Chapter 5: Project Hero
Right now you guys might be thinking: "There's no way this is the Noah Johnson from Project 13." I was thinking the same thing too. The odds of that being him were insane. There's no way that it was him.
After he introduced himself he started pointing to students, asking for their names. One by one the class recited their names until Emily said hers.
"And your name is...?" he pointed to me.
I hesitated, overthinking the idea he recognized me.
"Adam!" I quickly exclaimed.
"Adam...?" he asked again. "I need a last name."
It finally struck me as I didn't give myself a last name. So with that said, I spoke up, choosing the only name that seemed to fit.
"Jones... Adam Jones."
"Mister Adam Jones... It's a pleasure to have you in my class; you're not related to a 'Miss Megan Jones', are you...?"
My blood froze from hearing those words.
"I'm sorry, I didn't catch that..." I lied, just to repeat his question.
"I asked if you were related to a Caitlin Jones, she was one of my students last semester."
"Oh, no I'm not actually." I laughed off. He scared me for a second.
"Well that's a shame, she was one of my brightest students, and here I thought I had another one to exceed my expectations."
Ouch, did he just insult my intelligence? I'm not that stupid... Ok well there were a few times where I've done stupid things as a kid but that's when I was a kid. I'm pretty sure he's something idiotic at some point in his life.
I heard giggling next to me and my eyes shifted to my left seeing the small smirk on Emily's face.
"It's not funny." I whispered to her.
"Says you." she whispered back.
The professor then stopped writing on his tablet after a few more students said their names, completing his attendance.
"Alright class, now that the attendance is completed, I'll begin the semester with a question: How human are you?"
The class stayed quiet, thrown off by his question.
"Did I say that too fast? I'll repeat myself: How human are you? Do you have arms and legs instead of front legs and hind legs? Hand and feet instead of paws…? Two eyes instead of two hundred…? The ability to make your own decisions through free will, instead of following your natural instinct?" he looked around waiting for a reply to his question. "Anyone willing to speak up…?"
The class continued to keep silent, some skeptical about our professor.
"Taken by your silence, I can only assume that you all are animals in human disguises, or am I wrong?"
Hands shot up afterward and it made him smile.
"Taken by your reaction, I can only assume that you agree with my statement."
I watched as various faces of the classroom shifted; resembling people who wanted to strangle our professor at this point.
"You can hold the questions until—"
"What gives you the right to call us animals you old geezer?!" one of the students shot from his seat. It was the pretty boy from my English Class. He was a tall Caucasian teenager with gelled brown hair, wearing a light blue vest and a pair of beige khaki's. Picture one of those rich school boys in the movies and you have our guy.
"Don't you know it's rude to interrupt your professor when he's speaking?" Professor Johnson stated calmly.
"I don't care! My father paid thousands of dollars to rebuild this school after the Darkest Hour event, so you have no right to talk down to one of his students, especially one whose father saved your job!"
Something in his words must've struck our professor because his once calm demeanor started to slowly change, and the next minute, he showed us a side of him we never expected of him. And to this day, I'm still afraid of it.
"Your name is Carter Harrison, right? Yes, I'm aware of your father's actions towards our beloved CSI after that tragic event. However, that was his contribution, not yours. I'm grateful he saved my job, yes but the fact is, you are my student. In order for me to show you respect, you have to show me respect, is that clear? Interrupt me again, and I'll personally have your father's bodyguards escort you out of my classroom."
"And what makes you think you can do that?"
"Because Carter, your Father and I are old friends, as in he was the one who funded my research when I was experimenting on genetic re-creation in 2012, and he especially told me to keep an eye on his sharp tongued son of his. With that said, I want you to sit down, shut up, and let me finish what I was going to say!"
I watch Carter plant his butt back into the seat, and just seeing that reminded me of the Colonel and Trevor's encounter the other day.
"And for the record Mr. Harrison…" he adjusted his glasses. "You are a disgrace to Gorillas everywhere; I've seen chimps with better manners than you."
Wow, everyone at CSI has a sense of humor at some point. Well, I guess the score is: CSI Professors: 2 and Carter: 0.
