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Day Two Hundred and Twenty-one: The Inevitable Monster

December 29, 2011 Leave a comment

For the month of December, I’ll be world-building. This means taking a look at the people, places, and institutions that I have created over the last six months and trying to figure out more about them. This will involve a look at the stories in which they’ve appeared, and then some speculation, stream-of-consciousness writing, and with any luck a few revelations. In addition, I may come back and add new material as the Elves in my unconscious ship out new ideas, so I’ll be sure to link them up.

Your feedback as readers is, of course, more than welcome. There are probably questions that I’m forgetting to ask and holes that I need to fill.

Wish me luck!

——————

Man, vacations really aren’t good for my ability to stick to a deadline. So much napping to do…

Anyway, today I’d like to look at the third Evil Corporation on my list – Barbeau Pharmaceuticals. Now give me some credit here: they really are going to ruin the world for the rest of us. At least that’s if all the time travelers are correct. Let’s see what we know about this company and its founder, Paul Barbeau:

33: Monsters

  • Time travelers have been trying to kill Paul Barbeau since he was born. Before he was born, in fact.
  • Barbeau Pharmaceuticals will produce “a neurocybernetic viral analogue that would safely cure nearly all forms of human disease.”
  • Paul Barbeau injected himself with the first batch.
  • The company has a blue logo.

45: Sleeper

  • Paul was a high school freshman at ten years old.
  • He developed a new printable circuitry as a science project.

65: Amanuensis

  • Cerbecorp is looking at a cooperative agreement with Barbeau Pharmaceuticals.

116: Paul Barbeau (interview)

  • The nanotech virus the company is developing will be a cure for nearly all disease. However, it will eventually network and create a human “hive mind,” eliminating individuality almost entirely.
  • The company will go to any lengths to protect Paul Barbeau and ensure that the future comes to pass.
  • The original complex will be raided in 2066.

Huh. I really thought there would be more.

It kind of resonates with Cyberdine Systems from the Terminator movies, and brings up the great question of whether or not we can really change our future. Paul Barbeau’s analysis of his rather unique problem leads him to believe that the future cannot be stopped – his company will create the panacea, which will go on to pretty much eliminate humanity as an individualistic species. He cites as evidence for this that he hasn’t been killed, despite the repeated attempts by time travelers to get rid of him:

Miss, most people who are targeted for assassination are indeed assassinated. It may take a few tries, but the killers only have to be successful once. The target has to be successful – or lucky – all the time. And there is no one so lucky that they can survive near-constant attempts for their entire life, as I have.

Do you understand what this means?

I cannot be killed, miss.

They cannot succeed. All of these bodyguards are really just here to make the odds as small as possible, but I could go wandering through the poorest part of the city wearing a tuxedo made of thousand dollar bills, and I would not die. I could be surrounded by murderous time travelers all day, and they would not kill me.

No matter what happens, I must survive to create the virus. The killers are themselves the evidence of that. If I gave up, they would have no reason to kill me, and thus would never have started their mad crusade. But still they come, which means that I must succeed. It is a thing that is beyond my control.

At least so far, he seems to be right. I haven’t come up with a reason why he shouldn’t be right, but I do know that I’ve created a fanatic, and they’re always fun. The only thing that will convince Barbeau that his destiny is not inevitable is his own death, at which point he will be beyond caring. So in many ways, Paul Barbeau could be a wonderful antagonist for someone to work against in the future.

About the company itself, I know this much: it’s a very well-regarded pharmaceutical company, famous for its innovative and pioneering research. They make enough money that their motto as far as things like regulations is that it’s “better to ask forgiveness than permission,” and so far it’s paid off for them. The company has not gone public, and is directed almost entirely by Paul Barbeau, who is considered a genius in both the scientific and medical fields. The company has branched out a little into other consumer goods, but maintains its focus on medicines. It donates a sizable amount of its product to developing countries, garnering it an excellent reputation in international politics, which gives it more leeway in performing research and getting into countries where other companies might be barred.

