[AN: My original run of this FF wasn't that well received and I personally felt as though it could be improved after I noticed I had put out 10 chapters and nothing big had happened in the story yet. So this is a retelling of that story with (hopefully) better dialog, wording and longer chapters to better express my thoughts. Those of you who have read through the original, I urge (beg) you to go through this one. There were changes major and minor to the overall story, plus it has that new fic smell. This story treats P1, P2 and The P2 Prequel comics as canon. Enjoy.]
A couple splashes of red, a few snapping sounds and flash of second-hand memories. That is what he has been seeing for the past few hours. James reformed himself. His body had broken down into a mass of bioluminescent flesh as all of his focus went into parsing through Mercer's vast collection of memories. He had to go through it this way. He had to take his time with his research for taking in the thousands of lifetimes of info Alex had could take days. Yet there were no answers to the question that has haunted him for weeks: Why am I hearing voices? He held his head against his newly formed hands as the pain from the influx of information intensified. His heavy gasps echoed into the darkness of the old church he decided to use as a quiet space.
Then came the whispers that have annoyed him since Alex's death. Multiple voices of men and women in his head spoke at once like a crowd in a concert hall.
'Free me', "Help me', 'Evil men in masks', 'Kill them' they'd say in different intensities. Some begged others demanded.
"Shut up!" he boomed.
The voices continued.
Heller's body collapsed back into the mound of bioluminescent flesh and he retreated back into the memories of the man he killed. Only like this could he escape the constant badgering in his brain.
He probed deeper and deeper, combing through memories of birthday parties him and Alex never been to, doctor visits they never made, schools they never attended, girlfriends and boyfriends they never loved.
It was like a family tree of minor relationships all with one constant; Alex Mercer. Each memory ended with a swift or brutal killing and then darkness. All he needed to do was follow these broken thoughts to the source and stay on the true line. But every time he thought he had a decent flow, his concentration was broken by another memory popping in and taking him on a journey through unimportant pasts.
He'd get a flash of running through New York chasing a giant beast that was kidnapping Dana and he'd be in a park on his back getting his head kicked in by Mercer. He'd be on a roof telling his life's story to Captain Cross and then be choking on his own blood in science gear as Alex ran a bladed arm into his gut. The mass of viral flesh rippled. If he was in human shape it would've been an audible groan.
The trip down memory lane had gone through at least 100 different people now and Alex kept slipping through. It was difficult to separate these stories and he knew part of it came from the voices. He only wanted to see Alex's full story, to know if he too suffered from the voices, but they only wanted to show him those they thought guilty being executed.
The mass tightened and it's flesh hardened into a bone-like carapace. Heller was going to make the deepest plunge he could and follow the trail of his former enemy until he got what he needed. He began with his own memories, the hooded Blacklight being on his knees in front of him stating those fateful last words "Welcome to the top of the food chain".
Then he followed from the latest memories he got from him after consumption where he discovered where Alex contained Dana and his daughter, Amaya. The images began to blur as other pasts began to bleed in, but he pushed on. Heller followed along with Alex in reverse, retracing his steps to see if he had dealt with the noise in his mind and how to control it.
The events came to him backwards, but were what he was searching for:
-Threatening the Evolved to stay on task.
-Telling Dana his secret plan.
-Contaminating Whitelight with his genes.
-Talking to Heller about his army.
-Reinfecting New York in Penn Station.
-Returning to New York in military vehicles disguised as a soldier.
-A cabin in the Canadian North.
-Intense pain from the voices.
-Walking around Paris at night.
-The voices again.
-Poor people dying in streets.
-A nuclear blast.
-A mutant beast.
Heller's mass dug into the cracked wood of the church. Heller noticed something familiar about this child. He has seen them before. He focused on it.
-Elizabeth Greene's child.
-Taken by Blackwatch when he was born.
-Held in captivity; dangerous.
Then the junk memories finally broke through. More death, more scientists slaughtered, more soldiers devoured. The hardened mass expanded spikes out of its shell which plunged themselves into the walls and ceiling of the old church.
"That's it! That is it! I've had it with this!" Heller screamed in his mind. "Show it to me. Show it all!"
