Mind Over Matter
Writer's Note: Not only do I not own anything, but considering how new this series is, chances are I'm going to get some details wrong, or have my plot points overwritten by the canon show. I'll see what I can do to retroactively fix them if I have to, but if you spot an error, well, that's probably why.
Also, the bit at the beginning for any of the people reading my other story who go 'Well I like what LGG has done so far, but I know absolutely nothing about this series so I won't read it because I have no idea what's going on'. Now you have no excuse to not give it a try! Ha…I'm so clever.
Also, I wanted to be the first fanfic for this show, but then AnimeGirl 144 went and beat me to the punch. And Just B3li3v3. And KrspaceT. And other people. Because I was lazy. Bleh. You still all suck and I hate you.
What, you wanted a story? I thought you'd want to see me ramble some more… *dodges thrown objects* OKAY OKAY HERE WE GO!
There are days when the world changes.
The day that man learned to control fire. The day that man properly crafted gunpowder. The day that man split the atom.
Five years ago, another such day began. When it was over, nothing would ever be the same again. An accident unleashed a whole new breed of machinery, the microscopic entities known as nanites. Within a time period so short it was barely believable, the nanites infested every living organism on the planet.
For most cases, that was all they did.
For some, far worse occurred. The nanites would sometimes force radical, catastrophic changes in living creature's cell structures, changing them and imbuing them with strange powers. Why it did this, how it began, and such other factors remained unknown: all that remained were the unfortunate victim, transformed into what became known as an E.V.O, an Exponentially Variegated Organism. Against such creatures, conventional forces stood little chance.
The unconventional force that formed to battle them was known as Providence. Its men were some of the finest trained on the planet. But even they were not enough. Providence needed, and was granted, a secret weapon.
He had no memory of his past, no idea where he came from. But he had something to compensate: he was one of the few on the planet who could control the nanites within him. With their power, he could craft his body into fearsome weapons and potent mechanical constructs for virtually any scenario, command machines like they were an extension of himself, and perhaps more important of all, neutralize the wild nanites that created the EVO creatures.
Perhaps he is the best hope this new world has. Perhaps he will be the one to make it brave.
HE IS GENERATOR REX.
("Just Rex, moron! This is why I should do the intro!")
Ugh…fine. You wish for a thrill, Rex? Very well.
Time to you to learn the dark side of the word FEW.
Part 1: The Beast Below
"Hey kids, rock 'n roll
That's how I lost control
Hey kids, go get high
I can't remember why."
Y'know, sometimes getting a new room and a new friend just serves to remind you what hasn't changed.
My other best friend's still a super-intelligent chimpanzee, but that I wouldn't change for the world. No, it's the rest. Dr. Holiday still looks at me like I'm interesting science homework and not more entertaining after school activities, for one. And Agent Six? I don't think a black hole could remove the stick he had stuck up his rear, probably at birth. And ever since we ran into that Van Kleiss jackhole, he's been doing his best to ram one up me too. Ew, no, not that way!
Look, I know what I'm doing. I don't need to be treated like I'm auditioning for Full Metal Jacket. If you're gonna train me, at least do something interesting, like teach me some new moves. Instead, all I get are the same Danger Room-lite routines, over and over, so they can crunch data in their computers and keep telling me I need to go back in for more. Lammmeeee.
I'll find another way out. Eventually, they'll drop their guard.
If they don't bore me to death first.
For Rex, it was more of the same.
Same old room, all metal with who knows what gadgets hidden inside it. Same old lighting, which was too much. Same old instructions over an intercom. To Rex, all around, it was the same old excrement, though he used a more crude word than that in his head.
"Were you listening to a word I said Rex?" Agent Six's voice intoned over the intercom.
"Yeah yeah stand here stop that go there break that fly here wreck that yadda yadda, a-yadda, and some more yadda." Rex said, fiddling with his goggles for the fourth time in the past thirty seconds.
"I suggest you take it seriously Rex. We've been dialing up the threat assessment equipment steadily over the last few days. You are not playing in a jungle gym."
"I think I'd prefer that. Just for the difference." Rex said, snapping his goggles over his face. "Come on Six. Thrill me. If you're even remotely capable of something like that."
"Initiating first round Rex. Attempt to remain stationary." Six's voice said. Even as he spoke, the wall in front of Rex opened up, a giant mechanical fusion of a piston and a pile-driver emerging. Rex snorted and slammed his fists together, lines of white shooting up the limbs.
The machine swiftly lined Rex up and unleashed a mighty blow, firing off a house-sized pugil stick-like club of metal. The device had enough force behind that, had it impacted something like an eighteen-wheeler truck going at around 70 miles per hour, it would have been unmarked, while the truck would have been turned into something more resembling what a cartoon billy goat would chew on.
But even as it did that, Rex's arms expanded rapidly and fused together, forming into a similarly sized shield that Rex held out in front of him, setting his legs. The impact sent a vibration through him, but that was about it. The second blow from the device was also similarly semi-ignored, as was the third. The only reason Rex didn't hold up a hand to yawn was because he was using both arms to form his barrier.
"You SURE they've been dialing up stuff, Six? You sure they're not just lying to you so it looks like they're doing something?" Rex said. Six did not reply, though the fact that a second thrusting mechanism wheeled itself out of the wall and began pounding on Rex's shield in turn served well enough. Rex held his ground against the machines, despite their efforts to vary the attack by pounding in turn, then together, and then in a more erratic pattern. Rex stood through it all, barely budging, even when both devices slammed forward simultaneously and kept pressing forward instead of retracting, putting intense pressure on his shield. When that didn't work, a third device joined the fray, which inconvenienced Rex for about two seconds before he turned his legs into a cross between magnet boots and golf cleats from hell, his feet digging into the ground and keeping him firmly in place.
