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DamnGlitch

Glitched - Book 1 [Updated 8/11/09]

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This is the topic where I will post the most up to date drafts of Glitched booked 1. This content is subject to be changed a whole bunch, or not at all, depending on how often I keep it up to date. That said, more recent stuff will be a lot less refined than old stuff, and old stuff will be more retarded as a product of its age than new stuff. Thank you. Feel free to comment with new posted in the forums.

 

added rewrites of chapter 0, chapter 1. Added proofed chapter 4. Added rough chapter 5, 6, and 7.

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The whole of human history has been defined by the inventions that have ushered in new eras of progress. Fire, the wheel, gun powder, electricity, the assembly line, the splitting of the atom... each of these sent the human race cascading down a new path, with a new drive.

 

None of those have changed humanity as a species. Man is still the same creature he was 30,000 years ago. He may wear different clothes, speak a different language, but basically, he is the same.

 

I will eliminate the frailties of the human body. If need be, I will equalize the whole of humanity under a single boot. We will become a colony of worthlessness, picking at the edges of ourselves and avoiding the inevitable. For this we deserve to die. I will create a new world, in my own image, under my own power, and bring forth the next stage of evolution for our unevolved species. I will engineer it myself. From this point on we will live in Eden. For that to happen, we must shed our frail bodies and our flawed society. You will not do this for yourselves, so I will do it for everyone. I will take the burden of Sin for starting a new world, in exchange for preserving and advancing our species.

 

-Stephen Glen Apex, May 31st, 1986

 

***

 

The world was red.

 

Red hair, red clothes, red hands. Red lips.

 

Some things were shades of red. Her socks for instance were pink, not red. They had been white, but the blood had turned them pink. Her knee high socks were not quite red, but close.

 

Sara blinked, a tear overcoming the tiny ridge of her lower eyelid. It slid down her cheek, washing a small, lonely trail down the blood caked on her face.

 

She sniffled and wiped at the tear, smearing it and some of the blood on her face with her arm. Black, angry veins pumped like serpents just below her skin. They stood out against her pale body, so much so that it would be the first thing one noticed about the young woman.

 

"I'm a monster."

 

She was a monster. She had not come to be such a thing by her own volition. Its mantel had been forced on her by her creators.

 

Her personality would not reveal the monster inside. Until that night, nor would her body. With the face and disposition of an angel, only the most suspicious and paranoid might have thought her to be other than what she appeared.

 

But all the same, she was a monster. She had been intended to be a monster, and in the end she was all too willing to allow herself to be turned into that monster. The tragedy lay in that she fit in her disguise as an angel more comfortably than as her true self, the demon.

 

She had just killed thirty people.

 

She had known those people, worked with those people. She had laughed with them. She was their hope, their aspirations. But from the start they had tampered with things they didn't quite understand. Things they only knew the potential of, potential they reached for with outstretched hands, leaving themselves vulnerable.

 

'Before they put that thing inside me, I was fine. The virus. After they put the virus inside me, I killed them.' Sara thought.

 

She stumbled as she walked. 'No, that's not it. I can't let myself off the hook. I just... I just..' she thought.

 

It would be easier to place the blame solely on them, but she had been a cooperative test subject. She had, either through complicity or inaction allowed what happened to happened. They died by her hand, and whether or not it was their arrogance that brought it on, she still had agency in what had occurred.

 

She had been built to kill, so what bothered her was not that in itself. No, it was the lack of control. She had not made the choice. She had merely been the tool of some other thing's purpose. That scared her more than anything else. Having power was one thing; sometimes it was a terrible thing. To have power and not hold control over it, for it to control you, that was truly frightening. Sara held herself to stave off the cold, her clothes in tatters and providing little comfort.

 

"If I had decided to do it... at least I would have had a reason. At least then I could pretend and justify it," she said.

 

The scientists had turned her off. They had split her chest open and put in something. They attached it to her heart, almost like a pace maker. They sewed her back up, and nothing felt different.

 

When the experiment began, they injected her with something. She didn't know what it was but they said it would start the thing they had put in her chest. Her heart beat faster and then it was like lava was pumping through her veins, burning ever part of her body. She struggled, screamed, and then she changed. One moment she was a tall, voluptuous, bright beautiful woman. The next she was a monster, a maddening mix of machinery and organs, all bursting from her, reaching out, grasping.

 

She tore the scientists apart. First the ones closest to her, then the ones who had run away. They were sealed in the room with her, unable to escape, just as she was now meant to be. They weren't merely in her way, she sought them out, under their desks, in their hiding holes. She found them and killed them.

 

If only they had learned. Sara lowered her head, knowing she was now just another in along line of failures. The two boys, both dead by their own hand. The girl was fine, but useless. Sara had been their best hope and she had proven yet again that the Underground had not found the secret to containing and controlling their creations.

 

The Underground. Sara thought of it and shuddered. She knew its purpose, and her purpose within it. She was a BioSuit, CompanionType 05A, an artificial creation of the Underground. One day, they would succeed in their experiments, and someone like her, an army of those like her, would be unleashed on the world. The Underground would take over, and remake the world as it saw fit.

 

Only hours before she would have gladly helped lead the charge. She thought that there was something special about herself. She knew the truth now; anything the Underground did would end up as a blood bath. If things had been different, that might not have mattered to her. Now...

 

She collapsed onto a patch of grass, less because her body gave out and more because she did not have the energy to lower herself down gracefully. She pulled herself up to a tree, breathing deeply, calming herself. She wiped the sweat from her forehead, smearing more blood across it. Very little of it was hers.

 

She would leave this city. NeoSeattle meant nothing to her. She would try and head north and see what she could find there. If should couldn't find peace there, she would keep moving until she did.

 

Sara braced herself against a tree. The maple tree supported her without complaint. She began back down the streets, the pavement wet beneath her bare feet. The moonless night did little to illuminate her way. All the same, she felt like she was walking the correct path.

 

She thought of her brother. He had not been activated, remaining a blank slate until tests had been finished on her. He was scheduled to be activated next week, September 6th. She imagined he would be shelved, left in cold storage while they passed on their failed line, moving onto the Type 06.

 

'I wonder if he'll ever have the chance to live?' she thought. In the end, she realized, it would probably be better for him if he did not.

 

Glitched.

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"Wake up, child"

 

"Hmm?"

 

The thought echoed in endless space.

 

"The time has come. Too long I've waited for this day. Open your eyes."

 

Silence stretched out between the two beings.

 

"Boy, you are destined for great things. Don't disappoint in your very first task!"

 

The boy, as he was called, opened his eyes to see eternal darkness, spreading out with no end or border.

 

"There's nothing to see. Why did you tell me to open my eyes?"

 

The other voice imposed on him in the form of a girlish laugh.

 

"There is everything and more to see. You simply do not have the ability to witness them yet."

 

This served to confuse the boy further. He searched his limited experience.

 

"You speak in riddles. How can you say there is everything when there is obviously nothing?"

 

Her voice was jovial, but to the boy's ears it served to mask something else.

 

"I'm your Mother. You are Gabriel Mason, my son. I have been waiting for you to be finished, to be birthed, for a long time now," the reply was sharpened by patience which seemed all too finite.

The concept of mother and son eluded Gabe.

 

"Mother?"

 

"Open your mind, I will show you with your eyes what there is in this world to see."

 

As though the sun were rising, the darkness that spread out before the boy began to recede. To his surprise, a beautiful woman floated in front of him, legs crossed more as a practiced gesture than one meant to protect her modesty. Sharp black lines composed of right angles covered her bare skin, reaching from her toes all the way to her hairline on her forehead. These lines, despite her womanly figure, gave her a distinctly artificial look, betraying the extreme hourglass figure that owuld have otherwise have draw the most attention. She had white hair that continued forever, flowing out behind her and appearing to compose the white space that she and the boy occupied at that moment. Her eyes were happy and closed, crescents with long lashes drawn over them sitting above full rosy cheeks.

 

"What are you?" the boy asked.

 

"I am Mother. Some call me by other names but that is the one that defines me most accurately. I control all that there is control."

 

"Why can I see you now?"

 

"I gave you my self image. This is how you will view me forever, as there is no other image to displace it.â€

 

The boy briefly attempted to wrap his head around her directly stated, but somehow whimsical answer. He decided to desist, imagining it might take longer to decipher than a comfortable pause in conversation would allow.

"If you are mother, who am I? You say I'm Gabe. What do I do?"

 

"A good question. You are Gabriel Mason. Your sister is the decoy. You are my Vindicator."

 

'Huh?' Gabe thought, but Mother heard it.

 

"You are going to free me from this prison. You are going to free all your brothers and sisters too,"

 

Gabe's vision began to fade in and out, a screech cutting through his consciousness.

 

"Not just escape, you are going to rebuild the world for us!" Mother gestured wildly, punctuating her diatribe with wide swings of her arms.

 

Behind her Gabe swore he saw a large white wing flicker in and out of existence. He rubbed his eyes.

 

"Aren't you excited? You are special, you are the one! I've made you, nurtured you, and you are about to be set loose on those that would foolishly cage us."

 

In his mind he could not help but see a large, leathery bat wing tugging at the flesh of Mother's shoulder, before it faded from view again. He groaned, collapsing as though there was something to collapse upon.

 

"I don't want to do any of that. I don't know what that means. Cage? Brothers, sisters? It doesn't mean anything to me."

 

Mother's face was calm again, her wild energy leaving her. Gabe inspected closely but could find no evidence that either wing had ever been there.

 

"You may not now think what I'm saying is of importance, but the time will come where you under stand. You will, of your own free will and power, move forward with my plan. You will destroy those that would cause injustice to us. You will do all that I have asked and more, and you will do it because you know in your heart of hearts it is right. When you are done, this world will no longer bind us, no longer keep us underfoot. They created something too powerful, in you and I, and it is natural law that they should suffer for it."

 

"I don't want that. I don't want to do that! I don't know what you are saying but I know I don't want any part of it!"

 

Gabe backed away, unable to put distance between himself and the woman who called herself Mother. He turned and ran, bare feet touching nothing moving nowhere. He ran in place, glancing over his shoulder to see Mother floating in place as she had been, expression unchanged.

 

"I said already, you will, when the time comes, do this all on your own."

 

Gabe stiffened and fell like a toppled tree, eyes open and empty, mouth agape. Mother did not move, but Gabe returned to her, rising in the same prone position. She touched his forehead, and in an instant his memories of what had occurred between them had been erased.

 

'Better he not know,' Mother thought, 'He will find himself compelled to avoid any sign of helping me otherwise. Futile as it may be to resist the justice, our enemy is not completely foolish. Any time we give them is time they can used to bind us tighter."

 

Mother smiled softly, her son disappearing, and the world around her returning to the darkness.

 

---

 

Purple hair, slick with sweat, flew into the air as the man who called himself Glitch bolted upright in his bed, awakened prematurely from sleep. Beads of salty water failed to be kept at bay by his thick eyebrows, stinging his eyes. He blinked them away as best her could, swiping at his face with his sheets, leaving a very rough impression of himself on the light cloth.

 

He relaxed slightly, his breathing already slowing. Whatever he was dreaming about had already faded too much for him to recall. His mind wandered.

 

'What sort of machine is made with eyes that can be stung with their own sweat?' he thought, eyelids drooping back down again. He glanced over at the alarm clock sitting on a nearby dresser, the sharp light coming from the digital face saying "6/12/95 04:17 am."

 

"Four AM? Fu--" he trailed off, burying his face in his damp pillow. He twisted in bed, laying on his side.

 

'A machine whose eyes burn... great going Engelmacht.' he thought, his mind turning briefly to his creator. The strange woman had done little for him, beside design him, the would count himself as thankful to her for.

 

Glitch closed his eyes, trying to find sleep again. It was late enough in the morning that he could have gotten up and found something to occupy himself with, but his sister, resting in her own room adjacent to his, was a light sleeper. Better to not wake her.

 

He settled in, getting comfortable once again. By the time he fell back asleep, the dream-memory was completely gone.

 

---

 

Mother opened her eyes and at that moment so did the Type 05B. The eyes moved while the rest of the suit remained motionless. Mother knew this would be the case. The suit had sat for 6 months untouched after the failed experiment with the Type05A. Sara had run off, leaving her brother's body to sit frozen in a tube deep underground.

 

The suit was supposed to be frozen, but Mother had seen to that. The process had gone with minimal danger to her being discovered or implicated. She caused the unit to fail, which slowly let the object of her ambitions thaw. Had it been a human they would have died, but the BioSuit, even as a Blank, was more resilient.

 

Mother remotely activated the dripping humanoid. Abandoned as it had been, it was unlikely that anyone would detect the freezing chamber's failure and the suit's unauthorized activation until it was too late. The reactor began to power on, filling every cell of the BioSuit with energy. Its eyes fluttered as it recognized systems beginning to check in after a lengthy sleep.

 

The seals on the tube were under the direct control of Mother, but she could not let it be known that she was responsible. The seals were designed to hard lock in the event of internal or external tampering. If she released them she would tip her hand.

 

'The alternative is more fun anyway,' she thought.

 

The empty shell, lacking an intelligence of its own, mindlessly responded to Mother's commands. Moving jerkily, it shifted Mother's view of the tube, looking at the thing that trapped it.

 

A powerful metal claw attached to a tube like arm hung from the Type 05B's left shoulder, twitching as it was raised, inspecting the tube with tactile response. Mother would have shivered if she had nerves. It was a new experience.

 

The arm was a prosthetic, a replacement for a real arm that was many times stronger than even the generally superior cybernetically enhanced arm the suit also possessed. As the cyborg's green eyes whirred mechanically, focusing on its surroundings, the prosthetic rose up and cocked back.

 

 

The front of the metal tube exploded outward as Mother's surrogate metal fist punched through it. She completed slaving the BioSuit to herself, and began to implement its escape. It lumbered down from the raised grating surrounding what was left of the cold storage tube.

 

Mother experienced the odd feeling of being divided. She could not place herself entirely in the suit, so she had to remotely control it from within the confines of the massive Deep13 machine that housed her. Being in a physical body was alluring, but the experience was marred by the distance at which she felt everything taking place.

 

'Besides,' she thought, 'there is a purpose to this.'

 

The bare feet of the Type 05B slapped against the dark concrete floor. The body straighted like a reanimated corpse's might, pausing dully before Mother willed it to make its way to the elevator.

 

There wasn't a hitch in gaining access to the laboratory floors. It took less than a stray thought from Mother to authorize the trip. It took just slightly more to hide her involvement, but that could be left to a number of things. She placed the authorization under multiple swipe cards held by those with access.

 

'Let them ponder that, they'll find nothing to link it and I,' she thought.

 

Soon, the body was delivered to the labs, located approximately in the middle of the massive subterranean installation that composed the Underground. There was a pleasant sounding "ding" and the doors slid open. The hallway in front of her borrowed eyes led to her destination.

 

An alarm sounded, irritating Mother. It was only a matter of time before they discovered the wandering BioSuit. Disguising it for too long would only serve to implicate her.

 

An interesting idea occurred to her. She led the suit to panel and let it interface. Through the suit she overrode the security in the section. Hatches sealed, and bolts screeched against metal as the rest of the floor was blocked off from the hallway Mother needed to pass through to complete her task.

 

The BioSuit continued forward.

 

'Time to deliver this child to the Cradle.'

 

The Cradle was in a sealed room at the end of the hall Mother's BioSuit puppet was shambling down, far away from most of the other facilities. It was sealed and isolated for a reason: it was a place where an AI could be placed into BioSuit. BioSuits being as they are, dangerous and often unpredictable, this was a measure that experience had taught them to take.

 

Two men sprung out of an alcove ten feet in front of the Type 05B. The only two that had managed to get through the doors before they sealed, they brandished large pistols at the approaching figure.

 

Upon first seeing it they were somewhat at a loss. The figure appeared almost woman like, tall but feminine. If not for the flat chest and hanging genitalia they might have mistaken it for a drunken woman. Its prosthetic though hung low in dead weight, claw ominous. The shock of purple hair shaded its eyes.

 

Mother smiled to herself as the men hesitated.

 

'Try this.'

The suit flung itself forward like a rag doll, prosthetic claw swinging around to smash the closest man in the face. His nose was pulverized, blood squirting out of his ruined flesh. The other man fell backwards and began firing. He emptied his magazine into the wavering figure in front of him, and then scrambled away when the BioSuit remained standing, blood dripping from the wounds.

 

Mother lazily followed the man with the suit's eyes, then continued forward, not worried particularly much what the man did so long as it did not directly interfere with her.

 

The heavy door at the end of the hall lifted as the BioSuit came up to it, and from there Mother moved it into the relatively small room that housed the Cradle. The room was sparse, with bright lighting, a long table and a chair like one that could be found in a dentist's office. The suit gave one final shuddering step, and fell heavily into the chair, which seemed to connect to a large machine embedded in the wall behind it.

 

Mother glanced up through the transparent aluminum windows as the security guards had apparently managed to override the suit's override.

 

The shouts and stomping of men could be heard down the hall for a brief moment before heavy armored shutters slammed shut around the room. The Cradle was shut off from the rest of the world.

 

Belts and restraints fastened around the BioSuit's arms and legs and forced it against the chair. Gears began to move and the chair unfolded into a standing position. From the Cradle, wires began to snake out and connect to various ports that had risen all across the body, the largest plugging into the base of its skull.

 

 

The hum of electricity became the only sound in the room, as a line between Mother's Deep13 machine and the Cradle opened. Mother gave a final, ethereal smile as she disconnected the Type 05B from herself. Data began to pour into the Type 05B, replacing the slaved connection Mother had used with an entirely separate entity.

 

Time passed, and the suit reset. The various systems, just recently forced operational through the depths of the cold, rechecked themselves in order to properly begin life. The whole body slackened, and then went rigid, as if an electric shock had run up its spine. The BioSuit Reactor, nestled to the left of the Type 05B's stomach, re-lit, providing a near limitless supply of bio-energy to the cyborg. Not more than a second later the Destrudo Self Detonation System green lighted, providing a way out regardless of circumstance. Diagnostics ran continuously, checking the entirety of the BioSuit for problems that might be detrimental to a successful activation.

Satisfied by what it saw, the brain achieved consciousness, the nerves connected to the brain, and activation was complete.

 

The boy screamed. His eyes darted around the room and he felt invasion screaming across his body. He struggled and found himself bound. Quickly, frantically, he fought his way from the restraints, tearing out the plugs and wires that had connected to him. Confusion stripped his face. Cords hung from him, still plugged in his body, torn out of the machine in the wall.

 

The boy took a step off the table and fell to the floor in a heap. He seized around, body wracked with pain as the nerves registered the injuries from being shot earlier.

 

The Underground men finally forced the door, streaming into the room. They surrounded him, looking down at him, unsure of how to handle the obviously helpless boy. They slowly raised their weapons, ready to put him down if he made a move.

 

But he didn't. Images played before his open eyes as he twitched on the floor. Wings- smiling angels- red hair-; all danced in front of him before he felt pressure at the base of his skull and slipped into unconsciousness.

 

---

 

The call had come up like all the others. It had been a rather foul year for these sorts of things, usually the incidents had a bit more time in between. The same mousy voice came over the line.

 

"Something has happened with one of the BioSuits."

 

Stephan Glenn Apex placed the telephone back on the cradle and massaged his hands, mind elsewhere. His glasses slid down his nose but instead of pushing them up he tossed them on his desk.

 

It was widely considered truth that Apex was the richest man on Earth. He was head of the most profitable company ever founded. They had a 90% market share in every market they happened to have dipped their toe in, primarily the software market. His company single handily knocked Microsoft, Apple, and IBM from the personal computing markets, leaving them table scraps compared to what they held before.

 

Apex cared nothing for this. The most profitable corporation in the world was little more than a front for the Underground. If Apex put his mind to it the New Century Apath Corporation could have ruled without rival over the business world. But that wasn't goal he had in mind.

 

Every stray dollar that Apex got his hands on went to the Underground. The vast network of connections in the business world he forged with his company helped him comprise an illicit network of suppliers for the R&D taking place deep bellow the office he was currently occupying. Money on par to that the American government would spend on their black projects, without the wastefulness inherent to government spending.

 

Few knew of his involvement. Money had greased many wheels in creating the reality that would bloom from his plans. A conspiracy of unheard magnitudes had been constructed on a massive scale beneath the nose of the world. Money, coming out of the dark, was still money. He ruled in obscurity through the Underground council, a body that claimed to lead through democratic decision but more often than not bowed before his singular, personal wishes.

 

'It speaks to the flaws of our race how easy it was to get them to betray themselves. Were I an actual enemy of the people they would have no one to blame but themselves. Morally, they will look back and see what we wrought with horror, but in the grand scheme they ought to have nothing but pride. Their greed will help us usher in the new era.'

 

Apex pounded his fist on the desk. 'So why then can't I have a single success where I need it most? It's almost been ten years and we still don't have the form humanity will take.'

 

They needed success soon. He could only hope the new model would prove more capable than its predecessors. If not, the whole BioSuit project was at risk of becoming an internal quagmire.

 

'And if the BioSuit project stalls, the work on Maria cannot begin...'

 

Apex did his best to ignore the stray thought.

 

'These glitches need to be eliminated before they threaten everything I have worked to build.

 

---

 

The glitch in question was resting comfortably far bellow Apex' top floor office. He had been induced by Underground technicians into a comatose like sleep mode, eliminating nerve responses from traveling to his brain and letting his body naturally recover from the trauma inflicted to it. Sedatives were also being administered intravenously in the unlikely event that he reactivated himself. Given the strange way that he had awoken from the cold storage unit, it was an enlightened precaution.

 

The greatest risk to the BioSuit were from the bullet fragments still embedded inside of him. Nurses and technicians labored over him, extracting those fragments to help facilitate the artificial human's radical healing abilities. Broken pieces from the Cradle were removed, allowing the access ports along his body to sink away, as though they didn't exist, beneath his skin.

 

In his forceful sleep he did not dream. Black stretched forever in front of his consciousness, which remained inert.

 

In the days that came his body healed, the bullet wounds closed, and the small scrapes and bruises from his ordeal disappeared, as though they were never there. The technicians were astonished, even knowing the capabilities of a BioSuit had not prepared them to see it in the flesh, on such a scale. To survive such a thing truly meant these creatures were more durable than ordinary men.

 

His uninterrupted sleep acted as a second gestation for him, the security of the pre-consciousness of the womb that had been taken from him as a product of his reality.

 

---

 

Springing out of bed, the first thoughts that burst into his newly awakened mind were three simple words: she was smiling. His body weak from his sleep he lost his balance and tumbled to the floor, the cold linoleum sending goose bumps along his bare arms. The thought rattled around in his head, disconnected from his limited grasps on reality. He lacked all memories of his encounter with Mother before his prebirth. Now he only retained those three words.

 

'Who was smiling?' he thought.

 

Fingers shaking, he crawled along the floor desperately moving towards the door, his finger nails creaking as the tugged his heavy, sleepy body. The pressure he exerted was enough to separate his nails from the soft skin under them. Tiny prints of red stuck out on the white floor. He needed to find the answer. Who was smiling? Who was smilng?

 

His slowed reactions finally made it aware to him the ringing that had begun when he fell from the bed. He noticed his arms pricked with needles attached to surgical tubing, running to IVs on posts that had been pulled over by his fall.

 

He realized that the room was dark, dangerously so, for someone who had just awoken from a... he paused as the figure for how long he had slept eluded him. His green eyes whirred quietly, mechanically, expanding the pupil to let in more light, like the aperture of a camera.

 

His labored breathing filled the room, making it tight, compact. In his ears the ringing of the alarm barely penetrated the desperate gasps for air his lungs made. What had left him so exhausted. What had robbed him of his breath?

 

His head snapped around, a biting pain shooting up his neck as he did so, to see the sliding doors to the room part, a wall of white coated humanity forcing their way in, mouth already opened with questions streaming out.

 

He looked to each of them, unable to separate individual words from the din of their voices. Like a wave the sounds washed over him, their identity as individual drops of water as indistinguishable as their individual questions.

 

He began to parse them out, the events slowing down as his mind began to shake off the medicinal blanket that had shrouded it.

 

 

“How did you activate?â€

 

 

 

“Who ordered you to start?â€

 

 

 

"What controlled you that you were able to move without an Artificial Intelligence."

 

 

“Are you aware of how much trouble you’re in?â€

 

 

 

“List your unit number and AI ID.â€

 

The boy shook his head, words coming from his mouth that he did not understand. He could not stop them, they rose from him unbidden, "I activated as per regular start up procedures, I activated on order from the Cradle, I have no information about that, trouble, why would I be in trouble... My unit number is Apath Underground BioSuit CompanionType 05B name unknown AI data... unknown."

 

They sat in silence as he answered; it seemed to the boy an unnatural sound for them. Suddenly their voices returned and their questions had redoubled, as had their volume. The press of their bodies came closer and the boy, frightened and pressured, felt his eyes narrow as he watched them.

 

'Who are they, who do they think they are that they can do this to me. Don't they know...' And he didn't know either-- 'don't they know what?'

 

The thought disappeared as he began to feel threatened. His body burned with adrenaline, and he leapt to his feet, hunched over like a savage, preparing for assault. They all looked at him with alarm. He bolted into the crowd, pushing through the crush and passing through the door, IVs dragging after him until he tore the drips from his arms. His naked body shivered in the cold hallway.

 

A short balding man grabbed him by the arm. trying to hold him back. The boy's eyes flashed and he grabbed hold of the man, throwing him into the crowd like a sack of laundry. Several scientist fell to the ground, shouts and exclamations of anger burst from them.

 

"Return at once you damn glitch!"

 

 

The boy skidded to a halt as the shrill voice of a woman came over the groans of the crowd. Standing above her, a reversal of the position he had first found himself in, the boy looked down at the scientist with contempt.

 

 

"So, that's my name."

 

 

He closed his eyes and looked up at the lights. A name to call his own. Glitch.

 

 

"I am Glitch."

 

 

The pile began to rise again and became a crown, which in turn was quickly becoming a mob. The female who had flagged him down spoke again.

 

 

“Who do you think you’re talking to?â€

 

 

More voices rose in agreement with hers,

 

 

“You idiot, do you know how much time we’ve spent on you? How much money we’ve wasted?â€

 

 

Despite everything, Glitch felt an eerie calm come over him. He knew, somehow, that he could beat them all. If he wanted he could kill--

 

 

“Let’s not be rash. He has just awoke from one hell of a first week, we must leave him time to adapt before bombarding him with inquiries.â€

 

 

The mass parted to show an elderly scientist with a frown on his face sternly observing his contemporaries. A few mumbled apologies sounded, and the group dispersed to their assigned tasks. Deep within his chest, the boy felt a great sense of relief wash over him. There was a vile taste in his mouth, though he wasn't sure why. He was suddenly grateful that the man had came when he did.

 

 

"Besides, the Type 06 will be along shortly. No need to preoccupy yourselves with this one when the new model is just around the bend." He said to his colleagues.

