Something so stupidly coincidently just had to be fate…except Blades didn't really believe in fate so he was left with the unpleasant assumption that life just had a really nasty sense of humor. The fact that he was alive even one day past his expiration date he was thankful for, even if he hadn't said as much to his rescuer.
Robert Bolton. His 'father', in the most genetically literal sense. It was bizarrely ironic, and Blades wasn't entirely sure how to feel about the whole thing so he simply chose to ignore the complications and focus on the reality.
Bolton lived in squalor. The tiny, tunnel-like home he'd dug himself was cramped with furniture that practically fell apart under the weight of a stern gaze. Food wrappings were piled up all over the place, merely shoved to one side rather than properly cleared away by the man who obviously didn't care much about his eating habits, and there was a thin layer of slime on most things…except the books and the computer. These were perfectly preserved; Bolton wore gloves while handling them. Everything else looked salvaged from dumps, but Blades wasn't about to complain. He could be dead. The wet smell of decay was positively beautiful by comparison.
He did not, however, appreciate being ignored. The most he'd gotten was a cursory checkup to ensure he was as healthy as a clone with a genetic flaw could be. After that Bolton had shuffled into his rickety chair and had been typing away like a man possessed, as though racing some unseen time limit. Maybe he was – Blades wasn't about to ask – but it seemed like Bolton wasn't going to cease any time soon, and despite his near brush with death, Blades was bored.
"So," he began conversationally, careful to keep his irritation out of his voice. "Now that you have me, what do you want me to do for you?"
Bolton started a little. Blades wondered how long Bolton had been down here alone, but without enough real interest to actually check the dates programmed into his memories and find out.
"Pardon?" Bolton asked, swiveling in his chair which creaked ominously.
"Your orders," Blades clarified. "What do you want me to do?"
Bolton glanced at him for a moment longer before returning his attention to his typing. "Nothing."
"Nothing," Bolton confirmed, not even bothering to look up.
Blades pondered this for a moment. "Nothing now, I suppose, but what about later?"
"I told you. Nothing."
Blades stared incredulously at Bolton's back for a moment. Bolton had saved him, knew the clone was dependent on him, and didn't want him to do anything it return? Yeah right. He probably just hadn't made up his mind yet.
Still, Blades wasn't in any position to argue the point, so he simply nodded in acquiescence. "That fine, but what am I supposed to do? I can't just sit around here all day."
Bolton pointed off to his right. "There's the door. You can go explore the tunnels."
Blades' eyes narrowed. So Bolton was playing with him. "Right. And when the drug runs out I'll just curl up in a corner and die, will I? No thanks."
Looking up from his work once more, the scientist favored him with a weary look. "As long as you're back by tomorrow morning I don't see that you'll have any problem."
Blades glanced between Bolton and the door. "So, you're saying I can go out on my own?"
"With no restrictions?"
Bolton smiled wryly. "Well I'd prefer you didn't go on another spree of recklessness, but essentially yes."
"And when I came back you'd give me the dosage?"
"…What's the catch?"
Bolton sighed in exasperation. "There is no catch. I told you, I don't want anything from you."
"Then why did you save me? There must have been some reason."
Bolton didn't answer, and after a moment of searching the scientist's face Blades smirked twistedly. "A misplaced sense of family loyalty, perhaps? I hate to disappoint you, but blood doesn't mean anything."
It wasn't a smart idea, antagonizing Bolton, but Blades couldn't quite help himself. His bitterness ran deep. Maybe his position in life hadn't changed so much. Paradigm had wanted a loyal servant, a part that Blades could never play, and now here was Bolton, looking for another son…
Bolton's misshapen face darkened, and Blades began calculating the fastest route to the door, but the scientist only pinned him with a searching, unreadable look. "I just don't like to see life wasted, even if it's life Paradigm created.
"It's true he made you, and the fact that he used my own son's DNA might have something to do with my interest with you, but I would have helped you anyway. Paradigm may think he's broken me by giving me this body, but as long as I have breath I'll dedicate myself to undoing the evil he inflicts on the world, and giving second chances to those like you who shouldn't have been created in the first place."
Bolton's harsh breathing was the only noise in the poignant silence. After a moment he looked down, seeming to realize the implication of his last statement. "I don't mean to say-"
"That I shouldn't exist?" Blades asked, raising an eyebrow. "Why not? It's true."
"You have a right to live, and to make your own choices," Bolton insisted, scowling. "I intend to make sure you can. My fight with Paradigm keeps me here, but that doesn't have to involve you. You're free to do as you like."
Just what he'd always wanted, and it should have made him exultant, except that he'd begun to realize that being his own master was…daunting. Shoes too big for him to fill himself, with only a few weeks of life behind him and very little idea of who he was once the mask of Streex had been torn away.
He couldn't quite believe he was saying this. "Well then I'm choosing to be involved." Blades shrugged. "I owe Paradigm one anyway. If you're trying to screw him over then I want in."
"You…shouldn't be making any big decisions yet," Bolton said hastily. "The world's got more to offer you than this room. Go out. Take some time to think about it."
More like an order than a suggestion. He seemed to think Blades would change his mind after tasting fresh air. Blades decided to humor him. "Fine. But when I get back you're going to tell me about your master plan for getting rid of Paradigm, right?"
Bolton mumbled something that might have been an affirmative, turning back to his typing without much enthusiasm. Well, it was a start. Having life was all good, but Blades had found it unexpectedly empty without either a place or a purpose. Since Bolton had opened himself up with that unprecedented act of kindness, Blades was going to take the man for everything he could offer…and that lingering sense of gratitude had nothing to do with it.
And now I think I can officially call this story finished. Mind you it's only a springboard for various other projects, so there's always more story to tell. Comments and constructive criticisms are always appreciated! It's what gives me the strength to actually battle this site's stupid system to put these fics up, yes it does. ::sigh::