Genre: philosophical science fiction
Characters: Jon Osterman, Walter Kovacs, and to a lesser degree Daniel Dreiberg and Laurie Juspeczyk
Universe and time period: Comic-verse, after all events in the graphic novel.
Warnings: None, some brotherly love but nothing I would consider slash.
Disclaimer: just for fun, I still don't own watchmen. (why do i keep bothering with this....)
Authors Notes: I would consider this AU, but all events in the GN are to have occurred prior to this story without any suggested alteration.
It is a strange thing that a world exists where a man kneels before his brother’s silenced body, throws back his head in a gesture of primal despair, cries out for his God to give him a reason for the is horror, and just like that, his God appears before him.
They have all seen him before, the ‘Father’ as he asks to be called. It is as the statement carved into the quartz stairs of his temple reads:
I am not God. Yes I have created you in my image, and yes I have created all that is alive and beautiful on this planet, but I am not God. Yes I have brought you my wisdom, and my language; and yes I have taught you how to live good and just lives, but still, I am not God. I was born from this universe as you were. We are all children of the stars and this glorious and seemingly infinite matter. I have brought you life here on this planet. I am your Father. I am not God.
But God and Father mean the same thing to Children who only understand that their entire existence came from this one being, this being who descends from on high and grants them gifts of new crops or assists in the building of their cities, moving mountains with only his faint smile and pure will. So it is no surprise that in their cultivated Eden, when sin is born for the first time, strange and cruel and apparently out of nowhere, the Children would turn to their Father for answers. Answers he no longer possesses the humanity to give.
Both bodies are in full rigor mortis when he arrives, stiff and vacant of life. The Father stands over them and his glowing white-hot eyes narrow, granting his face a look of something like concern. Perhaps it is. Perhaps his heart stirs, for he loves them. He loves all his Children, and this is not want he wished for them: this awful throw back to the world from which he came.
“What happened here?” he inquires evenly.
They rush to speak. He is confronted by a hoard of tear streaked faces and trembling lips. He is reminded of a nest of baby birds. They appear to him like helpless blind things, and he is the only one who can grant them vision. From their many sobbing accounts he is able to derive that the two men became angry with each other, and they fought. One man brandished a weapon, a tool used for harvesting crops, and killed the other man. Seeing the reactions of his fellow farmers, and feeling cornered and frightened, the killer turned the weapon on himself. A murder-suicide is what people would call it in the land of the Father’s birth, but here there is no such thing as murder, nor suicide. In the one hundred years his Eden as existed, such things have never occurred.
“Why?!” the Children weep. “Why would our brother do this? Why would anyone? Why has this sadness come here?!”
The Father does not know the answer to this, nor do the families of the dead. They claim the young farmers sometimes did not agree, but the teachings have answers for how to solve disagreement, so why would they not seek proper answers?
The Children back away, full of fear and reverence, as the Father lifts the two bodies into the air and floats them towards his temple of glass and gears. They follow him until he stands tall on the immaculate stairs before the soaring semi-transparent scarlet doors, which are decorated, as all his palace is, with eerie ticking cogs. He turns to the crowd of confused and sorrowful faces and says to them:
“I will find you an answer. At all costs. Be patient, my beloved family.”
He knows what he will ultimately do even though he has yet to do it. He knows the crime he will commit to acquire the answer his Children crave. In spite of this, he ruminates on the morality of what he is about to attempt. He still debates it, even though his decision is known to him.
He has never made a perfect copy, a Child with a brain already full of memories, every fiber exactly as it had been nearly two hundred years ago, but there is no other choice. The Father can only see logic now and there is no logic behind the crime in his Eden. To find this answer, he requires someone more flawed than himself.
The Father remembers blue eyes like cracked ice and face that looked as though it was literally carved by the atrocities of mortal men. A wretched creature who was a pure embodiment of human suffering, hatred, and rage, but also, in spite of this, not entirely evil or unreasonable. He will know the answer. He will know why mortals commit such grievous injustices against each other. He will know.
The Father walks the long sterile corridor to his creation chamber; the sacred space where he built the first of his Children, where the first green saplings were born to his Eden, and where the first animals stirred to life. He glides through symmetrical doors adorned with slowly rotating rings forming the symbol for hydrogen. They lock behind him and he feels a sort of resolute peace take hold of his being, the faint traces of almost negligible apprehension whisked entirely away. He is, in spite of everything he tells himself and his Children, a God within this space. For he does not believe that there is such an entity; and therefore he can become the closest thing to it the universe will ever know.
