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View Full Version : Too Long (An Altaer Story)



Alphaeus
12-27-2018, 01:44 AM
So, during so slow time of Christmas I'm bringing Altaer back and explaining just what happened during the year he's been gone.


“It has been a long time.”

“I’d hoped the world would burn.”

“But it didn’t.”

“No….not yet, anyway.”

David turned to face Altaer, running a hand through his long hair. Perhaps he thought it was disheveled, having fallen asleep in his Moroccan leather desk chair...but as with most things about him, it remained perfect. The man who was looking at him, however, was not perfect. No...he was quite the opposite, and his sudden reappearance with such grim words did not set well with the Doctor.

“Al, why did you come back?”

The muscles in his old friend’s face tensed like new cello strings freshly tuned. He shook his head, a sort of quick jerk like he was trying to shake off the fingers of someone or something from his face, then pulled out a chair across from David, settling down heavily. Instinctively his hands found the crystal bottle of scotch and poured a triple shot into a matching glass. Halfway to his lips he abruptly changed his mind and flung the glass at the wall, watching as it exploded.

“You see the shattered glass, but did you hear, Davy? Did you hear that one final note? Clearest sound you’d ever get out of that glass no matter what. Sharp, pure. Gotta be shattered to get it, though.”

Altaer had a head on his shoulders and more refinement to him than his usual careless manners indicated, but even for him that kind of vague metaphor was different. Something had happened to the person he had known before. He sought to meet his comrade’s gaze, and -- failing to do so -- resigned himself to merely study his profile.

The windows were still open from when David had been working that evening, and the streetlamps now cast the rough angles in high relief. The scars were there, too -- one vertical, along the eye, temple, and corner of the jaw; the other a long, slight curve just above the jawline itself, horizontally. An “L”, of sorts, not that it could truly be said to stand for anything symbolic. Tiring of his study, David broke the silence, his voice still as carefully cultured as ever but betraying a slight weight of years that his body did not and could not show.

“You know I don’t use my powers now?”

“Yes, I’ve known for awhile. You’re too afraid their exponentially growing power would destroy you. Too afraid they would kill you.”

“Then you know I’m not going to read you and make things better like I would before.”

Altaer gave a brief smile and almost laughed, but the expression ended halfway in a sort of humorless sigh. “Like hell you ever fixed anything except this damned body of mine. Too much of a fucking mess inside for you to clean up, even with all your powers.”

“So…??”

Altaer remained silent, pulling the old duster up more around himself. At once he was a killer retreating into the shadows and a child wrapping themselves in a blanket of comfort. David had learned to read people before his powers, just not as precisely. It was clear to him that Altaer had come on purpose and yet he had no desire to be here, either.

“Al, you vanish one year ago with no warning, and now you don’t just visit, you sneak into my office but don’t say a word until I wake up after who knows how long. Something is going on it your head, and unless everything about you has flipped I am fairly positive it is not good.”

Altaer’s lips parted in the same freezing smile David knew too well. This time he did laugh, but it was just as cold as his smile. He kept his gaze down, and as he spoke David realized there was an extra tone of...something...that had not been there before.

“And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”

Another silence, but this time Altaer was the one to break it, his gaze locking onto David’s own. Dr. MacBeth shifted back slightly in his seat. Altaer had always had more than his share of fire and shadow inside...but somehow both had been fused and frozen into something he could not even recognize.

“David...I raised her. I. Raised. Her. Created her anew. I left the night I succeeded.”

Though he did not truly need to ask, for his own assurance David spoke the key question. “Who do you mean by her?”

“Kathryne, David. I replicated one of your tissue reconstruction devices, dug up her grave, rebuilt her body, and then gave her back her life.”

He stopped like the abrupt click of an old cassette out of tape, words hanging in the air heavily. His head dropped for a moment, and something glistening caught the streetlight as it fell. A clock chimed with ironic cheer in the background. A moment later, the assassin continued.

“Put the pieces together, David. When we first met long before my first death I had built a cutting edge system for my computer, but it was just a seriously ornate system for hacking, not a true A.I. But the next time you see me, after Kathryne dies, I have Spectre. No matter where I am Spectre is accessible for me. We work perfectly together. I talk to Spectre when I’m alone. Have you ever really suspected that Spectre might be more?”

