adam_icon.gif squeaks3_icon.gif

Scene Title Superhero
Synopsis Great power comes at a great price.
Date September 3, 2019

“We’re running out of time.”

There will be no witnesses to this moment.

“We may not have much more.”

Depressing a button for Sub Basement 7, Adam Monroe turns to look at the dangerously young girl by his side. Cooper hair and freckles, bright blue eyes, an earnest smile of both excitement and nervousness. This day was a long time coming and nothing past it would ever be the same.

The elevator doors shut softly and the lift begins its speedy descent. “I hope you understand how brave you are, how important you are, and how proud I am of the growth you've achieved in our short time together.” Adam looks back to the elevator doors. Something terrible had happened just days ago. Adam’s demeanor had shifted when he returned to the Ziggurat with Benjamin Ryans in tow. The hope in his eyes was burned out, the cheer in his voice dried up, the faith in his words withered.

Adam hadn't told anyone precisely what happened in Providence, but whatever it was put the entirety of the California Safe Zone on high alert. Security was tripled, in and out of the Ziggurat. Robots were everywhere, ready to fight.

“I want you to know this won't be easy,” is Adam’s truth about what is to come. “There will be pain, and discomfort, and adjustment. But you're strong, you're resilient, and most importantly you're a survivor. But today…”

“Today you're becoming a superhero.”

The Praxis Ziggurat

Praxia, California Safe Zone


September 3

9:08 am

The shift in demeanor had been troubling enough. It stifled questions, put a fresh edge of caution in the girl’s demeanor. Her focus on the day to day started to slacken with vague distraction. Somehow, somewhere deep down, Squeaks knew without being told that something very terrible had happened. The changes throughout the Ziggurat and Praxia seemed like evidence enough to confirm those suspicions.

Giddiness borne of worried anticipation fills her stomach as Adam speaks. It twists and writhes, making her feel sick and eager in turns. She hangs onto the words like a life preserver, the one thing that could keep her from being dragged away by the undertow of emotions.

Her head tilts so she can look up at Adam when his words come to a pause. She can do this. Determination sets her mouth in a line, wrestles the anxious energy into stillness.

A superhero. Just weeks ago she was hoping to learn about her past and pass high school, maybe become a real agent for SESA. Now…

Squeaks raises a hand, reaches toward Adam. Fingers fall short of grasping his hand, but rest briefly on his arm as a means of comfort and support. “I can do this,” she states like it's fact. She's said the same to her mom and sister. Her eyes turn to the keypad. “Don't worry. How long will it take?”

“Just a few minutes,” Adam says with all the weight of a half-told truth, until it comes tumbling after a heavy pause. “Then, weeks of recovery and training. It'll be much like learning to walk again, but you have your family here.” Blue eyes angle over to her. “Family is an important grounding tool. Keeps your mind centered. Focused.”

The elevator smoothly comes to a stop and the doors slide open into a smooth concrete hallway with tall, rectangular orange lights mounted to the walls. It gives the corridor a warmth to it that torches might, makes it feel like a castle. If not a smidge brighter. Adam briskly steps out ahead of Squeaks, flexing one of his hands open and closed repeatedly as he does before stuffing it into a pocket. “Your mother has past experiences with multiple abilities,” Adam offers as he takes a right out of the elevator and leads Squeaks down the otherwise empty corridor. “Did she ever tell you about that?” He glances back at her. “When she had dozens of powers?”

A long breath out follows the answer. Minutes to change but weeks of recovery and training. Squeaks nods, like she expected the answer even though there's no way she really could have known.

“She said she was Icarus,” she supplies as she follows Adam’s lead. At his side, less than half a step behind, she tilts a look up at him. “I don't remember if she said she had other powers. Just that her power now was made. What could she do? How… like dozens? Like many, many times twelve?” It seems impossible. The girl even looks a touch incredulous. And maybe worried. That's an awful lot to control all at once.

