Archive for the ‘Re-education’ Category

9 | 4 : Re-education

Posted: 09/14/2014 in Re-education
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It has only been a day since I collapsed, and I spent the whole day thinking.  The whole day reflecting on what I had become.

The last three years changed me.  I admitted that.  I felt distant from the world and the world felt bleak.  The sound of metal clinking on metal disturbed me, not being able to see the sky made me unseasy.

This wasn’t what I was like when I left, but I think I understand.  It was Taker’s final insult; a final torture.

He was letting me remember, slowly.  Each memory that showed me how pathetic I was in front of him, how weak I became before hot irons and spikes.  Every now and then It hit me.  Another horrid nightmare that was all too real.

Today I remembered being patched up.  He said that I ‘didn’t need a single painkiller’.  I remember begging as the machine set bone and made incisions, pumping fluid to allow rapid growth of ruptured lungs and torn tendons.

I sat there looking at the glass of water on the table before me, thinking about it.

“Ryan, are you able to answer my question?” repeated Dr. Meadows.

“Sorry,”  I replied.  “I forgot.”

Dr. Meadows frowned a little, and restated her question.  “Do you wish to continue?”

I thought about the expedition I was tasked to go on.

“I can, can’t I?”

She smiled.  “Mental health isn’t something the higher ups really care about, but I wish you would reconsider.”

I took that a clearly worded disapproval in my plans.  The only disapproval at all.  I’d been cleared for hypnosis, being a sleeper agent or anything thanks to a check up by some psychic or mind reader of some sort.  I felt as though I could do away with the trip, but at the same time it was part of a larger deal.  I’d have to do it if I wanted to further my own goals.

Taking the plunge, I looked at her in the eyes.

“I’m doing it.  I’ll go,”  I said, standing up.  “I think I can do it, I have support.”

I said my goodbyes and left, looking for Maxine.  I have one last thing to do.

 

***

 

I got lost almost instantly, seeing as I’d been restricted in where I could freely wander for the longest time, and I spent most of it reading books.  The hallway I found myself in was surprisingly bright, but not relevant at all to where I was wishing to go as it was filled with visitors of all kinds.

The sounds of chatter filled my ears.

“-om, I want an ‘Unpers-”

“-aw ‘Galactic’ in fra-”

“-ot my fault, had wor-”

I turned back, looking for actual staff.  Receptionists at desks filled with visitors are not allowed to divulge info on who is out or not.  I read a case on that being used to plan a murder of a cape known as ‘Ogre’ in the eighty’s.  I remember reading that, that stood out.

Nobody noticed me as I returned to the hallways and finally approached a NHN unit member as he walks about with paperwork.

“I’m looking for Maxine, have you seen her?”

He takes a quick look, realizes who I am and points me in the general direction.  “Capes like you at the top floor, Blocker.”

I found my way with the aid of an elevator, and caught Maxine in normal gear as she left her room.

“Hey,”  she said, slightly surprised at my sudden appearance.

“Hey,”  I replied, waving a hand.  “I’m after a favour.”

Maxine gave me a glance. “…Yeah?”

“I want to see Derek’s grave, if it’s okay with you.”

“Ryan,” she began. “You can visit it any time you like.  I was heading out anyway so I’ll take you, okay?”

I nodded, a little worried I put a negative mood in her day by saying what I did.

I followed her back to the elevator.

“I figured you’d want to see him,”  Maxine said.

“Really?”  I asked, intrigued at what her insight on me could be.

“Yeah, you’ve always had a hard time letting things go.”

“Y-yeah,”  I replied, a little shocked at the comment as we entered the elevator.  “I do, don’t I?”

The elevator opened at the ground floor, and we walked out down the hallways.

Maxine parted more words.  “Trying to fight for what you want is good, Ryan.  You tried.”

Trying doesn’t amount to anything when you lose so much.  I lost Derek, Ellen was a lost cause.  Michael and Ricky are miles away.  Samantha and Margaret underwent nasty changes, and re-triggered several times.

