actually named Vernon Heise. Raised on a small farm just south of Columbus, Ohio, his family life was rocky but not entirely unpleasant. His fourth-generation American father met and wooed his mother, a visiting student from Pakistan, in college at Ohio State, beginning a long but troubled romance. Nadimah's family, objecting to her choice of husband, disowned Nadimah during a disastrous family trip to Pakistan in the fall of 1995. The internecine clashes between his parents alienated the young man, allowing him to find solace in his friends, as well as creating a fascination with super heroes, such as Back Alley Brawler and Sister Psyche. Despite the attending bitterness and blame of his youth, his childhood was spent in an otherwise un-extraordinary fashion.
Naturally inquisitive and bright, Vernon Heise began attending Columbia University in the fall of 1998, when his parents were both claimed in a fatal car accident. Withdrawing two months into classes, Vernon moved back home to maintain the family estate, choosing to work while his sister, Sophia, stayed in college. Two years later, exhausted, Vernon sold the farm, and resumed his studies at Columbia. When the Rikti attacked in 2002, he was one of the many people rescued by the newly-minted Longbow branch of Freedom Corp. Months later, as his bank accounts dwindled and his job tending bar failed to cover his expenses, he signed up for a contract with Longbow. It would be a decision that would change his life.
Upon joining the organization, Vernon found a way of life that suited him amply - athletic, intelligent, and likeable, Vernon was an ideal leader, rising up the ranks from guardian to warden in a matter of months. When the option came to volunteer for the new "Spines Scrapper" program, Vernon didn't think twice, as he began to undergo what would become years of physical conditioning, wetworks implants, and psychological training. By the end, Vernon was among the first generations of Spines Scrappers, leading his squad from the front, never feeling more alive than when he used his gifts and his talents to fight the enemies of justice and of mankind.
All of that changed in 2005, during a reconnaissance patrol on the Devouring Earth paradise of Eden. Ambushed and drastically outnumbered, most of the team was slain immediately, their bodies whisked away by medical teleporters, leaving only Vernon and the tattered remains of his subordinates to be taken alive. Deep beneath Eden, they were cocooned in the neo-organics of the Devouring Earth, fragments of hyperevolutionary Hamidon Goo altering their bodies in strange and unforeseen ways. Vernon in particular reacted oddly, the processes of the Devouring Earth taking root in his Longbow-modified flesh - none could predict what would have happened had the process not been interrupted by a number of heroes, directed by the ghost of the Woodsman, to rescue him and his fellow prisoners.
Months of hospitalization followed, as the devouring culture ripped through Vernon's body, consuming and replacing it completely on an almost weekly basis, his very body the battleground of competing lifeforms. Not a true devoured, some spark of the original Vernon remained, battling with his own body. Aided by healing magic and an aggressive course of medication, Vernon stabilized and pulled through the ordeal, though not without severe alterations, both mentally and physically. His body now a fractured hybrid of man and plant, his mind was shattered, barely functioning. Literally one step above a vegetable, he slowly recovered his senses, dulled by medications and a complete unfamiliarity with his own body. He was reporting to the professional psychologists in the Ziggursky penitentiary when he was abducted by Arachnos forces, and deposited on Mercy Island.
The Rogue Isles
The Rogue Isles are unkind to those not used to them. Venin Hiss, as he pronounced his own name, barely survived. While other "Destined Ones" grew and adapted almost immediately, Venin ran and hid, taking refuge amongst the poor and poverty stricken. They, too, shunned his company, either out of cruel jest in seeing someone in a more pathetic state than they, or afraid that he would attract the attention of others. Alone, and with the medication fading from his system, Venin lost himself to his vengeful, predatory side. Starving, he first fed only on what he could scavenge, steal, or catch - a stray cat, a pigeon, or someone else's garbage. He grew sly and strong there in the slums of Mercy, however, and increasingly daring. Then came the night he killed his first human, one of the drug-addled Stricken. At first engaging the man with a discarded pipe, Venin felt a surge of memory flooding his mind, cooling the dull fever of his predatory state. He skin flew to life, ripping itself into jagged thorns, as the ground around the Stricken's feet sprang to life with vines, trapping the man, as Venin ended his life.
Seized again by his instincts, Venin proceeded to messily devour most of the man, uncovering an odd sensation - as he digested the remains, he absorbed part of his victim's mind. Flooded with a half-dozen foggy memories, Venin located the man's friends, in a drug-induced stupor a few blocks away, slaying them, and hideously devouring their brains.
