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(To Shakur, after tossing a plate of food in front of him) "Eat up, boy. It'll make ya big n' strong when ya grow up." - ReVolution 137

Wade Elliott

Title: Crisis on Alternate Earths
Featuring: Tyler Rayne
Date: Colossus
Location: There and Here

Alternate Earth 10101

Lorenzo Everest was what most people would consider a genius. He graduated valedictorian from a prestigious New York private school at the age of fourteen. Instead of going straight to university, Lorenzo decided to take advantage of his family’s seemingly endless wealth and connections to tour the world. He spent time with the monks of Tibet. He spent six months backpacking through Europe. He visited the sites of all Seven Wonders of the World (Ancient, Medieval, and New). He went on five different African safaris and spent two months exploring the Amazon River and its surrounding rainforests. And before he returned to the States, Lorenzo moved to Tokyo, taught himself Japanese, and then learned business strategies from the most ruthless and successful men in Japan.

At seventeen, he enrolled at MIT and went on to graduate Magna Cum Laude of his class. He bore the distinction as a mark of shame and grew spiteful of the woman who graduated ahead of him. Lorenzo was born into privilege. He had been raised to be nothing less than perfect. He had been raised under the expectation that he would be the best. And throughout his life, he had proven to be so. Until this moment.

He had never lost at anything in his life. Even the idea of losing was foreign to him. It had never occurred to him that such a thing was even possible. He had no idea how to react. At first he felt anger. He felt shame. He felt as if somehow he had not been good enough. As if he had failed. But he had no concept of failure. No such thing existed for him. He could not rationalize it. And a thing that cannot be rationalized or quantified cannot exist. He was perfect. He was the best. It could not have been his fault. It could not have been him at all. It must have been her. She must have done something. Cheated somehow. Slept with her professors. She was a woman, after all. For her to have beaten him… it was the most logical conclusion. He had to know how. Lorenzo spent weeks obsessing over the possibilities. He was consumed with the need to know. Obsessed with how this low-born woman had beaten him. What she must have done to cheat into the position that was rightfully his. He searched through school records. Personal files. Medical history. He interrogated people that had been in class with her. Professors that taught her. Friends. Family. All to no avail. So he turned to a different tactic. He paid people to follow her. He paid people to find the things that were not on public record. That he could not get through connections and owed favors. Still there was nothing. What started as anger and frustration hardened into a deep and bitter hatred. He despised the woman. Loathing filled him. He became violent. Irrational. Friends began to distance themselves. Family members shunned him. The world around him retreated, and soon, Lorenzo was left in an isolation that his obsession had created. He withdrew from the watchful eyes of the public and was soon forgotten.

Sarah Witmer, meanwhile, was given a position at the most respected research institute in the world, and free reign to pursue the project of her desire. She had always had a keen interest in robotics, particularly as it applied to human prosthetics, and set out to create the most advanced replacement limbs the world had ever seen. Her continued successes were broadcast throughout the scientific community. Sarah was heralded as the next great scientific mind. She was promoted to head of the research division, and under her guidance, the first safe and functional robotic exoskeleton was created. The first iteration was an exoskeleton for the lower half of the human body, designed to give those who had lost the use of their legs control once again. The exoskeleton could be synced with the wearer’s own nervous system, giving them instantaneous control of limbs they had not used for years. It was a medical marvel. Some went as far to call it a miracle.

Sarah Witmer became a worldwide icon. She was the idol and role model of women and young girls across the globe. She was the idol and role model of up-and-coming scientists of all races and genders. She became the ideal of what humankind could achieve with the right perseverance and determination. The lives of people all around the world would be improved with what she had accomplished. People who had never had a reason to hope before now did. If this one woman’s inventions could make people walk again, imagine what else could be achieved.
The creation of Witmer’s exoskeleton opened an entire new world of scientific prospects. The breakthrough itself was an amazing leap in scientific and medical technologies. But the avenues it made possible were even more astounding. Functioning exoskeletons. Computer programming that could interface with the human nervous system. With the human brain. It was the stuff of science fiction come true. The possibilities of where that sort of technology could lead were endless. And companies the world over were anxious to capitalize on those prospects.

Billions of dollars’ worth of funding went to R&D divisions in an attempt to capitalize on these new and wondrous possibilities. But few researchers or scientists were as intelligent as Sarah Witmer. Or had held such a passionate dedication to the cause. And companies could not afford to waste the sort of time that Sarah had dedicated to her exoskeleton. It was a race to see who could come up with the next big thing first. Projects were rushed. Mistakes were made. Products failed. Investments were lost. Men and women who had worked at companies for decades found themselves jobless and blacklisted for their inability to match the genius of the smartest woman on the planet.

Lorenzo Everest watched these events transpire. He watched the rise of Sarah Witmer and the fall of dozens who attempted to imitate her. And he found that he had something in common with the cripples and other slobbering fools drooling at the heels of her success. For the first time in a long time he found hope. Pooling together what few resources and connections he had left, Lorenzo founded his own research company. Lorenzo Advanced Technologies was built as a think-tank for hire.

