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Chapter 1

It was cold. The air was cold, the ground was cold, and cold was exactly how Hazel Madden felt as she headed to board the eleven o clock train to The Factory. The station was empty, except for the threatening guard standing near the shiny metal turnstiles. He was one of the bigger ones, stationed at the Ellwood stop because of the high Attack rate. He eyed her wearily as she pushed through the metal machine, his large badge glimmering in the light. He does it with everyone, don’t worry, she reminded herself as she slumped down onto the wooden bench on the platform. It was the first time she had relaxed all day, and she was happy to be spending it alone. The whole station was empty, along with most of the city, and the absence of people made her anything but lonely. These few hours she was allowed out, free from her Handler to find Others, were her favorite of the day. It was the only time she was allowed to explore and see the city that used to be on top of the world.
They had called it an empire, a kingdom. The best architects in the country had designed it, and it had the largest medical center on the planet. The reason for the downfall, Hazel noted. And in truth, it was. A new vaccine for everybody, they had called it. “Make sure you never get ill!” “Only available to Reglum citizens; Make our city as healthy as can be!” And after that, the hundreds of people of Reglum went to the Center to receive the shot. All seemed well until Patient 1 got sick. Her name was Abigail Moreno, and her parents lived in the 5th district. She was 9. Her symptoms showed 19 hours after receiving medication, and within 34 hours she had wiped out nearly ¾ of the 1st district. Her powers were limited but strong, and she had to be “Put Down”, as the Factory Workers called it, within 66 hours of her first medicated event. Things really got bad after Patients 2,3, and 4 generated their powers, and the first 20 Patients to receive medication were taken in for testing and eventually Put Down after that, without objections from parents or family members. No one would object to The Factory. They owned the city, and what they said went.
The 11 o clock train arrived at exactly 11:03. For the past 5 days she had been timing it, seeing any similarities with the old Reglum, before the Patients and The Factory took over. Before New Reglum the 11 o clock train arrived at 10:59. Now it was lucky to be there at 11:01. Hazel boarded quietly, and sat in the seat closest to the door. She seemed to be alone again. She was glad of this fact; she didn’t need the judgmental stares from the minimal human population left in the metropolitan area. Plus, the crusted blood under her nose and the black eye painted perfectly on her face would not give much justice to The Factory. One of the only requirements of the Patients was that they never paint themselves in negative light. It was an easy rule for most, but for the kids whose powers were more powerful, like her, it was a difficult feat. The facial imperfections were not Hazel’s fault this time; she had simply followed her Handler’s rules: Show up at a certain apartment, and obtain whoever was living there. Often times when a Patient remained free from the Factory, their power was small and unimportant, but this boy was different. Oh yes, very different, Hazel agreed.
She had just been doing her job, like every day, when she arrived at the Merton Building in the 8th district of Reglum. It was a cracked brick building from the days before New Reglum, though no one thought of it as a historic monument. She had gone up without question, the human doorman too frightened of her to make her halt. Hazel proceeded to the 18th floor and got off the elevator, the creaking machinery making her stomach lurch. Though she had been raised until her 5th year in an Old City, Hazel never got used to the sickening jolt the ancient machine made. She walked down the hallway to apartment 2K, and knocked on the door. She planned to just be herself, friendly, funny, and sweet, until she discovered the person’s power and shocked them into sleep. It was the Procedure for all of the Patients allowed out; to lull the Other into a false sense of security and then attack. The door opened minutes later, and a tall boy stood inside the room. She could not identify him because of his lack of ID tag, which was only available to Patients, but she could sense in the air a certain strong electricity to him, which she only felt around other Patients. This was a great advantage she had over the Others, what made the Handler’s like her more than most. Because of her lightning-like power, she could use the beams to sense energy in others, which allowed her to be a very productive and good Finder. “Hello.” The boy said, as he stepped to the side to allow her in. Hazel always laughed when this happened; she loved how these people thought they could evade The Factory, to think that if they weren’t part of the group of Patients assembled at The Factory’s base they could live a productive life as humans. It was a fantasy many Patients had infatuated themselves with in the beginning of the change to the New Reglum era, and they were Put Down quickly. “Why, thank you,” Hazel said confidently as she stepped into the room, mentally preparing herself for the always expected quick tussle. By the looks of the boy, though, he was harmless, and Hazel would be getting a big prize for bringing fresh meat back home.
