Frank James

CHAPTER 1: 1953


Since the moment humankind realized our own inevitable demise, we have sought out some form of immortality. We go about our days seeking ways to extend our existence, because we fear the unknown. What could be more unknown then what awaits us after death? It is my experience, that the fear of death can have a paralytic effect on societal development. If death is the only reward for a failed attempt, why should one bother trying? So to that end, religions were created, promises of an afterlife, a continuation of this life into the next. Whether it be the Elysian Fields, Valhalla, Aaru, or later on Heaven, these concepts were created to give comfort to the masses. It allowed the fearful population to feel some comfort, knowing this is not the end.

I have no such fear of what comes next. I know what comes after death for me. I've known since my first death. I don't know why it happens, what dark machinations drive it, but I know what always awaits me in death. I get no Valhalla, even when I took a sword to the heart in the Battle of Áth Cliath. I didn't earn my place in Aaru after I died helping build the pyramids. No Elysian Fields awaited me when I died back to back with my brothers in arms at the Battle of Thermopylae. When the Bishop of Beauvais found me guilty of heresy, there was no heaven awaiting me...

No my reward for a life lived in pursuit of the common good, of justice, of love, and life and hope, was to be reborn. Life after life after life, my existence was a never ending chain of births and deaths and everything that comes in between. I have tried to break the cycle so many times. I tried killing myself in more ways than a normal mind could comprehend. My reward, more lives. I tried seeking out dark forbidden magics, under the mistaken belief that this was some deep seated curse. All I ever got was an agonizing death, and a pitiful new existence.

I did what I could to fill up my countless existences. I sought numerous paramours. At this point in time, I am fairly sure every person alive can in some way trace their lineage back to one of my incarnations. I've been a mother, a father, a hermit, and a celebrity. I was willing to do just about anything to battle the crippling ennui of perpetual lives. Unfortunately, watching my loved ones die, was a source of great depression. People say it is awful for a parent to bury a child. They have no idea what it is like for a parent to bury a child, that is also their mother, and at one point was also their best friend. You'd be surprised how many strange situations you can find yourself in when you have infinite lives.

Somewhat fortunately, as time progressed, some of the older memories start to fade. Even with infinite lives, the brain still has a finite capacity for knowledge. Memories the mind deemed useless were discarded, to free up room for new memories. I think it was around the time I first made the trip to the Americas that I first realized I was forgetting things. The trip was long and fairly boring. More than once I found my mind wandering, and with a vast series of past lives to wander to, I had at least a little entertainment. I don't know why, but my mind started replaying the faces of my mothers. At some point in the unbroken stream of mothers, features began to be less crisp. By the end, I realized I could no longer recall my first mother's face. I knew she had to have existed, I knew I had to have spent time with her, and I could even vaguely recall feeling safe and warm in her presence. It was her face that eluded me. That brought up a lot of questions in my mind, not the least of which being “How much else have I forgotten?”

The sadness of losing such a precious memory, did have a small silver lining. It told me that the pain would eventually be washed away under a flood of new memories. While my lives may be infinite, my suffering does not have to be so as well. At some point my many children would be just distant memories buried underneath recollections. In some perhaps not to distant future, my first self will be just another non-entity, lost in time. Will I even remember myself when I look at my bones in the museum?

That's another odd offshoot of this curse. I can go into museums today, and see all kinds of evidence of my previous lives. Various bits and pieces of my skeletons lie entombed in glass cells in natural history museums around the world. I know they were me, because I was the one that dug them up. Paintings by my past lives hanging in art museum, and on the walls of the rich and famous. I have the strange pleasure of listening as churches honor my previous lives as saints. That might possibly be the weirdest experience of them all. Being present in the Vatican when you are officially canonized... that is an experience no one else can ever have.

And that's the real rub.

Countless millennia I have roamed this planet. I've lived in caves, tents, huts, houses, on the streets, in the sewers. I have lived to see ancient wonders, and modern miracles. I have spent lifetimes on six of the continents, and visited the seventh. I've watched empires rise, and fall. Hell, I've built up empires, only to tear them down later. I have fought in civil wars, and revolutions. I have seen it all. The only thing I think I have never seen, is someone like myself.

