"Tales to Astonish"
Written By Curt Fernlund
Stark Industries, LLC
Port Jefferson, Long Island
Some months ago…
Janet Van Dyne stared at her image reflected in the dark smoked glass of the medical cabinet situated across the room, trying her very best to stifle a fit of the giggles. If she did not know better, she might suspect her boyfriend of being up to something kinky.
She looked as though she had just stepped into a bad bondage movie. She was strapped to an adjustable hospital gurney with thick leather restraints about her slim wrists and ankles, with another wider belt around her waist. The bonds served to hold her firmly in place, just in case the table had to be repositioned, and so she would not be able to fidget about too much once the process had started. As though she fidgeted!
She wore too a full leather helmet over her head that covered her mouth, ears and nose leaving only her eyes free- at least for the moment. There was a blindfold; as well that would be stretched into place once the final preparations were made. It was a safeguard, just as the rest of the costume and accessories were that against the blinding light of the process.
He had wanted her to shave her head bald, and admittedly that would have been in fashion with the rest of her ensemble, but that was where she drew the line. She had put on the skin-tight leather bathing suit that he had said was necessary and cut to fit. She had shaved her body hair to accommodate the leads that needed to be attached to a few of her more private parts. But she was not about to shave her scalp bald. She had met him half way however and had taken a close crop that she would have coifed later, maybe dyed. She had not been blonde in some time…
Yes, in anyone else she would have suspected a leather and bondage fetish, but as she watched her beau make his way about the laboratory setting up the final preparations she knew that there was no chance in Hell. Henry Pym was handsome and smart, but he did not have a single kinky bone in his body.
“How much longer, Henry?” Janet sighed, watching as her boyfriend adjusted another set of dials on a machine that looked incredibly like a prop from one of the old Flash Gordon serials from the forties. She added just the slightest bit of miff to her voice to let him know that she was getting impatient and annoyed. “I have an itch, and if I’m stuck here too much longer there’s going to be an accident.” She giggled as Hank looked up with wide eyes and a look of confusion. He relaxed when he heard her laugh, knowing that she was just kidding.
“Almost there, Janet. Systems are powering nicely and so far there’s no red lining.”
Janet Van Dyne nodded her head - about the only part of her body that she could move - and settled in to wait. She trusted her man implicitly, and had every bit of faith that he knew exactly what he was doing. Henry Pym was nothing if not thorough in everything that he set his mind to. It was setting his mind that was the problem.
He was finally taking the steps to make her his partner rather than just his lab assistant. She had worked with Pym for weeks after he had come to Stark, and it had been an incredible time. Henry Pym was a genius! He was cutting edge in the fields of biochemistry, robotics and cybernetics, which was what he was officially getting paid for. His true expertise and worth however came from his patented Pym Particles, a molecular solution that somehow added or extracted mass from a body, shunting that mass or drawing it from the very water vapor in the air. Janet did not begin to understand the science of it, but it was truly incredible to behold.
The Pym Particles had the ability to alter mass and size, and when he had taken his discovery to Anthony Stark he had seen immediately the benefits that such a thing might provide. There were many aspects of industry that would improve if certain machines and components were reduced to a half or a quarter or even a hundredth of their original size. Stark had given Henry Pym a blank slate and a fully funded lab to work on his find, and over the few months that he had been a Stark employee he had reconfigured his invention from a liquid to a gas, then to a pill and finally into a mutagenic effect that actually bonded to the molecular structure of the target recipient. So far it had worked on inorganic machines and furniture, as well as on lab rats in the second stage of testing. All that was left was to successfully introduce the mutagen into a living person- AKA Janet Van Dyne!
Janet Van Dyne blinked, focusing on the man that she loved. He looked rather Devo in his red jumpsuit and smoky goggles. He had a strange look on his face as he stared at her, like a little lost dog-
“You okay, honey? I’m ready to go, but if you’re not-“
“I’m fine, Hank. Just day dreaming.”
“Sorry. You must be bored. It won’t be much longer. We’re set!”
“Then let’s go…”
Some weeks later…
Janet Van Dyne was surprised to find the foyer light off when she finally managed to unlock the front door of her East Hamptons Mansion. She had dismissed her chauffeur at the main steps and had struggled up the long stairway with her hands and arms full of shopping bags. She wished that she had used a bit of shrinking gas on the packages for her convenience, but she had promised Henry. After the lecture he had given her after the paperboy incident she had learned her lesson - or at least remembered long enough to avoid another scolding.