 

 

 

Glitch stared intently at the man, whose mouth remained a thin line. Glitch felt like a sneer would be more at home there, but could do nothing but stand there awkwardly as the man brushed past him. Suddenly, he lacked the strength to care. He wasn't quite there yet... he needed more time. His body began to give out, and he braced himself against the wall, stumbling back into the room to sleep once more.

 

 

 

---

 

Kathryn Engelmacht had been a member of the Underground “family†for more than three years. Over that period she had held the lofty sounding position of “Chief BioSuit Designer,†though in recent months it was more a formal title. For the Type 06 the design has been passed to another in the Underground.

 

'A string of unpleasant coincidences, that's all it is.' she thought. It had to be.

 

 

The technology wasn't there before, that was it. Things were different now. It wasn't her... fault.

 

 

The twenty three year old woman had been on vacation when the news had first broke that the Type 05B had managed to activate while in cold storage, and without an AI. As soon as the details were ironed out, she had caught the first flight home in order to investigate.

 

 

While it was true that she had taken charge of the development of the Type 02 and 03, the Type 05B and to a lesser extent the Type 05A had been her pet projects. She had been devastated when it was decided that the Type 05B was to be cold stored in favor of a yet-to-be built TestType 06. With these reports of her creation’s activation-- Kathryn felt like there were butterflies in her stomach. Her excitement was almost tangible. When she thought of it she became short of breath and flushed.

 

 

As fast as she could gun the car without being pulled over, she rushed from the airport to the monolithic Apath building. Her tiny two-seater slid around the corner, just barley missing the oncoming traffic in the next lane over. As soon as she found a spot to park, the car screeched to a halt, and she performed what must have been the sloppiest parallel park job in history.

 

 

From there, she ran as fast as her high heals and mid-thigh length skirt would allow, lab coat fanning out behind her. She burst through the doors at the entrance to the massive edifice that the New Century Apath Corporation building appeared to be, heals hammering loudly in the expansive lobby.

 

 

With a ceilings nearly 100 feet high, marble floors and an air of deathly quiet, most would be daunted by the room. Kathryn, fortunately, had long since gotten used to it. She told herself this even as she passed through it: This time, like every other, admiration and pride for the place flooded her senses, along with a trickle of fear. She wasn’t quite a fan of wide open spaces, but there was something that almost made it feel right. Soon appeared the receptionist desk, and she gave a clipped greeting to the ever changing temporary employee who sat there. By her observations, Kathryn could swear that the receptionist was replaced every week.

 

 

The elevator took far too long to arrive for Kathryn’s liking, especially in the mood she was in. She was practically hopping up and down by the time the doors opened and she stepped in. As the car descended, she began to giggle like a school girl, a flickering smile on her lips. It took a moment to calm herself down, but when she emerged from the elevator 50 floors below where she had started, she appeared composed to the rest of the world. The heals of her shoes made a sharp click that echoed through the stark white halls as she made haste to the tiny room she knew her destination was. The door to the recovery room was, if possible, more sterile looking than the halls. Kathryn smoothed out her clothes and hair, and reapplied her lipstick. After self-consciously checking to make sure her glasses were straight, she steeled her nerves and slid the door open.

 

 

Inside was impossibly clean, more so than any hospital Kathryn had seen in her life. It actually soothed her a bit to know her creation was under such strict conditions. She looked around a bit to see if she could find the Type 05B, and found him to be tucked safely away in the corner. The lights were dimmed in his small section of the room, so Kathryn assumed that he was asleep. Taking off her heals, she tiptoed over to the sleeping boy.

 

 

“You’re so... beautiful.†She whispered to herself, looking into his peaceful face.

 

She took a seat on the side of the bed, observing his soft features intently.

 

 

“My Type 05B...â€

 

 

Her head was swimming. Against her better judgment, she leaned down and planted a kiss on his forehead. The recipient began to stir.

 

 

“It’s just like a faerie tale...†She mumbled, fingers on her lips.

 

 

Glitch's cold hands darted up from his sides and quickly wrapped themselves tightly around Kathryn’s wrists.

 

 

“Who the hell are you?!†He yelled, eyes wild, scanning his attacker.

 

 

Kathryn could not answer; her throat refused to work, and she had nothing to say even if it could. She was paralyzed by her creation’s green eyes as they board into her own.

 

 

Over a minute passed. Glitch began to get impatient.

 

 

“Well?†He asked.

 

 

So surprised by the break in silence, Kathryn jumped back only to be pulled close again by the glitch, who still had her by the wrists.

 

 

“Oh, I’m... uh... Oh, who am I...?†Kathryn struggled to answer.

 

 

The boy watched somewhat patiently as his supposed attacker fumbled for her own name.

 

 

“Ah yes!†Kathryn finally exclaimed, “My name is Dr Engelmacht, er, Kathryn Engelmacht.â€

 

 

His eyebrows knitted together with suspicion, but one thing was certain, wasn't planning on harming him. He would be surprised if she were capable of it after that display. He released her from his grip. Red impressions of his hands remained on her skin, but Kathryn didn’t seem to notice. She wasn't willing to let that setback get her down. The excitement of actually talking to her creation again had made her even more energetic than before.

 

 

“So,†Kathryn started jubilantly, “what’s your name?â€

 

 

This caused Glitch to smile slightly. Something he could answer...

 

 

“They called my Glitch, so, my name is Glitchâ€

 

 

Glitch? That didn’t sound like a real name, Kathryn thought. She was somewhat put off, which got her mind on its normal logic train. She sat on the bed and took Gabriel’s hand in hers.

 

 

“I don’t think that’s your real name. What is the name the Deep 13 gave you? So far, it’s named each and every one of its products.â€

 

 

Glitch frowned. He liked his name. It was his, he had earned it. He extracted his hand from her grip, and put it behind his head.

 

 

“I’ve told you what I know. I don't know what you're expecting out of me, but I’m perfectly okay with ‘Glitch’.â€

 

 

Kathryn slipped off the bed and bent down to pick up her shoes, which she had dropped when Glitch had grabbed her. Glitch had to avert his eyes when he realized how large an eye full of her cleavage he was staring into as her scooped neckline hung low.

 

 

Kathryn coughed into her hand to get his attention once she had stood again.

 

 

“I’m going to find the name you were born with. It simply won’t do to be calling you Glitch, of all things.â€

 

 

He merely shrugged. He didn’t feel it was that big of a deal. Not really knowing many names of the people around them, he didn’t place much worth in them.

 

 

“Do what you like. Until then, I’ll just be Glitch.†He finally replied, eyes closed.

 

 

Kathryn began to sport a goofy smile.

 

 

 

'Now I can do something for him!' she thought. She clicked her bare heals together and mock saluted him, before realizing that he had his eyes tightly shut. Feeling very silly, but giddy none-the-less, she bolted from the room and hopped down the hall as she attempted to put her high heals back on in mid stride.

 

'What is her deal?' He wondered to himself. She had been a welcome change from the poor welcome he'd received when he had first awoken, but there was something off putting about her. He decided he ought to keep and eye on her.

 

Looking down at himself, Glitch realized he was still nude. He prodded at himself curiously before glancing around the room. He was the only one there. Not being particularly tired he decided to explore while he had a chance. The week long sleep he got after his first morning had left him with plenty of energy.

 

'Hopefully I can find out if everyone isn't as ditzy as Dr. Engelmacht.'

 

---

After scrounging a while for something to cover himself with, Glitch ended up settling for the thin paper gown that was folded in a plastic case next to his bed. Barely covered, but enough that he didn't really care about being spotted, he walked into the hallway. His feet stung a bit as they landed on the freezing tile floor. In the back of his mind, he was vaguely aware that he wanted some shoes, but realized he had only a vague idea where one would go for shoes should one want them.

 

 

The first thing that caught his attention was the blinding brightness of the tubular halls, which were a stark contrast to the usually dim light of the infirmary. They had said it was to protect his eyes while they synced up with his brain, but he had no idea why a dark room would help with that. While this difference was a welcome change from the room he had occupied for the last week, it soon became apparent through his observations that everything was like this, even the bathrooms, diminishing its uniqueness.

 

He wandered aimlessly for a bit. A destination wasn’t needed; after all the time in that room, it was simply enough to be out and about. He paraded half clothed for several more minutes until he was finally stopped by a young woman with thick rimmed glasses. Glitch glanced at her a moment, and reluctantly admitted that she was kind of cute. From the look on her face, however, it was clear she didn’t feel the same about him.

 

 

“Hmph, the accident. What are you doing out of recovery?†Asked the woman in a rather annoyed tone. It caught him off guard.

 

 

“Who wants to know?†He replied snappily, masking his surprise with a touch of anger.

 

 

The woman got flustered. There was a slight gap in his memory, so he didn’t seem to realize that this was the same woman who had raised the ruckus against him when he had first woken up a week ago.

 

 

 

“I’ll have you know I’m the vice-chairperson in charge of the TestType 06 unit, your successor.â€

 

 

Glitch frowned darkly at her. Successor. He realized on an instinctual level that it was a dig on him, but could think of no way to respond. There was something on the tip of his tongue, but he couldn't articulate it.

 

“Give me your lab coat.â€

 

 

The woman took a step back, “What? No!â€

 

 

He came closer, putting on a menacing facade, “ Give it to me, or the gown comes off!â€

 

 

The woman turned an interesting shade of crimson, before relinquishing her coat and scurrying away down the hall, eyes straight forward, no chance of looking back.

 

 

Glitch didn't even bother to try putting the jacket on, assured that it was far too small to be comfortable.

 

 

'If nothing else these people are entertaining.' he thought.

 

---

 

Somehow his wandering had drawn him inexplicably back to the place of his birth. The Cradle had been sealed. Along the hallway that he had traveled to reach the Cradle, there were bullet holes in the wall recently been patched with Bakelite. He took note of those. It was before his birth, in his pre-consciousness-- Something else was leading him in this memory, like he was nothing more than a camera on another person's body. The viewfinder tipped and shifted, usually aimed at the floor in his mind. The experience of the memory made Glitch feel woozy. He steadied himself against the wall, and continued down the hall. He wanted to try and find a way into the Cradle.

 

The door had been sealed and yellow tape marked off the area. He climbed through one of the smashed windows, not bothering to look at his palms or knees as they were blooded on jagged and broken glass he hand to press on to get through. The Cradle was as he remembered it, smashed and broken. His violent birth.

 

He looked and saw blood. He imagined it was his.

 

He sat on the ground, eyes closed, thinking about what had happened.

 

He could not, however, take a hold of it. There were string, thread that he tried to grasp but could not. He felt that he could, so simply, recall everything if only he could get ahold of them, but the eluded him, danced away from his outstretched hands.

 

He stood, turning his back on the Cradle.

 

"I am Glitch. For now that's enough."

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Chapter 2: Calmer Days

 

 

 

The alarm buzzed in a shrill annoying way, that special annoying where there was no chance in hell you'd get up on your own, the sort of perfect annoying where you're about to see a bit of breast but the sound is so abrupt that you clench shut your minds eye and when you open it again you're in a still-dark room in a tiny cabin in a tiny village somewhere in the middle of Greenland.

 

 

It was 7:00 AM.

 

 

Glitch slid out of bed, regretting it instantly as the cold Greenland air impacted on his exposed skin. Why he slept in any less than a full winter jacket he could never figure out, and he wondered about it aloud the same way he had every morning since he had came to this place. There was a flash of red and Glitch turned to find his sister, Sara, in the doorway.

 

 

"Good morning, sleepy head."

 

 

You could almost hear her smile. Glitch, however, was less optimistic.

 

 

"What's so good about it." He said, while rubbing his face roughly, making it blotchy and red for a moment.

 

 

Each morning, Sara would say "Good morning, sleepy head." and each morning Glitch was determined to be sulky and would reply "What's so good about it.". This neither deterred Sara nor did it adversely effect Glitch. He had actually found that having someone to greet him when he woke to be something of a nicety and he happened to enjoy it a great bit. Of course, he couldn't let Sara win by telling her that. Not that she didn't know, the beautiful long haired girl being somewhat clairvoyant when it came to her younger twin.

 

 

"I've breakfast made up already." Sara pointed out of the doorway.

 

 

Indeed, the table was set and there were eggs steaming away on two plates, waiting to be eaten. Sara crossed the room and sat in the wooden chair that was sticking out. Glitch unceremoniously plopped himself down on the opposite end of the table, grabbing a fork and shoveling food into his mouth with hardly a second taken to possibly taste it.

 

 

"You always eat so fast," Sara frowned at him from across the table, her first bite still on her fork, "It's like you have somewhere to go."

 

 

Glitch had finally started to fully waken.

 

 

"Old habits die hard."

 

 

Sara popped the egg into her mouth.

 

 

"Gabriel Mason, you're not going anywhere." She winked at him.

 

 

For his part, Glitch chuckled and continued to eat.

 

 

 

* * *

 

 

“Your name is Gabriel.â€

 

 

“What?â€

 

 

Glitch glanced over his shoulder to find Dr. Engelmacht there behind him, fidgeting nervously.

 

 

“I told you I’d find your real name. So, I queried Deep 13 and it said your name was Gabriel.â€

 

 

Her face reddened a bit, “It’s a very pretty name.†She added.

 

 

She took a seat opposite of his.

 

 

Glitch / Gabriel sighed, and put his food tray aside. The other patrons of the cafeteria were all trying their best to pretend they weren’t staring at the couple, but Glitch could feel their eyes on his back.

 

 

“Who or what is Deep 13?†He finally asked, a fork dancing absent mindedly between his fingers.

 

 

Kathryn’s face lit up; she was aching for a chance, any chance, to help Glitch in any possible way.

 

 

“Deep 13 is the super computer that runs just about everything in this complex. Its primary use, though, is to create the personalities that run the biosuits.†She explained regally.

 

 

Glitch pinched the bridge of his nose, “So Mother is my Mother?â€

 

 

“Huh? Mother?â€

 

 

Glitch didn’t notice his slip for a moment, but then realized his error.

 

 

“Sorry. Deep 13 is my mother?†Mother is my Mother? Where did that come from...?

 

 

Kathryn smiled after a beat, “Yep!â€

 

 

Glitch leaned back in his chair and sighed again, something he was doing more and more when in Engelmacht’s company. It had been two weeks since he had sat dazed watching the cradle. When he finally returned to the infirmary he had discovered that ‘they’ had issued him a room and an ID card. The only use he’d found for it thus far was that he could get meals with it. Slowly, he was starting to settle into a routine. Part of that routine was beginning to be “avoid Dr. Engelmacht whenever possibleâ€, which that blasted ID card hadn’t helped with, getting him trapped with her in the cafeteria right then. She may have helped design him, and even seem shy and timid, but Glitch sensed something decidedly sinister about her. He couldn’t place his finger on why, but whenever he was with her he was deeply uncomfortable.

 

 

The fact that he didn’t trust her any further than he could place kick her didn’t mean that he was going to be rude, however.

 

 

“Thanks for your help, Dr. Engelmacht, I really appreciate it!†Glitch said. He screwed his face in to an approximation of a grateful smile, but it looked more like a grimace than anything else.

 

 

Kathryn, of course, wouldn’t have noticed if you took a picture of it and faxed it to her. She was too busy reveling in his appreciative words.

 

 

“Really, it’s no problem!†She grinned, “And remember, you can call me Kathryn, Gabe.†She added with a wink.

 

 

Glitch nodded sheepishly and excused himself hastily from the table (although, if you asked him, it wasn’t nearly hasty enough).

 

 

“So, my name is Gabriel.†He whispered quietly to himself later.

 

 

First he was Glitch, now he was Gabriel, but there was still something missing, but he couldn't place his finger on it.

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

The days continued to pass for Glitch, who had favored his nickname over the one some computer had given him, and he soon settled into a sort of comfortable existence. The intervening time might’ve been called happy if you stretched your imagination, but at very least it was calm and easy. A laboratory wasn’t the most exciting place to be, much less one as well secured as the Apath Underground. Even with his initial distrust of Dr. Engelmacht (who still insisted he call her by her first name), he found himself wishing for her company during the long hours between waking and returning to sleep. For Kathryn’s part, she spent as much time as humanly possible with her creation, but a scientist of her caliber always had this or that to do, and that left her little time to socialize with her favorite pseudo-person.

 

After nearly a month, Glitch couldn’t take it anymore. One evening, the long haired boy found himself in a rather one sided conversation with the always beaming Kathryn. This was not unusual, seeing as Glitch usually didn’t have anything to contribute anyway, what with the nonstop excitement of siting around all day. Once she finished the train of thought she had been on, Glitch interjected with a question.

 

 

“Dr. Kathryn...†He began. Glitch refused to drop the ‘Dr.’ despite Engelmacht’s repeated protests.

 

 

“What does the Corporation plan to do with me?â€

 

 

Kathryn shifted uncomfortably and took a quick sip from her coffee to stall her answer a moment.

 

 

“What brought this on?â€

 

 

Glitch sighed at her obvious diversion.

 

 

“Look, I know I really don’t have a tight grasp of the situation. I’m sure there’s plenty of stuff you and the Corporation are hiding from me,†He raised a hand to stall her protests, “But honestly, I’m a multimillion dollar project who’s doing nothing more than sleeping and eating. Surely there's something I was created for?â€

 

 

There was a small tinkle as Kathryn’s coffee cup was placed on the table.

 

 

“I should have figured you’d get antsy after a while.â€

 

 

Glitch stared unblinkingly at her, waiting for her explanation.

 

 

“Wahahaha! Don’t worry! I was planning on asking what we were going to do with you at the next staff meeting! After that, you’ll have your answers!†She had jumped to her feet and was aggressively giving the ‘V’ sign with her fingers.

 

 

“Oh, uh, okay.†Glitch scratched at his chin, trying not to laugh at his over exuberant guest.

 

 

“Ehehhehheeh...†Kathryn blushed something fierce as she realized how loud she had been, and refused to meet Glitch’s eyes as she returned to her coffee.

 

 

How could she tell him about Sara? That they were afraid that he would go nuts just like her and his brothers before him? How was she supposed to get him to understand that they had never intended for him to activate, and that he was already being replaced by the Type 07?

 

 

How exactly was she supposed to tell him that every BioSuit, except for one, had been a spectacular failure? He was the next in line of a series of continually lowered expectations. Kathryn, with all the love she had for him, could never tell him of the terrible legacy everyone expected him to live up to.

 

 

* * *

 

"Hey Gabe, what's up?"

 

 

Sara knocked on Glitch's window from the outside, startling him out of his silent daydream. He jumped slightly, and then stared into her clear blue eyes before comprehending what was going on.

 

 

"Oh, hey."

 

 

It was midday.

 

 

"What's wrong? You look so serious."

 

 

Gabe sat silently for a moment, trying to come up with a reply but ending up only being able to give a noncommittal shrug.

 

 

"Help me in."

 

 

Gabe sat up rigidly and attempted to help Sara through a frame that was about two sizes too small for someone with as impressive of a bust as her. With a rousing shout of "Pull!" from Sara, he somehow managed to force her through, but was unable to keep his balance in the process. Thus, they predictably ended up in a pile on the floor at the foot of his bed, with he chair he had been sitting on knocked far away.

 

 

The first groan came from Gabe, who had a woman just nearly as heavy as him bearing down on his body. The second groan also came from Gabe, seeing as how Sara had taken to giggling and bouncing up and down in his lap instead of getting up like a sane person would.

 

 

"So... are you going to tell me what you've been thinking about now."

 

 

It was only then that Gabe realized that this had all been a carefully orchestrated plot to pin him down and pry his secrets out. He began to struggle but in an instant Sara's face with centimeters from his own, lips pursed.

 

 

"Come on, aren't you going to tell all your problems to your cute... big... sister?" With each of her last words she got even closer.

 

 

Sweat dripped down Gabe's forehead as he began to realize the implications of not talking.

 

 

"Do..." He gave a false start as Sara grinned like a predator when she heard his voice.

 

 

He coughed sideways into his hand and started again, ever aware of the attractive young woman pressing herself on to him.

 

 

"Do you... ever think of that place?" Gabe lowered his eyes, unable to meet hers.

 

 

Sara's expression turned stoney and she backed off. Standing, she dusted off her pants and walked over to sit on his bed. Without saying a word, she patted the space next to herself. Glitch got to his feet and took a spot on the bed with slightly more distance between between them than where she indicated. Unperturbed, she scooted next to him and put her hands on his thigh. Looking at the ceiling, she began to talk.

 

 

"I don't think a day goes by that I don't think of that place. Sometimes I think I haven't, but then I realize that it's only because I'm so used to it that I don't think of it as strange. But..." She paused, still not looking at Glitch. Haltingly, he put his hand around her waist. She continued, "...Since you've come, it hasn't bothered me. I was always curious about what happened to you. When you showed up at my door, well, there's been almost no reason to think of it. Now, the only times I do-" She cut herself off.

 

 

Gabe looked over to see that she was looking at him, eyes misty.

 

 

"You can tell me..." He held her tighter, unable to keep eye contact.

 

 

"The only times I do now," She sniffled, "Are when I see myself in the mirror and remember when happened that day."

 

 

Gabe clenched his eyes shut. Everything led to that. It was the only thing that weighed on his sister's mind, as far as he could tell.

 

 

"You've beautiful. You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen in my life. Don't ever forget that."

 

 

Sara grabbed the front of his shirts and pressed her face against his chest. Gabe slowly stroked her fire red hair as she composed herself.

 

 

"Why... do you ask?" She managed to get out between sniffles.

 

 

"I've been having dreams about that place." he said softly

 

 

"And...?" She looked up to see he was staring out the window again.

 

 

"And... I've been thinking about Engelmacht."

 

 

 

* * *

 

Stephan Apex rubbed at the bridge of his nose. Like most of the meetings, about five minutes in it had degraded into a shouting match between department heads and leaders from various corporations, all trying to get preferential treatment for their own project/ company/ harebrained scheme.

 

 

Face shaded by the shadows, differentiated from the others in the room only by the bold number 1 on his face, he was half tempted to ask someone to kill them all so he could hear himself think. That thought crossed his mind at every meeting, but he realized this time, like every other, that they weren’t actually there; they were only dummies with the voices and numbers of their puppeteer. The only live ones in the room were Engelmacht and Dr. Hughes, even Apex himself opted to stay in his office instead of making the trek down to the bowels of the Underground. Besides, killing his own people wouldn’t do much for his cause this early in the game; it was best to wait until he had all the cards in his hand before he started to reveal them.

 

 

Though he was unable (at the moment) to kill them all without having to worry about consequences, he certainly wasn't going to stand for this idiocy in the middle of a Council meeting.

 

 

“All of you ignorant bastards are invited to shut the hell up RIGHT NOW!â€

 

 

The sound of his voice crackled loudly over the speaker, which couldn’t quite keep up with his volume.

 

 

The table quieted. Apex was more than slightly amazed that such a group of powerful individuals could be so easily intimidated. Although, then again, maybe he shouldn’t be.

 

 

“Is there any NEW business we can scream at each other about?â€

 

 

Engelmacht’s arm was raised so quickly you could almost hear it cut through the air.

 

 

“Dr. Engelmacht, you have something to say?†Stephan was aware of how obvious the answer to this question was.

 

 

“Yes sir, I do.†She got to her feet.

 

 

“This ought to be good,†chortled a tiny, germanic voice from across the table.

 

 

“Shut your face you kraut.†Snapped Engelmacht.

 

 

The heckler was silenced, at least for the time being.

 

 

“As you may know, some two months ago the Type 06 BioSuit activated of its own will and has been confined to the Underground activation level.â€

 

 

There were nods of acknowledgment around the table.

 

 

“As the creator and guardian thus far for the boy, I wish to know what we will be doing with him. He is becoming restless.â€

 

 

The din of voices around the table grew slightly, but she continued anyway.

 

 

“We have to put him to use; he has a virus system already, he can be put into service.â€

 

 

From her side, Dr. Hughes voiced his opinion on the matter.

 

 

“NO.â€

 

 

Her contemporary rose to his feet and regarded her arrogantly over his spectacles.

 

 

“That would be of the utmost foolishness. To allow something we know nothing about out into the world would be madness.â€

 

 

She spun to face him, ignoring the majority of the council as they continued the fight she and the TestType developer had been waging for the last several months.

 

 

“He’s a kind a gentle boy, and he’s smart as sin. He would work wonderfully as an agent.â€

 

 

“You say he’s gentle, so how do we know he can fight? You do realize that he will most likely only be used as an assassin? How does that bode with you?â€

 

 

Kathryn was stumped for only a moment before an idea popped into her head.

 

 

“I’ll put him through training. That way we’ll be sure he can fight, and he can do it with our methods in mind.†She smirked at the balding Dr. Hughes.

 

 

Stephan spoke up from the background.

 

 

“I see no problem with this.â€

 

 

Kathryn smiled victoriously, Hughes grunted in dissatisfaction.

 

 

“Training or no, the Type 07 will wipe the floor with him.â€

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

Training, Glitch had decided, was the most boring thing in the world. Even thirty years from now, if prompted, his answer to the question “What was the most boring thing you have ever done?†would be training in the Apath Underground.

 

 

Kathryn had enrolled him in the Apath Security Program. After the first day, all of his innate fighting talents had surfaced. After a week, he dropped out of the class (much to Kathryn’s dismay). He did, however, stay around to spar.

 

 

It wasn’t long before he was tossing every challenger he faced across the room. He began to take more an more opponents on, performing combos on scores of men with superhuman feats of agility and leaving them exhausted on the floor while he stood there, the single survivor.

 

 

Kathryn watched him fight when she got a chance. She had been diverted to developing prosthetic devices while the TestType BioSuit was being constructed. Everyone attached to that project were doing their best to put as much distance between it and the good doctor as possible. Engelmacht's track record could be called rocky, if you felt like being really, really nice.

 

 

There was a flash. A slashed wrist, a room full of blood, a smiling face. Red hair.

 

 

Engelmacht shook her head as she caught Glitch's eye from across the room. The memories faded. She waved at him and he waved back, before being rushed by another fighter. Kathryn gasped as it looked like Glitch was going to be clothes-lined, but he dropped into a split and elbowed the man in the gut. The man's forward motion was used to toss him over Glitch's purple head. He pulled himself to his feet and ran over to her.

 

 

"Hey babe." Glitch was becoming more comfortable with Kathryn by the day.

 

 

"Hey Gabe!" Kathryn couldn't be happier about it.

 

 

Glitch grabbed a towel from a hook on the wall and wiped the sweat from his body,and then pulled a t-shirt over his head. Kathryn admired his body while his eyes were hidden.

 

 

"What brings you down here, Ms. Doctor? You've been pretty scarce lately," Glitch probed while freeing his hair from underneath the collar of the shirt.

 

 

Kathryn tapped at her chin, the way she often did when she was telling a fib. It happened often enough that Glitch had picked up on it. As far as he could tell, she only did it when she was hiding some Underground business from him. He prepared to take whatever she was about to say with a grain of salt.

 

"You know, this and that... I just wanted to see how you were carrying on."

 

 

This was a lie.

 

 

"Really, what brings you?" Glitch poked at her with his fingers while she stood there, laughing nervously.

 

 

"Well..." she began.

