A story set during and after The Origin of Dr. Viper, exploring more of both Viper and Zyme's thoughts and insights a little deeper.
"It wasn't your fault, Dr. Zyme. His own greed did him in."
Commander Feral's assurances that he was not to blame for the death of his assistant echoed in the back of Newton Zyme's mind as he drove to work. The evening prior, his once trusted assistant and colleague Elrod Purvis had betrayed him and attempted to steal both his notes for Viper Mutagen 368 as well as the mutagen itself. Following a bad tumble down a flight of stairs the jar had shattered, dousing Purvis in the chemical. He'd lived for about three seconds, then suddenly died. Although he couldn't be entirely sure, Zyme theorized that the overdose of the revitalizing formula had overloaded Purvis' system. Either way, they'd know the truth soon enough, since Purvis' body was down at the morgue awaiting autopsy.
Zyme pulled into the parking lot of Megakat Biochemical Labs in his plain brown sedan and parked in one of the parking spaces reserved for the building's researchers. He got out, briefcase in hand, and walked in the main entrance. The old guard, Emil, was at the front desk, nose buried in a comic book.
"Mornin', Doc," he said without looking up.
"How did you know it was me?" Zyme asked, pausing at the desk.
"I've been workin' here for thirty years," Emil said. "I like to think I know someone just by the sound of their walk."
Zyme allowed himself a small smile. Although old, Emil was actually sharp as a tack, when he was focused, and actually awake. Unfortunately in his old age the security guard tended to let his mind wander and get lost in his reading. Zyme didn't have the heart to fire him, though, as he was polite and made a friendly receptionist at least.
"Well, carry on," he said and continued on towards the elevators.
"Uh-huh," Emil said absently.
Speaking of old, Zyme himself was getting on in years. He was only forty-one years old, but he looked closer to fifty-one. The stress of running the center of all biological research in Megakat City, coupled with the fact it was often a target for villains who wished to steal the chemicals it produced, had taken its toll on him. He was thin with a potbelly and unusually wide hips for a male, with deep lines around his mouth and under his eyes. He pressed the call button for the elevator and ran his fingers through his thinning, cow-licked reddish-brown hair, and frowned sourly as he pulled a small clump of hair out and looked at it. I really need to take it easy, he thought. The elevator dinged and he got in, pushing the button for the fourteenth floor, where the main lab was located.
Unfortunately today was not a day he could take it easy. He was in earlier than usual, because this early was the only time Zyme could persuade Mayor Manx to come down. Although the Mayor's grants to the lab help keep it afloat - Zyme had used the grant money both to fund the Viper Mutagen project and to pay for the expensive cannons that surrounded the building - Zyme had to confess he did not really like Manx much. Regardless, he would be here soon along with Deputy Mayor Briggs, and so he had to prepare his notes for the presentation he was to give them.
"It wasn't your fault, Dr. Zyme." Commander Feral's words came up in the back of his mind again. Today was supposed to be a happy day for Zyme, as he was to present the results of his life's work to the Mayor, a solution for world hunger and deforestation. But the death of Purvis last night had cast a dark cloud over Zyme's mind, and even though Purvis had turned out to be a thieving, backstabbing little weasel, he still felt guilty about his death. And Feral's assurances that he wasn't to blame didn't help. After all, if he hadn't kicked his briefcase at him he wouldn't have fallen down the stairs!
Getting off on the fourteenth floor, Zyme went straight into the main lab. He didn't need to turn the lights on; the giant windows provided more than enough sunlight. Going over to his desk he dropped the clump of hair into the wastebasket and turned on his computer. The rose they'd experimented on the previous day sat in an Erlenmeyer flask of water on the desk.
He kept looking at the clock. The Mayor was due soon.
At that very moment downstairs, Emil the guard thought he heard a noise. But by the time he looked up from his comic book, the lobby was empty. Had someone come in? Setting the comic down he rose, his hand going to the pistol holstered on his hip.
"Anybody there?" he called.
There was no answer.
Whoever it was, they'd apparently already gotten on the elevator or used the stairs. And if it was anybody it was the Mayor, who Emil knew was supposed to swing by at some point this morning. The old guard relaxed and sat back down, and went back to his reading.
