THE GUARDIANS #1

"WRATH" part 1 of 3

"ORIGIN"

MARCH 2006

He was presently the sole occupant of the scientific laboratory, which suited him just fine. He had always wanted and needed a quiet, solitary place to perform his experiments, so after the moderate success he had already had, he had used some of the money from his patents to purchase the lab space all for himself. He was one of the greatest scientific minds of his time, and had achieved not only numerous degrees in a wide variety of fields, but several awards and prizes for his work as well. In short, he was brilliant.

The man was probably in his late forties, or possibly his early fifties, with his mostly bald cranium and wrinkled forehead to show it. He pushed his glasses back into place and straightened out the tie that hung down onto his white lab coat. He scooted the wheeled metal chair back over to the table where his plans were laid out; if the large, elaborate piece of machinery looming over him were to work properly, then he would need to make sure that everything worked perfectly and all his calculations were correct. Once he had double-checked what he needed, he moved the chair over to his computer to make the corresponding and necessary adjustments.

His name was Edward Canem. His title was Dr. Edward Canem, PhD. Dr. Canem smiled to himself. He knew that when this latest invention of his was finished, tomorrow's generation would remember him as one of the single greatest contributors to the society they knew. He would sell his machine to the government, and they could use it to solve all sorts of major problems. When it was completed, and used properly, it would do great wonders.

Of course, he also knew that if his device was used wrongly, the results would be disastrous. Untold horrors could be brought upon mankind if it fell into the wrong hands. Dr. Canem's hands quickly skimmed across the computer keyboard as he added more information. Helpful or harmful, good or bad; which hands were his? Only time would tell...

Meanwhile, not far from where Dr. Canem was working, there was another great scientific mind at work. This one was Dr. Richard McCoy, who had also earned several degrees. Though both men were extremely intelligent, Dr. McCoy certainly was not as well-known as Dr. Canem. Even so, while Dr. Canem used his knowledge to build inventions that could benefit the world, Dr. McCoy was helping people out in a drastically different way.

An image projected onto the wall showed an intricate model of a DNA strand. Dr. McCoy pressed a button to deactivate the overhead projector, and flicked a switch to turn on the lights in the room. "Class is almost over, so you can go ahead and put your books away," he said to the twenty-some young adult students who sat in his classroom. The majority of the students gladly obliged.

His face had a boyish yet serious complexion that made him seem friendly to most people he met. The brown of his eyes were a fitting complement to his thick, dark hair. Quickly brushing off his shirt and straightening up his red tie, the university professor carried himself with a manner of confidence as he spoke.

Dr. McCoy continued his speech. "Don't forget, Dr. Canem's science demonstration is this weekend, and it is open to the public," he announced. "This is when Dr. Canem will be introducing his new prototype; he's been very secretive about it, and nobody knows exactly what it is, but it's supposed to be big." He paused for a moment, then continued. "I, of course, will be there, and"--gesturing to a nearby woman a few years younger than himself--"so will Miss Frost, our student teacher. Any one of you who attends will receive extra credit--and from those latest quiz scores, some of you could use it."

He stopped and glanced up at the clock; as if on cue, the bell was sounded, ending that day's class. "Class dismissed," he announced, superfluously reiterating what the bell had just told them all. "Have a nice weekend."

Moving as one, the various students in the class each got up from their desks, carried their books, and made their way over to the door to exit the room and leave class until next time. Within a minute all the students were gone; except for three. Dr. McCoy knew each of these three students, both by name and by character. Sarah O'Reilly, a blue-eyed girl with shoulder-length red hair. Dr. McCoy knew her to be usually cheerful, lively, and verbose. An average student but hard worker, she was one of the more popular girls in the class, but still kind and caring enough to treat everybody as a friend and equal, despite their status in the student body's hierarchy.

Next to her was Jeff Brown, a tall, thin African-American boy with shortly shaved hair. An excellent athlete, one of the school's best sports stars. He appeared to be perpetually driven by a competitive spirit, not only on the playing field, but, as Dr. McCoy had noticed, in general life as well. Some may have considered him a tough guy, but it seemed that those who got to know him found him as generally nice and fun to be around. Dr. McCoy found him to be an interesting person.

