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An explosion sounded off to the right of Will. He smirked and shook his head simply, and continued to dash towards his goal, winding his way around large, endless skyscrapers of hedges. The rain was pounding now, and the thunder was deafening. The tree beside him caught fire after a lightning shock, and he could practically feel the electricity emanating off of the thing, yet he still didn’t stop. His jeans were drenched into a deep midnight blue color, and his black medium shirt hugged his skin. Will’s black hair matted down to almost reaching over his eyes. The fingerless black gloves were tight on his skin, and outstretched as he ran, putting his body to the limit of nearly 32 miles an hour. Wind whirled around, making it visible by picking up the droplets of water.
The ground shook, and Eagle stopped, rooted in his spot. He knew what was coming, and the adrenaline powered in all of Will’s veins and arteries, making it the only thing keeping him away from paralyzing fear. The dirt was already flowing up to his left. Endorphins high as the sky in his body, his feet immediately sprinted away from where he was stuck. Howls immediately sounded all over. The beasts of the Rift were fighting with each other now over the only food available. William prayed – though long ago he had lost hope - that his friends would survive this horde. A nasty, beyond human wail sounded off from nearly 10 feet away. His feet nearly slipped, and his heart stopped, that trip would’ve been fatal. In one fluid motion he regained the foot work and analyzed his surroundings. The insane breathing down his neck. The rain drops. The slick grass below him. He wouldn’t outrun the pursuit, so he lunged down, rolling on his right shoulder and sliding a bit. The pursuer lunged and misjudged, cracking its neck with a sickening crunch and falling limp. Will landed on his feet again and bounced up, dashing away and making an immediate right, since he knew better: These things did not die easily. In a few seconds it would simply move its neck back into place, and smell for the nearest enemy.
Movement was caught in his peripheral vision. Will’s eyes snapped a quick glance at the least. More could paralyze him if it was a Basilisk. But the laughter was familiar. Another smirk was found on his lips as Hawk caught up, a bit singed from the explosion he set off. “I told you those gas cans would come in handy mate!” the boy yelled over the thunder in his British accent. Will chuckled despite the situation.
“The others nearby?” he managed over the lightning. Hawk nodded, his brown shaggy hair matted down over his pale skin. Green eyes set back in front of the two boys, headed down the mile stretch. Fireworks sounded off overhead, and red sprinkled in the sky in brilliant colors. A lower howl sounded off, more animal like. Growling was all around. Competing with the snickers and wailing. The hedges were moving all over. Jason threw a Makorav 9mm pistol towards his friend, and Will immediately cocked the gun back, holding it in his right hand, not breaking stride.
As if on cue a figure leaped towards them. Will fell backwards on his thighs, sliding on the slick grass and his forehead scraping the underbelly. It landed on all floors, growling and glaring with red eyes. Lightning showed what the beast was: a hound. All black, with a few patches of fur. The rest was all bone, it blood dripping out of its yellow stained teeth. Drool dripped onto the floor, and with a bark, ears standing straight up, it lunged again. Will did a 180 degree turn, and shot the beast twice into its head, one in the front paw and one in the back. It tripped, and started to limp again. 2 more shots from Hawk, who missed 1 and shot another into its left front shoulder. The two immediately kept running. Leave it to the other beasts to finish the job. The whining immediately was replaced with claws ripping into bone and cracking. Will looked to his right at Jason. “I bet money on a left at the next turn!” he shouted. Jason smiled.
“I’ll take that bet. C’mon” They pivoted and made the left, and – maybe 5 to 7 miles away, very dim, they saw it. A purple shift in the air, making a clockwise turn in itself. The exit. Laughter began from both of them. Figures were waiting there, and fire burst from something. A gun, from a human. Eagle picked up the speed, smiling back at the boy next to him with amber eyes. They were hardly out of the woods, but the adrenaline only spiked further. They would make it.
Something behind them. A claw stuck itself into Jason’s biscep. He screamed in agony, closing his eyes tight and baring his teeth. Hawk lifted off the ground a good 4 feet, and Eagle slipped into a halt, firing immediately into the figure. It resembled a bear, with 3 red eyes and huge, maybe 3 foot yellow claws out of its hands and feet. A yellow crescent on its stomach. Hawk was bleeding tremendously now, pounding on the claws, which caused him more pain. Four rounds and Will was out. He pulled a magazine out of his pocket, reloaded, and kept firing, not letting go. The bear stumbled a little and set his eyes on Will, growling and baring his teeth. It dropped Hawk by tossing him a few feet away, and Will barrel rolled to the left to avoid a claw swipe.
Something slinked its teeth into his boot, then his ankle. Will collapsed, yelling in pain, and looked down on his left foot. A hound. It ripped back, but had a death-grip. Will pounded on its skull, and then started to shoot it. The thing wouldn’t die, not while it was being fed with blood. He took out a knife, and stabbed it as deep as he could into the skull. A claw embedded itself into his tricep. He was lifted off the ground, and then felt the dog lose its holding and drop to the ground. One bullet dodged. But now he was losing blood extremely fast. The bear screamed into his face, and took its right hand, stabbing Will’s stomach. 3 sharp claws into his stomach, and then out through his back a good inch. Will’s vision blurred. Everything started to go black…..then a flash to his left. The bear’s eyes widened then went back into its head, sliding its claws out of his stomach and falling back while will fell back onto the ground, limp. A neat hole was in the beasts head, the size of a .50 caliber. A hand was on his shoulder. Will looked up. This was the end wasn’t it? But no, Hawk was staring back at him, a hard face. The boy started to drag him backwards, leaving a huge, thick blood trail. All kinds of things started after them. But for the next 2 miles they had left, Hawk unloaded the Barret Sniper rifle in them, dropping as many as he could.
They made it to the rift. The room was swaying. Everything was going away. Voices yelled all over. He felt multiple hands picking him up, into the rift. The light, purple light. Or was it white now? The darkness was swallowing everything.
Penguin. He remembered that voice yelling with someone else. “Well who else wants to volunteer hmm?” a gun shot. “We can’t let them through the Rift! It closes after 5 people anyway! There are six of us!”
“We’ll make it work!” a voice yelled. Who was that? Vulture, he decided.
“Sure we will!” Penguin yelled. “But not now! GO! Eagle won’t make it!”
“JUST GO!” Hawk demanded. And the room was gone. Into the purple, not the darkness....
2 years later…
11/15/2011 6:11:27 PM
Rome, Italy. Outside Gino’s bakery.
Cesare raised his hand in acknowledgement, a smile on his face. “I understand Gino! My fault, I’ll come first thing in the morning to repair it!” Gino, a chubby man wearing an apron and a chef’s hat, smiled and laughed, waving the kid off. Cesare shrugged and began to run, as always, through the cobblestone streets.
After a few yards he found a sturdy building, and started his climb, grabbing makeshift handholds, and placing his foot where needed to keep balance. A few voices and gasps from below, but he was used to that by now. His jean shorts reached maybe 3 inches below his knees, and medium adult black shirt that hugged his body, with torn running shoes in navy blue and black, all swayed with the higher altitude. Maybe 25 feet off the ground he reached the roof, smiling and pulling him up to the gutter, and then he was rolling onto it. His hands dusted off his pants then he surveyed everything around him. Not a bad building for a view at all. He smiled even broader, if that was possible. His black hair and blue eyes moved together as he turned his head, taking in the view of Rome. Perfect temperature, perfect breeze, perfect day. The moon began to shine as the sun was setting and the bakeries were closing down for the night, an early start being anticipated.
Cesare felt something on his shoulder, which made him jump and turn around quickly. A hooded figure threw something onto his mouth, disabling him from speech. The fear kicked in, and Cesare threw several punches, catching the man squarely twice into the jaw. It stumbled him back, and Cesare began to run, hard, breathing heavily. He was too high for anyone to ever get him quickly enough, so he jumped the distance between the next roof, rolling onto it, and shifting his momentum back to his feet. As if he was doing a speed run like he always did. That’s what he convinced himself. It was just a game, like always. He just couldn’t lose. People behind him were catching up, maybe 3 of them, all wearing pure black ninja garments, but hoods instead of masks. They were as agile as him. “What do you want!?” he yelled. “If this is your turf or something sorry, I’ll leave! Stop chasing me!” But they kept the chase up. He had maybe a yard ahead of them, and intended to stay that way.
A huge gap was ahead of him, between this building and the church. Cesare stopped, crouched down got a running start and let out his breath, yelling and jumping feet first. The wind was through everything, lifting up his hair and stopping his heart. 1 second, 2 seconds. Time seemed to slow down. “Please Lord, please Lord, and please Lord, PLEASE” he silently prayed to his Father. His feet hit the smooth surface of the round dome. He slipped forward, then back, and with a lunge he hopped up, mid air again, and grabbed the edge of the cross on top of the church, alive. He stood there, hanging, and let the jest of things sink in. He laughed a chuckle at first, then a hardy laugh. He did it.
Now to get up. Cesare used his upper arm strength, pulling himself up, and onto the top of the cross. “Oh thank you God and Jesus and Mary and Joseph and everyone else!” he said out loud, making the cross on his body and kissing his fingers, then looking up at the sky. He kept his balance, and inspected around. He could make it to the bell tower from here, so he jumped forward, falling a few feet and grabbing the brick handholds. Cesare proceeded to climb up, his heart still racing. And once he reached the top and closed his eyes pulling himself over halfway before he felt something on his neck do the rest of the job. His heart stopped. He dared to open his eyes. The pursuers were all there. He choked him, and Cesare struggled, grabbing the fist around neck and leaning back. The man smashed him back into the edge of the bell tower, and punched him one with his left hand into his face. “Cesare Gallo Di’ Roma?” he questioned. Cesare spat up blood.
“Well now you make sure you have the right person!” he scoffed. Another punch landed square on his face, and the man lifted him up, tossing him to the rest of his subordinates. The gagged him, and stuck a black cloth over his face. Cesare fluttered his eyes, struggling and, then eventually fell limp, letting the darkness swallow him.
11/15/2011 6:11:27 PM
Moscow, Russia. Outside Ground Forces of the Russian Federation recruiting office.
“Well Viktor seems as if everything is in check. You will do well for the Motherland, comrade!” the recruiter gave a Russian salute to the 17 year old, which returned the gesture, and shook his hand firmly, assembling his papers. With the brown folder in hand he exited the office, and met up with a girl about his age. The family resemblance was profound, as they were twins.
“Well?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I’m in!” Viktor grinned, opening his arms. His sister rolled her eyes, but smiled and hugged him.
“Proud of you little brother.” She joked, as she was older by 2 minutes. Viktor rolled his eyes, patting the girl’s head as he was a clear foot taller.
“Little? Really Anna, give it up. I’m 6’5” and you are, what, 5ft?” he laughed as she shoved him.
“5’5”!” Anastasia reminded. “Really, not everyone can be as freakishly tall as you are.”
Viktor laughed again. “Come then, where Mother and Father still at the grocery?” The sister nodded and together they walked through the feet thick snow and ice-carrying wind, felt hats and scarves on with thick wool coats and mitts. Winter in Russia was unforgiving. General Winter, they used to call it, since throughout the years the winter always halted invading armies. This was halting the busy streets, making vehicles nearly stop every 5 seconds to clear the snow.
Far away, a man in pure white and a hood was following these two children. Binoculars in hand, he whispered in a language strange to this land: English. “Get them.” The man beside him nodded, and lifted up his fingers in a thumb up symbol, left it there for a second, then dropped back down. If everything went according to plan….
And there it was. A huge shot rang through the air, and everyone immediately started to run. Then the other 2 men ran out of the alley by the twins, and shot the net. Viktor fell to his right from the force, his feet tangled up. Then his hands were tied up, a cloth put over his head. He struggled, cursing violently. “I told you we should’ve put the gag on this one.” A voice muttered, dragging the boy away.
Anastasia was put on her knees, hands tied behind her back. An immediate fear and adrenaline rush made her do a back flip roll forward, kicking the man in the chin behind her. She ripped out the rope and tried to gather her feet on the slick ice underneath the now, but someone slipped something into her mouth from behind. She kicked backwards, elbowed, did everything? No use. A man in all white and a hood – so camouflaged it as hard to make him out even 4 feet in front of you – tapped her check, smiled and put a black bag over her head. Hands and feet were then tied with metal wire instead of rope, and she felt herself being thrown into the back of a vehicle, on top of something else. She landed with an “oof” than was not her own, and then the light was shut off.
“Anna?” a voice below her asked cautiously. Anastasia let out a sigh of relief. She couldn’t talk, but instead mumbled in acknowledgement to her brother.
They seemed to travel for hours. Finally, the SUV made a right and slowed to a stop. The trunk opened and both of the kids were picked up and thrown onto the hard concrete. The bag was removed, and the gag taken off of Anastasia, immediately making her coughs uncontrollably with a dry mouth. Viktor however, had the bag still on, and he was taken to it on top of the trunk, two men holding him down. They pulled out a bowl and poured a liquid onto his bag. ‘Water-boarding’ Anastasia immediately thought. They were water boarding him. “What is your name?” the middle man demanded in a calm Russian voice. Viktor was struggling all over, but couldn’t break out of the iron grip. When the water was over he erupted into a coughing fit, and they removed the bag up to his nose, letting him vomit the water out of his lungs.
“Viktor.” He groaned. “Viktor Tchaikovsky.” He coughed again. “What do you want?” the bag was pulled over his mouth again, and the water came back. Viktor struggled, but to no use.
“What do you know about the Play?” The same man spoke again. A few seconds later Viktor coughed and vomited again.
“I’ve never heard of them! What do you want with us?” he begged. The middle man nodded to the other two and the bagged Viktor once again, dragging him inside of the building, which Anastasia now realized was a Mansion. A shadow loomed over her and picked her up, and though she struggled, she was thrown inside alongside her brother, and the world turned black.
11/15/2011 9:10:03 PM
Paris, France. Eiffel Tower immediate area.
Elise had long dreamed of this day, to go alone into the greatest monument her country had built, the amazing tourist attraction people even from the States came to see. The Eiffel Tower.
She walked with her hands in her fur coat pockets, her collar up. The winter chill was settling in, and a light snow, gentle yet cold, was falling quietly. The wind passed by her, picking up the white snowflakes and making itself visible. She sighed, her breath also visible, and closed her eyes, waiting.
Hard footsteps broke her concentration – the sound heels or boots make on concrete. Someone knocked her forward, almost making her fall to the ground with the force. Her breath was knocked out, but two cold hands steadied her, one on her torso and one on her back. “Désolé!” a male voice whispered, out of breath, in broken French. She glared, looking up, and about to yell at the rude person, when she caught herself, feeling intimidated. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up, warning her and bringing out her primitive instincts of Fight or Flight. “Désolé! Je ne voulais pas…umm... “He whispered, trying to remember more words to say, yet distracted by something.
The man – or boy, he couldn’t be older than her, which was 17 – was scarred, mostly on his face, and his hands. His black hair was close cropped and edged around the sides; through it grew up to about an inch or two. A huge scar, clearly defined on his tan skin, stretched from his right eye down to his lip, in a jagged lightning-like line. His eyes were a strange Amber-hazel, and his eyebrows thick and bushy.
For such a chilly day he wore short sleeves and regular long jeans, with black boots matching his black and red shirt. She gathered herself and stood up straight, backing away slowly. The boy looked back and forth, then his eyes caught movement to Elise’s left, his eyes widening in horror. The boy dashed in one fluid motion, and knocked over crates a street seller was unloading to block his path, running away.
5 figures in all white suits sprinted after him, carrying some type of weapon. The word ‘gun’ immediately popped into her head. As a matter of Karma, she wondered what to do. Go after him or just stay where she was, act as if nothing had happened. The world slowed down for that choice, but Elise only blinked and started after him slowly at first, then she started into a light jog after them all.
11/15/2011 6:11:27 PM
Paris, France. Eiffel Tower suburban area.
How could they have found him? He had taken every precaution, moving from place to place and splitting up from the original groups.
They were like Nazis, with the torture, you would say anything, admit to anything, to get rid of the pain. Hawk had warned everyone of this during the first week.
Now Eagle was running. He knew he was the last one to find. The last one to get captured. He had no choice but to run now. This was his job, as a Runner. That’s what the Producer’s were calling them now. They caught 4 out of the 5 Runners, it was all over the news, were it couldn’t be clearly seen.
First in April they had found Ming snooping around Beijing, even though they had all agreed to never return to a place as obvious as where they were born. From there it spiraled downwards. Within a few months they caught Vulture, then Owl and recently, a little longer than it had taken to locate the others, they ambushed Hawk in Germany and captured him. There had been a cover story about a huge Riot breaking out in Berlin after a Rave party, but William spotted his old friend darting around near the back of the video they showed.
Will thought about all this as he ducked under different pipes, scaling different walls. The girl had slowed him down. If it wasn’t for her, he would have a chance. But not now. The Tagger’s could easily close the distance, and they didn’t have to, not that they brought out their weapons. A .357 magnum revolver could travel at, what, a football field per second? He couldn’t out run that, only hope their aim was as bad as their cause.
He made his way to a Dead end, but thought quickly, and started to climb on the brick houses. Each loose brick he used as a stepping stone of a handhold, jumping up as he cold to reach different loose bricks. Will pulled himself up, rolled onto the roof and landed on his feet in one motion, as came second nature now, and continued to dash. All of Paris could see him now. He didn’t care, his life was already over. 2 years had been a good time to be free. He knew he couldn’t outrun them, that this was the end, but he would at least go down with a fight.
Will skidded to a stop at the end of the long rooftop. No way he could make this jump. He closed his eyes, heart pounding, and turned around, scanning his enemies who were only 20 feet away now. He could take down 3 at least. That would be enough. He started to walk towards them, and at 5 feet away they all stopped in a V formation, pulling out their handguns. He looked to his right, and in his peripheral vision, saw them do the same, curious. That was his only chance. In an instant he ran towards them, crouching down, leaning back, and extending his leg. He spiraled around on the gravel on top of the flat roof, and tripped one of the foes. A handgun sounded off just as he stood up, and felt the breeze fly by his left arm. Luck had saved him.
Will grabbed the man nearest to his left with one arm, pulling him towards him. He twisted his elbow, pounding his chest, and heard a gun go off. A bullet flied into his meat-shield, and Will threw him off. He put his foot on the downed man’s chest to his right with one stomp, knocking the air out of him. Another bullet went off, this time slicing straight through his right biscep. He gasped in pain. Then fell forward, pushing himself off and tackling the man in front of him. He rolled the man over so he was on the bottom, as another bullet let loose. The man’s head was suddenly gone just as Will completed his roll. The boy heard a sickening thump in front of him, but he refused to look. He jumped back and picked up a fallen revolver by his foot, finishing off the downed man, then cocking back the hammer and pointing it one handed to his right.
The last two men looked at each other, guns at the ready in both hands. Will could take out one of them before the other would shoot him. But which one?
It didn’t matter. He closed his eyes, not wanting to his own death, and shot the left man in the torso. Just as he wiped his other hand around to the right, he heard something break the wind to his right, sailing pass his ear. A rock thanked the right man on the forehead, knocking him back. Will blinked, and shot the last round in the revolver into that man as he fell back, ending him.
He let go of the pistol, letting it fall to the ground with a clang. He turned around and saw a sight he had not expected. The girl, staring back at him with brown eyes, her brown hair blowing gently and falling over her right shoulder down to about her rib cage. Her dark brown fur coats, and black long pants with black heels, were a sight to see in his hell of a world. She reminded him of…someone else…He almost smiled as something tackled him from behind, elbowing him in the back of the head.
He realized what it was just as the world had gone black. He had shot the left man in the torso. Not a kill shot.
11/15/2011 6:14:32 PM
Paris, France. Eiffel Tower suburbia rooftop.
Elise could only blink as the boy went down. She started to back up, looking for another rock. There was nothing. The man on top of him rolled over onto his back, grabbing his gut and groaning. She turned around to run, only to meet a huge, 6 foot+ figure looming over her. She lost her breath, and stumbled down, crawling backwards. The huge man smiled, his face almost invisible by his all white camouflage and hood. He spoke in a deep voice “You shouldn’t have gotten involved.”
Elise closed her eyes, praying in French, while she felt something hard and bulky slam into her forehead, knocking her out instantly.
In a dark room on the 2nd floor of a mansion, a mature boy woke up, groggy. He blinked, rubbing his eyes, but refused to yawn. His heart was pounding, stimulating the rest of his body to a nervous start. He knew exactly where he was, and this was not good.
Will heard a noise outside, walking towards his cell. He narrowed his eyes, and pulled his legs in close to his body, almost in a fetal position, though his back was to a concrete wall. A masked figure stopped, then looked at him, wearing a Greek drama mask with a ridiculous sad face. In a feminine voice it greeted him sarcastically. “How was your vacation?” she pulled out a .44 revolver from the holster on her hip and fired a single round into his cell. The round reverberated off the walls, sending a deafening ringing noise into Will’s eardrums, and causing him to close his eyes in agonizing pain, but refuse to move. He gritted his teeth, and finally opened his eyes.
“It was great, thanks” he managed sarcastically. “Don’t suppose you’ve gotten any uglier Mask?” he smirked, and braced for the second bullet. Sure enough another round fired off, this time ricocheting into his left hand after flying off a wall. He screamed, long and hard, a cry of pure pain. Mask started again.
“Oh pipe down. You’re going to wake the others Eagle. Oh and here, pick this up if you can.” She pulled out a pendent from her pocket, and tossed it to him, landing the wooden sculpture neatly in his lap. “You’re old Totem. I hope you still love it.” And with that she walked away, chuckling to herself evilly.
William sucked in a quick breath and lifted his hand. The brass clanged onto the floor next to him, letting him know he had to work fast. With bits of his strength his ripped off the edge of his shirt all around, breaking it in two. He wrapped it around the bullet hole, tight enough to where there was enough pressure. His fingers fumbled and his vision blurred occasionally, but he managed to complete this menial task.
His breathing was hard and ragged, but Will listened closely around him. He heard something slid across concrete to his right, immediately making him turn. With a grunt he turned over and began to crawl to the wall all the way to the right. Once he reached it, Will put his ear to the bricks, listening carefully. Another slide. He bit his lip, pulled back and did the math in his head. The wall couldn’t be more than a foot or so thick. He looked around and found a chip of a brick, and picked it up, starting to chip at the wall.
It was tedious work, and it used the last reservoirs of Will’s strength, but it worked. The originally thick chip was getting more defined, and sharp. He would need this later, although he became distracted from a groaning in the room next to his.
His heart dropped when he had an epiphany.
There were new kids here. And that could mean only 1 thing: They were going to be sent to the Rift.
Will finally looked down at the totem, lifting it up so he could inspect it. A neat carving out of wood of an Eagle, with a 2 inch wingspan. He almost smiled, and somehow felt comforted by the animal. He lifted the rope – or string, whatever it was – and put it around his neck, letting it fall onto his collarbone. He closed his eyes and let oblivion consume him again. He needed all the rest he could get for the coming day.
He awoke again, still leaning on the cement wall, his bandages all dark red and the edges dripping blood. He would have to replace them eventually, but now he had bigger things to think about.
Will twitched his fingers first, and then lifted up his head to look around the small cell. He slid up and looked at through the cell bars, to see a shadow. A wooden spoon – he could tell by how hollow he sound was – began hitting a pan, waking everyone up. Will muttered something under his breath, then gained his bearings and walked to the gate, looking down at the lock while mask unlocked it. “Mess Hall?” he asked finally in a rusty voice. She shook her head. Will sighed. “First things first. Alright, I’ll get them.”
“Smart.” Was her only response, while she finished going to every room. He looked straight across, to see a large, well-built man brush the bangs out of his eyes. Will narrowed his eyes, inspecting the man. He couldn’t be more than his own age, but seemed unstable for some reason. Anger, he decided. Maybe some kind of Euro-Asian, like Russian or Mongolian. Will finally stepped out and walked over to the man’s now opened gate, banging the wall with his fist. The man did not look up.
“Hey.” Will stated in Russian. A small twitch from the man. So Russian it was. Will continued. “Hey, c’mon bud. Get up.”
“F*** off.” A low voice grumbled.
Will sighed and walked over to the man, letting out a hand. The other looked up, hatred in his green eyes, but he accepted it, and Will helped him up, being the shorter one by about a good 2 or 3 inches. “Follow me. Stay close.”
Everyone arrived in a large room. The Medical wing, Will remembered. Mask looked directly at him, so William began. “Alright people.” He muttered under his breath in English, then began in Russian, since the majority was that. “One of you needs to go and sit in the chair. I’m not going to lie, it’ll hurt.” Then went to Italian, then French.
“I’ll do it.” The Italian boy spoke first, stepping forward, and sitting into the chair. Mask strapped leather arm holds onto his wrists, tightening him to the chair, and did the same to his ankles. A helmet slid over and down from the back of the chair, two large needles sticking out. Mask walked over to a laptop that was attached to the needles, and yellow liquid poured into the tanks of each of them. She pressed a button and the drills started up, each needle going in a circle at about 120 rotations a minute. They came towards each other, and into the Italian’s temples. His veins popped out, and his teeth gritted together, hands clenched into fists.
Will was surprised there was no screaming. This boy had amazing endurance, to say the least. The leather straps shocked him every once in a while, which was why he was now vibrating. Will smelled burned flesh, and he closed his eyes, trying to hold his breath. Flesh was not his favorite subject, especially with the Rift so close now. But the straps were there for only one reason: to keep the person alive, to keep their heart running, even when it was begging to stop.
Finally the tanks were done. And each person went after that, then stumbled out and clutched their heads, either crying or trying to hold back tears. Will was the only one that did not: he already knew all the languages.
“Well I hope you all don’t feel too sorry for yourselves.” Mask began in English. “That liquid just taught you all every language currently known to man. Except Latin of course. That one you’ll have to study yourselves.” She chuckled at her own joke, then looked around the room at the fallen people. “Oh come on. Lighten up and quit the drama. That doesn’t even compare to what you’re going to be up against. When you feel well enough to stand up and walk, meet me downstairs. Just follow Eagle.”
Will sighed and purposely bumped himself into Mask, just to piss her off. She of course, pulled out a bowie knife and began to inspect it menacingly, then walked out calmly. The twins – whom he now knew were named Viktor and Anastasia-, were sitting together, comforting each other. The Roman – because truly he had the stature of a legionnaire – was already standing up, but rubbing his head. The French was the only one sitting down and hugging her knees, leaning against the wall. He began to walk towards her, then crouched down onto one knee. He bit his lip, deciding how to best say something.
“I shouldn’t have ever helped you.” A small voice came out from behind her knees. William managed a smile.
“I can’t say I feel bad for you saying that.” He murmured. “You shouldn’t have.” He set a hard face. “But now you’re stuck here. So we might as well make the best of it right?”
Her head popped out, eyes red. “How can you, or me for that matter, possibly say that, let alone attempt it?”
“Fact is, we are stuck here. Believe me, I’ve been here before. And there is a Hell waiting for us. While we’re in this Mansion, we need to enjoy as much as we can.”
“Hey, Will.” A voice called from behind him. The Russian. “Why are we here? Better yet, where are we?”
William closed his eyes. “I was here for a long time before many of you. 2 and a half years. I’m somewhat of a veteran. But then Mask and Jester found me, so I’m back here.”
“Wait a minute.” The other Russian began. The girl. “You said “back” and “found”. You escaped this place?”
Will clenched his hands into fists. “Barely. And it was a huge mistake. Don’t even think about doing what I did. You’ll die. Plain and simple. Now everyone get up and head down the stairs to the final floor. That’s the dining room.”
Fortunately, everyone as shocked enough that they shut up. The roman sighed first, then headed out the door. The two Russian’s followed, and Will let out a hand for the French to get up. She managed it by herself, and walked past him. Will sighed and got up, grimacing at the pain of his bandages.
“Ugh, no blood on the dining room table!” a voice called out. Will glanced up from his Bird of Prey table, where he was alone. The others were still household pets, no one even a predator yet. Will narrowed his eyes. This asshole was still alive.
Jester came out, wearing his black suit and a white Greek drama mask, with a smile rather than Mask’s frown. His gloves still as white as ever, Will noticed strangely. “Eagle you really should have followed suit and cleansed yourself. You’re going to get blood on the food!” he shook his head, then turned to the 4 others. "My greetings to you all. You may call me Jester, and I'd prefer nothing else, to be honest. Since it would be very complicated to remember all your names, and too formal to wear name tags, you all have been assigned a Totem. It should be..somewhere on your body. Find it now, please?" He watched as many people decided to search about themselves carefully, eventually all finding a brown wooden carving and a string or thread. "Great. Now, they all progress upwards in rank, but they all reflect your inner personality. Eagle, for example. Is brave, headstrong, powerful, although a bit wild at times." the Greek drama mask that had always a creepy smile turned to look at Will. "He started off as a....dog? Correct?" Will nodded. "Loyal, obedient, willing to follow its master. Then a Wolf, when he started making his own decisions. And look where he is now! Alone at the head of the Bird of Prey table! Maybe someday you can all end up like him, without the blood of course." he laughed a bit humorlessly. "Which, you have to promise me Eagle, you will clean up tonight."
"Which leads me to ask.." a feminine voice interrupted. Probably the Russian. "When we shower, do you expect us to use the same clothes?" It wasn't as snobby sounding as she had probably meant it to be, but there was a slight trickle of fear. Respect, even.
"Of course not my dear! And you are a....?"
Anastasia looked down at her neck, where the totem hung. "Hare...."
"Ah you are intelligent! A bunny! How nice. Probably a Snowshoe Rabbit by the looks of it. Russian, are you?" he waited for no answer. "Anyway to answer, your dressers are packed with perfectly replicated versions of your clothing you wear now, except adapted a bit more to this bitter Siberian climate. You and your brother, Iguana, should feel right at home!"
"What are we here for again, sir?" the Roman asked. "Because I have to help my dad out packing. He's going to Cyprus in a week..."
"Ah, I’m afraid you will not be able to...as you may tell, this is a secluded Mansion. No one will find you here. You are my servants, at the moment. I have to train all of you to survive in the Rift, and then you will work for me. I need something in there, and you will find it for me." he stated bluntly, then laughed again. "But don't worry, we will make your stay here the most fun experience you've had in your young life ever!"
"You don't think our parents would look for us?" somebody cried out. French accent, so probably the girl.
"Already taken care of. We got the idea from a video game, who would've thought! We created an android recreation of you, who will catch a strand of cancer incurable. You will die in a matter of 3 days. No modern doctor will ever have enough time to see you. Then the android will simply rust to nothingness. No remains in the grave. The perfect plan!" he laughed again. "Now everyone, have a nice dinner! You will report to the Rift first thing afterwards, so eat fast, remember to clean up, and enjoy the eggs."
Food was served by robotic arms, with metal table ware and other utensils. Will consumed his solemnly, his heart pounding in his chest, while the others discussed their home lives, Cesare starting the conversation. He was like Will was, a bit more optimistic even. Such a crowd starter, the perfect party of one.
He was a bit jealous when he realized that all these kids had more of a childhood than he ever had, or could remember of.
“How is everyone then?” He asked quietly.
“Oh just wonderful, thanks for asking.” Cesare muttered. “First I get kidnapped then get brainwashed then I have to eat this garbage food.”
William smirked but kept his comments to himself. “Don’t worry; you won’t have to go through many more of those experiments. Actually there is one more after this.”
Elise groaned but kept eating. Anna looked to Will and questioned “Why don’t they just kill us during these ‘experiments?’ What are they keeping us alive for?”
Will again shrugged. “I don’t have all the answers.”
“I do.” Mask called from the corner of the room. “And you’re welcome to ask. Just don’t keep asking why and why and why. Accept my answers.” William smiled to himself now. She was trying to act more nice, and getting people to like her without shooting them.
“Turning a new leaf, Mask?”
“Shut the hell up and let them ask their damn questions.” She replied harshly.
Will stifled a chuckle and leaned back in his chair. “Why are we here?” Viktor asked.
