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    A Stormy Past--Nathanael's Story

    Halogen Newborn
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 20/7/2012, 4:27 pm

    I'm still thinking about posting it all in here....so many chapters....
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 20/7/2012, 4:42 pm

    Nathanael hugged his mom tightly, “Don’t worry,” He assured her, “I’ll do just fine and I’ll be back in a jiffy. And with all the money they’ll be giving us, we’ll have enough to have a good Barbie every day for the rest of our lives.”

    His father, Todd, ruffled his son’s hair, “Just behave, alright? You’re certainly going a Back of the Bourke away, and the last thing we need is to be bailing you out when you’re thousands of miles away. Now be good, ya little bastard.”

    Joshua tackled Nathanael’s knees in a hug, “Be back soon, ‘kay?”

    Nathanael scooped up his little brother, “Of course. I wouldn’t want to miss your special day, now would I? Oh wait, I forgot.”

    “What? What is it?!” Joshua demanded with his eyes round in fear.

    Nathanael grinned, “We’re not celebrating your birthday because you’re not going to get any older. Mom, dad, and I all agreed on it. We refuse to let you grow up any more.”

    Joshua squirmed in his arms, “You can’t stop me from getting older!...can you?”

    “Certainly! We’ve been sprinkling anti-aging powder in your meatloaf. Why do you think mom has been after you to eat every piece of it? It’s because she doesn’t want you to get any older! Duh!”

    “Well, I won’t eat any more meatloaf!” Joshua announced, “I’ll never eat it ever, ever, ever again! Not even if you tie me down and beat me with sticks!”

    Nathanael’s mom, Alexis, gave the bachelor a dirty look, “Thank you, Nathanael. Really, thanks.”

    He grinned back at her and put Joshua down, “Alright mate, I’ll be back in time for your birthday. It’s three months away; plenty of time for this Helli0n corporation to do their magic workings. Sound good?”

    Joshua hugged his knees, “Promise you’ll be back? Cross your heart ‘n hope to die?”

    Nathanael held out his pinky, and his little brother took it, “I promise.”

    An hour later found the bachelor coasting along the Australian Outback on his glossy Harley Davidson motorcycle with his music playing at a full blast:

    If I could change, I would.
    Take back the pain, I would.
    Retrace every wrong move I made, I would.
    If I could stand up and take the blame, I would.
    I would take all my shame to the grave.
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 20/7/2012, 4:47 pm

    The Helli0n officer who greeted Nathanael was rather nice.

    He shook hands with him and gave the bachelor a warm smile, “It’s great to see you here. So far, only twenty two others have arrived.”

    “How many total are there supposed to be?” Nathanael questioned as he adjusted his shoulder pack.

    “Five hundred,” The officer said firmly, “And we’re hoping all of ‘em show up. It’d be a right failure if we didn’t even have a quarter of the numbers we wanted.”

    Nathanael felt faint traces of alarm, “If only some of us show up, will the whole thing be cancelled?”

    “Good God, no! We’ve put too much time, effort, and money into this program to cancel it just because of some no-shows.”

    The bachelor felt a wave of relief, “That’s good. I was really hoping that I could work here and really make some~”

    The officer cut him off, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, alright? You never know; your testing may be a complete failure and we’ll have to send you home.”

    On that cheery note, the Helli0n officer ushered Nathanael into his room before he could ask any more questions.

    There was another person bunking with him. He was very muscular; that was the first thing Nathanael noticed. The second was his bleach blonde hair and tanned skin. It was sort of like one of the surfer dudes Nathanael saw on the beach sometimes.

    He looked up from his magazine and scowled, “So, you’re my roommate then.”

    Nathanael attempted a smile, “Uh, yeah, I guess. I mean, unless the Helli0n officer shoved me in the wrong room, then this is the~”

    “Alright, then here are the rules: don’t talk to me unless I talk to you, don’t touch my shit, and don’t piss me off. Clear?”

    “Crystal.” Nathanael muttered after a second of silence.

    The buff surfer dude gave an animal growl before snarling, “What’d I just say about pissing me off?”
    “Evidently my presence pisses you off, so there’s not much I can do about that there.”

    The buff surfer dude set down his magazine, swung his legs off the bed, and stood. Fortunately for Nathanael, his roommate was shorter than him by a good three inches. Unfortunately, he had an extreme muscles mass that Nathanael lacked.

    A wild thought swung into Nathanael’s head before the buff surfer dude could punch him in the face, “Hey, can I call you ‘Buffy’? You haven’t told me your name yet, and I certainly can’t be calling you ‘The Buff Surfer Dude’ for the duration of our stay.”

    The buff surfer dude stood dumbstruck. Most likely because he had never come across anyone with a death wish like the punk in front of him. Nathanael attempted another bright smile. Kill ‘em with kindness; that’s what his pops had taught him.

    Instead of punching him, the buff surfer dude grunted, “The name’s Nat. Nat Turner. And if you dare call me Buffy, then I’ll remodel your face for you; free of charge.”

    Nathanael truly smiled for the first time, “Cool! My name is Nathanael Willow, but since it’s kind of a mouthful, most blokes just call me Nate. Nate and Nat. Kinda goes together, don’t ya think?”

    Once again, Nat seemed bewildered by Nathanael’s jolly behavior when his own had clearly been aggressive and unwelcoming, “Erm…yeah, sure,” He managed to get out, “Just don’t go around advertising it, alright?”

    Nat sat back down on his bed and picked up his magazine before adding, “By the way, you’re 0023.”


    “We’re not people to them, idiot. We’re numbers. Scientists won’t refer to you by name because they’ll get attached and make their work harder. I’m 0022, and you’re 0023. So when they’re calling you, remember that that’s your number.”

    Nathanael nodded, “Ace! So I take it that I’m the top bunk then?” Before Nat could answer, he threw his drawstring bag up onto the higher bed.

    Nat let out an irritated sigh, “Two things: I take it that you’re a chatterbox, and you’re from the area. Your accent and the weird slang give the second one away.”

    Nathanael grinned his 300 mega watt grin, “We’re gonna have a great time.”
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 20/7/2012, 4:50 pm

    Over the next two weeks, the remaining volunteers came to the facility. As it turned out, there were a lot Helli0n creation centers all over the world. The one in Australia was simply one out of many. How they managed to get all the volunteer numbers straight, Nathanael would never know. He just lived life as it came at him.

    Every morning, there would be a bell that would call them to breakfast. Nathanael would literally jump off the top bunk and holler, “Good morning, Nat! The Earth. Says. Hello!” He would then race out into the hallway clad only in his boxers and whatever baggy t-shirt he happened to grab before sprinting into the dining hall.

    For some reason, the bachelor was always the first person there.

    The people who served the food greeted Nathanael with warm smiles every morning. They seemed amused at his happy-go-lucky attitude, and played along with it.

    All the food that was served was extremely healthy. Apparently Helli0n wanted their test subjects to be as fit as possible, so very little unhealthy items were consumed. Nathanael was disappointed when he discovered that there would never be any pancakes, waffles, or French toast, but he was soon satisfied with fruit, whole grain cereal, and oatmeal.

    Eventually, people would start trickling in; almost all of them dressed for the day (unlike the bachelor). The seating arrangements were different every morning, so Nathanael talked with new people almost every day.

    Some were chatty; just like he was. Some were irritable, like Nat. Some were quiet and reserved. Some were loud and self centered and thought they were the greatest thing since microwave popcorn (sadly, another item that wasn’t served).

    Unfortunately, Nathanael never found someone that he could lay down a firm friendship with. All of them seemed to not want to make a permanent setting with another person. They were all content to just float along and forget who they had talked to just minutes before.

    Anyways, after breakfast, everyone would go see the doctors and physicians of Helli0n to make sure they were in good shape.

    Every time, Nathanael drew a perfect bill of health, and every time, he would cartwheel out of the office singing Take it Off at the top of his lungs. Needless to say, it had many a person laughing and many a doctor rolling their eyes.

    After the doctor appointments, the men and women volunteering would be allowed to roam the entire facility. Nathanael spent that time talking with people, playing his iPod, singing out loud, and doing gymnast-like tricks consisting of cartwheels, handstands, rolls, and the occasional flip.

    One time, a very hot looking female came up to him and asked why he did such embarrassing acts. Nathanael promptly replied, “Because I’m old enough to know I shouldn’t, but young enough to do it anyways.” After a quick moment, he added on, “Besides, lighten up, Francis. Just because we’re here for some scientific testing doesn’t mean that the whole place has to be stuffy and boring.”

    The female smiled tentatively before walking away (Nathanael later kicked himself for not asking for her name and phone number).

    Lunch was always a come-and-go type thing. There was no bell for it; just a simple 11:30 to 2:00 deal. People came and went whenever they wanted.

    Dinner was a set time with a bell and everything. It was an affair very similar to breakfast; with Nathanael the first to arrive and loudly asking what was being served. People talking, eating, and leaving.

    Curfew was at 11:00 P.M. A cut-off that was near unbearable to the bachelor, who was used to crashing around 3:00 A.M. and not stirring until noon.

    Nathanael always came in just as the hour struck eleven. Nat, the little goody-goody, was always in bed by ten, and always gave Nathanael a glare for waking him up. Naturally, the bachelor ignored it every time.

    And the routine started all over in the morning.
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 20/7/2012, 5:00 pm

    “Nat, I’m bored.” Nathanael whined one afternoon.

    The bachelor hung upside down from his bunk so he could look at his roommate. Nat didn’t bother looking up from his magazine, “Why don’t you chat it up with some chick? You seem pretty good at that.”

    “Nah; none of them wanna stick around and talk. It’s like nobody here wants to get attached to other people.”

    “Ever think that’s because this experimenting could go wrong on any one of us?”

    “That thought did briefly cross my mind.”

    “What was it replaced by?”

    “The dinner bell.”

    “Tch, figures.”

    A moment of silence went by.

    In the time since Nathanael had arrived, his friendship with Nat had changed greatly. Nat no longer felt the need to growl and snarl at the Australian bachelor. He simple tolerated him with mild annoyance.

    Their relationship was almost like one between an older cat and a kitten. The kitten was always jumping around the older cat, batting at him and begging him to play, while the older cat put up with it, and once in awhile, humored the kitten.

    “Naaaaaaat, I’m booooooooored.”

    “What do you want me to do about it?”

    “Come do cartwheels with me.”

    “Hell no!”

    “Why not?!”

    “It’s embarrassing, stupid, and childish. What more reason not to do it?”

    “But it’s fun! And people who watch us have fun too!”




    “Come on, don’t be such a whacker!”

    “Do I even want to know what that means?”

    “Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please~”

    “If I do it, will you shut up?!” Nat finally roared.

    “Yeah, of course.” Nathanael said it like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Nat let out a heavy sigh and set down his magazine, “Alright, where would we be doing these cartwheels?”

    A few moments later…

    “The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round! The wheels on the bus go round and round, allllllll, throughhhhhh, the town!” Nathanael sang the nursery rhyme as he cart wheeled down the hallway.

    Nat cart wheeled beside him, and after two verses of the song, he joined in as well. People watched curiously, and then started laughing at their antics. The pair made it all the way down to the dining hall before they became dizzy and collapsed.

    To the people eating lunch, they had no idea why Nate and Nat were falling over themselves and laughing uncontrollably. Some rolled their eyes with smiles on their faces and went back to their meals. Most, however, looked at the two with expressions that said, “Are you guys serious?”

    The two bachelors, however, laughed all the more at the faces that implied they were crazy. They pointed at them and laughed until tears streamed from their eyes and they were flat on their backs; looking up at the ceiling.

