From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
...why I should be here, locked up to rot away in this hellhole, but only a few come to mind. I am the president of the United States. I am William Shakespeare. I am a hamster. I am a genius. You must believe me when I say the last part is true. The thing you must understand is that my mind is damaged. Something in my brain is busted. Broken. And now I live out the rest of my years here within padded walls and restricted arm movement. I was placed here by family. So-called loved ones. I am a genius, but they think I am crazy.
Me, crazy. The audacity of such a thought. Here I am locked away in a rubber room while the real crazies are locked away between city walls. Crazed, masked marauders are running this metropolis into the ground. They are the real crazies. They should all be in this place eating jello and taking their daily doses of reds and yellows.
This place. I’ve lost count of how many days have passed in here. Months. Years. Outside the world is changing, but inside this place nothing ever does. Outside battles are won and wars wage. Scars that do not heal. Inside this place, it’s always meatloaf on Mondays and spaghetti on Fridays. Various colors paint the world outside while the white canvas inside taunts my every being.
There are days I forget who I am really am. I am King Henry VIII. I am David Letterman. I am a tree. And there are days I remember that I am Jersey Jack Abrams. That’s right. Owner of Jersey Jack Subs. I know what you are thinking. Why would a genius run a financially failing franchise? I have my reasons. Granted, they aren’t the same as why I am locked away in here. Laziness comes to mind. Lack of motivation would suffice. A downward spiral that lead to losing my savings, losing my wife, my children, and ultimately my life.
I digress. You aren’t here to listen to my life story. My tale of one man’s journey into oblivion. You are here to know where it really began. It begins now. My epic adventure of leaving the empty shell of a man behind and embracing destiny. Yes, it is this moment where it really starts. My trek. My rites of passage. Now without further adieu, I am Phineas Taylor Barnum. I am Bob Dylan. I am me.
...greet me every night. Someone comes to me in the darkness. He speaks softly and tells me everything happens for a reason. He tells me I have yet to meet my fate. I drift deeper into my mind’s theatre. The one who councils me in my sleep is my shadow, or at least he has the appearance of my gloom. My memento of my existence. Sometimes I doubt his presence. Sometimes I doubt even my own.
I slip in and out of consciousness. In and out of reality. During the day, I live out the hours in my white prison cell in denial. I am Edmond Dantès. At night the voice returns telling me it is time to embrace. It is time to take back my life. I somehow wonder if it is just wishful thinking that someday I will escape and start fresh somewhere new. Somewhere where they do not know or fear my face. However when morning arrives, he is gone, and I am still here. Rotting away.
I lay awake tonight waiting. For some reason I am excited like a kid on Christmas Eve. The very thought of what he promises to bring makes me smile. My grin creeps away. I think that maybe I am crazy after all until the voice returns and tells me that it is time. He tells me I have nothing to fear. He will make me whole as I will him.
I reach out to the shadow with my trembling hand. I yearn for connection. I want to touch the darkness to validate my sanity. I stretch out my index finger as my hand grows closer to what I think is his. I try to swallow and only get that cotton sensation in my mouth. I tell myself to wake up. I tell myself he is not real. Delusional comes to mind. Hopeful would suffice. I close my eyes with my outstretched hand. I can’t turn away like watching a car wreck.
A few seconds pass and nothing. I let loose a small sigh. My eyes are sealed tight. I wait for his words and nothing. My muscles relax, and I slowly shake my head. I call myself a lunatic beneath my breath. I slowly open my eyes to welcome my lonely, pitch-black room only to be staring at the shadow. He emits a brilliant, pulsing purple haze. He tells me he will help me if I help him. As I ask what he needs from me, his violet body splits into a group of drifting light. I chuckle at how his light makes my hospital issued attire glow like from a black light. I stop laughing and grow tense as the balls of purple light surround me, and before I can repeat myself, they force themselves into my body. I clench my fists in agony and close my eyes tight wincing. And in one brief moment my eyelids open, light emitting from them like headlights.
For one brief moment, I see his homeworld. I see warriors in white. Peacebringers, he calls them. And I see barbarians in black. He calls them Nictis, and they are winning. They are locked in an epic battle that lasts eons. I see this. Everything flashes before my mind in a montage. I see secret meetings between diplomats from both sides making a pact. He shows me this to gain my trust. He tells me this is the birth of Warshades. Now the battles stretch across time set on different backdrops: on distant planets I’d only seen in comics, in Egypt, then Rome, and now in Paragon City. He tells me I have saved his life by sharing mine. He tells me everything will be alright. He tells me to sleep, and I listen. I sleep and the dreams do not come. I sleep and I am at peace.
...help me differentiate between reality and insanity. Some days are harder to bear than others, and this is one of those days. I wake in a bed of grass with the warm sunlight kissing my face. I open my eyes to take in my surroundings. Steel and stone towers reach for the clouds, caging me and my little oasis of confusion. Is this real or another dream? I try and block the sun, and my arm screams with pain. My eyes squint examining the bruises that now decorate it. Where did these come from? I try and sit upright and the pain shoots up my back. As I reach around to feel my spine, I notice the bruises on my other arm. For the life of me, I cannot remember what had happened. I fell asleep in my solitude and now I am free? I am Harry Houdini.
