THE NEW WATCHMEN
Michael A. Loveland
Writing as Michael Pendragon
This is a work of fiction written in homage to Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. All rights remain with the publisher.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".
- Percy Bysshe Shelley
It’s raining again in New York City. Maybe the rain will was away some of the hatred and fear-sweat that has soaked this city, as it washes away the last traces of Adrian’s evil plan.
Should I be surprised that I’m back here? Antarctica traumatized all of us. All of those it didn’t kill. Ozymandias’ new Xanadu or Fortress of Solitude or Cave of the Ages or whatever he called it became an abattoir. I left one of my best friends there, exploded all over the snow by a man who became a god. Veidt’s scientists we found dead in the solarium – a solarium filled with snow and dead tropical flora and fauna.
I’m Nite Owl. Nite Owl II, technically. I took the hood and name with the full approval of Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl. I suppose it comes to us Nite Owls, owls being seen as “a wise old bird”, to tell the other part of the story. Rorschach did a surprisingly good job of telling about the time from when we found out that the Comedian had been murdered, right up to his last entry on the Antarctic ice. I would have laughed at him, and maybe tried to help, when I found out my old partner disguised himself as a homeless man with an apocalyptic sign and spent his time perusing that right-wing propaganda rag, The New Frontiersman. He even had a copy on Archie during that last trip. Rorschach did not plan to die; he planned to kill Adrian Veidt. I wanted Veidt stopped, too. It was not in the cards. Rorschach and I arrived first, soon after Veidt had killed his scientific team. We were fighting when Dr. Manhattan and Silk Spectre arrived. Laurie did her best to shoot Veidt, but of all things Veidt proved good as his word and caught the bullet in his hand. Veidt tried disintegrating Manhattan, but only succeeded in snuffing his genetically altered cat, Bubastis. Jon was angered, and insulted Veidt by telling him that putting himself back together had been the first thing he learned after the accident. That’s when Manhattan sent us back – to Manhattan. We saw the disaster Veidt caused. Millions were dead. Veidt had gathered a group of very creative people and one genuine psychic. Under the misdirection of Veidt, they thought they were making a science fiction movie. Instead, the would-be-Rameses created a huge octopoidal creature, surgically installed the brain of the psychic, amplified that, and then exploded the ship carrying the other creators. Veidt even recorded the moments of their deaths to add to and enhance the beast’s sole ability. Then he teleported the massive creature over New York and dropped it, dropped it just so the evil heart was impaled on the Empire State Building. In its death throes, the maddened insane creature, that thing with no mother or father, broadcast waves of thought, emotion and sound so intense and unendurable that the impact killed on touch. Fires, riots, looting, disease, bad water, lack of power and all the other terrors that follow a natural disaster killed hundreds of thousands more.
We made it out of the city, Laurie and I, on a pair of Owl-Cycles I had hidden away. They were barely enough. The rest of the world was reducing down from Defense Condition One, where President Nixon had taken us in the minutes before Veidt’s foul deed. Veidt had stopped World War III, but had done so at a dire price. The whole world was in a tumultuous uproar; and, in America, the guns were out and the welcome signs were down. While we were busy stealing food and making our wayWest, many other things were happening. We did not find out most of this until later. In the interest of getting the story truly told, I will simply tell the tale and indicate how Laurie and I found out about it while headed West.
Jon was not done with Veidt’s laboratories when he bid Laurie adieu and vanished, stating he was leaving for another universe, another reality, where he “might” create some life.
No one saw it. Not even Ozymandias slouched in front of his wall covered with television monitors. Somehow the cameras that covered the outside of his Karnak had been destroyed in the fights. So nothing was recorded when Doctor Manhattan returned. He stood there, human-sized, amongst the red snow and scattered bits of flesh that had once been the form of the costumed hero Rorschach. Only his hat and a bit of his swirling mask remained intact. Manhattan did some deep thinking. He could not reverse his actions. All around him still swirled the tachyon particles that obscured his perception of time. Like his watchmaker father, Manhattan stood on the snow and reconstructed a man out of offal. Why Ozymandias did not sense or detect him is unknown. Perhaps he truly was feeling guilt over the most heinous mass murder ever committed. Or, simply, he may have been tired and slept. What we later discovered was that Osterman had indeed pieced back together all the atoms and molecules of my partner. Did Manhattan meddle with him as he reconstructed Rorschach? Who would ever be able to tell? At best Rorschach was borderline psychotic, always maintaining his sanity and direction from an unwavering moral high ground and inflexible standards. Since Manhattan had been driven to kill Rorschach by Rorschach’s refusal to keep Veidt’s plot secret with his statement, “Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon” it seems such inner focus would quickly form again, given proper encouragement. We never knew what changes, if any, Manhattan had made. All we knew is that Rorschach had a hole in his memory from the time he stepped outside Veidt’s Antarctic dome to when he woke in a filthy alley in Los Angeles.
