There was a knock at the door of the head office.
“Enter,” said the Commander in Chief Ezrick Stanten.
The doors opened grandly by two armed guards, behind them four guards surround their key to success and trailing slightly behind was the lead scientist.
“What news do you bring Dr. Kamell?” Stanten scrutinized the short and stout scientist. This was his third visit this week.
“I figured out the glitch sir. All processors and receptors are properly functioning.” He mumbled from behind the stack of papers that he was trying to sort through. “I’m sure this time, if you just give me a chance to show you.” A few papers tumbled to the ground.
“Fine,” Stanten stood up grudgingly.
Dr. Kamell, was obviously in disbelief, as his glasses fell forwards on his long nose. “Right, sir, if you’ll follow me.”
Stanten ruffled his nose, not used to receiving orders but followed the eager scientist from his office.
Dr. Kamell was stationed in the lower sectors of the facility. Away from prying eyes and the Reformation that threatened the very levity of this operation. They had been trying to infiltrate the facility for almost three years now. Due to Stanten’s newly enforced security and weapons systems it was hard to fake identification access.
“There, were however some difficulties with detecting the rang of the secondary device.” Dr. Kamell cleared his throat. “I assure you though that device is fully operational.” Kamell gave a shallow smile.
“How can we be sure that 15 will make it to the proper specified time?” Stanten scrunched his brow together.
“Ah, well you see, we have assessed that the device has a twenty year jump rate. According to our data. We haven’t been able to get it to go to the exact moment but if we proceed to early there could be a time period of waiting on our end. If too late we will have missed our opportunity all together. However, if we aim in between the specified time…” Dr. Kamell just smiled.
“So, your telling me that we can’t predict where the package will arrive?” Stanten continued walking but hesitated. Afraid that he was making a pointless trip. A waste of his time.
“Not precisely but with the new Aquitania we have acquired, it has narrowed down the time tunnel. Due to it’s inhibiting properties.” Dr. Kamell rushed through his explanation.
“Very well,” Stanten’s lip twitched in annoyance.
Dr. Kamell waved his hand over what looked to be a solid part of the wall but was in fact an invisible dashboard. It fluttered to life. There was a swirl of ambient green elements floating around. He leaned in and exhaled. They turned blue and the hidden panel dissolved into the entrance of an elevator.
Down below, where the science faculty operated, the elevator door opened. Dr. Kamell rushed through a labyrinth of rooms to one in particular. It was different, not clean but cluttered by mess. An assortment of electronics, cables, flashing devices and papers everywhere.
“You know we have devices that can sort our thoughts, in replacement of…paper.” Stanten said with a grit of distaste.
“Shouldn’t we continue?” Dr. Kamell looked to Stanten and then to 15.
Stanten folded his arms.
“Right, bring 15 here.” Dr. Kamell ushered the guards to place 15 onto the electro table.
Once in place, a stabilizer cord situated itself to the back of her spine. Instantly the body stilled and the eyes fell closed. Not even the slightest breath resonated from her chest.
Stanten looked on curiously but didn’t say a word. A clear shield of genetically altered polyurethane, locked on to the rise and curves of her body from head to toe. Above three red lights flashed. He looked back at 15. She was wrapped in an air tight concealment. This is where the last attempt had failed, the polyurethane had over sealed and crushed 14.
Stanten hadn’t realized he’d been holding his breath until a surge of electricity spiked from the electro table. “Dr. Kamell?”
“Don’t worry, it’s just the generators producing enough bio electricity. This time we incorporated the stabilizer, so we can avoid the same catastrophe as last time.”
“Very well, continue on.” Stanten watched the three red lights intently.
“Any moment now,” Dr. Kamell’s voice sounded excited.
The first red light turned blue just as the alarms of the facility were set off.
“Commander, the perimeter has been breached all the way down to the level above us!”
“Why were we not alerted until now?” Stanten shouted. “Men, your posts now, admiral get your men to the hatch and see if we can eliminate any further attacks!” Stanten continued to bark orders as the sound of resonators exploding down the hall went off.
“Dr. Kamell, is there any way to speed up the process?”
“Sir, if we establish the tunnel too soon, 15 could miss the time frame indefinitely!”
