|The following project has been shelved. It may or may not get a future release. Stay tuned.|
Experiments and Offspring is the shelved Issue #5 of Origins, the first volume of the Cataclysmic Gerosha version of The Gerosha Chronicles in Dozerfleet Comics. It's an alternate history / sci-fi war drama featuring the superheroes Anarteq, Arrowfrog, Centipede Charlie, and Becky Ryba in the Pacific theater of WWII.
An unnamed narrator explains that the Phaelites' and Meethlites' experimentation with the Marlquaan and with genetic engineering has led to them altering themselves. Also explained is how the Experiments and Offspring program was started, and how it led to the near-destruction of Phaeleel. The smartest of Phaelite scientists found themselves on Earth, where they became an underground group of US government scientists. Following them were the worst of the worst of Meethlites: the Hebbleskin Gang. Phaelites and Hebbleskins had infighting, but were bitter rivals competing for influence in the world. Both had recruited some and abducted others for purposes of experimenting with making mutated armies. However, it remained to be seen whether or not the Experiments' offspring would manifest as anything practical for either side.
The story then cuts ahead to the year 1942. Anti-Japan hysteria is at an all-time high. A theater is attacked by a man from Japan who can generate almost any chemical from his fingers. Dubbed "Molarity," a manhunt begins for the fugitive. The Phaelites alert authorities that "Molarity" is a Meethexo, an unstable offspring of a Meethlite experiment. A man named Torimi Hoshijo was abducted by the Hebbleskins thirty years prior and experimented on, and Molarity was his child. An FBI investigator named Fred Thernip then agrees to go with Phaelite scientist to track down several Phexos that have been studied secretly, hoping at least one will be able to confront Molarity. With a little help from the OSS, they exploit the personal tragedies of an exposed Centhuen Prototype Phexo named Charles Hammerstein to recruit him to their cause. They promise him that if he'll serve in the army, they'll set his girlfriend Lacey Akawa free from the internment camp where she's been relocated to. Dubbed "Centipede Charlie," they recruit him plus a few other recovered Phexos to become a task force to hunt Molarity down.
Donald "Arrowfrog" Walters is the first member to be added after Charlie. He is soon joined by an Eskimo boy named Akiak Sundue, who can breathe underwater. Akiak states his preference to go by the name of "Anarteq," after the legendary boy who turned into a fish. Another underwater breather with sharpshooting skills joins the team, dubbed Rebecca "Becky Ryba" Volstikar. The small team sets out to hunt down Molarity, and manages to find him. However, he has become an efficient criminal with poisons too deadly for most of the team to handle. When the Hebbleskins unleash several Milthuen Prototypes to protect Molarity, the small band of heroes defeats them. Arrowfrog ends up sacrificing himself to kill Molarity, with the two being poisoning and killing each other off since the one chemical Molarity's body could not tolerate was homobatrachotoxin. Before dying, Molarity infuses Arrowfrog with concentrated sodium hydroxide.
The other Phexos get sent on various missions in the Japanese theater. Becky Ryba is sent to China, to aid in resisting Japanese forces there. She ends up battling some additional Milthuen Prototypes before being overwhelmed. Centipede Charlie takes on and helps disrupt a partnership between Japanese forces and German ones. However, he ends up being sacrificed in the process. Along the way, he befriends a man by the name of Tobey Flippo. Centipede Charlie ultimately fails his mission, and Becky Ryba ends up buried under a pile of rubble. The Japanese leave her for dead. Anarteq leaves the war theater alive and well, but is sent home when he is deemed "not quite the right caliber." Becky Ryba reveals herself to be not-quite-dead-yet, but is sent home. She remembers Anarteq's romantic offers to her, and seeks him out. She finds him in Canada, and the two end up marrying.
The Hebbleskin Gang grows wise to Tobey Flippo's involvement and begins stalking him. The Phaelites plot how to use that to their advantage to create a new Centhuen Prototype, given that Centipede Charlie was an early partial success.
The following characters are most noteworthy in this piece:
- Charles "Centipede Charlie" Hammerstein: A Centhuen Prototype from Joplin, MO. He is under pressure to enlist in the war and fight Japan. However, he becomes very disillusioned with his government when they send his girlfriend Lacey to an internment camp. Fred tries to persuade him to fight the Japanese if he wants to have any country left - to find some other girl he can marry. When this tactic fails, Tobey successfully persuades Charlie to cut a deal with the government to free Lacey - in exchange for his service in the armed forces. In spite his abilities, Charlie is emotionally crippled in his ability to fight for anything he can't be persuaded to fully believe in.
- Donald "Arrowfrog" Walters: A man with yellow skin that is toxic to most others around him. He has no trouble at all improvising poison weapons to knock his opponents unconscious - or kill them if needs be. However, his condition has rendered him devoid of social normalcy. Eating spaghetti with a date could be deadly for the date.
- Akiak "Anarteq" Sundue': An enthusiastic Canadian of Inuit heritage. He can breathe underwater, and has fully embraced his role as an amphibious soldier. He has adopted the name "Anarteq" after the Eskimo legend of a boy by that name who turned into a fish.
- Rebecca "Becky Ryba" Volstika: A Russian living in exile in Alaska. Losing her home to the Russian Revolution left her very detached emotionally, and unsure as to whether or not she is now American or still Russian. Either way, she wants to defeat Japan's latest menace: a chemistry-themed serial killer going by the name of "Molarity." Becky Ryba's name translates as "Becky is a fish," and she was given the title because she too can breathe underwater. However, she doesn't gain as much pleasure from amphibious missions as she does from sniping her targets. She prefers any weapon that won't jam if it gets wet, making her a living sea-to-surface killing machine.
