Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Paul Barbeau’

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…

Advertisements

Day One Hundred and Sixteen: Paul Barbeau

September 14, 2011 2 comments

Part of writing is getting to know your characters. The way that I’ve been working so far, there’s not been a lot of time to do that. I write a story, and move on – maybe coming back another time to revisit the people I have created, but usually not. So just for fun, I’m going to do some character interviews this week and see what I can find out about the folks who emerged from between the folds in my brain. To do so, I’ve got my list of characters and the fine folks over at random.org, and together I’ll be randomly choosing my subjects. If you have a request for a character interview, let me know in the comments and I can see to it that he or she jumps to the head of the queue.

Today’s subject is one that we’ve heard a lot about. He’s been referenced in several stories so far, but he has yet to have the chance to lead in his own story. Paul Barbeau was first introduced to us on Day 33 – Monsters. That story tells of the many attempts on his life by time travellers who are determined to change history by taking him out of it.

———————————-

I really don’t have a lot of time, miss, so let’s get this done quickly.

Umm… Mister Barbeau? Do you think your bodyguards could point those guns somewhere else? Not at my head would be preferable.

Miss, do you know who I am?

You’re… Paul Barbeau?

You sound unsure. Are you sure?

Yes? Yes. You’re Paul Barbeau. But I-

And do you know what the single most defining quality of my life has been, since the moment I was born?

People, um… You have had…

People have been trying to kill me. For the last sixteen years, I have managed to avoid being assassinated no less than twenty-three times. I have been shot at, I have nearly been stabbed, I was successfully poisoned when I was twelve. My entire existence has been predicated on the knowledge that there is a group of people who so desperately want me dead that they will do anything in their power to achieve that goal.

But I’m not –

Aren’t you? How do I know you’re not one of them? Or that you won’t be, sometime in the future? You see, miss, this threat is not some guerrilla group in the mountains or a bunch of crazy hicks who blind themselves on homemade moonshine and convince each other that the Jews are ruining their lives. No. I am under attack by an organized group of people with great resources, up to and including the ability to travel through time.

Excuse me?

Did I stutter?

No, but you said they could travel through time?

That’s exactly what I said, yes. What’s the problem?

Well… Time travel isn’t possible.

Yet. And that’s the key word. “Yet.”

The human brain, miss, is a powerful organic computer. It is capable of understanding the world in both concrete and abstract terms, of generating scenarios and testing them against reality. It is able to simulate reality and re-build it to see how it works. Just one of these brains, working by itself, is a marvel of evolution. When they come into contact with each other and share information, their power multiplies. The more brains, the more processing power. And when one brain hits upon a brilliant solution to a problem, that information is available to all of them. Idea builds upon idea, discovery upon discovery, and soon the human race is doing miracles and calling them quotidian trifles.

Do you think it is a coincidence that our technological abilities increased sharply as the human population increased? Of course not. More brains, better brains, able to process more information, and we grow even further.

Now, while some people are concentrating on trivialities like eco-friendly cars and social networking, I can guarantee you there are others who are working on the problem of time travel. And once they discover it, it will have always existed. The very concepts of “future” and “past” will become malleable and impermanent, and someone will get it in their head to use it to come after me.

But… Why?

My security people have managed to capture some of these terrorists. Under questioning, they have revealed a future that is truly horrifying. Nearly all of humanity is enslaved to a hive mind, to the consciousness of Humanity itself. Individuality is destroyed, the very concept of “I” is obliterated from understanding. The human race becomes a single-minded macro-organism no more diverse or complicated than a slime mold. Some manage to escape, it seems, and it is those people who have decided to use the technology of time travel to undo the world that they live in. They wish to unmake their hell – and themselves – by killing me.

It seems, you see, that one of my creations is what triggers this apocalypse, this… end of history. A particular nanotech virus that I will develop as a cure for all disease. It will work, there is no question about that. But as the virus spreads and takes hold in host after host, it eventually manages to become self-aware. It invades the brain of the host and hijacks it, turning what was once an individual, unique human being into little more than a drone.

You know this for certain?