David nearly exploded from his chair. As was typical for him, he instead restrained himself to rise tensely, hands placed so as to put his face near Altaer’s. “Tell me you did not do what I think you are saying.”

Altaer smiled again. “Remember when I discovered Protus and his ‘Life Code’ and used it to revive that poor girl Cynthia? Didn’t you find it strange that I already had a means to contain ‘Life Code’ or even access it...something that no other computer can do? You see, I designed my old system to mimic a human mind so it would be a better tool for me. I finished it’s design when Kathryne was still alive, and it was her mind that I used as the model. The funny thing, though, was that the old system could also index memories if you placed neurodes on someone. When I did this after she died, well...truth is, she never really died. She lost her body, but who she was transformed my old system into Spectre. All I needed to do was to finally decode the ‘Life Code’ so that I could take her stored digital information and regress it back into genetic code.”

There was a slight pop as the wood of the heavy desk began to crack under David’s ever tightening grip. He had brought people back from the edge of death, and suspected he could raise the dead, but everything he had ever studied about minds told him it was not the right course of action. It caught Altaer’s attention, and he looked away like a frightened creature. Every layer of his power -- the hand that laid men and gods to waste -- melted back to the twelve year old kid watching his parents die at the hands of the people kidnapping him. In only a second he snapped back into laser focus on the Doctor, his words pouring out in the fever of someone who knows they could not continue if they stopped.

“David...for one year we tried to live life. Little Katty was her child, although I feel like you already knew. It turns out I had been gone long enough that last time I had been away from my wife to miss her whole pregnancy. That anniversary, after I finally returned, she was going to surprise me with our daughter. But instead I got her killed before we could get back home from the day I planned with her. I couldn’t bear to go back and her family had no clue how to reach me, so the child I never knew existed was adopted...only to eventually return to me. And then a few months later, I finish my work and bring back Kathryne herself. All of us ripped apart...but for this year...this year we tried to be a family.”

Jerking backwards and falling into his chair, David barely missed being clipped by Altaer’s fist as he suddenly pounded it down onto the table. A crack appeared down the length of the board from the blow as everything on the surface bounced into the air for a split second, but Altaer merely continued.

“Dammit David! We tried. WE TRIED. All those years of my fucking work and we TRIED. But you know what David? You know the hideous irony of it all? All this time I was hoping that I could bring her back and start from where we left off, I forgot that while the mind I would bring back was frozen in time by that demon’s bullet, I had kept on living, and I had turned into this fucking monster. All that hatred and bitterness and bloodlust left scars deeper than those on my skin, David. You know this damn well. When Kathryne married me I was just The Fixer, just a guy who made problems disappear. I wasn’t Altaer, David, I had a name. I HAD A NAME.”

He stood, flipping the chair back so he could pace. “Do you know why I gave up my name? I gave it up because in the middle of one of my massacres I realized that I didn’t ever want to take the name of the person Kathryne loved and soil it with the innocent blood I bathed in. Yet somehow I guess I thought that if I could just bring her back I would be clean. Turns out that even though I love her as much as I always have, it’s been too long. Altaer is no longer a placeholder for my name, no longer a title or symbol that I would shed as soon as I finished my quest to get her back. It is me...and it has been for too long for that to ever change. And the funny thing...the damned glorious twist ending to my whole wretched life is that Kathryne couldn’t bring herself to love Altaer.”

At this point, Altaer did something David had never really thought possible.

He wept.

He leaned against the wall at first, but then slid down into a kind of half crouch against it, shoulders shaking in silent sorrow as the pain flowed down his face. The drops landed on the folds of the duster, sinking into the burned, torn, and stained surface as they trailed downwards. Muscled hands gripped at the rich Persian fabric that lay atop the floor, clenching it with a force that would have snapped a grown man’s neck. Pressing his eyes closed and leaning his head back, he kept speaking, his voice thick and strained to keep from breaking with sobs.

“The only soul that has kept at least some...some shred of humanity in me all these years...she didn’t love me. Oh, oh it gets even better. She tried for this year, which meant all the times early on I thought I had finally achieved my dream were fakes, farces, acts that she put on because she thought she should love me and be grateful that I brought her back. And at the end of it all she says she wants to go back and be at peace...that she can’t restart from where she left off and was better off where she was before I raised her with memories of how we were. She asked me to put her back. And there isn’t a reverse switch on what I did. No reverse switch except a bullet. And this time...this time that bullet came from me.”

