Fury and ferocity roiled through veins coursing with ice, Joe could barely force his eyes away from the two hated men who stood just meters away, apparently unaware of his existence. They were why he had come back here, their crimes so heinous that they had to be erased before the damage was undoable. He managed to keep his face calm, and his eyes averted as Professor “Spacheman” returned to the stage, “Let’s give a round of applause for Mr.Berlin everybody,” the professor began to slowly clap his hands, and despite the discomforted confusion of the audience, they began to join in.
Joe attempted to continue to observe the men while keeping his gaze towards the stage, his hands mechanically emulating the clapping motion of those around him. Doom and gloom loom in his periphery. Every reverberative hand ushers Joe deeper into himself; the claps fade to a pitter-patter, hypnotic rain droplets splashing in a world adjacent, washing away into a somber static.
The man that he knew as Ermen Episkopos wore an absurd cowboy hat while dressed in a typical charcoal-gray business suit of this era. Joe struggled to imagine how this man would come to be the villain known as The Completionist, though he looked precisely the same as the man Joe would meet 16 years from now, almost as if he was completely ageless. Aaron Duval was the same as well, though his eyes looked far saner than when he had met the man, and he held himself with far greater dignity. What confused Joe the most was that in a crowded auditorium, filled with the very people who were supposed to track down law-breaking manifesters, stood two of the most infamous manifesters of this era. They were the two most famous members of the Revolution, and although there were no clear pictures of them available, the grainy images that Joe had been led to believe were commonplace in this time had seemed to be enough for him to make the connection.
Were the people of this time just oblivious, or was he just used to the sheer audacity of these men? By the time he was seven years old, normal humans had run in terror at just the merest mention of a sighting of either of these men; the slightest whisper or whimpering of their monikers incited riotous uproar. In fact, until only three years ago (in his own internal biological clock) he had woken up screaming conceivably every night, the stench of burning flesh still pasted in his nostrils; the images of thousands of his community- nearly every man, woman, and child he’d ever met, lying contorted and twisted in agony- seared into his eyelids. Always, he had heard their laughter and seen them walking away from their carnage, grinning faces twisted in psychotic delight.
“Well…” the speaker blurted through the chatter and commotion.
Joe tore his mind away from the two men, and began to observe their charges. These were the ones that he had to “befriend” so as to disrupt the cycle of violence that the Revolution would go on to create. If he could manage to kill those men, and possibly their charges, before they could put their plans in motion, his mother might be able to survive. These macabre thoughts ran through his head as he attempted to act like he was paying attention to the words of Professor “Spacheman”.
“Well, I know you’re all eager to begin your preliminary test, as well as discover where your residence will be, but it’s a tradition at this particular Academy, to have your first ‘Manifester Laws and Ethics’ class immediately following the dean’s speech. For those of you who aren’t aware, the Professor in charge of the all-important ‘L’ and ‘E’ lecture is-” The professor cleared his throat with a sickly cough, pointed up at himself with both index fingers and a goofy smirk, and leapt right into his lecture in his dry droning voice, “It was a little more than seventeen years ago that the first manifestations happened, and as you all undoubtably know, there were sixteen of these ‘First’ as they came to be called.” The professor pulled pushed a button on the podium, and a projection appeared above him, suspended between two nearly invisible wires hanging from the ceiling. At the top of the projection the professor’s name and title of the class stood out in bold red Helvetica font.
“Jesus Christ, he actually spells his name ‘Spaceman’,” Joe mumbled under his breath, hardly able to keep the astonishment from his face. Joe continued to observe the projection, as a list with names and pictures of each of the sixteen ‘First’ appeared, and lo and behold, the same photos of Ermen and Aaron that he had seen in his own timeline were projected for everyone in the auditorium to see.
Professor Spaceman pointed up at the projection as another list with photos began scrolling down, “You’ll notice some disturbing similarities between these two lists,” the title of this second list appeared just beneath the professor’s name on the projection, ‘The 10 Most Wanted Manifesters’, Joe wished he could hack into the projector and fuse the two lists, but this clearly was neither the correct time, nor place, to raise any eyebrows, “and this is why institutions like ours must exist. These men and women might have received a gift that could be used for good,” the professor pointed at the list of the ‘First’, “but some of them chose otherwise, or broke under the weight of the responsibility. Only five among these people would go on to become members of AMPS Alpha Team, the rest would become private citizens, and nearly half would become members of this list.” The professor’s finger darted towards the list of wanted manifesters almost faster than the eye could follow.
The professor moved his gaze across the crowd, seeming to scan for any among the audience who were like these villains he spoke of, “On November fifth, 2019 AD, five of the people on this list helped organize an event that rewrote the entire world order. What I’m about to tell you is unknown to all who don’t graduate from the Academy, and if you should fail your memory will be erased. The Revolution was not only responsible for the murder of nearly every human in Washington D.C. that day, they also helped organize the overthrow of thirty-two other country’s governments on this day. “ These words were spoken with such vehemence that most of the crowd jumped in their seats.
“This is why most of the normal humans despise us, and we must hide our identities. This is why some among you may suffer an ignoble death, unloved and alone. For these people’s sins, you are forced to become either a hero or slave.”