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Aberrant RPG - God is Love; I don't love you.

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God is Love; I don't love you.

     August 17th, 2008
     My name is Paul O'Dell, and I'm a journalist. I normally don't write in this style; I'm the prince of detachment, the king of objectivity. But not this time. This time I got sucked into the story. Maybe because I like comic books as a kid, or because I'm biased because of my M-R Node. But I got this goofy knack with electricity. Not enough to hurt anyone, but I can interact with machines just fine, which is why I don't have to type this. I'm no Kuwasha, but I get by.
     Marcus Rossmore is a god. I don't know where he is now, but wherever it is, he's a god there. He's a Nietzchean ideal, filtered through Siegel and Shuster (with a brief pit-stop in the desert of Sinai to chat with a burning bush) and he's gone now.
     He couldn't take us anymore.
     I remember the first time we met. February 12th, 2007.
     The day his world changed.

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I was huddled behind a car watching explosions rip though downtown Boston, mushrooms of red and yellow fire that blossomed out from the epicenter of a cackling woman's footsteps.

The worst part was how beautiful she was. Her hair was the color of the fire that did her bidding, practically glowing from inside each follicle. Her body was wreathed in gold light, like a shift of starshine, and every perfect Nova curve was open to inspection, if you happened to have the balls for it.

Me, I like being in one piece, so I kept hidden.

"Humans...I wish I could explain to you why you have to die. But it would be like discussing math with chimps." She looked over at a streetlamp, and it melted into slag. "Remember, those of you who survive, that I'm very sorry you weren't born a better being."

While the yellow-white metal ran down the remains of the pole, I accessed my palmtop and looked up her police record. Okay, so it meant breaking into Boston PD's computer...hell, according to our most excellent lady of flame, I'm one of the master race, right? I did it with a thought, feeling the surge of power that connects me to the quantum...and in that second, I understood, in a small part of my soul I don't like to think about, why Brigit (that's her nickname) wanted to burn everything down.

To feel like that...you have to experience it to understand it.

The car I was hiding behind shuddered, and I jumped away from it just as the gas tank blew. A shower of smouldering fragments fell down like black rain, and my burning lady stepped through the flames and looked down at me.

"What's your name?"

"O'Dell." I swallowed; she was giving off so much heat that my sweat was evaporating off of my face into steam.

"You get to live, O'Dell. Be thankful."

She walked away, melting the asphalt into puddles of black goo in her wake. I looked down at my pants, but thankfully I'd held my bladder. Well, so being able to pull off minor-league monkey tricks with machines was good for more than just work; it made me worth not killing.

Hoorah for us Novas. I cowered there for a few more seconds, but then my natural journalistic psychosis made me get up and follow her.

Cops were doing their jobs and dying for it, turning into roman candles or howling flames that staggered around and burned like tire fires. One guy, I didn't know who he was, leapt onto one of the more unfortunate cops and beat the flames out with his leather jacket. Underneath it he was wearing one of those baseball T-shirts, one of the ones with long sleeves a different color than the rest of the shirt. It was dark blue and grey, and at first I couldn't see the chest, so I thought nothing of it.

Then the burning lady herself noticed a school bus trying to pull away from the Public Library. We were all in the shadow of the Prudential Building, but as you might expect all the fires were lighting the place up and there was no place to hide. Brigit smiled, a cold beauty in her delicate features, and a rush of heat built up around her so intense that I actually dropped my palmtop because the plastic was heating up.

The guy who was helping the cops noticed it, too. He looked up, a wild expression full of hate and fear mixing on his face, his eyes as wide as the muscles of his head would allow.

And then, as Brigit let loose on the bus (one of the kids was smearing her little face against the glass, trying to see the Nova) the cop's rescuer threw himself directly into the streak of flames.

