Reptile & Powerline: A Reversal in Polarity
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Chapter 1: Trouble in the Concrete Jungle
It was just another day in Millennium City.
Of course, that meant anything could happen and it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary at all. It was a place where strange and exciting things happened 24/7, 365. One could marvel at the magnificent architecture, awe-inspiring superhumans, eye-popping prices and many other wondrous sights all over town. Sure, there was the chance that at any moment one could get killed by an arbitrary battle between dysfunctional heroes, crushed underneath a 200-foot radioactive gorilla’s ass, or fall victim to any number of other extraordinary ways to die that were considered quite mundane around these parts.
But at least no one could complain about Millennium being a boring place to live. And, for some of the residents, that was the whole reason they chose to make it their home. Others simply had no other choice. And some felt they could never fit in anywhere else. Reptile, one of the many young crime-fighters running around the city, was one such person. On this particular day, he was out on patrol in Westside when he spotted a commotion brewing at Kountry Komics.
Someone making trouble at my LCS? Not on my watch. Reptile felt the influence of Trevor Williams--his “other half”--on his inner thoughts and guiding his decisions. In this feral state he had no use for comics, or any other reading material. Concern for bunches of words and silly pictures on flimsy sheets of paper was a trait all too human for Reptile to possess. His brain was always set to survival mode, constantly debating whether to fight or flee. The only remedy was to keep in near-perpetual movement and physical stimulation, like a shark. Cerebral stimulants like literature, requiring complex thought and deep focus, were useless to Reptile. But Trevor appreciated them and he served as Reptile’s conscience, so there was really no point in resisting the urge to dash over to Kountry.
The acrobatic hero leapt across the rooftops and landed near the store’s entrance where patrons were streaming out in a panic. Following close behind was the distraught shopkeeper who, upon seeing the costumed hero land in front of him, dashed over. There was a pleading look in the rotund, middle-aged man’s eyes.
“Uh- y-you’re a hero, right?” He was out of breath and weary of the seven-foot tall man who looked like he could be one of VIPER’s goons. Although there was something oddly familiar about him.
“Yeah and don’t you doubt it.” said Reptile, quick and to the point.
“You wouldn’t believe... the timing you’ve got… this’ll ruin my shop!” He spoke in-between gasps for air.
“What’s the problem?”
“I’ve been... robbed! And I saw him… that kid! With my own eyes!”
“Out with it! We don’t have all day!” The hero grew more impatient with each exaggerated inhalation the man took in. The scolding was somewhat effective, as the man straightened up and explained the situation.
“He c-came outta the power bar in my office! The surge fried all my computers, took out my lighting… and then he had the nerve to swipe my cash box! I can’t even begin to think about replacing all this stuff without any money. You have to get it all back for me!”
“Alright, chill! Stop being so pushy. Now where’d that guy run off to?”
“I only saw him go up to the second floor… maybe he was trying to find the roof access to escape!” After hearing this Reptile promptly scaled the wall and reached the top of the building. He alertly surveyed the area with his black slit-pupiled, sharp green eyes.
The cold air that rushed to greet Timothy Ohlmann as he opened the door of the roof access came as a shock as he felt it over his exposed forehead. The rest of him was clad in dark and tight-fitting clothing. Jeans, turtleneck, and above all, the scarf that covered his mouth. He had thought that he didn’t need any elaborate means of hiding his identity-- not when the job was only supposed to last a few moments.
The job. He had performed many acts like this already, and against better guarded, more dangerous targets. Robbing a simple business like Kountry Komics should have been a cakewalk for someone like Timothy: he only needed to take the money and run. It should have been simple, but the young man had doubts-- pangs of regret over what he had done. He was burdened by the thought that, just perhaps, what he was doing wasn’t right. Nothing was right any more. Timothy was now a man forced to grow-up too young and equipped with something that was beyond his understanding.
If you aren’t right for the job, I’ll make you right. Those were the words that kept replaying through his mind, over and over. They were his motivation. And now he was right for the job. But this? This wasn’t the life he wanted. Not when he, as a sixteen-year-old young man, had his entire future to think about.