And lastly, a larger boy with thick brown hair and a few traces of a beard. Ryan West, a truly unique blend between the class brain and the class clown. A straight A student, in this class and in all his others, but also a witty and humorous comic who had often graced his classmates and teachers with a variety of jokes and good-natured pranks. The other students all liked him, not only for his wit and smarts, but for his good attitude and ever-present smile. He always carried himself with a sense of integrity, and tried to help those students whose academic capability was not as high as his own. Dr. McCoy had noticed that he was initially somewhat shy; perhaps his smarts had made him a "nerd" in the past, but his popularity had helped him to get over it now. Whatever the case, Ryan West was certainly an interesting student. As the teacher, Dr. McCoy always noticed who was friends with who, and what made the students even more interesting was that somehow these three blatantly different personalities had all formed some sort of a friendship with each other.

He wondered what they were doing by staying after class.

"Hey, guys," Dr. McCoy greeted them. "What's up?" He spoke to them not as students, but as equals, in a way that helped him connect with each student as an individual and that made him well-loved among all his classes.

"Hey, Dr. McCoy," Ryan returned, feeling, as most of the students did, that he could talk to his teacher just as a regular friend. The other two interjected small greetings, but from the looks of things, it was apparent that Ryan spoke for them all. "Well you see, we were all wanting to go to Dr. Canem's thing tomorrow, but my car is broken down, so is Sarah's, and Jeff just doesn't have a ride...So, we were wondering if, uh, maybe you could give us a ride there..."

Dr. McCoy thought for a second. Interesting, such a request had never been made to him before. His car wasn't a very big one, but he was glad that the students wanted to come. "Well, I don't see why not," the professor answered. Of course he wanted to help out all of his students as much as possible.

Dr. McCoy's student teacher, Miss Jessica Frost, had been silent in things up to this point, but now interjected. "Just make sure you're all here by twelve or so tomorrow, so we can get there early and find good seats." She was a slightly short woman, with blue eyes and long blonde hair. She was quiet and often shy, but was training under Dr. McCoy because she hoped to be a teacher one day herself. Generally nice, polite, and caring, so that those who got to know her well usually enjoyed her company; it just happened that, because of her shyness, the only one in this group who had gotten to know her well was, in fact, Dr. McCoy.

"That'll be great!" Ryan exclaimed thankfully. "Yeah, awesome!" echoed Jeff.

"Thanks a bunch, Dr. McCoy," Sarah politely added. "And you too, Miss Frost!"

The two administrators smiled at the knowledge that they were able to help out the students. "Sure, anytime," Dr. McCoy responded. "See you tomorrow."

Ryan, Jeff, and Sarah had all been at the school right at the predesignated time; however, it didn't help them much once they got to City Hall, the place of the demonstration. Apparently, the news had leaked out to some that a representative from the government was going to be present to witness and most likely purchase the new machine; thus, people realized the sheer magnitude of the event, and many more of the public wanted to be there to get good seats. Even though they left in plenty of time, Dr. McCoy and his group arrived when most of the seats had been taken; they were forced to sit in the second row to the back.

"Well, I guess this is better than nothing," Ryan commented as they filed into their seats. "True, but it's not as good as it could be," Jeff countered. Ryan shrugged and dropped the matter. Their silence was enforced even further when Sarah whispered to them, "Be quiet, it's starting! The mayor is stepping up to the platform."

All throughout the room, the various conversations and scattered chatter all gradually dwindled into almost complete silence. The city's mayor stepped up onto a flat wooden platform in the front of the room, on which also stood a podium with a microphone, and a large piece of machinery. The mayor stepped up behind the podium, adjusted the microphone a bit, and spoke.

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you all for coming. Welcome to a day and an event that will, with little doubt, revolutionize the world as we know it. Here today with us is the famed Dr. Edward Canem, who is undoubtedly one of the greatest scientific minds of our era. His myriad contributions to modern science have advanced today's society far beyond its years." The mayor paused for effect, then continued. "He is here to present a new invention of his, that he is said to have been working on for the greater part of three years, and which will certainly be a technological phenomenon the likes of which our world has never seen before."

