Disclaimer: Prototype belongs to Activision.
He let out a deep breath, looking at the pale moon in the sky. He felt unease, which he knew he shouldn't have. He knew full well she was inside the building across the parking lot. He knew full well there weren't any traps and only a pittance of guards between the two of them. He knew full well there would be nothing stopping him from getting his revenge. So why was he nervous?
Get a grip, Alex. He began to say to himself, before reminding himself of the truth—Alex was dead. She hadn't betrayed the man she said she loved, she betrayed a doppelganger. A plague wearing Alex Mercer as a mask.
The virus scowled to itself. Before the truth was revealed, it had been so easy to think that he was Alex, and that Alex was a victim of circumstance. He bitterly reminded himself how he was outraged at the notion that Alex Mercer had released the virus in Penn Station when he first heard the news. It had to be a cover up. It had to be.
But it was true. Alex was the terrorist that the government said he was; a pathetic excuse for a human being who released the deadliest virus in history in one of the busiest transport hubs in the world. Out of spite. With no regard for the hundreds of innocent people around him, his sister, or for Karen. Alex Mercer was a monster.
He closed his eyes for a moment. It wasn't like he was a saint. As he searched for the truth, he climbed his way to the top of a mountain of corpses, many of his victims still screaming in his head. It was bitterly ironic; he had slaughtered his way through soldiers, scientists, and infected to find out who caused the outbreak. As it turned out, it had been him all along, or at least the man who served as his template.
He wondered about which one of them was worse. The real Mercer had been a man of cool, detached, rational thought. Every move was planned to make sure he got what he wanted, and then got away clean. As fate had it, the best laid plans went awry, and he decided to potentially end humanity in a final "fuck you" to the world.
The virus, the new Alex, was trying to do the right thing, but everything he did led to more death and chaos. And he couldn't pretend that he only killed people who deserved death He liked to think he was better than the real Mercer, but that one never had to explain to his sister how his victims were a part of him.
He opened his eyes again. This is getting me nowhere. He needed to focus on the task at hand. He had consumed dozens of GENTEK and Blackwatch personnel to find her safehouse.
She had hurt him in a way that he hadn't experienced before or after. It might've been based on the mistaken belief she loved him; the flawed premise that she saw him as the man she cared about, but he had trusted her. And she betrayed that trust.
Karen Parker was going to die that night.
It was a run-down building, creaking floorboards and peeling wallpaper. The guards were easy enough to silently dispatch. He didn't want them interrupting his time with her. Taking one of their guns and assuming his forms he headed for the elevator and pressed the button.
He wondered why he didn't just shift out of his disguise when he reached her. Something in his head told him it wasn't the right time yet. So he decided to lure her topside. Doing his best to act like a Blackwatch soldier, he walked up to her as she was working on something in a hastily-built lab and muttered "We've been compromised. Mercer knows you're on the payroll. We're evacuating."
He ended his statement by reaching for her with his left hand, stopping when he barely brushed against her shoulder. "Oh, Jesus" She muttered to … herself? The man she thought was one of her guards? Is she actually hoping for divine intervention? Doesn't matter… he told himself.
They quickly got back to the elevator, where she shrank against the wall as he pressed the up button. "You know what he can do. Uh… goddamnit! He'll kill me!" For some reason, it felt… wrong. He thought seeing her squirm might lessen the unease he was feeling. Maybe take away some of the pain of her betrayal. It wasn't working.
Memories flashed through his mind. Of Blackwatch officers, standing over the bruised woman, trying to force her to talk about things she didn't know. Of McMullen, telling her that she could either help them in stopping ZEUS or that they "couldn't do anything for her". Something was screaming in his head. She never had a choice in this.
Like I did? Did I ask for this? Any of it? Frustrated, he gripped his rifle more tightly, almost surprised that it didn't break. Suddenly, the elevator lurched to a stop; red warning lights flaring up. He briefly wondered why, before realizing that he himself probably was well above its weight limit. Adding in Parker broke the goddamn machine. He silently cursed himself.
He could hear her heart; it was beating a mile a minute. "Oh my God… Oh my God, he's here." she said, facing the corner of the elevator. The virus briefly wondered about her word choice; was she this God-fearing normally? He knew almost nothing of her; what she and the real Mercer were like together. All he knew was he had trusted her, and that almost had gotten him killed. "He's in the building!"
Stop playing around… he thought as he shed his disguise, becoming… another disguise, really. He became Alex. Calmly, with the detached demeanor of a predator cornering his prey, he said "I know."
She immediately froze as he stepped closer to her, before shuddering as she felt his hot breath against her neck. He grabbed onto her shoulder again, spinning her around to face him. She kept her head low, not looking him in the eyes. When she spoke, it wasn't in panic. She didn't plead, or beg. She simply said with resignation "I hoped it wouldn't end like this. I wish this never happened. But you…"
He cut her off, wrapping a hand around her throat and lifting her off her feet. He honestly wasn't sure if she knew the whole truth. That the man who released the virus had died already. That the dead man was different than the one right in front of her. It didn't matter, he reminded himself. His eyes wandered over his prey; she was looking at him. He noticed terror and… something else. Acceptance?