    Nat eventually pulled himself to his feet, “Al-alright,” He gasped out; recovering from the laughing, “We’re not doing that again, you can’t talk for the rest of the day.”

    “What?” Nathanael exclaimed indignantly.

    “That was the deal.”

    “I don’t think that was our exact deal.”

    “Whatever. No talking, or I remodel your face; free of charge.”

    Nathanael let out a slight grumble, but pulled himself to his feet with a smile.

    At least he had gotten Nat to let out his inner child.
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 20/7/2012, 5:10 pm

    It was two weeks after Nathanael arrived at the facility that Helli0n announced testing would start.

    Many were excited that they were finally able to participate in what they had come for. A handful were having second thoughts, but none of them could leave. A random few made wild rumors about what would happen after the tests were done.

    Nathanael was one of the excited people. He and Nat were currently waiting outside of the testing room. Apparently, they were being called down by rooms, so the two men were the only ones in the hallway.

    “Can you believe it?” Nathanael said eagerly, “No more waiting! We’ll finally be able to take part! It’ll be history in the making!”

    Nat smacked his hand against his forehead, “Yes, I heard you the first dozen times. I know you’re excited, but please, watching you is like watching the Energizer Bunny. I want to look away, but I can’t because it’s so damn unstoppable.”

    “Do you think there’ll be a big change?” Nathanael rushed on; not paying attention to his roommate in the slightest, “Do you think that I’ll grow feathers? What if I turn really ugly? What if I turn really super sexy? Do you think I’ll be a total chick magnet? Oh! I know! What if I can make clones of myself?! That would be~”

    Nat clapped a hand over Nathanael’s mouth, “For starters, if you had cloning powers, I would kill myself. Second, Nate, you talk too much. For once in your life, please be quiet.”

    Chastened, Nathanael looked down at his shoes and remained silent. Two minutes went by, and Nat let out a sigh, “God dammit, why is it that I hate your nonstop chatter but I can’t live without it?”

    Nathanael took that as his cue to pick up where he left off, “Cloning would be pretty good, but at the same time, what if my clone selves decided to kill each other? Since that’s off the table, I think flying would be pretty good. Can’t go wrong with flying. The freedom of the skies…it’d be great…unless you got hit by lightning. That would suck balls.”

    “Patient zero-zero-twenty-two, please come in.” A voice called out from the closed door. Nat’s face went pale. Behind all the buff and gruff behavior, he was just as nervous as everyone else was. Even Nathanael was figuratively biting his nails over it (he just covered it up with his usual cheery conversations).

    Nat took a step towards the door, but was suddenly assaulted by the Australian bachelor with a gigantic bear hug, “Good luck, mate.”

    “Nate…get…off…me.” Nat growled out as he tried to get air into his lungs. Nathanael smiled and stepped back. For a brief moment, it was returned. For a brief moment, they were old friends rather than two week old roommates. For a brief moment, it was as though they were ordinary people in an ordinary world.

    Then Nat turned serious again. He walked over to the door, opened it, and entered. Even though he was only a dozen paces away from it, Nathanael couldn’t hear the click to signify that the door had shut completely.

    And then he was alone.

    Nathanael bounced around nervously; never staying in one spot for more than a few seconds. For a few minutes, he tried singing to help calm his nerves, but his voice came out wobbly and uncertain, so he quickly stopped that.

    “A little bit of testing, and I’ll be home for Joshua’s birthday,” The bachelor said aloud after a moment of utter silence, “He’ll be eight. Mom, dad, and I should do something special. We should totally deck out the house with balloons, streamers, confetti, and a bunch of other stuff. Joshua would like a surprise party. He’s never had one before, so he’d be totally unsuspecting of it.”

    Nathanael continued on like that; making plans for his little brother’s birthday with not another soul listening. For what seemed like an eternity, he babbled on to the empty hallway. Then…

    “Patient zero-zero-twenty-three, please come in."

    Nathanael’s breath stopped for a second before coming out in a sharp exhale. His shoes squeaked against the tile floor for those twelve steps that took him towards the simple and benign brown oak door.

    No going back.

    The Australian bachelor opened up the door…and saw exactly where his parents’ tax money went.

    More medical equipment was in that single room than Nathanael had ever seen in his life. Machines with blinking lights, machines with soft beeping noises, machines with tentacle-like wires…they all looked very intimidating to him.

    A nurse walked up to him and handed him a hospital gown, “Put this on.”

    Nathanael looked around, “Is there a changing room or something that I can~”

    “No. You change right here.” The nurse said briskly; not even looking up from the clip board she held in her hands.

    Despite the fact that Nathanael thought the nurse was rather hot, he didn’t want to just shuck off his clothes right in front of her. However, it seemed as though he had to do exactly that. Well…there had been twenty-two people before him. He doubted that the nurse really cared by now.

    The cool air raised goose bumps on Nathanael’s flesh as he changed into the hospital gown. Just like any other one, it only came down to his knees, and provided very minimal coverage of his ass.

    “Alright, come this way.” The nurse ordered as she walked towards a thin-looking bed.

    Nathanael gulped and padded over. Without her asking, he hopped up onto it and laid back. The bright lights above him made him think of all those horror movies he had watched with his college friends.

    Damn it all.

    Now he was imagining the Helli0n doctors coming at him with saws and knives; slicing open his guts and there would be buckets and buckets of goop and gore and blood, and~

    Nathanael’s whirlwind of thoughts were interrupted by the nurse disinfecting his right inner elbow. Before he could ask what she was doing, she stuck a needle in his skin.

    Holy shit! Was this it already? Nathanael shut his eyes, “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. God if you’re real and you can hear me, please let me survive this so I can go back home and see mom and dad and Joshua again. I don’t want to die without ever seeing them again! Please let me live through this, please, please, please!”

    After a moment of nothing, Nathanael opened his eyes and found the nurse slipping a heart monitor over his right middle finger, “Um…why am I not feeling anything?”

    “What are you talking about?”

    “The needle. I mean, isn’t this supposed to do something?”

    Oh crap. He was probably a reject, wasn’t he? A failure. Nathanael would be sent home to his parents, and what then?! The only thing he was interested in was music, and that held nothing for him. He’d already majored in that in college, and it went nowhere. Without this, he would be~

    “That’s the IV. We need to make sure that all the fluids will be consistent throughout your body so the experimental drug will spread evenly.”

    Oh…well…Nathanael certainly felt like an idiot.

    The nurse went over to the tentacle machine and took some of the cords. Now that he looked, Nathanael could see small sensors on the ends of them. Without saying a word as to what she was doing, the nurse walked back over to the bed and began sticking the sensors on various parts of his body.

    One for each temple, one above Nathanael’s heart, one for each wrist, and one for each calf. The nurse inspected some of the beeping machines, and nodded to herself, “Doctor Jennings, patient zero-zero-twenty-three is ready for the experimental drug.”

    A few seconds went by, and a skinny man walked in from behind a curtain that Nathanael hadn’t even noticed before. No words were spoken as the doctor took the clip board from the nurse and went over the information pinned to it.

    He then looked up from the papers and smiled, “Well, zero-zero-twenty-three, you’re in perfect health! You’ve kept yourself fit, you have a strong heart, strong muscles…though according to this, for awhile your eating habits weren’t quite up to par, but they certainly are now! I think you’ll have very good chances.”

    “Very good chances of what?” Nathanael managed to ask.

    The doctor held up a hand, “Let’s not talk too much, alright?” He took out an IV bag filled with a clear fluid, “It’s time to get started!”

    Out of nowhere, Nat’s voice from two weeks ago came floating back to Nathanael, “We’re not people to them, idiot. We’re numbers. Scientists won’t refer to you by name because they’ll get attached and it’ll make their work harder.”

    Nathanael could definitely see this now. He could see it in how the nurse hadn’t been looking at his face this whole time, how she and the doctor referred to him by number, and how the doctor refused to get into any conversation with him.

    They were all just numbers to Helli0n.

    As these thoughts went through his head, the doctor switched out the IV bags. They both looked so harmless, even though the one that was now hanging there was so evil. One a simple Saline, one a poison. Nathanael couldn’t have told the difference between them to save his life just by looking. How could both look so normal and unthreatening when they were two completely different things?
    Then the drug hit his veins.

    It was an immediate agony. A burning, twisting, clawing, stabbing pain that shattered any coherent thought he had.

    Nathanael didn’t know that his face was screwed up in pain. He didn’t know that his hands were clenched into fists, and his back was arched in some primal way to escape the torture. He didn’t know that more doctors came in to watch what was happening. He didn’t know that they were all scribbling down the numbers that the machines were spewing out.

    All he knew was agony.

    And then, as suddenly as it came, it disappeared, and Nathanael was sucked into unconsciousness.
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 20/7/2012, 5:15 pm

    Sally Hemmings quietly walked up to the bedside of patient 0023.

    Out of all forty patients, he was the only one who hadn’t died. According to other Helli0n creation bases, a scarce few had lived. That is, if you could call being in a coma living.

    Forty-one total had ‘lived’. Four-hundred and fifty-nine had died…and had turned into those monstrosities.

    What a waste.

    Sally Hemmings recorded the numbers and statuses of the different machines. All of it was the same as it had been since he had sunk into the coma. For now, the heads of Helli0n were insistent on keeping the remaining forty one alive. Sally supposed that they were hoping that they would come out of their comas and they would have the results they wanted.

    She was supposed to just take the stats and leave. Just leave and report to the doctors more of the same. However, she stopped and looked at the sleeping face.

    Sally wasn’t supposed to.

    Everyone had stressed that they couldn’t think of the test subjects as people. They had to look at them as numbers, and nothing more. It would interfere with the work if they put a name, emotion, and past to the faces that they worked with.

    But how could someone view this man as a number?

    Even though he was twenty, he still had boyish features. The slightly rounded face, the soft skin, the shaggy light brown hair…it was completely adorable. It was a face that would become ruggedly handsome in a year or two.

    Sally placed a hand over the patient’s hand, “Don’t worry,” She whispered, “Everything will work out. You’ll see.”

    Some muscle in his forehead twitched.

    Sally felt shock resonate through her body. It was such a quick movement, she was sure she had imagined it. Surely he wasn’t waking up? This kind of thing never happened. A moment like this was strictly reserved for sappy movies when the coma patient woke up with the love of his/her life waiting beside their bed.

    That caused another stream of thoughts to enter Sally’s head.

    Did this man-who-was-a-number have a lover? A girlfriend? A wife? Did he have siblings, a family, a college he wanted to go to?

    Another small twitch. This time, a few seconds after the miniscule movement, his forehead creased like any other person coming out of an uncomfortable sleep.

    “He’s waking up.” Sally whispered, and then shouted, “HE’S WAKING UP!” She began to pull away to run and get the doctors, but the hand that she had placed hers over suddenly gripped her tightly, “Wait…please…don’t leave me.”

    His voice was small and uncertain; like a lost child in a large store trying to find his mother. As he said those words, his eyes flickered open, and Sally’s heart melted. The most adorable baby Bambi eyes looked up at her; pleading that she stay by his bedside.

    Sally squeezed his hand comfortingly, “Okay, I’ll stay right here. Let me just press the call button…” She leaned over to the small table and picked up the small hand-held device before pressing the red button on it. His eyes drifted shut while she did this.

    “Don’t worry, the doctors will be here in a quick moment, zero-zero-twenty-three.”

    “No.” The patient moaned, “No, don’t.”

    Sally felt alarm beginning to spread through her system, “Does something hurt? Do you need pain relievers? Can I~”

    “No numbers,” He said as he opened his eyes again, “No numbers. I’m Nathanael. Please, don’t…don’t call me a number.”

    Sally rubbed the back of his hand with her other free one, “Nathanael…that’s a nice name. Do people call you ‘Nathan’ for short?”

