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Aberrant RPG - A Nova Never More


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<h1 align="center">A Nova Never More</h1>

<h2><a href="mailto:tleegraves@hotmail.com">Written by T. Lee Graves</a></h2>

He was a shrunken, shriveled old man. His hair was gray and thinning, a wispy lock astray over his right ear. His skin was brown and wrinkled, like a badly stretched hide left in the sun too long. Bent over, as much by age, as by the aching hole ripped inside him when they amputated his M-R Node.

He looked up at me as I sat down and his head shook from the effort of raising his eyes from the table in front of him. "What is it like boy," he asked, "To sit across from pure evil?"

I admit, I laughed in the old man's face. It was a short laugh, cut off quickly, so as not to disgrace him too much, but enough to let him know I thought he was full of it.

"Sorry about that, Mr. Edsel, but you don't exactly convey the image of pure evil, these days."

He laughed at me, then, a deep chuckling laugh that let me know that he knew I was the snot-nosed cub reporter who drew the short straw. "I see, Mr. Young," he said, pulling out a small notebook and pen from his pocket, "then tell me why N! prime sent you out to talk to some used-up baseline, waiting on death row for the thrill of riding 'ol sparky' into the eternal darkness?"

I was quiet for a time then and he began to doodle on his notepad. I had to get this old broken madman to open up and tell me his story. It was the biggest opportunity of my career and I was not going to screw up this huge chance to interview one of the pioneers of Nova psychology, one of the earliest Rashoud facility staffers, one of the shining lights of Nova nobility in the years after his eruption, not to mention learning about his eventual total collapse into insanity that cost him everything he valued.

"Tell me Mr. Edsel," I asked, "what it was like working with the earliest Novas? No one in the world new anything about these folks or what they could do or how they could do it, yet every day 2-3 of them were erupting, giving birth to a new race of humans."

He didn't respond and I looked down at his notepad and saw that he was very carefully printing 319 repeatedly on the first sheet of paper. I watched him for a minute before speaking again, "Mr. Edsel? Can you remember when you were one of first people to work with Novas?"

He stopped writing the number 319 and looked up at me and said "Three hundred nineteen beats, Mr. Young, does that seem like a lot?" His eyes were locked on mine now, and there was no weariness to be seen. I could not look away, I felt as if my will was adrift on a stormy sea and his eyes were a ravening whirlpool, drawing me closer and deeper with every passing breath. I struggled to escape his madness, it wasn't possible to see the terrible visions that played across his mind, but there in his eyes I swear I saw murder and mayhem.

He looked away, releasing my will to struggle back up to the surface of sanity, and then he spoke. He did not answer my question, "There is no reason for me to help you, boy." He made it clear that boy was a four-letter word. "I'm a tired old man that is going to be put to death for the crimes of a god. You've seen the footage," He paused then and I couldn't quite meet his eyes for fear that once more I would see the scene that has been shown in edited version on the Opt-Net so many thousands of times.

"Mr. Edsel… Ken, this is your chance, probably your last chance, to tell the world your side of the story. It's your chance to set the record straight. To explain why you did what you did, to let the whole world know that you're not the monster which you have been portrayed as, but a man driven to a moment of madness by the pressures of being a Nova." I did the best I could to convince the broken old man with the red-rimmed rheumy eyes that I was his friend that he could trust me.

"You're a fraud, Mr. Young… Richard." He said. "You offer me nothing. What do I care if the world knows my side of the story, what do I care if N! runs a big two hour special about the rise and fall of NuTron, what do I care whether your career is made or ruined? I'll be dead in a few days and forgotten in a few weeks and nothing you have offered me will change it.

I looked into his eyes then, I dared the waters of his madness. "Ken, I can save you," I said, "I can heal you."

He sat back in his chair, with a swiftness that spoke lies to his posturing of weakness. "You're a liar!" He said, but his face was flushed and his eyes shown with a ferocious light. I had him, now. For all his wisdom and nonchalance he still lusted for the power of Quantum.

"No," I was unbelievably calm, even as my thoughts raced, he would want proof, "I tell the truth. I can heal your M-R Node."

"Prove it!" He said, standing so suddenly that his chair flipped over backwards and clattered across the floor. The guards looked up for a moment, but made no move to enter the room.

I sat still for a long time with my eyes closed. A bead of sweat formed and rolled down my temple. Would he take it for some vast effort on my part or just the heat within the room? When I opened my eyes, I said, "I have made a small repair to your M-R Node. Just enough that you should be able to sense a bit of Quantum, not enough to manipulate, but just enough to let you know that I'm telling you the truth."

He stood their panting like a captured animal testing the air, testing the Quantum stream. Could he taste the Quantum, did he have it in him to see something that was not within the kin of mortals? Would his madness save me or would it bring my dreams and his to a crashing end?

"You Bastard!" He shouted, then quietly, "I can feel it!" His eyes blazed with a passion that I thought only possible of a man for a woman or for power.

He picked up his chair and sat down, carefully and without effort.

"Now, Mr. Edsel," I said, preparing to stick in the knife, "if you want me to heal your Node completely, if you want me to give you back the power that you lost, you have to tell me the truth. Only then, and only if I am convinced that you are worthy of saving, will I restore your Node." It was a chance to push him so hard, but it would be worth the risk.

It did not take him long to reach his decision. "I will tell you." He said, and he reached out and touched my hand, gently, almost reverently. "Ask your questions."

I asked about his experiences with the first Novas to ever erupt. I asked about when he was the world's foremost sports psychologist and Novas were new to the world.

When he answered, however, it was not to the questions I asked. When he answered it was something terrible. When he spoke, he spoke to relieve his soul of a terrible burden; he spoke of things he had never voiced before. He spoke and I began to regret drawing that short damn straw. He spoke and the words fell like stones into the pool of my soul, each one splashing home with terrible consequences for my very sanity. He spoke and showed me ghostly visions to haunt my dreams for all the nights that I must close my eyes to sleep before I die. I hated him more with each word that he spoke.

"Every morning when I wake," he said and swallowed hard, his eyes turning down to look at his notepad, "I recall the day I killed my wife. The day I held her up by her throat against a concrete wall and with a single blow punched my fist through her face, through her brain, even fracturing the back of her skull. It was easy for me to do, but it is not easy to remember. It is not easy for me to recall the warm, sticky feeling between my fingers of her mangled flesh and brain and bone. It is not easy to recall each day the soft sucking sound that my hand made as I pulled it out of her. It is painful to think again of the horror in her eyes in the moment before I ended her pathetic monkey existence. I could hear her heart stop beating almost immediately, but the second heartbeat, in her womb, took longer to stop. I counted the beats and they totaled three hundred and nineteen. Those beats were the sound of the child's heart that she claimed was hers and mine, but she had lied. How could she ever have believed that she could lie to me? How could she imagine that I would not seek vengeance for her audacity? I was a Nova, one of the most powerful beings to have ever lived and she was a little piece of baseline trash. Isn't it amazing that I did it in front of a live television audience? Isn't it crazy to be so completely full of oneself that I thought I could murder my wife in cold blood in front of 27 million people and that nothing would happen to me because I was a Nova? I was, sadly, mistaken.

So now I pay my own personal repentance. I recall the day, I recall my actions, and I recall the consequences. I do a sit up for each of the heartbeats for the child that died. Then I do three hundred and nineteen pushups, then three hundred nineteen jumping jacks, and the same number of pull-ups. After that I start on the free weights. Most people here think I'm obsessed, or fanatical, or insane. I'm not; I'm only trying to repent for my crime.

I'm afraid I failed to answer your question," he said, "could you repeat it?"

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