"We're not the bad guys. All that about us using anomalies to destroy or take over the world, it's nonsense! The fact is, the deck is stacked against us. With so much out there that could destroy everything so easily, we're gonna lose sooner or later. We're trying to prevent that. We're trying to use the anomalies to break reality just enough to give us a fighting chance. The rules say "we have no hope", but we're gonna scratch that out, or white it out, or just write our own damn rule-book that says "Humanity Wins".
His speech finally finished, the scraggy-faced man slumped into an empty chair. Across from him, separated by a thick metal table, sat another. Both men were dressed in unmarked military uniforms. Both were young and in peak physical condition. Both had the sharp stare of one who had faced death. In fact, especially in the dark and featureless room, it may have been hard to tell the two apart.
The other man relaxed in his seat, hands folded in front of him. Throughout the entirety of the scraggy-faced man's speech, he had shown no outward reaction. Now he spoke, in a somewhat amused tone, "When I said that I needed a reason, Mr. Kaiden Reed, that's not exactly what I meant."
Kaiden reeled in surprise. "So, you listened to that whole thing for nothing? I was talking for like, fifteen minutes! Why didn't you stop me?"
The relaxed man smiled. "I actually thought it was rather interesting. I especially liked the boxing analogy. Humanity fighting against the anomalies is like an athlete against an impossible opponent? Rather poetic stuff, for a soldier."
"Oh. Well, thanks, I guess."
"In my line of work, it is always helpful to understand who people are. Comparing your organization to a boxer who attacks the referee in order to end the match before being defeated by a stronger opponent… Breaking the rules in order to avoid losing. It is an interesting perspective on the Chaos Insurgency…" at this, he nodded towards Kaiden, "and the people who support their cause."
Kaiden smiled, his expression beaming. After a moment, his face dropped. He stammered, "Don't tell me I told you something I shouldn't have. Am I going to get in trouble for this?"
The calm man laughed quietly. "You haven't been at this very long have you?"
Kaiden shook his head. "D-class, up until about three months ago. I just passed all the CI tests and became a full member last week."
He was answered with a nod. "You didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. No, if anything, your speech helped me understand you, and what sort of incentive you are willing to offer me."
"So, that's what you mean by a 'reason'. You're looking for some form of payment? I was under the impression that you types didn't really go for that sort of thing."
"Well, we don't. At least, not in the way that you're thinking. We prefer… other types of payment."
At this, Kaiden looked nonplussed. He quickly covered his expression with a false laugh. "Really? So, is this some sort of deal-with-the-devil type thing? Am I gonna have to give you my soul?"
It was the other's turn to laugh. "Not exactly. It's rather difficult to do anything useful with a complete soul anyway, and I've already collected more than enough to last me." After a brief pause to appreciate Kaiden's wide eyes and gaping frown, he continued, "I'm only joking, of course."
The two shared a bit more laughter, although Kaiden's was a touch higher pitch and breathy than usual.
"No, the type of payment I need is a bit more… quantifiable. Something more concrete than a 'soul', and something far less dramatic."
"Like?" Kaiden prompted.
"Well, I was quite fond of the passion you displayed earlier during your speech. I can accept that. Knowledge and memories are also helpful, if you are willing to part with those. However, that sort of thing is a bit trickier since I can only determine their value once you've already given them up."
For a minute, Kaiden was speechless. "You can really do that? Just take that stuff from me?"
Once again, his guest responded with a nod. "Well, it is a difficult thing to explain. When someone around me is the source of something, whether that is emotion or ideas or even appearance, I absorb a bit of that. Depending on circumstances, this sort of thing can be temporary or permanent."
"Wow. How did you end up like this?" Kaiden asked breathlessly.
The soldier's expression darkened. "To be honest, I'd rather not go into that. I couldn't really give you a satisfactory answer anyway."
"Oh, OK. Right. Weird anomalous nonsense?"
"Exactly as you say. Weird anomalous nonsense."
The two were silent for a moment, briefly considering their past troubles and the terrible hand that fate had dealt them. After the brief recollection, Kaiden broke the silence. "I really do care about the CI. I'm willing to give up a lot to help them out. But… My memories, my emotions… I don't really want to lose that kind of stuff forever."
"And you won't. This process will not be very different than how you naturally change over time. You forget old memories, but you will make new memories. You lose your old passions, but find other things to invest in. The only difference is that I might be able to make use of it, rather than these things just being lost."
"But why? Why do you want that kind of stuff?"
The man began to smile. "Because, Kaiden Reed of the Chaos Insurgency, I am not whole. You ask why I desire that as payment? Well, I suppose this simplest answer is this: Because I am a Nobody."
Days before the Chaos Insurgency was to raid Site-37, the entity known as Nobody infiltrated the base. Nobody contaminated the on-site water supply with an unknown red liquid and remained on site to ensure its distribution. According to Nobody, this contaminant would hinder Foundation personnel's ability to have a meaningful effect on their surroundings. If successful, this would effectively nullify Foundation efforts to resist insurgents.
The operation was a dramatic success for the Chaos Insurgency. At the end of the day, Kaiden and his team had left with twelve potential new recruits, one potentially useful anomaly, and a wealth of information about the Foundation's operations. More impressively, out of the thirty operatives that had participated in the mission, only two had been captured and one killed. The others were perhaps tired and injured, but alive and free.
Despite this overwhelming victory, Kaiden Reed didn't feel excited. On the ride back to base, he sat elbows on his knees and face in his hands. While the others sang and laughed and cheered, he was silent. He didn't feel happy. He didn't feel anything really. The events of the day had shaken him harder than he could have anticipated. During the raid, he had come across several unarmed researchers. Under order from his superiors, and threat of death if he didn't comply, he had shot them all.
He had once been so invested in the dream of the Insurgency that he would have been willing to give anything to help it. They had saved him from torture and death at the hands of the Foundation. Showed him the possibility that men could turn a stacked deck into their advantage. Spoke to him of the future where men could do more than just contain anomalies, but survive them. Succeed against them.
After what had happened, what he had been forced to do, he had begun to lose faith. Was the future preached by the Insurgency recruiters really achievable? Even if it was, did it really matter? Maybe the costs of victory were simply to great. Thinking back, one of the main reasons that Kaiden had chose to fight against the Foundation was because he felt that doing evil for the sake of the "big picture" was still wrong.
Now, the day's events had shown him that the Chaos Insurgency was just as capable of rationalizing their sins as the Foundation was. Though the two organizations were seeking different goals, they were both just as willing to take any means to achieve them. His idealism had been misplaced. He felt like a fool.
As the days wore on, Kaiden found it more and more difficult to justify supporting the cause. The idea of abandoning the crusade and settling down somewhere peaceful grew stronger and stronger.
Finally, the feeling grew too intense to be ignored. He waited, and when one night he saw his chance to escape, he left. He walked away, and left the anomalous world behind him.