A stream of madness poured into his consciousness. It was almost overwhelming. The voices came in, now in unison. In one multi-gendered voice they spoke:
"Freedom. Oppressors. Filth. All of them animals."
Heller heard their commentary echo throughout every cell of his body. His mind, his very being was being shown repeated images of murder. Again he focused. Concentrated on each sequence, each flash of death and rage as his body ached all over. It was the same pain- the same exact pain he felt Alex go through in his memories. The voices pushed Alex into madness, maybe he could be strong enough to resist?
His shell began to crack from the strain, but he ignored it. He needed to find the source. The images filtered through faster and faster, the voices became louder and louder and angrier.
"Kill them! Spread! Free me!"
Heller felt the source becoming clearer, much more defined as the pain and intensity increased. It was a familiar tugging in his head. The feeling he gets when he calls Hunters to aid him in battle. A mental link that force urges into their minds and commands them to action. Heller was on the pet end of this mental leash and was fighting to keep from being pulled in the same direction Alex was. All he needed was to know who was trying to control him. Who was trying to persuade him with these voices and visions of murdered humans.
He followed the tugging in his mind and pulled on it as much as he could. He knew the hivemind was shared. Even though there can only be a miniscule number of leaders he knew he could view who the leader was through it. Just as they were pulling him in one direction he pulled them closer to him. The voices began to blur into one inaudible, sped up speech and the images thinned out into darkness.
One final offense.
The spiked, bone-case mound roared from within and Heller mentally pulled as hard as he could on the hivemind. Finally, he got a picture:
-Cement walls, floors and ceiling.
-Multiple bright lights above.
-A large view window above.
-Human figures behind the glass.
All familiar. Every detail was something he had seen before. His mind slipped and the hivemind broke away from him. The voices stopped and the images faded. Heller's body shrank back into it's human form and he stood in the broken ground in the middle of the church with his head low. His mind now was now clear and he knew what was happening. Those were the same things he saw when viewing the memories that referenced the child. This Pariah as he has been named, is held by Blackwatch and he wants out. His mother, Elizabeth Greene, was always speaking with him through the hivemind. She was already driven insane by the virus.
Then it spoke through Alex after he consumed her. Using her connection with him to put the drive into Alex's mind to spread the virus, so that he may be free. Now it was trying to do the same with Heller.
James felt the tug once more. The voices whispered to him, "Freedom". If Alex Mercer could be driven mad by the hivemind used by this child, Heller could be too. Maybe it was luck, maybe it was his "stubborn DNA" as Alex put it, but for some reason the boy could not persuade him as easily. Though, if given enough time, he would gain control. He could end up starting the infection again and killing millions maybe billions of people- even his daughter.
Heller can't let that happen. He opened the old wooden doors of the church and stepped into the mid-morning sun. The people around him didn't notice for they were too concerned with their own needs. Food and water was more of a concern than a strange man coming out of an old cathedral.
James pushed passed the crowd of pedestrians with purpose. He walked swiftly to the East knowing that a Military Base was in that direction. He molded his flesh into a Captain's uniform. Those who noticed screamed and ran for their lives. Those who didn't catch the initial change assumed the commotion was because the modern Gestapo was stomping through and gave him a wide berth. Blackwatch garnered fear from those they were meant to protect. That fear is well-deserved due to their less than humanitarian efforts. The suit of his enemies was always uncomfortable for him, but he could not deny its uses. He'll be able to enter the military depot with free reign over anyone inside, thanks to the marker on his shoulder and the color of his gear.
His phone buzzed within his pocket. He knew only a handful of trusted individuals had his number, but he was hesitant to answer. It'd most likely be his daughter and he felt it'd be too unsettling to tell her he would not be home anytime soon.
"Hello?" he answered in a somber voice that was not his own.
"Uhhh, who is this?" Dana Mercer questioned.
James cleared his throat a few times, allowing for his vocal chords to reshape to their base form.
"Dana, sorry. It's me." He responded.
"Oh, okay. Got worried for a second there. Uhm, I'm calling because-"
"Did he pick up?!" an excited young girls voice interrupted.