“There used to be a man, Tyler Case,” Adam explains as they walk, “he had an amazing ability. If he pointed at two people, he could swap their abilities. Sometimes for a little while, sometimes forever. Gillian and…” Adam makes a noise in the back of his throat, “a mosaic — someone who could control multiple abilities — were swapped. Gillian started picking up whatever abilities were around her at the time just by being near them.”

Adam pauses, looking back at Squeaks. “She fought Arthur Petrelli and won. Which isn't a small accomplishment, he was a terribly powerful and dangerous man.” Picking up the pace again, Adam tucks his hands into his pockets and hunches his shoulders forward as he walks. “That kind of power is what you're going to have. We’ve… picked out some abilities to give you that will help you do things like she did: fight the impossible, and survive.”

Turning down a left corridor, Adam walks Squeaks by several manufacturing laboratories behind glass walls. There are automated assemblies building the components of enormous machines, welding their parts together. “You're going to be remarkable,” Adam says quietly.

Squeaks makes a face, surprised and impressed — maybe a little less worried as the words really sink in. She doesn't exactly know Arthur Petrelli, only what bits and pieces she might have come across in newspapers or on the computer, or from others who have actually met him. He definitely wasn't a good person at all. It's enough to know Adam isn't fibbing and that is very reassuring.

She stands a little taller, pace lengthening to better match Adam’s. She can do this. She will.

“Yes.” Is a quiet agreement, a thoughtful murmur as they begin walking past the glass-walled labs. Squeaks, not usually one to give in to prideful thoughts, accepts the declaration without question. In place of pride, she takes a small measure of confidence. The boost feeds curiosity the smallest bit and she looks at the work happening beyond the glass.

“What's… is this where the robots are made?”

“Some,” Adam says with a glance at the labs as though they're an afterthought. “This building is a part of the larger Praxis business. I don't have much say over these operations, that’s more the domain of Ms. Sze, who you met the day you arrived.” There's a hint of tension in his voice on mentioning Yao.

But Squeaks’ questions about the robots are brought to an abrupt close when Adam proclaims, “We’re here.” The double metal doors are nondescript, and the brushed metal plaque on the concrete wall is simply adorned with a symbol: ♊️

Adam approaches the doors and presses his hand to a biometric reader beside the door. A moment later there's a soft chime and the doors slide open, bathing Squeaks and Adam in a pale blue light. The room beyond the open doors is bathed in a soft blue light coming from tall canisters of sapphire liquid sitting in alcoves on the left and right walls. Transparent tubing runs along the ceiling, moving the blue liquid throigh arteries and conduits toward a bank of confessional-sized metal cabinets.

The room is otherwise empty, save for a mobile cart containing a computer and a bank of monitors connected to the hardware in the room. Adam walks into the room, motioning for Squeaks to follow.

The announcement brings Squeaks’ attention from the work beyond the glass walls and sets it on the doors. She takes a breath, intending to step forward and through as soon as she can, but thoughts thoughts come to a stop just like her questions. Blue eyes focus on the symbol inscribed on the plaque, mouth opens a fraction with the forming of new questions.

Again all that is lost, blown away like dandelion fluff when the doors open and reveal… she's not even sure.

Tubing is traced from where it seems to appear and disappear as the girl takes her first cautious steps into the room. Slinking like a young creature hoping to avoid notice, her head pivots and swivels so she can lay eyes on everything, mark where all of the things are in the room.

“How does… is this what…” Squeaks’ questions are little more than whispers, jumbled thoughts and renewed apprehension trying to elbow in on her newfound confidence. A couple of faster steps brings her back to Adam’s side and silences any other attempts at making sense of things.

“It's a very technical process,” Adam says somewhat dismissively of the whole thing, “and not one I understand particularly well. What I do know is that you,” he motions to Squeaks, “need to sit inside that side of the machine. I'll take care to hook you up, there's some needles. But I'm quite familiar with those, and how to make it not hurt so much.”

Adam moves over to the right side of the Gemini device, opening the door to reveal a padded seat and several open restraints with clear tubing going to needles mounted inside. “The other side,” he gestures to the other, unopened door and pauses. At first it seems like he might brush it off, but instead his brows furrow and it's clear Adam is deliberating something.

