Based loosely on the video games "Prototype" by Radical Entertainment (published by Activision), and "inFamous" by Sucker Punch Productions (published by SCEI). InFamous 2 is out June 7, 2011. Order the "Hero Pack" and get a Cole's sling pack, an 8.5 inch figurine, and other goodies!


I wind up in a rusted world with eyes shut
So tight that it blurs into the world of pretend
And the eyes ease open
And it's dark again
-Linkin Park, "Frgt/10"

inPrototype Arc 1: Hyacinth Girl

Chapter 1-01: I am Alex Cole


31 Aug 2009 1031

Monday

It was dark.

The young man blinked. Still dark.

He was lying on some sort of flat, hard, cold surface. The room he was in was very cold, and he could sense something above him. And something to the sides, nearby. He stretched his toes out; more cold metal.

Oh.

Oh no.

The man craned his head upward. There was the faint lit outline of a rectangular shape, where a headboard might be on a regular bed, and he pushed his hand against it. The light grew brighter. There was a dark spot along one edge; a lock. The young man banged on the door.

"Hey!" he yelled, and coughed, his voice raspy. "I'm in here! I'm not dead! Let me out!"

The door rattled with each blow, and the man's breath came faster and faster. He was still breathing fine, and he knew, intellectually, that there was plenty of air, but that was only because no one else was using it.

Focus.

The funny thing is, the thought wasn't quite his. It's like something whispering from the back of his skull, or the voice of someone speaking right next to his ear.

Identify vulnerabilities. Identify your strengths.

The vulnerable parts of doors were usually the hinges or lock. He was awake, but didn't have much room to move. He could wave his arms around a little, if he was careful not to hit his roommates, and his knees and ankles could flex. The metal tray under him couldn't be used as a tool-

Wait.

The young man reached "up" for the frame around the door, and braced his feet against the wall. He found that the tray he was on had a few inches of space to roll back and forth. Taking a few deep breaths, he moved it against the wall, and shoved-

The crash sounded like a bell going off right next to his head. If there was anyone out there, they'd doubtless come running. Possibly with a shotgun. The man smiled in the dark as he repeated the process. And again. And again until his arms were tired, and he looked up.

There was something wrong with the lock.

By contorting himself, the man could just see it. Nothing visible, but when he pushed against it, it had a lot more give than it had previously. Good. He tried to get his fingers in the gap, see if he could lever it open somehow, and to his surprise, the lock gave. He pushed harder, and it gave more, until it couldn't even pretend to hold open the door anymore.

The man rested for a few seconds, then slid the morgue tray out and promptly fell off.

It was his own fault, really. His muscles weren't quite working properly, and he had just been using them to slam a morgue tray into a door. Of course, given that someone had probably thought he was dead, it was a wonder he was able to stand, however shakily, at all.

He checked himself over; about 5' 11", athletic build with lots of upper-body muscle, full range of movement. A climber? Eyes seemed 20/20, and his nose was functioning properly. Nothing to taste, aside from something vaguely coppery that had apparently left his mouth recently. His voice...

"My name is-"

He bent down, and then stood up with his toe tag.

"Cole, Alex J."

Tagged 28/08/2009. Sex: Male. Race: Caucasian. Status: confused. Currently a guest of the ME at St. Jeanne's General, Empire City, New York State.

How did he get into the drawer in the first place? If it was a prank, why strip him naked and lock him in? If he had been drugged or been drunk, why wasn't he feeling any residual effects? Aside from that licked-penny taste, his mouth was perfectly fine. Anyone who could've been drunk enough to think that shoving him in that hole was a good idea was someone he probably could've overcome, and would at least have fought against, but he had no marks of a struggle. And if they had shoved him in awake, why had he blacked out? Why couldn't he remember anything about himself? What if he had anterograde amnesia, not retrograde? Why could he remember the types of amnesia, but not his own name? What was going on?

Orient, said the voice.

Cole looked around. He was clearly in a morgue. He shivered, and spun in place, looking at all the plain black bags on every surface that would take them. There were dozens of bodies, some stacked on top of each other like firewood, some in smaller bags than the others-

He bent over as something hot surged up his throat and out of his mouth. The puke spattered on his leg, and even as he clutched his stomach he realized that he needs clothes if he's going to leave the morgue.

There's a massive stack of files on the nearby desk. Whatever event had caused someone to think he was dead, it was probably generating a massive amount of red tape. His file was about halfway down the pile, and he yanked it out, ignoring the slide of paper to the floor. Not like anyone would notice the mess.