"These comics must be gettin' to me," he said aloud to himself.
Back upstairs in the main lab, Zyme sighed and then got his briefcase, opened it, and took out his notes, which were stained by the Viper Mutagen when it had spilled. He frowned as he began arranging them on his desk. He felt a little better, but the stains only reminded him of Purvis' unfortunate fate.
"Poor Purvis," he said. "Helping katkind just wasn't enough for him."
He noticed some small movement out of the corner of his eye. The rose? He turned and looked at it. "Huh?" he said.
It couldn't have moved. But as he watched, it twitched again. Suddenly the petals parted, revealing a tiny, fanged mouth with a long, thin forked purple tongue that licked at the air. Zyme recoiled in sudden shock, and the tongue stretched towards him, as if to lick him, but couldn't quite reach him. Realization dawned on him.
"Oh, no," he whispered, "it's mutated! That means the formula is... worthless. Oh, and to think Purvis perished for nothing."
All those years of hard work down the drain! All because of a little flaw. No, Zyme thought, he could fix this. He would deconstruct the formula and find the mistake. He owed Purvis that much. In the meantime, however, this drastic setback meant that his meeting with the Mayor definitely couldn't go ahead as planned.
"I'd better tell the Mayor not to come," he said, picking up the phone. He hoped he could catch Manx before he left for the lab, as he wasn't eager to explain things to him face-to-face.
"You won't be telling Manx anything, Zyme! Ssssss!"
Zyme had been in the process of reaching for the buttons on the phone, where he had the Mayor's office on speed dial, when that voice suddenly caught his ear. He froze and his blood froze in his veins.
"Wh-who's there?" he demanded. For a split second, he thought, absurdly, that the voice had come from inside the phone, and continued holding it to his ear even as he looked around the room trying to find the source of the voice. He could see no one. There was a part of the lab where the sunlight streaming in from the windows did not reach, and was currently hidden in shadow. Zyme could make out the indistinct shapes of bookshelves and tables, as well as a figure standing just outside where the light stopped.
He squinted. "Is that... is that you, Purvis?"
The voice had sounded like Purvis', only somehow not the same. Raspy, gravelly, and hissing.
It looked like Purvis. Sort of. There was something different about him, though, but Zyme couldn't quite put his finger on it.
He got his answer, though, when the figure stepped into the light fully, and everything about science that Newton Zyme held sacred died as he beheld the rose's transformation times ten! Here was some kind of creature with green fur, a long, thin snakelike body with short legs and alternating light green and dark green stripes, like a coral snake. It was wearing a loose-fitting lab coat that was about three sizes too large for it, and nothing else. Its eyes were without pupils and they shone a bright, unearthly yellow. The face resembled that of Purvis, only exaggerated, like a cartoon.
"Jussst call me Viper," the strange creature said, "Dr. Viper." He laughed. It was a cruel, evil laugh that made Zyme break out in a cold sweat.
He let go of the phone and it dropped to the floor, dangling by the cord. He simply stood there for a moment, frozen in shock at the sight of his assistant not only back from the dead but mutated into a monster.
Finally, he snapped back to reality, gasping in horror. He backed away as "Dr. Viper" walked towards him, then turned and bolted for the door, screaming, "Help!"
He made it about two feet before something caught him about the middle and wrapped around him, pinning his arms to his sides. He was lifted off his feet and gasped loudly as the air was literally forced from his lungs, legs kicking helplessly.
Dr. Viper, formerly the late Elrod Purvis, smirked, clasping his green, clawed hands together joyfully as he reeled in his "catch," holding Zyme in front of himself with his long prehensile tail as the other scientist continued to struggle. He was enjoying seeing Zyme struggle. Unknown to his former employer, Purvis had, for years, been secretly jealous of Zyme's genius. Purvis himself had never been more than a second-rate scientist at best, his theories and experiments mundane and his methods sloppy. He'd actually gone through several different jobs at various other labs before Zyme hired him to be his assistant. Purvis hated Zyme for his brilliance while he himself would never be nothing more than an assistant.
