Osborn Industries, San Francisco

A tone issued from Norman Osborn’s desk. Annoyed that his private thoughts were disturbed, he leaned forward and touched the intercom button and spoke;

“Yes, Sheryl?” He growled, not even attempting to hide his annoyance.

The female voice on the other end of the phone replied, “Ah…your two o’clock appointment is here, Mr. Osborn. Shall I send them in?”

Osborn paused, appointment? He checked his itinerary and sure enough, a Dr. Michael Milbury and his assistant had booked an appointment. I don’t have time for this… “Sheryl, please tell our…guests that I am engaged in some personal business, and if they wish, they may reschedule their appointment for a later date. Oh, and Sheryl? I do not want to be further disturbed.” Without waiting for his secretary to reply, Norman keyed off the intercom.

Outside his office, Sheryl replaced the receiver of her phone, a sinking feeling in her stomach, she had been assigned by an agency to be Mr. Osborn’s personal secretary and she knew her employer well enough to know when he was displeased. She looked over to the two people seated at the other side of her desk. The older man, presumably Milbury, was tall and rake thin, blue black hair framed dark eyes and pale skin. His assistant was much younger, with long wavy brown hair that just touched his shoulders. The younger man was quite well built, not big but you could tell by looking that he was fit and athletic. Sheryl felt a slight flush as the young man smiled at her briefly.

She addressed the older man, “Dr. Milbury, I’m afraid Mr. Osborn is indisposed this afternoon, he has some personal business to attend to. Would you like to reschedule, perhaps next week would be more appropriate?”

Milbury regarded her. “That will not be necessary,” he said, his voice deep and melodious. Sheryl suddenly felt a very strange sensation, as she looked at Dr. Milbury, his features seemed to shift ever so slightly. She rubbed her eyes and when she looked again, Milbury was no longer there, his assistant was still seated where he had been. Sheryl felt a hand on her shoulder and before she could protest, she felt her body relaxing, as she slipped quietly into unconsciousness. Milbury removed his hand as Sheryl’s head fell gently to her desk.

Ben Reilly stood up, a look of indignation on his face, “Essex, what did you…”

The man known as Nathaniel Essex, Sinister, cut him off, “She is unharmed, merely resting, do not concern yourself.” Sinister stepped up to Osborn’s office and opened the door. “Now, shall we attend to the matter at hand?”

Inside the office, Osborn was once again lost in thought, until he heard the door to his office opening, and saw a tall man entering the room. “I was under the impression you were to reschedule your appointment, doctor.” Osborn spoke, his voice calm, not betraying the rage that was building within him, need my medication, he thought, I’m starting to lose it again.

“Allow me to introduce myself, I am Dr. Michael Milbury, something of a geneticist.” The tall man replied.

Osborn was troubled, something about the man’s name sounded familiar but he couldn’t place it, and indeed, Osborn was sure he recognised the good doctor too. “I’m afraid I am not recruiting new staff, doctor, and generally, applicants do not come straight to me, they deal with Personnel.”

“Mr. Osborn,” Milbury exclaimed with a laugh, “I am not looking for a job, I have some important information that I wish to impart.”

Curious, Osborn replied, “Such as?” He asked.

“Such as…who was responsible for breaking into one of your facilities two days ago.” Milbury smiled, and waited to see Osborn reaction.

It took all the willpower that Norman possessed not to scream at this man who had violated his personal reverie. Milbury noted with satisfaction that Osborn was trying hard to hide his surprise but the way he pursed his lips and the sheen of sweat that sprang up on his forehead betrayed his true emotions.

“Get out of my office,” Osborn growled, the fury rising. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

Milbury remained maddeningly calm. “Your expression says otherwise, perhaps you would like to meet my new assistant, I assure you he will be instantly recognisable.” Sinister gestured towards the door as Ben Reilly walked in.

