Part 1: Beginnings All Around the World
SCOTT ALLEN HAM
The Arctic Circle
05:40 Hours GMT
We come upon a large boat covered in rust and ice. Across the front bow “Arctic Wolf” is written in fading and chipping paint. It’s anchored for the moment while some of the crew make their way onto one mountain of an iceberg.
“Steady now,” Paul Jeffries calls out over the roaring winds.
He and his crew are covered in thick cold weather gear. Paul’s beard is speckled with frost.
The group of five men has been digging very carefully for the better part of three hours. Any other day and what they found would have been missed. At first it was a shadow in the ice. Young Derek Norse had his little fantasies of finding a wooly mammoth out here one day. He was in that very frame of mind when he spotted the dark spot in this one of a million icebergs that get passed twice a year.
“Watch yer heat,” Paul says in an encouraging voice to Artie with the blowtorch. “Don’t want to hurt what prize we’ve got.”
The men had jokingly assumed that they had found a pirate’s treasure. What they had found was a man. Not a pirate either.
“It’s some frozen dude,” Derek was saying more to himself than the others.
After a quiet pause of realization, the men realized just who the dude was. They stopped using the torch immediately and with a new sense of determination, their adrenaline was sparked anew. They pushed and pulled the block until it was finally aboard the Arctic Wolf.
Carlsbad, New Mexico
On an empty street in an otherwise empty town, Jennifer Walters lay sprawled on her back, blood pouring from the four gunshot wounds to her chest. This was not how her “vacation” was supposed to end.
After months of waiting, she finally received the call for help from her cousin Bruce. He had been running for the better part of a year from the military. She did not know why. At least until tonight. Bruce was the famous “Angry Man” she had seen video of on the internet. A raging green hulk of muscle and power that destroyed whatever he came in contact with. She didn’t find this out until she was shot. Some local boys recognized Bruce from his mug shots strewn all over town. They decided to shoot first and ask questions later. They shot Jennifer. The question they asked was, “What in God’s name is that?!” when Bruce changed.
A veritable Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. But this Mr. Hyde was over ten feet tall and weighed a metric ton.
Jennifer’s body had shut down. Her mind, however, was fighting to stay alive. Jennifer was a rather plain girl. Brown hair that she never could seem to control. A body that the boys in high school would joke was like a board, no curves. Even her dream of becoming a lawyer seemed in jeopardy. Self-esteem is one of the main requirements for getting in front of a courtroom. She lacked that. So she was the District Attorney’s assistant. They didn’t even have a budding romance like she had seen on the countless “chick flicks” she had watched over and over.
Why were her dying thoughts so depressing? Her whole life had begun to flash before her eyes. Every detail missed now larger than life. Every opportunity passed up a searing hot poker of regret. Getting kicked over and over by the cheerleading squad for simply auditioning for the last open spot.
She woke up with a start.
She was alone in a hospital bed. Her arms had wires and a tube poking into them. Worst of all, she had a breathing tube down her throat. She couldn’t speak. As panic set in, she began to gag uncontrollably. Her arms began to reach out for anything.
A nurse ran into the room, hearing the alarm that Jennifer had missed during her fear induced panic. “Hold still!” the woman screamed, grabbing an arm to hold her down.
Without Jennifer knowing how, the woman flew across the room and through the glass viewing window. She pulled the breathing tube out in one swift motion and tossed it blindly to the floor. The tubes came out with a tug and the wires barely took any effort at all to remove. That’s when reality hit her.
She was alive.
Jennifer immediately checked herself for the bullet wounds that had ripped her near in half the night before. They were gone. No scars. No sign of any trauma whatsoever.
“Bruce?” she breathed.
Her voice was hoarse. He was nowhere to be found. Her eyes became as large as saucers and she ran into the hallway where the innocent nurse had been thrown.
“Oh my God!” she called to the woman. “Are you okay?”
The nurse became conscious only to push Jennifer away, “Get away from me!”
“But it was an accident,” Jennifer was scared and confused.
“Step back, lady,” a new voice came into the conversation.
Jennifer looked up to see a man in a police uniform with a revolver pointed straight at her. “We don’t want any trouble.”
“But I,” she started.
“Get away from her, mutie!” an orderly held a fire extinguisher pointed in her general direction. “We heard about your kind! Now go on! Git!”
“Mutant, huh?” the officer began to grin as he grabbed his handset. “Foxtrot 2-6, this is Charlie 1-1, we got a 7-8, I repeat, we have a 7-8 in progress at the Hospital.”
Not knowing where the courage came from, Jennifer ran. She knew that it was an accident. She also knew she was no mutant. I’m going to jail. I just know it. Way to go, Jennifer.
She came out of the Emergency Room double doors into an alleyway and then popped like a cork out into the middle of the street. A busy intersection for that matter.
Jennifer then realized that she was only wearing her hospital gown. You know, the one where you’re all NAKED underneath? Yeah, that one!
Her skin turned began to change color. But it wasn’t flushing pink. It was actually turning green. Humiliation began to well up inside her and take control. She felt like a deer in headlights as to what her body was doing.
Her legs went first. Her thighs filled out from a thin sickly size to a beautifully figured woman’s legs. They didn’t stop there. They reconstructed themselves further to include pure muscle.
Her arms were next. Her biceps began to increase mass almost as fast as her entire legs. Next, her shoulders began to spread apart. It almost sounded like stretching rubber as her body went through its massive transformation.
Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt that much. Sometimes a pleasurable tingle ran up her spine. It was invigorating.