Barbeau himself, however, is something of a recluse. While there are many rumors as to where he lives – a private island, an underground desert base, a complex built into a mountain in the Canadian Rockies – his location has never been confirmed. He communicates daily with the directors of his company, and seems to possess an intricate knowledge of what they’re doing at any given time. This has led to suspicions that he has a network of “reporters” in his company, or at least a very advanced electronic data-gathering program.

Barbeau is not evil, really. Not in the conventional sense, anyway. He really does want to help people, and his company has a remarkable record of doing so. If you didn’t know what was going to happen in the future, you would say that Barbeau Pharmaceuticals was the model of a good company trying to do good work. But Paul truly, truly believes that he will end mankind as we know it, and rather than try to stop what is coming, he’s decided to embrace that.

Of course, ending mankind as we know it isn’t really a laudable goal, so I’ll have to create someone to fight against him, to try and see to it that the horrible future he’s working on never actually happens. To do that, I’ll have to make someone who is (potentially) as strong and as driven as he is.

The big thing is this: when I write this story, Paul will have to be the protagonist. He’s the one with the goal, after all, which is what a protagonist is, and the person trying to stop him must naturally be the antagonist. So: a story with a villain protagonist. Always fun…

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Day Sixty-five: Amanuensis

July 25, 2011 3 comments

Cordell McCandlish slid into the back seat of the limousine, nodded at the black-suited bodyguard who sat across from him, and opened up his briefcase. A uniformed doorman eased the door closed and the driver started the car. The limo pulled out into traffic, flanked by two black SUV’s, each filled with bodyguards and hired security. Cordell started to go through the files he would need for his monthly meeting. He paged back and forth through revenue estimates and earnings reports, patent applications and security statements. Site accidents, hirings, firings, all the daily minutia of the company that they contained. The data was sorted and compiled and arranged so that it formed a cogent picture of how the company was functioning.

All of it utterly useless for his business today.

But protocols had to be followed, for the sake of Cerbecorp. McCandlish would meet with Abraham Jordan, just as he had every month for the last ten years, and he would bring along all the information pertinent to the running of his vast corporate empire. Everyone knew the ritual, thus the armed escort. The information in McCandlish’s briefcase could bring down Cerbecorp, its affiliates, probably even its competitors. Indeed, not five minutes after they started driving, McCandlish heard a small pinging noise come from the outside of the car. The large bodyguard in the seat opposite him put a finger to his ear for a moment. “Just a shooter, Mister McCandlish,” he rumbled. “Nothing to worry about.”

McCandlish nodded and closed the briefcase. They would be there soon enough, ensconced in the bomb-proof fortress that Jordan had erected in the heart of the city. What Cerbecorp offered, better than anyone else, was security. Whether it was physical security, data security, financial security, it didn’t matter. If you had something you needed to keep safe, Cerbecorp was the first place you went to. For all that it had been run for years by a near-paranoid psychopath, that surprised no one.

What did surprise people was how the company thrived. Jordan had spent the first few years of his position as the President of the company utterly hiding – figuratively and literally – from all risk. He made few investments, subjected all new employees to a rigorous inspection and background check, and refused to leave the tower he’d had built downtown. It was not until he’d hired McCandlish as his right-hand man that the company started to take off, and plenty of people were very aware of that. They were also aware that the company had been going in some unexpected directions in the last few years, leading some to wonder if Jordan hadn’t finally snapped. The company’s attempt to buy out Munin Scientific, the building of a new subterranean research complex in New Mexico – these were not the kinds of ventures that Abraham Jordan would have taken.

Analysts attributed the changes to McCandlish’s influence. He wondered if they had any idea how right they were.

The limo came to a stop and McCandlish blinked his mind clear. A bodyguard opened the door for him, and he got out, followed by the large young man who had ridden in with him. The three of them walked to the elevator in silence. The bodyguards each pressed their ID badges to a sensor, and McCandlish stated his name in a loud and clear voice. A green light blinked on above the elevator and the doors slid open.