"Now then, as I was saying, please hold questions until I finish. Your definition of Animals is different than mine. Because I'm not talking about literal animals; I'm talking about the Human itself, and how it can resemble animals. Our first lesson is about the human structure, and the reason why we're starting on this is because, like I just said, I used to be a scientist who experimented in genetic re-creation; in other words, I help create artificial life some years back."
Well, if that didn't give me a huge shock, I don't know what would. This definitely confirmed my suspicions that he was the Noah Johnson of Project 13. And if he really is him… then he definitely had more information on Fourteen...
"Adam, are you okay?" I heard Emily whisper next to me.
"Yeah, I just remembered something I have to ask him after class; I'm fine."
She nodded and turned her attention back to the Professor as he continued to talk.
"With that said, I'll ask my question again, but this time I'll elaborate: How human are you? Do you share the traits of a human, such as love, happiness, strength, and so on…? Or are you not so human that you can be classified as an animal, with traits such as Greed, Misery, and Violence…? Yes, the human body has many physical traits that we all share, however it also has emotional traits, traits that can and will affect the human body itself. It can either make us into peaceable humans, or savage animals. So then, if you all can act like peaceable humans, then you're more than welcome to stay here. If you are going to act like savage animals…" he motioned his hand towards the door. "Do it outside, not in here."
The class, now having a clarification of what he was coming from, relaxed and stayed quiet, waiting for his next response.
"Judging from your silence, I can safely assume that you all will behave yourselves. Great; let's get started then."
Elsewhere, Fourteen, Fifteen and Sixteen each found themselves outside in the open area of the abandoned parking lot, which extended some 92 yards across. The three stood out in the low 80 degree weather awaiting their orders from their Bluetooth. The three looked around for signs of their targets, not picking anything up quite yet. It was then that a voice, not one of theirs spoke up…
"Are you three ready to begin…?" A distorted male voice spoke into their Bluetooth's.
The trio nodded, each receiving the question as the middle of the parking lot opened, revealing an elevator underground. The platform rose up, carrying along a dozen Lion Bounties, every three a different color to represent their element.
"Fourteen, you're first; begin when ready…" the voice spoke once again.
Fourteen nodded and drew his Katana, sliding one of his DT's onto it.
"LEVEL: 1!"His system announced. His Katana developed a black spiral of flames as the first three, the fire element Bounties made their way towards him. Fourteen charged them back as well, with the bounties blowing flames towards him. Fourteen smirked and stopped, holding his blade in front of him. The flames made contact with the black flames of the blade as the crimson flames slowly were swallowed by the black ones. Fourteen leapt into the air as the Fire Bounties watched him ascend higher and higher. And once he hit the highest point, he flipped upside-down, dive bombing towards them.
"You failures get dumber with every new batch." Fourteen taunted pulling his arm back. He threw his Katana as it spiraled down onto them, turning into an explosion of black flames.
Fifteen and Sixteen looked on, clearly not impressed by his feat.
"Showoff…" Fifteen said in disgust.
"You're up Fifteen…" The voice told her. She nodded as Fourteen walked back to them.
"Six seconds; beat that." Fourteen told Fifteen, who shrugged him off.
The trio of Water Lion Bounties stepped forward, growling for the destruction of their fire brethren.
"Chill out kittens." Fifteen smiled. "I'll make sure you see them soon." She drew her pistol and inserted one of her DT's.
"LEVEL: 1!"it announced as she aimed at the ground. She shot the ground a few times between her and the lions, withdrawing her pistol afterward.
"Here, Kitty Kitty." She motioned her finger at them.
The trio, feeling insulted charged in her direction, wanting to tear her to shreds. But they stopped, not being able to move. They looked down and to their horror; their feet were covered in black ice.
"How unfortunate that you're Water Bounties; ironic in a sense as well…" She drew her Katana and slowly walked towards them. "As a Water Hunter, I don't fall prey to the Secondary Ice Element's side effect of freezing the initial Water Element. As for you three…" she stopped and smiled playfully, just enough for the lions to snarl in rage.
"It'll be warmer where you're going…" she slashed all three in a fell swoop and turned her back to walk away. The Lions roared in agonizing pain as she raised her hand into the air. She snapped her fingers and the lions' bodies began to spark up, the sparks igniting their bleeding wounds and igniting the mutants with their own body fluid.
