A researcher watched Amaranth Barclay toss the only thing he had been provided within his cell against the wall, documenting his reaction times and the response to stimuli.
It was a basic test, but all that was needed initially. A test to see if the caveman's wits were about him and if he could learn as they had been told by the previous handlers of the man. Capacity to learn from the stimulus, and that he did.
Simple shape games, basic things like animal recognition. Comments about him being "invaluable in regards to learning about the intellectual capacity of early humanity" were tossed around a lot, but his general lack of otherwise anomalous traits besides his strength seemed to frustrate the foundation somewhat.
That was until he had been returned from his contract and much like others introduced to that experiment he had come back with something new.
A keratinous layer of hardened material developed just underneath his skin, and while not quite bulletproof the material proved to be more durable than kevlar in most applications and showed particularly excellent durability in regards to piercing and blunt force trauma. Combined with an observable increase in muscle mass researchers documented that it seemed as though the caveman had developed a specific response to the stimulus that he had received while on contract. The rows of burns and stab wounds covering his body that kept with the impossible bite pattern of a Tyranosaurus Rex and the clutched and intact vertebrae of the self-same beast were further proof to this hypothesis.
Thus, they decided that it would be pertinent to see where this would go. A mostly cooperative human contractor without any outwardly anomalous traits would serve as an excellent control to compare their numerous anomalous contractors, and in doing so they would be able to see how the "gifts" that contractors were given affected the physiology of a near-human relative without concern over losing personelle.
Amaranth glared at the wall, wishing that his gaze could bore a hole through the reinforced steel of his cell. He did not like these people. These people who did nothing but poke, prod, and demand. What had he done wrong to deserve this? Why did they punish him and hurt him when he had done nothing to them to deserve such a thing?
All for the sake of this "Science"? Amaranth did not understand what value that held when the cost of it was harming innocents. After all, if it required you to harm the tribe then how good could it be?
That same science kept the collar around his neck, and he understood that it would kill him if he wandered too far off or if he did anything to irritate his captors, but one day he would find a way to get rid of the collar and then he could be free.
He only had to bide his time.
They'd taken his ball, so this was all he had left.
A featureless grey cell with nothing but his more primitive implements.
The two spears he had left after one had broken during his job on the floor in a pile as he would occasionally take his time to sit down and rebind them. Again and again, attempting to busy his mind with something, anything, other than the fact that he was caged for no crime at all beyond being born too early.
These foundation people, with their certainty that they knew better than him, mandated his behavior. His meals. His activities. All while they remained deaf to the cries of the Earth.
Amaranth heard though, and Amaranth listened. He had nothing else left but the listening. Hearing about how the world had changed, and how things were getting worse, how the men of this time bled the Earth for their gain, and how they had grown fat off her without considering how to ensure that there would even be a world left for their children.
It was a story of pain, and woe that Amaranth would know all too well, and inspired by that pain he would carve into the wall with his flint. Sparks struck off the wall repeatedly as he would carve into metal that had no choice but to yield slash marks before his incredible strength and unyielding determination as he carved into it the picture of his life.
How he had grown up in a small coastal village, and his father had died early in his life forcing him to take up the role of fisherman and hunter to ensure that he and his siblings would not starve. How he grew big and strong while hunting, and that his catches were plentiful but sadly, were not enough to save his family. A dread wind came one day, and with it, it brought the plague to his home. He could feed his family, he could protect them from monsters, but they were not as strong as him. They could not resist the poisons carried by the air itself and in time.
Amaranth was alone.
Depicted in a figure standing before several holes in the ground, it symbolized the end of his life as a provider for his first family, and with this done the hole in his heart slowly mended.
Amaranth slept, and the white coats saw. They documented it all, and in their cold machine logic, they decided this was enough for the day.
Things weren't always all bad it seemed.
The world may be fucked in a lot of ways as Amaranth had found, but compared to cave times how things were now as he moved what little effects he had into the UA floor, he found a little silver lining to keep himself sane.
Leaving behind the cave scratchings in the wall that depicted his old life, Amaranth would cast one last glance at the three figures alone in front of a hut, a garden far behind them, and sigh as he'd walk out of the room for the last time.
They were his past now, and the caveman couldn't change that. Not as he was now.
Still, with the trophy of his most recent kill. The skull of a wendigo on top of the pile of clothes he brought in with him he would find himself in the dingy, and now former cell of Arthur Annuler. A shadowy man who had recently passed, Amaranth didn't know much about him but from the lack of battle trophies in his room when the foundation cleared it out he could surmise that the cause of his death was a simple weakness. You had to be willing to kill to survive in this age, and if you didn't even have a spine of a defeated enemy, or a cup made out of a skull to drink out of had you even really ever lived?
Though, such brutish cave philosophies aside Amaranth found the greatest boon to his sanity came not from the new room or helmet granted by Dr.Bright, but instead in the form of companionship. Actual people in the cafeteria during meal times. Strange people sure, but the sounds of people around him were something the caveman had sorely missed, and the boon of the essential human connection was of great worth to his sanity.
