CHAPTER 16: THE LAZARUS EFFECT, PART 1

Throughout the ages, mankind has always found itself an obsession with the concept of cheating death. Just as the mortal soul has a natural fear of death, not wanting its time on Earth to come to a sudden and painful end, the interest in avoiding or even overcoming death altogether has just become just as natural as death itself.

There has been countless stories on beings finding mystical ways to rise from the dead or obtain immortality. Whether it be like The Picture of Dorian Gray, in which the a portrait of the main character ages when he does not, or in Dracula, about a vampire which must consume human blood to survive, the ideas on how one could obtain eternal life are just as endless as the number of stories themselves.

However, while most of these stories have a focus on the primary character obtaining a way to cheat death for themselves, this one seeks it out for someone very close and important to him. This man is millionaire Buckley Lloyd, and the one he seeks to bring to life again is his beloved daughter, Rhonda.

Living a hedonistic life with the wealth his family has held onto for several years, keeping himself as a man of status, many of his duties as a father were left neglected, and left in the hands of those who would only care for her for pay rather than do so out of love. For a while, this lifestyle did not seem to have much faults...

...until he found her laying raped, beaten, and bloody on his floor after coming home from golf.

Following that moment, he became Valiance, the white knight of Hillwood, seeking to rid the city of the crime element that came home to his daughter, and no longer squander his wealth on pleasure. During his new conquest, he soon came to find that Rhonda had brought herself out of her coma, returning to become a costumed crimefighter herself, taking the name of Elite.

After the Green Eye had brought an end to the Freak and his own crime spree, Helga Pataki was shot in the chest, leaving her heart destroyed from the bullet and soon to perish. Offering herself up in sacrifice, Rhonda voluntarily gave her own heart to be transplanted into Helga; giving up her own life to save another.

Now, the body of Rhonda has been given a new heart, and is waiting for the moment in which new life will breathe in it again. Buckley Lloyd has been on the search for a means to bring his daughter back, and has never found any such luck in raising his daughter...

...until he obtained the blood of the Green Eye, finding the missing key to his daughter's resurrection.

Having ownership over Membrane Laboratories, acquiring it and placing it under his Lloyd Enterprises corporate umbrella, he has put its scientists hard at work on a black-book project to utilize the blood to bring his daughter back to life once again. Following just a mere day of research, these brilliant minds have found many discoveries through the blood, but Buckley grows impatient from the wait.

Voicing his complaints to the lead scientist of the project, a young man named Dr. Geoffery Combs, Buckely brings the project hurrying along further than it should be.

"For god's sakes, Mr. Lloyd, it's only been one day. People have been trying to find a cure for cancer for decades, and nobody's gotten close. You really think we're gonna find something in this blood to cure death itself in a day?" Dr. Combs asked.

"I don't care what you do, I just want you to do it fast." Buckley said.

"That's not the way this works, Mr. Lloyd. We have no idea what's in that blood sample. It could take us months or even years before we map it fully. If you'd please just be a little more patient-"

"Let me make something clear to you. I've been waiting over a year for a way to bring back my daughter. I've spent almost every night looking for some way to bring her back to me, not sleeping at all. You really think I'm going to just stop now?"

"No, Mr. Lloyd, but I'm afraid there's nothing more that can be done now that we're not already doing. I'm afraid you'll just have to wait for some results."

"Well, what have you found so far?"

"That part, I'll have to show you. If you would, Mr. Lloyd, this way."

Dr. Combs led Buckley to the sample of blood, set beside a microscope. The microscope's view was also displayed on a large TV set on the wall, showing the contents of the tray inside it. Currently, the contents showed a regular sample of blood, not appearing to be any different from the Green Eye's.

"This is a normal sample of blood, taken from a healthy individual. Here's what the Green Eye's blood looks like." Dr. Combs said.

Dr. Combs showed a picture on the screen of the Green Eye's blood, appearing on the surface to be composed of regular blood cells. Upon playing the picture to video, however, the blood cells appeared to be much different than normal; each cell splitting into another, then another, then another.

"So, what am I looking at?" Buckley asked.

"The blood cells are going through mitosis, Mr. Lloyd." Dr. Combs said.

"And?"

"Red blood cells are not meant to undergo mitosis. The blood is sustaining itself."

Realizing the true significance of this fact now, Buckley gave a somber nod, just now seeing how truly different the Green Eye's blood was.

"That's not all, Mr. Lloyd. See what happens when I introduce a sample of the Green Eye's blood with this donor blood." Dr. Combs said.