She thought for a second and finally strolled over and pulled out a chair to sit on at Will’s table, directly in front of him. He balled his hands into fists when he realized it was that of a Hawk. She folded her leg over the other and tried to gather her thoughts. “Simple enough question. Complicated answer.” She mumbled. “You are…gifted uniquely with a trait we want to use and harness. We are making you into something remarkable.”
“What’s the gift?” Cesare questioned.
“Can’t say, sorry.”
“Fair enough, then what is your job?”
She leaned back and stared at Will. “I’m the doctor. Isn’t that right, Eagle?”
He gritted his teeth, staring at her eyes. “Yes, Ms. Mask. You’re the absolute best Doctor I have by far ever seen, considering I don’t fucking remember any other one. Happy?”
“Ecstatic you feel that way.” She snickered then turned to the others. “Anything else?”
Elise almost raised her hand, which caused everyone to laugh and her to blush slightly. “Oh shut up you guys.” With a chuckle in her voice she finished her question. “Why do you wear a mask? And why is your name Mask? Did you choose it or something? And can you take it off?”
“One question at a time, jeez.” Her eyes flickered with something like recognition, but Mask answered somewhat politely. “I wear a Mask to hide my face, obviously. My name is Mask because people aren’t creative, and I didn’t choose it. And yes, I could take it off, I just choose not to around you guys.”
“Why not?” This time the question was from William.
“Why, I’m just so beautiful, it would distract you from doing your work.” While she said this she waved her deep black hair around, and then laughed to herself. Will leaned back in his own chair and smiled, feeling the totem underneath his shirt.
“I’m taken, Mask. Sorry about that.” He answered.
She seemed to take that in for a second then shrugged. “In any case, you guys need to hurry the hell up with eating. You still have to head into the Rift after this.
He didn't even touch half his food. He knew he would regret that later of course. Mask regrouped everyone and headed towards the basement a few moments later, and Jester was already working on the terminals. He pressed one key and a purple moving object swirled just an inch above the floor, harnessed by two arcs."Step into the Rift. Good luck."
“Whoa wait a minute, that fast? No good-byes? No warnings?” Cesare interrupted.
Will closed his eyes, and stepped through first.
How was it that no matter how much he hated this place, this deathtrap of a Mansion, that he felt more comfortable here than the outside world? Eagle was beginning to feel just like that, Eagle instead of Will. Blood was on his hands, scars on his face. There was no turning back from what he had done, or what he would become. "Don't move an inch." Will whispered. "Don't even f*ing breathe" his eyes frantically moved about, scanning for any size of danger all around. No fog, no claws, and no growls. He let out a sigh, and let down his hand, getting the same exhale of breath from the other 2 that were with him. "What was that all about?" Cesare inquired in a worried tone. “And, on a different note, where the Hell are we?" "A better question would be where IN Hell are we." Eagle muttered, then turned to his left and picked up a Makorav that was lying on the table. He loaded up a magazine as he explained. "Welcome to The Rift. Approximate population, 200,005. Population of things that wanna rip you to shreds, 200,000." he looked at Elise. “And possibly 1." he chuckled. "There are two types of places in the Rift. The Mansion will always be a 2 hour trip. " Eagle reloaded his pistol, aimed one handed at the door and shot the lock off. "You usually begin in one of 3 safe rooms in the Mansion - the medical wing, Gun shop, or the basement. Unfortunately, we are in the basement, so I suggest you make or find a weapon in here and hurry up, since we have to survive for another..." he looked at the black digital watch on his left wrist. "An hour and 15 minutes." he cocked his gun. "Any questions?" Both Cesare and Elise stared at him wide-eyed. "You expect us to...believe this? That this so-called Rift of yours exists?" the girl asked. "This is insane!" Will stared at her with hard eyes. "You are very wrong. I wish you were right, but you are so very wrong." he closed his eyes. "The Rift will change you, I promise you this. You will see horrors you never thought would happen to you, or to anyone. I saw my-" he caught himself. "Friend, get dragged alive by these..things. Almost killed. I can hear her screams..." he trailed off, then looked back at the metal door. "Get a weapon. You guys have 3 minutes. We have to find Viktor and Anastasia." Cesare just sighed. "Alright, you're the boss." Elise faced to turn him. "You're going with this?" "What other choice do we have? I would rather not take my apparently 200,000 to 1 odds of survival." he looked around the open drawers and cabinets. "Hey William, or Eag-" "You can call me Will" the young man corrected instantly, still looking through the metal door's peephole. "Okay Will, would a lead pipe be good enough?" when he saw the nod Cesare turned to the water pipes and pulled off a rusted chunk of it, and handed that to Elise, who took it gingerly, then pulled another for himself. "Ready?" "Just waiting on you guys I guess..." the French girl sighed, and then headed for the door. Cesare pulled a flashlight and tossed it to Cesare. "Take point in the hallway. Make a right when you see a fork in the lanes and head up the stairs. And above all you guys, never, ever, go anywhere, alone." he turned the knob and patted Cesare on the back, and they immediately began to move. He pushed all his thoughts aside and had his pistol ready in his right hand, his left crippled by that bullet. “Left here.” He directed. Cesare did so, and started to converse. “So, you were in here before right?” he whispered. “Well, any warning on what’s in here?” “I’ll let you know if I see them.” “Really? Because it would be better if we were informed n-“ “Believe me.” Will interrupted. “You do not want to know, unless absolutely necessary.” Cesare’s face dropped, but he picked up the speed a little bit, more towards a light jog rather than a fast walk. They reached the spiral staircase and Will stopped the lead, silently raising the flashlight in the other boy’s hand up to the top of the stairs. A shadow shined on the wall directly above the staircase, almost dog like. The it turned away, and a low growling erupted. “That’s no shadow puppet.” “Damn, I was really hoping so.” “So was I, C. Alright, I’m going up there, as soon as I run back, be prepared to swing okay?” the boy nodded, tightening a death grip on the lead pipe. Will stepped carefully onto the stairs, one foot lightly after another. A growl came once again, but he continued on, until he reached the second to first step. A dark figure lunged at him, and Eagle ducked quickly, causing the monster to face slam into the wall. He dashed down the stairs and tagged Cesare, who got in stance and let loose the pipe as if hitting a baseball as soon as the hound threw itself. A chunk of the rusted metal flew off the pipe as a loud whimper erupted from the creature. It sailed to the left, landing on the floor with a large thump. “Lady and gentleman, meet the Hell hound. They’re hard to kill and feed off your blood. So if you ever get bit, you have to rip it off you before attempting to kill it.” He informed. The red figure began struggling to get up, thrashing it head around as if clearing it, so Will shot in ever paw. “Let the other creatures finish it off., Come on.” “Th-that’s not possible.” The girl stammered, but followed the boys quickly, wary now and in shock. They somewhat jogged up the stairs and made a right into the dark hallway. The French looked distant, so Will trailed back and snapped his fingers, getting her attention. “You never gave me your name you know” he stated quietly, as had become custom. She seemed to debate this. “Elise Bonaparte.” She let out her hand, which Will shook lightly. “William Parker.” He look around warily, and then turned back. “Nice to meet you. And um, thanks.” She slightly smiled. “You’re welcome.” After a few seconds she started up the dialogue again. “I was actually thinking, you seem more okay with this than anyone else, almost enjoying being in this…Rip?” “Rift.” “Yes, that. “ she turned to him. “I also think you used to be like Dog-boy over there. Happy-go-lucky-“ “Heard that!” Cesare called back. “But something in here changed you.” She blinked. “And seems like I’m right, by your expression.” “I’m sorry to interrupt this love fest, but we have a locked door here, and not enough firepower to knock it dow-“ Cesare was cut off as the metal doo flew off its brackets, falling down like a tree and landing near him. An explosion sounded off on the other side, and out came Viktor and Anastasia, Viktor strapping AK-47’s on his back criss-crossed and holding a semi-automatic shotgun. “Time to kill so-“ he turned back to see the others and a wide grin appeared on his face. “Comrades! You are alive! We hit the Jackpot of weaponry in this facility! Help yourselves!” Cesare was awe-struck, pointing at the door with his hands. “What the Hell was that!? You could have killed me! This is just great Vick, we will.” He caught sight of Anastasia, holding an Uzi and looking bored, and slid – literally- next to her, leaning on the door. “Why hello there. Name’s Cesare, you can call me C. In fact, you can call me any name you want.” Anastasia rolled her eyes. “Hello Desperate. Name’s not Interested.” She walked inside, and Cesare put on a theatrical rendition of have a heart attack. “Ouch! Cold words! You should come repair my heart.” He called after Anastasia. Her twin glared at the Italian, then joined the others in the room. “Guess I’m on watch? Voted off the show like ‘Survivor’? That’s cool. Whatever…..I could use some company!” Inside Will picked up a magnum revolver, and looked around at the small band. They would do good, once they had physical and mental training. He also picked up a 12 gauge hunting shotgun. “Alright.” He stabbed a knife into a small wooden table that he had carved long ago into a map, which he and Viktor found in the back room. “This is where we are right now. We have to get here.” He took Viktor’s knife and stabbed it into a different section. “The roof. There, we wait for them to open the Rift. I can also show you guys something up there…” he trailed off, then cleared his head. “We should get moving. Grab something powerful and as much ammo you can but still move quietly.” They did so, and the group began moving out, Cesare hanging back last this time, and using Viktor’s shotgun, which he gave up reluctantly. “Why don’t we just bring these back and kill our captors?” Elise questioned. “Or at least stow these away in our rooms or something. Ever that of that one?” Will chuckled. These things have an auto-safety chip. The Arc projects a frequency wave that whenever a weapon gets too close to it, the safety is forced on. We can’t turn off the frequency, and we don’t know how to break the guns so that they have no safety. Of course, my friend tried that one time and he got a bullet in his head…” “Uh guys?” “We know you’re lonely Cesare! We don’t care!” Anastasia answered. “Guys…” “We have to keep moving, C. Not right now.” Elise responded patiently, shaking her head. 2 shotguns fired off behind them all, and a whimper echoed around the halls. Everyone froze and turned around. Will and Cesare both pumped their weapons, and looked at the group. “This Hellhound was about to sneak up on all of you. Listen to your mates.” Eagle scolded, then turned and lead the group again. “Yeah! Listen to your ‘mates!” Cesare complained. “I almost died! And you guys weren’t even going to look ba-“ “What the hell is that!!!!” Anastasia screamed. “Not very nice!" Cesare responded. “No you moron! That!” she nearly jumped a foot to the side, and pointed her gun at the ground, the group coming in a close circle. Eagle was the last one to join, and his eyes widened. “Everyone go. Now. Keep going this way until you reach a fire ladder, and climb up it. Close the trap door.” He looked at everyone who was hesitant. “NOW!” Viktor pulled his sister away first, then the other two followed. Eagle loaded one more slug into his gun and prepared for a fight. The hand pushed through the ground and began breaking the cement around it. How was it on the second floor like this?! The answer was so clear, Will nearly hit himself. They were climbing the walls. He shot one shell into the hand, and heard a beastly scream on the other side. More pieces of the wall all around him began breaking, red eyes look back through them. Spit fell on him from the ceiling, and he fired at each hole, trying to remain calm. Each foe fell down, gruesome and bleeding, and grabbed their wound, trying to get up. Then the hounds came, and began to chow down on the dead bodies, or dying ones. Will loaded up while he can, and began shooting the ones that attacked him, trying to blow off heads. That was the easiest way to kill, and less ammo expensive. He knocked a lunging Hybrid – his name for the Human like beasts with yellow skin and red eyes – away with the stock of his gun, and began sprinting for the fire escape, hip firing at the foes in front of him and kicking the dogs away. He batted away a few jumping Hybrids and jumped himself up to the ladder, shooting the edge of the ladder off so none could climb up easily. The Hybrids were smart. They gripped the wall with their claws and began climbing upwards, Will shooting one handed with a shotgun – not very accurate. He got maybe 3 out of the tens that were heading upwards. He pushed up the trap door, sticking the gun through first then kicking the ladder off its hinges and lunging towards the roof. He gripped it with both hands, cursing, and trying to pull himself up. The guys dashed towards him and pulled each arm up, throwing him up. Viktor grabbed something spherical in his hand and pulled a pin, dropping it inside. A grenade. Where he found an explosive like that, no idea, but it was a good choice. Will heard the screams as their skin lit on fire, the very same substance that made them feral made them flammable. He groaned, smelling the burning flesh. He looked at his skin, with a few wounds and scratches. Not much, so he was lucky. Cesare closed the trap door and closed his eyes. “That’s….something.” he breathed. Eagle chuckled dryly. “Yeah. “ he stood up and pointed to the horizon at the edge of the Mansion. “See that hedge looking think?” everyone nodded. “That’s one wall of the Maze. “ “You’re….kidding.” Elise groaned. “We have to go in that thing?!” Will nodded. She wiped her face of sweat. “But not any time soon. The Maze is 30 times worse than this place. You don’t get anywhere near as much ammo or weapons.” He heard something faint, and turned his head to the sky. “Speaking of which…give me your ammunition.” Viktor raised an eye brow. “Now why would we do that?” “Gotta leave some emergency weapons in the mansion.” He explained. “We don’t need them anymore. The worst is over.” Cesare tossed him the shotgun, which Will caught in his other hand, then moved it to his left, and caught Elise’s AK, as well as Viktor’s other spare. “Viktor, open the hatch again.” With a nod he released the lock, and the smell of death busted into the rooftop. Will very nearly vomited, but instead jumped down, landing with a roll. Everything in here was dead, and he sighed. Death in itself was here, taking names and smiling at him. Will felt like smiling back. Instead he took a few minutes to hide the weapons. An AK leaning against a bathroom stall. The shotgun in a cabinet. So on and so forth. Each time he hid something he would pull out his knife and mark it with a big “X”. He only ran into one Hybrid and a couple of Hell hounds probably on patrol or something. They were intelligent, he could say that, so Will pretty much stayed clear. He hid the extra ammo and when he was done the whole Mansion was filled up. Except for the third floor. But that was a different story. He headed back upstairs quickly, then straight through the fire escape, past the medical wing and the stairs to the third floor, then up the fire escape. When he arrived he heard an annoying buzzing sound, and thought of what it was. “Get out your knives.” Will did so, feeling a faint pricking on his right arm already and slashed with his left arm at it, getting a dark green object in mid air. Then the hoard came of wasps, with everyone swatting and swiping quickly. Eagle twisted around methodically, and fell to his stomach, trying to be below the mountain of bugs. He sliced the air above him, and threw one knife above Elise, as one wasp was about to get her. Most of these insects, he remembered, were larger than 7 inches or so. Some were a foot or longer. He pulled out his bowie knife and stated towards the big ones, ignoring the hundreds of other, smaller ones. Viktor was grabbing bugs in handfuls and crushing them with his strength, going on a rampage. “What are these things!” he exclaimed. “Wasps. Keep them off of you! Highly poisonous!” Will looked at his watch. “5 minutes left!” he heard scraping on the sides of the roof, and a claw came up from the side of the building. No. The Hybrids were coming. One got off and tackled Anastasia, scratching her with their claws and ripping skin off. Viktor was separated by one jumping on his back and pulling him away, threatening to direct him off the building. Cesare pulled his pistol around and blasted off the rounds, killing the Hybrid on Viktor’s back, and kicked the other one off Anastasia. He poured the remaining rounds into it, making sure it was dead in a fit of rage, then turned around. “How much longer?” he demanded. Eagle pushed away the Hybrid and fired a single round, and slashed the air again. “1 minute!” He turned to see Elise and Cesare regrouping at an arc like structure at a wall. Very good. Viktor and Anastasia did the same, and when his alarm went off, they each dashed into the portal. Will pushed aside everything in his way and threw himself into the Rift, landing on cold, polished floor. He turned over, breathing hard and sat up. Everyone was either crying or throwing up, besides Cesare, who was groaning and cleaning off his shirt. “That was…oh my Lord.” He started saying a prayer in Italian. They appeared in the real basement, and Jester was waiting for them, and began clapping once everyone settled down. “Well done! I was monitoring the entire thing. Very nice Dog! Resorting to Brute strength as a last resort to save a team member! Very noble of you! It almost looks like a movie!” Cesare laughed dryly. “Uh, yeah, that’s what I did. Listen um, I have my wrist broken...” he trailed off. “Ah yes! I didn’t explain the medical rules!” Jester cleared his throat. “Each of you is entitled to 5 medical treatments. The entire time you’re here. So you can go ever time you get a boo-boo, or you can save it for something important. No offense, and No exceptions!” he chuckled. Anastasia started “What if I’m on m-“ “Go see Mask!” Jester interrupted quickly. “And she’ll…supply…you. Free of charge. Now you guys, decide what you want to do then. Curfew is in 1 hour, then report to your rooms. Good night!” and with that Jester turned to leave. “What time is it Jeffery?” Will taunted. He could have sworn he saw Jester ball his hands into fists, as if for one instant. “Eleven p.m., Eagle. And you will treat me with respect, or I’ll have to kill you like I will your friend. What’s his name? Hawk? Too bad too, you had made such a great team. He was the 2nd hardest to find as well, but you know what happens to those that run.” Will caught something. “Hawk’s alive?” he breathed. Jester chuckled and left the room, up to the staircase. “Come back! Answer me you asshole! Where is he?” “William…” someone warned. “Come back!” Will stood up and punched the wall 3 times, each making a larger dent and crack in the brick, but it did not break, which made him livid. He punched until he heard crunches an snaps in his knuckles, until blood cleanly added to the bandages on his hands. Someone put a hand on his shoulder. He shrugged it off, his hands trembling. There was a sigh, and heels hit the floor, walking up the stairs. He punched the terminal, glass breaking apart and sticking into his hands. If he wasn’t as angry, he might have noticed that Mask was the only one who wore heels. One by one each experiment – because that’s what they were, Will had stopped kidding himself- left the room. He simply remained where he was, his hand stuck in the computer monitor, looking at a broken piece of glass at his own reflection. 3 years ago Will gripped his knees to his chest, stuck in this hell. He looked at the wound that dog had given him. Stupid mutt. He looked at his own totem of a dog and ripped it off his neck, angry at himself. He should have tried to help those kids. They were younger than him by a year, only 12, but he was scared. He didn’t want to admit it to himself, but he was terrified of those puppies. Someone kicked open the door and closed it, turning the dead bolt. Will’s heart rang in his ears. “Who’s there!” the person called. “Me.” William answered his voice cracking. “My name’s Will.” There was a sigh of relief to respond to him. “Thank God…” the boy answered. “My name’s Jason.” He walked over, shaggy brown hair parting to his green eyes. “You sound like you’re from the UK too. Wales?” Will stood up, an inch taller than the boy – Jason. “I can’t remember...” he admitted. Jason blinked in surprise. “I’ve been here for a year now. The thing they gave us, to all speak the same language? It had a side effect on me or something. Wiped most of my memory.” He said it with a bit of a stammer, which he tried to apprehend. “Also made me stutter a bit.” He explained. “Oh. I’ve been here for a few months, but most of that time they just sent me straight to the maze. I don’t know why, something about reconnaissance. I had to map it all out and bring it back. It’s horrible in there man. I’ve seen things...” he cleared his head. “Well, I’m a Rat apparently. But who knows? They might rank us both up soon, and then we can just stick together. Two Brits right?” Will nodded, smiling. “Yup. So let’s go kick some ass, shall we?” Will joked, pulling out a .44 with newfound confidence. “I’ll take left, let’s go.” “OK, I have to find my sister here too, if you don’t mind. She’s my twin, but I’m older by a few minutes. Don’t let her make you believe it’s the other way around.” He chuckled, and Will got the guts to walk over to the metal door, make sure his gun was loaded, and open it. Mask sank into her chair, rubbing her own temples from the stress. She flicked the deadbolt on the Medical wing door, and didn’t both to look at any security cameras. The kids were just scared, Will was going to collapse asleep form blood loss any moment, and the others…well they couldn’t talk right now could they? They were scared, ignorant, innocent kids. Was she feeling a bit guilty? Why had she tried to comfort anyone? What kind of Mask was this, showing pity and sympathy? She needed to suck it up. So sure she didn’t agree all the way with Jester – in fact she hated his guts, but no reason to fuel a fire. They had to do this for a greater good right? It was life, you’re not always going to agree with everyone. And even if she did want out, the Play was the undercover mafia. If you want out, you get killed: they had made this clear in initiation. And since they trusted her enough to give her assistant Manager and Head of the Doctors, they would definitely murder her in cold-blood. What was she thinking? She needed to calm down, have a cigarette or something. Get back to work on the Splicer before Jester tries to get a glimpse of something that “should’ve been done a bit ago”. Damn Moocher.
His knuckles were broken, which wasn’t entirely healthy, and after a couple of hours Elise convinced him to go and see treatment for it before it became infected.
Will strolled alone, glancing around the Mansion. Every room was locked that looked seemingly normal. The Master bedroom, for example, as well as the Living room. Every hall besides the one leading to the spiral stair case was closed and barred off by metal doors that had been added what seemed to be recently. The windows were new as well, and with one tap on them with the back of his hand he thought of them to be bullet proof. The temperature, however, always stayed below freezing, and he believed it to be below zero. He made his way around using the moonlight coming in from outside, as there were no lights.
The Spiral stair case that led to the third floor where all the cells were had a black railing and white steps. All the tiles on the floor of the Mansion were checkerboard styled, and he was intrigued in how much time had been taken to make this place ready for him. The new gloss on the floor, the well oiled door hinges, all seeming to await him and try to convince him he was back home.
“Here I am…” he mumbled to himself. “Now where do I go from here?”
The cells (or rooms as Jester insisted they be called) were arranged all side by side to one another, the original rug being torn apart and the beds and the dressing tables and drawers being moved out of them to where it was simply a box of cement walls and concrete floors. The gate that barred them was not locked by a card as many things were, but rather by an old fashioned key. For this reason he kept sharpening as many chips of the floor he could break off – makeshift lock picks. He would need them later on if he wanted to escape.
Downstairs on the 2nd floor was where he was now. Most of the supply rooms were barred or locked off to them so that only Mask and Jester could enter. The only rooms that were, in fact, public was the Medical Wing rooms which consisted of a type of waiting office, a patient room, and Mask’s room, the latter of course being private. The hallways leading past that were closed off, though he didn’t know why.
Below that the only room open to them was that of the Dining room with the 3 round tables: The Pet table, comprising the lower ranks, the Predator table, where most people would stay, and the Birds of Prey table. Of course, he was alone at the Bird table, taking the largest and most decorated and carved wooden chair as his seat, where the arm rests folded out to become wings, and the head rest lied on top of a scene where two eagles flew about on an open sky.
Kudos to whoever designed that, he thought slyly.
The basement was where he spent most his work. There were lines of computers, most of which were blown out and old, the only working ones privately used by Mask and Jester. Beyond that was a workout room, which had heavy bags, a padded floor, speed bags, all kinds and sets of weights, benches, bars, and even a large 32 inch screen where you slipped on a helmet and trained yourself in a Virtual simulation of the Rift. It was genius, how technology played such a role in their lives, and a bit Ironic that they created a “video game” of something so horrific, and they all waited in line to play it yet dreaded going to that which the game was based off of. He mostly stayed in the sparring ring, or next to the heavy bag, where no one would bother him. He trained alone, and for one good reason: no one was quite at his level just yet.
Now he stumbled around in the dark and headed over to Mask, knocking on the door softly. “Come in.” was the response, and William did so.
The young woman picked up the mask beside her instantly, and strapped it on her face. “Wi-I mean Eagle. What they hell are you doing here?”
“I need a doctor, and you are the best.” He stated sarcastically.
“Alright, just sit down on the cot. Give me a second.” She filed through some clutter on her desk and then finally stood up, turning to him. “What the hell’s wrong you sissy?”
“Sorry mommy, the booboo hurts. Kiss it make it better?” he showed her his right hand.
“In your dreams.” She fired right back, lifting up his hand to inspect it better. “Ah, I did this. I am such a good shot.” She peeled off the makeshift bandages and opened a cabinet to get some sterile ones. He noticed a tattoo on her lower back, and raised an eyebrow. “Nice tat. I figured you would be more of a rose girl than a skull and guns.”
She got off her tip-toes and pulled out a bottle of alcohol pouring it directly on his wound. He sucked in his teeth at the burning pain, and she responded curtly. “Stop looking at my ass.”
“Will do.” He managed over the pain, then let out his breath and looked around the room as she wrapped bandages around the hole.
Will opened his eyes and sat up, gasping for breath. He rubbed his eyes, wincing as a shard of glass stabbed his cheek. He groaned and plucked it out, looking at his trembling fingers. It was so cold here, in Siberia. He had come used to it before he had left the Mansion, but 2 years in France, Austria and Germany had worn down his blood a bit. He ripped off the bottom piece of this new black long sleeve wool shirt that was on the floor the day before (along with long jeans and a black pair of running shoes) and changed his "bandages."
His black bangs had grown out the past 2 months. His arms had gotten stronger, his mind less cloudy with memories, and he was back "in-shape" if he had ever gotten out of it. He wrapped the cloth around his hands, and looked to his left. A cement brick had been pushed out, as had been done to the right. Will yawned, and then began. "Hey Cesare, you up?"
"Yup, it's sunrise isn't it." a voice called back, laughing and amused as always. Will heard a cap on the other side. He was probably doing pushups.
"Good, because today I think we're going in the Maze." Will stood up and made a last minute check of the room. The mattress lay neatly in the corner of the room, while the bundle of blankets was folded and lying on top of it. The perks of being a high rank in the Mansion were luxurious compared to how the other's rooms were. Will looked to the right and banged on the wall with his fist. "Elise, rise and shine." he squatted down to look through the open brick, and saw Elise's face appear a foot away.
"Morning Will. Want me to wake up Anastasia?" he nodded and the girl walked away. Will stood back up and cracked his knuckles, stretching his hamstring and arms to pass some time. They had created an elaborate messaging system, for the Mansion that is. Each wall had a cinderblock loose, which they pushed out and spoke a message into, to relay to everyone down the line, since the walls were somewhat sound proof. Once they were done they normally slid the block back in, but most subjects had found it more fun to just talk their way to sleep. Besides Will of course, since he preferred the quiet.
Which was probably why Jester and Mask had positioned him next to a blabber mouth, he thought.
The last month had changed him, he realized, differently than everyone else. Most people had matured over the time, grew stronger in mind and body, hardened to the Rift. They all had the scars to prove it too. But Will had loosened up, much to his discomfort. They all knew anyone of them could die in there, but he had grown attached to each one of them, almost like a brother, or a father. He felt responsible for whatever would happen in there to anyone. What new type of enemy was waiting in the Maze, that hellish place of death?
"Already up? Good." a voice snapped him out of his visions. Will turned to the metal door, which was being unlocked by Mask. He smiled.
"Lovely to see you too Mask. You know, I don't know your real name. It's a shame, really." he chuckled, and stepped outside, cracking his back. Cesare and Viktor were already out, as well as a new person. A female, maybe...15. He hadn't accounted for this one, and got a bit nervous. She would be dead weight should she not know what she's doing. But...something about her stood tall, as if she knew what they were up to and was planning to hold her own.
"Ah yes, that's Lioness." Will's eyebrows raised in question. "She's been with us for the past year, working mostly on the Labyrinth." Mask chuckled. "She just returned, so I guess that's why you're curious."
He was thinking more about what Mask mentioned. He turned to the woman. "Labyrinth? Do you mean Maze?"
Mask shook her head. "I'm surprised you didn't figure it out yet. You destroyed the Maze when you all escaped. It simply collapsed on itself, killing and destroying everything inside. Only the outer walls remained. So we created a Battle Labyrinth." she spoke this as if expecting him to understand. "You really don't know do you." she made a move to push past him and started to unlock the rest of the doors with a skeleton key.
William walked towards the new girl and introduced himself. "I'm William. I don't think I’ve seen you before." She shook her dark hair and sized him up, stopping at his neck.
"No I would have remembered you. Eagle huh? You must be the one all of them were talking about, in the Lab. I'm Tanya. Started off as a Hamster, but as of last night I guess I’m a Lion now." she smiled and nodded towards Elise. "That your girl?"
Will blushed a bit, embarrassed. "N-no." he stammered, instantly hating himself for it. "So, what's this Labyrinth all about?" he asked to change the question. Her dark brown eyes seemed hazy.
"I don't think we'll go in there for a while. The Lab is still under construction, touching up on a few things. Plus the rest of the guys are going to the Remnants to pick up something....I don't know what though. They assigned me here before they left."
Will felt something nagging in the back of his mind. "Who's 'they' and 'the guys'?" he asked. "You didn't seem surprised that I’m a Bird of Prey.” He also added.
Tanya smiled, patting Will's shoulder. "All the guys told me to tell you was that they'd "See you real soon." Whatever that means. Said you'd know." She turned. "Guess she is your girl, the way she keeps turning to look at you and then talk to that pale looking one beside her. And...well seems we got a looker. Who's that big looking' Chico?"
Will was distracted. "Hm? Oh that's Viktor..."
"Victor huh? Well he can win me anytime. 'Scuse me, I have some meeting to do." she pushed him gently away, which brought him back from his memories.
A few minutes later Mask came back, leading them all to the basement. No breakfast, this was odd. "You guys are going straight to the Rift. Time to see what you've learned on Earth for the past Month." she punched in a few keys and then the "enter" key, and the arc roared to life, producing a purple gateway. Will stared at Mask.
"We haven't been in there for 3 months and now we just go? Just like that?"
"Just like that. Now hurry up or I'll give you a limp. You'd know how much that weighs people down, wouldn't you Eagle?" Will tightened his hands into fists, and tensed his whole body.
"Not here not here not here not here"
He felt a hand on his, pulling him towards the gateway. "C'mon Parker." a voice called from far away. He opened his eyes and looked to see Elise, with a worried face. He reluctantly followed her into the purple light, bracing for the sudden change in temperature.
"No don't hold ha-!" Mask shouted as they stepped through.
Where it was normally a bit warmer in the gate, it was now very much colder. the temperature had plummeted, and William found himself touching a freezing hand. He opened his eyes and closed those shut, miniscule shards of ice sending needles of pain through his eyes. He let out a cough, squinting and seeing his own water vapor look like steam. Where were they? He couldn't see a thing. He coughed again, then looked around, a shiver going up his spine.
It was a white expanse of land, no sunlight visible. He couldn't even remember heat, his wool shirt doing almost nothing to block out the cold. "Will?" A faint voice called.
Elise. "I'm here." he called. “Can you see anything?"
She tugged on his hand a bit. "I think that's a building over there. Where are we?" her teeth were trying not to chatter. Will's heart sank.
"I don't know. C'mon, lead me towards it, it's our best bet." he tried not to say "Only hope", but truly that's what it was.
"I can't move."
Those three words made him colder than the temperature outside could have ever. Will stepped towards the faint silhouette and picked the girl up, carrying her like an infant, and saw the 'building' she was able to see. "Okay, let's go." and with that he set out, one foot at a time.
"Why can't I move?" she asked no one in particular. He ignored the question, just kept walking through the knee high snow, the seemingly endless expanse towards whatever that building was. "What do you think happened?"
Will thought something alright. "Jester was trying to kill one of us." he declared aloud. "That's what Mask was shouting. Don't hold hands. Because one of us was meant to end up with the others and the other was meant to die here."
Elise shivered a bit and curled into a tighter ball. "I think I’m numb." she breathed. Will held her a bit tighter, as if that would help, and tired to move faster. "You can just leave m-"
"No." he cut her off. "I'm not going to lose anyone." he growled.
"But I’m no-"
"Enough!" he cried. "You are important. You are one of the best shooters here. You're the second most active..."
She whispered something that he couldn't hear, but he paid attention to the path in front of him. His legs were becoming numb, and he couldn't feel his hand anymore."Are you still numb?"
Will cursed but kept walking, trying not to show his worry in his facial expression. He began to see shapes moving with him, maybe 20 feet off in the distance, faint shadows, but he ignored them- probably mind games. He started to regret his decision instantly, but continued walking.
