Chapter 1

Chapter 1

“The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.”

James A. Baldwin

They all stare at me. They’re wondering why I’m here, why I brought them here. They have no idea how their lives areabout to change, how they are about to change. I can see the questions plainly on their faces and in their gestures.

Who is he? What does he want? Where did he come from? Who is he?

I know all of them, inside and out, though they don’t know me from Adam. I know the man in the freshly pressed suit sitting in the corner has a habit of biting his nails until they bleed. The woman behind the mirror in the other room buys her shoes two sizes too small because she thinks her feet are too big. There are eleven people around me and eight of them do not matter; two men and the shoe woman behind the mirror, two heavily armed men outside the door to this room, bloody fingers, and two more guards within the room.

The next occupant of this cozy little interrogation room is a prisoner that I “requested” be present for this meeting. I keep thinking to myself how very different this meeting would go if that prisoner knew who they really were. Or even if just one of the other nine people around us knew. I imagine quite a bit more tension in the room if that were the case, but it’s not. The prisoner is a vegetable and their surroundings haven’t registered to them in many years.

I almost feel sympathy, a sort of sadness tainted with love, until I remember I’m the reason they are the way they are. I shake my head and move my eyes to the remaining two figures sitting in front of me. That prisoner isn’t the person I knew, I know that and yet I still can’t shake the feeling of a weight being pushed against my chest. I shouldn’t feel this way, it’s how they want to be, how they asked me to make them, so why should I? How does the saying go?

Be careful what you wish for.

My eyes finally land on the last two men. To me, they are like fine double edged swords and I find them both striking and revolting. They are men of power, used to getting their way no matter the consequence or cost. One can tell just from looking at them they were born to be leaders, but where would they lead?

I used to know the answer to that question. I used to know the answer to a lot of questions actually, but that was a different time, a different place, a different me. That’s what I tell myself anyway even though I know it’s not the truth. I sigh heavily and look the older man in the eye. He looks different than what I remember, less determined, more unsure of himself, and softer.

He is definitely not the President of the United States of America that I remember. The other man is his best friend. Most of the people around us believe he’s the Vice President which just goes to show how incredibly ignorant we as a society truly are.

I actually chuckle to myself thinking about what I remember. How can anyone or anything be like what I remember? We changed all that, or more specifically, I changed all that. The sound of my chuckle causes one of the guards to become nervous and he shifts his weight ever so slightly. He’s not supposed to be scared, nervous, unsure, or anything even resembling weak, but he is. He is and he can’t show it, I silently commend him on his performance. I can’t blame him; I’d probably feel the same way if I were in his shoes, but then again that would never happen.

There’s only one me.

“You’ve caused quite a fuss sir,” the President says to me. His voice is like iron; strong, commanding, it reminds me that even though this is not the same person I knew, he really is. “I’d like to know why.”

I smile at him, he always did have a way of suggesting you do something. It’s what makes him a great leader. I try to get more comfortable in my chair before answering him, but the guards made quite sure I wouldn’t be moving. I was shackled at my wrists, forearms, chest, waist, thighs, knees, shins, and ankles. I couldn’t move much, but I could move a little. I had made sure of that when I was placed in the chair.

I blink and clear my throat. I’m not exactly sure what to say next and that surprises me. My gaze turns down to the table and I see tiny grooves in it. There are indentions pockmarking the table, cuts, and blemishes on the shiny black surface. It reminds me of a barren landscape, devoid of anything except the pockmarks. I’m aware of time passing slowly, of the faces staring at me. I’m aware and yet I’m in a different place now, surrounded by different people.

I close my eyes and I’m in a different time.

My memories come flooding back to me like they always do when I let my guard down. I exhale shakily and the sound is deafening in the quiet room. Some of the memories force me to smile, a single tear traces a path down my cheek because of one, and all of them cause me to clench my teeth. I’m aware of them staring at me and their increased fear of me. The intelligent lunatic is always the most feared. The woman in too tight shoes gets goose bumps behind the mirror.

Well, the floodgates are open now at least. It’s time to get this show on the road so to speak. I clear my head and blink the moisture from my eyes as best I can. I look around the room, not in a daze as everyone around me is thinking, but in awe actually. My eyes once again land on his and I’m ready.

At least I know where to start now.

“There are twelve people around me right now. Do the math, and yes, I counted the two guards outside the door and the three of you behind that mirror. If we were all ranked, say, on a scale of one to twelve, do you know where you would be ranked compared to the person next to you? Would you be in the upper tier or the lower? I’m not talking about social status or physical strength. You wouldn’t be ranked on height, intelligence, or the amount of money you have either. What I’m talking about is your ranking based on what you can actually bring to the table so to speak.”