    “No…either Nathanael, Nate, or…you don’t call me anything at all…where am I? What happened? Is Nat okay?”

    Sally was about to answer his questions when a horde of doctors and nurses came storming in. She was immediately brushed aside, and with all the bodies bustling around, she couldn’t even see him anymore.
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 20/7/2012, 5:29 pm

    Nathanael felt lost and confused.

    All these people crammed in around his bed…it made him feel claustrophobic. And they all kept throwing questions at him. What the hell?!

    Nathanael hunkered down and pulled the sheets up around him tighter. Damn hospital gowns. They barely covered anything, and the material was always so damn itchy. And the doctors were still running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

    Feeling like he was in grade school, Nathanael raised his right hand; silently asking for permission to speak. Everyone went quiet. From how still they were, the Australian bachelor knew that they were holding their breath in anticipation.

    “Where am I, what happened, how long have I been out, and where’s Nat?” Nathanael ticked the questions off on his fingers. The sound of many pencils scribbling was heard before a doctor answered his questions, “You’re in a Helli0n base. The experimental drug sent you into a coma, and…you’ve been unconscious for a year.”

    “A year?! One whole effing year?! God damn!” Nathanael’s outraged face took on one of horror, “Wait, does my family know? Holy shit; I missed Joshua’s birthday…dammit, I promised him…”

    A doctor held up a hand to silence him, “Relax; your family was informed of your condition after the first week.”

    Nathanael let out a sharp exhale, “Did they come here?”

    “Goodness gracious, no! This is a highly secret base! We can’t just allow civilians to waltz in here and look around whenever they please.”

    The Aussie glared; something he rarely did, “They’re my family. They had a right.”

    “Actually, with the contract you signed, we were well within our boundaries.

    Nathanael sighed heavily. One whole year…dammit all…they must’ve been so worried about him, “Wait, exactly how long was I out?”

    “Exactly one year ago from today.” A nurse replied promptly.

    Okay, so at least he had the two months time to make it to Joshua’s ninth birthday party. Even still, Nathanael had promised that he would make it to his eighth…

    A thought popped into his head, “Wait, where’s Nat?”

    The doctors looked at him in confusion.

    “Nat. My roommate.”

    A few of the people rustled through their papers, but most still stared. Nathanael strained to remember what his friend had told him, “I think…my number is zero-zero-twenty-three…Nat was zero-zero-twenty-two.”

    “Double O twenty-two?” A doctor questioned.

    “Erm, yeah, Nat. Where is he?”

    The doctors all looked at each other uncertainly. It was a look that made the bachelor suspicious. A nurse nervously stepped forward, “Zero-zero-twenty-three~”

    “Nathanael. My name is Nathanael.”

    “Um, yes. You see…out of all five hundred patients…only forty one survived. They all went into comas…as far as we know; you’re the only one who has woken up. So far, you’re our only success.”

    Nathanael felt a stone of dread drop into his stomach, “Has Nat shown any signs of waking up yet?”

    The doctors and nurses shared another look before the same nurse continued on, “Patient zero-zero-twenty-two did not make it. He died…” She quickly checked the clipboard in her hands, “He died two minutes and thirty four seconds after being administered the experimental drug. Two minutes and thirty seconds appeared to be the average death rate.”

    “You…you bastards!” Nathanael exploded angrily, “You’re talking about life here! A human being! Yet you just stand there; gabbing away about average rates and how four hundred and fifty-nine human beings died! You…you sicken me.” The last part was spat out with enough venom to give a Taipan snake a run for its’ money.

    Before any of the doctors could reply, a Helli0n general burst into the room. It was easy to tell that he was a high ranking military guy, because he had the uniform, unbelievable muscle mass, a serious face, and a bunch of medals covering his chest. Everyone turned to face him; curious why he was there.

    “Other bases are reporting their comatose patients are waking up,” He announced breathlessly, “And they’ve all developed superhuman powers.”

    “All of them?” A nurse gasped out.

    “Every single one.” The general said firmly.

    One doctor smiled, “I think we’ve found our way to fight the Halogens.”

    “Do you think they’ll survive the Orez Time Warp?”

    “The Halogens did, so the forty-one patients must be able to.”

    “Sending through there would be begging Jvstice to kill them.”

    “—peace talks though. You never know if Jvstice might~”

    “This is perfect. We’ll have to run some tests~”

    “Do you think we can replicate more of them?”

    “—might be a stretch, but~”

    “EXCUSE ME!” Nathanael hollered out over their heads.

    All of them turned to face their patient; their only lead in the entire Australian Republic.
    The Aussie still looked considerably angry, “What the hell is a Halogen? And what’s Jvstice? And please don’t tell me that I’m going to be confined to this building for months on end, because I want to go home to my family. I’ve been gone for a whole bloody year, my little brother’s birthday is in two months, and I had promised him that I would be back in time for his last birthday.”

    The Helli0n general slowly approached his bedside, “Let’s start out with the simple ones, alright? For starters, the four hundred and fifty-nine ‘dead’ patients? They turned into zombies, pretty much. The whole she-bang with infecting other people and eating brains. We call them ‘Halogens’. Second, Jvstice. You see…we had a…betrayal. Dr. Mendoza released a few of the captured Halogens into the Orez Time Warp.”

    Nathanael’s eyes widened, “Oh shit.”

    “I can see that you figured it out. Yes, the Halogens went into a different time line and started attacking the world there…a world that is far more advanced than we are. They’ve sent war machines on us, because they think that we initiated this. They call themselves ‘Jvstice’.”

    A technician burst into the room, “Everybody, get down to the lower levels,” He said in a panicked voice, “We have extreme weather going on outside. They’re saying it’s very likely to turn into a tornado.”

    Everyone leapt into action.

    Doctors ran all about; gathering disks and flash drives from various medical machines that were in the room. Five nurses were attending to Nathanael to make sure that they could wheel him down to the lower levels without jostling him.

    So, about five minutes later, the whole Helli0n staff was tucked away three stories beneath the ground. As it turned out, they pretty much had another hospital there.

    Doctors and nurses continually asked Nathanael questions; how did he feel, could he move all limbs, did anything feel different at all…that kind of thing. And all Nathanael could do was say that he felt just fine.

    Maybe he really was a dud after all. Maybe he was the only bloke out of all forty one who didn’t have any awesome superpowers. Nathanael rested his head back against his pillows in misery. Great. Just great.

    The bachelor let out a sigh and thought of home.

    At least he if he was a failure, they would send him back. Then Nathanael could see mom, dad, and Joshua, and they could forget that any of this had ever happened.

    Now Nathanael turned wistful.

    He loved how the sun would shine down on the porch nearly every day. The two Willow brothers would always sprawl out on the wooden planks after swimming in the water hole, and they would talk about anything they felt like talking about.

    After a moment, Nathanael realized he hadn’t seen the sun in what seemed like…well, a year. He was hit with a sudden longing to see the yellow orb hanging in a blue sky; with wind ruffling through his hair and the sound of Joshua’s laughter as they goofed off.

    Fifteen minutes had passed since the technician had given them the tornado warning. Now, that same technician gazed intently at a computer screen with a frown on his face, “That’s odd…” He said aloud.

    Everyone looked to him, “What is it?” One nurse called out.

    The technician scratched his head, “The Doppler radar is saying that there’s nothing there anymore. That there’s nothing but clear skies and not a cloud in sight.”

    The Helli0n general pushed several people out of the way to look at the screen, “That’s impossible! It can’t go from a tornado warning to a blue sky in minutes! There must be something wrong with the machine.”

    “I swear there’s nothing wrong with it! We checked and modified every machine in the building just yesterday!”

    “Then how the hell…” The general trailed off as a realization dawned on his face. He slowly turned, and like the Red Sea for Moses, the crowd of doctors and nurses parted so he had a clean path to Nathanael.

    The bachelor shrunk down under all the eyes and as the general walked towards him.

    Clomp, clomp, clomp.

    Each thud of the military boots sounded like a nail being driven into a coffin. In the back of his mind, Nathanael wondered if they made the boots like that just for the effect.

    The general smiled.

    It was like Death was smiling at him.

    “I think zero-zero-twenty-three has developed a very useful superpower.”
    Halogen Newborn
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 20/7/2012, 11:16 pm

    “Come on, you can do it,” The instructor encouraged, “You just need to focus.”

    “I am focusing,” Nathanael growled, “And it’s not. Working.”

    Here he was; standing in the middle of the practice field among the other forty-one test subjects (or ‘isotopes’ as they were all called), with every other man or woman exercising their newfound powers, and he couldn’t figure out how to use his own.

    So far, Nathanael had seen some pretty BA powers.

    There was a tall, burly guy could make animate objects out of anything he wanted; even giant stone soldiers that stood a hundred plus feet high (though personally, Nathanael thought the bloke was a pompous ass). One woman used water to heal any wounds she wanted, whether it were her own wounds or another person’s. A tall, very quiet man manipulated light itself. Another woman could breathe icy air.

    One could see why Nathanael was frustrated. Every other isotope could use their powers just fine, but he couldn’t use his.

    Maybe it had something to do with the location. Maybe he just felt more comfortable back in the Australian Republic than in the NAC (Helli0n ordered that all isotopes be brought to their main base, much to the dismay of the Aussie).

    “Come on, you’re not focusing hard enough.” The instructor persisted.

    “It’s harder than it looks, you know,” Nathanael growled, “I don’t even know what the bloody hell I was doing back at home.”

    “Try and reduplicate it then.”

    “It would help if I actually knew what I was doing in the first place!”

    “You can do it. Just focus.”

    Nathanael shut his eyes tight and thought of rain. He imagined it pouring down by the bucketful; drenching the stupid instructor.

    When he opened his eyes, not a single storm cloud was in sight.

    Quite a few colorful expletives were said; causing many a head to turn in question. The instructor let out an irritated sigh, “You’re not focusing!”

    “If I focus any harder, I’m going to spontaneously combust!” Nathanael shouted angrily, “I’ve been focusing out the wazoo, and it’s clearly not working! I’m not one of your isotopes, alright? The incident back in the AR was just a fluky weather situation! Nothing more!”

    The instructor got right up in his grill, “You know what I think you are? I think you’re a lazy Australian bastard who is off in mambi-pambi land, and isn’t trying hard enough! If you would just focus~”

    “I’ve been focusing for the last goddamn hour!”

    By now, they had attracted the attention of every isotope on the field, but neither of them took notice as their anger levels grew, “If you’ve been focusing, you would’ve done something already!”

    “Exactly! I’m not cut out to be in this program! Send me home already!”

    “Dammit, just buckle down! You can do this!”

    “I CAN’T!”

    On the last word, for extra emphasis, Nathanael had stamped his foot down. Also on the last word, a bolt of lightning came down from the heavens and hit an oak tree. The tree set on fire, and a mighty boom shook the ground.

    Since everyone had been so occupied by the argument, they hadn’t seen the storm clouds that had manifested out of nowhere. Needless to say, all of them nearly crapped their pants from the sudden explosion of lightning.

    The woman who could breathe icy air quickly ran over to the tree and exhaled deeply; extinguishing the flames and replacing it with a thin layer of frost.

    Nathanael looked up at the angry dark storm clouds. Damn…his powers were pretty connected to his emotions.

    The instructor crossed his arms smugly, “I told you that you could do it.”

    “Yeah, but I sure as hell wasn’t focusing on making it happen. So much for that lesson.”
    Halogen Newborn
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 20/7/2012, 11:21 pm

    Nathanael began to learn how to make the weather change to his will rather than his emotions. Since the incident on the practice field, he knew that his powers were closely linked with how he felt. Thankfully he was a generally happy person, so it was sunny most of the time.