Jordan’s suite was ten floors underground. The elevator opened into a minimalist lobby, with a simple reception desk, matte white walls and two armed guards in front of a steel door. There were no windows, nor should there be. The whole suite was a concrete and steel box, built to withstand nearly anything from earthquakes to terrorist attacks to – it was said – nuclear bombs. The guards carried large handguns and a variety of other implements of intimidation on their belts. That was normal, and perfectly expected.

What was not expected was the disheveled young man who was sitting slumped in a chair by the reception desk. McCandlish curled a lip at the sight of him. Jordan’s son was everything his father wasn’t – a layabout, reckless, completely undependable. Than Jordan stood up and ran a hand through his uncombed hair. “Cord,” he said. His eyes were red and he hadn’t shaved. McCandlish was sure he could smell alcohol. “Cord, I have to see my father,” he said, reaching out.

One of the bodyguards stepped in between them and blocked Than from getting any closer. He groaned, a noise that was closer to a whine. “C’mon, Cord! I need to see him!”

“Why?” Cordell asked. “Run out of money again? Because you’re not getting any more, young man.” McCandlish stepped out from behind the bodyguard and nodded to let the large man know he could stand down. “You asked for full access to the trust fund, and you got it.” He put his hands – and the briefcase – behind his back and watched the young man’s eyes follow it. “You blew it, Than. And that is not my problem, nor is it your father’s.”

Than stood for a moment, his eyes locked on McCandlish. There was an instant where he thought the young man would fall over, or perhaps throw up, so he was especially surprised when Than lunged at him and grabbed his lapels. “I know what you’re doing,” he said. His eyes were bloodshot, wide, and mad. “I know what’s going on with you and my father. I haven’t seen him in years, no one has, and if you don’t cut me in, I’ll -” Than squawked as he was pulled away by the bodyguards. They held him with ease as he struggled in their grip.

McCandlish straightened his jacket and looked around the room. The armed guards hadn’t moved. “Bring him upstairs,” McCandlish said to the bodyguards. “I’ll see to him after my meeting with his father.” The bodyguards nodded, tightened their grip, and hauled Than into the waiting elevator. The doors perfectly silenced his angry shouts.

“Well,” McCandlish said to the guards. “That was a change of pace.”

The guards didn’t respond, nor did they move. McCandlish held out his hands. The guard on the left reached into one of his belt pouches and removed a small device – long and thin with a small display on the top side. He pressed a button and a number appeared – 10 – indicating the place where a small blood sample would be taken. McCandlish rolled up his right sleeve to expose the randomly chosen spot inside his elbow. The guard set the device against his skin, there was a small pinprick and a hiss. McCandlish rolled down his sleeve and waited as the guard plugged the small device into a carefully concealed port next to the door.

A moment later, the door unlocked. far quieter than would have been expected. The guards stood aside, and McCandlish nodded to them as he passed into Jordan’s suite.

The room was white. Pure, antiseptic, disorienting white. Only the hospital bed in the center, and the attendant machines that flocked around it, gave him any idea where up and down were. He carefully stepped towards the bed. There would be a nurse here, normally. During their meetings she would leave by a different door. This was a private moment between Jordan and McCandlish, just as it had been for years.

“Hello, Abe,” McCandlish said quietly. “It’s that time again.”

The machines beeped and hissed quietly, but Jordan didn’t say a word. He lay in his bed, slivers of white showing under nearly closed eyelids. A variety of tubes went up his nose and down his throat, needles in both arms, cables and pipes snaking all around the bed. Jordan’s skin was sallow and brittle, his muscles soft and watery. He moved slightly as the implanted rollers in the bed started their massage, but he didn’t react at all. Abraham Jordan was just this side of dead, and had been for some time. But vast wealth and deep paranoia were able to buy a lot of things, not the least of which were far more years than he had any right to.

McCandlish rested the briefcase on the bed, but didn’t open it. “Your son,” he said. “He thinks he knows what’s going on.” He shook his head. “Pity if he does. I don’t think he does.” He shrugged. “But risk is weakness, isn’t that right, Abraham?” He looked at Jordan, who didn’t respond. Who hadn’t responded to a question for the least five years. McCandlish patted his hand. “Don’t worry, Abe,” he said. “It’ll be quick. He’ll never see it coming.”