"Yeah, I-" Dana tried to continue.
"Can I talk to him?!"
"Not now, Kiddo. This is kind of important, you know the rules about important talk."
James felt a knot in his stomach. He hasn't seen his daughter in a few days. The voices in his head won't give him peace and his fears of the unknown won't allow him to be with her comfortably. He could've been going crazy he thought; could have been turning into one of those people that talk to nothing out on the streets. So he left her with Dana until he could sort it out. Now knowing where the source of his schizophrenia comes from and what it is capable of if unchecked, he is even less likely to return to her anytime soon. It hurts him to be apart from her again, but if it's for her safety he deals with it. But she nor Dana know about this, nor would they truly understand. Every day she has called wondering when he'd come home, and every day he tells her soon and every day it breaks his heart to lie to her. Now he must tell her they will be a part for even longer.
"She really misses you, Muscles."
"I know, I know. Look, I-"
"It's okay. You don't have to give me an excuse. I understand that you have a duty to protect us. I appreciate it and I know she does too. I think we'd just both be a little less restless is we got some type of ETA. Is that how you army guys say it?"
"Dana, I won't be coming home for... maybe a few more days," Heller said solemnly. "I have to leave New York."
"Woah, what? Why?!"
"It's big, really big. Like taking out all of Blackwatch big."
"My God, that is... I... I don't know what to say to that exactly."
"Just tell me you can watch over Maya for a little more. Please."
"James you know I love that little girl, I just... she really misses you. This will crush her."
"I know. It's just the only option I have."
"I understand. I'll let her know, but please, please be careful!"
"I will, I'll call you when I get free. But for now I have to stay silent. I'll hit you up later."
Heller hung up. He knew Dana wouldn't call him back. She knows not to disturb him in times like this, but he knew he owes her an apology and a well thought out explanation. But for now it was go-time. He marched into the base with the swagger and head bob his current skinsuit was known for. Heller copied the Captains mannerisms perfectly to better conceal his intentions. A Lieutenant ran up to him with a proper salute.
"Good to see you back, sir!" the Lt. said.
"Cut the shit and prep a flight for me to the mainland!" he spoke with the voice and mannerism of the Captain.
The Lt. awkwardly followed behind his fake commanding officer.
"But, sir, the virus threat is only on the island!"
"No... it isn't."
He stopped his stride and turned to face his following lackey and grabbed him by his vest and pulled him close to his masked face.
"Now get me a bird out of here!"
Heller pushed him away and the Lt. ran off to prepare the pilots for takeoff.
Vandenberg Air Force Base
30 Meters Below Ground
Cell Block D
You get used to the taste of your own blood, especially in this line of work. It becomes a daily reminder that you are not unstoppable. That you can be wounded. That you are human. He breathed in deeply from his nose and felt it ooze to the back of his throat. He spat a loogie of it on the floor to mix with the rest. Then he was punched again, this time with vigor. If he wasn't chained to the chair he would've fallen over from the force. His head ached and his neck was sore from the whiplash. He was tired, mentally and physically- comes with the sleep deprivation they put you through. Torture was a part of his training when he first started here. None of this was new. But it surely was not fun. Especially when they label you a traitor. That's when they go all out.
A bucket of ice cold water was poured over him, washing away the sweat and blood. Whatever moment of rest he thought he could have was interrupted by the sting of a slap across the face. General Pratchett was the interrogator. He was also his commanding officer. He was pissed. He towered over him with his 6'4" stature and thick gray beard. His white undershirt stained red with blood. The General was pushing close to 80, but he was a solid slab of muscle. When you begin powerlifting in the military it becomes a part of your daily life. Something not taken away by the duties of Blackwatch. He readjusted his gloves and balled up his fists ready to strike again.
"We have a code here, son." he started in his chain smoker's voice. "A code of ethics. In that code we designate what is and is not allowed within the ranks."
He grabbed his victim's face and forced him to look into his eyes.
"Treason is not one of them."
He gassed the detainee with an uppercut to the gut. One of the guards next to the cell door handed the General a file. He opened it and thumbed through the pages until he got to the pictures. He held them up to the bound man's face.