“Do you want the truth?” Adam asks Squeaks, “of how this all works?” As best as he can explain it. “Or would you be more comfortable not knowing?”

The machine is given a look, as though the teen caught some unpleasant smell and how dare it waft a stench in her presence. There's an unspoken but very serious threat that follows as she approaches it, eyeballing the side she's supposed to sit in. Any weird voices talking about seeing eye to eye and she'll kick it harder than the camcorder.

Squeaks almost gets to climbing into the seat only to stop suddenly to stare hard at Adam. Needles. That's only now brought up that there's going to be stabbing happening? “I don't like needles.” It's useless to point out, but she grumps anyway. Deep dislike, almost hatred, fills the look she angles at the tubes and their pointed ends.

The question, the offer of truth and knowledge is nearly a solid distraction. “Yes,” is as much of an answer as it is a question laced with uncertainty. Does she really want to know? How morbid is curiosity?

“I mean…” Discomfort etches lines along her brow, fear takes up residence in her stomach. “Can… maybe after you could tell me?” Squeaks extends a hand and lightly places her fingers on the edge of the seat. Worry clouds the bold excitement she had moments before, and she looks up at Adam. Her mouth works, a sound, a stumble of words Dad and Adam catches in her throat. Her eyes drop and angle to the device as she whispers,

“I'm scared.”

Adam nods, her words cutting through him with more force than any sword ever had. “I know,” he reassures her, “I was scared too once.” There's a tension in Adam’s posture, a stiffness in him that feels more defensive and unsure of himself than she's ever seen him. For a moment he looks over his shoulder, to the open door, then breathes in deeply and exhales a slow and patient sigh.

Wordlessly, Adam takes Squeaks’ hand and guides her up into the machine, carefully sitting her into the chair. “When all this is done, we’ll talk about the whole procedure,” he says calmly and smoothly, as though it weren't anything to worry about. First he adjusts the ankle straps, then after a momentary tousle of her hair adjusts the one over her brow to keep her head in place.

“When I was your age,” Adam begins to say, taking a knee beside the chair and working at the buckles of the arm bands, “I lived on my own in this small little hovel of a place in Leeds. That's a long way north of London,” he explains with a quick look up to her. “Both my parents had died the year before, and I earned my keep working on a small farm shearing sheep. The building I lived in wasn't much bigger than half of this room,” he adds with a distant smile. “I slept on a small bed by a wood burning stove, but I had one good wool blanket to keep me warm. I loved that blanket. My Nan knit it for my when I was a baby. Only thing I had left of my family…”

In the middle of telling this story, Adam quietly clasps the leather bindings around Squeaks biceps. She can feel a ginger pressure from the very tips of the un-extended needles press against her skin. “One night, after I'd finished an honest days work, I wandered into town to find the owner of the farm. He'd gone out to order new shears with the blacksmith since a pair had broken. But he hadn't come back.”

Adam stands, moving over to the controls beside Squeaks. “I found him, dead, face down in a pasture outside of down. Beaten and robbed. I went back to the farm without any clue on what to do. I was a child forced to be an adult, now faced with the reality of death again. I never told anyone what happened, I stowed away on a wagon shipping wool to London the next morning and never looked back.”

Mid-story, Adam activates the injectors, causing them to spring out and pierce Squeaks all at once. The story’s distraction helps dull the anticipation and tension, making it somewhat less painful for her. But the procedure hasn't even really started yet.

Through the moment of silence Squeaks watches Adam, her blue eyes seeking from a face drawn with fear. She looks aside when he turns back to her, like it's bad enough to admit she's afraid but to show it also… Does it weaken her now? She's tried hard to emulate the bravery and strength she's seen in the adults around her and keep her feelings for private moments.

Her head lifts with a side-eye of cautious surprise as she's led by hand into the seat. She tracks Adam's movement, concern working creases into her forehead, sets furrows between her eyebrows. Her focus shifts from the buckles and straps to the story as Adam begins speaking. It's sort of like her, like after she ran away from the Ford's home. Fingers flex slightly, like she might physically grasp at those parts, a shared understanding.