Sitting cross-legged in the center of the circular room he closes his shining eyes and rises from the smooth marble floor. The room looks like a strange hybrid of a clock interior and a cathedral, a round space rimmed with soaring pointed arches set with turning gears instead of crosses, all constructed of semi-transparent quartz and glass. The Father’s azure form is reflected in every surface as he floats meditatively in his consecrated space.
There are glass pods beneath every arch, filled with the raw materials that living things are made from: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and many other elements. The Father lifts his head and opens his burning star-like eyes. There was a time when creating life was a challenge even for him, but now all it takes is a thought. A sliver of time to assemble a new son or daughter; one turn of a watch gear and a new story is born. Yet on this desecrated night the Father assembles a man who has already broken beneath the weight of his own narrative, the first Child born unto his Eden who knows the meaning of suffering.
It is 1985. The Father is standing on an ice sheet. He lifts his hand. A man’s body comes apart, molecule by molecule, within seconds.
It is over two centuries later, countless light years away, and the Father summons his raw materials from their crystal pods. He pulls them together, every atom accounted for, in precisely the reverse order that he recalls from the ice flats of 1985.
Sapphire light flashes as all the microscopic pieces blur into one, binding and pulling inward as if drawn together by some unseen magnet, and then, where seconds earlier there was but air, a man is standing.
He is still shivering, though the cold is long since gone. His eyes are shut tightly, his teeth clenched. He stands there for a span of seconds before lifting his head
“I SAID DO-” He stops. His intense eyes dart around the otherworldly room, his hands instinctively clutch at his stomach where moments earlier he felt a sudden surge of heat pushing outward, followed, almost instantly, by the same feeling in reverse.
“W-What…what have you, what have you done to me?” he gasps. His bloodshot eyes are suddenly wide and frantic.
“I have created you,” The Father replies pragmatically.
“Created…me? No. No. Did not create me. No,” He stammers, now stepping in circles, trying to make sense of his surroundings. His freshly constructed heart pounds furiously in his chest as his breathing quickens to near hyperventilation.
“I have,” the Father replies.
“No! Brought me here…did not make me.” The small ragged man glares back with eyes colder than the ice flats of 1985. “Why didn’t you do it? I asked you to! I wanted you to end it!”
“Not making sense Dr. Manhattan. If you did, why am I alive?!”
“I killed Rorschach in Antarctica on November second, 1985.”
The red haired man standing before the Father only narrows his eyes in response.
“You think you are the man vaporized on that day, but what you really are is a perfect copy of that man. Your brain, your body, every atom in you has been assembled to match his, but the carbon I used to build you is not the carbon that built Rorschach. The calcium in your bones is not the same calcium. Do you understand? You may feel as though you were standing outside Veidt’s Karnak only moments ago, that you are the man who stood before me that day, but in reality he has been dead for over two hundred years.”
The man stands agape, his colorless complexion stricken with nothing short of horror.
“If my brain, all memories…if…everything is the same, than does that not make me him?”
“That is a question for philosophers not scientists. You are and you are not, but it is in my own best interests that you do believe yourself to be who you feel you are.”
A red flush touches the weathered cheeks of the man and his cold eyes flare.
“Why have you done this to me? What sick game are you playing, Osterman?”
The Father’s lips lift in something almost like a smile.
“Dr. Manhattan. Osterman. I have not been called those names in so long. I did not expect it to feel good to hear them.”
“Tell me why you have created me,” the man snarls.
“Because, Rorschach, I need to ask you a question.”
“A question? Resurrected me for a question? Had better be good…” The reborn Rorschach growls coolly.
“We will discuss it tomorrow over breakfast. For now you will rest, and collect yourself.”
“Don’t want to re--”
“Yes you do. You like deny yourself what it is you truly want even when it is something as simple as rest. You are a puzzling life form Rorschach, but then again, that is why I summoned you, after all.”
Sunlight pours in through a slim pointed arch window in small room with a disproportionately high ceiling. In the center of the room there is a narrow single bed with a frame constructed, like most of the minimal furnishings in the Father’s clockwork palace, of solid quartz. The mattress, pillows, and sheets are pure sterile white, clean and immaculate as the prismatic walls and polished floor. The lone figure, curled tightly beneath the silken sheets, is the single stain upon the otherwise spotless space.
He feels the warmth of morning on his sore skin and squints in the glittering daylight. He blinks and drags his stiff body into a seated position. He is dressed in a smooth cream colored robe but he does not recall changing into it. He feels as though he was fighting the day before. He has bruises that hurt under pressure and his joints ache. He touches cheek, feeling the still present welt beneath his left eye. Everything is as it was. He wants to tell himself it doesn’t make any sense, but in very cold and base terms it makes perfect sense. A flawless copy; welts and all.