"This is you in the Gentek building with our target. Looks like you were ready to take him into custody."
He let the photo fall into the bloodied man's lap.
"This is you killing the two soldiers who accompanied you."
That picture too fell out of his hand and into the other man's lap.
"This is you allowing the target to leave."
The final image joined the rest. Gen. Pratchett handed the file back to his subordinate.
"You allowed the target to escape and turned on your own men. In doing so you allowed all that we have worked for to go to ruin."
His voice was calm, but everyone could feel the air changing.
"You were one of the most decorated soldiers we had. So I ask you former Colonel Rooks, what made you soft?"
Rooks lifted his head as best he could on his own. The dim lighting of his cell barely helped his blurred vision.
"I am not soft," he began, mumbling through busted lips and chipped teeth. "I just know when a cause is lost. You had me brought here to answer for the crimes of not eliminating the threats James Heller and Alex Mercer, but you do not understand. You walk around here, all day every day, in your metal fortress where you're only prisoner is a child. Whereas I am out there, where monsters roam in the skins of men. These monsters aren't like us. They can't be swayed by threats or harmed by bullets. They can't be threatened by us. If they could be stopped they would have been. But with every mission, every deployment we make, we lose more men and more resources. New York is a lost cause. Stopping Mercer and Heller is a lost cause. Fighting them is. A. Lost. Cause. So instead of fighting, I tried reason. He could've killed me- your photos don't show that. Twice he could have ended my life, but he didn't for whatever reason- I don't know. But the man is a father and like any good father he'd fight for his child. That's what he did. That's what he was doing all along. He fought for his child. If all he wanted was his kid back if all it took was his daughter being reunited with him to end the madness then giving her to him could be seen as me completing my mission."
With a roar he kicked Rooks across the face.
"Your mission is to remove all contaminants of the virus from civilian areas and to retrieve all assets for the betterment of our understanding of it!" Pratchett yelled in his ringing ears. "His daughter is an asset to us. She was to be brought here and used for our advancement in research!"
He gripped his hand tightly around Rook's throat cutting off his breathing.
"But because of you and your pansy ass good deed we lost what could've been the key to knowing how the boy works!"
He squeezed harder before letting go. He likes to show off his power. Likes to show how close he can get someone to death before he lets them live the horror of pain again.
"I do not...feel bad... for what I have done," the former Colonel choked out. "Because of me, the virus is gone and the tangos are MIA. Most likely they have killed each other. Because of me, our mission in New York is over!"
"No, it isn't." Pratchett replied. "We need that girl. We need her DNA. Or at the very least her father's, but from what I understand your men allowed him to destroy all of that too."
"This is bullshit!" he said through his teeth, well, the ones he had left. "Why are we here to eradicate the virus threat if we are just going to keep making it worse?! Why do we keep playing around with biological weaponry like they're our toys?! I was told Blackwatch was created to combat these mistakes not to create more!"
The General gave a chuckled. A mocking, chest bouncing chuckle. One that signified that what was just said was possibly the dumbest thing he has ever heard.
He sighed, "I knew it. I knew you weren't ready. After Randall was killed, someone had to go into the field. When they said it would be you, I just knew that they made a mistake. You say I don't see how this works, but you must be completely blind to who you work for. We are Blackwatch, son, we are here to combat our mistakes, yes. But to also improve upon them so that our next endeavour won't be as disastrous. Our scientists say the DNA held within Heller and his daughter could be the ultimate piece to this. Our mission isn't to eradicate the virus, but to perfect it for our own objectives."
These were things that were always hinted to Rooks by the brass. These were things that were obvious, but for whatever reason he hid them away. He has killed people. Killed civilians in the name of duty, to keep the greater good safe from their failures. He didn't know what exactly he expected to do when he found out they didn't really have a desire to end their weaponization of the virus. He guessed he'd plan on resigning. But you can't leave Blackwatch- not alive anyway.
Pratchett looked through the folder one last time.
"You have a wife and child."
Rooks tried to jump up as best he could.
"Don't you dare!"
"That's probably why he let you live. Probably saw himself within you! Pathetic."
He threw the folder against his chest.
