Two years had passed since Giovanni went on his first field test, and brought in an enhanced human to the Institute. At eleven years old, he had done many more operations since then. Dr. Malchovin always instructed him, "Bring them in if you can, but if it comes down to your life or theirs, kill without hesitation." The eleven year old could never bring himself to kill any of the targets, and even when the battles got very dangerous, he always found a way to save their lives. Giovanni began to feel like this was actually a selfish decision, because he was not killing them, but sentencing them into a life at the Institute. Some were dissected and then eventually would die in gruesome ways. Dr. Malchovin never told Giovanni specifically that they were dead, but he would just stop seeing the "subjects." Others were treated similar to Giovanni, and given cells and field tests. Neither Dr. Malchovin or his research team ever let out any hint as to why they were doing research on the Enhanced.
Giovanni sat on the ground of the his prison cell. It was a white room with a white floor, and while Dr. Malchovin had his orderlies give it some amenities to feel like "home", Giovanni saw it for what it was...a prison. At night time, when it was very quiet, Giovanni could speak to his neighbor, the inmate, or "specimen" in the room that shared a wall with his own. Dr. Malchovin forbade his research subjects to become attached to one another, and he was very open with them in saying "Because none of your lives in guaranteed, so friendship for you is irrelevant and irresponsible for the purposes of what we are doing." Most the subjects obeyed this rule, especially towards Giovanni who almost all blamed for their captivity. He was after all, becoming known as the "Demon Knight" who hunted Enhanced. All shunned Giovanni, with exception of his wall mate, Griffin, who was the first Enhanced taken captive.
Griffin was sixteen, and Giovanni considered him his only friend. He always blamed himself for Griffin's captivity, but was grateful that Griffin didn't seem to hold a grudge. They talked about it once in their cells:
"Hey Griffin," Giovanni spoke, as he sat against the wall, in their power dampening cells. "You up?"
"Yeah Geo," Griffin replied. "What's up?"
"Do you..." Giovanni tried to find the right words, "Do you blame me for...you know, being stuck in here as a prisoner? I've heard whispers from the others. They say that their lives were over when they uhh...met me. What do you think?"
"Do I blame you for me being a prisoner here and being poked and prodded all day..." Griffin considered the question, "No. The way I see it, you had two choices...you could have killed me or captured me. You picked the less sucky one. And I am not dead. And hey, since I've been here, they have installed skills in my head, taught me how to use my powers better, and they even gave me a reason to keep going."
"Wait..." Giovanni considered Griffin's comments, "Do you actually LIKE what we do?" Giovanni always worried at how seemless and easy it was for Griffin to execute kill orders if ever given.
"No, of course not." Griffin replied, "I do what I do to stay alive. There is no shame in that. My reason to keep going isn't this job...my reason to keep going is the fact that one day, I'll escape and exact my revenge using the same gifts that they have given me. And it will be great."
"If you ever escape..." Giovanni replied, "I've been here for four years...there is no way out."
"Whatever," Griffin shrugged from the other cell. "Hey Geo, don't listen to the others when they say hateful things to you...you know they are just jealous of you right?"
"Jealous of me?" Giovanni asked, "Why? What could they possibly have to be jealous of! If I don't do my job, then my parents die...That's my life, every day..."
"Yeah that sucks..." Griffin spoke, his voice not having to much concern for Giovanni's circumstance (empathy had never been a strength that the teenager had), "But you're the only Enhanced here who doesn't need the pills to stay alive. Your enhanced, but not diseased like us. You're like the perfect version of us, that I don't think the Institute can ever replicate. Everyone knows it, and they're all just jealous. You're kind of treated like royalty here. I mean, we're all "Specimens" or "Subject"...but you, you're "Patient One."...You see what I'm saying?"
"That's stupid..." Giovanni reflected on what Griffin said, "There's no royalty among prisoners. We're all screwed here. It doesn't take a genius level intellect, which most of us have, to know that."
"Do you remember that subject a few months ago?" Griffin asked, changing subjects.
"What do you mean, which one?" Griffin mocked Giovanni, surprised at the question. "The one that they snuck into the lab late at night, and the power flickered for a second because of all the electro-shock stuff they were doing to him. He screamed, a lot, and probably died? Nobody heard anything about him after that...I thought that would be the night the power would shut off and we could get our powers back in the Institute and escape...but no luck there."