"Sounds impressive," Ryan commented to himself. "Also here is the U.S. government's Secretary of Technological Advancement, who, when the invention is approved, will purchase it from Dr. Canem to be used for the good of the country. Ladies, and gentlemen, as the mayor of our city, it is my proud honor to present to you...Dr. Edward Canem!" A loud, strong round of clapping applause erupted from the audience, as the mayor stepped off the platform and another man stepped up. From seeing his picture in the news and hearing of his accomplishments, there was little doubt among anyone in the audience that this man was the famed Dr. Edward Canem.

As the applause died down, Dr. Canem stepped behind the podium and began to speak into the microphone. "Thank you, thank you all," he politely saluted his admiring public. "May I express that it is an honor to be appear here today and to be allowed to present my new device to our nation's government, as well as to all of you fine and caring citizens."

"This is exciting!" Dr. McCoy whispered to no one in particular. The other four in his group, for the most part at least, agreed.

The elephantine piece of machinery that stood on the platform next to Dr. Canem towered a foot or two above him. He was the only one who knew what it was; all that anyone else could see was an upright rectangular prism, silvery-gray in color, with a small array of buttons and display screens on the front panel. The machine also contained a small door or window that was apparently able to be opened or closed, and a metallic helmet that connected to the main device by a thick black cord. Now that the pleasantries were out of the way, Dr. Canem could proceed with what he had been asked here for. "This new device of mine is known as the Materializer," he stated. "And you will soon learn why." He pulled a lever on the front of the machine, apparently the power button as a low hum was heard and certain parts of the device began to light up.

"Please, someone from the audience--call out the name of a simple household object. Anything will do, but for this first test, I would prefer a basic everyday item."

"Apple!" Ryan interjected quickly. He had been somewhat hungry at the time, as he often was, and an apple was the most basic and simple food he could think of on the spot.

"An apple!" Dr. Canem repeated, while reaching for the helmet and putting it on his head. "Thank you, that will work quite nicely." As the bowl of the helmet now enveloped his upper cranium, two lights on the side of the helmet began to flicker, as did two behind the window. "Now everyone watch, as I concentrate all my thoughts on the apple..." He closed his eyes and did not speak.

But he didn't have to. The people could see what was beginning to happen, and those few who caught on this early were utterly shocked at the possibilities and implications of what was being done. Electrical sparks started to fly from behind the window, and if anyone had been close enough up to the platform to see it, they would have read the word "Processing..." on a small display screen.

A few scattered gasps came up from the audience has more and more people realized what the machine was doing. The sparks began to grow bigger, and seemed to converge together in the center of the windowed area. The display screen now read "Creating..." Dr. Canem still stood, lids over eyes and totally silent.

The sparks were growing and jumping around at a rate so rapid that they would have seriously injured anyone who was exposed to them without the window's protective covering. The energies they emitted continued to converge in the middle, but now began to form something. A vaguely spherical shape could be seen, and it quickly took on greater and more distinct color and form. By this point almost everyone present realized what the machine was doing, and were overcome with awe at the wonders of what modern science was now able to do. Some thought it was a hoax, some trusted it completely, but all were amazed. The display screen now read "Done". The sparks stopped altogether; the quite literal fruit of their efforts had been accomplished.

Dr. Canem opened his eyes and removed the helmet from his head. He moved a few steps over to the front of the machine, and cautiously opened the now safe window. Once the covering was off, the product could be seen more clearly by everyone; there was no doubt of what had just happened. Dr. Canem reached into the small area that the window had covered and pulled out an apple that had not been there just a few minutes before. Proudly, he held it up for everyone to see, which was received by further gasps, shouts, and exclamations of shock.

"As you can see", he began, in case there was still anyone who didn't realize what had been done. "The Materializer created an apple from me just thinking about it. This same process has been tested by me many times; it can apply to virtually any object you think of!" He paused for effect, to let the implications of his statement sink in. "With this kind of technology, there are of course, myriad possibilities, nearly infinite good that could be done..." He now addressed the Secretary of Technological Advancement, who was present in the audience. "Mister Secretary, would the government have any use for this type of thing?"

