Deathspider/Origin Of The Feces
From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
Origin Of The Feces
MAY 9th 2000
Traffic in Skyway City at rush hour – total gridlock. The straight truck the Skulls used for their drug shipments was non-descript, beaten up, and riddled with rust. A faded La Raza Foods logo on the side. Dirt caking the faded white paint. It rattled and shook due to the failing drive train, and the shock absorbers were shot. But as a method to haul the massive shipments of Superdine and other sundry illegal pharmaceuticals, it worked like a charm.
A young 23 year old Hispanic man sits slumped in the front seat. His hair is long and ratty, his clothes just as ragged – his jeans are worn and frayed, a widening hole in the left knee, a Slipknot shirt with the sleeves cut off, a black bandanna used one too many times to wipe oil off a dipstick. His arms are covered in tattoos, black replicas of old medieval woodcuts of skeletons dancing and stylized skulls – his gang affilation is clear. His eyes were shut, the bright light of day hurting his eyes, as the pupils were dilated from the heroin he had shot up not a mile back after they had loaded up the truck. Such runs took awhile, and he could ride out a high before he got back to the Gish.
His companion, the driver, is another Hispanic man, his head shaved save for a tuft of hair at the base of his skull, known colloquially as a ‘mexi-mullet’, usually a trademark of the Chicago-based Latin Kings, but he was a transplant. The Kings didn’t last long here, and got absorbed into the Skulls post-haste, but the hair style remained. Dressed in grease stained sweatpants and a long john thermal shirt, he idly smoked a blunt, the smoke wafting out of the cab of the truck.
“ Ey, man, wuzzup wit yo sista, bro?” the driver asked, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel. He had an eye on his companion’s sister for a while, but he was intimidated by her – she was a rough young woman, usually playing around with the other chicas in the gang, but nobody had seen her with a guy, only her brother. “Sammi stop playing with other girls yet, mebbe she need a man, you know?”
The man in the passenger seat gave a weak laugh. “Ese, she ain’t into anyone in the gang, you know? ‘specially you, man. ‘eryone know ‘bout yo trips to the clinic, yo.”
The driver cackled, breaking into a cough. “Fuck you, pendajo! She jus scared to get a dick in er, man.”
The man in the passenger seat opened his eyes, squinting. “Why the fuck you talking ‘bout fucking my sister in front of me, man?” he chuckled, amused at the prospect of Alejandro trying to make on Samantha, and his subsequent ass-kicking and trip to the dentist. “Sides, she fuck you up, yo…” He leaned forward, opening the glove compartment, pulling free some CD cases from the compacted fast-food trash inside. “What you in the mood for, man? I got some Dead Kennedys and some..” he looked at the other jewel case quizzically. “Iron Maiden? What the fuck, man?”
Alejandro snorted. “I think the Gringo Fairy came by and gave you some white people music. Mikey, I know yo daddy’s white, but you ain’t gotta act it, holmes.” The truck moved a foot, and the car in front of them flashed its brake lights. Alejandro swore and slammed down on the brakes again. This was like trench warfare, every day, but it was necessary for the operation.
Mikey cried out quarrelously. “I don’t lissen to no Iron Maiden, man! Someone took my Ministry CD!”
Alejandro cackled, and broke out in a bad falsetto scream. “Raaaaaaah! Raaaaagh! Kill your mothaaaaaah!”
Mikey gave him a sour look. Even doped up, he could get defensive about his choice in music. He shook his head and settled back in the seat. He was 23 years old, already having spent time in County for drug arrests and weapon possession charges. A career Skull, his arms covered in his gang’s symbols. He wasn’t one of the thugs on the corner, though. He had stopped being at that rung of the ladder, so to speak, when he turned 18. Marrowsnap, the leader of the Skulls, saw the profitability of the new drug hitting the streets, Superdine, and it becoming extremely popular. Moreso than the staple pharmaceuticals like speed, coke, heroin, and crack. Superdine was the big new thing, and everything else just padded the gang’s pockets. With the influx of the new drug, Marrowsnap was quick to nominate several of his trusted lieutenants with the job of running the stuff from warehouses and labs in Striga Isle, Talos Island, and Skyway City to the Row.
