|Twelve years ago. The
Virginia Military Institute:
"Yes. I received the application. I’m not sure he’s VMI material." The General said to the voice on the other end of the line.
"General Minnick, I understand your … hesitation. But, Joshua Wilson is special. Have you seen his test scores? He’s off the charts. All boys get into trouble when they are young – Joshua had a troubled youth. I think he’s ready to turn over a new leaf." The lawyer replied.
"Troubled youth!" The General said with incredulity. "He has two convictions for assault; and one for grand-theft auto. It was only because he was 14 at the time that he did not go to the state pen." The General held in his hand sealed state records for Joshua Henry Wilson. The records were sent to him by the lawyer on the phone. Youth records were sealed by court order and should have been destroyed when this boy reached sixteen. Still, he had them in his hands. Minnick had never doubted the power of the man he was indebted to – but he had always assumed that it was personal power – not political power. He had underestimated this man. Still, why all this effort for some hoodlum from Boston?
"General, that is in the past. He needs your school now – make him into a better man. But either way, this is the way that it has to be." The line was silent for a moment.
"This… this is what it costs?" The General asked. "I’ve worked all my career for a position like this – and now, you’re requiring this of me? Why! I must know why."
"General, when you needed the help of my employer – he helped you. Period. No questions. When you needed your ‘allies’ dealt with – that was handled as well. And now, my employer needs you."
General Norman Minnick’s mind returned to the jungles of Vietnam and his deal with the devil. Norman Minnick had received a rare gift – a second chance with one only string attached. Once — he had been part of a drug ring run from Vietnam. Now — he was out of it. He had just walked away – with the help of one man. Only the arms dealer who had helped him kill his partners (American and Vietnamese) knew the truth about him. His wife and his sons knew him only as an honorable, career military man who had taken his retirement in the Virginia mountains as Commandant of one of the most prestigious private military academies in the world. "Fine … I’ll take him. But if he washes out … no special treatment." The General capitulated.
"No General, he needs special treatment. He’s to be given every harsh assignment and menial task you have. Then, you will expect him to excel at every class and combat simulation you throw at him. He’s to be given no quarter – no mercy. The only thing you need to give him is a special series of vitamins and shots."
"That’s what you want? And then, we’re even? Fine. But, he won’t last under that – he won’t last a week. What’s your game here?"
"My game is none of your business. Still, I will make a wager with you. If he washes out before the end of his second year, I’ll give you $500,000. If he makes it, I’ll send tapes of what you did to those 12-year old girls in Saigon to your wife, your sons and several of your old army pals." The lawyer waited for a moment before continuing. "One rule – you cannot harm him or order that he be harmed in any way. If anything untoward happens to him before year’s end – well, you know who I work for. It will not be pleasant."
This was a sucker’s bet – something was amiss here – who was this kid? No one ever gave anyone half a million dollars for doing anything easy. Still, this was his way off this leash; he way out of a debt to a powerful madman. He trusted his boys and his instructors. He knew what they were capable of when they had the right motivation … no one would be able to last through that. Especially not this … punk. "Ok. You’re on – but first you answer one question."
"He is my employer’s son." And with that, the line went dead.
Lord Doom’s son – my god. There’s no way he’ll last. No way.
Twenty Two Months Later, VMI, the
Commandant Minnick’s home – 0114 hours:
The Commandant’s house was quiet. The old man was asleep and his wife was away on a shopping trip to Washington. The old man should have know better. He had sent four boys to kill Wilson – they had failed.
"Wake up old man." Joshua Wilson said, "Wake up and pay."
Commandant Minnick awoke with the cold steel of a knife against his throat. His feet and arms tied to the bed. He was going nowhere. Still he struggled. "Son – what in the hell are you doing in…?" The knife pressed more tightly against his throat.
"Only smart questions." Wilson replied. "You sent me out with four seniors, under orders to kill me. Why?"
"What are you…? Arrgh!!" Fingers gently press on the General’s temple and forehead, causing extraordinary pain – leaving no mark. "I had to send them – I tried to make you quit – I kept hoping that you would wash out – nothing worked. You cannot finish the year!"
"Please, I will not ask again, tell me why I cannot finish the year." Wilson’s voice was calm and controlled, his hand never so much as moved the knife edge toward or away from the General throat.
"It was part of a bet. If you wash out, I win a half a million dollars. If you complete the year, my life is ruined. "
"Who was this wager with?"
"A lawyer in New York: Noah Monroe. What am I going to do?"
"What are you going to do? You haven’t even asked about the boys you sent to kill me. Would you like to know how they are? Do you even care!?!? You are a pathetic waste of a man, a hapless leader and teacher of students."
