Ninety-nine people were gathered in front of him, the man now named Grandfather. To his left was his colleague Grandmother, to her left Mother and to his right Father. Their identities wiped clean from their respective countries of origin. Ever since they discovered Virtue, the Symbiote and the Parasite their lives haven’t been the same. Now they stood before ninety-nine candidates to deliver the welcome speech knowing that already one of them died due to exposure to Virtue. She died weeks ago when she volunteered to be first, she was supposed to be the big reveal of this speech, the shining example of what they could do. They had an idea of the effects of Virtue by working with test subjects using small amounts. The memory loss, the random power manifestation and the burning painful death that was all too possible. However now they were about to make it real and they couldn’t show weakness in front of this group.
Grandfather wore a bright cream colored suit with a pink shirt to try and appear welcoming. It contrasted with his mocha colored skin but provided a striking figure nonetheless. He ran a hand through his curly salt and pepper hair before scratching his matching colored moustache. Grandfather looked out across these ninety-nine people, smiled warmly, a smile that would become famous among the Honored, and cleared his throat before talking.
“This is a great day, a life changing day for everyone in this room, us included.” He said motioning to his companions “We have made discoveries and progress beyond the scope of human understanding. Arthur C. Clarke posited that there were three laws. The first: When a distinguished scientist tells you something is possible, he is most likely right. When he tells you something is impossible he is most likely wrong. Our work has shown those distinguished scientists who may nay say us that they are wrong. That nothing is impossible. The second rule: To discover the limits of the possible we must journey into the impossible. We have redefined what is and is not possible in the course of our journey. The third: Any significantly advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. My friends, we now deal in magic and we intend to make you magic as well. However this all comes with a cost,” Grandfather looked around the room for a moment.
All the candidates were divided by nation, little groups of ten chairs, except for Germany who was already down a member, a grim portent of things to come. Each group in their blue and purple jumpsuits and their shaved heads. They needed to emphasis that they were one people now. Some nations pulled from their military, some from a lottery, some took volunteers but they were all there because they supposedly wanted the opportunity to be better and make the world better.
“The cost is that as of now, you are people without nations, the world is your nation. The good news is that your nation will always be your home. It is important that you remember that you live in this world, that you come from somewhere. The cost is that life as you know it will be forever changed but the good news is that, in turn, you will change the lives of others. Virtue will change you. We will have to educate you in how to positively influence the world, we will have to educate you in how to use your powers and how to use them responsibly and we will have to train out of you all the little destructive things the world has taught you so that you can help construct a better tomorrow. So you can create a world where people will not have to suffer as you may have. Never forget about the people, you are here to serve them, to enable them to be the best they can be. Never forget that they are important. That, while they may do bad things, they, themselves, are… not… bad. The Virtue will help with that, it will wash away much of the dirt that may have clung to you. Your fundamental personalities will remain intact you will just not be burdened by things like names, families or obligations and Virtue will make that transition easier. You will realize that anonymity is your friend as you come to accept your new assigned codename, that we are your family and service to the world is your obligation, nothing beyond that matters. Whatever you used to be, does… not… matter. It is who you will be, it is who you will become that matters and you will all become great.”
Grandfather smiled as he looked over the crowd again, watching for their reactions.
“If any of this seems to be too much for you to handle there is no reason to not leave this room right now. At this point you are privy to nothing that can damage the program. We do not seek to burden anyone who is incapable of carrying that burden so now is your chance to leave. Anyone who chooses to leave now will still receive salary and benefits. We are not here to punish you, you are here because you want the same things we want, a better world. We do not want to force you into something you do not want but I hope you have the introspection to know if this is what you want for the rest of your life.”
Grandfather waited to see if anyone got up and left. The candidates stared back with determination. After several agonizing minutes went by he continued.
“I’m very glad to see you all are staying.” Grandfather nodded to Father who got up and opened the large double doors into the facility proper. “Welcome family, welcome Honored.” Grandfather concluded as he extended an arm towards the open door.
“The deal is that the nations involved in this program will commit to, if applicable, immediately pulling all military personnel and bases from any foreign soil followed by a 30% decrease in military over 5 years and a 75% decrease in intercontinental, ballistic and nuclear arms over 3 years. All the money that was used for military spending will be funneled into the program to ensure you have a functioning worldwide police force. That’s the deal for joining the Coalition” That was Grandfathers pitch to some of the most powerful men and women of the world. He stood there unflinching, unwilling to negotiate his terms.
After discussion 10 nations joined The Coalition: The United States of America, Poland, The United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Norway, Russia, Germany, China and The United Arab Emirates. Once The Coalition was established it was time to reveal the inner workings of the program which led to Grandfather standing before yet another group of people this time in front of a projection that displayed images from the program which cycled every few seconds.
“After discovering the Parasite and the Symbiote we then found Virtue.” Grandfather said as he paced in front of the projected images, the members of The Coalition all cast in shadow “All three of these elements combined allow us to change things in ways that no one can comprehend. The Parasite and Symbiote have agreed to imbue weapons with their power for us with the understanding that they would get their choice of host from the Virtue imbued Honored. To this end we asked each of you if there were any weapons they wanted to build. The Japanese gave us a sword and bow to honor their heritage. The English gave us a suit of armor. The Irish gave us a pool cue, we’re pretty sure that was a joke but we made it work.” There was a slight laugh “The Canadians gave us a guitar, the Nords gave us an axe and the Americans, of course, gave us a gun.” There was another chuckle throughout the crowd as Grandfather paused and smiled.
“With the help of the Specimens,” Grandfather continued after a sip of water “We have the ability to create incredibly powerful weapons. The key will be teaching the Honored how to cope with being bonded to these weapons.” He paused again for another sip as the projection cycled through images of the facility and The Specimens.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are ready to begin. Please assemble your candidates so we can start changing our world for the positive.”
