Of Gods and Men

the Darkest Dawn

A New Age Dawns, But at What Cost?

It’s all gone wrong. Everything I’ve done up to this point, every move I’ve made and every life I’ve saved, it has all lead up to this one moment, and I took my eye off of the prize.

I should have listened to my gut, I should have made our move weeks ago. If I had, maybe thousands of people would still be alive today.

Maybe the world wouldn’t be in the mess it is now. Governments on the brink of revolution, people huddled in their homes, too afraid to go out into the daylight. The Arab Spring was just a teaser for what is to come, and I fear that what comes after may be a second Dark Age.

I write this beneath at least a hundred tons worth of concrete and rebar; on the back of a treaty that was left unburnt in a vault far beneath what remains of the United Nations headquarters. Ground Zero. A second attack on this city in as many decades that will forever change the face of the world.

DARWIN. Once again, it all comes down to DARWIN. Though, for the first time in a very, very long time, I can actually put a face to my hate: Jacob Pryor. Brilliant geneticist, philanthropist, and CEO, Pryor has been hounding me since the bombing some weeks ago. I’m rather certain that he’s in fact the person that orchestrated it, and everything since.

He framed me for murder not only once, in that bombing I have already written about, but a second time, and this one in my mutant form. Damien Eckles, his partner for many years, was murdered in an extremely brutal fashion; beaten to death, and then some. Not only beaten to death, but beaten until he was pretty literally a stain in the cracked marble floor of his kitchen. Video came to light that showed his murderer: a man, at least 8 or 9 feet in height, who burst through his front doors like they were tissues, left bare footprints in the concrete and marble of the home, and had skin that seemed to be actually made from steel.

I still don’t know how he did it, but somehow he framed me for yet another murder. He made the world even more dangerous for me, and cut off all legal avenues for me.

And then there were the soldiers, each identical to the last, but each more deadly. It was at Damien’s house that we finally captured one alive, and were able to question him. It turned out they were all one man, one made legion by his own mutation. As the original multiplied himself, each became wholly separate from the original, but when they died, their experiences were effectively “uploaded” to the consciousnesses of the rest. And so he multiplied, and sent his multiples out into the world to train, so that they might all grown stronger. But now they each had grown tired of being simple tools for learning, and wanted to be the last remaining. Experience had become a drug for them, it seemed, and now they were out for their own blood.

We let him go, once he divulged the truth. Pryor had been using him, the original, for an entire host of uses. Bodyguards, assassins, and test subjects. And unlimited number of test subjects for his depraved experiments. And all they knew, those that were on the outside, were that the private Expectia hospital in Manhattan was the testing grounds. Our next target.

This is the turning point, the crux upon which all was lost. We had a destination, but no clear way in without innocent blood spilled. So, instead of moving on it like my gut had told me, we waited, and we planned. Weeks passed until Glass was finally able to gain a meeting in the hospital with Pryor’s people.

We had expected him to meet with Pryor himself, but that wasn’t to be. It was just his flunkies, who drew blood and promised they would be in contact. That was it, I couldn’t wait any longer. We had to move, and we had to move before Pryor returned from overseas.

So we obtained city maps of the sewer, and with Glass’s knowledge of engineering, and my knowledge of architecture, we were able to match up the plans with what we knew of the hospital, and discovered what very well could be a secret entrance into the building’s sub-basements.

So we set out, and in short order found a false wall. We ventured down into the dank tunnels, and eventually discovered a hall of glass-walled cells and operating theaters, stacked with bodies. Most were bodies of “Matthew”, the man of many lives that we had met. Test subjects. But there were more, other people, each individually unique, but each dead. I took photographs, and then we happened upon a room of the Matthews, nude, but alive.

I opened the cell, but in a mad frenzy they attacked us. They were like animals, uncaring for their own safety, intent on destroying anything that wasn’t them. Glass fought a few off before I convinced him to back away. There were over twenty of them, and each with combat skills almost equal to his own. But they were nude, and no stronger than any man their size.

They attacked me, but in my steel form they couldn’t harm me. Their hands, feet, elbows and knees all shattered upon my chest and abdomen. Without raising a finger, they began to injure themselves horribly. It was horrible. In an effort to stop them, I slammed my fists down upon the steel floor, sending out a shockwave across the group that felled and stunned them. I retreated back into the hall, and moved the door I had ripped from its hinges back into the doorway.

Disgusted, we continued further into the complex, only to discover that it had been completely abandoned. Maybe only days before, they had up and left, leaving only a few wiped tablets and laptops behind. Nothing was left.

Nothing, that is, until we arrived on the lowest level. In it, sitting against a large wall screen, covered in blood, was Matthew. The same one we had met only weeks before.

He had been shot, and we weren’t sure how he was even still alive. Around his neck he wore a medallion, something he said that had belonged to the Original. I looked at it, and discovered that within it was a flash drive. Desperate for any information, we plugged it into a computer, and in seconds were confronted with hundreds of pages of technical data.

