Chapter 4: Farley Stillwell
Mac Gargan gave his cab driver his fare plus a small tip that would buy him a pretzel if he stopped at the nearest vendor. As his surly cab driver pulled away, he looked at the five story building with the white sign that said ‘Stillwell Pharmaceuticals’ in big, glowing red letters. It was longer than it was high, and there was a double smokestack near the back, which seemed like it had been unused for sometime. Perhaps the smokestacks were a relic of whatever this building was before Stillwell Pharmaceuticals had purchased it. The building’s ensemble was complete with a metal antenna that sprouted from the left side near the front.
“What would a man like Jonah Jameson be up to in a place like this?” Mac asked the brisk night air. He knew that very little had come out of this particular company pharmaceutical wise, which meant that whatever Dr. Stillwell was up to was probably not strictly on the books.
“I’m here to meet J. Jonah Jameson,” Mac said to the guard in the shack near the only entrance to the mostly empty parking lot. “The name’s Mac Gargan.”
The guard gave Mac a look and then flipped a paper on his clipboard. “MacDonald Gargan?” he asked.
“That’s what my mother named me,” Mac replied.
“Can I see some identification?”
Mac sighed, pulling his wallet from his inside pocket. He produced his ID and handed it to the guard. He held it up to the light, examining it. “Any weapons?” the guard asked.
“I might have a few on me,” Mac said, grinning.
The guard opened a metal lockbox and slammed it in front of Mac. “Please insert them into this bin. You can have them back once you exit.”
Mac sighed again, putting his revolver and his speed loader into the bin. “There,” he said.
“You will be frisked when you enter,” the guard said. “You will be immediately ejected if we find anything else on your person, Mr. Gargan.”
“Fine,” Mac said. He reached into each of his jacket pockets and pulled a brass knuckle from each of them. He put them in the bin with his gun. “Am I going to be getting these back?”
“Of course,” the guard said, locking the box and putting it into a small cage behind him. He brought up a numbered pass for Mac to get his belongings back later. He then gave Mac a clip with the word ‘VISITOR’ in red block letters and a barcode. “Keep this attached above your waist at all times. Failure to do so will…”
“Result in my immediate ejection?” Mac interrupted.
“Mr. Jameson will meet you in the lobby,” the guard said.
“Thanks a lot,” Mac said under his breath, walking past the guard shack and towards the large building ahead. The short conversation with the guard did very little to ease the anxious feeling in Mac’s gut as he walked towards the big double doors of Stillwell Pharmaceuticals.
Mac didn’t have to wait long for Jameson to appear. He walked into the lobby less than a minute after Mac had entered. He was dressed as he would for everyday business at the Bugle. It was more than evident that Jameson was more of a benefactor of Stillwell Pharmaceuticals than anything else. He had a man with him wearing a white lab coat. He had straight brown hair that was combed neatly and a thin mustache. “Mac Gargan,” Jameson said. “I want you to meet Dr. Farley Stillwell, founder of Stillwell Pharmaceuticals.”
“Doctor,” Mac said, shaking Dr. Stillwell’s hand. He noticed that Dr. Stillwell was a foot or so shorter than him too.
“Pleased to meet you,” Dr. Stillwell said. “Jonah has high hopes for you.”
“We’ll see about that,” Jameson said, true to his normal constitution. “I only said he’s good for an interview. We’ll see how that goes.”
“I don’t appreciate being led along and not knowing why,” Mac said. “Either you shoot straight with me, or I walk.”
“This job pays ten thousand dollars,” Jameson said. “For what should only be two weeks worth of work. Still feel like walking?”
“Now now,” Stillwell said. “There’s no harm in talking to Mr. Gargan while we give him a tour of our facility. But I have to agree that we should be sure he’s physically up to the task before we go any further. Would you mind if we gave you a very quick check up?”
Mac looked at Dr. Stillwell while he weighed his opinion of the man. They had only met just moments ago, but Mac could already tell that Stillwell wanted him for whatever this ‘task’ of Jameson’s was. “Sure,” he said, shrugging. “I just don’t want you two thinking of doing anything weird while I’m here.”
“What?!” Jameson exclaimed. “Do you have any idea…”
“Don’t mind Jonah,” Dr. Stillwell said quietly, leading Mac down a long hallway. “This project of ours has cost him a lot of time and money. It took him a long time to find someone he liked for the task at hand. You should feel proud.”
“I’m here for the paycheck,” Mac grumbled. “Nothing more.”
“I think you’ll find more to the Scorpion Project than just the money,” Dr. Stilwell said.
“Scorpion Project?” Mac asked.
“Let our doctors look you over,” Dr. Stillwell said. “You’ll learn more afterwards.”
Less than a half an hour later, Mac was cleared. They seemed to care more about his height and body composition than anything else. They took a few measurements of his arms and chest before giving him the green light to continue with the interview.