Dr. Canem stood proudly, knowing that he would be accepted, and imagining all the fame and glory that would come from it. Just think of all that could happen. Just think, and it would be real.

Abrupt words from the Secretary disrupted his fantasy. "No thank you, Dr. Canem. I'm sorry."

Dr. Canem's face turned into a consternated scowl. Had he just heard correctly?

"What?" the scientist asked, indignant. The Secretary stood, for emphasis on what he was saying. "The possibilities of a machine that can create anything are far too dangerous; the U.S. government does not want to be responsible for that sort of thing."

Canem's emotions were somewhere between frantic and furious; either way, he wasn't happy. Without noticing or caring, he dropped the apple. "But--But you can't be serious!" he protested. "Think of all it could do! Food for the poor, supplies for our troops, natural resources--"

"But what if our enemies got hold of it, Dr. Canem?" the Secretary countered. "Biological warfare, weapons of mass destruction--the results would be unthinkable. And though the benefits you mentioned would be useful, the U.S. has gotten these things well enough on their own without this sort of technology to help them. My conscience will not allow me to accept it; thank you, Dr. Canem."

The desperate scientist was almost shouting now. "Mister Secretary, I have labored for three years on this project alone--"

"Oh yes, about that," the Secretary interrupted. "The government will be confiscating this model for complete disassembly, and you are ordered to destroy all notes, research, and plans you have that could lead to the machine's reconstruction." He paused to look into the shocked face of the man he was addressing. He hated to do this; he knew Dr. Canem was brilliant beyond his times, but the Materializer could not be allowed to exist. "I'm sorry, Dr. Canem."

The stunned scientist in question merely stood on the stage, shocked at the concept of rejection, which was apparently new to him. His expression was one of hurt and insult, as if he had been slapped across the face for no apparent reason. But slowly his eyes narrowed, his brow tightened, his teeth clenched together in an expression of rage and fury.

"NO!" the doctor exclaimed, startling everyone in the room. "No, you can't do this to me! I will not stand for it!"

In a sincere effort to make consolation, the Secretary spoke up. "Dr. Canem, please--"

His words were useless, as Dr. Canem had already begun pulling the large machine, which apparently had wheels on the bottom, off of the platform and toward the building's back exit, directly violating the Secretary's orders. "Dr Canem!" the Secretary repeated. But the mad scientist was already out the door with his precious machine. Not knowing what to do, the Secretary turned toward all the public present. "Ladies and gentlemen, there is nothing more to see here! I apologize for the inconvenience, but please leave the premises at once! Leave as soon as possible! Thank you." With that, the Secretary rushed out the door to chase Dr. Canem, while the thoroughly disappointed and confused audience collectively made its way out of the building's front entrance.

"Okay, that was totally awesome, but pretty much just...weird," said Ryan, moving toward the exit, unsure of what to make of it all. "I mean, the machine was really amazing, but Dr. Canem...wow."

"Truly amazing," Miss Frost agreed. "It's a shame of what's happening."

"Yeah, that machine is like, sci-fi! From a comic book or something," Jeff assented. "But wow, Dr. Canem...will they catch him and send him to jail?"

"Wow," Sarah commented. "This is all really..." The excitement and confusion overwhelmed whatever last words she had planned for her sentence.

"I am at a loss for words," Dr. McCoy admitted. By this time, they had all reached the parking lot, and shortly were inside Dr. McCoy's car. He put the key in, started the engine, and prepared to back out...then Ryan noticed something.

"Look at that big white truck up ahead!" he exclaimed, pointing. "That's Dr. Canem's truck! He's loading the Materializer into the back of it!"

"Wow!" Sarah said. "More excitement..."

"He's driving away!" Miss Frost remarked, turning her head backwards toward the building they had just come from. "And the mayor and police haven't even caught up yet!"

"He could get away," Jeff noted.

"No..," Dr. McCoy stated.

"What?" asked Ryan.