    But Nathanael didn’t want to get angry to make it storm.

    He found that when he thought of rain hitting his porch back in Australia, rain clouds would gather and release their water. When he thought of the violent thunderstorms that would shake the window panes of his house, the clouds would turn black and lightning would strike. When he thought of the great gusts of wind that blew through the trees in the front yard, wind would form.

    Basically, when he thought of the weather back home; that weather would manifest. And speaking of home…

    “Look, according to you guys, I should’ve been back in the AR by this morning,” Nathanael said as he struggled to keep his anger down, “But this is the third time you’ve pushed the date back.”

    The Helli0n officials didn’t even look up from their papers, “Yes, we know. However, there are still some more tests we would like to run…not to mention, your abilities are moving along marvelously. A little more training before going home wouldn’t hurt, now would it?”

    Nathanael inhaled deeply before responding, “I’m much better at keeping my emotions in check than when I first came here. The bottom line is that you blokes keeping pushing back my departure date every time we get close to it. My brother’s birthday is in ten days, and I promised I would be there for it.”

    One Helli0n official looked up from his papers with a cold look, “Then maybe you shouldn’t have promised something you couldn’t deliver.”

    “Then maybe Helli0n should keep their promises!” Nathanael shot back angrily.

    Now all the Helli0n officials looked up at him; all with varying degrees of cold contempt, “You will leave five days from now. If you try to escape, you will be imprisoned.”

    “On what charges?!” Nathanael asked in outrage.

    “Use your imagination.” Another man said curtly, “You are dismissed.”

    Nathanael growled and spun on heel before storming out of the office. A loud clap of thunder signified that the bachelor had once again allowed his emotions to rule his powers.

    The right thing to do was to go to the nearest pay phone and tell his parents that he wouldn’t be coming home for another five days. However, Nathanael was much too angry to hold a decent conversation with anyone at the moment. So instead, he stomped his way out into the practice field, which was mercifully empty.

    Overhead, black thunderclouds rolled, and the wind blew at alarming speeds. Nathanael let out an enraged shout, raised his hands, and brought them down in a slashing motion.

    A net of lightning shot across the sky, and rain started to fall. It was the kind of rain that soaked a person when they were outside for just a few seconds. It fell hard and fast, and coupled with the wind, it really stung the skin when it hit.

    Nathanael didn’t notice the minor pain.

    He let out another mad shout, and with another slashing motion, a bolt of lightning cleaved an oak tree in half. The rain hit the ground with such force, the water splashed back up slightly before returning to the grass. Overhead, the black thunder clouds gained a greenish hue and began to swirl dangerously.

    “Nathanael?” A tentative voice asked.

    The bachelor spun angrily. Who dared disturb him when he was like this? Could Helli0n just not leave him alone? Could he not have five God damn minutes to himself?

    A woman stood there with her arms wrapped around her torso. She was completely drenched from the driving rain; her long dark blonde hair was plastered to the sides of her face and clinging like tentacles to the sides of her neck. In the back of his mind, Nathanael noticed that she was shivering.

    “Who are you?” He demanded harshly.

    “My name is Sally. Sally Hemmings.”

    “I don’t know you.” The bachelor said in the same harsh tone.

    The woman seemed to shrink a little, “I…I’m not surprised. We only talked for a few seconds, and you had just come out of your coma. You were a bit disoriented too.”

    Nathanael’s anger came to a screeching halt, “Huh?”

    Sally nodded, but didn’t say anything. Overhead, the clouds stopped swirling, and the rain lessened ever-so slightly.

    Nathanael thought hard about waking up in the hospital. There had been a woman…she had held his hand when he came to…something about numbers…and names…

    “I called you by your number because I didn’t know your name,” Sally said quietly, “Even in your semi-conscious state, you didn’t want to be a number. You wanted to be a person, and a person has a name.”

    Nathanael nodded slowly, “I think…I think I remember. It’s a bit foggy though…”

    Sally gave a small smile, “Do you want some help remembering?”

    “I’d like that.”

    All of the sudden, Nathanael felt weak and dropped to his knees. He cursed himself for draining his powers that much. They were nowhere near ready to sustain a storm like he had been brewing.

    Sally knelt down beside him and looped one of his arms around her shoulders. With a grunt of effort, she managed to get the bachelor back on his feet. From their knees down to their shoes, they were covered in mud. They both smiled at each other and made their way inside.

    As they walked, the rain stopped and the black storm clouds dissipated; leaving a clear, unbroken blue sky and a bright yellow sun.
    Halogen Newborn
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 20/7/2012, 11:25 pm

    “So if you work in the Australian Republic,” Nathanael inquired, “Why are you here? Did you get transferred?”

    Sally smiled, “Sort of. They gathered a few nurses and doctors from all the different Helli0n facilities and brought them to the NAC. Maybe they just wanted a variety of opinions. I don’t completely understand it, but I didn’t dare protest being moved half-way across the world.”

    “Yeah, you got that right.” Nathanael said darkly; thinking of Helli0n’s threat to him if he tried to run away.

    They were currently sitting in a lounge area; complete with comfy lazy-boy chairs, coffee tables, couches, and lamps. Nathanael decided to sit in a leather seat, and Sally took the one next to him. Thankfully, they were the only ones there, so they had privacy.

    “What about you?” Sally asked, “Why did you decide to do the program?”

    The bachelor sighed and leaned back in his chair, “Well, the only thing I’m really interested in is music. I went to college and got a degree in it and everything; it’s just that I couldn’t find any recording company that would take me. I had no idea what I was going to do until I heard about Helli0n. I figured that if everything worked out, I’d be able to make boat loads of money.”

    “But…” Sally questioned in a trail-off.

    “This whole thing…it creeps me out,” Nathanael said as he struggled to find words for how he felt, “For starters, none of the doctors or staff call us by our names; we’re all just numbers. I hate that. How can they look at us and just see a number?”

    Something flashed through Sally’s eyes. It was so quick, Nathanael almost didn’t see it. But he did, “What is it?”

    Sally shifted in her chair, “It’s just that…well…I thought the same thing the day you woke up. I was supposed to just take the stats from the machines and leave, but I stopped and looked at your face. It…um, it was then that I questioned how anyone could look at you and think of a number.”

    Her face was bright red in embarrassment.

    Nathanael decided to pretend that he didn’t notice, “At least there’s one person in Helli0n who understands me.” Sally’s face turned an even brighter red, but Nathanael continued on; staring at the opposite wall, “Anyways, the number thing is just the start. All of them look at us like we’re not human beings…it’s like we’re lab rats. I suppose since they already killed off four hundred and fifty nine of us, they don’t really care.”

    He sighed, “Then there’s how Helli0n keeps pushing back my departure date.”

    “You’re leaving?” Sally asked with a hurt-puppy dog expression on.

    “Briefly, yes. I promised my brother Joshua that I would make it back for his eighth birthday, but then I fell into a coma for a year. When I got access to a phone after waking up, I called my family and said that I would make it to his ninth birthday. I did this after Helli0n accepted my request for time off…but they keep pushing the date back. I should’ve been in Australia this morning. Now I won’t be leaving for another five days, and Joshua’s birthday is in ten. I’m really worried that I won’t be able to make it…”

    There was a moment of silence.

    It wasn’t awkward in the slightest. They were both in deep thought about what Nathanael had said about Helli0n.

    Sally’s thoughts were in turmoil, whereas the bachelor was just depressed. It was now that she could see how right he was.

    Helli0n did care for their isotopes, but only in the sense that they were afraid they would lose their weapons. The number system may have been convenient while things were still new, and they needed order…but now they were dealing with people. And Sally realized that Nathanael was right about how Helli0n treated the isotopes similar to lab rats.

    Test after test after test after test.

    That was all their lives were filled with now. Then, with Nathanael’s continual attempts to go back home to his family, it showed even further how Helli0n wanted to keep their isotopes tucked firmly under its’ wings.

    “What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get home?” Sally found herself asking. Damn, she needed a mouth filter or something. That was not the right question to be asking since the bachelor was so down.

    Surprisingly, Nathanael smiled, “I’m going to hug Joshua. Hug him and not let go for a long time. Then I’ll apologize for missing his birthday.”

    “Then what?”

    “I’ll hug my mom, and apologize for making her worry, then I’ll hug my dad and apologize for getting into trouble. His parting words were an order than I not get into any…and look at where I am now.” Nathanael smiled fondly as he described what he would do.

    Sally couldn’t resist asking, “You’re going to be coming back though, right?”

    Nathanael then looked her in the eye. The first answer that came to mind was, “I wish I didn’t have to.” However, he realized that would hurt her feelings drastically. The second answer he thought of was, “For you, I will.” That sounded too cheesy, so he decided upon the third answer, “Yes, I’ll be back.”

    Sally’s eyes didn’t leave him, “How long will you be gone?”

    “Three days Australian time. Don’t forget, there’s about a half a day’s difference between this time zone and that one. So more like three and a half days.”

    Nathanael then stood up, “I’m going to go call my family. They still need to know that I’m not coming for another five days. It’s been nice talking with you.”

    Sally hastily went to her feet, “Yeah, same here. Maybe we can talk later?”

    The bachelor nodded, “Sure. Maybe you can work it so you’re the nurse doing my routine check-up.”

    “I think I can arrange it.”

    “Great. See you later!”

    Halogen Newborn
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 20/7/2012, 11:31 pm

    “Hey Joshua!” Nathanael said brightly, “How’s things at the house?”

    “Nate, when are you coming home?” Joshua whined.

    The bachelor smiled even though his younger brother couldn’t see it, “I told you yesterday, Sport. Just four more days now.”

    “Do you know what’s in nine days?”

    “Hmm…I can’t think of anything…”

    “Nathanael!” Joshua whined, “It’s my birthday! My ninth birthday. You’d better not forget about it this time!”

    Nathanael tried to defend himself, “Kiddo, I didn’t forget about it last year, I was in a coma. You can hardly blame me for that. Besides, I was making a bunch of plans for your last birthday. I was going to get balloons, confetti, noisemakers, and I was even gonna—”

    He cut himself off just in time. He almost just gave away the fact that he and his parents were working on a surprise party for Joshua. It was just going to be the four of them, and then the next day, friends of the family would show up for the second day of celebration.

    “What were you gonna do?” Joshua questioned eagerly.

    Nathanael struggled to think of something plausible, “I was gonna…um…perform some of my abilities! Yeah, you’ll see lots of cool stuff, Joshua.”

    “You said you can control the weather, right?”

    “Yeah?” Nathanael waited for the second part of the question.

    “It’s raining outside, and Kenny and I were gonna ride our bikes today. Can you make it stop raining?”

    Nathanael laughed, “Squirt, it doesn’t quite work that way…actually, it does, but I’m a continent away. I can’t control the weather from that kind of distance. You and Kenny will just have to ride your bikes tomorrow.”

    “Aw, come on!” Joshua complained, “Oh, hang on; mom wants to talk to you now.”

    “Alright, love you, Joshua!”

    “Love you too, Nate!”

    There was a small pause before Alexis had the phone, “Nate?”

    “Hey mom!” Nathanael said cheerily, “Just four more days!”

    Alexis sighed, “Unless they push the date back again. It’s unfair of them to get our hopes up just to have you tell us that you’ll be another week, another week, another week.”

    Nathanael sighed back and ran a hand through his hair, “I know, mom, but I told you that I can’t do anything about it. They’ll charge me with treason or something if I try running.”

    “What about the government?”

    “Two reasons why I can’t go to the government: one, Helli0n has given them a lot of money for funding and whatnot. Two, apparently in the contract I signed, I agreed to all this crap. Though even when I ask, they don’t let me see the paper I put my signature on…”

    “Aside from that, how are things in the NAC?”