“Trying ain’t enough,”  I said to myself.  I have to succeed, not try.  “Nobody famous tried.  They won all the way until the very end, and in their final moments?  That’s where they tried.”

Maxine sighed, pushing past reporters.  Taker’s blowtorch shone in my face, making me take a step back before realizing it was a camera flash.  I ducked my head down and powered outside, waving off the reporters.  They don’t chase far and very few were there.  I just had bad luck with a boisterous one.

I pushed my way in front of her and turned to see her wave her hand at me, a final reporter changing his mind about giving chase and leaving for the NHN building, looking at his camera.

“How’d the vultures get tamed?”  I joked, making an elbow gesture.

“NHN gives them what they want and they don’t go hungry,”  explained Maxine, walking ahead of my on the roads.

We reached the gravestone.  It was chipped, which was odd for such a new stone.  Maybe the fact it was a cape gravestone gave it value?  Maxine walked up and touched the grave.

“Hey, we got Ryan back,”  muttered Maxine.  “Now all we need is…”

“Maxine,”  I said as she trailed off.  “I’d like some time alone, please.”

She looked back at me as she knelt over the grave and nodded, heading off.

“Good luck with it,”  she said, a final parting.

“Yeah,” I replied, still looking at the grave.

Only one thing ran through my head.  I have three friends left.

 

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Shower time.

I hate it.  Not out of some childish thoughts that my time was more important doing other things, but because I just didn’t like looking at my body anymore.  I’d never say that I used to be vain or self obsessed, but I did admit I felt somewhat confident of my body, with no real worries or issues before the incident in Norfolk.  The reasons why were simple; I was unfit before, and for the last three years I’d been deteriorating.  It showed.

I walked down the hallway with the items I’d been given by the guards to allow me to bathe.  The bathroom was bright, several shower stall separated by the cubicles you’d see in a public toilet.

You step into the closest one, placing the towel over the rack that was concerningly too close to the shower’s assumed stream of water.  I turned the knob and the cold hits me harder than any punch.  Not as hard as…

I shook my head, hands going through my hair and allowing me to get used to the cold.  I’m here.  Not in Texas.  I’m fine.

“Damn it,”  I muttered to myself, barely audible in the shower.  “Fuck.”

I slowly slid down with my back against the cubicle wall.  I could only feel it in patches here and there as my skin rubbed against it and I sat on the floor.

***

Three Years Ago: Kingdom of New Austin

“Didn’t you want revenge, Ryan?”  Taker mocked, smiling as he looked on the arena where I stood, exhausted.  “You did, didn’t you?”

I stood there, shaking and trying to keep my footing, fists clenched.

“Come on Ryan, do it!”

Sacrifice looked at me, her eyes empty.  Hollow.  She was strewn against a pillar in a daze.  A drugged up mess.  In contrast, I was there, the other side of the ring.  I was nothing but the punchline Taker’s sick shaggy dog joke.

“Go on, you can punch, can’t you?”

I could, but barely.  I’d been awake for three days.  I had to watch for three days.  Despair and pity were overpowering what was blind rage.

I gave in.  “I-I don’t want to,”  I said quietly.  “I didn’t want this.”

Taker laughed.  Barely refined spite and anger.

“You see that, Samantha!”  he bellowed, pointing at me from his stand.  “He’s pathetic!  He can’t even attack you!  What the hell did you see in him!?  Potential!?”

Sacrifice, no…  Samantha finally fell.  I charged a little too late and punched her face with the force of somebody falling asleep.  She didn’t even react.

“I didn’t want this,”  I mumbled, crying over her.  “I didn’t want this.”

***

I took so long in the shower guards came in to check if I was still alive.  Apparently, I had inhaled water in the shower when I lost my concentration and nearly drowned.  That wasn’t what worried them.

A knock at the door.  Maxine.

“Come in,” I said.

She entered the hospital room and placed some flowers on a table.

“I’d get you some chocolate but you…”  she trailed off, looking at my hands and feet.