"How do you know it was a He?" Giovanni asked curiously.
"I heard it was Dr. Malchovin's own son he was testing on." Griffin gossiped, "I heard he was so sure he had perfected the Zichromate serum that made us all that he brought in his own boy."
"That's crazy..." Giovanni pondered this, "Malchovin is twisted enough to do that...but surely he's not that reckless."
"Whatever," Griffin said as he rolled onto his other side, preparing to go to sleep. "I hope he did, and I hope he killed his own son. Uric Malchovin is the worst, and I can't wait to kill him one day."
It was almost closing time at the Vanilla Bean Coffee Shop, and Giovanni and his mysterious rescuer shared a table in the back of the shop, in a side room that was very far from the rest of the shop. It was a perfect place for privacy where the two could get the answers they both so desperately seeked from one another. Giovanni stared at this man, Patient Zero and also known as the Necromancer and thought back to his rescue.
Giovanni was chained up, unable to move in a hidden basement of Widener Tech. Patient Zero simply touched the chains that bound him, and they at once came to life and slithered away like snakes. Later, on his way out, Giovanni looked back to the chains and saw that they were once again lifeless, and just chains.
After moments and the two simply stared at each other, sipping their coffee that Patient Zero insisted that they partook in the minute after they changed into civilian clothes , he broke the silence.
"Want to play a game?" He asked.
"What?" Giovanni was surprised at the random question. "Um...sure?"
"It's not a hard one...we just have so much to talk about, and how do you even start this conversation...So I propose we take turns asking questions...and no lying! Enhanced Human's Honor! You can go first!"
"Um okay..." Giovanni thought hard. "I guess I'll start simple...what's your name?"
"My stars," Patient Zero exclaimed as he softly smacked his own head. "I am just realizing in all this commotion today. I never properly introduced myself. My name is Duke Calbot. You can call me Duke...Oh, now it's my turn! Let's see...Are you the only survivor of the Institute?"
"No." Giovanni replied, and then realized he really had no idea. "I mean, I am not sure. I think all the scientists were murdered, but I think some of the other research subjects escaped."
"Splendid!" Duke clapped with pride, "Alright then, now your turn!"
"Okay then..." Giovanni thought once more. "Why did you help Derek Widener capture me, and then help me get out?"
"Let's see here...well, I guess I should say that Derek has the means that is keeping me alive, and also a very effective way to kill me. And I can't have that...so I play nice with him. I am, however, plotting to kill him and steal my ultimate freedom in a glorious form of revenge! I couldn't have you kill Derek tonight, because I haven't gotten what I need from him yet, but...I was hoping we might be friends, despite the rocky start of our first interaction, so I'd save you as a token of good will."
Giovanni reflected some more and then shared his thoughts out loud. "You have the illness...and need pills too."
"Very smart." Duke complimented, "But as the first Enhanced, I have a very specific strand of the illness, one that only specific medication would heal. And much to my dismay, the only one who has access to that, is Derek...Very well, my turn! Did you see who broke into the institute and saved you?"
"No, I did n.."
"It was me!" Duke interrupted Giovanni as he began laughing, full of pride for himself. "So sorry, I hate to cut you off, but I just couldn't hold that shocking revelation in any longer. I infiltrated the Institute, and killed all the scientists...well, except for Dr. Malchovin...interestingly enough, I owed him one, so against my better judgment I let him live, and then of course you fixed that little error...It was a beautiful coincidence!"
"You?" this truth startled and confused Giovanni, "But how?"
"Very carefully." The gentleman responded, "Breaking you out wasn't the challenge..you've seen my powers, I give life and a soul to the lifeless and inanimate...and then things will do whatever I will, they become extensions of me. An entire building and everything inside can become my minions. BUT, the challenge came into play by the fact that the Institute and Widener Corp has been following me for years, and know all my greatest tricks. So I had to get creative with how I infiltrated and destroyed the Institute, making it look like someone else entirely destroyed it. I brought in several toys of my own, and it was one of my greatest shows yet!"
"So you destroyed the institute, helped me break out, and now want my help..." Giovanni considered the facts, "why?"
"Slow down, my boy." Patient Zero replied, "You actually asked two questions in a row, it's my turn...May I see your wrist band?"
"My wrist band?" Giovanni asked, trying to play dumb about his bio-organic tech that helped him shift into the Maloccio armor.
