Magnetar Nov 29, 2018 20:13:26 GMT
Post by REDSHEILD on Nov 29, 2018 20:13:26 GMT
Full Name: Abigail Powell
Age: Born November 8th, 1993; physically 17.
Blood Type: AB
General Appearance: Abigail is a bit taller than the average woman, a feature accentuated by her long legs and lithe physique, resulting in a graceful appearance.
Height: 5’ 8” (1.73m)
Weight: 120 lbs (535 newtons)
Eye color: Amber
Body build: Slim
Hair color: Dark red
Hair style: Long, thin, and wavy.
General Personality: Once warm, friendly, and altruistic, Abigail is now cold, calculating, and selfish. Though her primary goal is to ensure her own survival, she is not above working with others, so long as she benefits from the outcome.
While not evil, Abigail will not hesitate to maim or even kill those who stand in her way.
Current faith or religion: Atheist
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Occupation: OSP asset
Powers and Abilities:
1. Field Vision
Magnetar can sense electromagnetic fields. This manifests primarily as the ability to see them, along with an intuitive sense of electromagnetic circuit networks.
2. Energy Resistance
Magnetar is immune to damaging effects from electromagnetic currents or fields. She can absorb energy from them, storing this energy internally to power her active abilities.
3. Altered State
In order to use her magnetic abilities at full strength, Magnetar’s body is transmuted into a different form of matter. In this form her metabolic functions draw entirely off of stored energy at the cellular level, as do her powers. She does not age, experience fatigue, or require sleep in this state, and is always running at peak capacity. In this state her body is capable of surviving temperatures that would kill a normal person; she is also capable of using her field to maintain her body temperature in cold climates. Reverting to normal resets her body to the state it was when she first utilized her full powers.
Skin-tight clothing transmutes along with Magnetar, making it capable of surviving her power use and being manipulated by her power.
Her appearance in this state is normal while her field is neutral. However when she shapes the field by creating poles, the color of her skin and any converted clothing in the path of the net field changes based on polarity and intensity. North poles start at a bright red and darken as the intensity rises, eventually becoming so dark as to lose definition. South poles start as a dull blue, shifting into violet and then becoming white as intensity increases.
4. Magnetic Binding
Though Magnetar’s altered form is no more durable than her normal self, she can use her magnetic field to repair injuries, even catastrophic ones such as the loss of a limb. Extended use of this allows her to manipulate her body’s form, though doing so may cause pain.
Magnetar is capable of utilizing the magnetic moments of her body’s electrons at will while in her altered state. At full exertion she can create a magnetic field that has a maximum strength of 5.6 kiloteslas at the surface of her skin, dropping off with distance. She can manipulate this field at the level of single electrons, dividing it up into various poles, or even turning the entire field into a monopole.
At high strengths this field disables and destroys electronics in close proximity to Magnetar.
The amount of energy consumed while entering her altered state sets the field’s strength limit. In order to use her full strength field, she has to consume 12.6 terajoules of energy. This initial investment can be made at transition or while already in her altered state.
6. Magnetic Movement
By carefully shaping her magnetic field Magnetar can use it to propel herself at high speeds, even allowing rudimentary flight. Specifically, on an open field Magnetar could “run” at 188 miles per hour; faster in an environment with buildings or other large easily magnetized objects to push and pull against. This same power lets her “swim” at 639 knots. Flight is more environment dependent, in flat areas her ability to fly would be more akin to running glides supplemented by levitation, while in a city it would be trivial to pull herself through the air by reacting against the buildings around her.
7. Magnetic Discharge
Magnetar can discharge stored energy as magnetic currents, which do not occur in normal matter. As such, they are extremely destructive. Worse yet, they create electric fields as they propagate, producing highly energetic static discharges. The nature of these currents drives them to seek a path that will ultimately return to Magnetar herself, as there are no natural magnetic charges.
While in her altered state Magnetar can transform her body into an electromagnetic wave. The frequency and intensity of this wave are proportional to how much energy she invests into it. She is capable of reforming her body where the wave gets absorbed at peak intensity. If the wave is absorbed by a circuit network she can transmit herself through the network and re-emit at any dedicated transmission equipment in the network. The highest frequency she can transmit at is in the microwave region.
9. Magnetic Pulse
By rapidly oscillating her field, Magnetar can emit an electromagnetic pulse capable of disabling or destroying electronics within a large radius, proportional to the energy of the pulse.