“Have you heard of the Spider Slayers?” Jameson asked.
“Something from your paper,” Mac replied. “Some robots that tried to catch Spider-Man and failed. I saw the pics while researching your photographer.”
“I funded and designed the Spider Slayers with Spencer Smythe,” Jameson admitted. “The results were embarrassing at best, and Smythe has been diagnosed with terminal radiation poisoning for his troubles.”
“That was you?!” Mac said, a little to harshly.
Jameson harrumphed. “It would have beautiful had it been successful. Picture it: Spider-Man, captured by J. Jonah Jameson’s Spider Slayers. Spider-Man would be in handcuffs while a robot with my face on its monitor loomed over him.”
Mac kept his mouth shut this time. It seemed that the only thing greater than Jameson’s paranoia were his delusions of grandeur. “I had a second idea,” Jameson continued. “Five robots failed to take one spider down. What if we sent one man?”
“Not just one man,” Dr. Stillwell said. “We match Spider-Man point for point. With data gathered from the defeated Spider Slayers, I believe we have the ability to create a super-human that will not only match Spider-Man but best him as well.
“Spider-Man is no ordinary acrobat in tights. We have pictures of him lifting cars. He moves faster than any normal human can. He seems to have a reaction so quick that it borders on precognition.”
“There’s that annoying way he can climb up walls too,” Jonah added. “And those damn webs!”
“Taking all of that under consideration,” Dr. Stillwell continued. “I theorized that we had to go a step above in order to take down Spider-Man, and Jameson provided the fodder for our avatar.”
“What is the next step above a spider?” Jameson asked. “Its natural predator?”
“The scorpion,” Mac said. “The Scorpion Project. That’s what this is all about?”
“Precisely,” Dr. Stillwell added. “I think we should show him the suit.”
“Of course,” Jameson agreed. “We’ve come this far.”
Dr. Stillwell led Mac and Jameson into a dark room. The light gkesmed off black metal equipment and the storage containers covered the walls as Stillwell turned on the lights. There was a large metal desk in the center that was full of locked drawers. The room reminded Mac of some vault from a science fiction movie. At the end of the the round room was a glass cylinder case. Inside, was a green suit with black stripes on a gray mannequin. A long tail was was behind it.
“This is it,” Dr. Stillwell said proudly. “This is the scorpion suit.”
“I almost cried the first time I saw it,” Jameson said. “Spider-Man being defeated by another one of these masked characters? That’s what I call poetic justice.”
Mac walked up to the glass, his nose nearly against it. He’d never seen anything like it. New York had it’s fair share of super heroes and villains, but he’d never been up close to one. The suit was complete with a set of black gloves and trunks so it looked like the green and black was the actual body of the suit’s wearer. The eyes of the mask were surrounded with a black design to make it look more menacing. There was a second opening for the wearer’s mouth. Mac’s gut reaction to the scorpion suit is that it looked like it weighed a ton.
“What’s this thing made out of?” Mac asked.
“Steel mesh,” Dr. Stillwell said. He spoke as if he were listing off a child’s achievements. “Two layers separated by insulated rubber. The seven foot long tail is also made from steel articulated framework. When used properly, it could be swung at nearly ninety miles per hour. There is also a retractable spike.”
“How would I use the tail?” Mac asked, amazed. “I don’t see any control.”
“Have you seen the guy who was going around New York with the four metal legs?” Jameson asked. “Doctor Octopus?”
“I’ve heard of him,” Mac said. Of course he had heard of the mook. There wasn’t a person in New York who didn’t remember his rampage before Spider-Man put him away.
“Same principle,” Dr. Stillwell said before Jameson could say more. “There’s a neurological network that can be tapped directly into your spine. It may take some getting used to, but it should function like it’s a part of you.”
“How am I supposed to move around in this thing?” Mac asked. “I’m strong, but that would definitely be a lot to lug around.”
“That’s the other piece of the Scorpion Project,” Dr. Stillwell said. “A cocktail of sorts to boost your body’s natural and innate abilities. As I said earlier, we need to match Spider-Man step for step if we want to put an end to him. The cocktail will make you stronger, faster, and more agile than you have ever been. You’re stamina will be greatly increased; you’ll be able to push yourself harder and longer. Your reaction time will be greatly boosted; nothing will take you by surprise. Your grip will be reminiscent of a scorpion’s pincer. You’ll be able to climb walls, leap great distances, and heal rapidly from any damage your body takes.
“All thanks to our little friend the scorpion. The cocktail is made directly from its DNA.”
“Is that how Spider-Man did it?” Mac asked, turning towards Dr. Stillwell.
“That’s my theory,” Dr. Stillwell said. “Aside from taking the symbol of the spider, he seems to have the abilities of one who had somehow fused his DNA with that of the spider. It was all the inspiration I needed to begin the Scorpion project. That and the passion of Jonah.”