"What was the worst thing that you had to fight in there?” she asked. Will looked down, then back towards his goal.
"Probably..." he made his teeth stop chattering and began again. "Probably the Beast that lived in the Maze. 2 years ago."
Elise shuddered a bit. "What happened?" she glanced up at the boy, as he remembered.
"When we were escaping...Hawk and I were alone and heading towards the exit when the Beast came out." he chuckled. "We had seen its kind a few times before, but it stayed clear. It looked like a giant bear, sort of. We nick-named it Smokey. You know, from America? Smokey the Bear? Penguin came up with it..." he continued. "Well, Old' Smokey had been on a rampage lately. It took my…friend..away from me. So we planned to kill it, once and for all. Of course, Smokey didn’t go down without a fight, he stabbed Jason straight through the shoulder, and I started firing at It." he smiled. "It stabbed me through my gut, slashing downwards. I started to bleed out, but Hawk managed to kill Smokey.
"We were both dying. His shoulder pretty much was useless, so he was firing a huge rifle with one hand. He started to drag me towards the Gate, waving to our friends at the end, and getting them to help us..." Will blinked. "Then Penguin sacrificed himself, and stood in the Maze while we got out, to hold the beasts off." He sighed a frosty breath. "Could you imagine what those things would do to Earth? No, they had to be held off enough to let the Gate close." he stared at the building, trying to make it come closer to him. "Hawk had taken over the leadership role from me, for that one choice. I was about to die, and he made the call." Will focused on the Building. Maybe another 20 yards. "I just hope I was the right one..." he muttered.
"Of course you were." Elise smiled, leaving her freezing hand on his chest. "I'd be dead right now if it weren't for you." he chuckled a bit. "I guess...that's what haunts you. Even though you didn't make the choice, you think he should have just left you." Will had no answer. He was turning numb, his fingertips blackening. His knees wobbled, Elise seeming to weigh 900 pounds. He groaned and fell to his knees, struggling to get back up. It was only a few feet. He could make it.
He had to make it.....
"You have to."
"Will! William! Get up!"
Will fluttered his eyes, unclouded. He was still freezing, but the load had been taken off. He was a bit warmer, now thawing off. Burning hands were on his arm, and he looked around, seeing a familiar face looking down on him. "Did you drag me?" he asked the girl.
"No, he did. He found us both, with a few other people. Seems like they were sent here too." she turned and Will attempted to sit up, to see his rescuer.
It was a strong looking man, sitting cross legged beside a make-shift fire. He was poking it with a large stick, making sure the flames were fed. "Hey, thank you...” Will started. There was no response at first.
"Seems like we're two for one, hm?" the man answered. "We told ya we'd see you real soon. If Tanya relayed that message right."
Will's heart stopped. "Remy?" he breathed in disbelief. "Is that you?"
The man stood up and turned around, walking towards him. A boy with blond, close cropped hair, and a single blind eye smiled back at him. "William Parker! It's good to see Ya, Eagle!"
William nearly jumped out of his cot. As it was he swung around and embraced his old-friend. "Vulture!! You're alive? I thought you were all caught!"
"Aye, but we weren't killed. We were used as slaves, building that Labyrinth of Jester's. The rest of the boy's are..... elsewhere." Remy seemed to think of the right word. "I suggest not waking them up. They all told me to say that they're glad you made it."
William had a wide-grin on his face. "Glad you made it too, Bud." he looked around. "Where are we?"
Vulture shook his head. "I know you're not going to believe us mate, but you aren't really here." Will took a step back.
"When they found all of us, they placed a chip in our brains. When we dream, we can converse with one another." Will began backing away, and fell onto the cot, sitting down. "You're dreaming mate, and I am too. The rest are awake right now. You have a job to do. You gotta get that girl" he nodded towards the door "To safety alright, or else she'll die."
"How did you kn-"
"There's no time for that!" Vulture snapped. "Get up, Now!"
William closed his eyes and tried to wake himself up. “Sorry, Will.” The female whispered, just as he forced open his eyes.
Will coughed, his lungs filled with snow and water. A form was lying in the snow beside him, and everything immediately snapped back into perspective. He struggled up and lifted Elise back, cradling her unconscious body and trying to sprint into the door a few feet away. He pushed it opened, then set her down leaning against a wall and closed the door shut, closing the many locks. Will inspected the area around and saw a recently used campfire, and picked Elise up, setting her down beside it. He found two stick and a pile of leaves, and began begging a fire to start.
'This is where we got out of the Rift.’ he thought, and then looked around, still working tirelessly. There it was, all the way to the right. An ark, and spiraling beside inside it was the Gate. They didn't have much time. Will finally got a fire started. "Please let this work." he prayed aloud, and then turned to Elise, putting his ear to her chest.
There was a faint heart beat, as if it was struggling. Then after a few seconds it simply stopped. Will waited for two of his own heart beats and then started CPR, balling his hands into a fist and then cover it, then pushed down on her stomach. He closed her nose and began breathing for her, then listened again. Nothing. Second attempt, still no heartbeat. He pushed the growing tears away and continued restlessly. 5th attempt, nothing. By the 7th his own heart was threatening to stop. He had failed her. Failed in protecting her.
8th try. He brought his mouth to hers one more time, and prayed for the God that Cesare had told him so much about to work his miracles. To please just let this girl survive. He listened again, and waited.
Thump. Thump. It was faint, but then it began working. Will very nearly fell over her, relief flooding through his chest. He ran outside and scavenged below the snow and found some frozen over grass, then brought it back in, adding it to the small fire - truly it was nothing more than a flame, but it was something.
And Will sat criss-crossed himself, looking over the girl and the fire, and begging for both not to die out.
It was maybe a few minutes later when Elise awoke. He smiled solemnly. "You're awake."
"Am I dead?"
Will chuckled. 'You were for a few minutes. I had to try and get your heart back up. But you're strong. I forgot that part." he looked at the Rift. Elise turned over slowly and stared at it too. "That'll bring us back?" He nodded. "What if..." she turned to him. 'We don't have to go back? We could just stay here and wait for someone to rescue us."
Will smiled sadly. "We’re in the middle of Siberia. No one will find us. This is where we got out of the Rift, where we escaped." he looked at the girl. "We have to go back Elise, there's nothing left for us here."
She nodded and stood up slowly. William helped her, and they walked together into the Rift.
The first think they noticed was the heat. It was so welcome, even if it was negative 7 degrees. Compared to the -31 temperature where they had been, it was toasty. Will looked around and thanked God that they had ended up in the real Mansion, not the Rift one. Everyone seemed shocked when they appeared. "Where were you guys!? We thought you were dead!" Cesare complained. "I mean..if you wanna go do your own...'thing'...in there and all, go right ahead. But at least tell one of us.
They both blushed. "Believe me; you don't wanna know where we ended up...” Elise smiled, and then started to tear up. Will wiped them away for her, and then released her to Mask, who looked up at William. The eyes behind the mask showed something besides anger for once, maybe a true emotion, but Will simply shook his head. Was that...pity? Pain? Viktor walked over with Cesare and asked what happened.
"I'll tell you in a bit...Right now I'm hungry and cold and I need a nap." he smiled and laughed, releasing the stress that had followed him from the Rift, then caught sight of Jester in his peripheral vision. He turned to look at him and simply smirked, his eyes saying everything for him. "I'm still here".
Jester did not laugh or chuckle. He simply responded out loud. "Quite."
"So, you really thought he was trying to kill you?" Will nodded, his hands in his pockets, and though the gloves blocked out most of the cold, he was still a bit numb from the temperature.
The 2 days since he had been almost murdered by Jester in the Rift, he had been non-stop thinking about the incident. And now that they were going back in the Rift (The Mansion, not the Labyrinth, which Will was pissed about, his curiosity turning to anger), he planned to find out if anything was out of the ordinary. Cesare was walking with him, Viktor becoming increasingly quieter lately. What was going on in the Tank's head, he had no idea. William laughed to himself, finding humor in that thought of Viktor's next rank to become a Tank. "What's so funny about almost being killed?" Will questioned, smiling himself. "Ya know, if you think about it...it is kind of fu-"
"No, I was thinking of Viktor. Have you talked to him recently?" Dog laughed.
"A 'Hah' to that, my friend. I haven't seen Vick for the past week. What's going on with him, I have no idea. His sister however..." Cesare brushed off his shoulders. "I think I’m finally wearing down on her ego. It's the old 'Di'Roma' charm, I’m telling you." C chuckled again and shook his head. "Nah, but really, I think something's wrong with Victor. We gotta talk to him today in the Rift."
William agreed, lifting up his white hood and raising his facemask to his nose, making only his eyes visible. "I'm jealous dude, how'd you get those warm clothes..." Cesare put a frown on, eyeing Will's white hoodie, jeans and running sneakers. Cesare was stuck with a long sleeve shirt and shorts. Not the best combo for Siberia.
"You get stuff when you're a higher rank. Like clothes. And blankets. And a cot." William sighed longingly.
" Aww! I wanna rank up already! Stupid Dog totem. I'm not even a pet kind of guy." Cesare rubbed his hands together, warming them up. The two made it to the basement, and both scanned the area for Viktor. He was standing with his sister, looking solemn and a bit twitchy. "Uh, he’s looking a bit disturbed to you?"
Will nodded. "A big issue. Is his mental health okay?"
"Oh gee, I don’t know, let me just pull out my 'How to know if someone's going Insane, for Dummies' book." Cesare glanced around, only half-joking. "We really gotta talk to him." he breathed as Jester walked into the room. "How are his suit and gloves still CLEAN!?" Cesare complained in a hushed voice. Will chuckled, but paid attention.
"Good evening everyone. Hope you've enjoyed today, because we're going back into the Mansion for a bit. The usual time for you in there, but out in the real world it will be a little over 15 hours! This is achieved by slowing down the orbit of Earth in the Rift, and making an hour 9 hours in here!" he waited for someone's reaction. "Eager? Good, we'll get right to it then. Here are our new trainees."
New Trainees? When did they arrive? Will clenched his hands into fists and crossed his arms. "This isn't good." he breathed.
"Why not? Maybe some of them are hot."
"So am I."
Will scanned the coming crew. Maybe 4 people, plus Tanya, who've they've all met already. "You should already know Lioness." Jester began. "She's 15 years old." Tanya made a little peace sign then glanced at Mask, sighed and curtseyed, putting on a ridiculous smile.
"Happy?" she muttered, crossing her arms. Another girl walked in, smaller than the rest. She looked a bit jittery, as if ready to explode.
"This is Weasel. 12 years old." She shifted uncomfortably, her straight, long blonde hair moving a bit as a breeze came in. "She's a bit shy, go on, say hello. They won't bite." Jester chuckled.
"H-hi." she managed in a voice that matched her small body. 5 feet at the MOST. Will knew she was going to be hard to make into anything. He closed his eyes, thinking back.
"You can use her"
The voice that was not his own sounded so real in his head. Will looked at Cesare. "How?"
Cesare raised an eyebrow. 'What are you talking about?"
William blinked and shook his head, looking back around. "N-nothing. Never mind."
Out next was a boy, dark brown spiked hair. He was short, but looked agitated, angry even. Could he really hold that much contempt in a 4'8" body? "This is Ferret. 14 years old." the boy sniffed as an acknowledgement. Will already hated him. He was going to be one of those boy's that just wanted to make everyone else feel bad.
"What?" Cesare whispered.
"It's when Short people have really pissed-off attitudes." They both stifled their growing laughter.
The third new-comer came in, the obvious tallest. He was 5'9" and looked strong and fit. "How are you doing?" he questioned. "I'm Albert, you can call me Alby."
"Thank you for that, Dog. And could you tell us your age?" Mask asked sarcastically.
Albert smirked. "14."
"Thank you. And last but not least, we have Cat. May you please come?" Jester beckoned, and out came a small Asian girl. She smiled and looked around. "She is 15 years old. Each one of them is from North America, rather than Europe." Jester nodded. "Now, there might be some overlapping totems. I've recognized this, and am going to address this. May the Veteran Cat and Dog please come towards me?" Cesare shifted around and walked up, coughing. Elise walked a bit slower, more carefully. When they both reached him and Mask, Jester raised out his arms. "Well don't look so worried! You are being given a promotion! Isn't that great?"
Promotion this early? William became curious, and a bit suspicious. What would be the reasoning behind this. Mask came up and handed Cesare and Elise their new Totems. "Tigress and Hyena. Congrats." Cesare smiled and let out a sigh of relief.
"Does this mean we get better clothes? Please?" he joked, putting on the totem and returning his old one.
"You will! And actually, I have a request for you all. For now, I'll let you all get to know one another in the Rift. Good luck!" Jester smiled and turned away, pulling a lever. The Gate powered up and Will quickly made his way into it. He had to clear his head off, and what better way to let out his thoughts than by shooting the undead?
Immediately William smelled a gas, some type of chemical. He dropped to his knees, and narrowed his eyes. One by one people appeared beside him, though they were mix matched - new and veteran subjects. Cesare and Anastasia were here, but so were Tanya and Albert. He let out a bit of a groan, then sounded off. "Get below the gas." Everyone did so cautiously. "Everyone move towards the door." he looked around and spotted no weapons. This was gonna be bloodshed if they didn't listen to him.
"Where are we..?" Albert breathed. William sighed.
"You'll learn, man. Just listen to us for now." Cesare answered. William crouch-walked slowly, trying to remain quiet. One by one, the wasps flew in through the air vent. Sure enough, there were thousands, all hovering above the group. The chemical they sprayed began moving downwards; And Eagle soon found himself crawling on his stomach towards the lock. He punched the 'Master key', and beat it until the metal lock broke apart, then ripped it off. Eagle stretched his arm, but couldn't reach the knob for the life of him.
"I'm getting up, crawl out once I open the door." Everyone nodded, and Will sprang up, pulling the door open and immediately being stung. Cesare jumped up himself and began crushing the bugs. "What are you doing?" Eagle growled.
"Helping you out. Now c'mon, lets close this door." Cesare ran out of the room first and began pulling the door shut, while Will slipped out. both of them slamming the metal door shut. The gas stayed in the room weirdly, and no bugs escaped. They wiped the sweat off their faces, and Hyena let out a laugh. "You guys good?"
Everyone nodded, except Albert, who was practically crying. "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT" he screamed. Anastasia groaned. "YOU TELL US TO CRAWL ON THE GROUND FROM GIANT BUGS AND SOME CHEMICAL THAT WAS PROBABLY GOING TO BURN OUT MY LU-"
Anastasia backhanded him across the face. "Shut up Al! Pull yourself together, Jesus Christ..." she looked to Will.
"Uh, thanks Vi. We have to make it to the rooftop everyone. Tanya and Albert, stick with the veterans like Myself, Cesare and Anastasia." he pointed to each one. "I'm gonna split everyone off into small teams. Tanya, Albert and...Cesare." he decided. "Anastasia you come with me when I say so okay?" he rubbed his temples and took down the hood and facemask, looking around for any type of weapon. "Let's go." he stomped on a pipe and broke a piece off for everyone, then began to run, his heart pumping and beating fast.
The first Hybrid jumped down from the roof, and landed on the floor in front of William, he swatted it away to the right and sprinted away, not stopping. "Oh my Lord.." Tanya muttered, then followed reluctantly. Another Hybrid broke through one of the windows and drop kicked Cesare. He beat it's head in with the pipe. "You guys seem pretty used to this." she noticed.
"We are." Anastasia chuckled. "We adapt. Unlike Al over there. Stop pissing yourself in a corner and hurry up." Albert blushed and managed to trip over himself. "Oh get u- watch out!"
Albert flipped over and stared at the red eyes of a Hellhound. He kicked it's muzzle, but 2 more appeared, biting his legs. He struggled screaming, and as Will turned the lead hound ripped into Albert's throat, causing his screams to turn into gurgles. Will threw his pipe, hitting one of the hounds, but to no effect. It was getting blood already. His heart sank, as all the others sprinted away and began hitting the hounds over the head and kicking their muzzles. He walked slowly, shaking his head in disbelief. Already, one dead. He should have trained the kid.
And now poor Albert was being chewed apart.
Will saw people screaming, shouting, demanding he do something. He did not hear them, until Tanya shook him violently. He blinked in her eyes. "-something damn it! Stop staring at him like a zombie!"
He pushed her to the side and uppercutted the hound at the kid's head, and grabbed the throat. He pulled down with all his force, and felt the fur rip off, along with the thorax. The hound couldn't even whimper as it was thrown to the side. He kicked the next one at the legs at the side of its jaw, and heard it dislocate, falling limp to the side, as the hound ran away. The last one bit off the remaining part of Albert's right leg and dashed away with its prize.
Everyone was already bickering at each other, trying to decide what to do. Will took out the face-mask addition to his long sleeve shirt and ripped it apart, then crouched next to Albert and stopped his neck from bleeding by wrapping it around it. The he ripped off his hood and cupped it around his bleeding and gruesome kneecap, then looked up to Tanya, Anastasia and Cesare. "Anyone have duct tape?"
Tanya blinked and kicked a door beside her, and walked in almost in a daze, then came out with some industrial tape, and tossed it to Will. He nodded and taped the hood together to the remaining part of Albert's jeans. "Put pressure on the neck if you want him to live...but..." he closed his eyes and sighed "We shouldn't have saved him."
"He can still hear." Anastasia growled.
"I know that!" Will snapped. "He can also bleed! Those Hell hounds will be coming back! They know where we are, and where more fresh blood is. The Hybrid's can smell the meat. There's no point in keeping him alive."
"It's the right thing.." Tanya muttered.
Will stared from Anastasia to Tanya. "You think I want to snap his neck? Well I don't! he's a poor kid for crying out loud! But he's suffered enough already. Judging from the way his hands are limp at the floor, he's probably a quadriplegic. Even if he wasn't, his leg's ripped off. His throat has had so much damage, he probably can't talk. His eyes are already ble-"
"I KNOW THAT!" Tanya shouted. "But we can't just kill him off because he's dead weight!"
closed his eyes. "It's done. Let's keep moving.
Everyone looked at the Roman. He opened his eyes and stared hard at the eyes of Albert. "I broke his neck. Let's go."
"What- who gave you the right?! He had his whole li-" Tanya caught herself.
"Yeah, what life ahead of him? A life of being thrown into a pit every day and told to 'find this mysterious thing when you get a chance, but we won't tell you when or how' and oh yeah, of being without his voice or his leg? Yeah, that sounds like a fair life to live." Cesare closed Albert's eyes and stood up, picking up his pipe, walking away. Will stood up and followed after the boy.
"You didn't have to do that." he breathed. "I would've done it."
"Well I did." Cesare grumbled. "And now it's on my mind, not yours. Let's go find the others."
Will looked behind him and stood still, letting Cesare walk away, and waiting for the two girls to catch up.
The found Viktor, Elise and the 'Noobs' (as Cesare had decided to call them) one the second floor, near the fire ladder, which was still broken off. The whole area was charred and broken apart. Will rubbed his face and looked around. "We'll have to use the Outside ladder. Hope none of you are afraid of heights. Let's go." He beckoned to everyone and started to jog to the stairs. He had his pipe at the ready - since he had refused to take Viktor's spare pistol - and pulled out a long black flashlight. Once he fumbled around his numb fingers he found the button and turned it on as he descended deeper, down to the first floor. He used a dumbwaiter part of the wall and repelled it down. "Alright you guys, we're gonna take the elevator up to the 3rd floor."
"There's a 3rd floor?" Elise questioned immediately. Will scoffed.
"It's hardly a floor anymore. We blew it to Hell right before we went to the Maze about 2 years ago." he inspected the waiter. "Alright taller than 5 feet, you have to go alone. 4 feet, you can go with one other person." He looked around. "Any volunteers?"
"Me." a small voice called. Out came the small little girl, who walked flatly into the dumbwaiter and brought her knees to her torso. "Like this?"
Will nodded, and began to pull the rope, sending it up. He heard a voice call down that she was up, and he looked back. "Next." Viktor mustered up his courage and squeezed his huge body into the small dumbwaiter, practically crushing it. Will struggled with the ropes this time, his muscles straining as he lifted the nearly 220 pounds of Viktor up to the 3rd floor. He let go of the rope and it fell down fast, hen tightened his grip when it reached the 1st floor. Next was Tanya, then the rest of the Noobs, and then Elise. Cesare, however, began complaining after Anastasia.
“I’m too tall for this crap, and there’ll be no one to cover your back. I’ll take the outside ladder.
“There’s Hybrids on the outer wall.” He warned
"That's perfect!!!" Cesare laughed. "Let me do it man!"
"No! You'll fall and die!" Will shouted.
"And if I do that's one less person you have to worry about. C'mon, this is the one fun thing I get to do!!" Cesare was nearly vibrating now with energy and with a fatherly sigh Will agreed, and stepped into the dumbwaiter, handing it to Cesare, who began pulling up the thing, laughing and whistling.
A light beamed forward, although it wasn't actually needed. There were small flames scattered on different pieces of furniture, leading William to wonder how the floor had been kept from Tumbling down.
Whatever the case, they had only a half-hour left. Will thought back for a moment and began walking, scanning for some type of hostile. They crossed an intersection between hallways, and he made a quick check of his surrounding area with the flashlight. "Oh my god...." Tanya breathed.
It was a burned corpse, completely human, the skin still boiling and popping. But that wasn't the worst thing. They body had the same buck-tooth front teeth as someone he knew very well. William didn't realize it but his shaking hands dropped the flashlight, and he fell to his knees hard, staring into the eyes of his friend.
He was staring into the hollow eyes of Penguin.
"You found him."
How had he gotten here? How had he survived? Will was trembling, shaking, and fidgeting a bit, his hands fumbling with the pipe that now was in his pocket. Penguin had given up his life for them all, he should have died with no pain, surrounded on all sides by enemies. But instead he had been burned alive in the middle of a destroyed area of a god-forsaken slaughterhouse. What-
"Snap out of it, Eagle."
That voice in his head again. "WHO ARE YOU!" he yelled out loud, smashing the wall to his right with the side of his fist.
"You don't remember the dream a few days ago? Vulture explained."
William growled, this was impossible.
"Will" a voice pulled him out of his thoughts. Will did not look away. "We have to keep moving. The floor could collapse any minute." this was Anastasia, in a more gentle tone than the first one.
"Go down until you find an emergency exit. Then just wait." he breathed, closing his eyes.
"Wait, you aren't coming with us?" another voice- Tanya. Will shook his head. "Will, he's dead. There’s nothing we can d-"
"ITS MY FAULT HE DIED" he screamed at the top of his lungs. Everyone was dead silent, his veins popping out of his skin as he clenched his hands into fists. "Now go before you all die." he demanded in a more shaky voice.
"Slowly he began to hear footsteps leaving. They had left the flashlight, which Will found somewhat of a bad move. Who knows what has survived up here since his last visit? Pairs of feet left his side until soon all he could count was two left besides his. "You should go." he mumbled.
"I'd rather stay." her voice responded.
"You're going to die, Elise." Will warned.
"Then I guess you know you are too?" she questioned. "There's no point in killing yourself over him"
"I'm not killing myse-"
"Oh no you're just going on a killing spree to avenge your friend right? You're planning to die here, and we both know it."
"But this is my faun-"
"And so will be the other deaths that will occur with the little kids. They need guidance." Will thought for a minute.
"I'm not the leader." he whispered.
Elise laughed. “You sure as hell are acting like one. And the kids? They need someone to act like a teacher. We need someone to be our parent.." she hesitated. "And I need you. So get the hell up"
Will smirked. "That makes me feel all sentimental."
"You should. Besides, you can kill more things along the way than to just sit here and wait."
They made it all to the rooftop roughly at the same time, with the Rift already forming. Cesare had beaten them all, with a large gash on his forearm and a couple of scratched on his face, although he was beaming. Will and Elise ran towards the gate, until he spotted Viktor, who was looking at the ground off the building. Will slowed down to a stop beside the boy. "C'mon Vic, portal's about to close."
"Leave me here."
William wasn't expecting that. He stuttered for a minute. 'W-why w-w-w-would I do that?"
Viktor turned to look at Will, his hands in his pockets. "I am not a chess piece. I refuse to be used as a puppet in someone's crooked game."
William raised up his hands. "Look, we can sort this out later. Now's not the time for this."
"What would your sister say?" this stopped him. "What would she do? Anastasia loves you, Vic; she needs you to be strong with her. So come on, don't do this. Not yet."
Viktor closed his eyes and sighed, then reluctantly followed William through the gate, both distracted by their thoughts.
William was still at the dinner table when Elise came in. The robots were cleaning up his plate and taking everything away, and he had his head in his hands, analyzing the day. She looked around and sat beside him. "Guess what?" she whispered.
Will turned to his side to look at her. 'What?" he asked warily.
"Cesare, Viktor, Anastasia and I are all leaving to the Maze." Will's heart dropped. Elise's face was both worried yet excited. "We have to find something in there, and then bring it back to Jester." Will nodded slowly. "Anything I should remember while I'm in there?"
Will thought for a second. "The grounds hotter than you think don't be afraid to eat, and conserve ammo." He smiled s she did. "Thanks for bringing me out of it, back in the Rift."
"Don't mention it."
Will reached out into his pocket. "Can you take something for me while you're in there? Take it as an early birthday gift." he pulled out a piece of rope and a wooden totem, although the head was carved off. "This is my old totem. We all cut off the heads when we escaped." he finished threading it and put the rope around her neck, tying it together. She smiled at him happily.
"Thank you" she mumbled, then looked at him another time. "Your eyes are gold?"
"Amber." he started quietly.
"That's cool..." she trailed off then leaned forward as he did, mouth slightly open. And suddenly he turned away, letting her land the kiss on the corner of his mouth, and he felt like such an idiot.
She leaned back for a little and looked at him, almost studying. “You lost her, huh?” Elise finally decided. “In there. But you still think about her.”
“Every single day...” he answered uncomfortably. “I’m sorry..”
“Don’t be. It’s fine.” She smiled a bit and looked back. “I have to go. Maybe when I’ll come back you’ll tell me about her.”
He smiled and nodded, making sure to take a mental note and do just that.
When she came back.
If she came back.
He stopped thinking negative and watched her leave, feeling the other totem underneath that of a regular Eagle. That of a Shrew. Of Her. Not just any girl, yet he couldn’t bear to think of the name anymore. It was too familiar, too chilling to give himself any hope she would ever be coming back. He had been there when she was pronounced dead. Gone, definitely forever. He couldn’t bring himself to think of it anymore, yet he couldn’t exactly stop either.
He found himself shedding tears in the dark, fondling that necklace.
William felt the burn in his arms after he hit 50 pushups, slow moving, as if it was fire. His head had been pounding, the call signs of a migraine, for the past few days, but for now he was working.
The room was beginning to fade away as he dwelled into his mind, barely even noticing the fire after a few seconds. Just the pounding in his head, and his body moving up and down. Up and down. Boom, boom, boom, boom. This was something he could understand. Something he could count on to occur, unlike the recent things that had been happening.
For starters, Shirley, or Weasel, or whatever she wanted to be called, had shown herself to be a mechanical genius in the Mansion, fixing the busted heating vent without anyone knowing until she was found sitting by it. Then the fact that the Rift had been closed and they were forced to do physical training for 3 hours every day in the basement - which was his goal now. The days seemed to drag by now, slowly but surely.
Up, down, up down...
Tanya had been mostly raising the Noobs while Will was overlooking them all, watching from behind the lines and growing significantly quieter, only talking when spoken to. He was distracted by his ever increasing thoughts. Blurry memories. He knew nothing of his past, and it bothered him. Other's could hold onto the dreams of home. The Mansion was his Home, unfortunate as it may sound. The Play raised him, and the Rift hardened him.
Ah yes, the Play. Jester was a bit surprised when Will mentioned them yesterday. It was so funny, the look on his face. They were at the dinner table when Will questioned if Jester had gotten a promotion of his own yet.
"What do you mean, Eagle?" the man replied, his hands neatly folded together.
"You know, from the Play? They placed you in charge of this experiment, did they not? I believe it was....Experiment 3C?" William bit into a piece of beef and did not turn his head, the silence creeping upon the situation.
"I don't know what you're talking about Eagle." Jester insisted.
"Aw don't bullshit me Jeffery. You know exactly what I’m talking about. I found the documents this morning in the basement when I was training."
"Eagle, are you sure you're feeling alright? You should take a nice warm shower, the cold is getting to your nerves." And with that the conversation was over.
Up, down, up down. 60 now.
He still had Albert on his mind. That poor kid, his legs being ripped out of their sockets and one of them completely being chewed off. His neck being bitten and the spine snapped cleanly in half...
He did not turn up. "Yes?"
"I wanted to see if you knew about something we found around the Mansion, or if you've noticed them or something." Tanya let out a gloved hand, which he took thankfully and stood up. "Follow me?"
Will nodded and felt his forehead with his cold hands, still feeling the pain inside. Tanya led him to a section of the 2nd floor, near the cells, and pointed to a slight impression on it. "Can you spot what that says? It's kind of faint..." William read very closely, and started to speak aloud, trying to help his speech. He wasn’t the best reader.
"Something '-ill win'?" he looked over it again. "Someone carved 'Will win" into the wall.." he breathed allowed. "But...we never did this...we were never in any games or competition.."
Tanya let out a shaky breath. "At the bottom of that do you see the name signed?"
William scanned down the wall. Again, very faint, as it had been painted over, was a few letters carved in. "Um....'Hugen'...?" he shook his head. "I can't make that out.."
"We think it says Eugene." Tanya explained. "That's what Shirley thinks anyway. And she's the Genius."
Will scratched his head. "I can't remember us ever doing that, and I don't know a Eugene...are there anymore spots like this?" Tanya nodded and led him down the hallway, and pointed at the floor. Will crouched down. "A rug?"
"Look under it dumbass" Tanya chuckled, as Will moved the navy blue rug out of the way. "Now move the tiles around." William picked 5 of them up, and began moving the rest, interested. He dusted the ground around, and saw a dead figure of a large body, it's arms draped around an MP5-K Submachine pistol. He smelled nothing, guessing the cold temperatures preserved the body. He saw many burns and gun shots all over the body, nearly making him throw up. A note was next to the body, which he picked up and read over in his head:
To whom it may concern,
My name is Bernard Williams. I am 23 years old, and have spent a total of 3 of those years in the Rift. They have mutated me, stripped me of everything, and now I am being chased by those I used to call my friends.
I hid the Crystal in the Maze. No one will ever find it now. I have killed Eugene and another kid...I don't remember his name.... but it doesn't matter now. They're dead all the same. It's just me and 4 others now.
If you're reading this, please heed my warning. Do not take the crystal. Run away from this place, now.
William shook his head. "This is...sick....they started to kill each other...."
She nodded then pointed again to the wall. 'And what do you notice there?"
Will moved his hand over a chunk of paint that was slightly different that the others surrounding it. Lines were grooved into the wall, as if chiseled in.
|||||| |||| - J
Will shook his head. "I've never seen anything like this before, in the maze or in the Mansion. We've never paid attention to it, in any case." he sighed. "This is so weird...maybe .."
"Maybe this is the group that came before us. When I saw the documents there were 3 groups. Right now we are Group C. Before this was Group B. Maybe...these people, are all from Group A.."
Tanya tapped her foot impatiently. 'So what is that supposed to mean? Everyone went crazy and either killed each other or themselves?"
Will stared at the wall. "That's exactly what this means. I'm going to have to look at this again sometime....help me put the tiles back over our friend there." he pointed to Bernard, then turned.
Tanya gasped quickly, and Will felt something cold and metallic click around his neck, very tight. He grabbed it instantly, trying to rip it off. A shock electrocuted him down to his knees, shaking his very bones. He let go, feeling the burns, and was pushed onto his right side, 2 white figures behind them. They ripped a pole out of the back of the Metallic things, which Will identified as a large Taster. Mask shook her head, making a 'tsk' sound. "Curiosity killed the Cat you know."
"What the hell is this!?" Will growled, trying to get up to a kneeling position.
"A bomb collar."