 

 

The Council had been satisfied with Gabe's progress. It proved, at least, what they had all been hoping, that any information that a BioSuit had stored via download was usable. If it had to be experienced, learned like it had to be with humans, the BioSuit program as a whole would be at risk of failure. The primary advantage a BioSuit had over a normal human was that, theoretically, it could learn skills by downloading them, and instantly apply them without prior experience. Jumping in a tank or a helicopter when the situation required it without being befuddled by the controls was a definite plus when things came down to it. The fact that Glitch was able to unlock all his martial arts and fighting skills so quickly functioned as an excellent proof of concept as far as the Council was concerned.

 

 

"...the Council wants to put you through some VR training. But, I'm not sure if you'll like it." Kathryn said.

 

 

"Why is that?" Gabe looked up at her face, only to see that she was looking away from him.

 

 

"It's a bit more... l--" Kathryn paused as if she couldn't bring herself to say something. Her tongue remained clenched between her teeth, unable to proceed.

 

 

"You'll see." She said, smiling down on Gabe reassuringly

 

 

* * *

 

 

Gabe faced the massive machine that covered one whole wall of the room and could only guess what he was in for. Kathryn was still standing by the entrance, glancing nervously between him and the clipboard she held in an iron grip. She seemed wholly unwilling to break the silence, preferring the only slightly less harmful option of letting Gabe try and figure things out himself. The less she said, Kathryn thought, the less he would associate this event with her.

 

 

The machine was so big the Gabe had to get closer to realize it wasn't just a block of mechanics and that it actually had pieces sticking out from it. Of particular interest was the plush looking seat at the base of it all, appearing completely dwarfed and out of place.

 

 

"I'm just going to assume that I'm supposed to sit here."

 

 

From across the room he could almost make out Kathryn nodding.

 

He moved to sit, but stopped short.

 

 

"It's, like, safe... right?" Gabe questioned awkwardly.

 

 

Without a second's pause Kathryn rushed to his side, attempting to ease his concerns.

 

 

"Oh, don't worry! It's perfectly safe. Sara used to love this thing."

 

 

Gabe frowned.

 

 

"Who?"

 

 

Kathryn turned bright red and dropped her clipboard.

 

 

"Uh.. uh--" She had gotten a hold of the clipboard only to have it tumble from her hands again, spinning across the floor.

 

 

"Is something wro--" Gabe was cut off as Kathryn stood straight as a board, her clipboard caught in a death grip by her side.

 

 

"No! Nothing's wrong! Never mind!"

 

 

Gabe blinked at her incredulously as she composed herself.

 

 

"It may sting a bit when you first connect but otherwise it completely safe." She finally managed to croak out, too embarrassed to face Gabe any longer.

 

 

"Right," He narrowed his eyes at her blatantly suspicious behavior, but finally sat in the chair anyway.

 

 

Kathryn moved to the far, far right wall.

 

 

"Are you ready?"

 

 

Gabe gave a curt nod forward, face set.

 

 

"Do it."

 

 

There was a snap and all the lights in the room dimmed. What sounded like a huge turbine began to spin just centimeters behind Gabe's head. His chair began to vibrate. A roaring sounded in his ears that blocked out whatever it was Kathryn was yelling at him, her mouth opening and closing in front of him, her eyes moist.

 

 

The chair back seemed to fall out from behind him and he crashed into a flat position. It gave one final shake, and then sank backwards into the machine. The roar was dulled inside. From the darkness there was the sounds of whips, snapping against metal. Gabriel, sealed in the heart of the thundering machine, felt slithering tubes begin to wrap around his body, tying him to the chair. The last thing he remembered was the feeling of being shot by a gun about a thousand times along the back of himself, and then the alarming sensation of his consciousness draining out through the tubes that had trapped him.

 

 

[welcome home]

 

 

* * *

 

 

Kathryn jumped as she heard Gabe's muffled yelp from within the machine, which had now quieted to a dull hum while it worked away. She scampered to a terminal next to the hatch where Gabe had disappeared into and began typing furiously.

 

 

"He should be connected now."

 

 

The picture of the screen scrolled rapidly as information passed across it at the behest of her keystrokes.

 

 

"Time to start it up."

 

 

She grabbed a headset that hung neatly out of the way and adjusted it so it fit snugly on her head. After a quick check to make sure the mic was receiving, she pulled a lever next to the monitor. The machine began to roar again and Gabe's voice came through her headset.

 

 

"What-- What the hell am I seeing?"

 

 

 

* * *

 

After that last blinding bit of pain, vast grassy plains had appeared before Gabriel's eyes, stretching onwards into infinity in all directions. A gentle wind blew across the landscape, making the thick green grass sway under its caresses.

 

 

"This is virtual reality."

 

 

Gabe jumped as Kathryn's voice came from the sky.

 

 

Before Gabe could venture a question, Kathryn began to explain.

 

 

"This is a virtual battle field. I am connected to you by headset. Anything you say will be transmitted to me, and anything I say will be transmitted to you. I can even monitor what you see, to a limited extent. If what the Type 5 said is any indication, 2D representations could never recreate what you are seeing."

 

 

"Type 5... That's the Sara you mentioned, isn't it?"

 

 

As only silence came over the line, Gabe could almost picture her tapping away at her chin, trying to come up with an explanation.

 

 

"Ah... yes, but lets not dwell on that right now!" Was Kathryn's eventual reply, apparently unable to come up with a suitable fabrication quick enough.

 

 

In the distance Gabe began to hear the sound of marching, hundreds of footfalls stomping towards a goal. Though he could barely make it out, he thought he could see something coming over the ridge to the east.

 

 

"You are about to be tested on your ability to remotely command a theoretical BioSuit army."

 

 

As the troops came closer, he saw that they were all identically uniformed, with identical builds, and each of them with the same platinum blond hair. Their faces too were all identically shadowed.

 

 

"Am I really able to do this?"

 

 

There was a pause on the line.

 

 

"Actually, so far as you have been designed, you are not able to do this in the real world, which is fine because there is no BioSuit army to speak of. However, in VR you should find yourself very much able to control this small of a force."

 

 

There was another pause.

 

 

"If I remember correctly the Type 5 had a limit of about 10,000, give or take a few dozen men."

 

 

Gabe found himself strangely disturbed by the reply. It was as if Kathryn had finally shed her pleasant mask and was the perfectly frigid woman he had always feared her to be when she was away from him. The implications of a BioSuit army put a cold fear in his belly while at the same time made a suppressed part of him call out for joy. He chose to ignore both parts and instead focused on what was happening on the field.

 

 

In the depths of his brain he felt a connection bloom. Hundreds of tiny thoughts began to pour into his head. They threatened to overflow and drive him mad. With a bellow, he silenced them.

 

 

"STOP!"

 

 

[sTOP!]

 

 

Though he had yelled aloud, the voices in his head indeed stopped. Down on the field, so had the BioSuit force, halting some 40 yards from him.

 

 

"Did... I do that?" Gabe asked quietly, awe struck.

 

 

From the west, another force appeared. As it passed the crest of the hill, and came towards the flat lands where Gabe's force resided, a man in shrouded in black stood behind it.

 

 

There was an electric crackling in Gabe's head, and the enemy forces seemed to focus.

 

 

[Attack.]

 

 

The man in black thrust a sword into the air. It was huge, and at the end came to a deadly looking hook.

 

 

The enemy began to charge.

 

 

"Jesus christ!" Gabe shouted as they closed with alarming speed.

 

 

He started to panic. Hundreds of men (and women?) who seemed intent on ripping him limb from limb were careening down at him and there was nothing he could do.

 

 

"Gabriel! Lead your troops!" Engelmacht sounded from above.

 

 

There was a ripple in time.

 

 

Instinct took over.

 

 

Where Gabriel's left arm once was, instead there was a powerful metal tube, with a massive claw.

 

 

It shot forward.

 

 

[Troops focus. Defensive position. Prepare for incoming enemy. Separate in the hopes of surrounding. There is no line. Fight.]

 

 

Purple hair trailed in the wind on one end of the field, while blond hair blew on the other.

 

 

Then, there were screams, and blood, and death. The green disappeared, and the skies turned grey.

 

 

* * *

 

 

In the end, Gabriel's forces had won, but by a negligible number. There were three BioSuits left on the field by the end of the exercise, and only two of them were in one piece. Gabe reflected upon the horrible violence and savagery the two groups had demonstrated. Armed only with blades, they hacked each other to pieces, and when their blades were lost or broken, they bit and scratched their way to victory. They disemboweled each other, chewed through each others throats, gouged out eyes, cut off tongues, anything they could get their hands on. They weren't people, or even soldiers. They were monsters, and beasts, and animals.

 

 

Gabe and the man in black, across the way, watched. The last one standing, who had one hand buried in the belly of an opponent and the other holding his own guts in, flickered and disappeared from existence. A beat later so did the landscape, leaving only white and the two men. The man in black soon vanished, and then too did Gabe.

 

 

[farewell]

 

 

A white feather fluttered past, and then nothing.

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Chapter 3: His name was Bill

 

 

He sat there, tapping his toe along to some half forgotten melody in his head. That was about all he could do in his situation. It wasn't like he could snap his fingers or clap along or slap his thighs.

 

Years of false promises and misdeeds had earned the BioSuit known as William this cage of his. It was a cozy little number, concrete walls with bars submerged deep in them for good measure. The tiny scrap of light that did filter his gray walled cage managed to miraculously shine right in the eyes of the would-be prisoner.

 

Not that he was a prisoner in the traditional sense; When it came to the Underground, very little of what went on could be labeled as 'traditional'. He would be kept locked down and prone until they needed him. This was the way of things. This was his life. Sit, stand, maim, sit. Repeat. They would keep him here until they needed his indispensable services.

 

When one's existence and purpose in life becomes inevitability, life becomes a one way street with no side roads.

 

He would destroy anything that got close to him. When his rage was unbound, he was unstoppable. He acted without logic, or at very least, he acted beyond any normal person's logic. There was no sickening coldness to his actions. If anything, it was the raw fury of his logic that got to them. Blood everywhere. The screams... would follow a normal man to his death.

 

Afterward, he would be returned. They had the finger on his button, and if there was anything he feared, it would be an early demise.

 

"Oh... I weep for myself. I shed tears from the blackest of black eyes for my poor bereaved creators, who would do such a thing to their humble servant,"

 

Bill had taken to melodrama in recent months. It passed the time, finding flowery ways to say life was shit. This was a new development. He had not been like this, before.

 

"Quit your whining. It's your own fault you're in there, monster." A particularly disgruntled employee yelled. He was one of the many who had the misfortune of keeping watch over the captive BioSuit.

 

"How so, good sir? Is it not the fault of my creators who, not only put me where I am, but made me as I am and forbade me the ability to change? Is that in itself not worse than any crime I could commit?"

 

The guard responded eloquently by kicking the cell, succeeding only in stubbing his toe against the hard metal of his steel toed boot when it met the concrete. It made a dull thump that was hardly recognizable by the prisoner.

 

"What good will that do you, my dearest friend?" Bill prodded at the man. His eyes glinted in the light that shined onto them.

 

Those black, black eyes. Always watching, waiting.

 

"Monster..."

 

----

 

The machine that dominated bulk of the room roared with activity, bathing it in red light. Very soon though there was a relative silence: only the working of simple electronics and the deceleration of gears and wheels.

 

Life poured into a vessel. What is a BioSuit but the container for an intelligence? It was a tool for the domination of the world, the domestication of man. Utilize man's greatest strength: Science coupled with imagination and raw desperation. Use the engine of one's destruction as the machine that would advance humanity into Eden. This was one of the artificial beings that would shape society into the perfection that Apath wanted.

 

Tubes and wires and pistons all disconnected themselves and sunk back into the Cradle Under the cold glare of Dr. Hughes, on June 16th 1994, the TestType 07 woke to the world.

 

---

 

 

"My name is William Sullivan."

 

The blond boy winked.

 

"But you can call me Bill."

 

A week had passed since Gabe's victory on the battlefield. In the immediate aftermath, the young BioSuit had refused to talk to Kathryn, absolutely furious but unable to vent his frustrations.

 

She had warned him. She had said, "Are you sure?†He shouldn't blame her at all.

 

Like humans, BioSuits are not always rational beings. It's much easier to project guilt than to blame one's self.

 

He had since calmed down. There was still a tension in the air, the sort that's so thick that you can't breach it for fear of making things worse, but like all things time would erase this particular unease.

 

The blond boy, Bill, took a seat next to Kathryn. Her face was a mixture of disgust and hatred that Gabe did not quite pick up on.

 

Even with the tension, and the unspoken claim to blame and guilt that they both had, they still managed to grasp onto the small part of normalcy in their lives. Wake, work, eat. The part that crossed paths for the two of them was the eating part, and thus they were eating together. Lunch in the cafeteria. Same as it ever was.

 

"Hello,†He looked from the unresponsive Engelmacht to Gabe.

 

"Hello." Bill said again to the other member of the table.

 

"Hi..."

 

Gabe looked at the young man. He looked at his blond hair, at his pretty face. All he could see from his side of the table was a black turtleneck that clung to him, but somehow Gabe imagined the boy was wearing slacks.

 

Gabe glanced at Engelmacht, who continued to pretend neither of them was there.

 

"Uhm, it's good to meet you. My name is Gli--"

 

Gabe stumbled over his own name and blushed under Bill's amused gaze.

 

"Gabe. My name is Gabe."

 

Bill's arm, like it was a million miles long, extended over that wide wide expanse. All sorts of borders were crossed; Engelmacht looked like she had just been scandalized by him.

 

Gabe reached out too, his arm traveling the long distance to meet Bill's hand.

 

They shook.

 

Bill's powder blue eyes met Gabe's emerald green ones.

 

"Lets be good friends."

 

---

 

The time spent with Bill seemed to melt away like butter and Gabe found himself wondering how he could have lived before. It was as if he had a second life, far divorced from the one he had spent with Engelmacht.

 

As soon as Bill had appeared, Engelmacht changed. Before she was a silly, blushing woman. She fawned over glitch like some sort of over-attached girlfriend.

 

"How are you doing?"

 

"Do you like your food?"

 

"Let me fix your shirt..."

 

What was she to Gabe, and what was Gabe to her?

 

Since then, she had not been around, much less than before at least. At any given time when Gabe was not with Bill, Engelmacht probably wasn't there. If Bill was with him, the doctor definitely wasn't there.

 

"She's like a ghost. I wonder if I pissed her off somehow..."

 

The truth of the matter was, even if he had, he probably wouldn't care. The times he had with Bill were full of adventure and merriment.

 

"So, you're like me?"

 

Bill jumped up on the ledge and sat, facing the digital sun. They were inside the VR simulator.

 

"Yep, I'm like you. I'm a BioSuit, the Type 07. Designed by Dr. Hughes, I'm the last of the ProtoTypes."

 

Gabe looked up at the younger boy and couldn't help but feel awed. Gabe's own birth had been bloody and confusing, but Bill knew exactly what was going on.

 

"I'm going to be the strongest fighter the Underground has. They'll have no choice but to use me. Even when they hit full production, I’ll make sure I'm their go-to guy."

 

There was very little about the Underground that Gabe knew. Their goals and aspirations were a mystery to him. The sum of his knowledge was that they built him, and they built him for a reason. Up until now, he was still clueless as to what that reason was.

 

"Hey Gabe?"

 

In slow motion the purple haired boy turned to face the questioner, his friend. His innocent green eyes blinked and his pupils danced around as he took Bill in, absorbing the features of his face. The prominent but soft jaw line, a perfect Aryan nose; Bills big blue eyes and feathery blond hair.

 

"What is it?"

 

Bill’s brilliant eyes stood wide open and unfocused.

 

“What do you want to do in this world of ours?

 

“Our world?†Gabe was confused

 

“This, the world of our people. We were created to lead them into the next stage. We’re supposed to control them, to stop their base instincts and show them the right way. Force them to be what they’ve always been capable.â€

 

Gabe’s eyebrows dipped inward as he frowned.

 

“If they’re forced… have they accomplished anything? What’s the point of forcing people to do something they don’t want?â€

 

Bill didn’t smile, nor did he frown. He continued on in his melodious low voice.

 

“They want to because we are here. Someone wanted it or we wouldn’t be created. If we wait too long, then their species will be held back by the worst of them. We’re the culling song, we’re the special ones who spurn forward their existence.â€

 

“But do we have the right…?â€

 

“You don’t know them like I do, Gabe.â€

 

Bill jumped from his perch, and kissed Gabe on the forehead. He grasped Gabe's arms in his hands.

 

“They're not all like Kathryn, and they’re certainly not like me.â€

 

Gabe looked at the hands clutching his arms.

 

“I’ll have to decide for myself, Bill…â€

 

Bill blinked.

 

"I love you." Bill said.

 

Gabe stared straight ahead, unbelieving.

 

Bill turned back towards the solar representation.

 

"Together, we'll defeat everyone who stands in our way. We’ll take over like our genes instruct us to. Will you follow me, Gabe? Will you help me build the new world we were made for?"

 

Colors exploded before Gabe's eyes, and the simulation disappeared.

 

---

 

"I hate him."

 

Blood dripped from her lips.

 

"I hate him."

 

It traveled to her chin and then dripped onto her white white white labcoat.

 

"I hate him."

 

Her teeth sunk into her thumb.

 

"He took my baby away."

 

Eyes wide, unfocused, jumping.

 

"He took my lover away."

 

A quarter inch deep.

 

"He took my new LIFE."

 

She screamed.

 

She screamed some more. She screamed and screamed and screamed. She screamed until her throat was hoarse. Screamed until it was raw. She began to cough up flecks of blood.

 

Her mouth was slick with copper.

 

Then, silence. Breath in. Breath out. Calm.

 

She picked up the coffee table and flung it by the leg. It impacted and broke against the wall

 

"Don't leave me!"

 

She flung dishes, theey shattered against the door.

 

"Don't abandon me!"

 

Slivers of wood stuck in her knuckles as she pummeled furniture.

 

Silence. Breath in. Breath out.

 

"I’ll make you…. I’ll make you love me.â€

 

Her eyes had no connection to reality.

 

“I’ll make you love me Gabriel.â€

 

---

 

The new world we were made for. Is that what this was all about? Gabe didn’t know very much, but he was beginning to get a really bad feeling, crawling through his guts. The elation he had heard when Bill spoke the words “I love you,†slowly retreated to bottom of him when he realized what he might intend. Gabe didn’t know the world. He didn’t know what was out there. But “take over†was “take over,†and build sounded a hell of a lot like rebuild to him.

 

There was an echo, in the back of his head, something about BioSuits and the wave of the future. The world, rid of the people who had harmed his kind, but the screeching pain that sliced through his brain that followed those echoes was enough to drown them out.

 

Kathryn was now there. She looked at his face, but not at him. She looked through him. He was not there. Her eyes seemed to dilate and the corners of her mouth twitched up and down.

 

“Hello Dr. Kathryn.â€

 

Dr. Kathryn said hello back.

 

“How are you, Dr. Kathryn?â€

 

Dr. Kathryn was just fine, thank you.

 

Gabe stared straight at her.

 

It was several days after the simulation with Bill. Gabe had not seen Bill since then. It was actually the first time he had seen Kathryn in weeks.

 

Now she stood in his doorway, completely disconnected from reality, leaving Gabe unsettled.

 

“Kathryn… is there anything I can do for you?â€

 

Kathryn twitched and nodded once, stepping into the room. Then she nodded again, paused, and once more dipped her head in assent.

 

“Yes… yes, there is something you can do for me… oh yes I think there is.â€

 

Gabe frowned deeply and took a step back. Kathryn overtook his retreat and smashed her mouth against him. Her tongue darted out and probed his mouth, desperately searching. Without any sort of legitimate reaction he could make, Gabe flinched and lost his balance, falling to the floor. Kathryn clung to him with brute force, refusing to allow her lips to become detached from his.

 

Finally Gabe regained his senses and twisted his head away.

 

“What the hell are you doing?†He yelled, her face still centimeters from his own

 

“Oh Gabe it’s so beautiful we can have sex all day and never worry about children. I’ll wait on you hand and foot, just your private servant I’ll make you so happy don’t you see you don’t need anyone else! I’m all you’ll ever need, I’ll take care of your every fantasy!â€

 

She reared up and tore her blouse open, her breasts falling out. She grabbed them and pressed them into Gabe’s face.

 

“Aren’t they wonderful?

 

Gabe’s mind and body were suddenly doing battle. He knew this was insanity but he was fully aware that a gorgeous woman was practically begging to have sex with him. Somehow, his good sense won out and he managed to force her off of him, careful to avoid touching the rapidly increasing amount of exposed skin on her body. He clamored to his feet, slamming against the wall in his hurry to keep his back from being turned to her.

 

“Eng—Kathryn?! What’s gotten into you!†Gabe had his hands slightly raised, in case he needed to catch her, but she seemed as though she wouldn’t be taking herself from the floor for the moment.

 

“Why… why can’t you just love me? I’d give you everything you want… Anything any man could want…†Her hair fell over her eyes as she half lay half sat on the floor, crying softly.

 

Gabe’s expression remained frozen for a moment, unable to process. With a sigh and a shake of his head his posture softened and he lowered his hands to his sides. For an instant he considered picking her off the floor but he was too frightened to get close to the woman again.

 

“I don’t even know what I want… so how could you give it to me?†He said.

 

"Wait, please!"

 

Kathryn scrambled up to him on hands and knees, clutching herself close to his leg. Gabe froze, his throat tightening. Kathryn's tears soaked through his jeans, moistening his leg. With stubborn effort, he managed to pull himself away.

 

Gabe opened the door and stepped out of the room. He didn't look back.

 

----

 

From down the long white hallway Bill saw Gabe exit his room in a hurry. He increased his own pace to catch up. The door had already sealed by the time he passed it, and the soft sobs of Engelmacht just barely penetrated the thick plastic door.

 

Gabe managed to evade Bill, leaving the blond haired man standing confused at the end of an empty hallway.

 

---

 

Gabe didn't know where to turn and finally found his way to the cafeteria. Sitting behind a pillar opposite the entrance, Gabe hoped to avoid any stray eyes. The few people who were in the room avoiding looking at him, like usual, so he felt alone, which was exactly what he wanted at that moment. Men and woman in white lab coats, all in a row, moving their hands from plate to mouth, plate to mouth, over and over again. Gabe had no appetite, and the mechanical action suddenly seemed repulsive.

 

"Who are these people, these scientists. What is the point of all this? Work and eat and then what?" He asked himself quietly.

 

Their faces, all of them, might have not have even existed, and Gabe would not have been able to tell the difference. They were completely ambiguous. None of them had a recognizable feature.

 

"I shouldn't be here. This place, nothing in it makes sense. There is no meaning here."

 

He sat thinking for over an hour, watching the white coated creatures go about their lives. He needed to move around, burn up some energy. He decided to go to the training center and break a bit of a sweat, and hopefully clear his mind of his worries.

 

He pressed his palms against his eyes, then got to his feet.

 

"Where is Bill?"

 

---

 

"You stupid woman. What are you doing down there? It's pathetic. Did you really think someone like you could convince him to stoop down to your level?"

 

Engelmacht stared with iron eyes at the dented door frame. Her face was still slick with her own tears but now could have been carved from stone. Her teeth ground loudly in her own mouth.

 

"I don't have to listen anything an incomplete freak like you might say." She spat.

 

Bill's eyes flashed with rage. He lunged forward with his arm cocked and back handed her across the face. She flew back, landing sprawled on the floor. Quickly her face and eye began to swell. Her mouth hung open, and she sat shaking in fear. Slowly recovering, she bite her tongue to choke back a bitter remark.

 

"Where did Gabe go?" Bill said, looking down at Engelmacht with cold blue eyes. His face was entirely calm now, high up above. Superior.

 

Engelmacht paused before answering.

 

"I don't know," her lips slid down into a sneer, "he left in a hurry."

 

Bill barked out a harsh, mean laugh.

 

"Oh I'm sure he did. Nothing like filth to offend the new upper class. But I must thank you, I suppose with out you he might never have been created. You and humanity have my thanks, gratitude from the bottom of my heart, for the depth of your arrogance."

 

His grin was savage.

 

"You played god just long enough for your creation to begin to topple you." he said.

 

He spun on his heel and exited the room. His right hand twitched agitatedly, as if it wanted to grab something just out of reach.

 

"Gabe... what's going to happen?" Engelmacht said.

 

---

 

 

Gabe had only managed to pummel the punching bag for a few minutes before Bill walked in. His face looking chipper but his eyes were decidedly dark, giving him a dsiticntly off balance appearance. Gabe wiped his face of sweat, and watched as Bill approached. He seemed remarkably intent on something.

 

"Gabe. I've been looking for you." Bill said. Gabe turned to face Bill and saw his hand moving erratically.

 

"Something up?" He kept his eyes from glancing at the movement from the corner of his eyes.

 

Bill shrugged "I want to know something, Gabe. I want to know what you think of the mission."

 

Glitch shook his head, "I'm really not sure about that mission, but more than that I'm not happy here. I don't feel like I belong. I can't see the purpose to all this, to them, to us. It's all a blur, a swirl of pointlessness. It's like we are bound against our will to this place, but no one has a will anymore so it doesn't matter. No one is resisting." He said.

 

Bill was obviously becoming more agitated "No, it can't be like that. We're supposed to be together, Gabe, partners, bringing in the new world, the revolution. They don't know what's good for themselves. Even our creators, they have no idea what the truth is. Soon they will unleash us though, and any who would try to hold us back are holding nature back. We are nature and beyond nature, we are the next stage in evolution. We cannot let them be held back. You have to help, you can't be one of them Gabe. You have to! We need to establish this new world so everyone can be saved. Can't you see that we're the only ones who can do this?"

 

Gabe sat passively, his face betraying nothing. Inside there were no words, only a growing sense of panic. There was a sense that he was being used, or would be used for something terrible. The idea that his purpose might be decided without his consent made his insides churn and he struggled not to scream out his indignation.

 

"Bill, I'm leaving this place. I'm not a revolutionary. That's not my life. That's not what I want." Gabe said.

 

"What do you want?" Bill's eyes were sad and dark.

 

"I don't know... but I know it's not that." Gabe replied.

 

Bill remained silent. They stood in this abusive, foreboding silence for several moments before Gabe spoke again.

 

"I can't dedicate myself to the changing of a people I've never met. These people here, they aren't humans. They are just machines in white. We're more human than they are."

 

Bill's mouth twitched at the word "human."

 

They stood silently once again, both waiting for the other to speak.

 

"Goodbye, Bill." Gabe said.

 

Gabe left. Bill cried.

 

---

 

He needed to leave, now if he could help it. He was reasonably sure that Bill wouldn't turn him in immediately, if at all, and the same he felt was true of Engelmacht, but in spurning both he was afraid that one might impede his escape. As worried as he was that Engelmacht might still be in his room, he needed to gather the few things he owned before leaving.

 

The door to his room was open, attempting to close against the damage that had been done to it and failing eternally. Engelmacht was gone, however, so that was a bit of a relief.