People have told me I have old eyes. Looking into the mirror, I can see what they mean. To look into my eyes, you would think that I was much older than my current body. The things I have seen, fill my eyes with a sadness, far beyond the mortal realm. When ever I stare into the eyes of another. Each brief glance into their eyes, I search for that same look. I've never seen it in anyone else. I've seen depression, and loneliness. I've seen elation, and insanity. But never the pain of a thousand thousand lifetimes.

I try to tell myself that there might be someone out there. It's impossible to meet everyone in the world. Perhaps they have just managed to elude me through happenstance. Possibly they are even avoiding me. It is conceivably possible that I have passed them in a marketplace at some point, and just didn't notice. Perhaps my true soul mate is hiding just out of my reach, all I need to do is search a little harder to find them.

Or perhaps I am alone, utterly and truly.

During my lifetimes, there have been some truly extraordinary people. I have seen men and women able to perform miraculous feats. The Powers of the world. I've even been executed alongside some of them. In ages past, they were believed to be witches, or demons, or whatever equivalent the yokels of the time decided on. Differences were to be feared, and punished severely. I have in the past confided in these Powers. I've even loved, some of them. Even they would look at me askance when I told them of my long and storied past. I was a freak among freaks.

My current path in life, was set by one of these Powers.

In the mid 1940's there was a team known as The Foundation. A team assembled in the fallout of the big war, as a means of securing the United States' supremacy in the world. In all of my experience, there had never been another gathering of Powers such as this. Seven men and women, brought together as a symbol for the people. And the symbol worked wonders. Sure there were detractors, but initially, the response was overwhelmingly positive.

When they made their debut, my current self was just barely a teenager. My previous life, I had been a decorated World War 1 veteran, now I found myself in the body of a rather small girl living in a little place known as Supara. Life in the 40's was a scary thing, with the war in Europe just ending, the world was still on edge. The bomb had gone off, and in a second the world had changed. I wasn't particularly worried, since I knew no matter what happened, I would be back. The downfall of constant rebirth, however is that puberty keeps happening. As such, the hormone-addled body I was currently residing in, frequently lost it. When the Foundation came on the scene, I don't know why, but I felt somehow safer in those uncertain times.

For the sake of transparency, I will also admit I developed something of a crush on their leader.

One would think that over the long life my mind has had, I would have recognized the ultimate futility of physical attraction. Hell, one would think I would have given up on all social interaction and disappeared into a cave. I develop relationships, and they end up as distant memories that I do my best to block out. Not a single one has ended in anything other than heartache.

One can not fight biology, though. The body wants what it wants, and you can attempt to ignore those thoughts, you can try to block them out, but they always come back. There is no avoiding them, the body is a traitor to the mind, the enemy of sense and logic. So, despite my best efforts and my admonitions to ignore the attraction, it was no use. I found myself smiling every time I saw the posters. When I heard him talk on the radio, my heart would flutter. Even those cheap radio plays telling fictionalized accounts of his numerous exploits, had me like putty. My personal favorite were the Foundation newsreels that ran in front of the movies. I found myself more interested in those than the movies themselves.

My mind knew that it was just a typical teenage crush, and managed to keep it contained behind a wall of logic inside my brain. I knew that it could never amount to anything more than wasted time, and chastened myself to just forget it. There is a lot of discipline involved in living an endless series of lives. When one removes all consequence from existence, it is through discipline, and empathy alone that one does not give in completely to their baser instincts. My resolve was rock solid, even if his face did manage to creep into my dreams unbidden.

My resolve held out until 1953.

New Years Eve of 1953, to be precise. That year was a big one for that body. I had just finished my first semester of college and was enjoying the break. I had also just recently broken up with my high school sweetheart. My parents were a rather affluent couple, and as such, were regularly invited to all the big parties. This year, they decided to celebrate the fact that I had graduated earlier that year as valedictorian, by letting me join them at the big Supara New Years Party. I think my mother was also hoping that it would help break me out of the rut that the break up had put me in.