The Commandant could not move, he knew that Doom would come for him if he lived – he knew that his name and reputation would be gone if the boy lived. And he had failed in his attempt to covertly kill Wilson. Minnick felt his arms and legs loosen, Wilson had cut him loose, but still maintained the blade at his throat. "What can I do? Isn’t there some way we can work this out?"
"What can you do?" Wilson said as he hopped up. "Here." He said as he handed the General his .45. With that, he walked out of the room. After 10 seconds, he heard the slam of hammer into firing pin and the sound of a 185-pound man hitting the floor. "Good choice."
Six Years Ago:
"Captain Wilson?" the sergeant
asked, "I have a letter for you."
"Is it from the Office of Personnel? I’m expecting my re-enlist papers to come through any day now." Wilson said. Walking out of the simulator, Captain Joshua Wilson looked like something from an action movie. 6’3", 225 pounds, dressed in urban camouflage and carrying a silenced MP5SD3, he embodied the Warfighting Laboratory. Quiet, ready, lethal. He had always thought that he would spend a couple of years here before going back to Recon. But after 12 months at the lab, he knew that he had found a home. Wilson opened the letter; it was from a law office in New York.
The letter read: "Captain Wilson, before re-enlisting with the Marine Corps, please meet with me. This matter is urgent. Please contact me at 202-345-2210 at your earliest convenience. Kindly, Noah Monroe."
Not his papers. Normally, he had no use for lawyers – but the phone number was New York and he had not been there in years. It sounded like a good way to spend his leave. Ten days later, Joshua Wilson was in New York.
"Dixon, Riley and Monroe, attorney’s at law." The receptionist said. "How may I direct your call?"
"Noah Monroe, please." Wilson returned.
"May I tell him who’s calling?"
Shortly, "Captain Wilson, Noah Monroe, pleased to speak with you. I am glad that you returned my call." Monroe’s voice was cheerful, he sounded old; and he had a breathing problem – probably overweight.
"Mr. Monroe, what do you need to speak with me about and where can we meet?"
"I have arranged a meeting room for us at the Manhattan Hilton. Conference room 3B. Could you meet me there tomorrow?" Monroe said.
"Yes – how about 11 a.m."
"That suits me fine. I’ll meet you there."
Wilson hung up the pay phone and looked across the street at the Dixon, Riley and Monroe office building. It was large – there had to be more than enough conference rooms in there. It was time to seize the initiative. He crossed the street and walked toward the receptionist’s desk. "Hello. I am Gabe O’Toole. I need to see Noah Monroe; is he in?"
After waiting only 25 minutes, an attractive, conservatively dressed woman walked into the private lobby and said to me, "Mr. Monroe will see you now, sir." The receptionist was certainly polite enough – but there was something in her voice he could not place. She was afraid of him. Was it the way he walked or sat or looked at people when he spoke to them? Or was it something more?
Noah Monroe was a senior partner at Ross, Patterson and Monroe. It was certain that he had very little in the way of walk in guests. Still he was alone and his desk was clean, except for one thin file. It read "Joshua Wilson; 10599-00700" on it. He had been waiting. The office had no visible cameras and Wilson did not hear a tracking motor follow him across the room. Any recording equipment here was state of the art. The room baffled any sound that the outside office might have made. The glass was less than one-half inch thick – but his office was on the 25th floor of this office building. It had one door.
"Joshua Wilson." By way of introduction and he extended his hand.
He took it and replied, "I am Noah Monroe. I am pleased to make your acquaintance. Please have a seat."
Monroe set off no alarms. He was easily in his 60s and was in poor physical shape even for that age. He weighed 235 pounds and stood only 5’10" tall. Still, his eyes held a sparkle in them that was not easily dismissed. "Mr. Monroe, I know that you are a busy man. So, I won’t beat around the bush with you. What do you know about me? And please explain a wager that you had with a Norman Minnick."
"Mr. Wilson. Let me be frank with you. I have nothing to hide from you and pose no danger to you." It was as if Monroe was trying to tame a rattlesnake, Wilson was somewhat bemused by the treatment. "I have been watching you since you were born. Where possible, I have helped you – when necessary, I have left you to your own devices."
"That’s all well and good," Wilson interrupted. "But tell me about the Commandant and the wager." Alarms were going off inside Wilson’s head. Monroe had watched him his entire life? This man knew too much. Wilson played along, pretending the comment did not bother him. All the while, considering what it did mean. Who was this man?
"Of course, I’ll answer your questions and then fill you in on any details when you have finished," Monroe replied. "Commandant Minnick needed inspiration to put you through your paces at VMI. I made him a wager that he could not refuse – in the bargain, I procured for you the best military training that is possible. Your first two years tested you mentally and physically. While your body and mind were adjusting to their new capabilities. Please allow me to explain." The lawyer continued.