"No!" came the word again. "He can't get away! He's violating the law!"

"Well yeah, but that was an awesome machine."

"But Dr. Canem, disobeying government orders, is still a criminal. And it is our civic duty to aid the police and go after him!"

"What?" Ryan inquired. Jeff, Sarah, and Miss Frost all wondered the same.

But all they received from Dr. McCoy was silence and a sharp, speeding turn. He swiftly got onto the road and, with Dr. Canem's white truck still in sight, raced down the street after it, the police still trailing far behind them.

Edward Canem's anger still consumed him, but he had little time to think of that now. If he was to make a clean escape, he knew he would need to act quickly. It hadn't been hard to get the Materializer, with its wheels for easy transport, up to his truck. He pushed it in, past the various arrays of other scientific equipment and chemical substances he had with him. He often kept his work and equipment in his truck, for easy transport from place to place when he was asked to demonstrate somewhere, like now. Currently, the contents of the back were somewhat dangerous; some chemicals were radioactive and had not been legally authorized for transport; other small inventions of his produced abnormal energies that could possibly result in genetic mutations or even metahuman abilities. But at this point, Dr. Canem paid no mind to the collection of science he carried with him; his only concern was his precious Materializer.

Once he had loaded the large machine into the truck (carelessly brushing away the other chemicals and equipment, making them even more unstable), he got into the driver's seat and began to ride away. Only then did he notice something in his side view mirror: he was being followed by a civilian vehicle. Not knowing why they were after him, but determined to lose them nonetheless, Dr. Canem sped forward. He knew they would be looking for him at his laboratory; instead, he sped forward toward his home.

"He's picking up speed!" Richard McCoy noted, still barely keeping Dr. Canem's truck within his sight. "We have to get him!"

"Richard, don't you think this is going a little too far?" Miss Frost inquired, concerned. "Let the police handle it"

"The police are too far behind; they were nowhere in sight when we left. If we don't follow him, he'll get away!"

With a sigh that expressed the collective feelings of the car's four passengers, Jessica Frost dropped the matter. Richard continued picking up speed, enough to stay within the limit but to still be able to catch up. Right now, they were on a back highway, and the only two cars in sight; they rode right above a shallow yet dangerous gorge, and continued to gain on Dr. Canem. None of them knew exactly what the outcome would be, and none could have possibly guessed...

Dr. Canem had no idea who was trailing him or why, but he needed to lose them. In a desperate effort to be free of pursuit, he began steering the vehicle in sharp turns and sudden maneuvers so the other car couldn't keep up. But he was careless in his desperation; in a swift and dangerous swerve to the left, he went too far and crashed onto the side of the road, narrowly overlooking the deep gorge below him. Though he was off road, there was little damage to his vehicle; that is, until a few seconds later...

Startled and thrown off by their target's reckless maneuvering, Richard McCoy made a wrong turn himself. At the speed his vehicle was going, he made a sharp, thorough thrust into the back of Dr. Canem's truck, severely damaging both vehicles. The severe impact unleashed the already fragile elements in the back of the truck; untested chemicals and serums, radioactive energies and extra-human forces all joined together in random combinations and proceeded to greatly bombard Dr. McCoy's car and all of its passengers. Then, before the five even had a chance to stop, speak, or know what was going on, unrelenting chance collided their car with Dr. Canem's in a way that sent the former reeling off the road, down the destructive pathway towards the cavernous gorge below. It was not far below, a few feet at most, but was still a rather forceful, painful, and unpleasant landing for everyone. The car twisted and tumbled; screams and shouts were heard, unusual things seen and felt. And then, changes began to be noticed.

Once they had stopped falling and were relatively safe on the ground, Dr. McCoy realized what had just happened. "Is everyone all right?" he shouted, hoping for the best but fearing the worst. "Is everyone at least sort of okay?"

