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As the bolted door swung closed behind him and his window of opportunity shrank to a fourteen by six slit, Ramsey could feel his suppressed anger snap something inside of him. Enough was enough. He would not live his entire life as a captive. He was dangerous, yes. Lethal even. But was it so much to ask to be treated like a human being and not just a science experiment? He trained from dawn until dusk and then was locked away in a room chemically engineered to dampen his power. He growled from deep in his throat and landed a fist against the door. It echoed hollowly around the cell. “Containment room, my ass,” he snarled. Turning, he grabbed the edge of his cot. Flipping it up against the wall. It clanged horribly as metal met metal. As the frame hit the ground again and the clanging continued, he kicked it. A deluge of curses and threats poured from his lips.
When the final echoes disappeared, he sat down hard on the edge of the cot. He could threaten all he wanted, but he knew in his heart that he would continue to be submissive. The military trainers, he couldn’t hurt them. They wouldn’t let him, and if he did, it would be like turning his back on his entire world. He knew nothing outside the hangar walls except for the yellowed patch of grass he and the others were allowed out upon every other day to fill their lungs with diesel-tasting air. Was this living? He struck the cot with a fist and was less than satisfied as the soft material gave way. He couldn’t even hurt a mattress.
With an exasperated sigh, he gave up. He repeated this ritual almost every day, and it was exhausting and fruitless. He never got results. However, this time, after nineteen years of spiteful repetition, he had resolve. He would escape the confines of this life if it cost him his own. If he did not receive results, he would create them himself. He could do it. Even with his power dampened to a fraction of what it normally was, he was sure he could do it. All he needed was a plan. And an accomplice.
Standing so quickly his head spun, he went back to the door. Across the hall lay his only option. He watched the figure moving within –getting ready to sleep, no doubt- and though he hated to use his power on another fated being, he concentrated, and let his power reach across the gap like an invisible arm.
The girl flinched as though she had been struck, and immediately turned her head to face him. Her cat-like eyes were partly obscured by soft blond tresses as she narrowed them. Her expression read, what was that for? Ramsey held up his hands in the universal “I come in peace” gesture. She looked at him strangely and inclined her head. Go on, she seemed to say. Frantically, Ramsey began to mime out what he hoped was something along the lines of, “Will you help me escape?” Her face was pinched in concentration, and she stared at him intently as she struggled to catch his meaning. Finally, something clicked behind her eyes and she met his own excitedly. She opened her mouth as if to answer. Suddenly, Ramsey was plunged into darkness. He screamed in frustration. They were shutting down the row lights. The small pinprick of the tiny nightlight every room had illuminated the facility side of his cell-room, but other than that, the room was dark. He beat his fist against the door as the girl shook her head and mimed that she couldn’t talk now. That she was sorry. Tomorrow, she mouthed before she too was in darkness.
Turning and running his hands exasperatedly through his hair, he felt the anger swell. He wanted to use his power and hurt whoever had done this to him. To the girl across the hall. To them all. It wasn’t fair, and though it made them special, Ramsey would have rather had his freedom. And his dignity. He and the rest of the experiments had been subject to full examinations weekly since they first started developing their powers, and the compiled and mixed up memories of the examinations left him feeling thoroughly violated. He knew that the medics were checking for any strange bodily mutations, and that every experiment had them done, but he couldn’t stand it. It was humiliating to stand there, naked and powerless, while the medics made notes on a clipboard. He was powerfully powerless for half an hour or so each week and it killed him inside. He knew why they were customary. It was because of that boy who had once turned to stone. They had taught him to master his alterations so that he could use his power without turning into a five hundred pound rock, but it did not change the fact that the military became even more wary of what they had created. And so the examinations began. Ramsey reveled in his ability to cause pain only through the use of his mind- Algesis, they called it- but he would give it up to retain his dignity, and obtain a government over himself. To no longer be monopolized. A pawn. An expendable resource. As far as he knew, he was the only one that possessed his power, but that didn’t mean that others could not take his place. He would rather be able to avoid the tyranny entirely and be himself. Not experiment number 57.