So this was Mike and Alejandro’s job, running out to Talos Island in the morning, picking up a shipment from their suppliers. They loaded the truck around six in the morning, and basically sat in traffic all morning until around 8. They would stop in Skyway, at a warehouse underneath the freeway and drop off the shipment for other members to cut the precious drug with benzene and other noxious chemicals, usually industrial waste carted in from a cleaning fluid plant on the north side of Skyway. They would pick up the shipment from the day before, already cut, and load it in the truck by 11, and drive around aimlessly until they stopped for lunch. They would usually get high, like Mikey did today, and kill time until they could slide into rush hour traffic around three-thirty. They would usually arrive in the Gish around 4:45, right when everyone was clogging the streets, trying to get home from their pointless jobs. Rush hour was the perfect time to make the runs, because of the sheer volume of traffic made hunting down their beat up little truck an unpalatable prospect for any hero trying to tackle the drug problem, like Back Alley Brawler did awhile back. So far, in the three years Mikey and Alejandro have been making runs, nobody ever gave them shit. They ran their little operation right under the hero’s noses, and because they weren’t ostentatious like the namers hanging out on the corners, stealing purses and shit, they never got busted.
The windshield burst in, and Alejandro’s shirt seemed to disintegrate, spraying out, droplets of blood mixing with the tiny shards of safety glass in the air. Michael, as high as he was, seemed to move in slow motion. His eyes widened, and he slowly moved to open the door. Time seemed to be suspended in molasses. His numb hand found the latch, and he leaned against the door, falling out. Years of having to deal with sudden, random violence overrode his dulled senses, and he rolled on the hot pavement, slamming his back against the door of a forest green ‘96 Dodge Neon. The driver was already ducking down. Somewhere, seeming to be miles away, another burst of gunfire. Michael crawled on his hands and knees, the hot asphalt searing into the palms of his hands until he could get behind the Neon, the exhaust choking him. He held his breath and started loping towards the shoulder of the road, another lane away.
Out of nowhere, a flash of grey, and something impacted against his knee, smashing the patella and sending a blinding flare of agony up his leg. He stumbled, pitching forward against the lower edge of a flatbed truck. His jaw slammed against the metal edge of the flatbed, his tongue bitten in two, flooding his mouth with blood. He rebounded off the metal and slumped to the pavement, moaning, momentarily senseless.
The Skull Bone Daddy loomed over him. He was a massively built black man with a white skull permenantely tattooed on his face, his scalp shaven bare. He wore a faded grey denuim jacket with the sleeves cut off, his bulging arms gleaming with sweat. He hefted his tire-iron and brought it down on Michael’s ribcage, making the young man crumple into a ball, his sternum breaking with a brittle, wet snap.
“Yo job is being outsourced, mon… We ‘preciate all de hard work you and Allie been doin’, but we tink dis just not goan work out, mon. We wish you…” He brought the tire-iron back down on Michael’s ribs, crushing two more, one puncturing his right lung. “…de best in yo future endevahs. For what it worth, mon, it nuthin’ personal…”
His huge hand plunged down, his iron-like fingers clamping around Michael’s neck. Michael let out a choked gasp, and was lifted off the ground. The huge black man, not caring if anyone saw him, proudly strode to the shoulder of the road. Michael’s vision swam, the agony swiftly overcoming his high. His breath came in gasps, blood flowing from his nose and mouth. His chest seemed to be on fire, with every hitching, ragged breath, his broken ribs digging deeper into his insides.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw another Skull, holding a TEC-9 machine pistol. He walked purposefully towards the black man, his face also tattooed with the white skull. “Hold him over the edge, Saint. Like the plan said.” His voice was even. White boy.
Saint grinned and thrust his massive arm out. Michael dangled over the edge of the freeway. Below him, eight stories down, a warehouse, an alley, some dumpsters. The white boy with the TEC-9 walked up to Saint, and smiled mirthlessly. “Mikey, my man, this is it, y’know? Progress and all that. Marrowsnap’s wanting more profit, less overhead. And less loose ends, you know? But it’s done. You’re done. Like my man Saint said, it ain’t personal. It just gotta be done.”
The TEC-9 fired a burst. Michael’s chest exploded out with blossoms of blood, flecks of crimson splattering on the white skull tattoo on Saint’s face. Sixteen 9mm rounds blew their way into Michael’s chest.
Saint released him.
The descent comes too quick, a sudden, gut-wrenching drop.
AUGUST 23rd 2001
“So you’re saying this is going to supplant the Vampyri project?”
A young woman, blonde, hair tied back in a bun, with brown rimmed glasses objected. “No, sir. This is going to provide us with proof that the Column can succeed where Lord Recluse has failed. His botched Arachnoid project just gave us the tools to give us the perfect assassin. Imagine an operative that doesn’t need to eat, but feeds off his target’s life force like a spider feeding on a fly. Imagine an operative so quick and so fast, he doesn’t need to wear armor or have a thick hide like the Eclipse series, he can dodge bullets. An operative that can actually go out in public, and go out in the daylight. In short, the perfect enhanced solider. That’s something that we don’t have yet.”
