The Gloom Family, Charlotte Jekyll/ Cheryl Hyde, Paranormal control, L.o.V.E and the associated world setting were created by Sephzero, on deviantArt.
This story was written by Engineseer, also on deviantArt.
Katherine studied her latest acquisition with a slight air of buyer’s remorse. After escaping the clutches of Paranormal Control she had brought Alden to a safe house in a rough part of town. Looking thoroughly dishevelled with his wrinkled shirt and three day stubble, he wasn’t at all what she was expecting. Katherine had expected dark alchemists to look more… esoteric, Alden looked like burned out salary man.
“So what happens now…boss?” said Alden
“Now, you will aid me in carrying out an act of infamy.”
“You mean commit a crime?”
Katherine gave him an annoyed look.
“Common crooks commit crimes Alden, super villains commit acts of infamy.”
Alden stared at her sceptically.
“Super villain? Really? Do you know how pretentious that sounds?”
“No more pretentious then the term ‘dark alchemist’.”
“Hey I didn’t come up with that label, the alchemy community slaps it on anyone who doesn’t conform to their sanctimonious code of ethics.” Alden squinted at her for a few moments as something dawned on him. “Oh my… don’t tell me you work for the Legion of Villainous Enterprise? They’re the only ones who throw around terms like ‘super villain’ and ‘act of infamy’.”
“So you’re familiar L.o.V.E?”
“Most illegal underground communities are vaguely aware of one another. I’ve done contract work for some so called ‘super villains’ in the past. They like to buy alchemically engineered henchmen from me on the cheap, citing the high cost of hiring competent minions from L.o.V.E.”
“Yes, I figured that out when I was tracking you down. You weren’t very smart about covering your tracks. You delivered to too many clients too quickly. It was only a matter of time before Paranormal Control came knocking at your door.”
Alden eyed Katherine suspiciously.
“You seem to know a lot about what’s going on. Just who the hell are you anyway?”
Katherine allowed herself a smug grin before striking a pose.
“Why I am none other than Katherine Gloom!”
Alden just stared at her blankly. “I’m sorry should I have heard of you?”
Katherine’s eye twitched in annoyance.
“No matter, the world will tremble at the mention of my name soon enough and you will be the instrument of my ascension.”
“Oh I will, will I? Well since we’re both bad people it should come as no surprise to you that I will require more compensation than just the warm fuzzy feeling of helping you achieve great infamy.”
Katherine savagely grabbed Alden by the collar, and hauled him to his feet.
“You’re in no place to bargain alchemist! Defy me and I will collect Paranormal Control’s bounty on you myself, but serve me…” her expression softened as she raised a hand to tenderly stroke his hair. “ …and when the world trembles at my feet you will be richly rewarded… in more ways than one.”
Alden looked deep into Katherine’s eyes and decided that this was a woman he didn’t want to fuck with…in both senses of the word.
“F-Fine, I am your creature... and I’ll take cash please, no need for the whole ‘more ways than one’ I consider it unprofessional.”
Katherine released him from her grip.
“I’m glad we understand one another. Now build me an army worthy of Gloom!”
“Slow down there miss super villain. I’ve got nothing to work with here. Before we start I’ll need a few things from my lab.”
“What!? Couldn’t you have taken something, anything with you when I rescued you!?”
“I’m sorry but being moments away from death kind of made me forget about that little detail.”
Katherine threw her arms up in exasperation.
“Paranormal Control will be all over your lab by now and I have no minions to retake it by force. I was banking on having a squad of alchemically grown creatures to help me with my next move.”
Alden crossed his arms unsympathetically. “You’ve proven yourself a capable action hero type why don’t you just ‘Rambo’ your way back into the lab and make off with my stuff?”
There is a type of withering look that all women reserve for men in their lives who make especially stupid comments… usually their boyfriends. Katherine gave one such look to Alden now.
“ I know a little bit about how Paranormal Control operates, they’re split between their regular agents and all the freelancers they have to deal with. If you dress up as a bounty hunter looking to apprehend me you could probably bluff your way into lab and abscond with a few things I need.”
“You really think that will work?”
“You killed one of their pet freaks and caused a bit of chaos on the way out, if you act fast then you can sneak in while they’re still trying to clean up the mess. Once they move all my projects out of the lab our job gets exponentially harder.”
Katherine was starting to regret letting Alden help in the creation of her disguise, she looked more like some sexist video game character than anything else. She was wearing tiny brown leather jacket over a low cut tank top that exposed her midriff along with a tight pair of hot pants, and there were swords everywhere. She had a claymore and bastard sword strapped to her back, a katana and tanto on her left hip and rapier on her right. Every step she took made her rattle like a sack of wrenches. To make matters worse the whole look was topped off with a huge pair of sunglasses and a spray tan.
