Okay. Hi. I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing.
This may (read likely) will be a few oneshots detailing a post Sarif ending Human Revolutions. It could instead end up developing into a larger fic linking into Deus Ex depending on how much time I have and how hard Deus Ex hits me when I finally get then chance to play it through.
When the End has Passed.
It was strange how little had changed.
The soft tread of floor to rubber to leather to socks to flesh is a steady reassurance. Which is odd because it almost feels wrong, like the sensation should be different. Pushing such musings aside for a later moment he continues his slow gait keeping beside her and maintaining conversation even as he scans and scans for threats or dangers or problems or-
Not that nothing had changed, the world was heaving and rolling with change. Even without considering the thousands strong toll of Darrow's 'message'...though that one could have gone a lot worse then it did.
It's hard to keep to his job. Hard to remember that things are different now anyway. His arm keeps twitching towards her before his brain can remind it that it is no longer welcome and even though his side towards her should feel warmer if anything, there is a lonely cold in his skin. He is glad of eyes bouncing around and senses searching for harm, if he focused on her then the mask might shatter with his longing.
It's still the same world though. Same colours. Same shapes. Same letters. The base rules haven't changed. The meta-society is still continuous.
They leave the cargo lift, turrets ignoring them as always, and wander past testing rooms. He frowns a little at his legs where they bounce atop a treadmill, they weren't told to be over there. Megan nods in satisfaction past the transparent safety barrier to the room where he deploys the Typhoon system against waves of mercenaries coming at him across gore-slick floors. In another room he shoves an arm into a struggling anatomy doll and a blade emerges red from it's back. Megan seems less pleased there but she still nods, for a moment he tries to show her his service records-
Not for him.
but she just ignores the columns and text proclaiming his preference for non-lethal tactics whenever possible. Their conversation remains safe in its daring, they are careful to bounce their words off skin and shell and leave what is deeper alone, or he is careful and she is effortless, the white room they stand in speaks of that.
For Adam Jensen the world has not simply changed, it's become a completely different world. Or it was always that world and he's just discovered what was there. All the wonder. All the mystery. All the adventure. All the truth...
Easy. Clean. Detached from the dirty ocean of blood and shit that he feels on a body that is no longer reassuring. The white room stretches on out of sight with rows of operating tables, he paces down them and sees the pilot and that nervous Russian researcher among the endless examples of himself and faceless, ill-defined memories of innocents. Finding one of him which has been particularly well dissected he stares at his eyes as they change colour.
All the pain.
Looking up he finds gentle hands on his shoulders and he can't push against them, his shades do nothing to the light silhouetting her and as the whirring of surgical machines rises he can make out Sarif's voice asking if he's sure, no, asking if Dr Reed was sure. Which is odd because Sarif never called her that and-
He did not bolt upright in his bed.
Instead he blinked at the ceiling in silence for a few beats of his heart, then just as it was lulling him back to sleep Adam remembered just how inhumanly slow a rhythm that was now and rolled to the side, letting himself thump to the floor on hands and toes. A few push-ups would wake him up quickly and it wasn't like Meg could get pissed off at him about it any more.
'Wish I could sleep in like her now.'
Despite the horror his subconscious insisted on, Adam didn't flinch from thinking of her. Except that was a lie, he just refused to acknowledge the flinch or surrender to its influence. With his blood moving enough that he didn't need to worry about falling asleep on the way to his shower, Adam picked up a handgun and walked to the bathroom, placing it beside the sink since a shotgun already waited in the shower (sealed in a clear bag to keep it dry). He joined it and let the water scorch out the last threads of stupid dreams.
The slick heat of water sliding off his augments was almost normal, strange sensations from artificial nerves under low friction polymers had become familiar with time. While the refreshingly normal urge to be lazy fought hard, his paranoia teamed up with his discipline and the pair won out. With a mild grumble he started switching up from rest mode. It wasn't enormously long a process but it did involve a lot of whirring and data flashing up on his vision.