His next of kin was listed as Ezekiel Mercer, with a number.

"Tenpin Lanes, how may I help you?" said a raspy voice.

"Hi, this is...Sylvester Cooper. I just woke up in the hospital, and the doctors say they need the bed."

"Were you in the blast?"

Sure, why not?

"Yeah. I've been out since, and I was just coming into town to see Zeke when it happened. They say I need someplace to go -"

The man on the other end of the line chuckled. "Haven't looked outside lately, have ya, Sylvie?"

"I prefer Sly." Alex rubbed the back of his neck. "And no, I haven't. Who are you, anyway?"

"I'm Zeke's boss. I opened up so he could take a look at the ball-return on lane 3. He just left, and I was just about to lock up."

"Crap. He didn't give me his address, and my cell phone got stolen, and all I could remember was where he worked."

"You must be close, if he told you that much. Got a pencil?"

A few seconds later, Alex said "Thanks," and hung up.

There was a map in the top drawer, and a magic marker. He almost put an X over Zeke's house, but the voice started screaming at him about tactical knowledge and he figured it was trying to tell him that if he dropped it, it would be easy for someone to figure out where he was going. If would be better if he just kept it in his pocket -

Oh, right. Clothes.

The bag with his name on it held some light khaki slacks, socks and sneakers, and a polo shirt in a hideous shade of teal with a cadecus (if that was the name) on the breast pocket, as well as a mangled nametag - "ALEX" - beneath. They were all in one plastic bag, while a sling pack was in another, with an occupied cell phone clip on it.

Alex used some paper towels and the sink to clean off his leg, and pulled on his clothes.

They had to set up field morgues after Hurricane Irene hit New Marais, and that was probably where any morgue workers would be.

The shirt might make people think he was a doctor, draw attention to him. He pulled a greyish sweatshirt out of a bag at random. It had a pair of dragons on the back, and covered the ugly work shirt nicely.

Had he in to New Marais during Irene, or had he watched it on TV? He could remember names, faces, rows of silent body bags, but if he had been there, he wouldn't have been allowed that close, right? He had watched TV shows, seen movies, knew who the President was, but the facts and memories and experiences had all the emotional attachment of eating tapioca pudding.

He couldn't even remember if he liked eating tapioca pudding.

Alex tried to turn on the cell phone, but the battery was dead. A half-dozen more, from the bags. All dead. There was a wallet in his pants pocket with an ID card for Mercury Medical Couriers, with his name and picture on it.. Five dollars, eleven cents. A Visa Debit. A picture of a blonde woman. Assorted business cards. The sound of footsteps coming down the hall.

Oh crap.

Cole slung his pack on and rushed for the double door into the hallway. As he pushed through it, he found two men in suits and dark glasses, coming from the direction of the doors with the sign that said "EXIT" above them.

Both men pulled their guns. Alex noted, as time slowed down, that the nearer one, in a black suit, started to reach toward his hip rather than his shoulder holster. It probably meant something, but he couldn't focus on that as time resumed normal speed and sent a sizzling energy through his limbs.

"Freeze!" yelled one.

Obfuscate. Misdirect.

Lie.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, man!" Cole said, not entirely faking it. He yanked his hands up, close to his body, like a character out of a sitcom. "I didn't do nothin'!" Y'all work here? Y'all the guards? They called me to ID my brother's body, but ain't nobody in there, and there's a...morgue...drawer...thing with its door hangin' open."

Grey Suit's eyes narrowed. "Check it out."

Black Suit lowered his weapon, and Alex stepped back so he could get to the door. "Be my guest."

The Suit peered around the doorframe, then advanced into the room.

"What did you say your name was?" said Grey Suit.

"Zeke Mercer. My brother is-was-Alex Cole."

Grey Suit stiffened, and took his left hand off the gun to pull out his cellphone.

"Hello? This is Goodwin. We've got a guy down here at the morgue, ugly shirt, says he's Vulcan." A pause. "I know, which is exactly why I'm calling. Check the transponder."

The person on the other end of the line responded.

"All right, we'll bring them both in. Just take him when he gets home." He pocketed the phone.

Black Suit exited the room, and stood in front of Alex, looking right at his colleague. "It's clear. He either left or was taken, but we don't have enough men nearby to sweep the building."

Grey Suit ran a hand through his thinning hair. "Fine. Sir, could you come with us, please?"

Alex came to a rapid conclusion.

