Requiem for a Dream

From the Story Arc: The Fading Flame

Previous Story in the Arc: Granting Wings by Seraphym (Wednesday, July 11, 2007)

Next Story in the Arc: Metamorphisis by John Murdock (Wednesday, July 11, 2007)

(posted Wednesday, July 11, 2007)

Taceant colloquia. Effugiat risus. Hic locus est ubi mors gaudet succurrere vitae.
"Let idle talk be silenced. Let laughter be banished. Here is the place where Death delights to succor life."

"Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves."

When John came to, the first thing he recognized was agonizing pain. He felt as if his entire being had been dragged through a meat grinder. What the hell had hit him? The last thing he remembered was deploying the flash bang, then charging through the doorway. There'd been another flash---oh god. He remembered now. Quantum weaponry. Bastard creations of Nictus design, created for use by the Void Hunter mercenaries specifically to destroy Kheldians. After his mind sluggishly worked through that realization, John remembered to open his eyes. It seemed like a Herculean task; everything in him ached and screamed in protest. Finally, he managed to work his eyes open and raise his head up off of the floor. More sensation besides the pain started to flood back. He was lying down, and the floor was cold. Metal. He was in a small room, very angular and grey. It stank of medical disinfectants, and had a single harsh fluorescent light.

John strained to roll over off of his back and onto his knees. Nausea flooded through him suddenly. He spied a toilet out of the corner of his eye, and managed to make it over to the steel bowl before he began retching. Once he was sure he wouldn't throw up again, John started taking stock of the situation. Bad didn't really cover it. Where was Paulie? Was he still alive? How would he reach the brawler? John cursed himself for allowing Paulie to come along at the end. The man was his friend, and trusted John, and he'd still let him follow John into what was probably going to be certain death. Damnit! He'd been stupid, and now his friend was probably paying for it.

John looked down at himself. He was bare, except for a pair of compression shorts. He didn't have any wounds or marks from the Quantum blasts, which was good. But he still felt weakened, which was bad. He was going to have to fight his way to some weapons, figure out where Paulie was, and then get to the business of killing Garvey---John froze, crouched on his hands and knees like some sort of animal. Slowly, he looked towards the "door", some sort of transparent energy mesh. Beyond the barrier was a figure clad in iridescent blue armor; John immediately recognized it as being of Crey design. The figure was sitting in a worn and creaking office chair, one bulky leg propped up on the other. Dr. Jacob Garvey, a man that John had thought dead and buried for years until recently, smiled warmly.

"Glad to see you're awake, John. It's been far too long. How's the family?" Garvey chuckled quietly, uncrossing his legs and leaning forward in his seat. "Pardon the humor. It's unprofessional of me, but I'm in a particularly splendid mood. It's been quite some time since I've had things go my way; around six years, to be certain. Ever since our little 'incident' at Facility A. You were a real surprise for us, John. When I initially conceived of the Program, the goal that the government bureaucrats had officially stated was for us to create metahumans to replace the decreasing numbers of "heroes" that were enlisting or actively cooperating with the military. They were short-sighted, but were more than willing to fund my research. Ever since I was a young man, far younger than you were when you volunteered for the Program---do recall, you accepted your position as part of some "patriotic duty", John. At least initially." Garvey steepled his fingers, staring off into space. "Where was I? Ah, yes. Ever since I was young, I knew that I was destined for something greater than the rest of humanity. I've seen atrocities and horrors that most of the world will never comprehend. All of it is endemic of a weakness in mankind itself. My life goal has been to cure that weakness. To make people...better. Originally, my research was aided by archaic records and studies dating back to the 2nd World War, detailing the 5th Column's super soldier procedures which are still used after a fashion by the Council. It wasn't long before we surpassed that. Cybernetic modification to replace frail human tissue and bone was the next step in my vision, the next progression. Think of a purely digital society, where individual consciousness is able to live forever electronically? Magnificent, but still short of the goal. That was where you came in, John. Along with those few other subjects for that testing series in the Program, you exhibited metahuman characteristics above and beyond those granted to you from my procedures. Your abilities lent themselves to the harnessing of the energy in mitochondrial DNA and neutrinos. It was an astounding process, which I still have yet to fully understand. That was when I had my revelation, John." Garvey pointed a single robotic finger at his captive. "You were the key. You and those like you. I'd had metahuman subjects before, but I'd never been given an opportunity to explore the nature of their gifts in relation to my work. Your fellow test subject Marlowe was a participant in a parallel line of research for programming already existent metahumans for use as elite military assets. But I digress. Things were going swimmingly, until your vision was clouded. Your weakness in conviction, your---sentimentality," he sneered, "that lead you to fall in love with one of your fellow subjects. What was her name again? Jessica? It was unfortunate how she met with that accident while resisting the security guards. A blow to the cranium like that---that was before the Rikti had invaded, so we didn't have the mediporter technology in our possession yet. There was nothing to be done. And then you truly lost sight of your purpose, and began rebelling. There was nothing left to be done but put you down, John, like a rabid dog or a sickly farm animal."