    Nathanael looked down at his shoes, “It’s fricking cold, mom. And when I tried to make it warmer, the Helli0n whackers yelled at me for screwing with the seasons.”

    Alexis made a worried noise, “Don’t freeze up there. Do you have any warm clothes?”

    “I didn’t think it’d be this cold. Hell, I didn’t think it’d be cold at all. One guy loaned me a sweatshirt that was too small for him, and Sally, the nurse I told you about, she went out and got me some long pants, a hat, and a pair of gloves.”

    “This Sally girl sounds really nice,” Alexis said, “Alright, now your father is wanting the phone. I love you, Nathanael. Don’t get into any trouble that’ll keep you back!”

    “Affirmative, mum.”

    Another pause.

    “Alright, you troublesome little bastard, what’s the news? Something about freezing and a girl?” His father’s joking voice came over the phone.

    Nathanael smiled, “You wouldn’t believe how cold it is up here, dad. And for the girl…I kinda wish she could come to the AR with me and celebrate Joshua’s birthday.”

    “Oooo, a meeting of the parents?”

    “Oh, shut it.”

    Todd cackled mercilessly, “Nathanael and Sally sittin’ in a tree; k-i-s-s-i-n-g!”

    “Come on, Dad! I’m twenty years old! And what are you, fifty-five?”

    “Ouch. That cuts deep, Nate. And for your information, I’m only forty-six.”

    Nathanael grinned, “Still getting up in years, old man.”

    “You’ll be old one day too, and you’ll probably have your kid calling you that. What goes around comes around.”

    “That won’t be coming around for a loooooooooooooooong time.”

    “Tch, says you! One day you’ll blink and find yourself with a wife and four kids. Another blink later, you’re having this conversation with one of your kids. One more blink, and you’re surrounded by fourteen grandkids.”

    Nathanael’s grin went wider, “You’re looking forward to that last one, aren’t you?”

    “Damn straight I am,” Todd proclaimed, “You need to get cracking on those grandkids, bucko. I want at least one of them named after me!”

    A tap on Nathanael’s shoulder alerted him that another one of the isotopes wanted to use the phone, “Hey dad, someone’s behind me, and I’ve been on for my share of time. I’ll call you tomorrow, alright?”

    “Sounds good. Love you, son.”

    “I love you too, dad.”
    Halogen Newborn
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 24/7/2012, 3:51 pm

    “Has Helli0n pushed back your departure date?” Sally asked as she shined a light into Nathanael’s eyes.

    “Nah, not yet,” He replied as he tried not to move away, “But the last three times, they’ve always waited until the morning of to tell me. It’s still three days for now though…did Helli0n approve your request to go back?”

    Sally sighed and shook her head, “No. They said my work here is needed, and they can’t afford to give me time off.”

    “It’s just three days,” Nathanael groused, “They’re such stingy little bludgers.”

    The blonde laughed, “And what does that word mean?”

    Sally was always asking what words meant. Nathanael used them so often, it felt like she needed a dictionary for them all. The bachelor was always compliant and told her what they were in English.

    “Lazy people. People who sit around and do nothing.”

    “You usually call them…what was it…whackers?”

    Nathanael grinned, “Changing up the pace a bit…not to mention that word is a tad bit inappropriate to say in front of a lady as fine as you.”

    Sally gave him a light whack over his head, “You’d better not become a chauvinist on me. I’ve worked with soldiers; trust me, I’ve heard worse.”

    The bachelor grabbed her wrist before she could take it away, “How about a little picnic this afternoon? I could always lift some stuff from the kitchens.”

    “You sneaky little Aussie,” Sally scolded. After a quick pause, she smiled, “Alright, just don’t get caught.”

    Nathanael hopped off the table and bowed gallantly, “For you, my lady, I will try my very hardest.”

    An hour later

    “Not bad.” Sally said thoughtfully as she looked at the array of food. A loaf of fresh baked bread, bananas, strawberries, grapes, a cut pineapple, crackers, and four different cheeses surrounded a vanilla cake…which had attempted pink and yellow flowers on it, “Though what’s with the craftsmanship on the dessert?”

    Nathanael rubbed the back of his head sheepishly, “No one in the kitchens knew how to make frosting flowers, so it was up to me to reduplicate how my mom makes them…I obviously didn’t pay that close attention to her.”

    Sally laughed and scooped a pink flower off with her finger before sticking it in her mouth, “It still tastes the same, doesn’t it?”

    The bachelor smiled and plopped down onto the red and white checkered blanket; happy that she was happy with his little presentation of food.

    As the sun made its’ way across the sky, the two talked, ate, and laughed. For the first time since coming out of his coma, Nathanael felt normal. No powers, no isotopes, no Helli0n…just him and the girl he liked as they chatted.

    Years later, he had no idea what he had said that made Sally do what she did next. She grabbed a fistful of the vanilla cake and smeared it onto his cheek.

    Nathanael laughed and in return, grabbed a fistful and dragged it along her forehead. Sally gave a little yelp of surprise before the picnic turned into an all out food fight. Thankfully, there wasn’t a whole lot left to ruin, except for the cake.

    Sally dropped a handful down Nathanael’s shirt and wrapped her arms around him to make the cake smear everywhere. Nathanael lost his balance and fell down; brining her with him.

    And then suddenly, her back was on the ground, he was on top of her, and their faces were a scant inch apart.

    His Bambi brown eyes looked into her ocean blue orbs. Frosting was still smeared across their faces, and cracker crumbs were stuck to their hair and shoulders…not to mention their bodies were pressed together.

    Nathanael felt his heart beating traitorously against her chest, just as he felt her heart beating against his. His breathing was a tad bit shallow, and in the back of his mind, he was having a minor panic attack if his breath smelled good or not.

    Then, leaning forward that scant inch, Nathanael gently pressed his lips against Sally’s before withdrawing quickly. Sally leaned up and returned the kiss, but stayed there much longer.

    In Nathanael’s mind, fireworks exploded.

    Unbeknownst to the two, a Helli0n officer watched from an upper story with binoculars. He scowled deeply at the couple below before picking up his cell phone and dialing a number, “Sir, I think we have to do something about zero-zero-twenty-three.”
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 24/7/2012, 3:55 pm

    “Two more days! Two more days! Two more days!” Nathanael shouted at the top of his lungs as he performed his signature cartwheels down the hallways. Isotopes sprang hastily out of the way to avoid his feet, which were inconveniently at about their face height.

    The Aussie had been doing his cartwheels the second that he put down the phone from talking with his family. Thoughts were racing through his head a thousand miles a minute. ‘Home’ was the dominant one, followed by Joshua’s birthday and telling Sally about his excitement.

    Nathanael continued on with his chant until his head cracked against something solid, “Son of a bitch!” He shouted as he fell to the ground and cradled his wounded skull.

    “You’re creating a disturbance, soldier,” A beefy man said, “You should be more mature.”

    Peering up through watering eyes, Nathanael recognized the man as the isotope who could make animate objects rise up from anything. A marble replica of him was what the Aussie had smashed into.
    Both were scowling down at him.

    “What, is my happiness killing you?” Nathanael asked as he hauled himself to his feet; still rubbing his head.

    “As I just said, we are soldiers, and we should act like it.”

    Nathanael felt like making the universal cuckoo symbol, “Look matey, lighten up. I’m happy because I’m going home and I’ll be able to see my parents and my little brother. You know, the family that I haven’t seen in over a year?”

    The man’s face turned as stony as the replica, “Soldier, you need to learn to contain yourself. From what I’ve heard, you need to keep your emotions in check because of your powers.”

    “Then you should know,” Nathanael said cheerily, “If I’m happy, the weather is good. If I’m mad, the weather turns bad. So please, don’t piss off the Aussie; he may smite you.”

    That said, he skipped past the hard ass isotope and continued on with his chant…until he met Sally two cartwheels later.

    Nathanael swooped her into his arms and spun her much like a pair of dancers would on their final move before they would kiss, “Sally, my elegant moon blossom. Your flaxen hair swings like a mare. Your rosy cheeks make roses look meek. Your ocean blue eyes send shivers up my sides. Your holly red lips…do something. I can’t think of anything fitting for how beautiful they look.”

    Sally giggled, “How long did you come up with that?”

    “About ten seconds ago.”

    They two shared a passionate kiss; earning lots of whistles, hoots, and hollering from the people around them. Nathanael swung Sally upright, but still held her close, “Just two more days. I’ll be sure to send you lots of pictures. Maybe we could even set up a video chat thing so you could be there virtually!”

    Sally giggled again, “How on Earth are you going to survive these next two days? You are way too wired to wait another hour.”

    Nathanael kissed her once more, “I can think of a way to pass the time. There’s a tree in the courtyard that has our name on it…along with a guitar in the branches and some sheet music I wrote for this pretty woman I know.”

    “Nathanael Willow, you are a shameless flirt.”

    “Is it working?”

    “Maybe a little.”
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 24/7/2012, 3:59 pm

    Nathanael looked at his watch for the umpteenth time, “Come on, come on!” He growled impatiently, “Why isn’t this going by any faster?” Wind whipped around this way and that; as though it were confused about which way it was supposed to be going.

    Sally came up from behind him and rested a hand on his shoulder, “And here I thought you would be bouncing off the walls today.”

    The bachelor collapsed into the grass and moaned, “Sally, this is killing me! I just can’t wait any more! I want to go home and see Joshua, mom, dad, my friends, jump in the waterhole, lay down on the porch, ride my motorcycle, go through all the songs that I wrote and left in my room, smell the Australian Republic air, look at the Outback, climb my weeping cherry tree…I…I just want to go home!”

    Sally gave him a look that said she felt his pain, “Nate, it’s almost here. Just one more night, and you’re there! And Helli0n hasn’t changed the date on you again!”

    “They still have a whole twenty-four hours to retract that agreement.”

    The nurse gave him a playful nudge, “Enough doom and gloom. Did you call your family yet?”

    “Yeah, they know I’m coming. We talked for a good half hour.”

    “Did you pack everything?”

    “I packed everything at six in the morning.”

    “Couldn’t sleep?”

    “Only a few hours.”

    Sally nudged him again, but this time, Nathanael wiggled away slightly. A grin spread over her face, “What’s this?”

    Nathanael covered his torso with his arms, “Nothing.”

    “You’re ticklish!”

    The Aussie attempted to roll away, “No I’m not!”

    Sally pounced on him and tickled any part of his stomach that wasn’t covered by his arms. Nathanael squirmed and laughed while trying to fight her off. The two rolled around in the grass; for the moment, completely forgetting everything else.

    From a window in the building, six officers of Helli0n looked down on them.

    “I see what you meant.” One of them said finally.

    “His previous life is distracting him.”

    “As is the woman.”

    There was a small pause as they watched the couple roll around some more.

    “He’ll come back though. He’s only going to be gone for three days.”

    “You’ve seen how he’s been chomping at the bit to go back. Assuming that he wouldn’t disappear into the Australian Outback, his head and heart is always going to be there. He won’t be able to focus.”

    “We’ve had a select few isotopes with the same problem. Our scientists have taken this into consideration with the next generation of isotopes. To ensure that they won’t be distracted by the past, they won’t have one other than the one they have.”

    “Test tube babies?”

    “Exactly. Except we’re trying to manipulate it so that we don’t have to wait for them to grow up. Scientists think that adulthood will give the isotopes too much free will, and toddlers to pre-teen are too young and will take too long…they’re thinking teenagers. They’ll be made as young as thirteen, possibly twelve, and we’ll train them.”

    “How long is this expected to take?”

    “We’re still a few years away from manipulating the cells like that.”

