Monday April 6 2015

My first day at work.

I guess Jo wasn’t kidding when he said I would be surprised. Apparently, the reason why he kept it all a secret before I went to Korea was that he was afraid I would tell anybody. “Not that I don’t trust you, but we never know.” Of course it was upsetting to hear him say that after dating him for more than 2 years, but it was understandable (plus it made me more curious than ever). First of all, I was certain that whatever it was, it would definitely involve the military since I knew they were the first to finance his research, so of course, when we headed to his/our workplace, I was not surprised to see it was a military base called Camp Humphreys with guards everywhere and soldiers training in the inner court. The one thing that surprised me though, when we went inside one of the three U-shaped buildings* was that we had to go through dozens of halls and turn as many corners with doors locked with codes. Every time we would meet Korean scientists on the way, Joseph would barely say a word to them. I thought it was rude of him at first but now I know why. Yet at the moment I thought: what kind of project was it that has to be protected by such tight security?

*the one dedicated to biology, I’ll just call it the “Science” building ^3^

We finally took a huge elevator down one of the halls. The ride was so long I imagined it was taking us to the center of the earth. Needless to say, being the biggest American military base of Pyeontaek and one of the biggest of South Korea, Camp Humphreys is a vast installation. Like, vaster than vast. But when the elevator opened its doors on the minus X floor with a quiet beeping sound, I could not believe my eyes. From what I could see from the small iron bridge we were standing on, it was like there was a whole other building under the building O_O And the whole floor was filled with Caucasian guys in white coats only. I know it’s what I expected but it was still a shock! I also saw a few black guys and girls but they were maybe 2 or 3. I can’t wait to befriend them and joke with them about how to survive in a wasp scientist environment XP

When we walked next to them, each of them stopped whatever they were doing and greeted Joseph, calling him “boss”. Deep inside, I couldn’t help but think it was still weird to hear him being called that. Yet I thought it was rather cool. Can you imagine? I’m “the boss’ ” girlfriend ^^ How cool is that? He introduced me to some of his colleagues as his assistant -which I was- but the title didn’t sound so awesome :-/

Then came the most amazing part. After he showed me some of the rooms and equipment I would work with from now on, we dressed in rubber coated aprons and put on gloves and goggles before we went to the main research lab –well, our research lab now-. There he headed towards one of the steel refrigerators, opened it and extended a hand towards the chemicals inside. He then grinned as he took out a small, thick glass bottle filled with a black, syrupy liquid, carrying it as gently as a mother with her newborn baby. When I asked him what it was, a strange light suddenly filled his eyes and from his warm smile came a cold, solemn voice as he stared at it:

“This,” he said, “is Superman’s blood in a bottle.”

He kept looking at it as if it could respond to what he had just said. For some reason, the atmosphere was a little less comfortable around him now. When he looked back at me, his face went back to normal.

“I tried to look for the perfect formula for decades. This is the closest I got.”

He then explained to me how he came to it through theories and equations he and I are probably the only ones to understand and would be too tedious to report since I can already access to it in my professional file (I copied it from Jo’s computer just in case since I know my knowledge in computers saved us more than once in the past ^^).

Basically, back to twenty-five years ago, his award for his discoveries on the evolution of the human nervous system encouraged him to go on with his works on chemical stimulants of all kinds: intellectual, physical, sensual… His dream was that, with a single drop, instead of needles and pills, any ordinary guy would turn into a meta-human at will. Needless to say, when his works finally started to show positive results about fifteen years ago, back when he was still living in the US, the army soon courted him, saying they were “very interested” in his quest for a better future of human evolution. That’s when they sent him to Korea for the first time so he could access to the highest technology of Camp Humphrey without the fear of being spied on as he would have been in America. However, when they saw that the budget was more and more expansive and the progress not quick enough for their taste, they cut his funds and brought him back home.

That’s when he kept working on his own and started teaching in Harvard. As the youngest, nerdiest of my class, I remember that moody, super-smart teacher I was so fond of but everybody hated. I always loved people who would stand out. I guess I kind of thought myself of a rebel that way. I was always looking forwards to his courses and see that sophisticated man that always looked like he thought all of his students and colleagues were morons and he shouldn’t belong there. Yet I remember I was the exception, either because I was the only one who had the answer to most of his questions or because I would just smile at him anytime he would look at me. Behind the arrogance, I could feel that he and I were close in our loneliness. So, as time went by, we started to talk outside of class, then we would hang out together, then we would go to each other’s home, then go to dinner, yadi yadi yada… and now he lets me call him Jo-Jo all I want :D

I also remember that time, about a year ago, when he was called back to Korea: as he kept working at distance with his team, his long-term calculations had proven to be right and now the government wanted him to get back to work. I remember he was as excited as a kid on Christmas. I had never seen him so happy! I cried all the tears I had when he left, even though we kept contact afterwards. Then one day, he called me, did not say “Hi” or “Hello” and directly asked me if I trusted him and if he could trust me. Of course, I said yes. Then he paused and said: “Call all your friends and say goodbye. I’m buying you a ticket to Korea. You’ll be leaving the day after tomorrow to work with me from now on.” It took me barely 24 hours to decide and pack my things. That’s how much I needed him in my life.