To be honest, the concept of New Years had left me a little jaded, so I was not especially excited about the whole ordeal. Once you've seen a couple hundred years come and go, the passing of one to the next is rather trivial. I head learned that putting up a front was a necessary part of fitting in, so to keep up appearances, I acted as if this was the happiest day of my life. It's recent enough that I remember the night well. I wore a dress, that in today's society would seem commonplace, but back then it bordered on scandalous. I remember my mother practically begging me to wear anything else. I lost myself in the heady feeling of being surrounded by the city's elite. I would be lying if I said my dress didn't garner me a few sideways glances, and I know it lead to more than one fight. Say what you will, there is a certain power to being admired, and it can get a little overwhelming.

There was a large band, that managed to play beautifully, despite one of the trombonists being inebriated. The music filled the air, and I found myself dancing the night away, sneaking more than a few drinks as the night carried on. As midnight approached, I found myself passing the realm of tipsy, and entering slowly into the realm of drunk. As my blood alcohol level rose, my inhibitions fell. I gave in more and more to the body I was in, and let my brain pickle in the glorious post-prohibition world of excess that I was living in.

It was close to eleven when my bleary eyes saw him through a break in the crowd. Charles Hudson himself stood there in a tux, sipping champagne in an isolated corner of the room, talking to a small handful of people. The crush I had harbored years ago, and the alcohol in my blood conspired against my better judgment, and I soon found myself stumbling over to him, a huge shit-eating grin covering my face. The attention I had been receiving all night insisted that he would be completely enamored with me, and when midnight came, we would share a kiss that would be on the front page of every newspaper.

I smiled as I approached with the false confidence that can only come of insanity, or alcohol. All those thoughts I had repressed came flooding back in a flurry. I wove through the crowd with surprising dexterity, only stumbling into a small handful of people, and with only a small amount of champagne soaked into my new dress. I'm sure there were a few people that were more than a little irate at my weaving, but I had found my prey, and like a shark I approached with single-minded determination.

When I finally emerged from the other side of the crowd, I looked around, only to see that I had managed to lose sight of my goal. My shoulders slumped in defeat, my one chance lost. I turned to make my way back to the dance floor. My hand snatched another flute of champagne from a passing tray as I turned. I downed it in a single gulp, and replaced it on the tray without missing a beat. In that moment, I thought to myself, “Of all the advances humanity had made since we crawled from our caves to stare bleary-eyed into the heavens, alcohol had to be one of my favorite.”

My desire to dance faded, replaced with the depression that should have told me I had had more than enough to drink. I slumped off toward a row of vacant tables shoved up against a nearby wall. At the time, it was if my thoughts were coming through a thick morass, oozing through my brain rather than flowing. It was a struggle to string thoughts together beyond, “Left foot, right foot” and even that was becoming increasingly difficult. The tables looked to be miles away, my feet felt like they were tied to heavy rocks.

That last flute had been too much, and I started to stumble as the room began spinning. The tables, and the refuge they promised were unreachable. I don't know if someone bumped into me, or if my body just gave in to the effects of the alcohol, but suddenly I was falling. Even in my memories, at this point everything seemed to happen in slow motion.

I braced myself for the inevitable meeting of my face and the floor, closing my eyes and clenching my jaw in preparation for the coming pain. Pain, that was abruptly averted, when a pair of hands grabbed my shoulders and stopped the fall. I opened one eye, as I was whirled around, to come face to face with the object of this body's teenage fantasies. Charles Hudson...standing there with his hands on my shoulders.

It was a surreal sort of moment. The sort of once in a lifetime thing that one desires above all else to remember forever. My eyes struggled to focus on him, so I could store it away in my memory. If only the damned room would stop spinning.

“Ma'am.” His voice was a sort of deep bass rumble, completely unlike the guy who played him in the radio plays. “Are you going to be alright? Do you think you can stand?”

I tried my damnedest to wipe the goofy smile from my face, but despite my best efforts it remained, contorting my face into some crazed visage. When I finally managed to banish it, my mouth could not form words. The alcohol, and being in the presence of this mythical character conspired to leave me speechless.

I've spent countless millennia on this earth living lives beyond human reckoning. I've faced down galloping hordes, in more wars and battles than I care to mention. I have stood at the right hand of kings as their most trusted adviser. I burned at the stake, and faced it with a staunch stoicism despite the excruciating pain. Despite all of that, I had never before found myself at a loss for words.