"What!" Tanya mumbled, her hand still twitching from the electric shock.
"You heard me. Or do you want to end up like that one there? This is actually for your own protection you know." Mask sighed and pressed a button on her hip. "There, all your collars are synched up."
"What are you talking about? How is this going to help us?" Will mumbled.
"Now you guys can't kill each other. Should one of you die, the bomb collar will go off, exploding your head off. The collars don't care who killed each other, or why. Should any of you die, for any reason, it will explode everyone's collar." Mask must have smiled to herself. "This provokes teamwork. Starting to catch on?"
"You're forcing us to work together."
Mask clapped. "Very good William! You're learning!"
"You called him Will." Tanya noticed, smirking to herself. Mask shot her in the arm and walked away. Tanya grimaced, and Will crawled to her, leaning against the wall. His headache was even worse now, and he closed his eyes from the pain.
"That’s music to my ears." he felt the collar, trying to find any type of button. In fact, he found nearly 11 of them. He pressed one, and heard the collar beginning to crackle. "It's a radio." he commented.
"Holy s***! Kto , chert vozʹmi, bylo to, chto!"
William chuckled slightly. That must have been Viktor's collar. "Vic? Can you hear me?"
"Will, is that you? Did you die? My Lord, you're speaking to me from the Beyond?"
"Err, no Vic. I'm still here. I'm speaking through your collar." His head throbbed again. "Have to go soon. How are you guys doing?"
"We're very close. Speak to you later Will. We are on the move."
"Oooh, I might be listening on a certain station from now on." Tanya chuckled a little bit, her voice shaky. "Are you okay? You look pale."
"Just...a headache." he rubbed his temples.
Tanya shifted. "Sounds like a bad headache you know...Maybe you should just lie down..."
Will shook his head. "I'm fine.."
"Well if you're fine, help me clean up." Will stood up and assisted Tanya in doing the same. He smiled then collapsed.
"Miranda!" Jason called. A girl turned smiled and waved, then kicked a hellhound in the Jaw. Will blinked, smiling.
Miranda. He'd remember that name.
Mask set William down on a stretcher, plugging him into something that resembled a small swimming pool in the corner of the room, except it had a clear lid. "What is that thing?" Shirley questioned quietly.
"Will it bring him out of it?" Tanya snapped.
Mask shrugged. "He's in a coma. He'll have to get up in his own time. For now I think he'll be relieving his memories, but in truth, no one knows what happens to people who are in comas."
Tanya shook her head. "And you don't really care do you?"
“No. You guys are experienced enough. We have no need for him anymore."
Tanya rolled her eyes and left the Medical room, Shirley walked to the swimming pool thing and inspected it. She took off the lid and stuck her hand in, feeling a few wires and wrapped them together, making the ends touch, then pressed a button on the outer edge. It roared to life, and with a nod of approval she left the room, leaving Mask in bewilderment.
A little 12 year old was smarter than her. Mask glared at Will's limp body, and punched his jaw, walked to her seat, and lit a cigarette, still looking at Will. "You left." she muttered. "It's your fault. You and Jason left. Where else was I supposed to go?" She went back to Will's body, shaking her head. "Hmm? Where?" she balled her hands into fists, then brought the cigarette to her lips again, shaking her head. "I hate you."
Cesare continued. "All I’m saying is that maybe we should get paid for this. You know, credits to get stuff?"
"We get brownie points." Anastasia yawned.
"Hey guys?" Elise stopped. "What's this?" she pointed to the side of one of the Maze walls. Graffiti was all over it. "It looks like writing..."
"THE CRYSTAL IS MINE"
"Whoa. That's kind of creepy you know..like, who is Jeffery anyway?" Cesare rubbed his chin. "I could've sworn I’ve heard that name before..."
Elise nodded. 'Me too...let's just keep moving...don't want the collars to hurt us.." she took one more glance at the wall, then noticed one more thing next to it. "Wait, is that an Arrow?"
Cesare squinted his eyes. "I think it is definitely an arrow. What it's pointing towards, thats a different story. And I’d prefer not to look for directions to a crystal that would possibly make us go insane."
"But if it will get us out of this maze quicker..."
Cesare sighed. 'Okay, okay. Fine. Let's follow the creepy arrow written in spray paint right next to a probably dead guy's warning that says 'The crystal will be mine!'"
Elise smiled and went past him, jogging now towards the direction the arrow pointed. The sooner she was back to eating nice food, the better.
William fired one round into the boy, causing him to crumble to the ground with a sharp cry of despair. The Boy, of course, was actually a Hybrid who had recently cut open Will's left arm, and left a significant gash in it. He let out a shaky breath and pointed the Makorav at another Hybrid, and then at a Hellhound.
The barrel of the pistol smoked as each bullet left, and after the next volley, it became red-hot, and eventually began to smoke even further up into the air. William threw the gun and backed away slowly, his head pounding, and looked behind him. No one to back him up. He balled his hands into fists and about-faced, running away. Truthfully, fleeing was the only thing he could do. He heard panting behind him, and wall ran on the one to his right, then jumped a burned out portion of the mansion, then landed and rolled to break his fall and keep momentum. The dogs were stuck at the burn, but they'd find a way. He let out a shaky breath then turned to look forward again and fell onto someone, landing with an "Oof". He scrambled up and balled his hands into fists, ready to die.
This of course, was not necessary. Shrew stood back at him, with an angry look on her face. "You and your bloody clumsy self nearly gave me a heart attack..." she growled, standing up and dusting herself off.”Hello to you too Will."
He chuckled and stood up as well. “Hello, Miranda. Do you know where your brother is? Oh and do you have a spare pistol?"
Miranda was the half twin sister to Jason, as they were two different eggs fertilized by two different people though in the same womb. She was British and Spanish, with a fair complexion, startling crystal green eyes, and nearly black hair that came down to an inch below her shoulder blades, and multiple scars around her lips and one large on her check from Hybrids and Hell hounds. She was as fit - maybe even more - as all of them, and a few hundred times more agile, and packed a personality to match it. In fact, she was eating the minimal amount she possibly could - and would do even less if everyone hadn't convinced her that she was needed in the Rift - just because Jester had called the meals delicious.
It was safe to say he cared for a her a bit more than just friends.
She tossed him an M9 while speaking. "Jason’s probably dead." she joked. "But if not he'll be at the top floor, planning to jump." A bit of concern flickered in her eyes, to which William smiled comfortingly.
"So he's perfectly fine?"
"I hope so.." she muttered.
"Sounds fine to me." There was a whine behind them, the tell-tale sign that the Hybrid's and Hell Hounds were fighting again. He groaned and pointed to the stairs, then started to jog over there, his pistol ready. He turned on the flashlight already equipped on the under-barrel, and pointed it quickly around as he took the stairs two at a time, then went up to the 3rd floor, and cocked the barrel, making sure the pistol had a round in it. He could see a faint shadow at the end of the hall, and a flame in its hands. The figure turned, and waved the flame. Must have been Jason’s, he loved to play with fire, that Pyromaniac. Will sprinted over to him with Miranda, and raised an eyebrow at the weapon in his hands. "Molotov Cocktail? Is that really necessary?"
Jason chuckled. "Of course not, but it's fun. C'mon, grab some more. Let's blow this place back to Hell."
William looked at the bottles. "Wait...what? You're talking about burning this whole place down?" Jason nodded as if this was perfectly normal. "Whoa man, we can't do that.."
William thought for a second. 'Because...um...I don't know. It doesn't feel right. We're in here to be trained to be soldiers aren't we? To fight?"
Jason shook his head slowly. "Uh...no. We're in here to get the Crystal. And that's it. Where'd you get that idea from..."
William clutched his head. "I don't know...It just seems like that's how it is...we're being trained somehow."
"Look, wherever you got that idea from, send it right back. I'm burning this place up. Maybe that way we don't get to come in here anymore...it's worth a shot."
Will pushed the flaming bottle away. "No, don't do this...we need this place."
This is when Miranda spoke up. "What are you going on about William? 5 days ago you were agreeing with destroying the Rift. Now you're saying keep this place? What's going on?"
Will sunk onto his hands and knees. "I don't know...I just...this is the last safe house in Siberia and....." he closed his eyes.”God I have such a migraine...."
"You might wanna get that checked out." Miranda noticed. "You've been having alo-" with a gurgling sound she was cut off and both boys’ heads snapped to her location. The Beast was on her, three claws in her stomach. Her eyes rolled behind her head, and she was tossed to the ground in front of them.
Will was in shock. Jason screamed in despair and threw the Molotov cocktail at the Bear, catching its fur on fire. Will began trembling with anger, and forgot about everything, just standing up and dashing to Miranda's side. He could faintly hear Jason screaming and shouting and cursing violently in the background, though he stared at Miranda's nearly lifeless body. He immediately took off his shirt and used it as a large bandage for the huge wound, and tied the sleeves together extremely tight, then rested his hands under her, cradling the body. Her eyes faintly looked around, and then closed again. "Wake up." he whispered, then shook her lightly. The blue eyes opened once again, and he stood up, glancing at Jason. The heat was radiating around, the walls of the 3rd floor catching on fire while Smokey thrashed about. He lifted the girl up and walked down the stairs, begging the dogs not to get him, as he had no defense. "Stay awake okay? Just a little bit longer..."
"I'm gonna die you know.." she breathed.
"Don't say that. I'm gonna get something for you.." he kicked down a door on the 2nd floor and then one other, finding the Medical room. Laying her down on the stretcher he began frantically searching through the cabinets and drawers, his hands beginning to shake and grow numb. His pure white breath reminded him he would get frostbitten should he not be able to find some clothing, though he ignored his instinct to take back his shirt. He found a syringe that seemed decently clean, and ran to the other side of the room toward a tank full of a purple medicine, and tuck the needle inside, sucking the liquid into the syringe. He stuck the needle into Miranda's jugular, closing his eyes and praying the medicine was what it was cracked up to be. He faintly remembered what it was used for, to heal all wounds. They, as a team, had never exactly tried it, so he was going out on a limb. Miranda was unconscious now, and he had a feeling he could do nothing.
Will had to make a decision. Help his friend Jason or defend the unconscious Miranda. He thought for a second and picked up a fire axe, wielded it in one hand as a weapon, then in the other grabbed an extinguisher. With one deep breath he sprinted back upstairs, the adrenaline cutting out the bitter cold that sliced through his bare chest. Back to the 3rd floor. By now, the flames were dancing all around. Smokey was still alive, slashing around Jason as the boy was still limping backwards, holding his rib cage. Will ran through the flames, burning his body in the process, and slashed with the axe at the Beast. It roared as he left a neat slice in its chocolate brown, armor like fur, then he used it bluntly and slashed straight into the meat of the Beast's back. It roared out loud again and sliced backwards, which Will evaded by rolling backwards. "JASON!" he shouted. "GET DOWNSTAIRS!"
The crackling of the fire was deafening, along with Smokey roaring about and trying to rip Will's head off. Jason nodded showing he understood, and put his nose into the crook of his elbow to try and cover his mouth, and slid past Smokey by hugging the wall onto his back - a bad move, as his hoodie caught on fire. Will stuck the axe into Smokey's large neck while its claw was stuck in the ground and used the fire extinguisher in its eyes, then ran back towards Jason, who was dashing down the stairs, his clothes on fire. Smokey charged forward in a huge mass of fire, and pinned the boy to the wall, crushing him and burning his flesh. He kneed upwards, then cracked the extinguisher on the side of the bear's head and slid underneath him.
Will jumped down past the stairs and landed on the stair case to the second floor, and used the extinguisher on Jason himself, who fell down onto his hands and knees into a coughing fit.
He helped him up, throwing Jason's arm over his own neck, and half-dragged him to the medical room, where his sister was. Will's heart finally started beating normally again, now that he knew she was okay. He let Jason sit down on the floor, and ran back outside, smashing the extinguisher on the stair case railing, and let the extreme pressurized air and foam cover his body, feeling the flames die off of him. He began to feel pain, and collapsed to one knee, catching his breath for a second.
He felt something tackle him to the floor, and rolled onto his back, and punched whatever it was. A gruesome scream in his face, as well as spit drooling onto his cheek. A hybrid. The strength was immense, as it went into a mounting position on his stomach and tried to scratch and sink it's claws into him. Will bucked it off and escaped under its legs, getting to his feet and attempting to stomp on its back. The hybrid rolled away and then lunged at Will again, slicing through his stomach. He kicked it away, and tried crawling away, then felt a foot on his hand, crushing it. He shouted in pain, then tried punching the legs, and felt another stomp on his other hand. He attempted pulling upwards - to no affect. A hand on his neck pulled him up in a choke-hold, and looked him in the eye - his amber ones to the bloodshot ones of a Hybrid. Intelligence beamed in its eyes, which seemed to be emerald. It tilted it's head and screamed out loud in a shrill cry.
Something whizzed past Will's head and in between the eyes of the Hybrid, making it drop him to the floor. He gasped for air and looked for his savior, only to see Jason with a pistol in his right hand. Will coughed, clearing his throat, and stood up while brushing himself off. "Thanks.." he croaked, cracking his head and hurrying back into the medical wing. "How much longer?"
"About a minute actually.." Jason slammed the door shut and locked it, and looked at his sister. "Is she...?"
Will remained quiet, looking at her body. He placed two fingers on the neck, and waited, closing his eyes. A second or two passed before he finally felt something. A faint beat. He let out a huge sigh of relief and nodded to Jason, who beamed and ran over to his sister, holding her hand and squeezing. "Oh thank God. I thought I was going to have to go on a killing rampage." he chuckled, and looked at Will, who also smiled at the old joke between them.
Will looked one last time at Miranda, who's eyes fluttered. He took her free hand in his, and felt a slight squeeze on it from her. He returned the gesture.
He loved her, he realized.
"We could team up you know. I don't have to shoot you right now." Will pulled back the hammer on the magnum, staring at the figure. He tried to focus on it, but it made his head hurt, focusing on the black figure.
"You'd shoot me? Me? Your Mentor?"
"You'd shoot me wouldn’t you? That's a rhetorical question, by the way. We both know the answer."
The other person seemed to think for a second. "Fair enough. We'll team up. Only until we get th-"
Mask stared at the machine. She was watching Will play back all of his old memories, one by one. It was a fantastic machine, though she had never gotten it working. But now that Shirley had, she was wishing she didn't. She begged herself to look away, but the least she could do was watch.
And not tell Jester he was remembering the First. And hope he didn't remember even before that, for his own good.
His heart was racing, and the unconscious boy grabbed his head. She glared at him, both wishing he did and did not wake up just yet. She was curious about these memories, and could see more beginning to stir, and watched intently at the machine as they came into focus. She was noticing something, the memories damaged were becoming more vivid then the rest of the memory. Although they were not fully repaired yet.
They had to kill Smokey, but he could be anywhere in the Mansion, in the Rift, by now. Will’s head was still pounding the next week, as he walked down a long hallway, exploring by himself. Some serum they gave him began eating away at the burned flesh and repairing it with new skin cells. Jester was explaining it was some kind of Cancer, but it made no sense to Will. He asked about his head, which Jester dismissed as just the stress of things building tension.
But for the "bravery" he had shown in the Rift alongside Jason, they were ranked up to the highest, becoming Eagle and Hawk. Will felt the unfamiliar totem in his hands once again, and shook his head. No, he wasn't courageous or independent. He was Will.
Now he walked into the basement and looked at the Rift, ready for its new users, and closed his eyes. One less of them would be coming today. And he would kill Smokey for it. An eye for an eye. And if the saying was true, he would be glad to be blind.
Alongside his own totem was that of a Shrew, which he kept close to his heart.
She had died maybe 3 days after they returned, in the Medical room. They had moved the body while they were all sleeping, but she was badly hurt, the serum Will had given her apparently doing nothing, though it's not like Jester ever let them check in on her. Jason, at first, had received her totem, but he passed it on to Will, simply saying "You were there when I wasn't, and you loved her as much a me."
Will couldn't deny this. He was heart-broken. Tormented inside forever. Of all the people that had died, and there were a lot of them, none had hurt him this much as her.
He began to see more people coming, as well as Jester, and the new The Play recruit, Mask. She had shot Will repeatedly for not answering to her with that .357 revolver, which only proved to the rest of them she was not to be messed with. Maybe she had worked for another experiment, because she seemed like a veteran of authority already, and that's what he convinced himself.
But today was the day he did not care. For today was the day they would hopefully escape the Rift altogether. One last mission into the Maze. And they would not be returning to the Mansion.
Will nodded at Crow, the intelligent small girl who usually kept to herself, and saw her move slowly to the terminal and press a single button, the ENTER key. The Rift swirled in color to crimson instead of Purple, and they all dived in, Eagle first.
Today was the day they would escape and kill Smokey.
Somewhere beyond this memory, he heard crying, which was something he did not remember.
Will shot apart the boy, who he remembered to be named E-----, but let him crawl away. He did not kill for Greed as the other boys did. All he wanted It for was to change the life outside this place. And he was intelligent enough to understand that this was the best reward of all. He saw the boy stop where he was and look Will straight in the eye. He pulled out a piece of paper and looked at Will. "Sorry E."
The Man nodded, setting his gun to the floor. "You have a-"
They landed outside of the Rift, in that little old Shack. There was one terminal in the upstairs room, which Crow began hacking. Jason stuck a syringe into Will with that same purple liquid, and after he was done, Will looked at him. "Thanks Bud. But the medicine won't work. It didn't work on her…" he looked away, closing his eyes as his heart sank.
Vulture came from downstairs with Crow. "Alright everyone looks like Crow here as gotten the Rift working again as a teleported. Should connect us back to different places, as we've agreed." he smiled. "I'll be going first, to Scotland. See you Lad's never." and with that he walked through the clear portal.
Jason patted Will's shoulder. "Me next. See Ya Bud." with a wave to the rest of the group he walked through.
Dolphin was next. The Owl, and then all that were left was Will and crow. He tried sitting up, and the girl helped him. "Will. I was looking at some of the coded data in the terminal. I didn't tell the others, because it didn't concern them. But..." she paused. "it's not an alternate plane, Will. I know that much. It's a -"
Will limped with Crow towards the machine, his eyes closed. He felt her push him in, and with on nod he disappeared.
New York greeted him, with it's cruel hard bustling streets.
Will immediately began walking, greeting the heat, even though it was the middle of January and a cold front was blowing through, anything was colder, he felt, than the freeze of Siberia. He smiled to himself and deciding what to do first.
Practical things of course. A place to live for the remainder of his stay in New York. Some way to make money. And new clothes. He couldn't stand the sight of these ripped ones anymore. A fake identity, maybe 12 of them, so he wouldn't have to keep going back to different people and buying them. And of course, food and water.
He would rob a few banks. His karma was already screwed up, what could a few more things do? Of course, there would be no civilian, or officer, causalities. He would never kill again if it was up to him.
And so Will set out.
Will fell down hard on the floor, on his right side, on the arm that was broken. He screamed out in pain, only 12 years old, and looked at his attacker. "I THOUGHT W-"
The dark figure must have cocked a gun. "You thought wrong, now didn't you."
There was a loud bang and a brilliant light, then the world was dark.
"You don't understand do you?" Jester growled. "He can NOT remember what has happened. It would be the end of you. The end of me. And more importantly, the death of this ENTIRE operation. Do you understand?"
Mask looked Jester straight in the eye. "Yes I understand. Do you think I’m happy about seeing him relive sensitive moments? But of course, you assigned me as the Operation's Baby sitter..."
"Head Doctor and Security expert..." Jester broke in.
"Babysitter, and you know it, so don't try to deny it." She closed the space between them. "And we both know you'd be in major trouble with the The Play should I tell them about what's really going on in my data analysis and performance review. So let's try not to piss me off. Kay?"
Jester trembled with anger. "You little-"
"B****? I know." she smirked under her Mask and walked away.
Will trembled a bit on the unconscious level. Mask walked towards the silver laptop that controlled the machine and monitored Will's vitals, and checked his brain activity. Very clearly were two things in his brain: The chip placed in there when he was taken back from Paris, and a brass 9mm bullet. And they were in extremely close proximity to one another. She heard Jester walk over to her, and spoke. "So this is what caused the coma. You want me to remove the bullet?"
"And take the risk of reactivating some of his memories?" Jester seemed to debate this.
"If he bumps his head on a doorway, Jeffery, the bullet will destroy the chip in his head. It's hyper sensitive. I didn't make it bullet-proof you know." Mask shook her head, then took off the mask on her face, setting it down on the table. "And replacing the chip while he's in a comatose state would-"
"Make him relieve the memories even for an instant I know. I created the chip's data core, remember?" Jester shook his head, and slammed his fist on the table.
"Ever considered Anger Management classes?" she stated sarcastically.
Jester shook his head. "Sometimes you want to make me snap your neck."
"I'll refer you to my Psychiatrist." She walked over to Will, moving his face to look at his eyes. "He's going into REM sleep."
"Sleep? I thought he was unconscious?"
"Are you truly conscious when you're asleep?" she answered back.
There was a silence for a moment, both of them looking at the memory chamber again, expecting something to come up. And it did. Nonsense to the unknowing eye. Destructive nightmares, if anything. A scorched earth. Starving people. A marketplace. A dog, with real fur, chewing on a cow bone.
"Wait, can you stop that thing right there? Pause it or something?"
Mask looked back at the laptop and paused it on another burned sight of dirt. "Rewind it, until you reach the part with the Marketplace.." she did so and saw noting interesting. "It's just a bunch of dark figures with guns."
"No....that's Was-Market. I know that place. He's starting to remember…”
"You know, this was all so much easier back in my old life. A lot easier actually. Just very simple, kill or be killed. There was no if, and’s or butt’s about it. I should have just taken it as it was. But no, I’m stuck, in this god-forsaken Mansion. With these idiot children that have no intelligence whatsoever and a rebellious teenager who may know the biggest secret in this entire place..." he rubbed his temples.
Mask continued to look at the computer screen. "You know I was once one of those 'idiot kids.'" She muttered.
Jester chuckled deeply. "Ah but you were so much more than that weren't you, you little traitor."
She replied quickly. "What did you just call me?"
Jester raised up his hands defensively. "Hey, don't blame me. You're the one who agreed to the deal in the first place." He started to back away, dropping his hands. "Just...do something about him. Kill Will if you have to. Pull the plug." He turned away.
Mask's hands shook with anger but she remained quiet, closing her eyes. She would have to kill him, that much was obvious. But just how to do so....
Or maybe she didn't have to. She still had a chance to redeem herself. She was still playing stupid, acting as if she did not remember the things of the Past…
Suddenly the Memory Tank shut off. Mask strolled towards it and checked every cable, every plug. It was just, turned off. She turned back to Will and saw his eyes were not moving any longer. That was the shortest REM sleep she'd ever seen. With a sigh she turned to walk back to the Laptop when something cold took her wrist in an iron grip. She froze.
"I know it's you now, Miranda." a voice breathed.
She closed her eyes. What could she really say? I'm sorry? It was too late for that now.
"Why?" it questioned.
Why. The perfect, simplest question. And yet, she had no real answer. Or maybe she did, but it was so low and greedy there was no way to simply state it.
"You hate me. I know."
Part of that question was true. She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out, so she let him continue.
"I'm starting to remember things. Flashes, images. Although some of the stuff on the outside had been getting inside my head. Like you talking. Or Jester checking up..." he let that trail off.
She did not open her eyes yet. "How much did you hear today?
"What is Today, exactly?" he replied.
"You've been in a coma for 3 days. It's Thursday."
Will seemed to take this in. "Time has really been irrelevant to me. I don't know, or remember.'
"Then how much have you heard in General?" she amended. His grip tightened.
"There's a bullet and a chip in my brain." he acknowledge. She didn't answer. " But I don't know who shot me. Something about a Market place that Jeffery knows about...but I don't even know where it came from. And a lot of burned stuff… that's it. All I heard."
"You're lying." she whispered. It wasn't a question.
"Don't we all?" he breathed.
"Do you know?"
She tried to pull her arm away only to find herself holding hands. "God damn it Will you know exactly what I'm talking about! Don't make me say it!"
She finally got the guts to look at the boy, who was staring back at her, his eyes showing pain, almost cracked, like a broken window, one that led straight to what was left of his soul. "Say it."
She couldn't bring herself to look at his Amber eyes any longer. They were too familiar. Too comforting, but she knew he was still searching for hers. "You're past. What do you know about it?"
She looked up again to see him thinking, his eyes closed. "Bits and pieces. I've already said it." Realization hit him, and he opened his eyes instantly. "You know, don't you?" She bit her lip. "Miranda, tell me." he started to sit up, his grip growing even tighter.
"Why not? You won't answer anything. Nothing!" his eyes were hurt and lost. "Please! This is all I’m asking you!"
She closed her eyes again, pulling her hand away, and picked up her Magnum. "Shut up." she said plainly.
"SHUT UP!" she finally screamed, glaring at him. "Just, shut up...enough Will. This isn't fair."
"Why not!" he raised his voice. "What have I done to you, Miranda? What. Have. I. Done?" with each word her walked towards her, his arm reaching out for her.
"You left me there...to die..."
Will tilted his head. "Is that what you think?" he ripped a plug out of his back, and pulled it out of the machine it was plugged into. "Didn't you watch it? With that thing?" he pointed to the Memory Tank. "Yeah, I heard about that."
"You still left me!"
"I went to save your brother, Miranda. I couldn't lose both of you. And you know you would have never forgiven me if I let him die. I would have never forgiven myself." Closer again, and she pulled back the hammer on the revolver, making him stop. His fingers trembled, inches from her face. "And I was lucky enough that you lived, Miranda. You were okay."
Her hand was shaking, and so was her head. No, he honestly didn’t remember. That wasn’t what she was talking about. "Don't, come closer. Just don't.." she warned.
His hands dropped, and he crumbled to his knees. She aimed the revolver at his head. "Shoot me."
He was asking for it, or maybe it was a test. Maybe both. "Get up." He did so, slowly, his eyes downcast.
"Have the others come back from the Maze?" he asked quietly.
"No...They’re due tomorrow."
Will remembered something, and disarmed Mask quickly in one fluid movement, his left hand on her wrist and the revolver pointed at her face."You couldn't kill me to begin with. My bomb collar is linked to the rest of the people. I die, they die. Remember that?" her eyes were cold, but not locked, as they usually were. Open maybe for a moment. "Now, I don't give a s*** about answers. All I want..." he trailed off.
"What?" she whispered. "What could you possibly want, Will? You know I can't get you out of this place. And you know I can't kill you. And I can't bring whats-her-face back for you just yet, so you're gonna have to be patient." She spat the last words. William’s heart fluttered, then sank. She though…him and Elise…
"I want Miranda back." he answered, staring into her eyes. "I want the girl who round-housed that Hell Hound the first time I met her. Who shot Amber in the face went she went crazy so that the rest of us wouldn't have to do it, and who cried all night next to me when she finally broke down about it. The girl who her brother would have died for. Who I would have died for. Who I loved." He closed his eyes and let go of her, handing the revolver back. "Who I love." and with that he turned to walk out of the doorway, leaving Mask with a lot to think about.
"She died in the Rift. Smokey killed her." she called after him when his hand was on the door.
He did not turn, but smiled slightly. "See, she's still alive in there, because only Miranda would have called that bear Smokey." he opened the door and closed it silently.
Shirley was already outside the doorway when Will came out. "Oh, hello Mister Eagle. I see you're awake." she smiled, walking with him. He returned the gesture.
"Yes. Fix anything special since I was asleep?" he joked.
She frowned. "There's nothing I can repair that I haven't already. There's either too many cobwebs or too hard of a security fire wall." she smiled. "That last part was a joke, by the way. I can hack anything."
Will raised an eyebrow. "Oh can you? I'll remember that when the time comes."
Shirley raised an eyebrow. "Time for what?"
He smiled and looked at her. "To bust out of course." and the smile on her face was priceless enough that he took a mental picture of the pure Joy, and walked downstairs. He saw Tanya practicing kicks in the air in the basement, but stayed on the stairs.
"You took Taekwondo?" He called.
"I see you're back from the dead." she said aloud from across the room,.
"You didn't answer." he noticed. She finished off with a spinning low-high Side kick and picked up a water bottle, drinking it while going towards the stairs where Will was sitting.
"Took it for 4 years. Got to my Senior Red belt, as opposed to Junior Red belt or Novice red belt, and then this happened." she gestured to the whole mansion. "So now I’m practicing again." she smiled. "Good to have you back on the team."
"Can't say it's good to be back." he muttered, chuckling and getting a laugh from Tanya.
"Did you take anything?"
"I don't remember." he answered simply, and she nodded, remembering things he had told her a few weeks prior.
She nodded, and wiped the sweat off her forehead, and yawned loudly. "Well, it's like...4 in the afternoon. I'm freezing, and tired, and hungry, so if you'll excuse me, I’ll be leaving now." And with that she was gone.
Will looked at the gate of the Rift he had not gone into in a few weeks and shook his head. It was like seeing an old enemy once again.
His collar suddenly began beeping, once every half a second, causing his heart to pound incredibly fast. He ran upstairs and saw Tanya looking with the same wide-eyed face of shock. What was going on? Will walked over to Tanya's collar and checked all of the buttons, seeing one of them flashing red. He read the label under it, and his heart stopped.
He closed his eyes and found the button on his own collar, pressing it. The radio was fuzzy, and he couldn't pick up any type of sound other than crackling. He saw Jester walk by, and shouted at him. "What the hell is going on?"
Jester chuckled. "I believe Viktor has decided to stay in the Maze. Don't you remember? One must always stay."
Will shook his head. "So we're all going to die?"
Jester dismissed this question with a flick of his hand. "Of course not. Should he remain in the Maze, his Wi-Fi is cut off completely from the rest of the people. So when he dies, you shall be unharmed!"
Will closed his eyes, and sat down on a chair.
When he Died. Not If. But When.
"When are they coming back?" he asked finally.
"In a few hours. Currently they are fighting off some Giant Bear in there."
Will's head snapped up. They Killed Smokey, but there were more of them? These people wouldn't last a second against that Beast! He didn't train them!
Suddenly the collar died down in sound level, and finally stopped, although the light continued to blink.
Elise shot her magazines all out for the AKS-74u, and for her pistol. At the moment all she could do while waiting for the Rift to power up was...exactly that actually. Wait. While fighting off the Hybrids with the combat knife of course. Randomly slashing in a wild, frantic motion, it was all she could do to stay alive. Cesare was holding his own with the shotgun, and Anastasia was doing the same, with a Makorav 9mm pistol.
Viktor, however, was not so good. He was in a berserker rage, and slashing everything with a huge fire-axe he found lying yesterday. He was diving head first at this gargantuan bear, that seemed impossible to kill with bullets, and had to be sliced with melee weapons that could puncture his thick fur. It was infuriating, not getting through Viktor's thick skull that maybe there was some way to by-pass the Maze's security code and leave with all of us still alive.
It was also useless and depressing. They were going to lose a formidable fighter, and a good friend.
Viktor was getting torn apart by the bear, it's claws raking and gashing across his bare arms. Blood was flying out of everywhere, and if he died now, they would have to sacrifice another person. She begged him not to die, just yet, and realized what they had come down to. How low this was, praying that the person next to you didn't die just yet, as if their life meant nothing.
She kept glancing at Cesare. He was the one with the blue crystal under his jacket, and that thing had to get taken to Jester, or he would kill them himself, if they didn't die in the Maze, which was seeming all but too likely.
They’re a yell beside her, and when she turned she saw Anastasia getting struck down by a rogue Hellhound. Cesare fired at the dog's head, ripping it apart, but was distracted and was tackled by a Hybrid. Viktor turned and charged for his sister, getting nipped at the ankles and tripe by a pack of Hellhounds, who also were fighting off a couple of Hybrids, all for the groups flesh.