Their stories are consistent, no matter how we pressure them. And I do have work in progress that could lead to the virus.

But why? If you know that you’re going to destroy the world… Why not just stop? Why not stop the project, throw away the notes, and it’ll never happen!

You… you really think that will work, don’t you?

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?

N… No?

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.

You can’t possibly believe that.

Reality doesn’t care what I believe, miss. Reality just is.

In any case, it seems that my destiny is to be a monster. To be the destroyer of mankind as we know it. So, if I am to be a monster, I will have to be the best monster I can be.

Take her away.

What? What are you – NO!

I’m sorry, but I cannot allow this interview to be published. As I said, my destiny is irrevocable, but it’s one more problem to be solved, and I have enough of those already. If it makes you feel better, your family will believe that you died well. I’ll see to everything.

NOOOOO!!!!-

(AUDIO FILE ENDS]

[Note: This recording was unearthed during a raid on the original Barbeau Pharmaceuticals complex in 2066. Our tacticians disagree with his conclusions on inevitability, and it is further evidence that our past-based efforts must be pushed forward. Future missions must succeed in releasing this interview to the public. If we cannot stop Barbeau directly, perhaps through other means.]

Day Forty-five: Sleeper

July 5, 2011 3 comments

Lucille carried Smokey’s food over to his basket and set it down. He jumped up to the table, gave a final, grateful “meow,” and started eating.

“Good boy, Smokey,” she said, scratching between his ears. She went back to the kitchen, rinsed out the can and dropped it in the bag under the sink for the recyclers to take on Friday. The apartment was hot, but she didn’t mind. At her age, she’d take hot over cold any day. At least her back was feeling better, and her hip wasn’t twinging. That meant a couple of good days were in store. Maybe she’d go out to the supermarket.

She went back to her large, overstuffed chair and eased herself into it. In her younger days, she would have leaped in, curled a leg under herself and rested her head on the armrest. But these days, the best she could do was to be more or less comfortable when she sat down. She hit the remote and turned the volume back on.

“…in fourteen states and the District of Columbia. In local news, ten year-old high school freshman Paul Barbeau won the state science championship with his ingenious new printable circuitry. He says it will revolutionize the textile industry, allowing us to integrate our personal electronics into nearly every part of our lives. Barbeau – who is on track to become the youngest-ever graduate of Littleton High School – was unavailable for an interview this evening due to an incident involving a crashed-”

She muted the TV again at an insistent noise from Smokey. All cats are picky, she knew that. And any human who wants to live with one has to be willing to make concessions. In this case, he simply would not tolerate an empty food dish being left around when he was done. “Yes, yes, I know,” she said, lifting herself out of the chair. She ran her fingers down his spine as she passed him, and he started to purr. “Your wish is my command.” She took the bowl to the sink, gave it a quick rinse with soap and water and set it to dry.

Smokey came to sit by her feet, and made a small inquisitive noise. “You know, Smokey,” she said. “If I hadn’t found you all those years ago, you wouldn’t be eating so well. You know that?” He blinked and started licking a paw. “A little gratitude is all I’m asking, you terrible, awful widdle kitty.” She had long ago stopped hating herself for lapsing into baby-talk with the cat. It was another one of those inevitabilities of cat ownership. Besides, he just ate it up.

They said that living with a pet was a good way to live to a happy old age. She didn’t know much about research and gerontology and all that kind of thing, but she knew she was doing better with Smokey than she’d done in those last years before Roy finally keeled over. As insistent as Smokey was, at least he never yelled at her for not cooking his food the way he wanted, never kicked her out of bed when he’d been drinking too much. Never called her a useless old bag…

Lucille’s eyes misted up and this time she did hate herself a little. She had watched his coffin go into the ground with a sense of grim satisfaction that she’d have at least a little time on this planet to herself. But as bad as he was, as awful as he could be, the apartment still felt empty without him. She didn’t believe in ghosts, but if pressed, she might say it was sort of the opposite. A tangible absence that just wouldn’t go away.

She’d found Smokey a few weeks later, a little grey kitten hunting through her garbage. When she came out to drop off her trash, he looked up, meowed once, and ran to her feet. She, and everything she owned, was officially his from that moment on.