His face was impassive, as if carved from the same stone as Mount Rushmore. One could easily get the feeling that he was irritated by just about everything around him. Cold gunmetal gray eyes regarded me with the cold dispassion of an art critic examining the work of a hack artist. Despite his apparent apathy, he waited patiently for an answer as I continued to flap my jaw like a fish that had fallen from the tank. Beneath that frosty gaze, I could not help but feel small, and insignificant, despite my earlier feelings that I was the most beautiful creature in the room.

I started to get angry at my inability to speak, and chastised myself mentally in several long dead languages. I gritted my teeth, and took a deep breath. Steeling my resolve, I locked eyes with him, and opened my mouth one last time. It was like my mouth were filled with cotton, and I paused to lick my lips.

It was at that point where biology, and the effects of the many flutes of champagne I had consumed took effect. As I tried to speak, I promptly turned my head and vomited on his shoes. I suppose it was a small blessing that I immediately blacked out, and drifted off into the glorious, oblivion where mortifying embarrassment can not reach you.

When I came to, my head was pounding. The room was quiet, and a small lamp next to the bed cast a faint glow over the room. My surroundings were unfamiliar. I found myself lying on hard mattress, beneath a single overly starched sheet. The room itself was rather Spartan, lacking in any form of decoration, foregoing aesthetic pleasure, for stark functionality. There was the bed, a simple nightstand, the single lamp and a desk with matching chair. A glass of water sat on the nightstand, condensation forming a small puddle beneath.

A sour taste filled my mouth, the faint lingering tang of vomit seemed to cling to every surface. I turned to reach for the water, hoping to find anything to wash this taste from my mouth. My head immediately screamed in protest, and the world erupted into a fireworks display of color. I clenched my eyes shut against the garish assault, and was rewarded by seeing the same display played out against my eyelids. I balled my fists up and pressed them against my temples as I let out a small scream of agony.

Loud, steady footfalls approached. To my hungover brain, their sound was like deafening thunder, echoing through my skull. I clutched my head in my hands, trying to shut out the sound as it drove hot daggers into my brain. My screams intensified, reality drowned out by sound and light, mixed with a small measure of excruciating pain.

Suddenly there was a cool cloth on my forehead, a large hand on my shoulder, and an oddly familiar bass rumble hushing me. The pain continued, and even spiked as the hand lifted my head up, and cold glass was pressed to my lips. I sipped at first, then gulped over eager, only to start coughing as it went down the wrong pipe.

Slowly the pain subsided to just the pounding throb that I had when I first woke up. It was only then that I had the courage to once again open my eyes. Small bursts of color still popped in front of me, but with nowhere near the intensity they had had just moments ago. As the world slowly came back into focus, the sight that greeted them was something that I had never expected. It was also a sight that, due to recent events, left me positively mortified.

There on the edge of the bed, sat Charles Hudson. He was no longer dressed in a tux, opting instead for more casual attire. Attire all too similar to what I had worn during my downtime after World War 1. Despite the casualness, he still managed to give off an air of authority. His gray eyes regarded me coldly, still not betraying any emotion whatsoever.

“I was beginning to think you weren't going to wake up.” His low voice seemed to fill the room, reverberating off the walls, despite the lack of volume. Perhaps it was just the hangover.

“What happened?” My voice was a hoarse croak. One I'm sure the recent fit of screaming did nothing to help.

When he spoke, his eyes never broke away, yet somehow he still seemed to be assessing my every movement. “You managed to drink yourself blind, then vomited on a rather expensive pair of shoes. When you passed out, I brought you back here. I must say, I'm actually rather impressed. Even Rudy wouldn't have lasted half as long as you apparently did.”

“Oh no.” Horror filled me, as the memories of the night started to trickle back in more vivid technicolor detail. “My parents can pay you back for the shoes, I swear. And anything else I might have ruined, sir. I didn't mean to...”

He snorted, yet his face remained stony, impassive. He was good. “I have found, that there can be a certain benefit to having a small degree of celebrity. People are falling all over themselves for me to wear their products. I don't think I've actually paid for any clothing since I took this job.”