And she felt herself getting pulled down and clawed by the Hybrids she was fighting off before. It was all such a domino effect, and she had no fight left in her. She was grabbed on both hands, which were stretched out, although she was already on her knees. She looked up and saw what must have been the leader of this group of Hybrids, as he was significantly taller and standing upright, growling down at her with his bloodshot eyes. She turned her head and saw Cesare still frantically scrambling up and shooting one handed with the shotgun, then tossing it and kicking, punching, trying to snap the necks of the Hybrids, who were now overwhelming the population of enemies. The Hell-Hounds were backing away with their pack Leader, who was also larger and darker, with thick matted fur. The Bear was getting struck down by all of them, and falling to his knees, getting bit at and clawed and climbed.
The Hybrid who held her right hand pushed her face to look back at the leader, his hand tightly gripped on her neck so she couldn’t move. The Hybrid growled and opened its mouth, making a gurgling noise, a screeching sound, and then frowning with struggle. Was it trying to talk?
Soon enough, it made a weird crying sound, balling it's hands into fists, and tried one last time, it's lips moving strangely and awkwardly. She barely made out three words: Time, Hell and Rock.
She was thrown backwards, tossed at the Arc, as the Hybrid Leader made some kind of hand signal and a screech, and all the others ran on all fours towards him, and pushed through the Hedge that made up the walls of the Maze. The Hellhound Alpha tore at the neck of the Beast, and with a final roar it died, leaving the dogs to drag it deeper into the Maze, the Alpha growling and backing away slowly, it's dark eyes locked on Elise's.
Cesare was struck down, his right arm torn completely off and lying a few feet away. Viktor was twitching his finger, which meant he was barely alive. And all their collars were making an extremely high pitch, fast beeping noise. Anastasia had her eyes closed, but she could see her chest rising and falling evenly. Unconscious. Cesare rolled onto his stomach and stood up, and Elise winced as she heard him scream in pain over the cracking of his own bones. With a limp he took Anastasia's arm and began dragging her, his shoulder - or what was left of it - bleeding terribly. He passed Elise and set Anastasia down, then pushed her feet with his, teleporting her into the Rift. She heard footsteps behind her, and felt herself being pulled onto her feet. "C'mon girl, I don't have enough strength to carry you..I don’t even have an arm.." Cesare laughed shakily, talking between gritted teeth.
"Chose his fate already. C'mon, on your feet." Elise found her footing, and shaken, began walking towards the purple Rift. Suddenly she stopped, and looked back, to See Cesare on his knee, his arm on his missing one, and his eyes closed in pure agony. She went back and helped him up, walking as fast as she could while supporting him. "This sucks.." he muttered. "I'm right handed."
Elise laughed. "Do you have it?" she questioned quickly. Cesare nodded, and they stepped into the bright light.
"Good bye, Viktor" she thought.
Will slowly pushed his way through the small band of kids who were left, and was pushed back by Mask. They had awoken in 3 in the morning to find The Rift begin roaring to life. She put the barrel of the Magnum on his chest, with an intense silence that meant "I'll blow your chest out if you move again." He didn't doubt her, It's what he would do, to keep order.
And tens of guards were rushing in through the front door, all pushing past the kids, their assault rifles in their hands and pointed at the Rift. Jester himself was with a pistol, a Colt M1911.45. And suddenly a bolt of electricity shot itself from the Rift, as if it was unstable. Will widened his arms and backed the people behind him up, and noticed just how small they really were. There was only Tanya, Weasel and Cat. Ferret had apparently killed himself by running out the front door and screaming how he couldn't take anything anymore.
He didn't blame him.
Suddenly a figure, lying on its back, began sliding on the ground. Anastasia. Her eyes were closed, and her neck and legs were badly bleeding. He nearly ran towards her, but stopped himself before he moved, Remembering how many guards were there. 2 picked her up and tossed her onto a stretcher, then pushed past the rest and up to the stairs. "Where is it Jester?" a large one growled.
Jester laughed uncomfortably. "Don't you worry, Mr. Tony, sir." he added quickly. "I, um, am very sure of these Kids. They shall return soon."
"They had better. You do realize this is your last chance, correct?'
Jester nodded quickly, then turned back to the Rift. Maybe a minute or two passed before another figure came through, this time much bulkier. In fact it was 2 different figures, one of Cesare and the other of Elise. His heart sunk when he saw Cesare, as blood was bleeding profusely. How he was even alive was a mystery. As it was, he was being completely dragged and supported by Elise. 3 figures picked up Cesare, his violent screaming beginning and they touched the bone of his shoulder sticking out of the flesh. Blood curdling, horrendous shouts of pure agony. Will himself, who had seen much, looked away, almost barfing. The big one, Mr. Tony apparently, reached into Cesare's hoodie and produced a blue crystal, and while inspecting it, waved away the 3 medical personal, leaving them to go up to the Medical Wing. Elise just stood there, twiddling her fingers, until she noticed Cesare, and smiled slightly at him, moving towards the small group.
"Are you okay?" he asked quickly. She looked at the 3 other faces.
"This is all that's left..?" she whispered.
"Yes. You didn't answer the question."
She smiled at him. "Not really." His heart stopped, and he looked down at her bloody hand on his chest. On her torso was a huge pool of blood.
He couldn't speak. This couldn't happen to him again. Mask appeared before them, and caught the girl right as she fell backwards, her eyes closed, and her breathing ragged. Tanya was the first to speak. 'What the Hell? Bring her to the Medical wing!"
"She's lost too much blood" Mask immediately noticed. "She won't survive another 30 minutes, and that's how long I would need." her mind was racing. Will closed his eyes, trying to clear his head.
There seemed no way. She would die.
"Leave her to us."
"What?" he asked allowed.
"Look at the Rift."
He did so, and saw Shirley pop her head out. "Put her in the Rift!"
Mask raised an eyebrow. "Wha-how? That makes no sense!"
"Just do it!" Shirley ordered in her high pitched voice. Will watched at Mask pushed past the group of Soldiers, who had all their guns now trained on the little girl who was behind the Arch, and saw her toss Elise into the Rift.
Only it wasn't the Rift that received her Immediately. It was Two hands that stuck outwards and grabbed her shirt, pulling her in.
"We have her, don't worry."
Will closed his eyes, sitting down and hugging his legs. She would die. And these voices, they were driving him insane. He faintly heard Tony tell the guards to leave her be, and felt someone tap his shoulder. He didn't turn. "Eagle." the gruff voice called.
"What!?" he yelled back. The stock of a gun met him in the nose bridge, breaking it.
"You dare talk to Mr. Tony that way?" another voice yelled. The figure known as Mr. Tony raised his hand, stopping the soldier.
"No no, it's fine. Jester, this is your trainee. You decide what he deserves."
"Deserves for what?" Will growled. The Soldier turned the safety off his rifle. Mr. Tony did not listen to him.
Jester appeared before him. 'Well, he did fail me twice. I suppose he should die, don't you?"
Mr. Tony shook his head and crossed his arms. 'Death is a serious punishment. You sure about this?"
Jester nodded. "Well, if you don't think so.."
"I said it was your decision."
"Wait." another voice called. Mask.
"Excellent. What do you think Mask. Punishments?" Jester asked.
She walked towards Will, tinkering with her gun, and as their eyes met, he could tell nothing about her intentions. "Well...um...why don't we just use him as the first experiment? For the Crystal? We have to tell if works do we not?"
Mr. Tony nodded. "This seems like an excellent idea, don't you think Jester?"
Jester nodded slowly. "Okay, you'll see to it that he is hooked up to the Splicer immediately, won't you Mask?"
Mask immediately nodded, then did a kind of awkward salute thing to Mr. Tony and kicked at Will, who rolled over and stood up, then put the gun to his back and led him up the stairs. 'What the hell is a Splicer?" he whispered.
"You'll see." she mumbled back. "And sorry about what's going to happen. You're going to wish you were dead instead." she promised.
"Sometimes I wonder which side you're on."
"Hon, I’ve always been on my own side. I'm surprised you didn't know that already."
Will smirked to himself, cold sweat from anxiety instantly meeting the cold temperatures. What month was it anyway? Time didn't seem to retain itself, exiting and entering the Rift back and forth.
He finally entered the Medical Wing, and nearly threw up again at the sight of Cesare. He was thriving about, his face twisted in pain, veins popping out and very pale. There were straps holding him down as the Medics worked with some kind of metal, probably a prosthetic. His mouth was gagged so that he could not scream, probably for their pleasure, although he found himself thanking the fact they did so. He locked eyes with the other boy and simply nodded, then looked away again.
Mask swiped a card and opened a door that had always been locked. Inside was a machine with 3 metal drills all spinning around each other, connected to a much larger, bulky frame with 2 claws on the widest points, and a plug hooked up to a gas tank. There was also a chair, which she pushed him down on, and strapped it in. "This is looking an awful lot like the Language Learner.." he noticed.
"That's because it's based on the same system. Completely different use, same principle." She walked over to a large stack of gas cans, and picked one up labeled "Eagle".
"You put my name on it? I feel all special." he muttered dryly.
"I'd shoot you but then you'd die too fast."
With that he bit his tongue. The gas can already plugged in was taken out, and replaced with "his". Mask walked over to a computer and moved the screen around until she found the one for the machine, and a simple green dot signified it was ready. "Ready?" she questioned.
"No." he admitted.
"I was asking myself to be honest." she headed over to the chair he was at and strapped his head down to the chair, then tapped her foot. "In case you die, which is 95% more likely than living, I suppose I should tell you what this is." When he didn't respond she continued. "It's a big needle. We call it a splicer, since it takes DNA from other things and splices it together with a human's."
He balled his hands into fists, muscles straining. “You’re going to Splice me?!” he yelled. “Are you crazy?”
“Oh believe me, even I think this is wrong.” She sighed and leaned against the machine. “But it’s Jester’s idea, not mine, and he calls the shots.”
Just then a soldier opened the door. Miranda’s head snapped to the movement and she raised her magnum accordingly. “What?”
“Sorry, Ma’am. The Director is hosting a meeting having to deal with the Rift at the moment. The Council of 5 will give us orders. Right now, no experiments are allowed. Training only.”
The soldier looked between the gun and Will, seemed to weigh out his options and finally bowed and left the room, closing the door.
Mask sighed and shook her head, putting the magnum away. “That was actually pretty funny; I didn’t even have this thing loaded.”
Will let out a long breath. “Well that’s pretty convenient for you.” She began walking towards him to untie the leather straps. He couldn’t see the expression she had, only the stupid mask she wore and the crystal blue eyes.
“Thanks for letting me know that.” He muttered behind gritted teeth. He looked at his own hand, the “bandages” still on, and when she released his right arm he began pulling them off with his teeth. They fell to the ground, and he felt the deep, black scar with his fingers, and began humming something while staring at her.
She finished releasing his wrist. “What?!” she finally shouted.
“Nothing.” He replied calmly. “Just thinking about you.”
She stuck her knife under his chin, pushing his head up. “You don’t know anything about me.” She growled.
“Didn’t say I did…” he croaked. “But you do seem hopeless, Miranda.”
“Well we can’t all be as lovely, happy-go-lucky and caring as you and your stupid eyes…” she sighed.
“You like my eyes?” he finally responded.
“SHUT UP!” she yelled, ripping the mask off and throwing it to the ground. He lifted his hands up slowly.
“Sorry, sorry. I didn’t mean to…I mean…” he looked down and saw her bloodshot, watery eyes. “Oh jeez, I’m so sorry Mirand-Mask.” He caught himself. “I’ll stop. Don’t cry..”
“What do you care?” she closed her eyes, and pulled the blade back. “Just f*** off, Will. Leave me alone.” He moved down slowly again, pulling the ankle straps away, humming again. “What are you humming.” She finally asked. “It sounds familiar.”
He didn’t smile, feeling terrible about himself. “Oh sorry, I’ll stop.”
He continued then, while Miranda crumbled down on the ground, hugging her knees and putting his head down. Will sat down on his “chair”, staring at her while he finished the song., and finally moved down to her near the middle of it, sitting beside her and cautiously wrapping his arm around her shoulders as comfortingly as he could.
He didn’t know where it came from, but somewhere deep within his shattered memories he knew the song started with “Hush little baby don’t you cry….”
4/13/2012 6:58:09 PM
A man in a black trench coat over heavy plated armor sat down on a stool, a black cowboy hat on and a rifle slung over his back, a pistol on his hip. “Just some water” he asked the Bartender, who nodded and headed to the fountain. He pulled out his wallet, staring at the pictures.
The first of his girlfriend. He couldn’t wait to see her again, though she was already on a mission all the way across the world. All the hologram garbage annoyed him, was it too much to ask for a phone call instead of the sketchy transmission he got from satellites? He sighed, pulling off the glove on his right hand and taking the large glass of water, not minding that the bartender side-glanced at the Elite-badge he wore and the large scar running down from his arm to the hand. He chugged the rest down, setting the cup down and not listening to anyone else’s discussions in the saloon.
The next picture was one of his best friend, his godson and god daughter and the mother. He smiled at this picture, at the eyes that changed between Blue and amber. He had bet the son having the latter color with his wife, and when he came neither of them won, which was hilarious to everyone else.
He yawned and looked down at the picture of Head Doc, who was flicking off the camera. She didn’t like pictures, and he had barely gotten away with this one.
And the final one was of his parents he had managed to find in the ruins of his house when he returned. He finished the rest of the water and wiped his mouth, leaving a substantial tip for the bartender and leaving the bar, hiding his wallet away. A woman was there, wearing the same outfit as him, and smiled. “Finished with yourself?”
“Yep. We heading to Doc?”
She nodded. “I’m interested to find out what ‘cure’ she’s come up with this time.” The man laughed and cracked his neck, pulling the rifle out and walking upstairs and outside to the burned streets of London.
He was most definitely done with Mask.
Oh how he despised her idiotic thoughts she clearly discussed all the time, although always reminded everyone she wasn’t their “mom” or “guardian” or any of that crap. Yet, somehow, she always had a reason to never keep opinions to herself.
He couldn’t exactly say he hated that part about her, but it still grinded his nerves when directed at him.
It happened earlier today, Will walking through a hallway when a guard bumped in his way. He didn’t say sorry, and being the jerk he was, the imbecile struck Will in the nose with the butt of his rifle, then pulled out an electric baton and began striking him. It wasn’t a very fair fight, and wasn’t much of a skirmish at all, so Will kept his comments to himself as he watched Jester call off the guard and apologize for this “silly miss-understanding” Will didn’t mind Jester so much anymore – it wasn’t the fact that he liked him or feared him, but more so a kind of mutual respect – and ignored him. He was, however, detained and stored away in the medical room to be treated and then thrown away into his “quarters”, which was what the final designation was of the cells they had been given to sleep in.
Mask, being the perfect person she was, decided to treat him out of the kindness of her heart. He kept all his rude comments to himself, and listened while she started. “You didn’t have to go around picking fights.”
“I didn’t. I just bumped into a guy and he got all rage-mode on me and tazed me for no reason.”
“Oh yeah, I’m sure that was no reason at all.” She countered.
He looked up incredulously at her while she repositioned his nose bridge. “Are you kidding? You weren’t even there! All I did was bump into him!”
“No, it wasn’t!” he was beginning to get angry now, but tried to keep his temper under control. “Why would I do anything? We have to go in the Rift soon and besides, he has a weapon. Weapon, hear that word? It’s the one we don’t want to go up against.”
“Looks to me like you were pissed off and didn’t get out of this guys way when you were walking by him, and didn’t even have the manners to say “excuse me”.” She shook her head. “Tsk tsk, Eagle.”
His hands were clenched together and he was sweating from holding in his rage. He felt like thrashing her about and screaming into her ear he didn’t do anything, but knew it would only amount to him getting killed. “You know what, I’m sorry, Mom.” He muttered sarcastically. “I didn’t know the big man wanted me out of his way. I’ll mind my manners next time. Thank you for this kindness you have shown me without even asking.”
“You’re welcome. See was that so hard?”
“You don’t even know..” he mumbled to himself, then stood up and felt her pat his shoulder. He restrained himself to simply imagining flipping her over and stomping on her, and walked towards where Cesare was unconscious on his cot.
Unconscious being a more medically accurate version for simply being asleep. No comas or anything, Cesare was simply resting at this point, which was better than having him awake and groaning all day from the pain that was on his shoulder stub. Doctors were already talking about testing a bio-engineered arm for him, and were nearly bouncing off the walls while Mask tried to figure out all the paperwork to allow them to even complete it.
So he sat down next to his friend and talked about how much he hated stupid Mask and how much he wanted to talk back to her yet how much he didn’t feel like getting shot and heard Cesare’s breathing become a bit more fast paced, as if he were waking up, and looked at his friend. “You hear any of that?”
“All of it, actually. I’m a light sleeper, which I suppose is a good thing.” He cringed when he tried to get up, and Will pitied him in that moment. How it must feel to lose an arm.
Not as bad as dying, but still, only being able to do half the things you used to be able to do was very depressing.
“You know, I used to go to school.” Cesare laughed at the simplicity of that statement, but Will raised his eyebrow.
“What’s school?” he asked.
“W-wait…really? You don’t know what school is?” Cesare tried to look at Will, but only managed to kind of side glance at him. When he decided he was being serious, he sighed. “Well, school is like… a congregation of pupils. You know, people learning things, asking questions, and all the students are children. There are different grade levels for the older you are and how well you do, like if you’re 5 you go to kindergarten, 6 First grade, 7 Second grade, so on and so forth up to when you’re 17 or 18 in 12th grade. From Kindergarten to 5th grade is Elementary, 6-8 is Middle school and 9th through 12th is High school.”
Will nodded, soaking all of this information in, and making his own inferences about how the teaching would go. “One teacher per grade level?”
“Oh, hah, no way. There are like, 300 students in one grade level sometimes. So they split off in the Middle and High school levels into different subjects. You have a Math teacher, History teacher, Science teacher, things like that. Physical Education. And there would be, like, 3 teachers per subject. One for the smart people, one for the average people and one for the stupid people. To accommodate to their individual needs.” Cesare smiled. “I never thought I would have to explain the concept of school to someone. Least of all you.”
Will smiled and thought about this all. 300 other people your same age all discussing work. People from all walks of life, of different races and cultures, all exchanging conversations and words and thoughts and ideas. It was a magnificent idea, to be educating this way. A classroom of, let‘s say 23 people, male and female. 22 other people who are nothing like you, who can learn from each other and become friends. Or enemies, he imagined that would occur as well.
He would’ve been graduating right now if he went to a “school”. He wondered if he ever went to a school in his previous life, before the Rift. He wondered if he had friends. Enemies. People who liked him or envied him.
“So anyway, I used to have this teacher” Cesare continued. “Who assumed everything. You could say 2+2 equaled 5 by accident and she would think you didn’t have a good home structure or parents who enforced education. And the thing is, she was never right! Ever! Even when she thought she was right, and was obviously wrong, she was right because she made everything up and she was perfect.” Cesare laughed. “I hated her. And she knew I hated her.”
Will hadn’t thought of this approach to school before, getting annoyed by an adult. He imagined it would be a same scenario as the one he was in, where you could not disobey orders directly by a Master. He nodded slowly and understood the connection.
He would think about it that way then. They usually have your best interest at heart. If a master believes that it will benefit you, might as well listen.
‘Just be quiet and go with it’ he told himself. ‘Make it easier on everyone.’
He stopped for a second and thought about that. Be quiet…he was still thinking about the “memories” he had thought of when he finally came to a decision. But he would wait until night time.
And so Will waited in his room, his legs crossed and head down, sitting on the cold, hard floor and waiting for the sky to darken and the wind to howl. While he waited, he thought of what day it was. Sometime in late October most likely, with the temperature being the way it was. A plan rushed through his head on how to complete his task, and he quickly made a mental jot of it.
It truly was boring, sitting and waiting. Part of him wanted to feel the adrenaline of punching a bullet into a Hybrid, to take them all down. The intercom system sounded off when he was in the midst of this, and Jester’s voice boomed out. “All Guests, please report to the Dinner tables! Supper is being served!” it repeated itself twice and then shut off again, while Will gave out a little sigh of regret and stood up.
It felt way too late to be having supper now, but there were probably some announcements to b made, and besides, he was feeling a bit hungry from doing nothing. At least this would work his mind to come up with smart remarks for Jester. He smirked at this thought and brushed it aside, deciding it would be better to finish up the day without being shot or apprehended by the Soldiers that now roamed the hallways with him.
He noticed he never actually paid attention to them, and used all of his memory to pay attention to every bit of the armor each soldier wore. It was all the same: Heavy plated black titanium on the shins, chest, shoulders and helmet, which was designed as a full face complete mask, and a round empty portion of the mask showed it could be converted for biochemical warfare if necessary, a single clear glass bar for looking through was on top of this maybe 2 inches, although it was one way viewing, and was probably bullet proof from the top-heaviness he monitored from the troops.
There was a green backdrop color on the elbow guards, kneepads, the upper portion of the legs, and the gauntlets, which also had a white clover printed on the back of it, rather than on the palm, which was made of leather.
The gun’s they carried looked like prototypes, and were similar to an M8 style, a long curved rail system, with a 3.5 inch barrel, and collapsible stock. The looked long, and he guessed it was extended compared to standard versions, so it must carry around 45 to 50 rounds. He saw people lading these bullets into their magazines, and he guessed they were somewhere in between the 5.56mm and 7.62mm bullet size. Possibly a 6.8mm or some other type of specially made bullet. The orange bands around each slug portion of the bullet showed most were fitted with armor piercing rounds.
Also on the back of their armor were green or purple lights, depending if it was a male or female soldier. These lights also signified the entire armor package and weapon were linked up to a system, a chip of some kind, and that the suit also was an exo-skeleton which allowed it’s wearers to have better strength, endurance and possibly speed. Will could not tell whether or not there was a jet propulsion system hooked up to this, and ruled this out- he hadn’t seen anything work with gasoline so far, so they probably worked only electronically. He guessed that all of this weighed possibly 227 pounds, and that the gun was maybe 4.5 – 7 pounds, depending on the type of material it was created out of – Will still couldn’t tell if the gleam on the gun was all around or just the barrel, meaning it was either Carbon Fiber and Steel, or fully Steel.
He came down to 2 conclusions. These guys were Definitely part of the higher ups in the The Play, and that he would not want to be fighting one of them.
4/13/2012 6:58:10 PM
The Maze, Unknown Location, Siberian area of Russia
So this was how it ended.
He had awoken some time ago, maybe, 2 months. Slowly but surely he began to work all of his muscles, becoming accustomed to the cold, and finding weapons from claws and bones of the Beast that had knocked him unconscious. He had even stolen meat from the carcass of this creature, forcing himself to eat it in order to survive.
It didn’t even taste all that bad.
But now, 2 months later, he was freezing, a claw in his hand as a dagger. He had contracted some type of influenza, and now he could feel himself changing, becoming more feral to those that surrounded him, the Hybrids and Hellhounds.
He found himself listening to them, understanding their distinct forms of communications. The Hellhounds had an Alpha they called their Pack Leader. The hybrids had moderate control of the hellhounds, but mostly kept to themselves and tried to prevent something called “The Change” from happening to humans and the Hybrids.
Very superstitious creatures, he noticed.
The change involved some kind of weird voodoo thing were the viral strands mutated. He didn’t understand it completely, since his fever was getting higher and higher, and he didn’t care anymore.
He was infected and ready to die.
Soon, maybe an hour after he woke up from unconsciousness, he found himself with guests. Specifically Hybrids. The leader growled at Viktor, and the boy growled right back, then coughed and waved the creature away. “Oh just kill me. I’m going to die anyway.”
The Hybrid cleared it’s throat and began to speak in harsh screeches and twisted English to its fellow subjects, then turned to Viktor and repeated the message, only directed towards him. “Do you truly want Death?”
Viktor smirked and wiped his mouth, looking up. “I’ve wanted it from the beginning.”
Leader nodded and cracked it’s knuckles, saying something to his followers then turning back to Viktor. “Close your eyes. Is easier. Less fear.”
Viktor nodded, his heart seeming to understand what was happening and slowing to a stop. It was giving up. He let out one final breath, thinking of only his sister, and the leader jumped up and slammed his fist into Viktor’s skull, breaking it apart and killing him instantly.
No pain. It was better that way.
The Rift welcomed him like an old friend. He felt the cold wind chill beneath his thin layers of clothing, and accepted it. It might have been gusting at about 20 miles an hour, an unusually windy day, but he ignored it and focused on the objective. Today the Director would watch them through the Rift, to see how they fought, of course from the safety of his “throne”, as Cesare put it bluntly. Will closed his eyes and allowed him to become somebody else entirely, to become Eagle.
He saw no weapons yet spotted many that could become weapons, and ended up taking a lead pipe, his trusty back up, and pointed at black gun powder on a table, meaning to pick it up. He ran to the cabinets and pulled them out; smiling when he saw canned food and a Makorav in it. But then his smile grew into a frown.
“They never give us food...”
“What was that Will?” Cesare called, still trying to work his new arm correctly.
“They don’t give us food. Just ammunition. They give us things we’ll need...” he realized it as he spoke. “They’re going to keep us in here.”
Everyone stopped in their tracks, understanding what that meant. They’d have to fight their way throughout the day. Maybe longer, and the worst part was not knowing just how long. Will shook his head and looked around, ripping the ragged table cloth off of one, and beginning to set the food down on it. How many pounds could he carry? Maybe 80 without breaks in between, keeping at a constant pace, but that would mean whoever held the food would be more vulnerable. “Okay. So we all know what’s going on right? They’ll keep us in here for...I don’t know, maybe 2 weeks. We can’t all take food because the one carrying it will be the clumsiest, the most vulnerable. That’s why I’m going to carry it today, Cesare you’ll take it tomorrow, and we’ll keep switching it like that. 2 people will keep an eye on the supply all the time; make sure nothing funny happens to them. Sound good?”
Anastasia nodded. “So what are we supposed to do make camp here?” he was surprised for a second; they had all thought she wouldn’t talk again
“Um, no. We’ll have to keep moving throughout the mansion. Start at these bottom floors first. Keep slowly moving up.” He slammed the table with his fist. “This is garbage! They send us in here to train, give us a little pumping up speech and now send us back in here after a month without going back and expect us to live in this place for god knows how long…”
“Well looks like they didn’t set us in here without a guide.”
“What makes you say that?” he asked Tanya. She pointed at Shirley, who was crouched won next to the crumbled picture of Mask, who was glaring at the others her hands and legs tied together. Will walked over, almost smiling, and kneeled down the pipe still in his hand. He couldn’t help himself and laughed. “Well isn’t this funny. Let me guess; they wanted a performance review on their people? I’m surprised Jester isn’t here, although he’s probably the one who ordered it.”
“Done yet?” she growled.
“Not yet. Anybody else wants take a crack at her? I’ll give you…what time is it Cesare?” he called.
“About…8:43.” He answered.
“Till 8:50. Just don’t…kill her.” He finally decided, then laughed, patted her head and stood up, walking the other way, twirling the lead pipe around in circles while he headed to Cesare, who was wrapping the blankets over each other to create a sack for the canned food. “What’s up Cesare?” he questioned lowly. “You seem, different.”
He let out almost a snicker. “I’m not human anymore, bro. It’s hard to deal with.”
Will smiled. “You’re still human. You’re the most human person I know. Unlike me or her” he gestured to Mask “and definitely more than Jester.” He looked over at everyone quickly again, then back at the food. “How are things with Anastasia?”
Cesare closed his eyes. “I don’t even know. She’s…different. Quieter. I didn’t know...” he caught himself. “I didn’t think it would affect her this much, Viktor dying. But…” he shook his head. “She really seems lost now.” Cesare nodded, folding his arms. They let silence pass for a bit. “Do me a favor? Can you just talk to her? I know you’ve seen people die…maybe she just has to relate to someone. I can’t do that.”
Will nodded immediately. “Sure.” He turned around and scratched his head, heading towards Mask who was about to get hit over the head with a lead pipe. “Who whoa whoa! I told you not to kill her just yet!” he complained.
“Oh c’mon Will” Tanya whined. “Why do you have to be such a buzz kill?”
“Not a buzz kill, just designated driver. We need someone to guide us remember?”
Shirley began. “Well she cut her way out of the ropes on her hands, but she won’t respond to anything we say, so Tanya was gonna use “other measures” “ she put up hand quotes and laughed. “But we can go with your way too.”
He shook his head. “Sometimes I wonder about you…Alright everyone goes away while I interrogate this one.” They all nodded and groaned, heading out of the room. He promised he would meet up with them soon, and to just move on, and once he didn’t hear their footsteps anymore he sat down again, not talking for a while.
Finally he clapped and rubbed his hands together. “Well, why are you here?” he asked first. She didn’t answer, but instead drew little things in the dirt that covered the tile floor. “Are you gonna talk at all or am I wasting my time?” he waited a moment, and then added “A nod or something would help.”
“I didn’t see a purpose to any of this.” She finally admitted. “We’re fighting a war we already lost, literally. What difference do any of us make...” she let out a shaky laugh. “They brought us all from the future. And then they traveled even farther. I died. How does that sound? I died, even with all this training?”
Will thought about that for a second. “Things are already changing. We don’t live in that future anymore. This future.” He gestured around. “I know it doesn’t mean much but, I’ll be here to make sure no one even bumps your elbow without meeting my knuckles.” He laughed humorlessly.
“Yeah well.” She yawned. “You didn’t really seem like that a few minutes ago.”
“Oh c’mon, you always have to put a show on to improve morale. No offence but no one likes you. Did anyone give you a boo-boo? I don’t mind kissing it.”
“Oh shut up. I still don’t like you.”
“That’ll change don’t worry.”
“I don’t know.”
“Oh it will.”
“No.” she amended. “I meant I don’t know why I’m here. Jester just told me I had to keep an eye on things while you guys were here, and they would pull me out soon. Something called the Rift Games.”
“Well that sounds pretty…” he thought for a second. “Evil. And cliché.”
She nodded. “Doesn’t sound good at all for you guys, so I’d start watching your back and sleep with one eye open.” She looked up again, then down at her feet. “I don’t like these shoes...” she complained out loud.
He laughed and petted her sneakers, which were black and steel Asics. “You’ll get used to them. A lot easier to walk in then heels though, don’t you agree?”
“Touché.” Will picked up a sharp edge of glass an began working on the rope that banded her ankles, not bothering to ask why she was bound in the first place, and helped her up, smiling. “Ya know what this reminds me of?”
“Yes, you don’t have to say it, now leave me alone before I shoot you.”
He shook his head. “You wouldn’t waste ammo on that would you? And I’m surprised no one took your mask off. Guess they didn’t realize it comes off in the first place…”
He took the lead pipe and headed outside, seeing tracks in the faint layers of dust and began following them quickly, hearing every single noise and crack and bump, any potential signs for a predator. It wasn’t very fair, how much brute strength was a part of this whole system. Hybrids and hellhounds were both stronger then Eagle himself, so a lead pipe wouldn’t do much. He ignored the thoughts of his own death impacting the others. Those pessimistic thoughts had no use here, when he was surviving. He began to notice more and more dust piling up, then realized it was not dust, but fine snow.
The middle of Autumn and they were stuck in here?
He shook his head. This was not good at all. How were they supposed to get clothes for the winter now, if they were to be stuck in the Rift for about… he decided on 3 weeks. 3 weeks Autumn would be over, and Winter would be showing it’s cold harshness. They couldn’t survive with this thin clothing they wore now.
He thought of what Miranda had said.. If this was the future, couldn’t they just leave the Rift? ‘Bad idea’ he thought. The last time he was outside the Mansion while in the Rift, he and Elise almost died.
Elise. With thoughts of her came of another person, the voice in his head. It hadn’t shown itself in a while, and he didn’t really feel any less lonely not hearing it to be blunt. He got a crazy idea and began laughing, shaking his head.
“What?” Mask questioned.
“Nothing. Idea.” He looked down again, where the tracks were alongside different ones, those of paws. He lifted up his pipe protectively, finding this a bit funny but remaining serious, and tried to make his footsteps the most silent he could.