Another resonator went off this time closer, the flash of light and screams were getting closer. “Doctor this is our last chance to avoid detonation of this facility!”
“Fine, give me a moment to recalibrate the resistors.” Dr. Kamell ran over to a large device with ancient symbols. His fingers moved lightening fast as the encryption on the screen translated the text to commands. Cords and wires, seemed to move on their own.
A stream of light flashed before the commanders face. It narrowly missed his mouth but seared his cheek to the bone. He grunted in agony. Looking to Dr. Kamell for his status found him lying limp on the ground. “Damn it!” He hissed under his breath. Stanten looked to the electro table, the second blue light was on. The table glimmered with electrical surges. The generator wasn’t producing power fast enough.
Another resonator went off not a few clicks from his side. It blasted him across the room into a pile of moving cords. They had broken his fall.
“We demand the release of her immediately!” A young male voice shouted from behind a shield of grey armor, he looked pre dated and out of time.
“Who demands what?” Stanten gathered himself from the cords and straightened out his uniform. “I don’t remember taking orders from a Reformer.” Stanten smoothed back his sleek blonde hair and narrowed his eyes.
“I demand again that you release her!”
“I’m afraid that isn’t possible.” Stanten peered towards the electro table and then down at Dr. Kamell. “I do not posses the codes.”
“You’re lying!” He shouted and shot a thunder bolt into the moving cords. “Stop it now!”
“No,” Staten looked sternly at the young man. “It’s too late.”
The third light switched to blue. Instantaneously the sheer polymer shimmered, convulsed and then released all the power it had been holding into a giant ball of white lights.
There was loud noises off in the distance, perhaps people shouting? Or was it my head? It ached with fervent pain. I groaned as I tried to sit up right, not only my head hurt but my whole body seemed to be agony.
Never being outside the fifth floor, Dr. Kamell’s research facility and the upper most floor, the sight I now beheld almost frightened me. It was, very green…. That was the only word my brain could conjure. I had been briefed of my future or was it my past? This however, was something beyond the sanctity of the sterling white walls of the research lab.
There was a bright light from above, the sun I supposed. As it was the central lighting of the whole planet. Though, it seemed to be also giving off some sort of heat residence.
My hands grazed the ground beneath me. Not solid but rough. The green shards seemed to go on forever, deep into the nether regions of the forest. I had not imagined such an obscene, no could not generate such a glorious scene in all my life. It was miraculous!
My wonderment was short lived. Instantly my bionics kicked into gear as a sound registered in my receiving systems. I jumped up and concealed myself against a near by tree.
WEAPONS ENGAGED flashed in my peripheral vision.
I locked into the sound and scanned the premises. Nothing out of the ordinary moved. Not that I new what ordinary looked like.
Moments ticked by, the sound now absent. My systems had just finished analyzing it, when the sound registered and flashed on my interface once more. I didn’t have time to calculate the entirety of the threat as I drew my weapon, an electric sapphire blade, and slashed through the air.
A body, limp and bleeding profusely fell before me.
BREATHING…BREATHING…SILENECE…Analyzing new data…DECEASED
“Bloody hell!” A man shouted from behind me. I turned, arched, and was ready to attack. “You’re in your bloody bloomers aren’t you gel?”
I squinted at the man before me. My brain scanned again but couldn’t reference his phrase.
“Is that the bloc who did this to you?” He was looking past me and at the dead body. He then looked back at me. “You’re lucky miss! Got quite the swing there!” He grinned and I couldn’t help but notice the asymmetry of the left side of his mouth.
“The name’s Thomas Duke and you are?”
stared at him blankly. What was I to say? This hadn’t been in my training. As my mind wandered, my peripherals flashed WEAPON LOCATED. I looked down and saw the unsheathed sword. I raised my own in preparation for battle.
“Whoa! Hold up there stallion!” Again, I did not understand. “If you come with me I can take you back to safety.” His cobalt blue eyes looked at me curiously as I looked at him. His shoulder twitched, heart rate slowed and ever so slightly he tightened his grip on his hilt. “Who did you say you were again?”
I pitched forwards, leaning into a hard left swing. I aimed low at his kidneys. Entranced by my target I missed his movement as he lunged right and the back of something black came down towards my head.
