TWIN DEMONS by Georgia Kennedy
The description of the nanomeds is taken from Peter David, Hulk - The Official Novelization of the Film (New York, Random House Publishing Group, 2003), p. 66.
Elysium, is the place in Greco-Roman mythology where heroes were conveyed after they died.
This is a derivative work of fiction featuring characters copyrighted and trademarked by Marvel Characters, Inc. It is based upon: Spider-Man, copyright 2002 by Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., all rights reserved; Spider-Man 2, copyright 2004 by Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., all rights reserved; Daredevil - Director's Cut, copyright 2004 by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Inc., all rights reserved; and Hulk, copyright 2003 by Universal Studios, all rights reserved. The author is not connected with nor is this work authorized by Marvel Characters, Inc., or any of the aforementioned motion picture studios. This work is intended solely for posting on Fanfiction, for the benefit and enjoyment of its intended audience. No commercial or financial benefit accrues or is intended to accrue to the author as a result of said posting. Any unauthorized copying or redistribution of this work might subject the party responsible for such unauthorized copying or redistribution to legal action by the owners of the aforementioned copyrights and trademarks.
PROLOGUE - RESURRECTION
It was 11:30 PM, Pacific Standard Time, on a late September night. Dr. Elizabeth K. Ross, Research Professor of Cellular Biophysics at the University of California School of Medicine and Project Director at the Berkeley Nuclear Biotechnology Institute, was putting in another late night at her laboratory. Or rather, what remained of it. Work was the only thing that could keep her mind off the tragic events that occurred three months before.
Betty Ross, the daughter of General Thaddeus, "Thunderbolt" Ross, was a beautiful, brilliant woman who'd attained the rank of full professor by the time she was twenty-seven. With her collaborator and former lover, Dr. Bruce Banner, she co-pioneered the science of cellular regeneration, a field whose promise stretched far beyond the horizon. Their initial project, the creation of molecule-sized robots called "nanomeds," was supposed to have been the first in a long line of applications that would revolutionize medicine and health care.
Although the theory behind the nanomeds was extraordinarily complex, the basic concept was simple. The nanomeds would be absorbed into the body and activated by gamma radiation. Once awakened, they would accelerate production of healthy cells and elimination of damaged ones. Injured or diseased tissues could heal within hours, making it possible to cure an enormous range of debilitating conditions, including spinal cord injuries, AIDS, and cancer.
The nanomeds worked . . .too well. A freak lab accident exposed Dr. Banner to a lethal dose of gamma radiation. But because his body had absorbed a huge number of nanomeds, the rays didn't kill him. Instead, they'd unleashed the dark side of his tortured psyche, turning him into a green-skinned monster whose rage fueled his growth. In his transformed state, Dr. Banner had destroyed the lab and had gone on a cross-country rampage that ended in a gigantic explosion at Snider Lake. No one, not even the Hulk, as Banner came to be called, could possibly have survived the equivalent of ten thermonuclear detonations.
The nanomeds might have also been lost with Bruce Banner if were it not for Betty Ross. At first, she was inclined to abandon the nanomed project as a failure. But she soon realized that if the gamma rays were administered in limited doses and under the strict supervision of qualified physicians, the nanomeds might well work as they were originally intended. The work would go on, she vowed. It was the only way she could keep Dr. Banner's memory alive.
Betty Ross could not help being passionately drawn to emotionally distant men, men who were psychologically incapable of reciprocating what she had to offer. She still loved Bruce, years after their relationship ended, even though she knew that he could never return her love. His father, a demented genius, had experimented on Bruce from the time he was a baby, and had all but snuffed out that vital spark of humanity that was still faintly visible whenever she looked Bruce in the eye. It was not his fault, she told herself again and again. He never asked for what happened to him. Tears would spring up behind her eyes every time she thought of Bruce.
For the last three months, she had been putting in twenty-hour days, repairing, restoring, and replacing the equipment and facilities that the Hulk had destroyed on the night of its birth. Over the objections of her father and most of the U.S. National Security establishment, but with the backing of the president's science advisors, she'd managed to put all of the research and experimental data pertaining to the nanomeds into the public domain, so that the world's most gifted minds could take this information and run with it.
Minds like Peter Parker's for instance. As Dr. Ross was going through a pile of ruined papers to see what could be salvaged, she found a copy of a term paper that the young man had sent to her over the Internet about a year and half ago. Mr. Parker had written it for an advanced placement class at his high school in Queens, New York. The paper, entitled: Nanomedical Technology In Cellular Regeneration, was a crystal-clear explanation of the theory behind the nanomeds. Both she and Bruce were floored by the intellect that produced that paper — with almost no prior exposure to the subject, the boy had grasped the incredibly complex challenges presented by cellular regeneration and had offered original insights as to how the nanomeds could be refined. They were so enamored of Peter that they used their clout to get him into their alma mater, Stanford. Unfortunately, a family tragedy kept Peter from accepting Stanford's offer of admission and he went to New York University instead. Betty knew Curtis Connors, the chairman of NYU's biological sciences department. She hoped that Curt would take Mr. Parker under his wing and help the young man reach his full potential.