Growling, sniffing. He pinpointed this sounds out around the corner, maybe 30 feet. Well into the vision range of a Hellhound, and he listened at the individual sounds coming from the different dogs. One, two three, four….he began to get worried once he counted up to 6. 7? 8? Something was very wrong. He recounted again, remaining still (and thanking that Mask understood to do the same) and came up with the same number. 4 for them both? An he already could hear the Pack Leader, the Alpha, breathing heavy on the other side. A sound he couldn’t forget. He nearly groaned, but remembered how sensitive their ears were, and began one step at a time, one foot after another, and peeked his head around the corner.
The sight was gruesome. Smokey was there (or A Smokey, he couldn’t rule out the fact there were more than one of those Beasts now) and the Pack leader was shivering all around, his black fur bloody and ripped apart. He growled again, looking at all his subordinates who did not question his rule, and cracked his neck, literally turning his head 90 degrees to the right. Will almost threw up at the sickening sound, but stared, observing. All the other dogs bowed their heads, never looking him in the eye, while two smaller ones yipped around playfully, ducking in and out of the fallen bear. Literally in and out of the actual stomach, probably keeping warm from the body heat. “Kids” he told himself. Actual pups. They reproduced then. He kept his comments to himself, and stared while the dog stood up wobbly on two legs, one buckling underneath his weight until he came to a kneeling stance, and his claws sharpening out while his fur began shrinking down, to where he was still covered but it wasn’t nearly as thick. He cracked his neck the other way and looked up, growling again once more, than a bark and a snap of his head back, and he stood up, not completely straight but still upright, and cracked his back the way a human would. Will stared, wide-eyed and mouth open, while making a mental note of every little detail. “What the hell? Now we have to deal with werewolves?!”
He heard a sound. A deep voice, with a British accent. Wait…oh god it was him. Will mentally slapped himself over and over while all the heads snapped to attention, and the dog-human turned around, growling low and deep.
“Come here, human.”
Will gaped at the voice. It was perfect English. Completely perfect! He stood straight, taking a deep breath. “Close your mouth and drop the weapon.” It demanded.
He complied immediately. “What the hell are you..” he breathed from where he was. The thing walked towards him, until they were 10 feet away from each other. “Are you… a Lycan?”
The hellhounds all made a kind of yipping sound, sounding like laughter. His cheeks reddened. “A werewolf? Are you joking?” the Alpha made the same kind of sound. “Oh no, human. You don’t understand the concept of our anatomy do you?” he laughed again. “Oh human…”
“Jesus Christ stop making fun of me and tell me!”
The Alpha immediately ran on all fours and stood up, staring down at Will, standing at about 6’8”. “Human, you do not make the rules here. I do. This is our territory.”
Will stood straight, staring up at the Alpha. “You didn’t answer my question.” He said calmly.
“I am the first of my kind to transform like this. A transition. I survived the bite of a hellhound. I am now…this…” he gestured at himself. “And I transform every night.”
Will took the time to remember this. “But I’ve been bitten and survived, so have many of my friends.” He countered.
“Ah, only the Alpha can pass on this trait. But do not worry, human, I will not subject you to my curse. My pack is well fed now, that is why we spared your friends as well.”
“Your pack of humans that passed earlier… I figured you knew about them.” The alpha answered. Will nodded.
“Yes, I was looking for them. Thank you.”
“This does not mean those who are not here at the moment will not attack you, human. I cannot account to the actions of all my pack.”
Will smiled, understanding this, and looked to his right, where Mask nodded once. “Thank you, Alpha, for your kindness.”
“Let us not forget it then.” With that, Will walked back and turned around, walking through the tracks.
“Don’t look back,” he whispered at Mask.
“What the hell was that?” she breathed.
“I’ll tell you later. Just walk Miranda.”
If he looked back he would have seen the Alpha crack his neck again and lick his lips, staring at the two walk down. “Shouldn’t we go after them, Lord?” a dog communicated.
“No.” the Alpha answered. “I’m interested to see how these kids survive.”
“Is this working? Hello?” a voice crackled. Will sighed and put a finger to his collar. “Yes, sir?” he answered as sarcastically as he could. “Ah good! I’m getting responses from all of you. Great to see the Collar Links are working correctly. Now, I think you all should get a congratulations! It’s Halloween everyone!” Will let out a groan, and shook his head. That’s why they were in here. “Yeah, Trick or Treat..” he muttered, then answered Jester. “What do you want then? Candy?” My, my Eagle, Temper, Temper!” Jester answered. “Although candy sounds absolutely delightful right about now, I offer you something fun, exciting, and often Deadly!” he said this with as much enthusiasm of the Clown counter-part the group has associated him with. “Now, here’s the game. We call it, Dedalus’s Labyrinth, because there is only one way out, that only the creators know of!” Jester began laughing. “Isn’t it exciting! Now, here’s the Game Procedures. We put you in the Labyrinth 2 at a time. You go and find a Creator, then follow them and protect them until you get out of the Maze, alive or not. The whole place is filled with Hybrids and Hellhounds, although we brought in an extra special guest for you to try and survive. We call him, Smokey the Bear! Ring any bells, Eagle?” Eagle gritted his teeth and cracked his neck. “So what Jester, sounds pretty lame to me. We can do this no sweat.” “Ah, I know this, which is why there’s a twist! Inside of the Labyrinth’s center are 5 crucifixes. And guess who is on each one? Your old friends, the Escapees or whatever you call them!” Will stopped and listened carefully. “And just in case that wasn’t enough for you, we have silenced he Designers for a temporary period of time, so they can’t talk, they can only direct! Now, this is where the time limit comes in. There is 15 minutes approximately before the people who are being crucified die of blood loss. The Labyrinth exits close in 25 minutes. Make your choices now before you enter, everyone, because in 5 minutes, the clock starts. Here are the rules: For one, you must have a partner in there, although only one. This is why we have brought Mask and Honor Guard Captain Ortega in here to join us! The groups are as follows- Parrot and Raven, you two are to find Weasel as your guide. Cpt. Ortega is here to help Cat in finding Lioness. And for yet ANOTHER twist of events, Eagle and Mask, you two are to find your own way through the maze, but are the only ones allowed to help the Dying rebels! That last part is a rule, by the way. I have synched your collars together in those groups, so if one dies, the other blows up! Isn’t that exciting?” Will leaned against a wall and shook his head. This was insanity. There was no way any of them could survive this, let alone make it out of there in time, AND take the other Runners with them. “You can do it. I’ll lead you to Us.” “And what do you know, the voice is back.” He growled and slammed his back fist against the wall. Mask simply looked at him, but shook her head and looked away again. “I think it’s been about 5 minutes, but I’ll extend the time to when the groups arrive at the Labyrinth. It is located in the basement of the Mansion. Use the old Dumbwaiters or the stairs. Good luck everyone, have fun, and a VERY Happy Halloween to you!” And with that, Jester became even more annoying by beginning to play the “Monster Mash” over the radio. “I always hated this song..” Will muttered. “Don’t know why, I just do.” “I know. You’ve said it 200 times.” Miranda replied. “Really? This is the first time I’ve said it here, I think…” Will scratched his head. “I won’t even ask. Ready?” “No.” “Me neither, so let’s go before I decide to use this Makorav to end this stupid song.” They finally arrived at the opening to the Labyrinth, which was under a sewer grate in the courtyard of the Mansion. Will and Miranda were the first group to arrive, then came Cesare and Anastasia. Cesare was cracking his neck as he walked, and had none of his usual smile on. Behind them were 2 others, the Asian girl and another person, dressed in full armor of a Soldier. Will raised his pistol immediately, and so did the trooper, pulling up his assault rifle. “Whoa whoa whoa! Calm down! Jesus Christ Will, this is Captain Ortega.” “Yeah, well why doesn’t the captain take off all the fancy armor and go in there like we are.” “It’s against orders, now back off, bro.” Will raised an eyebrow at the way he spoke, seeming a bit youthful, and kept his weapon aimed properly. “Any boy can talk with his face behind a shield.” Will growled. “Yeah well you can go f*** yourself. I don’t even wanna be here.” The Captain muttered. Will scanned his target quickly. Maybe 5’10”, about Cesare’s height. The armor looked pretty custom fit on him, so he could probably say he packed a medium build, not unlike his own. As for intelligence, it didn’t seem like he stored much of it. Yet the way he held a weapon, it was very systematic, trained and rehearsed over and over. “Alright Captain.” He spat the title. “You got a first name?” “Luis.” “Fine then Luis, I don’t know how much you know about these monsters you’re going to face. But if anything happens to her, I’ll have your head on a pole. Deal?” he pointed his head towards Cat and she rolled her eyes, although said nothing as usual. “Don’t worry, I have just as much ‘experience’ as you. If not more.” “Why is it that I find that hard to believe?” “Maybe because you’re stupid. Now put the gun down.” Will’s muscles tensed up but there was a sigh and Miranda stuck her own gun up, in which caused Cesare to point his own weapon at her, and Anastasia to point hers at the Captain, who pulled out his side arm and pointed it at Anastasia. “Mexican standoff. Nice.” Cesare chided in. Cat coughed and began to move her hands rapidly. Will didn’t understand it at first. But it was actually the fact that she did a sign that he recognized that he realized it. Cat was mute. She couldn’t speak. Will read every letter as fast as she did them. “No use wasting time like this. All you guys put your f*ing weapons and let’s just get through this.” He stood dumbfounded, but put down his weapons. “She’s right. No use wasting time. Let’s finish this maze.” He shook his head and looked down the great. “Who wants to go first?” “That a question or an order..” Cesare mumbled, then yawned and cracked his back. “Stick to the plan Anastasia?” “Guess so. I’m going down first.” “Damn it. Thought I was going to get a look.” He laughed and she elbowed him in the rib cage, then started down the ladder. “Good luck, Cesare.” Will said. Cesare smiled, saluted and went down after his team mate. “And so there are 4.” Mask stated sarcastically. “Go over to the right side, Ortega. I’ll be with Eagle on the left. Good luck.” The Captain nodded and looked at the manhole to his right a bit ways. “Yes, ma’am.” And with that he beckoned Cat to stay close and follow him away. Will stared at Mask, shaking his head. Anastasia cracked her neck, her eye covered with a purple eye patch – the color she had jokingly requested and yet received – and her breath coming out white. It was freezing, even in these layers. She flipped off a switch, all emotions cut off, so that it was easier to kill. It wasn’t extremely hard. She hadn’t felt much recently since Viktor had…gone. She knew he was dead, but it seemed better that she didn’t tell herself that. At least for now. It was like a piece of her was gone. Sure an annoying piece and she had many times wished him this fate, but now that it had actually happened, she wished it hadn’t. Why couldn’t it have been her? She had lost an eye. That was it. How simple, an eye, yet Cesare was here with a new arm and Elise was dead, as well as Viktor. She hadn’t liked Elise all that much, but she knew she was sweet. Too sweet. And that’s how she was dead now, being unable to fire that bullet when it was absolutely necessary. Anastasia promised herself never to make that mistake. They weren’t human. The Hybrids. And even if they were, they had killed Viktor. She would never forgive that. Ever. So she loaded up on her AKS-74U with vengeance. She had lost an eye already, and she didn’t mind anyone else going blind. Especially not those things. She would kill every last one. Every single one. With that thought she pulled the hammer back on her gun, let it forward and looked at her partner who was taking a repeating rifle, she had no idea what the name was. It seemed like a shotgun from America, extremely old. Cesare saw her looking and pulled down the lever, priming the weapon. “It’s a Lever action.” He chuckled a bit and then started stuffing his pockets with slugs. Anastasia nodded and looked at the door. They were in a sewer passage where 2 tables were positioned, both with many weapons leaning against them or on top of them. She spotted an AR-15 or M4 or whatever it was, and a G36c, a MP9 and MP5, and an AK-74. She chose this weapon for its maneuverability. She let out one more breath and then nodded at him, showing to open the door, and he smiled warmly. She didn’t return it. No time for gestures now. Her heart gave a kind of nervous flap as to what she may see on the other side, but a gong signaled that the time had begun, and she instantly burst through the door, gun leading the way. Will cocked back the Makorav he held in his hands. He chose it over every other rifle and pistol and shotgun lying here simply because he had the most experience with it. It held a good amount of ammunition, and he could switch from target to target as quickly as possible. Miranda picked up her .44 magnum rounds and prepared speed loaders. He let out a breath and didn’t turn around when she asked. “Miranda? Why are you always so mad at me? What did I do to you? You say that I left you, but now I’m thinking that you aren’t talking about the same thing I’m thinking…” She didn’t answer for a little bit, but then countered with another question. “You really don’t remember do you?” Will shook his head. “Nope. Nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada.” He placed the third clip in his pocket. “Maybe if we get out of here you’ll realize it.” And with that she finished loading her revolver and put her hand to the palm scanner on the left side of the door. Will finished loading his last clip and did the same to the opposite palm scanner, and the door unlocked, the air lock removed, and the two halves of the door slid open. His collar synchronized as soon as he entered with an ear-piercing “beep” on a computer voice telling him “20 minutes remaining”. Will washed no time and set out, pistol leading the way and Miranda to his side. The labyrinth was extensive in its design, nearly black walls that completely surrounded him and darkened his peripheral vision. Every 3 or so walls, however, harbored gates that he guessed provided living quarters for the mutants captured in here. Any minute those gates would open and he’d be a step closer to ding and not getting his friends out of here. That was his only goal right now. His collar beeped again just as the very ground beneath him shook and creaked as every gate was opened at the same time, and howls of agony and feral pierced through the still, freezing air. It was very near freezing in here, in fact, and he guessed about -11 degrees Celsius. Miranda said something with but with all the sound he barely even heard her. After those initial 3 seconds footsteps echoed around him, pads and bare feet stampeding around, beginning to fight one another for a pierce of the meat sacks. His collar finally beeped again and a voice announced “All primary cages unlocked. Standard enemies released.” “What kind of psychotics designed a torture maze? This is the stuff you hear about happening in movies!” another voice radioed in. “Cesare? That you mate?” Will answered while pressing his left two fingers to the microphone button. “Sure is. Look on your right and left, what do the letters say? We’re on 2b” Will shook his head and fired a shot into the crown of a crouching Hybrid. “In the middle of a warzone I’m afraid. Gonna be a bit before I have time to breathe.” And with that he increased his pace a little, Miranda not saying a word while on his during most of this. “3A” she mentioned randomly while rounding a corner, then stopped Will from running and settled down to a slow jog. “They’ll be around that level. We’re at 3B right now. I’m thinking left, straight then two lefts and we’ll find them.” Who knew if she was telling the truth, that was the only chance Hawk and Vulture and the others had right now. Will accepted these instructions and fired a couple more shots behind him, Mask doing the same and sprinted even faster, now that he had an actual route. His collar beeped again and he groaned loudly, heart racing from nervousness. “15 minutes remaining.” “Oh 15 minutes! Might want to get moving Eagle!” Jester’s voice crackled through the radio. “Jester, you and I are going to have a serious talk when I get out of here.” Mask replied angrily. Will could very nearly feel the heat radiating off of her. “Ah Miranda, remember the second part of that statement.” The man practically cackled over the microphone. Will fired off two more rounds into a hybrid, knocking it down, and he managed to stomp on its head to end it after that. The Hybrids would climb on the side of walls and then roll off to catch up to the duo. It seemed impossible to get out of this alive, yet something was picking at Will’s mind, sending him reeling in thought. Where were all the Hellhounds? After that realization came the intense pain that knocked him onto his knees.
You could say he felt them before he heard them.
Suddenly Will wasn’t looking through his own eyes, but through those of someone else. His nervous system was not his own, but every inch of his being felt tired beyond belief, and his wrists and feet were beyond normal pain. This was true torture, above the levels he had felt before even when ribs were broken or he was shot by Mask. It was a pain that went to his soul, cutting it apart with a knife.
And his lungs were on fire every time he took a breath, which he finally realized was a cause of a mask he was wearing, two eye slits cut out for him to look through. The masks must have been releasing some type of chemical that caused him to want to vomit all over the place.
He blinked and everything went away, he was back to his knees with Miranda trying to pick him up, shooting over his shoulder at the Hybrids that were jumping over the walls to attempt ripping their heads from their bodies.”Hurry up!” she urged, and dazed he rose to his feet, picking up his pistol as he did so, and yet again the collar announced a message.
“10 minutes remaining. Secondary enemies released.”
Secondary enemies? There were more? A savage roar tore apart Will’s eardrums and he didn’t wait to find out whatever it was that made that noise. He shot a leaping Hybrid and pulled Miranda’s wrist, signaling it was time to run, and they began to flee, shooting everything in front of them. Ammunition was very low now, but each round met its target, and that was enough for him. Bullets would not keep them down, he knew that. They had to physically destroy the entire head, or else whatever fueled them would keep it moving.
Then they met their first Hybrid in here.
It wasn’t like the others, who had shaggy reddish brown fur and looked similar to that of a Rottweiler. This one was a bull headed monster, with a large powerful stature. Its eyes looked ready to destroy everything. It’s body was torn apart and red with wounds, yet it did not falter its step. Its thin coat was a dark brown and it’s ears were perked up for any sound of an intruder. Its jaws were powerful and ready to complete its task. It locked it’s yellow-green, feral eyes with the duo and barked so powerfully the ground shook underneath them.
This had to be a new breed of Hellhound. It kept its ears high and its teeth in a snarl, and began to stalk towards them, barking each time it took a step. It was just like what Will remembered to be a Pit Bull, but he didn’t dwell on it because he didn’t need the pain of searching his memories to allow him to even breathe the wrong way. He didn’t have time to think, he just spun about-faced and shot the Hybrid nearest to him, and bolted with Miranda at his feet. He didn’t dare look back as more powerful dogs jumped over the hedges and barked, snapped and ripped at the Hybrids who were caught into the trap.
It was food frenzy, each race trying to get at the other for a piece of the new meat. Every footstep he took he acknowledged the new beast’s power. Their bark was super-charged. Their bodies were powerful to jump and run. What power did Will have? Just opposable thumbs.
They just went further down on the food chart.
And now Will saw why he did not spot the Hellhounds before this. The Rottweiler type, the one’s who locked their jaws and drank blood for power (he would call them the Vampire type from now on) were all dead or near dead. It was genocide. They were being ripped apart as the new Hellhounds grouped up on the last remaining warriors. They were forced down as their stronger cousins barked at them and knocked them to the ground, tearing out their throats and leaving them to die. Even as the Vamphounds tried to draw power from their attacking kin another hound would simply rip them off and finish them.
Will found himself rooting for the old Hellhounds. They seemed like less of a threat.
“This is terrible.” Miranda acknowledged as they ran.
Will nodded his head but kept running. “It’s a distraction and that’s what we need right now.” He answered back.
They were just down the hallway. He could feel it. He reached for his last magazine and aimed at the lock that was on the gate. He could see figures there, hanging limp or thrashing around as best as they could as the new Hounds and Hybrids tried their best to jump up and snap at their feet. He fired off 2 rounds and the last one hit the lock dead on, knocking it to the ground. He rammed full speed into the gate with his left shoulder and knocked it off its hinges, stopping and shooting at the skull of each enemy. Mask joined him a few moments later. He took a second to assess the damage.
There were 6 of them. He could see nameplates on the top of their crosses, just above their head. Vulture. Hawk. Owl. And Crow. He felt saddened, realizing Dolphin hadn’t made it, but looked at the last name extremely confused.
Then he looked at the hair and realized that it was Elise. His heart dropped and he tried to figure out what to do. They maybe had 7 minutes left. He looked around and spotted a hammer, and ran towards it, then looked at the tool beside it.
It was his final resort, but he took the hatchet anyway and ran back, pushing the crucifix down until Vulture was down on his back, and Will ripped off his gasmask, throwing it to the ground. Vulture erupted into a coughing fit and Will let him as he pulled out each of the nails, first in his wrists and then in his feet. It felt like forever but he tried to work fast, not caring whenever Vulture screamed in pain. He wasn’t trying to be careful he was trying to get to work.
Once vulture was free he decided something and threw the axe at Miranda, who caught it and opened her eyes, as if to say “You aren’t thinking of chopping off their limbs are you?” He explained by stating plainly. “Try and pull out the nails first.”
He ran to Owl and pushed the cross down and ripped off his mask. Owl vomited then looked him in the eye and shook his head, coughing while he did so. Will almost cried but nodded, understanding. He knew he didn’t have the time to waste on a man who was already going to die.
He ran over to Crow and got to work, taking off her mask and pulled out each nail. “Don’t worry. I’ll get you out. Don’t worry.” It was more comfort for him than her, while she tried to mouth something. “Don’t waste your breath. It’s gonna be fine okay?” he answered her.
“Will.” She finally managed. “It’s not in me. It’s not.”
He shook his head at this nonsense but was curious and asked when he was finished. “What isn’t?”
“The Chip, Will. They didn’t put it in me.”
Chip? Could that be what was causing the Voice? He did feel as though there was a lot of clutter in his head, as though many people were talking at once, but he dismissed it for now when noticed Mask was getting Elise to her feet. Will lifted up the girl, Crow barely feeling like more than 90 pounds, and looked at her. “Can you walk at all?” She moaned and shook her head, and he cursed under his breath, and then carried her over to Hawk, who looked up at him with wide eyes. He looked back at Mask and told her to aid Vulture. He smiled and stretched out his hand. “Ello, mate.” He greeted, almost jokingly. “Can you walk at all? My hands are pretty full.”
Hawk coughed again and with Will’s help propped himself up, then wrapped his arm around Will’s shoulder. “I can limp.” He coughed.
Will nodded and looked back at Owl. “Leave him.” Hawk growled out. “He sold us out.”
Will threw his arm around and shot Owl in the forehead. “He doesn’t deserve to feel more pain in any case.”
With that he set off, dragging Hawk and carrying Crow down the corridors, and scanning for any exit. “Do you know where we’re going?” he questioned Hawk, half pleading that he did.
He coughed then pointed to the right, and Will took that turn, shooting in front of him one handed with the pistol. The enemies were pushed down, and he ended up kicking most of them out of his way. He was at walking speed now, but there was nothing he could do to move faster. He couldn’t leave Miranda and Elise and Vulture behind even if he did find a way.
Crow coughed on his shoulder, and he moved with more of a purpose. Hawk pointed straight again and he kept going, firing at two Hellhounds as they appeared. “You know it by heart?” he asked Hawk.
With another cough he shook his head, but without answering. Will could only guess what they did to them all when they were captured. He tried not to think about it, but turned it into rage and pushed himself to all his limits. His legs were aching at him to stop, and his shoulders were getting heavy from the weight on them. He wasn’t the strongest person, but he pushed on.
Then his collar beeped and his heart sank. “5 minutes remaining. Final enemies released.”
“Better hurry Eagle. Would be a shame to lose right now.”
Hawk nearly screamed, and Will could tell his anger was rising, even though Jason wasn’t one to get angry extremely easily. If it was a reverse role, Will knew they would act nearly the same. Hawk pointed to the right and he moved that way, not paying attention to the roars he knew came from the mutant Smokey’s. He hoped the other enemies would deal with them.
“4 minutes remaining.”
“I KNOW!” he screamed out loud, trying to jog as best as he could. Hawk’s head sank as he coughed. They didn’t have any time left now. They would die. He tried to accept this fact, but his legs kept moving, as if they had a will to live on their own.
Hawk groaned and tapped Will on the back. “Stop.” He muttered. “There’s a lever at the cage. Pull it and go through.”
Will holstered his pistol and shuffled around some vines, then pulled down the lever, frantic now. “3 minutes remaining.”
With a creak the gate began to open, and Miranda nodded, trying to point at the horde coming towards them. Will looked at the slow moving gate and set Crow down, then leaned Hawk against the hedge. He kneeled down and slid Crow through the opening in the gate, then looked up at Hawk. “Your turn.”
“You go. I’m going to die anyway.”
“Get the Hell in there Hawk” he demanded. The boy shook his head, and Will pushed him onto the ground and through the gate. He picked up Elise from Miranda, who pulled out her magnum with a nod and began shooting the incoming Hybrids. “Sorry about this.” He whispered at her, and then set her down and through the gate opening.
“2 minutes remaining.”
The gate creaked and was half height now. He took Vulture and almost tossed him through in an effort to make sure they all made it. The young man fell onto his hand and knees and coughed, then managed to stand up and began picking the others up with a heavy limp.
“Your next Miranda.” He shouted over the screams of the infected. She didn’t waste any time and crouched down, passing under the gate, then pulled Will’s wrists to follow her and dragged him inside as well.
“30 seconds remaining.”
Will helped up everyone again, taking Crow and Hawk again, then began moving, not wanting to get the Hybrids inside of the gate. He could literally see light at the end of the tunnel, and the difference in air temperature. He was completely dragging Hawk and was now beyond exhausted. Half way there they saw figures at the end, with rifles. “Hurry up!” they commanded. He pushed it, and then felt the bullets break the air as they fired upon the Hybrids. He cursed under his breath and then felt a claw scrape his back before he ducked and felt a bullet graze his back and shoot the Hybrid gaining on him.
He shook his head and then made it to the soldiers, and as soon as Miranda broke through the lines the heavy firepower really began. Machine guns, grenades, rockets, all of it firing straight at the enemies. Fish in a barrel. It was almost sad, if they weren’t trying to eat them half a second before.
And then another weapon sounded off. Nets. They were catching a couple of Hybrids and dragging them back to the blockade.
Maybe testing. Maybe for torture. He didn’t care right now. He saw two chairs and sat down on one, his head in his hands, then felt someone sit next to him. Will already knew who when the head rested on his shoulder, and he let himself collapse from the exhaustion as she had.
He didn’t care if he ever woke up again. They were safe.
“About 5 years late, but thanks for not breaking your promise.” She whispered.
He woke up with a shout, cold sweat beading his face in the middle of the night. He wiped it off, made sure he was still alive, and dropped back down onto the hard, spring cot.
It had been a cold, frightening 3 days. Will, very literally, feared for his life. Mask did not shoot him, punch him, not even so much as speak to him in the past few days, and simply attended to Hawk the entire time, not even paying mind to the others. Will figured she would kill him next, after she finished off the others. She had to have jumped off the deep end, since she wasn’t acting like herself.
He stared up at the plain ceiling as if it was foreign, a new alien sky. He tried to imagine stars in it, the way he imagined a night sky would be. And he tried to piece things together. Little fragments of his memory. But, of course, thinking messed with his head and made it hurt. A jagged, focused part of his brain filled with a sharp pain. He had to see what the problem was. He didn’t want to faint again.
It felt just like electricity, as if something were shorting out.
Will truly tried to remember. He tried to remember his home, a pet, a marketplace, and the flashes of images he had encountered while in his coma. Yet he remembered nothing right now. He almost begged himself to fall back asleep – to dream of his past and of what had happened back then, before it all went wrong and he ended up in this Hell. This insane asylum for training.
This safe house. Oh yeah, he remembered that much. This was a safe house for The Play. What the Play was, he couldn’t really remember. He knew it had something to do with government, but after that, nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch.
So he began to think back before he was forced into the Rift again. He had to get out. He had the marks on his back to prove he knew how to get out. Someone or something had almost branded his skin with a clever way to escape. If the Maze wasn’t completely destroyed, he could probably retrace his steps and escape. Or just hack away straight into the shack he had arrived in when they escaped the first time and back where he had taken Elise.
Ah Elise, there was another problem, and he had so many. What was he going to do with her? That conversation she had given him right before being pushed into the Rift that had been something Mask had seen. He already knew she didn’t like her, and if Miranda truly was completely insane, what would she do to her? And what about Miranda herself? He knew she was still in there, just corrupted by Jeffery.
Jeffery…..Jeffery….he thought back, and smiled. Yes, he knew a Jeffery before, back when he was really young, maybe 12 or even younger. He had been…not so much as friends but business partners with a man named Jeffery.
Yes, Jeffery was most definitely a person he had met even before the Rift with Hawk and Miranda and Vulture. He would have to inquire about that, see if Jester could give him any answers.
He definitely remembered a loud popping noise and then the room fading to black. It sounded almost like a gunshot, aimed at him. But there’s no way he could be alive if he was shot in the head.
He didn’t push it, but instead rolled off the cot and picked it up slightly, taking out a piece of the wall he had chipped off and made extremely sharp. With this he stood up and walked over to the bars that imprisoned him like a caged animal and began to play with the lock, attempting to release himself.
He would do this until he heard heels coming up the stairs as he did every morning, and would see what happened. In any case, he did not plan to be here very long.
What would he do when he escaped, if he wasn’t dead? That, he didn’t know for certain. Just run, he supposed. Run and hide and then run some more. That was one thing he did wrong last time. He simply hid too much. There was that old saying he remembered “You can run but you can’t hide.” That was how he felt. He could most definitely run, but the whole incognito act would not work for him. He could not blend in with society for some reason. The Rift had changed him. He once had that thought that it felt a lot like home, and he was sure that meant something even more.
It was like he belonged there, killing those abominations.
He was, after all, being bred to kill. Being bred to murder people was his specialty. All these long hours in the Rift, all the lost birthdays, it was paid off in the Scientists eyes. The Director was probably laughing at him, applauding everyone on the back because know he could become the perfect Pawn. Expendable but deadly when used efficiently. That was truly all this was a game of chess. And Will was just a pawn as was Jason and Cesare and Anastasia and how Victor had been and how Penguin had been.
Whatever happened to Pelican, he suddenly wondered. Pelican was an obese target of ridicule a long time ago. He wondered, truly, what had occurred to where Pelican was no longer with them. Fighting alongside them.
He had probably died, when they captured him.
“Pelican, if you’re out there.” He whispered. “You’re the lucky one.”
Then there was a click and the door gave way just a bit as heels began hitting the stair case. Will almost screamed a curse and turned his hand back just a little, throwing the chip so that it was wedged under his bed and then sighing as he spotted Miranda entering his view.
So close, yet so far.
Mask went up and unlocked his ‘room’ and then passed him a note, then moved on, just like that. He stood there almost dumbfounded, and then looked down at it.
He felt very self-conscious at that moment that he barely knew how to read –simply for the fact that he didn’t remember anything younger than age 12 – but opened it anyway, making sense of the scribbled language.
“If you want a fire you to spark the logs.”
What could that possibly mean? He sighed, and ripped the paper in half, then set it under his mattress with the crude lock pick and headed back downstairs, where everyone was heading. Cesare fumbled with his collar, trying to take it off. “Damn I hate these things.” He complained. “I really feel like a Dog with it on.”
He didn’t seem any different, other than the metal arm he now wore on his right side. It was in pure view, all the synthetic veins running down artificial bones and underneath metallic muscles. It truly was a weird sight, but Will didn’t comment on it. He was a freak himself, although somewhat differently.
As they sat down to break feast, a glorious sight of eggs, bacon, French toast, syrups and various juices, he thought of the letter, barely being able to read it on top of the fact he couldn’t really understand the cryptic message. He didn’t notice as Jester began speaking, and just thought of his own personal problems for a second. Could this have to do with the physical scars he harbored? During his time previous to the Rift, he had scars on his left thigh that seemed like characters for a type of map or language or something, but he soon forgot about them, keeping the secret to himself. Now they seemed more present than ever.
He consumed his food automatically, without savoring it as he usually did, but tried to pay more attention to the conversation. Will couldn’t afford to think like this, he had other worries.
“If something happened to where we would be needed, all you would need to do is sacrifice someone. Easy as pie.”
Now he was interested. What were they talking about? He looked up and raised an eyebrow. “You expect us to…eliminate someone just like that?”
“Of course not, Eagle, I expect them to struggle the next few days and survive. But this is simply an option to give them.” Jester clarified. “If you choose to make that decision.”
Cesare interrupted. “So basically, we’re being forced to stay in the Rift for a week? A whole week? With no purpose other than to survive?”
Jester nodded, weighing in that summary. “Pretty much, good paraphrasing Parrot! Oh yes, toss him his new totem, will you Mask?”
Miranda did so, with a quick nod, then returned her attention to Jester, who was continuing. “Now, Eagle, we have something special for you, of course.” When he noticed the expression, he added “Silly, didn’t think we’d forget your birthday!”
