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FIC: And I Will Repay

Title: And I Will Repay
Fandom: Watchmen
Characters/Pairings: Adrian, Dan, but no pairings.
Date Written: 2009
Summary: The vengeance of the mass-murdered and forgotten cannot be held off indefinitely.
Rating/Warnings: PG-13. Violence, obvs.
Notes: "Unforeseen consequences of worldwide irradiation." Zombies, but not related to the usual WM zombie sandbox. Written for zombie_fest .

*

Halfway through the flight back to New York - and it's not sentimentality, he reminds himself, just logic; headquartered there, it makes sense that the first of his many inspirational and unifying speeches should be given amongst its ruins - the tone of the radio news broadcasts changes abruptly. There are less world leaders and words of peace; more live clips of the suffering and screaming and running scared, streets echoing with chaos. Sensationalist journalism, he thinks, and that has its own implications. It's not a good shift.

Mentally, he catalogs: Mentions of the fallout from the blasts, and they're calling it Manhattan Radiation, and he already knows the phrase will stick. Unexpected effects on the bodies of those killed in the blast. Cut back to the screaming, and the picture's starting to come together, like some Mesopotamian puzzle box, all of the gears and slats and joists slotting into a whole.

When the plane lands, he demands a car be brought right out onto the tarmac. He's taking no chances, and for Adrian Veidt, JFK International is willing to bend some rules.

*

Staring down into the street, he feels removed – distant, less like he's watching ants fight in their tiny mockup of city streets and more like his feet aren't quite touching the ground. He supposes they might not be.

For just a moment as he watches, the chaos below freezes in place, violence crystallized into something like beauty. Then the horde turns their heads up as one, a hundred pairs of bloodshot, sunken eyes meeting his and holding them, holding onto the connection like it's the only thing in the world beyond killing and eating and dying that they understand. Like it's keeping them here, awake, fighting.

All over the world, they say, there are migration patterns forming, packs moving along roads and through valleys and when they hit the hard walls of the ocean they just wade right in. All the arrows arc toward New York, graceful curves on longitudinally flattened maps.

It's insane but he's starting to believe it: they're coming for him.

*

A regrettable thing, he realizes, that he had all of his scientists killed, that Jon himself is gone, vanished into the cosmos like he never was. Any of them might have been able to shed some light on this.

He has a new team of researchers and a few dead test subjects, a few live ones. A good facility, and all the drugs and equipment and data analysis gear they could ever need. It should be enough but this group lacks that certain finesse he’d always chosen for before, when he still had the luxury of taking months to pick them out. They’ve figured out that it’s something to do with the radiation from sites of Manhattan’s (his) explosions, but no more.

He ponders what exactly makes a good scientist and what makes a great one as he watches the blood hit the glass, watches the man lose an arm, the others scattering for already-sealing bulkhead doors. His finger doesn’t waver on the quarantine button.

*

It’s for the best, he says in his weekly radio broadcast, the day New York is officially locked down. It’s for the world, for its best chance of survival, and anyway, he’s locked in here too; the ship is going down, and the sharks don’t care how blue the blood in the water is.

On the streets, the stranded and alone and homeless watch in stunned silence as the shambling corpses wander past them without a second glance, without a growl of hunger. A different need sustains them now, has for days, and they clamber on top of each other at the base of the Veidt Tower like a living, writhing mass of water, cresting and breaking against a steel and glass cliffside.

At exactly 2:37 AM the next morning, one of them succeeds in breaking a window in, clambering bloodless over the jagged edges. The security alarm echoes hollow and empty through the hallways, strobing lights casting the walls and the shadows on them in a lurching red haze.

There is only one pair of ears left to hear.

*

He wanders his own building for days; he’s long since sent everyone home to what’s left of their families or barring that, to whatever diversions they prefer, as the city waits to be devoured and allowed to sink into the sea. He’s taken to carrying a heavy fireplace poker from one of the downstairs lobbies. It’s gotten unpleasant-looking and worse-smelling as the assaults have gone on, but he’s still alive and that says something.

It does a good job on the employee vending machines, too, spilling their bellyfuls of junk nutrition and quick energy out onto the tiled floor. Blasted out of his mind on sleep-deprivation and sugar and caffeine, he doesn’t quite notice the way he’s being herded further and further up the tower, a flight of stairs or more every few hours.

*

Somewhere around floor 53, his grip on the poker falters at a critical moment, and he can feel the bones in his wrist wrench as it’s torn away. The strategy at that point switches to, primarily, running a lot.