"Can we PLEASE move on to something interesting? Like watching paint dry? Maybe grass grow? Hey I heard about this new thing called water boiling, maybe we could…"
Rex never saw the tiny device zip over and land on his neck. But he darn sure felt it, as the small offensive drone promptly zapped him on his exposed skin with a tiny electrified needle, giving Rex the pleasant experience of knowing what it was like to be stung by an insect on the higher scale of the Schmidt Index.
"YEEEEOOOOOWWWW!" Rex yelled, instinctively reaching for his neck to slap at whatever was hurting him. This proved to be a poor, if understandable action, as Rex did so by withdrawing one of his arms from his construct in front of him.
Just as all three hammer-devices surged forward at the same time, slamming into Rex's weakened shield and sending him heads over heels backwards before he impacted the wall behind him. Fortunately for him, the steel wall behind him had been swapped out for a highly elastic gel when he wasn't looking. Unfortunately, the hammer-devices continued their push all the wall across the room, slamming Rex into the padded barrier with an unpleasantly wet crunching noise.
To add insult and slightly further injury to injury, Rex was promptly shoved out of the gel wall as soon as the hammers were withdrawn and flopped onto his face in about as uncool a way as possible. His only response was a low, deep growl in his throat.
Dr. Holiday, watching the monitors inside, was too slow to warn Agent Six was Rex was about to do, as he both sprang up and held out his hand. His nanites, having already withdrawn his shield and foot-bracing constructs, responded immediately and manifested one of Rex's favorite toys in turn: his car-sized blade that Rex had originally called the BFS, and, after being told repeatedly that such a name was far too crude, had taken to alternatively calling it the Imperious (a name that had actually gotten a raised eyebrow out of Bobo, who expected Rex to name his weapons more along the lines of 'Punch of Kill Everything', until he found out that Rex had gotten the name from a comic book, at which point everything again made sense to Bobo). Rex promptly used it to reveal a weakness in the hammer-devices: they were great against a stationary target, but not so much against a mobile, angry one.
Several seconds later the wall opened again, this time disgorging Agent Six, looking displeased as Rex dispelled the BFS/Imperious and looked around at the wreckage of the machines he'd turned into scrap.
"Those don't come cheap, you know." Six commented in his usual even tone.
"Maybe next time you won't be." Rex said, pointing at the suited man. "What's the big deal, Six? Have I gotten so good that you have to cheat now?"
"It's not deception, kid. It's reality. Yours." Agent Six said. A piece of broken machinery finally dislodged itself from its parent and plummeted towards Six's head: in one blurring motion Six had knocked it away with his specialized katana. "You've had it easy so far, but if you think every single EVO is going to be as repetitive and simplistic as this device, and as easy to combat, you have another thing coming."
"Then teach me something more then these same boring old routines! Don't suddenly pull the rug out from under me, Six! It's just not cool!"
"This isn't something to admire, Rex. It's a war. And we don't plan to lose." Six said. "We can't teach you to think on your feet and become aware of your surroundings, not entirely. You have to learn that on your own. If you don't, well…you saw what happened the first time you went up against someone who could actually use his head. Next time, he might be using yours as a kickball."
"So what's this supposed to teach me? That I can't trust anyone but myself?" Rex growled.
"We don't need your trust, Rex. We just need you to be as efficient as possible." Six said, looking at the wreckage with some distaste. "Albeit directed in a certain fashion. Return to your room, we won't be able to resume any combat training until we've repaired the damage from your little temper tantrum."
"Fine. Have fun playing janitor, Six. It seems to be your life's mission, and all. Me being a BIG MESS." Rex said, and stalked out of the training room. Six watched him leave, his face forever impassive.
"…I don't think that went well." Dr. Holiday said over the intercom.
"Not really, no." Six replied, replacing his sword in its concealed sheath.
"Why is he such an ass?" Rex complained some time later. While Providence was keeping an eye on him (as best they could, and to Rex that wasn't much), they hadn't complained about him wandering around the base and eventually heading into Dr. Holiday's lab. Probably thought it was a good thing he was staying inside, no matter where. Fortunately, Six was elsewhere, not that that helped Rex's attempts (in his mind) to charm the good doctor. She'd blown him off as usual, and Rex had sulkily slumped into a chair. Bobo had wandered in thereafter, holding a sandwich half the size he was and clearly seeking some entertainment to go with it.
"Rex, as much as I enjoy our conversations, I am somewhat busy." Dr. Holiday said, jotting down notes. "Not only do I have a lot of work, but I'm waiting on a phone call."
"Oh, did you go out and get yourself a man, doc? You shouldn't have had to look that far!" Rex said. Dr. Holiday ignored the teenager, continuing to jot down her notes. "Fine. What phone call?"
"An old colleague. He's been consulting me about his project."
"Is dat the one who spent two hours complaining that Dr. Aim poached some of his people for dat robot project Dr. Aim was working on?" Bobo asked, remembering how annoying the bits and pieces of the ranting he'd listened in on was.
"Yes, that was Dr. Tull. He had a good reason to be aggravated. His project can probably serve the human race better then the latest generation of mindless automatons." Dr. Holiday said.
"What is this project?" Rex asked, attempting the old trick of getting the girl interested by trying to feign interest.
"It's a cyberneurotic projection interface." Dr. Holiday said. "Very interesting mechanics. If he can get it to work, it will have all sorts of useful applications. Brain surgery, psychological treatment, addiction counseling…" Dr. Holiday said, looking up, and seeing, as expected, Rex's eyes having glazed over. "But I believe you were complaining."
"Oh yeah! Six! Big jerk!" Rex rambled.
"I take it you mean Agent Six's choice of tactics specifically." Dr. Holiday said, looking into a microscope. "I don't approve of them either, Rex, but his heart…"
"Fine, his intent is in the right place. He wants to keep you safe."
"Oh please! I can keep myself safe! Who's the one they come running to when nothing else works, eh? And how often does anything else work?" Rex said, primping.
