Interlude--Dr. Horatio Foxglove

From the Story Arc: The Fading Flame

Previous Story in the Arc: Collusion by John Murdock (Sunday, June 17, 2007)

Next Story in the Arc: Revenant by Seraphic Flame (Wednesday, June 20, 2007)

(posted Wednesday, June 20, 2007)

Simul astu et dentibus utor. "I use my cunning and my teeth simultaneously."


Six weeks ago.

Doctor Horatio Foxglove stared at the news-feed from Paragon City. Normally he would have been utterly disinterested in it, except...he had heard a name he recognized. Murdock

"...now released that the victims that were inside the Portal at the time of the attack were all members of the same family, that of Commissar John Murdock of the CCCP. Sera Murdock, also known as the hero "Seraphic Flame" John Murdock's wife, adopted son "Right Hand Ratt," and children John Junior, Aedan and Astra..."

He blinked. It occurred to him that he should be angry, because he knew very well who was behind this. Finally, after thinking about it, he did feel something like anger. It was very powerful but detached, not so much an emotion as, perhaps, the memory of one.

Still. Garvey had taken something from him. Something he had at one point at least, wanted very badly. Astra Murdock was the living image of his fiancé, now dead at his hands. For a very long time he had been obsessed with her. To an extent, even with all the changes that his plants had made in his body, he still was. He still was not sure whether he wanted to have Astra for himself--or kill her himself. With his knowledge of plant toxins, either would have been trivial. But either way, he wanted--yes, he still wanted--to decide her fate himself, and Garvey had just taken that from him.

A slow heat rose in him. Something like anger, the anger of a plant, the patient anger that could crack concrete and undermine foundations. Garvey had stolen from him. Garvey could not be allowed to get away with that.

The thoughts wove slowly through his brain. How to punish Garvey? He'd never associated with the reclusive scientist, despite several invitations for Garvey to participate in some of his projects. The man kept to himself, and after a time it had become evident that the LSI was simply a way-station for him; an organization to further his own goals until he no longer needed it. Which wasn't unusual; the LSI wasn't populated with saints or charity workers, after all. Or devils for that matter. Just people for whom the only important person was A-Number One, and who would do anything to further their own rise to power, money, or both.

Well maybe there was one devil, The Grim Gambol. The apparition took keen pleasure in the misfortune and suffering of others, which coupled well with his mercenary nature. Now that will work just fine. After leaving the LSI, Garvey had dropped completely off of the "scene", as far as the criminal world of the Isles was concerned. There were whispers occasionally that he or someone fitting his description was involved in some illicit technology sale or theft, but beyond that he had effectively ceased to exist. It wasn't out of the norm; the players and pieces changed, but the game remained the same. The fact that Garvey had kept such a low profile had presented a particular problem in how to exact revenge upon him. The Grim Gambol would be the instrument of Foxglove's revenge. It would allow him plausible deniability, and held the promise of a high probability of success; Grimmy's unique nature was such that he could exploit all the holes in the defenses of someone who believed very strongly in science, and not much in magic. Any magical defenses would be those Garvey purchased, in ignorance, like someone buying an alarm system who knew nothing of burglars.

He'd made the call earlier that morning, leaving a message tacked to the LSI's main board. Grim was no doubt busy dallying with some poor mortal's fate, otherwise he would have been there sooner.

But he showed up soon enough, Soon enough for Foxglove to decide exactly what he wanted, and how to offer The Grim Gambol exactly what he wanted in return.

The Grim Gambol phased through the wall of his greenhouse. The plants recognized him as an interloper and thrashed ineffectually at him. The vines and thorns went right through him.

"Hello Grimmy," Foxglove said evenly. "I have a job for you. A bit of a challenge."

"Yeah? And long time no see to you too." The specter floated down to rest beside Foxglove. "And what makes you think I'll take it?"

"Three things. One--money." Foxglove named a price that made even the ghost "step" back a little. "Two--revenge. Garvey cheated you. He gave you a clone that was defective and I doubt he ever intended to give you a good one. And three--" He tapped the little box beside him--"This. Remember how much you wanted that one on display in the museum? Well, I got it for you."

The Grim Gambol made a grab for it. Foxglove snatched it away. "Job first, Grimmy. Then payment."

The Grim Gambol growled. "Awright. What's the job?"

A thin smile stretched Foxglove's lips. "It's easy."