It was the second or was it the first time? I couldn’t remember correctly. That a shining light beamed down across my eyelids. No this was definitely the first time I’d felt such warmth. It was as if my body was feeling something pure and untainted for the first time. I relished in it.
I don’t know how long I laid there for but I could feel the sun dance across my face.
There was a gentle knock almost inaudible. The tiny glass glob across the room squeaked as it began to turn. The door frame creaked as the old wooden door opened.
A young woman with ginger hair crossed the room in her dainty slippers. She was silent as she approached but she breathed loudly. She leaned over me, a dark shadow now covering the streams of light, and leaned in.
For the first time I opened my eyes. The young woman gasped and snapped up from her crouch. Obviously I had frightened her some way?
“Ah, right I’m Meridian.” She took in a deep breath to compose herself. “And you are?”
I just stared. My eyes were becoming unfocused. I tried to think. Or was it remember?
The young woman’s brow furrowed ever so slightly. Confusion and sadness met her eyes. “Do you not remember?”
My lips parted, I was going to say something but it dissolved instantly. Simple questions, arose in my thoughts. Was I safe? Who am I? How did I get here? I tried to answer them but it was like chasing a light down a never ending tunnel, so close but out of reach.
The young woman, stood properly, but her face remained concerned. As she stood before the window, her hair and body was basked in a soft glow, making her look younger than I had originally thought. There was an innocents about her, like she hadn’t experienced the world yet.
The question still remained. Who was I? How could I conclude such detailed thoughts about someone I didn’t even recognize? Why was it so hard to remember?
“It’s okay if you don’t remember.” She paused, my eyes now intensely upon the young woman. “I mean, I know sometimes it takes time.” She gave a hopeful smile.
I just couldn’t take it anymore this feeling of lose and fear of the unknown. What was I to do? I couldn’t lay here in this bed, in a strange room, I needed…I needed…I…
Without warning my body shot up. The covers flew off like a puff of smoke. My legs itched to move, but they didn’t.
“Oh!” Meridian exclaimed. She turned her head away politely. “Would you like me to fetch you something to wear? Perhaps a robe?”
Even with the dim light encasing the room, I could still see the rose color creep up along her ears and cheeks. I looked down at myself. I wore a tight but breathable leather body suit. It was black with crisscrossing lines of neutral greys and a white emblem with flecks of gold above my left breast. I didn’t see the impropriety of my attire but it seemed to fluster Meridian.
“A robe would be nice.” The voice, the sound, the way it echoed in my hollow throat. It seemed unnatural.
Meridian looked stunned for a moment as if she too had heard a ghost whisper in her ear. “You, have a beautiful,” she stumbled for the right word, “accent!” She smiled.
Meridian turned away and stepped silently towards the creaky door. Just as she was about to reach for the knob, the door flung open. A man with a rugged beard and shabby looking closes barged in.
“Not now,” Meridian hissed under her breath. “She isn’t decent yet.” She held her head down and tilted it in my direction.
The unbashful man peered at me with curious eyes. “Ten minutes.” He stormed out of the room and from the sound of it down a flight of stairs.
“I’m sorry about that.” Meridian was looking at me with an apologetic gaze. “I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
She left and gently shut the door in her wake.
The door seemed to be of sudden interest to me. An image of green and blue flashed before my eyes. I shook my head as if to clear away the fog. It was gone but something about the door had stirred my memories.
Meridian was back, this time with an armful of gowns. She grinned.
An hour later, not ten minutes like the man had demanded, Meridian was on the fifth gown. She took a step back and crinkled her nose. Apparently that was her tell when she didn’t like something.
“It’s just not working.” She combed her hand through her long hair. “It’s as if you weren’t made for this type of clothing.”
For most of the time I had sat there quietly as she dressed and redressed me. Though it made it hard, because I was unable to remove the body suite. Now I looked at her flushed face and listless body but it wasn’t her appearance that bothered me. It was her choice of words. “Weren’t made for me.” I repeated the words over and over again in my head but nothing came to me.
“Alright,” she paused and looked at me quizzically. “Since you don’t remember who you are. I don’t know what to call you.”
Meridian pulled off the unbecoming gown and the white material underneath that. It almost seemed a waste of fabric to me. Why not just wear one layer?