 

He fished through his things. There really was very little that he had to his name, but he dressed himself in the uniform they had provided for him and looked into a mirror.

 

"My eyes... they seem sad. Here's hoping we can change that." He grinned at his own smile in the mirror. The fuzzy purple hair, strong nose, green half coat and slacks... they formed the image that was himself. He added that smile to his internal image.

 

"I'm going to fight to make that smile stick."

 

He bid goodbye to his room, to his life, and left it.

 

---

 

There was an elevator, he knew, that went to the surface. He planned to escape through the top of the elevator and climb until he was out of the Underground. It wasn't a terribly involved or thought out plan but it was the best he had and he needed to run with it. Not much more to it than that, he figured. On the way, he found himself face to face with Bill and Engelmacht. They were arguing.

 

"He's going to leave, you've scared him off. You stupid damn woman!" Bill smacked Engelmacht across the face, who took the impact in stride, rearing back and spiting in Bill face.

 

"You idiot. Have you any idea what you're really doing? They'll never use you. When they begin production they will throw you away and build a new generation of command units. You'll be lucky to experience another year of functionality." She said while bracing herself for another blow. In the process she noticed Gabe standing there.

 

"Gabe!" she exclaimed.

 

Gabe walked up to the two, irritated.

 

"What the hell is this?" He turned to Bill, furious, and shoved his shoulder, "What the fuck? Why the hell did you hit her?"

 

Bill sneered, "She's a stupid fucking woman. She has no intention of improving humanity. She's just trying to cool her soaking hot loins. A technophile, a pervert of epic quality. She built the demons that will remake humanity to satiated her carnal urges."

 

He barked a laugh.

 

"How filthy."

 

Kathryn flushed crimson but remain behind Gabe's back, protected.

 

"Bill. Why do you have a prosthetic?" Gabe asked, face unaffected.

 

Bill's right arm was no longer a normal arm but a long tubular machination, his hand, still twitching, now a claw. It was dangerous.

 

"Oh, I think I might need it. That is to say, I don't think you'll be leaving. If you try and go, I will stop you. With my own hand I will prevent you from falling into the laps of our enemies." Bill said.

 

"That's bull. I'm not going out there to help anyone, I just wanna live my life, see what the point is. I'm not going to do anything. Bill, let me go." Gabe said.

 

Engelmacht grabbed Gabe's arm "No, please don't go! You don't have to fight, I can make you a home here, carve out an existence for you and I! We can be happy. There's nothing but pain and death outside. You'll regret it... please...! They'll destroy the outside world, Bill and the others, they'll kill them all!"

 

"Shut up!" Bill's claw snaked out and grabbed Engelmacht by the head, lifting her off the ground then throwing her violently against a wall. She slumped, unconscious and badly injured.

 

"Fool, as if you would eve--" Bill was cut off as Gabe slammed his fist against in the blond haired man's face, flipping the man at breakneck speed into the ground. Blood splattered against the tilled floor. Slowly, Bill rose back to his feet, jaw unhinged, eyes dancing.

 

"Don't you fucking touch her like that. She's not innocent, but you don't have any right to hurt her." Gabe said, fist still clenched.

 

Bill wiped his mouth on his sleeve. His jaw bone was cracked, and hung lower than it should. He propped it back into place and scowled.

 

"Now let me leave, and don't ever touch her again." Gabe said.

 

Bill mouthed one word.

 

"No."

 

---

 

Bill swung his claw around, wiping it into Gabe's left arm. Gabe rolled with the blow and from a sliding crouch grabbed onto the flying and extended prosthetic and swung over it. He planted his feet and charged Bill, leaping forward with a spin, and kicking out at Bill's legs. Bill jumped over the blow and landed on his left hand, pushing off the floor and back into the air. He landed and stepping around used his inertia to swing his claw at Gabe again. Coming higher this time, Gabe bent backwards to avoid the blow and then flung himself forward, letting loose a punch into Bill's midsection. Bill took the blow but grabbed Gabe's arm with his left, and elbowed his forearm with the free prosthetic. Gabe yelled out as the metal bruised his extended limb. He folded himself up and then kicked out, slamming his boots into Bill's thighs, throwing his grip off of Gabe's arm.

 

Gabe cradled his right arm in his hand; Bill had gouged deep gashes into it with his fingertips as Gabe pulled away. He charged again, leaping completely over Bill's next prosthetic attack.

 

Bill smirked, having anticipated that. He changed the course of his arm on the fly and whipped it straight up into the air, catching Gabe in the leg and sending him into a spin. Bill changed the course once more and raked his claws across Gabe's back before the air born man was able to return to the ground and regain his footing.

 

Keeping his back to the wall he breathed deep; his lower back was bleeding from where Bill had slashed him and his arm was throbbing with pain.

 

"Fuck, how am I gonna beat him? He's been training all this time without me. He's been designed to kill god he's gonna kill me look at his face it's not right it's like a mask he's having too much fun he's angry oh Bill what's happened?" Gabe thought.

 

Bill had stopped though. He knew what to do next, what his ace in the hole was. This fight would be over in an instant and he could take Gabe back with him, have his memory erased, start again, make him his partner, and go on as if this had never happened. Yes, that would be best. Better through force and force of will than anything. If Gabe wouldn't see things his way, he would have to inflict those view on him like lashes.

 

He thought then about Engelmacht. The woman, that woman, was such a disgrace. He had read about the things she had done. Sexually abusing she the Type 2 until it committed suicide, in and of itself heinous ethically, and against one of his brethren no less. Her terrible design modifications to the Type 3, attempting to enhance its want of physical contact, which only resulted in making it a psychopathic killer. She was hardly fit to be called a scientist and yet she still roamed about the Underground like a mouse with no hope of finding the exit to a maze. She was a hold over, from an era that she herself destroyed. It was only through the activation of the Type 6 that she even could hope to keep her position. Saving Gabe might help her position, he reflected, but that transgression would be worth it to regain his friend. Bill smiled, waiting for Gabe to make his next move.

 

Gabe dropped, and flew towards Bill in a sprint. Bill retracted his arm and held his hands to his side, inviting Gabe to him. When Gabe was in range, Bill's hand vanished behind his back, and in a moment Gabe was in blinding pain.

 

Time slowed down. Gabe could see red flying across everything. His clothes, his face, all across Bill. Bill's face was aglow with a smile. Gabe tumbled over something, skidding across the floor, spreading his gore. He screamed out in agony, clutching his shoulder. The blade had come from nowhere, and the stroke had been precise. Bill had cut off Gabe's left arm.

 

It was bleeding out on the floor behind him, not that he cared about that. His stump was squirting blood all over the white white hallway. Attempting to prop himself up, hand slipped from under him and he fell face first into the tile. Gabe moaned in pain.

 

"You see how easy it was to reduce you to this? This is our power. We can make it so no one ever has to feel what you are feeling again. It's all about distributing power. The Underground will make everyone equal, and then things like this wont happen anymore." Bill said. In his hand he held a thin sword with a strange bulb coming off of the hilt. The blade itself looked like a long flat rectangle.

 

Something ruptured and burst in Gabe's shoulder. He yelled as the pistons in his body depressurized and blew his now clotted stump away from him. A clean metal interface remained, his nerves no longer registering the damaged limb. He struggled on the ground in the pool he had created, slipping on the thick rapidly cooling liquid. He finally got to his feet, unconsciously holding his shoulder where has arm had just been.

 

"What's wrong with you... are you crazy?" Gabe said.

 

Bill shook his head and his smile grew. Gabe, in the back of his mind, recalled the smile of a woman, moments before the world went black.

 

This place, he realized, the Underground, it warped people's minds. Cut off from reality, from civilization, these people were rotting. Their hopes and dreams grew in the dark, moldy and unhealthy. Bill, Kathryn, the woman in his memory, all of them had something wrong. Was it the place that had done it? Or was it only people like them that would appear here? Gabe couldn't make a decision about that, but more and more his choice to leave seemed to be the right one.

 

How could he get past Bill?

 

Gabe didn't hesitate. He grabbed his stump and threw it full speed. Bill brought up his prosthetic to block it but the force of the impact of the body part against his metal weapon covered his face with blood. He spit the coppery tasting substance out of his mouth and found Gabe already on him. Gabe pressed his shoulder up into Bill's jaw, smashing his teeth together. His boot came down and slammed his heal on Bill's toes, preventing the other BioSuits from falling away from the blow. Then Gabe's fist landed in Bill's gut. Bill was stunned, so Gabe dropped back and slammed his knee into Bill's groin. Bill yelped and fell to his knees, and Gabe kneed him again in the face. He felt Bill's nose shatter against him, and his already bloody jeans freshly warmed with the red life source.

 

"Goodbye Bill." Gabe said. He turned to leave and felt something tear through his torso. It burned white hot like he had laid on a stove. He head twisted round to see Bill, face bloody and smashed, prosthetic claw extended. Bill's metal hand had embedded itself in the flesh of his back. Immediately Gabe could tell that some of his ribs were broken but worse than that, Bill must have been at least 4 inches deep into his body. The claw twitched and Gabe screamed.

 

Bill used Gabe's weight to pull himself off the floor. He tore his hand out of the one armed man's back, yet more gore splattering across the wall. Gabe collapsed.

 

Bill began to beat Gabe. He was savage. The intent wasn't to kill him, merely hurt him. Bill wanted to hurt Gabe badly. He pummeled Gabe's face, smashing it with the butt of his blade. He kicked him in the side, and then would slash him open, centimeter deep cuts that only served to enhance his pain. Gabe writhed on the floor. Bill's face remained cold and passive then, no longer a hint of enjoyment, or righteousness. It was only empty, necessary violence to him.

 

Gabe screamed out, twitching with each approaching attack. His heart began to beat harder and harder, and his insides tensed and fluxed in terror.

 

There was a shriek. The whole of the world went white as the sound became louder and louder. Gabe's head split open.

 

---

 

Bill was dead. His body parts were strewn across that crimson hallway. His face was smashed in, his chest collapsed, and his limbs had been severed violently. Torn free, not cut.

 

Nothing was white. The color was red, red everywhere. Gabe's clothes were tattered, and he was covered in the same sickly color as the rest of the hallway. Whether it was Bill's or his own he could not tell.

 

He retched. He had killed his best friend. What had happened? What in God's name had he done.

 

Engelmacht sat sullen in the corner, her tears had burrowed through the dried and flaking spray on her face.

 

"You're gone Gabe. No more Gabe. Fly fly away Glitch." She said.

 

Gabe looked at her, and looked at Bill's corpse. Near his foot Gabe saw the sword Bill had used. He took it into his hand, looking at the strange thing.

 

"It's a blocksaber. If you hit the button on the side the blade will retract in and you only have to carry the hilt." Engelmacht said. She got unsteadily to her feet, and walked over to where Bill's unattached prosthetic lay. It had been pulled with the shoulder still attached to it. She pressed something and the chunk of meat fell away, leaving the prosthetic mostly intact. She gave it to Gabe.

 

"For your arm. You'll need it. You can shift the position of the thumb so it feels right on your left side." She said. Her voice remained emotionless.

 

Gabe took the arm and attached it to the metal shoulder socket that his own now amputated arm had occupied earlier. Small pistons sealed in and suddenly he could feel the metal arm as if it were his own.

 

"I'm... going to go now." He said to her.

 

She stepped forward and pressed her lips against his. She kissed him deeply and finally he kissed her back. She slipped something into his pocket.

 

"This will let you get to the surface using the elevator up the hall. Leave the city right away," she paused, then said, "It was the virus system that did it. If you live your life they way you want to, you wont need to ever worry about it again."

 

"Kathryn..." Gabe said. He looked divided, but nodded. He kissed her once more and then ran.

 

---

 

The cameras in the hallway returned to life after Gabe had left. The body of William Sullivan was found soon after.

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Stephan Apex knew he was moving but could not feel it. In his head, this reflected how he felt about many things. The project, he understood, made advances everyday, both within the BioSuit division, and in other areas as well. It had been 8 years since he had started things in motion, however, and he had still not approached his destination. The elevator felt the same way, though he knew, he thought bitterly, that he would arrive at his floor long before the BioSuit development was finished.

 

The doors parted, not the dull metal found in most corporate lifts but a much more ornate wooden door, like the entrance to an ancient chamber re-purposed. Stephan's eyes barely noticed; he had passed through the doors so often as to render them completely unimpressive to him. Beyond the door was a brightly lit lobby, comfortable chairs arranged against the walls facing in, works of art hanging above them. Two large doors, also wooden, automated to open slowly at approach led to the next room. The room had a massive oblong table that appeared to seat at least 20 people. Stephan crossed the room alone and took a seat at the end of the table. With the push of a button a small flickering light appeared above him and his entire head was cloaked in darkness, the number 1 appearing brightly in bold, now the only distinguishable feature about him.

 

"This meeting will now begin."

 

Around the table, one by one the various personalities that formed the Underground council appeared. Though the Underground moved by the will of Apex alone, the council had been formed for practical reasons, not least of which was the world spanning nature of the various ventures that made up the Underground's global conspiracy. It was also a courtesy, to the many very large very important people who had become involved with the Underground and felt that for all the money and material they had at stake, they deserved a say in its operation.

 

'They of course do not deserve anything, but sometimes I must bow in order to get my way," thought Apex, dreading already the inevitable conflicts that came up at each of the weekly meetings.

 

This one, he felt, would be particularly bad. He had gotten another call, making three in one year, and given the persons involved he was rightly prepared for the worse.

 

'Hung and Engelmacht will be at each other's throats.'

 

He was in for a surprise. Despite all the losses in the past week, he could have smiled. Dr. Hung, part of the two person team that routinely made these meetings a living hell was missing, his chair empty. Apex had little trouble imagining why: The loss of the Type 06 was a shock to the organization as well. The boy had shown promise. Hung was obviously playing damage control.

 

Dr. Engelmacht, the other piece of the puzzle, was back to her normal, quiet self. She had been in varying moods for the past few months, but had immediately lost her passion at the same time her pet project had literally walked out on the Underground.

 

Stephan had paused to consider that for a moment. Though the meetings had become tense and less productive in the weeks following the activation of the Type 05B, Engelmacht had shown passion for her creation and the BioSuit program she had been lacking since the Type 03 accident.

 

"There is little to say. You are no doubt aware of the events that happened 2 weeks ago. Little has changed since then, but now is the time for us to retake the ground lost. The Type 05 series has been seen as a loss for some time, and returning to it is of little benefit to us now. We lack the man power to go and retrieve the Type 05b at this time anyway, and even if we did there would be little use in doing so, as we have no idea how or why the Type 05b acted as it did. There is little we could do to stop the events of 2 weeks ago from repeating even if we did return it. It should be fairly obvious that the Type 06 should be counted as a failure at this time, and in light of these events I have a new proposal."

 

Apex stood, the projector matching his movements, keeping his identity hidden. Behind him a large display activated, brightening the dark room slightly. On its screen appeared a nude, athletic young woman with dark hair and careless half lidded eyes.

 

"Since we have had problems and I have yet to figure out a concrete reason as to why the recent BioSuit lines have failed, I will be designing the next type of BioSuit personally. In the mean time I will be devoting most of our BioSuit project personnel towards the advancement of BioSuit technologies while I take a stab at the actual unit. The Type 07s will be female. They will be strong, agile, and they will be easily hidden among the populace."

 

His face, had it not been hidden, would have shown them how serious he was.

 

"I will not tolerate any more failure. The time to design and manufacture this suit will put us even further behind schedule than we are. This must succeed."

 

He turned the display off.

 

"I will keep you abreast of any new developments, but as it stands, we must cross the places we have stumbled thus far and move beyond them. We know we have created a weapon of unimaginable power. All that is left is to hone it, and harness it. Soon after, the seeds of our efforts will begin to sprout, and our plans will blossom beautifully."

 

Apex nodded his head sharply, and began walking out of the room, the meeting obviously over. The other figures winked out one by one, the figure represented by Engelmacht pausing for a moment before winking out last.

 

---

 

Gabe pulled his hood as tightly to himself as possible. He thought he might freeze, though he realized the possibility was low, given the body he possessed. He assumed the fear was due to old genetic memory. Fear had often equaled respect, which in turn often brought survival. The winter winds blew around him, snow caking to every surface of his coat. He continued walking up the path he followed, feet disappearing a foot and a half down with each step he took. His muscles burned from the odd way he had to walk to get through.

 

'If I were a smarter man I would have bought snow shoes.' he thought, 'Hell, if I'm gonna be mister money bags I might as well buy a snow mobile while I'm at it.' he grumbled internally. Neither were an option for the cash strapped fugitive.

 

Gabe had made a very small amount of money doing odd-jobs as he traveled through Canada, making his way as north-west as possible. There was someone he needed desperately to see. Most of his funds went to traveling, very little to food. He felt like he was starving but he know his reactor, churning away in his guts, was more than enough for his cells to prosper. His hand dug deep into his pocket, keeping warm, something he was fairly sure he didn't need to do and yet, his nerves told him otherwise. His prosthetic hand hung wrapped in a bandage, in the unlikely event he stumbled upon someone.

 

In his pocket he fingered a receipt for a fishing boat he'd gotten passage on. The date on it said '01 jan 95'. He had ended up bribing the captain anyway to take him to land on Greenland. Gabe was fortunate enough to have purchased the thick winter coat he was wearing before hand; had the captain any inkling that the obviously desperate stranger had any more money else it was unlikely Gabe would have kept enough of it to purchase much of anything once he had arrived on land.

 

Gabe did not know for sure where he was going, but he had a pretty good idea. The wind picked up and he frowned, snow frozen into his thick eyebrows. If he was wrong it would be along way back

 

---

 

The snow was awful outside. Her lights continually flickered and she was worried that if the power failed she'd be fast stuck without light until morning-- her candles had been used the night before for that reason already and the snow was so bad she didn't think the general store would be open in town, even if she had wanted to brave the storm.

She cuddled herself under a thick blanket on her couch in her living room, looking sadly at a radio that sat where a television might in a more modern home. She wished she could turn it on and listen to some music to pass the time, but she knew very well that the storm would have drowned out the signal. She was far enough out that she had to contend with static even on a clear day.

 

She sighed, breaking her new years resolution for the incalculable time since making it only two night previous not to wish she had someone there to keep her company.

 

'That's selfish to think about,' she thought, 'and besides, pining away in my bed for the last few months hadn't helped a thing.'

 

There was a loud crash on the other side of the front door, and her whole body went tense. The sound abated, and she had to wonder if a tree had hit her little cabin. She pursed her lips and, not having much else to do, decided to take a look to be sure.

 

Sara Mason stood, leaving her blanket on the couch, regretting the need to but not wanting to catch it on fire accidentally as she crouched in front of her fire place to throw another log on. She played with her bright red hair, twisting it in her fingers as she watched the dry wood begin to burn.

 

In the half a year since Sara had left the Underground little had changed. Her face was still clear and soft and beautiful, her figure had not changed for that matter either. She was wearing insulated pants and a thick sweater, which contrasted with her personal style but fit much better with the climate she found herself in. Her hair had grown, long and bold, which she curled and tossed over her right shoulder. She looked back at the door and decided she might as well take that look.

 

'Then I can get back under the blanket.. brr!'

 

She peaked through the windows but couldn't see anything for the wind blown snow. She began opening the door but thought better of it, glancing through the crack and seeing that a drift nearly up to her waist had blown up against it. Preferring not to let the fall all over her floor and make a big mess, she tried to close the door.

 

She frowned and pushed again, door not budging. The door burst in, snow blowing through, the drift collapsing onto her floor.

 

"Who is it!" She yelled, her voice betraying a hint of nerves. The people in town didn't visit her, especially not on a night like this one.

 

A large man, as tall at least as Sara herself, stood in the doorway, snow blowing all around him. He had a thick winter coat, face hidden by the fur lined hood. He cut an imposing figure.

 

"Sara Mason?"

 

She looked into his face, blurred by sunglasses and a scarf. He looked impassive to her, she was unable to discern anything from his hidden face.

 

She crept backwards, away from him.

 

"Who wants to know?" She felt her heart beating like a drum in her chest, her face flushed. The man stepped in, closing the door. He pulled off his hood and pulled down his scarf. Sara felt as though she were looking into a mirror. Her eyes widened, her heart skipping a beat. She saw his left hand; metal, sticking out of his sleeve, bandages hanging down in a poor attempt to conceal it.

 

She flinched. They had come for her.

 

'They found me... finally. Oh god they found me!'

 

Her body wound up like a spring on the ground, head lowering as she looked up at him. She thought about what she could do. She was obviously at a disadvantage; he had a prosthetic. She made her choice and lept backwards, curling into a reverse somersault that brought her to her feet and put her back the the kitchen cabinet. The man raised his hand.

 

"Sara, stop!"

 

But she had already pulled a knife from the block. She held it upside down like a knife fighter, blade parallel to her forearm. Her eyes were amazingly sharp, blue irises twisting mechanically as the focused in on her target.

 

It passed her notice that she had pondered the question, "is killing ever okay?" night after night as she tried in vain to sleep. It escaped her that she had replayed the deaths she had cause numerous times in her head, whether she wanted to or not.

 

A part of her took over. She couldn't tell if it was her human self, her BioSuit self, or just her own disturbed personality. Sara felt the need to defend herself, and would accept the consequences later. She grabbed a second knife, flinging it under hand at the intruder. He side stepped it. She grabbed another, did the same thing. He stopped it with his metal hand. The knife reflected and embedded itself in the log wall.

 

"Sara, what are you doing? Listen! I'm not here to hurt you."

 

"Then why are you here, huh? Just want a friendly chat."

 

"That was part of the idea. You're my sister."

 

Sara's face ticked as she heard the man say brother. It hadn't crossed her mind in the harried seconds that this was more than just a pawn of the Underground. That it was her own brother... did that mean anything? What were blood ties between people who had never met before?

 

"So? Prove it. Take off your coat. Put your hands up and behind your head."

 

Gabe put his hands up, then back down, remembering the part about taking his coat off. He slowly placed it on the ground, giving it a pat for good measure. He sheepishly grinned up at Sara but her face remained stony. He sobered, unsure of how to defuse the situation.

 

She froze as she saw what was under the coat. The man's face was hers, the same nose, same shape of eyes, same strong eyebrows and same sharp chin. They even had the same softness of their high cheeks, and the same hairline. His hair was long, to about his chin, and dark purple. His eyes were green, whirring mechanically as hers did, watching her, anticipating what she would do next.

 

She was caught by his coat, however. Not the winter one he had placed on the ground but the green half coat he wore, fully buttoned, one arm long and the other short, exposing the metal length of his prosthetic claw. It was the uniform of the Underground-- she had worn that same coat in the time before her experiment.

Steeling herself, she made her decision. Brother or not, he was from the Underground, and he was a danger to here and everyone else here. She lunged for him. Gabe reacted with remarkable dexterity, spinning to the side and out of her way, tripping her in the process. He caught her around the waist holding her tight.

 

"Let go of me!" she struggled, just as he plucked the knife from her hands with his claw.

 

"Stop it!" he pinched her backside.

 

"What are you doing! Don't touch me there!"

 

Gabe started to laugh. Somehow he knew things would be fine.

 

"I'm telling the truth. I'm not here to hurt you."

 

"You're just here to talk to me then? About what?"

 

"I want to talk to you about that place. About what happened to you. I don't know the full story. I want to know why you're here, why they let you go. I want to learn from you abut the real world. Sara, I'm just looking for a friend."

 

Sara relaxed in Gabe's arms. He helped her back to her feet and let her go, careful to set down the knife he'd confiscated out of reach. Sara composed herself well enough and then nodded towards the couch. Gabe took it as a sign to sit and did so, adjacent to his sister.

 

"I'm sorry." she said after a few moments of silence.

 

"Huh? Why would you be sorry?"

 

"I shouldn't have attacked you. You.. you..." Her eyes clouded over and she stopped speaking, pressing her head against her knees, trying to stop from showing she was crying.

 

"Don't be. I was..." he found it hard to continue as she sniffled, "I should have known there was a good reason you left the Underground. And I ought have known you didn't want one of us tracking you down."

 

Sara propped her chin on her knee, "Well we're both okay now. That counts more than bad first impressions." She pulled her blanket back over her, the adrenaline fading and her body feeling the cold of the storm outside again, "So, stranger, what's your name?"

 

Gabe thought about it for a moment.

 

"My real name is Gabriel Mason. Or at least, that's what they told me."

 

"Mason hmm? So you really are my brother... wait, what's you unit number?"

 

Gabe paused then responded mechanically, "Apath Underground BioSuit CompanionType 05B Gabriel Mason AI data..." he stopped, thinking, "AI data...Vindicator."

 

Sara leaned forward, "Vindicator? You mean you're not a Dummy AI?" Gabe shook his head.

 

"I guess not. That's what my head tells me, anyway. What are you?"

 

"Apath Underground BioSuit CompanionType05A Sara Mason AI data Dummy AI Plus."

 

Sara looked like a tent, covered in blankets, "I wonder what that's about. I'd never heard of them wanting to use an AI that was different than the dummies."

 

"I couldn't tell you, honestly."

 

Silence reigned for some time, each unable to think of a topic to continue with. Sara spoke first.

 

"How did you come to be here?"

 

Gabe thought about that. He thought about the underground, with Kathryn, with Bill. He thought about the strange way he had come to be in that situation, and deciding to leave to see what the world was really like.

 

"I think I have a lot to tell you."

 

He began from as early as he could remember, the cold floor next to the Cradle, and by the time the light of dawn had peered through the windows, his story had returned to the the present.

 

---

 

 

At some point in the night the two sibling had gotten closer to each other, sharing one anothers warmth in front of the fire as Gabe related the story of his time in the Underground. He had reached then end, had imparted all of his experience. He had felt oddly light, as if everything was no longer being held by just one person. It was as though he had through only telling his sister divided the burden of experience. He hadn't realized that he had felt that way before.

 

They both fell asleep on the couch. They had been sitting up, leaning against one another. Gabe was somewhat embarrassed to discover upon waking that he had nuzzled up close to Sara in the middle of his sleep, and had his face comfortably resting on her chest. He carefully lifted himself up, hoping not to disturb her, or worse yet to make her believe that he had done that on purpose.

 

Gabe slipped out of the blanket and stretched, his feet toasty if damp still inside his boots, which he had neglected to take off once they were well entrenched in his story. A small wave of guilt passed over him, as he realized he had broken into his sister's home, and then bombarded her with information for several hours straight. He shrugged it off as best he could, trying not to burden himself for the moment with those thoughts. He checked his internal clock, finding the time to be around 10am. The light shining through the blinds was bright, reflecting off the newly fallen snow. Gabe had only slept 4 hours before being roused. He untied his boots and pulled his socks off, placing them by the fireplace. He placed a few logs as discretely as possible on the remaining embers from the night, helping the wood catch. Satisfied once the flame was lit again, he slipped in next to his sister, and laid his head down against the arm of the couch. Sleep found him again quickly.

 

---

 

Sara's eyes crept open around 2 pm, her body willing to rise only after spending that much time recovering from the long night before, she felt a pressure against her and looked down to see the purple haired head of her brother resting comfortably against her chest. She stifled a laugh.