I was chained to the bed after they saw.

“Do they hurt?”  she asked after too much silence.

“Yeah.”

“Does Ma-”

“No,”  I interrupted.  “No, she wasn’t what…  I don’t think so.”

Maxine sighed, looking at me.  I turned away, avoiding eye contact.

Maxine finally brought up something.  “Derek’s dead, you know.”

Great.

“He was caught in an explosion.  It uh…  They said it didn’t hurt.”

I could hear some sniffing.  Dammit.

“I was so mad at you when you came back, you weren’t even there at his funeral.  I thought you ran away or died or something.”

“Derek was a bit of an ass, but he had his heart in the right place,”  I replied.  “I remember one time he was late hanging out.  Turns out he took a detour to give this abandoned kid to the Information office of the mall in Norfolk.”

I chuckled a little.

“He didn’t want to be seen as soft so he made the most stupid excuse about a blonde chick in a bikini.”

Maxine added on to the story.  “Yeah, I think Micheal put him in a headlock for wandering about with strangers on his own.”

We spent some time in silence.

“I hate how everyone says I’ve changed, Max.  I didn’t want this.  I wanted things to go back to normal, or for it to be a dream.”

“That’s why you chased after them?”

“I-”  I stammered out the next part.  “I think deep down inside that I deserved it.  I think I had this happen because I wanted to much, I wanted something I’ll never get back.”

Maxine left without saying a word, or a goodbye.

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“Are you sure you don’t want to talk about this?”  asked Dr. Meadows.

She was my shrink.  I only went because these meeting are mandatory.  It’s been a five days since I returned from the Kingdom of New Austin and this is my second meeting.

She sat across the table, legs crossed and two glasses of water in the middle.  She was giving me an inspection from her relaxed posture, her blue eyes scanning every minute reaction I had.

“I’m sure,” I replied.  “I can handle it.”

“Samantha can’t,”  she retorted firmly.  “You said she needs your help, I think you are unqualified.”

“I’m not,”  I responded, emphasising my disagreement.  “I can help her.”

“Like you could have helped Ellen?”

Those words hit me like a punch to the gut.

“…Not like that.  I wa-“

“You were wrong, Ryan,”  Meadows interrupted.  “We can help her more than you can.  Trust us.  Trust me.”

I couldn’t trust her, or I didn’t want to deep down.  I wanted to keep Samantha safe.  I could do that at the very least.

“I don’t want to.  I think s-  I think she’s gone throug-“

“Ryan, this isn’t about what happened or what crimes she committed,”  she tried to reassure.  “Things are different now, and all you need to worry about is that you, Margaret and Samantha get help.”

As much as she tried, it wasn’t all getting through to me.  I mean, Samantha still did what she did, right?  It’s only natural that people would want her arrested, even after those three years.

She started again, taking my silence as an urging to continue.

“You don’t seem to think about what you really want.”

“I do,”  I said.  “I want to protect Samantha and I want to help.”

She pulled out her notes.

“You said last time that you didn’t really know and you only came up with the Village project to appease the NHN.  You lied?”

“I-”  No use.  “I just want to protect Samantha.”

She sighed.

“That’s pretty possessive,”  she said.  “Are you sure this is what you want?”

“Yeah.  Yeah it is.”

An awkward silence filled the seconds nothing happened.

“I think we should focus more on that behaviour of yours,”  she finally said.  “Maybe if I can help you let go of this need to do…  To be so chivalrous all the time.  We can work on that first, and maybe if you start to trust me more, we’ll sort out any other issues you have.  Together.”

She had trouble finding the right words, constantly trying to be careful.  I didn’t react.

“How about this;  We’ll avoid talking about any possibility of Samantha being arrested for whatever crimes she had previously committed.  I promise I’ll try to see that nothing happens as long as both you and Samantha make progress with your recoveries, okay?”

“I’ll try,”  I said, somewhat unconvinced.  “I’m not sure I need it but I’ll try at the least.”