About the “meta-human changed by a liquid” part of his tirade, when I asked him jokingly if he had been inspired by the Ninja Turtles, he didn’t even pretend to laugh. He was so serious I thought I upset him for a second. Speaking of turtles, of course, some dozens of rats, frogs and monkeys might have paid the price in the process, he said. I know I should feel sorry for them –and I do! I would never do that on my own D: – but Joseph taught me well that affection and Science have proven times and times again to be terrible bedfellows. Or at least, that’s what I expected him to say. But when I mentioned his own words, he stood silent, as if my words made him hesitate to go on. Suddenly, he took my hand and told me to follow him. What, did he test his stuff on tigers and gorillas too? Or… wait… did he test it on kittens??! NOOOOOOOOOOOO Please Jo-Jo, leave the kitties alone D:

We walked through another hallway and stopped in front of a door which was far away from the lab and the offices. As we stood there, Joseph looked me in the eyes and asked me in a very serious tone if I trusted him. When I said yes, he asked if I trusted him. Of course, once again, I said yes. Then he smiled at me and opened the door.

The room we entered was square and smaller than the others. A guard was sitting on a chair, staring distractedly at the screens in front of him that occupied half of the walls. Joseph told me to take a closer look as he pointed at six of them. When I looked up at them, I stood there in awe: six boys were sleeping in what seemed like six white cells. The said cells didn’t seem to have much furniture: a mattress, a toilet seat, a table, and that’s it. They were all lying on their mattress with their eyes closed. As they were filmed from upwards, I could see their backs lift lightly on a regular pace. They looked peaceful. When I asked him their age, Joseph said they were all around barely five years younger than me. I was shocked. They all looked like they were much younger, like 16! But well, Koreans often look younger than their age, especially compared to us Americans (again, noooooot jealous). Suddenly, the guard pressed a button and a loud buzzing sound came from behind the wall in front of us and made me jump.

“You came just in time for their training session.” the guard said, smiling.

On the little screens, the six of them woke up, stretched their arms and legs and got up. As they stepped away from the cameras and stood in front of the electric glass doors, they let it slowly slide open. When the guard pressed a button on his keyboard, I realized the steel wall in front of us was curtain that covered a giant window as it also lifted with a rattling noise. Behind the window, I saw some kind of maze except it was divided by walls in multiple zones: it had climbing areas, electrified hurdles, a room full of mannequins –which I assumed was a combat zone- plus large, empty spaces where the walls were holed as well as a second level with more open zones.

When the boys entered the arena through the gates on the left of the area, the place, which was in semi-darkness, became fully lit so fast and so powerfully it made me blink. When Jo asked jokingly if I wanted him to bring me goggles, I just pouted. My poor little eyes )X ! However, as the six of them were all standing in line, I noticed that they were all dressed in black and white uniforms that were adapted to the shape of their silhouettes, which were all more or less muscular. I was also surprised to see they had straps and buckles on the front and the back*

A second buzzing sound resonated and they all ran in several directions through the main entrance in front of them.

There, as my gaze tried to follow them all, I couldn’t help but go from one to the other with my eyes wide open, as I looked at them running, climbing, punching, kicking… almost at the same time!

When the black-haired bare-chested one entered the mannequins’ zone, I thought he would use a weapon or show some ordinary combat moves and maybe break a mannequin’s arm or even a head here and there. However, he lunged at one of them and punched it so hard he smashed it to smithereens O_O !!! The impact was so loud I squeezed my eyes shut as it was then followed by another bang, then another one, coming faster and faster. When I finally opened them again, there was nothing left but plaster dust all over the place as he went to the next zone, barely sweating, puffing like an angry bull.