Taking a syringe and drawing some of the Green Eye's blood out of its beaker and into the donor sample, the doctor turned the view on the TV back to the microscope's view. As the two watched the sample's cells make their way towards the donor cells, they soon became overtaken by the Green Eye's blood cells, incorporating them into their own and soon making the donor's cells exact copies of its own.

"What just happened?" Buckley asked.

"To be honest... we're not really sure ourselves. Typically, when an opposing blood type is placed in one's body, the original blood cells will treat the donor blood as a pathogen, mistaking the blood donation as a germ or virus, and attacking it as such. Here, it almost looks like it's copying itself onto the original cells." Dr. Combs said.

"So, how much longer until you figure out why it does that?"

"I can't honestly say, Mr. Lloyd. Most of us haven't slept since we began, we're trying our best on this project."

"I haven't slept, either, doctor, and I haven't been complaining about it."

"Please, Mr. Lloyd, we are trying our best here. We can't simply rush science like-"

Ignoring the rest of the doctor's warning, Buckley's attention was led towards a series of cadavers in another room, being preserved for when experiments would begin.

"Have you tried to see what happens when you put the sample in a dead body?" Buckley asked.

"Not just yet, Mr. Lloyd. We've still got a long ways to go before we make any real progress-" Dr. Combs began to say.

"Why don't we stick one now and see what happens?"

"Mr. Lloyd, I'm afraid I must really advise against that. We barely understand the sample as it is, we have no idea what it could do to a cadaver."

"It's a dead body. Worst case scenario, nothing happens. I want results, and I want them fast. Why don't we do it and see what happens?"

"Sir, I really cannot allow that. We have no idea what could happen, we could potentially-"

"You seem to be under the impression that I am giving you a choice. I'm the one who signs your paychecks. Unless you're looking for an early resignation, I strongly suggest that you ready things now."

Dr. Combs was completely against the idea of going through with such an experiment, but, with Buckley's tone of voice and threat, it became clear that he had no true choice in the matter. After a long period of silence, the doctor finally found himself nodding to Buckley's demand, allowing the experiment to be done.

"All right, sir. As you wish." Dr. Combs said.


Elsewhere, away from any sort of experiments or breaking of moral ground in science, there are two others who find some peace in the day alone in the dining room of the Sunset Arms Boarding Home. These two are Arnold Shortman and Helga Pataki, joining each other for a spot of lunch to spend some time with each other in the day as it came to an afternoon.

With Arnold just returning home from a platonic date with Lila Sawyer, a few words were exchanged regarding the event, but most of it ultimately leading to boredom and no real interest shined on the topic. Instead, Arnold brought the conversation to an event occurring from the night prior to last night.

"Hey Helga, last night, you were playing around with my weapons. Why exactly were you messing with those?" Arnold asked.

"They looked fun. You use that stuff all the time and make it look easy." Helga said.

"You shouldn't mess with those things, Helga. I don't want you to get yourself hurt. It takes years of practice for somebody to learn how to use those."

"You told me it only took you a few days."

"That's because I'm a Spirit Master. I can learn things way faster than anybody else. You're still just a regular person, and a very important person to me, at that."

"I know, and you're just as special to me, but I really wish you wouldn't be so motherly with me. I can take care of myself, you know. Whenever you do that, I get the impression you don't think I can handle myself."

"I don't mean to do that to you Helga, it's just... Forget it, let's just eat."

Taking to his advice, Helga went back to her own food, letting Arnold also return to his. For a moment, there is silence between the two, silence enough for them to enjoy their own meals. There are many thoughts within each other's mind, but they choose not to speak them, wishing to grant one another enough peace to finish their food.

Soon, however, Helga's patience grows short, and she chooses to share some of the thoughts in her head.

"Hey Arnold. You know, I've been putting a lot of thought into this, and I think I should join in." Helga said.

"Join in what?" Arnold asked.

"You know, the Hillwood Heroes."

Upon hearing Helga's suggestion, Arnold nearly found himself choking on his pancakes, spitting them up in shock and surprise, leaving Helga herself to react just as surprised. When finally managing to remove the remnants of the flapjacks out of his trachea, Arnold then quickly voiced his own protests towards the suggestion.

"Jesus, Helga, are you out of your mind?!" Arnold asked.

"What? All you guys do that stuff all the time, and you all do okay. I want to go for it, too." Helga said.

"No, Helga, no. That's something that I absolutely cannot allow."

"Why not?"

"You know why not, Helga. I have to fight dangerous people on a regular basis, and you could seriously get yourself hurt."