As a matter of fact, Will had forgotten his own birthday. What day was it, anyway? It had simply slipped his mind, not seeming important over the course of the years events, and he never enjoyed the parties anyway. They were only another year taken away from him and put into the training he was being given.
Now 9 years taken. And he was officially 18.
Wait, what? He gripped his head, trying to put on a brave face. He remembered things from beyond age 12, back and back and back, where the world was not much different from what he was now experiencing.
And then he was sucked back into the conversation as a cake was dropped slowly in front of him, with green and black frosting and golden eagles painted around. He guessed it was vanilla. Hoped it was, at least, since that was his favorite. He smiled, realizing he at least remembered this tiny fact now, if the rest was a blur.
Jester started off the song whole-heartedly, and he supposed everyone else joined in the same way, even if Anastasia didn’t very much sound like she cared of if Hawk and Vulture couldn’t speak at all without coughing, let alone Elise and Crow. He saw the soldiers monotone helmets staring back at him, and for once he knew exactly what he would say to one of them.
Just like that one soldier, he knew that something had gone on. They knew secrets that he didn’t. And as the song reached its climax he just nodded, smiling sadly at the fact that this was the pinnacle of his life now and there was nothing he could do to stop it, although he was thankful that this was even happening.
He even thought he heard Miranda tagging along quietly, and he was grateful for that as well.
“Enjoy it, everyone, as you’ll all be in there for a while.” Jester finished.
“Yeah that’ll be a great present for me, stuck in the Rift for another few weeks.” Will mumbled under his breath as the electronic arms began to cut small pieces into the cake. At least the Mansion was hi-tec.
Jester actually laughed. “Eagle, weren’t you paying attention? You aren’t going to be in there with the rest of them. I have a special task for you.”
Will was stunned, and blinked, trying to clear his head. “But, what about them? I have to lead them through the Rift, you said that yourself!” he complained.
“Yes, and you’ve accomplished that remarkably. But now you’ll be with us while they’re gone. They’ve all trained well, Eagle, don’t fret. I highly doubt any of them will die, and actually we believe there is a 49% chance they will excel!”
Eagle couldn’t believe what he was listening to, he simply shook his head, and glanced at a piece of his birthday cake. The fact that it was Vanilla made him angry with himself for wanting to laugh, and so he pushed in his chair and left the room, heading straight into the cell that was his bedroom, and slamming his fist on the wall adjacent to his mattress.
What was going to become of him? He looked down at his sore hand and the pain only irritated him even worse. He heard mutters from downstairs, and heard footsteps heading towards him, then the gate-door close quietly behind him. “Didn’t like your cake?” the voice asked after a few seconds of silence.
“What do you want, Miranda?” he growled. “I don’t suppose you have a present?”
“Then what?” he insisted, brushing off her sarcastic tone. “I’m not in the mood.”
He heard something drop to the mattress and felt a cold palm on his shoulder. “I don’t have much time ok? The whole house is Bugged, but they don’t pay much attention during the day to the holding cells.” She caught her breath and began. “I don’t know exactly what they’re going to do to you, but I have a feeling it has to deal with the Splicer. Jeff’s had me turn it much smaller, much more compact, in order to reverse the effects of their testing on you. “After a second she whispered. “I think they’re trying to do something with the Hybrids, trying to find a cure or something.”
Will took that in and listened again. “You’ll probably die, but I think you’ve known that for a while now, right? SO here’s the thing, I think I at least owe you a little explanation with the time that I have, so just shut the hell up and Listen ok?
“I meant what I said, a few days ago, that you kept your promise. Back when we were kids, before they took you into the Mansion, we used to hang out, you know?” she paused and decided something. “I was pretty much your only friend.”
“Gee thanks.” He breathed, but she continued.
“Anyway, you were about 8, going on 9 when they took you away, but before they did you promised me that you’d be okay, when I threatened to go to my Dad and beg for you not to go.”
This part he really focused on. He had wanted to go to the Rift? Had he volunteered?! What a terrible decision maker he was!
“Anyway, you promised me that you would be stronger and nothing would happen to you and that you would protect me and my Dad when you came out. Stop smiling before I slap it off of you.” She hissed, although he could sense she was smiling underneath the Mask herself.
He couldn’t help it really, that she would care so much about such a tiny promise when they were little kids, but something was nagging at him. There was more to the story. A lot more. “You promised me something too, didn’t you?” he breathed. “I don’t remember what….”
“And I hope you never do, you idiot. We were kids, remember that if it ever comes back to you.” Miranda whispered, trying to change the subject.
“Wait, where was your brother through all this? What happened to me? You must know!” he insisted forcefully.
“My brother…?” she trailed off, then must have remembered something. “Oh, yeah....I can’t tell you, Ok? I’m still a part of them, the Play, and they’d have my head if they even knew I was telling you this much. Just be patient, ok? I’ll try and fill you in as much as I can, but it can’t be all explained here.”
Will nodded, smiled again. “Thanks.”
She shook her head, pushing him forward against the wall, while he caught himself quickly before slamming into it. “Yeah, like I said, we were kids.” And with that she left quickly downstairs.
Will shook his head. The past was still extremely blurry to him, but he turned around and watched his childhood friend leave, then looked finally at what lay on the cot. It was wrapped underneath his blanket, and he yawned while he picked it up and unwrapped it so that they would have less of a chance of hearing him. They. The Play. He sighed again and looked at the machine, which seemed like a taser of some sort. He pressed a button while yawning again loudly, not knowing how much noise the machine would make, but it was only a gentle hum.
And a second later he felt something click in his brain as he began to remember.
They were arguing, him and Miranda, just as kids do sometimes. They held small packages in their hands, and he remembered it wasn’t that much of an argument so much as it was a debate over something.
“I want to, Mimi! It’ll make me stronger. I want to help out here. We’re losing, you heard that yourself.” He complained.
“You don’t know what you’re in for, Willy. You haven’t seen the front lines like the grown-ups have.” She countered. “People have P-A-T-Z or something.”
“PTSD.” He interrupted.
“Yeah, that!” she continued. “Besides, everyone going is a grown-up.”
“They chose me though, Mimi, I can’t let them down.” He shifted, while she sat in front of him, back to the door and blocking him from leaving. Will sank down with his back to the railing, looking Miranda in her green eyes while she stared back adamantly to his amber ones. “I’ll be fine.” He added.
She raised an eyebrow and held out her finger, which now had something he remembered to be a ‘Ring pop’ on it. “Pinky Promise?”
“Pinky Promise.” He agreed, curving his around hers with a ring on it.
She nodded, seeming to feel good about herself now that this was settled. “Then pinky promise that when you get back you’ll make us safe.”
He smiled. “Duh! That’s gonna be my job Mimi!” he joked. They both ignored the artillery fire they heard a few miles out, since it had become so common place just as the night sky and the stars.
She smiled and giggled. “Just promise me and my Daddy and your daddy will be ok!”
He continued grinning and nodded. “Pinky Promise that too.”
And so a few days later when they walked down the steps of the great castle that had become The Play’s seat of Power, and the men in Black armor came in their armored vehicles outside the huge doors, he was smiling with Miranda. “Hey, Little Will.” the Man had greeted, speaking with an accent so that ‘Little’ and “Will’ had rhymed. “What do you say? You’re gonna come with?”
Miranda peeked from around the Man’s legs and nodded, looking up to the Man, then down to Will. “I’m ready to go.” The boy answered, then smiled at his friend then up to the Man again. “Yeah, I’m ready Mr. Jason, um, I mean Mr. Director, sir.” He stuttered.
Jason nodded, smiling and patting Will’s head. Will looked up to his own father, who smiled sadly and nodded, letting out a shaky sigh. “I wish it didn’t have to come to this, Jace.” He whispered, although Will could hear it. Jason had nodded, looking at his daughter.
“I wouldn’t do it if it weren’t absolutely our last chance, you know that.” He replied quietly. “Now, Will, you be strong in there okay? Don’t let anything bring you down, no matter what you see. Understand?”
“Yes, sir.” Will responded, a bit wavered in his resolve.
“And Will?” his father started. “Just, make sure, whatever it takes, you come back home, okay?” he smiled and nodded at another man who walked beside him
. “Director, Producer.” He greeted politely. Jason and his father nodded. “Don’t you worry. We have another teen in here, and many soldiers. He’ll grow up in a lively bunch of people, and we’ll make sure nothing happens.” While he spoke this, he waved at someone to come, and a gangly teenager with glasses and blonde hair appeared, although he was somewhat stocky.”This is Jeffery.”
“Producer. Mr. Director.” He smiled. “Nice to finally meet you.”
“Alright Jeff, you make sure you take care of my boy, you hear?” his father answered. “And you can call me James.”
“Yes sir, Mr. Pro- I mean, James.” He chuckled, and headed back to the armored van.
Everyone began to file out, and his father, James, crouched down and handed something to his son. “Here you go, Will. It’s my trusty pistol. You keep it with you, at all times, okay? And be very careful with it. You remember how to shoot?”
William nodded, and James smiled. “Alright, I love you, son. You be careful out there, there is a lot you’re gonna see, and it’ll change you a lot, okay? You just keep your hopes high. You’ll be back before you know it.”
“I know daddy…” Will groaned.
James smiled, and wiped his eyes, nodding and letting out another breath. “And Will? I’m sorry, okay? That it had to come to this.” Before Will could process that he stood up and pushed him towards Miranda who was smiling and tearing up a bit.
“Hi.” He managed before being pulled into a huge hug.
“Love you Will!” she blurted out. “Be careful ok?”
William smiled at that and nodded, holding his friend. “I’ll be ok, Miranda.” He repeated.
A lot of it didn’t make sense with what he had originally created in his mind, and he let that dream past go, that his father and mother were waiting for him and were gonna plan to rescue him and he’d live happily ever after.
Oh no, he was from a warzone of a country. Something was terribly confusing him though- the fact that Jason was in his memories.
Only much older.
And Miranda had called him father.
“What the f***…” he breathed, falling down with his back to the wall, his knees huddled close to his chin. He thought of his Pistol, the Makorav, that was apparently a family heirloom. Maybe that’s why he excelled with it compared to other pistols. And how was Jason….He thought back to his friend, who seemed pretty young when he had met him- his age, as a matter of fact. How was it possible that…..no he took that back. How was any of this possible?
He simply sat there, dreaming about it like an idiot, knowing no way of how to take this information in or if to tell anyone. He would simply wait, he supposed, for Miranda. She stated she would explain this all to him, and he let out a shaky breath.
He had to get out of here. This wasn’t even fair anymore. He needed real answers.
His mouth was grimy now, and he realized that he had been sitting here for a while, thinking. How long? He wasn’t sure, but he didn’t hear anyone anymore downstairs, which was a bit concerning. Did he already miss everyone’s leave?
It was pitch black outside, and he figured no one would try to get him at this time. He pulled out the lock pick, then pulled his hand through the bar, and began to fiddle with the lock, many others in his left hand. When he broke the first one he simply switched it out and began moving it around again.
Will never broke concentration, he simply kept working as more memories flooded through him.
“Who was my mom?” William asked his father, throwing rocks over a pond and smiling as they skipped over. The breeze moved his hair back and forth, and his dad sighed, throwing a rock himself.
“She was….an amazing woman. The highest in command besides me in the Military. The way she shot…it was unbelievable Will. She could pluck off a target at a thousand yard without any hesitation. She had the highest kill count of any operative. She was in charge of all the stealth operations going on.” He smiled. “She was the best, Will.”
“What was her name?” the boy asked, looking up at his father.
The man put a solemn smile on again. “Isabella. Her name was Isabella.”
Will shook his head, finding tears fill his eyes as worked. His mother. She had been killed in a small rebellion against the Play. Humans had killed her, not Hybrids.
The lock pick broke again and he cursed, pulling another one and wiping his eyes on his forearm as the tears streamed down his face. Will bit his tongue and finally moved the pick in just the right place, the lock clicking open. He pulled it down and out, then smiled to himself and opened the grate, the looking back at his small room, the only thing he had known for 9 years. He sighed and pulled the hoodie from the drawers next to his small cot, and pulled it over his face, then slipping on and tying the black bandana over his nose and mouth. He pulled on his gloves as well and moved quickly and quietly over to the staircase, looking down it for any signs of movement. None. He vaulted over the side and jumped down onto the bottom of the stairs on the 2nd floor, then hopped over the railing and ran silently over to the Medical wing.
Will pressed his ear to the door, and heard some gruff voices speaking on the other side. “Why the hell do we get guard duty?” the soldier grumbled. “Shouldn’t Mask be doing this?”
“She should, but she’s on break and getting something to eat.” Another voice replied. “How come she gets food and not us?”
“Because she’s important.” The other soldier mimicked. “I don’t care if her dad was the damn Director, she should be here and we should be on break.”
“Yeah but maybe if we get on her good side she’ll rank us up. Or something more, eh?” the voice snickered, and William fought the urge to kill them both in jealous anger.
So she was at the dining room. Will thought many steps out, then finally moved back to the stair case and hopped over the railing again, and rolled onto the 1st floor, then looked to one of the tables. He crouched back down and moved quietly to Mask, who had her back turned to him and was reading a book and sipping something. “That’s hot chocolate, you hate coffee, right?”
Miranda jumped, nearly spilling the mug. “Will? What the hell is wrong with you!” she scolded in a harsh whisper. “How did you get out of your cell? If Jeffery finds yo-“
He pulled down the bandana and the hood, and then held her hands. “Mimi. I remember now.”
She blushed gently, and looked at his eyes, studying him. “It worked. Good. But you have to get back, Jeff’s gonna kill you if he finds you here.”
“Will you come with me, Miranda?”
She stared in wonder at him, confused. “Huh?”
“Will you come with me? I’m leaving Miranda. I’m gonna go through the Rift like I did last time, and I’m gonna take everyone and I’m going to leave. But I don’t wanna leave here without you.” He bent down to look her in the eyes better. “Not again.”
“I don’t…Will..I” she stuttered. “I don’t know what to say. You know I can’t leave Will. And if they find us, we’re dead.”
“We’re as good as dead here, that’s the beautiful think, Miranda!” he grinned. “We have nothing to lose. Please, we can forget about the past and work something out now.”
“You don’t understand Will, we can’t forget the past. It’s going to happen. The Hybrids…the infection…all of it. It’s going to happen here.” She shook her head sadly. “I can’t leave. Believe me, I want to.” She snapped her head up, and glanced back at him. “Someone’s coming. If you’re going to this, do it now Will, you’re going to have to do it without me.”
He squeezed her hands, and nodded, his chest hurting and heart dropping. “I was afraid you would say that. But ok…” he stood up and with one hand still holding hers he pulled up his hood and bandana. “I’m sorry, Miranda.”
“I am too, Willy.” She whispered, and let go of her hand as he dashed towards the basement again, taking the steps two at a time.
William sprinted towards the terminals, then began punching in a code and flashing through images of highly classified data. He didn’t waste any time, and in a few moments the arc began sputtering, then flashing its lavender color.
He smiled and walked towards it. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up, however, and he spun around, a soldier slamming the stock of his rifle into Will’s face, and knocking him to the ground. The soldier stomped on his chest, and Will’s breath left him. He grunted, then rolled over onto his back and tried to crawl towards the Arc, but there was another stomp on his back which immobilized him. He groaned in pain, then felt a hard hand lift him by the neck. “How dare you try to escape, you little ungrateful Worm!?”
“Get the hell off me, you double-crossing, power hungry snake.” William spat at the figure in front of him. Jester sighed, then punched him in the face, hard enough to break his nose.
“So you’re starting to remember? I should’ve finished you off long ago William.”
As it was two soldiers appeared on the sides of Jester, who was headed up the stairs. ‘The machine!’ he thought, instantly hiding it underneath all of his clothing as best he could before he was given much attention. “Hello, Eagle.” The man greeted as if nothing had occurred. “If you can just come with us, that’ll be excellent.”
William couldn’t do anything besides agree. He let out a small sigh, his heart racing, and let out his wrists as they commanded, a metal clamp handcuffing him.
William trailed quietly, silent except for his racing heartbeat and footsteps as he was lead down to the medical wing. He thought unfortunately how only 3 weeks before he was supposed to be mutilated in this place. It seems he was only spared for a short time, but the minute his usefulness ran out was the minute his lifetime was completed.
It seems that time had come, finally, and he was walking to his death, or worse. They pushed open the door and gestured to a seat that seemed hideously similar to an electric chair, and he took note of the fact that Miranda watched him from a corner, leaning against the wall with a contraption that seemed similar to a tattoo gun and syringe crossbred. Even as it was no larger than a gun, he watched it warily. “What is that?” He questioned once he was pushed down onto the seat.
“Hmm? Oh, the Splicer 2.0? You’ve seen it before, haven’t you Eagle, in its beta form?” Jester shrugged off the question and pulled out a small bottle made of steel and took the Splicer from Mask, inserting the cartridge with a loud hiss at the back of the machine. The top of the Splicer with a clear bottle began to fill with a yellow substance that seemed like a thick liquid. “Eagle, you’ve seen the Hybrids many a ‘time, correct?” Will nodded as he felt the straps tighten around his wrists. “And you’ve tried to kill them to no success, right?”
“Yes, you have to shoot the vitals, I think.”
Jester chuckled, flicking the splicer a couple of times as a large needle was extracted from the front. “But you aren’t sure are you? No one is exactly sure, and that’s why we’re doing this. The Hybrids exist only because of our failure to destroy them, Eagle. You understand.” It wasn’t a question, but a statement, and Will had only to brace for the impact as he felt the needle sink into his left jugular vein.
When it left he let out a great breath and shook his head. “What the hell was that?”
Jester walked away with his back to him. He muttered something to a guard, who nodded and pulled out a remote. “The Virus, Alpha Influ-Rabie. That’s what we called it, anyway. We’ve studied the Hybrids and Hellhounds, Eagle, and found that they are all infected by different forms of this disease. The two strands, Influenza and Rabies, somehow found a random genetic sequence where they could merge together, and once that happened, our doctors had no idea what to do. The Influenza destroys your bodies immune system while the Rabies makes you slowly go crazy until all you want to do is kill everything in your path.
“This is what the Hybrids are, Eagle. It is why we call them Hybrids, and why we have to kill them, before they infect every single one of us.” He concluded.
William shook his head again. “So you made me one of them?!”
“We had to, Eagle! We have to end this as soon as possible!” Jester defended himself. “I’m not the bad guy here, remember that. It’s THEM. Those beasts are destroying everything. We have to destroy them.”
The young man sighed, because he could see the reason with this now that he had his thoughts back, could pick through the haze and understand why Jeffery would do this to him. But he still wanted to kill him. “How long do I have, then?” he mumbled, leaning back in the chair.
“We aren’t sure. From all our research, it seems you’ll have about 18 hours to be ok, and after that you’ll slowly succumb to the disease.” Will closed his eyes and coughed suddenly, very violently. “Or even sooner, judging by that. We needed you, Eagle, because of your blood. You’re a B positive, and we think that type of blood is something the virus cannot infect all the way, because it destroys something in it. That’s what this was all about. Blood types. Simple, right?”
Will spat at his foot, and Jester sighed. “Someone pick clean that up.” He looked at Mask and pointed at Will again. “Watch him, and take all your medical notes.”
“Well I wasn’t planning on moving.” She answered back sarcastically.
Jester headed out the door while the guard with the remote pressed a button and a slow hum began to resonate from the chair. He felt the straps tighten immensely, to where it was no longer uncomfortable, but painful, as they began to crush his bones. Will didn’t mind at this point, now that he knew he wouldn’t die just yet, but become a beast. The Irony of it all, how he had killed so many of these things yet became one. “What a Happy Birthday.” He muttered, then coughed again, some blood coming out at this point. “Why did you guys use the Splicer, and not just a regular Syringe?”
“To speed up the process.” Miranda explained. “It uses a highly concentrated form of the virus and injects it into you at an extremely high speed. That’s why your heart seems to be pounding harder and faster.”
“Oh I’m flattered.” He mumbled. “I get to be a guinea pig. How did you know it wouldn’t just kill me right there?”
“I didn’t. I was actually hoping it would.” He let out a dry laugh, and she added “Well which would you rather have had, Death or This?”
He couldn’t exactly argue with her there. “I was expecting a sarcastic undertone. I’m actually pretty proud.” Another coughing fit. “How exactly was this supposed to work? Maybe you can give me an idea of how long I have, since you invented the damned thing.”
Mask shrugged. “I’m not really sure. Maybe 3 hours? Maybe 6? Like I said, it depends on the person. You may hold on longer than anyone else. If I had to take a guess, it would take possibly 4 hours for the virus to take hold of you. How long you remain human after that, I’m not sure.”
“And how do you judge humanity in all your sciences, Doctor?” he managed before coughing again. “This sucks.”
She ignored the last part and answered simply. “The ability to speak. No other being that we know of can speak. Sure, parrots can mimic voices, but that’s not the same as speaking your own thoughts aloud.”
Will nodded. That made sense. He had his own idea of what human was, and he wasn’t exactly sure when that definition no longer included him.
Now all he could do was wait. His body seemed to know this and decided to shut down, sending him asleep into oblivion.
“How long until I die?” he questioned as soon as he woke up. “After I become a Hybrid, I mean.”
Miranda shrugged, kicking her foot in the air as she was sitting down on a table beside Will. “I don’t know.” That answer, unfortunately, was something she was increasingly stating. “Average Lifetime for Rabies was around 6 days after initial symptoms showed up. That much stayed the same when it blended with Influenza.”
“You’ve been asleep for about 6 hours, which is good. You aren’t Gone yet.”
And then it was dark again.
He awoke again, coughing into a huge fit. “What, what…”he muttered, coughing once more after he did so. His throat was so dry and scratchy. His whole body, actually was itchy. He needed to get off of this chair.
“What? I didn’t do anything.” A voice answered, and he felt a weight lifting off of his shoulder.
Will noticed Miranda and his mouth watered, simply for hunger. No, not his stomach. No…what was happening? He needed something to eat, that was all.
The Virus couldn’t have taken hold this quickly, could it have? He shook his head, trying to clear it, but then there was that need to spread the virus again. “I….are you taking notes or something?” he asked, coughing again.
“Yeah, why?” She rubbed her eyes, then looked around and opened a clipboard. “Wanna see them…or…” she trailed off and realized what he was trying to say. “Oh. Crap.” She looked down at her watch and shook her head. “It’s been 11 hours, roughly.” She pulled out a tape recorder and repeated the statement, then stood on her feet and continued. “Subject 001 shows symptoms. Scratchy voice.” She opened his eyelid, and he noticed her crystal green eyes, while another part of him noticed her veins in her neck. Easy to get to. He would start ther-
No! What was he doing. He blinked when she shined a light in his eyes, and caught an extreme migraine. “Ah stop….” He complained. “That’s giving me a headache.
“Subject complains of Light. Dilated pupils. Eyes are bloodshot.” She thought for a second and held out her hand palm up. He looked at it for a second, then shook his head. “What are you thinking, Will?”
He thought about that for a second then answered honestly. “Part of me is thinking how I’m getting annoyed by these straps.”
“And the other part?”
“Wants to rip them off and run before I hurt someone.”
She sighed and pressed a button on the recorder, then went over and wrote down some more notes. “Thanks for reminding me. But it’s 2 o’clock in the morning. Go back to sleep.”
He nodded his head, and closed his eyes. He had never truly been frightened before, but now he was, and Will was even more worried because of that.
A day passed. Then another. By now Will’s day had become routine. The infection took hold of him after 23 hours. He still could speak, but just barely. He barely managed a few words now and then to even ask for food. And when he received these courses, they were usually some type of rodent – like a Bunny or Rat or Squirrel. He shook his head whenever they did this, and even taunted the guards now and then.
“It’s like a Steak throwing crackers.” He muttered once. “You still want the steak.”
That was the first day, when speech was still possible. Now the guards were here nearly 24/7. The few hours that they weren’t, Miranda was, and even she seemed a bit afraid of him. Apprehensive, if anything. She would speak to him of the past, reminding him as his thoughts became murky. The virus was clouding them, he knew. It was leaving him with just enough intelligence to pass on the virus, and plan a way to do so.
A week passed, and his degrading appeared to stop. He spoke randomly, in short phrases, but could still get his thoughts across. His skin turned a dull, sick, gray color, and his eyes were always itchy and bloodshot, according to Miranda. He hadn’t seen a mirror of course, but he’d bet he couldn’t even recognize himself.
He knew the reason for the tightened straps now. His muscles became larger while his body ate up all the fat that he had left, which was barely any to begin with, and his heart raced incredibly fast, pouring adrenaline into his blood. One day he had thrashed about, screaming profanity and trying to kill everyone in the room. He wanted the flesh, the warm blood trickling down his mouth.
And every now and then he could hear people’s voices scream in his head, wailing, calling out for their Master and a Master would speak back, calming his Children and speaking words into Will’s head that seemed to soothe even his fears. “Remember our Brothers, my Children.” It had said one day. “Remember our Duty, my children. Remember our Enemy, my Children.” And voices had chorused in his head.
“Remember Our Brothers. Remember Our Duty. Remember Our Enemy.”
Will felt he slipped away, this infection taking over his daily actions. Sometimes he would black out and when he awoke he would be in pain due to the lashes they would give him to make him stop. Those were times he had no memory of, but from what Miranda told him, they were the times when he “acted up.” He didn’t care or know anymore. It was like 3 people were fighting for control. Him, The Infection, and the Hive.
The Hive had an enemy, which he thought to be humans. But from what the Master had said, it seemed that the Humans were the brothers as well, and that the Infection was the Enemy. Their duty was to eradicate the enemy. There were days when he would just listen to the Master speak instead of tuning him out. “Weep and Grieve, my children. Grieve for the Fallen ones. Weep for the Dead. Remember our Duty.”
That was always such an important part. The Duty. The Duty. He stopped thinking about it so much, as he knew he would drive himself insane, if he wasn’t already.
All he had to look forward to was when Miranda managed to speak with him on some nights. She would stay up and talk herself to sleep, and he would fight back the Infection and the Hive and just be William. He never trusted himself to touch her, and so he sat as far away as possible when they transferred him into a cage in the Medical wing. He had tried to kill every guard that day, but he managed not to, thankfully.
This was one of those times, and Will sat with himself facing front, smiling the best he could as Miranda came in. “Hello.” He greeted in his scratchy, deep voice. “Come to talk?”
Miranda nodded, letting out a small sigh. He was trying too hard, he knew, to be human. But he didn’t even remember how he used to act. “Your name is Miranda.” He remembered suddenly, and thought it best to speak it aloud.
She raised an eyebrow. “Um, yes. You… you forgot my name?”
He nodded. “Only for a little, though. Just for a little. But I remembered…I always try and remember, but it gets clouded. Up here.” He pointed at his skull, then closed his eyes. “Good. I’m glad I remembered.” He opened one eye and smiled again. “You look very pretty, Miranda.”
She smiled back, as if he was a child, which seemed to sadden her and him as well. “Thank you, Will. I’m going to show you a movie, okay? I think it will explain a lot.”
And the movie began:
A man appeared at the screen, nodding at something. “Alright. If you are all watching this, then you’ve gone a long way in the Rift, and I commend you for it.” He shook his head. “And now you are going to learn the Truth.
“The Rift itself is not a different plane of Existence, as some of you may or may not have decided.” The man moved back and pulled a chalk board out, beginning to draw a circle. “The Rift is a wormhole of sorts between the past and the future. A time machine.” He laughed. “I know I know, that’s a lot to take in. Here, let me explain.” By now he was done drawing two small circles and a line underneath them both. “This is Circle E, and this is circle AE”. He labeled them as such. “And this line, represents time. Circle E is where I come from. It is Earth should we let them continue on the path that was set.
“But we didn’t, because we found the Rift. We sent kids back and forth throughout time, you guys, and by doing this we changed history. We have found, however, that it does not completely destroy Earth, but creates a new Time line parallel to Earth. It is where you currently are. Alternate Earth. Circle AE.” He turned back to the camera. “Following me so far?”
“Alright. Now let me explain this Rift. The Rift is a wormhole. What this means is that two points have met that were originally between cast distances on the Time line, and we can hop between the two. Think of it like this blanket.” Another person appeared, and they both stretched out a blanket. “If I drop this bowling ball in the middle of the blanket, it pulls both points down and together.” He did so, and the two met each end of the blanket together. “I represent Your Earth, the Past, while My Colleague represents my Present, or your future.”
The screen skipped to where they have cleaned the experiment up, and the man smiled. “Let me teach you a bit about myself. I am Dan Hersin. Currently lead Astrophysicist for the Play. The Play itself is the only government left, the collections of humans remaining in the future. The ranks go like this: AT the top is the Director. He or She is similar to the President, although a bit more powerful, kind of like a King or Queen. Below that are three lower ruling people, the Producers.” While he explained Dan drew lines connecting each rank. “They are in charge each of different things. The Producer of War, which has the Elites below him, the Honor Guard below that, then the Basic Troops, which have Military style Ranking.
“There is the Producer of Politics. He or She reports all things relating to the People to the Director. Below him is the Council of Lords, each Lord in charge of a different region of the White Marsh citizens. Below the Lords are obviously the People.
“Then there is the Producer of Experimentation. He is in charge of the bio-warfare and chemical-warfare used for the Producer of War, and other experiments to aid our People. Below him directly are the Scientists, below that being the Doctors, and below that being the Experiments. The experiments in this case, are you guys.” He smiled and showed the completed diagram to the camera:
Producer of Experimentation
Producer of War
Producer of Politics
Council of Lords
England Asia America
“Now you all are training to become Elites. To win the war in your future. Once we train you all well enough to fight, you will fight the Hybrids and Hellhounds in your future. We don’t exactly know for sure how they got here, but they will come to Earth. Your Earth. We have already lost the war in our Time. But it is up to you to win it in yours.
“Good luck. This is Dan, signing off.”
The screen went black then, and she glanced back to Will. “Well that about covers it. Any questions?”
“What is Jester?”
“Head Scientist. I’m the Head Doctor.”
“Then who is the Director?” he questioned.
“That used to be Jason. You know, Hawk? He visited here once, but he’s been recovering.” She trailed off then continued again. “He was my father, back in the Rift. Me and You, we’re from that time. The other Earth. They decided to bring Jason from this earth and take him into the Rift when they found him, because everyone liked him as a leader, before he died…” she choked up a bit, and William thought for a second.
“I’m sorry.” He tested out the words in his mouth, and then coughed again, starting another round of a headache. He ignored the common pain now. “What happened? How did he die, back then?”
Miranda seemed to remember something, as her eyes seemed distant. Jeffery brought you from the Rift that day. We thought you were all dead. It had been 3 years, for a 2 year experiment. He told us that there had been a civil war between all the people in the Rift. All of the Subjects, so to speak. Only you and him made it out, but you had a bullet wedged into your skull.” She smiled a bit.
“I was really happy, Will, when I saw you, even though you were dying. I just scooped you up into my arms and cleared a table and got to work. I don’t even remember what I did, but I was just working off of what I saw my mom used to do – she was a combat Medic – and the Doctors were pretty shocked that a 12 year old just showed them up. I couldn’t get the bullet out without killing you, so I just managed to stitch your head together and clean the wound and take as much as I could out. You had been also shot in the leg and in the torso. I cleaned those up, too.”
He nodded, although had no memory of this. He didn’t suppose he would, since he was unconscious during most of it. “I could see why you’re Head Doctor, then.”
“Yeah, even though I’m pretty young, I’m ranked above 40, 50, 60 year olds. And no one complains.” She laughed at the joke, then she looked at him. “Then you woke up, and I was ecstatic. But, you couldn’t remember very much. I suppose it’s from some kind of Amnesia when your brain cells tried to repair around the bullet. You also stuttered for a long time. You still kind of do.”
He agreed with that statement again, and it made a lot of sense. “Go on.”
“Well…” her thoughts turned dark. “For the first few days I tried to get you to remember. But you were just a blank slate, nothing to go back on. Sure there was a fragment every now and then, but nothing set in stone as far as memories were concerned. I just stopped trying. Then after one week, our last stronghold came under attack against a massive hoard of Hybrids.
