Dragonslayer, Part V


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Scene Title Dragonslayer, Part V
Synopsis Every lie has a consequence.
Date February 28, 2020

A bell-alarm rings incessantly, a shrill and terrible noise that reverberates down long hallways and around blind corners. A half dozen men and women in black suits with crisp white undershirts lay dismembered in pools of their own blood on the tile floor. Lines of arterial spray arc up the walls. Spent shell casings glitter coppery amid the blood.

Footprints wind through the crimson pools, a single pair, snaking purposefully down hallways painted in duotone. The lower half of the walls are painted forest green, the upper half an eggshell white. It feels like a hospital, though no practical medicine is performed at the Hartsdale facility. This is a place of science and research, a place of understanding and envisioning of the future.

At the moment it is also a charnel house.

The footprints end when the screaming begins, blood worn too thin to track any further. “Please, stop!” A woman cries out, and through an open doorway a redhead woman can be seen, backed up against a medical refrigerator with a cracked glass door. Tears streaked with eyeliner stream down her cheeks. Her chest rises and falls in steady rhythm, blue eyes wide in terror. There is a sword at her throat.

“I don’t want to kill you, Victoria.” Adam Monroe means those words. There is conviction in his steady hand, in the way the Kensei sword bites gently into her neck, enough to make the threat real but not firm enough to kill her. “I want you to unlock the cabinet and get it for me. That’s all. It’s simple.”

No.” Victoria Pratt is a woman of her convictions, but it isn’t conviction that has her pleading for her life at the end of a sword, it’s desperation. “Adam, please. You can’t do this.” He steps closer, angling the blade along the front of her throat, so he can lean in close to her.

“There’s no other way,” Adam hisses. “When it comes back — and trust me, Victoria, it will come back — there won’t be a thing you or anyone else will be able to do to stop it. It’ll be too late.” Victoria sobs uncontrollably, staring wide-eyed at Adam. “I understand what has to be done now,” he insists, looking past her to the refrigerator and back again. “Now unlock the cabinet…”

“…and give me the Shanti virus.”

“No!” It’s a scream, Ryans’ scream, that breaks the silence of Victoria’s denial. Adam turns to look over his shoulder, seeing Benjamin Ryans’ silhouette looming in the doorway of Victoria’s office.

“Adam, listen to me!” Ryans shouts, gun trained on his old friend. “Don’t make me do this…” But Adam does nothing, he is frozen in a sense of betrayal and a sense of loss, his throat tight with emotion visible in his eyes. Victoria, at Adam’s mercy, looks pleadingly at Ryans.

“Adam, I’m not going to warn you again!” Ben shouts, his voice a deep roar that echoes through the air.

“I’m sorry, Ben.” Adam says with a slow shake of his head. “There’s no other way.”

Ben clicks the hammer back on his revolver. “Adam, I’m not going to tell you again, let Victoria go!”

“What’re you going to do, Ben?” Adam says with a horrible venom in his voice. “Kill me?

“Not permanently, no,” Ryans snaps out, without missing a beat. He knows better to believe he could ever kill the immortal. “But, you and I both know I can stop you long enough to get people to safety.”

Without warning the fist at Benjamin’s side closes and Adam feels the sword in his hand still and pushing would get him nowhere. In fact, it pulls towards his neck as it slowly attempts to twist the edge towards his neck. “And you and I know I’ll do it.” The threat is clear, yet, he isn’t putting all his effort into it, even though it wouldn’t be the first friend he’s attempted to kill to save innocent lives.

“You should have come talk to me. Why didn’t you come talk to me, before…” Before Adam destroyed all those lives. Blue eyes dip down to the blood his friend wears. For all Ben tries to hide his emotions, there is a war going on behind his eyes. “This isn’t you, you’re better than this. There has to be a better way.” There is frustration in the Ryans’ voice.

“Hell, old man, you taught me that!” Ben half yells at him.

