Chapter 1 - Change in Fortune
The road was deserted late one summer night save for a tan-brown pickup truck that was slowly puttering down the road. Behind the wheel was a black haired man in his early 40's wearing a white and black robe with numerous bruises visible on his face. Sitting on the seat beside him were several books based on the occult and others dealing with astrology by various authors. On top of the books was an iron wrought necklace with a large red ruby pendant, though the ruby seemed broken into several pieces.
To anyone who might have drove past the rusty truck and seen the driver, they might have dismissed him as one of those religious cult idiots who seemed to be everywhere these days. However, the truth was the man was in fact a villain who had clashed repeatedly with individual as well as groups of heroes and heroines over the years. Amos Fortune, ironically considering his last name, often had schemes that revolved around devices or items that involved people's luck (good or bad). Unfortunately, his arrogance and mistrust of anyone who worked with him often led to his downfall time and again to the point where he was looked upon by fellow criminals as a bit of a joke.
As he sped down the road, Amos wondered if he should change his philosophy about how everything in life revolved around chance and luck (both good and bad ). He was recently offered a job by a cousin to work as a manager of a department store that was a good paying offer. "Maybe it's time to stop going up against all the super powered idiots of the world.... " he thought to himself as he continued down the road.
" WHOAH!!!" the villain yelled as an adult deer suddenly appeared in his headlights no more than a hundred feet away. He managed to swerve his truck drastically to the left and barely avoided hitting the animal but in doing so, Amos put his truck into the ditch on the side of the road.
Stunned for a few seconds, Amos extricated himself from his truck and climbed up onto the road. After quickly checking himself over, he determined that aside from a nasty bruise on his right forearm, he was fine. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for his truck which was a total write off.
"Well, better find a house and see if I can call a tow truck and a taxi as well. I think I see a house off in the distance that might have a phone," Amos muttered as he slowly trudged up towards the chimney he spotted. When he got to the road, he saw to his dismay that the house had been destroyed by fire fairly recently and was nothing but charred ruins. Parked next to the house was a small red Toyota with a security guard sitting behind the wheel to protect what little of value there was left on the property.
Amos figured the guard probably had a cell phone with him so he started down the paved road towards the guard's car. As he walked, he remembered the house in question had belonged to the famed archeologist Charles Verlansky, who had just returned from exploring several ancient crypts in Egypt as well as working in Romania. When Verlansky had returned to North America just two days ago, he told the press that he had discovered several rare artifacts which had not been seen by mankind in a very long time. Unfortunately, a house fire had occurred the first night he returned, sending Verlansky to the hospital and nothing but charred rubble to return to.
"Tough break for Verlansky, though I wonder why he's got a security guard here..." Amos thought as he ambled up to the guard's car. When he got within a few feet of the vehicle, he detected the strong smell of Kentucky bourbon, which he had himself drank deeply after more than one loss to the costumed heroes he so despised. He looked inside the car and saw the guard was oblivious to the world around her though whether it was from too much drinking or from simply falling asleep was hard to say.
Seeing no sight of a phone anywhere in the guard's car, Amos scratched his head as he wondered what to do next. Glancing over at the blackened house ruins, he stood still for a few seconds in silent contemplation. "Well, if I've got nothing to do for the next little while, I may as well poke around the ruins and see if Verlansky had anything of value that survived the fire," Amos muttered as he ambled over to where the rubble was.
After checking to make sure the remnants weren't still hot from the recent blaze, the dark haired man stepped through what was the front door looking over the various charred remains of furniture hoping to find antiquities,jewelry or anything of value. Thirty minutes later, Amos found little that he could sell of value from the remains and turned to walk out of the ruins.
Unfortunately, Amos had walked into an area where the floor had been more damaged than what it appeared to be. He had taken just a few steps when the floor gave away from under him, sending the villain tumbling into the basement below. Fortunately for him, he landed on a water logged mattress and didn't suffer any serious injuries.
"It's just not my night...not my night at all. Sigh...." Amos muttered as he stood up and looked around. Lucky for him, there was a full moon in a cloudless night sky shining down otherwise he wouldn't have been able to see more than a foot or two in front of him. Stepping gingerly forward, the dark haired man saw nothing but ashes, blackened pieces of furniture and puddles of water everywhere. He was about to look for a way out of the basement when suddenly several more beams from the ceiling collapsed in the far left corner. The lumber caused a loud CLANG!! which reverberated through the basement as well as opening up a space, allowing the light from the moon to illuminate what lay beneath with more clarity.
To Amos' amazement, the light revealed a large black floor safe lying under the timbers and debris in the corner in question. As he walked towards it, he saw that it looked to be one made around mid 19th century or so and the door to it was wide open (though whether the latter was because of the timber falling on it, the fire that consumed the house, or was just left open by mistake was hard to say).
When the balding man got to the safe, he saw it was full of stock certificates, legal papers and other such documents. However, it was a fairly large black box with intricate engravings over the cover that drew Amos' attention. He opened it up to find a black leather bag with a folded document tucked underneath it. Opening up the parchment, Amos held it up to the moonlight and saw the writing was in ancient Latin. Drawing upon the courses he took in college, he managed to decipher the first part of the writings.