The 5th Column officer, dressed in a sharp black suit with the SS Death’s Head clasp over his tie, blonde hair slicked back, sneers. “You had to use these untermensch to do it? At least our Vampyri are proud Aryan men, despite their current… regrettable condition. But I suppose you Americans like to have your little melting pot. It’s unseemly, is all.” He gestured to the series of green, liquid filled vats. Several men and women floated inside, suspended in the medium, several wires and tubes sticking inside of them. The baleful white floursecent lights reflected off the plexiglass vats, giving everything in the lab a bleached, flat appearance. The blonde man picked up a clipboard. An executive officer, he had no head for science. His eyes scanned over the diagrams of adenosine tri-phosphate transfer and absorption with disinterest. “What’s this?”
The blonde woman took the clipboard, her expression guarded. “This, Herr Hauptmann, is how they feed. Adenosine tri-phosphate is the basic unit of energy in the body, a chemical product of cellular respiration. What this does is power all of the basic functions of our bodies. Our cells use ATP and convert it into adenosine diphosphate. It’s like… gasoline, it’s fuel. What our operatives do is actually draw these chemical molecules from their targets, right through the skin. It saps the target’s ability to function effectively, and it strengthens the operative. Usually the feeding effect is done on contact, but we believe the operatives could theoretically draw it from a limited distance, and from multiple targets.”
The blonde man nodded, wishing he was somewhere else, instead of having to do an audit of the 5th Column’s Special Projects Division. Every couple of months, they had to show progress, so their corporate backer, in this case, the Militech Defense Corporation, a major US defense contractor, wouldn’t get stingy. The base in Striga was funded almost entirely from Militech funds, and the day to day costs were… astronomical. If not for Militech, the 5th Column would be strapped for cash. If not for the Chairman of the Board’s affinity for the Cause… “Strength, speed, endurance? If these vermin can’t go toe to toe with the heroes, we’re wasting a lot of money on this.” He shook his head. After this, he had to go see what the techs were doing in the cybernetics department, with the critically wounded 5th Column soldiers. To see if they could be salvaged. Always money, always the bottom line.
“Reaction times are off the charts, Herr Hauptmann. Once a threat is recognized, the subjects have shown the ability to actually anticipate the attack and respond accordingly with astonishing speed. For example, we had some ex-US Army recruits recently. Didn’t make the 5th’s Basic Combat Training, what with getting discharged from the military for disability. We had our subjects out there on the range with these recruits, and gave the recruits handguns and the instructions to fire at will at the operatives. The subjects were able to not only anticipate the attack pattern of the recruits, where they would fire and such, but they were able to close the distance and drain the men dry within 5 seconds. Actually, two seconds, but a complete drain takes some time to transfer.”
She smiled in spite of herself. These were her babies. “So speed is actually their greatest asset. Endurance and strength, however, are tied into their feeding process. They draw their sustenance from their targets, and as thus, can’t go for extended periods of time without feeding. One average human male can provide enough ATP for about 3 hours of moderate combat, about 16 hours for normal human exertions. Once in a target rich environment, however, they can potentially be sated for days. We anticipate test runs inside Paragon City against some of the indigenous criminal gangs, to see how much an operative can feed on before feeling… ‘full’, as it were.
“Brute strength, however, isn’t their forte. They rely on their draining ability to sap the target’s ability to fight back, to sap their strength. After all, it’s hard to land an effective blow if you can barely summon the strength to raise your arm. That, combined with their speed, can prove to be a potent combination. I suggest full combat training, as befitting any 5th Column operative, to maximize their effectiveness. Don’t you agree, Herr Hauptmann?”
Hauptmann nodded wearily. “Fine. That’s fine. I suppose if you’re heading into field testing, you’ll be yielding some interesting results. We’ll see how the High Command feels about your little bug people. Although, I must mention, only Caucasians for the final product. If they’re as effective as you claim they will be, we want real human beings for the field, not these mud people. Carry on, Fraulein Kale. Carry on.” He took another look at the men and women floating in the green liquid and shook his head before turning and walking out of the lab.
Lindsey Kale watched the Nazi go. She finally closed her eyes and let herself shiver, having repressed the feeling of her skin crawling as he was in the room with her. She hated working for these paramilitary Neo-Nazis, but it was the only work she could get. 34 years old and a disgraced bio-engineer, she was desperate. And organizations like the 5th Column fed on that desperation. They paid well, but she was forever marked. She was able to support her kid, but she could never get a real life. No, that was far behind her.