He winced as his eyes adjusted to the light of day, but Timothy knew that there was no time for hesitation. All he needed to do was run. Run away from everything. He quickly strode across the rooftop of Kountry Komics, scanning as he walked for any means to escape-- but he was not alone. The sight of the man-- man? What man has a tail? Is he some kind of half-lizard mutant?-- that followed him to the roof startled Timothy, and he broke into a full-out dash as fast as his legs could carry him.
Chapter 2: Chasing Lightning
Reptile lurched forward now that he could see his target. “Hey! Get back here!” the mutant hero called out as he began to chase the would-be robber as he scrambled over the edge of the rooftop to an adjacent building’s fire escape. Timothy had no time to process what was going on, other than the fact that some costumed hero--hopefully a hero--was now running behind him. Without thinking, he began to run up the iron-wrought stairs of the fire escape to their apex. It was only when he reached the top that he realized there weren’t many options left. He was cornered here… but not trapped.
Meanwhile, Reptile simply did not have time to deal with such a complicated contraption, and found the fastest way up was to, once again, scale the wall of the building. With his clawed, limber fingers, Reptile affixed himself onto the bricked-and-mortared vertical surface like a gecko suspends itself on glass. As he climbed, Reptile felt Trevor’s voice of reason dimming ever more slightly as his primal instincts took hold. He hissed his delight at the thrill of the hunt as he closed in on his prey.
Timothy peered over the edge of the apartment roof as he frantically contemplated his next actions. There was no further ground that would allow him to flee from the beast-man who pursued him. He could breach the wall and set upon him at any moment. Tim remained alert for the creature, but he was running out of time.
Reptile did not hesitate after his ascent. He scuttled forward on all fours and reared himself in a display of intimidation, sizing up the young Timothy. He was obviously much smaller in stature and felt like he’d been thrown into a cage with a lion. Except this was worse.
“So you’re the guy that robbed my comic shop.” He glared at his frightened prey and bared his teeth. Timothy could see two long, very sharp fangs and could already feel them sinking into his neck. The beastly image Reptile projected was almost vampiric in its paralyzing viscerality. “Surrender and I might not rip you to shreds!”
Timothy’s voice quivered as he responded. “St-stay back! I just want to be left alone!”
“Not when you have crimes to pay for!” Reptile hissed and pointed an accusing finger at the boy.
This was the first good look Timothy had of the hero known as Reptile.
There were many things that could be pointed out to explain why most people thought he looked threatening, even after learning he’s a crime-fighter. He was a ripped, dark-skinned man, near seven-feet tall and clad in a mostly black costume with green highlights, emblazoned with a snake’s head that was ready to bite. There were his numerous inhuman features as well: from his green, slit-pupiled eyes, the claws and fangs, to the slithering tail.
It would be understandable if one were to take a look at Reptile and peg him as one of VIPER’s monstrous bruisers. Timothy might have thought as much, if the man hadn’t been seeking to carry out justice.
The standoff lasted a matter of moments. Timothy, trembling, inched backward. “You don’t understand what I’ve done, not one bit!” He managed to blurt out.
“You took the money and ran. Simple.” Reptile lowered his posture and tensed his muscles, slowly moving closer to his target with an unbreaking death stare. “Now give it back or...” He lurched his claws up close to Tim’s neck as an intimidation tactic. The sudden movement frightened him into crossing his arms in front of his face in self-defense. Timothy, eyes shut tight, felt his right forearm make contact with the creature as he shielded himself.
In an instant, Reptile spasmed in shock and recoiled as a spark of electricity arced into him. He growled and hissed in pain as he landed awkwardly on his rear. “Argh, what the hell?” He quickly regained his composure and sprung back to a stand. “Now you’re gonna get it!” He seemed ready to tear away, but his prey had already bolted away from him, and quite literally so.
Timothy started running even before Reptile touched the ground. There was an electronic sign on the side of the building and his gut instinct pushed him toward it. He took hold of the neon letters with both hands and concentrated. All thoughts were pushed out of his mind, save for his desire to escape to anywhere without hostile lizard-men. As he did so, Tim felt his body lighten as it converted to energy, and was drawn into the circuity of the lighting. Then… nothing more than pure movement as he was subsumed into the current.