But all that had changed now. Now, his mind worked differently. Now, he was able to understand and comprehend all of the heretofore useless and mind-boggling information his memory had accumulated over the years, the theories and equations that until now only Zyme alone understood. But he was not Zyme's equal, not at all. Maybe it was just his ego running away with him, but somehow Viper knew deep down that he was now smarter than his former boss.
Ironically, it was all due to Purvis' own stupidity. Viper had to admit that trying to steal the Viper Mutagen was a dumb thing to do. How he possibly have gotten away with it? Zyme would've known who'd taken it, whether he caught him in the act or not, and then Purvis would've had the Enforcers on him before he could even blink. Nevertheless, this one stupid decision had changed the course of his entire life. Or un-life. Viper was certain that the mutagen getting on him had killed him, but then it had revived him later on at the morgue. He'd learned of his new appearance right away when an attendant had come in and screamed at the mere sight of him. He'd been naked, too, and had reflexively stolen a spare lab coat and escaped, leaving the attendant in shock. He'd gone immediately to the sewers. Why, he did not know. For some reason it seemed like he had started to prefer dark, dank places.
He gave Zyme another squeeze with his coils, making him wince and struggle more, grinning and unclasping his hands. "I'd like to do a little... experimenting in the biology lab," he said, and cackled that thin, raspy cackle of his.
Zyme stopped struggling for a moment and turned to look at him, but then quickly looked away and resumed struggling. A third crushing squeeze put a stop to that. Zyme could barely breathe now. Any more and his rib cage would almost certainly be crushed.
"That'sss better," Viper said.
Slowly, he lowered his captive down until his feet touched the floor, and loosened his coils enough so that he could breathe.
"Now," he said, "when I releassse you, you aren't going to try to run away again. If you do, when I next catch you, I will kill you!" Zyme flinched visibly, eyes wide, unable to even turn and look at him. Viper continued, "Do you underssstand?"
Although terrified, Zyme knew better than to hesitate. He tried to say yes, but could only manage a small croak of fear, so he nodded hurriedly. Viper smiled and slowly his coils unraveled from around Zyme and his tail returned behind him. Zyme stood there, shaking, and slowly turned, swallowing, trying to gather his courage. He could handle this. He knew that. He was a scientist, after all. If he could only overcome his fear, he could handle this.
"P-Purvis," he said, "I thought you were dead, how did you--?" he stammered. Zyme knew how, but for some reason it was all he could of to say at the moment.
"The Viper Mutagen, obviousssly," Viper replied, grabbing Zyme by the arm and steering him back over to his desk, pointing at the mutated flower. "You sssee? Why do you asssk questions to which you already know the answersss? Have you sssuddenly gone dumb even as I have become ssssmarter?"
"I just, uh," Zyme coughed and cleared his throat, standing up a bit straighter, a bit of his normal confidence returning. "Remarkable," he said.
"Indeed," said Viper, then crooked a finger and touched the bottom of Zyme's chin, tilting his head back a bit. "Sssit," he said.
Zyme's eyes widened. "What did you say?" he asked.
Viper's hand grabbed Zyme's face and chin, squeezing his cheeks together, claws digging into the flesh but not drawing any blood. "I said sssit!" he snarled, and then roughly shoved the older scientist back, causing him to stumble and fall backwards into his chair, which rolled back a bit on the wheels. Viper then turned and reached out towards the mutant rose, allowing its snakelike tongue to caress his hand. He cooed softly to it. Zyme sat up straighter in the chair.
Looking back at Viper, Zyme whimpered, "Please, Purvis, don't do this!"
"My name isss Dr. Viper," Viper hissed, then walked to a utility closet.
Rising, Zyme walked after him, and briefly entertained the idea of running away, but then he remembered Viper said he would kill him if he tried to escape again, and he had no doubts that he meant what he said. Besides, it was hopeless. That tail of his would grab him in an instant. Viper came back with a length of segmented, thin metal tubing, a spare power cord for the lab's chemical synthesizer. Zyme backpedaled as Viper advanced on him holding this, and once again fell backwards right into his chair. Viper smirked, as this was exactly what he wanted. Working quickly, he used the power cord to tie Zyme tightly to the chair.