"And you call me a showoff." Fourteen crossed his arms. He then turned to Sixteen. "You're up big guy."
Sixteen nodded and stepped forward. The tan-furred Lion Bounties stepped forward, ready to avenge their fallen, determined like their predecessors that they would be able to take down their foes.
Sixteen cracked his massive knuckles as the lions made his way towards him. The first one lunged forward to strike, however the brute was faster, catching the bounty's stomach with his knee.
As the Lion Bounty began to process the situation, it then felt an immense amount of gravity slam into his back, so much so that both his spine, rib cage and the pavement cracked under him.
Sixteen pulled his fist back, taking the dying body and tossing it into the air, allowing it to explode like a firework.
"That's one..." Sixteen confirmed. He pulled off his huge blade from his back and rested the blade on his shoulder."Who's next?"
The second Earth element lion bounty growled and motioned himself as if he was going to charge. His commrade however threw his arm on front of him, stopping him in his tracks.
The lion turned to his commrade growling at him as to why he stopped him. His comrade shook his head and tapped the side of his head with his finger, implying to "think before charging in."
The first Lion nodded, regaining his composure afterward. The duo then split up, heading in opposite directions to surround Sixteen on both sides. The Homunculi looked to his left, and then to his right. He crossed his arms and closed his eyes, waiting patiently for them to lunge in like the first seven.
After a few seconds of preparing to launch, both bounties leapt to the side, running counter-clockwise around Sixteen. As they ran, the rocks on the ground started to float, being picked up from the building wind they created, eventually building up a small sandstorm that surrounded them.
Both Fourteen and Fifteen shielded their eyes from the storm as it became more violent, with Sixteen remaining calm, the storm not fazing him. He slowly picked his foot up, and let it drop, instantly shattering the storm away, as easily as blowing dust away. His foot also caused a tremor, enough to shake the remaining two bounties off balance.
Sixteen walked up and looked at the both of them as they struggled to get up. he then looked at his blade and slid it back into its holster. He drew his gun and slid both of his DT's onto it instead.
"LEVEL: 2!" It announced as his gun transformed into a black and silver modified KSG 12 Shotgun.
The duo looked in horror at the titan that stood in front of them, his gleaming red eyes spelling 'Death' alone. They realized they were outmatched, and as such attempted to run.
Sixteen brought the gun to his mouth and spoke into it. "Level: MAX!"
"LEVEL: MAX!"The computerized weapon made out as he brought the gun down and reloaded it with two silver-colored custom-designed bullets, which had patterns similar to a tortoise shell engraved on them. He cocked it and aimed down the sights of the weapon to lock on to his targets.
"Terra Breaker!" Sixteen called out, taking two shots from the weapon.
The Gun fired twice, the individual bullets zooming ahead and hitting their targets easily. The two bounties dropped to their knees in agonizing pain and met their fates, totaling the number to nine in total.
The three Homunculi gathered together and looked on seeing the final three targets, calm and collected where they stood. The three Electric Lion Bounties each gave off a mannerism, as if they were somewhat intelligent compared to their counterparts. The first one stepped up and smirked.
"Very Impressive…" It spoke.
"Well, I guess I should take my comment back then; guess they weren't so dumb after all." Fourteen said. "At least these guys can talk."
"Oh we can do more than just talk…" he replied. "We were specifically designed to kill Hunters."
"And that matters to us because…?" Fifteen crossed her arms, uninterested in what he has to say.
"Because, I want you to take them with you to find Thirteen..." The distorted voice told them.
"You sure about that…? What's to say that they won't end up like that trash that we wiped out?" Fourteen asked curiously.
Fifteen and Sixteen suddenly felt the warm feline breath sliding down their necks, joined by the cackling sound of electricity under them.
"You were saying?" The leader of the pack asked Fourteen.
"Well if he wants to use you, I don't see the harm in it." Fourteen shrugged his shoulders. Besides; I know what Thirteen wants, and I have it; all of it."
"What would that be?"
"Answers…" The voice spoke once again.
"Alright class that ends today's discussion." Professor Johnson clapped his hands, in satisfaction. "I will see all of you on Friday in the Labs. Have a good day."