Oscillation of the dipoles that make up her altered state results in the emission of light, akin to electroluminescence. This ranges from radio to low ultraviolet, based on the frequency used. The dipoles can be oscillated in phase to form a phased-array, or out of phase to merely emit electromagnetic radiation.
11. Virtual Being
A consequence of Magnetar’s altered state is that her nervous system is replaced by virtual magnetic circuits, mapped to the same volume as the physical neurons they have replaced. So long as she remains in her altered state, Magnetar’s memory is perfect, and vastly more capable than any human. This also means that she effectively thinks faster and is more reactive, though her perception of time is not altered to any superhuman degree.
12. Magnetic Sense
Magnetar can use her field as a sensory organ via her intuitive understanding of how the field interacts with the environment. Even when her field is inactive there is some degree of sensation, merely from its potential.
1. Ocular Limit
Magnetar’s field vision uses the same brain matter as normal vision, so she must make trade-offs between seeing fields and normal sight.
High frequency currents disrupt her alternate state, diminishing the strength of her field and disabling her transmission ability. However, she can still absorb the current’s energy as she would any other.
3. Translation Loss
Reverting from her altered state affects Magnetar’s brain, primarily in the cataloging and retrieval of long-term memories, especially newly formed ones. To remedy this she keeps a journal, but it still has a destabilizing effect on her personality. As a result she prefers to spend as much time as possible in her altered state.
Despite the physical reversion, injuries acquired in Magnetar’s altered form persist. Likewise, injuries on her human form persist when entering the altered state. Injuries that are repaired in her altered state must heal in that state; if she reverts, they will become usual injuries, with some mitigation from any healing that had taken place.
Magnetar cannot generate energy internally, and must absorb energy from external sources.
Maintaining her altered state requires significant amounts of power when it is active, regardless of the power of her field. Should her energy reserves be drained she will revert to normal, and be unable to transition again until she has acquired enough energy. At full strength she requires approximately 16 megawatts to maintain her altered state.
All magnetic fields can be restricted or contained using the right materials, and it follows that Magnetar’s field can be contained as well. Due to frequency limits her transmission ability cannot penetrate metallic objects. As such, sturdy metallic structures can potentially be used to trap her.
Magnetar’s discharge and transmission abilities are probabilistic. She can weight outcomes, but there is always the chance that the dice will roll low, or high.
9. Organic Limit
Magnetar’s field will not harm living creatures, even at extreme strengths. Nor will the field be able to move them directly, even if it would be powerful enough to do so via induction.
High-power transmissions equipment, such as powerful radars or military-grade jamming equipment, make it difficult for Magnetar to transmit in the frequencies the transmission equipment is active on.
Magnetar’s power is limited in the amount of work, the energy used per unit time, it can do. She can only do work at a maximum rate equivalent to her power’s upkeep.
Electromagnetic fields such as from electrical equipment interact with Magnetar’s field in a way that affects how sensitive its sensory aspect is, reducing the effective range of her magnetic senses. This is particularly evident in cities. However in environments with very little inherent electromagnetism, her magnetic senses are much more acute.
Skills and Talents:
Amateur Astronomer - Abigail once planned to develop her hobby into a proper career. Though her current circumstances have rendered that an impossibility, her knowledge of the stars is useful for night time navigation.
Apprentice electrician - Prior to pursuing astronomy, Abigail intended to study electronics. She ultimately found it unappealing despite her power making working with electrical components easy. However, she still retains a measure of skill in the field.
Equipment: Abigail has few possessions: of note are the remains of her original journal, her new journal, and a simple mobile phone capable of surviving in the proximity of her active field.
Current residence: Russia
Birthplace: Lowell, Massachusetts
January 12th, 2013
Arctic Coast, Siberia, Russian SFSR
The lighthouse is dark: in winter the northern passes freeze, the beacon’s purpose is gone. The night sky is unusually cloudy, rendering the coast a land of shadow where structure and landscape blend together.
She does not need light to see; to her, the lighthouse is brilliant, the fissioning matter that powers it as bright as any guiding lamp. The waters around the lighthouse have yet to be stilled by the encroaching frost, wave action breaking up ice before it can gain a foothold.
She approaches the shore, checks her bag to ensure it is sealed, and enters the water. She does not swim; water is a dipole, her field will attract and repel it, propelling her across the channel.
On the other side she emerges, rising from the water. Her body is cold now, and the water clinging to her begins to freeze in contact with the air. Her field flickers: water and ice are scattered into vapor. The lighthouse rests atop a plateau of stone, cut away from the mainland by eons of erosion. She ascends the cliffs directly, feet adhering to the rock via induced magnetism.
