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Aberrant: The Long March - A Life Tainted

Andrew Murphy

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Andrew looked behind him and sighed, if this was even remotely like having kids he wondered how the hell Joani and Ulric put up with it. “Would one of you please bring me the beaker?!” he shouted over the squabbling. The two homunculi were about as much help as a hindrance in the lab, sometime he wondered why he bothered creating them at all.

Of course that was a moot question to ask. He had had visions of an army of helper for the lab. Instead he had pushed to far, pushed to fast beyond his capability and something had gone wrong. The results, thus far at any rate, were “Andy” and “Drew”, a pair of bickering child-like homunculi that embodied different aspects of his mind.

A second later a crash of glass told him that the needed beaker was likely in tiny pieces on the floor. He didn’t even get the chance to ask as the two tiny voices both shouted “He did it!” before Andrew even had time to turn around. Andrew closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose he then counted to ten before turning around. The two little beings looked up at Andrew, “Uh oh, he looks mad,” Andy whispered to Drew.

“I don’t care which of you broke it. You,” he said pointing at Andy, “Get me a beaker, NOW! And you clean up that mess,” Drew grumbled but went for the broom and dustpan while Andy scampered off to get another beaker and bring it back. Andrew shook his head, and turned back to the experiment at hand. A short time later Andy returned and, reaching up, slid a beaker onto the bench beside Andrew.

Andrew took the beaker and poured the two components into it dropping a magnetic stirrer in with a wet plop the beaker went onto a stir plate with the heat of low. Andrew hoped that this would work. His dietary issues were not something many people knew about. In fact barely a handful had been told and he suspected that only a few of his friends suspected. Though Andrew doubted that this newest mixture would work any better than the last dozen he had to try. He wasn’t sure that the others on the crew would be as understanding as Steve, Morgan, and Lorean.

While the mixture cooked he turned back to see the two creatures cooperating to clean the glass from the floor. As soon as they finished sweeping up the last of the glass Andrew reached out and touched them each. Like water wicking up a napkin the two bodies flowed upward and into Andrew’s body, they cells and thoughts merging once more into Andrew. He sighed again, a psychiatrist would certainly say that the homunculi’s independence was just another sign that Andrew was feeling withdrawn, that he longed for contact with others like him, or even unlike him.

With an electronic chirp the timer roused Andrew from his thoughts. He turned and removed the beaker from the burner. The liquid within was greenish-brown and smelled like something that even a fitness nut would think twice about. Protein, fats, amino acids, and essential vitamins; the ichor within the beaker was everything his body needed to survive, from a scientific point of view at any rate. Andrew shrugged to himself and downed the contents. Had he not made the point to temporarily do away with his senses of taste and smell he might have been sick, instead he downed the liquid in one go and put the beaker into the sink.

Andrew made a few final notes in his book before leaving the lab and heading to his study. He found the room comfortable, the fire already going strong in the old fireplace. He settled into the old leather wingback chair and picked up the book from the small table. An hour later it was obvious that for whatever reason the latest trial was not going to suffice as a substitute. Andrew shook his head sadly as he closed the book and contacted Lorean, “Lorean, the latest substitute didn’t work. Please bring me up and tell Morgan to start harvesting another dose of stem cells. I’ll meet him in the infirmary.”

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January 3rd, 1950

Andrew sat in front of a massive table of food. Even for a nova his appetite was bordering on gluttonous. Just a few weeks ago things had been normal, at least as much as that description could apply to Andrew. Now though it seemed that no matter how much he ate he was never sated. The worst aspect was that he seemed to be starving despite it all.

It had all started when he had pushed his powers. He had been reaching out actively pushing his control of the quantum energy that suffused his body and the world around him. He had been straining to grasp just a little more power, to harness just a bit more energy. Suddenly instead of another spoonful of power he held a bucket’s worth. As he reveled in the leap forward though he felt the sickening touch of taint slide down and around him, it oozed into his pores and saturated his cells with a filth that he could not wash away. Stunned he released all that he held and pushed back but found that like a scum of oil on water he couldn’t prevent the taint from covering him.