He sighed and popped open the briefcase. “Shall we begin, then? Barbeau Pharmaceuticals is asking for a cooperative arrangement.” He outlined the deal in quiet, measured tones.

Abraham Jordan respired and metabolized, but did not respond.

Day Fifty-seven: Mistaken Identity

Arthur was waiting in line to buy beer at the convenience store when he felt a heavy hand tap him on the shoulder. He turned and saw a large man, his face scowling and red and unshaven, who said, “Yeah. I thought so.”

Then he punched Arthur in the mouth.

On the floor and holding his split lip, Arthur tried to ask the guy what the hell his problem was, but it was too late. The man was already stalking out of the store. The other customers were very carefully pretending not to notice the guy who just got socked in the mouth and went back to scrutinizing jars of peanut butter and loaves of bread.

“Did you see what that guy did to me?” he asked the clerk. He took his hand away from his mouth. There was less blood than he expected, even though it felt like his lip had exploded. He touched it again and winced. “Did you see that?” he asked again, his pronunciation soft and strange. The clerk just looked at him with barely concealed disgust. “What?” Arthur asked. “Why didn’t you stop him or something?”

“You can pay for your stuff and get out, mister,” the clerk said. One hand was edging underneath the counter. “Or you can just get out. Your choice.”

Arthur bent down to pick up the beer off the floor, stood up, and dropped it on the counter. The quick change in elevation brought throbbing pain to his jaw, and he wondered if he should go to a doctor. “Just ring up the damn beer,” he said.

The clerk didn’t move. His lip actually curled before he said, “I don’t think so. Why don’t you take your business elsewhere?”

Arthur, his hand still holding his jaw, wanted to shout. He looked around for support, but the other customers were still ignoring him, except when they shot furtive, disgusted glances his way. “Jesus Christ,” he said. “The hell is wrong with you people?” No one said anything. He looked back at the clerk, his mind racing for a threat. “I… I’m calling my lawyer,” he said, wishing he had something better.

The clerk actually spit on his own floor. “Yeah,” he said. “Your lawyer. You go on and do that, then, you sick fuck.”

Without another word, Arthur staggered out to his car. He looked at himself in the rear-view mirror – as he thought, his lip was swelling up and had a cut on it that felt like it should have been a lot worse. “Son of a bitch,” he said. He put the car in gear, turned on the headlights, backed out of the parking lot and headed for his hotel. His mind was racing with all the things he should have said to that snot-nosed clerk but didn’t. What he kept coming back to, though, was that he had no idea what had just happened. By the time he got back to his hotel room, he was almost in tears.

He looked at his face again in the mirror and cursed. This wasn’t going to help him in the interview. Two more days of driving to go, and there was no way this would be unnoticeable by the time he set foot in Barbeau Pharmaceuticals. “Shit,” he said. “How’m I gonna explain this?” He had to wipe his eyes clear and get a grip on the bathroom sink. Okay, he thought. Think. What do I need to do first? He couldn’t call the police, as much as he wanted to. He was leaving at six in the morning for another fourteen hours in the car, and hanging around to fill out police reports would mean missing the interview. And if he went to a hospital – same thing.

He went back into the room, picked up the phone, and dialed out. After a minute, a groggy voice answered. “Hello?”

“Jim! I just got punched in the mouth by some jackass in a convenience store, Jim, and I have no idea what this hillbilly shitkicker wanted! Then the clerk, this little punk-ass kid, he practically kicked me out of the store, and for what? I didn’t do anything!”

“Who is this?” Jim slurred.

“Jim, it’s me! It’s Arthur!”

“Arthur, right,” Jim said. “You said you got hit by a clerk? What?”

“No, some guy in a convenience store just decked me out of nowhere and now I have a split lip and an interview in two days and this is completely fucked up, Jim!” There was a moment of silence on the other end. “Jim?”

“Hey, Art, where are you?”

Arthur picked up the hotel stationery. “I’m at the Stillwater Hotel in Ridgebourne. Why?”

