And So it Begins Again...
Disclaimer: Don't own Incredibles or Aberrant. Pixar/Disney and White Wolf do. SBTV is a fictional network created by Swissair over on Deviant Art. I hope he doesn't mind me swiping it. Some of the news excerpts at the beginning of this are from the main Aberrant source book. There were not any station identifications for each line, so I added various news networks.
Okay, as I said before, I had the sick urge to write this after watching "Battlestar Galactica: The Plan" and JJ Abrams version of Star Trek. Originally, I was going to tell this story in a series of flashbacks throughout "War of Angels", but I felt it would bog the story down. As it is, there are some elements in this story that tie into what's happened in my previous stories and what's going on in WoA (as well as hinting what might happen in the future). For those of you White Wolf purists who might not be happy with how I twisted and changed things, I hope you like how I paid a nod to what has happened in the past. But just remember, just because some things happened differently, it doesn't mean that there's going to be a "happier outcome". For all you know, my twisted 'verse might be as bad or worse than canon.
For all you Incredibles fans who have had the guts to hang on for this crazy ride, I just want to say "Thank you" and I hope you've enjoyed it so far and plan to stick around.
The Author would also like to thank: Shannon, Danni, Nullchronicler, Swissair, Zarthrax, Walker of the Wheel (though I haven't heard from you lately), various readers from those other countries (including the guy from the Russian Federation who at least takes a look at my fic every so often...don't know who you are, but I'm glad you're watching), and...of course McSlave...whose sick and twisted idea for a campaign is responsible for this whole damn thing. Yes, Nick...I blame this on you. :-D
". ..In the wake of the Galatea's explosion, freak accidents and catastrophes are erupting all around the world..."
Fox News "...earthquake, at least 4.0 on the Richter scale, rocked Denver.. ."
NBC Nightly News ". ..series of explosions on the streets of New York City, including one threatening a school bus.. ."
CBS Evening News "...United States government has declared a state of Defcon 3. ."
CTV News ". . .India is blaming a Pakistani attack for the sudden flood of the Ganges, which has washed away.."
BBC ". . .teenager was unable to be rushed to the hospital, remaining electrically charged for 20 minutes, despite paramedics' attempts to ground out the electrical charge..."
SBTV News, Vancouver "...mass suicide of a California religious commune, which detectives are attributing to a millennia1 death pact..."
"Of all the days to change the world, why the hell did God have to pick a fucking Monday?"
-Henry "Duke" Rollo, The Duke Rollo show.
Director's Office NSA Facility Langley, Virginia March 24th, 1998 0300 hrs
Richard Dicker sat behind his desk and looked at the large video screen built into one wall of his office. He had the screen break down into several windows that showed news footage from various media outlets and poured himself another shot of bourbon as he watched the chaos that happened within the last twenty-four hours. He had spent a majority of the last sixteen hours talking to the President, the chiefs of staff, a few congressmen, and the heads of various law enforcement agencies, telling them that he had things under control on his end. It wasn't exactly a lie, he did have things under control on his end, because the order to his people were simple; be alert but stand by for further instruction.
In other words, he instructed his people to basically do nothing except protect NSA interests should they come under attack. The supers who were still under NSA jurisdiction were politely told to limit their actions to providing aid and humanitarian relief when needed. Those supers who had been "retired" during the ban (and had not been murdered by Pine) seemed content with keeping a low profile and followed Dicker's orders, only operating out in the open if their neighborhood was affected by the chaos. Though the ban had been lifted a few weeks ago, very few had actually stepped forward into the public spotlight. Even the Crusaders, which was the NSA's covert super-team (and only used in dire circumstances during the ban) was kept on "stand-by" status. He was tempted to reveal the existence of the Crusaders to the public, but he knew that it wasn't time yet.
Then again, he pretty much knew something like this was going to happen. After all, that was the price of having a glimpse of the possible future.
With practiced ease and years of habit, he had no problem throwing back that shot of bourbon, closing his eyes for a moment to enjoy the sensation as the liquid burned its way down his throat. There was a time he wished he could get drunk, but he knew his enhanced metabolism would have broken it down well before it hit his bloodstream. I'm getting way too old for this shit. Playing God should be left to God, not a bunch of power-hungry mortals with delusions of grandeur.