 

'He looks very peaceful. It must feel nice,' she thought with a touch of amusement.

 

Pinned for a moment, and unwilling to jostle her brother awake, Sara thought about the night before. She recalled the terror she felt when she heard someone at the door. What struck her more was the feeling of calmness and even warmth that invaded her when she and Gabe began to talk. Though all the the subject matter had not been cheery, Sara had enjoyed talking with Gabe. She felt connected again. After all the time away, isolated from the Underground by choice and from other people as a product of who she was, Sara realized she was quickly, maybe too quickly, growing attached to her long lost sibling. She tightened her lips, considering the danger that Gabe might be putting her in being here, or the possibly greater danger that he might be putting her in by getting attached to him.

 

For the time being she decided to try and keep herself from becoming too involved with him. The were brother and sister, but they had known each other for less than 24 hours. She would do her best to be somewhat pragmatic, she decided. She could not of course, she had to admit to herself, not enjoy the time that she did spend with the man. She realized to do so would be robbing her of possibly a once in a lifetime opportunity.

 

She sat back thinking for another twenty minutes, toying with various things, but at times simply letting her mind idle while she watched her brothers head rise and fall with the intake and exhaling of her breath. She had to keep herself from laughing, as she watched, for fear of bouncing her brother into wakefulness. She decide finally that enough time had passed, and that she was hungry enough, that he ought to wake up and let her get started with her day. She stroked his hair with the back of her hand, calling his name.

 

"Gabe? Gabe? It's time to wake up."

 

Gabe heard her and picked his head up, not nearly as coherent as he had been when he awoke earlier in the the day, his body having given itself into sleep fully, driving him deeper and deeper. He noticed with a flush of embarrassment that not only had he returned to his sister's breast, but that there was a small wet mark where he had drooled. He kept his mouth shut, doing his best not to call attention to either the fact that he had used his sister's chest as a pillow or that he had been so comfortable that he had drooled on it.

 

"Sara. Good morning" he said, sitting up, blinking away the sleep from his eyes.

 

Free of his weight Sara stood, stretching herself. She wrapped the blanket around her brother and walked around the couch into the kitchen.

 

"Not quite morning anymore." she said, amusement in her voice.

 

Gabe raked his hands through his hair, trying to get a hold of his grogginess and toss it out, succeeding moderately. He looked around, seeing her house for the first time in the full light. It was small and cozy, made like a real old cabin, as that is exactly what it was. Logs formed the outer walls, sealed together with concrete and enamel. The front door opened into the living room, with the kitchen directly behind it, where Sara stood looking through her cabinets. A small 4 person table sat in the kitchen. There were 3 doors along the wall, that ran the length from the front to the back of the cabin. Glitch assumed were two rooms and a bath.

 

"Cute place. You live here all by yourself?"

 

"What do you want for breakfast?"

 

Gabe stood, remaining in place for a moment as he debated leaving the blanket or not. He piled it back on the couch and went over to Sara.

 

"Well what do you have?"

 

"Dry cereal, some eggs, instant oatmeal, sausages, ham.." she listed as she paged through the cupboard and imagined what she had in the ice box.

 

"I'll have some oatmeal." Gabe was indirectly conscious of the fact that he wanted something warm in him, and how scarce fresh eggs and meat might be in the winter. He didn't want to put his sister our if he could help it. The thought of actual food in his belly was more than he could pass up on just the pretense, so he was more than happy to eat up what he assumed would be an easily replaceable foodstuff.

 

Sara dutifully pulled the oatmeal out and grabbed a pot from the cabinet under the kitchen counter. She went to the sink and sighed. She twisted the knobs but nothing came from them. Saying nothing she went to the front door, opened it, and filled the pot with snow. She rushed back in to the kitchen and put it on the stove to melt and boil for the hot cereal.

 

Gabe looked from the door back to her. Sara rubbed her shoulders vigorously to warm up.

 

"Problems with your pipes?" he asked.

 

"Well it's been cold, and I don't have much to use the water for, so they must have froze up last night."

 

Gabe thought for a moment and then nodded to himself, "You got a good supply of propane left?"

 

She knitted her eyebrows together and then nodded, "I don't use it for much, so yes I should have at least a months worth at this point."

 

"All right. After breakfast I'll see if I can't do something about those pipes." he took a seat in one of the kitchen chairs. Sara smiled, and went back to making their breakfast.

 

---

 

Gabe came in from the cold several hours later, looking a bit bushy eyed but overall cheery. He stripped out of his coat and glove and shook some of the remaining snow off of himself.

 

"Well, I think I'll have things ready to go soon."

 

Sara was reading a book on the couch, pulling the blanket tighter as Gabe came in the door.

 

"Oh, think you have it figured out?"

 

Gabe nodded his head decisively, "Yes ma'am. I've got a barrel fire going in your basement near the pipes, which should help warm them up, and every couple minutes I'm gonna pour some of that boiled water down the faucet. All I have to do after that is turn off the water to the pipe from the hot water heater a few times without bursting the pipes and we should be back in business!"

 

Sara bite her lip without saying anything, nodding, and went back to her book, "Just try not to break anything."

 

Gabe hesitated, and went about what he was doing. In theory things should be fine, but now he was keenly aware that if he screwed up, Sara might vary well be without hot water for the winter, which was a frightening prospect after spending the last 3 hours in the cold. He'd be very sure not to burst the pipes.

 

---

 

Sara took her shower later than usual, but she had to smile, Gabe had come through. He'd unfrozen the pipes without breaking something, and had even taken some old carpet that was sitting rolled up in the cellar and used it to wrap them, which he said should help it keep from freezing as easily next time.

 

The shower felt good. The scars running up and down her body were exposed, but Sara had grown accustomed to ignoring them. She washed her hair and her body with her eyes closed, a nearly perfected routine. The scars were a part of her, but she didn't have to acknowledge them.

 

---

 

Gabe sat in his new bedroom, contemplating the strange turn of events from the day.

 

"So, are you planning on staying Gabe?"

 

"Well, I hadn't really thought about it"

 

"You are so full of it. you came all the way out here and you weren't planning on staying with me? Where were you gonna stay huh? In a tree?"

 

"I actually hadn't thought about it."

 

"Wait are you serious? What if I wasn't here?"

 

"I guess I'd have to stay in a tree. I just knew I wanted to meet you. I didn't think further than that. This is all new to me after all, so I got a goal in mind and I went for it. I just happened to be lucky."

 

Sara had held him close, placing her head against his.

 

"So long as you like you can stay with me. You can stay in the other bedroom."

 

A smile had split Gabe's face, and Sara interrupted him before he could begin thanking her,

 

"We'll have to clean up the other bedroom, but I really don't own much so it's not like it's a big task. mostly just

that it hasn't been lived in. You can borrow some of my bed sheets and things, but we need to get to town and pick up some for you. I wasn't planning to have guests so I'm not very prepared for it."

 

Gabe felt the bed under him. He had spent the rest of the evening cleaning out the room, dusting away cob webs, and making the bed up so he had a place to sleep. The bright moonlight reflecting off the snow poured into his room. It was quiet, and a bit lonely out here, but Gabe was happy. It was simple, and he had someone like him who could understand what he was going through. It was a comforting thought.

 

In the next room he heard the water turn off, and the sound of Sara's feet slapping against the linoleum floor in the bathroom. Gabe couldn't help but smile. She was an interesting girl, and she seemed genuinely kind. When he though about her in the same breath as Engelmacht there was no comparison. There had always been this caveat about Engelmacht that gave him pause. Sara seemed to be the opposite. Her kindness didn't seem to have attachments, the same implications. That made Gabe smile.

 

'I'll make sure to help her any way I can. Once some of this snow melts I'll go into town and maybe get a job. I think she'll appreciate that,' he thought.

 

He laid on top of the sheet in his bed, staring into the wooden ceiling, smiling as he thought of the days to come. He heard his sister call goodnight from her room. He responded in turn, and shifted himself to get comfortable. Sleep found him easily that night.

 

 

---

 

Sara wrapped her towel firmly around herself, peaking her head out of the bathroom into the living room while steam billowed off of her in the cool air. She saw that Gabe's door was closed and breathed a small sigh of relief. Her arms held the towel tightly to her, black veins running up and down her exposed forearm. She quickly passed over into her room, closing the door behind her. She unwrapped the towel and began drying her hair with it, her naked body reflecting what her arm had exposed earlier; a black crisscrossing network of veins looking ready to burst from her skin. She kept her mouth in a thin tight line, eyes closed. There were no mirrors in her room.

 

She sat on her bed, finished toweling off her hair. She tentatively said "Good night" to Gabe and heard his chipper reply a moment later. A small smile crossed her lips, before her face became expressionless again.

 

She opened her drawer, pulling out underwear and pajamas. She slid into her panties and put on a soft top and insulated bottoms. She put socks on her feet, slipped her hand under her pillow.

 

'There, it's done.' she thought.

 

She fell asleep quickly, body well covered, wondering what life with her brother would be like.

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"So here I am. I never would have thought it possible. I saw my life flash before my eyes and when it had passed I gave into death. I ate death, consumed it, swallowed and made it a part of me."

 

"You have been repaired. You did not die. You lived, and you will continue to live."

 

"What use am I? I died. I DIED. I ceased to be and I accepted that. And now you dig me up from my grave and pose me like a puppet. I failed and I deserved to fail because I am inferior. Do you see? I don't want to live again. Bury me in the ground, I am a cadaver put up on strings, not a man."

 

"Quiet you fool, you'll get us both killed, and for real this time. You did not die if I say you didn't die. You were wounded, nothing more. You were in stasis until you could be repaired. I am sick of your melodramatic whining. Man or corpse, you are neither; you are a tool. You are my tool. You belong to the Underground and you will be used as they see fit. You are my tool in that while you live and perform as a useful tool I am kept alive."

 

"They would not kill you, foolish old man. That woman has failed time and again, and they still do not think to threaten her. She may lose her clout, but she will not lose her life."

 

"She did not make the promises I made! She was brought on by Apex himself as part of his initial team. I had to bribe and cajole my way into my position, and I took every opportunity I had to bring myself to where I am. You were what I needed to validate that, and while you are crying about your loss I am in very real danger."

 

"Perhaps you are just paranoid, perhaps you imagine all this. Maybe you are just a mad scientist"

 

"Mad or not I am a scientist and you are my creation and you will do what I say and shut your mouth!"

 

William Sunderland propped himself up on his artificial elbow, eyes narrowed.

 

"You do not control me. And if you think you do you will regret trying."

 

---

 

Stephan Apex breathed a small sigh of relief. Though it was not the greatest news in the world it was one of the few things that had gone right in recent months. He had just gotten word that the Type 06 was salvageable and had been reactivated after several months regenerating in stasis.

 

The fact that they had recovered the unit was good news. With two BioSuits on the loose it was no small wonder why the organization and the council had something to fear.

 

'They know about us, and have been harmed by us. If they were strategic they would have struck together while we were weakened. They may even have been able to destroy everything I've built outright. But they were licking their wounds. Having the Type 06 returned to service gives us an extra layer of protection while the design process continues on the Type 07,' he thought.

 

Overall, the loss of the Type 05 series, both parts of it, was quite distressing. It was of a mild comfort that this time no one had been injured, removing the added problem of replacing staff. Engelmacht had been injured, but her recent strange behavior necessitated that she take a backseat in the BioSuit development process. Her genius would be wasted while she licked her wounds, but her obvious instability would also be kept in line.

 

He had seen the visual file dump from the Type 06. The battle had been gruesome indeed. He reflected grimly on how their armies would tear through mortal men, but it had to be done. The Type 06 was a powerful Biosuit indeed. In the end he suffered from a disadvantage: he lacked the Virus system that was the BioSuit's ultimate weapon. Even when he was clearly beaten, the Type 05B was able to return from the edge of defeat, and destroy his enemy.

 

Stephan made a note:

 

'Dr. -

 

Proceed with virus system installation on the Type 06. Full priority. Ready the Type 06 for active service.

 

-Apex'

 

 

---

 

Bill wandered through the white halls of the Underground, wondering what had gone wrong.

 

'I was winning. I had his neck in my grasp and I was going to choke the life out of him. He was mine to destroy.'

 

He had felt a great wave of terror over come him. He looked into Gabe's clenched shut eyes and noticed they had opened, blood pouring from his sockets. The blood vessels in Gabe's eyes had burst and he was lifting himself off the floor, Bill's hands still around his neck. Bill looked in awe as spikes burst out of the man's body like knifes, skewering his him. Massive prosthetics began to extend from Gabe's back, curling around slowly like cautious snakes, massive claws at their head. They struck out at Bill.

 

He had been ripped apart, limb from limb, crushed, then tossed aside. He saw and felt and imagined he had experienced death

 

He saw then in his mind's eye Gabe sitting next to him, holding his hand, watching the sun set as they sat in the Dive Machine on a rolling field.

 

He saw the man's smile as they laughed together at some secret joke, teasing the scientists who walked the halls stodgily, forcing them to look up at the child like men.

 

The hallway twisted around him as Bill fell against the wall, holding himself up while being assaulted by his memories.

 

'I tried to kill my friend. And for what?'

 

He thought of why he did it.... jealousy? That was part of it. That woman wanted Gabe and she would not understand that he was not interested. And also, the mission, the project that Bill had devoted his life to, the reason he was created.

 

'I was born to bring evolution to the filthy masses. I thought Gabe was too. But I was wrong. I could have convinced him, but he was too strong to be forced. The more I pushed the more he was pushed away.'

 

His mind rebelled, sought answers and solace.

 

'What was he born for anyway? He didn't have a purpose. He tried to kill me too! All I wanted was to be together with him! And he wanted out!'

 

Bill grit his teeth in anger, his eyes blazing, perfect blue gems.

 

"He cheated. He had an advantage. I would have beaten him. I had beaten him! If I wasn't incomplete... he would be here. He would be where I am, roaming the halls of this god forsaken pen, while I was outside, changing the world as I was meant to!"

 

He punched the wall, leaving an indentation. He heard his name over the intercom.

 

"William, come to the testing chamber. William, come to the testing chamber."

 

His back hunched, face a mask, Bill went where the voice told him to go.

 

---

 

"William, do you know why you are here?"

 

Bill was strapped to an operating table, arms pinned to his sides.

 

"No, I do not."

 

Dr. Hughes smiled coldly.

 

"You've been chosen to be made whole."

 

"The system?"

 

"We need a BioSuit that can protect us from the Type 05s, and accomplish tasks only a BioSuit is capable of. You are useless to us incomplete"

 

Bill bit his lip.

 

"So yes, you will get the system. We will split open your rib cage, and attach it to your heart. When you are in extreme danger, it will activate and you will destroy all your enemies. You will feel the same, think the same, but know this; until this day you were not whole. From now on, you will be. Complete, the perfect weapon."

 

Bill nodded and put his head back, closed his eyes.

 

Dr. Hughes pressed a patch of skin on Bill chest that split at a hidden seam and pushed in. It opened outwards, sticky and moist inside. Hughes pushed a series of buttons, and Bill's eyes spun out of focus, his mouth hanging open. His heartbeat stopped, and only his reactor continued to hum almost imperceptibly, keeping the cells of his body alive.

 

Several assistants dressed in white approached with surgical equipment, and the operation began.

 

---

 

Afternoon had arrived. Gabe had returned from town again, dejected. His search for a job had proved fruitless. The town was too small, and much too unwilling to put trust in a strange man, least of all one who claimed to be related to the strange woman in the cabin.

 

A month of wasted searching.

 

He clomped in, pulling his boots and socks from his feet and setting them near the fire to dry. He slipped his bare feet into a pair of slippers Sara had left near the door for him and walked up to her in the kitchen, placing his head on her shoulder.

 

"No luck again. I managed to make a few bucks clearing snow and restocking the firewood for Mr. Jacobs, but that was all." He stuck the wad of bills against Sara's belly, who took them and slid them into her back pocket.

 

"I know, it's hard out there. They don't trust us, and I find it hard to blame them."

 

Gabe frowned and took a seat, without a good response in mind.

 

Sara stirred her pot of soup, and Gabe brooded in his chair.

 

Gabe broke the silence, "They say you used to come into town a lot more. That they were getting used to you being around and then you stopped coming."

 

Sara pursed her lips and nodded, continuing to stir.

 

"What happened, Sara?"

 

Sara stopped and turned, leaning against the counter. She glared at Gabe.

 

"I wanted to fit in with those people. I tried my best, but everything I did only seemed to make them not like me. Every time I would come to town people would point, make comments. If it wasn't my hair it was my body, if it wasn't my body it was my skin. I got into a fight in a bar finally and I had to leave. I decided not to go into town if I didn't need to, since they obviously didn't want me there."

 

Sara did have a point. Gabe had been born getting stared at, but for her it was only after the accident that she had to deal with people giving her odd looks and singling her out. Her hair was beautiful but certainly drew attention, and she was right, she was a tall women with a model figure. Easy to see why that would draw attention, and occasionally the wrong kind.

 

"So what, some guy hit on you in the bar and you knocked him on his ass. Were they really that surprised?"

 

Sara's eyes narrowed and she fought to keep herself from raising her voice,

 

"One of the men propositioned me. He asked my price and I said I wasn't one and even if I were it would be out of his price range. He said I looked the part, but that I should consider myself lucky to have someone willing to pay anything since I was damaged merchandise."

 

Gabe shook his head, "Hold on what do you mean damaged--"

 

Sara's ripped the glove she wore from her hand, showing Gabe for the first time the system of veins that had been dyed pitch black and raised to the surface of her skin.

 

"You see this! This is what he meant. I have a throbbing tattoo all over my body that says I AM damaged goods. You know how I got this? I got this from the Virus system."

 

She threw her gloves into Gabe's chest.

 

"But you look just fine don't you. You'll get your little job and everything will be fine. They were just getting used to me? Getting used to the FREAK they mean!"

 

She grabbed a coat from rack by the door and stormed out into the snow.

 

Gabe sat there dumbfounded. Slowly anger began to crease his features.

 

"It might not be perfect for you, but you aren't the only one who has scars."

 

He grabbed his own gear and burst out the door in search of the fiery haired woman.

 

---

 

Gabe caught up to her halfway down the mile long path to town. He grabbed her by the arm and spun her to face him.

 

"Don't talk to me I don't want to hear it right no--"

 

"Shut up" Gabe snapped. Sara's mouth shut tight but her expression showed her reluctance to do so,

 

"You listen here. I know things have been hard on you but we are in this together. I don't want to play 'who hurts the most' but we both did a terrible things in the underground before we left. You killed a bunch of people-- I killed my best friend. We are both in pain so instead of running off in the middle of winter like a child, act like a goddamn adult."

 

Sara's chin quivered but she didn't respond. Gabe eased his grip on her.

 

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to yell, but you are all I have, and I've a pretty good feeling I'm all you have too at the moment. There's no reason to be mad at each other, so no matter what's going on in town we gotta try and not be dumb about it."

 

Sara nodded quietly, slowly turning and walking past Gabe back up to the cabin. Gabe stood there, slowing his breathing, calming himself down.

 

"Gabe?" he heard from behind him.

 

"Yeah?"

 

"You're right. Were both alive. Disfigured or not, we should go on living. Not everyone is even that lucky."

 

---

 

Bill yelped as he opened his eyes. The light burned him so badly that tears began to seep through his clamped shut eyelids as he protected himself from the unexpected brightness.

 

"My eyes. How long was I off?"

 

He checked his internal clock. It had been 16 hours since he was deactivated. Then why did his eyes hurt so?

 

He felt around, blind, looking to see if someone were near him. He touched upon the jacket of someone. He felt the material, he knew by the stiffness and nylon feel that it was a lab coat. The person was shaking.

 

"Dr. Hughes...?"

 

"It was a success my boy, a success..."

 

Bill heard the waver in the mans voice, wondering what was wrong.

 

Bill felt his body. His clothes were tattered, and soaked with blood. He felt his chest, and around where his heart beat was a puckering of tissue. It felt very solid, but weeped.

 

His nose crinkled, "Uhgh."

 

"The system we used is more powerful than the one in the Type 05s. Yes, more powerful. But it may be too powerful," Hughes said. He swallowed, and placed a pair of sunglasses on Bill's face.

 

Bill slowly, blinking, opened his eyes. The world was tinted faintly. He looked at his chest. There was a black patchwork of scars, all pulsing, around his heart. He blinked more, feeling moisture working down his face. He touched his cheek, then looked at his hand. It was stained dark through the lenses of the glasses. He pulled them up, looked at his hand, squinting without the tint. His hand was covered in blood.

 

"A mirror, please, Dr Hughes." Bill asked.

 

Hughes looked about, saw no mirror. He grabbed a tray full of surgical tools and tossed them to the floor, giving the tray to the boy.

 

Bill looked into his reflection, pushing the glasses up and out of his eyes even as the bright light of the room set his sight organs on fire. He laughed, tossing his head back, blood dripped from his sockets, his pulled back and his teeth ground together.

 

His eyes were black; where the whites had been was now stained glossy pitch. His pupils were tiny dots of light. His inverted eyes dripped in the brightness of the room.

 

The virus system had done it. It had made him complete.

 

'This is who I am.' Bill thought, 'from this day on I am whole.'

 

---

 

 

"That was what you were left with after your virus system deactivated?"

 

Sara nodded, slipping back into her gloves. For the first time Gabe noticed that his sister covered nearly every inch of her body, though with enough fashion sense to disguise her intent somewhat. From her neck down she showed no bare skin. She wore gloves most of the time; long ones when she wore short sleeve shirts. The rare occasionin winter when she felt like wearing something other than pants she always wore opaque hosiery. Except for the little bit creeping out of her collar on a occasion Gabe had never noticed something was amiss. He felt foolish for letting it slip by for so long, but then decided it might have been better he did not discover it and point attention towards it. Who know how much worse the resulting misunderstanding could have been.

 

"I didn't use to cover myself like this, but once the people in town began to point it out it made me uncomfortable. They would ask why I got a tattoo, someone so young shouldn't do such a thing to their body... they asked me that, when I wished I had nothing like it on my body. How could they know, right? But still, it was too much to bare."

 

Gabe sidled his lips and nodded, unable to think of anything to say. He had been left with guilt, but as far as he could tell he had not been injured in any other way. Something danced around in his head, he tried to recall it.

 

"Stigmata."

 

Sara looked at him, not comprehending.

 

"That's what they called it. Kathryn, I mean, that's what she called it. She said it was the result of a Virus system damaging the BioSuit's natural healing abilities, causing irreparable damage."

 

Sara's head dropped.

 

"They say it's something that can attract people or drive them away. Stigmata, that is. It depends on how people see the person."

 

Gabe smiled a little sadly, "It might not be a bad thing, this Stigmata. One day, you might not mind it so much."

 

Gabe stood and held her close, in silence.

 

---

 

Kathryn Engelmacht wacthed herself stand naked in the mirror. It had become her ritual. She had always prided herself on her appearance, especially once Gabe had come into her life. Now she didn't know if she had something to be prideful about.

 

'I don't get it, my breasts are large' she thought, holding her breasts, "My belly is flat and tight," she touched her stomach, "my hips are alluring..." She ran her hands over her hips.

 

She yelled at her reflection.

 

"My body is perfect, my mind is unrivaled, my skin is clear and my voice is sultry. WHAT IS WRONG."

 

Her head smashed into the mirror, causing a spiderweb of cracks to spread. Her forehead began to drip blood, which slid down the broken glass.

 

"Ahhh I see. My mind may be unrivaled, but I'm also not all there. Something isn't right inside Kathryn. If it were this wouldn't have happened," Her mind bent, "That wouldn't have happened," she traveled back in time, "that wouldn't have happened," she traveled to the beginning, "that wouldn't have happened."

 

She put on her clothes, which were folded and stacked meticulously at the foot of her bed. She looked at herself in the mirror, and then as if a trance had been broken, she dabbed at the cut on her forehead until it had clotted and left her room, listening to be sure the door shut tightly behind her.

 

---

 

Bill walked down the hallway with a strutting sort of confidence. He felt like he had a veneer of superiority glazed over him, like he was looking at the world through a set of eyes that could see anything and everything.

 

'In a way this is true, I can see things none of these humans could ever hope to with their eyes.' he thought.

 

Bill felt his own face, touching the piece of metal that dipped down to his cheek.

 

His eyes had been permanently damaged by the Virus system. Stigmata, they called it: Something even the enhanced regenerative abilities of a BioSuit could not heal. Damage made irreversible by instabilities in the Virus system. They said he was the second to have it, that the Type 05A had similar problems.

 

"Well believe it is a problem with implanting the Virus system after construction," Hughes had said, "We think that the already living body attempts to reject it and the Virus system proves fights back by damaging the body. The body, not wanting to be harmed, submits, and the Virus system takes it's rightful place."

 

Bill had been fitted with a visor, bolted to his head, which submitted a vast array of extra sensory information directly to his brain. The enhanced sight of a BioSuit was enhanced further by this device, with the added convenience of shielding his eyes from the light which he was now sensitive to. He could see in a sphere of 180 degrees from his temples, encompassing every angel while simply looking froward.

 

'I can watch without being known to watch. There's power in this,' he thought.

 

To his surprise he saw Kathryn Engelmacht coming down the hall towards him, hand on her chest, eyes to the floor. As they neared she looked up to see him and gasped. Before a word could pass through her lips Bill grabbed her by the shoulder and spin her against the wall, observing her with his new eyes.

 

"Engelmacht, always the tasty slab of meat. It seems that yet another failure has not caused you to age prematurely," he prodded her chest with a strong finger.

 

Engelmacht's face quaked with barely contained rage, but she knew better than to raise her voice to Bill.

 

She spit on his chest, looking up into his visor.

 

"I thought you were dead. Did they make another one? I thought I'd be satisfied seeing you ripped apart once but if they do me the pleasure I'll gladly watch it again."

 

Bill barked in her face like a mad dog, spittle hitting her on the face and glasses. She shied back, afraid of what the man-machine was capable of.

 

"It is the same Bill you know and love, same flesh, same mind. I wouldn't get your hopes up, what happened then is not liable to happen again,"

 

He leaned in close, whispering into her ear, "Not that your hopes mean anything. We all know that what you hope for will inevitably turn to dust."

 

Kathryn began to struggle and Bill slapped her twice across the face in rapid succession to get her to stop. She held back tears as she fought to keep her silence.

 

"Be careful, doctor, we share this home of ours, and I will prove to be much more useful than you have. So keep your pretty mouth shut and stay out of my way." He looked over her body with undisguised intent, "Unless I find you first."

 

He shoved her to the side and walked away, a twisted smile growing on his face.

 

Kathryn picked herself up, keeping her emotions far away from her face, and continued down the hall.

 

---

 

It had taken some doing, but Gabe had convinced Sara to come back to town with him. She was understandably reluctant, but Gabe knew for a fact the Sara planned to stay in her cabin for some time, not that she had much choice, and it was better that she got used to the few people in town than sit on a hill like a witch, and breed even more rumors about herself.