Wilson sat still in his chair. He remembered the clarity that he started to experience at VMI. He began to recall the way everything started to come easier to him there. Before today, he would have attributed it to the discipline of the Academy. Now, he was just more curious.
"My client in this matter is your father. I know – you have never known a father, or a mother for that matter. Your father contracted with a woman from Ardmore, Texas to donate her eggs. This woman was specially selected for her genetic makeup. Those eggs were inseminated with his sperm and then implanted into the womb of another woman. When she gave birth to you, you were placed in an orphanage. From there, you know most of your story. In and out of foster homes – in and out of trouble with the law. Until you were accepted at VMI."
Wilson took in everything that was being told to him. His mind traveled back to his troubled childhood and his constant questioning about his parents. "Who is my father – what are these new capabilities?" He had some idea what the capabilities were – or at least he knew how they had manifested. He was stronger, faster and smarter than anyone he had ever come in contact with. They made him a nearly perfect soldier – or maybe they made him a perfect predator.
"First," Monroe started, "You are the next step in human evolution. Your genetic code was tampered with by your father and then you were given special vitamins and stimulants while you were growing, these were accelerated while you were at VMI – the shots you took every other week…"
"Yes … I remember those. My father tampered with my genetic code. Tell me more."
"Your father is … was a brilliant man. He worked in several fields – one of these fields was Genetics. You have access to nearly 90% of your brain’s functional power. Your muscles, ligaments and tendons are stronger, flexible and more resilient. Your bones are stronger, more dense and – at the same time – lighter than they should be. Your neurons fire faster and carry more information than mine do. Your metabolism burns fat more efficiently – it also stores fat more efficiently. Your lungs have about 40% more capacity than normal. Your liver works about 60% more efficiently; your body produces about 300% more white blood cells than normal; your red blood cells carry about 45% more oxygen than normal, and your heart is stronger – so it beats more slowly than it should but pushes more blood with every beat. Everything about you is better than most everyone else. This is your father’s gift to you."
Wilson thought. He was not stunned – suddenly, everything made sense. "Who is my father?" That question came out more like a demand than a question, still Monroe seemed unfazed. He opened the folder and handed Wilson a piece of paper. It was old and smelled of wine, wood smoke and leather.
Wilson took the letter.
"You are reading this because you have found my lawyer. I regret that such devices are necessary – but this man is loyal to me and will be loyal to you as well. By now, you have learned of your gifts. You have learned of my role in your creation. You were given every physical and mental edge I could genetically and socially engineer into a person. You are my son – my legacy to this world that has misunderstood everything I have ever tried to give it. Now, I give it to you – if you can take it."
It was signed "Your father, Reginald Winssinger".
Reginald Winssinger... Lord Doom. One of the most evil men on the planet -- my father. Wilson thought.
As he sat rolling over the truth that had just been revealed. "Where are the others? Who are they?"
The question took Monroe by surprise. Wilson’s reaction was too immediate to the stimulus. "Others?" Monroe said with feigned ignorance. "What others are you talking about?" How could he know – or guess so quickly. Monroe thought. Just moments ago, he had told the man that his father was one of the greatest villains of the past 30 years. Villains as the world saw him, in fact – Lord Doom is – was a genius and a visionary.
"My father is too smart to not have some back up plan. He could not have trusted his legacy to only one seed. Who are the others?"
"If what you say is true – do you think that your father would have used the same lawyer? Or even the same law firm? I do not have this information for you. I do have this." And Monroe handed him a plain white envelope stuffed with money. "It’s $1,000,000 and a map to a location that you might find helpful. I have nothing else for you – if you have nothing else for me, I bid you good-day."
Wilson stood and walked out of the room – money and map in hand. "Mr. Wilson," Monroe said. "If you ever need my services, please do not hesitate to call. The retainer that your father paid me transfers to you."
"I’ll keep that in mind." The Scion of Doom said as he walked out the door. "I have your card."
The map lead him to Chad where he made arrangements under an assumed name. What he found there was his father’s final gift. An abandoned base – with a weapons lab. Everything he would need to craft an arsenal. It took three months to build his equipment. As he sat in his workshop –weapons, armor and equipment arrayed in front of him – he realized for the first time that he was ready. But, ready for what? Was he going to be Super-hero? Super-villain? Super-mercenary? Doom wanted him to be his good son, his soldier. But he was more than a soldier now – and the only way to be more than Doom’s legacy was to become a hero – to stand against what he stood for.
All control is illusion. No one has control of anything. Still, his father sought to control him.
Fighting that control would be pointless – giving into that control would be slavery.
Ignoring that control and doing what he thought was right was his only option for success and freedom.
The Marines trained him to fight for the people – not against them.
Once a Marine, always a Marine.