Upset, Ramsey decided to take a shower. It was a small rebellion. It was after hours, and he was supposed to be asleep in his cot, but it wouldn’t take long, and the rooms were sound-proof anyways. Stripping out of the track-suit that all experiments were issued, he turned on the water. The fact that there were showers in each cell was one of the only private luxuries they were allowed. The military’s aim was to try and make it seem like they were thought of as human beings rather than prisoners. Ramsey scoffed. They had failed. Turning on the water and cranking the valve until steam rolled off of the cascade, he stepped into the metal enclosure. The water was loud as it hit the floor, but by now Ramsey was used to the noise. It now posed only a minor annoyance after he’d dealt with it for so long. For how long he stood beneath the nearly scalding water, he could not say, but finally, he turned it off. Letting it run from his hair, down his face, down his body, before finally reaching for his towel and stopping the leftover flow. Once his hair was only damp, his body dry, and he was half dressed, he lay on top of his cot and stared at the blackness that should have been the ceiling.
Who had decided that the military was to breed a generation of super-soldiers? Who had created the technology that allowed it to happen? They had been taught at a very young age just how they had come to be, but Ramsey still looked back on it with a sort of clouded confusion. He remembered some details with clarity, but that didn’t mean he understood them. They had been taught that they had not been created so much as altered. They would have been born as normal babies if they had not been injected with something they had called “The Key” when they were still fetuses. Ramsey knew that there was a scientific name for it, but the military scientists had never told them what it was. Too hard for them to follow, he supposed, so they had struck to what was now the street name of sorts. The Key was a microscopic, engineered organism whose purpose was to make its way to the brain, and “unlock” a certain part, so that the fetus could use it upon birth, or whenever it developed. Ramsey clearly remembered hearing the man tasked with teaching the young children say that humans could only use a fraction of their brains. It was mind-blowing to him. To have something that powerful sitting in your head, and not be able to use the whole thing. He had felt a sense of pride in being able to use a part that no one outside of the hangar could, and that no adult inside could either. The part of their brains that had been “unlocked” housed their “true power”. This information had caused a bit of an uproar, as none of them had developed much at that point. After they had been quieted, it was explained that almost everyone had a true power. That it said something of their character, and it was possible for two people to possess the same one. They were told sternly that as soon as something strange began to happen, that we were to inform the staff immediately so that individual training could commence. “You cannot hide anything from us,” the man had said, his tone making his words a threat rather than a statement. “We are here to help you on your way to becoming the next generation of super-soldiers. With these powers, you will be gods among humans, and failure will no longer be an option. If you are weak, we will extract you, and train you harder. If you are strong, we will honor your strength by keeping you in the field. You will fight for us, and for your country. You should be proud. You are the only ones to possess this honor.”
He had spoken of honor quite frequently. And strength. Only the strong would be of use to the cause. And just as well, only those with lethal or aiding powers. Like the boy who ran so fast he was a blur. The power itself wasn’t lethal, but with a gun, he was deadly. He could blow through enemy lines and infiltrate a compound, kill everyone within, and be back before a minute had passed. Then there was the girl who could turn herself invisible. They were teaching her how to turn clothes and weapons invisible too, but she could go almost anywhere as long as she avoided heat sensors. Cameras were a piece of cake. On a whole, they were both incredibly useful, even though the majority of the others had lethal weapons built into their brains. At least their powers were aiding. There were always the ones that didn’t quite make the cut. As soon as it was evident that an experiment’s power was of no military use, they were shipped off to whatever facility they could aid. The girl who could grow things at an alarming rate. The boy who could impregnate one’s mind with any thought he saw fit. They’d shipped them off to respective locations. Ramsey had overheard that that boy now worked for the CIA. Of the hundred fetuses involved in the experiment, eighty two possessed powers. Of those eighty two, seventy eight were of military use. Ramsey just happened to be one of them.