She sighed and tossed the gown in with the rest of them. They lay scattered across the lounge furniture and wood floor. “It’s know use.” She collapsed into the nearest chair and let out an exasperated sigh of annoyance. “You can’t tell me what you like because you don’t know. I can’t call you anything because you don’t know your name. What am I going to do?”
I flinched as if guilty of a crime. Her words were true but it hurt non the less. I was an outcast and a stranger who didn’t know where or who I was. I was almost prepared to sigh, slump back and give up completely.
“No!” Meridian was on her feet in a heartbeat. “We can’t give up. I wouldn’t give up on me and I’m not going to give up on you! You deserve a fair try!” She tilted her chin up and swooshed her long hair over her shoulder.
Now, as for a name. In the mean time. Before you remember your actual name. I’ll call you…” She bit her bottom lip and tapped her fingers on the end of the bed post. Leaning in but not too close. She stared at my suit. A spark of hope glittered in her eye.
I’ll call you Rena!” She stood up tall and clapped her hands together in excitement. “It’s on your suit, so it must mean something! Does it sound familiar?”
“Oh, well that’s okay! I can now call you by your name! Rena!” She sat on the end of the bed.
As I bounced uncomfortably. I felt something inside me. No not inside me but inside the back of my head. A dull ache. Perhaps it was a way of feeling? Maybe it meant I wasn’t just a hollow person without an identity. Happiness, or was it hope? Flooded through me all the way to my toes.
My toes? I wiggled my right and then the left.
“Meridian!” I exclaimed in an extremely elegant voice. I pointed to my toes. “Look.”
“Dear me!” Meridian grinned even bigger and clasped her hands through mine and leaned in. “See! We can do anything if we don’t give up.” Her forehead touched mine and I stilled for a moment before her warmth filled me with the resolve I was looking for. This wasn’t impossible. I could find out who I was even if it killed me.
The horrible words chilled through me. Somehow, they scared me. There was no emotion attached to the words but death itself. How could such simple and unfamiliar words mean so much?
I pulled away from Meridian. Actually I lifted her off the bed. She stumbled to catch her footing. “Rena are you okay?” She was still but her eyes told me everything.
I was out in the full blaze of the sun. It was hot. I raised my hand to shield my eyes. I don’t know how long I ran but I was on the outskirt of a forest. My eyes searched for answers. Anything, that would help me remember who I was!
There was a rustling from my left. I stilled. I was in unfamiliar territory and my senses tingled with intrigue. My heart slowed from it’s frenzied state. I wasn’t alone.
Two minutes later. I was standing there absolutely mortified. A young woman, with a baby strapped on her back was running back into the town. Her basket now into pieces at my feet. I began to shake and my knees buckle. I fell to the ground and stared at the remnants of mushrooms, leaves and scattered berries.
In my hand I clutched a blade so hard my fists began to turn blue. Something wet dripped down my cheek. I believe these were called tears but I thought you had to be sad to cry. Not frightened and utterly bewildered.
“Lets go back gel.” The voice, I new was beside me but it seemed to come from miles away.
Strong warm hands scooped me up like a child. My head fell against his chest. Eyes open but not seeing. He was talking in a hushed voice but I didn’t understand. All I knew, from the blade still clutched in my hand was I had almost slain a woman and left her child motherless.
Maybe it was hours or maybe minutes but time seemed to sit still in my minds eye. I had regained some consciousness and was staring into a warm fire.
“The day’s are getting shorter,” said Meridian, “and the nights colder.
My eyes traveled towards her. She sat in a velvet burgundy chair next to a table with a orange tabby purring. Her attention was on the cat.
I looked around the room. It was small but had a warm feeling to it. Every inch seemed to be decorated with care. Nothing looked out of place. Through the open door of what I assumed was the sitting room I could see into the kitchen. The man with the unkempt beard and shabby clothes was leaning against the counter top. He had a pipe in his hand. Legs limber and his free arm wrapped over the expanse of his chest. His eyes were on me, strong and dark.
“Why did you run?” Meridian asked. “I thought we were becoming friends?”
Friends? What was a friend? Someone who dressed you? I didn’t understand! Why?
“She’s frightened.” The man had crossed the room like a stealth cat. He pointed his pipe in my direction and gave me a lazy grin. “Anyone would run when you’re dressing them in your frivolous gowns. A young lady of your stature shouldn’t need so many.”