Tim had vanished from the spot without a trace.
However, moments later, a loud bang could be heard from a nearby power pole as a fuse let off a burst of sparks…. Then another. And then more, all the way down the street.
Reptile didn’t need Trevor’s intelligence to know which way his prey was fleeing. Before he could lose sight of the sparks, the hero darted forward and ran along the powerlines in pursuit. Adrenaline pumped through his system as he sprinted on all fours. He was like a wild cat doggedly chasing swift, slippery prey amidst the jungle. Reptile felt something that Trevor was always cautious of letting him have too much of. The beast was having fun.
Chapter 3: A Short-Circuited Escape
Timothy felt the essence of his being being pulled with the current of the power line for what seemed to be both an eternity and an instant. Becoming pure energy robbed him of his senses, and while he had some semblance of mind in this form, he could only think about one thing in particular: escape. He was running away from something, someone--who or what that was didn’t matter.
But nearly as soon as it began, Tim felt himself jarred from his single-minded reverie back into the real world, back into his flesh-and-blood body.
He emerged from a power pole’s sparking insulator and sailed through the air onto another building roof, one that was paved in concrete. He landed with a thud and-- not having prepared for his sudden exit--rolled several times before coming to a stop, laying face down in a sprawl. Timothy’s body was wracked with dull pain as he slowly attempted to bring himself to his feet, but he did not get far as he felt a foot push down on him, sharp claws threatening to breach through the fabric of his jacket and pierce his skin.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Reptile demanded as he pressed down on Timothy’s torso in an attempt to restrain him.
Timothy struggled to reply, and his voice was weak. “Get… off of me...”
“Looks like you’re all out of juice, kid. Where’s the money?”
Timothy, still face down, could only quietly mutter the words “don’t have” in response.
“What was that? You say something?”
“I said I don’t have it!” Tim yelled as best he could.
Reptile sneered and hissed at the boy, though he did not see the expression. “Then what did you do with it? Spend it already? Or…” His eyes shifted left and right. “Were you not alone?”
Timothy remained silent.
“It doesn’t matter how many of you there are,” the hero continued, “because I’ll hunt all of you down until I find every last penny. So you better tell me where it is or--”
“I left it behind!” Tim interjected.
“That’s a lie. The owner saw you take it with his own two eyes. Tell me! What did you do with the cash you stole!?”
Timothy tensed himself and his hands clenched into fists. “I told you, I left it behind… I didn’t want it. I don’t want anything to do with this any more!” The boy pounded the ground in frustration.
“You little-” Reptile removed his foot and rolled Timothy over so he was looking back at him. “You really expect me to believe that?” He patted down the suspect, finding nothing in any of his pockets--not even a wallet. “You better start talking before I lose my cool.” said Reptile, his aggressive manner concealing the confusion and worry that was brewing inside. How many more of them might there be?
Timothy laboriously pushed himself up to a sitting position. “Okay, I’ll… tell you. But, can you let me…. sit somewhere else?”
Reptile contemplated his decision for a moment. He looked around and registered no signs of other hostiles. “Fine. But move that scarf out of your face and don’t even think about trying to bolt from me. Now, get up and sit over there.” He pointed to the ledge.
Timothy nodded as he got up from his spot and paced slowly to the edge of the roof. He looked down to the ground below for a moment. The adrenaline from the earlier rush of energy was draining away from him and he needed to collect his thoughts. He would have stood there for longer if it weren’t for the presence of his captor.
The boy looked behind at Reptile again, still having not at least pushed down what was covering his face. Quietly, he spoke. “I won’t run away. Promise.”
“Don’t make me repeat myself... I want to see that sorry face of yours,” Reptile demanded. He was calm, but he had made himself clear. Tim grabbed the folds of his crimson neckpiece and tugged downwards, the fabric sliding down the tip of his nose and over his mouth as they were greeted with the cold, crisp air.