Most of them jumped the electric hurdles (220 volts, according to the guard’s comments) like it was nothing. The last one –he seemed to be the youngest of the group- hit the last, highest hurdle with his leg, fell down and screamed. I was horrified to see through the torn cloth that his leg was badly burnt. At this point, it was fried! However, the boy with messy white-blond hair who was running in front of him stopped in his tracks, turned around and came back to him, then put both of his hands on the wound. The youngest clenched his teeth for a second then stood up and started running again with the blonde who smiled brightly at him. When I tried to ask Joseph about it, he just told me to look at his leg, which I did… It was cured :O !!! The skin was clean and the leg good as new!! He even used it to kick a steel projectile that had been launched at the blonde’s face as he kept running.

“Did the blonde do that?” I asked, which he confirmed. “You just created superheroes!” I went on, now unable to stop watching.

“And that’s not the end.” he said with a smile in his voice.

The fourth one with red hair never stopped running once. He was so fast – I SWEAR I’m not lying- I could barely see him move. One moment, he was in one zone, the next second he was at the other side of the arena, dashing and zigzagging like a Duracell rabbit :X . When he arrived in the empty zone with holed walls, I froze as a wall sprung out of the ground to stop him and machine guns came out of the holes. As he was trapped and ended up underneath them, they fired at him from all directions with loud explosions and flashes. Yet he didn’t stop and kept running and jumping left and right and up and down until he left the ground and ended up running on the walls. Yes, he was RUNNING on the WALLS !!!!! He only did it for less than a second though. However, when he landed back on the floor, as he kept dodging the bullets and tried again, in the blink of an eye, I saw him on the other side of the wall, dusting himself off with a smirk on his face. Before I could even ask, as he had registered it all, the guard smiled and replayed the few seconds in slow-motion on an auxiliary monitor. There I could see clearly what happened: the boy had used the machine guns as standing platforms before he jumped across the wall. I assumed that guy was one of the smartest of the team, to which Jo-Jo nodded.

The fifth one was probably the tallest. He had a serious expression on his face as he walked leisurely to his next zone which looked like a small road. There, two armored vehicles roared and charged at him as the two soldiers on top of the vehicles pointed their guns at him. For several seconds, their target didn’t move an inch, standing perfectly still with his eyes closed, as he let them approach closer and closer. Although I tried not to freak out, I couldn’t help but bring my hands closer and closer to my eyes as the boy still wouldn’t move. Suddenly, he snapped his eyes open and turned his head lightly towards both vehicles. The next second, the first car crashed against the wall behind him and the boy rolled on the side to avoid the second car who lost control and crashed against the first one. The four soldiers –both drivers and shooters- hurriedly came out of the vehicles, and, although unhurt, staggered and collapsed on the floor, unconscious. The boy barely reacted to any of the noise as he kept walking, calm as ever.

“We especially keep an eye on this one,” Jo told me in a dark tone. “he’s probably the most dangerous of them.”

However, he then started to grin again as he looked up. As I followed his gaze, I saw the sixth one. It was a tall, slender young boy with long hair. He had just finished climbing the high platform. A long bridge connected one concrete cliff to the next. However, as he got closer to them, I saw little bombs detonate under the wooden surface of the bridge and it started collapsing closer and closer to the boy. His face was as expressionless as the fifth one. Yet it didn’t even show calmness. The sixth’s eyes were… absolutely blank. It was empty of any sparkle of emotion. Basically, had I not seen him standing and breathing, I would have thought he was dead. As the bombs kept exploding one by one and the last plank fell in the void, he stepped back, still focused on the other side of the cliff. Suddenly, he ran towards the empty space and jumped as far as he could. As I pressed myself against the glass wall to take a better look, I watched him float in mid-air for a microsecond, not even close to the next platform as he extended his arms towards it, and then fall like a rock head first. I gasped. Suddenly, something in his back deployed and his body started moving upwards again. They were—can I really write that in that journal and be taken seriously to anyone reading this, including myself?-- The boy had… wings. Two long, thin, white wings spread widely in his back as he then flew across the arena in circles, looped around the cliff and landed on it gracefully. I was so in awe I almost shed a tear. The boy’s face was still stoic and his eyes dry and cold.

Nothing was left in the “playground” of the boy-soldiers. Every plaster and metal threat had been neutralized, the guns emptied and all the passages forced open. As they all stood at the finish line, panting, I applauded and giggled. Unexpectedly, they all turned their heads in my direction and looked at me, surprised. Joseph smiled and, as he turned off the guard’s microphone, he said I accidently turned it on and they heard my voice when I had pressed myself against the window. How embarrassing >< ! Even here, stupid Joan stays stupid Joan -_-

Joseph gave the boys their rankings of the day as the guards turned on the mike and translated in Korean. I thought Jo-Jo was harsh; poor guys only had Bs and Cs! One of them even had a D O.O!

