Sunday, November 22, 2009

NaNoWriMo '09, Chapter Twenty-Two: Doctor Toht Grants an Interview

The below is a section of the novel that I wrote for National Novel Writing Month. It isn't a stand-alone story, and it's probably not worth your time to read. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month so wordcount is valued above quality. This is a good thing, as it encourages people to actually finish a project. Nobody expects that the result will be ready for public consumption without heavy editing. If you want to read it for some reason you can view the whole thing in one place HERE although that's still totally unedited and terrible. You have been warned.

Does Mister Black know that you are here, agent Ferris? No? I think you'll find that you are mistaken about that. Mister Black is fallible, but he protects his investments. Oh, agent Ferris. I do appreciate that you insist on looking me in the eye but I assure you that it is not necessary. There is no need for us to beat around the bush on this - I am obviously disfigured in a truly spectacular way. A reminder of my responsibilities.

How impatient you are! No, as a matter of fact we will not be "getting down to business" as you suggest. Your questions will be answered when - or should I say, if - I decide to get around to it. I have no doubt that your research has shown that I am already dead, but let me also reassure you that I would not be overly concerned for this to become the truth. I am only alive now because Mister Black made me promise to hang on until after this altercation between the so-called freaks and the military.

An excellent question, agent Ferris, and one that I am more that happy to answer. No, I have not spoken to Mister Black in quite some time. He knew that the current situation would arise, or at least feared that it would. Mister Black is playing a different game from you and I, one that started years before our laboratory ever discovered the source of the freaks' powers. I understand it ended badly for him. No, agent Ferris. I don't know details.

When he arrived I knew instantly that he was hiding something, that he knew more than he let on. In the beginning I believed that he was playing stupid, but in time I saw that the truth was far stranger; he knew certain things about our operation in detail and was completely ignorant when it came to others. I should have turned him in, but I told myself that he might be a plant from my superiors there to observe. Better to know who is spying on you than to wonder. That's what I told myself. Not what I believed. What I believed, and what I still believe, is that agent Black was from a rival program - but if I turned him in I would never get to learn what he knew. I was spying on the spy.

He was ignorant of the technical details, and so that is what I deprived him of. I made sure he had latitude in all other areas so that I could watch what direction he went, what interested him. Would you like to know what interested Mister Black, agent Ferris? Looking for freaks. In the wild. Before the attack that destroyed Disney, when there was not a single documented freak that had spontaneously appeared, Mister Black was searching for them. I already knew where one was, the one he was most frantically trying to locate, but I said nothing. My mistake.

Oh, agent Ferris. I'm disappointed in you. Do you really think I would reveal everything that easily when I'm clearly enjoying dragging this out? Patience is a virtue.

We had some failures, early on, but by the time Mister Black joined us the Inducer was working and the lab had seven successful test subjects. Now, having seen what a fully functional ability looks like you might not call what we had success stories, but at the time it was very exciting. The first was a man… I forget his name, Percival or something similar, who gained the incredible power to generate heat. To a layman, it seems almost natural to envision a pyrokinetic generating flames in the air. Percival - I've resolved to call him Percival, agent Ferris, although I feel certain I will remember that his actual name was something else entirely- Percival could generate heat but could not protect himself from it. In essence, he had the miraculous ability to give himself third-degree burns.

Percival, unsurprisingly, did not consider this to be a success at all. But oh, agent Ferris, how amazing it was! The heat came from nowhere. Nowhere at all. You have seen, I'm sure, the flyers from the group of concerned citizens that believe the freaks should be used in a constructive way rather than persecuted. I see that sneer, agent Ferris, and I understand that you have been trained to think of them as monsters. Maybe they are. That being said, the right… assortment… of powers could solve most problems that our country faces. Free energy, healing rare diseases, developing otherwise impossible technologies or materials. Fear them all you want, agent Ferris, but your people are out hunting down and destroying our country's greatest national resource.

Where was I? No, that's not what I was talking about at all and I'm not likely to answer that question no matter how long you wait. I was talking about our early successes. Another was a woman who generated a terrible, terrible smell. That was it, the entire ability. This rancid, burning odor that I imagine I can still smell sometimes. When Mister Black fixed David, however, they…

Oh, yes. Mister Black tried to keep it a secret and the boy swore up and down that he figured it out on his own, but I had them under surveillance. He knew exactly how David's power worked before the boy himself did, and he talked him through fixing and improving it. I never told anyone.