Adam’s teeth clench as he feels that telekinetic pull on the sword. He releases Victoria with his free hand and she scrambles away, pawing at her neck and nearly tripping over herself. She circles past Ryans, running out the door with a clack of her shoes on the tile floor, screaming for help.

Adam’s throat works up and down, the Kensei sword’s blade vibrating up and down as he tries to keep it steady.

“I didn’t tell you because I know you’d try and talk me out of it.” Adam says through his teeth. “Our victory was temporary, Ben. This thing exists because of us. It made us!” His hands shake, but not just from the grip he holds on his sword.

“That thing it said, that this world wasn’t meant for them?” Adam’s voice tightens. “No. That’s not it at all. The Shanti Virus is the only way to be sure. Get rid of us — all of us — forever.”

We weren’t meant for this world.”

Thirty-Six Years Later

Z-12 Qingniao
Somewhere Over Detroit, Michigan

February 28th

In an instant, Adam, Ryans, and Val materialize in the hold of the central Z-12 aircraft. Everything has been set in motion, save for whatever trick Adam has been keeping up his sleeve. The weapon he’d heard so much about.

Ryans doesn’t recognize the interior of this Z-12, it isn’t any of the aircraft that he had been to during the long flight from California. This one has no seats, no cargo, no passengers of any kind except for machines standing at attention by the door to the cockpit. Those box-headed bipedal robots turn their attention toward Ryans and Val, but they do nothing else.

It’s what’s in the middle of the aircraft’s hold that demands attention. There is a missile, some twenty-five feet long, held in place by a ceiling-mounted suspension system. Judging from the rear thrusters and the nose cone shape, Ben estimates it’s a mid-range ballistic missile, the kind that could be launched from a nuclear submarine.

“It’s almost time,” Adam says, making a motion with one hand toward the robots, bringing them to attention.

It takes a moment for what he sees to register, but soon Benjamin’s blood runs cold. It’s like the cold shock of ice cold water being dumped on him when he refused to wake up for his mother. A shocked breath escapes him behind the faceplate of his helmet.

Ben moves quickly to open his helmet, as if unable to believe his eyes. This was his plan? Taking a few involuntary steps towards it, he stops to angle a look back over his shoulder at Adam and then Val. Thin grey brows pull down into a look of confusion when his focus settles firmly on Adam. “I think it’s time to tell me the rest of this plan.”

A gloved hand points slowly at the missle, as Ryans asks bluntly, “Mainly, why are we carrying this into the middle of Detroit?” There were so many innocent people milling around below them.

Adam looks at Val and waves her off with a dismissive gesture. “Go keep an eye on Alix,” he says, and Val ducks her head down and disappears in a haze of rainbow-colored light. Only once she’s gone does Adam turn to Ryans, drawing in a deep breath and then exhaling it even slower.

“I suppose there’s no more time for hiding this,” Adam says as he approaches the missile, pressing his palm against it. “This was supposed to launch from the Atlantic ocean, we had a submarine prepared to receive the missile once it was finished, but Ash never returned with the guidance system.” He lets his hand fall away from the missile. “So, we had to… make changes. The Deveaux archive had the US missile defense codes in it which allowed us to build a friendly-fire system so that this could be launched through the missile defense network.”

Adam turns his back to the missile. “Then, the entity destroyed the submarine.”

Steadying himself with a calming breath. Adam looks back to the missile, then Ryans. “It’s a biological weapon delivery system, Ben. That’s what all this has been for. It’s a smoke screen. There’s a broadcast playing, right now, where I’m declaring war on all of the mundane people of the world. A broadcast wherein I play the monster everyone thinks I am. The monster Arthur Petrelli created as a fiction, so that no one — not precognitives, not even that thing — knows what is really happening.”