"Yeah, right. That last fight you were telling me about, these guys rode on crappy skateboards. If that's your idea of 'dangerous', then I should be just fine. Besides, I told you, I'm a big girl, I can handle myself just fine. I got Old Betsy to get me out of any bad spot."

"Helga, I can't endanger you like that, and fighting isn't the end-all solution to everything. And I love you way too much to get yourself hurt like that."

"Then what about Gerald and Phoebe going together? He obviously trusts her enough to be safe, why can't you trust me in that way?"

"Because I almost lost you when you were shot by Curly. I can't stand the idea of that happening again. You were... You died in my arms, Helga. If it wasn't for Rhonda, you wouldn't be here with me now. If you go out and endanger yourself like that, and you get yourself killed, I'll have to live through that again, and Rhonda will have died for nothing. Is that what you want?"

Without any more arguments to bring regarding this discussion, Helga's words finally came to a stop; any and all conversation to be made on this front coming to a swift end. Not wanting to touch upon this sore subject any longer, Helga retreated back into her chair, staying quiet in surrender.

"Okay, you're right. I'm sorry." Helga said.

Giving Helga a touch of reassurance from their argument, Arnold gave her a light hug by the head and laid a kiss atop, allowing her a sense of security.

"It's okay. I only do what I do to protect you, Helga." Arnold said.

"I know. But you really shouldn't put that much worry on me. I almost lost you too, you know. I could be just as worried about you, with all your superhero stuff." Helga said.

"Maybe, but I won't be that easy to remove. Let's just go back to our food."

Taking his seat back at the table once again, Arnold went back to his own meal, where Helga returned to hers. Putting all arguments and fights behind them, the two once again returned to a nice, peaceful lunch, allowing themselves to enjoy their time to nourish their bodies and enjoy the company of one another.

In this moment of silence, there is love between the two.


Back at Membrane Laboratories, however, there is not much love to be found here. Instead, the experiment that Buckley Lloyd has proposed is being put forth, against the better wishes of the scientists and their own moral compasses. Nonetheless, the experiment continues on, and the crude and morally questionable test is underway.

Standing in a room with only himself and a cadaver, separated from the outside observers by a few sheets of glass, Dr. Combs readied a syringe full of the Green Eye's blood, ready to inject it into the body. Every fiber of his being tells him not to follow through with this experiment, but he forces himself anyways.

Brushing the last of his own anxieties aside, Dr. Combs begins the experiment, speaking the details of the test to the camera.

"Recording now. Project Lazarus, Test 1. Proceeding to inject subject with foreign blood sample, will stand by for effects." Dr. Combs said.

Making good on his own words, Dr. Combs injected a sample of the Green Eye's blood into the cadaver. Though the action brought great fear to both himself and those observing from outside, but those behind the glass were still safe enough to observe the event from a distance. Quickly exiting the room, Dr. Combs made himself among those behind the wall of safety, observing the effects with them.

"Injected about 300 milligrams of blood into the cadaver, formerly belonging to a white male that expired in his 50s, waiting for results to come to fruition." Dr. Combs said.

For a while, there is no sign of results; no sign of any sort of change occurring in the body. Buckley Lloyd and the scientists wait patiently for something, anything at all to happen on the other side of the glass, but nothing does. For this waiting period, it seems as though there is nothing that will come of this experiment, evidenced by the inanimate corpse laying on the other side.

There are no readings on the heart monitor attached to the body.

There are no signs of brain activity on the polygraph or the neuroimaging equipment.

There are not even any signs of physical life to the body; no breathing or movement found from the body.

Soon, there is no patience among the rest of the scientists or from Buckley, either. After a long period of waiting, it seems as though there will be nothing to come of this particular experiment. After a few checks of the clock and their watches, the team decided to call the experiment a failure.

"Well, worst case scenario: Nothing happened. I hope you'll trust our judgement from here on, Mr. Lloyd?" Dr. Combs asked.

"Hmph. Well, I suppose that-" Buckley began to say.

Before Buckley could finish his sentence, there was at last a sign of life from this dead body. With a simple beep on the heart monitor, it seems as though there was finally a chance for this corpse to come back to life. As the monitor gave off beep after beep after beep, that chance seemed to grow and grow.

Following the sign of the heart beating at last, most of the functions of the body began to return to it; the body breathed naturally and normally, its heart beating steadily, and its brain activity starting to rise up slowly. All that remained in proving this body alive was to see it rise to its feet, coming awake where it was once asleep.

Soon, it opened its eyes.


Far away, at the Sunset Arms Boarding Home...