She set the bags down just inside the entrance hall calling out for the butler or maid. She groped at the wall for a light switch, frowning at the silence and darkness. It was ridiculous that she did not even know where the switch was in her own house; her father’s house she mentally corrected. It would not truly be her’s until she turned eighteen and was now in the hands of her lawyers, along with the estate entire and all connected affairs. Luckily her father had been as meticulous in his finances as he had been in his experiments.
Vernon Van Dyne was dead now however, slain by a horrible mutant creature called Kosmos! It had been like a science fiction movie from the Fifties, or rather a horror movie. Janet Van Dyne had found the grotesquely mutilated body of her father and it had only been through the quick thinking of Henry Pym that the Earth had been saved from a similar fate.
And no one even knew…
Now Janet was the heiress of the Van Dyne fortunes and owner of all of her father’s patents. And she could not even turn on a light in her own home!
Janet Van Dyne suppressed a giggle at the absurdity of that, trying not to worry over just why the great house was so dark and quiet. Had there been a break in? Were there robbers still in the house? Janet Van Dyne cringed realizing how much noise her heels were making as she clacked across the marbled floor of the main hall. She kicked off her shoes, now tiptoeing across the floor as she looked nervously about. There were no lights on that she could see on the upper floors- even the nightlights that lined the stairs were out. There was no light behind the beige door leading to the kitchens and the servant’s wing. The only luminescence in fact came from down the long hall that led to the rear gardens, and that was barely enough to see by as Janet made her way through the main floor of the manse.
She turned; a flicker of light caught her eye. Janet held her breath, waiting to see if she had imagined it or-
Just the faintest glow slipping beneath the crack of the library’s double doors. She eased forward silently, watching as light faded in and out at odd intervals, like the glow of a cigarette- or a pipe!
With her father’s death Janet Van Dyne had given her fiancé full access to Vernon Van Dyne’s extensive library and personal labs within the mansion. She was not stupid, but she knew that her father had been a brilliant scientist and she was nowhere near able to understand what he had achieved despite that she had been his lab assistant since she had been able to form a coherent sentence. It was her father actually that had gotten her the job at Stark Industries as Henry Pym’s assistant, based on her performance. She had not wanted or needed to work of course, but Vernon Van Dyne had been adamant in that she needed to learn her way in the world of business and labor. She would not be an empty-headed socialite if he had his way. Henry Pym had been just as stubborn as her father of course. It was some mad scientist thing she was sure. He had grudgingly accepted access to Vernon Van Dyne’s achievements as well as his workspaces, slowly turning the latter into his own.
The light was coming from his library. She stepped quietly to the door, listening for any sounds within. Hearing nothing Janet took a deep breath and eased the doors open.
The room was almost pitch black with the heavy curtains drawn closed. It smelled of pipe tobacco and she had to squint as she strained to peer into the smoky cloud that drifted out. Gingerly she slid her hand along the wall, this time finding the light switch. She gasped as the room came aglow at her command.
Henry Pym had done little to change the décor of the room. Her father’s books still lined the high shelves that ran every wall. The huge globe still dominated the northwest corner and the great desk the back wall. About the only thing that Pym had added was a long worktable where he conducted alterations and minor experiments. He had set up a small chemistry set and electronics kit and had proceeded to clutter the table with test tubes and circuit boards. The table had been over turned and his work was scattered and shattered on the expensive carpeting that covered the floor. There was broken glass and jagged metal everywhere causing Janet to hesitate when she saw the man she loved sitting behind his desk.
Henry Pym looked horrible! He had a day’s worth of stubbly beard and his reddish-blonde hair was a mess, poking up in oddly angled clumps. There were huge bags under his eyes and his skin was smudged with soot and grease. It looked as though he had been up for days, which in itself was not so unusual. When he was working on something there were times when Janet would not see him for hours on end. Now however he was just sitting behind his massive cherry wood desk that was strewn with papers and smoking his pipe in a vacant daze.
Janet Van Dyne chewed on her lower lip when he finally turned his gaze upon her. His eyes were bloodshot and his expression was bleak, as though his world had shattered. She could not understand what had happened and took a step forward, halting suddenly remembering the glass-
“Henry? What’s wrong?” she asked, trying to look for a clear path through the debris to his side. She wished now that she had picked up her shoes. “What’s happened?”