Warmth washes over her as the rusted-covered door swings open. The feeling is not from heat; the interior of the lighthouse is well below freezing, barely a degree warmer than the outside, or her own body, for that matter. The warmth is radiation, streaming out from the cracked casing of the lighthouse’s power source. The energy she absorbs from it is orders of magnitude lower than the drain of her power, but it helps dull the pain.
Radiation is a safeguard as well. She has carved trefoils into the cliffs around the lighthouse, and with the casing shattered the warning is real.
The interior is lightly furnished; most of the rooms have been stripped by looters. There is a room with a cot, mattress since rotted away. The room is covered in dust, undisturbed; she does not need to sleep. There is a kitchen with a broken stove, left alone in the year she has lived in the lighthouse; she does not need to eat. All she needs is the table and the chair.
She spills the contents of her bag onto the table: scrap, metal and otherwise, acquired by barter; currency she doesn’t recognize, acquired through trade in scrap; and finally books, purchased at a run-down store. The scrap and currency are removed to another room. She stands near the table and arrays the books in front of her.
Skin and costume alike erupt in blue and red dots, each the terminus of a magnetic pole. They grow in density until she appears to be an even purple from head to toe. As her field increases in magnitude the purple hue fades to a perfect monochrome. Though it is neutral it extends her senses, letting her perceive the world around her in a fundamental way.
Magnetism is the twin of electricity; for each charged particle there is a magnetic moment. Nature trends towards the lowest possible energy so these moments come to cancel out, even in randomness. Through them she can feel the composition of the books, discern where ink has bonded to paper. These things are magnetically neutral with their static domains, but a strong enough field can affect them.
Black clouds fill the room as the separated ink disperses. She uses her field to gather the particulate into a ball, compressing it until it binds together, then tosses it into the kitchen sink. A survey of the books shows that three of the twelve did not survive, their pages torn to shreds. She sits down as her body returns to a normal appearance, summoning a pen to her hand as her field subsides. On a symbolic level she finds the desecration of the books regrettable; on a practical one, these were unwanted, sold for less than their paper would be worth. Some were even free.
It was necessary, anyway. Writing helps with memory.
And she has an entire life to remember.
July 19th, 2013
Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, Russian SFSR
Another page read, another minute wasted. The newspread in her hands is more of a tabloid than the product of proper journalism, but it was the only one in English she could find.
Months of writing down memories as they surfaced ever so fleetingly has resulted only in a jumbled mess. There has been no epiphany, no miraculous recovery. She can’t even remember her name, and what words had reached the page seemed alien when read, despite evoking strong emotions. She had avoided civilization until now, returning only out of hope for the familiar.
She didn’t find it. Not in this city, not in the news. It all felt wrong, and she couldn’t even remember why. Frustrated she throws the paper to the ground and slumps back against the bench, staring up at the clear sky.
“Did you drop this?”
She rights her posture. A man is holding the paper out to her. He is tall, with hard features that are nonetheless warmed by the smile he wears.
“It’s trash. I wouldn’t even call it a bad read.” She replies.
He leafs through the pages, before rolling it up. “You’re right.” The man drops the paper into a trashcan by the sidewalk, then sits on the other end of the bench.
“Shouldn’t leave it on the ground. That’s one attitude I don’t miss from back home.”
“You’re American, right? Too young to be an expat such as myself. Traveling?”
“I…” She hesitates; the man is unfamiliar, but it is the first conversation she has had in recent memory. She recognizes his accent, Midwestern.
“Yeah. Traveling. How did you… how did you know?”
“You had that lost puppy look about you, like most tourists do. What brings you here?”
“Well, I…” I don’t know she thinks. Memories begin to surface; she stops trying to think about the question. She says what comes to mind first.
“Family. But not with them, not traveling with them, I mean. Getting away from them.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” The man looks genuinely sad. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“They… They wouldn’t accept what… who I am. They said I was hurting myself, but I just need, I just needed time to figure things out. So I left.”
“Coming here, to the Union, seems extreme.”
“They were hurting me. I needed to get far away.”
“I don’t mean to sound accusatory, but this isn’t going to help you. You must have friends you could go to, other family? We can call the American embassy, they can help you. I admit, home probably isn’t the best place in the world, but being in a foreign land won’t make your problems any easier.”
“I don’t think…” The offer is tempting; the embassy would surely be able to find her records. But then they would find out what she’s done.
“I don’t think that would help. Thank you, though.”
“I insist. Getting here from the States isn’t easy, or cheap. I can’t imagine you have much.”
