by bossfight1

Prelude, Part 1: Subject 6043: Director's Notes, Compilation A

Department of Metahuman Affairs, New Hampshire Branch

Subject File

Subject Serial Number: 6043
Subject Name: Joel Nelson
Working Alias: "Dread"
Attributes: Shapeless mass of microscopic black stones, held together by immensely strong magnetic field. Common form held is a slender torso with thin, raptorial arms that usually end in three claws, and a curved head with no eyes and a wide mouth filled with jagged teeth. Lower body is shaped like a snake, ending in a tail that trails two feet behind him. Despite lacking certain features, Joel is capable of all human senses. Subject can, with great concentration, reassume his human form; caucasian male, 6’, light brown hair.
Strength: *** (Varies depending on shape)
Agility: *****
Speed: ****
Durability: ****
Use of Projectiles: *
Stealth: ****
Cooperation: ***
Guardianship: ***
Response: ***
Abilities: Aside from his form being immune to physical damage—excluding fire—Joel can shape his mass to enter any space, flowing like a liquid and allowing him to use stealth to his advantage. Joel has learned to shape is mass into a pair of wings, thus allowing quicker transport. Manipulation of his mass allows Joel to perform feats of strength.
In addition, Joel's mass can also form a link with the amygdala nuclei of the human brain by touch, and incite fear in them. It also allows him to ‘peer’ into the subject’s mind and see their fears, judging the severity of the fear by the vividness of the vision. Joel can form ‘custom’ visions of fear for the subject to see, to suit his needs.
Age: 27 (DOB: 05/13/1997)
Residence: Portsmouth, NH, USA
Date of Reveal: 06/21/2021
Assigned Task Force: New Hampshire Metahuman Task Force, Team Gamma, USA
Date of Instatement as Metahuman Agent: 7/24/2024
Administrator: Daryl Freeman, Director of Metahuman Affairs, New Hampshire Branch
Director's Log:
1: 6/22/2021
Subject has been surprisingly compliant. In spite of how easily he could escape from his holding cell, he has shown no intention of doing so. There was a brief panic when guards checked his cell in the morning and didn't see him in his bed, but he quickly emerged from beneath it with rushed apologies; he stated that falling asleep must have made his form 'relax', causing him to spill from the bed and beneath it.

The subject, hereto referred to as 'Joel', seems to make every effort to avoid bringing down any legal flak. At 12pm on the 21st he stood out in the open, on a field some distance from the highway, and flagged down the nearest available MHA, Channel. Joel requested a meeting with an official from the Department of Metahuman Affairs, in light of his condition. Channel requested a pickup; Joel was escorted into a DMHA transport, and arrived at the Department without incident.

Upon arriving at the local Department, Joel was interviewed. He stated that, on the 18th, he heard something crash outside his house. Investigating, he found a canister rolling onto his lawn, and spotted a truck speeding down the street and out of sight; he stated he could see someone standing in the bed before the door quickly shut. Curious, Joel picked up the canister, and found it dented, likely having fallen from the truck.

Unfortunately, the canister ruptured, spraying a 'black liquid' into Joel's face. The moment the first drop hit his skin, the rest of the contents immediately followed, pouring out from the can and down Joel's throat. Joel dropped the empty canister and ran into his house, gagging, and passed out in his living room.

He awakened the following morning, in his basement, as a ‘puddle of black goo’, as he put it. Over the next few hours he worked on forming into a working shape that would allow him to regain his mobility. Over the next three days Joel debated what he should, or could, do. Finally, on the 21st, he opted to 'reveal' himself, hoping that, if he couldn't find a cure, he could at least 'find a use' for whatever ailed him.

Joel will be put through Anatomical Evaluation tomorrow, to see if his new form has any 'surprises' for us. I’ve had the canister retrieved from his home; other the serial number “09X733”, analysts have yet to learn of the canister's contents, its purpose or where it came from.

2: 6/23
At time of writing, Joel has not changed from when he was sighted by Channel. He has no human characteristics, merely a shifting, shapeless mass of a thick, black substance. In theory, Joel could form into a puddle at about a centimeter in depth, and a good twenty feet in width. When he wishes to have what he refers to as a 'normal form', he shifts into a relatively humanoid shape. This form has no legs, merely a tail-shaped trail of mass, making him look somewhat like a reared-up snake. His body itself is slim, rising into a torso, about 2.5 feet wide and a foot thick. His arms look similar to that of a velociraptor, ending in three jagged claws. His head is curved, with no eyes, nose or ears, but has a wide mouth with a vicious set of teeth. Joel stated that this form reminds him of something called a ‘hydralisk’, which he dismissively explained was a ‘video game thing’.

Regardless of what form he takes, Joel is perfectly capable of sight, scent, hearing, feeling and speaking, despite not truly having any of the requisite features. He found that he could speak, so long as he could form a mouth. He stated that his voice hadn’t changed from before his transformation.

Attempting to procure a sample has proven futile. Any attempts at scooping some of his mass results in it not parting from the entire form. Joel has attested that he has no control over this, but offered to allow scientists to examine him as a whole.
Dr. Roland has reported that, what appeared to be liquid is actually a mass of damp, microscopic stones, held together by a small but immensely strong magnetic field that shifts to Joel's command, allowing him to alter his shape. Joel referred to his form as “black sand”, which seems appropriate.

Joel has been fed appropriately. There have been no apparent issues with his appetite, in spite of him not having a stomach. He reported that he feels the food being dissolved when it falls down his throat; he noted that he is unsure whether he is feeding himself, or his mass.

Joel has stated that he wishes to work on his 'shifting', to see if he can make himself look human again. I have given him clearance to do so, under heavy guard.