For most of this nice and peaceful lunch, Arnold has been enjoying his pancakes quite well; his parents' cooking skills providing him with a nice and tasty meal to consume. In addition to the nourishment that the cakes provided his body, the taste of the light and fluffy build of the flapjackes complimented with the savory taste of butter and coating of sweet maple syrup left a pleasant experience in his mind from his sense of taste.

On his mind now, however, was something far different; some strange sort of feeling he had never experienced before. The experience left him taking his mind off the pancakes entirely, and out of the present time altogether. He could not articulate what sort of feeling that this was, but it left him sitting idle without any sign of movement coming from him.

Were he alone in the dining room, he would probably not have been paid any mind, and the event would be left forgotten. Helga, however, was present in the dining room with him, and, though it took her simply a moment to notice his strange reaction, she found that something was not right with him.

"Hey Arnold? You okay?" Helga asked.


Back in Membrane Laboratories...

Full of life once again, the body rose from its resting place, but not so happily awoken from its final rest. Jolting up from the table, the body began screaming in agony, unable to tolerate this new, crude rebirth it was being put through. The body howled in pain, trying desperately to work past the pain of coming to life again.

Just as the body shot back up in a quick movement, the scientists all followed with a jump of fright from each one, save for Buckley Lloyd himself. Instead, he simply watched the body continue its resurrection in fascination, waiting to see what would come next from this test.

"Oh, my god... Oh, my god... That wailing... It won't stop wailing..." Dr. Combs said.


Back at the Sunset Arms Boarding Home...

Suddenly, the young man named Arnold Shortman began to fall under an extreme amount of pain; a sharp and acute mental anguish flowing through his mind. He did not understand why he felt this sudden and horrid pain, but he had even less mental capacity to come to understanding yet.

Now, all he does is suffer.

Grasping his head and falling to the floor, Arnold continued to feel the pain sweep over him, and let out cries of agony and suffering with each second. The pain brings him to his knees, crying out in desperation to whoever might be listening to end his pain, but he finds no answer or solution for this pain.

Of those listening in to his cries, Helga is the only to come to his side in his moment of need. She holds him tightly to try to alleviate his pain, hoping that whatever she does can help him overcome his pain, but she does not know what pains him or how to help him. As such, the event only leaves her to stand alone, helpless to truly help the one she loves.

"Arnold?! Arnold?! What's wrong?!" Helga asked.

Arnold had no reply for his significant other; the sounds to be let from his mouth more cries of pain and agony. The pain continues on and on, without reason or understanding, and he only hopes that it will eventually come to an end, lest he be driven mad by this pain.


Back in Membrane Laboratories...

Still left under agonizing and unexplained pain, the body continues to cry and lash out in pain, grasping its head to try to alleviate itself from its agonizing rebirth. It cries out and wails, it lashes out at anything it its path, smashing through various objects like its bed or a few tables, and it never stops its tantrum.

The scientists all continue to watch in complete shock and awe, like watching some sort of religious significance come to light before their eyes, but Buckley Lloyd is still not amused or entertained. Rather, he still only cares about results, and results he demands from his team.

"Well, what are you staying silent for? Tell me what's happening." Buckley said.

"'What's happening'? What do you want me to tell you? It... It came back to life." Dr. Combs said.

"And why is it screaming like that?"

"I... I don't know. The body hasn't gone through any major decay, it's not like it's being put through anything too stressful. We'll definitely have to get some more tests done with the subject once it calms-"

Before Dr. Combs could finish his sentence, any and all hopes of this resurrected body coming to a calming state were reducing to non-existent chances. After grasping its head for so long, the body began squeezing its own head in more futile attempts to alleviate the pain, only to have crushed his own eyeballs from the strain.

Blood and gel spurt from the body's eye sockets, spraying all over the glass walls surrounding the room. Once again, the observing scientists all have a groan and scream of disgust driven from them, all barely stomaching the sight before their eyes. The body's screaming still does not stop; the pained wailing continuing to pierce their eardrums in a haunting howling that imprints on their minds.


Back at the Sunset Arms Boarding Home...

Arnold still remains on the floor, his mind flooding with unknown and crippling pain, sending his body into a state of uselessness that leaves him unable to even stand on his two feet. This sharp and sudden pain will not seem to let up, but, rather, only increase and intensify by the second.

Still trying her best to bring him back to the realm of reason and sanity, Helga holds him in her arms, hoping that she could possibly alleviate this strange agony that he was still under. She tries her best, and hopes for better, but neither the efforts of her mind nor body pay off.

"Arnold?! What's going on?! Please say something!" Helga pleaded.

"Hurts... Everything hurts... I can't stand the pain... I feel like I'm..." Arnold struggled.