He remembered his one glimpse of the data on the artifact back in 1942, when he first joined the Aeon Society. Most of the members distrusted him, particularly Michael Donighal (who was using the moniker "Doctor Primoris" at the time). As far as they were concerned, he was an American soldier foisted on them by the government to make sure they were being patriotic and to report their actions to his superiors. They were only half-right, he never questioned their patriotism…he was there because military intelligence (which actually meant something back in the day) had uncovered that The Order had someone inside Aeon. He never told them his true mission which was to ferret out the traitor in their midst, but he wasn't really well received by the group, particularly the core members. However, there was one exception: Max Mercer.
Aeon's main founder, though Dicker only met him a few times, showed trust and even approved of Dicker's joining the group despite the opposition. In that year, Dicker had earned enough respect from Mercer to be shown some of Aeon's secrets…including the Oracle Artifact. Dicker hadn't realized it at the time, but it was a test. When he was shown what they had uncovered from the artifact, Dicker's response was simple: "Get rid of that damn thing before it fucks us over."
His language and anger as he stalked out of the room, telling them that he didn't want to know anything else about the artifact, stunned everyone particularly this one arrogant French-Canadian named Lavielle who was stupid enough to block Dicker when he tried to leave. Two seconds later, Lavielle was on the floor, out cold and with a broken jaw. Dicker hadn't won any friends among the "core membership", but he did receive a note from Mercer that contained only two words: You passed. The other bizarre event stemming from the incident with the Oracle Artifact was Doctor Primoris no longer treating him with open disgust and contempt. Oh, the good Doctor still talked down to Dicker with a condescending tone, but it was more as an academic than as an enemy.
Then the shit hit the fan in 1943 and he was accused of being a spy for the Nazis. It didn't help that his contact in the US government was killed by a sniper and he was framed for that as well. While on the run, he figured out who the traitor within Aeon was and that they were responsible for framing him. When Crackshot and Primoris caught up with him in Paris, he could have sworn he was a goner. If he hadn't fallen the way he had trying to clear that wall, he was sure Crackshot's bullet would have hit him the head instead of the shoulder. Then Primoris jumped in and proceeded to beat him to a pulp while Crackshot was screaming at Primoris to get out of the way so she could take the shot.
He shook his head to get rid of those memories and return to the present. He glanced at the screen and focused on the footage of a New York firefighter seemingly drawing all the flames out of a burning school bus and into his body. Already, the media were calling this young man "The Fireman" and hailing him as a superhero.
"What a fucking joke," he muttered in disgust. "Only fifteen years ago, they would have labeled someone like him as a threat and brought him up on charges of some sort."
"The world will change, Richard," someone said from behind him, "especially when it deals with public opinion."
Dicker didn't even bother to turn around, not surprised in the slightest as a second shot-glass was put down next to his. Without even looking up, he poured a shot for his guest and another for himself. "I was wondering if you were going to show up, Michael."
Michael Donighal pulled up a chair next to Dicker's desk and sat down before slamming back his shot of bourbon. He then held the empty glass in his hand for a second, studying it. "It's a pity that I cannot get drunk," he said as he set the glass back on the desk, "because I don't like killing indiscriminately and it would be nice to momentarily forget about it."
"If you're referring to the twenty people on board that station, Michael, keep in mind that at least half of them were focused on bringing about an 'engineered apocalypse'." Dicker finished off his shot and then set his glass aside as well. "I don't condone what you did either, but like you said, it couldn't be helped. Don't forget what you showed me almost sixty years ago…we knew this could happen, more than likely would, we just didn't know what Aeon would be doing at this point. I don't even think Maggie knew."
"She didn't," Michael assured him. "She had not become aware of Phoenix until only a few years ago, but she did not believe they would enact it."
"Twenty lives, Michael...ten of them possibly innocent. Was there really no other way? I mean twenty lives versus billions, it's an easy decision, but there was no way around this, was there? Was this…what was that term you used back then…one of those 'static' events?"
Michael shook his head. "Very few events are static, Richard. We could have sat by, done nothing, and let Aeon go through with Phoenix." He gave Dicker a sad smile. "The Earth would have been subjected to all sorts of geological, sociological, and biological instabilities that would have resulted with roughly ninety percent of the population being wiped out and the world being plunged back into the Dark Ages within a decade or two. The scions of Aeon would then go about bringing about a 'new dawn' of mankind and, indeed, a new and possibly great civilization would arise from the ashes."