    “Gentlemen, if we could get back to the main issue here?”

    The couple were now just lying down in the grass and looking at the sky; unaware of the scheming men above them.
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 30/7/2012, 12:36 pm

    Nathanael was excited beyond belief. He was currently wheeling his luggage bag down the hallway at a full sprint; shouting to anyone in his line of sight that he was going home. Unfortunately, Sally was slammed with a load of paperwork, so she couldn’t see him off.

    Another unfortunate fact was that Nathanael wasn’t able to contact his family. Maybe they had all been out when he called the house.

    It didn’t matter.

    He was going to see them in a few hours anyway.

    Thankfully, Helli0n had their own planes, so Nathanael didn’t have to wait an unbearable drive to the airport. All he had to do was sprint for all he was worth to make sure that Helli0n wouldn’t stop him before he got on the plane and delayed him another few days.

    Nathanael burst out the doors and saw which plane he would be getting on, because it was currently pulling out onto the runway. Also, it was pretty small; just a two person plane. It would be enough to get to the AR though.

    “Zero-zero-twenty-three!” A voice from behind called.

    The Aussie ran even faster. Maybe he could pretend that he didn’t hear the guy, and he could hop on the plane. Of course, the person could always flag the pilot down and talk to Nathanael anyways.

    “Zero-zero-twenty-three!” The voice called again.

    Nathanael threw his bag onto the plane and had a hand and a foot inside when a hand clamped down on his shoulder. Turning around, he recognized the man as one of the Helli0n board who kept pushing back his departure date.

    Anger bubbled up, “I’m leaving!” Nathanael shouted over the noise of the plane’s engine, “You’ve pushed this day back long enough! I’m going home to my family!”

    “Zero-zero-twenty-three, that’s why I have to talk to you,” The man shouted back, “We just received word from the AR! Your family is dead; they died in a house fire!”
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 30/7/2012, 12:40 pm

    Nathanael couldn’t breathe.

    His chest seemed to be paralyzed. Everything spun in dizzying circles as his heart jumped up into his throat and pounded in his ears.

    Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

    “What?” He managed to squeeze out from his lungs.

    The Helli0n official shouted, “Look, we’ll talk more about this inside!”

    The world stopped spinning. His muscles released their death grip on his lungs.

    “I have to go home now more than ever,” Nathanael shouted back, “I don’t care what you say or do; I’m going home!” The Aussie stepped inside the plane fully and shut the door on the Helli0n official’s angered/shocked face.

    “Let’s roll.” He said to the pilot as he strapped in next to the man.

    Once they had been in the air for a good hour, the thoughts slammed into Nathanael.

    “They’re dead.”


    “Maybe that’s why I couldn’t get a hold of them this morning.”

    “He was going to be nine.”

    “They’re dead.”

    “I promised him…I promised him…”

    “Dad said not to get into any trouble.”

    “They’re dead.”

    “I was going to show Joshua my powers. He would’ve loved them.”

    “They’re dead.”

    “They’re dead.”


    Nathanael put his head in his hands and starting crying deep, hard sobs. Everything that he had wanted to do. Everything that he had so carefully planned for when he first walked up the stairs and onto the front porch…gone.

    The grief that struck him was actually physical. Nathanael felt a twisting pain in his torso that kept him from straightening up. His eyes burned from the river of tears that streamed from them. His heart felt like it wanted to wither up and die.

    Eventually, the pilot tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “Hey buddy, are you okay?”

    It took Nathanael a few minutes to shake his head and reply, “No…no I’m not…m-my family is d-dead.”

    He didn’t see the pilot’s reaction, but he heard him say, “Jesus, I’m sorry dude. Weren’t you going home to see them?”

    “Y-yes. Joshua…my b-brother. H-he was going to be nine…I p-promised t-that I’d be h-home for his b-b-birthday.”

    “Damn…I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do?”

    “Just…just get me home.”
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 30/7/2012, 12:44 pm

    Someone once said, “Home is where the heart is.” Nathanael’s heart had always been at his little house with his mom, dad, and Joshua; on the fields surrounding the wooden structure and in the weeping cherry tree where he wrote his songs.

    The burnt smell of wood and grass greeted Nathanael’s senses before he even set eyes on his home. When he arrived, he fell to his knees in grief.

    The fields around his house were burnt; leaving a blackened carpet of land behind. His house was nearly leveled except for a few stubborn support beams that were black from the flames. Then, upon seeing a small stump where his grand weeping cherry tree once stood, Nathanael struggled hard not to break down again.

    Memories of the place flooded into his mind. Memories of sitting on the porch with Joshua. Memories of hovering over his mom’s shoulder while she baked Christmas cookies. Memories of him as a wee tyke cuddled up in his dad’s comfy reading chair while his dad read story after story to him.

    Nathanael dug his fingers into the black soil, but clenched his jaw to keep any noise from coming out. He wasn’t alone, after all. Firemen were still checking for the cause of the fire. Police were trying to keep the horde of spectators back. And the coroner was still there; waiting for him to identify the bodies.

    The Aussie shakily climbed to his feet and made his way over. Three stretchers were there, and each was covered with a white sheet. Wind threatened to rip them away, but they were held in place with ropes.

    Nathanael swallowed past his thick throat, “If I can just see my parents’ wedding rings,” He choked out, “I’d recognize them. I…I can’t…I can’t see…I can’t look…”

    The coroner nodded sympathetically before lifting one section of the white sheet on the first stretcher. Nathanael bit his lip so hard, blood beaded up. He recognized the elegant gold band that twined around the burnt and blackened finger.

    “My mom.” Nathanael croaked. The wind picked up even further. Rain clouds threatened to release their load.

    The coroner moved onto the second stretcher and lifted a section of the white sheet. Nathanael tried to lock his throat muscles at the sight of the solid gold band around the corpse’s finger, “My dad.” He eventually said.

    As the coroner moved to uncover the third stretcher, Nathanael begged, “Isn’t there clothing? Something I could recognize without—”

    “You’re lucky the wedding rings even survived,” The woman said bluntly, “All the clothes burned away. You’ll just have to see if you recognize this one.” She pulled the sheet back, and the smell of burnt flesh rose up.

    Nathanael turned away as whatever breakfast he had made its’ appearance. The coroner waited patiently until his vomiting turned into dry heaving before asking, “Do you recognize it?”

    “Joshua,” Nathanael said through streaming eyes, “It’s my brother Joshua.”

    The coroner nodded and recovered the body, “I’ll have them sent to the morgue until the funeral arrangements are made…I’m sorry for you loss.” She motioned to some men nearby, and they wheeled the three stretchers away.

    Nathanael fell to his knees again as the rain clouds above them rained the Aussie’s grief.
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 30/7/2012, 12:49 pm

    “My family is dead. Dead!” Nathanael shouted into the phone, “All of them are dead, and you’re still saying that I have to go back in two days?!”

    “Zero-zero-twenty-three, your tone is not acceptable.”

    Nathanael slammed his fist against the wall, “Damn it all! I have a name and I expect to be called it!”

    He could almost feel the ice coming out of the receiver, “Zero-zero-twenty-three, your tone and your attitude are not acceptable. You will return, as planned, two days from now to the NAC Helli0n creation base. Do I make myself clear?”

    “My family is dead,” Nathanael whispered into the mouthpiece, “My mom, my dad, and my eight-year-old brother. Doesn’t that mean anything to you? Don’t those lives lost affect you in any way?”

    “Zero-zero-twenty-three,” The Helli0n official on the other end said coldly, “Every time I draw a breath, countless people draw their last. You family happened to be three of those countless. In short, I do not care that they died. Remember, you will return in two days time. Good bye.”

    Nathanael yelled into the phone for a good five minutes before he realized that he had been hung up on. The Aussie slammed the phone back into its cradle and stormed around for awhile. A canon shot of thunder made the window panes rattle, and the three people in the room cringed from the noise.

    One of them was a woman, and the other two were men. They were helping Nathanael with the funeral arrangements when it occurred to the bachelor that he should call Helli0n and ask for an extended stay.

    So they had two days to plan and execute a funeral for three people. That entailed tracking down friends, breaking the bad news to them, figuring out what time the funeral would be, getting a caterer for after the funeral, buying a plot of land in the graveyard, contacting a carpenter to make coffins, hiring a priest, and finally, Nathanael making a speech for his only family in the whole world.

    They didn’t know that he had superpowers, but they knew that something was different about him. The fact that he was yelling about being called a name contributed to their fast forming speculations.

    Nathanael ignored their looks and flopped down into a chair, “Alright, so where were we at again?”

    The woman, Barbara, immediately picked up from where she left off, “From the list you’ve given us, we’ve found phone numbers for all of your friends. Now, two days will be incredibly short timing to pull off a funeral if you insist on being there~”

    “They’re my family,” Nathanael said as he pinched his nose between two fingers, “I’m not going to blow them off.”

    The first man, Harold cut in, “Yes, of course. Now, when did your boss say you had to be back?”

    Nathanael sighed, “He didn’t say. He just said two days.”

    “Then let’s make it early Sunday morning then,” The third and final man, Barry, said quietly, “That should leave enough time for the service and for the burial. You might not be able to stay for the luncheon, but if you had to miss a part of the funeral, then that would be the one to aim for.”

    Barbara nodded vigorously, “I’ve already contacted a priest, Father Timothy. I believe you are familiar with him?”

    “He was my priest, yes.”

    “He was most sympathetic,” Barbara prattled on, “He said that he wanted to see you…and he something about how you probably haven’t gone to a confession since you left for your job.”

    Nathanael gave a soft snort and a brief smile. Father Timothy always seemed to be after him for going into confession. Perhaps the old man thought that Nathanael needed to confess his party nights in college…

    “The grave keeper told us that he has arranged an area in the graveyard,” Barry said in the same quiet voice. Nathanael actually had to lean forward to hear him, “It’s a family plot; plenty big enough for your family…and if you and any others were to join them in eternal rest.”

    There was a moment of silence that was entirely awkward for the bachelor.

    “Well,” He finally said, “That may be sooner rather than later. Now since the address book was burned in the fire, I’m going to need some help in looking for names and numbers of the people connected to my family…”
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 30/7/2012, 12:58 pm

    The large bell above the church tolled mournfully. Dozens of people garbed in black shuffled into the church and took the small programs that had been laid out on a chair right outside the large congregation room. Three caskets, two large and one small, were lined up in front of the alter, as well as the podium that had been placed there for the speakers.

    Nathanael stood tall at the entrance of the room dressed in a suit he managed to rent; accepting hugs, handshakes, and the many, many, many condolences. Strangely, the bachelor held it together. Perhaps it was because for now, he just felt an empty pit inside him that swallowed all emotions whole.

    Maybe that was why the skies were gray and lifeless…because he was lifeless.

    An old man garbed in robes gently tapped the microphone on the podium and spoke, “If everyone could please take a seat now, we’re going to begin the service.” His weathered eyes found Nathanael and gave him a small nod.

    Recognizing Father Timothy almost instantly, Nathanael returned the nod. The old pastor had gained a few wrinkles since the Aussie had last seen him, but otherwise, he was nearly unchanged.

    As opposed to him.

    After a few minutes, and when everyone was seated and settled, Father Timothy began to speak, “As you all know, we are gathered here today for the passing of Alexis, Todd, and Joshua Willow. Unfortunately, we’re on a bit of a tight schedule here, so if everyone could please open the prayer book…”

    Nathanael’s voice joined those around him as they said the proper prayers for his family. His throat constricted suddenly during the middle of them, and the man next to him gave him a comforting squeeze on the shoulder at the strangled sound that came out. Rain began to patter against the roof of the church; his powers showing his emotion.