I had a split second to look at him, and I figured I'd never see him again, so I took the time to memorize what he looked like. I figured I'd need to, since he wouldn't be leaving any remains to help his next of kin identify him. The worst part was, thanks to my special gift with machines, I knew I could download the image from my memory and make a fortune from the boys at N! Prime with the tale of one brave baseline's suicidal heroism.

Black hair, kinda greasy. Blue eyes. Baseball jersey with a red and yellow pentagonal symbol on the chest underneath a leather jacket. Old blue jeans that had seen better days. I made sure to keep looking, expecting to watch as the fire ate him away from the outside in.

It did. It blasted right through his T-shirt and burned right into his chest. I saw his ribs blacken and his heart tear in half, and a pillar of flames surrounded him and shot up into the sky, to fall apart and fall back on us like sleet made out of hate.

He pitched forward, not even screaming, and Brigit walked over his remains to hit the bus. Now, I'm no hero. But I looked at one of the remaining cops, who looked at me, and I realized something.

We weren't going to take this shit anymore.

Pushing so hard I felt like my head was going to pop off of my neck, I grabbed hold of the bus's ignition system and turned the fucking thing over. The driver wasn't there...maybe she'd run, maybe passed out, I dunno...but there was a nice ViaSoft Autopiloting system installed in case of driver heart attacks and the like, and I talked to it.

The bus lurched forward. I could feel my node throbbing in my head as I screamed at it, pouring energies I don't normally use through it and praying my ass off. The bus rolled away from her, and she turned to look at me with contempt. Somehow she knew. Somehow she could sense the quantum pouring out of me.

She was going to cook me where I stood for it.

I wet my pants, both from fear and from the strain. One of the cops, the one I'd looked at before, figured out that it was me driving the bus and knew that if she nuked me, it would probably crash. So he began firing wildly with his own gun and another one he'd picked up from somewhere...I could see bits of carbon on the barrel and didn't want to think about what that meant. Others joined in, forcing her to keep the heat wrapped around herself where it could melt the bullets.

I just kept driving the bus. My head wasn't just splitting anymore...blood was running down my face from my nose, which was fine by me as it kept me from smelling the acrid urine soaking my pants.

Then the guy who'd jumped in front of the bus got up. I watched, and may have been the only one (in all fairness, Brigit was walking at the cops, and their bullets were forming a bubbling lead speckle around the edges of her heat-field, so there were more compelling things to stare at) as he stood up.

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His chest was healed. Better than healed...he was average looking before, but now he was huge. Proportioned, but huge, with muscles that wouldn't have looked out of place on Caestus Pax. His shirt was torn apart, but above the rip in its belly the red and yellow symbol from the old movies and comic books was more or less intact...and I have to admit, it looked right on him now.

He looked down at himself, at his burned clothes, and then at me with that look on his face. You know the look, if you're a Nova or even if you've only seen an eruption on N! Prime sometime. Eyes wide, mouth slightly open, head bowed slightly as the wheels of thought grind slowly towards the truth.

I later learned that he didn't even notice the node opening. It usually hurts like a bastard, but in his case it makes sense. He was being burned to death at the time.

Stepping forward, he saw Brigit about to burn the cop who'd come to my rescue from a sandy-haired recruitment poster for the BPD to a pile of ash. And he moved.

Her hand reached out...and instead of melting though a riot helmet, it touched smooth, unblemished skin which remained that way, ignoring the fact that the hand touching it was hot enough to melt steel.

But not a man of steel, apparently.

She barely had time to realize what was happening when he hit her. Now, one of the benefits of my M-R Node is that I can see and think faster than normal folks. So I should have been able to see him punch her, even if he was moving faster than a human.

But all I got, on the edges of my multi-spectrum scan, was a vibration on the quantum level. Her head snapped back, but I could tell he hadn't snapped it like I would have. Brigit was a lot tougher than she looked. The cops, not really sure what was going on anymore, took the time to reload their guns.

I parked the bus and took the time to fall back against the wall and pant like a racehorse. My heartbeat was already amped up like a soma-meth freak, and suddenly I was watching...well, I wasn't really sure either.