Arachnos patrols would later find the mutilated corpses, reporting it as just another street crime. Venin became a bogeyman of Mercy Island, hunting for prey beyond just the slums, claiming lone victims as they walked the streets at night. Some fought back, some didn't, but every new victim added to his reputation, and his knowledge. Their memories weren't eternal, lasting barely a week, though every now and then, one integrated itself into Venin's own mind permanently. He learned of the rest of the Rogue Isles, of the gang wars in Port Oakes, of the gambling in St. Martial, and of the strange towers being constructed in Grandville. He left Mercy, seeking his future.
It wasn't until much later that Venin stopped being a bloodthirsty beast. His hunger sated, he looked upon St. Martial with eyes unclouded by inhuman rage. He found work with Jezebel Jones, using his unusual talents to protect her business from rivals, and increasing his range of contacts exponentially. After a short time in her employ, he found himself with connections in Grandville, making frequent stops there, before he caught the eye of the vicious Captain Mako himself.
Sensing a kindred spirit but also a willing pawn, Mako took Venin under his wing, two formerly human monsters, each with a darker, predatory side. First using Venin to ferret out a traitor in his own legions, Mako then sent him on a number of missions involving the cult of the shaper, finding out information about the mysterious Coralax and their monstrous Leviathan. After being warned by Arbiter Daos himself of Mako's inevitable betrayal, Hiss and the shark mutant dueled inside the remains of the Leviathan itself, with Hiss barely emerging the victor, claiming Mako's prize for himself. As his body absorbed the essence of the Leviathan, Venin felt a new lifeform inside himself - the living coral of the Coralax incorporated itself into his body, reinforcing it further, granting it unforeseen powers, as well as a kinship with the alien Coralax Hybrids.
As the Rikti began regular assaults of both Paragon City and the Rogue Isles, Venin had had enough. Still not used to the feeling of the Coralax inside himself, he needed to get away. When the Midnighters opened their doors for specialist agents, Venin readily agreed. While mage-hunting has never been too much of a problem, he was more entranced by the group's pillar of ice and flame, linked back to the end of the last age of demigods. His first time through the time-warp, Venin was amazed at the pristine nature of Cimerora, the sheer rugged natural beauty of the place. Feeling at peace for the first time in a long span of time, Venin blended in as best he could. Passing himself off as a mercenary from the distant Persian Empire, he immediately signed on as part of Imperious's campaign against the traitor Romulus. In the din of battle, Venin found peace - there were no betrayals to worry about, no fear of displeasing Arbiters, no eventual retribution from Mako or any of a dozen other metahumans he'd wronged over the years.
He spent almost a month there before he went back to the Rogue Isles, then almost immediately returned. A boon for his psyche, he felt refreshed and solid, assured of who he was, and what he was going to do. It's said that at some point, Venin used a charm to alter the flow of the Pillar of Ice and Flame a few years - though to what era, it is impossible to say. Venin denies any of these rumors, still travelling to Cimerora when he feels a need to relax.
Upon ending his latest adventures, Venin needed some way to relax. At last finding some sense of inner calm, he found his social life was all but non-existent. Using his skills as a bartender, he found quick employment in Pocket D. Venin maintains a love/hate relationship with the interdimensional night club; on one hand, he acknowledges that it often brings out the worst in people, and addicts others to the thought of acting in a consequence free environment, especially with all the free booze. On the other hand, his psychologist, Dr. Maniakos, has promised to cave his forehead in with a crowbar if he doesn't maintain a steady regimen of meeting new people. Seeing the choice clearly, he acknowledges that he's being manipulated by the doctor, but doesn't seem to mind too much - rather, he now understands the bar to be just another battleground, an urban jungle that he will rise to the top of the food chain within.
Venin's greatest advantage comes with the fact that his entire body is designed, through a process of both man-made modifications and focused evolutions, into a killing machine. He's trained in hand-to-hand combat as much as any Longbow Agent, as well as in a specialized form of martial arts designed to take advantage of his spines, a relic from his days as a Spines Scrapper. Not only is his tough skin an adaptable defense and melee weapon, but it can also be used at range. In any form of assault, the wood-like substance also carries a potent neurotoxin which slow the reactions of or completely halt their target.
More terrifying is Venin's link with plant life. While it's nothing close to the Hamidon's power over living matter, Venin is able to spur growth in even the most inhospitable or unlikely climate, if only temporarily. He produces a vast array of seeds which contain the material needed to grow into any of a wide array of plant life with just a slight psychic nudge. More distressingly, these proto-seeds also function as a sort of psychoreactive spore, typically inhaled by subjects, making Venin seem pleasant to be around. In a large enough dose, they need not be inhaled, and may implant themselves, without leaving a physical trace, directly into the structure of another being, granting temporary direct psychic control over it to Venin.