Back in Membrane Laboratories...

Eventually, the body's struggling and cries came to a stop, but only for one brief pause. In that one pause, however, the illusion that this affair would finally come to an end was gone the instant it came. Where its return to life was only one part of its change, now came the next stage of its transformation.

Under the effect of the Green Eye's blood, the body began to expand and grow; its muscles growing larger and bulkier, far more than any bodybuilder or strongman could manage to create on his own. The body soon began to grow itself into a mass of flesh and muscle that was too far out of practical use to live, but this was just the beginning.

The muscles began to grow and expand so far that the very skin that covered it up began to rip and tear, and leaving some organs to spill and fall with it. This being, this... thing that was once the remains of a human being soon turned itself into something far beyond the realm of recognition; resembling something more out of a Cronenberg film than actual reality.

Soon, the body exploded.


Back at the Sunset Arms Boarding Home...

Just as sudden as the sharp pain came to him, it suddenly left, leaving Arnold Shortman sitting in confusion at what had just happened to him. Though his screaming had finally come to a stop, his breath began to heavy in an attempt to catch up to the rest of his mind.

He cannot comprehend what has just occurred to him, and cannot hope to find any explanation or answer, at least not just yet. All he can do now is let his breath try to catch up, and let his mind receive the oxygen it needs to recover from this strange assault of pain.

The wait will not be an easy one, but he can at least find his wait more comfortable in Helga's arms. Rather than try to think on the experience itself, he just puts his mind in her arms, where the rest of him lies. The warmth will help him recover much quicker.


Back in Membrane Laboratories...

Following such a painful experience of birth, the body quickly followed up this re-entry to the world with a quick and vicious death; leaving this world as quickly as it returned. Its second departure, however, was far more brutal than its original death of natural causes.

Resulting from the sample of the Green Eye's blood put in it, the body exploded violently, splattering all manners of organs and blood across the walls of glass separating it from the rest. The observation room shrouded by clear glass, made to be seen in from those looking on from outside, could barely even see through the dark red blood. What could be seen was less than appealing to look at for many.

The sight was nothing that any of these young men and women called scientists were used to seeing, even in their field of study. Even those with the strongest of stomachs found themselves with lost composure, and those with weaker stomachs soon emptied the contents out of them.

Buckley Lloyd, however, still felt nothing from observing the event; looking on as it were the most pedestrian of events he could look on. Even from the beginning of the event, Buckley did not move an inch from his spot, observing in a true impartial fashion towards the defiance of nature.

"So, Dr. Combs, think you should be making some commentary right now?" Buckley asked.

Gingerly walking towards the microphone of the camera, Dr. Combs composed himself just enough to document the last events of the experiment.

"Uh... The... Sub... Subject... expired at 13:22. Will harvest remains of subject and study under scrutiny towards causes of... the violent reaction from caused form the blood sample." Dr. Combs stuttered.

"Good. That little event should give you a few pointers where to look, so get started. I'll expect some results by the end of the week." Buckley said.

"What?! Mr. Lloyd, you can't be serious, something like that can't be worked out in that amount of-"

Not listening to the protests of the doctor, Buckley Lloyd began to walk out of the building, leaving the scientists to work on their project and allow himself to continue on the other events of his day. Where Buckley's attitude was far more relaxed than those of the scientists, those working on this unethical project barely found themselves able to understand what to make of anything now.

"Uh... Dr. Combs? Sir? Are... Are we really going to go through with this?" One scientist asked.

"I don't think we have any choice." Dr. Combs said.


Back at the Sunset Arms Boarding Home...

"Arnold? Hey Arnold, are you okay?" Helga asked.

Though even trying to speak was a struggle in itself, Arnold pushed himself to answer the question, letting his beloved Helga rest in the knowledge that his pain was over.

"I'm fine, Helga. I'm fine." Arnold said.

"What the heck happened to you? You just started screaming and screaming. You really scared me." Helga said.

"I... I don't know what happened. All of a sudden, it was like..."

"Like what?"

"I'm not sure how I know, but... It felt like I was being born... then dying."

"Why do you think that?"

"I don't know. I need to talk to Luz. I'll be back."

"Are you sure you're fine?"

"I'm fine. I'm fine enough."

Picking himself up off the ground, placing himself on his own two feet once again, Arnold began making his way to the roof of the Sunset Arms, needing a moment to converse with his teacher and master once again on this strange phenomenon. Though his journey was not too easy, he pushed himself up nonetheless, needing to find the answers about this strange assault of pain.

If he knew what sort of atrocity that caused this sensation, he would be wishing that he never knew the answers he sought.