From the Story Arc: The Enemy Within.

Previous Story in the Arc: Reciprocity by Komrad Vex (Friday, August 26, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Awakenings by Komrad Vex (Friday, September 02, 2005)

(posted Sunday, August 28, 2005)

Vex strode through the Boomtown security gates in a daze, his mind was on other things. The security guards at the checkpoint who usually greeted him by name now glared at him coldly. I cannot blame them for their contempt, Vex thought to himself. Nobody else in the world could throw a police officer off a roof and be allowed to roam the streets freely. He was a hero and in this city that meant special privileges, it was no wonder the guards reacted to him the way they did.

As soon as he was clear of the gates Vex leapt into the air without consciously knowing where he was heading. The situation that had just transpired in Boomtown with Comrade Uncle Joe had shaken him more than he thought. For the first time in a long time he had actually been frightened, the sound of Joe's cold voice coming through his comm had sent his heart racing. The idea of being silently stalked by an unseen predator was chilling. Now he knew how his own behavior must have made his teammates feel just the day before. When he had finally caught sight of Uncle Joe, he was stricken by panic. He had broken into a cold sweat, he actually began to shake when he realized that Joe had seen him too. He chided himself for the way he had screamed into his communicator pleading for someone, anyone to come help him.

What has happened to me? He asked himself as he sailed through the air vaulting from one roof to the next. It was simple. He had lost his edge and more importantly he had alienated himself from his comrades. He swore they looked at him differently now, like damaged goods, not worth the risk anymore. How could he continue to realize his potential when he was isolated and alone? Just as Marx had observed, an individual cannot achieve self-realization once they have become alienated from the collective.

Now, it appeared that the Paragon District attorney was prepared to file criminal charges against him for the incident in Steel Canyon. How could he defend himself against charges for crimes that he had clearly committed? Perhaps I will plead guilty and resign myself to this fate, he thought. It was undeniable that he had broken the law, why shouldn't he be punished? He was not above the law, Live by the sword, die by the sword he told himself.

He stopped on a rooftop and looked around to figure out where he was. Here? He questioned himself. He had been thinking of doing this all day, now his subconscious had brought him here. Slowly, he lifted the grate and lowered himself down, careful to be as quiet as possible. The confined darkness of the ventilation shaft fit his current psychology. Then he heard it, the faint sound of beeping coming from a vent up ahead. He inched his way forward making certain not to make a noise and peered through the slits in the vent. This was the room. Silently he unfastened the vent cover and hopped to the floor. The beeping was rhythmic, the sound of life, just a shred of life.

The name slid out of his mouth in a whisper, Booster...

He knelt down beside the once proud form of his friend. The strong, youthful body now gruesomely disfigured by feeding tubes and catheters.

Tears rolled down his face.

What have I done?