Jose the Lizard
Threat Level: D
Power Type: Bestial physiology with adaptive armour plating. Creates and stores armour plating on his back. More plating comes at the cost of speed. Can move them around his body to increase defence, size, and strength. Lizard physiology also grants enhanced strength, minor regeneration, and mobility boosts.
“I don’t get it, boss,” Jose said, closing the ThreatLevel App on his phone. “I’ve been on the field just twice now and they already have my whole power set down to every detail.”
“It’s your friend, genius.” Power Merchant winced as the new resident doctor eased spikes out of his shoulder.
None of them had predicted Roach could launch the spikes out of his arms. Jose still didn’t know what abilities his employer had. Given how the spikes had dug deep into Power Merchant’s flesh, he lacked durability. Since the wounds continued to bleed, Jose was sure he lacked regenerative abilities, too.
After working with Power Merchant, Jose doubted his power set lacked mobility. The other hench people believed he was a Fabricator. Given the machines he used to turn them from nobodies into supers, their reasoning made sense. However, Power Merchant’s lack of personal equipment and aged weaponry made him think otherwise. The more Jose tried to figure out Power Merchant, the less they knew about him.
“I’ve known Danny for years. It can’t be him. The kid has wanted to be a hero forever. He’s the idealistic sort. I bet he saw a hero in trouble and just wanted to help.”
“That still means he interfered and made things worse for us than they had to be. I want you to go to his restaurant and ensure nothing of the sort happens again.”
“I need to know where your loyalties lie, Jose,” Power Merchant said. “Daniel Das was never a friend. He manipulated you to get to me for Druid.”
“There is no evidence of that!” Jose protested.
“We don’t need evidence. I’m telling you to take care of him. He’s a powerless isn’t he? A crippling will suffice.” Power Merchant watched his henchman stone-faced. His eyes were colder than Jose had ever seen them. “Look in the mirror, Jose.”
The room they occupied, the facility’s infirmary, housed the largest mirror. It was once the smallest ward in the underground hospital. Jose sensed that Power Merchant hated using space for something like an infirmary. He hoped after needing its services, he’d stop trying to assign resources elsewhere.
Jose did as instructed. The man in the reflection had transformed in the past six months. Before he met Power Merchant, Jose barely reached six-feet tall and had a wiry frame. His ex already said he had a snake-like face, and the early onset hair loss didn’t heal either.. It was the break-up followed by losing his job that made Jose seek out Power Merchant.
Desperation and a heartbreak had turned the business-client relationship into an employer-employee one. First, Power Merchant awakened the lizard physiology meta gene. It made Jose stronger, faster, granted him a minor regeneration factor and sharpened his senses. The next change came two months later when he learned to develop armour plating. It gave Jose layers of scales, making him bulkier.
At first, Jose struggled with the lack of flexibility and speed that came with it. Weight training and regular exercise increased his general strength. However, Jose relied on his regular training sessions with Danny to return to his old self. Jose had seen the young man blossom from a teenager into a well-adjusted adult. They’d been in the same boat not long ago. Danny was an idealistic fool, and Jose struggled to believe he had the heart to betray his friends. Looking at himself in the mirror, Jose hated himself for even considering Power Merchant’s orders.
“See how your scales are changing?” His employer asked. “They’re getting harder and sharper. You’re developing natural weaponry besides your teeth and tail. Claws will be next. I have the means of guiding this process, moulding you into the best possible version of yourself. Don’t throw that away, Jose.” Power Merchant paused. “I won’t terminate our deal if you refuse the order. I’m not that kind of employer. Will I trust you less? Yes. Will the likelihood of me keeping you on after you’ve finished the contract go down? Probably. There’s one guarantee, though. I’ll send someone else after Daniel Das. Their orders won’t just involve crippling him.”
“Fine.” Jose sighed. “I’ll—”
The lights flickered, and Jose saw something move in the mirror. While machines all around him beeped, resetting after the power surge, his eyes remained focused on his reflection. His nose twitched. However, Jose’s enhanced sense of smell detected no presences besides that of his employer and fellow employees. Then the light flickered again, and he saw a man in the mirror and clusters of several domed objects around the room. They stood scattered behind him.