“What do you mean then,” the President asks me. He has a twitch in his left eye, barely perceptible, but it means he’s paying attention, close attention.

I smile at him and rest my head on the back of my chair.

“I’m talking about power John, real power. You don’t mind if I call you John do you?”

John takes a moment to consider the question, he’s weighing his answer and the effects each response would ultimately have. He always was a good chess player.

“No, I don’t see how it matters what you call me honestly and I’m the President of the United States of America, everyone knows my name. If you’re going for shock factor by using it or believe that it will somehow change your position in this room then you are sorely mistaken. Continue.” He leans back in his chair and relaxes his posture. It’s a sign of dominance, I know this, and he thinks smugly to himself that he’s gotten the upper hand somehow. I just laugh under my breath and wonder where all of this will lead.

“Actually, I’ve been calling you by your name for years, you just don’t know it. Anyway, power is what I’m referring to. Did you know that human bone is just as strong as rock when supporting weight? That if you took the heat your body is giving off for thirty minutes and used it, you could boil water? Nerve impulses can travel one hundred seventy miles per hour. The acid in all of our stomachs is strong enough to dissolve razor blades. You can sneeze at over one hundred miles per hour. You can hold your breath for longer than nine minutes if you know how. Human beings can use echolocation the same way bats can. You can run almost thirty miles per hour with training. Scientists have proven telekinesis, telepathy, and a dozen other unexplained phenomena as being real.

“That, my friend, is power. That is what I’m referring to,” as I talk I look at each person in the room and finally end up facing John again. They all think I’m crazy and babbling nonsense. I would too if I were them. That doesn’t stop me though, not much does.

“So you want to tell us that we can do all of those things,” John asks me. I begin to wonder if anyone else in the room has working vocal chords. He’s not in the best of moods right now seeing as how I forced him to be here at this prison. “That if I exercise enough I can run really fast, lift really heavy things, and knock people down with my sneezes? You walk into a prison with a bomb strapped around you, demand a meeting with me, and when I comply to save countless human lives I find out that you just wanted to tell me useless information about what the human body can do?”

He stands up to leave. The others in the room are confused, angry, and generally unhappy. I knew this would happen even though I wanted to find a way around it. I look at the other prisoner and remember a different person with the same face. Oh well, you win some and you lose some right? That’s what you always used to tell me. I just lost one.

Time to win.

“If you do not sit down the entire human race will cease to exist in a little over five years,” I begin. Everyone stops what they’re doing and stares at me. “What I am about to tell you is something you will not be able to believe. You’ll think I’m crazy, that I’m clinically insane. All of you think this now actually, but in less than a minute you’ll believe it. You see, I didn’t come here to tell you about humans, to match wits with you, to blow up a prison, or to even let myself be arrested. I came here to warn you. You specifically John since you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about in a minute. I told you all of that because it touches on what I’m about to tell you, and warn you of.”

I look at John and I don’t see the friend I knew anymore, I see the man whose signature almost destroyed the entire world. Hell, it could have destroyed the universe if you want to get technical.

“What do you know about the A.D.A.M. Project, John,” I ask him coldly. “And you’re about to say you know nothing about it, you want to deny its existence, and you want to lie. I’m warning you now that would be a bad idea for you because if you do I’ll prove to these people around us that you’re lying and how would that look on your moral character as President?”

I level my gaze with his and await his answer. I know it before he even speaks.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” John replies acidly to me through gritted teeth. Apparently I’ve struck a nerve. No, this is not the man I knew, but he could be. Again.

“Alright John, remember that you brought this on yourself,” I tell him and I look around the room at the other occupants. It’s only the twelve of us, no big deal really; I don’t know what I’m worried about seeing as how I’ve handled almost seven billion before at one time. I guess it’s just that this time I’ve already given him a chance to choose the right path for humanity again and once again, he failed. I keep reminding myself that it’s not really his fault, it’s just human nature, but this will make round three if I fail in what I’m here to do. Third time’s the charm right? You win some and you lose some. I clear my throat and begin to destroy everything these people believe in.

“Twenty years ago the American government started researching ways to genetically enhance humans, soldiers, actually, since we’re mainly a nation and a race of warmongers. There were rumors, speculations, leaks, saying that the government was doing this well before then, but they were all wrong. I mean, yes, they wanted to, even tried, but there was no way to map out a strand of DNA and actually know what it all meant back then. We could get an idea, but never a definitive answer. We eventually mapped the entire DNA sequence, but we still didn’t know what it all meant. That’s where you came in John.” As I say this to him I see he’s confused, he’s listening to me, they all are, but they still don’t understand.