A third buzz announced the end of the session and armored soldiers with thick black glasses came in to bring the boys back to their cells. The six quietly followed them and disappeared as staff members came in to clean the area.

*Jo explained to me that the straps helped the staff control the boys more easily when they throw a fit as they can tuck their arms in. So their outfits serve both as training suits and strait jackets. Pretty scary :x I wonder how dangerous they are when they get angry !

When we were back in his office, Joseph told me more about the boys. He was not satisfied with the results because he knew they could do better. Their statistics had proven it. They had just been slacking off lately. I wish I could be in that shape and slack off like that! He also took out his computer to show me their dossiers and told me their stories. They had all come from others cities far from this one about ten years ago. When I asked him about what the parents thought of their children’s fate now, he answered they had all been picked in different orphanages from five different towns according to their aptitudes by agents from “special school programs for the gifted”. The joking tone he used when he said the last words made me feel a little uncomfortable. If that was enough to make me feel ill-at-ease, I should have known I was definitely not ready to hear the rest.

Apparently, life had not always been easy in the lab. Early in the programs, sometimes a dosage was too strong or unbalanced; sometimes a test would go wrong, sometimes a kid would go berserk, trying to break free…

“To be honest with you,” Joseph said, “these kids are not the first ones. At first, they were ten in total.”

He said he would not tell me how they lost the four others and, to tell the truth, I did not want to hear it either. The tallest one that I saw alone against the two cars and the one with the angel wings were part of the six first. Unfortunately, they were also the ones who had to go through the “cut funds” era. Back then, their limits had been pushed so far only these two managed to survive, thanks to their luck, or perseverance, or both. The four next had received lighter dosages and, as their endurance tests had been published as increasingly more positive, the government trusted Joseph again so their life had become more manageable. However, the bad news was that, like any drug, the “Superman’s blood” had side effects, including chemical dependency and brain damage: all six have lost great parts of their speech and none of them can remember any of their childhood memories or their names. Thus, they were given codenames: Taeyang, Daesung, Seungri, G-dragon, T.O.P and Beast. Thank God I have all the time in the world to remember them all o_O ! Due to the dependency, they’ve also been given weekly dosages ever since they were “admitted”.

“If they were set free now,” Jo said, “at best, they would be totally helpless, at worst they would panic and set the city on fire. Thus they are locked up as much for the safety of others as theirs.”

He said our mission in the future (mine and his) was clear: find a molecule that would make its users get rid of the side effects, at least the dependency, and eventually sell the final product and/or the boys to the US army.

As he was telling me all of this in a calm, neutral tone, I kept looking at the black bottle that he had taken out of its refrigerator again. He too was staring at it as if it could give him the answer to the problem. I was a little disturbed by Joseph’s words. How could he say that dependency was more serious than permanent brain damage? How did he come with the idea of kidnapping children, lock them up and use them as guinea pigs for the rest of their lives? Did his product really kill “only” four children? Did he lie to me? But again, he had worked so hard on it and the performances of “his boys” were so impressive… He was a genius, no doubt about it. But I didn’t know he had done all these things. I was not expecting him to have gone so far. That’s a side I never knew of him. And now I’m going to live with it from now on.

Now I’m also thinking about the expressionless boy, the smirk of the red head, the big smile of the one with the healing hands, the calm eyes of the tallest one… Could these guys really be nothing but living empty-headed dolls?

Wow! I’ve never written so much at once outside of my memoire, maybe! Ok, my memoire was definitely bigger than that but ow! My fingers will definitely be cramped by tomorrow!

Although, I must say, that day was probably the most particular of my life, with so much information and so many discoveries and emotions... Yet I still have mixed feelings about all this. I never thought I would have to make that kind of choice, especially since… well, there is no choice to make now. I’m a little mad at Joseph to have had me face the fait accompli. But well, like he would say, where was I ten years ago when he started all this?

Besides, it’s not like I wasn’t supposed to deal with that kind of situation to begin with, or that he made me say a thousand times that I trusted him and he trusted me! Even if it was my definitive answer, I don’t think I would have the courage to say “no” in his face anyway. Actually, I don’t even know how he would react if he found this journal.

I guess I’ll just trust Joseph and go with the flow for now, just to see how it goes. After all, it’s only been my first day. Besides, maybe he WAS hurt by the boys’ death but he just doesn’t want to show me. He is pretty reserved, not really the kind of guy who shows his emotions, not even to me, his girlfriend :-/

About the journal, I guess I’m being paranoid but I decided to not even mention it and leave it for now just in case, so he won’t be mad.

Good night, I suppose,

Joan <3

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