My white apparel is gone. I’m wearing an awful red and white luau shirt and ratty jeans. I am barefoot in a park. I am Robert Redford. My anxiety flares. My mind spins on its axis and I do not know if this is real or just a dream. Is this but another delusion? Am I still in my padded room? I get to my feet and everything feels less surreal as my legs almost give out from under me. I wobble and catch myself on an armrest of a nearby park bench. My calf muscles still burn as if I’ve just ran a marathon.
To ease the overall malaise, I sit down and attempt to solve my bewilderment. I hear children scream with excitement over the monument of Atlas. Steel Canyon, I groan rubbing my temples with thumb and middle finger. I know the place well. My eatery used to be here in this part of the city. My worry shifts to my legs. I must have covered a lot of ground in my sleep if I am in Paragon City, but why am I here?
To help me, the voice returns, but this time from somewhere inside my head. Schizophrenia comes to mind. Companionship would suffice. The voice bellows and resonates within me. He tells me he is a Kheldian and explains why he needed my body. So fragile their lives are compared to our own. He was in his ninth year. Only one year left before he expired. He needed a host to carry out his task. He has uncovered a plot. He tells me the world is in danger. He tells me he helped me escape my prison. I ask if it had anything to do with the Nictus. I struggle with the word hoping I am saying it correctly.
Before he can answer me, I notice a cop slowly approaching. The man’s right hand is positioned behind his back. He is readying his sidearm. I don’t blame him. Look at me. I would even arm myself against me. Suddenly fear hits me. What if the Warwick Police Department has put out an APB for an escaped mental patient that fits my description? I conceal the bracelet on my left wrist behind my back. As he approaches, he says, “Sir, I am going to have to ask you to leave. You can’t sleep here. What are you crazy?”
I slowly stand to my feet and I sense a great uneasiness from the Kheldian inside me. The cop still approaches, not showing signs of letting up. He is a few feet from me now. Now I feel that something is not right. I see sweat beads form on the cop’s temple. Before I can react, he swings a rifle from around his back. I have never seen anything like it before. It looks alien. The rifle hums and emits the same purple hue as my Kheldian tenant. What happened next took only mere seconds but seemed like an eternity. I stepped through my shadow as he fired off a shot, barely missing me as I dissipated into thin air. I reappear behind him and disarm his weapon by landing a hard blow to his chin, knocking him out cold.
As I stare at the rifle lying on the ground, the Kheldian calls it a Quantum array rifle. He describes it as deadly. I ask why a cop would carry such a thing unless… I reach into his back pocket and produce his wallet. I flip it open and his badge stares at me. I advert my eyes from the sun’s reflection. I notice a brown envelope protruding from his left pant pocket. As I pull it out a photo falls from its pouch. My face lights up as I see myself in the picture. I’m in deep now. The Warshade advises that we need to get moving. He tells me this cop’s buddies may be nearby. I tell him that whoever is after me knows my face. I pocket the three large bills in the cop’s wallet, and say I need a makeover. He asks what I have in mind. I toss the wallet onto the cop’s back. I say, I hear Serge can work wonders.
...are thundering inside my chest. My thoughts are far from my journey from Warwick Mental Institute to Icon. The Kevlar costume I bought for $300 was nothing fancy, but it would do. Note to self: Pay Serge a visit to thank him kindly for telling me I needed a shower. But that would have to wait until later.
We have managed to infiltrate a sleeper cell of Council agents in a cavern underneath the grimy neighborhoods of King’s Row. Sure, I’ve read about them. Everyone has. I cannot think of one soul who hasn’t heard of the militant sadistic bastards, hell bent on terrorizing this world, reshaping it in their image. No one likes those who play God unless He is the man himself.
I can’t begin to tell you how we got here or how this Kheldian knew about this bunker, but I don’t really care. I’ve stopped trying to wake up. Now I’m just here for the ride. I am Alice in Wonderland. I only wonder how deep the rabbit hole goes. We manage to subdue the patrolling soldiers and find a computer terminal. My hands become his as he quickly enters in access code after access code, searching for Lord knows what. I see names scroll quickly down the monitor. I see names of people: Joe Blows, Politicians, and Government Officials. Sleeper Agents. He continues deeper into the Council database, pulling up files on high ranking officers. Terrorists. He continues until he finds the names Arakhm and Requiem. He tries to access the files for Requiem. No access. No dice. He manages to open Arakhm’s. Only one item is listed: Galaxy. I see the details flash through the screen, but I cannot make sense of what I am reading. I ask him what the Council is planning. He tells me he wants to show me.
We walk up to the flashing access panel nearby. I have no idea what is in store. We punch in an access code and the large steel doors open before us revealing a room full of single-person chambers twelve wide and twelve deep, resembling coffins. As we walk through the rows I notice the tops are made of glass. Curiosity overwhelms me. We walk over to look inside. I see a man as pale as a corpse save for his purple veins. My otherworldly friend tells me these men are Galaxies. He tells me they wield the powers of the Nictus. My brain wanders as I hear him say the words: N-Fragments, shards, and implants. I worry how many of these cells are there in this world. Hundreds. Thousands. Millions. He tells me Galaxies are made for battle. For world domination.