“Pa, not now.” Meridian frowned. “Rena, did you remember something?”
If I had, I wouldn’t have been able to tell her because a sharp pain stabbed me in the back of my head. I was out before I could respond.
I woke sometime later. I was still in the sitting room. A blanket covered me and the fire was reduced to smolders of burning limbs. The room was quiet but I knew he was watching.
“My daughter has taken a liking to you.” He paused. “I hope you don’t disappoint her.”
Throat dry I managed to say, “I won’t be staying.”
“Is that so?” He chuckled and I heard the chair scuff against the ground as he stood.
“Yes,” My tone was blank.
“She won’t let you.” He hovered over me. “Not until you remember who you are.”
I didn’t say anything for a few minutes. “I don’t want to remember.”
The man knelt down on one knee next to me. His hot breath right beside my ear. “You will. They always do.” His voice changed to something bitter. “If you’re trying to escape the Squad for betrayal or murder. I’ll hunt you and kill you myself if you run.”
I didn’t tremble outwardly but he knew. He knew he made me scared and afraid. Even more so than not remembering who I was.
“Then I don’t have a choice.”
My eye’s flung open wide as I finished my sentence. The memory came fast and swift. I was in a room. A white room with tubular containments lined up symmetrically along each wall. I was being guided out of the room but not before I saw the faces. Frozen and scared. Encased in time itself and the horror of what was to become of them.
My attention shifted. I thought I was loosing the memory but it continued. I was led down a hall. Only the intricate lines on the walls showed we were actually going somewhere and not walking through time and space.
The memory shifted again but this time I was in a room. I was looking up at a ceiling. Something was being inserted inside my head. I was screaming in pain but my lips didn’t move in the reflective ceiling above. I was still. Unable to move or get away. All I could feel was lost memories. Memories that were fading out of existence. A smell. The smell of pine and roses filled my mind before I was put to sleep again.
I snapped up. My feet were off the sofa and on the ground in a flash. I was falling forwards before I had time to sit back down. Strong arms caught me. I could feel myself trembling.
“I was tortured.” My words shook uncontrollably.
Each of his hands tightened. I dug my on fingers into the loose fabric.
“I know.” He said in a tight voice. “You were screaming.”
“Pa?” Meridian was rubbing her eyes. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. She was just remembering.” His voice was soft. “Go back to bed.”
I could faintly hear the soft pitter patter of feet going up the stairs over my rapid heart beat. My senses began to return as I inhaled a deep mouthful of earthly scents. I breathed in again. This time my mind cleared. I felt odd. My heart kept on racing. I kept on clinging. Why didn’t I let go? A soft blush rose in my cheeks. I had seen this earlier when Meridian had been embarrassed. Was I being bashful? I stilled.
“What did you remember?” His voice was hard again.
The faint feeling of happiness gone I pushed myself away, but he gripped my upper arms. He repeated his question.
“Walls…faces…” My nails dug in slightly and I gulped down my terror. “And scents of pine and roses.” My eyes were locked to his top button of his shirt.
“What made you scream?” He sounded frustrated.
“Nothing.” I lied.
“Don’t lie to me gel.” He was angry now. “I can tell when a traitor is amongst my men. A woman is no different.”
“They,” My voice was low. Almost muffled. “They removed something.”
His body relinquished some tension. “Removed?” The dim light of the fire flickered across the walls.
“Yes,” I hesitated for a moment. “From my head.”
I could hear the confusion in his voice.”Hair?”
“No.” I looked up and found myself lost in his eyes.
His brow was furrowed together. “Inside?”
I just nodded. His grip loosened. I didn’t let go. He didn’t either. We both had the choice to step away but we stood still in the middle of the room. Moments went by and all I could do was stare into his infinite glow of darkness. I was captivated.
“Rena.” He said my name and I felt my heart stop. It was so low and calm I could swear his tenderness was almost tangible. “I have to leave.”
I wasn’t expecting the last part.
“My men are scouts for the General.” He cleared his throat. “I’ll be leaving tomorrow evening. You are to stay here with Meridian.”
This was less of a demand than it was a request. I could genuinely feel he was worried about me.
“Okay.” I didn’t know what else to say.