Now, I am no expert in the field of genetics, but in the past few years I’ve done my homework, tried to understand what had happened to me and those I sought to help. I skimmed the data, and was horrified to discover that Pryor’s company had created a Cure for the plague. They had in their hands a formula that would end me and those like me.

I didn’t know what to do. Glass couldn’t wake Matthew, and didn’t think we could get him anywhere without him dying on the way. Desperation fueled my thoughts, and I took a syringe that the soldier kept on his belt and injected him with it. Glass had examined it before, and had decided that it was some type of adrenaline, probably cooked up for combat situations.

With a gasp, his eyes flew open and he grabbed Glass’s jacket. “He’s going to kill th—” he cried, and then collapsed back onto the table we had laid him on. Glass checked his pulse. “He’s dead,” he said, and together we watched Matthew disintegrate, just like the rest.

We returned to the surface, and immediately were confronted with the same news we had discovered on our own not minutes before: Jacob Pryor’s company, Experia, had discovered a cure to the Plague, and had planned on releasing it to the UN General Assembly tomorrow morning.

I was staggered at the news. Just when I thought we had gotten something, some information that might put us out ahead of Pryor, it becomes useless. I studied the data for hours, but it was useless. I could barely understand it, let alone discover some secret that might not have even been written into it.

Glass called Pryor’s office to find out what was going on, and was shocked when Pryor himself answered the phone. He was back in Manhattan, and wanted Glass to join him at the UN in the morning. Glass agreed.

I had no other options, and so I went to confront Pryor himself. I stormed into his office, past his guards and secretaries, to stand before him.

Looking back, it was a futile gesture designed to do nothing more than scare him. We both postured, puffing up our chests and trying to scare the other. At one point, I thought I actually had gotten the drop on him when I mentioned the name Matthew. He looked genuinely surprised, maybe even confused at the name. I thought maybe I had scared him enough so that he might trip up, act prematurely, so that we could throw a wrench in his plans.

But it was for naught. He left for the UN with a group of Matthews in vans, and in the pre-dawn hours were well within the depths of the UN Headquarters, behind not only their own security, but layer upon layer of UN security. Their was no way in without making a complete mess of it.

So we waited, and Glass attended the meeting like planned. When he was able, he slipped out and searched for the equipment they must have brought in with his team as I waited outside. I still don’t know what Glass found, or if he even survived, but that’s when all hell broke loose.

Pryor took the stage, and as millions, probably even billions watched, he announced his cure to the world. Then, in the presence of world leaders from every major nation on the planet, the worst thing imaginable happened.

I didn’t know that Pryor himself was a mutant. Nobody did. I had noticed the night before that his eyes had actually changed color, that they had shifted from a deep brown to the brightest blue I had ever seen. I didn’t know how, or why, but could only think that he had been dosing himself with some sort of DNA-altering drugs. Maybe giving himself powers.

Whatever the reason, it was a sign of the horror to come. As I stood, impotent in the crowded streets outside the buildings, Pryor lifted his arms above his head, and as those blue eyes began to glow he laughed.

Then the world went white. A sphere of pure energy erupted from the building, spreading out over a mile diameter from the UN. I began to run, shifting forms and heedless of my own safety I plunged towards the light that had engulfed the world’s leadership.

But, just like everything else, it was a fool’s act. I couldn’t run fast enough, and even if I could, there was nothing left to do. Seconds after it had begun, it was over. Nothing was left but rubble. Images of pictures taken after Hiroshima and Nagasaki flashed before me, and in the center stood Pryor, completely untouched.

He looked at me, waved, and then took hold of the ladder that had been dropped from a helicopter hovering above him. I had failed to stop him. And with my failure, I had allowed him to make a move at actually conquering the planet.

Since then, I have been combing the wreckage, searching for Glass, for survivors, information, anything at all. But so far, nothing. Occasionally a rescue crew will pass by, but I hide and let them go. Things are going to be different from now on, and in this new world my murder charges will mean nothing.

I must strengthen my resolve. Pryor has won this game, but I’m not done yet. The rules have changed, he has thrust the world to the raggedy edge, giving himself an opportunity. But at the same time, he’s given me an opening. In this chaos, I’ll be able to move about more openly, more freely, and now that I know what the stakes are, there’s nothing that he can put in my path that I will not strike down, tear apart, or allow to slow me down until I have his head in my hands.

The time for caution is long past. The world is burning, and if we do not act it will be consumed. No longer will I work from the shadows to save those unlucky few that are hunted by those around them. We’ve entered a new era, one where we will fight for our freedom, for our lives, and for the lives of those around us. Never again will we allow for such a horror to come to pass because we fear for ourselves, or for our public image.

Never again.

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Dholcrist

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