Lorenzo found seven of the brightest minds available and put them in a lab on the outskirts of Detroit. There he accepted funding from companies whose own research and development divisions had failed. LAT developed the technologies that other people could not. Fueled with a rage he had harbored for years, Lorenzo spearheaded tireless efforts to upstage Sarah Witmer. There was no project he was unwilling to take on. No amount of "impossible" that would stop him from proving he was better than her. Failed experiments and broken products were given new funding and pushed into the hands of the scientists at LAT. After the first couple of successful turnarounds, word of what LAT could do began to spread. Before long, some of the richest and most powerful companies in the world were begging Lorenzo to help them topple the success of Sarah Witmer with their latest and greatest idea.

LAT would continue like this for some time. Most of the research was medical, with an emphasis on robotics and gene manipulation. Companies assumed that the best chance of replicating Sarah Witmer’s success was to replicate her research and innovation as closely as possible. This resulted in a number of new prosthetics and exoskeletons that amounted to nothing more than imitations of what Witmer herself had achieved. The products proved to be successful and viable. Companies made back their investment. LAT was rewarded handsomely for their efforts. But Lorenzo found that his happiness was to be short-lived. The initial rush of challenging Sarah Witmer wore off as more and more clones of her product rolled out of LAT. The inspiration he had felt at the start drained as each uninspired prosthetic was sent back to the dimwitted shareholders who had requested it. Lorenzo began to realize that he was becoming less and less of his own man and more and more of a second-rate Sarah Witmer. He was no more original than the products that shipped from his office. Like the robotic enhancements he was creating, Lorenzo had become nothing more than a diluted clone of her success. This thought enraged Lorenzo. He became even more embittered than before. His business demeanor became increasingly hostile. He threatened CEOs and bullied shareholders. He refused to work on new prosthetics or robotics. He flat refused to accept new medical contracts at all. Offers dried up. The companies that had once spread word of his praise now whispered tales of madness and delusion. His reputation was sullied and all but the most desperate companies ignored him.

Despite this new attitude toward business (or the lack thereof), Lorenzo was still legally obligated to complete the work he was contracted to. So it came that LAT developed a synthetic substitute for human blood, and succeeded in its mission to create a product that rivaled the Witmer exoskeleton. Lorenzo could almost have been satisfied. But LAT was a freelance development group. Their research, and the results of their research, belonged to the company funding that research. Lorenzo’s greatest success was attributed to the handful of middle-aged Germans that sat on the Lufthaven Medical Board of Directors. He had spent a decade looking for a way to prove his superiority over Sarah Witmer. He had dedicated his entire adult life to that one cause. And when he had finally achieved that success… it was stolen from him. He had no legal recourse for getting the credit he deserved. The contract was clear and binding.

Lorenzo spiraled into a dark and vile depression. LAT halted development on all products and refused to take on new clients. The company’s profits were drained to nothing after multiple breach of contract lawsuits. No new work came in. The scientists left. LAT became nothing more than a building full of research equipment for Lorenzo to stumble into during another drunken rage. It was on one such drunken night that the fate of LAT would be redirected. And the world along with it.


The small tumbler on his desk had not been washed in weeks. The glass was smeared with overlapping fingerprints. Two half-melted ice cubes rested in the thin veneer of their former halves that remained at the bottom of the glass. Lorenzo slicked back the thinning brown hair of his widow’s peak and then smoothed his well-manicured goatee before pouring what little scotch remained into the tumbler. He leaned back in what had once been a plush and comfortable desk chair, the padding now worn and almost obsolete, and stared at the melting ice cubes poking out above the last of his alcohol reserves.

"Fucking cunt."

He downed the scotch in a single gulp and rested half the tumbler on the edge of the desk, his hand still wrapped loosely around the glass so it did not fall. He closed his eyes and listened to the roar of silence and loneliness around him.


The chair rolled out from behind him and slammed into the floor-to-ceiling windows. The tumbler smashed against the wall above the worn leather couch he’d been sleeping on for the last two months and shattered. Lorenzo roared, swiping both arms across the top of his desk. Old contracts and resignation letters, all stained with water rings from the tumbler, fluttered into the air and floated down in front of the desk. The computer monitor crashed to the floor. Pencils and pens fell to the floor and rolled in all different directions. Lorenzo slammed his hands down on top of the now cleared desk. He screamed once more, turned his hands to the underside of the desk, and flipped the whole gods damned thing over on its end. He took deep, labored breaths, heaving from both frustration and exhaustion. He stood for a full minute, seething, before lunging toward the overturned desk and ripping out the top drawer. He dumped what contents did not fly out when he tore the drawer out onto the floor. Not seeing what he desired, he did the same to the second drawer. And then the third. The heavy thud of his query sent him scrambling to the floor to sift through the strewn papers for his uncle’s old revolver.