The class then, as if it was timed, all collected their things and began to head out the class room.
"Hey Adam, I have a free period; wanna hang out for a bit?" Emily asked as she put her bag onto her shoulder.
"Uh yeah, just give me a sec. I gotta talk to the Professor about something important."
"Yeah sure; I'll be outside." She nodded and walked out the classroom.
The second the last student left, I turned my attention to the professor, who was sitting at his desk.
"How can I help you Mr. Jones?" he asked me.
I took a deep breath, my stomach knotting inside me. This was one of the founders of Project 13; he was essentially my "Grandfather" (if Alpha is technically my mother) in a sense. This man is the reason why I was standing here… It was pretty nerve racking trying to think of a question to ask him.
"I remember in class you mentioned that you used to study Human re-creation…" My voice shaking as the words left my mouth. "I was wondering… Are you the same Noah Johnson that worked on Projects Alpha and Omega in 2012?"
The doctor stopped what he was doing and smirked. "My, oh my; It's been years since I heard of those names." He turned to me and stared at me for a second. "Indeed, you're the splitting image of Alpha. You've grown up to be quite the man, haven't you Thirteen?"
My heart froze. "So you really are…"
"Yes, I am one of the Founders of Project 13; or rather 'Project Hero', as it was originally called." The Professor replied. "And of course, I take it you have more questions to ask me, don't you?"
"A few actually…" I took a seat next to his desk and made the mental list in my head.
"There are Homunculi who have been after us for about a week now." I started to say. "They confirmed themselves to be 4th Generation Homunculi created by Dr. Cain. Your journal supports this fact as well; where did they come from? And is Dr. Cain alive, because Fourteen told me that Dr. Cain was killed during the Darkest Hour Event?"
"Dr. Cain had made designs for an additional four Homunculi during the time of Alpha and Omega's era, if you want to call it that. So in that sense, yes, Dr. Richard Cain created Numbers the 4th Generation. Around the year 2014, his designs were found in the rebuilding process and we decided to take the designs and create a 4th set of Homunculi, to join alongside with the other twelve babies that were successful. However, upon completion in the late summer of 2015, there was a…"
"There was a…" I repeated.
"There was a situation; nothing serious, just two scientists butting heads with each other. Apparently, one of the scientists was a loyal follower of Dr. Cain's theory of training you children to be fighting machines, while the other, thought it would be foolish to follow in that man's footsteps. Her name was Suzanne Romanov; Number 12's mother."
"She and Mark Tyson continually butted heads ever since she joined our team three years prior. Mark was Cain's protégé and followed Cain for most of Project Hero. He was a great kid, very intelligent, however he and Cain shared the twisted thought of using the Artificial Humans as weapons for war rather than for saving lives."
"Suzy joined us because she was so fascinated by the creation of life, a huge step over genetic cloning. She loved the kids as if her own, even though she was around twenty-two at the time. As such, she volunteered to contribute to Number 12's creation by providing her DNA. And boy, I tell you that Number 12 was the best thing in the world to her…"
[CORE HQ, September 3rd, 2015]
"Come now, go on…" A young female voice with a light Russian accent spoke softly. "That's right, just one foot in front of the other."
The one year old pushed herself up and looked straight ahead, holding her tiny arms in front of her, reaching for the young woman. She wanted more than anything to reach her. The infant was determined to make her way towards the woman, and her struggling feet weren't going to stop her.
She followed the woman's instructions, and moved one foot forward. She then picked her other leg up and put it in front of the first one. Right, Left, Right, Left… she concentrated and kept the pace, walking closer and closer to her. And before she knew it, the woman was embracing her with joy and excitement. The young Number 12 giggled, because she knew she pleased Dr. Romanov by achieving one of the greatest milestones a baby could receive: walking.
"I'm so proud of you sweetheart!" She hugged the baby in joy. The little girl wrapped her arms around Dr. Romanov and snuggled her head onto her shoulder.
"Doctor Romanov…" A young intern spoke from behind. "Doctor Johnson requests you to come downstairs to the lab right away; the remaining three have been successfully born into this world, and he wants you to meet them."
The dirty-blonde-haired woman got up from her knelt position, holding the baby in her arms. "I'll be down in a minute. Just let me put her to sleep."