Dr. Ross was still reading Peter's paper when she was suddenly startled by the ringing of her cell phone. The call was from Columbia University Hospital in New York City.
She flipped her phone open. "Hello," she answered tersely. She was not expecting a call this late at night.
"Dr. Ross?" asked a male voice that she did not immediately recognize.
"Speaking," she responded crisply, sensing right away that the call was important.
"This is Dr. Paul Franks, Chief of Emergency Medical Services at Columbia University Hospital. I attended your presentation at the Hoover Biotech Conference last year. . ."
"Oh yes, I remember you," she said as she warmly recalled one of her more well-received presentations.
"I'm sorry to disturb you at this late hour doctor, but a trauma victim was just brought in who just might be your first test case. We need you to help guide us through the process of administering the nanomeds. I would like to put you on conference call with the trauma room."
Wow, she thought, excitedly, the seeds are already beginning to bear fruit. Columbia was the premier biomedical institution in the world. Unlike many east coast universities, it did not suffer from the "not invented here," syndrome. Their researchers eagerly sought out and embraced promising new concepts without regard to geography. It amazed her how fast they were able to get the nanomed apparatus up and running.
"Vital signs?" Dr. Ross asked. " The nanomeds won't work if the heart is stopped too long."
"Just barely." Dr. Franks replied, somewhat anxiously. " She apparently suffered stab wounds to the throat and abdomen. Exit wound in the back. She went into cardiac arrest, but the rescuer was able to cover the wounds and restore her heartbeat and respiration. There's not much time."
"Alright! Get DNA samples and blood type ASAP so that the nanomeds can be properly calibrated. Prep the gamma cannon while you're doing that." She paused for a moment, and then, mindful of Dr. Banner's accident, emphatically delivered a caution. "Remember, don't use any more gamma rays beyond what is necessary to activate the nanomeds."
She hesitated, going back over what she though Dr. Franks had told her. "What did you mean, 'cover the wounds?'"
"He applied some sort of glob or coagulating fluid to the wounds to stop the bleeding. I think it's his webbing."
"His what?" Dr. Ross asked, extremely confused. "Did you say webbing? I don't understand. Who rescued her?"
"You obviously don't read the New York papers, Dr. Ross." a bemused Dr. Franks gently chided. "I'll tell you all about it once we get through this. I know it's very short notice, but we're pretty confident that it'll work this time, and we would like you to fly out here as soon as you can to verify the results for us."
"Okay. I'll book the first flight out of San Francisco once the operation is over. In the meantime, follow my instructions to the letter."
"Yes Doctor. Thank you. I'm going to put you through to the emergency room now."
Myriad thoughts and emotions threaded in and out of Betty Ross's mind as she waited for the connection. Above everything else, she hoped that the people at Columbia could succeed where her group did not . . . balancing the production of healthy cells with the elimination of destroyed ones. If they did, the last remaining obstacle to widespread use of the nanomeds will have been removed.
But Betty Ross's scientific curiosity had been triggered by this talk of a Spider-Man. A man who spins webs? Betty thought excitedly. Is such a thing even possible? Dr. Franks's brief description implied some kind of inter-species genetic fusion. But such research was universally condemned as unethical and banned in almost every country. She wondered if Spider-Man, like Bruce Banner, had been the victim of an experiment gone terribly wrong. Even so, the implications of Homo Arachnis would be staggering.
Spider-Man had been routinely patrolling the city when his spider-sense had alerted him to a disturbance in Hell's Kitchen. He did not visit this part of the city often — it was Daredevil's territory after all, and for the most part, it was clean. But as he swung by one particular rooftop, his highly refined precognition alerted him to someone's rapidly fading life signs. Cautious, but ready for combat, Spider-Man moved in to investigate.
He was just in time. The woman who lay on the rooftop was nearly dead. Dressed in some tight-fitting, black leather combat outfit, she was in cardiac arrest, bleeding profusely from her right hand, abdomen, and neck. She had apparently been involved in a knife fight, and had come up on the losing end. There was blood all over the place. The other combatants had apparently fled. He did not have time to go after them. His immediate priority was to save this woman's life.
It would prove to be the most difficult rescue operation that Spider-Man had ever undertaken—transporting an unconscious stabbing victim from Hell's Kitchen to Columbia University Hospital, nearly eighty city blocks away. There were other hospitals that were closer, but he knew Columbia's reputation as the premier trauma center in New York. Given how grave the victim's condition was, he would have to get her there if she was to have any chance of pulling through.