Mac tried to take it all in. He hadn’t accepted this job yet, but his mind was unravelling what being one of these super humans could be like. He’d be a celebrity overnight if he could be the one who put Spider-Man and all of these other costumed freaks behind bars.
“You think you have what it takes?” Jameson asked. “Stillwell’s staff says you’re a fit, physically, and I’ve worked with you long enough to get a read on you. You’re hungry, Gargan. Not in the traditional sense. You have something to prove. You want to see yourself standing tall, holding a defeated and unmasked Spider-Man up for the world to see.”
Mac was dumbfounded. He could see how Jonah Jameson had started at The Daily Bugle near the bottom and ended up owning it. His instinct was dead on. Jameson was able to read people better than Mac himself. Mac was now positive that Jameson had seen through his ruse to keep working for him all along. The termination of the Parker job and the offer for this one didn’t seem too much like coincidence any more. Mac decided that Jameson wasn’t a man you played in mental chess and won.
“Don’t just stare at me,” Jameson said. “You in or not?”
“I’m in,” Mac replied. “For twenty grand.”
“What?!” Jameson shouted. “Why you…”
“I can always walk,” Mac said. “Dr. Stillwell says I’m physically perfect for this project of yours, and you said yourself that I’m fit mentally. I’m the one who’d be doing all the heavy lifting here. Literally. You just have to sit back and watch me work.”
Jameson sighed and mumbled something under his breath.
“Jonah…” Dr. Stillwell said.
“Also take into consideration what I know,” Mac said. “You really want me out there with this info. I could bankrupt you with this. What do you say, boss? We got a deal?”
Mac put his hand out to Jameson. He promptly shook it. “You got a deal,” he said. “But not a dime until the job’s done, other than your expenses needed to do it.”
“Fine,” Mac agreed.
“One more thing,” Jameson said. “I want to be the one to unmask him.”
“It’s your show,” Mac said, shrugging.
“I have to hand it to you,” Jameson said. “It takes moxie to make demands like right that to my face. You’re a snake, Gargan.”
“No, Mr. Jameson,” Mac said, smiling. “I’m a scorpion.”
Farley Stillwell went over his notes long after Mac Gargan and Jonah Jameson parted ways with him in the large lobby of Stillwell Pharmaceuticals. He took his reading glasses off and rubbed the bridge of his nose. If successful, Jameson’s plan would surely put him and his research on the map.
A sigh left Dr. Stillwell’s lips as he remembered the first time the newspaper publisher came barging into his life. He didn’t have the security that he had now, so it was nothing for Jonah to flash a press pass and come waltzing I’m like he was owed something.
“Farley Stillwell?” he asked. “I’m J. Jonah Jameson. I’ve been reading up on your experiments, and I have a proposal that will be mutually beneficial.”
Dr. Stillwell was shocked by Jameson’s sudden appearance, but he listened to his proposal. Jameson had read about Stillwell’s research that very same morning and hopped into a cab to pay him a visit. Stillwell showed him the rat that was able to breath underwater and the fish that was able to live on land. Jameson was awed by the results, but quickly changed the subject, spinning his own web of ideas.
“I need someone that can defeat Spider-Man,” Jameson said. “He’s been a thorn in this city’s side for far too long. The authorities have failed to bring him down, so I’ve decided to do so myself.”
“Where do I come in?” Dr. Stillwell asked, nervously.
“I want you to outfit a man with the powers of a scorpion,” Jameson said with a grinch-like smile.
“Why a scorpion?” Dr. Stillwell asked. “Why not another spider?”
“A spider can’t take down a scorpion,” Jameson said, not elaborating on why he believed this to be true. He offered Stillwell a deal that would pay him handsomely for his work, allowing him to continue his research. Jameson also promised a great deal of publicity from The Daily Bugle.
Stillwell was reluctant to take Jameson up on his offer at first, but he desperately needed the money offered and the publicity that would follow upon their success. Stillwell was in danger of bankrupting his company when Jameson had knocked on the door. Most of the scientific community scoffed at his research, but he would show them all. He knew he would.
There was the other offer too. For months now, a lawyer from an unnamed corporation was hounding him to sell his company, his research, and all of his notes. The asking price was more than fair, but Dr. Stillwell didn’t feel comfortable just giving it all up. He may have only been a day or two from giving in and signing his life’s work away before Jameson came into his life with this scorpion idea of his.
Mac Gargan was scheduled to return on the following day to become what Jameson wanted him to be. Eventually, everyone in Jameson’s life became what he wanted them to become. Stillwell read through his notes once more before stashing them in his old leather satchel. He hadn’t tested his scorpion formula on humans, but Jameson had threatened to pull his money and his free publicity if he delayed any longer. Once Jameson decided that Gargan was his man for the job, there was no talking him out of it.
“I hope you know what you’re doing, Jameson,” Dr. Stillwell said to his empty office. “There’s no turning back.”