Finally, Venin possesses the power to absorb thoughts and memories through a process of anthrophagy, literally, eating the brains and nervous tissue of human (and metahuman) beings. Far from an exact power, Venin typically only gains four or five coherent memories from a victim, and rarely retains more than one after a few weeks. Still, he has become a storehouse of strange and unexpected knowledge, and is capable of holding court on a range of topics from alien firearm maintenance and repair to the Hudson River Valley school of art.
For being a plant with extensive yet minor psychic powers, Venin's major weakness is his mind. So to speak. The two major motivating factors of his personality, that is, wild destructive impulses and guilt, are at constant odds with each other, leading him to extensive bouts of alienation, followed by wild binges of drinking, drugs, and other societal mores. He has only recently managed to get this bipolarity under any sort of control, and it is still in a delicate state of balance. Because he is only a facsimile of a human being, emotional manipulation via a direct psychic route is hard to accomplish, though he seems even more easily swayed by simple conversation to make up for it, perhaps accounting for his overtly aggressive nature.
Venin has difficulty with opponents who are too strong or too agile to be restrained by his vines, or present an unclear target.
- He is the product physically of the Devouring Earth, and ideologically of Longbow, and behaves as a reaction to both.
- Venin is friendly, but hypercompetitive
- After spending so much time contemplating his own actions, he detests the thought that anyone could act without devoting similar time to their own.
- He is an avowed anarchist, though still a practicing Catholic.
- Venin has a case of borderline alcoholism, often drinking when he simply has nothing else to do.
- He gets along best with individuals who he can either completely dominate, or who put up a decent fight, either verbally or physically.
- The Notorious Six: A group formed alongside Guru of the Alleys, an individual Venin seems to enjoy jousting with verbally, he's joined his unlikely allies in order to pursue some farther-reaching goal, of which he's been remarkably quiet. Even his membership within the group isn't well known - which is fortunate, for some recent upheavals within the group have encouraged his departure. He remains on tense terms with the former members, though far from overt hostility.
- Wilton: An unlikely friendship formed between the two, when Venin served Wilton a glass of potent Rikti toxin. He's defended Wilton out of both a sense of obligation, and because he claims to be the one responsible for finally doing the hero in.
- Innocuus: Venin met Drew at Pocket D during the slow hours, and the two got along rather well. Their friendship has blossomed but remained platonic, as she rebuffs his flirtatious advances, though they do have much in common with each other. Venin once taught her how to cook stir fry.
- Americandy: Candy and Venin have an interesting relationship. The two are natural opposites - he bounces between extremes of feral violence and inveterate scheming, while she seems, at least to him, to always approach problems with a sense of calm humility. While with most heroes this would annoy him to no end, he's actually jealous of her.
- Rezz: Venin and Rezz once had a very polite conversation.
- Bitterleaf: Bitterleaf is Venin's direct subordinate within the Notorious Six, and as such, is the only person who can actually challenge him for his seat. He relates to her on a more polite level than he does most other people, at first merely to be patronizing, but later because he appreciated her unmitigated bloodlust in the heat of battle. Their powers, though similar, compliment each other greatly.
- Ninjitsurge: A lackey in Venin's faction within the Notorious Six, Venin actually treates Ninjitsurge as a trusted confidante. He has suspicions about the robot's true nature, of course, but sees no point to act on them.
This section is open for editing, should anyone want to say anything about Venin in their own words.
"What a dick. He's a plant man... and he has nothing but women lined up after him. What do I have? Punkertons. God, what a dick." - Guru of the Alleys
He'd set out her pint before she even reached the bar. He always did. She liked to think of it as their little routine. She put on her prettiest smile - slightly gap-toothed, with that frightful titanium underbite - and cooed, "Oi, love. 'Ow's fings?" He answered briefly, but she couldn't hear him over the din of the club's crowd. She leaned in, opening her mouth to speak... but he was already turning away, chatting with some small, obnoxiously cute young thing as he mixed her drink. Snubbed. Again. She sneered horribly, eyes narrowed, servos in her shoulders whining as she tensed with frustration, the ominous hum of her Excelsior feeder coming online drowned out by the dozens of yammering patrons. That miserable little whore, with her pretty face and her pretty smile and - GAH! He glanced her way! Did he see her scowling?! She panicked, spinning on a platform rocket-roller heel, beer sloshing over the rim of her mug as she stalked off to nurse it in the corner with a pair of purple pills. Tomorrow night. She'll talk to him tomorrow night... he'd set out her pint before she even reached the bar, like he always did. It was their little routine. - 0v3rc10ck