The horror died down, and gave way to anger. I was yelling at myself in my head for the sycophantic prattle that seemed to bubble out of my mouth. The anger was banished in an instant as I moved shifted a bit in the unfamiliar bed. Confusion sprang to the forefront as I once again did a hasty examination of the room. “Why am I here? Why didn't my parents take me home?”

“You didn't pass out in your parents' arms.” He didn't miss a beat, and still managed to not betray a single emotion. It was a little disconcerting how flat his expression was. “In all honesty, I thought you were there by yourself, so I brought you downstairs to my quarters. It was the closest bed, and you looked like you needed to sleep the alcohol off. However, now that you are awake I can summon your parents, and get you home.” He stood up to leave, and I saw this golden opportunity to spend time with Charles Hudson disappearing.

In the history of mankind, there have been many idiotic things done. None of the stupidity perpetrated by all of humanity came close to rivaling the stupidity of what I did next. I reached out and grabbed his arm, wincing as the sudden motion sent new waves of pain crashing through my skull. I put on my most coquettish look, a look perfected over many incarnations, and a look that had reportadly launched 1000 ships. “There's no rush, really. Unless you have somewhere you need to be, that is.”

He stopped, and looked down at my hand. His eyes traced there way to my shoulder, and proceeded to meet my eyes. In that instant, I thought I saw something in his eyes. Some flicker of emotion, just below the surface, but it was gone before I could make it out. His hand hovered near the door. It was like he was lost deep in thought. Finally, in an incredibly slow movement, his hand fell away from the door, and grabbed the chair from the desk instead. He pulled it out, and sat down next to the bed as I released my grip. “Well, if you wish to talk, I suppose I can spare some time.”

My heart threatened to jump out of my chest, and I immediately began babbling. It took a little bit, but eventually I mellowed out a little, and the hours seemed to just melt away. In my over-excited state, I suppose it was inevitable that the topic would eventually turn to the subject of Powers. The many I've dealt with over the years have always been fascinating, and I could only assume that Charles would be just as intriguing. The second I broached the topic however, his demeanor became immediately guarded, and he clammed up. I had finally managed to illicit a reaction!

While holding him back was only stupid in hindsight, what I did next was awe-inspiring in its idiocy. I don't know what inspired this latest loss of cognitive function. Perhaps it was just a momentary whim, or maybe it was just your standard run of the mill teenage stupidity. No matter what the cause, in an attempt to assuage his reluctance to speak about Powers in general, I told him about myself.

I suppose it is important to break here and mention something about my strange mental state, if only to justify some of my lapses in judgment. One could naturally assume that the mind and the body are one indivisible unit. Should the mind cease to function, the body would cease to function, and vice-versa. This is a matter about which I have had a number of small, sometimes heated debates over the years. I take my own existence as proof that the mind and the body are indeed separable. Otherwise how would I be able to keep being reborn, while maintaining the memories of my previous lives? Others disagree, saying that my circumstances are unique. Some going so far as to say that I am an abomination to one of their myriad gods.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the mind and body are two separate entities, or at the very least that my mind and body are separate. My mind knows the heartache and pain that come from companionship of any variety. My body, it has been a constant betrayer since before I can remember. More than once that nagging physical need for companionship that all of my bodies seem to harbor, has led to a slip of the tongue. This was no different, once more I had betrayed my mind.

For the first time in our entire conversation, he actually managed a small smile. The fluttering in my stomach did not allow me to properly assess the character of that smile, however. When I mentioned my ability, his dispassionate demeanor flipped. Suddenly, he was leaning forward, asking questions, you could almost see him making mental notes the whole time. I talked until my my throat was sore, he brought food and drink, and we talked and talked and talked some more.

Eventually exhaustion set in. The lack of a clock in the room, insured that I had no idea how long we had been talking. If I had to guess, I'd say that we had been talking for at least twenty hours, but it could have been more, it could have been less. I did notice that while I couldn't stifle the yawns as my eyelids drooped, Charles looked wide awake.