David slid around the table and knelt beside the broken man, his long arms wrapping Altaer in an intense embrace. “Dear God...you tortured soul. I wish…”

Altaer cut him off by latching onto his shoulders, the eerie new glint in his eyes flashing again as he clenched his teeth. “Don’t you dare take this from me now with your empathic powers, David. If I am to be Altaer, then Altaer I shall be. It’s time I stopped fighting the name and seeking some damned arc of redemption and instead tried to find out what it really means to be the person I’ve destined myself to be. You hear that? I’ve destined myself. We all set our own destinies, in the end, one damn decision at a time.”

In that same instant, the sorrow crystallized into an flinty mass -- hard, sharp, dangerous...David realized that was how he could describe the glint he had been seeing: pure flint, capable of starting fires but not capable of burning itself. Altaer rose, pulling David up with him. “When I pulled that trigger, I didn’t kill Kathryne. My Kathryne was already dead, I know that now. What I killed was a man by the name of Jonathan Eli Roy. Altaer, me...I killed him. And do you know what I realized? Hm? I realized that the reason my whole world burned down was because there are powers running around that shouldn’t be here. Ziloban was empowered by a demon. Altaer? Heh, Altaer had whatever crazy chaos shit screwed him up, and good ol’ me still isn’t quite sure I’m fully human...I don’t die, for one thing.”

David jerked himself free and took a step back from Altaer. There was some part of him that felt compassion for his friend, as he always had, but there was also a part that, honestly...felt fear. He found himself moving towards his rifle. Altaer snorted and waved his finger.

“You won’t need that. Use any of your powers, and you will. I’ve never been sure how I found Espy City or dove into this world of realms and powers and fighters beyond what we call normal, but I can say that most of the people I’ve found don’t even stop to think what happens when they do. Sure, some are careful and simply can’t help things, like Dracustos. Others, even you...they use them liberally and never stop to realize how much they may be fucking up other people’s lives. Maybe some people should die and some should live. If you want to change that, try doing it without cheating the rest of the non-powered world.”

After clenching his fists a few times, he cast a glance outside. It was getting brighter, and the shadows on his face were lessening. David remained somewhat tense, but could tell Altaer did not mean harm, at least not now.

“It’s time to start some fires, David. Things have gone on and on like this. The world needs a change, and while I’m figuring out what the hell to do with the new life of Altaer, I sure as hell know that I’ve waited to light these fires for too long David. Too long.”

GeneratorRexDragon
12-29-2018, 08:35 AM
Bro
It's been too long since I read something from you

Alphaeus
12-29-2018, 06:07 PM
Haha, well, Idk.

Work went from busy to crazy to "It'd be nice to die today" for me, so I bailed on a ton of pasttime stuff I was doing, both online and IRL. Things haven't so much changed as I'm better at adapting to them. That and wedding planning is all done, so it's a weight off my shoulders.

Urako
12-29-2018, 08:54 PM
Haha, well, Idk.

Work went from busy to crazy to "It'd be nice to die today" for me, so I bailed on a ton of pasttime stuff I was doing, both online and IRL. Things haven't so much changed as I'm better at adapting to them. That and wedding planning is all done, so it's a weight off my shoulders.

Wedding planning? You're right, that does sound like a lot of work on top of work. Aren't you like an EMT as well or was that someone else? Because I'd expect that has to be busy year round.

Regardless, I read the story too and I'm glad you had the time to do it.

Alphaeus
12-29-2018, 11:31 PM
Wedding planning? You're right, that does sound like a lot of work on top of work. Aren't you like an EMT as well or was that someone else? Because I'd expect that has to be busy year round.

Regardless, I read the story too and I'm glad you had the time to do it.

I used to work as a Paramed. I've been phasing that out for a long time, really only wanted to get enough hours to do the retirement when it came around. At this point it's been...eight months?...since I was last active with that. It's not been my actual job since I was in grad school.

But yeah, it was usually a bit busier this time of year, mostly due to travel/weather craziness.

And yes, I'm glad I have some time to write too. It's relaxing and satisfying.

Chromium7
01-01-2019, 06:36 AM
Thank you Alphaeus, very cool!

Haru
01-01-2019, 02:11 PM
Thank you Chromium, very cool!