It distracts briefly.

The pause brings a bubble of questions. Like what happened next? Her chance to ask is interrupted, unexpected. The pinch of needles isn't the answer she anticipating.

Squeaks doesn't make a sound, although her heart hammers against her chest. Eyes widen with a sudden surge of anxiety, tears prick her eyes. "What…" She swallows against a tightness in her throat, fingers curl into fists. The girl takes a breath, holds it for a second, then tries again. "Where did you go?"

Sighing, Adam checks the connections and flips a few switches on the machine beside the chair, eliciting a low level hum through the entire device. “I stayed there for a long time, London. I joined the army when I was old enough, realized it wasn’t for me when I was old enough to know that and deserted.” Slowly, Adam rises to stand up straight and rests a hand on Squeaks’ shoulder. “Then I traveled Europe and Asia and… wound up in Japan.”

Adam lifts his hand off of Squeaks’ shoulder as he steps out of the enclosure, shutting one side of the doors. “The rest,” he says with a look to the floor, “I guess the rest’s history.” Those blue eyes alight back to Squeaks, and for a moment there is nothing but silence between the two. Adam doesn’t tell Squeaks to be strong or that it will be alright. He doesn’t fill her with any platitudes or reassurances, no promises that can’t be kept, nothing but a long and silent look that wordlessly delivers one simple notion:


As Adam shuts the other side of the door, Squeaks world is briefly thrown into darkness. The doors are thick, but they don’t completely hide the sound of voices and movement on the other side. Squeaks can hear Adam talking to someone else after a moment, sounds of movement. She can feel the vibrations in the machine when the doors on the opposite side of it are opened, more talking, more uncertainty. It isn’t clear when anything is going to happen and the machine begins to spin up, vibrating intensely. From the other enclosure she can hear muffled noises, muffled grunts, then a slurred sound of pain.

Squeaks’ darkness is pierced by light. Blue light coming from sapphire fluid snaking through the tubes and coming into the machines, coming down to the injectors, and then inside her veins. The blue glow suffused pale flesh as Squeaks’ veins burn from the inside, a pale blue light shining through the thin layer of flesh. The blue glow spreads up her arms and her heightened heart rate brings that liquid to her chest faster. Her vision blurs, turns blue at the edges, and she feels like she’s on fire inside.

At first, Squeaks drops her eyes at the answer, the closest thing to nodding she can offer. It makes sense, even if it wasn’t anything she could have imagined. How Adam ended up in Japan was, is still, a bit of a mystery. One she might puzzle over and try to uncover later. A second later, as Adam backs out of the machine, her eyes lift to meet his. Afraid as she is, there’s understanding in her returned look.

Her gaze follows Adam to the door, and she allows herself a shaking, half whimper of a breath when the last bit of light is cut off. It’s going to be okay. Her brows knit more tightly at the muffled sounds hidden beyond the room. Another breath is drawn in, deeper, and let out slowly.. She can, she will, survive.

Survival is the last concrete thought before the sounds of a scuffle are interrupted by the glow of blue. It would be a pretty color, like the way glowing algae or jellyfish are pretty, if it weren’t tracking through tubes and into her body. The girl’s breathing quickens, eyes darting to the door and back again. Her hands tighten and strain against the straps holding her arms in place as every thump of her heart acts as a bellows and suffuses the burning throughout.

Squeezing her eyes shut, Squeaks desperately searches for a calmness that isn’t covered in a blue fog. A calmness that’s been burned away. The fire is all consuming, overwhelming. Her jaw clenches and breath is forced passed teeth ground together. It's a struggle to pull in the next, and the one after. It hurts. Tears seep from her eyes and spill down her cheeks unnoticed. All that exists anymore is the terrible burning within.