As is so often the case, fatigue won out in the end, and I found myself reluctantly answering the call of Morpheus. I can't say for sure how long I was out, nor can I say whether my slumber was haunted by dreams or not. I know that when I woke up, my neck was stiff, my arm was asleep, and the room was pitch black. From the feel of it, I was also still wearing the same dress I had worn to the party.

With a low groan, I sat up and stretched, trying to banish the stiffness in my muscles, and the ache in my neck. The darkness of the room, was broken by a single thin sliver of light that made its way under the door. I waited for my night vision to adjust, as dark, oppressive shadows loomed in the corners.

I don't know why it is, but every body I have ever had, has had awful night vision, this one was no different. It's awful, considering I have had a deep-seated fear of the dark since the beginning. It's interesting how even after living on and off for several thousand years, the dark can still give you the creeps. I suppose in the beginning there was a valid reason to fear the dark. It was a place that predators could lurk. As time progressed, and the need to be afraid of the dark, my fear never abated. Like a vestigial organ that my body refused to evolve away. Intuitively I knew that darkness was just the absence of light, and with even the smallest of sparks, it can be banished.

Despite my best efforts to contain my fear, my eyes kept darting to the corners, expecting something to come rushing out. As the dread intensified, I was positive that the sliver of salvation under the door was the last thing this body would see. My eyes were adjusting, but it was an excruciatingly slow process waiting for shapes to resolve themselves in the darkness. The already meaningless crawl of time seemed to have decided to work against me as I sat there, my heart pounding in my chest.

After what seemed like hours, but was likely just a matter of minutes, the terror that gripped me proved too much. I fell out of bed, scrambled to my feet, and darted toward that salvation promised by the thin bit of light. I slammed into the door, reaching for the handle, and finding to my dismay, that there was no handle, knob, lever or switch of any kind. My hands searched the surface of the door, probing with increasing fervency for some method of egress, some deliverance from the fear that had crept up and taken hold of me. No matter how long my questing fingers hunted, all they found was a smooth surface.

It does not take long for the mind in the grip of dread, to toss aside rationality, and enter into a glorious state of blind panic. Soon, I found myself pounding on the door, screaming shrilly, pleading for someone to let me out. My voice cracked, my pleading became an incomprehensible amalgamation of sobs and frantic shrieks. I could feel rather than see, the blood stains on the door, as the flesh of my hands was torn apart by my frenzied banging.

Fear and panic can only energize the body for a short time. It is unfortunate however, that the adrenal glands were not made to give the human body an infinite supply of energy. Rather, they are there to give the body a quick burst, the little bit of an extra push to get you out of a life or death situation. Eventually, the energy fades, and leaves you feeling drained, the momentary invigoration giving way to exhaustion like the flip of a switch.

With a few last feeble bangs on the door, I sank to my knees, leaving twin trails of blood trailing down the door. Fear of the dark, and despair about my situation, conspired together and I started sobbing uncontrollably. Hopelessness filled me in a way I haven't felt since the last time I stood tied to a stake, watching the flames lap at my ankles. I turned and sat there with my back against the door, weeping into my hands. My tears mixed with the blood, and rolled down my face. The metallic scent of blood flooded my nostrils, the copper tang filled my mouth.

My cries echoed through the room. A cacophonous din so loud, that I nearly missed the sound coming from overhead. Machinery grinding into motion drew me out of my despair, and I looked up, quickly trying to stifle my sobs. At first, the darkness made it so I couldn't see anything, but then there was a brief flash of light, directly above me. That flash grew into a sliver, and began growing, as the ceiling above me slowly peeled away. Light poured in from above, and I averted my eyes. I was temporarily blinded by the sudden intrusion of fluorescent light.

“Ah, there you are. I heard you were awake.” A familiar voice crackled over hidden speakers overhead. “Not that you were particularly quiet about it.”

I shaded my eyes with a bloodied hand, and looked up. A thing dribble of blood and tears rolled down into my eyes. “What the hell is going on here, Charles? Where is the doorknob? How am I supposed to get out of this room?”

His laughter filled the room, a cruel soulless sound. “My dear, you obviously don't understand the situation you are in. There is no exiting that room. There is no escape. You will be in that room until such time as I have managed to figure out how that miraculous ability of yours works.”