Staggering back, the left side of that painfully beautiful face welted from his fist, Brigit flung flames at him. He just walked through them.

Then he slapped his hands together. It's not a new trick, but not every super-strong type can pull it off, especially out of the box. But he did. A burst of air and a blast of sound knocked her on her ass and broke a few windows, but the general damage was so bad anyway (and the area around the library is open enough) that it didn't create too many problems.

"I could kill you." His voice was...well, it was what you'd expect, which seemed to surprise the hell out of him. It took him a couple of seconds to get back on track. "I could, and you'd deserve it. But I have another idea."

He did that blurry thing again, moving so fast I could barely see him, and then fire hydrants began exploding as he sheared the tops off and moved on. There are four in the area, and all four went at once. Then, while I watched, he somehow (I still couldn't really see him) managed to divert all that water into her, all at once. It was amazing, and more than a bit scary.

The jets of water turned into steam, and filled the whole plaza with clouds of hot air and water bubbling away. It was like downtown Boston was turning into a sauna. I heard later that kids from the Emerson campus came down just to experience it, but I didn't see any of them.

I heard Brigit howl, and then I saw it.

She rocketed up into the air on a plume of fire.

He followed her...just rose up into the air and shot after her like it was the most natural thing in the world. In fact, he was faster, getting above her.

She threw those flames at him, and nothing happened.

Then I saw his eyes glow a bright red, and she howled again...and the flames petered out and she fell from the sky.

He didn't catch her. She smashed directly into the giant puddle forming in the crater where she'd been standing when she took off, and more steam blasted out of it. The splash probably saved her life. He landed not too far from me as I was staggering back to my feet and carefully edging into the water falling from the busted hydrant. Hey, I wasn't going to let people know I'd peed my pants if I could avoid it.

"What the hell happened?"

"I could see through her skull." His voice was still that deep, majestic lilting tone of command, but hushed by awe. "I could see the node inside her head...so I hit it with..I stared at it, and it burned. She'll regenerate the damage, probably, but it probably felt like I hit her between the eyes with a sledgehammer."

Then he turned to me, his newly perfect features contorted in terror.

"I can hear...everything."

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I got the interview, of course. He was still a little stunned by what had happened, and he didn't quite realize what it meant yet. He told me his name (Marcus Rossmore, born December 1st, 1985, attending Emerson College's Master of Arts Lit program, wanted to be a teacher) and all about himself.

He was a gigantic comic-book geek. Not the new ones...he didn't read the Op-Net classics or watch the animated series. Well, okay, so he'd watched Slag: Hot Metal Fury #30. Hell, the whole world did. But in general there was something about the Nova based reality stuff he wasn't thrilled with.

"I mean, Eufiber can look like anything, can't it?" He was frowning. This was before Skew joined T2M, mind you, and we saw that it can apparently look like a leather jacket and a T-Shirt. "But they're all wearing skin-tight outfits. Why?"

"Hell, your heroes wore..."

"My heroes weren't real people. They were colored dots on paper, before AOL/Warner and Toy Biz decided that there wasn't much future left in it and killed them all off. Real people aren't neat little squiggles who'll do whatever you want. They're seething bags of conflict."

He looked over at Brigit, who was getting fitted with restraints provided by Team Tomorrow. A Utopia recruiter was getting the full story from one of the cops, so I decided to pull a fade; after I left the Rashoud Facility, I more or less decided to stay as far away from those guys as possible. Not because of anything they did...because I'm a selfish, greedy bastard who doesn't want to work for a better world.

Between me and her, Rossmore's point was made, I suppose. Real Nova's weren't safe and easy, and now, he was one of them.

No wonder the poor bastard was scared.

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Over the next few months, I heard about him. He'd decided not to join Utopia, although he'd let them test him out at the Rashoud Facility in New York (turns out they couldn't take blood, though...his skin just broke the needles) and a few bad headaches he experienced they helped him out with. Same way I dealt with mine after getting home from the fracas...pop a couple of Adrenocilin and you'll feel better. I did, anyway.

