Protectors of the Universe Spotlight #4: WILD SMILE
Written by Azmodi, Edited by E.A.
starring the Grinner!
The following story takes place in the Cosmic Unionverse continuity.
See the Cosmic Unionverse Reference Page for more details.
I stand in my great office, wood-paneled; a massive window looking out onto the city I helped build. So much like the world of my birth it is; but in the end, it shall always be superior. Here I am God; there I was nothing more than a small criminal, thwarted and defeated by foes far my inferior. Yet that time has past - I am in control now, or so I thought.
I move back to my large desk, and sit slowly. The cool air, modulated by machines I myself ordered constructed, comforts my thick skin. In the computer screen, I catch a glimpse of my features, called monstrous and even "ghoul-like," at times. True enough, I am the vision of a demon spit from Hell, and it is a fitting image; I am bad, I am evil, but at least Im rich. Far better to rule in Hades than serve in Hell. When my times comes, I will spit in the eyes of the angels and laugh.
That time may come far sooner then I ever dared anticipate. Already I can imagine a dozen heavily armed figures charging up the eighteen flights of stairs in my tower. Their own eyes are filled with fire, and their pockets are stuffed with money. It is not my money, but the money of my enemies. My best men, how I am disappointed in them - bought so easily.
They will try to topple me; they will die.
I smile, and pour myself a small glass of scotch. I down it in a single gulp, put down the cup. My mind cannot be impaired by alcohol. The tension in my iron muscles fades and I wait with the ease of relaxation. I await battle; I await death, without fear or care. I am at peace.
My lids begin to slip closed as I wait the mercenaries who were once my own - my mind slips back to the past. I see a small man, working feverishly in an American laboratory. His name is Alexander Hollinger; he is a rat, a fool, and a nothing. He pushes up his glasses and keeps working, always working. The schematics blur before his wearied eyes, but he pushes on. The Nazis must fall. The Good Country must be victorious.
He is an idiot, small and weak.
He is tired, steps away from the schematics, shambles across the small laboratory. He reaches out for coffee, does not see what he grasps. He drinks his own chemical experiment, feels it burn down his throat. Alexander Hollinger stumbles about, dying slowly, feeling his organs cook inside his body.
The foolish scientist falls to his knees, crawls out of the small laboratory, searching - searching for what? It is late, late at night. No one is there to save him. He crawls, knees and elbows scraping raw, blood tracing across the cold floor.
He crawls into a chamber, an ominous symbol adorning the door that swings closed behind him. A lock slams shut and red sirens flash. Alexanders eyes widen - he does not realize that he is already dead.
Deadly green light beams across the chamber, bathes him, and eviscerates him. His organs cook, melt, and are re-formed. The chemical, the emerald light, they react, join and mingle, make Alexander Hollinger into something more than he was before.
My eyes flicker. Alexander Hollinger died that night. I was born. It was a stillbirth.
My memories flash forward. The second Great War still rages. A self-styled hero confronts me, as I order brigands to pillage the corpses of the dead soldiers. Already I am leading. People fear me; I am more than they are. My skin, turned Grey and pressed against my bone so I appear almost a living, rotten skull raises terror in them. They do as I say, for they fear me.
This hero, he called himself the Black Marvel, he cringed from me for a moment. But then he gathered his resources and attacked. The brigands fell quickly before his practiced skills. I was overconfident - I was better than him in every way, yet still I fell to him nearly as swiftly as my minions had.
I was humiliated. In my office, I smile at the memory. Still a fool I was, then. How long it took to mature.
Special restraints had to be designed to hold me, so strong was I, even then. I was locked away in a dark dungeon, fed once a weak. My mind clouded, my hatred for the world grew until it collapsed upon itself. I shrank into my thoughts and reflections. Eventually the guards ceased to visit me, stopped bringing me food. But I was more than human - I lived, and I grew. My body consumed itself and regurgitated itself. I was reborn again and again, growing stronger and stronger.
When the light finally touched my eyes, I thought I would truly die. I soon discovered the country I had served as a scientist had forgotten I existed. They had left me to starve in that dungeon, until some politician found yellowed papers recording my existence. It was 1973 when I left that dark and dank cell.
Placed in the newly christened "Vault," slowly I pieced my mind back together. The mind-warpers, the head shrinkers - they tried to help; they failed. I lived again due to my own power. I made myself again, rebuilt myself slowly, but surely.
When the clouds of insanity finally parted, I saw the world anew. I hated it, but coldly hated it. I knew I could not destroy the Earth or its populace - individuals with far greater power and intelligence than I had tried and failed. I realized, though, that I could hurt it. The brigands had followed me - others would as well.
The Vault was still young and weak. I escaped easily, along with several of my contemporaries. I laugh in my office, as I hear the footfall approaching. My contemporaries soon found themselves back in the Vault, as they wasted their lives with overblown schemes of conquest and death.
I was content with hurting the world by perverting its youth, its future. It was simple to obtain drugs, simpler still to sell them to sell them to urban children. Soon many others flocked to my banner saw the prestige and power I had. They feared me, respected me, and wanted to emulate me within no more than a handful of years I controlled the city of Chicago. I was its master, more than a crime-lord. I was royalty, a king lurking in the shadows, pulling the strings of my puppets. Politicians, the police, celebrities - they were all my pawns, my subjects.
