The Project Begins

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6:24 pm, October 2, three weeks and six days after “The Poisoning”.

I’ll live. That’s more than I can say for the rest of my family, Alfred excepted. More than I can say for 92 of my family’s closest friends and business associates. More than I can say for nearly a million others who did nothing to provoke the senseless, horrible act of general mass-murder.

On September 5th a new product was launched in the marketplace. It was not a particularly remarkable product, a new brand entering the competitive energy-drink market. It had been promoted well, distributed well, supplied well – it had arrived in stores in sufficient quantity to meet initial market demands and it had not been “leaked” in spite of the interest surrounding the product. On launch day alone 1.1 million cases sold throughout the United States and Canada with a few hundred thousand more cases making it to market in countries all over the world. The company had been ecstatic – until the reports began pouring in – by then it was too late.

At least one of the two dozen or so production runs manufactured just in time for market had been tampered with. The poison produced different symptoms in every patient making diagnosis and treatment extremely difficult. By 5:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time that day, the National Poison Control Center had communicated Poison Warnings to every broadcaster and news agency doing business in the U.S. and to the World Health Organization in an attempt to mitigate the damage. By 6:00 pm, banner ads were superimposed on web traffic by most major IAPs and ISPs. Most marketers had removed the product from their shelves by then.

It was too little too late in a situation where nothing more could have been done. News got out in time to save most of the west coast and central and mountain time zones were spared the worst of the tragedy, but early-open grocers and all-night convenient stores sold Nuclear Fructosion as soon as contractually allowed all over the world – with disastrous results. In the United States alone, nearly one quarter of one percent of the nation’s population died, some suffering almost a week before succumbing.

Now, 27 days later, I’m recovering. I became fully conscious for the first time yesterday, though I’d perceived much of what happened in moments of semi-lucidity before that. I’m catching up on the details that are known, sorting truth from hallucination. Most of my perceptions were correct.

The product was safe when not tampered with, the company was innocent. The tampering was accomplished and claimed by a well organized international terrorist organization backed by Mankurai Blemmyes, dictator of Dumnonia in southeastern Europe according to current news media reports. Going after an individual or a company is one thing, going after a foreign country is another matter entirely. I’m not going to write write-off an attempt to get justice without confirming that the media are correct.

Alfred looks like he aged 10 years in the last 4 weeks. Small wonder, two couples he loved died in front of him and he’d served the poison, or at least supervised it. It wasn’t his fault of course, but that is no consolation. He did a wonderful job of dealing with the disaster and of minimizing publicity regarding my condition. He told inquirers only that I was stricken and bed-ridden with grief but was physically alright. Excellent story, and it might well prove useful further down the road. He’d been right about my physical condition, too. After almost four weeks incapacitated I am able to walk in less than a day, though only for short distances and none too steadily right now.

A newscaster is reporting that yet another poison victim has been admitted to a hospital in Detroit. It’s remarkable that anyone would drink that product anymore – unless they were suicidal or living under a rock. Current estimates are that more than 850,000 may have been poised world-wide.

Most of those who died so far did so within three days of consuming the poison. No one who survived more than 10 days has died yet. A few dozen of the survivors have shown remarkable changes ranging from telepathic powers to flight to scales for skin. I am going to have to take a detailed personal survey and carefully study any changes I have. Nothing yet seems to be visible, but I remember specifically realizing the mutagenic nature of the poison and thinking about several ideas while it was active, it would be nice to know if any of those changes actually happened.

Noon, October 3rd.

Alfred has been assisting me with my self assessment using Grandfather’s hospital ward in the basement. My coordination and strength are better, I can remain standing when I need to take a moment to recover instead of having to sit. My appetite is getting better. My blood composition is unusual, analysis, research and study will explain eventually, but preliminary thoughts based on key indicators suggests I will prove highly resistant to disease. My vision and hearing tests will need to be performed again; the results we got earlier concluded better than 20-10 vision and ability to differentiate sound frequencies from 15 cycles to 100,ooo cycles at less than 3dB above ambient noise. If we get similar results again, we’ll need to have the lab equipment calibrated.