Sliding his tongue over the inside of his cheek, Adam takes a step toward Ryans. “This weapon will kill the entity, it was tailored to her genetic makeup within a 2% margin of error. A three-pronged attack: negation, cellular breakdown, cerebral decay.” Adam runs a hand through his hair, nervously. “All the research on Gemini was to mask testing the failure cases, to develop a pathogen so powerful it could destroy our kind on a cellular level.”

“Powerful enough to destroy her on a cellular level, and anyone descended from her.” Adam’s throat works up and down with an uneasy swallow.

The shock of the moment has him reeling. Just like that, the final piece of his memory pushes into place and he can see the whole picture, especially, Adam’s obsession with killing the entity at all costs. “Oh my god….” Ben stumbles back away from the missle. “How did I not realize…” He looks like he is going to be physically ill, a gloved hand clamps over his mouth at the horror of what Adam was proposing.

Looking at the missle, Benjamin feels a sense of dread sitting in. There is so much he wants to say, but… what comes out of his mouth is the panicked shout of a parent realizing everything he did for them was a lie. It was one thing to sacrifice himself, but it was another when it was…

The kids!

Ryans makes an exasperated sound of disbelief, looking at the object of evolved destruction. “You’d destroy all of us? You’d do this to your own kids? Jac… Niki….” Ben’s brain simply cannot register that any parent would willingly condemn their kids to death. “You can’t do this, Adam. We talked about this before,” the telekinetic’s voice slowly rising as shock is quickly replaced by anger and desperation. “There has to be a better way.”

Jac would be the only guaranteed survivor, she’s the only recipient of Project Umbra.” Adam says with certainty. “Ben, this is…” he realizes that Ryans has finally remembered that day, “different than what happened in 84. This is an amputation, not a virus that could spread to the whole bloody world. It’s a nerve agent, non-communicable.” As if that somehow makes this better.

“Look at what’s happening down there, Ben,” Adam says with a gesture to one of the aircraft’s windows. “This thing would kill every non-powered person on the planet if given half the chance. Mazdak is — right now — attempting to curry its favor. They’ve been the serpent in the garden this whole time, and up until I got my memories back they thought they could use me to usher in some insane dream of a world ruled by their misshapen god!

Adam throws his arms out to the side. “They’re an order of religious fanatic precognitives, Ben. Do you have any idea how hard it is to stop something like that? The lengths you have to go through to hide your intentions? The lies you have to sell, to believe, to embody to trap people who can see the future into playing into your hands!?”

“You knew coming on board this wouldn’t be bloodless. You knew there could — would — be sacrifices.” Adam says in a quieter voice, calming down.

“There’s no escape from this, not for the entity.” Adam says through his teeth. “All the data from Sunspot, from every piece of research I’ve done, has led to this. Even in death it can’t escape the Fence, the gravity distortions would tear it apart. It can only move to Expressive hosts, so as they die one-by-one it becomes trapped in a prison of its own making. Jac is immune to the possession, immune to the weapon… one of my children survives this hell. But us?” Adam gestures between himself and Ryans. “We die to save the world.”

Adam breathes in deeply, then exhales a sigh through his nose. “An estimated fifteen thousand deaths, Ben. That’s every expressive within the Fence and the one to two percent margin of error for false positives the weapon targets. We are trading a fraction of a percent of the world’s population to save billions of lives. Your family’s lives.”

One?!?” Ryans is angry now on the behalf of Adam’s kids. Innocents whose only crime was to be related by blood to the immortal. “Do you even hear yourself? One of your children lives? What about Chess? Val? Niki?” He could mention so many more, but…

Ben takes a step towards Adam and roars, “You’re their father and they trusted you.” The words echoing off the metallic surfaces and back at the two men hollow like the final dying tone of a rung bell.

It is clear that he simply can’t understand how Adam could be so numb about that. How many children did he lose, to make him so heartless with his own legacy? “I lost one child, Adam.” A finger is held up, trembling with Ben’s emotions, “One and I still feel like the world ripped my heart out and threw it in a grinder.” The words are practically spit at the other man. He is furious, but more for himself not figuring this out sooner. “Even though another version of him walks this world, my soul bleeds for my son.”