Plates slid and whirred -as expected- and reconfigured until his systems were shown to be in full working order. The process had often involved cursing and getting caught in fragile clothing, until he'd started doing it on the shower, now it was bizarrely relaxing. Like stretching, but in ways that language hadn't caught up to yet. Another sign of integration, of acceptance.
For a moment he wonders where the old anger has gone. This once pissed him off enough to smash half the bathroom. Now...well his problems with mirrors were much less superficial these days. Before that thought could spread into a crack in his armour, Adam shut off the shower and grabbed a towel. Striding out and turning sharply he stared down his reflection and refused to shy from what he found in it.
At the very least, he would face his actions head on. No excuses.
No cowardice. He'd seen what that could do to a person, how quickly it would flay the rest of a person's ethics and decency away from their bones. No, running would take him places he refused to step foot, so facing it down was all he could do. Even if it scared him worse then a fight with four Boxguards and a dozen snipers.
'Or maybe I'm lying to myself and I'm already there.'
The greatest change was no longer the artificial lines and dots and colours. It was the man himself, the man staring back was no longer able to claim innocence. His hands were no longer clean no matter how hard he had once tried to avoid shedding blood. The gangbangers and scavengers and corporate guards that he had left snoring and sore were meaningless before the tides of blood that had flowed when he fought those bastard mercenaries.
He had caught glimpses of his face the first few times he had fought them, after the very first time at least. That first time had been just like every other engagement he had known, face impassive and his mind a calm pool of calculation. Then he had been shattered and broken and the next time he fought against those who had shattered his life it had been with an animal snarl.
Jensen had never once in his career enjoyed more than the challenge of violence. Never the power or the control or whatever other psych label you could place on hurting another person. In the police he had stoically enduring mocking rather then taking riot duties or other crowd control work. He hadn't willingly started a fight since college. Then he'd stood over some faceless Military Contractor wearing that hated Spec Ops black and red but the red was winning now, pooling and spreading and overwhelming every other colour...
He'd been struggling to hold back a smirk.
After that he had fought back against the anger that roared in his ears. Stopped killing them just to kill those who had taken so much away from him. Even then he hadn't been able to care about their lives, when it was absolutely necessary he would kill rather then disable. A ruthlessness he despised. That he had met in others with nothing but contempt.
No amount of doing whatever it took not to kill other enemies would wipe that stain from him. No matter what he did, guilt wouldn't come, remorse wouldn't make itself known, he had killed with fierce glee and he didn't feel a moment's regret for those lost.
So now he stared into a mirror and wondered what it was he could see now. A ghost of that smirk at his cheeks? A remnant of mindless rage in his teeth? Maybe he was only imagining the changes, but he could see them all the same...in the darkest moments he wondered if he could see the faces of the Tyrants laid over his own. Was this how they had begun?
The steadily rising beep of his alarm cut off his gloom. He still had to work and that meant facing down his reflection and brushing his damn teeth. When he was getting used to his augs and moving around with them, Adam had been terrified every time he put a hand near his face and his breath had suffered for it.
'I wonder if I could shave using the NanoCeramics? Certainly be faster then this piece of crap razor...'
A lot had changed.
His introspective kick failed to go away as he changed and moved through to his living area. Which he could at least blame partially on the static newsfeed he had grabbed on his way. Still showing the same nonsense as last night. The latest celebrity scandal just drove home the stubbornly unchanging mass of humanity, which seemed downright unfair after what he'd gone through.
It seemed cruel that he was alone in having his eyes opened, a blind world and him alone in the burden of knowledge. The weight of it was too much, bringing back the same hopelessness that had him walking a long corridor deep within Panchaea.
"-n you're an idiot.' Following this indiscriminate parting jab, William Taggart left the scheduled debate early amid a mixed crowd response." The activation of his main screen was accompanied by his blinds silently withdrawing and letting the dim, yellowish light he favoured be annihilated by the bright morning sun.