He shakes his head and rubs his eyes. He wonders what he would like to be called. The first name that comes to mind feels somehow wrong. His inkblot face is gone, left behind in the snow two hundred years ago. It was a good death for Rorschach there outside Karnak, honorable and uncompromising. As he mulls over his identity the tall quartz doors slide open and the Father stands sedately at the threshold.
“Good morning, Rorschach.”
The weary figure on the bed looks into the blazing white eyes momentarily before his gaze shifts down to his own thin sinewy hands tightly fisted into silken sheets.
“Uncertain if I am Rorschach anymore. Remember everything, but feel different somehow, like he has left me. Feel like…like I am Walter Kovacs now.”
“I can call you that if you wish, and Walter Kovacs is possibly better suited to answering my question than Rorschach would be.”
“Yes. Walter. Walter will do for now.”
The Father nods and extends his hand serenely.
“Come,” he says simply.
Walter hesitates but eventually swings his limbs over the edge of the bed and allows his bare toes to touch the cool reflective marble floor. He stands warily, and pulls the thin robe tightly around his otherwise naked body. He feels exposed and uncomfortable even though he knows that the blue entity before him is indifferent to human modesty.
“Need clothes,” he says quietly.
The Father considers him for a brief moment.
“I have cleaned your clothes for you. They are in my chamber where you will join me and discuss my question.”
Walter lets out a raspy sigh and reluctantly follows the azure man out into a long corridor, still clutching the robe closed in the front. As they proceed down the long hallway he considers his instincts, which tell him to attack his captor and flee, but he disregards the notion with little thought. He knows who he is dealing with, and even if he could escape he is uncertain he wants to see the world outside.
They arrive in a room almost identical to all the others, filled with tall columns and turning gears. In the center the is a rectangular table with two chairs. A typical American breakfast is set in front of one of the seats: coffee, toast, sliced fruit, and eggs. The Father gestures to the table.
“You will find your clothes on the chair. Sit, eat, and I will explain to you my problem.”
Walter pulls out the chair and finds the neatly folded bundle of familiar clothes. They are cleaner than he can remember them ever being, but the familiar scuffs and tears are proof enough that the clothing is his. The Father seats himself across the table. Walter eyes him coolly, clutching the bundle to his chest. He considers requesting privacy in order to change, but he knows it will not be granted, so he walks around to stand behind the imposing blue man and quickly changes back into his own clothing. Some of the tension in his muscles unwinds once he is covered, and he takes his seat at the other side of the table, feeling slightly less vulnerable.
The food smells exactly as it should, and tastes undeniably good. Walter does not hesitate to eat. He has nothing to loose and no reason to bother being suspicious. As far as he is concerned, he shouldn’t even be alive.
“Is it as you like?” the Father asks.
“It’s fine,” Walter replies through a mouthful of toast.
“Now, as for why I’ve summoned you.”
“Yes, would like to know what your end game is, Osterman.” The scruffy redhead lifts his coffee mug to his lips.
“I have discovered how to create life.”
“I have created hundreds of beings of which I refer to as my Children. I have created plants and animals to diversify their world and granted them the wisdom of the civilization from which I came. In the beginning I guided their lives almost entirely. However, as they grew to be a self-sustaining society, I stepped away and allowed them to breed and thrive on their own, and for a century they have existed harmoniously in my utopia, with only my occasional assistance.”
“You must be so proud,” Walter replies with a hint of icy sarcasm.
“I am. I love them. They are my greatest achievement as of this date.”
“Heartwarming story, Osterman. So why sully your perfect world with my filth?”
“Because, the pollution has already occurred. Two days ago my Children witnessed murder for the first time. One of my sons murdered another over some perfectly solvable dispute, and proceeded to kill himself in the wake of his crime.”
“Murder-suicide. Open and shut case.”
“In your world, yes, but not here. My Children do not understand these grievous things, and I no longer possess the comprehension of such illogical actions.”
Walter slips a slice of something akin to a peach into his mouth and chews slowly, considering the story. The Father eyes him intently.
“Want me to make sense of this for you?” Walter says after swallowing the fruit.
“Yes. I want you to tell me why it is that living things behave in such cruel ways, so that I can prevent this evil from contaminating my once virgin world any more than it already has.”
Walter chuckles softly and reaches for another slice of fruit.
“These…Children…of yours. They are human?”
“Not exactly. They are humanoid in their appearance, mortal, and of equal intelligence. I based them on humans, but chose to give them slight variations.”
“But no super powers like you have, just regular living things?”
“Yes. They are no more different from humans than a lion is from a tiger.”
“Hurm. Really have drifted out of touch, Osterman.”