Stepping back, Ben’s fists clench and unclench with his fury. “I can’t let you do this, Adam. They deserve better than that, all those innocent people…” He flings a hand out to gesture at the missile, eyes never leaving the immortal. “Have you tested it outside of a computer model? How do you know when they come through and clean up the mess you made, that it doesn’t spread? That those unaffected won’t become plague carriers?”

Science never was your strong suit,” Adam says out of the corner of his mouth. “Ben, don’t do this again. Don’t make the same mistake you did last time. I need you focused on the bigger picture.”

Adam backs up when Ben advances. “It’s not a virus, there’s no contagion risk. It’s a nerve agent, like— fucking Agent Orange. Yes, there may be some environmental risks of deploying it, but if we don’t do this now everything was for nothing! It wins, Ben! If it succeeds here the world changes forever. Billions of lives hang in the balance, and our hands are already bloody!

Curling his hands into fists, Adam demands, “Don’t make me do this, Ben.

Thirty-Six Years Earlier…

Victoria Pratt’s Office
Primatech Paper
Hartsdale, NY

Adam’s grip on his sword tightens, he struggles against the steady vibrations in the blade from Ryans’ telekinetic grasp on it. Blue eyes peer over the razor sharp edge to meet his old friend’s. Benjamin Ryans, his closest friend. Someone he considered a brother. The man he consoled through the death of a son.

Don’t do this, Ben.

“Then stand down,” Benjamin snaps back gruffly. There is pain in his voice. He doesn’t want to do this, but he feels backed into a corner, like he’s not being given a choice. “Let’s figure this out, together, like we always have.” With everyone out of the room, Ben kicks a foot out behind him, catching the edge and slamming the door to the office shut.

Now it was just the two of them, two men who had fought and died together on foreign shores. Brothers in all but blood. “Because, I simply cannot believe that genocide is the only answer,” he growls out at the man, the words snapped out with emphasis. “…and until I can talk some sense into you…”

Benjamin’s hand snaps out and his fingers closed into a fist; Adam can feel the shift in his friend’s ability, moments before the sword is ripped from his hands by an unseen force and sent clattering away. Adam doesn’t even get a chance to react before the immortal is suddenly swept off his feet and thrown against the wall by that same force.

“I’m going to save you from yourself, Brother.”

All the air is knocked out of Adam’s lungs as he’s slammed into the wall, the Kensei sword hanging unmoving in the air where the repulsion tore it from his grasp, held in place by Ryans’ ability. “Ben, no!” Adam hisses, fingers curling into fists at his side, pinned to the wall by unseen hands.

This is the only way!” Adam howls, struggling against the telekinetic pin.

Don’t do this!

Thirty-Six Years Later

Z-12 Qingniao
Somewhere Over Detroit, Michigan

“Since that day you brought me back from the dead, I looked up to you.” Ben rumbles out gruffly, shrugging the rifle off his shoulder and dropping it to his feet with a hollow clatter that echoes around the two men. He stares down at it blankly, brows lowered and casting a shadow over haunted eyes. “You taught me everything I know, you were the best man at my wedding, and godfather to my boy… you were a part of my family.” The old man takes a deep shuddering breath, his head slowly shaking.

Why did Ben feel so tired all of a sudden, shoulders hunched with the weight of so many lives on them.

“But you’ve lived too long, old man,” Benjamin’s voice cracks, from the ache of emotion in his chest. “We both have and it’s time to let the next generation step up,” he says softly, taking a step back from Adam. It felt like a gulf opening between them, instead of inches. When Benjamin looks up, there is something in his demeanor. He seems almost defeated and resigned to his choices.

“I’ve lived a good and purposeful life, old man,” Benjamin’s voice is strained, but there are no tears, “and it’s all thanks to you. But…” Benjamin lets Adam see the hollow weariness that weighs on him and despite it, he sadly smiles.

