Nature Versus Nurture 3: Project Scorpion
Octavia Jones is no longer alone; she has discovered another clone. But handsome Mack might have sinister intentions up his sleeve, and the government is far from through with them. This story concludes the NVN series.
"In my heart
There is a vigil, and these eyes but close
To look within; and yet I live, and bear
The aspect and the form of breathing men.
But grief should be the instructor of the wise;
Sorrow is knowledge: they who know the most
Must mourn the deepest o'er the fatal truth,
The Tree of Knowledge is not that of Life.
Philosophy and science, and the springs
Of wonder, and the wisdom of the world,
I have essayed, and in my mind there is
A power to make these subject to itself—
But they avail not: I have done men good,
And I have met with good even among men—
But this availed not: I have had my foes,
And none have baffled, many fallen before me—
But this availed not—Good, or evil, life,
Powers, passions, all I see in other beings,
Have been to me as rain unto the sands,
Since that all-nameless hour. I have no dread,
And feel the curse to have no natural fear,
Nor fluttering throb, that beats with hopes or wishes,
Or lurking love of something on the earth."
Lord Byron, Manfred
The following is a copy of a United States Central Intelligence Agency memo, retrieved at great risk.
Security Level: Top Secret-Highly Classified. Authorized Persons Only.
To: All persons cleared for work on below-named National Security Scientific Project.
CC: Vice President Richard Cheney; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Colonel Nicholas Fury of SHIELD; Agent Cindy Cypher of CIA; Dr. Edward Bowman of SDSI
From: Director Theodore Rockefeller of the SDSI-CIA
Date: October 3, 20—
Re: Projects Octopus and Scorpion, Operation Apollo; Status Report
Status of Project Octopus: In progress. Subject, the clone called "Octavia Jones," approximately 15 years of age, is still living in the residence of Anthony Nicholas in the Venice suburb of New York City. Subject has apparently recovered from unforeseen genetic mutations (nature unknown). As two previous attempts to capture the subject have failed by a near-catastrophic magnitude, I propose that we change our general plan. Our intentions may be realized without having to even take the subject from its home.
Status of Project Scorpion: In progress. Subject, the clone called "Macendale Jackson," has been located in the Venice, NY area. Subject will play an integral part in the general plan, but the slightest miscalculation will likely mean disaster.
Status of Operation Apollo: Failed. The subject, Dr. Otto Octavius, appeared to have escaped alive during a minor scuffle between the subject and Agent Cypher in downtown Manhattan. The cause of the failure was determined to be the interference of the costumed vigilante Spider-Man and another super-criminal. Agent Cypher has been advised that bringing in outside sources may compromise further missions and put her job clearance in jeopardy. The motives of the second super-criminal involved, the "Green Goblin," are yet to be discovered. Questioning Agent Carlyle about his possible intrusion into the Projects is, of course, presently a moot point.
Chapter 1: Alone No Longer
"Seems I'm not alone in being alone." The Police, "Message in a Bottle"
Jordan Nicholas stepped into the guest room in a blue bathrobe and blue bunny slippers. She yawned. "Come on, Octavia. Enough's enough. You gotta get to bed."
"For what? Tomorrow's Saturday. I'll sleep in." Octavia Jones was leaning on the desk, madly typing on a computer.
"Come on. I know it's the weekend, but four in the morning is enough already."
"I have to find him. I thought I could google him, but nothing. There's nothing."
Jordan's eyes lit up. "If you find out where he went after my dad nearly ran over him, let me know…"
"Not him, chowder-head! Mack Jackson."
"I met this hot guy on that museum field trip, and…"
"Ah! You have a crush!" Jordan laughed.
"Not a crush, Jordan. I think he's another clone."
Jordan shook her head. "You've been hanging around my dad too much," she said serenely. "He says the Illuminati created you as part of a master race of super-soldiers to take over the world. You shouldn't take him so seriously."
"Jordan, the dude has a mark on his shoulder."
"Just because a guy has an octopus on their right shoulder doesn't make him your long-lost brother. if he's got four robot tentacles on his back, then we'll talk."
"It isn't an octopus, Jordan. It's a scorpion."
"So he's got a tattoo on his shoulder. Doesn't mean they're cloning supervillains off the assembly line. Go to bed."
Octavia's eyes widened. "Jordan, you're a genius!"
"No way, man. You're the genius—"
"I have to find Dr. Nancy Melitta."
"The geneticist who was working under Dr. Grace Morrison, the psychologist."
"Don't you remember what I told you about when I first got these at twelve years old?"
"Ohh," Jordan nodded. "But you killed Grace Morrison."
"Not me," Octavia corrected. "They did." She indicated the coiled metal tentacles, trimmed in metallic magenta with pink lights at the center of tri-symmetrical pincers. "But when I woke up in the hospital two years ago, I briefly talked with Melitta. I think they sent her to prison."
"Google her name in," Jordan suggested.
Octavia obliged, then peered at the screen. "Apparently, she found a new job at Oscorp Industries."
"Great. Now you can e-mail her and ask her to meet ya for lunch somewhere to talk. And now you can shut that down and go to bed."
Life had taken a heavy toll on Octavia Mary Jones. At barely fifteen years old, she was still searching for an identity of her own. It was entirely possible that the search was futile and doomed to fail—she was the clone of a super-villain, forcibly gifted and cursed at twelve with the four mechanical arms that were the super-villain's hallmark.
She had met her biological genetic template, the closest thing she had to family—and come away from her experience disillusioned. He had taken her hostage while trying to build a radiation ray he could use to take over the world, and Octavia sensed he hadn't given a rat's ass about her. He had even told her that in so many words once. Octavia could still hear her "father's" words ringing in her head: You are just a hostage. You are my means of preventing the police and that accursed arachnid aberration from seriously injuring me. However, he had tried to save her life before getting attacked by another super-villain and getting run over by a car shortly afterwards. Octavia had to admit that Doc Ock had good intentions; but as everyone knew, the road to hell was paved with those.
It is not the place of man to create life; Octavia was an abomination, the result of when man tried to play God. Since scientists had, until her, completely failed to produce a living, full-term—let alone healthy—human clone, Octavia's body was afflicted by several genetic abnormalities. In the captivity of her "father," she had come dangerously close to death until Agent Clark Carlyle—whose role in Octavia's life shall be explained later—had her injected with a formula which would allow her body to heal the damage.
Octavia dashed off an email to Dr. Melitta after finding the "Contact" link on her Employee of the Month profile.
"Dear Dr. Melitta:
My name is Octavia Jones. You may not remember me, but I remember you. I believe we first met a little more than two years ago. Please meet me at the Daily Grind Café in Manhattan to talk about old times."
"What?" Jordan looked over the letter. "You make it sound like you're writing to an old middle-school pal or something."
"Don't you know that people in the government could intercept e-mails?" Octavia was suddenly struck by what she just said. "Gee, Jordan, I really am around your father too much. Oh well." She pushed the Send button.
After sending the letter, Octavia went to bed, and for the first time in three years, her sleep was untroubled by nightmares.