“Ridgebourne,” Jim said. “Hold on a sec.” From the sound, Arthur could tell Jim had gotten up and moved to the computer. He heard typing and a couple of mouse clicks. “Okay,” Jim said. “What do we know about- Oh, hell.”

“Jim? What? ‘Oh hell’ What, Jim?”

“Um, Art – you might want to check the local news.”

“What? Why?” He reached for the remote and turned the television on. He flipped through channels until he got to the eleven o’clock news, which was running a special extended broadcast.

“…are asking people to remain calm and not overreact,” the anchor was saying. “Craig Wilburn has been taken to an undisclosed location following his release from the county jail. Several death threats have already been received by authorities and they are concerned for Wilburn’s safety.”

Arthur put the phone back up to his ear. “I don’t get it, Jim. Who the hell is Craig Wilburn?”

“He was acquitted on six counts of molesting little boys,” Jim said. “The article I’m looking at here says that the jury wasn’t convinced by the State’s physical evidence and set the guy free. But the mood in the town is…”

“They all think he’s guilty. Okay, fine, what does that have to do with me?”

Jim paused for a moment. “Have they shown a picture yet?”

A cold, sinking feeling spread through Arthur’s gut. “Nnnoo,” he said slowly. He glanced up at the TV just in time to see the photo flash up on the screen and the sinking feeling became ice. His own face was staring out from a small frame next to the news anchor’s head. The hair was a little off, and Arthur was pretty sure he never scowled like that, but for all the world the guy up on the screen looked like him.

“Oh, hell,” he said.

There was a knock on the door to his hotel room, and Arthur stood up fast. “What was that?” Jim asked.

“Nothing,” Arthur whispered. “Someone at the door.” The knock came again.

“You’re not going to answer it, are you?”

“I… I…” Arthur swallowed hard. The knocking came again. A muffled voice announced itself as the hotel manager. “Ju-just a sec!” he called.

Jim’s voice was tinny and frantic on the other end of the phone. “Are you nuts? It’s probably a lynch mob! Arthur, I’m calling the police – stay there and don’t answer the door!”

“No, Jim, wait!” Arthur said, but it was too late. The line was dead.

The knocking came again. “Hotel manager,” the man said again. “I would like to talk to you, mister…” There was a deliberate pause. “Wynne.”

Arthur hung up the phone and glanced at himself in the mirror. He looked like hell, with a swollen lip and a bruise starting to spread across his face. He tried to smooth back his hair, but it wasn’t working. He stood up a little straighter and set his shoulders. Whoever this Wilburn guy was, he wasn’t him. This could all be cleared up. He wiped sweat from his forehead and walked to the door with purpose.

When he opened it, a small man in a hotel uniform was poised to knock again. The man looked up at him and lowered his hand. “Mister Wynne?” he asked.

“Yes,” Arthur said. “Arthur Wynne.” He enunciated his name clearly and slowly.

The man glanced at his swollen lip. “Have an… accident?” he asked, the implication clear in his voice.

“Actually, someone punched me in a convenience store,” Arthur said. “Your little town has a long way to go as far as hospitality.”

The little man bristled. “I see.” He straightened. “Mister Wynne, I am Riley Hensler, the manager of this hotel. I would like you to leave.” He clasped his hands in front of him. “Now.”

“What?”

Hensler pursed his lips. “Mister Wynne, for the last hour, we have been receiving phone calls offering threats of physical violence against us. The callers seem to believe that Craig Wilburn,” and here his mouth twisted against the name, “is staying with us. Despite our reassurances, the threats continue, and one of my front desk clerks recalled checking in someone who greatly resembled the man in question.” He pointed to Arthur.

Arthur wanted to shake the little man. “But I’m not him!” he shouted. “It’s not my problem if the people in your town are brainless, slack-jawed sheep!”

Hensler raised an eyebrow. “I have a clerk whose life and well-being have been threatened three times tonight, Mister Wynne. She’s twenty-five years old and is a rather sweet girl.” His face went slowly cold. “I will not have my employees treated like this, and if ensuring her safety and well-being means seeing you leave, then that’s what I will do.” He flashed a perfunctory smile. “Given the unusual situation, I am willing to waive your room fee for the night. For your troubles.”