On screen the Picus news reel continued. Eliza Cassan looked as unruffled as ever, though her eyes (which were surely simply staring into a camera somewhere, thought those blind masses) were aimed squarely at him. Adam fancied that there was something almost reproachful in them, which wouldn't be undeserved with the pretentious bullshit he'd been thinking...though he was a little unnerved that she had been able to tell.
"Might just have been a coincidence.", he mused aloud. Tossing the newsfeed on his sofa as it began updating itself, he moved to the kitchen and gave a self-deprecating grin at the mess of junk food, dirty kitchenware and the few empty bottles he had not yet thrown out.
Ignoring the bachelor stereotype rapidly approaching status as a health hazard -which was difficult when a flag came up in his vision warning of dangerous terrain- he opened his fridge, grimaced and went for an accessible low-cupboard. Rising back to counter height he dumped his haul of microwavable snack food and went about 'cooking' breakfast. A can of 'Cula' (he'd brought a crate back from China) completed the meal, and he went back to his sofa to eat.
Glancing up after a few moments he promptly spat derivative soda all over his coffee table of scattered -highly important if at least not sensitive or secret- 'paper'work. Rather then scrambling to clean it off he remained frozen and staring at the screen where the scrolling text beneath the main news item currently repeated, "Recent studies show that majority of 'shut-in deaths' caused by unhealthy diet." As he watched incredulously the text moved on to claim, "Serious health risks have been tied to the following snack food brands amid pending investigations.", then a pop-up advertisement showed a bright smiley girl claiming the best thing in a boyfriend was being able to cook.
Rising fast enough to send more of his precious Not-Coke splashing onto the floor, Adam brought up every piece of scanning gear and spyware detection he had. His free hand had wrapped around the grip of his coffee table rifle as he rose, purely on reflex as he kept in pointed safely at the floor. Turning on the spot he saw...nothing. Not a single piece of monitoring gear. Even his webcams were disabled. 'How did she do that?'
His eyes fell back on the screen with a annoyed slant to them, drifting inevitably down from her attractive, calm features he laid eyes on the scrolling text just in time to see a new announcement.
"Chinese crackdown on counterfeit food and drink, major link found between cheap products and conditions including hair loss, heart failure and testicular atrophy.", a helpfully placed graphic gave a few sample names and product appearances. Before it could end to make way for the next item too minor to be read aloud, Adam was already returning to his kitchen, grasping the entire crate and putting it beside the door to throw out later.
Rather then continue to be bullied by a news program he opted to abandon the rest of his meal and grab something on the way in to work. Finishing his morning preparations he was about to switch off the large screen when he paused and a few thoughts swam across his awareness.
'I'll grab something healthy this time.'
The warm rush of conditioned air greeted him as he crossed into the lobby of Sarif Industries. Leaving a sunny day behind him, he greeted his co-workers with even less early morning enthusiasm then was normal for someone as nocturnal as him. The reason was dumped in a janitor's cart as he passed the man, empty cardboard going in the correct recycling section.
He was regretting the spontaneous urge to go along with that woman's nagging. The salad tasted like cardboard and though he could blame that on the low quality the lack of sugar or caffeine was an innate trait of the rabbit food. Not that he didn't eat salad. Adam liked salad, just not as a meal by itself. That was for scientists convinced that they needed to lose weight before a beach season they wouldn't take part in anyway.
'...Okay, that's enough self-pity for one day. Megan is gone, no point thinking about how difficult she was now.'
Though the aftermath of claiming every scrap of her research had certainly been fraught with even more difficulty for him. As much of a coup as it had been (his thorough counter-espionage and sabotage in every single Illuminati facility he had entered had earned him a hefty 'Keeping-The-Advantage-That-We-Really-Needed-For-This-One' Bonus) to not only regain their lost data but prevent others from copying it; they had hardly made any more friends from it and keeping the data secure was occupying him well into what should have been his own time.