Reptile looked at the boy’s face. He looked to be only a few years younger than himself. Now that he could see his face and hear his voice properly, Reptile was feeling more comfortable with letting Tim explain himself.
“Go on. Talk.”
Tim sat on the ledge and took a few deep breaths prior to attempting to start his confession from the beginning. “Okay. I’ll tell you… I--” His voice faltering, he cautiously looked around to either side of himself before settling his gaze on Reptile.
Chapter 4: Capture & Confession
“It was my job… I was supposed to steal the money from Kountry Komics. I thought I could get in and out without having anyone notice, but when I saw the owner in the office, I panicked! I only grabbed the first thing I saw and made a break for it...”
“So you are a thief.” Reptile glared at him.
“Yeah.” Timothy looked down, ashamed. “But, you’ve got me all wrong if you think I’m nothing more than a criminal…”
“Man, you just admitted to a crime. So that pretty much makes you a criminal. And I think you know what the law says about criminals!” Reptile hissed.
“No! You don’t understand! I’m serious about leaving the cash behind. I’ve been… I’m not doing this because I want to!”
“What... Now you’re saying you were forced to do this? I’d think about exercising that right to be silent, now.”
Tim thought for a moment before responding. “Forced… yeah, at first, that’s what it was. The guys I fell in with… their boss gave me powers somehow and made me learn how to use them. When they saw I could do... what I do? They started treating me like one of them. Then, they told me to come along on their heists and I went along with it.”
“You probably heard of it on the news somewhere,” Tim continued. “The recent incidents. Mysterious power outages followed by attempted robberies -- businesses across Westside, storage parks controlled by other mobs, at First National Bank…”
“I remember those. I was patrolling more often around those areas when they started, but never got to the scene on time. This time though, you weren’t so lucky.” He made a fist at Tim.
“I… I was responsible for the blackouts. My powers… they called me ‘Grid’ because I could enter buildings through their electrical systems. The surges I caused from doing that were more of a distraction than anything else. The rest of them did most of the work, at least until we hit that bank. That… that was when--”
Timothy slumped in his spot while he stared at Reptile with a look of desperation. He felt his emotions welling up, and--for better or worse--there was an outlet right in front of him.
“All I thought this was going to be was a job where I wouldn’t feel like trash and people actually appreciated me.” Timothy paused and looked at his hand. He could feel the tingle of electricity course through his body, which coalesced into dancing arcs at his fingertips. “I didn’t ask for a life like this… I didn’t ask for the powers… but I’m too far in to turn back!” His voice was shaking.
“Whoa… calm down,” Reptile interjected, though his manner of speaking seemed to hint that the control held by his animalistic side was slipping. Internally, his conscience opined in empathy for the boy in front of him. He’s almost like we were... not too long ago.
“Alright, then…” He began, after a few moments of contemplation. “If that’s all you have to say for yourself, then let me tell you what I think.”
Within moments the towering lizard-man’s body started to shift, losing its exaggerated, bestial qualities as it shrank before Timothy’s eyes. He was just a couple of inches taller than his would-be prey now. His claws regressed into dull nails, and his tail twitched as it was pulled in and assimilated into his lower back--the young man’s costume sealing up behind to conceal any trace of it. The hero grit his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut as the changes took place. When he reopened them, the eyes with which the man looked back at Tim were human, like his own.
This was the man that dwelt within the beast.
Reptile, or rather, Trevor smiled at the boy whose mouth was agape in shock from watching the young man’s transformation. “What did you say your name was? ‘Grid’, right?”
Timothy hesitated to answer that question for a moment. “Yeah, but… Call me Tim. T-Timothy Ohlmann.”
“Nice to meet you, Tim. You can call me Trevor. The other guy’s called Reptile by the way.”
“Thanks… I guess it’s nice to meet you, too--wait. Other guy? But there’s only you here.”
“Yeah, but I’m pretty much a different person now.” He pulled back his mask and revealed his face, which no longer held any qualities that were out of the ordinary. “You see, Tim, my morphology isn’t the only thing that changes during my metamorphosis. The way my brain works is altered too. I won’t bore you with the details. But, basically, he’s the one with the brawn and I’m the one with this…” He tapped a finger against the side of his head. “And unfortunately it’s either one or the other with us.” Trevor laughed.