Lorenzo seemed to shrink two sizes as he stared at the weapon in his hands. The air blew from his puffed chest. His shoulders slumped. His breathing returned to normal. Even his arms sank, the revolver held loosely in his left hand as he shuffled around to the front (top) of the desk. He switched the revolver to his right hand. He was surprised at the weight of it. Had it been so damn heavy before? His head hung low as he just stared down at the gun in his hand. It felt impossible to lift. What else was there to do, though? What other option was left?

"Mr. Everest, I wonder if it would be possible to persuade the state to grant a stay of execution. At least until you’ve had a chance to hear about a wonderful new business proposition."

Lorenzo whirled around to the door of his office, revolver raised in both hands, though even that was not enough to steady his quivering aim. A man stood in the open doorway, backlit by the dim and distant lights of the hall. Lorenzo had not noticed before that the lights near his office had burned out. Such as it was, there was not sufficient illumination to make out the man’s face. In fact, the more Lorenzo attempted to concentrate on the man’s facial features, the more the man seemed to fade out of focus. Lorenzo thought back to the bottle of scotch for just a moment. The man in the door had dark hair that fell around the shoulders of his long, black jacket. The jacket appeared to flutter near the bottom, as if grabbed by the wind, though none existed in the mess of an office. Lorenzo thought that the jacket seemed to be furling toward the shadows as if on purpose. Again he thought back to the bottle of scotch.

"Who are you?"

The man smiled. Though Lorenzo could not make out his face, there was a small bit of light that hit upon the man’s pale cheeks. He could see the cheeks move ever so slight as the man grinned. He turned his head downward and then back up, as if looking himself over.

"You ask for a name. I have been called many things throughout the years. None of them important. For now, I am… the man in black. You may refer to me as Mr. Black, if you must. That will be sufficient."

"And what is it you want with me, Mr. Black?"

Lorenzo emphasized the name as if to insult him, but the man did not seem to notice. Or if he did, he did not care. The man’s head titled slightly. An unexpected streak of light shone through the window, and a brief glint appeared at his eyes. Lorenzo could see he was staring at the revolver.

"If this is how you conduct business negotiations, it’s no wonder your business has crumbled. Not so much unlike this office, it seems. Put the gun down."

"I don’t even know—"

"You’ve heard of The Black Tide, Mr. Everest?"

He had. The Black Tide was an Eastern European private military group. He had heard the name whispered here and there amongst the more ruthless companies that had contracted LAT. The Black Tide had a reputation for being merciless and efficient. He had heard rumors of brutal assassinations and incursions in the more war-torn areas of the world. Families. Children. Mercenaries with no morals and no loyalties beyond the current contract. There had also been talk of The Black Tide expanding. Members infiltrating government militaries. Agents running for political office. Working toward prominent positions within the most successful businesses. It was said that The Black Tide was a small but strategic organization that had begun to execute a plan for world domination. Most scoffed at the ridiculous notion of an evil organization plotting to conquer the world. Those men were short-sighted buffoons who lacked the proper vision or lust for power. Lorenzo lowered his arms. He let the revolver slip from his fingers and drop to the floor.

"You have. Excellent. This will expedite things. You were the one who came up with the formula for the synthetic blood, correct? Not one of those… other researchers?"

"Yes. I cracked most of the research done at LAT. The others were here to do the grunt labor based on my original findings."

"And you could replicate this formula to produce more synthetic blood?"

"No. Lufthaven owns the formula. It would be illegal to even consider—"

"I am not concerned with legalities, Mr. Everest. Could you or could you not duplicate the formula?"

"I could…"

"Splendid. I believe you are familiar with Sarah Witmer’s famed exoskeleton research. The Black Tide has no interest in exoskeletons. We have no interest in furthering the medical sciences, either. We are, however, quite keen to investigate the future of robotics and other technologies that could be linked into the human nervous system. I suspect that you would be able to use Ms. Witmer’s exoskeleton as a starting point for such research."

"What, exactly, is it you want me to research?"

"A vast number of things. Sarah Witmer created an exoskeleton for the noble cause of helping those less fortunate. She is a humanitarian. The Black Tide is not a humanitarian organization. We are a strong organization. We could be… enhanced to be stronger. We would pay handsomely for such technologies."

"I can do the research… up to a point. But we’ll need human trials to test the enhancements and no one is going to sanction—"

"As I stated, we are not concerned with legalities. You will have all the test subjects you need. Unless there is a moral imperative that would prevent you from—"

"No. Not at all."

"You have two weeks to prepare. A representative of the organization will arrive at that time with the first of our research ideas. You are, of course, welcome to offer insights and ideas of your own once you become more accustomed with our desires."

"A representative? Are you not a representative of the organization?"

"No, Mr. Everest. I am the organization."
View Tyler Rayne's Biography



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