Dr. Mercury, Heavy Metal’s liquid-metal Supreme. To most of those whom he protects he appears as some super-advanced artificial life-form, but the truth is far more tragic.
The machine that was once a man first appeared a few years ago. His appearance followed a crime-wave as reports of a series of break-ins at high-tech research and development labs around the city.
Most of the targets were involved in electronics, computing and robotics. The last of the targeted labs, however, was a small cutting-edge facility recently founded to examine the possibility of joining thought-interface control with nanotech robotics to create a kind of smart liquid metal. Minute self-reassembling machines constantly stripped their own components to create new forms and functions. The lab was led by Dr. Andrew Merritt, their pioneer and a man consumed by his work.
Andrew was ever the epitome of the obsessive scientist and engineer. An experimental scientist specializing in metallurgy, physics, chemistry, quantum mechanics and half a dozen other fields, he was recognized within the scientific community as a potential genius. Andrew was always determined to push the boundaries of the possible further and further. He looked to the work of others, contemporaries like Drexler, as well as the science of Supremes such as C.O.R.E., and took what he learned and built upon it to create the thought-interface assembly for his nanotech re-assemblers.
Andrew was working late one night with his two most trusted assistants; his best friend Matt whom he had known since their first days at MIT, and Lydia, his unrequited love. Matt knew all about Andrew’s feelings for Lydia, and although naturally more gregarious, respected his friend’s wishes, even when Andrew was at his clumsiest simply due to her presence around him.
The three were conducting their latest tests on the thought-interface. All three had used the interface equipment, but Andrew always proved the most adept with it, so Matt and Lydia watched on, re-calibrating settings as he went through a simple set of control exercises. In the center of the room on a raised dais, a puddle of what looked like quicksilver rose up into a column before slowly assuming an almost human-like shape. A basic form defined, Andrew started thinking through a selection of shape extrusions; the metal form extended first a spike then a blunt shape where its hands were. Finally he thought through a variety of surface changes: the metal body changed colors, rippling through the hues of the rainbow before testing out a couple of patterns – checks first then a random camouflage scheme next.
“All preliminary checks complete,” began Lydia, smiling at Andrew who could not see her expression, stood behind him as she was.
“All readings within normal range,” Matt followed up. Without looking he guessed Lydia would be looking on fondly at his best friend, and he briefly wondered how two people so smart could be so stupid with their feelings.
“Okay,” began Andrew, “Time for something new!”
“Testing, testing…one…two…three…testing! Is thing on? This is Dr. Mer…er..Mercury!” the tinny synthetic voice came from the metal man-form. Lydia gasped and Matt laughed out loud.
“I have been visualizing the speech modulation for some time and thought I would surprise you!” said the artificial voice again. The three immediately shared warm comments and their usual in-jokes.
Suddenly the good feeling was shattered. The skylight above the room in which the three scientists worked was smashed as four figures descended on abseil ropes. As the intruders made their entrance, two sprayed the room with bullets from sub-machine guns they held single-handed. Bullets tore into equipment and flesh. Machinery around Matt and Lydia sparked and splintered and their bodies tumbled as they were hit.
The four men landed and surveyed the room. Wordlessly, one motioned towards where Andrew sat amid the thought-interface. Another raised his weapon, and flipped a selector switch, aiming then firing two shots into Andrew’s chest.
Pain washed over Andrew as he looked downwards. Blood was oozing from two wounds in his torso. He could feel life sapping away, his vision blurring as he saw the four men purposefully approach the thought-interface equipment. He willed himself to take control of the nanotech re-assemblers.
His mind was fighting against the yawning maw of an infinite and final blackness. His head swam. He willed himself through the interface into the liquid-metal form with a last-ditch clarity. Rage filled his mind. His best friend was dead. The unspoken love of his life was dead. And he was dying too. And these murderous would-be thieves were responsible.
Andrew suddenly felt his mind occupy every single nano-machine at once. His conscious control of the re-assemblers had been pushed further than ever before, and was complete as he had never quite envisioned. The metal-man form took on a renewed definition. It rose up to its full height and strode defiantly towards to nearest interloper. The metal-man reared one hand backwards, formed a vicious spike where its hand had been, and thrust forwards, shattering the rib-cage of the shocked killer who slumped dead to the floor, his body sliding from the lowered spike-arm.
The three remaining killers opened fire, one shouting to be careful not to hit the thought-interface. His words were lost on his terrified colleagues.
The metal-man walked up to one, dispatching him with a clubbing blow to the temple that killed him instantly. The other fell almost as quickly to a further bludgeoning strike that crushed his chest.
The last gun-man stood, paralyzed with fear for a few moments before his training kicked in and he opened fire with a tight group of shots to the man-machine’s chest. His training had not equipped him for situations like this and his death was as swift as that of his colleagues.
The man-machine surveyed the ruin that was the lab. There were four dead killers, dispatched in scant seconds, their blood on his hands. To the sides of the room he could see two other bodies, both lifeless. The man-machine let out an inhuman raging scream. Desperation crowded his mind as he turned to face the body of Dr. Andrew Merritt. His body, which too was now lifeless and inert.
He ran then, ran into the night.
Days passed as he hid. A manhunt was launched after the bodies of the three scientists and four thieves were discovered. However, no-one was there to notice that at some point the thought-interface device was spirited away. C.O.R.E. volunteered to help in the search, and it was the future Heavy Metal leader that found the man-machine that had been Andrew Merritt. But he was Merritt no more. C.O.R.E. immediately recognized the spark of humanity and near-broken spirit within the living machine. He listened quietly as the scientist haltingly told his story, and then led him back to the city, to his own home-base in Golden Plaza. No charges were ever leveled against Merritt; it was accepted that he had been the victim of a dreadful robbery.
In the weeks to follow, as he grew accustomed to his new body, he publicly adopted the name Dr. Mercury. What had been a passing joke among friends became a badge of honor to their memories. He threw himself into new work. C.O.R.E. began to assemble Heavy Metal, inspired by Supreme Teams of the past such as the Supreme Alliance. Dr. Mercury began developing amazing new technologies, pushing the limits of his science further, while assisting in the endeavors of the fledgling Team in every way he could. As more members of the soon-to-be legendary Team gathered, Dr. Mercury found he warmed particularly to the young Chronin, and would become a mentor to the young girl, both striving ever forwards in their scientific achievements. Some comfort was gained through this friendship to help melt the pain of the past and his re-birth as Dr. Mercury.
Few of the residents of Pulp City whom he helps know the tragic truth of his past, and most think he is some kind of super-robot, but that does not stop Dr. Mercury striving to do his best, to fulfill his new purpose with so much already lost.
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