Arthur wanted to hit him, to scream, to curl up in a ball and cry. His eyes started to fill up, and he leaned against the doorjamb. “This is stupid,” he said. “I’m not him, I didn’t know who he was until tonight. I just want to sleep and go and get to my interview.” He wiped his eyes and looked up. Hensler looked unmoved.

“You have half an hour,” he said. “Then I call the police. You may in fact not be him, but I don’t think you want to spend the night explaining that to the local brainless, slack-jawed sheep with a badge. Given the choice, I think you know what’s best.” Hensler gave a shallow nod, turned on his heel, and walked down the hall.

Arthur snuffled. “Screw it,” he said. He went back into the room and grabbed his bag. He hadn’t really unpacked, since it was only supposed to be an overnight stay, so he threw things back in the bag and zipped it closed. He checked the bathroom, got his razor and deodorant and, after a moment’s battle with spite, grabbed a towel off the rack. All these went into the suitcase as well. He wanted to do more, to overturn the desk and throw the mattress out the window and write obscenities on the walls with the shoe-shine kit. But he didn’t.

He didn’t look at the front desk as he left. He just plowed through the double doors, threw his suitcase in the backseat of the car and started driving west. Maybe I can sleep in the car or something, he thought. Whatever he did, getting the hell out of this town would have to come first.

He stopped at a red light and took a few deep breaths. Okay, he thought. In a month, this’ll be a funny story to tell around the water cooler at Barbeau. Me and my new co-workers, having a good laugh about the time some cowtown South Dakota hicks thought I was a serial child molester. Good times, good times.

“Well lookie here!”

The pickup that had pulled up next to him was full of large, probably drunk men. The guy in the passenger seat had rolled down his window and was peering through the dim sodium light to get a good look at Arthur’s face. “You know who we got here?” he yelled back to his friends. Several of them started to get out of the truck.

“Oh, hell,” Arthur said, and jammed his foot on the gas.

Day Thirty-three: Monsters

June 23, 2011 4 comments

It was only twenty seconds after Paul Alexander Barbeau was born that the first murderer appeared.

His mother, Alyssa, had just taken him to her breast. His father, Ollie, was still filming, and babbling with great happiness over the birth of his first child. The doctor was just about to say something about ten fingers and ten toes when a man burst into the room. He was wearing a smoking leather jacket with a blue ideogram embossed on the back, and was waving what was unmistakably a gun.

“NEVER AGAIN!” he bellowed, and leveled the gun at the newborn. He was only stopped because one of the maternity nurses had done a tour of duty in Afghanistan and was quick on her feet.

The man was arrested and brought to trial for attempted murder under the name of John Doe, as he refused to give his name. He had no records, of course, although his fingerprints seemed to match those of Matthew Dixon, a six year-old from Milwaukee whose parents had helpfully enrolled him in a police database in the event that he was ever abducted. The coincidence was dismissed as such, and John Doe was sentenced to twenty years in prison.

Paul Alexander Barbeau slept through the whole incident, completely undisturbed.

When interviewed by the police, his parents were understandably shaken and upset. Nothing like this had ever happened to them before, they said. Oliver Barbeau was a junior high school math teacher, and Alyssa had quit her job as a medical secretary to become a stay at home mother. They had never had trouble with the law, never been in a fight, and they had no idea why someone would want to kill their beautiful baby boy.

As the years passed, the Barbeaus began to realize that their son was special. All parents think their child is perfect and brilliant and absolutely better than everyone else’s children. In the Barbeaus’ case, they had reason to be proud. He was speaking in full sentences by the time he was two, was already well on his way to learning his multiplication tables, and only a week before his third birthday party had managed to take apart the television remote. He wasn’t able to put it back together, of course, but he said he did it “to see how it worked.” The Barbeaus were looking into a gifted program for Paul as soon as he was old enough to enter one.

The team that assaulted the birthday party was better prepared than the man who had broken into the delivery room. Three people – two men and a woman – crashed through the front door right before the candles were lit. They held the party hostage for the better part of four hours before the police were able to get a team in to end the standoff. The local evening news led with the story, running the videotape that had been couriered to them only an hour before the standoff began.