"Sounds like something you would have approved of in the past," Dicker said; there was no accusation in his voice, just a simple statement of fact. "After all, Michael, I would have thought you would set yourself up as one of the 'gods' in this so called new age."
"You're right," Michael chuckled, not even bothered in the slightest by Dicker's comment, "I would have perhaps welcomed it at one time, but that's been done before and even those who preceded us eventually failed and faded away to become nothing more than myths and legend."
"Preceded us," Dicker repeated, lost in thought for a moment as he pondered the other man's words. "I'm not sure I like the sound of that."
"No, you wouldn't." Michael smiled again as he reached into his coat, pulled out a small data-chip, and set it on Dicker's desk. "I've always had my theories about the ancient gods of mythology and various religious figures throughout history, but that pales in comparison to what was stored in the Oracle artifact."
Dicker picked up the chip and examined it for a few seconds before looking back up at Donighal. "What is this?" he asked.
"Pine's incomplete copy of what he got from the artifact," Michael replied. "He only decrypted part of it, focusing mostly on the technology he could develop from the information he gathered. However, he was well aware of Phoenix and was making sure he would be a part of it. He helped build Galatea, and was making sure his database had been copied and stored there."
"Son of a bitch," Dicker grumbled as he tapped a few keys on his computer, causing the main video screen on the wall to switch to a single image; live streaming security footage of a child sleeping in a bed, one of his arms wrapped around a toy globe as if it were a stuffed animal. "It makes sense now," he said as he had the camera zoom in on the sleeping child's globe. "We knew the boy could link with our computer networks because he was able to access our security cameras…the data he was receiving…the numbers…he was linked to Galatea the whole time."
Michael nodded in agreement. "And Galatea was linked to Aeon and various networks around the world. The boy's link to Galatea literally gave him access to everything; I'm surprised the strain didn't kill him." The scientific curiosity at being confronted with a challenge had returned to his voice. "For his first attempt at creating a super-being, Pine has clearly surpassed himself. I wonder what the boy's purpose was."
"Well, you're the one who cracked the secrets of the artifact. It's supposed to be some sort of archive from what…the twenty-third century that somehow got thrown three-thousand years into the past before being dug up in 1938?"
"Something like that."
"Then don't you think he would have popped up somewhere in that time line?"
Michael laughed at him and shook his head. "You really don't know the full truth about the artifact, do you, Richard?" he asked.
"No, I really don't care to know."
"Which is why I trust you with this," Michael said, tapping the data chip on the desk with his fingertips. "I know that if it were up to you, you would destroy this chip. However, I'm asking you to not destroy it, but hide it somewhere in a deep dark hole where even I can't find it."
"Because it might be needed in the future; but it all depends on the time lines."
"Time lines?" That's when it clicked. Dicker resisted the urge to pour himself another shot of bourbon when he realized what the other man was saying. "The artifact isn't just from the future, is it, Michael?"
"No," the other man replied, a grave look on his face as he shook his head again. "It's about futures. What no one other than myself or Mercer realized is that the Oracle Artifact contained data of several time lines spanning from its discovery in 1938 to the middle of the twenty-third century. I know you don't like knowing about the future, Richard, but there are others who would seize that opportunity to mold it to their advantage. I have seen what would have happened had Project Phoenix gone ahead, but that was only one outcome. Almost all the others involved Galatea being destroyed by 'something unknown'."
"Don't you mean yourself?"
"Perhaps…or maybe it was an accident, but Galatea's destruction caused a new generations of supers…later to be dubbed 'novas' by the media…to emerge. I've seen where some of these futures lead and my role in them…and…"
For the first time, Dicker saw some something he thought he would never see on the face of Michael Donighal: fear. "Okay, let me guess; things don't turn out well for your kind."
"No." It was a simple answer, but one that had a very strong sense of finality. "It doesn't turn out well for just about everyone…and now, this boy…even you…"
"What about me?"
"Neither of you should be here…none of the timelines in the artifact mention you, the boy…my daughter...the age of heroes before the ban…none of this was mentioned."
This time, it was Dicker's turn to laugh. "Well, I'll be damned," he said. "There is something that frightens the great Doctor Primoris; fear of the unknown."
"I'm glad you find that amusing, Richard."