"More often than you would realize, Rex." Dr. Holiday said.
"Thanks." Rex said grouchily, going into a slouch that seemed only possible when you were a put-upon teenager.
"The point is, Rex, is that you still have a lot of potential for growth. We want you to realize it before you end up in a crisis situation." Dr. Holiday said. "Kleiss and his associates have demonstrated that, like you, there are EVO's who can maintain their minds and wills when they turn. That may not be a good thing. Especially combined with that fact is that we have no idea exactly what causes EVO's to manifest, not yet. We don't even have anything resembling a set trigger factor. It could be environmental, psychological, sociological, or possibly completely extemporary."
"Huh?" Rex said.
"Lots 'o options for EVO's to pop kid. Not many of dem good." Bobo said, smacking his lips from the last bite of his sandwich.
"That's true. There's also the fact that there doesn't seem to be any deciding factor to what kind of metagenesis an EVO can go through. A person could gain the power to heal, or to go intangible, or literally halt the flow of time, with no consideration for what kind of person they are or what they could do with such power. We don't know the future, Rex. So we have to get you to know yourself. So you can see that future in the best possible health."
"Oh don't worry about me doc. I can take anything this world, or the future, throws at me." Rex said, standing up and fluffing his jacket
"I would like to think so." Dr. Holiday said, returning to her microscope. "But on a long enough timeline, the survival rate of everything drops to zero."
Rex opened his mouth to reply, only to find there was no witty rejoinder coming to mind. He closed his mouth and left the lap, not noticing Bobo's similar look of surprise.
"Now what's a nice smart lady like you doing reading Palahniuk?" Bobo asked.
"I find his immature nihilism amusing in its simplicity."
Somewhere in the United States.
James Madison High was named after the fourth president of the United States. It was unlikely that most, if not nearly all of the students that went there, knew or cared about that fact.
The figure walking through the hallways should have, in theory, called attention to himself. But as with most high school students, the teenagers of James Madison High were lost inside their own little worlds and the joys and problems within, and did not notice a rather disconcerting fact. The figure was wearing a long blue windbreaker, a TOO long blue windbreaker: the jacket was at least two sizes too big. This allowed the hood to mostly cover the wearer's face, as he walked slowly through the teeming school halls. Perhaps if his pants had been more unusual, someone might have noticed, but the figure was wearing simple blue jeans and athletic shoes, the same clothing that adorned dozens of students within the school. Lunchtime had begun about ten minutes ago, and the figure, if watched, would have clearly been observed to be heading to the cafeteria.
While the school hallways were not quiet, the noise level spiked dramatically upward inside the school's canteen, as the many students within caused a concentrated mass of sound that forced many of them to be even louder to try and hear themselves over their peers, fellows, and unfortunate vicinity types. Upon the tables were the usual clusters of friends, interest groups, outcasts, and cliques, a sight that mirrored the inside of any place of learning in America.
The noise kept most anyone from noticing the doors slamming shut behind the figure as he walked in. Overworked and underpaid, none of the lunch servers noticed the doors to their kitchen also slamming closed.
Navigating the cafeteria was much like traversing some closely grown brier patches, with the constant movement and tunnel vision of most of the students there. The figure walked through it like it was nothing, never wavering from his goal as he approached the table near one of the walls.
The students who sat there looked like they had just walked out of a casting agency for a high school football team, with the notable exception that most of them actually looked like teenagers. Sometimes, though, real life did mirror fiction, especially in the nature of the Madison Razors, as they sat, ate, laughed, and generally acted in the manner of jocks. None of them noticed the approaching figure until he was standing in front of the table.
"Who the hell are you?" One of them asked. The figure ignored the speaker, tilting his head to face the dreadlocked and sunglasses-wearing black face at one end of the table.
Grant Dyne stopped his conversation with one of his fellow players, looking at the jacketed figure and very quickly assessing he had no idea who he was. With that done, Grant swiftly switched to his usual interaction with such people: sneering disrespect.
There were more than a few people in the cafeteria who would have assessed that such a treatment was positively kind, compared to some of the ways that Grant could 'interact' with you if he didn't like you. You could hardly blame him. His playing had carried his team to the semi-finals of the state championship last year, and he would have won if their idiotic quarterback hadn't choked and fumbled with seventy seconds remaining. Grant had made sure said quarterback was ostracized so bad that he'd quit the team and changed towns, allowing Grant to get someone he worked better with in the position. The team was undefeated so far this year, and Grant aimed to keep it that way. Considering he was the best thing going in this little crapsack town, he had every right to act however he wanted and do whatever he wanted. Hey, he wasn't breaking any laws, was he?
"What the…who are you, the new school pedo?" Grant snapped, prompting his fellow football players to bark laughter in the traditional nepotism-driven way such groups often did, whether the comment or not possessed anything resembling wit or cleverness. "Get lost asswipe! Go molest one of the special ed kids!"
"You heard Grant." A very large fullback named Winston Pond said as he stood up. He had at least a head of height on the figure, who had not taken his concealed gaze from Grant Dyne despite his rather rude dismissal. "Get lost before we make you lose some…"
The figure raised a hand, gesturing slightly with two fingers.
If Winston Pond had anything remotely resembling the figure's interests, or a brain that functioned beyond the basic processes of bodily function and societal interaction, he might have equated what happened to him as being frozen in carbonite, or suffering the equivalent of a computer crash, or caught in a gaze like the Weeping Angels of old. But he did not, and it took him a few seconds to realize what was happening at all: he could no longer move. He was locked in place.
"I did hear. That's the thing. His time for talk is over." The figure said, even as the various football players and friends of Grant Dyne stared at the sight before them, their brains not yet fully processing what they were seeing. "It's time for someone else to talk. The rest of you are irrelevant."