Since then he had been wasting away, unable to consume enough to keep up with the hunger. He had found too that his ability to regain and store quantum was impaired. Any amount that he burned off he was unable to recuperate. If this continued long enough he was sure that he would die, starved to death; even his nova level stamina couldn’t keep him going forever.

January 11th, 1950

Andrew sat in his home, the lights out, the house silent and empty save for himself. He had reached rock bottom, or so it felt. No amount of food could even begin to help anymore, this hunger required something else. Andrew put his head into his hands, he was afraid for the first time in a long time.

A week ago he had decided that the only thing he could do was to talk to some of the others. He reached out to Lorean, Morgan, and Steve, telling them he needed their help, that something was wrong. Within hours they met and Andrew laid out the details of what had happened. The concern on Steve and Morgan’s faces worried Andrew greatly; the confirmation of his fears scared him to his core. It was a taint sickness, a dependence on some substance or energy. Whatever it was he would need to consume it in order to regain lost quantum and stay healthy, if he did not no amount of normal food would matter, he would waste away.

Andrew ran his hands through his hair and looked to the small table beside his chair. A journal lay open, its pages filled with entry after entry, scrolling down the pages in doubled columns, every item was something that he had consumed but found that it did nothing for the hunger. He had started with normal food stuffs in the hope that maybe he simply needed to load up on something he didn’t eat regularly. From there he had moved on to more and more exotic foods, then vitamins, minerals, raw elemental compounds. While his body was capable of adjusting to digest and process all of it none had proved a solution. He took up the journal once more and added another item to the list; in his neat square hand he wrote “rat”.

“Damn it all!” he cried out and flung the journal across the room. He flew out of the chair grabbing it and hurling it across the room after the journal. Out of control, gripped by anger at himself he trashed the room, tearing down bookcases and kicking over furniture.

Some time later, he knew not how long, he collapsed in a heap in the middle of the chaos, defeated, demoralized, disheartened. He lay on the floor and tried to reason out where he went wrong, what mistakes had driven him down this road and left him in this place; a tainted and warped landscape of his own making. As he lay dazed, starving, exhausted, and mentally broken he found within his hunger an urge. An urge he acted upon…

January 12th 1950

Andrew awoke to a knock of his door, the butler, asking if he was going to be needing breakfast or not. “No I’m not hungry, James,” was his reply as he rolled over to get another hour of sleep. Andrew sat up, I’m not hungry? What the … I’m not hungry, he thought. Then he remembered … “Good lord what have I done?!”

Andrew leapt from the bed and raced downstairs. “No …no, no, no, no, no, oh please no,” he mumbled to himself as he continued down into the basement where his lab was. He flung the door open and cast his eyes about the lab some of his equipment was dirty, beakers and centrifuge tubes spotted with the rust-brown of dried blood. Andrew’s eyes went wide and he went to the biohazard bin and threw it open. There on top of the pile were the macerated remains of human tissue. Andrew knew it was an umbilical cord and placenta; he knew that somehow he had gotten the urge to inject, to consume, stem cells.

Worst case scenarios flashed through his mind, had he slain a woman, a pregnant woman for this? No, he focused, there was little that escaped his perfect memory anymore and he was sure he could recall the details; he couldn’t possibly have done something like that. Then he remembered.

Last night he had visited the hospital, waited until a child had been delivered and made off with the afterbirth. He shuddered as he remembered simply devouring it whole as ancient and not-so-ancient peoples had done according to custom. Andrew would have vomited had he been able to, instead he remembered the rest. Collecting the afterbirths from three other childbirths and bringing them here, to his lab, where he extracted the stem cells from the placenta and cord-blood. He consumed the stem cells alone and then went to sleep.

Andrew backed up to the wall and slide down it to the floor, My god, what monster am I to become …

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