Some excerpts from my upcoming novelization of the Watchmen movie:
The Comedian fired again, his tear-gas canister ricocheting from the side of a school bus and into a crowd of protesters. With his goggles’ magnification turned on, Dreiberg could see a woman coughing and weeping. This isn’t what we talked about! he seethed.
Blake worked the action on his shotgun and took aim again. That’s it! Dreiberg slapped the autopilot lever and sprang to his feet. Taking a deep breath, he leaped from Archie and spread his cloak, landing with birdlike ease on the sidewalk below. Foompt! Another tear-gas canister flew into the crowd.
A few long strides brought Dreiberg face-to-face with Blake. His goggles’ infra-red vision indicated that Blake hadn’t even broken a sweat. But the Comedian only grinned. “I love working on American soil, Dan,” he crowed, splitting the gun open and reaching for the shells in his belt pouch. “Ain’t had this much fun since Woodward and Bernstein.”
“How long can we keep this up?” Dreiberg shouted, his voice cracking with dismay. But Blake’s face still wore that infernal grin. He doesn’t see what I see, Dreiberg thought. It wasn’t a realization so much as it was a recognition of what he already knew. We’ve never been on the same side. Not really.
“Congress is pushing through some new bill that’s gonna outlaw masks,” Blake sneered. “Our days are numbered. Till then it’s like you always say. We’re society’s only protection.”
Blake’s voice had taken on the sardonic tone that always made Dreiberg wonder if he was truly serious, or just trying to provoke a reaction. Blake had never been one to cooperate quietly with authority. But the gun in his hands was no joke — people had been hurt tonight, and Blake had been the one doing the hurting.
Still, Dreiberg couldn’t stop himself from protesting. They were supposed to be heroes, for God’s sake. “From what?” he cried, trying vainly to penetrate Blake’s contemptuousness. Little pieces, he reminded himself. Plant the seeds.
“You kidding me?” the Comedian smirked. “From themselves.”
Every camera’s flash seemed, to Jon, to take both an eternity and an instant: he could see the carbon filaments in every bulb slowly curling, like a neglected flower dying on a windowsill. So many chemical reactions, he thought. Fascinated, he followed the molecular chain into the camera itself, where photons bombarded the silver halide in the ribbon of film nestled safely in its center. From there it was a simple matter to track carbon interacting with oxygen and nitrogen — their playful interplay was so fascinating that he was taken aback when he realized he’d followed the chain right though the camera, and was now staring into the flesh of the cameraman’s hand.
It was only Wally’s voice that tore him from his reverie. What time had done to poor Wally! It was suddenly 1971, and Wally was dying of cancer. Jon was starting to get used to these shifts back and forth — only they weren’t back and forth, not really; they were all at the same time. Time was a jewel, and right now he was looking at a different facet.
“The superman exists, and he is American!” Wally was saying. Jon had a vague sort of sense that Wally was referring to him. It seemed like a sentiment that would have been terribly important, once upon a time; now two seconds later Jon could barely remember shadows of what Wally had said, as if having awaken from a dream. It was 1971, and Wally was dying of cancer. It was 1959, and Wally was shaking his hand for the first time.
“Nations around the world are still reeling from this morning’s announcement…” The voice of a newscaster, from far away, reporting on what was happening right now. It was tonight, and Jon was watching television.
They call me Dr. Manhattan. They had just informed him of this, and they had been doing it for years.
They explain the name has been chosen for the ominous associations it will raise in America’s enemies. It is 1959, and they crowd around Jon, unsure what to say as Jon draws on his own forehead. A hydrogen atom. The most logical choice for a symbol. They say the marketing people need a symbol. It is 1975, and Dr. Manhattan toys are gathering dust on a shelf.
They are shaping me into something gaudy, something lethal. Jon looks at the tank and sees every piece of it — every bolt, every rivet, every exploding artillery shell. He looks further, and sees every molecule, every spinning mote of iron colliding with every other. He could reduce it to its atoms to show them how it’s put together, really put together, but he knows they will not understand.
He lifts bolts and plates and engine parts and bullets gently from one another, and the crowd behind him gasps as a thousand component elements of tank suddenly float in the air like a school of deadly metal fish. Then Jon closes his fingers around the iron molecules. One hundred thousand pounds of metal hit the desert floor with a crackling thump. The tank has become a stone.
But it is still iron. It is still the same number of particles. Everything is always the same number of particles.
“We need to squeeze people.”
Rorschach’s voice sounded like it always did, like gravel through a sieve. Dreiberg wondered how he could ever tell if the man was annoyed. With practiced motions, he began disengaging the fueling pump from Archie’s power port. So many times he had done this…so many nights. “Sure. Why don’t we just pick names out of a phone book?”
“You forgot how we do things, Daniel? You’ve gone too soft. Too trusting.” Rorschach turned and looked as Dreiberg pulled the hose free. Steam hissed around Dan’s hands. Hot. “Especially with women.”
Dreiberg felt his face flush, and it wasn’t from the steam. What the hell did Rorschach know about women? “Now listen, I’ve had it with that! God, who do you think you are, Rorschach? You live off people while insulting them, and no one complains because they think you’re a damn lunatic!”
Rorschach didn’t respond. Dan could feel his heart pumping deep in his chest as he replaced the hose in its cradle. God, this man’s killed children for saying less than that. He began to look around for things he could grab, ways he could defend himself, even as Rorshach stood and approached him. Dan could almost hear Rorschach’s anger boiling over like a teakettle about to blow. He wrapped his hands around the hose. Splash him in the face. Hit Archie’s remote flamethrower ignition. Has it really come to this? They’re setting us against each other —
But Rorschach only stared at Dreiberg. Impassive behind that shifting mask, his eyes lost somewhere deep within the swirling masses of ink. Dreiberg licked his lips. “I’m… I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that, man.”
To his amazement, Rorschach held out his gloved hand.
“Daniel. You are a good friend.”
His voice sounded no different than it ever did — but Dan was moved all the same.