“They breached the walls at 4 o clock in the morning. Everyone was fighting, and everyone was dying. Kids, Adults, teenagers. Even the sick veterans just got up and tried to use whatever they had left to fight. It was bloody. It seemed like we were all going to die. But then one of the Hybrids, I guess it was a Leader or something, just screamed a really high pitch noise and everyone of them sort of retreated away. Quickly. We didn’t know why, at first. But then we saw my dad laying down, bleeding on the ground in his full armor.”
William imagined the scene, and he think he knew who that Hybrid was. The Master, so honorable, had stopped fighting once he saw the arch enemy was defeated in combat.
“No.” a voice in his head spoke. “No, Child. They are not the enemy. He was never the Enemy. It was the Enemy who caused all of the Fallen to attack your City and burn it to the ground. We lost many Brothers and Sisters that day. I managed to take some of the Children and defeat the Fallen Ones, then retreat. It was hard to tell who the Enemy really was that day. And I am not a God, remember that. Honor wasn’t the first thing on my mind.”
Miranda continued as the voice stopped, and William tried to calm his bewilderment at the whole scenario. What had just happened? The Master spoke directly to him? It knew he was listening? It knew WHAT he was listening to?
“He died later that week. Your dad, the Producer of War at the time, was also gravely injured. He asked Jeffery what he thought went wrong with the experiment, and Jeffery suggested something about a Crystal which he could use to create the Splicer, which would function as a way to mass produce a cure for the Hybrid virus. It needed something to keep it extremely cool, you see, and Jeffery had an idea about an element that was rumored to have been seen in this Mansion. The element was Metallic, and was so cold that the particles did not move at all. This way he could freeze the anti-virus for a long time to ship around the world in bottles.”
William thought about that and thought it seemed like an okay plan. “He also suggested that we continue the Super Soldier experiment while looking for this chunk of metal. I came along, and tried to play dumb so that they didn’t take my memories away from me like they had to do with Jason, and make Jason believe I had grown up with him his entire life and that we were twins.” She finished.
William took this in. “I’ll try and remember that.” He whispered. “I really hope I don’t forget it. It seems awfully important.” These three sentences took a while for him to say because he was trying to pronounce each word so carefully, and when he was finished, his whole body wrenched into a coughing fit that was unbelievably painful.
Miranda simply looked at him, her mask long since off whenever she would talk to him like this, and smiled sadly again. “I guess I was just mad at you all this time because I needed someone to blame, Will. I’m sorry.”
That’s when he knew for a fact he would die. Miranda had apologized to him, and he knew that was terribly hard for her to do, and as far as he knew she had never done it before. He felt his mind slipping away as he breathed something he hoped she wouldn’t forget. He was sorry too, that it had to be this way, but he knew nothing could change.
He reached for something under his torn shirt, and smiled at her. “I want you to have this.” He cupped both his hands with it in it, and tossed it towards her as to not get too close. “It’s your…um…necklace thingie.” He felt proud of himself.
She was stunned to see it, and picked it up to inspect. “You, you’ve had this all this time?”
“I never got rid of it. I couldn’t.”
Miranda began crying then, holding the necklace tightly against her chest, and leaning sideways against the cell. William took a sharp breath and scooted himself over to her slowly, leaning against the bars slowly, not trusting himself. He took the necklace back from her and then wrapped it around her neck very carefully, controlling the insatiable thirst for flesh and blood.
Once he finished he smiled at her, then played with his fingers and sat down, looking at the floor and debating with himself until he finally decided on something. “Can I hold your hand?”
She laughed and sniffled, tears still going down her cheeks. “Y-yeah, Will. You can hold my hand.”
“You trust me?”
“Yes Will, I trust you.”
He smiled gently and held her right hand in his left, still with his back facing her. “I don’t wanna die, Mimi. I’m scared.”
“I am too, Will.”
He truly loved her, and that was all that mattered.
He didn’t know how long it had been, but he supposed it was a month, and he was still holding out. William still breathed in air, still felt the cold on his skin, yet he no longer cared about all of this. He wanted to be dead, rather than a beast.
He had spoken to the Master now and then, and the Master seemed to be an interesting fellow. His name was Romeo, and he had a son named Remus. They both were infected, and they were the controllers of the Hybrids. The Enemy was the infection itself. The Fallen Ones were the Hybrids that saw no reason, and wanted to kill everything in their paths, even each other. Their Brothers were, in fact, the Humans. The Master was more of a priest stage name for him. Romeo didn’t know why others didn’t act the way he did, but he thought about the blood type Will once mentioned and agreed that this was a common factor in their situations.
So Will supposed he would not die, but be a prisoner in this Hell of his, a former shell of his old self. He was normally a somewhat optimistic person, but he could see no upside to this. He’d rather be dead, and because of this, did not respond when they opened the gate doorway out of his cage. “Come with us, Eagle.”
Now who was Eagle? He had memorized his own name, Will, but he thought of that bird thing he had tried to eat a few days back. It was made out of wood and pretty nasty, so he threw it to the side of the cage. He looked back to it now, and supposed that he was Eagle. That’s right, the totems. The Rift. He sighed and looked away, staying the in the back corner of the cage. “Come and get me.” He muttered. “I dare you.”
The soldiers looked between each other and shrugged, and one ducked inside and reached his hand out to grab Will. The young man snapped at him, but as soon as he did another hand went around the back of his neck and the other around his throat, pulling him out and throwing him to the cold floor. He jumped back up and felt a hard kick at his shins, knocking him onto his knees as one soldier grabbed his arms back and handcuffed him. He snapped at the barrel of the gun in his face, and growled with feral anger. “Not so tough now, are you, Eagle? Look at you. Pathetic.” The stock of the gun hit him across the left cheek, and the worst pain was when the headache came back.
He didn’t respond to the taunting; he knew he would never have acted this way, but he couldn’t exactly blame them, now that he knew what their life had been like. Being forced to fight for a government you didn’t even like, that had long since fallen apart, and have seen your entire family torn apart by the creature kneeling in front of you. Will would shoot himself if that would help them. He was dragged across the ground, a gun on his back pushing him forward as two other soldiers had their arms underneath his to pull him along. He wouldn’t, and probably couldn’t, stand on his own, since he was simply too weak. He hadn’t consumed anything in the past day, the need for flesh on his thoughts every day. Rats no longer helped him any and he stopped drinking the dirty water they threw at him after the first few weeks. The Virus in him, luckily, kept him alive without the proper nutrients, though he was losing weight incredibly fast.
He looked around and spotted Jason, then Remy, and finally Elise and Cesare after some searching around in his brain for their names. Anastasia was there. Shirley. Tanya. Crow. He never remembered Crow’s real name. It was something unimportant, compared to his future situation. Unfortunately, there was someone missing. He didn’t want to think of who, but it hit him anyway.
Cat. The Mute. She probably couldn’t even scream out for help.
The latter broke his heart, whatever was left of it. She was at a significant disadvantage to everyone else, and yet they still shoved her in the Rift for a whole month. Everyone seemed older now. More wise. They were looking around, as if trying to spot someone, and Cesare was the one to first talk. “Where’s Will? I don’t see him anywhere.”
Jester nodded. “You will in just a second, don’t worry. Please, everyone, no interruptions while I begin explaining.” He added quickly, as soon as William was thrown – literally – down the stairs and onto his back, his hand still cuffed behind his back. He rolled onto his wobbly feet, then fell down onto one knee, breathing ragged and heavy. “Ah, the star has arrived! Say hello to Eagle, everyone.”
No one spoke for a long while, finally Will smirked a little, and then looked up into the eyes of Elise. They hadn’t spoken in a while, even before he was like this. Now he didn’t have words to express his current situation, and they weren’t needed. His blood shot, green and amber eyes expressed everything.
He was trapped in a shell.
Elise shook her head, and closed her eyes, looking down and breaking his eye lock. The feral monster in Will threatened to erupt, and he growled lowly under his own breath, trying let loose some of the anger and hostility. So much flesh. He was so hungry. The need for spreading the virus was making him quiver with anticipation. His taste buds erupted with saliva, he wanted it so bad. He tried to stand up again, grunting and coughing. “Get me out of these things…” he growled in a strange voice. He hadn’t heard it for a while, and it sounded nothing like it did when he was fully human. Now, it was some kind of strained, parched, dry voice with no hint to who he was originally. “Out. Now.” He repeated, struggling to rip his arms free. When he looked into the eyes of Jason, the young man only said aloud “What have they done to you?”
Something sparked in Will’s head, and he closed his eyes, struggling all over again with renewed energy, trying to get himself free. Finally he just screamed, a loud high-pitched howl, which caused the stock of a gun to crack at his spine, sending him onto one knee again. He tried to whip around then felt another hit at his cheek that sent him to the ground. As he struggled a weight was placed on his back, and he knew there was no use trying to get up. “Our friend Eagle here was the first subject to be injected with the Hybrid virus. As you can tell, his general demeanor has changed to one of the infected. However, he still maintains most of his bearings, and can think and plan. This is extraordinarily unexpected. We believe that if any of you were to become infected, you would become this.” A finger was pointed at him.
“Because that’s so great.” Cesare complained, not bothering to hide his sarcasm at all. “This is low, Jesty, even for you, and that’s saying a lot. How can you do this and feel no remorse?”
Jester nodded. “A fair question. I understand, it may seem a bit…cruel to you all. But see it from my perspective. I am preventing millions, even billions of people from dying and becoming monsters, even if I may “ruin” one life, as you guys may call it.” To this William tried to protest, hissing aloud, although a soft stomp – if a stomp could be called soft in anyway – stopped him from attempting to speak.
“Jeez stop it, you’re going to kill him!” Else scolded the soldiers.
“Mind your own!” a voice answered, pointing a rifle at her. Captain Luis. The Hybrid squirmed at the sound of his voice, wanting to rip his windpipe out.
“Hey, don’t you dare point a rifle at a woman.” Vulture stepped in. His voice was almost as bad as Hawk’s and Will’s. “And don’t point it at me unless you’re meaning to use it.”
“Oh believe me I will.” He instantly replied.
“That’s enough!” Jester interrupted. “All of you! You don’t understand, do you? You are all bound by a single gift, and that is your blood types. With it, you will help millions of people.”
“And all we have to do is give up all the blood in our bodies?” Cesare laughed. “That’s a bit much to ask, right? I mean, you haven’t even taken us to dinner-“
“This isn’t the time for jokes, Parrot. You need to respect the power you have been given, and use it for good.” Jester shook his head. “Can’t you see all of the possibilities? If we could harness the antibodies in your blood we could eradicate the virus where it stands. An Immunization! That was unheard of only a few months ago, when we’d all but given up hope!”
This time Miranda spoke. “Give them time to cool down, Jester. They’re agitated from the past month.” She looked back to the group and gestured upstairs. “Clean yourselves up and take some recreational time.”
William felt a needle stick into his neck, and instantly growled. “Shut up, idiot. I’m taking some blood, not killing you yet.” He snapped his jaws anyway, saliva dripping to the white floor as the needle left his skin and he was picked onto his feet and dragged back over to his room. He looked back towards his past friends and closed his mouth, burying his now long nails into his palms. The pain always helped him clear his head.
“Wait.” A person croaked. “Can I talk to him?”
“You can go to the Medical Room after we take him there.” The Captain grunted, starting to move again.
William squinted at the boy who spoke, and shook his head. He seemed familiar, yet different somehow. “Don’t come.” He managed before being dragged away again. “No one. No come.” He rasped before getting hit across the face and pulled away back up the stairs. He took the hit and suddenly his adrenaline kicked in, sending him into a struggling fit, hissing and growling and acting demonic. He wanted to die, wanted them to kill him right here and now. But no, they always needed more data.
William sat with his back turned to the world, staring at the wall that was normally behind him, and barred inside of his cage. There was the sound of footsteps reaching him, and Hawk’s voice. “Will. You still there, mate?” The boy did not move, nor stir. He was a monster now, not fit to speak. He didn’t deserve to be in the presence of his former life. “We’re working on a cure.”
To that, William twitched his ears, listening carefully. A cure to this disease? Was that even possible? Miranda had mentioned it before but…
“It is very possible, William. The Play was working on a cure before the Fallen defeated and wiped them out. I think your short blonde haired friend may be the one you’re looking for.”
Jason held his head, and groaned. William turned around, and narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Your thoughts, William, sound very weird.”
“The Voice was you?” William managed quickly, his own voice nearly sounding as raspy and torn apart as Jason’s. Jason smirked, then coughed when he tried to speak.
“Trying to keep your bloody ass alive, yeah, that was me.” He chuckled, then rubbed his temple. “It’s the chips in our brains. The one that Jester put in. They keep us linked in more ways than one.” He rubbed his neck. “It was a better version of the bomb collar. Of course, they ran out of chips, so that just went back to bomb collars. They had to keep you linked with the rest of the group, so they put one on you as well, even though you had the chip.” He smiled. “I noticed that Mask gave you a deactivator for the chip. I managed to hit my head so bad, it disrupted the magnetic activity and deactivated the bomb. Everyone else did something similar.”
William fought his instincts and thought again, calling on his messed up vocal cords to speak for once. “It’s not me. It’s Romeo…” he trailed off, and spoke through his mind to the Hive Leader. “Can you show yourself to him?”
“Mr. Producer. It’s been too long. You don’t remember me, but we were once enemies. I am the current speaker for the Hybrid race. You may call me Romeo.” When Jason heard this, he nearly fainted.
It took many days, yet Jason finally returned, and in his hand he managed to smuggle a single syringe. “Courtesy of Shirley.” He grinned broadly, then brought out William’s arm. “This should kill the virus in your system. If you knew what it was, you wouldn’t want to take it, so don’t ask, mate. Just give me your arm.”
William did so, and Jason took his right biscep in hand, made sure no air was in the syringe and turned William around suddenly and violently, sticking him directly in the chest, over the heart, and injecting the red liquid into his bloodstream directly. William nearly went crazy, barking and lunging for Jason, who fell backwards to avoid his friend killing him. William began to thrash on the floor, screaming and ripping the needle out of him, and throwing it to the ground. “I’m sorry William, this was the only way. I have to go.”
“ROMEO!” he screamed in his head. “HELP ME! WHAT DID THEY DO!!!!”
“William, calm yourself. There is a reason we and the hellhounds do not get along. Their blood is toxic to us. What Shirley discovered might just have saved your life, but it could also kill you. You have to control yourself. The pain from changing back, it will control you, but you have to break free of it. Now keep quiet, for I fear you may cause guards to come to your attention.”
Romeo was right. With all of William’s howling, the Captain and the rest of his guards quickly came and unlocked the cell door, then kicked William in the face. He growled, though was too immobilized with pain to do anything about it. “Take him to Jeffery, he’s getting on my last nerve.”
The soldiers picked up William and began dragging him out, with the boy still violently thrashing about. He screamed, causing a stir to even the windows. He stood his ground halfway up the stairs, and then heard tapping on the floor beneath him. “Stand aside, boys. Let me deal with him.” Mask demanded.
“Stand aside? Who the hell are you to talk to us like that? You’re nothing but a doctor now without your dead father here to save your sorry ass.” One of the soldiers yelled back.
Will growled lowly, trying still to struggle. Mask pulled out her revolver and clothes lined the soldier off the railing of the stair case in one clean move, straight over the side so easily he did a flip. Then she pulled back the hammer and shot him in the abdomen, the air and his armor cracking as it was hit by the bullet. He let out a cry, which was covered by Captain Luis being shot in the helmet and the other soldier getting side kicked and shot again in the leg. William dropped onto his elbows, and then hissed at Miranda as she let out a hand to help him up, while speaking into a Bluetooth on her right ear, hidden by her flowing black hair. “Go now!” she screamed. “Plan B is in effect!”
The soldier who had been shot and was now on the bottom level pressed a button on his helmet and an alarm sounded off outside and inside the mansion. William screamed loudly. So much noise! He couldn’t stand it! He covered his ears, screaming and curling into a ball. The voices below of his former friends, all the questions. What was going on? Why were there gun shots outside? “Will! I know there’s a lot of noise, but you have to focus, okay? Come with me, alright? I’m gonna take you away from here. I’m gonna bring you back.”
William screamed again, rocking himself and looking at the girl, who seemed to be pleading with him. She crouched down and pulled off the mask one more time, staring at him with crystal green eyes. “C’mon, Willy. I know you’re in there. You have to trust me, okay? Just come with me. Listen to my voice.” She looked up the stairs, and aimed with her pistol, sending off two more rounds. “Will! Hurry! Please!”
“Go with her, William. Remember the Enemy. Remember the Family.” The voice in his head echoed.
There was a thump on the floor above him, though Will nodded, not paying attention and reaching out with his bloody hand. Miranda wasted no time and grabbed it, lifting him up carefully. He wanted to sink his teeth into her flesh, but managed to control himself by breathing carefully and staring into her eyes. He needed to focus on the past. “Follow me Will, we have to move fast.”
They descended the stairs, her grip tight around his. “Jason! Come with me you idiot, stop standing there! Help me out!” she picked up the pistol on the side of the soldier after shooting him in the head, then threw it to Jason, and picked up a rifle, throwing it to Anastasia, and another to Elise and another pistol to Cesare, then a pistol to Shirley and a Rifle to Tanya. There was a cry outside and Jason shot a couple of rounds at the hallway, pinning down soldiers coming towards them. Miranda looked back to will and nodded, speaking carefully. “Alright will, you gotta trust me. There are people outside wearing white armor. You listen to them if I’m gone. Understand?”
Will blinked and nodded, taking that in. He would make sure she made it, he wouldn’t have Miranda die on him. Never again.
“Alright, Will. We have to move fast. Cesare! Anastasia! Remy! Come with me. Tanya, Elise and Jason, you guys stay at our back. Shirley, Mai, I want you to move fast and low. Try and disable the automatic defenses. The code is “Surefire. Capital S. Got that?”
The little girls nodded then slipped away quickly, while Cesare and Elise moved around either side of Miranda and William. Miranda looked down at the revolver and cursed, but aimed and fired a shot anyway at the metal lock at the door next to the dining room, then kicked it open. Jason and Tanya flipped over the tables and chairs, using them as shields, and began to fire off rounds. Tanya made a run for the ammo off the dead soldiers and tossed a magazine to Jason, who nodded thankfully.
“You know, I never once thought we would have to kill Humans.” Cesare shouted over the sound of gunfire. “I can see who the real monsters are.”
Miranda didn’t pay any attention to that, but walked quickly, checking the sides all around her. “V, shoot the lock off the front doors.” Anastasia aimed and fired a couple of rounds, and instantly the doors burst open, and white figures burst through, wearing the same armor as the soldiers that patrolled the Mansion regularly, except in the opposite color and with hoods that concealed their identity, and all different painted clown faces or different masks. They shouted and yelled randomly one sound, female voices and males and young and old, brandishing weapons. One figure seemed prominent, and Anastasia raised her weapon at him. “No, Anastasia! They’re on our side!”
“They bound me and took me to this place!” she exclaimed.
“On my orders! Please, calm dow-“
Then the turrets turned on and everyone began to be mowed down by bullets. From the ceiling, the stairs, even the gargoyles on either side of the stairs opened up and began to fire off rounds as the machine gun were revealed.
“Damn it! Where the Hell is Shirley and Crow!?” Miranda cursed to no one in particular. As if one cue the turrets suddenly shut off and turned around, tearing apart the Guard instead of these Rebels Miranda had fashioned.
20 seconds later Shirley appeared, smiling. “It took me a little longer but I reversed the signal that identified the Guard as friendly. The chips your guys are wearing should be viewed as Allies. This’ll only work for a little, I know. They were rushing in as soon as we left, trying to burn everything.”
“Anything else?” Miranda asked quickly.
“Yes, the Rift is started up. Everything’s escaping.”
Miranda nodded, her face and looked back to Cesare and Vulture. “Get the fire off of us, I’m gonna make a run for it outside.” After an agreeing yell from the two, she pulled William towards the open front door.
The bullets whizzed about and William felt one hit his right calf as he sprinted, and he screamed out in pain, but did not falter as he already knew the virus was trying to repair any damages. It kept him alive at all costs. IT wanted to feed, badly. Now he could hear the wails of Hybrids who were joining hi, who were fighting the Guard and the Rebels. He could sense their presence and they reached out for him, yearning for orders since he was still somewhat in control of himself.
“William, look at me, okay? Remember me.” Miranda stated cautiously, obviously aware of Will’s thoughts.
William nodded, limping a bit before gaining his bearing again in the thick snow outside. The middle of December, and at night time no less. His skin chilled and sent spikes of pain up his body at the cold Siberian temperatures.
He just ran with Miranda straight towards the open arms in front of him. As soon as he made it he was picked up into some kind of pick up truck’s bed, and saw Elise, Tanya, Shirley, Jason, Cesare and Anastasia, Remy and Crow doubling back. William couldn’t stand it any longer, feeling himself lose control, and jumped forward, out of the grip of Miranda, and straight past all of the figures.
He would not kill the Rebels. But the Guard was fair game.
William screeched and ran up the wall to his right, climbing his way up then scouting his targets. The soldiers didn’t pay much attention to him at first, and he dived towards the stairs, the turrets no longer functioning, right onto a guard member, ripping off his helmet and clawing at his face, then biting into his cheek as he struggled to roll over and get the Hybrid off of him.
“William! Remember the way! Fight the control! You can do it! They are our Brothers, William! Push through it!”
Will blocked out the voice and relished the final taste of blood on his lips and on his tongue, though spit out the flesh on his tongue. He bit again into the soldier’s jugular vein, and let loose a blood curdling scream, in a frenzy now. He felt a couple of bullets finally begin to hit him, though he ignored them all and lunged at another figure, clawing at his armor and attempting to bite him through it. When he realized this would not work, he was hit across the face by a foot and rolled over the side of the stairs onto the gargoyle, then onto the floor. He picked himself back up then and sprinted back past all the gun fire then climbed back up the wall. “Focus on that Thing!” a soldier yelled.
“Fight it, William! Do not let the Enemy win!” the voice in his head begged. “Listen to reason! Remember your friends, your family. Remember those you care about and those who care about you. Remember what happened in your life!” William lunged at another soldier, knocking him to the ground. He pushed another one away, then clawed another one’s bare face, then rushed through, all the while causing havoc as he ignored knives and bullet shot that missed his heart and brain. He was pushing towards something.
The man raised a pistol at him, and just as he did so a bright light enveloped the Hybrid’s vision as he fell to his knees and the blow to the spinal cord crippled him. He felt the barrel of the gun lower itself to his skull almost in slow motion as he hit the top of the stairs with his knees.
He knew this time he would finish the job.
The two boys shot apart the men attacking them as they had for the past two years. William himself was using a Makorav his father had given him, while Jester proffered a Colt 1911. Finally the boys sank to the floor, dead. Jeffery laughed, smiling, though Will was saddened. He let out a small sigh, but smiled. “We get to go home now?”
“Yep! This is great, Will! We’ll be able to see our families again!” Will nodded, agreeing, though he was thinking of someone else he wanted to see. Someone he had thought about every single day and whom he had made a promise to 3 years ago.
“They probably think we’re dead.” He decided, looking up to the other boy.
Jeffery nodded, still beaming. “That’s the best part! We’ll show up and they’ll be dumbfounded! We’ll be heroes! Especially now that we have the Crystal! We can finally freeze the virus and kill it off! Then all we have to do is administer it to patients, and they’ll build an immune system for it. What do you think of the name, Jelliam? Perfect play both our names!”
William chuckled a little bit. ‘And then we can sell it to a company and they’ll name is Jell-o? I think that name’s already taken.” His heart was pounding in his chest, however, from what he had done, and it had nothing to do with the killings.
Jeffery smiled. “Nice one. Could I just see the crystal now?”
William nodded, reaching his hand into his pocket. Jeffery then raised the pistol and pushed him down.
Will fell down hard on the floor, on his right side, on the arm that was broken. He screamed out in pain, only 12 years old, and looked at his attacker. "I thought we were friends! We had a truce!" he begged.
The dark figure was no longer dark or blurry. Jeffery stared at him, straight through the barrel of the pistol. He cocked the gun. "You thought wrong, now didn't you?"
There was a loud bang and a brilliant light, then the world was dark once again.
But Will was okay with this. This suspicion was why he had hid the crystal in the Maze.
Now Jeffery’s mask smiled at him as his finger tightened around the trigger. William, however, fell forward, straight onto the man’s legs and he fell backwards with a cry. William groaned, closing his eyes. What had he done? What had just happened? He hadn’t hurt anyone, had he?
But the feral thirst in him said otherwise. He rubbed his face and felt a boot his face, pushing him back down the stairs. A knife was raised and was thrust onto him. He grabbed the wrist before it stabbed him and crushed the armor around the wrist with all his might, pushing the blade away. He elbowed the soldier in the gut then jumped off of the stair case, feeling a knife imbed itself into his back. He cried out in pain, sinking to his knees again, and then began to crawl back towards the rebels, who were pushing forward. The dead lay everywhere, and it seemed everyone had run out of ammunition and were fighting it straight out.
Someone ran towards him and pulled the knife out with a painful tug. “Get the hell up!” she yelled. Elise. He groaned, clawing towards her as his vision began to become blurry. He was losing blood fast.
The Rebels fired off their remaining shots and that’s what made the difference. With sheer numbers they overwhelmed the Guard and many of them gave up on the spot, surrendering rather than to die.
And Will was dragged off yet again to be seen for medical attention as he began to black out. A sense of Déjà vu swept over him, especially now that the Hybrids and hellhounds were joining the party.
“I am proud, Will.” Romeo announced in his head “Good luck. I have a feeling we may meet again, under different circumstances. Remember your time with us.”
William awoke later, breathing in fresh air. He opened his eyes and blinked furiously at the bright sunlight outside. It was mildly warm, though comforting, and he was covered by a thin white blanket and lying on top of a cot with an IV sticking into his arm. He looked around and saw a young woman beside him, checking all of the critical signs on a monitor. Electricity, he remembered. Where was he so that this was at all possible?
He tried to speak, but then groaned a little, and looked at his own hands and skin. Clean, his old skin color. He had no thoughts of murder or cannibalism. How was this possible?
Was it all just a bad dream? The last few years? He wore some type of gown, and the word appeared ni his head. ‘Hospital. I’m in a hospital.’
He looked back to the woman dressed in a nurse’s attire and tried to speak again. “Miss…” he managed, then the young woman looked at him, and he smiled, blinking again and opening his eyes a little bit larger.
“Will? You awake?” she asked, almost unbelievingly.
“Hi, Miranda.” He breathed, then tried to sit up, but winced instead and sank back down the inch he had pulled himself up.
“No, no, don’t do that. You took a hell of a beating, Will.” She explained. “We were starting to believe you’d never get better. I didn’t believe…” she smiled, laughing. “I mean, look at you! You’re better!”
He smiled and nodded, closing his eyes, and then frowning. “Where am I, Miranda?”
“Oh, right. You’re in a hospital, in Britain, Will. We’re making you better. Everyone, actually, who was injured. This is one of the few places that survived the magnetic shift. The electricity still works, although it’s a bit shifty.”
William’s heart sank. The magnetic shift. “What happened? How long have I been out.” He questioned quietly.
Miranda responded after a while. “2 weeks.”
2 weeks? He let out a sigh and rubbed his face, wiping the sweat off. “What happened?” he repeated.
“It’s a long story.” She warned.
“I have a lot of time.” He replied quickly.
“Well I don’t. I still have to check on a lot of patients.” Miranda looked over to the wall clock and nodded. “And sorry to say, you’re not in the least special.”
“What happened to Jeffery?” he questioned instantly. “At least tell me that?”
“We voted to keep him alive. He kind of went insane, Will. We have him locked up in our prison. Enough about that though.” She chuckled and bent down, kissing him lightly on the lips, and he returned it happily, surprised at the unexpected sign of affection. “It’s good to have you back.” She whispered, then patted his chest and headed out the room, closing the door quietly. “Merry Christmas.”
It was the first kiss they’ve ever had, and he sank back, not caring that the world was probably on fire around him. Their work would continue later on. Now he could finally relax.
12/25/2012 5:37 PM
“Did you tell him?”
Miranda shifted in her seat, twiddling her thumbs. She couldn’t outright lie to her own father, yet she didn’t necessarily have to tell him the truth either. “No.” she finally replied quickly.
Jason rubbed his face, sitting across from her, and playing with a glass cup by moving around on the small table that separated them. “When are you planning to? He’s gotta know some time. Or are you just going to let the infection take hold of him again. You saw what I saw. He was trapped in his own body. If that happens again…” he warned.
“It won’t happen.” She promised. She looked up, her eyes set and fierce. “Don’t worry. And if it does…I’ll be the one to put him down. Count on that.” He voice betrayed her, but her resolve was adamant.
Jason took that in, then nodded, rubbing the small stubble that was growing on his chin. “Now I think you have some explaining to do to me. For starters, why are soldiers calling me Mr. Director?”
Miranda leaned back in her chair, pondering the best way to break it to the young man who believed he was unimportant in the world. How wrong that was, he couldn’t begin to believe. She decided to put it bluntly. “I’m actually your daughter, Jason. I’m from the future, and so is William and all of these soldiers and Jeffery.” Jason’s eyes widened and he stopped moving the cup in a circle clockwise, unable to speak. He did not look up, instead too shocked to speak. “It’s a really complicated series of events. But as to answer your question, in the future you were in charge of everything. The whole Play. The soldiers must recognize you…” she shrugged. “I don’t know.”
He remained silent for a couple of minutes, unbelieving. “If what you say is true….where’s the rest of them? The Play?” he spat the word.
“This is it. All that remains are here. Jeffery’s boys were loyal to him only, a rebellion in the Play of the future. We eradicated them all, but we’re planning to recreate the Play. We get a do-over, so to speak. That’s why I’m here. We want you in charge again.” Miranda did not pause when she released all this information, but stated it slowly, to make sure he understood the promise he was going to have to make.
“I…no. I can’t.” he shook his head. “Not me. I may have been fit for it once…but not now. The past must have changed or something. I can barely even speak as it is.” The last part was true. Jason’s vocal cords had been decimated to nearly a fraction of the powerful voice he once had, reduced to that of a whisper, or a rasp. He finally stared at her in the eyes. “You should do it.”
That took Miranda by surprise. She opened her mouth the speak, then frowned, shaking her head. “Oh c’mon, Miranda. We both know William and I are in no shape to lead anything, and he would be my first pick. You, on the other hand, are the only one who can truly restore this…Play of yours.” Miranda closed her eyes, deciding on this.
“Fine.” She breathed. “Fine. I’ll do it.”
In the New World, far west of the British Isles, a small duo was walking across a lonesome road. It had been 3 weeks since the world changed. 3 weeks since the land of the free had become a chaotic lawless nation, yet somehow they tried to cling on to hope and survive.
They had been walking for a long time, and decided to stop for a rest. One of the travelers was quite young, only 15, and pulled out a journal, beginning to write down notes and draw a picture of something he had noticed. He had to know how to kill the things that had been attacking him.
It was a well enough drawing of the anatomy. Mostly humanoid, although the flesh was partially ripped and he wrote down notes explaining this. “Hey dad, could I get some water?”
“It’s in the bag. Front pocket.” The other traveler replied, a large, strong and gruff man at about 6 foot 3 inches. The boy nodded, unzipping the bag quickly and unscrewing the top of the green canteen. He would take more notes of these things, and pass the time. “Gonna keep moving?”
“Where are we headed, exactly?”
The man spoke up quickly. “Cheyenne Mountain. Colorado.” He let out a sigh and looked down the interstate road, thousands of cars piling up next to each other where people had abandoned their vehicles to simply run for dear life.
“NORAD?” the boy questioned, still drawing the diagram.
“Yeah. Plus they have guns.” He added with a chuckle, and to this they laughed together, for the sake of the world, for they had nothing to laugh at any more besides a possibly dead hope that things would be better.