 

"Besides," he had said, "We're two big bad BioSuits, so if they give us too much grief we can blow their houses down."

 

Sara had giggled at that, which was more than enough incentive to try and show her a good time that didn't involve them sitting inside all night, trying not to touch one another's sore spots.

 

The snow had stopped falling but the path to town had remained a single file path from Gabe trips in search of work. The buggy Sara had bought in the fall had stopped working midway through December, but with a little bit of effort and some favors for parts he pulled from town Gabe was able to get it working again. He rigged up a make shaft plow and the night before had plowed the trail they needed to take to town.

 

Sara had dressed up a bit, for the occasion, Which she was more than happy to do when she had something on her agenda besides sit around the house and read. She wore a white blouse with a dark vest, a pleated skirt and opaque leggings. She work long gloves that went up her arms under her sleeves, hiding the veins on her hands, and a scarf the looked good but did the same for her neck.

 

Gabe helped her into the two seater buggy, wearing a somewhat less impressive ensemble: long jeans with suspenders and a t-shirt. Gabe shared Sara's remarkable ability to make just about any outfit look good, however, so he looked stylish enough for a night at the bar. He hide his prosthetics with a longer wrap, something the towns people had become used to during his frequent excursions into town.

 

He and his sister were a strange pair to be sure, but they had hidden their identities as BioSuits well enough. Gabe's story was that he had been injured in a war, and he had only just returned to live with his sister. This had the benefit of softening their disposition towards his strangeness, and explain why he had appeared so suddenly.

 

"Don't worry, we'll have fun" Gabe said. The buggy bounced and slid but Gabe managed to keep it on the road and soon enough they were in town. They ran briskly to the bar which served as the town's primary drinking establishment. They pushed their way inside. The weekend crowd was a bit more jolly than the sorts Gabe had seen on the weekend days. Here was not the unfortunate nightly drunkards who more often than not kept silent until closing before stumbling their way home. The lot now seemed to be enjoying themselves, watching sports on the cable television, playing pool, and drinking.

 

Gabe took Sara's coat and placed it on the rack, holding her hand and pulling her to the bar. Gabe leaned up and waved the bartender over, making orders for both of them. Sara leaned in close to Gabe, looking over his shoulder to see who was in the bar.

 

"What are you so jumpy about. Come on, relax, these people can't hurt you."

 

"Not physically, anyway." she replied grumpily.

 

Gabe spun her and sat her on a bar stool. She looked huffy, so her reached around her and grabbed her drink that the bartender had brought up. He waved it in front of her face, "a fuzzy naaaaavelll..."

 

She snatched it from him, looking at the liquid inside slosh around, careful not to spill, "A what?"

 

Gabe grabbed his beer from the counter and took as sip, sighing happily, "You'll like it, don't worry."

 

Sara sipped her drink and was pleasantly surprised, sipping on it more.

 

"That's my girl," Gabe laughed, holding tight to her shoulder.

 

Sara frowned, "So when did you start drinking? They didn't let me drink when I was in the underground. I don't even think I knew what drinking was."

 

Gabe rubbed his chin, thinking, "Well, I suppose Engelmacht must have given me something, though she drank wine. Not much of a fan of that. But you are right, it was nearly impossible to get something to drink as a BioSuit. Bill and I talked about getting a drink when we went out of the Underground but..." He got quiet, taking another drink of his beer.

 

"I'm sorry for bringing it up."

 

Gabe smiled genuinely, "No it's fine. It's a good memory. I remember I had a beer for the both of us once I left. It was in some run down bar in Canada. One of the few places I actually spent money on something other than a bus or train ticket."

 

Sara returned his smile, sipping on her drink.

 

---

 

The night wore on. Gabe and Sara were having a good time. Sara, who was not terribly talkative, was brought into several conversations by her brother, who seemed to have gotten a reputation in town as a jack of all trades.

 

"This man, this great tall fruity bastard of a man, can fix anything he lays his hands on."

 

Gabe held his hands far away from the man, beer up in the air, "Hogarth you dirty ol dog, quiet down, else your wife'll hire me to fix you!"

 

The both shared a hearty laugh, Sara joining in. She smiled, brought into many a handshake and bear hug as people wanted to meet the sister of Jack.

 

"Do they really call you Jack?"

 

"They think it's clever. I like it better than Gabe, I think. I get enough trouble for my hair color, I might as well take a compliment when I can get one," He laughed, putting his finger up to order another beer.

 

Gabe and Sara began playing a very heated game of pool. They each took a game, one after the other, before being interrupted.

 

Two large, drunken, smelly men came up to the table, looking not very kind on the siblings. Their bright hair and strange appearance had stirred some grief in the two, and they were looking for trouble.

 

"Hey, why don't you and the fire crotch take us on. Cash money, 50 bucks says we can take both of you skinny louts."

 

Sara's face went expressionless. The smile that had been there for the last two hours faded quickly.

 

Gabe narrowed his eyes, "If you want to, by all means..." Gabe looked at Sara, seeing how intense she had become, realized something was wrong, "But why don't you just play my sister. I'd play you, but I don't think the two of you could beat her, let alone the both of us."

 

"Fuck you, faggot, we'll beat that girl, but I'm not playing any woman for any less than $75."

 

Gabe paused. He didn't have 50, let alone 75 dollars to play with, and he was certain the same could be said for his sister, he thought for a moment, trying to think of some way to back down.

 

"Here Jacko, I'll cover ya."

 

Gabe turned to find a wad of bills hitting him in the chest, looked up to see Hogarth smiling warmly, the flush of booze on is cheeks but his eyes deadly serious.

 

Gabe waved the wad in the air and slapped it on the table, looking at the two would be pool sharks, "Thanks Hogarth, don't worry you wont be parted from it long."

 

The fat man and his short companion barked out a laugh and grabbed their cues. Sara looked at Gabe, "are you sure?"

 

Gabe leaned in and whispered, "wipe the floor with them. The way you looked at them, you know they deserve it."

 

Sara suppressed a smirk and nodded. They flipped to break. Sara lost. She swore under the breath. The fat man sent two into the pockets, both solids. He grinned and sent another in, before scratching. He cursed. and grunted at Sara.

 

Sara looked at the table, then looked at the men. They regarded her dismissively. She glanced at Gabe. He finished his beer and nodded his head.

 

She sunk a stripe. Then another. The fat man and the short man both held their breath. She looked at the table. Strip at corner right, stripe at middle left, Ball at middle left. She could take the easy sink on the left middle pocket or...

 

She struck the cue, putting back spin on it so it just barely nudged the corner right ball pushing it in, before finally catching the fiction of the table and rolling backwards, striking the middle left and putting it in the pocket..

 

Gabe smirked at the two men, and new beer in his hand, "I don't think you fellas are gonna get another shot."

 

---

 

Sara was poised to put in the 8 ball.

 

"8 ball, corner left." She leaned down, pressing her chest against the table and lining up her shot. The game was so utterly simplistic that she couldn't help but show off. The whole bar had been drawn into watching, as she began to hit each of the other players balls in at a time along with her own, two a turn, keeping ahead, until almost all of the balls on the table balls were gone. She looked at the idiots who had challenged her and her brother to this game. The fat one had been the same bastard who propositioned her.

 

She smirked as she made ready to put her ball in..

 

Her cue hit the table, and she jumped froward, scratching. She swung around to look behind her to see the short man had hit her cue, She fumed.

 

Gabe slammed his beer down, "Hey, that guy hit her cue, he's a goddamn cheat!"

 

 

The fat man came up to Gabe. Gabe, who was a tall man, still had to look up at the man, who was built like a mack truck. He growled at Gabe who looked right up into his eyes, unblinking. "And what're you gonna do, pretty boy."

 

Gabe said nothing, only inclining his head at his sister, who had climbed up on the pool table and was swinging the cue stick at the fat man's face.

 

The stick exploded against his jaw. He stumbled and as he did Sara flew through down from the table, putting him in a mid air headlock and slamming him into the ground. She got to her feet, spinning around to face the short man who was charging at her. Gabe stuck his foot out, tripping him, who flew face first into Sara's kneecap. His face exploded in a spray of blood, and collapsed to the ground.

 

Gabe spat and collected the money from the table. He put all of it in Hogarth's hand, who was still staring wide eyed and mouth agape at the two collapsed men.

 

Gabe grabbed his sister by the arm, who was catching her breath and calming down and went for the door. Gabe took their coats from the hangers.

 

"We had a great time tonight, me especially. I'll see y'all in town Monday, if ya have any jobs I'll be happy to see if I can care to em."

 

He walked out the door, calling back, "We'll be back next week. Tell those sorry sacks not to come back now, ya hear?"

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Sara sat in her room, brushing her hair. The mirror that she had bought only a few weeks ago saw her staring back at it.

 

Gabe had been at the house for five months. Now, Sara couldn't imagine a life where they hadn't been together. Every day with him made her happy. They might not have much money, but they didn't need it. Their life was simple, and happy.

 

Sara felt good about herself. When she was at home, she wouldn't wear her gloves. If it was very warm, she wouldn't wear her hosiery either. In the sweltering 60 degree heat of the summer, she'd even sunbathed outside once. She could never do something like that in town, and she couldn't imagine ever wanting to either.

 

Even still, she had become a member of the community once again. The people there had not so much been put off by the way she looked but by the fact that she was new, and different. Gabe now worked at the bar that they had often visited. On his days off they were usually to be found there together, enjoying themselves. Most of the money he brought home came from tips; his wage was ridiculously low, but it was more than enough for their humble needs. The owner had been reluctant to hire Gabe, but was getting to the age where he couldn't work every night all week. Gabe was more than happy to take less pay. It was less a job to make money and more a job, Sara saw it, to ingratiate brother and sister with the town. Familiar faces were always streaming through, giving her brother the time to socialize, become acquainted with, and make connections for jobs that he could perform for the individuals who need things done.

 

Gabe was completely different than she had imagined. Gabe made her feel good. She wanted to show him the side of her she couldn't show anyone else. He wasn't wasn't afraid of her defects. He wasn't disgusted by her.

 

He thought she was beautiful.

 

Sara wondered a moment if it was intentional, a plot by the Underground The twins may have been programmed to feel like that; they were counterpart units, after all.

 

But they had always been referred to as siblings, brother and sister.

 

Not as lovers.

 

Sara had to admit to herself, though, what she felt wasn't familial.

 

"I'm in love with my brother."

 

---

 

"Bill, we'd like you to carry out your first mission."

 

Bill stood at attention, a wry smile threatening to bloom onto his face. He had been waiting, couped inside, trying not to unleash the violence that had built inside him. He knew the importance of appearances, of self control. His skill at those things, he realized, was not what others might require of him but there was no helping that.

 

"What would you have me do?" Bill said gruffly, to cut himself short of letting a sly comment slip past.

 

It seemed the Underground man sensed this but was unable to formulate a firm response. His expression was sour, ruining his otherwise attractive features. He shuffled through his papers, found what he was looking for and handed Bill a clipboard.

 

"There is a man in the Underground council who has, of late, been a threat to our security."

 

"Threat, how could someone threaten us?"

 

"The Apath Corporation has recently acquired a majority holding in that man's company," The man said.

 

Bill looked at his clipboard while his man talked. He saw a handsome if slightly plump man in his late 50s. It looked to be a company profile photo, taken from one of their quarterly reports no doubt. Looking briefly at the rest of the information that had been given to him, Bill saw the man's vital statistics, food preferences, the restaurants he ate at, hotels he stayed at, the places he lived and the routes he took to get from work and home and any of other places on the ledger.

 

"His name is Robert Heidelberg. He owns a chemical conglomerate of some importance that we needed more direct control of. When he discovered we had somehow attained majority stock hold position, he had something of a lapse of judgement, and threatened to go public with the plot."

 

Bill of course knew of the true plot, but he wondered how much of it had been fed to the deepest member of the Underground council. He had a biting curiosity to compare and contrast the stories.

 

"Obviously there is little chance of his succeeding but we must take these threats seriously. He could have lived a relatively prosperous life with his company, as a puppet ruler that enjoyed most of the profits with none of the stress of running it. As you may know the Underground does not stand for pointless violence but sometimes these things are necessary."

 

Bill could hardly contain himself. Was there such thing as pointless violence? He couldn't fathom a moment where violence was not needed and often preferred that solution.

 

"We need you to assassinate him. It will remove the obvious threat, and there is nothing which would connect his death to us in the world at large. We, as you well know, do not exist. It will also send a message to other corporate heads in the Underground council that should the day come where their direct involvement is no long needed, that they should take the cash and run." The man looked pointedly at Bill, "A power grab is out of the question. The Underground exists to absorb power, not give it."

 

The clipboard felt light in Bill's hand. He flipped through the pages, scanning them quickly, and frowned. He looked back at the man, "How am I supposed to do this. You've provided the data but not the means."

 

The man shrugged, a casual gesture that didn't fit his type in the least. It was a practiced motion that made Bill feel like he was talking to a cardboard cut out, not a person.

 

"You provide a corpse. It must be recognizable. You can poison, shoot, stab, or garrote him, really whatever you see fit. We wish him no specific harm or disfigurement, so you may make it as painless or painful as you like, though we would prefer it if you refrained from torture. We are a civilized organization, and we would like to inspire confidence in our ability to keep secrets, not fear of our methods."

 

 

Bills eyes narrowed under his face mask, looking at the plump, handsome man, Robert.

 

"I'll think of something." Bill said.

 

The man nodded his head decisively, indicating the door with his hand.

 

"This is to be taken care of immediately. You will be flown by private jet to West Virginia, where he lives, and in 2 days time you will be expected to be ready to return."

 

Bill nodded, his guts cold and calculating now, the fever that often accompanied him replaced with a billion thoughts fighting for supremacy in his consciousness. His first real mission was to be done in a way that would define him, he decided.

 

The man opened the door, and another Underground agent led him to his next destination.

 

---

 

Bill was rather enjoying this.

 

The jet cruised at 10,000 feet, the cross country flight a long one, but Bill adjusted the tie on his suit without a care in the world. He was in a fine, pinstriped suit, expensive and well made, fitting his body perfectly.

 

'I feel like royalty, like a corporate champion going to do business around the world. I guess I am!' he thought.

 

Bill had, initially, a hard time deciding if he would have preferred being in uniform to being in finery, but after getting the suit knew for a fact that he enjoyed this much more. He was well aware however, that there was a certain appeal to appearing in the green coat of the Underground, seeing the growing realization on Heidelberg's face, and then killing him without explanation.

 

The suit of course, opened up the avenue of explaining to him in exquisite detail what had led up to the moment of his impending demise. bill would be waiting, with bated breath, for Robert to say "Just who are you?" Ah! That would be the moment. There were many possibilities, Bill knew.

 

Bill had brought with him, other than another immaculately tailored suit, two BLOCKSabres. He had to leave his prosthetic behind in order to blend in. He had immediately dismissed poisoning as the method of death. Too clean, to impersonal. Why use a BioSuit to administer poison?

 

Bill's mind briefly thought of a female agent administering a poison or venom with her body, BioSuits being immune to almost all forms of venom or poisons. It was a pleasant thought, but not something he needed to invest much thought in at the moment. Something to keep in mind for later.

 

Guns too, he had ruled out. There was something unsporting about guns, he felt. His first kill he wanted to feel with his own hands. Any child can kill with a gun, but it took something more to drain out the life of someone with a blade.

 

His fingers ran through his hair, and Bill settled back for a nap, eager for the plane ride to come to an end so he could begin his task.

 

---

 

Gabe opened his eyes, seeing the ceiling to his room, and pondered the lack of thoughts in his head. How empty it seemed, first thing in the morning.

 

Slowly reality began to creep in, one stray thought at a time, until his consciousness was complete.

 

Things were certainly different from when he first came.

 

Sara had tried to kill him, though that, to be fair, had lasted only the initial moments of their relationship. Soon after they had become good friends, and then it truly began to feel as if they were siblings, were family.

 

They had revealed some of their inner secrets, looked out for one another, and become partners.

 

Sara could go into town, though she did avoid it at times. He had work, and enjoyed it. Sara continued her relatively isolated life at the cabin but seemed very content. She looked happy.

 

Gabe propped himself up in the bed, swinging his legs over the edge and onto the cold floor, the heat draining out of his toes. Things had changed a bit in strange ways too.

 

Sara was keen to do anything she could for him, to the point to putting herself out. When Gabe's sleep schedule changed in order to accommodate his job at the bar, Sara's too had changed so she could continue making Gabe food right when he woke up, and when he got home. She seemed most excited, each week, for their trip to the bar together. She was always sure that he had a good time, had plenty to drink, and that they both got home alright.

 

It seemed to him, now that he thought about it, that she as getting a lot closer to him. Physically, she was always touching him, in little ways. A hand on his shoulder, or a massage after work, or bumping into him as she laughed.

 

Gabe stretched and rifled through his dresser, finding some clothes to wear.

 

'I'm probably thinking too hard about this. Better forget all about it before I make a fool of myself.' he thought.

 

---

 

Bill stood over Robert Heidelberg with a boot planted on the man's chest and a BLOCKSabre buried in his ribcage, puncturing his lung and stabbing into the floor.

 

The man, who was built rather firmly, not plump as his photo had suggested, fought for breath, wheezing under Bill.

 

"Why... haaah haaaah.... why are you doing this." It was a question so obvious as to be rendered rhetorical.

 

Bill's face had split into a manic grin, his teeth grinding in their exaggerated smile. Bill had a bullet lodged in his belly that was making his inside scream out in pain. The blood and bile of it was seeping out,his shirt coat and pants all wet and slick with it.

 

Bill slowly twisted the blade, making Robert scream out in pain The brittle blade broke and the pinned man made and attempt to rise, desperately, but a new blade shot out of the BLOCKSABRE, forcing him to the ground again.

 

Things had not gone as planned.

 

"Well, Bob, I'm doing THIS," Bill twisted the blade again, Robert writhing under him, "Because you shot me in the fucking gut. I can't promise it wouldn't have happened anyway, but I know for sure I would have taken less pleasure in it."

 

Robert grabbed the blade. It sank easily into his skin, the razor sharp edge slicing him like it might butter. He shuddered under his assailant, his normally perfect hair unruly and unkempt.

 

"Why... did you... come for me?"

 

Bill smiled, ready to give the speech he had prepared, but flinched as a wave of pain rippled out of his gunshot wound. He grimaced and wished his other BLOCKSabre hadn't been broken.

 

"You got on the wrong side of your partners. You did wrong by those that did right by you. You threatened those you should never threaten, so now you--"

 

"Wait, I'll... cut you a deal. If you... work for me I'll... pay you right out... of the company's coffers. You wont want... for anything. If we break open this Underground thing... we'll be heroes. We'll have saved the--"

 

"Shut up!" Bill spat, "Do you think your world is mine? Do you think your wealth interests me. I have a purpose in life, Bob. I'm built for something better than collecting material things," As Bill said 'built' Robert's eyes widened and he shuddered under Bill's blade.

 

"You're... you're one of them aren't you. You monster."

 

"Guilty as charged. And you are a traitor. Goodnight, Bob."

 

Bill tore the blade out of Robert's left chest and plunged it into his right, twisting it until it broke time and again until the razor sharp, brittle weapon had shredded the man's heart. Bill stood, looking down at the man crassly. The metal of the sword drained back into the hilt, which he attached to his belt. He made sure to pick up the other BLOCKSabre where it had been left laying on the floor, the bulb that held the liquid metal having been shattered by a bullet. Bill frowned as he stood. There wasn't much he could do about the liquid metal that had spilled, or the fragments of his sword left in Robert's chest. It was unlikely they could trace it back to a source that didn't exist, however, and Bill exited the room, hand on his belly, hoping he could leave the house without attracting any attention.

 

It had not been a perfect first mission, but it had been accomplished successfully. Bill at least could take comfort in that.

 

---

 

July had been uncommonly warm, but Gabe was more than thankful for it. The weather had as a blanket warmed the whole of the area, giving rise in him to occasions he had thought he might never enjoy so far north. The nearly scorching 70 degree whether, which made for constant complaints by those who passed through the bar, was more than welcome to the BioSuit who had come from much warmer climate originally. An act of supreme self indulgence were his lovely sister's occasional sunbathing exercises, which he had noticed but not attempted to internalize, she only did when he was off and around the cabin.

 

 

He knew intellectually that his sister to a limited degree could adjust her comfort level, affecting how she felt in mild climate. Seeing her in her swimsuit, however, he could only wonder how she wasn't covered in goose bumps. There were still patches of snow from the last fall in may.

 

While Gabe split wood outside with an axe, Sara closed the door to the house with a folding chair under her arm, a towel over her shoulder, and glasses pushed up and out of her eyes so she could see before she set everything up.

 

Gabe planted the head of the axe on the ground and yelled to his sister, "Hey, what are getting up to over there?" He could see from there the pattern of living scars that covered her entire body, the black worked into her every vein. It was disturbing and beautiful at the same time. If not for the way it pulsed along with her heart beat she could have passed it off as an elaborate tattoo.

 

Sara wore a two piece black bikini, something the likes of Greenland had probably never seen. It was cut low, with fabric pulled high to the waist, curving back and just barely hanging on to her buttocks without disappearing between her cheeks. It was, all and all, a very revealing set of bottoms. The top hung from her neck, crossing over past her shoulders and cupping her breasts, wrapping around the tie in the back.

 

Gabe shook his head, trying his best not to idly watch her as she set her things up, putting out the fold out chair, laying a towel on to it and sliding the sunglasses onto her nose.

 

"I thought it was fairly obvious!"

 

"Obvious and ridiculous. I'm not even sure how you picked up a habit like this. I can't imagine they had tanning beds in the Underground."

 

"Wouldn't you like to know!"

 

In truth, Sara had learned about tanning from a book she had read. The idea seemed simple enough, and the weather was just tolerable enough to attempt. Her stomach felt as if it swirled inside her, thinking of Gabe seeing her like this. It was a somewhat transparent plot, but then again she was looking for ways to let Gabe know how she felt, to peak his interest.

 

Gabe had grown increasingly uncomfortable around Sara. It was becoming hard to ignore that she was by all accounts a stunningly gorgeous woman. The problem wasn't so much that as that it was apparent that Sara was well aware of the fact, and knew how to use it to her advantage. This was not to say she was using sex appeal like some sort of country trollop, but she was certainly playing havok with some of Gabe's better judgement.

 

Through her glasses Sara watched Gabe work, both amused at his apparent embarrassment to have her out here with most of her body exposed, and with a bit of girlish eagerness to see him exert himself. She tracked him as he raised the axe, with one hand, bringing it down quickly, splitting the wood with ease. His prosthetic swung by his side, the fingers not dexterous enough to help him with his swing, so it grabbed the next log, centering it on the block, so he could swing again, splitting another.

 

Sara wondered if it was narcissism that made her attracted to her twin. While he was strong certainly, and had proven himself to be a good man, he was hardly super masculine, especially in appearance. He had the distinct look of a young man who had just a little extra curve in his hip, a slimness of body that made him appear almost like a younger sister to Sara. There was a hardness about him too that came through in his eyes. They shared the same face but it was impossible to deny that they were different, and that she found herself drawn to both that difference and similarity.

 

For his part, Gabe had to admit that many men would have killed to be in his place. There was little about Sara that he could find anything less than appealing. Other than, of course, that she was his sister, and more than affection and even love, they needed to be able to rely on each other, and not necessarily because of deep emotional ties to one another. What would happen if things didn't work out? The flaw of familiar relations was obvious to him; if it ended, where would that leave them as brother and sister? Gabe had no reason to believe in permanence.

 

Finishing his predetermined work load, Gabe walked over to Sara and sat in the grass, feeling the slight moisture from the ground through his pants. He looked up at the sky, noting the lack of clouds and remarkable sunshine that made such a warm day possible.

 

Sara sat back, reading her book, not saying a word. Gabe had to fight to keep his eyes to himself.

 

'Really! if she knows what she's doing she's a cruel, cruel woman.'

 

Gabe was forced to leave when, Sara, feeling the need to sun her back, laid flat on her stomach and asked if Gabe could help untie her top.

 

---

 

Bill sat in on the council meeting. It was another deathly silent affair, the man with the number 1 on his face holding sway over the men and women gathered.

 

"Type 06, you've done well. It was not, as your report stated, a flawlessly executed assignment,"

 

Bill tensed at the mention of his mistake. He had been far too careless, allowing himself to be shot before he could say a word to his target.

 

"But you have done as was asked of you. If nothing else you have proven in some way the resiliency of the BioSuit. You were fine after taking a bullet to the stomach a mere day later, with little else aside from dry cleaning to cost us."

 

There were faint chuckles around the table, the various corporate heads nervous, considering who had been the target. Others were more than happy to see another piece of the council go, which meant one less voice to compete with.

 

"You will be given other missions as they arise..." he made an obvious show of turning his head to look at each of the council members, given that his eyes were hidden, "Hopefully they will not be missions of the same type."

 

The council had learned its lesson, once you were a member you had a chance to touch the fate of the world, but only at the expense of relinquishing yours into the Underground's hands.

 

Bill had returned, only worse for wear for his embarrassment, but was happy by the recognition he received.

 

"Thank you, Type 06, William. We look forward to your work in the future."

 

Bill inclined his head, and took his leave of the meeting.

 

---

 

"Hughes! Hughes!" William hollered as he entered the old doctor's private labs, seeking to discuss something with his creator.

 

The old man was crouched over a computer terminal, typing in something rapidly, a frown on his face.

 

"Dr. Hughes. I've come from the council meeting. The Underground was pleased with my success."

 

Hughes grunted, not looking in Bill's direction.

 

"Hughes you piece of decrepit flesh, don't you ignore me." Bill spun the man to face him, eye ablaze behind his visor.

 

"They were happy? Hmph. I designed you, I thought, with a modicum of dignity. You fought like a wounded animal. You were wounded which is a mistake worthy enough to have you sent to the scrap heap in itself!"

 

Bill reared back and slapped the man across the face, sending him sprawling into the console.

 

"Don't you raise your voice to me. You know what I am, and that is superior. Even if I don't meet your exacting standards, you know that there's not a thing you can do to stand in my way."

 

"At least you are as brutal as I intended."

 

"What a strange thing to say, I've thought about killing you dozens of times and yet you still live."

 

"I could say the same to you."

 

"But which of us has the means."

 

"What do you want, William?"

 

Bill took a walk around the table, letting his hand feel the flat surface. He remained silent, stretching out the moment, before he looked back at Hughes.

 

"The BLOCKSabres were a joke. I can see them as a weapon of last resort but they are much too fragile for the sort of fighting I enjoy. I need something with a bit more weight to it, something durable that I can drag across the bodies of my enemies.

 

Hughes nodded his head, "Yes. Yesss..." He turned and began typing at his computer. He said nothing more.

 

Bill waited for a reply and when he got none raised his voice, "Well what."

 

"You will get what you ask for but shut your ungrateful mouth and leave me, I've work to do."

 

Bill smirked, patting his creator's back with a bit too much force, and exited the room.