The document spoke of a gem unearthed by accident by Roman soldiers around 500 BC in northern Italy. They brought it back to the foremost soothsayers of the time in Rome, who immediately recognized the mystical properties of the gem. However, after an 'accident' one night, the emperor, fearing the power of the 'Gem of Transformation' (loosely translated), ordered the gem to be taken out of Rome and be thrown into the deepest parts of the Mediterranean Sea before its power resulted in the destruction of the empire.
Unfortunately, the Roman legion assigned this task were attacked by barbarians shortly after leaving Rome and were completely slaughtered. After that, the Gem disappeared for several centuries until it wound up in the hands of a scholar in Naples, who performed several tests on the gem. He determined that the jewel could be used to change human beings into inanimate forms of the bearer's desire for an undetermined amount of time. Amos was very frustrated to find that the drawbacks that were listed had been smudged or faded over time and couldn't be read at all.
"The smudged part must be the reason why Verlansky had this item locked in his safe. He was afraid that the cost of using such power was too high and might even cost him his life. However, I'm willing to take a chance that the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages," Amos said smugly as he read the parchment again for details on the gem's usage. Apparently, the holder of the gem would point it at the intended target and speak the form he wanted the target to assume with the result being almost instantaneous.
Smiling broadly, the villain shoved the pouch containing the gem as well as the parchment into his robe pocket before looking around for the stairs leading up to the ground level. Amos had just started to walk up the stairs when he heard a loud cough and the unmistakable cocking of a handgun's hammer. He looked up to see a now very awake security guard staring down at him with her gun pointed at his chest.
"All right, feller. Get your ass up here slowly and don't try anything funny," the guard barked down at the surprised Amos. Sensing that she might be asking a few questions that would be difficult for him to answer honestly, Amos reached into his robe pocket and gently shook the gem from the pouch into the pocket itself.
"Sorry if I've created any hassles, ma'am. I was hired by Mr. Verlansky to make sure that some of his more valuable possessions stored in the basement weren't damaged by the fire. My name is Nick.. Nick Chance," Amos said, hoping his hastily conceived lie would fool the woman staring down at him.
However, the security woman was not believing his excuse at all. "If that was the case, my boss would have told me you were coming by tonight. Walk slowly up the stairs and stand by my car while I make a call to the police," she said gesturing Amos up the stairs with her gun barrel
Sighing, Amos slowly walked up the stairs and followed the red haired woman back to her car. However, when the woman, still feeling the effects of her liquor consumption from earlier, stumbled and fell to the ground, Amos took that opportunity to strike. He grabbed the gem in his pocket and pulled it out with a flourish as the woman rolled onto her back. Pointing it at the prone woman, he shouted "CRYSTAL STATUE !" in a dramatic fashion though he secretly wasn't sure what exactly was supposed to happen, if anything.
"What the...?" the security woman shouted before going silent as a beam of energy shot out from the gem and enveloped her fully. She felt her body go rigid and unresponsive to her thoughts no matter how much she wanted to move and get away from the madman and his gem. To her horror, she saw her hands were starting to transform into cold glistening crystal devoid of any humanity. She saw with her fixed gaze that the same change was rapidly starting to affect the rest of her body with her legs and lower torso with flesh and blood quickly becoming brilliant crystal that reflected the moon light where it wasn't covered by her clothes.
"A CRYSTAL STATUE !!... WHY?.... I'M ALIVE.... I CAN THINK... NOOOO!!!!...." the woman screamed mentally before her thinking winked out as the change claimed the rest of her body and a statue of pure crystal rested on the ground draped in the outfit it had worn when it was still a living woman.
"Hmmm... the clothes weren't affected by the gem at all.. interesting..." Amos said softly out loud as he looked at what the gem's power had left. After a minute or two of quiet contemplation, the villain bent down and began removing the clothes from the statue in a methodical way. He had to roll the statue on its side several times to remove the jacket and pants, not to mention the underwear. Once stripped of its clothes (which Amos threw in the front seat of the woman's car), Amos slowly dragged the statue over to the car and pushed it into the back seat.
After covering the statue with a blanket and securing it as best he could, Amos closed the back door and leaned up against the car, exhausted from the exertions of the last hour or so. After wiping the sweat off his face, he climbed into the car and sat silently behind the steering wheel for several minutes in silence before turning around and facing the back seat.
"Well, my crystalline figure, I think I'll be finding you a new home at a gallery in a nearby town. I happen to know several owners who would pay handsomely for such a realistic statue. Once that's taken care of, I think it's time I used this power to take some revenge on the heroes who have foiled me in the past. I've heard Black Canary and a few of her friends are cutting the ribbon at a new building a few miles from here. Maybe I'll pay them a visit and 'reward' them for their civic minded attitudes.. or is it reward me?" Amos said with a loud evil laugh as he fished the keys for the car out of the guard's pocket and started up the car.
The car slowly headed off onto the road with the statue, headed to a new home and Amos heading off to start his latest plan of evil....
...armed with the power to wreak some terrible consequences...
To be continued....