The figure made a slight gesture with the two fingers, and Winston Pond found he could move again, even as he was violently moved, shoved backwards across the floor like he was a plasticine dummy instead of a very strong and bulky teenager. Even as the group attempted to process this new information, the figure laid his other hand on the table.
"So please, stand aside."
The lunch table that the football team was sitting at was one of the benches-attached types: most of the boys eating at it had been sitting on said attached benches. The only ones sitting on chairs separate from the table had been Winston Pond and Grant himself. As a result, most of the boys' legs were under the table proper.
A second after the figure laid his hand down, the table smashed into the cafeteria floor like a giant foot had stepped on it.
This should have caused horrendous injuries to the boys sitting there, as their legs had been under the table and the table should have done considerable damage to them when it was violently sent into the floor. Instead, only most of the table was violently hammered into the ground. The rest of it remained above the boy's legs, as if the segments had been carved out and removed from the force that had been applied to the table. Scared out of their wits by this sudden and drastic change from the norm, all the boys recoiled as one, and found that with the table gone, there wasn't much holding the benches they had been sitting on up, as all the boys found themselves falling awkwardly to the floor.
Grant, having a more proper chair, and having been sitting back when the stranger had appeared, did not knock his seating over when he recoiled. His immediate reaction was to try and get up
"Sit down." The figure said, gesturing at Grant. The star football player found his rise cut off completely, as he was forced back down into his seat. The figure glanced around at the cafeteria, all the noise having abruptly died at the sudden destruction.
"Now, as he said." The figure replied, gesturing at the boys around him. "GET LOST."
The figure had expected all of Grant's so called friends to run. He had also expected that some of them might be too shocked or dumb to realize this was the optimum course of action, and do something else.
Four of them did, as they scrambled up and tried to attack the figure.
One brief gesture later, and they were all frozen in place.
Another one, and gravity released its hold on them, the four finding themselves yanked up into the air.
"Would you kindly listen?" The figure said.
The silence shattered into a cataclysm of noise that made the previous sound within the cafeteria seem like the barest whisper, as the students realized that yes, something very very different was happening today, and it was the kind of bad, scary thing that reached down into the deepest instincts of the human mind and brought them roaring to the surface. The two choices presented inside the students, as one, was fight or flight. And they'd all seen what the fight option had resulted in.
The few teachers inside the cafeteria's futile attempts to install order died in less than two seconds, as the students panicked and stampeded towards the exit. It seemed like a miracle that no one got trampled, but that miracle was quickly squashed when the first students slammed into the doors and found them not only closed, but sealed shut.
It should have been a disaster. People should have been crushed against the wall. People should have been at severe risk of being knocked over and trampled underfoot again when the gathering mass changed direction. People should have even attacked each other, under the misguided concept that said people were standing in their way of escape.
None of this happened, for even as the students began to flee, the figure held out a hand towards them.
And for the dozens of people within the cafeteria, it was like a switch had been thrown in their brains. The overwhelming fear and panic disappeared, causing most of the students to draw up like they had been struck. The figure grimaced beneath his concealing hood, taking his hand away and putting it to his head. He'd felt that.
"You, there. You, there. Rest of you, stopped caring." The figure said, pointing. Grant Dyne's four erstwhile protectors found themselves tossed down to the ground, sliding over to the massed students. The fear had not left them, not entirely, but they were no longer a screaming, destructive mob. Hence, while some fought to get the door open, and some began pulling out their cell phones to dial for help, many were able to watch what occurred.
And somehow, they heard it too. Despite distance, mindset, and possible impediments to the hearing process like damaged ears or poor position, all of them heard it. Inside their minds.
The same way Grant and his friends had when the figure had spoke, calmly, and yet somehow being heard over the din of the high school cafeteria at lunchtime. They had not gotten the chance to notice that strangeness before strangeness had made its presence felt far more keenly.
"Grant Dyne. Dynemite, as the nome de plume goes. Tell me, did you pay any attention in history class?" The figure said, as he picked up the other chair and brought it over to Grant's paralyzed body. "Your name reminds me of an interesting story. The man who invented dynamite, Alfred Nobel, became incredibly rich off his invention. But you see, all he wanted to do was to find a way to better use dynamite's primary ingredient, nitroglycerine. Nitroglycerine was, is, immensely unstable, you see. So unstable that if you stumbled while carrying it, you could blow yourself to bits. Said instability caused the Nobel's factory to explode when someone mis-judged that factor, leading to the deaths of several people including Nobel's youngest brother. A fine motivation to improve on such a dangerous substance, wouldn't you say?" The figure said. "Now, here's the rub. Mr. Nobel was not so stupid to think his invention, which he primarily created for mining purposes, I might add, would not be assessed for weaponry potential, but, as the man himself said 'As soon as men will find that that in one instant whole armies can be utterly destroyed, they surely will abide by golden peace.' As you might have guessed, he was a mite bit off in that prediction. Worse, in the way that humanity will gladly ignore truth and fact to find someone to blame, there was a bit of a mix up a few decades later, when his brother died and a French paper got their facts wrong. They thought Alfred had died, and printed a condemning obituary calling Alfred the 'Merchant of Death' and presenting the idea that he'd purposely made dynamite to kill thousands of people and had gleefully gotten rich off the fact. Alfred was so upset that this was how the world would remember him, regardless of truth, that he bequeathed nearly all of his fortune on his actual death to a prize that would be granted to several people every year who tried to help the world. Hence we have the Nobel Prize. And I'm not going to ask if you understand why I brought this up, because it's clear you haven't been able to place my voice. Let's get that out of the way first." The figure said, reaching up and pulling his hood backwards.
Once off, there was a fleeting second where Grant wondered how he couldn't have seen the figure's face before. The key word being fleeting, as it was replaced by the fact that he had no idea who the figure was. Sitting as he was in profile, no one in the cafeteria could identify him either.