“Explain.” The god-like creature tilts his head slightly in an action almost mirroring curiosity.
“Experiment has more variables than you can control. Existence is essentially random and meaningless, Osterman. Every living thing with free will has a choice. Regardless of your best intentions some will ultimately choose evil. There are too many variables, too many reasons for a men to commit sin, too many for even you to oversee. Is the nature of free will.”
“Human nature.” The Father muses almost to himself. “Are you suggesting that all life is fundamentally evil?”
“No. It is not fundamentally anything. It is chaos.” Walter pauses for a moment, gazing intently at his own reflection in his coffee. “The answer to your question is simple…why did this happen here? Because it was bound too. Paradise will always be lost. It is the nature of free will. Chaos.”
The Father is silent for a long span of time, and his mind is not in the present. He making love to Janey Slater; he is in Vietnam seeing mothers weep over their dead sons, vaporized by his own hand; he is watching as the Comedian sets fire to a paper map, he is levitating before an angry crowd in 1977; he is on mars; he is kissing Laurie for the last time.
“The moment of chaos…like turning air into gold.” He whispers reverently.
“Don’t know if I would give humans that much credit.” Walter mutters coolly.
“I could have prevented this if I controlled them entirely, but free will and natural evolution is what makes life unique and ultimately beautiful. The risk of failure is required for triumph to truly resonate. I am recalling now why it was I created my Children, why I gave them the ability to breed and die and be self sustaining. Beauty lies within the chaos of mortal life.” The Father’s voice is airy and distant. Walter feels as though his star like eyes are looking somewhere far beyond him, eons into the future perhaps.
“Thank you Walter. This is the second time I required a mortal to remind me why life is precious. I am grateful for your assistance.”
Walter shifts uneasily in his seat, stark gaze focused on his weathered hands. They are hands created less than a day ago, but they bear the scars and deterioration of forty-five long and unforgiving years. He lifts his red rimmed eyes to meet the shining visage before him.
“What now?” he rasps.
“I will give my Children guidance, help them to find a path to peace and reason but I will not stay with them forever. I wish for them to live sovereign lives, free of deities.”
“Not what I meant.”
“I’m sorry. You are referring to what happens to you now?”
Walter gnaws his lower lip absently. “Yes. What will you do with me now? Answered your question. Am of no further use and do not belong here.”
“I owe you something for your assistance though, do I not? What would you like, Walter. What would you have me do with you?” the quasi-deity asks evenly.
“I…don’t…I don’t know what I want.”
“Would you like me to destroy you once more? As you initially wished?”
Walter flinches and looks away from the Father, his ginger eyebrows tightly knit.
“Was what I wanted, but…” His hands twist restlessly in his lap. “Feels cheap.”
“You summon me here, get what you need from me, then throw me away again. Feels wrong…” Walter’s heart is beating faster now, and he thinks somehow the thing across from him can hear it. His throat tightens. “I am human, Osterman…I am human.”
“So you no longer wish to die? What would you have me do for you then ? I am grateful for your help. I will assist you. Just tell me what it is you desire.”
Insecurity pools in Walter’s belly as he digs his nails unconsciously into his forearms. “Can I just go home?”
“Home? Where would you consider home to be, Walter?”
His lips tremble as he meets the all-knowing gaze across from him.
“Dreiberg.” the Father says in a voice just above a whisper. Walter feels his entire body tense up at the very utterance of the name and he tears his eyes away from the serene face to focus once again on his knotted hands.
“Is a good friend. Only one I can think of, but you would not let me go back there. I cannot be trusted to keep Veidt’s secrets.”
“This is true, but it seems that killing Rorschach did little to keep him silent regardless.”
Walter looks back up quickly, his interest piqued.
“I returned to earth for a brief visit in 2060, shortly before starting my colony here. I was curious to see how my former home fared in the century following Veidt’s monster. I did not make my presence known. There are countless books written about Rorschach and the other ‘Watchmen’, as literature likes to call us. You are the favorite, thanks to your journal and fascinating psychosis. Your writings were published in 1986. The journal ends up in the hands of the government after this, and is now on display at the Smithsonian. You successfully start a vast conspiracy against Veidt, however he is never proven guilty. He aids the police in dispelling rumors that you, Dreiberg, and Laurie are still alive after 1985. The three of you are formally pronounced dead in the summer of 1986 after remnants of Dreiberg’s Owl Ship are found in the Atlantic.”
Walter’s eyes narrow slightly, and he is quiet for a long while, fixating on the reflection of his face in polished surface of the table.
“You know where it is I want to be… can you send me there? Will you let me return?”