“One way flights cost less, and I’m staying in a shelter. I-I’ll think about it, though.”
“Okay. I’m sorry if I’m pressuring you. As a father myself, I can’t help but feel bad. Those shelters, they provide, no one goes hungry or sleeps in the cold in the Union, but you won’t be able to get work, not being a citizen. And you seem so lonely. I was just on my way home; even if you don’t want help, my wife wouldn’t mind making dinner for a guest. Maybe we could figure out a way to improve your situation, at least.”
Again, a tempting offer. But there is a reason she came to the city, a reason other than soul-searching. The sun has begun to set, and her window of opportunity nears. She can feel her reserves draining as her power takes its due, hours left at best.
There is a gravity dam several miles to the south, one of the largest hydroelectric generators in the world. That is why she is here.
“I can’t. I need to get going. Thank you, though, for the company. Maybe some other time.”
“Be careful. What they say in the West isn’t true, our crime rates are quite low. But with the blackouts recently, it’s best to err on the side of caution at night.”
October 24th, 2013
Arctic Coast, Siberia, Russian SFSR
The antenna atop the lighthouse glows red, pieces melted, warped. It has been reinforced with scrap, but it is still damaged each time she uses it. The binding energy of a human body, even a simulacra such as hers, is significant. In physical networks she can spread the load over time, but that is not possible when she turns into light.
She enters the lighthouse tower, meandering down its winding stairs. She reaches the main floor and realizes something is amiss. There is a draft, where she had left the door locked shut. She finds the disturbance in the kitchen: three people, wearing strange outfits, like a hazmat suit but bulkier, with their faces hidden behind tinted visors. Two are standing by the door holding rifles, the third is sitting in her chair, reading one of her journals. Each wears a sort of badge on their chest, a blocky device with a blinking green light.
She uses her field to probe the area; the clothing worn by the three strangers feels dampened, difficult to perceive. A magnetic insulator. The rifles are made of a similar material, denser than the suits, probably too weak for sustained fire.
“You were problematic to track down.” The one in the chair, a man, says in a pronounced accent. “You should be thankful. The Premier wanted to send a plane, destroy this place with a fuel-air bomb. Fortunately he was willing to listen to reason, as I hope you are willing. He is a man very concerned with image, and these rolling blackouts have proven toxic to his sensibilities. He is not always the most practical man, and somehow believed it would be easy to cover up the of use such a weapon as a mere exercise. But in fairness, you have inflicted a measure of fear upon my nation.”
She does not respond, and is completely still.
“Your silence means you are listening, yes? You have much to answer for, but I will accept silence for now. We both know what you have done, however I will repeat it for the purposes of making this interview definitive.” He places a large box onto the table, pressing a bulky button on the top of it. A recorder, hardened to the point that its electromagnetic signature can barely be felt.
“Now that we have begun, how would you like to be addressed? Your victims have called you a monster, among other things, but these are unfit for our records.”
Drawing on her field she extends a hand towards the unused bedroom. The soldiers raise their rifles but the man lifts his hand in a ‘hold’ gesture, and they lower them again. She uses her field to pull a folded up chair from the other room, setting it up across the table from the man before taking a seat, arms crossed. She does not speak.
“Many of my fellow investigators find silence irritating: they pry at their subjects, turning their words against them. These methods, they are a crutch.” He retrieves a folded pamphlet from the front pocket of his suit, opening it and placing it on the table. It is a list of dates, with descriptions in Russian.
“November fifteenth, year two-thousand-twelve. Your first appearance, in Novovoronezh power station. From the night manager’s report you materialized from thin air in the switchyard, severely wounded. They treated your wounds to the best of their capability. You repaid their hospitality by draining the local power grid of its energy. When the workers at the plant attempted to stop you, you mutilated them, blinding several and, notably, removing hands and fingers.”
“You admit to this crime?”
“It was necessary. I warned them, they didn’t listen. They were content to let me die.”
Part of her is shocked, appalled, at what she has said. Her memory of that day, and of each moment since, is perfect. Every thought, every feeling, is preserved. At the time she was horrified, even afraid of what she had done. These emotions bleed out through the memory and now take the form of guilt, of regret, in the present.
“After that day you appear to have settled into a pattern, attacking substations or power stations approximately once per week, for only minutes at a time. As with the first attack, those who tried to stop you have been grievously injured. On July nineteenth you broke this pattern when you attacked Krasnoyarsk hydroelectric, draining its output for nearly eight hours that night, and wounding half of the workers there. From your old pattern we believe that your reserves will only last twenty more days at most, before you are driven to attack again.”