Now if only he could figure out how the box that dispensed snacks worked, and thus. The caveman would spend his afternoons standing in front of it, knowing he couldn't touch the buttons without shattering them but craving the beef jerky he saw on A7 all the same.
Talking to D was just about the only actual relief he got from this endless bullshit that the foundation wanted to put him through.
Cross testing this, endure these laser burns and then let us test this new medical compound on you, blah, blah, blah.
Such bullshit. A good word that D had taught him for the things that the foundation had endlessly sought to cram down his throat time and time again, after all, they did nothing but continually fuck with him since the day he'd gotten there and the men here still did everything in their power to fuck with him in spades.
It wasn't even just testing, the constant therapy sessions that were so gratingly back and forth about how they needed to be more considerate for people like billionaires, weak people, and to make considerations for the foundation's sake first before considering the caveman's wellbeing.
He couldn't believe the constant cycle and spam of horseshit these people wanted to force down his throat, all they ever talked about or were concerned about was themselves.
Even the name they gave him was proof of this. UA-580. A number without any further personal connection.
So, it was with great rage in his heart that Amaranth etched into his mind. Every cut, every burn, every unwarranted assault on his freedoms and body would be remembered. Etched in stone by a caveman who truly had time on his side, albeit nothing else, and in time. He would ensure that every one of them was meted out on these bastards who'd thought themselves so above him as to control his life and torture his body.
All that work, the lives saved, the "favor" done for the administrator. Only for it to end up meaning exactly nothing when he got home. No improved conditions, no better food, no larger cell.
The foundation had lied to him, and he was going to remember.
Man was not made to be kept inside a tiny cell with only limited exposure to the outside world.
It was simple fact, the bare moments of social exposure he got out there in the cafeteria were simply put not enough and it was doing numbers on his psyche.
Making Amaranth paranoid, easily irritated, and driving him to conflict with the other inmates.
It was enough that it was clear from his constant complaints that an incident involving him punching an MTF into a wall for tazing him lead to an actual investigation to see what was causing the caveman's "uncharacteristic" behavior.
Upon review it was found that the man was simply suffering from PTSD, and the trauma in question was one understandably caused by his containment.
Claustrophobia, hatred of bindings, all very unfortunate triggers to have when the world was hell bent on keeping you in chains and throwing you into a small hole in the ground.
Though, then again, since when had the world ever cared about the circumstances of the weak?
So, Amaranth trained. Push ups, sit ups, squats, and he studied with D. Learning the ways of this world so he could avoid it's wiles in the future and ensure that once he was free.
He would never be chained again.
Things were finally looking up.
He had to kill people for the mafia now, but with a clever application of his gift simply looking like someone else was no longer a problem and thankfully the switch also seemed to be fooling the police. Punch a man to death here as a giant amazonian black woman, and suddenly the police are freaking out about the sudden outbreak of 3-4 new mob enforcers that were causing trouble for them.
Ah. Cops. Still as dumb and weak as ever and not a single one of them had ever proven to be worth more than a breezes worth of trouble for him and that seemed to be holding.
As much as he enjoyed ripping on cops though, making friends with the mafia turned out to be the right move. They let him move about the world, as it wasn't like he could get a license or drive a car with the foundation after his ass even with him being more acclimated to the world. No, he had to stay in the muck, down and dirty would be Amaranth's days until he died. That is at least, as long as he remained in this god forsaken time period.
His studies in temporal anomalies, far more important to him than the study of Italian or English, were starting to bear some fruit. Something had slingshot him forward into this era of grey concrete jungles and annoyingly persistent MTFs, surely then. Something could get him back to his time, an era where the strong could make their own way rather than being shackled by the world.
Well, it was nice not to need to do everything yourself sometimes.
Athena was a good friend because of that, after all, she gave him a house, could put up a shield around him that made being risky somewhat more viable when situations when bad and that meant that he could fight a lot harder than he could when she wasn't there, and she didn't even expect him to do tons of weird shit like the mafia did.
Though, Amaranth did have to admit he did like some of the jobs the mafia gave him. It was pretty funny to walk up to a massive mafia compound, disguise as someone vaguely appropriate for the location and go in and beat up someone they didn't like and have the entire group of guys wonder why the beefy greek lady had decided she didn't like Tommy Two Fingers so much that in one encounter it had gotten to the point where she'd beaten him to death with is own work out equipment.
What was better than that though was having hot food that didn't come out of the strange "mic-ro-wav-e.". It gave food the wrong texture, and that alone was a sin in Amaranth's book as wasting food was something he was vehemently against beyond any kind of shadow of a doubt, and having something cooked over real fire was infinitely superior.
Oh, and she also took him to junkyards! They got a pair of mostly functional cars and after Amaranth beat them up a bit more using his power they got them for a fraction of the price! Still, Amaranth in secret did slap a bunc of rocks on a nearby island. Better to have a dozen boulders than to have a single car in some situations.