The stuff apparently didn't do much for him. I hacked his records out of their system this morning, after he left, and while it was a bitch kitty on legs, it wasn't as hard as it would have been last year. I've been getting better and better at it since that fight, somehow. I managed to yank his records and find a few other tidbits of interest before a firewall the size of God slammed down and kicked my ass out.

I'm glad I did it from a borrowed encrypted palmtop. That poor bastard's going to be getting a visit from Utopia's Internal Affairs division.

Anyway, at that one and only visit, Rossmore took two Addies and the docs watched in amazement as the pills flushed from his system in about five minutes. They couldn't penetrate his skin, and they tried pretty hard (they even used a surgical laser) making him probably second only to ol' Ironskin when it comes to imperviousness, if not actually number one. And his node's the size of a goddamn softball.

You'd expect him to get a bit wiggy with a node that big. I've been covering Nova news for six years now, and in that time, I've seen quite a few Novas go buggy (it happens more than we'd like to admit) and it's usually because of the node getting a bit too big for the brain. But in Rossmore's case, he seemed to be doing fine, even the last time I saw him.

He didn't join up, but he wasn't hostile, either. He just didn't want to have to work for NSI or join Team Tomorrow. Too public for him, too much time spent doing stuff that just didn't seem important to him. Instead, he threw himself into being what he thought a Nova should be.

You've seen the results. That oil tanker that he lifted up out of the ocean and sealed before it could leak, then flew it back to Anchorage the way you or I would carry a matchbox car; the meltdown at Seabrook he averted by tearing the entire radioactive core out of the place and flying it into space before it could blow (and no, even at the end he never told me how close he was to the pile when it reached critical mass); the volcanic eruption he halted in the Phillipines by burrowing into the sea-bed and creating a new channel for the lava to follow; the hurricane he collapsed in the Gulf of Mexico by a combination of repeatedly flying through it at supersonic speeds while superheating the air with his weird heat-ray eyes; the cell of Nova terrorists he beat senseless in Tokyo, escaping before the Kamisama could start worshipping him or whatever.

There are more, of course. He didn't stick around for thanks, he didn't stop for food or sleep or human contact much, he didn't go to Ibizia or Addis Ababa or anyplace anyone could see him (I half-suspect he had a place in the Arctic he'd crash out in, but that's just the comic-book geek in me. Yes, I have one, too.) I won a Pulitzer for my coverage of the day he erupted, the cops and I all got commendations for bravery (they probably would have offered him one, if they knew how to reach him) and life went on as it had.

Then came the visit, and the end of my old life.

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He knocked on my window. I remember looking out at him in surprise, and then remembering my manners and walking over to my patio (the regular apartment windows wouldn't have been nearly big enough) to let him in. I was wearing my work clothes, still, a brown suit with a grey shirt and a brown tie. I like earth tones, I guess.

I didn't say anything. He was wearing a different jacket than he had been the last time I saw him...it was still leather, but one of those motocross jackets, not a straighforward 'Rebel without a Cause' type. Of course, that whole outfit had been burned right off of him, hadn't it? He was wearing a normal T-Shirt without the symbol on it (I heard AOL/Warner making some noises about suing him, not that he would have cared all that much, the way he was living) and jeans. If you ignored the slight red glow to his eyes, he looked more or less like your average six foot four inch tall, three hundred pound mound of muscle.

"I can't take it anymore."

"Can't take what?"

He looked out the window.

"Right now, I can see fifteen cases of domestic abuse, ten muggings, five armed robberies, three car-jackings, six rapes and twenty-seven other crimes. I can see over thirty-five cases of adultery, twenty-seven cases of self-mutilation...should I keep going?"

"Not especially. Why don't you stop looking, if it's so horrible?"