I smile at the thought. How satisfied I was then, with so little.
I never ran afoul of the new breed of "heroes" which eventually sprang up. I was far too smart, far too subversive for them to detect me. I laughed as a blind man toppled Wilson Fisk's great empire.
And then I noticed a mercenary who had to Earth from places far beyond. His name was Deaths Head. Before he departed, I took great care to arrange a meeting with him, hire him. He asked a great price for his time - I obliged.
I told him I wanted more than what I had. I wanted to rule the stars from behind the scenes, become the mastermind of space. I realized I was bored of hurting Earth - Humanity did more damage to itself then I could ever hope to do. I required a new challenge. He said he would take me to the stars, to a planet that was a hive of scum and villainy. I agreed.
I arrived on this world four years ago. Gangs and petty mobs ruled, killing one another in the streets. Dealers sold to each side, every side. It was chaos. I was pleased.
My great strength and fearsome appearance made me an asset to every faction. Each one hired me, and I worked for them all. Within a year I drew all their leadership together for talks of peace, and then murdered them all with my bare hands. Their minions, shocked, were mine - the planet was mine.
The oak doubledoors ring with the sound of a great blow. A second pound and the aged wood begins to buckle.
I re-built the world, built my capital city on the corpses of the my enemies, and with the money I took from them. Soon I reached my hand out to the stars, and began to take control of all the disparate groups devoted to seedier aspects of existence. I solidified most of them, made them into a single, unified conglomerate, dedicated only to wreaking more havoc, to preying on the weak and helpless.
I took many names then, most notable among them being The Cobalt Diablo and Master-lord. But I always fancied the one I first war, during those early days. Whenever I see my own twisted countenance, I will always know myself to simply be called Grinner.
The doors burst open; plasma fire turns my desk to ash. My chair explodes. I am not seated in it. Easily I bound across the room, using the speed that is my gift. The first two men, taller than I and far larger, are surprised. I strike their jaws a single time each. Their heads snap backward, along with their necks.
A feel my should and chest burn as more of the bounty hunters fire. Adrenaline lights my veins, anger awakens in me - I charge into their number. I roar like the beast I appear to be.
Two more fall, their faces ruined by my blows. I am momentarily angered that their blood is oozing across my carpeted hall. It will be difficult to clean the thick ichor away - such a waste of funds.
A fist slams into my visage, and knuckles crack against my bones, which are far harder than Earthly steel. I laugh as I kill another trio of the mercenaries who had once served me.
Five more of the turncoats remain; their faces are painted with fear and panic now, rather than confidence. They begin to turn, trying to escape. I leap over a corpse, my black suit jacket flying behind me. I land with a great sound and grab the nearest around the throat. A quick twist and a death gurgle is immediately audible.
I move on, seeking more prey. How weak they are. They deserve to die.
One of their number, the mercenary closest to escaping, turns suddenly on his compatriots. His eyes light with pleasure as he swings his massive weapon around and incinerates those he had only moments before called ally. They die with a sizzle and whisper, and cease to exist as anything more substantial than smoke.
My pace slows as I approach the last bounty hunter. I smile revealing sharply pointed teeth. A look a monster; I am a monster.
"It is done. Your betrayers are eliminated," said the large man, his weapon still steaming.
I nod, "Yes, Geatar. Well done. You will find the promised amount already deposited in your Aucladian account."
I look over the mans work for a moment, then fix my crimson eyes on him once again, "It seems I require a bodyguard. Occasional combat is invigorating - Constant combat is a nuisance."
Geatar does not hesitate - he knows who I am, "I accept, Grinner."
I nod once more, curtly, and smile, "Good. Your first task is to clean this garbage."
I can well imagine his facial expression, but already I am turning, heading back for my office. I do not care what he believes - he will do as he is told. He will serve well, I know, yet he shall never be as strong as I. None shall ever be as strong as I.
Afterword by Azmodi:
Without this afterword, the preceding reflection will most likely not make a great deal of sense. It seems to have no direct connection to the Timeless - or any other of the CPU titles for that matter. But, in fact, it serves as an introduction for a character who shall later be featured in my own ongoing series, and perhaps in other CPU stories as well.
The Grinner is, in fact, not at all an original creation - he is an update of a Golden Age villain, one who battled the Native American hero Black Marvel during World War II times. A few weeks ago I saw his name mentioned, along with a brief description, and decided he would make an ideal "Godfather" for the world of cosmic crime, for that realm's underworld is truly lacking a controlling figure. In the universe of the Cosmic Union, hopefully, Grinner will serve to fill that void.
Azmodi's Tales of the Timeless return in Cosmic Powers Unlimited #8, coming November 14th! For more stories from the Cosmic Unionverse continuity, check out the Cosmic Unionverse Reference Page! Now, be sure to leave us your feedback!
|Cover and Introduction||Cosmic Powers Unlimited Issue #3||Send
|Cosmic Union Issue #3||Obliterator Reborn||Star Masters Issue #1||Tales
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|COSMIC POWERS UNLIMITED #1||COSMIC POWERS UNLIMITED #2|