“Are you here to stop me?”
“On the contrary, Miss Powell, I am here to make an offer, if you would hear it.”
The name sounds foreign at first, almost unreal. Then it snaps into place in her mind, bridging gaps in her memories. The sudden clarity is painful.
“How… How do you know my name?”
“We know a great deal about you, Miss Powell. Judging by the state of these journals you have written, we know more than you do. More accurately, we know everything you have forgotten.”
“Tell me.” She holds a hand up, a storm of magnetic currents coursing around it. “Tell me, or I kill you.”
The man mutters something in Russian. A moment passes and she feels the air hum. It is unlike most man-made signals: it is noise, strong, disorienting.
“That would be most unwise, Miss Powell. While you would no doubt succeed eventually, these uniforms were designed to impede abilities such as yours. You will lose too much in trying, and the jamming signal will prevent your fastest means of escape. With final proof that you are indeed rabid, my superiors will have every reason to put you down.”
“Fine.” The storm ceases, and she lowers her hand. “Tell me your offer.”
“You are familiar with the slogan ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,’ yes?”
“Your needs are great, perhaps unreasonably so, but that does not mean they cannot be met. Provided you give us an adequate return, though what that is, I cannot say.”
“You would make me a slave. Or worse. I can’t-I can’t remember much of my life, but if you know anything about my past, then you know I wasn’t free. This is my freedom. I won’t let you take it from me.”
“Such conviction! Miss Powell, if this is how you appreciate your freedom, then you have taken it from yourself. You have time to think on this, and I implore you to use it.”
The badge on the man’s chest blinks red briefly, before holding the color.
“It seems our time here is at its end. I will leave you with a gift, a show of faith.”
He retrieves a cloth parcel from a large pocket on the front of his suit, placing it on the table. He picks up the recorder box, and stands up.
“There is a phone in the bag. Use it when you have made your decision; ask for Agent Grachyov, the operator will know to inform me.”
Grachyov and the soldiers depart, leaving her alone. The whine of a jet engine pierces the air.
Though the sound from the aircraft fades, the jammer’s hum remains. She remains still until the shadows have grown long, feeling the signal shift.
By her best guess it is three jammers, each on a separate aircraft, circling the lighthouse.
Escape is unlikely. She looks at the parcel, exploring it with her field. The phone is made of simple circuits, if it could even be called a phone: it can only send signals out, not receive them. No doubt they intended her to use it while inside the jamming area.
Something else in the bag catches her attention: an object made mostly of organic fibers, with a spiral of metal binding it. A book, or more accurately, a journal. She pulls it to her with her power and looks at the cover in the last rays of sunlight. For the first time in almost a year, she cries.
I have a name
November 8th, 2013
Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, Russian SFSR
Abigail resists the urge to fidget as she waits on the bench. The phone is in her pocket; despite its small size, it feels like it is her greatest burden. She has visited the city many times, not once afraid of being discovered: she has never worn the same clothes twice, not that they were hers to wear. Though she cannot feel any signals coming from the phone, she still fears being traced.
As it was on her first visit Abigail can feel her power’s drain, her time running out. She had escaped the lighthouse by tunneling through the rock and swimming away, actions that required significant time and energy to achieve.
“Not to be rude, but after a month, I was hoping I wouldn’t see you again.”
It was David, the expat. Her only friend.
“Thought I’d taken your advice?”
“Hey, a man can dream.” He sits down at the other end of the bench, as usual. “It’s good to see you, though.”
“I know this is short notice, but… could I take you up on that offer? For dinner?”
“Of course! Here.” He takes out his phone. “Let me just message my wife that we will be having a guest. You know, you seem so much better today, better than on all the other days.”
“Yeah, I guess I am. I made some decisions.”
“I hope so.”
The apartment is filled with the smell of food and the sound of music. Most of it is unfamiliar to Abigail, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t appetizing. The table is small and round, set for three, and already it seems packed with various dishes. David’s wife emerges from the kitchen carrying another serving bowl, and manages to find a spot for it on the table.
“I hope you didn’t go through all this trouble just for me.” Abigail says sheepishly. “I don’t think I could finish a single course.”
“Do not feel ashamed.” The woman replies. “Eat, eat! You have barely touched your salad.”
Abigail looks at her plate. Her power prevents her from going hungry, but it doesn’t stop her from eating. Other things have suppressed her appetite.
“Don’t let her pressure you, take your time.” David interjects. “Ana cooks like this for every guest. Then we don’t need to cook for days at a time, so it works out.”