"I didn't say it was horrible. That's the horrible part. I don't feel anything about it. It's like watching chimps...do you remember her saying that? 'Like explaining math to chimps?' To me, the whole human race has become something I'd see in a zoo."

I began to sweat a bit at that, and I'm sure my heartrate went up, because he continued.

"Your galvanic responses just kicked in. I can hear your heartrate, smell the urea in your sweat...and not just you. Everyone for miles. Don't worry...I haven't gone insane on you. I don't intend to kill anyone. I'm leaving, instead. I might have stayed anyway, despite the disassociation, if it wasn't for the fact that they sterilized me."

"They? They who?"

"The same ones who sterilized you." He looked down at my crotch, and then back up at me. "Yes. You have a sperm count of 150. I have absolutely none. My incredibly efficient immune system is wiping out my sperm as fast as I can produce it. I noticed it last week, when I began to develop microscopic perception."

"Are you saying that every Nova in the world is sterile?"

"No. Just the ones who take Addies or Mox. I don't know anything about chemisty, so I couldn't tell you why it works, but I've deep scanned over a thousand Novas without them knowing, and out of that group only one of them had a normal sperm count...a Teragen supporter who'd never been to a Rashoud Clinic. Even I, who only took Addies the one time, even I'm affected. I don't know how or why, but I am."

I sat down at this. He kept going; apparently his months of isolation had caused him to bottle up a whole shitload of anxiety and talkativeness, because it all came spilling out.

"I'm capable of shutting my senses off. I do it all the time, actually, because if I didn't I'd go insane. So I could stay, and ignore the horrors, if there was some chance I'd be able to find that one person and have a life with her. She'd probably have to be a Nova, of course, because at the moment I don't have the emotional connection I'd need with baselines. It's bigoted of me, but it's the truth. I rush out of the sky and save them from the world not out of love, but because I'm unimaginitive. Hell, look at the powers I got!"

He smiled at that.

"What's wrong with them?"

"O'Dell, they're copyrighted. My subconscious is a goddamn plagiarist! Even Pax had better taste than to exactly rip off the estate of Siegel and Shuster!" Laughing bitterly, he sat down next to me. "The truth is, finding out I can't ever...well, it severed my last emotional tie to this world. To me, it's just a ball of rock swarming with monkeys. So I'm leaving instead of all the other options."

"What the hell are you talking about? Leaving? Where are you going to go? In case you didn't notice while you were deciding to agree with the Null Manifesto, there's no place but home, swarming with us monkeys though it be."

"Monkeys can't talk to machines with a thought, O'Dell. Don't pretend you don't understand how I feel, even if you don't agree. I don't agree either, intellectually. I know it's wrong. Last year, when she killed me...I've never been that afraid in my entire life. I don't want to make people feel like that. So I'm leaving."

"What, just like that? What about whoever fucking neutered you!? You're going to just let them get away with that?"

"Just like I'm going to let that guy downstairs beat his daughter, and that woman across the street poison her husband, and everything else that goes on around here." He got up and walked to the window. "But I'll warn you...be careful who you tell. Imagine how Pax or Skew would react if they knew, or maybe the Teragen. It's a barrel of explosives I've just handed you the fuse to. Keep that in mind, if you care. Me, I'm going to find a place where I can be a 'Visitor from a Strange Planet' and see if there's anything more for me. Enjoy the story, if you decide to cover it."

Then he was gone. Again, I didn't even see him move. I walked to the window and looked up at the sky, but there was no sign of him. He was a god walking in a world full of people who needed help, but he was missing something. He didn't really care anymore.

It was probably for the best. But I couldn't help but blame myself. Maybe if I hadn't started the frenzy over his eruption, he could have gotten to see the side of us that makes it worthwhile. The flip side of his gutter-eye view. The better angels of our nature or whatever you want to call it. But he didn't, and he left.

Now I find myself sitting at my desk, thinking at my computer and staring at a half-full bottle of Addies.

I have a headache.

I think I'll let it ride for a while.

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