As such he had barely managed to get into his office before the inevitable tide began. Guard schedules, escort preparations, back-up plans and contingencies. Scenarios in case of kidnapping or extortion, regular re-checks on employees and their possible vulnerabilities. Then of course he had to sign off on anything and everything done by his subordinates, which meant going through it all with a fine toothed comb and often redoing whole chunks that didn't meet his astronomic standards.
Adam Jensen would be damned if he was going to let another disaster hit them on his watch. Knowing what he did about who exactly they were pissing off these days, Adam had no illusions about that task. The impossibility of it didn't discourage him though, one trait Sarif was damn good at finding was the sheer bloody-minded stubbornness to keep fighting long after common sense said to give up. Down to the lowest employee in the company, that was something that bound every last one of them, at least those still hanging around for the long haul.
Of course, idle fantasies and grand ideals didn't change the present in which he was being ground under a pile of tedium. He almost fancied that he could feel the old muscle twitch in his trigger finger, not that it was even remotely possible. Still a good fire fight might be exactly what he needed to stretch out after this. Then a distant stomping announced an imminent encounter far more dangerous than that.
It was strange how company hierarchies worked. Jensen for instance was pretty damn high-up. Only Sarif had more clearance in the company and that was just in the sense that he couldn't get into his boss' private files or office. Jensen was in charge of security and that should have put him in charge of all aspects of company security, except a certain uptight bastard didn't see the chain of command that way around.
So when something went wrong, he and Pritchard both -though obviously Pritchard was the one in the wrong when it happened- attempted to chew out one another. Since Sarif would only chuckle and remain silent on who was in charge of who and since no one else dared to get involved...
Not bothering to knock, Francis Pritchard walked in and stared at him. 'Subtly' commanding him to stand up with a sharp look while Adam's eyes in turn 'subtly' told him to go fuck himself. Then Adam shifted gears, switching his gaze to the chair opposite his own desk, 'Take a seat.' was the implied order. Pritchard gave his own counter and neither noticed the head shaking of passing co-workers at their silent battle for dominance.
Eventually after he had relocated several pieces of paperwork, Pritchard opted to sit on the long couch off to one side. With that combined insult and concession another conflict ended in stalemate, both sides looking down on the other's childish refusal to accept their position. Though only one side was calculating bone stresses and judging how much of an obstacle the busy little vacuum disc would be.
'I could probably break his jaw before he can start raising aspirin stock another couple points.' was Jensen's wistful thought. It wasn't that he thought Pritchard was a useless, arrogant prick with all the people skills of a rabid wolverine. It was unfortunately certain that Pritchard was not useless. Which meant he probably had to leave him capable of speech.
A few words into Pritchard's tirade on their lack of network security and why this was obviously his fault and not just an excuse for the scarecrow figure to vent frustrations on a man armed police crossed streets to avoid. Zoning out Jensen took the opportunity to daydream a little. The puzzle of how Eliza had been monitoring him was an interesting one, though honestly Eliza was fascinating enough all on her own.
Why she continued to maintain contact with him was an unknown, something Jensen normally disliked. For all that she had spoken of fascination, she was an advanced AI capable of global-scaled calculations and predictions. He could not possibly be that interesting. As to any presumed gratitude for his having kept her from being deleted, altered or otherwise left at the mercy of her creators...well his efforts there hadn't been that much more than hitting a few switches on the way out of Montreal. Maybe a small armed assault.
Not to mention that expressing gratitude by stalking him and giving him grief about his diet was bizarre even for the person he had started to get to know in that vast computer room. She was acting more lik-
Adam was startled out of his pondering by Pritchard's face suddenly looming inches from his own, "Are you even listening to me you muscle-bound idi-!" To his credit, their resident tech expert took the punch in stride. Other then staggering back a few feet, he barely slowed his rant. Probably because it was in the final stages and the creative insults he was hurling were too good to abandon.
