Who: Adrian Veidt and OPEN What: Originally intended as a little look into his mind, now an open thread Where: Central Park When: Pretty much right now Why: Because. Rating: Well, if no one tags in, the post by itself is G. If someone tags in, who knows?
Quarterly reports. Test results. Requests for time off. Adrian had been slogging through them for hours. He blinked his dry eyes, feeling the burn from far too much staring at a computer screen. As much as he wanted to continue burying himself in work, he knew that it was getting late. He knew it for two reasons: The little clock in his taskbar, and the sensation of eyes burning into him as his personal assistant hovered around. Adrian had informed the young man that he’d intended to work late, but this was bad even for him.
Of course he knew the real reason he was here. He couldn’t have become the smartest man in his world without a basic understanding of psychology. He knew that all of the reports and results were just detritus. The same things were being checked, double checked, and then triple checked. Under normal circumstances he would be thorough; tonight he’d been downright anal. He’d chosen to hide under a pile of work and forget that real issues lurked somewhere beyond it.
It hadn’t worked. Adrian finally sighed, one hand coming up to massage the bridge of his nose while the other flipped off the computer monitor. He sat back in his plush leather chair, letting his head loll back and his eyes close for a moment. He just needed a minute to breathe-
Adrian felt his face tighten into a deadpan. Bad time, George. Go back to hovering. Please go back to hovering. He didn’t say it, though. He couldn’t bring himself to. Adrian was a prideful man, and he simply could not swallow his pride, not even with a personal assistant he’d just met. Instead he made the motions of his fingers rubbing the bridge of his nose more emphatic, hoping George would get the point and shut up.
Adrian’s face screwed up in frustration. “Leave,” he said quietly, with a sigh. George was a nice boy, far too nice for his own good, and it would get him nowhere in the world of big business. He was also a dedicated, hard worker, which Adrian hoped would compensate for his trusting nature and genuine good will. He wanted the best for the boy, he really did. This was why he was doing everything in his power to give the boy a chance to get out of this room before his feelings got hurt.
No such luck, when a second later… “Mr. Veidt, is everything-”
Adrian’s head snapped up, quick as a whip. He pointed emphatically at the door, an angry look on his face. “I said leave, George! Go home!” He instantly felt bad about it as George, taken aback by the sudden angry outburst, stuttered for a moment and then rushed out of the room. “Fantastic,” Adrian sighed, rubbing his temples with both hands. “Mental note: Apologize to George tomorrow. He did not deserve that.” Deciding that it was finally time to go home, he pushed himself up from his seat and retrieved his coat. It was the long purple one, one of his favorites, though it did accrue an ungodly number of people muttering pimp jokes that they thought he couldn’t hear. He wasn’t certain he understood the jokes. The coat wasn’t fur, nor was it all that bright of a purple. The jokes didn’t bother him, of course. They just confused him.
As he walked down the street towards home, the jokes came, with a bit more frequency than when he came to work in the morning. This time, though, he really didn’t hear them. He had other things on his mind. Things he’d learned about this world’s history, developments that had never occurred on his Earth or had occurred differently. This alternate history was not doing much to ease his mind.
Adrian abruptly changed direction. While he was usually a man of routine, he felt the overwhelming urge to avoid his penthouse apartment for the moment. Instead he headed off in the direction of Central Park at a brisk walk, his briefcase clutched in an increasingly tight grip at his side. He wasn’t worried about potential incidents. He’d bested far more capable men than the crooks that slummed around at night, and any that chose to attack him would sorely regret it when they awoke in the morning. Part of him, and he was ashamed to admit this even to himself, was actually hoping for an incident.
His hopes were dashed when he reached the park unmolested. He sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose again, before choosing a bench at random and sitting down. He placed his briefcase on his lap and folded his hands atop it. His posture was stiff, too stiff. Adrian looked, quite frankly, like a man in denial about the cracks in his armor. After a moment that illusion faded, and he allowed himself to slump against the back of the bench, though his blank mask didn’t fall. He did let himself consider the cracks in his armor of conviction.
It started with Jon. ”Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.” His head throbbed painfully just thinking about Jon’s cryptic final words, and he retrieved a small bottle of aspirin from his briefcase and dry swallowed two tablets. Thank you ever so much for that, Jon. He’d been questioning it ever since. That was the entire reason that he’d guided the world remotely and never left Karnak. Safe in his fortress, Adrian was able to pretend his doubts didn’t exist. He hadn’t been entirely sure he could’ve maintained such a willful delusion if he’d walked out in the world. Had he done the right thing? His answer had been yes. Yes, he’d done the right thing for the world, though it was terrible. A necessary evil. If he’d stepped out of Karnak and seen the faces of those affected by the deaths in New York? The guilt may have become too much to bear.
The next nail in his coffin came when he began researching the history of this new Earth he found himself on. He saw the rise and fall of Richard Nixon, and that night he’d wept. Such a small thing, such a small man, and yet his influence had determined a great deal of the societal conflict that lead to Adrian’s decision. Adrian didn’t blame Nixon for it, he would not participate in the scapegoating game, but he did fault the man with creating a society which made the evil of Adrian’s plan a necessity. Then it hit him. The reporters likely did not have singular copies of their information, and even if they had, the fact that two reporters could dig it up meant that it would have been little trouble for him to find as well. That realization had torn a great gash in his armor of conviction. Such a tiny thing for him to miss, and it would have changed so much. He couldn’t even blame Blake for killing the reporters, not really. The man had been utterly devoid of anything even resembling a moral compass, but he had simply been following orders.
And then Dan and Laurie had arrived. The other thing secluding himself within Karnak had allowed him to believe was that the two of them had come to understand what he’d done. He didn’t think they would ever approve, he knew that was impossible, but he’d hoped – and convinced himself – that they would come to understand. Adrian was able to let many things roll off his back, and while his friends thinking he was a monster was one of them, it still hurt more than he cared to admit. These doubts, the widening cracks in his armor, just made it worse.
He rolled his head back, letting himself look up at the night sky. His eyes closed, and once again he let himself feel the deaths he’d caused. …I wonder if my heart weighs more than a feather?