“You gave the command to dump unlimited resources into the research of this project. You called it the A.D.A.M. Project, short for Advanced Deoxyribonucleic Atomic Manipulation. It was highly confidential and classified, you wanted to keep it that way, but some things just can’t be kept secret. Secrets are meant to be told you know. They have a way of getting out. Once the American population found out about your research you did what no other official in our history has ever done. You were completely honest with them. I know, it sounds crazy, but it’s true.”

“Wait a minute son,” he says and holds his hand up to stop me. “You’re telling me that you believe these events happened twenty years ago?”

“Yes, I am. And they did.”

He shakes his head and smiles to his friend. It’s a look that says, this man is crazy, why are we still listening? I continue to speak.

“You released all of your findings to the general public, it was unheard of, but it was ingenious at the same time. You said to me that the chances of finding all the answers to all the questions were much slimmer if you resigned yourself to using only your immediate resources. Doctors, scientists, researchers, all of whom were employed by various companies and mostly by the government were working on this project, but the actual amount of people were few. Thirty six people total were working on finding the answers and would have succeeded in time more than likely, but what you did when you made all of your research and studies public was take that number and multiply it exponentially. I still can’t get over how incredible the logic was in that move.

“Within a year nearly every major medical research facility on the planet was part of one team. You gave the world something that every human could contribute to and by doing that the A.D.A.M. Project was in its final stages by the end of year two.”

I stop and let the information sink in a little before I continue. They’re all listening to me, more intently now since I apparently no longer sound like a raving madman, but an intelligent madman with something real to say. None of them believe me yet though, which is to be expected of course.

One of the guards steps forward and asks permission to speak which is granted.

“Sir,” he says to me mildly but with enough authority to mark him as a soldier, “you mean to tell us that all of this happened almost two decades ago and nobody remembers it? You also expect us to believe that our President was also President then, and that he commissioned the research for super soldiers to commence which the American government not only went through with, but also succeeded in?” He asks the questions as facts but his face states they’re more questions than anything. I silently give him credit for having the balls to step and say what’s on his mind before I answer him.

“Yes sir, I do.” What happens next is the only possible conclusion to their doubts and fears. I knew before any of this started that telling them was not going to be enough, I was going to have to show. Well, they were in for one hell of a show.

The buckles on my shackles unlock themselves. The soldier quickly tries to grab his firearm and aim at me, the escaping prisoner, before he realizes his gun isn’t there anymore. John jumps out of his chair backwards and calls for his friend, Daniel, to get away from the table. I’m amazed at how spry they both are for their ages and smile at them. The other guard rushes to try and subdue me, but he no longer sees me, just an empty chair. I’m gone.

They search the room with their eyes frantically, even the three behind the mirror. Alarms go off and sirens blare as the compound comes to life with my sudden departure.

“Where is he,” yells the guard. “He was right there!”

“Shut down the complex, level five security alert, nothing in, nothing out,” the woman in the too tight shoes says to her chief of security. “I want this bastard found, I want to know what the hell just happened, and I want it done ten minutes ago!” I can see that she’s obviously worried about her position as warden if she lets prisoners escape while the President is visiting. I can see the logic in that.

All of them are reaching for weapons that aren’t there. Bloody Fingers reaches for the doorknob only to find there isn’t one, there isn’t even a door anymore. The table propels itself violently across the room and into the mirror causing it to shatter.

I let the confusion go on for another fifteen seconds. I play out how this whole thing will end in my mind. I’m happy with the outcome even though it’s not the one I would prefer. They run around the room like ants, trying to find a way out of a box with no doors. Their heartbeats are elevated, sweat runs freely down their foreheads to their cheeks, one of the men behind the shattered mirror starts to cry. He keeps saying it doesn’t make sense. He’s almost right.

In the blink of an eye I’m back in my chair, shackled and smiling, the picture of the perfect prisoner. Heartbeats return to normal, breathing becomes natural again, the guards find their guns and finger them uneasily while looking at me.

“What you just experienced is only a fraction of what I am capable of. If I wanted out of this chair, it would not hold me. If taking your lives was on my to-do list, they would all be crossed off. I am no ordinary prisoner, no ordinary man even. Your experiment is to blame for this, John, your little stab at playing God is the cause.” I notice I’ve been talking through gritted teeth and I’m shaking with anger. It’s the first time I realize how affected by all of this I really am.

“My name is Pat Hogan,” I tell them. “And I’m a superhuman.”

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