"I'll notify him; we await your arrival." The intern replied, walking away.
Romanov smiled and looked at the baby. "When you wake up, you'll get to meet your new Brothers and Sister. You need to be a good girl and be a responsible older sister OK? Do that for Mommy." She kissed the baby on the forehead as she walked out the room, the baby giggling from the affection shown.
After making her way down the long hallway of the building, she approached a room. She pulled out her ID card and slid it into the card reader, which then unlocked the door. She walked into the Nursery-styled room where small beds and cribs were aligned next to each other, eight on each side. She walked towards the end of the rows, and stopped where the Dog Tags with the number 12 on them were hanging. She rested the child into the crib, which in turn made the baby fuss. Dr. Romanov picked the bright yellow pacifier sitting next to the pillow and gave it to the baby, instantly calming her down and putting her to sleep.
"Greatest invention known to man…" Dr. Romanov laughed to herself. She knelt over the banister and pulled the cover over the child.
"I love you, my beautiful little swan." She pushed herself up from the banister and turned her back, leaving the young child to dream in peace.
Dr. Romanov made it downstairs in the lab minutes later, being greeted by the scientist down there, especially Dr. Johnson, who cradled the newborn Number 13 in his arms. The Doctor had a big smile on his face, as he motioned over to the glass window behind him.
"Have you met Thirteen yet?" Dr. Johnson asked his protégé. "Cute little guy isn't he?"
Dr. Romanov walked closer to the doctor and looked at the light haired newborn as it slept peacefully in Dr. Johnson's arms.
"Number 12 is cuter." Dr. Romanov said firmly.
Dr. Johnson laughed as opposed to taking offense. "Yes, of course parents say that about their own children.
Dr. Romanov walked over to the window and saw the newest additions to their growing family, a set of triplets, each sporting the dark hair, compared to the light brown-haired Thirteen.
"These four babies are very unique compared to the first twelve." Dr. Johnson mentioned walking up to her.
"How so…?" Dr. Romanov asked.
"I've based their DNA's on the sample DNA of Projects Alpha and Omega. I figured that the two greatest creations in mankind's history should have a legacy."
"But aren't all of these children their legacy?" She asked.
"Yes, of course… But what I mean is these young ones… I created them especially for the feeling of having those two back." He replied. "Alpha and Omega, they were my best friends, my little siblings, if you want to call them that. I loved those two more than anything and I did everything in my power to prove that. So of course, just the thought of the Darkest Hour Event happening, and them disappearing without a trace… you can't blame me for wanting to see them back in my life again.
Dr. Romanov nodded. "I understand how you must feel. Even though all she has is my blood in her, Number 12 is like a real daughter to me."
"She has more than your blood; she has your soul and your love in her as well. And the same goes for all of the other dedicated scientists that contributed to making this world safer. Each of these children was born by these dedicated people, who have shown nothing but compassion to not only protect them, but also the planet on which we live on. And when they get older, they'll carry on with the same drive that we're giving out to protect this world; to be the heroes that we need the most in our times of need…"
"Whatever happened to her?" I asked. "I never heard of her until just now."
"As I said... We had a situation. We were attacked by a small group of terrorists who called themselves: "World War III". They invaded CORE and didn't hesitate to start shooting up the place and taking hostages. They heard of Project Hero and they knew how valuable you all were, and as such they sought to kidnap you and sell you to the highest bidder. Rumors circulated afterward that it was Dr. Tyson's doing, to force you all to become 'War Machines by kidnapping you and hiding as well, but there was a problem with that theory: Dr. Tyson's body was found shot to death in the lobby of the building.
"And judging by the current events…" I started to say.
"Their mission was a success to an extent. Fourteen, Fifteen and Sixteen were kidnapped unfortunately. I protected you to the best of my ability; after surviving the Darkest Hour, I knew what precautions I needed to take and I followed them. Dr. Romanov went back to get Number 12; but unfortunately we lost track of her in the commotion; it was assumed she might've been kidnapped by the terrorists, or even killed. Thankfully though, Number 12 was safe and sound, and was secured when the officials arrived and subdued the Terrorists. Assuming that the babies were gone for good, and seeing that Numbers 1-4 were too young to understand any of what was going on at the time, we had you all believe that there were only thirteen of you. We renamed Project Hero to 'Project 13' to avoid suspicion from you all.