My stomach twists and turns, and I want to vomit. This is too much to bear. Already knowing the answer, I ask if we can leave. He tells me we must destroy these abominations. I ask him if this is our only stop. No, he says, we must destroy them all. He tells me we must save the world. He feels my doubt but does not share it. He tells me to embrace my destiny. Who I was before no longer matters now.
I don’t know if what he says next was to sell me on the idea, but it worked. He tells me I fight with the strength of ten thousand warshades. He tells me that I make him proud, and it makes me smile. I start to think about all of the mystery men in this city, and a small part of me wants to join their ranks as a hero. I am d’Artagnan.
I follow the cable attached to the chamber to a computer terminal in the center of the room. I notice all of the chambers’ cables intersect there. We walk to the hub and begin to enter more access codes until I see the warning: “Are you sure you want to abort?” This time, I am the one to take action as I press the ‘Y” key. The room echoes with hissing followed by a choir of flat line tones.
“You should not have done that,” a voice threatens from behind me. I conceal the fact that he startled me. I turn to face my guest expecting to see another Council soldier. Again he surprises me. The man is dressed in all black save the red on the cloth draped around his mouth and neck. I cannot see his face, but I know without my Kheldian counterpart that this man is death. The Warshade rattles off names Seeker, Stalker, Slayer, and I mouth the rest: Void Hunter.
“And I am the first. My name is Dagan,” he introduces himself. “I have been tracking you since Warwick.” My eyes peer over Dagan’s shoulder as they catch the sight of another Quantum array rifle slung around his back, and he sees this. “Do not worry about that. I only use it when deemed necessary. You need only worry that this is your end, Mr. Abrams. It is time to meet your maker.”
He is my nemesis. I am Batman, and he is my Joker. And, in all great stories of good versus evil locked in eternal conflict, our battle begins now. I lunge forward. Cockiness comes to mind. Stupidity would suffice. Dagan locks his grip around my wrists. I feel the Warshade grow weaker. My newfound strength is diminishing. My next move is more human. I grit my teeth and slam my forehead into his face. He lets go. I spin my back to my only exit. My mind is on getting out before this guy kills me, but before I can take one step, he backhands me with so much force that I am flying through the air. My back connects with something hard and unpleasant. Judging from the impact, I must have hit the cavern wall.
I prop myself up on my forearms and notice I am lying in the next room. I turn my head noticing a nearby air duct. My exit is close now. Only a few yards away, but unfortunately so is Dagan. I stumble to my feet and start running, but it is only wishful thinking. I hear a blast behind me followed by an excruciating sting engulfing my back. I fall face down on top of an unconscious Council mercenary I had dropped earlier. I hear Dagan’s boots hit the rock ground as he grows closer. The sound echoes through the cavern. He rolls me over onto my back, and I notice my escape route is directly above me. So close. Dagan returns the Quantum array rifle around his shoulder as he approaches. He squats down beside me and whispers, “Do you really think you can beat me?”
I start to laugh uncontrollably as I tell him, “Why yes. Yes I do.” Dagan hears the pin hitting the ground and looks down at the grenade I had palmed from the nearby mercenary and shoved behind his belt. I teleport upward into the air duct. I escape with my Kheldian friend barely alive as I hear the muffled explosion in the growing distance. The sound of my victory.
...are upon me now. In their homes. In their places of business. In their local bars. In their local sub sandwich shops. Here in King’s Row. The press conference was his idea. We alerted the media about our little adventure today. We informed the city that they are safe from terrorist activities. Lies. We told the city that our actions today put an end to the organization called the Council. Deception. We told them there was nothing to fear. Deceit.
You have to understand. We never planned to tell the city the truth. That was not our intent. We did not want to tell the city that the Council was planning on world domination. We did not want to cause a panic, but most importantly we didn’t want to say we were sorry if we failed. You see, with all of the faces that were watching us today there were only two we were shooting for: Arakhn and Requiem. We wanted their attention. We wanted them to see who they were up against. They needed to know who was gunning for them. And that was our little secret, locked away safe from the rest of the city.
As I stand here before the crowd, I am humbled. These citizens do not know my face underneath this mask. They do not fear me. I am accepted. I am free. Happiness comes to mind. No other word could suffice. I have left behind the man and stepping forth the legend. This is the true beginning of my story. I have embraced my destiny. This is the moment when it truly starts.
After all of the lies, deception, and deceit, the reporters want to know my name. They demand the city needs to know. Today I have forgotten who I was only because I now know who I have become. Gone is the man Jack Abrams. I think back to what the Warshade said that pushed my fear aside. I think back to the words that fueled my courage. You fight with the strength of ten thousand. And of all the reasons, of all the dreams, the reminders, I now represent something much greater than I could ever have imagined to these faces, these people. I smile at the cameras and give them what they deserve. I am Myriad. I am a hero. I am me.