Peter Parker thanked God he had enough sense to get certified in basic first aid. He had also discovered that his web fluid made quite an effective bandage. So the first thing he did was to shoot wads of webbing over the wounds in an effort to stop the hemorrhaging. Then he lifted his mask. Come on, Lady, he said anxiously to himself, Hang in there . . . you're gonna be just fine.Watching his beloved uncle Ben die right in front of him had, more than anything else, instilled in him a profound understanding of the preciousness of life. He would do everything he possibly could to keep this beautiful lady ninja from slipping away. He gave the woman mouth-to-mouth and applied cardiopulmonary resuscitation. As far as he could tell, there was no internal bleeding.
A police chopper had been hovering over the scene when he arrived. Knowing he had to work fast, Spider-Man leaped up and into the chopper's cabin through its open door.
"You guys have a defillibrator and backboard?" he asked.
The officers quickly handed him what he asked for. Working faster than the officers could see, he fastened the board to the helicopter struts. Then he carefully lifted the unconscious female warrior onto the board and webbed her into place so as to immobilize her. Finally, he mounted the defillibrator to the bottom of the chopper so that it would not shake if he had to use it.
When all was ready, Spider-Man ordered the officers, "Columbia Hospital. Now!"
The chopper lifted upward, with Spider-Man, the defillibrator, and the woman on the board all hanging beneath. The pilot alerted the emergency room staff that they were bringing in a stabbing victim. For the first time, he got a good look at the victim's face. She was beautiful, but not in the way that Mary Jane was. There was an athleticism and muscularity to this woman's looks, which reminded Spider-Man of those gorgeous female Olympians he admired. She must be a real ass-kicker, Spider-Man thought, wondering if she meant as much to someone as M.J. meant to him.
They made the eighty-block trip in a little over five minutes, with Spider-Man constantly monitoring the victim, ready to act if she slipped back into cardiac arrest. When they arrived at Columbia, the staff was waiting. Spider-Man tore away the webbing supports so that the woman could be safely transferred to a stretcher. After describing what he saw to the doctors, and removing the web bandages at their direction, he flew off into the night, confident that the medical staff of New York's finest hospital would do its job, and that he would nail the animal that did this.
But the search for the perpetrator proved fruitless. After an hour or so, he called it a night and returned to his shabby, one-room Greenwich Village apartment, and his life as a sophomore at N.Y.U. The first round of examinations was coming up in a few weeks, and he would have to study for at least two hours before he could go to sleep. Fortunately, the adrenalin that his body generated during his nightly sojourns spared him from having to drink coffee in order to remain awake. Never any rest for the weary, he sighed as he cracked open a book entitled, Elementary Quantum Mechanics – Fourth Edition.
He had absolutely no inkling that the woman whose life he'd saved that night was worth over seventeen billion dollars.
Twelve hours after she was brought into the hospital, the woman opened her eyes. Her surroundings slowly came into focus — she was in what looked like a recovery room. The sunlight streaming through the partially opened blinds caused her to squint.
The last thing she remembered was the battle with Bullseye, Daredevil, and the agonizing stab wounds she suffered, the pain worsened by her humiliating defeat at the hands ofher father's killer, and her realization that she had wrongfully accused Matt Murdock of the crime.
But she was puzzled by the fact that she felt no pain at all. If she were still alive, she should have at least felt discomfort from the sutures. She looked at the hand which had been pierced clean through by her own sai — it appeared completely normal. She reached up to her throat, to where her jugular vein had been sliced open by Bullseye's playing card. Nothing, no scars, no stitches. Bewildered, she pulled up her hospital gown and struggled in vain to find the wound on her abdomen. It wasn't there. She pinched herself to make sure that she wasn't in Elysium. It slowly dawned on her that she had been saved through some sort of advanced medical technology that had somehow sped up her healing.
She pressed the buzzer just as a young, dark-skinned nurse appeared by her bedside. She had a warm smile and a pleasant demeanor.
"Good Morning Miss . . ." The nurse glanced at her patient's ID bracelet. "Natchios. How are we feeling today?" Her accent identified her as Jamaican.
"Could be worse," the patient replied, slowly, still trying to get her bearings. "Can you please tell me where I am and how I got here?"
"You're at Columbia University Medical Center," the nurse replied as she recorded the time that the patient awoke. "You were brought in and treated for stab wounds in the emergency services wing. The doctors will be in later to evaluate you, but quite frankly, your recovery was nothing short of miraculous."
"Who brought me in?" the patient asked eagerly, hoping that it had been Matt Murdock.
"Spider-Man," replied the nurse.
She blinked, not sure that she'd heard the nurse correctly. "Who?"
"Ma'am," the nurse said, slightly amused at her patient's ignorance, "you're obviously not from New York."