"Now then," he said, stepping back as Zyme experimentally wiggled, testing the bonds, "I think we should prepare for the arrival of Mayor Manx, don't you?"
Zyme looked up at him. "Wh-what are you talking about? Why are you so interested in the Mayor?"
"Becaussse," Viper said, going around behind the chair and gripping it suddenly by the back, jolting Zyme, "I have plansss for the people of thisss city, and who better to start with than the Mayor himssself?" He pushed the chair, wheeling it out of the main lab and down the hall to the elevator. The biology lab was three floors down. Pushing the call button, Viper said, "You can relax, now, Zyme, I'm not going to kill you, not as long as you cooperate. I'm going to do to you what I'm going to do to the Mayor and Briggsss when they get here!" The elevator doors dinged and opened and Viper wheeled Zyme inside, Zyme's mind racing. The only thing he could think of was that Viper meant he intended to mutate them all.
Viper seemed to read his mind. Pressing the button for the eleventh floor, he said "And if you're thinking that I'm going to mutate the three of you, you're absssolutely right! That'sss why we're going to the biology lab! To get the ingredientsss... for a new batch of Viper Mutagen 368!" Still standing behind the chair, Viper's arms slid around and his hands clamped down on Zyme's shoulders, making him yelp, but then their grip loosened and they began to massage his shoulders. Zyme looked up and found Viper peering over the top of the chair at him, smirking.
Viper wasn't lying when he said he wouldn't kill Zyme. He'd vented several years' worth of repressed rage against his ex-boss already, and knew that even though he himself was now smarter than Zyme, Zyme was still brilliant compared to other kats, and therefore his was not a mind to be wasted. "Relax," he cooed, continuing to rub Zyme's shoulders, "it'll all be over ssssoon. And then, you can be my assissstant!"
He cackled evilly as the elevator doors slammed shut. Zyme whimpered.
In the time since Zyme's capture, Dr. Viper had been busy. He had grown an enormous wasp's nest in the middle of the main lab, into which he'd put the tied-up Zyme. Zyme quickly learned why he'd created the hive, when Viper retrieved two jars containing specimens of insect life from the biology lab downstairs, in addition to the chemicals he'd need to create a new batch of Viper Mutagen. Using his own mutagen-tainted blood as well as liberal doses of the growth formula Katalyst 96, Viper had grown the insects to a freakish size, creating a swarm of mutant mosquitoes and wasps.
The mosquitoes, in particular, were dangerous because they shot a paralyzing fluid from their needle-like noses. In this fashion, they quickly subdued both Mayor Manx and Deputy Mayor Callie Briggs when the pair had finally shown up. They were then bound and stuck into the hive alongside Zyme. He was inwardly kicking himself for not warning them when they first came in. All he could do was whimper pathetically. Now they were all three doomed to become mutations like Viper and his insects, and it was all his fault.
Or so he thought. While Viper was busying himself at a worktable, mixing together the chemicals to create the mutagen and explaining to the Mayor and Deputy Mayor what he was going to do to them, the four of them suddenly heard a commotion from out in the hall. Please let help be coming, Zyme pleaded silently. He hoped against hope for an entire battalion of Enforcers to come bursting in through the door.
"Sssounds like my mutant forces are busssy," Viper observed. He then shrugged it off, turning to look at his three prisoners. "Eh, no matter," he said. "My work here is almossst done." He then resumed his work with a snicker.
Mayor Manx whimpered. Callie yelled at Viper, calling him a sick freak. He ignored her. Zyme, for his part, stayed quiet, never saying a word throughout the entire time since the capture of the Mayor and Callie. He simply leaned back in the hive and sighed deeply, closing his eyes, wishing it was all over and done with. If he was to be made into a freak of nature he'd prefer to have it just happen already, rather than drawing the wait out like this and teasing him with the faint hope of rescue by the authorities. By now the ruckus out in the hall had ended. At the same time, both Viper and Zyme concluded that whoever it was coming to their rescue had failed miserably.