On the video, the three – who were dressed in paramilitary outfits, all wearing a blue insignia on an armband – proclaimed that they were saving the world from the future. “As a result of our actions,” the woman said to the camera, “we will appear to be monsters. The terror we lived through, the terror spawned by Paul Barbeau, will never come to pass. We are willing to accept our fate, that we should become monsters, for the good of the world.”

All three were killed during the police assault. Like the man three years earlier, their prints were either not on record or matched children elsewhere, prompting a call for better police computer systems across the state. When interviewed by the police, the Barbeaus said that they didn’t know any of the assailants, though Mr. Barbeau did recognize the insignia they had on their armbands.

“When I was in college,” he said, “a guy tried to mug me on my way to my first date with Alyssa. He jumped out of the bushes in broad daylight, yelling incoherently – and I remember he had the same thing on his arm. Kind of a blue eye-thing, I think. I tried wrestling him to the ground, but he had a knife.” Here, Barbeau lifted his sleeve to show a thin white scar that ran up the inside of his arm. “You know, I was lucky that campus security happened to be nearby, or I would have been killed.”

Unfortunately, this kind of incident became almost commonplace during Paul’s eventful childhood. By the time he was ten, he traveled in an armored car with a security detail whenever he went to the Max Planck Magnet School for Gifted Youth. His parents were among the first to take part in a specialized security service offered by Cerbecorp Security Enterprises, which donated officers, vehicles and body armor to the Barbeaus and their associates.

“It’s nothing new for me, of course,” his mother said after another failed attempt on Paul’s life at a local summer camp – the second in three months. “I’ve been dealing with this since I was a little girl. These crazy Blue-Arms have had it in for me and Ollie since we were both kids in foster care. I mean, I’ve never known why they want to kill us, and it was disturbing at first, but after a while you get used to it. It just becomes part of your life.”

The closest Paul Alexander Barbeau came to death was during the science fair in his senior year of high school, when he was twelve. Adeline Kramer, a biology teacher of fifteen years, allegedly slipped a toxic substance into Paul’s drink. While giving a presentation to a standing room only crowd at the National High School Science Competition on his work in the field of nanocybernetics, Paul collapsed mid-sentence. As his team of bodyguards rushed to his side, Kramer began shouting, “It’s all over! The beast is dead!” At this point, she drew a handgun and fired two shots at Paul.

Two other science competition participants – Treva Vanderburg and Julianne Goodlet – were seriously injured in the shooting. Ms. Kramer died when her neck was broken as she was tackled to the ground by Lee Wrackman, a member of Paul’s security team, in a moment that echoed Wrackman’s first rescue of Paul only moments after the boy was born. Paul was rushed to the hospital where doctors were able to save his life.

In a press conference, Paul Barbeau, with the family lawyers and security standing by, said that he bore no ill-will towards the woman, or towards any of the people who had threatened the lives of himself and his family since before he was born. “There are those who do not see the world as I do. They do not see the future that I see. With my work, I will be able to one day rid the world of the plagues of mankind. I will make a brilliant future for humanity, one which will allow us to become what we always wished we could be.”

The press conference was quickly evacuated when one of the reporters accidentally discovered a large satchel bomb under the stage. The bomb was successfully disarmed by the police, and no one was injured.

The Barbeau family soon left for an unknown destination. For five years, no word could be had of the whereabouts of Paul Barbeau or his family, until his announcement that he had developed a neurocybernetic viral analogue that would safely cure nearly all forms of human disease.

In a remote video feed, he explained the basics of the technology – a hardy, self-replicating nanovirus that could be spread through the air – in a presentation that ended with Paul Barbeau injecting himself with a fluid that allegedly contained his “miracle cure.”

“Starting with me,” he said, “the world will enter a whole new era, unlike any that it has seen before.” His image was replaced with a 3-D rendering of the blue Barbeau Pharmaceuticals logo, with the words, “A New Tomorrow” superimposed underneath.

“Come with me,” Barbeau said in the voiceover. “Together we will make a new world.”