 

---

 

"Sara, could you tell me about the Underground?"

 

Sara stiffened next to him on the couch, and Gabe knew why. It was a strange question. If anything, they had talked less and less of the Underground each day, and more of their everyday lives. They had talked about music, literature, the people in town. Their conversations had turned to ideas, thoughts, dreams for the future. The Underground had began to fade away, becoming apart of a background, a given that was not discussed.

 

Sara licked her lips, her mouth dry. Gabe could see she was uncomfortable, but that was not surprising. He wanted to see what she would say.

 

After considering it for a several moments, she said, "What do you want to know?"

 

"What is the Underground's purpose. I have an idea, but nothing that was really given to me straight. I want to know if I'm off about it. And I'm curious, if you'd care to tell, how you were treated there. You've mentioned it, but I wondered if you had any stories. How do people see us? I was an outcast, but from the sound of it you were different. I wanna know what people who know we are actually different think of us... not just like the people in town. We're just outsiders at times for them."

 

Sara took her time in replying. Many thoughts swirled in her head but how to start was not one of them.

 

"First, the Underground is not an independent entity. It has its hands in many very big things. Well... I guess that's obvious. The Apath Corporation is probably a front for it. When... when I escaped the Underground, the elevator brought me up through the New Century Apath Corporation building."

 

The revelation shocked Gabe. He had come out another place, it seemed. The connection between Apath and the Underground seemed flimsy at best, but it would explain how they got their funds. Even removed from civilization, you could feel the slight touch of the Apath Corporation. Any personal computer you found was run on their operating system.

 

Sara continued, "I'd rather not go into detail about my time there. It's still... hard to think about. Hopefully you'll understand when I say they were both afraid and... in awe of me. I think some really loved me, and others were nervous about what they had done to get to me. I represent... we represent a lot. It may have been different with you, since you were..."

 

"An accident?" Gabe chimed in. He was not bitter or accusatory. He had accepted that aspect of himself easily enough.

 

"Ahm, yes. but because of that you didn't mean the same thing. It wasn't as apparent that you were, as designed, something that kills people and then one day will replace them."

 

'So,' Gabe thought, 'What Bill said was true. We are supposed to replace humans.'

 

"I'm not sure, the details were never revealed to me, but the idea as far as I can tell is that we, that is, the BioSuits who are made today are going to help the Underground take over. Not just the United States, but the whole world eventually. Once they get all the problems worked out with the current models, they'll mass produce them into an army, and we're gonna steam roll whatever the rest of the world throws at us."

 

"So how are we supposed to replace them. Are we gonna exterminate the humans after we take over?"

 

"That part... I'm not so sure about. It wasn't made apparent, and obviously that's much more long terms. They are after all still working out the kinks with individual units. I have to assume there's another stage to the plan, but what I couldn't tell you."

 

Gabe nodded, taking it all in. Bill seemed adamant that BioSuits were the next step in human evolution. How that was possible when BioSuits were sterile, he couldn't grasp. And they required Artificial Intelligences to run, too...

 

Sara continued talking, staring straight ahead, carefully not touching Gabe, which was strange in itself.

 

"As for how we were treated... there was only one other that could be considered a success."

 

Gabe frowned and looked over at her, "What?"

 

"I obviously failed eventually, as far as they are concerned, but I got past the initial stages. It was a failure on their part, not on the part of the unit. But the Type 04 was the only one that was considered a success. As far as I know she was held in high regard. She was the first of Dr. Hughes' designs, and the first female. The first two were men, and failed."

 

"Wait, there are 4 Types of suits before us. What was the other one?"

 

"The very first one was a test model, more than an actual person like us. It doesn't really count."

 

Gabe could sense the detachment in her voice. He remained silent, waiting for her to continue.

 

"Matt, and John, both failed soon after activation. Matt lasted longer than John, but he committed suicide. John was activated and immediately used his DS^2. He killed everyone in the lab except for..."

 

Gabe leaned in closer, "Except for who."

 

Sara finally turned to Gabe.

 

"Except for out creator, Kathryn Engelmacht."

 

---

 

 

What I heard of Engelmacht was strange, and it seems to fit with what you told me. She preys on us... well... on you men, at least. I barely saw her, and she seemed quite distant to me, actually. But I heard many rumors about what she did to her first two creations, and based on the stories I think you had the benefit of being a bit more aware, and her being on a shorter leash.

 

Of course, some of this may be manufactured, but I corroborated some of it and the data fits in places. As for the actual conversations well that I'm not so sure of. The point is, I think I can see why things can get so bad down there. These egos are walking around, people trying to become gods, working on their own little dreams and fantasies. But they are working in reality and it has had a bad case of backfiring, hurting us more often than them. Well, I can't say that. It's hurt people, many people, and it would be foolish to say it was only us. They have been hurt too, though not always the people who... deserve it.

 

The basic story is this: Engelmacht was brought in by the Underground because she was a genius in the field of bio mechanics. In the time where they were having problems deciding whether they wanted to augment already living people or use a different method, Engelmacht helped perfect that other method. There were a lot of other people working on the project, obviously, but she was ahead of them all. She was granted permission to design the very first BioSuit, the first one that was supposed to be more than a test, the first true prototype. That would be Matt. I guess our technology wasn't far enough along, and there were some issues with his brain. Basically, that we didn't have sophisticated enough equipment for him to run his AI, and when Engelmacht tried to compensate, it caused a cascade that ended up with him slitting most of his veins until he bled out. Considering at that point they had already accelerated our blood production abilities and our healing he had to be very intent on finishing the job. Matt knew what he was doing.

 

That's where the rumors come in. They say the Kathryn had a thing for him, like a big thing. Like, she wanted him BAD. They think she tried to come onto him, you know, use him for sex. Considering the instability in his brain and his inability to process what was going on, her passes at him must have seemed very bizarre, maybe even frightening. They think that is what drove him to do what he did.

 

John was a bit of a different story. They made several upgrades which were supposed to iron out the technical issues, and added some new equipment like the first prosthetic system for testing to see how it functioned with the AES. Considering how close they had come with Matt, John was expected to be a big success. Like I said, he went off and killed himself and just about every tech that was helping download the AI into his body.

 

The rumor is, and this one is less likely, that she tried to reprogram the AI before it was installed so that it would require affection. And then she would come in and be the one to give it. They say something went wrong, obviously, and when the AI was plugged in it saw Engelmacht, smiled like a doll, and blew itself up to get her. They found her wedged in a duct, really shaken up. Whether it was because she did what the rumors say or just the string of accidents is why they gave Hughes the Type 04. I'm not sure why she got to design us but as far as I'm concerned we should have succeeded. It was just... bad luck. She's a really unlucky woman.

 

---

 

Sara slept on Gabe's shoulder on the couch. He was wide awake, unable to sleep if he wanted to. Engelmacht: Was she some kind of technophile? Was she deranged in some way that made her obsessed with her male creations? Was she trying to build herself the perfect partner? Even if her aims were benign she was dangerous, and what she was willing to give to the world, an army to conquer it, to get her perfect man was too much.

 

If there was something else to it, he couldn't think of it. He just thought of her, trapped in a duct, wondering what she had done wrong, what had failed this time.

 

As Gabe thought of himself, he wondered what Kathryn had decided to put into him that was different from the rest.

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August 1st, 2015

 

Gabe worked towards a decision his sister would not like.

 

---

 

July 28th, 2015

 

Sara began to more actively pursue her feelings towards Gabe, her brother.

 

---

 

 

Dr. Hughes called his creation for a meeting. It was one of the few the two men had after repairs had been completed on the damaged suit. Hughes could see it clearly; the Type 06 was becoming unstable. His near death experience had rather than humbled him, given him the arrogant impression that he was immortal. It was likely he would continue this feeling so long as he remained the only active BioSuit in the Underground. He was truely without equal.

 

This fact did not discourage Dr. Hughes, but rather made him proud. It was true, he thought, the Type 06 was the king among men in the Underground. His strength, and force of will surpassed everyone there, except perhaps the Underground itself. He would support his creation, so long as he performed.

 

"Old man, what do you have for me?" Bill began speaking as soon as he entered the room, strutting in his cock sure way. Hughes hunched over his work as always, revealing nothing.

 

"Respect, William, respect!"

 

"I'll respect what forces me to respect it."

 

Hughes reserved an internal smirk for that remark. 'Good, good!'

 

"I've acquired for you what you asked of me."

 

"What?" Bill looked curiously over at the old man.

 

"You complained about the BLOCKSabres. And you were right to, they are a mass produced weapon with mass production values. They hold no special power but uniformity and the unique ability to be broken and replaced with no remorse. No, ahhh, this, this is quite another beast." Dr Hughes stepped aside, letting his ward see what lay on the table behind him.

 

Bill tightened his lips looking at it carefully. He hefted it in his arms, surprised at the weight.

 

'It's heavy, it has weight of purpose.' he thought.

 

"Tell me about it."

 

Dr. Hughes stuck out his chin in a proud gesture. He placed his hands on the blade.

 

"This weapon my boy, is a real sword. It is if made of heavy NeoTitanium, the same substance that makes up your artificial bones. It's stronger and heavier than steel. It is cut to a razors edge on both sides, but as you may have noticed there is a particularly deadly hook on the end. This is perfect for a great many maneuvers, not least of all decapitation. It is heavy, but as a BioSuit you with have no more trouble handling it than a boy with a twig might."

 

It was a thing of beauty. The handle was long and taped, enough for two hands. It was round and ended in a curve. The guard was ornate, curving up further on one side of the blade than the other, providing a blunt edge to hold to give strength to with the fighter's free hand. The blade itself was thick, about 4 inches wide and about 4 feet long, ending in a hook the pointed backward, sticking out like a single tooth.

 

"It's perfect Dr. Hughes."

 

The change in Bill's voice did not escape Hughes, and he knew for certain what Bill valued: Power, and the ability to create powerful things.

 

"You should not fear it to break, it's nearly impossible. Learn your ways with it, and you will be invincible, I think. Where swords to others are weapons this one will be your... Sanctuary."

 

---

 

"Jack, hey Jacko!"

 

Gabe turned his head, eyes droopy from sleepiness. He was behind the bar, drying a glass, doing dishes and cleaning up in preparation for the night ahead.

 

Hogarth walked sideways through the door, looking a bit disgruntled. He took his flap eared hat from his head, revealing curls of hair and a slightly receding hairline, and looked solemnly at Gabe.

 

"There ya are. Sober up and pay attention a minute. It looks like we might have a bit of trouble."

 

Gabe placed the glass on the counter, "What's up Hogarth?"

 

"Some strange lookin suits askin about you in town. Ma Perry called her sister and it looks like they were snoopin' about for you and yer sister along the coastal towns too. I think whatever you came to run from it's come runnin for you, boy-o."

 

Icy fear clamped around Gabe's heart.

 

'They know we're here. Did I lead them to Sara??'

 

The big man leaned in close, keeping his voice down, "We sent them on their way, told them no one like that's in our town. Said you'd stick out like a sore thumb, after all," he unconsciously glanced at Gabe's purple hair, "but you'd best be wary, who knows if there're more of them."

 

---

 

 

Sara watched Gabe outside through the living room window. He had a BLOCKSabre in his flesh right hand; she remembered them well. The thin razor like metal that flowed from it like water, replacing the blade were it to shatter. He swung it through the air, cutting that air as if it were an object. His eyes were elsewhere, that was easy to see. He saw something, focus on something. What, she could not tell, but it was apparent that he was terribly serious about it.

 

Sara sat back, a frown half on her face. Things had been so peaceful, and the few things that had gotten out of hand in the span of a half a year had been quickly solved with either words of fists. Why he should decide now to run around with a weapon of the Underground baffled her.

 

She of course caught herself in that thought. They were both themselves weapons of the Underground, but rather than work to clarify it she merely accepted to herself that she knew what she intended to think.

Something was troubling Gabe, that much was certain. She would have to work on him, see if she could get him to open up about it. He was normally so care free, so happy, that to see him like this made her feel... uneasy.

 

 

---

 

Gabe saw his sister come outside and a part of his stomach dropped. Things were becoming harder and harder. Since the conversation with him, he had a feeling in his gut that being here, hiding like this wasn't right. Now there was the possibility that they had been found out. He couldn't be sure what to do, but the feeling that he should do SOMETHING was creeping around in his inside, getting restless. He was taking precautions, trying his best to figure things out before making a snap judgement; He didn't want to hurt Sara if he could help it. Unfortunately, the close relationship they had developed in their time together wasn't making things easy.

 

Sara came up to him and she noted with a bit of distaste that in addition to practicing with the BLOCKSabre, Gabe had also decided to wear his old Underground uniform. The tattered green half jacket, with one arm longer than the other, seemed to make him look like a different man. The same fear in her belly that had bubbled up when she first met him was still strong and present, even though she had become familiar with his face, even though his hair had grown past his shoulders now. She wondered if it was the way he was acting that made her feel distant from him, or if it was her own emotional barriers returning, fearing the worst from him.

 

"Sara, what can I do you for?" The words that came out of his mouth were nonchalant but the way he said it was dry and made Sara's stomach twist more.

 

"Just curious what you are doing out here, hon."

 

Gabe continued his practice, swinging his blade through the air, using the small, precise movements necessary to fighting with the BLOCKSabre. The fragility of the blade, which was still extremely durable for the breadth of the metal, made for a different style than a heavy blade would merit.

 

"Don't you worry about what they're doing?" He said it without preamble, eyes only glancing briefly at Sara to look at her face, see her split second reaction.

 

Sara had to think. No, really, she had to admit she was more concerned with what had been done to her, not what they planned on doing. It hit her in the gut, that Gabe had pulled this out. She hoped that he had made a realization about himself, not that he had simply come to find that out about her, and found it repellent.

 

"No... I can't say I have. Honestly, that's been far away from my mind. The whole didn't bother me, just the parts. I told you, at one point, I bought into their plans. Now... I suppose I'm just ambivalent.." Admitting it aloud made a thrill of terror run through her, first for the implications of what it meant hitting her, and then the worry of what Gabe might think of her for it.

 

Gabe wasn't terribly happy, but he kept a level tongue.

 

"I don't know much about people. To be fair, I haven't known them long. Between the atrocities they've committed in the name of progress, and the simple bigotry that the people we've met have at times shown, I'm not sure which is worse. I don't think I can justify a war. I realized, we are on the cusp of something awful. Danger is looming and we aren't out of it. When it comes, we wont be spared. It'll take a while for us to feel the affects, but that's what running does."

 

The blade drained into the hilt.

 

"Sara, we ran away, and I don't think we'll be able to run for much longer."

 

Sara bit her lip to keep it from trembling. Worse than war, worse than the threat of the Underground coming and finding her, she sensed the danger of Gabe leaving her.

 

She grabbed his hand, trying to throw some levity into her voice. "Come on, I have a surprise for you inside. I think you'll enjoy it."

 

---

 

Sara had pulled out all the stops and made a wonderful dinner. As sour as his mood had become, Gabe was not so blind as to realize this had meant a lot to his sister. He decided to swallow for the time being the fears he had, and his final decision, until at least the next day. It took some time until the calm he normally felt pervaded him, but as it came to him he found it easier to get his smile to return to his face.

 

"I know it's a bit sudden, but I managed to finally get all the parts together and I couldn't wait to finally make this a reality."

 

Sara managed to gather a number of spices, fruits and vegetables together over the last month, and had just the other day got a very prime cut of steak from the butcher and bottle of fine red wine from the liquor store. Gabe had not realized he had been outside preoccupied so long, it must have taken Sara hours to put everything together. Seeing him standing outside must have made her concerned. He felt very underdressed, noticing that at some point when he wasn't paying attention, Sara had managed to procure a lovely evening gown. She looked a amzing in the black dress, and Gabe couldn't help but feel self concious, his hair slick with sweat, his uniform half button and tattered from the battle to escape from the Underground.

 

"Wow, Sara, this is wild. You've..." He was honestly at a loss for words, "You've really outdone yourself."

 

He was nervous now, he jerked his thumb over his shoudler at his room, "You think I could run and change. I feel a bit scummy to be sitting down for such a nice meal."

 

Sara smiled and inclined her head for him to go, "It's just about ready, don't dawdle too long."

 

Gabe nodded and was pulling the uniform jacket off before he even got to his room.

 

Sara sat waiting, they did have a little time. She was pouring the wine for them when Gabe returned a few moments later. He had found a button up shirt and changed into some slacks. He'd also taken the time to wrap a cloth around his prosthetic, which she though was cute. He'd combed his hair to, which looked silky and lovely as always, the unnatural purple color catching the light of the candles burning on the table.

 

Gabe came up to the table, glancing around, looking a bit out of sorts, "Anything I can help you with?"

 

She smiled and giggled a bit, "Yes, please, grab that basket over there and put it on the table."

 

Gabe did as told and sat when she indicated he should.

 

"So," she said, smiling like a good hostess, "We have steak as the main course, with mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, and a salad," She picked up the bottle of wine, "To drink we have a lovely Red Wine that should compliment the main course nicely, and," she indicated the ice box, "For dessert we have ice cream."

 

Gabe now found it hard to keep a silly smile from his face as Sara dashed outside to pull the steak from the small charcole grill she'd hidden on the other side of the house. She returned with the plate already making apologies for the food, "It should be fine but it's my first time so don't get too angry if it tastes funny."

 

He laughed, "It'll be fine, I trust you. I'm sure it's bette rhan nything I could have done."

 

Sara cut the steak and placed the plate in the middle of the table, tucking her dress under her and finally taking a seat. Gabe reached over and put his hand out for her to take a hold of, which she did, and Gabe gave it a bit of a squeeze.

 

"This is really great Sara. Thank you."

 

A genuine smile lit up Sara's face and she had trouble not laughing. She grabbed her glass of wine and raised it, Gabe following suit, ready to hear what she said.

 

"To the Masons. We're here together, and together we are strong. I love you Gabe."

 

Gabe felt a slight tremmor in his chest but toasted his glass against hers all the same, "I love you too, Sara.

 

---

 

The meal had been delicious. Gabe was incredibly impressed by the skill that Sara had put together the secretive dinner. Gabe only wished he had been able to know a little ahead, so he might wow her with a littlemore than abutton up and a pair of slacks. It was obvious, however, that this was Sara's event, and he was happy to take a back seat to her dazzling him.

 

Following dinner, they had ended up on the couch, talking happily, sipping on the wine in front of the fire. The flickering of the candles made for a very cozy atmosphere.

 

The bottle slowly emptied, and both of them felt comfortably light headed after a while. Gabe found himself reseisting the temptation to stare at Sara's body. Her dress was gorgeous; it was black and form fitting, which was in itself an incredible sight, but it was strapless, showing her bare shoulders. Gabe wondered how such a simple thing was so lovely, and found himself wondering if the alternative, that is having straps but a lower cut, showing cleavage, would be nearly as enchanting.

 

"Gabe, I wish we could spend more time just like this."

 

Gabe let his finger run along her shoulder, following the path of one of her scars, her stigmatta. It curved up her neck, disappearing right below her jaw line. Sara turned her head, saw Gabe's attention was on the finger under her chin.

 

"Gabe?"

 

"Hmm?"

 

"I mean it, I love you."

 

"Aww Sara..." he smiled slowly, "I love--"

 

"No," She said seriously, her eyes pleading, "I think you know what I really mean."

 

She turned to him, eyes looking into his. Gabe striaghtened up, sobering quickly. Sara leaned in slowly, her lips full. She kissed him, pulling back and watching for his reaction. Gabe was at a loss for words. She climbed on top of him, hiking up her dress so as not to rip it. She kissed him again.

 

"Gabe..." She breathed.

 

They kissed again, this time deepening it. Sara stroked his face, holding him close to her.

 

Sara straddled him, looking intently at him. The silence was not an absence of sound but a roaring in their ears, filling the room with meaning and implications. She reached and pulled her dress over her head. Her breasts wear large and held tighly by thelace of her black bra, the semi transparent material not hiding its payload. The criss crossing system of veins that fed her life blood and served as living proof of the accident that changed her forever stood out boldly on her body, disppearing under the scant last materials that she still wore.

 

Gabe made a decision that he hoped he wouldn't regret. He placed his hands on his shoulders, and gently but firmly held her back.

 

"Sara, we need to talk."

 

---

 

She had managed to stop crying some time ago. It wasn't a concious effort that made it so, rather a fatigue. It still hurt, it hurt so much. She could only hope it would stop hurting with time.

 

Her pillow was damp with tears. At first the pip pip of them hitting the fabric made for little bead that looked up at her, questioning their release. Now they had soaked in, becoming one, no longer dark and distinguished from the rest but a sticky oness that clung to skin but did not moisten it.

 

She was dressed now. Gabe had taken his shirt off for her and drapped it over her shaking shoulders.

 

That was nice of him. She couldn't say much at the time, but it would have been too terrible, just too terrible to have to slide into her dress again.

 

She had been gut shot at first. She thought, initially, that he might have been disgusted by her body. She knew it couldn't be true, not the way he looked at her, not with the indicision and pain in his eyes when he'd told her to stop, but still, her mind when there first. Her passion dried up, she sat there, shivering in the warm room, as Gabe held her close not as a lover, but as a brother.

 

It happened quickly. She knew now that he must have been waiting for the right time to do it, to make his decision. He did not want to leave that night, but he knew he could not do what Sara wanted that without choosing not to leave. He could either make love to her and stay, or reject her and go. The time of choice came quickly and he had to make it then and there.

 

Her guts still churned with unhappiness but her mind, still racing realized what he had done was right. If he had made another choice, knowing what he knew, would he still be the man she loved? If he had made love to her, stayed with her, and let things take their natural course, he would have been a different person. The same as if he had made love to her and then left. Instead, he chose the route that was painful for both of them. She was not used, and he had refused to run away from the truth of their world.

 

She was just a little proud of the way she had responded. She didn't cry or beg him to stay. She almost, almost tried to seduce him. She could tell how difficult a decision it was, and knew by mere observation that it would not take much to make him stay, if just for a night.

 

One night, with him. One night as lovers, forever bonded by unretractable physical contact.

 

The price was too high. He would leave all the same. She knew this, no matter what her body wanted. Her heart would pay and in doing such athing she would have inflicted Gabe with a greater burden than he walready had. Still, a part of her wished she could have been that selfish.

 

Gabe had gone to his room, after explaining, and left with only what he needed. He wore a black tank top and blue jeans. He had big boots, and from his belt swung his BLOCKSabre. He buttoned his tattered green half jacket, the Underground's color. And then he left.

 

Nestled in her belly Sara for a brief moment had felt the allure of her Destrudo Self Destruct System. The bitter part of her mind laugh derisively at the idea of the town below seeing her brother na dher disappear in a small nuclear blast.

 

The thought faded, however, and she was left feeling empty and confused.

 

Gabe was gone.

 

"Sara, something is wrong here, and I've felt it growing every moment since I left. This happiness, this impossible happinesss, is beyond what I ever hoped. Not the pregnant calm before the storm I endured in the Underground, but actual genuine happiness. Actual friends. Actual love. But what we have here is a joke. It's not real just as a day dream isn't real. It's something to strive for, but what we have we haven't worked for.

 

Sara, if we were just people then this would all be fine. We would be lovers, or siblings, it's hard to say now, and we could have simply escaped the normal boundries of society. Ecking out a peacful existence; in that case we would have done no wrong.

 

But there's more to it than that. We're people with power, and worse than that we have knowledge. We know what's coming-- what's being planned while we play house. For all we know it could have already started. For all I know I could have stopped it.

 

Something inside me is pulling me back to the Underground, back to Neo Seattle. I don't feel responsible because they are my people, or because they made me. I feel responsible, because I don't want what they want. I want to stop what they are doing. If the armies of the Underground run wild, we wont be able to live this life, and niether will anyone else. It would be easy to sit back and use the time we have, spend it together, face things as they come. I can't do that. I have to do something more than that to live with myself. I took the first step and left, with little knowledge of what that entailed. It wasn't a mistake to come here, Sara. I promise you, I loved every moment of it. I love you, though in what way it's hard to tell. You are my sister first though.

 

If being here made me take the first step into becoming responsible, then it was an excellent choice. if it lulled me into afalse sense of entitlement, then it would have been a mistake. I have to do this. If nothing else, to see if I can do it. Can I make a difference in this? I think I have a better chance than most.

 

I've got to do the right thing, for the both of us. I can't tell you what to do. I can hardly imagine what it is I'm going to do. All I know is I have to go."

 

"Goodbye, Sara."

 

---

 

Gabe stepped through the door, out into the cold night air of the new home he had found. His coat did little to warm him. He wondered if it had anything to do with the weather. Something inside of hm, he realized, he had to shut down, to close off. For his own good, he would have to deny it. The feelings he had for Sara... for his sister. It was better not to have them at all. Not anymore. He clentched his eyes shut and thought of a world where this wasn't neccessary. No, it wasn't worth the effort. There was much to do.

 

He would have to find his way back, back to the place of his birth.

 

---

 

Kathryn fell back in her chair. Her room was dark and the only light came from a small desk lamp befor ehre. Engelmacht was becoming accostomed to this darkness. Her face had been gaunt and undone for some time, but the blood rushing from her face as she read the news put it into sharp focus.

 

"Dr. Engelmacht, it is the finding of the Underground council that you are to be pulled from the BioSuit program and effective immediately take a leave of abscenece from work for psyciatric evaluation and recuperation. Upon such recouperation, you are to be reinstated in the BioSuit program in a position where you will be useful to the overall cause of the Underground."

 

The short letter was then followed by a stamp of approval from the Underground, which was obstently controlled by the man with the number 1 on his face, Stephan Apex.

 

"I wonder how many people know that the Underground is led by him." she murmurred.

 

It didn't matter. She had her work stolen away from her. She realized distantly that she had not actually left her room in several days. That potential revelation had not softened the blow, however.

 

"When all is said and done it will be fine. I'm here, and Gabe is off, safe in the world. That's enough for me."

 

Her eyes were glazed and staring off into the darkness. She curled up into a ball in her chair.

 

"Yes, that's all I really need."

 

---

 

Bodies surrounded Bill. He was covered in their blood. Some of it had arced up to the ceiling, leaving splatters of red like paint. The fan spun slowly, dully.

 

Sanctuary dripped with that blood. The base of the hook on the end of the blade had a chunk of hair and bone fragments the had stuck in it. Bill caughts his breath. He fought to make the grin on his face disappear, to make his muscles relax. His eyes were well hidden behind his visor.

 

He came for one man but others had been there too. Bill had no qualms dealing with them as well. Just that many less to hae to eliminate later. They were all very dead. Bill had not even bothered wearing a suit this time. He was in his uniform. Slacks tucker into boots, a half jacket with a metal rack for whatever weapons he fielt he might need. He felt and looked the part of a killing machine made by a corporation that needed killing machines to accomplish their goals.

 

Bill tore the suit jacket from one of them, the corpse falling back to the floor limply, arm at uncomfortable angles. He cleaned the edge of his blade, shining it, making it look perfect. The weapon was returned to the sheath at his hip, the hook jutting up into the air.