He released me. I could feel his hot imprints on my arms, as if he was still holding me close. He walked out of the lounge and up the stairs.
I sat back down and stared into the embers.
It had only been mere minutes when the glass across the hall in the other room shattered and something hard hit the floor. There was a loud explosion and I was tossed onto the hard wood floor. I groaned, my shoulder had softened my fall but it hung slightly off kilter. I stood but the room rocked back and forth as I tried to gather what had just happened.
There was a knock at the rear of the house. Upstairs I heard shuffling and hushed voices. Seconds later Meridian and her Pa were racing down the stairs. He held a snap bag over his shoulder and Meridian was rushing towards the kitchen.
The knock came again. This time louder and more urgent sounding. He was tall and bulky but moved at incredible speed.
I heard the rear door open and voices. Maybe two or three. Meridian was racing towards me but I couldn’t make out what she was saying.
What happened next was hazy. Almost like my memories I had had earlier. All I know is I was ushered on top of a beast and a man sat behind me. Clutching me close and cloaking us in darkness. Vague words were exchanged. Night had become dawn and morning became dusk.
The gentle rock and sway woke me. I opened my eyes. I was staring up at a pink and orange sky. The pain in my arm had been reduced to a low ache.
“Don’t worry, you’re safe.” His voice was hushed by the breeze.
I let myself sink into the soft covers and slept the entire night.
“Rena!” It was Meridian’s cheerful voice. “Rena wake up! Breakfast is almost ready!”
I peeled my eyes open and looked up. It was dark. I rolled my head to the side, there were small shapes I could make out, but darkness seemed to surround me.
“Pa!” I heard Meridian shout. “Breakfast!”
Boots scuffed at the edge of my feet. Next I knew I was floating in the air. I was carried to the light.
“There you are.” Meridian looked different from when I had first met her.
Her hair was wrapped on top of her head, while strands of hair fluttered around her face. Her dress was brown like the color of mud and she wore black buttoned leather boots. Not her usual slippers or her silky dresses she had me trying on the other day.
How many days had passed since that evening when I was knocked unconscious? Where was I now? What was my purpose here?
“We’ll be back later.” Meridian’s Pa said.
In his strong arms I could feel his muscle work as he carried me over the harsh forest floor. He took me to a small lake. Secluded from all sides by cliffs. You could only enter if you new where the entrance was. He set me down on a patch of grass and flowers.
“Now, take a quick swim and then I’ll be back to tend your wounds.” He stood and left.
I was all alone.
There was no wind in this small valley but the sun beat down with warmth.
I looked down at myself. My forearm was wrapped in cloth and on my side under my clothes I could feel soft patches.
The water looked very inviting as the sun rays glimmered across the still water. My feet were shaky as I stood for the first time in what could be days. I dipped my toe in the waters edge. It was cool with a slight nip. I took a deep breath and flung myself in.
The water enveloped me like the soft blankets at the house. I couldn’t see much asides from the bubbles and murky shadows. My feet touched the bottom and I scrunched the pebbles between my toes. I looked above me and I could see the bright sun through the distilled water. It was enchanting.
I let myself relax and let the water take away my heavy burden. There was never anything peaceful. Not the white walls or the machinery. I never spoke a word. I just laid there as someone probed my head. There was no pain but I wanted to scream. I wanted to go home. I wanted this nightmare to end.
The endless days turned from night to day without my consent. I was a lab rat. Nothing more and nothing less. I was recyclable in an instant. One test after the other. The pain I felt had begun to fade away like the memories I once had. They were replaced with cogs and nanites. The latest technology. Until there was nothing even recognizably human about me anymore. Only the outwards appearance and my womanly functions.
I could feel my self drowning in my own sorrow. There was nothing left for me.
Meridian and her Pa’s face flickered across my eyes. They were the warm spots in my demise.
“Rena?” A frantic voice said. “Rena, come on don’t die on me.”
Die? I was already dead. Why would I want to live?
“Don’t do this!” The voice became more clear.
I felt hatred in the form of vile come up my throat. I chocked. I wasn’t fading anymore and I was angry passed resolve. I shot up, throwing up the water that had filled my lungs. I coughed as a hand whapped me on the back.
As soon as it started it was over. I coughed a few times and looked beside me. It was him. His dark eyes frantic and creased with worry.