“Not worried I might bring about nuclear Armageddon?” Walter replies, his lip curling up into a wry half smile.
“Where I send you, Rorschach has already been pronounced dead, and his conspiracy theories are common knowledge. The damage is already done, Walter.” The Father pauses. “To return to earth, the world that brought you all of your suffering, is this what you desire as payment for your service to me?”
“Is the only thing I can think of at the moment. If it does not work out…can end myself without your assistance.” Walter closes his eyes and nods lightly on the final statement.
“As you wish.” The Father stands, and he is tall and serene within his crystal palace of turning cogs. Walter staggers clumsily up from his seat and stands before him, fierce eyes locked on the tranquil azure face of the closest thing to God he will ever know.
“One last request, Walter.” The Father extends his hand, producing a tiny ticking watch face made of the same crystal as everything in his world. “Please give this to Laurie.” Walter hesitates before quickly plucking up the little gift and stuffing into his pocket.
“Still sentimental, Osterman?” he replies gruffly.
“It is a practical gift. It will not stop within her lifetime.”
Walter gives a stiff nod and locks eyes with the Father one last time.
“Well…What are you waiting for?”
Deep golden sunlight glimmers from behind the dark silhouetted trees as the burning disk sinks down to meet an unfamiliar horizon. The breeze is fragrant with the scent of grass and trees. It is warm, yet the air possesses a tell-tale crispness, and he derives that it is early autumn.
Walter is laying on his back on a slanted hillside facing west by the looks of the setting sun. Behind him he hears a passing vehicle. With marked pain and stiffness he rolls over and drags himself to his feet, dusting off bits of grass and soil. He climbs the hill and finds himself standing before a highway, one that appears to go on for miles in either direction. The expanse is entirely unlike the tangled urban environment with which he is familiar. As far as he can see there is nothing but yellowing cornfields, trees, and a distant mountain range, its soaring peaks gilded with late day sun. It would be beautiful if it did not seem overwhelmingly open and desolate to he who is so accustomed to busy streets, noise, and people at every turn.
The only sign of human life he can see is a dark colored car, pulled over along side the highway about a hundred yards away with two figures busying themselves around it. Uncertain what else to do, he heads towards them.
“It’ll be dark soon Dan. Think you’ll get it running tonight?” A tall woman with flax colored shoulder length hair leans against the side of a broken down Chevy and lights a cigarette.
“Yeah, don’t worry Laurie, just give me a few more minutes and we’ll be out of here,” Her husband Dan answers from where he stands bent under the hood, tinkering with car’s the engine.
Laurie sighs and scans the horizon which is now burning faintly orange. She exhales a long wisp of pale smoke into the autumn breeze and turns to her partner. “I know I’ve said this before, but Daniel Dreiberg and Laurel Juspeczyk were formally pronounced dead last month…maybe we can stop running now.”
Dan stands back and slams the hood shut. He absently runs an oil stained hand through his unruly dirty blond hair and scratches at his scruffy beard. “Yeah, but where should we go?”
“Somewhere. I don’t know, might as well just throw a dart at a map. The answer would be as good as anything.” Laurie replies with a shrug and her characteristic sarcastic laugh.
“I think that should do it. Lets see if she starts.” Dan turns and reaches for the driver’s side door.
“Uh-oh, Don’t look now, Dan. The sun’s down and here come the redneck crazies.” Laurie mutters quickly and slides into the passenger seat.
“Wait!” an unsettlingly familiar raspy voice calls out.
Dan’s hand freezes on the door handle, and very slowly he turns away from his car to face the approaching stranger. Inside, Laurie leans forward and peers through the windshield, squinting in the low sunlight. Her eyes grow wide as she scrambles out of the vehicle to better see the disturbingly familiar vagabond.
“Hello.” Walter says slowly, lifting his tired bloodshot eyes to meet those of the two travelers. He’s not surprised by Laurie’s astonished and horrified expression. Dan’s face is very much the same, only there is something else in his stunned brown eyes along side the terror and disbelief.
“Been traveling…come a long way, alone. Was wondering if,” His voice catches in his throat.
Dan’s lips move as if he is trying to speak but no words come out.
Walter coughs. “Wondering if I could…perhaps…join the two of you.” He pauses, tearing his gaze away from their stunned faces momentarily. “if you would have me.”
He looks back up at them, focusing on Dan, his eyes betraying him in their bleak desolation. He wishes more than ever that he had his mask.
“Is--is it really… How? No, there’s no way, there--” Dan falters clumsily, but there is a desperate hint of hope in his voice as he takes one deliberate step forward.
Walter then reaches into his pocket and produces a small otherworldly timepiece.
“Have come a long way, Daniel.”