She settled back into her chair and Smokey took his place on her lap. He purred, rubbed his head against her hand a couple of times, and curled up to sleep. She petted him gently and turned the volume back on. The news anchor was reading from a piece of paper now and looking confused.

“…and experts are at a loss to explain what we’re seeing here outside the studio.” The anchor looked off-camera. “Jim, do we have someone outside? Yes?” He looked back out of the TV. “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re now going live outside our main studio here in Sylvania City. Are we…? Okay.”

The view cut to another camera, this one unsteady and noisy, which was overlooking something in the middle of the city. Lucille had been to Sylvania once, and like most visitors she best remembered its vast central gardens – The Sylvania Hortus. It covered a thousand acres in the middle of the city and was home to every kind of growing thing that would survive there. There were lakes and ponds, rose gardens and wildflower hills and running tracks and vast lawns that were full of people on any halfway decent day. It was called The Green Heart of the City, and everyone who lived there said it was the biggest reason they stayed.

But now, in the center of the gardens, there was a… Lucille didn’t know what to call it. It looked like a crack in the world, bleeding out something that could have been light, but wasn’t. Where the light touched, things turned dark and insubstantial. The trees cast bright shadows that trailed away from them, and the dark blight spread. The cameraman was talking, trying to fill airtime, and the anchor was asking stupid, meaningless questions, like “What is it?”

“I… I don’t know, Leonard,” the cameraman said, then quickly corrected himself. “Mister Reeves. All I know is that it hurts to look at, and that the air feels… it feels wrong. It feels… I don’t know. Sharp.”

The crack in the world pulsed, once, sending out a wave of darkness, and the camera’s feed went dead. They switched back to the anchor, who looked like he wanted to throw up.

Lucille knew how he felt. She had a hand over her mouth, and her stomach tightened. Whatever it was, even over the TV it was horrible, and as the anchor went on, talking without knowing what he was talking about, Lucille could feel that nameless, unreasoning dread rise from the base of her spine.

“Damn,” said a voice from her lap.

She looked down at Smokey. He stood up and stretched, arching his back. Then he looked up at her, and the intelligence in his eyes was vastly different from what she had always imagined she saw. He blinked, slowly. “I can’t stay,” he said, in a voice that had far too much bass in it for such a small, nasal creature. He looked back at the TV. “This is what I was sent here to do.”

Lucille looked down at him. “S.. Smokey?”

He licked her hand once. “I know,” he said. “I never meant for it to be this way. I didn’t think this would go on as long as it did.”

“What… what are you?”

He sat, his back straight and his head high. “I am one of the guardians of this reality, Lucille.” Behind him, the TV let out a squawk of static and went blank. “I’d explain, but there really isn’t time. That city is about to be devoured, and the world will go soon after if it isn’t stopped.”

He jumped down from her lap and sat in the middle of the room. “You should probably cover your eyes, Lucille. Just in case.” His fur stood on end as he began to glow with a radiant blue light. Lucille squinted against the sudden brilliance and held up a hand against it. She could still see him, but he was changing, growing into something bigger. Human, but only in shape. Tall and dangerous, something that still carried the feline with it, but merged into something more.

When the light faded, it did so just enough to get a view of him for a moment. He was wrapped in the light, which spun and danced and spiraled around him, and he stood with that constant potential energy that all cats have. The light was his armor, and it shone in a thousand different shades of blue. “Thank you for all you’ve done, Lucille,” he said. “I truly am grateful.” She thought he smiled, but couldn’t be sure. “I hope I can repay your kindness one day.”

The light flared again, and she cried out. When it faded, he was gone.

“Smokey?” she whispered. She stood up slowly and looked out the window. Dark clouds were moving through the sky, against the wind that was blowing the tops of trees. The clouds were moving west. Towards Sylvania City.

She put her hands on the glass and her eyes filled again. The apartment was empty again, but this time it was so much worse.

The western horizon exploded in blue-white light, and she prayed that he was okay. And that he would come back.

Whatever he was.

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.”