He said nothing and simply stared at her, his deep blue eyes vacant and lost. She realized that he had been crying-
Screw the glass, Janet charged across the floor. She winced, whimpering as she stepped down, the sharp shards slicing into her skin and nylons. She ignored the pain as best she could, falling to her knees beside Pym’s chair. Tentatively she touched his arm, then grabbed hold for dear life, hugging and stroking-
“Hank?” she whispered and he turned his dark gaze upon her. She could see the hopelessness in his eyes.
“It’s over, Janet. He’s stolen everything.”
“Who Hank? What do you mean?”
Pym sighed and took a breath on his pipe. It was dead…
“Stark!” he said, almost spitting the name. “He’s taken control of my patents, everything that I developed in his employ. He locked down my labs in Port Jeff and left orders that I was not to enter the facilities. He fired me, Jan!”
Janet Van Dyne blinked, staring wide-eyed at the man that she loved. She could not believe it! Anthony Stark was their friend!
Pym smirked but there was no joy in it. It was pathetic. He set his dead pipe aside. “Anthony apparently had someone else working on the specialized cell work connected with the Pym Particles- some Oriental bitch named Macabre! She had developed her own size-altering process apparently, though it only worked on inorganic materials. I met her once at the annual Christmas party. She seemed decent enough. Show’s what I know about people, hunh?” He shrugged.
“But how could Stark steal your work?” Janet was confused. Thanks to her father she had a good head for business and the legalese involved. It did not seem right somehow.
“My own fault.” Pym sighed, trying to smile. “When I signed on at Stark I didn’t read the fine print of my contracts. Tony was my friend in college. I didn’t think I would have to. Seems he had clauses in the papers I signed that gave him final right on anything that I developed in his employ and on his premises. He can’t touch the actual patent of the Pym Particles since it’s technically a natural resource, but any derivative that I created while in his employ is his; the liquid, the gas, the pills, the cybernetic relays, the robotics… I’m fucked!
“All that I have are the Particles and whatever I was developing here, which isn’t a lot.” He laughed, “Even less now, after my little hissy fit!”
Pym stood, pulling his arm free of Janet’s embrace as he strolled across the room and stared at the globe in the corner. Janet Van Dyne stood and moved towards him, limping slightly with the pain in her foot. Blood trickled down her legs, but she did not notice, she was so intent on Henry Pym. He looked defeated, his shoulders sagging and his head bowed.
“I guess I made a mess of things, hunh? Hell, I didn’t even know until Simon called me-“
“Simon Williams! Seems he was flattened by the Stark steam roller as well.”
Janet felt her throat starting to constrict and tears welling in her eyes. It was horrible. She had dated Simon Williams a few times, despite the difference in their ages. He was a brilliant scientist and inventor in his own right, though his field of expertise was in mechanics and electronics. He had several contracts with the government still, despite his recent financial problems.
“Stark’s army of lawyers filed action against Williams’ Technologies citing infringement of patent rights and industrial espionage. Seems Stark developed a magnetic repulsor system of his own, and too many of his transistor designs are way too close to Simon’s. The government pulled out of course, and the courts froze Simon’s assets and locked down his plants pending further investigation. Simon’s got a bigger dick up his ass than I do.”
Janet Van Dyne winced as her lover laughed. It was a cold thing, and she had never heard him use such language. She reached out, placing her hand on his arm but he did not acknowledge her in the slightest. She sighed-
“We’ll survive Hank! I’ll set my lawyers on Stark. Bale and Hogarth will tear him apart! Besides, you’ve still got the Particles, and what about the cybernetic helmet you’ve been working on?”
“Big whip!” Pym chuckled. “I can talk to ants. What good is that?”
“I don’t know, Hank, but it has to be good for something. We’ll beat this! We’ll survive!”
Pym turned on her then, fire sparking in his eyes. “You’ll survive you mean! I can’t live off of your money, Jan! If I don’t make my own way, I’m nothing! Nothing!”