She smiled and took a note down on her paper.

“That’s good.”

 

***

Warm.  Baking warm dirt and sand.  It was too hot to breathe, let alone walk along the road.  Not that walking mattered at this moment.  There was nowhere to go.  Just road.  Endless road and tantalizing mirages on the horizon.

I looked at my hands.  I looked as flesh searing, drying up and peeling away as if I’m standing in the fallout of some nuclear blast, and the heat is just eating away at me.  Sweat boiled off my face and stung.

“Being alone hurts, doesn’t it.”

I turned around.  Nobody there.  Just me and the heat.  The sun.  It was purely a large and oppressive object, bearing down from above, dominating the sky.  Constantly assaulting me with no remorse.

“You want more.  You want something to hold onto, no?”

Still nobody.

“Who’s there?”  I asked, foolishly.  Impatiently.

“Just a nightmare,”  it replied.  “Look at your arms.”

I did.  The flesh was gone, burning away to charcoal.  Underneath the skin, piston replaced muscle, Wiring replacing nerves, piping replacing liquids and arteries.  A purely mechanical arm.  I should be shocked or concerned but I wasn’t.  I’d had been through too much to be surprised already.

I felt a pang of self pity as I tested out my new arm.  I should be reacting to this, not staring at it with borderline disappointment.

“What do you want?”  it asked.

What a stupid question.  I watched as more skin burned away, revealing more of my mechanical body underneath me.

“I’m not saying,”  I replied.

“Of course,”  it said, smugly.  “You don’t really say what you want much, do you?”

I moved my mechanical arm.  It felt normal, but painless.  Not like my remaining skin as it burned away.

“Who are you?”  I repeated my question.

“I’m just a Nightmare,”  it said.  “That’s all there is to it.”

Metal grinding.  A massive mass of scrap was grinding and tearing itself as it rose before me, forming an almost human shape.  An anchor here, a bit of car there.  I could see all the way through it in places, gaps where metal didn’t fit correctly.  It took a small bow, the sound of metal groaning in fatigue.

What was interesting, was the head was the most detailed part, heavily feminine, but still formed from scrap.  Cables and wires were arranged to create stray hairs of a fringe and sheets of metal bent around and twisted to form skin.  LED lights made for irises.

Not perfect, but good enough for me to tell it was a copy.  I was impressed, smiling as my face still felt pain from the heat, even as a massive shadow towered over where I stood.

“Dead Metal,”  the first voice said, tone changed to annoyance.  “You shouldn’t join in on my work.”

Ah.  Somebody is using powers over dreams on me.

As soon as I thought about it, I woke up, staring at the dark ceiling of the cold cell.  I raised my arm, looking at it in the minimal light afforded to me.  Flesh and blood.  Not metal.

I wonder who those two were.

 

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9 | 1 : Re-education

Posted: 08/12/2014 in Re-education
Tags: ,

I sat there, reading excerpts of ‘Awakening and You’ that were marked as important with highlighter.  It didn’t take long before the cross referencing got annoying, forcing me to eventually give up and start reading the ‘National Heroes Network Powers Classification Canual’ that sat next to me.

I gave the three other books on the desk in a pile a stare and sighed deeply.  The lawyer’s meetings were less boring than this.

Three knocks distracted me from my tedium.  Agent Williams.

“Ryan Anderson?”

“Come in,”  I said, putting the book down.  There was a printed copy of a supplemental report I was advised to read, but I hadn’t gotten around to it.

I was urged to read it if I was taking care of Sacrifice, according to the NHN.

Agent Williams closed the door and eventually found a chair to sat down on, with me turning to face him as he did so.

“You look different,”  he began.

“I am.  I’ve grown.  I’m eighteen, for a start.”

“That too,”  he said.

I took a pause.  He’s talking about the other thing.

“That’s isn’t growth,”  I said, placing my hand over my chest.  “You don’t grow from things like that.  I’m not any better of a person.”

“Yet you did.”

I don’t want to think I did.

