Even though there's not really time for it now, there won't be a chance for it when this is all over so I let him talk so he can be done with any indecision that might be left, any regrets or doubts. I had the better part of a lifetime to get ready for this, he's had less than a month.

ZEUS, the Blacklight virus, Alex Mercer, whatever name he's known by, he's the only chance this city has left. The military has failed, Blackwatch failed, worst of all, I failed. He's the cause of all this and only he can set it right again, so I let him talk. From time to time, when he pauses as though expecting condemnation I encourage him to continue, I try not to offer judgment. I'm not one to judge at this point and judgment is the last thing he needs.

I'm hardly even listening to him as lost in my own thoughts as I am. It doesn't matter though, he just he needs to tell this all to someone and I'm the only one who'll ever give him the chance.

Maybe I'm letting him talk because I know I won't live to see the end of all this and deep in that animal part of the brain where survival is the only thing that matters, I'm not ready to die yet. As long as he keeps talking I'm putting off dying. Maybe that part that doesn't want to die isn't even me anymore. There's little enough of me left now and death would be a relief.

I'm fading fast.

We will burn our own to hold the red line.

We all said it and all took it to heart, or at least thought we did when we thought it meant that we might end up needing to kill the guy standing next to us to contain an outbreak. Now I understand that we're all the guy next to someone and right now it's my turn to be that guy.

It's my own fault too.

Mercer continues to unburden himself of the sins he's collected in the name of vengeance and truth, the sins he's gathered from those he's consumed and those who manipulated him.

I wish that I could have the chance to make such a confession, but that would ruin everything, everything I've set him up to do. I am one of those manipulators.

Even before I realized that I was dying I was working on building him up to something useful. Blacklight was supposed to be our weapon after all.

Randall was too paranoid, too cautious, ready to nuke Manhattan and wash his hands of the whole mess rather than look and see how the situation could be turned to our advantage, a field test for our latest technology and pet projects. Not to mention I may have wanted to get the chance to play at being a hero for once. Normally Blackwatch destroys things, but this could have been my chance to save something for once.

From the start I knew Mercer could put an end to it, he just needed a little push in the right direction.

This is what Blacklight was engineered for.

Mercer doesn't realize the truth, but why should he? He's not the expert, he's just the tool in the hands of the expert. He thinks that he's just like the infected roaming the streets, but he's dead wrong. They're not Blacklight in any usable form, they're whatever strain Green spewed out when he set her free.

His strain of Blacklight has no compulsion to spread, it's supposed to be safe to use. It, Mercer, is the ultimate biological weapon, beyond even what the so called super soldiers are capable of. The super soldier project was a waste of time and funds, as demoralizing for our men as they were devastating to the infected.

Mercer doesn't realize that Green was actually one of two central minds maintaining the momentum of the virus and when the second, backup mind, the one that would have ended up a most unusual and terrible runner in any other circumstances, is killed the infection will cease to spread. I've dealt with this before, so I know.

Maybe I'm letting him talk because I feel bad about what I'm doing to him. I get to take the easy way out, he's going to live with what he's seen and done.

For him it's been just a few weeks of unforgivable actions, for me it's been nearly a lifetime of such deeds. For me it's nearly over and I'm glad for it.

I spent my whole Blackwatch career building up an image, a reputation, and that's what killed me, not a runner, not one of the infected, not even the virus itself, but the man I made myself to be.

And now that image is all I have left to cling to, all that's keeping me going.

No one will ever know now, but when I hunted down and killed that last runner and everyone before that, I saw her as the girl she once was. I felt the obligation to end them myself rather than let one of my men do it because I would remember them, remember that they once had lives and loved ones who, if they were still alive, would forever wonder what happened to their missing daughter.

But that wasn't the face my men saw, to them I was larger than life, chasing down that runner on my own because I was that brave, that good at what I did.

That image, the face I showed to the world, or at least that dark little corner of the world where I did all of my work, was also the reason I refused to wear any of the usual protective gear.

I knew the virus wasn't airborne, we all did, but I was the only one brave enough to not wear a mask, or at least that was what they all thought. It inspired them even if they were too fearful to do the same.

The real reason I did it was to deprive myself of the shelter of anonymity. Too many of the others were able to hide behind their masks and from their hiding place gain the sick bravery that let them do all of the unspeakable things that we did.

The virus has to enter the bloodstream for a person to catch it, so there was no need to wear a mask other than to hide your face from the people you would kill.