Finally, Viper finished his work. He grinned triumphantly and held up an Erlenmeyer flask containing the greenish bubbling fluid that was Viper Mutagen 368, and turned, walking over to his three prisoners, trying to decide who to start with. He briefly entertained the idea of starting with Zyme, but then decided against it. He'd do him last, just so that the older scientist could sweat a little more, and actually get to see his fate happening twice right before his eyes before it was finally his turn. The mental image of Zyme's horrified reaction to this was enough to make Viper lick his lips. Watching him, Callie and the Mayor grimaced. Now it was just a matter of figuring out who to do first between Callie and the Mayor.
He ultimately decided on Callie, both because she'd insulted him and because he wanted to demonstrate his complete lack of decency by picking on a woman, and thereby make it absolutely clear that pleading with him for compassion was completely useless. Viper fixed his glowing yellow eyes on the Deputy Mayor.
Stepping towards her, he grinned evilly at her. "Ladies firsssst," he taunted.
She glared at him, and the Mayor whined again. Zyme just sighed and turned his head away, not wanting to watch. All of a sudden, one of the lab's two enormous windows exploded inwards in a shower of glass shards as two male kats wearing red and blue flight suits, propelled by rocket packs, flew through it as if it wasn't even there. Zyme, Callie and Manx all gasped.
Viper spun around, shocked, crying out, "Huh?!"
It was the SWAT Kats. Zyme had heard of them, but never seen them until now outside of clips on the news. How they knew to come was beyond him, but at least they were here. If anyone could tangle with Dr. Viper and have at least a chance of succeeding, then it was the SWAT Kats. The ensuing battle was a short one. Viper briefly took Callie hostage, grabbing her with his tail and threatening to pour the mutagen onto her unless the two vigilantes backed off. The taller of the two, T-Bone, fired a boomerang-like projectile from the weapon mounted on his forearm, which Viper dodged. The boomerang flew over and knocked off the Mayor's toupee, then flew back and hit the flask in Viper's hand, shattering it.
Angrily, Viper threw the Deputy Mayor aside, dropping the shattered container to the floor where it broke further. The SWAT Kats! Those pests! How dare they show up just when he was getting started and ruin all his fun?! Without thinking, he charged at them, snarling, "I'll teach you fools to meddle with Dr. Viper!"
He quickly realized his mistake when they raised their forearm-mounted guns and fired, this time sending little tiny missiles, each about the length of a pencil, flying at him. Their tips split open into eight-armed claws and slammed into Viper's shoulders. Lifted up by the lab coat, the kat-snake was carried across the room by the missiles, and finally crashed through the second, unbroken window of the lab, plummeting down to ground level. He landed hard and was momentarily knocked completely silly.
When he came to a few seconds later, he sat up amidst the shattered glass and broken pieces of the missiles. Viper stood and brushed all of the glass bits off himself, amazed at the fact that aside from some aching and bruising, he was otherwise uninjured from the fall. He knew he had to get away, though, especially when he looked up and saw the SWAT Kats standing at the broken window and looking down at him.
He spotted an open manhole out in the street and ran to it, quickly slithering down into the darkness of the sewer, hissing, "You haven't ssseen the lassst of Dr. Viper!"
Viper was angry at not being able to humiliate Zyme any further or mutate him, Callie and Manx, but the complete failure of his first evil plan and the entrance of the SWAT Kats into the equation meant that he needed to sort out his priorities. There were more important things to worry about. Like finding a new place to live. Even as he was fleeing through the tunnel he was plotting. He knew that one of the places the sewers emptied into was Megakat Swamp. There he would go to live, and establish a hideout. He knew of a fabled stretch of bayou there known locally as "the Dead Forest," a lifeless and barren waste of gigantic, decaying old trees which was supposedly haunted. There, he'd plot his revenge against the SWAT Kats and his eventual total takeover of Megakat City.
The SWAT Kats had foiled him this time, but tomorrow was another day...
Back upstairs, things had quieted down a bit. While Razor went and untied both Mayor Manx and Zyme, T-Bone untied Callie. Zyme stood discretely off to the side as Razor picked up the Mayor's toupee and pointed at it, laughing, "Hey, T-Bone, at least your aim's improving!"