"I remember that day very clearly. That's how I got these, after all," the pale doctor held up one of his robotic hands, turning it in the dim light of the cellblock. "I was working in one of the reactor rooms in the basement, experimenting with the particle accelerator that I had been fortunate enough to have granted to me; a joint "gift" from Crey and the government for the progress we had been making, especially on the Revenant Hero project. Not my primary focus for research, but I played my part." He leaned back in his chair, sighing in annoyance when it creaked under his weight. "You were scheduled for termination that morning. An injection of potassium chloride, if my memory serves me correctly. And that's when it happened. You exhibited the full force of your abilities, even while under heavy sedation, I might add. The entire facility was destroyed, with tons upon tons of rubble collapsing upon me and my experiment. My body was ruined, with my legs, arms, and several internal organs that I was---how would you say---rather attached to. It was a ironic sort of providence that I was working on that experiment that morning, John. Somehow, when the Facility collapsed and crushed me, the experiment was destroyed and released some sort of energy wave that I have not been able to reproduce. I was dealing with exotic subatomic particles as evidenced by one of the other metahumans that we had been studying. They saved me, granting me some abilities of my own. I am now a part of my own experiment, thanks to you. It's an interesting experience, I must say, but I'm not terribly sure if my final papers will stand up to peer-review, now; I've lost my objectivity. Back to the tale of both of our deeds."

"I eventually escaped my would-be tomb, though my body was broken. Crey and the government were both very quick to deploy 'cleaners' to sanitize the site and make sure that there wouldn't be any fingers pointed at them for it. I was able to bargain for my life, and was taken into the employ of Crey. It was a stepping stone so that I could become healthy and capable enough to finish my great work, my Magnum Opus. They were kind enough to grant me this artificial body in return for some paltry inventions. Since I've divorced myself from them, John, I've been slowly working my way back along the path. You destroyed nearly all of my research data; all I had left was what was in my head. Then, a scarce two years ago, I saw mention of you in the Paragon Times. Again, providence, John. You and I both survived that blast for a reason." An eerie gleam came into Garvey's eyes, making him look like some feral undead creature sizing up a meal. "I've been planning for this moment since then, John. You've done your part, again, and followed all of the cues like a good pet. It didn't take much effort for me to conclude that your family was the avenue of my fortune; not only would they provide interesting specimens in and of themselves, but they'd allow me to draw you out. After that buffoon the "Grim Gambol" failed to deliver your children, I decided that while it was lamentable to waste the potential research, that it fit my plans better to have your family disposed of. And, I assure you, John Murdock, they are dead. I have left nothing to chance in that regard."

Garvey stood up from his chair, flexing his mechanical arms. "I would like to thank you for everything you've done, John. You've played right into my machinations, in every way. You may not understand it now, or ever, but know this; you will be instrumental to my work, to helping me transmute humanity into something better and drag us out of the social dark ages that we've been mired in ever since prehistoric times." The mad doctor walked towards the lone door, his hand hovering over a light switch. "We'll be spending a lot of time together, John. There's so much glorious work to be done. We'll begin in the morning. Good night." Garvey flicked off the light switch, casting the room into darkness before he closed the door behind him.

John had been frozen, unable to move or speak, scarcely able to breathe. As soon as the door shut after Garvey, John sprang to his feet, leaping at the energy barrier. It was solid; he charged his fists with all of the energy that he could muster, slamming them into the energy mesh. It only glowed brighter, absorbing his blows. John threw himself about his cell, blasting at the walls, the floor, the ceiling, anything. It was useless; nothing would even react to his blasts. Completely drained of the last reserves of his energy, he collapsed to his knees. Doubling over in sobs, John Murdock wailed into the darkness, his roars of anger and frustration quickly drowned by the sound of his remorse. The darkness swallowed all of it indifferently, and John Murdock suffered--and lived.