More Than Your Nature

The outbreak was over, the virus had been contained, and the Red Line had been retracted, erased from the minds and lives of the citizens of Manhattan Island. Thousands of corpses and a few months after the death of the Supreme Hunter and the detonation of a nuclear device off the coast of New York, life had returned to the island that had captivated the eyes of the world. Here and there were reminders of those nightmarish times: buildings gutted open by military firepower, vast underground tunnels ripped through the earth where Elizabeth Greene and her Hydras had traveled, and corpses still being found every day, families notified before the bodies burned.

But life had returned.

Life had spread out from several sections of Manhattan, areas that had luckily escaped the blight through the sacrifice of many men and women who had died defending innocent people, and taken hold of the island once again. Families moved back into temporary shelters, or lived in with friends, construction efforts cleared away debris and corpses, and thousands of relief and aid workers flocked to the city to help those in need. The military stations that had been set up, the Marines, the Army, the National Guard, still stood vigilant over several areas of the city: surviving infected where un-coordinated, few and far between, and sickly, as if the virus was tiring out and falling apart without a guiding mind.

And above the city streets that had choked on the blood and corpses of thousands the man and not man who was both responsible and innocent of this whole disaster stood. ZEUS, BLACKLIGHT, DX-1118 C, the Monster of Manhattan, the killer, monster, terrorist, Alex Mercer. He was all of these things.

Alex Mercer, the name it had taken up for itself, was simply sitting outside, on the rooftop of his-Alex Mercer's- sister's apartment. A cell phone was in his hand, he had been quietly and tirelessly sifting through the memories of a thousand dying and screaming men and women for phone numbers and emails: he had been contacting all the families of everyone he had taken away, letting them now, as gently as he possibly could, that their loved ones were dead. It was the least he could do.

It was strange he thought, sitting here as he watched cars and people move in the streets down below, but he realized that time alone was harder than all his battles, all his killing and consuming. Dana had survived, Dr. Ragland had come through and she was safe, resting down a single floor below him, both eating and watching television or sleeping, he wasn't sure. He had thanked the good doctor for that, Ragland was one of the few people who treated him… as a person. Mercer didn't dare call him a friend, he didn't think he deserved it. And Dana… She had accepted him, allowed her to live with him until this mess died down or until he could find a way to hide, to get lost in the crowd of mankind.

And that was what was so strange to him. Dana had no real reason to take him in, she knew he was not her real brother, he knew he was not her real brother, but he is and he is not Alex Mercer. He was also 1st Lt. James Goodwin, Lt Charles Perri, 1st Lt John Chen, Dr. Jon Tynes, Dr. Rustle Lee, PFC Jesse Arel, Dr. Shane Ivey, Gerald Burgess, Samantha Gomez, Travis Morgan, Annette Walker, Walter Avery, Mark Harrison PhD, and a whole host of other thousands of men and women. He had their memories of their first kiss, their first love, the time they first tried ice cream, the time their uncle accidentally closed the car door on their fingers, the embarrassment of talking in front of the class: he could mimic their behavior perfectly, he could shift into Calum Kirkland right now and live out his life with his family and they would be none the wiser. He could wear the skin of 2nd Lt Micheal Sunderland and return him to his wife Susan Sunderland and give a father back to John and Mark Sunderland. He could do all these things and more.

But because he was so many people, because he had the basic essence of thousands, he was no one. He had no real claim to those lives, to the good done by all of them, or by the evil done by all of them: he had no claim to those memories, or right to delve into them. He knew, all the doubt and all the fear in them welled up inside him, and he knew that he, not Alex Mercer, but the real him, BLACKLIGHT DX-1118 C, ZEUS, was no one, unworthy of a life. What had he done really? He had run around and killed people, some who deserved it the BLACKWATCH dogs screamed inside his head, and some who didn't. But even then it wasn't that simple was it? Even the BLACKWATCH he consumed had some good in him, they loved their families, they did what they thought would keep all of mankind safe; they had sweethearts, or brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors too. He knew why they dehumanized the infected, he dehumanized them too. And the innocent people he ate, he knew some of them were cheaters, liars, drug addicts, wife beaters, he also knew their only mistake was being in the wrong place when he needed more mass. He saw people as only that, as food to be used when he was in danger, only caring about them after their lives where swimming in his head.

He looked down at the food beside him, a hamburger Dana had bought off of a street vender for a penny, the vender having lowered his prices to almost nothing to feed the hungry, and stared at it. There were two before; she had brought him two and some fries, now only one remained. He realized he didn't care for it… part of his body called out for human flesh, bones, marrow, brain, heart. But a thousand voices chattered away in his head, they loved pickles, they hated pickles, mustard on a hamburger was disgusting, hamburgers are shit compared to hotdogs, add bacon, don't add bacon, get a veggie burger instead, the fries are good, the fries are bad, needs more salt. He grimaced as he quieted his mind, leaving him with only "his" thoughts. He had consumed the hamburger and fries the way he usually did, myriad tendrils ripping into them with tiny mouths that chew and tear. He was still hungry, but the way he ate disgusted him.

He sighed, a purely human habit that he didn't need to fake, just like his form, just like him. He was a liar, a small voice told him, and everything about him was a lie. He should just accept what he is, why keep up the charade of a human body? Why pretend to breathe? Why pretend to need two eyes at the front of his head, why pretend to just have two arms, why pretend? Liar.

He couldn't quiet down this voice, it was his own.

Attempting to change his thoughts to something else, he shifted back into the minds in his mind and found… nothing. He had done it, called all the 1,201 numbers or emailed the addresses in his head. He was done.

"Only took three days too."

He simply sat again, wondering what he would do. Hiding was still a top priority to him, and he considered what he should do. BLACKWATCH was down, but not out. Maybe he'd hide at the bottom of the sea? That'd put him out of reach of almost any military incursion he could think of. Maybe he could hitch a ride on a space shuttle and just die off in space?

Cynical voices called out and told him that he was just making shit up, just trying to hide from his own shame, his lack of being. But another memory, several of them when the people he had consumed had felt their own self-doubt sprang up. Jonathan Paiz had worried he would be a gangbanger like his family was, Mariana Garcia had worried she would be a slut like her mother was, the list went on and on, people worried that they would be stuck where they were born, that they could not bring themselves out of the grime and dirt into something better and vice versa, some born in good homes and communities thought they could not go from a high class life to one of poverty and crime and despaired when they did.

One memory, one that he could truly call his own, came to mind. It was shortly after the nuclear device initiated off of New York, after Dana had been released from the hospital by Dr. Ragland with a clean bill of health, when she flat out told him she knew what he had done. All of it, she knew how her brother had released the virus, and how he had gone and cleaned the mess up as best as he could. He didn't know how, but she was a smart girl so he wasn't surprised. She had told him:

"I know you aren't Alex… but you don't have to be."

A creature that could rend tanks and helicopters, jump over houses and run up buildings, one that had survived a newborn sun stood up, standing on the rooftop of his sister's apartment. He was created as a weapon by a psychopath, but he was more than that. He was less than human, but he was also something more. He was filled with a desire to kill, to be an apex predator, to stalk mankind in the way they did the animals of the Earth. He had killed, he was a monster, a killer and a terrorist. But he could be more, he was more.

He leaned down and picked up the last hamburger. Instead of tendrils eating it apart, he raised up to his mouth, and ate like a human would.

He is Alex Mercer, and he is more than his nature.