“Hi Normie,” he said cheerfully, “just thought I’d call in and let you know that I no longer feel the need to wear a green and purple Halloween costume and laugh like an idiot every five minutes.” He smiled sweetly at Osborn and then turned to talk to Sinister, “Can we go now?” He asked, “I’m getting hungry, could do with some lunch.”

Sinister looked at Ben, who had his best poker face in place. He sighed wearily. “Please be quiet, humour is not required in this situation.” Ben responded with a hurt expression but this time Sinister ignored him and returned his full attention to Norman Osborn, who was plainly two steps away from exploding in anger.

“Who the hell are you?” Osborn roared, as he leapt to his feet, fists clenched and his face a mask of rage and anger. Without waiting for a response, Osborn launched himself at Sinister across the table; his fingers hooked like claws. Sinister calmly stood his ground and knocked Osborn to the floor with a well-timed backhand. Osborn was on his feet almost immediately and attempted to retaliate. Sinister simply picked him up by the throat, and held him several inches above the floor.

Osborn struggled to break free and with a casual gesture, Sinister sent him tumbling over his desk to land in a heap on the office floor. Sinister regarded Osborn with great disdain. “It is obvious that you do not recognise me, perhaps if I relate a small tale to you, all will become clear.”

Sinister sat down on Osborn’s chair and made himself comfortable. “Where to begin…?” He muttered to himself. “Ah yes, you see Mr. Osborn, I have a great interest in genetics, and as such, I also take a great interest in the scientific community, through various aliases of course. About nine years ago, a biology professor at NYU came to my attention, a man by the name of Miles Warren. Warren was attempting to perfect human cloning, according to his colleagues and as such, was receiving vast funds and equipment from a mysterious benefactor.” Ben sat on the edge of Osborn’s desk as Sinister continued his story.

“I discovered that you, Mr. Osborn, were that generous benefactor, and that your own technicians were working feverishly to create a cloning process, which Miles Warren could then use.” Sinister smiled at the memory, “It was a simple matter to infiltrate your paltry organisation in Europe and soon, I was the chief research scientist of that particular project.”

“As you well know, Warren designed the cloning process because he had his own agenda, mainly revenge against Spider-man, the man he viewed as responsible for the death of a pupil with which he had a…certain infatuation. Is it finally making sense now?” Osborn remained silent where he lay, as Sinister continued. “You passed on my research to Warren and had me…eliminated, as if a few bullets could ever kill me. And Warren, in his guise of the Jackal, his mind torn by schizophrenia, began to create his clones.”

“First, he cloned Gwen Stacy, the student he had been obsessed with, then he created a clone from cell samples he had taken from Spider-man. The first clone began to degenerate, as I had planned, although strangely, it did not die, its powers were actually enhanced by the degeneration factor in its genetic makeup. I designed the cloning process to fail Osborn, and having stable clones like Mr. Reilly running about is not desirable. I admit I assumed that Reilly and Stacey were both dead by now but it appears I was mistaken.”

Sinister crouched down until his face was close to Osborn. “For years you have praised yourself for the great work that you did, how you manipulated Warren and Parker and Reilly and all that time, you were so confident in your abilities. But you were not the centre of the web, I was, all the time, I was pulling your strings. I regret that my work has occupied me so much for the last decade, otherwise I would have made a point of destroying you, even though you are beneath my notice.”

Sinister stood up and motioned Ben Reilly to follow him. “I would advise you to leave Mr. Reilly alone, and also, I would advise against attempting to locate me. I will be watching you from now on, Osborn, and if you disappoint me, I shall tear down everything you have created.” Without another word, Ben and Essex left.

Osborn lay on the floor for a long time, digesting what he had been told, trying to convince himself it was all a lie, but he could not. Reilly was gone, as was the Devil’s Heart and Osborn’s plans for revenge against Peter Parker. Osborn screamed for a long time, as a dark rage overtook him, and he systematically began to destroy his office. The revelation that he was so easily manipulated grated against him, but he knew there was nothing he could do, except to accept his own failing.

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