A stranger would have noted that Grant and the figure were about the same age. The figure had soft brown hair, arranged in a backwards pattern save for one lone-bang strand that fell over his face. His eyes were the same brown as his hair, and his chin seemed a touch longer than the average person, the extension allowing a somewhat flattering impression of his cheek bones. If one looked closely, they might have seen the faint echo of pitted scars on his cheeks, the remnants of many acne scars, but only if one looked closely. Most women would have classified the features as acceptively attractive, with the exact scale depending on personal taste.
If one ignored his gaze, which was semi-blank and coolly relaxed, like the figure was perusing an interesting TV show instead of the chaos he had not only unleashed, but quelled. Such a look turned his whole expression to deeply unnerving, though Grant had far stronger reasons to be bothered than the figure's expression.
"Still nothing? Understandable. My features have recently lost some bulk. Lucky, I suppose. Things could have gone otherwise, and perhaps made me a great candidate for the Phantom of the Opera. Lon Chaney's, that is, not Gerald Butler's." The figure said, reaching into his pocket. "Still lost, Grant? Maybe this will help."
The figure located what he was searching for, bringing them out with a slow, careful motion before he opened them up. The glasses were square in shape, a dark blue color, and one of the lenses was missing. This did not stop the figure from putting them on.
And when he did, it clicked in Grant's head.
The next second, Grant felt like his rib cage had been caved in and then immediately snapped back into place and shape, the air erupting from his lungs in an agonized gasp. His sunglasses flew off from the impact, clattering to the ground at his feet.
"I thought I'd be able to handle it if you used that name, considering the circumstances. Turns out I was wrong. My apologies." The figure said, even as he removed the glasses and pocketed them again. "But my name is Mark, Grant. No additional letters and all they imply needed."
"What, huh, the huh…" Grant gasped.
"I told you, no talking." Mark said, gesturing again as the football player found his jaw slammed and wired shut like he'd just had severe dental surgery. "Yes Grant, it's me. I know I look somewhat different. What with the considerable loss of mass, and my hair not being a greasy mess over my eyes-I invented a proper shampoo/gel combination, you see- and these glasses that I no longer need. And that's thanks to you, Grant. You and all your friends."
Grant stared, his expression a mix of shock and horror.
"Yes…it's thanks to you and your little gang of sadists making my life a misery that I got Stockholm Syndrome and actually accepted that invitation to your party. Oh, I knew better, I thought I did. After all the taunting and the abuse and the relentless, endless need for you to crush my self of self and defecate on its remains, I knew that you weren't going to turn around and be nice to me. I knew you probably had some scheme planned. I thought maybe, maybe, if I took whatever prank you played on me and reacted well, maybe, just maybe, you'd stop seeing me as a vessel to dump scorn in. If not you, maybe someone in this school, despite all their efforts to ostracize me. For something beyond my control. I grasp all too well the lack of development in your understanding, what with age and peer pressure and your own problems…but still. Shame on you. Shame." Mark said, glancing at the assembled students before turning his face back to Grant. As he did, he unzipped his windbreaker, pulling his arms out of the sleeves and tying the sleeves around his neck. He wore a white shirt under the jacket, though that was less noticeable than the more impressive action that he performed, that being that he accomplished the last part without actually touching the arms of said jacket with his hands. "I knew, perfectly well, that Kathy wasn't going to let me anywhere near her when you played that old standby and put us both in the closet. I expected a fakeout of some sort, or trying to talk me into doing something humiliating…but no. You went above and beyond the call of duty. You had her slip out through that hidden door…and then you dropped that squirrel in. The squirrel you'd had locked up and terrorized for who knows how long. You idiot. You complete and utter idiot."
What made the last sentences terrible was the fact that Mark's emotion did not change at all as he spoke them. Instead, he began looking through his pockets again.
"What did you think, that it would be like some Disney cartoon? The animal could have had rabies, or some other disease. It's bites could have become infected. Hell, it was so scared I wouldn't put accidentally chewing out my carotid artery past it. I could have died, Grant. Died for the sake of you and your cronies' amusement. Did you consider that? No. Did you even begin to contemplate it? No. Because to you, I wasn't a human being. I was just Skidmark, the loser and geek with the dead parents who died because…well, let's not get off track, shall we? If I was going to list all the pain you and yours have caused me and others in this school, I'd be here all day." Mark said, withdrawing a strangely colored bar of some compact foodstuff. He ate it in three bites, and with a gesture called a water bottle over from the serving area and drank from it in one long gulp. "So I'll just say this. You were right, Grant. Or rather, you made yourself right, when I broke that door open and ran for it while you all laughed, completely blind to your own irresponsible cruelty, out the door, over the fence, out on the road…in front of the truck. You really had the music loud out there. None of you must have heard it, since none of you came to see what happened when I got caught in the headlights. What happened, Grant, was the manifestation of your condemnation. I am not a human being. Not any more."
Mark stood up, and as he did, he gestured and yanked Grant out of the chair like Grant was a puppet on strings.
"A pity for you, isn't that?"
Grant Dyne stared in horror, an expression mirrored on the faces of all the trapped students nearby.
"Then again…Plato said the true measure of a man is what he does with power. Then…again… that's not really the question here though, is it Grant? As far as I'm concerned, the measure of a man is what he does to those who deserve the power." Mark said, and with another gesture Grant found he had control of his body again. "And that would be you, Grant. You gave me this power, so in a way you deserve it. Exactly what that IS…well, that's your decision. So do it, Grant. You made me. You took it on yourself that this is what I deserved. So…will you think…or will you be what you think a man is?"
Grant hadn't quite seemed to grasp he could move again, and he seemingly jerked in surprise as he realized it. Mark watched, his face impassive.
Grant was in no shape to detect the faint trace of a frown that began forming on Mark's features even before he spoke. Like he knew what was coming before Grant even started.
Which he did.