Oh, please. I don't need you judging me. Do you think I care whether or not you approve of my actions?

At any rate, after that point David helped the other test subjects. As he explained it to me, he could only permanently alter abilities the first time - to repair what he saw as damage from the inducer. After that he could twist them somewhat, but only while touching the test subject. He altered that horrible smell into something more floral, thank god, and allowed Percival - no, Herschel! Ah, that was going to bother me all day. He allowed Herschel to direct the heat outwards properly. After that he was able to cook things other than his palms, though they remained burned until slightly before his death.

They all died, agent Ferris. Everyone except myself, Mister Black, and David Brunner. And then I died too, on paper. The… incident… started in our laboratory, and destroyed most of it. My colleagues were all killed, our equipment destroyed. Only a few items in my workshop were left intact; I understand your agency still has my two prototype Extractors, for example. I never did get to test them out, since I refused to use them on anyone that was not already dying. Mister Black told me some time ago that your boys found a science team with fewer morals to get in their way. They wouldn't let him get a look at the research, however. Smart boys - I feel confident saying that Black would have destroyed the Extractors the minute you left him alone with them.

He wanted to see the Inducer so badly, and I think he would have destroyed that as well. Oh, if only we still had that beautiful device. Hooked directly to the source, funneling power into test subjects and making them something more, something better. We had nearly figured it out at the end; we even got another freak working properly. A real, useable power. Healing. As a matter of fact, I had him - Timothy Wells - cure a nasty case of ringworm I had developed. He fixed Herschel's burns, healed some of the disabled soldiers that had volunteered. Everything was perfect for three days.

You would think that, wouldn't you? You're wrong, of course. Mister Black had nothing to do with the attack. He could have even prevented it, had I been honest with him. I tried to tell him that afterwards, tried to persuade him to just be honest and tell everyone his story, but he wouldn't listen. He still won't tell anyone what he's actually doing. He should at least tell David. Yes, I know about Black and Brunner. I was able to obtain a DNA sample and compare them, as a matter of fact. You mean to tell me that you know what it showed? Oh, how clever you are! Yes, that would explain at least half of it. You're missing a rather large piece of the puzzle, however. That's okay, agent Ferris. I'm missing parts too.

Timothy was the one that caused the attack, as it happened. A test subject had suffered a bad reaction to the Inducer and I called Tim in to heal him. The test subject was still hooked up to the device and when he was healed… there was some… overflow. Bleed-through. I saw what was happening too late, and by time I pulled him off the warning lights were already flashing. The wall seemed to melt though there was no heat, and then the test subject that had been hooked to the Inducer melted as well. I ran, through the door and into the main hall, and then an explosion knocked me out and - as you can see - nearly killed me.

Black was standing over me when I awoke, demanding to know what had happened. There were bodies everywhere, and the walls were torn apart or reduced to liquid. I was honest with him for the first time, because I knew that if there was any hope of containing the disaster it was with him. I told him the source had escaped. He was confused - he thought that we had been pulling energy from some mysterious field or by tapping into another dimension. Maybe that's how he had done it before he came to us. I don't suppose I'll ever know. When I told him what only a handful of people have ever had clearance to be told, that the source was a human kept in a perpetual coma, he nearly killed me. The man he had been using our resources to hunt for had been under his nose the entire time.

Mister Black knew the source. He had worked with him, possibly created him. He followed the source to Disneyland that day to destroy him, I'm sure, but the explosion didn't satisfy him. Black survived, after all - most likely because he is somehow immune to the radiation that caused all the damage. He came to me afterwards and told me that the threat was not over, that freaks would begin appearing outside of the lab. He knew.

I'm tired, agent Ferris. I won't be answering any more questions for you. Let me just leave you with this thought: the United States government has never truly had a program to study the freaks. We have always been studying the side effects of Mister Black's earlier research. Following behind, trying to piece things together from the few breadcrumbs that have fallen. When the time comes that Mister Black tells you to do something, agent Ferris, I would suggest you do it.

Now leave.