Dystopia Chapter 4

From the Story Arc: Dystopia

Previous Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 11 by Krasnaya Zarya (Wednesday, July 12, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Dystopia Chapter 5 by Krasniy Zakat (Monday, July 17, 2006)

(posted Friday, July 14, 2006)

Alex peered around the new room, looking for his robotic duplicates, and being highly disappointed. The room was large, rather like the room that had housed the portal anchor, with lamps hanging down from the ceiling to illuminate the crowded interior. There were a series of workbenches and tables, all covered with various works-in-progress. The largest of which was mostly empty, but it had been cleared off recently and hastily, as evidenced by the large pile of parts lying in a pile on the floor nearby. The only things on that table were a teapot, which Alex assumed was new due to its pristine condition, and a pair of cups and saucers.

Alex was the only one sitting down and drinking, as Aleksander had wandered over to one of the walls and was pushing a worktable away. He pressed his hand against a section of the wall, which depressed in a small square shape, and a hidden panel slid open. Alex watched eagerly as his double grabbed something and returned, setting it carefully on the ground next to their table.

“What do you think?” His carbon copy queried, patting the showpiece on its head. Amazingly enough, it looked exactly like its owner – from the short-cropped red hair, to the close fitting clothes. Even the eyes were the same, with a natural luster that was only ruined by the complete lack of any movement whatsoever, including blinking. It was perfect. It was magnificent.

It was less than a meter tall.

“It's not quite what I expected,” Alex murmured to his companion. The object in reference had been lifted by Aleksander and was now standing on the edge of the table, a simulacrum of himself staring back at him with lifeless eyes. While it seemed to be an exact replica of himself, only ten years younger, he found himself slightly underwhelmed by the stature of the thing. The fact that he might step on it without noticing probably had something to do with it. For a moment, though, he found himself disturbed by it. Seeing oneself reduced to such a size wasn't his reason for feeling ill, rather it was the sudden thought that ran through his head.

Would my children have looked like that?

The accident twenty-years hence had ruined any chances he and his wife had of having children, and while he had generally consigned the fate to himself, there were moments where it came up. He was more worried about Sofia, though, for he feared that with their middle-age might come the inevitable ticking of the biological clock that plagued barren women. They had dealt with it thus far, but...

As always, he quickly pushed back that train of thought.

“It is rather impressive, if not a bit undersized,” he explained, giving Aleksander a small smile to lessen the weight of his criticism. “It's just, well, I was picturing a life-sized duplicate.” He leaned forward, touching the golem softly. Much to his surprise, it felt like real skin and muscle, giving away exactly so. Even the hair on it's head refused to betray its origins. He whistled in appreciation. “One of these my size would make me doubt whether I was the original or not. I wonder if it could fool Sofia...”

“Maybe... Not the same age.” Aleksander sat down in front of his teacup, waving away the topic. “Regardless, it is hard to get enough static organic components to create a life-size model. I have a few skeletons made, that are just waiting for the grafts. I recently made a deal which will supply it, but I'm waiting to hear back.” He grinned, eyes sparkling. “It is hard to do... There are plenty of unsavory sorts who would love to get a hand on my robots. I'm sure you understand.”

Alex nodded, drinking his tea slowly while listening to Aleksander's explanation. He kept his own experiments secret for similar reasons, even from his friends at the CCCP. Partly because they were delicate things, and he would hate to see Chug decide to drink random liquids or for Waitron to try and cannibalize them. Worse yet, Belladonna, who knew just enough physics to be dangerous. His other reason for keeping them secret was the fact that being a physicist in Paragon City was an existence fraught with peril, especially for one who moved on from atomics to theoretics. The heroes of the city were regularly saving scientists that had been kidnapped, and he hated to join them.

Plus, Sofia would kill him.

Visions of his wife passed through his head, all of them showing her at her most dangerous. He had seen her at her worst, choking the targets of her wrath with radioactive clouds and surrounding them with rings of fire – all with her mind! Luckily, she had yet to turn her radiation and pyrokinetic abilities against him, but if he allowed himself to be kidnapped and made to create weapons of mass destruction, his unaffected status would change.

He envied her, and her powers; they were always useful, in some manner, while his own were not. She might be able to slow roast a chicken, but if he tried to cook it, they'd be eating a charred crater of meat instead of a game hen. Firing beams of pure energy was not nearly as fun as it sounded, even less so when it's lowest limit still punched holes in walls. He could manipulate energy to some extent, but it seemed that he was limited to within himself; he might be able to increase, store and release energy in his body, but once it flew out of his hands, Newton took over.

Of course, there was the drawback that brought him here in the first place. He could not stop the energy production within his own body, and in time, it threatened to be released, in some form or another. Heretofore he'd avoided exploding outright, but the chronic headaches and muscle pains were getting to him. He had to use that energy in some way, and so far the only way was to obliterate everything in site. The only creative output was the energy converter he'd built, allowing him to charge his PDA with his fingertips.

He turned his attention back to his duplicate, who was busy explaining the technology behind his robotics, and the problems he faced with organics. It was obvious to both of them that normal human skin could not be used, even if there was a willing donor, as it would require a whole support system to see it gets supplied with oxygen and nutrients and numerous other issues. But a lifelike synthetic skin simply had not existed. Some came close, but the textures were wrong, were missing pores and small hairs and the myriad imperfections of reality.

“Then I just so happened to acquire some experimental compounds the government was using...” Aleksander was saying. Alex got the hint that he had 'just so happened' to purchase them over the black market. They were still in Siberia, and Alex remembered the days of bartering with anyone and everyone under the Party's purposefully ignorant gaze. “I used those to make this little guy, but have been unable to replicate it myself. Luckily, there's a fellow who is willing to get me more, among other things, if I hand over our work to him.”

Our? Alex stiffened and raised an eyebrow, waiting for his companion to correct his mistake, but instead was a greeted with silence, and a look of sadness. He followed the gaze of his comrade to the teacup, which was now empty. Several thoughts flashed through his mind, but he found himself physically unable to put them to words. He realized everything had gone wrong. He was betrayed. Sofia would follow him here to save him... And the betrayal would repeat.

How much of this had been a lie?

As darkness clouded his vision, his mind, he stared into Aleksander's eyes, silently pleading that this was all an accident, some mistake. That the two of them were closer than brothers ever could be, they were the same.

“I'm sorry.” Aleksander murmured.