Janet Van Dyne felt his body tense under her touch and pulled back. His hands were clenched into fists, and for just a moment she thought that he might hit her. She backed away…
His body started to shake, and he gripped himself, hanging his head in shame-
“Please. Just leave me alone for a while. Please…”
Jan started to speak, then thought better of it. Slowly she backed away, turning only when she reached the door. Then she started to run and did not stop until she was locked safely within her room. She collapsed onto her bed and let the tears come…
Not long ago…
The winsome Wasp laughed as Giant Man slammed the Porcupine face first into the asphalt. The bastard had been a thorn in their side for far too long and she was glad that Hank had the opportunity to take out his frustrations and get a little revenge on the mutant. The Porcupine yelped and moaned and then stopped moving, the impact and force of Giant Man's attack finally taking the fight out of him.
She fluttered up and above the street on gossamer wings, surveying the damage that the thug had caused. The paramedics had arrived and were doing their best to treat the wounded but the terrorist had injured dozens by spewing his razor sharp quills into the crowds that had gathered to watch the Marvels battle. Worse, there were three dead. The Porcupine was now a murderer. He deserved whatever he got. She smiled and nodded, satisfied with the result of the battle and flitted towards her gigantic partner as the police secured the Porcupine and hauled him away.
Hank was speaking with the police and letting his image be captured for the newspapers and the six o’clock news. He was reveling in his role as the hero. It was a side of her true love that she had never suspected even existed, but she was glad for it. It had drawn him from the shell he had created when Stark had betrayed his trust.
Janet Van Dyne thought and simply grew to full size, reaching up to grab his hand lovingly in the process. Her tiny wings disappeared into her back, as did the slight antennae that sprouted from her brow whenever she shrank. Henry had mentioned that he had made improvements on the process that had turned her into the Wasp, and that the antennae would disappear with the new process once he implemented it. She could not wait.
Janet could not believe how their lives had so abruptly turned around - well, Henry’s at any rate. Not so long after Stark had fired him, he had been offered a job by Hikui Kagi, and Hank had readily accepted. Kagi had had ideas on how best to implement Henry’s Pym Particles in ways that Stark had never thought of. Hank’s process would be applied to circuitry and the end all result would be then presented to the likes of NASA and other such organizations that needed their work miniaturized for the better deployment of mass. Hank was once again working at the forefront of biochemistry and cybernetics as well, and he was loving it.
Unfortunately Janet did not trust Kagi anymore than she did Stark. He seemed a slimy bastard, and even though he had provided the latest in laboratory applications, she could not help but feel that he was out for his own benefit. Janet smiled as the cameras trained on her however. She would not take this moment from the man that she loved.
“Well, that was fun!” she said as the reporters finally moved on. Hank was positively beaming as he waved at the departing news crews.
“Yeah! What a rush!” Pym smiled and shrunk back down from his mammoth size to his usual six feet. Janet watched, licking her lips as he continued shrinking, eventually stopping at about six inches. She peered down at him even as he looked up at her. He seemed tiny and helpless, and it was all that she could do not to scoop him up in her arms.
“Let’s go home, Jan!” he shouted, his gaze flowing up her body. She must seem a giantess to him, and she knew just what he was thinking. She smiled-
“Okay, lover.” Janet Van Dyne bent at the waist, reaching down and quickly snatching him up. She loved the way he squirmed in her grip. She poked at him, holding him tightly…
“Let’s go home, little man,” she smirked. “I’ve got big plans for you tonight!”
Janet Van Dyne laughed and stuffed his writhing little form into the small pouch that she wore at her belt. She zipped the compartment closed and patted it, giggling to feel her tiny lover within. It was a little game they played; a game they both enjoyed. She stepped from the curb and waved, doing her best to contain her excitement as she tried to hail a cab.
It would be a long and frustrating trip back to her Manhattan apartments uptown…
Somewhere in the Deserts of New Mexico…
Rick Jones stared at the creature as it ripped ravenously into the raw haunches of the deer. It was all blood and guts, and Jones could hear the sizzling of the doe’s flesh as the brute tore at the animal’s fur. It was cooking the deer as it ate, its radioactivity frying the critter with every bite.
Rick Jones turned away and wretched…
By the times Jones rose from the dirt and struggled to his feet, the creature had finished its meal. There was nothing left but the stain of blood on the sand and the smell of burnt fur and charred meat. The monster had eaten the entire doe and was picking at its teeth with a shard of bone; his attention now firmly focused on the boy -
“What’cha lookin’ at, bitch?” the creature snarled and Jones stumbled backwards, his body weak and shaking under the monster’s bloodshot gaze.