The Mayor stormed over and grabbed the hairpiece from him, grumbling, "Give me that!" putting it crookedly back on his bald head.
Razor then began a lengthy and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to help Hizzoner adjust the toupee and make it look like his natural hair again. Ultimately, the SWAT Kats took their leave. Zyme frowned, thankful for being rescued but nonetheless upset. The Mayor was complaining to Callie about how horrible the whole ordeal was, making Zyme dislike him even more than he did already. What did he have to be so angry about? Zyme thought. All he did was get slimed by a giant bug and then get tied up and lose his hairpiece. He didn't practically get molested by an insane mutant! The scientist could feel his anger beginning to boil over, wishing the Mayor would shut up, wishing they'd both just leave as quickly as possible, so he could be alone.
He was being irrational, seeking a target for his anger. And Mayor Manx, constantly babbling about oh woe was poor little him, was making an ideal target right now. Despite his normally gentle nature, Zyme was start to worry he'd wind up socking Hizzoner in the nose when finally Callie unintentionally came to the rescue and averted disaster by suggesting to the Mayor that they take their leave. Finally, Zyme thought, cooling off a bit. Trying his best to remain civil, he told them goodbye and even opened the lab doors for them, which Viper had locked.
They made it about five feet into the hall when Callie gasped and said, "Oh, Dr. Zyme, come quickly!"
Zyme came running and found none other than Commander Feral and two Enforcer commandos in firing positions in the middle of the hall, frozen in place, drenched in the paralyzing spit of the mosquitoes.
"Don't just stand there," Feral said with considerable effort, "do something!"
"Don't worry, it's only temporary," Zyme said, ushering Callie and Manx towards the elevator. They got in without a word and went down. Turning back to Feral, Zyme continued, "It'll wear off in a few minutes."
"Good," said Feral.
"Yeah," said the commando to Feral's right, "I really need to scratch my nose..." Zyme sighed and walked over, scratching the young Enforcer's nose for him. "Ahhhh," he sighed, "thanks, Doc."
"Don't mention it," Zyme said.
The elevator dinged again suddenly and Emil got off, hurrying over to the five of them as quickly as his old bones would allow, comically holding onto both his hat and gun holster as though afraid they would fall off. "Dr. Zyme," he said, panting, "what in tarnation?" He blinked and looked at the frozen Enforcers.
"Don't ask," said Feral, who noticed he could suddenly wiggle his fingers on his left hand.
Emil looked back at Zyme, completely confused, and it was then that Zyme knew what he had to do. "You're fired," he told the old guard, balling up his fists, letting all of his rage. Emil looked shocked. "You were either sleeping on the job again, or nose-deep in one of your comic books, and you allowed Dr. Viper to slip right past you! You're the worst security guard ever!"
"I, uh, I'm sorry, sir," Emil said sheepishly, then blinked. "Wait, who's Dr. Viper...?"
"Aahhhh!!!" Zyme screamed and pulled at his hair, finally losing it. This time he didn't pull any of his hair out thankfully, but he tugged hard nonetheless, stamping his feet furiously and throwing a huge fit right in front of the other kats who stared at him in shock. Squeezing his eyes shut and pointing, he yelled, "Out! Get out! You're fired! I never want to see you again!"
Even though in his rage Zyme pointed at a potted plant instead of the elevator, Emil didn't need to be told twice what to do. He was so taken aback by the usually calm Zyme's outburst that he literally fled in stark terror, frantically pushing the call button on the elevator and running inside before the doors were even fully open. Zyme opened his eyes and glared, seeing Emil's terrified face as the guard pushed the button for the lobby hurriedly, the doors closing. Now that Emil was gone, and he had vented, Zyme calmed some, which was fortunate for the three Enforcers who by this point were able to move again, albeit a bit stiffly. Even Commander Feral was shocked at Zyme's outburst, and did not want to be on the receiving end of it.
Sighing, Zyme turned to them. "I'm sorry," he said, "I've just... had a horrible day."
"It's perfectly understandable, Dr. Zyme," Feral said, unbuttoning and removing his greatcoat, which was soaked through with the paralyzing fluid.