"Well… that explains a whole lot." I said, letting all of that mind-blowing information process in my mind.
"And to my greatest fear… In recent years, I've discovered what happened to the three babies from eighteen years ago. They became mercenaries of the World War III organization. Time after time, they would sell their services and assist countries and factions in wars and mercenary jobs, assassinations… they were used to kill and nothing more. And they were able to succeed in every job flawlessly. Do you know why that was?"
I imagined it in my mind, the various confrontations I had with Fourteen; his sadistic, sarcastic mannerism. I could just feel his ruthlessness and his overwhelming strength, even in my thoughts, as if it was going through my body like a familiar feeling…
A familiar feeling…
"Because they experienced nothing but 'Hate' all of their lives…" I realized.
"Exactly…" the Professor confirmed. "They were trained to have nothing but hate towards humans. They are Organic Machines; they have no feelings, just instructions to follow…
"Adam, come on already, I'm starving!" Emily popped her head through the door with an agonizing and annoyed look on her face.
"Sorry Ms. Parker." Professor Johnson apologized. "It seems that your Boyfriend is smarter than I gave him credit for."
"Boyfriend!?" Emily and I said simultaneously, both our faces turning red.
"We're not dating!" Emily quickly stated.
"Yeah, besides, who'd want to date someone like her?" I added. "And that came out wrong…"
I turned and saw Emily with an offended look on her face. "What's that supposed to mean; are you saying that I'm 'Un-dateable'?"
"Whoa wait that's not what I meant!" I shot back. "It just came out wrong. What I meant to say is…"
Emily turned and stormed off, with me and the professor sitting there quiet.
"Ah, young love." The professor chuckled behind me.
I turned to him and sighed. "That's not funny…"
"Oh but it is; I know you better than you know yourself Adam; I can see something between you and her."
"What's that supposed to mean exactly?"
"It means that you two are going to become really close. Who knows, you could be closer than you realize."
"Ha, yeah, I'm close to getting smacked for that stupid comment I made." I said sarcastically.
The professor chuckled. "Have a good day Mr. Jones. I hope I helped you with your predicament and I wish for the best."
"You helped more than enough and I really appreciate it." I nodded.
I walked out of the classroom, hearing the mechanical door slide shut.
"Now to find Emily and apologize…" I sighed.
"You found me." I heard her say behind me.
I turned around and saw the girl with her arms crossed, standing next to the door, still slightly frustrated.
"Still mad at me aren't you?"
She nodded. "It's only been thirty seconds; you really think I could forgive you in that amount of time?"
"Right… Listen, I'm really, really sorry I said that; he just caught me off guard with that comment and I just blurted out the first thing that came to mind."
"By calling me un-dateable…" she started to walk off and I followed her.
"Listen, how can I make it up to you?"
She ignored my comment, starting to walk faster.
"Come on, please, I'll do anything!" I started to beg. This is the very first friend I ever made, and there's no chance I'm about to lose her over a stupid misunderstanding… wait that's it!
"How about I prove that you're dateable?" I crossed my arms in confidence.
She stopped, but she didn't turn around.
"What's that supposed to mean?" she asked, the slight anger still taking residence in her voice.
"Let's hang out tonight in the city. Just you and me; I'll treat you to whatever you want."
"So… it's a date then?" she turned.
I repeated the words in my head, realizing I just asked my new friend out on a date; something I never did before. How the heck did I do that so easily?
"Um… if you want to call it that…" I said, my voice just now getting shaky. I cleared my throat before starting again. "Yeah, it's a date. Besides, we're friends aren't we? We need to get to know each other better, right?"
She nodded, agreeing with me. "OK then. It's a date. And for the record, I forgive you now."
"So does that mean we can hang out now; because now that you mentioned it, I'm starving?"
"Yeah, come on." She smiled.
I walked over to her as we made our way to the campus lounge…
With that said, I can say that today was productive. I learned a lot about Number 14 and his group, and a bit of how we all came to be… but when I tell you this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to surprises, guys, I'm telling you now that from here on out: The real adventure begins…