"Oh come now Grant, that's been your opinion a long time now. Why not try something new?" Mark said. "Why not take responsibility for what you crafted? Why don't you show remorse? Why don't you act like what you took from me, a human being?"
Grant stared at Mark, and then he took a step back. Their eyes locked.
They say that the eyes were the windows to the soul. In Mark Adal's case, that was very much a literal thing now. Hence, he'd avoided it until necessary.
A small part of him realized he shouldn't have wasted his time. A larger part was somewhat glad he had, if only to confirm the inevitability of what was to come.
Mark's eyes narrowed.
Then they went pitch-black, crackling arcs of energy flashing deep within the inky murk and running up Mark's skull and hair. When he spoke again, his voice carried the tone of a desolate wind across a desert at night.
"One can only allow so much for the sudden and drastic change in the situation, Grant Dyne, but in the end, what's in the core is what counts, and it's clear that what is needed is what you lack." Mark said, as the chair, bits of table, and various other bric-a-brac began floating up in the cafeteria. "It really disappoints me. Because of you, I have to go against what Plato said. I have to become you."
Grant never saw Mark move. One second he was in front of him, and the next he was speaking in his ear.
Mark's hand clamped down on Grant's shoulder, and Grant suddenly found his body was no longer his once more. This wasn't like before though, with the sensation of being held down. This time…all sensation vanished, and Grant tumbled to the ground like a puppet with his strings cut. He tried to flee, but his muscles would not answer. He tried to open his mouth to cry out, and found he couldn't. He tried to blink, and found he could not even close his eyes.
Mark Adal looked down at his work, before he turned his gaze back onto the student body. He was pretty sure he heard the distant ring of sirens.
"And so I craft of him what the eye of the beholder allows." Mark said, pausing a second before grimacing. "Hmmmph. I guess I'm not immune to pretentious naval gazing, even as I am and what I like to think now. I guess I'll stick with facts." Mark said, kneeling down beside Grant. "Do you know what I just did, Grant? I just cut off your muscles from your motor cortexes. In other words, all that football glory, all that marvelous beefcake that women admired and lusted after…it's just so much dead weight now. You're a prisoner inside your own head."
The only reaction Grant could make was causing his eyes to bulge. In a rather strange gesture, Mark actually began stroking Grant's head.
"Oh, if left untreated, eventually your body will shut down…but I'm sure you'll get to a hospital and get hooked up to some machines to do that work before then." Mark said. "But after that…nothing much left. No more social interaction. No more enjoying the fruits of your labors, rotten as some of them are. No aspirations, no dreams, no nothing. Just an endless expanse of time, with just your own mind for company. Oh with your family's considerable resources, maybe they'll find a cure…five, ten, twenty years from now. Or maybe not. But that's your life now. I want you to think about that, Grant. I want you to see what feeling helpless gets you. Or rather, what making others feeling helpless and trapped does. Too often, too much…it gets you nothing. Not this time. This time, it makes you nothing. NOTHING." Mark said, as a faint hiss of anger finally entered his tone. "The simile is somewhat weak, but I like it anyway. If you want to imagine a picture of the future, imagine a boot stomping on a human face. FOREVER."
With that, all the floating debris fell to the floor. Mark slowly stood up, turning to face the cowering student body.
"Now then…I don't really have time to punish all of you…and considering there are those among you who are blameless or merely ignorant or self-absorbed…and I do apologize to those people. You should know who you are." Mark said, his tone actually sounding apologetic. "So…for the most part, I'll let this example stand for all of you. Remember what you did, and what it got you. And if you don't…you may regret it. You see, I KNOW WHERE YOU ALL LIVE."
With a snap of his fingers, the doors flung open again. Mark watched as the gathered students, their mind frazzled by what they'd just witnessed, took a few seconds to realize they were no longer trapped in a room with a rather disgruntled former 'peer', and swiftly resumed screaming and running as they poured out of the exit.
Mark did not really hear those screams. The screams that drew his attention echoed inside his own head. They came from Grant, whose brain was afire with all the terror, sorrow, and suffocating grief that the full weight of his condition brought him, and, left with no other means to express it, could only let it shriek inside his own mind.
Mark tried to block out the noise as he crouched back down.
"Do not think I come to this decision lightly, Grant Dyne. You see, I am not you." Mark whispered. Despite the noise, once again, Grant heard him clear as day. "I know every incident and experience that made you into what you are. All the failings and missteps, and how the successes could not compensate. That's my gift and my curse now. Otherwise, I'd have just skinned you alive."
Grant could not feel the fingers on the back of his neck, but somehow he knew they were there anyway.
"I want you to remember this brief period of time. I want you to remember how you came to it. I cannot do much more without changing what you are, and that…really does not count when it matters…but I can make sure you remember." Mark said, as his eyes went black and his head crackled with arcing energy. "I do this because, as said, I am not you. And because I know the fear and grief you have within you. Despite what I may want…it resonates within me in turn. And I will be damned if I will become what would be necessary to ignore it." Mark said, leaning down to speak directly in Grant's ear. "Do come out of this something better, Grant. I am tired of being a disappointment."
The pulse of energies that Mark sent firing into Grant's body to reconnect it to his brain proved to be the last bit of stress that the football player could have endured, and he fainted dead away. Mark stood up, rolling his fingers.
"None of you probably realize it, but there's a reason I said for the most part." Mark said, and turned towards the cafeteria door as it slammed shut again.
The students within had been reduced to about 1/6 their number, but that didn't decrease the volume much as Mark walked towards them. Mark ignored that, heading for his other target.
"Bi…LADIES. Leave." Mark said, as he gave the schoolgirls in front of him the equivalent of a gentle shove aside. The lone remaining teenage female barely got to realize she was the target before Mark raised his hand and lifted her, pinning her against the wall like a butterfly under glass. The fear on the girl's face rather wrecked her dainty, gorgeous features (which may or may not already have born a trace of plastic surgery, though its owner would deny that possibility to the death), and the tossed carton of milk that had impacted on her head and soaked her red hair had pretty much ruined the expensive work her salon had done on it.