The hulking creature stood and stretched, its massive muscles rippling, growing as though they might burst. His body glowed slightly, a sickly gray-green, and his skin was covered in scabrous, oozing scars that never seemed to heal. He was huge- well over eight feet tall with over-extended arms and stumpy, powerful legs as thick as tree stumps. The blast that had created him- the Gamma bomb had burned away his body hair and exposed bone, but the Hulk did not feel the slightest pain. The incredible Hulk! That’s what the General’s daughter had called him, right before he had snapped her neck!
“Doc?” Jones said, backing away, a wave of fear washing over him as the behemoth strode forward. His lips were twisted in a snarl showing black and rotted teeth and gums. There was anger sparking his eyes-
“Ain’t no Doc here, boy! Told ya that before. There’s just me- the Hulk!”
The creature slammed his hand down on a massive boulder and Rick Jones could see his fingers digging in for a grip. Jones could not believe that this thing was the same man as the skinny doctor that had tried to save his life not so long ago. Doctor Banner had driven out onto the desert of White Sands to get Rick Jones to safety before the infamous Gamma bomb’s initial test. Something had gone wrong however, and the bomb had gone off prematurely catching Banner with its full effect and irradiating Jones as well. They had both lit up like Roman Candles before the force of the explosion had bowled them both over into a foxhole miraculously saving them from the heat blast and the worst of the radiation. Jones could not explain it- he had never actually been that bright or interested in school. The doctor could not explain it either-
He had changed…
Jones whimpered as the Hulk ripped a boulder from the earth and held it easily overhead with one hand. It was impossible! The boulder was easily twice the size of the creature and it should have crumbled in his fist but he held it there as though it was nothing. Held it overhead, looming over Jones like the Sword of Damocles-
“Ought’a kill you now, punk. Hulk smash yer ass! Heh! Ought’a…” the creature heaved and grunted, hurling the massive boulder away beyond the horizon. Rick hoped that it did not land on anyone.
“But I won’t.” The monster smiled a horrible thing to behold. “I like watchin’ ya die the slow death. Radiation’s killin’ ya, boy, a little bit at a time. Won’t be long an’ you’ll keel over dead. Heh- Gotta put some meat on yer bones ‘fore that happens.”
Rick Jones paled as the creature laughed. The Hulk was right, and the radiation was probably killing him but oddly he felt fine, more or less. He was weak from the heat of the desert and lack of water, but his hair was full and he was not dying the slow death of radiation sickness- at least as far as he knew. He could not explain it, but somehow he knew that as long as he was with the Hulk he would survive.
It was his fault that Doctor Banner had been changed into the monster after all- the ultimate Jeckyl and Hyde! It was the least he could do to stay with the creature- the man- and do all that he could to change him back. Make him normal again-
“Shaddup!” the beast snarled, looking up and around. Jones glanced to the sky, but saw nothing.
“You hear that?”
Jones listened, then shrugged. “What? I don’t hear-“
“I said shaddup!” the creature snapped his fingers and Jones flew back to tumble in a heap on the ground. Battered and bruised he looked up to see the creature staring off into space as though listening-
“A voice! Calling me! Calling me to New York! Bastard! Hulk ain’t nobody’s lackey!”
Rick Jones saw the creature tense and crouch and he knew immediately what was going to happen. He scrambled forward, crawling across the grit and gravel of the desert, watching the brute’s leg muscles bulge as he crouched, preparing to leap. Jones reached out, locking his arms about the Hulk’s legs, feeling the heat but not the radiation. He did not have time to think-
The incredible Hulk leapt and Jones suddenly found himself dangling from one of the creature’s massive legs. He hung on for dear life as the world sped by beneath, far below. The creature had gone all out, having a good bit of distance to cover before reaching New York! His mighty leap took him miles…
Rick Jones wretched again as the world spun away…
To Be Continued…
Story © Curt F 2003/ 2011
Next Issue: Everyone seems to be in place, converging on the Millenium Tower in Manhattan. Be here next time as Kagi’s grand scheme is revealed and Earth’s Mightiest Super-Heroes meet for the first time…
And There Came a Day… The coming of the Ultimate Avengers!