“There’s someone here,” Jose said. “Something is wrong.”
“Anyone else detect anything?” Power Merchant asked. Jose saw the man’s reflection reach out to the woman working near him. “Do you hear or smell anything, love?”
“No, sir,” she answered.
“You’re just being paranoid, Jose. Don’t tell me you’re scared of the dark. It doesn’t bode well for London’s next top supervillain.” Jose didn’t move. He refused to turn around or blink. His lizard pupils widened, increasing his light sensitivity. The ambient glow burned, but Jose fought through it. “We’ve run extensive tests. Not even teleportation trackers and the best Mind supers can track us through Doorman’s abilities. This place is impenetrable.”
The lights went off, plunging the hideout in darkness. While several of his colleagues screamed, Jose remained calm. After all, his lizard eyes still let him see clearly. They mostly picked up several hues of grey, blue, purple, and dark brown, but he still picked up on the minutest of details.
The man in the mirror stood closer than before. He wore a white shirt, a purple vest and a long black overcoat. He wore no tie and liquid metal appeared to cover his head. It was like a mirror and Jose could see himself reflected in it. The man raised his hands and the shadowed clusters around him stirred.
“Eggs.” Jose hissed, hesitantly taking a step back from the mirror. He glanced over his shoulders at Power Merchant and his now alert staff. The strange man and the eggs didn’t lay among them. The odd existences only lay in the mirror. Jose’s heart pounded in his chest and the sides of his head hurt. “What’s going on?”
A high-pitched ringing drowned out his voice. The frequency intensified the headache, forcing Jose to cover his ears. More screams sounded around him as everyone reacted similarly. The mirror and every other reflective surface around the room vibrated so rapidly they appeared to ripple. Jose retreated further, worried the eight-by-ten-foot mirror wall would explode and pelt him with shards. The fragments would probably not hurt him unless pieces got in his eyes, but he obeyed his reflexes.
The ringing-screeching sound stopped just as suddenly as they had started. Silence fell upon the hideout and only a soft-moaning remained. It was Batface. She had no eyes and relied solely on echolocation to get around. The attack had likely hit her the worst.
“Someone get to the containment level!” Power Merchant shouted. “Ensure everything is secure. Boudica, check on the generator and server rooms. Jose, you’re staying with me!”
Before Jose could respond, the man in the mirror raised a hand, pointing at the mirror, and the eggs exploded. Squid-like creatures burst from them. They shot across the room and through the mirror. The reflective surface rippled like water as the creatures passed through it.
A squid came straight at Jose’s face. Its tentacles parted, revealing hooked claws and suckers underneath, and a maw filled with concentric rows of teeth. An animalistic growl burst from Jose’s lipless mouth as he backhanded the creature. It felt like smacking a wet sponge. The creature squeaked, flying off trajectory and crashing into the neighbouring wall. It slid down the surface slowly, leaving a trail of slime behind. More of the critters came at Jose, and he effortlessly batted them out of the air. A few wrapped their appendages around his forearms, but their teeth failed to penetrate his scales. Jose wiped them off him like they were flies.
Meanwhile, his colleagues screamed, and an incoherent cry alerted him of his employer. Jose retreated towards him, holding his forearms crossed in front of his face. While the creatures were no challenge for him, he worried about one of them wrapping around his head and getting at an eye, his nose or tongue.
“What’s taking you so long, Jose?!” Power Merchant screeched. “Help me!”
When Jose reached the man, he was struggling to pull a squid off his right arm. The doctor had already pulled one of Roach’s spikes out of Power Merchant, but failed to bind the wound. Now blood flowed from it, while another brown spine still stuck out of the shoulder.
Jose ignored the protest and ripped the squid off Power Merchant. The man screamed as the squid’s little teeth raked his skin, leaving shallow scratches.
“We don’t know what they’ll do if they cling to you,” Jose said, picking up Power Merchant and running for the door. “A little pain now will be better for later.”