The boy introduced himself as Alexander Edwin, and that he was one of the only people in the city that hadn’t gotten the shot. “My Mom and Dad didn’t believe in all of the medical stuff The Factory was shoving down our throats. I mean, seriously, forcing people who are infected with some weird illness thanks to their medicine to stay isolated? How cruel.” Hazel chuckled uncomfortably, and reached for her Tranquilizer, stuffed deeply into the pocket of her jeans. “Yes, yes. How true.” An awkward silence floated in the room for a moment, until finally Alex spoke. “You were updated on the plan, right? I’m not sure if they told you or not, but it’s on for tomorrow.” Hazel could not hold in her curiosity. “What plan?” Alex looked at her amazed for a moment, and spoke again. “What exactly are you here for then?” He asked suspiciously. Hazel squeezed the tranquilizer in her pocket, preparing to strike. “Well, you see-“she paused, and stood up in her shooting stance. Alex looked at her confused for a moment until a knowing look spread over his face. He couldn’t know, could he? “I’m really sorry about this…” She said unsympathetically, grabbing the tranquilizer from her pocket. Before she could shoot though, a burst of wind pounded against her, and she was blown across the room, landing sloppily on the couch. She was up in an instance, completely forgetting about the peaceful, quick ways of the tranquilizer, and striking him with a long burst of lightning. It was a simple lesson taught early on at the Factory: If they hit you, you hit back. Harder.
He was blown into the kitchen area, leaving cracked glass and porcelain in his wake. He was at a weakness now; Hazel was in her fighting mode, ready to take any blows necessary. This time she was ready when the air hit her, and she quickly formed a stronger stance so she wouldn’t be knocked down. However, she wasn’t prepared for the large pot that came flying, and she was knocked off kilter by the strong force of the metal cookware and thrown to the ground. Alex was there a second later, pinning her down. “I want you to tell me who you are, where you come from, and what you’re doing here?” Hazel pursed her bloody lips. She wished she had called for backup earlier…. She should have predicted this would happen. All of her training… She should have sensed this .Wasn’t this what her power was for? Her Handler would be so disappointed in her; she would have to stay in solitary for who knows how long… “No.” The words came surprisingly strong from Hazel’s lips, leaving them both in silence. “I want you to tell whoever is in charge at wherever you come from, that neither I nor my family will get stuck in their little puppet show. Got that?” Hazel nodded curtly, and he released his grip. She scrambled up and out the door, and didn’t slow down until she was halfway to 12th street. The sky was dark and cloudy, an ugly mix of a creamy light gray and a twilight black. Not one ray of sun was protruding from behind the trees in the distance, making Reglum seem like a smaller place then it was. The wind blew through Hazel’s dark hair, falling softly on her face, like the soft caress of a mother’s hand telling her it was okay that she had failed. Hazel knew that her Handler would have the opposite opinion; she would probably end up with more bruises and injuries after The Factory dealt with her then during the actual attack. Even with the news of a plan from the hidden population of humans wouldn’t earn her that much sympathy at this point.
Nothing was making any sound in the city, and it didn’t need to. She could already hear all of the disapproving sighs and mutters, of her failure, and of her weaknesses. To Hazel, though, it didn’t matter what they said. She didn’t care how much extra training she would have to put in, how long she would be kept in solitary. What mattered to her was that Alex was the first one to beat her, and she hated how he had that hold over her, as if she owed him something for not reacting quickly enough.




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jack2beanie said...
Mar. 4, 2010 at 7:23 pm:
wow! this is amazing. I love how there's an air of mystery shrouding both Hazel and Alex in this dark city. keep writing plz
 
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