- Tobey Flippo: An advocate for Phexo rights who is backed in his job by the Phaelites. He is reassigned the role of helping recruit Phexos for the war effort, wherever they are to be found. His demeanor is a bit more cheerful than that of Fred, providing him and Fred the opportunity to develop something of a "good cop, bad cop" dynamic during recruiting phases.
- Det. Fred Thernip: A hardboiled private detective who encounters Molarity first. He finds himself thrust into his line of work by the government, and introduced to his mission by the Phaelites to recruit a Phexo Quartet.
- Lacey Akawa: A young woman whose parents are of Japanese descent. They settled in Joplin on the hopes that they would achieve a clean slate far away from where anyone from the old country would bother them. Alas, the government decides that Japanese Americans are automatically spies. Lacey and her family are thrown into an internment camp. While Lacey was terrified of the way she and her family were being hauled away, she takes comfort in the fact that Charlie vows to secure her freedom - at whatever cost to himself.
- Yoichi "Molarity" Hoshijo: An agent of chaos sent to terrorize California as part of a deal struck between Imperial Japan and the Hebbleskin Gang. He can generate deadly lab chemicals from his hands and the air around him, particularly hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide. He can also alter the chemistry of whatever he touches. Little is known of him, except that he takes his job very seriously. The Phexo Quartet is sent in to defeat him before they ever get the chance to see the shores of Japan.
Defining Centipede Charlie
See also: Centipede Charlie
Plans existed ever since 2007 to expand upon Ciem, and the world it took place in. Those plans included taking its throwaway references to Centipede Charlie, and expanding on them. As Candi's predecessor, he deserved some mention for his own merits in the history of Centhuen Prototypes. The 2011 film Captain America: The First Avenger provided some inspiration for Centipede Charlie's expansion as a character, as well as opportunity to expand on the history of Tobey Flippo. In 2012, Experiments and Offspring was retooled from a story happening on Metheel and Phaeleel to a WWII story. Tobey was re-imagined as what Howard Stark in the Captain America movie might have been like if he were not a proficient inventor. As such, Centipede Charlie was reimagined to be named Charles Hammerstein, a play on Captain America's alias of Steve Rogers. Beyond the Rodgers and Hammerstein joke, Charlie was made a subversive parody of Steve in nearly every available way.
Whereas Steve is always eager for adventure and oozes patriotism, Charlie is indifferent to the idea of country. The only merit he sees in it is his family and loved ones, and protecting the institutions that protect them. Everything else the government does is either seen as bad or irrelevant, and certainly not worth fighting for. While Steve loves the all-American iconic girls, Charlie's girlfriend Lacey Akawa is of Japanese origin. While he couldn't care less for Japan as a nation, the only love in him that is entirely unquestioning is his love for Lacey.
While Steve is rarely grumpy and moody, Charlie oozes cynicism and sarcasm - except around Lacey. While Steve will lie on forms to get into the military, Charlie ends up being blackmailed into joining it. He makes it very clear to his recruiters that he is not at all happy to be there. And that if it weren't for Lacey's fate hanging in the balance, he would not have bothered at all.
Given that the title was Experiments and Offspring, it was pretty obvious that more characters would be needed to join Centipede Charlie on his adventures. February of 2013 provided the perfect opportunity to explore who some of those other adventurers could be. Det. Fred Thernip was deemed a given, with Tobey Flippo serving has his jolly-hearted foil. Anarteq had been in planning since 2011. However, the 2013 concept art setup allowed for him to be defined for the first time. In addition to being an Eskimo that could breath underwater, he was seen as a combination of Fez and Pedro Sanchez. The Russian without a pre-revolution Russia to call home, Becky Ryba, was introduced as a backup for Anarteq.
Finally, there was Donald "Arrowfrog" Walters. A sympathetic character was needed that could push the limits of what the Gerosha universe's formula could allow for, even pushing the boundaries of what could be tolerated. This resulted in Arrowfrog being envisioned as a character that could be sympathized with for his sense of isolation, yet abhorrent enough in his bodily composition to inspire genuine fear in others. Being born with toxic skin seemed to top the list of things that would cause others to fear him. It also meant that his death would be both tragic and cathartic. Readers/viewers would know that it was the only way that his life's story could truly end; and will be happy for what his sacrifice accomplished.
See also: Molarity
Most of the story centers around the four heroes coming together, and the Phaelites studying how well they work as a team. However, the story felt incomplete with the team having only generic Japanese bad guys to fight. Instead of cook up a brand new villain solely for this purpose, an old one was recycled. Molarity had first been envisioned as the villain Charlie Rigsbelt for Replox: Abstract Foundations. It only took a small amount of character revision to make the chemical menace appropriate for the Gerosha universe. He was imagined as being of Japanese origin, with the name Yoichi Hoshijo. To test him out as a Meethexo, the Japanese cut a deal with the Hebbleskin Gang. Molarity was sent to wreak as much havoc as possible in California, given that a normal ground troop land invasion was not deemed practical by the Japanese at that time.
Molarity may have a short-lived role in the greater scheme of things, but he provided an interesting foil for the team. He had toxicity similar to that of Arrowfrog, incredible underwater endurance like Anarteq, shooting skills like Becky Ryba, and nearly all the agility of Centipede Charlie. The only thing he lacked was an immunity to batrachotoxin.
While the idea of a chemistry monster of his sort is still far-fetched even by Gerosha standards, the revised Yoichi Hoshijo version of Molarity is a significant step up from the absolute silliness in design of his Charlie Rigsbelt counterpart. The original design was meant to be modeled after the cheesy cartoons of the 1990s that inspired Replox. A new look proved essential for Experiments and Offspring, and the Yoichi concept model first envisioned in The Sims 3 proved to be exactly what was needed.