    “Nate, would you like to say something?” Father Timothy asked gently.

    Feeling numb, Nathanael felt his legs walking up to the podium and his body turning to face the mass of people who had gathered. For a few seconds, he looked out at the faces of those in mourning.

    The bachelor recognized neighbors and family friends. He recognized friends from high school, and their parents. He recognized some of Joshua’s friends, who had tears flowing openly down their faces. He recognized college mates, college blokes of his parents, and people who had bought fundraiser products from him.

    All who had come because they had some tie to the Willow family.

    Nathanael swallowed hard. He hadn’t prepared a eulogy. Every time he tried, it came out sounding wrong, and didn’t do his family justice. However, the words that came out of his mouth flowed from his heart.

    “My family wasn’t special in any notable way,” He said with a strong current of grief running through his voice, “My dad had a masters in mechanical engineering. My mom didn’t even go to college. Joshua was still learning how to use his roller blades.”

    There were a few light smiles at the last statement, and Nathanael continued on, “But they were special to those who knew them best. Whenever I was upset or depressed, my dad would get two Cokes from the fridge, force me out to the fence on the perimeter of our property, and we would talk until I was happy again. He always made room for me in his plush chair so we could read together, and unless he was too lazy to get out of bed, he would always help my mom at meal time.

    “My mom would hold me tight and chase away my fears. When I was at college, she picked up the phone no matter what time it was; because she knew her baby boy was homesick or heartbroken. At Christmas, when making cookies, dad would always strictly forbid me from eating one before dinner, but mom would slip me one without him seeing.”

    Nathanael’s rapidly thickening throat and watering eyes made his voice start to crack in places, but he continued on, “And Joshua…what can one say about your younger brother by twelve years? At times I wanted to boot him to the moon for messing up my room, or constantly following me around when I was trying to write music. Most times though, Joshua and I loved being brothers. From swimming in the water hole to sprawling out on the porch to dry. From riding our bikes together to laughing hysterically when racing down steep hills.”

    Now tears were falling fast and dripping onto the wooden podium, “Of course my family is gone too soon. My parents…they had more to live, but Joshua…on the cusp of nine? He…he should’ve lived. All of them…it’s not…they shouldn’t have…”

    Nathanael broke off with a choked sob. His knuckles turned white from gripping the podium so tightly, and his legs slowly turned to jello.

    Father Timothy glided up beside him, put an arm around his shoulders, and started to lead him away, but Nathanael’s grief made him sink to his knees. He didn’t think twice about being on his knees and sobbing helplessly in front of a crowd. Agony ripped him apart from the inside and sent any control he had through a shredder.

    Nathanael had his face buried in Father Timothy’s shoulder and his fists clutching his black priest robes. His eyes burned and his throat hurt from the sobs that ripped through him. After a minute or so, his knees began to hurt from kneeling on the wooden floor.

    Eventually, one of his college mates, Brody, walked over to the pair on the ground. He wrapped an arm around Nathanael’s middle and hoisted him to his feet. The bachelor’s steps were unsteady and staggering, but somehow, Brody managed to keep him upright and lead him safely back to his seat.

    Before Nathanael sat down, however, he noticed two men in black suits standing at the back of the church. Their faces triggered no recognition, nor did Nathanael know when they had come into the holy building. Yet without asking, he knew where they had come from.

    Fury that ran far and deep into the bachelor caused a deafening bang of thunder outside the church, and a dangerous but brilliant display of lightning. Nathanael pointedly turned his back on the Helli0n officials before sitting down in the pew bench.

    A few more people stood and said something, and most of them had started crying during their speeches. Unlike the Australian bachelor, they managed to finish their speeches. In a way, Nathanael felt a sort of resentment towards the people in the church. They were all sad now, and would be for awhile, but they would continue on with their lives and be happy.

    Nathanael felt as though his life was permanently torn into pieces.

    The funeral had been designed to be short. In case Helli0n would show up and take Nathanael away (which was now the case). After a final prayer, the pall bearers rose and hoisted the caskets onto their shoulders. Thankfully, the graveyard behind the church had just enough room for the Willow family, so at least there wasn’t very far to walk.

    As the caskets were lowered into their graves, Nathanael quickly put a hand on Father Timothy’s shoulder to prevent himself from falling to his knees again. His breathing had suddenly shorted out as well. Every breath was quickly drawn in and let out sharply, and when the first shovelful of dirt was thrown onto his mom’s casket, a noise that might have been interpreted as a whimper escaped his throat.

    The Helli0n officials were thankfully nowhere to be seen.

    As the burial proceeded, Nathanael found himself praying to God, “I know I haven’t been incredibly religious. More often than not I’ve hung out with my best mates rather than attend Sunday mass, and I’m sorry for that. But please, let mom, dad, and Joshua be happy. Let them know that I’ll always miss them, but I’m glad that they’re safe now.

    “Do you think that I’ll be alright though? I mean, with Helli0n. It seems awfully suspicious that they’d been pushing back my return home for so long, and when I finally have the green light, my family is dead. Do you think Helli0n had something to do with it? On one hand, it seems impossible. On the other hand, they’re a government organization. They could have easily ordered and executed a plan that would make arson look like a house fire. I don’t know…I just don’t know…please God…please, help me figure this out. For my family. They didn’t deserve this…please…”

    Where had the time gone?

    Nearly all of the mourners had vanished, and the burial crew was rolling out pieces of sod over the smoothed out dirt. Father Timothy was the only one left, and Nathanael’s hand was still clamped around his shoulder.

    Upon seeing the bachelor’s look, the priest said, “They’ve all gone to the luncheon now. And if you’ll release my shoulder from your death grip, we can join them.”

    Nathanael gave the smallest of smiles, which was the old man’s intention. He let go of Father Timothy and put his hands in his pockets, “Go ahead. I’m going to stay here for a little bit longer.”

    “Are you sure?”


    Father Timothy put both hands on Nathanael’s shoulders and spoke softly but firmly, “Remember, if you ever need anyone to talk to, no matter what about, you can always come to me. Always. You can call any time of day or night, and I’ll pick up the phone, got it?”

    Nathanael nodded once, but didn’t say anything. Father Timothy returned the nod before making his way across the graveyard and back to the church; where he would take off his black robes and drive to join the rest of the funeral at the banquet hall for the luncheon. Then, as though following the priest’s example, the burial crew packed up their supplies and left; leaving only one man in the graveyard.

    The tombstones were very much the same as every other grave marker. Todd’s had wonderful son, caring husband, and loving father. Alexis’s had loving daughter, gentle wife, and doting mother. Joshua’s stone had a simple loving son and little brother.

    How could those stones say so little about the people buried beneath them?

    Footsteps, almost muted by the soft, wet grass, met Nathanael’s ears. He knew who they were. He just didn’t have the emotional energy left to tell them exactly where in hell they deserved to rot forever.

    “Do you want to stay for the luncheon?” One of them asked.

    Nathanael turned, and though his face said nothing, surprise resonated on the inside, “Excuse me?”

    “The luncheon,” The second man said, “Would you like to stay for it? It is your family, after all. You should be able to stay for as long as you like. We won’t pry you away.”

    Agreement was on the tip of Nathanael’s tongue. He then thought of all the mourning people, how some would be crying, some would be quiet, but some would be laughing. Maybe they would be laughing about the good times they had shared with the Willow family, but they would probably be laughing about other things unrelated to the three deaths while Nathanael was still bleeding out from his loss.

    Nathanael turned his head to look at the tombstones.

    He had attended the service. He had stood by as they buried his family beneath the dirt. Did he really need to listen to that laughter as well?

    “No,” Nathanael found himself saying, “Let’s go back.”


    The flight back to the NAC was spent in complete silence. No chattering from the pilot, nor from the two Helli0n officials. Nathanael spent the entire flight staring out the window; his thoughts still tumbling around with the fact that he would never return home to his family again. Never. Again.

    When they did return to the Helli0n NAC base, Nathanael only taken two steps inside the building when another Helli0n officer approached him, “You’re 0023?”

    Nathanael didn’t have the energy to fight the whole number issue, “Yes.”

    “I’m aware that you know Sally Hemmings rather well?”

    A faint, and vague feeling of suspicion stirred deep within the Australian bachelor, “Yes, and why are you asking?”

    “She didn’t have any next of kin, so we thought of you. Sally Hemmings was killed in an accident here on base last night. Though we can’t tell you who was involved, it was a training exercise. It was very standard, but things went wrong, and…well, you get the idea. We thought we should inform you that her body is being sent back to the Australian Republic as we speak, and her funeral arrangements are to be made by her colleagues there.”

    Nathanael walked past the officer and made his way to his room.

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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 30/7/2012, 1:03 pm

    A shell.

    A simple, hollowed out vessel that showed absolutely nothing.

    That was what the isotope known as Nathanael 0023 had become. He walked, ate, and did other necessary functions to live, but that was just about it. The Aussie didn’t talk, didn’t show emotion, and didn’t partake in any training exercising that every other isotope on base was required to do.

    Even when lead out onto the field, Nathanael 0023 simple stood there with a blank, unseeing gaze; despite all the fantastic abilities that were being performed all around him. The skies above the Helli0n creation base had taken on a dull, gray cloudy appearance. No sun or rain came from those lifeless clouds.

    Nathanael’s shell dully noticed that people did try to bring him out of what they called ‘his funk’. Their cheery attempts had no affect on the shell, and after a time, no more attempts were made. The other isotopes didn’t even spare a glance when they saw it passing by them in the hallways.

    Helli0n was very kind in comforting him, surprisingly. The board had called him into one of their meetings to express their condolences, and the shell was numbly surprised to see that they were absolutely sincere. His face didn’t betray anything though.

    The Shell didn’t dream either, which was a relief somewhere deep within the wells of Nathanael 0023. Dreams would have turned into nightmares, nightmares into night terrors, and that would have eventually led to insomnia so he wouldn’t have to deal with the horrors of sleeping at all.

    Another odd thing about sleeping for the Shell: it lay on its’ back and fell asleep, then woke up on its’ back and rose for the day. Nathanael always sprawled on his stomach and moved around when he slept. Only when he was dead tired would he stay in the same spot that he had fallen asleep in.

    Once or twice, other isotopes had caught a glimpse of the Australian sitting up in a tree; lethargically moving his fingers across the strings of his guitar. Judging from the broken pieces of sound that could be heard floating down from the branches, it had once been a love song.

    Rise, eat, be shuffled from room to room, drink fluids, eat, bathroom, sleep.

    The same routine; over and over and over again.

    After what might have been a few weeks, the Helli0n officials decided to send 0023 to Dr. Phillips’ office. In other words, they sent him to the shrink they had on base. They were actually truly worried about the silent isotope.

    “0023, do you have anything you want to say?” Dr. Phillips asked kindly over his spectacles. A pen was poised over the clipboard he held in his hands.

    No.” The Shell thought dully.

    “You’ve been awfully quiet since you got back from home. Do you want to tell me about what happened there?”

    Nothing that you don’t know.”

    Dr. Phillips scratched something down on his clipboard before continuing, “I see here that you had a bit of a connection to one of the nurses on base here. Sally Hemmings, I believe. Did you like her?”

    “Would I have been friends with her otherwise?”

    “0023, please talk to me. I can help you. You see, I’m not actually working for Helli0n.”

    The Shell’s eyes, which had been staring at the floor for the entire conversation thus far, flicked up to meet the psychiatrists’ intense expression, “I may be working here, in a Helli0n base, but I’m not working for them. You might say that I’m a little more on my own. Independent. There are other isotopes like you, you know. They don’t really agree with Helli0n has in store for them. I could ask one of them to talk with you about what we’re doing.