Now, to go along with her shoulders, her breasts finally became something she could be proud of. Not really matching her new physique, she now had a chest the girls in the locker room would have killed for.
“My hair,” she whispered.
Her formerly sickly brown hair had become a flowing black mane. It was straighter and even bouncier. As she reached up to touch her new hair, her wristband from the hospital popped off from her thicker wrists. She gave out a giggle. Then she heard a car horn.
Caught up in the change she was going through, she forgot she was at a busy intersection. Surrounded by onlookers. In a hospital gown for a petite girl. She was now a seven foot tall green Amazon. That was naked in the street.
“Eep!” she covered her chest and twisted herself to cover up the rest.
Somehow, instinctively, she jumped into the air. No one saw her come back down.
“Momma, I’m in love,” a young boy said through his now fogged window of their station wagon.
“It’s not polite to stare,” she corrected him.
Then she looked at her husband in the driver’s seat, stretching his neck to see if he could see where his new fantasy had landed. Momma slapped him in the back of the head.
T’Chaka leans back in his throne. Sweat pours from his brow. The King of the greatest of nations: Wakanda. The mask worn by the black panther held in his hand is also covered in sweat.
“It is good to sit upon the throne,” he smiled at his son. “One last time.”
T’Challa, the eldest of T’Chaka’s sons kneel before him at the base of the throne.
“Come,” he gestures to his son to rise. “You bow to none. At least, not any more. Rise T’Challa, King of Wakanda.”
“Forgive me, Father,” his son whispers.
“For what?” the old man smiled. “For doing what you’ve been training for your entire life? To best the Black Panther in combat and take his place as ruler of Wakanda? I am sorry, my King, if I find your apology silly.”
T’Challa stands and looks into his father’s eyes.
“So?” T’Chaka stands up from the throne. “How long have you been wanting to sit here, my son?”
The new Black Panther smiled, “Ever since I can remember, Father.”
He walked at a quickened pace and sat upon the throne for the first time. It would have seemed unfair and even weak if the former ruler would have let his son sit upon a throne that was not guaranteed his. Wakanda was a monarchy in a sense, but completely not in another. Of the three cults in Wakanda, the Black Panther Cult rose to power. The way to become ruler is to best the former ruler in combat. The trials happened annually. As much as T’Challa would have loved to have held the story that it was his first time entering, it was not. This had been attempt number six.
“How does it feel, my King?” the former ruler asked, grinning with pride from ear to ear.
“Not as comfortable as I thought,” he confessed.
“You will grow accustomed to it faster than it will grow accustomed to you,” they laughed. “Now. It is time.”
T’Challa’s smile faded in an instant as he knew exactly what that meant. It was time to become the Black Panther.
The two warriors walked down corridor after corridor of the palace going deeper and deeper below the surface. The sounds of the cheering crowds faded the closer they got to the prize.
T’Challa knew not to wander too far into the palace, even at his current age of twenty-three. He had never seen the underbelly of the palace before. And it was interesting how quickly word spread to the guards down here, all nodding as he came by. These were the best of the best and as such did not bow while on duty guarding the prizes below. It was understood and no Black Panther in well over two hundred years had corrected them.
With an understanding that their journey had come to an end, the two men said nothing to each other as they entered a large marble room. There, in the center, was a small pillar that only reached three feet high. Atop was a tiny garden of herbs and flowers. A beam of light shone from the ceiling almost like a spotlight on the very herb they had come for. The plant produced a heart shaped herb that only the current ruler of Wakanda could ingest.
T’Challa treated the plant like a baby. He stroked a leaf, caught up in the moment. Then as gently as before, he took the heart shaped bud between his fingers and removed it from its host. It popped off surprisingly easy.
“Now begins the time of T’Challa…the Black Panther,” the former ruler whispered.
T’Challa smiled and popped his prize into his mouth and swallowed.
“You didn’t chew it?” T’Chaka asked.
“Was I supposed to?” he responded.
“I always did,” the old man shrugged.
“Will it still work?” T’Challa began to worry. “Stop smiling. It’s not funny!”
“I can’t help it, my King,” T’Chaka laughed.
“Well? Will it work?” questioned T’Challa.
“You better hope so! Or I might have to try my luck to get back the throne,” the old man continued to laugh. “Why did you not chew it?”
“It tasted awful,” the young King smiled. “It tasted like lemons and stinky feet.”
The former King roared with laughter, “What do you know about the taste of stinky feet? Have you been running around with the ladies?”
“A gentleman never tells,” his son smiled.
“I know. That’s why I’m asking you!” the friends smiled and joked for another five minutes before leaving the chamber for another year.
Deep Below the Atlantic Ocean
In the dark fathomless depths, an eerie light could be seen. A great city lay at the bottom of the ocean floor. Dozens of statues lined the now empty streets leading to a great chamber.
And with sound traveling faster in the water, it was no time at all before all creatures within a thousand miles could hear the rumbling within.
It’s dark inside the prison. Dark enough to not truly see what evil lurks at night inside these walls.
“Boy,” a prison guard calls out into one of the cells.
A large black man lifts his head up from his pillow, “Yeah?”
“C’mon,” the guard gives him the stink eye. “Git up, #@%$*! It’s time to go!”
Carl Lucas wishes it was his time to go. To get out of here and breathe fresh air, free air. But he knew that’s not what the guard meant. “Yeah, I’m coming.”
Dr. Donald Blake sits at his usual park bench. He sits reading the newspaper by the glow of a street lam, his walking stick resting across his lap. Something is going to happen tonight. He can sense it, something big.
What he’s not sure about is whether he’ll watch the events or join in.
Only time will tell.