Mark gestured again, and the cafeteria door slammed open again. The girl's eyes frantically darted about, briefly settling on her so-called friends as they left her abandoned to the wolves, before she looked back at Mark Adal's shifted features.
"Hello Cali." Mark said, removing another bar from his coat and eating it before turning his attention back to Calliope "Cali" Mountebank. "Did you think you escaped my attention? Oh no. Not then, and not now."
"Ep pe pe pe. Quiet. I didn't subconsciously plant the instructions that would make sure you didn't get out before I was done because I want to have a chat, Cali." Mark said. "I just wanted to remind you that I'm good with history. Mainly because I recall a time when Grant wasn't a jerk."
"Oh he was always a jock and lacked certain…social graces…but he didn't really start to turn out really mean until a certain event. That would be when he started seeing you. When you two started becoming the king and queen of this school. The Catherine to his…hmmm, well I would say Ivan the Terrible, but that might be a little too strong. In any case, I know. You were the one who put the vile in his soul."
Calliope began to speak again, before Mark closed her mouth like he had with Grant's.
"I don't want to hear it. I already know every single argument or plea you could make, and I already know the source and heart of what you would say, and what you really are. I will not fear my battles, whether they be one or a hundred in scope." Mark said. "You really shouldn't have bothered me. We don't run in the same circles, Cali. There was nothing I could do to do you harm. Oh, considering the fact that of the girls you made to suffer as much as I did, that also applied to them, maybe I should just be chalking you up as an overall mean girl, shouldn't I? But that's not it, is it Cali? Or rather…that fact just didn't seem to be enough for you, did it? You weren't just cruel to your 'ilk' and others who should have been outside it. You had to plant the urge into everyone you could get your claws into. So we ALL felt it, regardless of where we were. You took the simple failings of high school students, and you remade so many of them into clones of you, all with your contempt for everyone save you. It made you feel powerful. Made you feel like you had worth. You know, I really would like to unravel all the psychological tangles that causes the end result of a high school junior wanting to stick one of the biggest 'losers' in school in a closet with a crazed squirrel…but as said, I do not have all day. Even as much as I like the sound of my own voice now. But considering how long I went without one, I'm sure you'll indulge me. Like you have a choice." Mark said.
A vague possibility occurred to Mark, and he gestured to slam the cafeteria doors closed again, leaving him alone with Cali and the unconscious Grant. Anyone who came along and wanted to open the doors would find they would need considerable kinetic assistance to open them.
"I'll just paint the broad strokes. I know why you did what you did. I see what your mother did to you, how she made you what you are, the lies she taught you in place of reality…which is only fitting because to her, they were reality. You never really had a chance." Mark said. "So here's your chance, AND reality. Your mother is a heartless termagant who could no more love someone besides herself than she could eat the sun. Your birth, your life…you're nothing more to her than another extension of the stroking of the ego to her. No worth, no use, just there to salve her damage. The way you kept going, you never would be anything more…but for me. So here's my thanks for your trickle-down malice, Cali. I'm going to make you a better person. And since I don't have a lot of time, and I have a lot of work to do, well…I'm afraid this is going to be VERY unpleasant."
"N-NO! PLEASE! HELP ME! PLEASE MARK…!" Calliope shrieked, finally having been given her voice back.
"You'll thank me later, Cali. I'll give you a real sense of self, something to actually be proud of instead of that queenly performance you cling so hard to and are so vicious to cultivate. More then that toxic excuse of a person your mother is would ever give you. But I'm afraid nothing comes easy here in the real world." Mark said, holding a hand up.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING…!"
"I'm going through the heads of every single student in this school. Considering I've caused a panic, it's proving troublesome…but you reap what you sow. Through this, you will gain a greater understanding of what you did. A proper sense of…context." Mark said. "…I will be honest, Cali. I could make this easier for you. But I won't. Because no matter how much I tried to control it with logic and understanding, I can't get rid of the fact that a deep, nasty part of me really wants to hurt you."
Calliope's eyes went as wide as saucers.
"So, lacking the ability to quiet the voice, I'm giving it as small a role as possible. I recognize my failing there." Mark said. "Maybe you will too, when I'm done. Maybe you'll recognize what you put in people with your callous ways. And maybe you'll realize something else about that. As you take a look at all the pain and woe you brought to others, protected by a complete lack of understanding and empathy in that stone pit you call a heart, you'll realize a weakness in what you do. Someone like you, who can give every nasty bit of herself free reign without consequence…you can dish out some bad things, very bad things. But for people like me, who have to sit and take it, over and over, without respite, without balancing the scales…you'll find that what you are pales in comparison to what blooms within us from your actions. You're just a mean girl in the end, Cali. What you make within us, deep within…it's something far. far worse."
Mark's eyes went as black as the night again, as he drew out two fingers.
"See for yourself."
There was really no way to describe what Calliope Mountebank experienced as Mark Adal force-fed her several lifetimes of teenage grief in the space of moments. If what Grant had experienced was the equivalent of a boot stomping on a face, then what Calliope went through as Mark engulfed her with her bitter legacy was nails raking on a chalkboard. For eternity. Within a second.
"Funny. Your namesake was not just a muse, but the muse of heroic poetry. So…a little poetry for you." Mark said. Calliope could not hear him, even in her head, a low keening coming from her mouth as her mind and her concept of herself was violated by the lives of others. "A horse and a man, above, below/One has a plan, but both must go/Mile after mile, above, beneath/One has a smile, and one has teeth."
A trickle of blood ran from Mark's nose. He ignored it and looked into Calliope's face, her eyes rolled up and her voice no longer even able to produce sound.