His question, however, was very visibly ironic, as none of them were quite what would be defined as okay, and certainly not as normal. Jeff's body could no longer be seen; instead, his form was outlined by a black, human-shaped void of shroud. Where Sarah lay there seemed to be flames rising up continuously, and in contrast, Jessica's general area was completely iced over. Ryan was utterly bewildered by his own situation in particular; he found himself at least two feet taller, a good deal wider than before, and holding what appeared to be the mangled remains of the car in his hand. Even Dr. McCoy found himself changed somehow; wherever he looked, a strange golden yellow light energy began to form. There was little doubt among the group that whatever Dr. Canem had had in the back of his truck somehow had greatly altered them all.

"Uh, Dr. McCoy?" Ryan replied, his voice trembling. "Do we look all right to you?"

Dr. Edward Canem sat in the dark, empty basement of his home. His truck had sustained minor damage, but he had lost whoever had been pursuing him, and the Materializer seemed to be more or less intact. In fact, he knew this, because he had already brought it out of his truck and set it up in his basement, where he hoped it would not be found by officials (though he knew he would have to set up some further form of defense). As he sat alone in the darkness, his mind and heart still boiled over with anger and frustration at what had been done.

"How can they do this to me?" he exclaimed aloud, heard by no one but himself. "I am Dr. Edward Canem, the greatest scientific mind of this time! And they rejected my prize invention---that I worked on for three years!" Irrational, unreasonable hatred and wrath seethed out of his heart, and through his voice as his loathsome monologue continued. "They're just jealous--they hate me! And I hate them! They'll see--I'll ruin them!"

As he was thinking these despicable thoughts, he suddenly paused for something that was heard behind him. A faint, mechanical voice that seemed to say, "Processing..."

Edward Canem sat up sharply. Had he left the Materializer on by accident? Apparently so, for there was no where else the mechanized word could have come from. And, upon looking to his side, he realized that the receiving helmet was dangling close enough to his head to process his thoughts, even though he wasn't wearing it. But he had not tried to make anything--so what was it processing?

"Creating..," it continued after a moment. Sudden, terrible realization dawned on Dr. Canem; he knew what was probably happening. Or rather, he knew what the machine was trying to do, but he had no idea what would result, as he had never before tried to materialize an abstract concept. It was taking his anger, his hatred, and changing it into a physical, tangible thing. However, fearing the worst, he went into a frantic panic to shut the machine down before the creation was complete.

"No! No, stop the creating!" he shouted to no avail, simultaneously reaching towards the off switch. "Don't create that!" he yelled.

But it was too late. The monotonous voice announced, "Done", and was followed by a low, ominous growl emanating from within the machine. Four jagged claws abruptly protruded from the front window, followed by some unknown and terrible force totally ripping the door of its hinges and flinging it with uncanny strength across the room. Dr. Canem saw, to his horror, a black shape stand up, as if on two legs, thus severely distorting the machine's outer frame with its sheer bulk and strength. As the creature stepped closer, Dr. Canem saw it in full.

A huge, hulking monster, easily seven feet tall at full height, with an angular-shaped head and wolf-like ears. The beast's body was clearly composed of perfect muscular structure all around, enough perhaps to lift a truck and feel no strain. To top off the immensely intimidating image was a thick coat of black hair that covered all the creature's skin; misshapen, uneven rows of highly pernicious teeth; and piercing yellow eyes that epitomized fear and hatred. The gruesome creature made a single, deep noise; partly a word, partly a growl:

"Wwwwrrrrrraaaaaaattthhhh..."

"Oh no..," Dr Canem barely spoke.

Then, with one swift-moving hand, it grabbed Dr. Canem by the head, and squeezed tightly; not hard enough to kill, but enough to severely hurt and traumatize. The dark monster relished his helpless victim's scream of agony, and proceeded to throw him across the laboratory, where his body crashed into the wall, fell to the ground with a crash, and lie still. The monster grinned a horribly evil grin, revealing its jagged jaws.

As the monster stormed out of the building, effortlessly crashing through the brick wall and destroying everything in its path, it uttered once more its terrible noise.

"Wwwrrrrrraaaaaatttthhhh..."

So let's get this straight...Five new super-people,a machine that can create anything you think of, a dead (or at least seriously injured) professor, and a monster that could only be the physical embodiment of wrath. Sounds like a bit of a problem to me...See what happens next time in the Guardians #2!