Laurie thinks that Manhattan put Rorschach in L.A. as some sort of a clue. Would Osterman retain enough humanity to care enough about our particular set of humans and our world? I don’t think so, but Laurie lived with him for years. She thinks Jon did one last good deed, a final farewell in his metempsychosis to prepare this world for the next Great World Crisis.
There were a few Watchmen left.
Laurie spotted him first. We had just visited Laurie’s mom Sally (the original Silk Spectre) and were getting in the rental car parked down the street from the retirement village. She grabbed my arm.
“Dan! It can’t be! That’s Kovaks, right? Rorschach?”
“Damn if it doesn’t look like him.”
Without his trench coat, snap-brim Adams hat, gloves, and that mask that slowly swirled its black blotches on its white surface, Rorschach made himself a denizen of the streets. His hair was red and unwashed for months. He wore gloves so tattered they seemed like mere strings around his fingers. It was California-hot, but he wore a thick coat and corduroy pants. What shoes he had were covered in duct tape. He carried a sign that no longer said “THE END IS COMING!” but “REPENT!”
“I didn’t think Rorschach was big on repentance.”
“He’s not. It’s camouflage.”
“Probably some poor looney is wandering around with a headache, wondering where his sign might have gone.”
“That’s cruel, Dan!” But Laurie laughed anyway.
“Let’s find out.”
We had to walk fast. Kovaks looked slow as if wandering aimlessly, but nothing about Rorschach was aimless. We had nearly caught up to him when he turned into an alley. We had worked together long enough to know that such a corner was turned only to set up an ambush. Laurie and I rushed him, and he was not quite ready.
“STOP it, Rorschach! We’re your friends!”
The smelly bum actually did stop at Laurie’s voice. Slowly he stood back up, having been knocked over by my shoulder, and carefully took our measure. Then some kind of grunting or growling sound came out of him. It took long moments for me to figure out that this was the sound of Rorschach laughing – a sound I had never heard before. I suppose Laurie had, or just found the situation funny herself. She began laughing.
“Sorry, Daniel,” the familiar hoarse voice spoke. “It is blonde Afro wig. Never expected Nite Owl in disco feathers.”
“How are you here? How are you even alive?” Laurie burst in.
“Too public. We should meet.”
We settled on a greasy spoon in a very bad area near downtown and split off. Laurie and I drove the rental car, and were never able to guess how Kovaks got there first. For a change he was eating a real meal, probably because it was “Weenies ‘n’ Beans!” as the waitress kept calling out, all too cheerfully.
“Spill, Rorschach,” I hissed at him, both confused and upset.
“Not much to tell [ronch ronch],” Rorschach said, not stopping his chewing. “Manhattan. He came back. Put me back together, Dropped me here.” Even Kovaks flat tones could not disguise his distaste for the City of the Angels. “Lots of criminals. Police are criminals as well. Bad city.”
“Did he say anything? Manhattan, I mean? Like why he decided to bring you back?”
“No, Daniel. He waved, then disappeared into a large blue glass sphere, which then disappeared itself.”
“We’ve been on the road for weeks! What have you been doing all this time?” Laurie asked.
“Same. Criminals. Stopping them.”
“You know what we need?” I asked slowly.
“Clean cups? Better food? Maybe a nice pastry cart?”
“No. Archie. We need to go fetch Archie.”
“House in New York destroyed. Tunnel and workshop destroyed. Long way to the Antarctic. Maybe build new ship?”
“A new Archie…” Damned Rorschach. He always knew how to get me thinking.
“Are you sure we want to start all this again, Dan?”
“You know that problem I had? I think it’s coming back. The answer before was getting into costume, into action. Laurie, I think I may be addicted to adventuring.”
“Great,” she sighed. “Two lunatics.”