3: 6/26
Joel's relatives have been informed, in full detail, of his status. They were, understandably, upset that he was 'sick' and 'under quarantine', but Joel was allowed to speak to them and assure them everything was fine. As a show of good faith, Joel has been allowed free use of a telephone, so he can remain in contact with his family.
Joel has been improving in learning the extent of his morphing abilities. He has learned how to change the color of his mass to the same tone as his human form, and is working on applying the technique to his whole body to look human again. He has stated that doing so requires vast concentration.

More interestingly, Joel has also learned how to shape his body, namely his arms, into various blades. Though this unnerved some of the staff, he claims this is merely for show, and I have no real reason to doubt him. He clearly wants to be here, if only to learn the true extent of his newfound powers.

4: 6/27
Joel has been placed in Isolation Chamber 401; as per usual, any attempted escape will cause the chamber to be plunged into the cryogenic stasis chamber, though I don't believe he will attempt an escape.

While en route to further testing this morning, Joel accidentally bumped into a passing officer. The contact between the officer's skin and Joel's mass suddenly caused the officer to begin screaming in complete terror and drop to the floor, repeatedly slapping his body and becoming unresponsive to any outer stimulus. It was only when Joel, in a panic, touched the officer again that he stopped screaming. Joel, however unnerved by this reaction, agreed to be taken to isolation; he, in fact, insisted upon it, fearing this new development.

The guard was questioned some time later, after he had been brought to the infirmary. He claimed that, upon contact with Joel, he suddenly believed he had burst into flames

This is the first time Joel made physical contact with someone's bare skin. All the scientists from the past two days were wearing thick, nylon gloves, in fear of any contaminants. This might have been the ideal choice.

5. 6/27 (ctd.)
Interviewed Joel via the intercom in his cell. Joel attested that he did not intend, or even know, what he did to the guard. Joel stated that, when the guard began screaming, Joel had a sudden, brief vision of fire; Joel had no way of knowing of the guard's arsonphobia. His decision to touch the guard again in an attempt to get him to stop screaming was 'a shot in the dark'.

6. 6/29
Joel has been allowed out of isolation. He agreed to, and indeed insisted upon, keeping his distance from any and all staff. Going the extra mile, Joel shrank himself somewhat, to reduce the risk of bumping into someone and causing another incident.
Upon returning to his cell, Joel 'lay' in his bed and did not move for the remainder of the day. Surprisingly, he opted not to call his family.

I am pleased to see Joel’s compliance and cooperation with the Department; I’ve seen my fair share of new metahumans who, understandably, loathe being treated ‘like animals’ when, in reality, we are simply taking every precaution we feel is necessary. Fifty years after the first metahumans, and there are still too many unknowns.

7. 7/1
Joel has, reluctantly, agreed to demonstrate whatever phenomenon occurred on the 27th. He was asked to touch Sergeant Coulson, who has been noted to demonstrate complete emotional stability in the line of duty.

Upon contact, Coulson immediately stumbled away from Joel and began screaming. The subject’s screams were somewhat more coherent than the officers' from the previous incident. Coulson screamed about 'them' being all over him, and clawed at his skin, trying to swat something unseen from his chest. Joel promptly 'undid' the influence, and Coulson quickly calmed down.
Coulson explained that, upon contact, he suddenly saw himself being swarmed by spiders of various species and sizes. He has a severe case of arachnophobia.

In the meantime, Joel has finally managed to learn to shape himself to appear human again; he stated that doing so is extremely difficult, and he almost relishes the chance to resume his ‘black sand’ form. He theorized that, if assuming human form wasn’t so strenuous, he may be able to blend with his environment ‘like a chameleon’, but decided not to dwell on it.

8. 7/3
Joel’s parents called asking if he may return home for the Fourth of July, or at least if they may come to the facility. Unfortunately, given Joel’s current state and inexperience with his abilities, we could not allow this. His mother was clearly upset, but did not argue.

After speaking with his family, Joel expressed concern regarding the event that he is unable to control his powers, and asked what would happen to him.

I told him we would keep trying, but I opted not to tell him what would happen; there had been some reports of those who couldn’t control their powers and needed to be kept in isolation, for the safety of the general public. I don’t think that’ll happen to Joel, though; he’s shown great progress these past few days. He even mentioned that, if he fully controls his abilities, he’d like to become an agent. He jokingly noted that the Department wouldn’t have to ‘spring for a costume!’

9. 7/4
Joel has continued to test his newfound ability on willing participants. The material that composes his body appears to focus a frequency that reaches the brain and causes the victim to hallucinate their worst fears, or whatever Joel chooses, though Joel reported that it is ‘easier, and feels more natural, to make them live their own fears, rather than introduce new ones’. We’ve also discovered that, while a subject is under the influence of this technique, Joel is invisible to them; really, he can blind the subjects to anyone, make them only see the things they fear.

Joel has expressed a desire to see if he can better control this ability, in hopes of avoiding causing an accidental hallucination in the event of him bumping into someone again.

10. 7/9
He’s done it!

It took several days, but Joel finally learned to control his ability, which he refers to as ‘Nightmare’. With sufficient focus and willpower, Joel managed to touch ten consecutive volunteers without incident; he did report that he caught a glimpse of something in each participant's minds. For example, he discussed that, upon touching subject Evans, he saw the subject being held over the edge of an impossibly high building, seeing the ground at least twenty miles down. The subject explained that he is ‘deathly afraid of heights’.

Joel considered this and analogized this finding with ‘peering into a glass of water. Unleashing the full Nightmare causes the glass
to spill over.’ After a moment he admitted that the analogy might not be particularly strong, but the point got across: Joel can see, and make people experience, their greatest fears.