"Though the man above may say hello." Mark said. "Expect no love from the beast below."
With that, Mark turned away from Calliope, and she collapsed on the floor like Grant.
"You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think." Mark mused. Calliope did not answer: her eyes stared dully into the nearly empty cafeteria, as Mark began to walk away.
He paused after a few steps, and after a second he brought his hand to his face. He stood like that a bit more, before he sighed and turned back to Calliope.
"It's insidious, really." Mark said to himself, as he knelt down and went into the rather destructive path he'd cut through Calliope's brain. His vision flared dark again, and he began removing and re-constructing the worst of his 'lesson', which, he'd realized, was far less 'lesson' and more 'revenge', especially considering his understanding of the circumstances. "Let's just hope that's my last slip…and well, if it isn't…you're no longer involved."
The process was chillingly simple, a fact that was not lost on Mark. He hoped it would not prove easier to lose later, as he finished up.
"Goodbye Cali. Make something of yourself. Preferably not what you made of me." Mark said, standing up and turning away. He retrieved a napkin and dabbed at his nose before he produced another foodstuff bar and ate it. He'd have to return and make some more of the product before he set out to the remainder of his tasks.
He had a feeling the mental efforts he was making weren't going to get any easier.
The normal ways out likely lead to encounters Mark wasn't ready to make. He made his own instead, as he glanced at the wall. A second later, a part of it not so much exploded as shunted outward, forming a new door to the outside even as Mark grimaced and put his hand to his head again.
"Mental note. Careful with precision." Mark said, as he began walking out and gathering himself. He had one last task to do.
Douglas Carter had taught at James Madison High for nearly fifteen years. Sometimes he liked it, sometimes he didn't, and sometimes he felt like he actually making a difference.
If asked, he probably never would have wished for a day like today, at least anywhere in his conscious mind. Deep down, in his dark crevasses, he probably would have admitted that he would have liked SOMETHING to shake students out of the torpor that was most of their lives…
But not like this. Not through screaming and panicking and cries of a monster in the cafeteria, and a door that two large students and a teacher had been unable to open despite throwing their full weight against it. Carter had been taken away by the police with some hesitation, unable to open the door and rescue the students trapped behind it, but he'd quickly realized he could do more good outside as more students streamed out, staff and faculty counting heads and trying to figure out who was missing, not to mention what was going on. Despite his willingness to help, the sheer overwhelming nature of the event eventually started to get to him, and he'd retreated to one of the police cars on the outer circle with the best vantage point to have a cigarette to calm his nerves.
"Hello Mr. Carter."
Carter jerked up, his cigarette falling from his hands as he looked at the young man before him. It took him several seconds to recognize the face.
"Yes. I look different, don't I. Interesting times." Mark said. "I just wanted to say goodbye, Mr. Carter. I always liked your classes."
"What, what do you…" Mr. Carter said, before a puzzle piece slid into place. "…Mark?"
"Yes, this is my doing. I stand by its necessity, despite what others will say." Mark said, cocking his head slightly as Carter's eyes darted around. "Don't bother. I'm selectively filtering their optic and audile channels to block me out. They can't see or hear me. Try and claim 'otherwise' about my presence, and you'll just look like the stress got to you. And even if they could see me, they couldn't stop me. Not with what I've become."
"Don't you recognize it, Mr. Carter? I'm an EVO." Mark said, gesturing slightly to himself. The darkness burned in his eyes, his head alighting with mental fire as Carter jerked backwards again. "It's why I'm not fat any more. In learning about my new self, I found that it uses up caloric energy like you wouldn't believe. I had to use my evolved mind to make up a specialized nutrient paste to ingest constantly before my brain burned me out. Didn't do too bad a job stopping it where I did, if I say so myself."
"An EVO. Yes. I was somewhat surprised myself. EVO's tend to turn into rejected Kaiju applicants, after all. Seems that's not always the case." Mark said. "So maybe I'm not a monster…but to paraphrase W.H Auden, monsters are unspectacular and always human. Well, perhaps in his time. But just because he's not longer wholly right…doesn't mean he was wholly wrong either. Much like my actions here. And I say I did more right than wrong."
"What did you do?"
"You'll find out. I just wanted to say goodbye, as said. I doubt our paths will be crossing any more." Mark said. "Keep up your good work, Mr. Carter. It's probably one of the reasons I didn't turn this school into an abattoir. I know you feel like you can't reach many of us, sometimes…but we're out there. And…stop smoking. It's a filthy habit."
Douglas Carter felt a deep thrum in his head, and he jerked backwards again with such surprise that he nearly fell off the police car. So great was his shock that he didn't notice his nicotine craving was gone. He would notice later, when it failed to come back.
"…what are you doing, Mark?" Carter asked, as the EVO began to walk away.
"I know what happens now. I know who's coming." Mark said. "I don't care. I have accounts to settle. And if anyone wants to get in my way, well, I only give what people have coming to them."
Mark stopped, turning his head slightly and giving Douglas Carter a slight glance. Despite his stance and its briefness, Carter could sense the fleeting hint of sorrow.
"Mark Adal is…well, perhaps not dead." Mark said. "But…he's gone away. Perhaps never to return, and even less likely to be missed. I'm something else now. All too aware of the great divides across the world. All too aware I'm now one of them."
Mark turned away, walking down the street and away from the school. Like the others before him, and before he briefly found a static-like haze descending on his mind, Douglas Carter heard the words in his head rather then his ears.
"Call me Schism."
When Carter regained his sense of being, the being that was Mark Adal was long gone.
"I'd start a revolution
If I could get up in the morning
I'd start a revolution
If I could get up, get up.
Start a revolution, start a revolution
If I could get up, get up
Start a revolution, start a revolution
If I could get up in the morning."
Writer's Note: Will do more when I see more episodes and get more of an idea about the characters. Please review.