"Yes, I know you're still wearing it." Duke said with a smile, "I know all about it's bio-organic properties and how it's connected to you, and how it was made. I just want to see it for a second and look into a theory I've had all these years since reading about you and hearing about you."
"Okay..." Giovanni said, reluctant to give his wristband up, but recognizing this may not be the time for a disagreement with the Necromancer. "You should know it only works on me."
"I am sure..." Duke replied as the youth handed him over his black band, "In a different time, I'd love to test that theory...I bet I could convince it to work on me if I really wanted to...but for now..."
Duke held the band in his hand, which began to glow blue as the enhanced human closed his eyes and concentrated. Giovanni felt something in his stomach twinge. It wasn't painful, but it felt strange, as if something was rummaging around his body.
"What are you doing?" Giovanni exclaimed, "How are you doing this?"
"Shhh..." Duke whispered, "It'll just take a second...I have so many questions, some I don't think you even know the answer too...but my powers let me experience the memories and history of any object I touch...and my theory was that since this wristband is bio-organically connected to you, if I search it's memories, I can see truths about you...I was right by the way, your suit is telling me all kinds of things about your biology. Which is remarkable, you are absolutely remarkable!"
"It's not telling you anything you probably don't know." Giovanni replied, as he shifted in his chair uncomfortably. "I am the only enhanced human that doesn't need to take the pills for me not to lose my mind and for my body to deteriorate. How is your mind, by the way? Because I am getting some mixed signals...and would you get out of my body!"
Giovanni snatched his wristband away from Duke, and put it back on his body. Duke opened his eyes and sighed. "I was basically done anyway...I was just searching to see if you could do the one part of my plan that I really need help with, and you can...Before we get to that, tell me there isn't one last question you've been itching to ask since we met. I mean, now that you know who I am, and what I am...surely there is that one thing you've been wondering."
Giovanni knew exactly what Duke was talking about, "If you're the first Enhanced Human...Did you give power to all the other enhanced humans? If so how? And why?"
"With a few exceptions, like my present company," Duke replied, "Yes. I am the reason all Enhanced humans exist. Actually, that's how I got my nickname, the Necromancer. You see, twelve years ago when I escaped the Institute, long before they ever were in the human collecting business, I was on the run. I quickly learned that if my blood interacted with another person, it changed their DNA, just like the Institute changed mine. The first few enhanced humans were made completely by accident. I would bleed in a bar fight, I cut myself once and a nice nurse bandaged me...but then when I saw what my true power was, I began more creative ways of making more like us...I'll be honest, I was young at the time...and scared of the Institute. I didn't want to create an entire people, or followers, or an army or anything like that...I just wanted to create people to distract the Institute and get them off my stench. I used my blood on a water supply and enhanced a small town once. That was probably my masterpiece. Anyway, it worked, more enhanced humans started to rise up, go crazy, and create a lot of ruckus...and I was able to hide in the shadows for a while."
"The water purification Widener Tech is known for..." Giovanni replied as a light went off in his head. "That was how they fixed the water supply to stop creating enhanced humans...They were fighting against what you were doing. And the world has no idea."
"Very important people paid other people to change the narrative in most records." Duke replied as he shrugged. "Such is the world we live in."
"So you're responsible for creating an untold amount of sick people that lost their minds due to what goes on when our bodies react to the Zichromate particle and serum." Giovanni spoke, looking at Duke and seeing him as the psychotic monster he was clearly for the first time.
"Don't say "Our" people." Duke replied coldly, "Don't act like you are in the same boat as all the enhanced humans that wander this earth...You get all the perks, and none of the curses. I did what I had to do to survive. Now you know my story, and who I am. I can already see you getting on that high horse, but before you decide to vilify me...You might be interested to know that I have a plan that requires your help...and together, we can kill Derek Widener, save my life, and rescue your parents...That's why you came to Midnight City, right Giovanni?"
The seventeen year old youth considered what Duke was saying. He was a monster, who currently held all the cards. Giovanni didn't want any part of whatever violent scheme the Necromancer was plotting. However, everything Giovanni had been doing, all the terrible acts, since he left the Institute had been to save his parents. Patient Zero and his plan against Derek Widener may be the best way to save Giovanni's parents.
"Alright I'm listening...What is your plan?"
Thanks for reading! What do you think so far? Feel free to drop me a review! Even if you don't, I appreciate you checking out my story and I hope you stick around for the next chapter!