With one final declaration of Adam's intellect and its comparison to single celled organisms, Pritchard left the office and got back to his own work. Any thoughts of apologising for his reflexive attack had died around about "bolt-headed luddite" so Adam followed suit without even yelling for Pritchard to close the door.
A wave of exhaustion had him blacking out the glass of his walls then reaching for the bottom drawer of his desk. Sliding it open and fumbling under a pile of stationery for the smooth glass he kept there. A decent bottle and two glasses, examining it until he was sure no one else had tampered with it, Jensen started twisting the cap only to be brought up short by the familiar sight of his mechanical hands.
Normally his augmented systems would have been set to deal with just enough alcohol to offset the massive loss of tissue, thus giving him more or less the same tolerance as before. However that was for calm, naïve civilian gear; ambush-ready, combat environment filters like his would neutralise anything up to and including actual, literal gutrot.
Unless he was to switch them off and risk being incapacitated by a sudden gas attack...
Jensen replaced the bottle and closed the drawer, instead reaching behind his chair for a can of some brand of energy drink four crates of which Pritchard had ordered delivered to his crowded office. 'Well, I shouldn't be drinking on the job anyway.' He ignored the hazard warnings that popped up -claiming he had just ingested some kind of poison- when he swallowed a gulp of his new beverage, focusing on the mountain of work before him.
Paranoia was better than risking a return to drinking too much and smoking dozens a day, even if it wasn't unhealthy for him any more it still seemed...
It was past time to leave that kind of stuff in the past. Moving on.
'When I get home today, I'll clean up. Throw out the rest of those bottles at least.'
Of course his best intentions were cruelly beaten down by the time he could finally stop for the day. What's more he had an early morning meeting with Sarif suddenly scheduled for the next day and with a few more pressing tasks any hope of streaming something mindless or reading one of his growing pile of untouched books, was beaten down like a tourist in Lower Heng Sha.
Even the janitors were looking close to packing up when he got out of the building. Glaring at anyone who even glanced at him funny, Jensen made his way home by the shortest route he knew. Rather then deal with that pain in the ass at the front desk he went high, making his way onto the roof and going down the floors rather then up.
Having settled into his desk and grabbed a glass of something caffeine heavy, Jensen dismissed the vague horror that he was becoming a paper shuffler recently and buried himself in it. If he pushed as fast as he could then there might still be time to get a few chapters of 'The Changing Landscape of Modern Metaphysical Enquiry' before he had to sleep.
So predictably he was barely more than halfway through when his doorbell rang.
Less predictable was the short-haired pilot standing outside his door with an armful of fur and metal. A sickly sweet scent washed over him as soon as he opened the door, cloying at the back of his tongue. While his brain was busy rebooting she slipped past him, already talking rapidly. Her face set with her ever present resolve.
"-oyed about this but I couldn't just leave this guy and you're the only person I know who's ever had a dog. So I kind of need you to give me some pointers. Also...", she paused and her features eased into a somewhat pleading expression. "To be honest my apartment complex doesn't allow pets so if you could take care of him here for a few days, though I'm not sure if he's a he or not. How do you che-?"
"Malik!" His exasperated tone managed to break into her tirade, she gave him a sheepish look then started again.
"I found this little guy," He could now see that the dog, though it could also have been a small horse, was filthy and thin despite its size, "out in the streets while I was walking home. Normally I'd just swing him around to the nearest shelter but well..." With a complicated expression he got closer in and started coaxing the pile of dog into some required action.
His curiosity died as a memory flooded through him. Another woman, another dog, another random encounter on the way back from work. It had been one of the few times he had really felt like she was completely there with him, not still buried in her work where he couldn't reach her. She'd crouched down and rubbed at the dogs head and he'd thought she could never do a single bad thing when she could show some filthy mutt that kind, smiling face.
The image grew to choke out his thoughts, all he could think of was that innocent face and how much it now hurt. How stupid he had turned out to be. Consumed by memory Adam was barely even aware of his body rising, arm tensing to throw a glass that was already webbed with cracks.