When the surviving 75 candidates had become Honored there was a one month process of determining every power and exploring the limits of that power within each nation. They segregated each nation in the Testing Ground, the massive training area dedicated to learning, practicing and expanding every power manifested by the Honored. Each nation was given a couple hours a day to explore the space with Father and Mother watching each gender and taking notes, the rest of the time was spent learning English for those that needed the practice as well as the introduction to the intense learning regime they would be subjected to. Finally after that month they were allowed comingle among the rest of the Honored.
Off in one corner the UK Honored codenamed “Sheath”, who was bonded to the sword known as Stem Cutter stood with Father as he tried to master his new weapon. Sheath had never held a sword before in his life and hadn’t the first clue on where to start. The sword itself, while having chosen him, was less than helpful. The Stem Cutter was a product of the light Symbiote and as such was a beautiful thing. It had an immaculate straight steel blade which was set into what appeared to be an open lotus blossom and attached to a long, intricately carved ivory colored handle. When the blade wasn’t being wielded it resided inside Sheath, hence his codename.
Watching Sheath were two members of the Japanese Honored, a man and woman. They were a married couple and picked by the Japanese contingent to be hosts for the weapons they submitted. The sword that would become the Stem Cutter and the bow that would become Red Butterfly. Red Butterfly accepted the woman codenamed “Archer” but her partner weapon rejected her husband and instead chose a member of the UK Honored. Red Butterfly was created from the dark Parasite, as such it was a horrifying thing that took its toll on its host. Archer was reluctant to address anyone directly and while she understood English she outright refused to speak it. She would take orders but any discussion was done through her husband in Japanese. He sat towards Sheath, watching Sheath flail pathetically while she sat with her back towards Sheath but looking over her shoulder. Finally she said something in Japanese that caused him to get up and walk over to where the two where training.
“It looks like you need some help.” He said to Sheath.
“Yeah,” Sheath chuckled “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.” he spat out in his Scottish accent.
“The sword was meant for me.” He said looking at the sword.
Father just looked on as he took notes.
“Hell, I’m sorry,” Sheath shrugged “Here, take it.”
He reached out for the handle of the sword and grasped it firmly. He grabbed it with the other hand and then loosened his grip to hold it properly. He swung it a few times as if it were a fishing pole, looking at Sheath as if he were demonstrating the technique but he did not intend to give the sword back. Suddenly thorned vines began to grow from the handle and wrap around his wrists like a spiked snake. He dropped the sword and the vines turned to ash. Sheath picked up the sword.
“Thanks for the lesson friend.” Sheath said. “What do they call you?” he finished with a shit eating grin.
“Father may I borrow your pen please?” he asked, momentarily ignoring the question, as he walked over to Father.
Father handed him the pen. The Japanese Honored felt the weight of the pen by bouncing it in his hand before throwing it into the head of a nearby practice dummy where it penetrated right between the eyes.
“They call me,” the Japanese Honored said mockingly “Dead Bang.”
Subject: Working With The Honored
From: Grandfather; Grandmother
To: Father; Mother
We all need to keep a close eye on everybody. This is probably the most crucial and traumatic time before we start accepting operations. We lost more people than we anticipated, 25 in total died as a result of Virtue injection. Some losses were expected but not this many. Because they were never officially Honored we will be erecting a memorial in the lobby of compound with the names of all those lost and since they were never given codenames to replace their real ones we will be using their real names. Compensation has been given to any living family members as recompense and we must make sure the surviving Honored understand their sacrifice and revere the memorial. Hopefully we won’t have to add anymore names to it but we need to emphasis what a distinction it is to be included so if we do it isn’t considered a negative. This situation, however, has left certain groups devastated with poor Poe as the only surviving member of Germany. We must make sure that these groups are not left out and get proper socialization. Especially Poe, I fear being bonded to the Parasite might eventually take a toll on his mental health.
Also of note is this: the weapons creation did not go as planned. Each weapon developed a form of sentience and in some cases would not bond their intended host. This may cause some enmity between Honored. We must be sure to observe this and address it so that we can maintain a kinship between members. Father and Mother, you are our eyes and ears with the male and female members, respectively. If you are approached by a member of the opposite sex encourage them to speak to their gender representative. If they are not comfortable with that then direct them to Grandmother or myself. I will be overseeing the more general aspects of the program while Grandmother will be overseeing the lab aspect which will include reviewing daily wellness check-ups and processing weekly blood work as well as any other physical exams that may be required. I am available for exams if the Honored prefers a male doctor. Be sure to inform your assistants of these directives and keep an eye on the Honored at all times. This project is too important to fail. Thank you for all your hard work up until this point, we couldn’t have done it without you.
Subject: Mental Health Evaluation: Idol
To: Grandfather; Grandmother
I have just concluded a preliminary mental health evaluation of UAE Honored “Idol”. He seems to have gotten all the powers from Virtue with none of the other side effects. This has caused him great distress and trouble in adapting to the program. He apparently has experienced things in his past he was hoping to forget with the help of Virtue. He, of course, refuses to talk about them further. Considering we found out his fraudulent status too late and given the fact that he is probably the most powerful Honored I am at a loss of what to do. He refuses to use the codenamed we gave him and insists on the one he gave himself (“Idol”) and he says he won’t wear the uniform. There is an old question “Where does the 500 pound Gorilla sleep?” with the answer being “Any where he wants.” Idol is a 500 pound gorilla and as such there isn’t much we can do but accommodate him. I suggest he become everyone’s concern and we should work to provide constant oversight and evaluation in case he suddenly becomes more unstable or dangerous.
Next Month: The First Mission… and the Last.