I still don't know how I caught it. I was never bitten or scratched, thank goodness. If my men had known they would have needed to kill me and that would have been devastating for moral and given Randall the excuse to drop the bomb and be done with it all. Maybe I'd cut myself shaving, not impossible considering how hard it is to get around those old scars, something too small to see, but just enough for blood splatter from shooting a hunter at close range to get to it.

If that were the case than leading by example would be the cause of my death. There was no need for me to be out on the front lines at my age, fighting the infection face to face, but I wouldn't feel right sitting behind some desk, ordering others to commit atrocities in the name of protecting America from whatever super plague our scientists were smart enough to cook up and dumb enough to let get out.

I don't even know when I first realized I was infected because the whole notion that I might succumb to the virus was something that never crossed my mind..

The headaches I blamed on stress and all of the noise, helicopters taking off and landing, explosions from all around, the howls of the infected.

The nausea was due to the smell, all the blood, the rot, the wet, meaty stick of the infected.

The shaking was nerves, it was all stressful and I wasn't getting any younger.

Now I won't be getting any older.

They all kept up though, getting steadily worse until I was actively struggling against my own body. I still didn't think of it as the virus though. I wouldn't let myself think of it in those terms.

I could feel it creeping up in me, getting a foothold in the back of my mind, but I fought it off like I'd fought everything else off, advancing age, failing health, the guilt that came with making a career of atrocity. I didn't ignore it, I fought it into submission and went on with holding the red line, that damned line that's all that's separating me from the infection.

I do know when I finally accepted it, when the hunter didn't kill me when it killed all the others. No amount of justifying could explain away that even if my men were willing to believe that I survived because I was just that good.

Protocol dictated that I should have reported what I had come to accept, but I couldn't. It would have been the end of Blackwatch, the end of the city and who knows what else. As bad as we are, Blackwatch is the only thing protecting America from things like Green the other monsters it's created.

Since then I've been living on borrowed time and strength of will. In a way I'm glad that Randall's decided to act now, forcing me to play my hand and push Mercer to end all this. Otherwise I might have just kept fighting and losing ground little by little until there wasn't enough of me left to keep going.

Fighting the infection within and without has been exhausting. I haven't been able to sleep for days.

Every time I close my eyes I can feel it spreading, trying to push out who I am.

It's not visible yet, which would make me a runner if not for the fact that I'd never run, but if I fall asleep that'll be the end. I might not end up a runner, but I will end up something inhuman. Maybe something like Green.

I've been able to keep going for a week without sleep thanks to some wonderful little pills not available to the civilian population, but they only work for so long, and then you crash.

And when I finally crash I won't be coming back up afterwards. The virus doesn't sleep, it'll overwhelm me and make me it.

Little bits and pieces have been falling away, it's breaking down everything but my will to fight because that's all I have left.

Like Randall cut off his arm to stay alive, I'm cutting off bits of myself, my mind, to hold out against the infection. All the little useless things I accumulated over my life, unimportant memories are part of what has to be burned to hold the red line. I'm left with the bare essentials, the most easily defensible position.

If you were to ask me my mother's maiden name I couldn't tell you.

Where I went to high school is a blank as well, swallowed up by the raging black sea of the infection.

I don't even know why I got into Blackwatch to begin with. Maybe I started out as much a monster as all my men and can't recall what changed me.

All I know is that it can't be that important, otherwise I would have made an effort to save it.

What I was doing before the outbreak is a mystery to me as well.

I can only imagine what, if any, retirement plans I might have made.

The red line is the final line to hold.

We will burn out own to hold the red line.

It's such a thin line now though, the lapping darkness of the infection eating away at it.

All I've kept is what lets me fight.

I know why I don't wear a mask, and I know that I never forget the ones I've killed.

Mercer's done with his confession now and I wish I could start mine, but there's still work to be done while there's still enough of me left to do it.

o0o

Good.

Randall's dead.

Mercer can stop the bomb, I just don't know how.

His problem, not mine, not that I'm proud of that. My life was spent cleaning up other people's messes, now someone else has to clean up mine.

I just wish I could say something to him, but there's no time for all of what I'd like to say. No time for anything.

Even if it weren't for the bomb he needs to stop I can feel the crash coming on and I'm too tired and there's not enough left of me to fight it.

I'm drowning, but at least now I can sleep.

I just hope that when Mercer kills what I become he'll remember my face, what I was, because I don't think there's anyone else who will.

I don't.

~Rest~