These guys had just let him learn at least one name, and that they were trailing Zeke. Which meant that they were either incompetent, or there was no way he was going to get to walk free.

Cole grabbed Black Suit by his near shoulder and shoved him sideways toward his partner.

He had been expecting to get a foot or two of breathing room so he could come up with something clever. He wasn't expecting Black Suit to fly through the air like he had been hit by a car. Grey Suit hadn't been expecting it either, so when the other man careened into him, they both staggered a little. By the time either of them had thought to slip their fingers inside their trigger guards, Alex was already there.

Control. Strike. Redirect.

His left hand grabbed the top of Black Suit's weapon, keeping him from bringing it to bear. His right arm snapped forward and back, the elbow strike rattling Black Suit's skull. Then he grabbed the grip of Black Suit's pistol from the bottom. With a twist-and the sound of a breaking trigger finger-the weapon was liberated.

Grey Suit had already started to bring his gun up around his partner. He had stepped to his right, and was trying to aim the pistol one-handed, a snarl on his face. Cole snapped a kick with his right leg to Black Suit's rear, hoping to get the nearer assailant to stagger and trap Grey's gun arm against the wall, at least for a second.

He his foot hit Black Suit's lower spine and he felt something break, then the man was thrown towards the wall, his head hitting hard enough to leave a dent in the plaster before he collapsed.

Both men stared for a second, stunned. The gun slipped out of Alex's hand.

Grey Suit recovered first, and almost bought his pistol to bear on Alex's head before Alex caught the arm and trapped it under his own. His right arm reached for Grey's face, pushing back on it, gouging into one eye, and Alex's badly-aimed knee strike hit Grey in the thigh instead of the groin. The Suit felt the impact, but didn't go down, his free arm trying to pull Alex's hand off his face. His own kick was much better aimed, and Alex sucked in sharply as he kept pushing. There was probably some sort of fancy Kung-Fu leg sweep or Karate backflip for the situation, but his mind had gone blank and all he could think to do was hold on and try to force the other man over. He just wanted him to stop -

A spark appeared on his hand. Both men froze.

Lightning pulsed out of Grey's head and into Cole's hand, and the other man started to scream. Cole yanked his arm away, but the other man kept screaming, and his eyes rolled back in his head, and the lightning kept going. His arm was hot now, and the electricity kept arcing from Grey to Cole -

My name is James Goodwin, 1st Biological Warfare Command.

I am waiting for a plane.

My brothers and I stand on a tarmac, in our custom gear. The sun beats down on us, and despite the rubber HAZMAT suits we're encased in, we do not flinch, do not scratch, do not move.

"Gentlemen," asks Sarge. "Who are you?"

My voice rises with the others, a defiant shout for the ears of the Enemy.

"When we hunt, we kill!

No one is safe!

Nothing is sacred!

We are the First Watch!

We are the last line of defense!

We will burn our own to hold the red line! It is the last line to ever hold!"

I can tell Sarge is smiling, under his mask. "That is exactly correct! Now git on that plane! Double-time!"

"Hooah!" we say, and hustle out to the transport.

We do good work.

Good work.

Alex was saluting a wall.

He blinked, and lowered his hand.

I had to pick up Jimmy again. Gina said she was busy.

"No," said Alex, his hands already reaching for a wheel that wasn't there.

The pool boy's truck is in the yard as I pull in, and I swear I see a fluttering at our bedroom window. I clench the wheel a little tighter, imagining its her neck, before we get out of the car.

I give Jimmy a piggyback ride, just because.

Alex could feel the weight of the boy on his back, the warmth in his chest at his love for him, the tension in his neck at his cheating cow of a wife -

I walk in, and she's just coming down the stairs, her hair a mess. The kid is outside, running the skimmer over the pool. He glances inside, gives a nervous little wave and a smile.

"Hi, honey?" she says. "How was your day?"

Alex's hand was on his son's shoulder, the dining room table between him and Gina.

I can smell it on her. Her smile is false, and so is mine. Jimmy looks from her to me.

"Jimmy?" I say. "Why don't you get started on your homework?"

"'Kay," he says, a little uncertainly, and leaves me and his mother alone.

Her smile wavers, like a candle in a breeze.

"I wanted to talk to you about the poolboy."

She's a terrible liar. Well, except for that one time, at the altar.

"Wh-what about?"

Instead of answering, I cross over to the mantelpiece. There's an award I keep there, an M1 rifle on a marble base with a brass plate. Marksmanship.