“I thought I had lost you.” His voice cracked as he spoke. “Why didn’t you tell me you couldn’t swim?”
I furrowed my brow. “I didn’t know.” My throat hurt.
“How could you not know?” Anger edged at his tone. “You could have drowned!”
I looked down to my wet body suit. My black hair fell over my shoulder. I began to shiver.
“Never,” he paused, “do that again.” His head fell forwards.
His hand remained on my back. It was heating through my wet suit. That odd feeling of blush rose to my cheeks. The hatred and anger washed away and was replaced by something warm. My heart skipped a beat here and there.
“I should change your bandages.” He removed his hand and wiped his own brown hair off his forehead. A glimpse of recollection appeared, a memory maybe, but it was gone in an instant.
He leaned behind him and grabbed a satchel.
“I’ll need you to take off…” His voice trailed away.
I looked at him. I was slightly stunned bit also amused. He had gone red in the cheeks and was looking away slightly. I gave a quick laugh and just smiled at him.
I slowly unzipped the front of my suit. Underneath I had a soft fabric holding my chest. It stopped under my arms as if by magic it stayed in place. I pulled my long sleeves off my shoulders and down my arms. However, it got stuck at my wrists. I tugged again but it didn’t budge.
Even though, he had turned his face away, it was as if he sensed something was the matter. “Would you like some help?” He asked.
“It’s stuck.” I replied.
“It’s probably this odd material.” He frowned when his attempt to remove it failed. “Maybe I should cut it off?”
I didn’t have a chance to reply when I heard the sound of fabric being torn. The blush I had felt before was now creeping done my spine and the front of my chest. I shivered each time the back of his rough hand touched my exposed skin. It was like he was trailing a hot iron down my arm.
The moment the knife cut through the last inch of material. There was a loud snap and the suit disintegrated off my body and molded itself into a thin piece of chain.
I heard the gasp first and then saw the blade.
I struck my elbow back and landed a blow to his right shoulder. The blade hit the ground with a soft thud. I hooked my left leg around his waist to hoist myself up. Behind him I rammed my palm into the center of his back, while simultaneously hooking his right arm behind him. He landed hard on his front and grunted in what I assumed was pain. I grabbed his hair and pushed his head into the dirt.
SYSTEM MALFUNCTION…ENDING PROGRAM…
My eyes flickered and I registered the situation. I had him pinned underneath me and his face buried in the ground. I released him, falling back as he spun around and knocked me to the ground. I chocked as he firmly held my neck with his strong hand.
His eyes were dark like the evening before. I tried to talk but he was pressing on my wind pipe. I pleaded with my eyes as I struggled for air. His tension relaxed but he held his hand firm.
“Who are you?” He demand.
I stared at him hurt and confused. I had begun to remember.
“I don’t know.” I said in a meek voice but the trill of the very sound put me on edge. It was unnatural.
His eyes narrowed. “I see it in your eyes. You remember.” His words lashed out and wiped across my face. “You know and we are not leaving until you tell me the truth.”
We stared at each other daring the other to speak or move. I couldn’t tell him. I didn’t want the one thing I had that was actually worth living for to disappear. This was more important then my mission.
“I can’t tell you who I am because I don’t remember anymore.” He looked at me strangely. “Where I come from…you wouldn’t understand. I don’t want to go back. I can’t.” My last few words were true but they felt empty.
He grunted and let go of my neck. Standing he paced.
I saw the chain and put it around my neck. Instantly the placid material of the suit formed over my body. It was dry and the sleeve was seamless.
I looked up to find him staring at me in disbelief.
He pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket. I shrank a little. He didn’t trust me. I stood, my height only reaching mid chest. He was a giant and he knew it. He turned me around. His strong hands digging into my shoulders. My wrists were bound together tightly.
He led me through the passage and we were in the dense fauna of the forest once more. I stumbled a couple times as he roughly pushed me ahead of him.
“Thomas,” I began to say.
“Not now.” He said promptly ending the conversation.
We were back in the camp. This time I noticed the people crouched around makeshift tents and fires. Most of them wore raged clothing but their hair and skin was too clean and neat. Showing they were actually of wealth.
Thomas on the other hand sprouted a beard and long hair. He didn’t need to try hard because his form was already menacing.