Zyme nodded, then said, "All right, let's get the three of you all cleaned up, hmm? Come on into the--oh, no, wait, it's too much of a mess. We'll use another one. Come on, and take off your clothes." He beckoned with a finger and walked towards the stairwell, not having the patience to wait for the elevator to come back up.
The Enforcers blinked and looked at one another. "Uh, what?" one of the commandos said. "But--"
"But nothing," Zyme said, cutting him off. "We need to wash off that paralyzing fluid and get all three of you into some clean clothes. Now strip."
"Right," said Feral, knowing better than to argue. Zyme was clearly the expert here. Turning to the commandos, he took off his shoulder holster and began undoing his tie. "You heard him, men. Now move it!" He turned and followed Zyme, pausing to stoop and pick up the soiled trenchoat. Immediately both commandos began trying to disrobe and follow their Commander at the same time in a downright amusing display.
A few hours later, all of them had washed up in the lab's showers, and put their underpants back on, and Zyme kindly provided them with some spare lab coats to wear back to Enforcer Headquarters until they could get clean uniforms. The soiled ones would remain at the lab for cleaning. Feral, ever the professional, didn't seem to notice or care how silly he looked wearing nothing but boxer shorts and a lab coat, and shook Zyme's hand, thanking him, as the three left the building. There was no sign of Emil in the lobby; the front desk was deserted. That didn't surprise any of them in the least.
They were forced to hail a cab, seeing as how they had actually come by sewer from the morgue, and the driver gave them all odd looks but picked them up anyway. As the commandos bickered over who was going to pay the fare, Feral growled and just shoved both into the backseat at once.
"I'll pay," he said, slamming the door. He then got up front with the weirded-out driver. "Enforcer Headquarters, and step on it," he said as though talking to a chauffeur.
The cab drove off, and Zyme went back inside. Now that he was finally alone in the building he could behave the way he wanted to. Because it was the weekend there were no other researchers in that day. And the first thing he did was visibly cringe in disgust over what had transpired earlier, and hurry to the showers, strip naked, and take one himself. He wound up taking three showers in a row. He felt disgusting and dirty, and the soap and water helped.
After drying off, he got his keys out of his pants pocket and then threw his own clothes in with those of the Enforcers to get cleaned tomorrow. Zyme then pulled on a lab coat and nothing else, and left the building, going straight to his car. Getting in, he started the motor. As he pulled out, he thought to himself about firing Emil. He'd need to hire new security guards. Lots of them. And young, able-bodied ones. Security around the lab had to improved if a repeat of Viper's invasion was to be avoided.
Backing out of the parking space, Zyme drove home, where he changed into clean clothes and promptly fell asleep on the sofa. Today had been a rough and horrible day, but he'd survived it. They all had. Nobody had gotten killed or even seriously injured, not even Dr. Viper. But deep down Zyme knew that would change if his former assistant turned tormentor was going to become a recurring threat. Viper had expressed a willingness to kill. And he had the ability to create monsters that obeyed his every command. These two facts in combination conjured up all manner of frightening possibilities. Dr. Zyme had a deep and unpleasant feeling in the pit of his stomach that the next time Viper appeared, someone was going to get seriously hurt. Or worse. And so he decided then and there as he drifted off into a fitful sleep plagued with nightmares about rapacious serpents and mutated, fanged flowers and the constant refrain of Elrod Purvis' corpse rising stiffly from the slab in the morgue like a zombie in a horror movie, the sheet falling away to reveal Dr. Viper's hideous visage, that from then on he would dedicate his life to combating the horror that had once been his treacherous assistant so that Megakat City - and perhaps all of katkind - could be safe from Dr. Viper's hideous evil.
"It wasn't your fault, Dr. Zyme," Commander Feral's words echoed in the scientist's dream.
But it was, Zyme thought; he kicked the briefcase and made Purvis fall. He designed the formula that spilled on him. He was responsible for the flaw in the mutagen which killed Purvis and then perversely brought him back to life as a monster. He, Dr. Newton Zyme, created Dr. Viper. And he was determined to unmake him somehow, for the good of katkind.
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