*

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?”

He’s standing above the swarming crowd but not by far enough; they will manage their way onto the broad marble face of his desk soon and it may be the hunger or the delirium but the height feels dizzying as it is; Adrian can’t imagine seeking higher. Across the room, Dreiberg’s ghost is wading through the mass of clawing bodies and it has to be a ghost because no one can move among these beasts and be untouched.

“The way they seem to know.”

But he’s not a ghost, is he; he’s bending to pick up one of the slavering monsters, a young boy who’d been maybe three years old before he’d died. Holds him out at arm length, studying. “The way they all know who did this to them,” he says, and his voice is quieter now, sadder somehow, as if he can look into those dead vacant eyes and find some sort of empathy, some human connection still lingering in the folds of decaying flesh.

Adrian stands, defiant, lifting from his crouch with what dignity he has left. His clothing is torn and bloodied but they haven’t gotten him yet, and until they do... “You said–”

“I said I wouldn’t tell the world your secret,” Dreiberg says, carrying the rabid child towards him. Around him, the horde surges and snaps and moans out its misery but while the sea of them doesn’t part for him, neither does it touch him. He sets the boy’s unsteady, rot-weakened feet on the edge of the desk. “And I haven’t. But I never claimed to be on your side.”

Nothing in response – just a glare burning through a glazed weariness, and the scraping step of bone and dragging flesh over marble as the child takes its first step toward him.

“You know,” the ghost-but-not-a-ghost says, reaching to clean some splattered blood off of his glasses. “no one’s been killed for a week, week and a half. They don’t care about the rest of us anymore.”

The child takes another step, arms outstretched, murder in its black doll’s eyes.

“It was never hunger, they’re saying,” and he waves his arm out in front of the nearest creature to make the point, the easy prize ignored and pushed aside as little more than an obstacle. “Makes sense, if you think about it; they’re dead, what good is food?”

Adrian takes a step back away from the advancing boy; part of him knows that he is no threat, small enough to simply lash out at, send spinning back into the crowd but there is something in the uneven totter of his steps and the roll of words that is almost hypnotic.

“It’s anger.”

A step forward. A step back.

Rage, honestly.”

The eyes, dull and endless, and the claw of hands at his heels, at his pantlegs.

“Maybe it’d help if they understood what they were murdered for.”

He can go no further and he wills his body to react, to kick out and disable the threat, to stave off the inevitable for however much longer, but it is so inevitable and–

A shrug, out of the corner of his eye. “Maybe not. I’m not exactly an expert in the psychology of the dead. That’s more your area.”

From the stone relief of his walls, pharaohs and gods and guardians of the dead land gesture to each other, to him, obscure their winking eyes; Ammit smiles and the boy smiles, a grotesque mockery of joy, and he knows in that moment just how light a feather really is.

Then he’s crouching and the boy is in his arms and he doesn’t quite know how he got there but stubby fingers find their way to skin and teeth to bone and there, he sees it again – that flash of compassion, of sympathy, on Dreiberg’s face – then it’s out of sight and his back hits the floor hard and the child’s weight is heavy, heavy on his chest.

Ugliness and pain and blood, then, and the smell of all the death he claimed to feel but never really let in – but no tears, never tears.

*

They take their time, splitting his seams, digging for their understanding, for their why. But in the end, there is no understanding to be had and vengeance will have to suffice; slow as it goes, his screams eventually taper off, and the pain goes down to a numb awareness of vital things tearing and shearing away. The pulsing red light across the stone crocodile’s smile fades and fades until all is white, then grey, then nothing at all.

Somewhere, the sound of feet descending stairs echoes like faraway thunder, and it's the last thing he hears.

*

Comments

( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Jan. 19th, 2010 09:06 pm (UTC)
I must say that was horrifyingly beautiful. Your style of writing has always had a certain... flow to it. In this particular piece, it made it seem like there was no other option. Adrian had to die, and the people he killed had to be the ones to do it.