Screams fill the Gemini lab, screams of multiple voices. For Squeaks, it is impossible to tell when one treatment begins and another ends, hers is a world redefined by pain and swimming consciousness drifting in and out of unconsciousness. But what comes with these moments are flickers and flashes of something otherwise entirely alien to her. Experiences and daydream-like visions of places she has never been, of people she has never met. All of which are punctuated by these extreme moments of intense pain and the growing sensation of something shifting and moving inside of herself. It feels like her skin is threatening to split open, as if butterfly wings should extend from her back, as if the chrysalis of the girl she once was is being shed to become something more. Pain strikes needle hot in one

minute. Then it comes in an instant, a heartbeat flicker of movement like a stone skipping across the water. One minute he is leaping off the roof of the building with shouts at his back, with the pop of gunfire. The next the world is rushing toward him and he’s across the street on the sidewalk, ducking behind a bus stop for cover. A black and white SUV peels out of its parking space, the red and yellow seal of the Department of Evolved Affairs emblazoned on its doors. But there’s no way they can catch him now, not while he can do this. Not while he can be anywhere in the blink of an

eye and for a moment it feels like Squeaks has gone blind in it. Her fingers grip the leather restraints of the chair she’s bound to, her back arches and breathing hitches in the back of her throat. The cries she makes are involuntary, the pain she experiences wakes her up from moments of pain-induced unconsciousness. She

isn’t afraid anymore. As the sounds of artillery fire rattle off in the night, the fear has faded away entirely. The pair of glowing red eyes in the dark aren’t monsters anymore, they’re just bad toys. Flattening one hand to the asphalt, she pushes herself up onto her hands and knees, watching the Hunter track its prey like a wolf. Rubber-capped feet prance across the street through broken glass, and the unnatural movements aren’t frightening anymore. When she stands up straight, the machine springs at her like an attack dog, jaws opening to extend a syringe out toward her chest. But her small hands wrap around the machine’s throat, fingers punch into steel like dough. The Hunter kicks, howls, and writhes as she pulls it apart from the head and neck, throwing its headless body down to the ground as she

screams like an animal, jaws snapping shut fingers peeling away from the arm restraints in a claw-like gesture. Squeaks’ body flickers around the edges, the outline of herself appearing and disappearing for brief moments as she wrenches her eyes shut. There are voices outside, people talking, screams through the other side of the cabinet beside her, someone going through the same process. Her eyes open, irises burning from blue to a vibrant gold like molten steel. She exhales a breath so hot it feels like fire in her lungs and all she can hear is

children’s voices. He turns, looking from the blackboard with a smile. Setting the chalk down, he walks over to the front of his desk and sits on the corner in front of the class, hands folded in his lap. “So today, we’re going to talk about the founding fathers. By a show of hands, who can name one of them?” His brows rise, a smile on his lips, and the children raise their hands one by one. As he reaches out to call on them there is a blinding flash through the classroom windows, screams of terrified children, and in the blind spot where the windows were a mushroom cloud rises up from the heart of Midtown. Fear, then. Terror. “Kids under y— ”. The blast wave comes next. Followed by

a roar.

Then, nothing.

Some Time Later

Brushing one hand across Squeaks forehead, Adam Monroe watches her unconscious form with a crease of worry at his brows. He threads a lock of copper hair between two fingers, then looks up to the doctors at the head of her gurney. “Take her to her room, make sure Ms. Childs knows her condition. If she wants to stay with her, that’s fine.” The doctors nod, but another in Adam’s periphery clears his throat to get the Director’s attention. Adam’s eyes drift down from the doctor to the middle-aged man laying on the other gurney, the man removed from the donor side of the Gemini machine.

“What should we do with him?” The doctor asks. Adam walks over to the gurney, looking down at him, weighing options. After a moment, Adam glances up to the doctor and makes a nod toward the door out.

“Drug him, make sure he doesn’t remember this,” Adam says flatly. “Then have him dumped somewhere up north where the Guardians will find him. He deserves to live.” The doctor nods and begins to wheel the gurney away. Adam, reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose with forefinger and thumb shakes his head once the doctor has left.

He watches that unwilling participant in this procedure leave. In some way, he hopes, this will be a positive change. If nothing else, maybe the children up north could have use for his skills.

He may not be invulnerable anymore but…


…maybe they could use a teacher.

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