“Trust me,” Alden had said. “They eat this shit up.”
Katherine bristled inwardly at how undignified she looked, not to mention how impractical the entire get up was. She knew how to use all of the swords true, but wearing them all at the same time would slow her down.
Milling around the lab were a bunch of people wearing large jackets and long coats. Alone they might be inconspicuous but their collective attempt to look incognito practically screamed that something dodgy was going on inside the building. As Katherine approached, a fresh faced young man moved to intercept her.
“Ma’m I’m with the Department of Industrial Safety, they’s been a little accident at the lab behind us and…”
“Drop the act. I know this is a PC operation. I’m looking to collect on the bounty for Terrence Alden, was hoping I could find some clues here.”
Flustered by her candour the man tried in vain to reassert some measure of authority.
“I-I’m sorry miss, it’s highly irregular to let our… contractors participate directly in an investigation. Any information we find will be made available on the official job boards.”
“Aww come on Mr. Agent. Being a freelancer is a hard life, if I sit waiting at the job board some one else will get to him first. We’re all on the same side here, help a gal out will you?” As she said this Katherine made sure to lean forward giving him an eyeful of cleavage. The agent glanced downward briefly before looking over the rest of her body.
“Hmm…well… I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to let you look around. Just don’t interfere with our own investigation.”
Katherine smiled sweetly at the fool.
“Thanks, you’re a real darling.”
As she entered the main lab she found it swarming with PC agents, most of them wore lab coats and some where even in hazmat suits. Alden had instructed her to retrieve three things: his main computer hard drive, a leather bound tome titled The Essence of Life and an artificial heart. She didn’t have to look far for the first two items. Standing in front of a computer terminal was a bespectacled orange haired lady flipping through a large leather bound book. She seemed quite lost in thought as she thumbed through its pages. Katherine stood next to her for a few second before coughing. The woman looked up with a start.
“O-Oh hello, can I help you?”
“Hey. I’m a hunter looking to nab the bounty on Alden. One of the guys outside told me you could help me.”
The other woman looked at her quizzically, eying her arsenal of blades.
“Well I’m not sure how I can help you. PC sent me to supervise the removal of any hazardous alchemical materials. Tracking the rogue alchemist isn’t really my department.”
“Hey anything you can tell me about this guy could still be useful miss…uh?”
“Charlotte. Dr. Charlotte Jekyll.”
“Ah…” Katherine glanced at the book Charlotte was reading. “What’s that book you’ve got there?”
Charlotte perked up immediately, clearly happy for an opportunity to talk about alchemy.
“Oh this? This is a copy of the Essence of Life. It’s a comprehensive work on the creation of artificial life such as homunculi. All of it is of course forbidden but it’s still a fascinating book to read. It looked like our friend was pursuing the creation of a true homunculus.”
“A true homunculus?”
“Yes. All alchemically created life requires a sample of naturally occuring genetic material to use as a base. A true homunculus would be an artificial creature built from scratch without any existing genes. It’s one of the holy grails of alchemy, right up there with the Philosopher’s Stone.”
“Uh that’s nice… is there anything else?”
“Several jars containing dormant homunculi. We dare not awaken them as we have no idea what their final forms may take, there were also some cultured organs.”
“Organs? Don’t tell me he had a big old heart in jar just like the horror movies?”
Charlotte blinked in surprise.
“Funnily enough he did.”
“Eww, gross! Can I see it?”
Charlotte gave a faint smile, appreciative of someone who seemed curious about these things.
“I suppose it’s alright if you just want to look, we’ve loaded up all the biological material into those refrigerated suitcases over there in preparation for transport and eventual incineration. Whatever you do don’t touch anything. Now if you’ll excuse me. I need to make my report to HQ.”
Charlotte pulled a tablet from within her lab coat and set it up on the table in preparation for a video conference. Behind her Katherine wandered over to a line of large open cases. Within the cases were jars, vials and cylinders surrounded by coolant packs. Occasionally a person in a hazmat suit would come along carrying a jar of something macabre and place it within one of the cases.
Looking around it seemed most of the staff were pre-occupied with their own tasks. Katherine began scanning the cases for the heart.
Idelle Gretz stared at the scattered folders piled on top of her desk. The Alden case was supposed to be cut and dry; another rogue alchemist putting dangerous things in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, find him, put a team together and take him down. Needless to say things had not gone according to plan. Looking up Idelle regarded the man sitting across from her with a look of disappointment.
“You had one job Nolan, ONE JOB!”
“I’m sorry ma’m, we got hit from behind. I was so focused on making sure nothing got out that I neglected anything trying to get in… it won’t happen again.”