“Speaking of brains, I think I only got half the words you said… but good to know,” Timothy said, managing to crack a small smirk. Trevor’s now-jovial attitude and human appearance were uplifting to his own spirits, if however slightly. The burden of his guilt still weighed heavily on him.
Chapter 5: A Second Chance
Trevor made quick strides to the ledge Timothy was resting on and took a seat beside him. He eased a hand toward Tim’s shoulder in an attempt to comfort him before the tingle of the electric aura that surrounded the boy reminded Trevor to keep his distance. Opting to let his arms drape to his lap, Trevor calmly spoke to the troubled soul beside him.
“Look, Tim. I know the crap you’re going through. Two years ago, I was thrown into pretty much the exact same situation. I’d rather spare you the details, but I will say this: don’t let anyone make you think that they have control over your life. You’re the decider of your actions, not them.”
“I… guess you’re right. But...” Tim’s head sunk. “I can’t just take off from all these things that I’ve done. Not that I wouldn’t mind running away, it’s just that I’m in too deep at this point. And they’ve told me what they’ll do if I betray them.”
“They won’t be able to do a thing. Not when I’m around, and certainly not if you use what they gave you against them.”
Timothy looked at Trevor with a quizzical look. “You mean... the powers? But--”
“Exactly!” Trevor exclaimed. “What do you think they’re for? Doing others’ dirty work? They’re your powers, no one can tell you what to do with them.”
“I… never even wanted this!” Timothy held back tears as his fists tightened and shined with static sparks.
“Whether you asked for it or not, what you have is something special. It doesn’t have to be used for burglaries. You just need to decide to use them for doing what’s right. It’s all up to you, not to those gangsters.”
“But… I’ve seen what they can do. And they definitely won’t just let me go.”
“You’re probably right about that. But that doesn’t mean you have to let that scare you out of doing what’s right and changing yourself for the better. And when you teach those fools who they’ve been messing with? It’ll be the best feeling in the world and you’ll see just how much you’re capable of.”
“You mean, I should fight back!? I can’t do that… the other guys-- there aren’t many others but they have powers! And what they can do is insane!” He looked genuinely afraid.
“That’s the other thing, Tim,” Trevor said as he nodded approvingly. “Don’t think this is something you have to do alone either. I mean, think about where you’d be right now if another hero caught you in the act! You’d be doing time, no question. And even worse if it was one of your buddies coming to collect on your, uh, failure.”
Timothy shuddered to think about dealing with the consequences either way.
“What I’m saying,” Trevor smiled. “Is that those guys will have to go through me if they want to get to you. And... I’ll help you clear your name.”
Hearing those words shocked Tim upright. “Y-you will?” His eyes lit up. “You aren’t going to turn me in?”
Trevor shook his head. “Us superheroes aren’t like the cops, we don’t have to do everything the rules tell us. We save people. And sometimes that means giving someone a second chance. And that’s all that some people need to redeem themselves, not time behind bars.”
“Tell you what,” he continued. “There’s this place I want to show you… but you gotta promise me that you’re going to make good on this.” Trevor grit his teeth as he mentally commanded his body to grow, shifting once again into his bestial form. His snake eyes locked with Tim’s weary, human ones.
“What d’ya say? Just answer quick… I’m not patient like the other guy.”
Timothy nodded profusely. “A-a-alright, alright! I promise. Honestly! Just don’t… hurt me...”
As Trevor’s transformation into Reptile completed, he smiled at Tim with a toothy grin. “Wouldn’t dream of it. Just make sure you keep up. I won’t be there to help if you get lost.”
Reptile sprang into motion as he made his way across Westside with Tim struggling not to fall behind, occasionally making up the gap with a burst of lightning-quick speed. The duo might have attracted quite a bit of attention in most other cities, but they weren’t even worth a second glance from the many jaded denizens of Millennium City. If you were gawking at two unrenowned supers dashing through the streets, you were probably a tourist.