“...but I told you that it only works when I...” Horrible realization came to me, and the gravity of the situation came crashing down. Anger flooded through me, pushing aside the desperation, as I realized just what he had in store for me. “You sick bastard!”

“There it is! Comprehension is possible it would seem. Perhaps I won't have to spell everything out for you after all. You're obviously at least marginally more intelligent than I had assumed. Perhaps those lifetimes you have spoken of have actually taught you something.” There was a long pause, and I could see a shadow cross through the blinding light above me. “You know, I've wanted to study a powered individual for a good long while. Every time I approached the concept from a different angle, and in the end my mind always told me that it would be immoral. Or at the very least morally ambiguous. As a 'hero' to the masses, that was something I had to avoid. Can't have the leader of The Foundation perceived as some evil monster, right?

“You, my dear, have afforded me a very special opportunity. Before, I always had to worry that I might study someone, and they would die. Killing is one of those things that just doesn't go over well with people, unless I do it in the line of duty. I kill in the line of duty the mewling masses worship me as an even bigger damn hero than before. No. Killing a person in the line of research, would not be acceptable. Not that anyone would ever find out, but having some small sense of morals, crossing that line might affect me in some way that I would not be able to hide. My impeccable moral character can not be tarnished. I think you offer a much more acceptable moral gray area. You see, if you die from my studying you, and let's be honest you will die, I will be able to rest easy knowing that while your body has died, your mind lives on. Effectively, I can't murder you, because you can't die.”

“You're supposed to be a hero, you psychopath!” I screamed up at the harsh lights overhead. “People look up to you! Think of all the lives you've saved!”

A heavy sigh came over whatever intercom system he was using. “You don't see the big picture here. I am trying to save everyone! You've heard what my teammates can do. When used for good, these powers can be amazing, life-saving things. However, not everyone who has powers is guided by a proper moral compass. For everyone out there like Agent Pierce, there are 3 others who would use these abilities for their own personal gain. Why do you think the Foundation is necessary in the first place? I want to study these powers so I can figure out what causes them. Why do so few people exhibit these abilities? Can you imagine the things I could potentially learn by studying what happens when you die? Your death could be the key to unlocking secrets of the universe that humanity was never meant to know. Once I learn where these powers come from, I can perhaps dole them out to the proper people. People that will use them for the good of humanity, rather than to harm them.”

I struggled my way up to my knees, attempting to fight back a sudden wave of vertigo. Serenity overcame me, as acceptance of my situation set in. “Let me go. I've already told you, as soon as I die, I'll be reborn... and you'll have no idea who I am, or where I am. You should know one thing, I've never let someone who murdered me get away with it. I will come for you, you sick bastard. I will end your life.”

The cruel laughter that thundered through the room was almost deafening. Apparently my promise of retribution was amusing to him. “Oh, you think I'm afraid of you? Or whatever frail little body you might inhabit after this one? Please. I'd welcome a worthy adversary. It would ”

He paused. “No. You'll come at me, you will fail. I'm the greatest tactical mind of all time. You think some mewling whelp has any chance against me?”

I glared up at the ceiling, up at the pacing shadow I assumed was cast by his feet. “Never underestimate an opponent. This is not a matter of you killing me now. The death of this body is ultimately meaningless. You'll gain nothing from watching me die. I know what you are planning. I know what you desire. I know that in this lifetime, I can't win. But I will be back. I will see you bleed for what you've done.”

With that, I tuned out his droning rants. This man I had idolized, and fantasized about, had turned out to be a monster. Like all the other monsters I have dealt with in my unnatural lifetime, he was destined to fall, and I would be sure he fell at my hands.

There is a certain peace one can find as their death approaches. Accept the inevitability of it, let tranquility take you. I knew there was no escape. Sure, there were hunger pains, since no food was provided. There was thirst, since there was no water provided. There was even exhaustion, as those fluorescent lights never shut off, and so sleep wasn't an option. Despite the discomfort, or perhaps because of it, my resolve only grew stronger. I would kill Charles Hudson, no matter how many bodies I had to throw at him to do it.

I closed my eyes, and waited. Like it always does, death came to greet me. My reward for this life, my one slight bit of heaven, was the black oblivion between lives.