    “I have the perfect one in mind. She’s very nice…and sweet. Rather much like your Sally. Maybe you two could be very good friends.”

    The Shell caught onto what Phillips was really saying, and something that might have been anger briefly fluttered deep within it. He was suggesting that this isotope could replace Sally. Replace her like one would replace a broken toy.

    Standing abruptly, the Shell then walked out of the room.

    No one could replace Sally.

    No one.
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 30/7/2012, 1:04 pm

    After that session with the shrink, there were times when The Shell wasn’t unresponsive. It was nearly imperceptible, but there were moments when it almost seemed like it was brooding, or maybe even rarer, moody. The gray clouds above would swirl around briefly; revealing the brief holes in the poker face.

    Even stranger, on occasion The Shell would stop and stare at someone or something. It was as though something was stirring deep down inside until the trance was broken and The Shell would walk away. Cookies were something that It would stare at. So were laughing groups of people, bottles of Coke, and It would stop and listen to music at the rare moments it would be played.

    These moments were very far and in between, however. For the most part, Nathanael 0023 was still ‘The Shell’. No emotion, no reaction, no life.
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 4/8/2012, 6:00 pm

    “We have a situation.”

    The heads of Helli0n, whom people were rarely allowed to see, didn’t even look up from their papers. There were always situations. Halogens, Jvstice, enemies who were still obsessing over lines on a map; all situations. They were boarding two years of them, and they didn’t show any reaction anymore when their message carrier brought in ‘situations’.

    The three heads of Helli0n were always kept hidden. They were moved around from place to place to avoid any sort of assassination attempt, and whenever they had to be spoken to by someone, the room was pitch black to prevent anyone from committing their faces to memory. Only three people had ever seen their faces: the president of the NAC, the vice president, and the message carrier. To everyone else, only their voices had been heard.

    “What is it?” The first male asked after a moment of silence.

    The messenger, who was used to the ways of the heads of Helli0n, jumped right in, “There’s a large force of Halogens threatening London. The King and Prime Minister have both seen the enemy, and they know for certain there are at least twenty of the Halogen Originals, and at least twenty thousand of the created ones. They’re both asking for aid.”

    With a shuffle of papers, the woman spoke, “And the armed forces of the EAM are not enough? The Royal Air Force is not enough?”

    “A tactical error on the part of their general has left London vulnerable to the incoming Halogens. They say they won’t survive without help.”

    The second male looked up, “And what makes them think we can get an army across an ocean faster than they can get their own armies across half a continent?”

    A nervous swallow was audible before the messenger spoke, “They’re not asking for the help of an army. They’re asking for the help of the Isotopes.”

    There was a moment of silence again, but this time, it was a deadly one. When silences like this fell over the Helli0n heads like this, asses rolled. People were going to be punished. Severely, might the messenger add.

    “While the forty-one isotopes were created in various facilities across the world,” The first man said with deadly coldness to his voice, “They were brought to the NAC Creation Base immediately upon waking up. The isotopes, all with the exception of one, have been confined there to prevent word from travelling…as well as for their own safety. No one should know about their superpowers. No one.”

    The messenger nodded profusely, “Yes, I realize that. Nevertheless, King William and Prime Minister Jonathan are asking for their help. They request the help of isotopes who can fight an army such as the one they face, and they also say that if you do not, they will forcibly bring home the ones who came from the EAM Creation Base.”

    “We can’t risk an act of war from the EAM, or any continent for that matter,” The woman said briskly, “So we’ll send help. Now the question is what isotopes should we let them borrow in the time being?”

    The second man flipped through a thick binder filled with information on the isotopes, “We only have forty-one of them, so we can’t be careless. We’ll only send a few to help, but we’ll have to make them real fighters so the EAM won’t think we’re blowing them off.”

    “General Lakas,” The first man said instantly, “He worked for us before he became an isotope, and he has plenty of battlefield experience. That, and he won’t die easily.”

    “0333’s mind control should come in handy,” The woman added, “As will 0444’s ability to manifest weapons from auras.”

    “0033 has his deadly knives that can form from his skin,” The second man said as he stopped over a page, “I’m hesitant to send him because his psych evaluations are slightly…off.”

    The woman waved her hand dismissively, “His abilities overrule his evaluation done by the resident psychologist, who was only just hired a year ago. We’ll send him as well.”

    “So there’s four with a variety of abilities to help. Will that be enough for the EAM?” The first man asked.

    There was a pregnant pause before the second man quietly suggested, “What about 0023? The weather manipulator?”

    The other two Helli0n heads looked to him with neutral expressions, “Are you sure that is…wise?” The first man questioned seriously, “If we have some reservations on 0033, then 0023 should be a definite no.”

    “He has been unresponsive since the death of his family, as well as the nurse, Sally Hemmings,” The woman said; lacing her fingers together and resting her chin on them, “However…I do wonder…”

    The men looked to her when she trailed off, and waited patiently for her to gather her thoughts before she spoke again, “What if we now have the perfect killing machine? Does what he is told, carries out everything flawlessly, and is emotionless about it. If we turn out to be wrong, and he dies in battle, then what have we lost? 0023 has been a simple shell of the man he used to be for a complete two months now. I seriously doubt there is a person that can pulled out of it and continue on in a normal life.”

    After a moment of silence, the first man nodded and spoke with an air of finality, “Very well. Numbers 3, 23, 33, 333, and 444 shall be sent to the EAM immediately.”
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 4/8/2012, 6:04 pm

    The Shell sat silently (as usual) as the plane flew at the speed of sound over the Atlantic Ocean. All It had been told was that there was a situation over in the Europe-Asia Monarchy, and the assistance of the isotopes were required. With emotionless eyes, The Shell looked at the other four isotopes on the aircraft.

    One of the isotopes was the one who could make anything rise up out of inanimate objects and fight. He was actually the one that had made It crash into a marble replica of himself when he had been doing cartwheels…cartwheels because he was excited…about seeing his family in two days…The Shell decided not to talk to him at all.

    The other male isotope was sitting with one of the females. From what The Shell understood, the male could create daggers/knives appear from his skin and shoot them out in a deadly projectile way. It took a moment of thought to recall the female’s ability, but it came back. She could subtly influence people with her mind. Make them do what she wanted, but only on a small scale.

    The fourth isotope was a woman with long red hair. With The Shell’s thoughts now focused on her, It realized she had been staring for the last six minutes. She blushed at the look, but walked over despite the obvious embarrassment.

    “Hi, um…I’m Vanessa. Vanessa 0444. I’ve seen you around the base a few times, but we’ve never really talked…” Her voice trailed off at the lack of response she was getting. After a quick few seconds, she got to the point, “I can manipulate my aura. I can sometimes influence people’s emotions to…you know, make them feel better? Or I can make them feel worse, if I’m trying to defend myself, but I can make weapons out of my aura if I have to.”

    Get to the point already.” The Shell thought in a deadpan.

    “I can also see a person’s aura if I focus hard enough. I’ve already looked at the other three, but I can’t see yours. Not clearly, at least. It’s like it’s in a coma or something. And even though I can influence emotion, I got nothing out of you just now.”

    The Shell narrowed Its’ eyes at the isotope; disliking that she had been using her powers on It without Its’ permission…and for something so trivial as well.

    “I was wondering what you could do,” Vanessa continued, “If your aura and silence has something to do with your powers.”

    Without saying anything, The Shell turned to look out the window; pointedly closing off any more conversation. It could tell even without looking that Vanessa had been taken back by his emotions…or rather, lack of them. Whatever.

    If all passengers would please fasten their seatbelts,” The pilot said smoothly over the intercom, “We’ll begin our descent into Heathrow Airport.”

    The Shell hadn’t even taken off Its’ seatbelt, so the pilot’s words were ignored. At least Vanessa had to go back to her seat; which meant peace and solitude would return to the silent isotope. Over the last two months, It really preferred the silence. Once one stops talking and starts listening, it was surprising how many stupid things were said.
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    Post  Nathanael--0023 on 4/8/2012, 6:06 pm

    The Shell trudged along the cobblestone streets with the four other isotopes in front.

    Whatever expectations were in the minds of the five, they were not met at all. London looked like a warzone. Actually, it brought to mind pictures of the city from over a century ago during one of the World Wars.

    Many buildings had been reduced to giant piles of rubble; on which children were crawling across, “Looking for salvageable supplies.” Vanessa murmured to the group. Even from a distance, they could see that their ripped clothes hung loosely off their emaciated frames.

    Countless missing person posters were pinned up to telephone poles, slipped under windshield wipers on hover cars, and taped down to sidewalks so people could see them. As the group walked, a teenage boy of fifteen could be seen with a stack of papers in his arms and handing them out to any person who passed by.

    Garbage overflowed out of alleyways, but because of the wind that was blowing into the city, the smell was mercifully kept at bay.

    The man leading them through the mess was Matthew. He half-heartedly pointed out buildings and other touristy places, but in addition to the poor state of the city, as well as the oppressive gray skies above, the effort fell flat.

    However, Buckingham Palace was the one place that still looked as good as new. All surfaces shone out defiantly against the gloomy surroundings. Soldiers patrolled the edges with their polished guns, and a helicopter with a discernible machine gun sticking out made a pass every few minutes to guard the skies from above.

    Once inside the palace, the five isotopes were met by the Prime Minister, as well as King William himself, “We owe you an enormous debt of gratitude for coming here in our time of need,” He said regally, “If you need anything at all, don’t hesitate to ask.”

    “If you could bring me to your strategists,” The pompous assed isotope immediately requested, “We could start working on how to keep them at bay, and then conquer them.”

    Prime Minister Jonathon nodded, “Very well. You are General Lakas, I presume?”

    A curt nod was his answer, and Matthew led the militant isotope away from the group. Off to the war chamber, presumably. The King looked back to the remaining four, and was clearly sizing them up, “Forgive me if I’m being forward, but what can you all do?”

    “I’m Gerald 0033,” The male isotope answered, “And I’m a walking supply of knives and daggers.” To prove his point, he allowed knives to emerge up from his skin; making him look like a deadly human porcupine. Adding to the display, he shot a dozen knives from his right arm into the wall that was thirty feet away.

    All of them were solid sticks into the plaster.

    “Magenta 0333,” The black haired female said, “I can influence minds and make them do what I want them to do.” At the skeptical looks of how that would work in battle, she supplied, “For example, I can look at one of the Halogen originals and make him turn on his comrades. He’ll kill many of the created zombies before he’ll be killed.”

    The King and Prime Minister now looked at her with respect. Vanessa spoke next, but it had a bit of a nervous waver to it, “My name is Vanessa 0444. I can manipulate people’s emotions, and I know that won’t help in battle…but I can also create weapons out of my aura.”

    Before the skeptical looks could be brought out again, Vanessa’s brow furrowed in concentration. A red glow suddenly surrounded her, and when she held out her hand, a red scythe materialized out of the light and became a solid weapon. Red spikes suddenly rose up from the floor, and everyone knew they would be just as deadly as Gerald’s daggers.

    Vanessa released her hold on her power, and the red glow disappeared.

    The foreign rulers looked expectantly to The Shell, who regarded the both of them with blank looks. Gerald stepped in before the silence became too awkward, “He’s Nathanael 0023. He doesn’t talk, so don’t bother trying to get a conversation out of him. He can manipulate the weather. I once saw him nearly cleave an oak tree in half when he called lightning down on it.”

    The Shell didn’t respond to the description of him, nor to impressed looks that he received from the King and Prime Minister.

    “Now when do we start?” Gerald demanded, “I didn’t come all this way to~”


    King William’s expression turned grim, “Right now. I’ll escort you to the battlements, and hopefully, your General will already have some strategies that incorporate you all. God knows we need your help.”

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