Then his CASIE transmitted a shrill beep directly into his brain. A warning only he could hear accompanying a flurry of transparent diagnostics popping up in the base of his vision; his heart was too fast, adrenaline levels too high for social interaction, a flurry of other hormones pumping into him and his combat augments already entering micro-second long warm up subroutines...
Another patch of windows showed him readings on the dog and on...his friend. Malik was worried, not angry or scared or any of the other things he'd expect from someone staring at him right now, just worried. Another beat and he was placing the glass down, allowing his CASIE Implant to counteract the fight or flight response even as he willed his augs back into non-combat standby.
However now that he looked at the dog again and focused on what his augs were telling him...
"You've got to be kidding me."
Malik answered his incredulity with a hard expression, lifting a crude 'augmented paw' to let him get a better look. The dog gave a little whine of pain at the gentle movement. Looking closer he could see that crude was an understatement, it was the kind of 3d printed temporary limb that he'd seen used to let patients evacuate an area under their own power. The join was-
"You see where the smell was coming from?", her voice was trembling a little. He thought it pretty likely his would too if he tried to use it. The joins were sloppy as hell even without the medical flaws and in several places they looked to have been torn open. In fact now he looked closer there were scars all over it, or at least the few parts that weren't at least partially augmented. Years of inner city policework gave the obvious answer.
"Dogfighting. Probably the MCB, or at least that's where he ended up. The surgery itself looks much older." Peering closer in he could see what looked like an out of place component, far more advanced then the rest of it which looked like the MCB could have out it together in a garage...
His detective's mind was shunted to the back of the mental queue by Marik punching him in the shoulder. Nodding an apology he made no complaint of the mess as they set about cleaning the poor thing (a female as it turned out, not that that dimmed his rising sense of understanding with the creature) as best they could. A few quick phone calls had several of their scientists on board, pulled in by the same combination of an opportunity for knowledge and an altruistic drive that had drawn Sarif's research team together in the first place.
After several hours and a worryingly close call with a malfunction in her left front leg, they got it to bed in a pile of old sheets (plus several pillows that Megan had never picked up, a vindictive smirk lit his face at that point) with food and water. Marik insisted on sleeping on his sofa and so he retreated quietly to his bedroom while chewing the last of the pizza they'd ordered.
It was one in the morning and he knew that the crash tomorrow was going to be brutal. Still he got back to his work, all the while going over the weirder aspects of the dog's augments in the back of his head. Augmented dogfighting was something he'd always thought would happen eventually but there were other parts -literally- that didn't add up.
It was in the midst of such thoughts with his work almost done that he received an anonymous e-mail.
I had a few spare cycles this evening and your situation seemed unusual. I'm sure you've noticed oddities by now yourself. I traced the dog to this location [link blocked; allow? y/n] but my eyes couldn't see further than that.
The placement of research this close to your facilities seems too coincidental. It is likely just minor brutality, but please be careful. You have stumbled into large designs before.
He almost hated the voice that asked what could possibly be so important and related to a dog, no matter how cruelly it had been treated. Then a stray thought sparked and the specifics of those parts had him stiff in his chair. 'Animal research is usually a precursor to human, isn't it?'
In the quiet room, dim yellow light lit him from behind. Casting his face into sharp relief if anyone -such as an AI with no sense for privacy- had been there to see it. Then his lips twitched before blooming into a full grin. Looks like the next battle might be about to start.
I know, not exactly brilliant. I have not written all that much in the last month and a half due to life being difficult and inspiration scarce. I hoped to try and change that with this chapter, though in exchange you all get this rather badly written thing. I am particularly annoyed at how uttery I failed to capture Jensen's voice. Or anyone's voice for that matter.
I honestly have no idea what this wanted to be. I was going for comedy but I kept finding more serious stuff worming its way in. Sorry for the confusing pile of stuff this created, though it does give a good range of options.