"I won't go near your family, Rooks..."
One oh Pratchett's guards slid open the metal cell door and stepped out.
"...but neither will you. You have been sentenced to death. The next time we meet I will be killing you. I just need time to decide how. Enjoy the few hours you have left."
Everyone walked out the cell and the lights clicked off leaving Rooks in the darkness. He was not too proud to cry. He has told them he didn't feel bad for what he did. Even when his men turned their weapons on him, placed him on a plane to this base, and they threw him into this cell, he believed the entire time he did the right thing. Now he is regretting that decision. He gave up his family, so someone else could have theirs.
Vandenberg Air Force Base
60 Meters Below Ground
Research Bay C-03 E-Code Labs
"Beautiful aren't they?" Dr. Myers asked his colleagues while stroking his thick, dark goatee. "So human, yet so... much more."
The other scientists in the room looked at each other with puzzlement. They always found Myers to be very... eccentric, but with their recent breakthroughs he's become much more unnerving to the crew. Like the rest of them he was being paid to produce any war-zone applicable advancements on the Blacklight virus, but he clearly was getting some other depraved form of personal satisfaction for their morally questionable practices.
His eyes were glued to the multiple screens playing, ending and replaying footage of the Evolved from the second New York outbreak. Their fights with Heller, their killings of fellow operatives, each act of violence they could have captured on film was running in front of his eyes and he was infatuated with it. He swung his hips back and forth in his swivel chair with almost childlike interest. All he wanted to do was watch. The security door opened and two unmasked troopers entered with purpose. They pushed past the other lab coats and made a beeline to Myers and stood on either side of him.
"Dr. Myers," the brown skinned, shaven head bearing soldier started,"you were to meet us topside. Did you not hear the announcements we made?"
"Oh yes I did, Deacon. They're very distracting. So I had the intercom disconnected. Can't be working with test tubes and doing measurements with loud noises blurting unexpectedly. It rattles the bones." Myers said trembling his hands in the air in front of him and not letting his gaze leave the screens.
Both operatives looked around realizing that indeed he was telling the truth. The announcement speaker was no longer a speaker, but a bunch of tangled wires coming out of a hole in the wall.
"Regardless," Deacon continued, "you are being moved to an off-base facility. We must go now."
"Bah!" The near elderly scientist scoffed throwing his wrist in a refusing manner. "I don't want to leave. I refuse."
"The decision was already made by people higher than the both of us."
"Then tell those people I am not moving. My research is here, my notes are here, I am surrounded by everything I ever made. Why would I leave this behind?"
"Again, doctor, that is not something you can disagree with."
"They asked me to work on the virus for them. I did so. They asked me to improve their D-Code soldiers. I did so. They asked me to look over that marvel of evolution they call a boy and I did so. They owe me this comfort."
Deacon sighed and grabbed the area between his eyes. He has dealt with the good doctor's stubbornness before, but at this moment it was becoming very aggravating. He was ordered to take the doctor off-base. He'd be damned if he let an old man's obstinacy get him chewed out by the General.
"Well, we tried doing this nicely." he said with mild disappointment in his voice. "Santos, please help the doctor out of this room."
Santos, the lighter skinned operative who had been scowling ever since he entered the lab, harshly grabbed Dr. Myers by the back of his neck and yanked him out of his chair. Papers and empty vials fell off the doctor's workstation as he was literally pulled away from his desk and thrown out into the hallway. Myers laid on the floor covering his head to protect himself from whatever Santos did next. Santos stomped into the hallway and pulled Myers up by his shirt, making him stare into his eyes, one of which was blinded and white.
"Do you feel like moving now, doc?!" Deacon mockingly asked from the lab.
He turned his attention to the rest of the scientists in the room. He met each of their panicked expressions with his own vacant stare.
"We only needed, Myers. Get back to work."
They didn't move, practically frozen in fear. Deacon furrowed his brow and chambered a round in his rifle. Everyone immediately rushed back into their routines. He turned and walked out the lab closing the door behind him.
"Let's move." He said to Santos.
Santos then took Dr. Myers by the arm and marched him with Deacon down the concrete corridor, which would lead them up and out of the building.