His hand loosened its grip, the elevator began to spin around him, and his head began to feel as if it was being torn apart. Damn it! It was a memory of the real Mercer. When he found something to trigger them, it hurt enough to bring him to his knees. Of all the times… why now?
"So… I haven't heard you say it yet…" She said, somewhat playfully, as she ran a hand along his side.
He scowled inwardly. He knew it hadn't been a good idea to take her to dinner at that French place. Granted, he appreciated how she was always a little bit more… adventurous… when she got a little wine in her, but it made her so goddamn chatty. She got dinner for free; he got what he wanted out of her. That should've been the end of it. But she had to keep him up half the night with insipid pillow talk. Still, things would be easier for him if he played it cool. "Say what?"
"You know…" She cheerily slurred (and he felt envious of the deaf), as she leaned in next to him. "We've been doing this for six months… don't you think you should say something?"
Beneath closed lids, his eyes rolled. If it'd get her to be quiet, it might be worth it to let her hear what she wanted. After all, he needed her; and it wouldn't do to burn that bridge before she filled out her role in his plan. He rolled onto his side, so he faced her. "I love you, Karen Parker." He lied.
"Alex, you didn't…" She said, trying to reassure herself that he was joking, as she followed him out of the GENTEK building. After they had broken up, she still hung around, trying to 'still be friends'. It wasn't worth it to him; he had wasted enough of his time and money on her, and she no longer served a useful purpose. He'd gotten all the answers he wanted out of her, and it had gotten very boring between them.
"I know what I'm doing." He responded curtly, hand clenching the vial of dark liquid in his pocket. His insurance policy: a variant of the DX-118 virus which he had made ten times more lethal. "They aren't stupid enough to try anything. I've got them in check."
"Goddamnit Alex, this isn't a game!" She said, grabbing him by the shoulders and positioning herself in front of him. "What you just did… what you're going to do… it's…"
"I don't remember asking you for your opinion on this." He growled, grabbing her wrist and twisting it enough to make her wince. He had never been a violent man (that was just beneath him), but now that he was so close to getting what he wanted? He wasn't going to let her stop him. "Get out of my way, or else." He let the threat hang; she knew he had a vial of the deadliest disease on the planet on his person. She knew how far he was willing to go. So she had to know exactly what he meant by 'or else'.
For once, she was smart, and left him alone. It would be a bit of a hike, but he'd be at Penn Station soon enough…
The virus stared at the floor. The real Alex found Karen to be useful; beyond serving his needs, she had been a vital piece on his chessboard. But he resented her, for annoying him when she wasn't doing what he wanted or needed out of her. For making something of their relationship when there was nothing. For questioning his plan. If the real Alex Mercer was in the virus's situation, she never would've made it to the elevator.
He forced himself to stand, the pain in his head fading from "unbearable" to simply "stabbing". She was sitting in the corner, gasping for air. She managed to look up at him as he loomed over her in a mixture of terror and defeat. Her last words to him before she had sent him to where the Specialist had been waiting to try and kill him echoed in his head.
"And Alex, for what it's worth, I'm sorry it had to play out like this."
She never had a choice in betraying him. Reminding himself that he never had a choice as to what he was, why they were trying to kill him, that no longer sufficed. At that moment in the elevator, he had a choice to make. He could either do what the original Alex Mercer would, or try and prove himself to be better than his mask.
He dropped down to one knee, looking at her with a neutral expression. Slowly, he placed a hand on her shoulder, and she flinched, before going very still. His throat was dry as he looked into her widened eyes and said "I forgive you." He noticed eyes seemed to go even wider, out of surprise. "I… it'd be best if we never saw each other again."
With that, he turned to the doors and pried them open. The elevator had stopped shortly before it reached the ground floor; it was no challenge for him to climb out, and Karen could do so as well, once she recovered from the shock. As he headed for the exit, he could hear a barely whispered "Thank you."
He knew he wasn't perfect, probably not even "good". He had still caused death and destruction. He knew he would cause more. But for the first time since he had learned the truth, he was certain that he was better than the man whose face he wore. And for the moment, that was all that mattered.
Author's note: Eh, this was bouncing around my head for a while, and a few people on the forum raised the question: Is it possible to write a fic that takes place in the elevator where Karen survives? I think I've answered that in the affirmative.
Is it possible to write a good fic that takes place in the elevator where Karen survives? I leave that to the reader to determine, though I know a few other (read: better) writers who are considering giving it a shot as well.
I'd like to thank Ferric, Lang, and Saeto for beta-ing this for me.