“My husband, he works for the state.” Ana laughs. “Well, more than most of us. His colleagues often come over, and they eat like their mothers neglected them! Had he said he was inviting the lonely girl, I would have made something lighter.”
“My David is so rude, too! That is how he calls you. So rude, to have never asked your name.”
“She never gave it to me. I prefer to let people be as open as they desire, rather than let social norms pry at them.”
“Ah, the psychologist is finally home.” Ana says with mock condescension. She looks at Abigail. “He has not been messing with your head these past months?”
Abigail shakes her head. “No, he’s only given good advice. I wish I had listened to it more.”
“Oh, you should not say such things around him. His ego is large enough.”
Ana and David share a laugh, Abigail smiles slightly. Ana rushes in and out of the kitchen with the final dish, placing it and then seating herself at the table.
“Now, I must ‘pry’ as David would say, but it feels so wrong to have a guest and not be able to properly address her.”
“Abigail.” She almost chokes, saying her name. “Abigail Powell.”
Briefly, she notices David’s brow furrow.
“Ah, Abigail! Such a beautiful name! I wish my father had given me such a name.”
“Oh, stop it.” David says. “Anastasia is just as beautiful.”
“And so common.” Ana says. “But you, Abigail, are an uncommon sight. My David has had much to say about you, yet we know so little. I remember he invited you here on the day he met you, and several times since. He was so disappointed that you never had the time. Has something changed?”
“Yes. I… I guess I came here to say goodbye.”
“Oh? You have decided to take my husband’s advice? Have you called the American consulate?”
“Something like that.”
“When you get home you must write to us. David says you are not appreciated by your family. It must be so strange for you, that someone you barely know would be so concerned. I admit I was surprised at first, myself, but my husband, he is dedicated to helping people. He lost his way in his youth, and struggled to find it again. I believe he fears you are headed down such a path; he wants to save you from that struggle. And as a father of three boys, I know he has always wanted a daughter as well, though he would never admit it. We would love for you to stay here, but you need to return home.”
David nods along. Abigail notices he looks sad, now.
“Thank you, but, I don’t think I can go home. I think I hurt some people. I’m afraid.”
“I find it hard to believe you could hurt anyone. Would you agree, David?”
“She has always been pleasant around me.”
“See? You have had a hard chapter in your life, if you have made mistakes, do not be afraid. Our country is very forgiving.”
Abigail winces in pain as she feels the distinct hum of a signal jammer, strong enough to make her nauseous. She recovers and notices the music is distorted: the signal is disrupting the stereo.
“Are you alright dear?” Anastasia asks her, concerned.
“No. No I’m not.” Abigail takes a deep breath. “I’m not afraid of justice, I’m afraid because I did hurt people. Hurt them enough that maybe I should have just killed them. I’m afraid because I don’t care. I look back and I know I should feel bad, but I don’t.”
She can hear heavy footsteps now, likely seconds from reaching the door.
“My family acted like my powers were monstrous. I think they were right, now.”
“I do not understand. You are empowered?”
The footsteps stop and there is a loud knock on the door. Anastasia gets up.
“David, did you invite anyone else?”
He shakes his head.
“How strange.” She goes to the door and opens it. Abigail doesn’t turn around to look; she can feel the three soldiers’ presence, dressed in the magnetic dampening suits. One of them says something in Russian to Anastasia. Abigail can feel the woman’s heart rate increase, rapid bursts of electricity. David says a few Russian words and the soldiers enter the room, giving Anastasia room to flee.
“I’m sorry, David, for the trouble.” Abigail looks down, and puts her hands on her head. “I just wanted to say goodbye before turning myself in. I didn’t-I didn’t think they could track me here.”
“We did not.” It is Grachyov’s voice, deep and distinct. “Until you took it upon yourself to inform us.”
One of the soldiers approaches and starts to cuff her hands together, the motion wrenching her head up. David is standing, and when he speaks, it is with Grachyov’s voice.
“I wish I had known who you were on the day we met. Perhaps things may have gone differently, then. Attacking the dam was a point of no return. I am happy, though, that you have accepted my offer.”
“What-What happens now? Are they… Are you going to kill me?”
“Not at all. You owe a great debt to my nation; before I tell you how it will be repaid, there is a question you have yet to answer. You are Abigail Powell, and according to your journal, you were an American hero going by the codename Domain. Though we have no such record of an empowered by that name, I do not find it fitting for who, and what, you have become.”