Well done.
etherati
Jan. 20th, 2010 01:05 am (UTC)
Thank you. :) I agree that it was inevitable once it was set in motion, and I'm so glad that came across in the writing.
robinnevermore
Jan. 19th, 2010 10:10 pm (UTC)
.....Utterly horrifying and amazing. I'll admit, i giggled a bit at the thought of adrian using a fire poker as a weapon. But then he, you know, was viciously torn apart and i was just like *cringe*. I'm not gonna lie, i kind of like adrian. I hate that he killed millions and caused rorschach's death...(i saw the movie before i read the comics....i cried when rorschach died) but it's kind of like with the comedian. I can't totally hate him....he's too cute. Shallow, i know, but i can't help it. :P
etherati
Jan. 20th, 2010 01:04 am (UTC)
I've certainly written versions of him I like and versions I don't, but arguability of whether he did right by humanity at large aside, there were still an awful lot of individual people wronged and they do have a right to hold him accountable on that individual, personal level, I think.

Or I mighta just been feeling like writing something nasty, I dono. XD
anactoria
Jan. 19th, 2010 10:28 pm (UTC)
Ouch. Beautifully done.
etherati
Jan. 20th, 2010 12:57 am (UTC)
Yeah, it is sorta ouchy D: It seems like I always go a lot darker when I'm writing for the zombie comm heh.
dessieoctavia
Jan. 20th, 2010 01:20 am (UTC)
I approve of this. Ozzy gets what he deserved. Beautifully written, too.
etherati
Jan. 20th, 2010 02:46 am (UTC)
I'm gonna echo Dan in Nab and say that I'm not sure if anyone deserves THAT, but the dead had their vengeance at least, which THEY certainly deserved.

And thank you!
dessieoctavia
Jan. 20th, 2010 02:58 am (UTC)
Well. I have to admit that I like fics where Adrian gets punished for what he did, but perhaps you're right.
etherati
Jan. 20th, 2010 03:05 am (UTC)
I generally do too XD but I try to keep it from devolving into sadism haha
sepulchre_angel
Jan. 20th, 2010 09:19 pm (UTC)
Holy shit. Okay, I will say first that this was (as usual) beautifully written, very IC and very, very haunting. And I will also say that my brain kind of exploded when Dan showed up. Because damn. damn When Dan's not being a big giant dork, he's really freaking creepy.
etherati
Jan. 21st, 2010 02:21 am (UTC)
Dan has a huge capacity for darkness in him, especially concerning his own being wronged - just look at the bar scene after he finds out about Hollis - and he may be willing to do what's necessary to keep the peace but there's a lot of anger there, for what it cost him.

And. Also. Creepy Dan, OMG. He was so much fun to write like this.

Thanks!
daylilymoon
Jan. 21st, 2010 03:16 am (UTC)
HEY YOU

So I am impressed as always with this, holy shit, and with Shoes--better comments are coming when I have time to sit down and maybe breathe at the same time D:
etherati
Jan. 21st, 2010 03:43 am (UTC)
No worries, I await with bated breath. :D And in the meantime, thank you!
daylilymoon
Jan. 24th, 2010 05:31 am (UTC)
All right I have a wicked cold so my comment(s) is going to suck and not be worth the wait at all D:

BUT I am always so pleased when you write horror, you have a real knack for it too. It's not tortureporn, but deliciously and awfully drawn out in just the right way. It's more quiet and subtle.

And oh man, DAN. Fic writers never, or hardly ever, do dark Dan, even though that's definitely a part of him. A really fascinating part.

I just really, really, really like this ♥
etherati
Jan. 24th, 2010 04:10 pm (UTC)
Your comments are ALWAYS WORTH THE WAIT.

I'm always worried with horror that it WILL go over the top, it's a tough balance to strike and I don't know if it's a knack so much as a keen awareness of what I fucking hate in most horror and a careful checking of that in my stuff, because I grew up reading a lot of terrible horror and tortureporn is such a goddamned turnoff.

And yes, Dan. :3 I LOVED making him the creepy scary one for once because even as he acts creepy he still has that human streak. He's a wonderful character, and a lot more complex than people give him credit for.
jeanemon
Jan. 24th, 2010 04:56 am (UTC)
Eee, I always love checking your page and seeing updates. <3

This one is.... Amazing. I love the zombies with a hit of hivemind, and Dark!Dan. The whole thing is wonderfully written, as usual for you. Just... Wonderful.
etherati
Jan. 24th, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Dan was so much fun to write this way, and the idea of the zombies ONLY wanting to eat Adrian seemed like such a ghastly but poetically just thing when it first occurred to me, which are usually good ingredients for zombie stories. :D
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )

what this is.


This is a fic journal for the most part, with some art on the side and a sprinkling of personal posts here and there. I don't write as much as I used to, but I try.

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