Idelle sighed and flipped through the mission’s after action report.
“This mission was already gonna be a pain in the ass with me having to do the paperwork for cleaning out the lab, but now we’ve got two casualties and I also have to co-ordinate an investigation to find out where our target escaped to.”
“Our intelligence indicated that he would be alone that night, but I saw someone helping him, the psychics pulled her image from my head; do we have any idea who she was?”
“It’s still a tenuous lead, memories can be very unreliable and we can’t put them on a computer and compare them with our database so…” a small chime interrupted her train of thought. “Hold on, I’m getting a report from one of our agents in the field.”
Idelle pressed a button and an image of Dr. Jekyll popped up on a large wall mounted screen. “Oh… it’s you, what do you have for me?”
Charlotte Jekyll was well known within Paranormal Control’s as its foremost expert on alchemy. It was also well know that she was a Hyde, a fact that didn’t sit comfortably with many agents. Charlotte for her part just focused on her work and avoided talking about it while her alter ego; Cheryll just didn’t care.
“Well we’ve almost finished here, there’s not much more we can do on site. I’ll be moving the confiscated materials back to our own lab where I can perform a more through analysis before incinerating everything. My initial finds reveal that…”
As Jekyll continued giving her report Cliff couldn’t help but notice a strange sword wielding woman in the background.
“Hey doctor, who is that lady behind you?”
Charlotte glanced over her shoulder. “Oh her? She said she’s a bounty hunter chasing Alden. She came here looking for clues.”
Idelle squinted at the screen. “I don’t recall assigning any new hunters to the Alden case and none of the freelancers besides Al knew about the lab operation.”
Cliff leaned forward, scrutinising the image. “She… looks really familiar,” the woman glanced in the direction of the camera giving Cliff a glimpse of her face. “Oh…shit. Gretz I think that’s her... that’s Alden’s accomplice! Dr. Jekyll you need to detain that woman now!”
After several minutes of searching Katherine finally found the heart, a strange dull red organ that seemed to have a few more arteries and chambers than a regular heart would have. Now that she had located all three of the items she was going to recover she needed a distraction.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw Dr. Jekyll saying something to another PC agent while pointing in her direction. No time for plans, she needed to think fast. Grabbing a jar containing a homunculus she remembered how Alden had taught her to awaken them by feeding them human blood. As the agent walked towards her she unsheathed her tanto a few inches and cut her thumb on the exposed blade.
“Miss I need you to come with me.”
Katherine jammed her hand into the jar and grabbed the homunculus, she could feel it squirm and grow as her blood awakened it. Whirling round she threw it at the agent.
“Kill them all!” she yelled.
The Homunculus grew in mid air and latched itself onto the agent’s face which it immediately started to rip apart. The chaos was immediate. Several people screamed and everyone in the lab started running for the exits…perfect.
Reaching behind her Katherine picked up another jar.
Charlotte ran down the corridor getting jostled by the other researchers and technicians as they collectively fled the lab. It was the first time she had seen a homunculus up close. She had studied them in the course of her research but had never made one herself, the practice being considered taboo. It was a testament to her curiosity that it managed to occupy the same headspace as sheer terror, and make no mistake the homunculus terrified Charlotte even as it fascinated her.
Agents from the outside were running towards her now, pistols drawn. Her curiosity temporarily overriding her fear Charlotte ducked behind a corner and poked her head out from behind it. The agents entered the lab, several seconds later gunshots could be heard followed by screams… human screams. They didn’t stand a chance. Charlotte knew that protocol dictated she run outside and wait for back up, but she also knew that she had the ability to contain the incident now. Maybe she shouldn’t, using the formula would only hasten her corruption, but this was important right? Lives where at stake and she’d be being really helpful by putting down that homunculus… Yes, doing that would be a big help and once it was dead she could take her time studying it!
Part of Charlotte knew that she was just rationalising things, another part reached inside her coat, pulled out a familiar vial of liquid and drank it down.
The change came quickly as if responding to the urgency of the situation. Charlotte’s skin quickly took on a green tint while pointed ears extended out from beneath an increasingly unruly mop of red hair. Pain and pleasure wracked her body as it stretched and grew. Within seconds she had gained almost a foot in height. Her stockings ripped as her legs became longer and more toned while her skirt button popped off to accommodate widening hips and fuller rump.
With some embarrassment Charlotte noticed her normally modest breasts growing fuller and rounder. Slowly at first, gently pushing her shirt out by a few millimetres, then they surged, pressing more vigorously against the confines of her clothes. She flinched as her bra snapped; unleashing the twins and tearing open a hole that revealed deepening cleavage.
Her fingernails hardened and grew into claws. At some point she had lost her glasses, leaving nothing to frame her now predatory yellow eyes.