DOSPA, a Cabinet-level agency formed 9 days after the incident, acknowledged that Top Secret U.S. government research may have been the basis of the poison used. It said a decades old project, shelved due to security concerns, may have been compromised and the research used to create the toxin. In a different broadcast, there was a note that no second world countries had placed any orders with the manufacturer of the drink prior to the release date which supports the Dumnonia theory.

10AM, October 4th.

Alfred insisted I get some sleep last night and when I refused to do it, attempted to sedate me. I noticed the taste and odor before I drank it, Doxylamine. I realized he was right, that I needed sleep. I drank it. Twenty minutes later it hadn’t worked. I requested another dose. Alfred obliged. An hour later I was still awake. With that test noted for follow up, I did my best to sleep last night.

We have recalibrated the vision and hearing test equipment, it was accurate. The retest concluded that my vision is 20-6 and I am able to hear 10 cycles to 120,000 cycles at 1dB above ambient noise. We also tested my ability to compare household chemicals and a variety of more exotic medications in different states by smell. So far I have been 100% accurate.

I no longer require breaks during normal activity, including climbing stairs and treadmill exercise. My recovery is coming along nicely.

5:28 PM, October 4th.

Alfred received a visitor earlier this afternoon and was moved to offer him refuge. The young man appears to be a survivor of the poisoning. His story is remarkable; he claims he was declared dead and that he was actually buried, forcing his way out of his own grave by sheer physical strength and determination. He certainly needs a bath as he is covered in dirt, and his clothes will need to be incinerated, they smell of rotting meat.

9:14PM, October 4th.

Our guest claims to be Jeff Reynolds, age 17, and a resident of upper Gotham. There is an account of a young man by that name at the address he gave us being poisoned along with his family at the address he gave us. His death certificate is on file at the Coroner’s office, and he is listed as buried at the site he described to us.

He demonstrates prodigious strength, flight, near-instantaneous recovery from injury, and the ability to use the eyes and ears of an apparently tame raven.

His tale is more bizarre than that. He describes what sounds to me like an out of body experience in which he flew around Gotham and witnessed a great many victims in different settings. Most convincing is his description of Wayne Manor and the party we had the evening of September 5th. He describes a few of the vehicles that were parked here that night as well as the approximate number of guests. The clincher is his recitation of the toast given before we all drank the tainted beverage.

I want to call in an extremely discrete favor to have our guest’s finger prints run just to be sure. If that checks out, Jeff will be an extremely interesting subject for examination. He doesn’t seem to mind, he says he doesn’t have any options. If this really is Jeff, then he probably doesn’t – it would be extremely awkward receiving someone you buried last month back from the grave.

11:22 AM October 5th.

It’s been one month to the day since the poisoning. News estimates now place the total number of victims at more than 900,000 worldwide. The Dictator of Dumnonia has gone on record claiming credit for, “humiliating the United States by easily stealing state secrets and proving the evil nature of the research by virtue of the deaths of a million people.” DOSPA responded by officially insisting that, “the United States has never done any research of any kind developing toxins, and that the extremely sophisticated toxin,…” etc., etc.

We tested my ability to identify every over the counter chemical in the house, most by smell; I scored 100%. We are working on the medical chemicals in grandfather’s medical bay; I am able to identify them by type and purpose if not specific name. It seems I have quite a resume of abilities.

We began isolating bandwidth on our connectivity through Wayne Enterprises. I began to reoccupy bandwidth with a lot of financial queries, mostly overviews at this point, to re-familiarize myself with the current financial world. This was not unusual for the Wayne household with three generations of Waynes building an empire. I now want to reestablish the full bandwidth we had used when everyone was still with us, complete with all the encryption, concealment and secrecy that had been necessary to keep the best international corporate spies out of what we were doing. I anticipate needing it.

When I expressed the desire to test Jeff’s blood and compare it to a sample of my own to attempt to identify the toxin used, Alfred produced four unopened cans of Nuclear Fructosion. His only explanation was that if he’d participated in the murder of his entire family, he’d have no reason to go on. That’s different than having us all pass under normal circumstances – he feels partly culpable for this. He cut off my attempt to ease his conscience – he could say it all as well as I could.

We got to work acquiring laboratory equipment for more advanced chemical analysis, it should begin arriving tomorrow. I want to dig into that mutagenic poison as soon as possible.