“I think it’s about time to give back what the Reaper’s due.”

Adam can hear it then, just as Ben's hands seem to reach out and grasp something invisible, the soft popping groan of metal under tremendous stress. It doesn't take a genius to know where that sound is coming from.

Ben silently turns his thoughts to his family, his children, only then does his chin tremble and his vision blur with tears of regret and guilt. It doesn’t cause him to falter, it only strengthens his resolve. Blue eyes turn to Adam, unafraid.

“Goodbye, brother.”

Benjamin’s jaw clenches as he throws his ability into what must be done, it forces the missile to twist and snap. The action exposes the charge and sends a spray of jet fuel across the interior of the airship.

“Ben, don’t— ”

Thirty-Six Years Earlier…

Primatech, Bronx

Slouched in his concrete cell, shoulders hunched forward and bruises around his eyes, Adam Monroe stares blankly at the floor. On the other side of reinforced glass, Charles Deveaux and Arthur Petrelli look on in tense silence.

“It took considerable work, but I’ve built a narrative for him.” Charles says with a slow shake of his head. “We had to tether it to the damage already done, make additional redactions to Victoria, physical record changes. Too much happened this year. We’ll need to…”

“The less I know the better, Charles.” Arthur says to fill the silence. “I’m going to be taking some time off to… consider our forward movement as an organization. It should give you time to finish whatever work needs to be done.”

Charles nods in tense, wordless response. “You’ve earned it,” he says, while he can remember the events Arthur has been made to forget.

“I just want to know one thing,” Arthur says with a look to Charles’ reflection in the glass. “Did he really try to do it? Release the Shanti Virus?”

“He did,” comes a third voice from behind the two founders. They both turn to see Kaito Nakamura slowly walking up the hall, hands folded behind his back. “That sin we will never erase, even if we must hide it in the past to cover the sins of the present.”

Arthur’s brows furrow, lips downturned to a frown. “Ben’s beside himself,” he adds. Charles breathes in deeply, then exhales a slow sigh.

“Can you take care of Ben?” Charles asks, and Arthur looks back to Adam beyond the glass. “Sure.” Has no heart behind it, just weary resignation.

“So much is being buried here…” Kaito says in a quiet voice, his eyes narrowing. “Are we not afraid of being unprepared to— ”

“Later,” Charles says, putting a hand on Kaito’s shoulder.

“We’ll worry about that later.”

Thirty-Six Years Later

Somewhere Over Detroit, Michigan

A massive explosion blows out the windows of every adjacent building. The central Z-12 Quingniao erupts in a ball of flame and choking black smoke. Immediately falling out of the sky, the aircraft collides with a second Z-12, tearing it out from its stationary position over the city. The central aircraft plunges down toward the street, colliding in the middle of downtown and erupting in a second tremendous explosion that rises up twenty stories in a plume of black and orange.

The second Z-12 spins out of control with one working propeller duct, trailing a corkscrew of smoke through the air as it soars over rooftops. The massive vehicle collides with the roof of a nearby building, demolishing the Fence antenna and ending the gravitic vibration spreading from the device. The harmonic circuit is cut, leaving a gap in the fortification as the aircraft pitches over the side of the building, tearing through the windows all the way down to street level where it explodes in another massive fireball.

Twin plumes of ashen black smoke twist up into the Detroit sky, and the true extent of this tragic confrontation between brothers may never be known. Not that Benjamin Ryans had sacrificed his life to protect the people of Detroit from a man he trusted, a man he believed in…

…but that both men died for nothing. The bio-weapon had never been successfully completed. Zachery Miller, Yi-Min Yeh, and Nicole Varlane had seen to that. But their lie had been so cleverly drawn, their deception so clean, that it fooled even Adam Monroe himself…

…and in that tragedy, one swallowed by choking flames, the responsible parties will now find sins.

In terrible silence.

And secret guilt.

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