Now, what did she have? A 13 year old at home who hated her. A lab full of men and women who were more lab rats than human beings, eventually going to be arachnid assassins to further the Column’s crazed, anachronistic fascist agenda. But hell, people did worse for money. She set the clipboard down and walked down the aisle, looking over her test subjects. They didn’t even have names anymore, just numbers assigned to them. Subject 001, a black male, early 30’s. Subject 003, white female, late 20’s. Subject 005, Asian, maybe mid-20’s. Subject 007, Hispanic male, early 20’s.
Subject 007, she thought to herself, God, was he a mess when they found him. Literally fell into their laps from the freeway above the lab. One of the Column troops outside saw him land in a dumpster, and saw the bullet riddled body of the Skull gangbanger inside. He dragged him inside, and the medical personnel on site brought him in – there were no willing recruits for Project X-27. Just like the rest of the subjects, he was not going to be missed. Subject 004, for example, was an escaped convict, a child molester. Subject 010 was a has-been pop star. Maybe VH-1 would want to talk to her one day, but she was actually worth something now. They patched up 007, just to where they could get him on life support, and the X-27 team took it from there.
She put her palm on the plexiglass, sliding it down the length of the vat. Who was this person? What was his name, what did he do? He was a poor person, no doubt, the Skull tattoos on his arms (now removed, the skin flayed from his arms and regrown) telling a lot about his life, but there had to have been more. Who loved him, who hated him, what was he like? Things a clinical researcher and a scientist shouldn’t care about, but she liked to think she wasn’t one of the amoral lab rats the Column employed. She was proud of what advances they had accomplished with the X-27 subjects, but… but these were people, not things. Not self-made monsters like the War Wolves or the Vampyri. But maybe they would be even more abhorrent. At least the War Wolves and the Vampyri looked like beasts. The Shadow Spiders would look human, act human, but underneath… they were going to end up being predators like the others. Looking at Subject 007’s face, she felt a stab of remorse at what she was involved in, but… she had to feed Jenny, put a roof over her head, provide for her. God knows Jenny’s father wasn’t around to do it.
She rested her forehead against the plexiglass. Doctor Faust wasn’t going to be back until Monday. Today was Thursday. She still had to get the subjects fed and get the paperwork done so they could do more out-of-lab trials for next week. Doctor Faust wanted to see how they faired against the Mek-Men, a non-living opponent. She let out a deep sigh.
Inside the vat, Subject 007 opened his eyes. Through the murky green fluid, he could see the woman, Kale. His thoughts were clouded, the IV in his arm feeding his brain chemicals to emit endorphins – he and the other nine subjects were kept in a state of near-constant bliss. The sight of the woman brought his manhood to half-mast, but he felt too good to move. As though moving would cause the feeling to go away, and that was the last thing he wanted. Still a junkie, just for a different drug.
But even such a superficial thought like that was a little too deep for him while he was in the Happy Bath. The green chemicals felt sensuous against his skin, his new, re-grown skin. Like being rubbed with a soft chemise cloth or with silk being drawn over your inner thigh, but all over his body. He hadn’t had an orgasm in well over a year, but with this kind of pleasurable sensation almost constantly available, sex seemed like passing up prime rib for Spam. Even the thought of sex was like the feeling you get when you think of something silly you did as a kid. The Happy Bath was so much better. When they took everyone out of the Happy Bath, he could see the others crying, like the Asian girl. She would sob, inconsolable until the little tricks they wanted everyone to do were done with.
He had seen her dig her fingers underneath the skin of a man and feed off him, crying, wanting the Happy Bath. He didn’t blame her. Leaving the Happy Bath was like losing your first love to your best friend while watching your dog get run over by a truck while being in the darkest, deepest depression you could think of. But he had learned that the sooner you did what the crazy German man wanted you to do, what the pretty blonde woman wanted you to do, the sooner you got to go back to the blissful womb of green gel. God, if he could only tell Miss Kale how good it felt! How the Happy Bath made everything else in life seem so inconsequential, so dull and dreary! Here, in the confines of the vat, his old life and being shot just seemed like a precursor to this. His first kiss, the first woman he had sex with, the first time he shot up heroin with his friends, all of that paled in comparison. If he could let Miss Kale know, she would climb in right beside him, and she wouldn’t look so sad anymore, she would be nuzzling with him and they’d both be in Heaven.
But… that would require moving, making an effort which didn’t seem too wise of an idea. If he moved, it would mean she might stop the Happy Bath and take him out, make him hurt somebody before he could go back in. The hours outside made him squirm and itch and hurt. Just standing and feeling the air across his skin was excruciatingly painful. Instead, he watched her, his weird new eyes regarding her with an almost pitying look. The black irises seemed to swim and swirl around the blood red iris. Poor Miss Kale. Having to go about living in that horrible and painful and disappointing world, when on the other side of the glass, there was nothing but happiness and contentment.
Poor Miss Kale.