“Magnetar. Call me Magnetar.”
January 3rd, 2014
Moscow, Russian SFSR
Abigail stares at the ceiling. Like the floor she is laying on it is padded: firm enough to be uncomfortable, soft enough to yield under force, preventing injury. At the corners of the room are clear plastic domes, the end points of periscopes linked to distant cameras. The room has no lights, but she can see faintly by the ever-present electrical fields that form the basis of complex matter.
Outside of these modifications, the cell is standard for solitary confinement. Beneath the padding are walls of concrete poured around rebar.
They have brought her to the center of their civilization and trusted a paper cage to hold her, because they do not fear her.
Without her power, she is nothing.
The door stirs, mechanisms barely audible. A column of light falls on her as the door swings inwards, partially blocked by the shape of a man leaning in the doorway.
“Hello, David.” She says, breaking the silence.
“Hey.” He replies. “I’m glad you remembered me.”
“I don’t think I told you about my amnesia.”
“I read about it in the notes from your trial, before I gave my testimony to the jury.”
Grachyov is here in his civilian identity: everything he says is curated, said with care to avoid revealing what he truly knows. Abigail can play along.
“I heard you had good things to say, about my character.” She says. “I’m sorry you had to lie on my behalf.”
He shakes his head.
“I wasn’t lying. I genuinely believe you could be reformed, if you’d let us try. What you said at the trial… in my professional opinion, you aren’t in the right mind, asking for what you did.”
“It was the simplest solution.”
“There are many solutions, but… the death penalty? Requesting it, of all things?”
“Keeping me imprisoned would be futile. Even here, I’m recharging. It’s only a matter of time until I can get enough of my power back. But then they would corner me again, capture me again, and throw me in a cell. You see where this goes, David? Maybe this isn’t the best option; it isn’t what I wanted, but my powers make me too dangerous, and I would rather die without them.”
“Look, Abigail, it’s not too late. There are options. Power suppressors, taken temporarily, until you’re in good mental health. Please try to listen to what I’m saying. I’m worried about you.”
“Give it a day, and you won’t have to.”
“That’s why I have to worry! Even murderers show emotion; you act as if life doesn’t even matter, less than a day before your execution! I talked to the guards, they said you haven’t eaten in a week, or drank anything in two days. You refused a last meal. This isn’t normal human behavior.”
“You don’t get it, David.” She sits up, cross-legged, and looks him in the eyes. “I don’t like being human. Tell me, David, do you know what happens when a man dies?”
His expression changes only briefly, something dark in his eyes. Grachyov is well aware, but the facade of David must be preserved. He shakes his head.
“When a man dies his body loses all direction. Muscles spasm: he soils himself, and once regular actions become erratic, the last breathes become strained gasps or gurgles as he chokes on his own blood. Entropy asserts itself abruptly, mocking all that remains of an ordered being. In refusing the primitive needs of the human body, I can spare myself some of that. I can show that I am above them, even in death.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Abigail.”
“Don’t be.” She lays down again, arms spread out, legs together. “Go home to your loving wife, call one of your sons, if it takes your mind off of my situation. Be thankful for them, and be thankful that I have found some peace.”
He waits for a moment; she does not respond. The door closes with a soft sound, and she is alone again.
January 4th, 2014
Moscow, Russian SFSR
Two men follow Abigail closely as she walks down the hall. They are not guards she has seen before; likely a psychological measure, more for their sake than hers. It is easier to lead someone to death when you don’t know who they are.
The door to the execution chamber is battered by age, peeling paint and rusted handle indicative of disuse. It screeches when opened, cool air wafts from the room. Her prisoner’s jumper is thin, and the hair on her arms and neck stand up in response to the chill. Another sensation she will not miss.
The guards bring her to the chair at the center of the room. She sits down and they bind her legs to it, remove the chains on her wrists, and bind her arms. Then at last, her head is bound. It is comforting, in a way: the bindings are tight enough that she will not visibly spasm. A perfect death.
By the remaining vestiges of her power she can feel the electrical contacts in the chair, a holdover from a prior method of killing. Ironic to think that in an earlier era, such an implement of death would have only made her stronger.
The prison doctor enters the room, dressed in white. Despite him wearing a surgical mask, she can tell the man isn’t the usual doctor for this wing.
Behind him a fourth man enters, dressed formally, in all black. She looks at him.
“I told you to go home, David.”
The doctor inserts a needle into her left forearm. David watches, sadness evident in his expression.