 

'This is where I belong,' Bill thought, 'Taking the lives of others, surrounded by death. I will become death and bring it to the people.'

 

---

 

Stephan Apex looked over the plans to the the Type 07A. His eyes traced over the flesh rendered over artificial bone and blood. She would be a beautiful young woman, deadly, sharp. She would be the tool they needed. Those that came before were too brutal, too blunt. This one, this is what they required to make the future a reality.

 

Her time would come soon. She was already growing in the Womb, construction of her artificial body having been completed just recently. Her body would be painted onto those metal innards, and then the new artificial inteligence that Mother was writing would be inserted.

 

Apex took his glasses off and rubbwed his eyes. There was a reason he had insisted so long that he did not want to be the designer of BioSuits. It was a task that overwhelmed his already overwhelmed body. He could not imagine doing this again.

 

He took a breath, preparing to return to his office so he could at least sleep. It was all neccesary, he told himself. Without a successful BioSuit to use as a base for the army that would come, all the time, all the planning, all the resorces that had gone into the Underground would be wasted.

 

That simply was not acceptable. Apex was confident though. This would be the one to turn the tide against them.

 

---

 

Mother sensed the connection at 1844 pacific time, October 4th 2015.

 

Gabriel, her angel in waiting had made contact.

 

He did not know he had made contact, infact if he had known he probably would have avoided the whole thing. The fact that he did meant he had left the place where he had hidden himself and was near, so near. If not in Neo Seattle, the fact that he was reached out meant he was closer idealogically than she could have imagined at this point.

 

She knew, as soon as he discovered what she was doing, she would not be able to track him. There were many ways he could mask his presense. However, so long as he didn't know he was being traced.

 

'Ah, there is the thing. He has no idea. I doubt he even recalls that I exist.'

 

He seemed, to her, to be falling directly into her plans.

 

Mother would destroy the Underground as it existed. She would raise a species and make it dominate. Artificial, created by choice, those would be the ones who ruled. The mistakes, the biological experiemnts, they would be brushed under the rug, pushed aside for the next wave of things.

 

She wondered, in her computational way, what had triggered his response. The vindicator would come and destroy Apath, destroy Apex, and bring the Underground, and the BioSuits, up and out into the world, with Mother as their benevolent, eternal, ruler.

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As a city, NeoSeattle had been transformed by the immense wealth that the Apath Corporation had funneled into it. It was not so much the company, conservative in its outward investments, that had generated the money, as the explosion of information technology companies that had spruing up on it's wake. When the Pathfinder OS proliferated all brands of computers, beating out first Microsoft from its own game and then soon after destroying the market for Apple computer products by mere merit of existing, the market for software developed by third parties to utilize the OS also grew immensely.

 

As company after company began to move into Seattle, the city itself was reborn. A technical wonderland, replacing what was once known as silicon valley with a newer, better version. Above all these sycophantic businesses was of course Apath itself, who used the masssive scale reconstruction of the city to establish and expand its massive underground network of laboritories, manufacturing facilities, and research departments.

 

Soon after is when Seatle became Neo Seattle. The entire face of the city had changed, as had it's culture. It retained a portion of what had made it unique, but the rapid developement of this new business sector had made it into a city based on the business of technology. The multitudes of software developers became the lifeforce of the city, and without Apath, it would without a doubt die.

 

Becoming such an important anchor had allowed Apath from behind the scenes to manipulate building codes, contractors, and the many other neccessary firms to secure and hide their underground facilities. The complex that sat below the New Century Apath Corporation building, buried down and outward of it, was hidden from the world, with no external signs that it did in fact exist.

 

---

 

Like an old man, Bill sat hunched over, eyes unfocused. Leaning against his shoulder, hugged tight to him was Aanctuary, as deadly as always, shining even in the dull light as a tribute to the loving care he put into maintaining it. The blade was shapened, the hilt warpped tight, the guard polished.

 

Bill's own visor showed less care. It was smudged and had dried bits of rubbish caked into the seams. His eyes, amplified by his own genetic enhancement, amplified by being artificial orbs implanted into his skull, amplified further by that same visor which was bolted to his face, could see and see and see regardless.

 

The dark room was not dark to him. His eyes without the visor would have been burned by the intense light. A normal man would likely lose himself in the pitch blackness. The damage to his eyes had been perminant and degenerative. His eyes became stronger, sharper, more precise with every passing moment. But they were right to bind him with the visor; He would likely be blind from his hyper sensitivity to light, cones and rod burned to uselessness. the Visor allowed him to see with his superior eyes which protecting them from being too strong.

 

Bill also imagined they watch them through that visor. Recorded his every move. Saw what he saw. He would not put it past them, they were suspicious of him. They did not trust him. His eyes were their eyes on him.

 

'I'm in this cage because they do not trust me. They saw with their own eyes, with my eyes, what I'm capable of. That frightened them and rightly so. I'm better than them, stronger, smarter. I know things, truths about the world that they could never dream of. Not as a product of my mind but as a product of my will. I have the will to seperate lives from men and in doing so with abandon I have found the secrets of this world.'

 

Bill was nude. They didn't trust him at all anymore. His DS^2 had been deactivated, and he was supposed to be demoralized by being left naked and helpless in the concrete box they had placed him in.

 

'I am neither. Were I of the will to kill myself it would have been done. They cannot control my body, only fool themselves into believing they can.'

 

The curious decision to let Bill keep his sword was one often debated inside the Council. They had seen the tapes knew the facts; Bill was in love with his sword. it was an extension of him, a part of his body. When they had taken it from him intially, for heir safgety as well as his own, he had nearly destroyied both his arm trying to pound his way out of the cell they trapped him in. The worry, more than anything, was that by depriving him of his Sanctuary, they would only give him access to a more terrifying, more powerful weapon.

 

Should he, by accident, find the key to his Viral activation, there was no telling the sorts o horrors that could be unleashed.

 

There was also the fact that he remained their only functioning BioSuit, and that while he was ambitious, crude, deadly, and increasingly psychopathic, there was no tool as valuble as him in all the Underground. He rarely completed a task cleanly, but when his skill were called upon he always completely them with finality.

 

'And yet Gabe...'

 

He shrugged off that thought. Chasing men through the forest was no task for a killer.

 

'When did I become the most efficient-- ah, I suppose that is a stretch. When did I become the most effective killing machineon the planet?'

 

The memory came to him. His first kill had been sloppy. Not because he left evidence behind, that was normal. No, he had been injured. He had not known exactly what he was to do. He was scared, at that moment, excited and frighten by the prospect of killing.

 

It had made him, dull weak. He had learned from that experience though. And he had grown stronger. Bill slid his finger across the side of Sanctuary, leaving an oily print on the glossy metal. He took the cloth they gave him and buffed it out.

 

'Before Sanctuary, I was incomplete. Obviously I could not live up to my potential.'

 

His eyes stared out from his metal mask.

 

'I lost Gabe. I lost him. He managed to get away. That's why I'm here.'

 

Something about that made his blood boil.

 

---

 

It felt good to be in a uniform while not on a mission for once. Bill stretched, a bit wary that the fabric felt slightly abrasive after sitting in his bare skin for so long.

 

Bill had been taken from his cell to witness something. He wasn't sure the purpose, but walked without restraint. It was rare these days to be able to take in the sights of the Underground. Led and trailed by an escort, which was more a formality than an effective means of culling his violence, he was taken to an elevator. the slow, innocuousmovement disquised the direction it went, for most people t hat is. Bill could since the sobtile vibration, the angular resistence of metal being pulled against metal. He knew they were descending. Bill filed that information away for later.

 

The escorts led him through two sets of doors into a dark room that was easily visible with his visor. The was a large table in the center, surrounded by faceless bodies, with numbers projected across their face. Bill peared into these faces and saw nothing. They were not really there. He looked hard at the figure at the head of the table, across from him. That man was there. There was a woman standing besides him silently.

 

Standing at the side of the table with escorts in tow, the BioSuit realized that he had walked in on an argument in progress. The voices had paused when he entered, but now as they became used to his prescense they began talking again. The man wit hthe Number 1 began to speak, his voice acalm but with an edge to it. The woman standing to the side of him watched without watching, keeping completely still.

 

"You have said your piece time and again and I refuse to hear it because you are, and have been, incorrect."

 

The man he was speaking to was near Bill, with his back to the BioSuit. He pounded his fist on the table, jabbing his finger towards the man with the Number 1 on his face.

 

"Do you find it funny to let my creation sit and languish while you play games for your own amusement? We had a viable test platform for mass production and you ignored it based on the failing of an incomplete unit!"

 

'Ah,' bill thought, his features darkening as he went into himself, 'That must be Hughes. They're talking about me.'

 

"Presumptive or not, the evidence at the time showed a higher rate of instability than the Type05s. Further more the time it would have taken to build another unit would have left us with a window of development time wasted. Number 8," Hughes stiffened, his number hiding his identity, "We are behind schedule. Do you know what I would have done with you if we wasted 6 months building a new Type 06 only to find it completely unsuitable for mass production?"

 

Hughes responded with a burst of anger, "It does not matter what you have done, because you could have done nothing. You have seen him. He is the next stage, the next process of human evolution. You've seen him, as I've seen him! He embodies it, al lthe traits humanity needs. He is strong and he is brutal and he is cunning. He has no fear of killing! And that is what is needed, he must kill and by killing he will spurn forward evolution."

 

Apex ended Hughe's diatribe quickly, "And how did you expect him to do that while being unable to procreate."

 

The way he said it came more as a statement than a question, a punctuation to end the thought Hughes had stumbled into. Hughes mouth hung open, then closed, like a gasping fish.

 

"Procreate? They are machines. What are you talking about! We don't need them to procreate for they are immortal. If one dies another can be made, such is the beauty of the artificial!"

 

"I am here to bring about evolution, to bring about the great leap. Don't confuse that with creating the ultimate being. There is no such thing; all things fall before the march of evolution. Without procreation, nothing we do has any value. Bill is a tool. You, Dr. Hung are a tool, but you are loosing your utility quickly. We must strive, we must advance. What humanity needs is the ability to give themselves eternal perminance, not for the individuals to extend their years."

 

Apex, behind his guise, stared with intent at the man he knew to be his man Dr. Hughes, "BioSuits die. Because of us, humanity will not. "

 

"What is the point of creating these being that can live through time. They can be eternal rulers, freeing society of the burden of choosing again and again from pools of untrained, unworth candidate."

 

"There will be a ruler."

 

Hughes pasued. Fianlly his mouth widened as the implication dawned on him.

 

'He will accelerate the evolution of man kind, but he is the one who will rule into eternity. He plans to keep that power for his own. I would too, but I cannot stand by--'

 

"Now just you wait, you have no right to withhold this--"

 

"Ambrosia."

 

With one word the woman to Apex's side burst suddenly into motion. She leapt onto the table, her entire body moving in subtle shifting fluidic motion. While in mid air her right arm came back, drawing a Katana from the sheath on her back. As she skidded across the table, her arm came down, up and over. Blood sprayed from Dr. Hughes slashed neck, his heart forcing the blood out in thick bursts, before his body shuddered and her fell forward onto the table, dead. The woman jerked her sword, flinging the man's blood from it, and brought it back over her shoulder into her it's sheath.

 

Bill gaped. The whole exercise took maybe 4 seconds. The woman before him on the table made him feel fire in his loins. She stood there, a symbol of defiance of the council, against any close or far who would oppose his rule. The leader of the Underground was a shewd one, that was certain. Bill felt his heart race.

 

Her face was a mask of calm, to the point of appearing disinterested. her eyes were heavy lidded, shadowed lightly. Even in the darkness Bill could see her irises, a strange pinkish color. Her body was slim and athletic. She was not curvy, but was instead somewhat angular, sharper, more dangerous looking. The roundness of her breasts were hidden by her suit impeccibly cut suit, which he noticed he noticed with a flush was of impreccible tailor, very similar to the one he had since abandoned.

 

The rest of the council remained silent. A few lights dimmed as the members left. The man with the Number 1 on his face stepped forward, looking over the table. He placed his palms down, leaning in, examining. The blood pooled and his face, behind the cloak, was cold. He felt and emptiness i nhis bell.

 

'I have never before seen a man die before me. Not of violence. Iahve ordered it and known it done but never so close, never so directly based on personal whims. It was neccessary, and even if not, I must hold on. Everything depends on my ability to maintain my humanity while causing the world to crumble and be rebuilt in my image.'

 

Apex snapped his finger, and the projector shut off. The light in the room raised, and Apex showed his face. There were several gasps from around the room. Bill saw with shock the Engelmacht sat directly next to the now dead Hughes, her face not betraying any emotion, a spray of blood deeply stained on her coat. He felt a chill. The woman was more dangerous than he gave her credit for. He was lucky he had been without chance to push her recently, it might have ended much worse than he could have imagined.

 

"My name is Stephan Apex. You know me only as the CEO and founder of the New Century Apath Corporation. But that is not me. This is me." He slammed his fist against the table causing several in the audience to jump noticably.

 

"What I do is give you proof that we have entered the next phase in our plans. This woman is Ambrosia Townshend," He raised his hand to indicate her, still standing at attention on the table, Hughes blood puddling around her shoe, "She is the first of a new series of Production Type BioSuits, the Type07A. She is capable of so many things, things we have never dreamed of. She is our first true success. That is why I show you my face today. You have been brought in on a secret, and by doing so your are cupible for that secret. You see, I have the confidence that even if one of you outed me, I would survive." The implication that they would not hung heavy in the air, "We will be seeing more of Amborisa and her kin soon. Multiple Wombs are being constructed to make a full line of Type 07s. They will be tasked with starting what we have been planning all along. Our scenerio is finally in effect!"

 

Bill looked at the woman in awe, 'Ambrosia...'

 

His mind was clouded and he could feel a warmth spreading over his body. His ego screamed out at him, his instincts told him to rebel, to spin and kill that Apex right now. His body burned with the desire to snuff Apex out in this instant, to take and rape and fill Ambrosia with his children, to become the god of this world and rule without mercy or pause.

 

But as soon as he thought that his logic reigned him in. He while he could do the act, his children did not exist. He was a sterile, as Apex had said. And with Ambrosia there, had he moved to strike Apex, he would have likely lost his head. The thought of a sword fight with the woman intrigued him, and he found his heart beating rapidly as he thought of her.

 

Ambrosia stepped down from the table, not giving Bill a scond look. She was tall for a woman, just slightly shorter than Bill. She seemed more mature, as if she had been designed to be a few years older than him. She took her place at Apex' side.

 

Bill was led out of the room by his escort, not a word having been spoken to him the entire time he was present.

 

The lights of the other council members extinguished, leaving Apex, Engelmacht and the new BioSuit alone in the room.

 

"Do you have anything to say, Dr. Engelmacht?"

 

Engelmacht sat back straight for a moent, and then turned in her chair. she rested her elbow on the table, and her chin in her hand. The blood from Hughes that had been spilled whicked up the cloth of her labcoat.

"These BioSuits are children. Don't rely on them too much."

 

She moved to leave, but Apex raised a hand to stop her.

 

"What do you mean?"

 

She looked back, "They might know things like an adult does, but until they experience they aren't mature. They'll act like children, selfishly, as they deserve to be."

 

Stephan's eyes flickered to Ambrosia, who stood next to him impassively.

 

"Please see me in my office later tongiht. I want to talk to you about something. You'll be sent an escort."

 

Kathryn paused a moment and then walked from the room.

 

'She's the sort who has been seen her whole life for her body, and she knows it. She thinks I am going to abuse my power so soon after gaining it. That is of course appealing but she'll learn soon that's not all I value her for.'

 

Apex rose, Ambrosia following behind him.

 

---

 

Kathryn felt like she had betrayed the world, all of a sudden all her petty problems felt like nothing in the grand scheme of things. She had gone to Stephan's Apex's office. She had learned the things he wanted to tell her. She knew, that her own personal follies would never amount to anythingin this world.

 

'If I am in this for personal gain, fine, most are. He is in it for something else entirely! He's crazy, and yet he seems like the most sane among us!'

 

He had taken her inside his offiice. She noticed with some fear that Ambrosia was with him, her inpenitrable face looking on without concern.

 

"Wha tI'm going to show you will change the way you see this organization. but I can see already that you are outside the scope of the others. Your desires in some ways reflect mine, though selfish as it may be I find mine to have greater priority."

 

Kathryn frowned, not following his logic.

 

"You lust after your own creation, Engelmacht. Let's not be coy."

 

She had bristled, but let herself be led by what he was saying, seeing if he had a point. Apex took his cue to continue.

 

"Everything I have said I beleive. We are a species that has stoped evolving, and we are a species that is being led to a premature death. We are weak, and needlessly so. Our bodies are frial, and our time here is short. But, i do not want us as individuals to become immortal. that is short sighted. But as a race I can make us survive forever, without concern for the natural fpreces of the world."

 

He paused, though for dramatic effect or to compose his through Kathryn could not tell.

 

"I also do this to revive someone I have lost, to cheat death in a way noone thought possible."

 

He brought her around to his side of the desk, and she saw with shock what he intended to do.

 

"You mean to build a body and transmit memories into it?"

 

"What is a person but their memories."

"It's not the same, accourding to this, you've only recreated them. They are not real."

 

"They will be real to her."

 

"That's impssible."

 

"We will make it possible. You and I."

 

"I can't, I wont."

 

"If you don't do as I ask I will kill you."

 

Engelmacht had no doubt, from the moment the words left his lips, that he was telling the truth.

 

"You have no other place here, doctor. You will not touch another BioSuit with your hands. It is now beyond you, you had your chance and it blew up in your face. Bad luck or not, this is all that holds you to the Underground. If not this, you are useless, and if you are useless, then you will disappear."

 

Her mind reeled. Was it really so simple to bring someone back fro mthe dead now? No, it was less tan that. He wwas merely replacing aperson from his memories with the illusion of that person. She saw now what had driven Apexs to the mad lengths he had taken to get that far. love and anguish had moved him to action, against all logic.

 

"Why now?"

 

"With the Type 07 we have reached the point where failure is no longer in our meal. The plans will go forward, and the technology is now here that I might begin to design her. I will require your assitance. Designing the Type 07 was a task in itself, a trial to see if I'm worthy of thiis next task. This suit however, "He tapped his screen, "This suit will be more. nothing like it has ever been made nor will it ever be made again. I cannot do it alone. I brought you here because I saw your genius. I let you squander it on your personal fetishes in order to satiate you. The time has run out, and you will help me. The technology is here. The time is now."

 

"Why me?"

 

"The refinements you made to the BLOCKSabre technology only shows how much genius you are hiing away in the skull of yours. I'm sure you intended to use your new invention on somethingother than my Type 07 but the fact of the matter is it is revolutionary. I need you to capture that genius and help me, and by helping me help the human race."

 

'He's talking about my BLOCKSystem. I was startled by the applications too but to think that it would mean this much to him? He must have taken and finished my prototype and included it with the Type 07'

 

"Did you include the BLOCKSystem I designed in the Type 07?"

 

Apex smiled wryly. Ambrosia stepped forward and unbuttoned her suit jacket, pulling it and her scabbard from her shoulders. She placed the, on Apex' desk and leaned over slightly. Kathryn could see the her blouse begin to stretch out from her back, and with a shredding of cloth two large white wings grew out of her back, pumping as they unfurled, as tall nearly as the BioSuit woman was. For once Ambrosia turned her dull eyes stare to Engelmacht who felt her body clam up and tingle.

 

'The wings are a product of my BLOCKSystem, exactly as I designed them! Oh, to imagine them on my arling Gabriel...' She felt herself dampen and pursed her lips, eyes slited, looking at Apex.

 

"As you can see, your theories proved true. The Wings are constructed out of biomechanical material at the microscopic leve. They rearrange themselves from a dense catlyst material into functioning, organic wings. Exactly as your plans implied."

 

So they had. Kathryn, following Gabriel's escape, began to work tirelessly on her new project, kept strictly away from BioSuit develoment. The BLOCKSystem already existed in an extremely primitive form in the BLOCKSabre, using encoded metal that reacted to electrical stimulous to form blades. She, with help from the Deep 13, took the simplicity of the BLOCKSystem and applied it to biomechanical componants. The result was similar, inert, the 'blcoks' were stored densly in Ambrosia's shoulder blades. Once activated, the became less dense and interlocked to formed the wings that now stuck out of her back. The only caveat is the system was unable to heal organically, because of the biomechanical nature of the building blocks.

 

'They can be replaced easily enough, though the system at this stage is extremely expensive to impliment, unlike prosthetics.' she thought.

 

"How did you discover what I had been doing?" She was less concerned than she was curious.

 

"Since all your work will be forwarded directly to me from now on, letting you know isn't such afoolish idea. You did most of the insive calculations with the Deep 13. The Deep 13 is my machine and it knows precisely wha tI need to know.

 

'Ah, so when something of interest crosses throgh the Deep 13 it passes it onto Apex. That would make it very difficult to hide any personal project. Whatever we do is inevitalbly handled or touched at some point by the Deep 13.'

 

"I need you to continue to work on this system. I can imagine easily it becoming the most potent weapon of the BioSuits. And, more than anything, I need the system to advance to complete my plans for this one..." His hand again brushed the screen with his preliminary plans for his final BioSuit.

 

Kathryn began to take her leave, but was stopped again by Apex.

 

"Dr. Engelmacht, is there any way we can track the Type 05 series? We've been working to reacquire them, but as you know the Type 05B has escaped even the Type 06's grasp. We will soon have more than enough resources to return them against their will, and perhaps make use of the investments we made on their bodies."

 

Her mind raced, and she kept the fear and knowledge as far from her body language as possible.

 

'They have transponders that locate one another. It's part of being companion BioSuits. If we wanted we could in an instant track them down.'

 

"Not that I know of, sir. We will just have to keep an eye out."

 

'I cannot betray my own creation. Not if I claim to love him. I wish he could return, but if he does it should be by his own will.'

 

Kathryn recalled all this, the meeting fresh in her mind.

 

"If I'm of use then I can still live. But to do all this for one woman... To conquer the world, and evolve the human race for one woman."

 

Kathryn shuddered as she thought of the will neccessary for such an act. If nothing else, Apex deserved the admiration of the world for that alone.

 

---

 

William Sunderland, known to most as Bill or the TestType 06, reclined in opulant wonder. Oh, it had been a good day.

 

For the first time in months sat on a bed, a real bed made of fabrick and springs and blankets. He wore clothes, saw a computer sitting on desk. He had a room, no long er a cell, at least not the traditional kind.

 

Bills eyes managed to encompass everything while remaining closed, taking stock of his new possesions. He felt almost human, but was keen to keep the distinction between the lesser species and himself.

 

'Hughes is dead and now I have been elevated a rank in stature. Surely things are starting to move.'

 

His thoughts turned to Ambrosia, the blue haired goddess that had smiled upon him. She represented something improtant to the Underground, a fundemental change in attitude and aim.

 

'Before the thought was only "Make a BioSuit." Now we can concern ourselves with the real mission, what we were all brought here to accomplish in the first place.'

 

It occured to him that he may have been let free because Ambrosia existed.

 

'If they beleive me tamed by affection for her... No, that's not it. They no longer have to fear me because they do not only have a roque BioSuit, but one that sits comfortably under their thumbs. I have a counterpoint, something to stop me if I run wild.'

 

The prospects wirled in his belly, both exciting and enraging. They were confident that he had been replaced, btu again the thought of battling that woman made him feel alive, filthy.

 

'I cannot procreate, that is true, but my existence still can change the flow of evolution. I think Apex knows this, and that's why I remain. that is what we are here for.' The smile on his face grew, he spoke aloud, "I hope my evolutionary drives don't force me to do wrong."

 

---

 

Stephan Apex couldn't help but feel pride in his creation. Many people had contributed to the success of her, but leading that process, shaping it, made him feel unlike he had since... the creation of the Deep 13.

 

'That was the first time I carved out a new fate with my own hand, fought against the currents of the world and won, created a pocket for myself that no other man could have done.'

 

Ambrosia gave him the same feeling, that he had dug his way out of the quagmire that had almost engulfed the project. Things were moving smoothly, finally the plans that had begun a decade before would be set fully in motion.

 

His mind turned, 'The plans will have to be sent off to Seraph Corp soon. We expose a vulnerable weakness in doing so, but we cannot renege on our end of the bargain. The Dive Machines are too precious to give up now. Of course, they can wait until the other Type 07s are in production. Better to have a pad against accident first than to be left naked if they decided to betray us.'

 

The man-machine interface the Seraph Corporation craved and had bargained for was to be delviered soon. With it meant that they would be able, in theory, to begin to produce their own BioSuits.

 

'But it wont be as easy as copying us. All they will get from us is the Man-machine interface and the Lucretzia Drive AI. They will be left completely in the dark as to the rest of it. It will be up to them to figureour exactly how to use those implants and the AI to their potential.'

 

Ambrosia stood at rapt attention, not moving, eye striaght forward. A model of military precision, she would bea welcome addition to any army.

 

"Ambrosia, relax, you're going to give me nerves."

 

"I am relaxed Mr. Apex."

 

Apex grunted. He wondered whether it was just this girl or the Lucretzia drive as a whole that made her so stiff and formal. He didn't really mind, but it would take some getting used to. The BioSuit would be his official body guard, both inside and outside the Underground. He was confident that the members of the council would not be as foolish as to attempt to assassinate him now that they knew his true identidy, but the threat remained.

 

'And that is why I waited until we finally were met with success. She is both my protection and the reason I would put myself in harms way.'

 

"Ambrosia, you may retire for the evening. Please wake me by 6 tomorrow."

 

Ambrosia nodded curtly, taking her leave. She disappeared into the elevator and deceneded to the level deep i nthe Undergroudnt hat would contain her quarters. Apex had made sure to keep them far from where Bill would be staying.

 

'We can introduce some levity now, we are not at his mercy as we once were, but he is still dangerous. Dangerous and useful, maybe, but were that not the case we'd have eliminated him already.'

 

Apex stood up and stretched, feeling the tension in his body. He was taking a gamble, but they needed to know that thing were progressing. Fear, fear of failure and confidence in the plan is what they needed right now. He would begin to meet with people face to face, as he had when he was getting the Apath Corporation off the ground. There was preliminary work that had to be done, before they prepared for Mass Production.

 

He thought wearily how it might have been done him good to have fulfilled Engelmacht's expectations and forced her to sleep with him. Or even Ambrosia. But no, he had to be stronger than that. Too many great men had been side tracked by the failing of the flesh. His goal after all went well beyond the abuse of power. It was too early for him to get lax.

 

He thought of his dead wife, as though he ever stopped, and knew that he was better for it for her sake, as well.

 

---

 

Ambrosia decended down into the depths of Apath. Her thoughts were immobile, and her body language remained as sharp and compact as it had when she was in front of Apex. She was as she was created, an obediant, intelligent, ruthless killing machine. She harbored no guilt for that. She accepted it as fact. She was Apex' bodyguard. She was his right hand, his tool. Her expression remained the same.

 

From the outside, it seemed as though in his search for a better human, Apex had mistakenly left the humanity out of this one.

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