“Is there anything important to discuss? Or is it all remarking about me?”

Agent Williams put the briefcase on his lap, opened it and handed over a few files.

“We said yes.  A trial period with voluntary members before accepting any more locations, and we agreed on three.”

“The three will be?”  I asked, looking at the details.  Logs of debate and expected costs; timescale; initial feasibility study; survey and population results; the actual allowed budget.

“Vermont, Mississippi and Colorado,”  he answered.  “You’ll be making them in a week.  You’ll also have to create two extra spaces for research and imprisonment.”

Three villages.  That’s more than I expected, but a lot of thinking and sensory capes probably would like to not have their powers dictate everything.

“… How many applicants?”

“At least seventeen families with members who have powers and eight members of the NHN.”

I nodded.  This was good.  It was worth it.

“I just have to serve out my time, right?”

“Yeah, that’s essentially it,”  replied Williams.  “Ah.  Before I forget:”

He pulled out a second file.

“A part of your sentence is to engage in an Expedition to Abio National Park.”

I took the file, skimming it.  Abio national park.  I knew that place well.  It was Biohazard’s residence.

“Why there?”  I asked.

“Well,”  he began.  “Biohazard isn’t a bad person.  He just can’t control his powers, like you or Unperson.  We think you could give him residence in your project.”

I see.  I’ll be giving the man to rendered half a state into an ecological nightmare in a day a home and shelter.  I couldn’t be mad at him, it was never his fault Ohio suffered as badly as it did.  I looked at the Expedition members.  Me, Alliance, Clawtail and Aim.

“I see.  These are copies?”  I pointed as the files.

“Yes, they are copies.  I’ll be going now.  Good luck with your recovery and rehabilitation.”

Agent Williams got up and opened the door.

“Before I forget, I’m sorry to hear about your parents.  We didn’t expect Trauma to encounter them.”

The closing and clicking of locks was relaxing.  Being alone was serene.

Damn, I should get to reading.

 

***

The copy of ‘Awakening and You’ was droll beyond comprehension, yet fascinating with its own naive charm, like a teacher invested in his subject as his students sit dumbfounded and bored.  As much as my own ignorance and boredom with the subject persisted I did gain a newly found appreciation for why this was taught in schools.  It wasn’t a case of teaching people how to name hydrocarbons or how to create macros in spreadsheet programs; it was more along the lines of teaching CPR and fire safety.

I’d already learned that you can’t avoid encounters with capes like you can with chemistry and computer science.  I put my head in the sand, and the little research I did do was too late to help.

I was in over my head three years ago and got punished for it.

Most of the stuff I was reading didn’t truly apply to me, but more towards Samantha who had gotten her powers from an awakening and thus could reawaken at any time.

Reawakening.  An event where one who previously had powers subconsciously alters them in high stress situations in an attempt to gain a beneficial power.  There is no assumed limit to the number of times one can reawaken, as the current record is the English hero Vector, at fifteen reawakenings.

I felt good, memorizing that.  Even if the book was outdated, I appreciated that Maxine gave me this stuff as reading material while I was in here at the NHN Rehabilitation Center.  I’ll thank her next time I see her.

Rehabilitation.  I guess I would have had to go through with it, considering that Margaret told Maxwell and Unperson the gist of what happened.  They insisted I needed it as much as Samantha and Margaret.  I couldn’t really make a convincing argument to the contrary, which I guess is a good reason to stay here for the time being.

Not all scars heal, but hopefully Samantha will have a few less after a while.

I put the book down again after placing a bookmark on it, looking at the two folders Williams gave me.  An expedition.  I smiled at the thought.  I’d be able to help Biohazard.  Maybe I’ll be able to help all the others who are effected by powers, or at the very least as many as I can.

I motioned to pick up one of the other three books, but I held myself back, opting to place them at the side of the desk on the floor instead, where they wouldn’t tempt me to read them too soon.  I was more interested in learning the basics of the super powered world, I’ll catch up on what happened while I was gone tomorrow.

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