"I hate to break this to you, Michael, but that's normal for everyone, even 'god like' beings like yourself," Dicker said, shaking his head. "But I don't think that's your main problem. Don't let this go to your head, but one of things that made you great…and an egotistical prick…was looking at everything as some sort of equation or problem that could be solved through logic and scientific application. All these so called time lines you saw in the artifact…they're nothing but complex equations to you; equations to be worked out and solved to their logical conclusions. You obviously don't like some of these conclusions, but now it sounds like you're facing an equation with no logical solution…and that's what's getting to you, isn't it?" He took the chip off the desk and held it up. "The future will bring what it brings, Michael. It is how we deal with the shit dumped on us by the present that shapes the future and who we are, not some data in an artifact that tells us how it's supposed to be."
"You think it's that simple, Richard?"
"I know it's that simple. You go with your gut; you try second-guessing yourself and all you're going to do is give yourself health problems." Dicker paused a moment and grinned. "Or," he added, "in the case of those who are 'god-like'; an eternal ulcer that just won't go away."
That last comment actually made Michal laugh again. "That's a very brutal and crude way of simplifying the situation."
"Maybe it is," Dicker said, putting the chip in his coat pocket. "I'll drop this somewhere like you asked, but do yourself a favor, Michael. Trust your instincts and stop thinking about what you should or shouldn't do. If what you said that about me and the other various circumstances you mentioned is true and we didn't exist or happen in those time lines, that tells me that this is something new. You can't solve this equation because you are currently in it and are part of it."
"If what I do what you say and…follow my gut…that might make us adversaries."
"Well, that's the beauty of it, Michael…we never trusted each other to begin with, but at least we both knew where each of us stood. You may be a hero in this reality or you might just turn into an asshole…not that much of a stretch…but that's for you to decide, not some fancy trinket with mileage on it."
Michael chuckled as he got up out of his chair. "You always were one to cut to the heart of the matter, Richard, I think that's why I respected you, even if your are crude and ill-mannered."
"It's my right as a paranoid and bitter old man," Dicker snapped back. He then gestured to the sleeping boy on the screen. "Where, do you suppose, our young friend fits in this equation?"
Michael studied the screen for a few moments then shook his head. "I don't know…but I think it's safe to assume that he plays a role, I just don't know what it is." He then looked back at Dicker. "I'm curious, what happened to him when Galatea was destroyed."
"That was the really fucked up part," Dicker said as he had the surveillance camera pan back to its normal setting. "He simply stopped scribbling that damn date and promptly fell asleep. At first we thought he went into some sort of seizure or a coma, but the docs on staff simply confirmed he had fallen asleep, which was a good thing because I don't think that kid slept more than twelve hours since we found him on that island. In a way, it was kind of ironic; while the world burned, he slept right through it."
"The world hardly burned, Richard, at least not yet,” Michael chuckled before his expression became more serious. "So what are you going to do with him?"
"I don't know. Some of our experts are suggesting we keep him detained for observation, but I'm looking at other options. It all depends what we have when he wakes up." Dicker then looked back at the other man. "So what happens now, Michael? Is there where you say something cryptic and then disappear into thin air?"
"Actually, I was simply going to walk out your front door." Michael Donighal then made his way towards the door, but stopped when he opened it and looked back over his shoulder. "I can only hope that we haven't gone down a darker path than what I've already seen." He then left the room, closing the door behind him and leaving Dicker alone in his office.
Dicker sighed and shook his head again as he tapped a couple more keys and the image on the screen switched to footage taken a few days earlier where the child had scrawled something on the wall. The words sounded like a pathetic attempt of sounding biblical, but something about the writing chilled him to the bone. And Gabriel shall rise against Michael while Heaven wars with the Falling Son...
And beneath the words was a crudely drawn picture of what appeared to be a demonic knight in black armor fighting a man that looked a lot like Michael Donighal...
* * * * *
Author's Notes: Okay, that's the end of this little monster. And I think I've exceeded my right to post a non-BTVS/Angel fic for while. Anyway...looks like this fic made it past quarantine...I hope. Not sure if I'll keep it here, but at least I have a mostly "clean" copy to fall back on and re-upload to The Pit. If you want to know what this leads to, check out my stories over there that follow this. Sadly, however, I don't think I can post the links here (and I don't think it would be appropriate). However, I think it's somewhere on my profile.