I caught Meridian’s eye but she quickly turned away. My heart sank. I was alone once more. I didn’t have a place here anymore. My mission was absolute and I had nowhere to go. I was just a pawn in a universal game.
I stopped and felt Thomas bump into me. Almost knocking me off my feet. Even if I didn’t have a place here I was still dangerous. A weapon.
“Move.” Thomas hissed.
I started walking towards the out crop of the cave but instead he steered me towards a stag on the edge of camp. He pushed me onto my knees and secured my wrists with horse rope.
“Stay.” He order.
The sun had set an hour ago and everyone was gathered around the warmth of the fire. I hadn’t been able to activate my system, which worried me. However, I had managed to wiggle my wrists through the horse rope. With a couple of joints moved here and there I was free in less than a few minutes.
Thomas has been watching me like a hawk. His features etched into my mind. He knew something was up, but I didn’t betray myself.
Meridian on the other hand had been glimpsing at me all night. She wanted to acknowledge me but couldn’t. Confliction was all over her face. She had been for the whole day in the company of a young man. The two of them seem to be taking a liking to one another.
I moved my body to shift my weight off my knees. Across the fire Thomas had stood up and was staring at me intensely. I looked away. I was still angry, that he didn’t trust me. And what I was about to do wasn’t going to improve his trust.
The moment he looked down to sit. I slinked out of the rope and darted into the brush. It was dark and I kept on tripping. Luckily the moonlight guided most of my escape. I didn’t know where I was going but I didn’t care. Somewhere away from humans and emotions that toiled with my heart. Tears began to stream down my cheeks and my vision blurred. I quickly wiped them away so I didn’t tumble on a root.
It wasn’t soon after that I heard the foot steps pounding not a few paces away. I quickened my pace but without the speed of my bionics I was easy pray. At first I thought it was many foot steps but as they got closer I realized they were only one. Thomas’s quick stride.
I looked behind me for a split second and saw a mad man chasing after me. Why was he chasing me. He was free of me. Free of my uncontrollable abilities. Meridian would no longer be in danger.
I took a rocky path as I neared the cliffs I had seen tower above the lake. I took my chances and slipped in between an outcrop and found myself running in complete darkness. I slowed as my footing became more unsteady and the sharp rocks began to scratch deeper. I held my hand out in front of me. Rock. I moved around in the small opening. More rocks. I had lead myself into a trap.
“There’s no escape.” Thomas said in a raspy voice.
“Why?” I shouted at him. “Why are you following me?”
He stared at me hard. “You’re my prisoner.” He said.
“You could have been free of me.” I whimpered but held my chin high.
I heard rocks clank against one another and Thomas moving closer. I pressed my back into the wall trying to make myself small. My heart began to flutter.
“Free?” He asked as if he was amused. “I brought you into my house hold. My daughter nursed you back to health, continuously.” He moved closer and this time I could feel his warmth emanating from his body like an inferno.
“It’s too dangerous.” I couldn’t move. “I’m dangerous.” I swallowed hard waiting for his response.
“I think I can handle you.” He smiled and the moon glimmered against his teeth. “I did once before.”
“No,” I said. My brows furrowed together. “How can you trust me now. Do you even know what I’m capable of?”
“I think I got a little taste of that this afternoon.” He pressed in closer and could feel his breath on my cheek.
I squeezed my eyes together. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. He was supposed to hate me and be angry at him. Not this tangled web of conflicting interests.
“Rena.” He said softly into my ear. The name Meridian had given me.
“Thomas I can’t.” I shook my head.
My eyes went dark and all I saw was the red glow of the flashing lights. Memories flooded my mind. Joints that hadn’t been used in a while began to repurpose themselves. I was coming alive. No awake. Old and new collided.
“Rena?” Thomas voice was distant. “Fight it.”
I closed my eyes. Scents of pine and roses filled my nose.
I heard his voice again.
Meridian’s face dashed across my eyes.
More of my bionics came online.
My heart. My heart didn’t belong to me anymore. For once I gave it freely. It was a good way to go.
It felt like an eternity lived but at the same time lost. I wouldn’t regret this time I actually lived.
State your name…
He stared back at me confused.
Thomas Duke Stanten you are registered for termination.