The award rocks under my hand.

It's heavy, and I already know where I would have to grip it, where to bring it crashing down on her skull, how it would break like an eggshell while she screamed and screamed -

Jimmy doesn't need to talk to me through a glass window.

I lift my hand from the statue.

"I'm firing the poolboy." I say. "What's for dinner?"

Maybe I'll just kill him instead.

Alex blinked. His hand was out in the air, like he had just lifted it from the statue on Goodwin's mantelpiece. Also, his brain was telling him that he was standing in Goodwin's living room. His brain was also telling him he was standing in a morgue hallway. His brain resolved the situation by activating its standard procedure for conflicting inputs, and Cole threw up.

The funny thing about trying to stagger to a sink while your brain tried to tell you that you were simultaneously a borderline sociopath at his home in Philly was that it made the problem worse. It was bad enough standing still in two places at once, but now he was both moving and not moving at the same time. He didn't even make it very far past the doorway, staggering and falling down, and he laid with his cheek against the cool tile, trying to force his perception of reality back into order. He needed to start with something small. His name. He'd start with his name.

"I am-" His mouth tasted bitter. He swallowed. "I am James Cole - no! No! I am Alex Cole! Alex Jabez Cole!"

You're a freak. A monster.

"Shut up, Goodwin," Alex said to the dead man who lived in his head.

Something roiled in him, and he dry-heaved toward the floor. There was a drain in middle of the exam room, he noted. It was real. The hallway was real. The floor, the drain, those were real. He held on to the knowledge, used it to push Goodwin back into a dark corner of his mind.

Cole crawled back into the hallway, slowly. He might've have just assaulted two federal agents. Why did he attack? Why didn't he ask for ID? Why didn't he even ask who they were? He might be an amnesiac terrorist, for all he knew.

They were threats, said the voice, and Alex shivered.

Black Suit was dead, but Grey Suit just kept staring and twitching.

They're in a hospital. Grey would be fine. It was self-defense. Someone would come down soon.

It was self-defense.

Alex tried not to look Black in the eye as he reached into his jacket, tried to keep his hands from shaking as he pulled out the wallet. The ID card only said "Dept. of Homeland Security", and basically said "bend over" to anyone questioning their authority in anything from a terrorist attack to a tree-planting ceremony. The picture in the card was of a younger, more hopeful man, hair in the same buzz cut he wore now. The man in the picture didn't have the slight greying at the temples, the age lines on his face.

Alex double-checked the printing date on the back of the card. The picture had been taken five years ago. The man looked almost forty. He looked around twenty-five in the picture. Goodw — Grey Suit didn't look much younger in his ID than he did in front of Cole, barring the drool running down his chin. And "1st Biological Warfare Command" definitely wasn't under Homeland.

So what was going on? And why were the wallets so heavy, and why wouldn't his hands stop shaking? And why was his heart beating so loud?

He dropped the wallets and looked at his hands. They seemed normal. Flesh and blood. Except for the part where they seemed to be super-strong, and had apparently just sucked a man's soul out through his face in bolts of lightning.

Very carefully, Cole cupped his face in his hands and screamed into them. His hands smelt mostly like hands, with a faint scent of burned wiring. He pulled them away from his face, and noted that they weren't burned, not in the least.

Protect assets.

Zeke.

They were going after Zeke.

Cole scrambled to his feet. He shoved the IDs into his pocket, and, on impulse, relieved the two men of their weapons and holsters, stuffing them into the backpack. He pushed through the doors at the end of the hall and stopped dead.

No wonder no one had noticed the screaming. They had their own problems.

The parking lot and grounds of St. Jeanne were filled with sick and injured. Some in tents, some in cars, some just lying on the ground. There was a doctor's tent nearby, but it was full to bursting, and even from halfway across the parking lot, Alex could tell they were working as frantically as possible, but they were just overwhelmed.

There was a young woman lying on the grass nearby, staring at him, drool running out of the corner of her mouth. A fly landed on her eyeball.

She didn't move.

Cole ran a shaky hand through his hair, and looked for an exit. The people had left the ambulance lanes clear, but the exit was guarded by men in camo with M4's and gas masks.

Alex decided it would probably be a good idea to avoid them, and slipped out through a crack in the fence, one hidden behind a bush on the outside that stood on the edge of a vacant lot.

Before he made it to the street, someone had already noticed where he had emerged and started to drift toward the hidden entrance.


Note: More info can be found in my forum. Just lookit my profile for the link.