It is time to begin identifying what my mission is and what I am going to do about it. I am already pretty set on the mission; positively identify who is responsible for the Nuclear Fructosion incident – not just rely on the news reports. I want to know everything about how the poisoning happened starting at delivery to the victims and traced all the way back to its development origins.

I begin the discovery process as a grieving multi-billionaire seeking justice for his family. I can disappear from the list of also-interesteds at some point in the future by running into the anticipated stonewalls, a high-profile public personality who wants justice along with every other victim’s family failing due to lack of sources. This phase of the search will all be very visible and normal. It will also be allowed to die out mimicking the dyeing interests of other more public personalities. Information found will be shared with the world via the press – except for the meatier parts, the parts that are completely below the radar and hold promise for actual pursuit of those responsible.

I also need to begin building the resources to pursue those leads as they develop, a more clandestine operation, chasing the financial and intelligence clues that will come to light. This is already familiar territory. My father and I, and to a lesser extent Grandfather, performed this sort of work very frequently building Wayne Enterprises. Inquiries of this sort will not raise eyebrows; people will want to know what I am discovering, but the fact that I am looking will be no different than activities we performed before the poisoning. The same Wayne Enterprises IT staff that kept us ahead of the world before will continue to do so, and my personal traffic will be just a few more streams in the tens of thousands of curious streams of data originated by the analysts and agents of WE.

As the world gets used to Marcous Wayne reemerging as a mover and shaker, the bandwidth between the Wayne buildings downtown and the Manor will resume its place as the common occurrence it had once been. I will then have my search and discovery assets, and a very real weapon for destruction of those responsible if applicable; more than one financial ruin has been accomplished by unseen forces in the secret depths of the digital age.

I still need to have some sort of physical agency that can actually go places and do things without being traceable. Anyone involved will have to be utterly discrete, even if captured. It will have to be highly stealthy, savvy, intuitive, observant, analytical, durable, and if necessary, capable of getting itself out of trouble. It might even have to be disposable to prevent linkage back to me. Anyone involved will have to be available on short notice and able to disappear for undetermined amounts of time without raising suspicions. They have to understand the dark underside of international politics, motivation, and money. They have to have the stomach to do distasteful things on faith that I know what I am doing and that I am an accountable, conscientious person, even if they have no idea who I am. Finally whoever is involved will have to be willing to perform assignments off-topic to confuse the efforts of those who will undoubtedly arise attempting to identify, quantify, and possibly oppose them. That agency will round out my capabilities, virtual and physical, to pursue the objective.

Then, the real work can begin.

04:00 AM, October, 9th.

We have been very busy the past four days. I have begun the public-personality phase of my operation. The news is treating it as desired, another high-profile personality who wants to know. My past four weeks of grief-in-hiding draws appropriate sympathy along with the occasional must-be-nice-to-have-that-much-privacy comment. Celebrity-centered TV is running the usual line of questions, asking, “What is Wayne up to?” for the benefit of the millions of couch potatoes who watch that stuff. Financial TV has noted that the Waynes have not all disappeared, that one has come out of hiding and is back on the financial scene raising questions about whether I will be able to cut it without my parents and grandparents, and if so, what direction I will move in. I attended a Wayne-appropriate political fundraiser last night, complete with Alfred driving and a hired female escort. My return to public existence is going well.

The laboratory equipment is in and set up. We have begun analyzing blood samples – “we” including Jeff. He’s turning out to be an avid student. He has caught the scent of what I’m up to and is sincerely interested in being part of it. When Alfred and I don’t have him doing something, he is reading another user’s manual on the equipment or diagramming our evidence so far on whiteboards. He’s also become a good workout partner, helping me with my physical recovery/development.

What I had not realized until I awoke a few minutes ago is that I will have to lead two lives. My physical recovery continues to surpass all reasonable expectations. My mental abilities are, if anything, sharper than they were before the poisoning. My visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile and gustatory senses are all heightened to the level of the sharpest animal senses across the board. I can come and go as I please – I can also relapse into grief if needed to explain longer, surprise absences. I’m instantly available to myself. If anyone is supremely loyal to me besides Alfred, it’s me. I’m going to be my “agency.” Maybe Jeff will want to participate in that too.

Now, the real work can begin.

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