“The consulate wasn’t able to contact your family in America; I knew you wouldn’t want to see your family if they had. There isn’t much love for mass murders, so I came here to mourn, before you are buried with the rest.”
“Thank you for your honesty, David. I was afraid you would try to talk me out of this, raise my hopes with talk of redemption again. The man who arrested me did, and I see now it was just a lie.”
David doesn’t respond. Abigail looks at the doctor.
“Well, hurry up then. I don’t have all day.”
The prison doctor retrieves a vial, fitting it to the injection apparatus. Abigail watches the fluid pass through the line and enter her arm.
As the world goes dark, she hears a deep voice.
“I wasn’t lying.”
Abigail awakens gasping for air, vision blurred and ears ringing. She tries to move, her efforts only resulting in cramps and spasms. After several minutes of struggling against her own body her breathing slows down to normal and her senses return, letting her examine the world around her.
Her prison jumper is gone; she is wearing a medical gown. The air is warm enough that it doesn’t bother her.
The room feels built like a cell, but it isn’t furnished like one. The far wall has a barred window with closed shades, the door built sturdily of steel. She finds herself laying on a mattress of decent quality that itself rests on a metal frame. A desk is situated at the foot of the bed, up against the inner wall, complete with a reading lamp. One wall is mirrored in the space where the door would swing open. The other wall has a dresser, next to a bookshelf bolted to the concrete. Her journals fill the shelves.
The ceiling is unusual, a concave dome at the center. Beneath it is a metal grid built into the floor.
After testing her movements Abigail carefully gets up from the bed, walking to the center of the room. With her bare feet on the grid she can feel an expansive circuit network attached to it, terminating in several antennas. On closer examination she realizes the dome is a parabolic reflector, its focus situated at her center of mass.
The contents of the dresser are uninteresting at first glance: the clothes match with what she remembers of popular fashion across the Union. One garment catches her eye, and she pulls it out. A black jumpsuit. The fabric is strange, wrinkleless, almost reacting to her touch. She can feel the scattered magnetic domains in it aligning where it touches her skin.
Abigail removes the gown and starts to climb into the jumpsuit. The only hole in it is at the neck, which stretches enough to pass her hips, torso, and shoulders. It fits perfectly.
She examines herself in the mirror. The jumpsuit doesn’t bunch up at the joints when she moves, and though the fabric is thin the way it hugs her body results in a modest, sleek appearance.
As good as it feels to be in costume again, it reminds Abigail that she is still powerless. Her attention shifts to her memory, or rather, to the holes in it. Her most recent reversion wasn’t as bad, but it has left its mark. She grabs some of the journals, taking a seat at the desk and hoping to repair the damage done.
“You don’t look so bad, for a dead woman.”
Grachyov’s voice rouses Abigail from her sleep. She finds herself slumped over at the desk, her face sitting in a puddle of drool. She fumbles as she rises from the chair, but manages to stand, stumbling to the grid on the floor.
“Where…” She pauses, wiping her face with her sleeve. “Where am I?”
“It is an area that should be familiar territory for you. Siberia. This specific location is one of the many nodes of Special Applications, an organization dedicated to utilizing our most problematic resources. Resources such as yourself, Magnetar.”
“You. You planned this. From the day we met, didn’t you?”
“On the contrary, I am afraid my plan would have turned out far less productive. Had you surrendered on that day I would have gained enough clout to shuttle you to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, where your abilities would serve the people. Keeping you powered and under control would have been a hassle indeed, and I imagine the state bureaucrats would have you doing inane tasks better suited to industry. Appearing in Krasnoyarsk as you did alarmed the populace, and my superiors lost faith in my ability to contain you. After your trial I believed all my work would be for naught. Yet you are full of surprises. Now that you are dead, I would make you an offer.”
“Excellent. You see my dear, I am no mere investigator, as you believed. I am what would be termed a ‘handler’ of the various agents deployed by Special Applications. My less visionary colleagues of the Committee would call my charges monsters, and perhaps they are right. Still, our enemies control monsters of their own, and what better way to deal with them, no? So I am offering a way to repay your debt to my nation, repay it by spilling the blood of our enemies. Accept, and you will have your powers. Refuse, and I will let you go. Whichever you choose, be warned: if you are discovered, I will not aid you. As far as the record is concerned, this arrangement never existed. And should you stray beyond any bounds I set for you, I will see you dead myself. Do we have an understanding?”
As if on cue, Abigail can feel the grid energize. She draws on the energy hungrily, electrical arcs forming around her, the air turning sharp with ozone.
There is a flash as her body transforms, and clarity returns to her mind.