As had become his ritual, he lay on his cot and forced himself to recount the day’s training. It was a punishment that he felt he deserved, for at this time he didn’t have the lighting needed to turn his power against himself in the mirror, which was his other form of self-punishment. Instead he lay and loathed himself in silence. He squeezed his eyes shut as the image of an experiment younger than himself writhed and screamed in pain from twenty yards away. Then thirty. Then forty. All the way to a hundred, where past that his power could not reach. Of course, shutting his eyes did nothing to block out the memory. It only served to intensify it. Josh was the boy’s name, and he’d lain there even after Ramsey had stopped hurting him, shaking and crying. The trainer had praised him. And what was worse, so had Josh. Ramsey had felt sick inside as he helped the boy off the floor. He’d heard the boy was Pyrokinetic. He’d almost asked him if he wanted to return the favor, but the boy looked genuinely impressed at Ramsey’s reach. It was sick. Twisted. But that was how their world worked. Besides, the elemental experiments weren’t allowed to train with other experiments as targets. If Josh or any other Pyrokinetic –it was rumored that there were three- set another experiment on fire, they would escape with burns at the very least. So instead, they practiced on dummies while those such as Ramsey, whose powers worked on the inside rather than visibly on the outside, practiced on actual people.
There was a schedule for who was assigned as whose punching bag for each training day. So far, Ramsey had only been assigned once in all the years since he’d started developing his power. He was usually the one training as opposed to the one helping to train. On that one particular day, he had been assigned to a girl who used telepathy. He guessed that she was kept on as a super-soldier trainee for communication purposes, for whoever she “touched” with her mind could communicate effectively back to her. She created channels with her mind. She called it “changing the channel” when she switched to communicate with someone else. Now they were teaching her to have several channels open at once, making it possible for an entire military unit to communicate with each other, thus erasing the need for other communication devices. They had sat facing each other for three hours doing exercises to strengthen the single channel. Passing things back and forth from words, to sights, to smells, to memories that all experiments shared just to make sure that there wasn’t a broken link somewhere. She mastered them all, and Ramsey left feeling ashamed. Everyone else on the list was assigned to someone with a power much more physical in nature. He’d gotten off easy. She couldn’t hurt him.
It wasn’t fair.
Ramsey still didn’t know why Josh had been assigned to him. For his training, he usually received one of the two who possessed the power of astral projection. He didn’t really know why the two who projected astrally were kept on as super-soldiers, seeing their powers would only be useful if they were hurt in battle. They could leave their bodies to both deal with the pain, and seek help to locate them. However, they didn’t really need to train for that, so instead, they helped those like Ramsey. He figured that that was why they weren’t shipped somewhere else. They were needed for training. And Ramsey wasn’t entirely sure how much use they would be anywhere else anyway. As for when they trained with him, they went out of their bodies as soon as his pain touched them, and didn’t come back until the particular test was over. Today had been a test of his reach. Other days it had been duration: How long he could maintain it without collapsing from exhaustion -which ended up being thirteen hours- and variation: Different ways he could manipulate the pain- which didn’t necessarily warrant that someone need bear the brunt of his power. He thought it cruel that someone who couldn’t escape it had been chosen particularly for today. It could have been a scheduling mix-up, but it still disgusted Ramsey and made him feel like a monster.
As the memory drew to a close, he felt the complete unfairness of it all crash down upon him in his lonely cell. Even if it made him feel like a monster, it wasn’t like there was anything he could do to refuse. His fate had been sealed for him, and though he didn’t like it, there was no escaping it. He rolled onto his side and fetched the covers from underneath him. Pulling them up to his neck. The dampness of the pillow from his hair pressed into his cheek, and he stared into the blackness that was the opposite wall. Maybe there wasn’t a chance of escape, but it was also entirely possibly that there was. And Ramsey would not give up until all options had been properly explored and exploited. He would try to escape. Even if it killed him.