Even as her body mutated Charlotte’s mind was changing. The terror that had once inhibited her curiosity was fading away while her inquisitive nature grew into something more obsessive and manic. Why wait to get all the confiscated material back to HQ when she could conduct experiments right now! Yes! Lets not waste any time! Rising to her full height the once diminutive researcher had grown into alluring green monstrosity that called itself Cheryl Hyde. The creature smiled in anticipation as she strode confidently back towards the main lab.
As Cheryl stepped through the door a homunculus immediately pounced on her, pinning her down and sinking its teeth into her shoulder. It looked like the fight had ended before it even started when the homunculus abruptly released her and staggered backwards hacking and coughing. Sickly black veins bulged beneath its pale skin as it fell to the floor and started convulsing, foam frothing from its fanged maw. Eventually it just lay there waving its limbs around weakly like a cockroach dosed in bug spray.
Cheryl got to her feet, the bite marks on her shoulder rapidly healing. She wanted to get a closer look at her fallen assailant but was interrupted by a low growl. It seemed that the imposter had awakened several more homunculi. Two of them came for her at the same time, claws flashing. Cheryl ducked under their outstretched arms, slashing each one in the leg with her claws as they lunged past her. The homunculi didn’t even seem to feel the hit and spun round to face her. With a disturbing cry they came at her again but fell over as their legs went numb. Cheryl smiled at them sweetly as one by one their limbs froze until they were completely paralysed. Her neurotoxins acted fast.
The threat neutralised Cheryl decided that she should at least make a token effort to see if everyone was alright. Most of the agents that had tried to fight the homunculi had been badly mauled and as a result died of their wounds. One lucky one still seemed to be alive.
“D-doctor,” he croaked. “Please…help me.”
Cheryl smiled sweetly as she crouched down beside the fallen agent.
“Why of course dear. Just relax and I’ll make you all better.”
Cheryl began her treatment and the man screamed.
Cliff led the containment squad down the corridor towards the lab. Half an hour ago he had seen the disaster unfold via the video link and had wasted no time putting together a team. Behind him were five agents with assault rifles. Five more similarly armed agents were advancing down the opposite corridor. Cliff gave a hand signal and both teams stacked up along the wall near the lab entrance. He took a moment to steel himself… then gave the signal to storm the room.
With violent yell all eleven agents rushed in guns raised. The lab interior was a macabre sight some of the walls had bloodstains and the odd corpse littered the floor. In the middle of the lab a rather annoyed Cheryl Hyde was vivisecting two homunculi. Their beady eyes darted around the lab feverishly as Cheryl rummaged around inside their paralysed bodies pulling up fistfuls of guts. Even if they were monstrous creatures Cliff couldn’t help but feel a (very small) pang of sympathy for them.
“If you people are done pointing your guns at me I’d like to resume studying my specimens.”
“Dr. Jekyll? Is…that you?” said Cliff.
“No dear. The good doctor isn’t home right now but you can leave a message if you like.”
“Where did the fake hunter go?”
“She’s escaped I imagine.”
“And you didn’t try to catch her?”
“She was already gone when I cleared out this room, besides it’s not really my job to handle that sort of thing. It’s more the type of work Elaine would enjoy.”
Cheryll extracted what looked like a spleen from one of the homunculi and examined it thoughtfully. “Oh… I forgot. Paranormal Control can be a bit of a sprawling organisation, we don’t all know each other, so many personnel to keep track of, makes it a bit too easy for someone to masquerade as one of them hmmm?”
Cheryl was completely oblivious to the glare Cliff shot her then, instead extracting another organ from her "specimen". “It would seem that our infiltrator also stole the lab’s hard drives as well as a copy of forbidden literature. I really hope you get them back soon; I was looking forward to examining their contents. ”
By now the rest of the containment had lowered their rifles and were starting to fan out across the room. The agent that Cheryl had “healed” sat propped up against a wall looking traumatised but otherwise unwounded. When one of the squad members asked him if he was okay he simply gave a thumbs up and weakly whispered “I feel good.”
“Oh and you’ll definitely want to get the surviving members of the clean up crew back in here now that it’s safe. This place has become even more unsightly than it was when Charlotte first came here,” said Cheryl without looking up from her vivisection.
Cliff bit his lower lip in frustration before raising a hand to his radio earpiece.
“HQ this is Nolan…yeah the area is secure…no casualties on my team, but we lost several of the original clean up crew…no, Dr. Jekyll is alive although she’s not ‘present’ right now if you know what I mean… uh huh…roger that I’ll keep the team on site till everything’s wrapped up, Nolan out.” Cliff closed the radio channel and sighed, this was going to be a long day…