A sample chapter from an unfinished novella posted in response to the Daily Post’s Daily Prompt “Back to the future.”
It had been several days, that she was sure of.
The “debriefing”, as it was being called, had been nothing short of brutal. No food, water or sleep for longer than was tolerable by most human beings; but then, she wasn’t like anyone else. She understood the gravity of the situation. She’d failed, she’d missed her target, deserted her team and gotten them all killed. There was always going to be some animosity and these were soldiers, she’d killed their friends. The fact that she was just a teenager made no difference to them; she was a soldier too as far as they were concerned and she’d deserted them.
The beatings were par for the course when you refused to talk, she knew that, but they could never know why she’d ran. Why she’d panicked and fled the only mission she’d been sent to do. That’s what it was. They could dress it down as much as they liked; she wasn’t stupid. She knew what they wanted. An easy job as far as her handler was concerned. Not so easy when you were a child with no experience of the real world. That had been their mistake. Bred in a laboratory; unknowingly trained to be an assassin; the ultimate soldier; the very best in genetic engineering with one unexpected flaw. A firm sense of morality. That had been Jim’s influence; his devotion to her had changed their programming and given her a dimension unnecessary in a soldier.
She was barely conscious now; fresh blood drying on her brow bone. That last punch had been a good one but not good enough to put her down. If they hadn’t restrained her she’d have killed them all.
Seven soldiers had taken their turn putting the boot in. Friends and colleagues of those lost in her failed mission. Frustrated and angry; raging at the young girl strapped to the steel chair. Her subconscious strength bending and warping the arm rests she was gripping.
They’d finally left her after being ordered out to the facility boundary to patrol. Night must’ve fallen; it was hard to tell in her windowless prison.
As far as she could make out, the politician they’d been sent to assassinate as part of the “field test” was blaming the Americans for the attempt on his life. Now his country was threatening to declare war. This was a big mess; a mess she had created, no wonder they’d refused to let her die.
The door to the room opened suddenly. She struggled to lift her head, readying herself to face her attackers once more. The white coat in front of her was startling but the red hair and lipstick were a dead giveaway. Miss Blood strode further into the room.
“Well now. I’d like to say I’m sorry for your treatment so far.”
The girl coughed and spat a large blood clot onto the floor.
“But you’d be lying.” She croaked as she spat some more. “You could’ve stopped them at any time.”
Miss Blood smirked making no effort to hide her amusement. “Be that as it may, my intention was never to see you physically punished for your desertion.”
“No, my being alive is punishment enough, right?” She leaned her head down to the arm of the chair in an attempt to wipe her mouth; instead smearing the blood and spit across her chin.
“Let’s just say, a lot of money was invested in your project and we have investors to please so, having you end the experiment was never part of the plan.”
The door opened as the girl raised her head again. A medic entered the room holding a hypodermic needle.
“What, so now you’re going to drug me too?” She laughed painfully, her bruised ribs complaining heavily. She let her head fall forward, too exhausted to hold it up any longer.
“It’s just a sedative; we need you to get some rest.”
The medic approached as Miss Blood left the room, the clicking of her heels across the floor outside barely audible as the door swung closed. She didn’t fight as the medic injected her; she was too exhausted to argue and just a little intrigued as to why exactly she needed to be rested. More beatings she supposed. After all, what fun could you have attacking someone when they were already down. As the drugs flooded her system making her veins feel like ice she found herself wondering about Jim. She really hoped he wasn’t suffering the same fate for trying to help her run. She missed him, the only person in the world who treated her like a human being, not an experiment or a military project. His face filled her mind as she slipped into a comfortable blackness.
It couldn’t have been many hours after the sedative injection when she woke. Wrapped in a scratchy grey blanket, on an army issue bunk, in the corner of her windowless cell. They’d dressed her in army issue training gear two sizes too big and without shoes or boots. She shook her head, still fuzzy from the drugs. It took her a few seconds to realise the reason for her waking. The ear splitting alarm rang throughout the room as she guessed it did throughout the building. There must be a fire or an assault on the compound defences. She tried to stand on legs unwilling to oblige. Shrugging the blanket off she felt her way across the wall in the pitch black darkness. How on earth was she going to escape? There was no doubt she would be last on the list of evacuees, as far as the soldiers were concerned, and having proved the neuro download successful they could always store her brain waves and get her a new body. She shuddered at the thought. That wasn’t happening again if she had her way.
She reached out across the wall as far as she could, still drug dazed and disorientated. Suddenly, the door on the far wall opened; bright light momentarily dazzling her. She held up her hand to try to block the light and see who was in the door way.
“Come on, quickly.”
A grey figure held out a hand towards her and gestured for her to come through the door. Despite her wariness she obeyed, ignoring all instincts telling her to punch and run. Once out in the hall way her eyes began to adjust slowly. The grey figure took her elbow and hurried her along the corridor; purposefully walking slightly behind her, making it almost impossible to see their face.
“Listen to me very carefully,” the figure whispered in hoarse tones. “At the end of this corridor is the tech ops room, if you want to escape you need to disable all of the internal network through the main computer. Once you’ve done that, leave the compound through the side office door. I’ll take care of the rest.”
She turned, her mouth open ready to question this person and their reason for releasing her, but as she turned the grey figure disappeared round the next corner and into the adjoining corridor. She was confused but far more interested in escape than in following the stranger who’d freed her.
As she reached the end of the corridor the panic amongst the compound operatives was palpable. Soldiers and technicians dashed along the adjoining corridors barking out orders. The facility alarm still blared out, drowning out any coherent speech, as the staff tried to determine the reason for the disturbance. Leaning back close to the wall, she peered into the tech ops room. There were just two operatives, each sat at a terminal now flashing with bright red lights and closed-circuit TV pictures. No guards. They must’ve gone outside the compound to deal with the source of the panic.
She hesitated. She didn’t want to hurt these people, they were not the reason she was here, but escaping without detection was going to be difficult if she didn’t at least subdue them enough to take control of the terminals.
Sucking in a deep breath she launched herself at the first operative, spinning him round and dealing him a blow to the side of head so fast he didn’t even have time to register what was happening. As he slumped unconscious across the keyboard in front of him the second operative turned to see what had happened. In that split second she dealt him a glancing blow in same the way. Sometimes her speed and power frightened her. It wasn’t alien to her but she knew it wasn’t right or normal to be that fast and that strong. It felt wrong down to her very core and she guessed that was the root cause for her panic during that ill-fated mission with the army.
She dragged both men across the floor and leaned them both against the opposite wall. Whatever was panicking the whole facility, she had a feeling that no one was in immediate danger and that they’d be picked up when the chaos was over.
She turned to the first terminal and tried to access all of the internal systems but it locked her out every time she tried. She really didn’t have time for this. Anger began to flare in her chest. Why must these people make everything so damn complicated? She backed out of the main program and accessed the basic map and surveillance systems, hoping to trick the network into letting her in through the basic programming. Halfway through scrolling something caught her eye.
Life Support for Regeneration Containers
That must’ve been the tank they’d pulled her out of. Containers? That meant there were more. More containers meant more bodies; the implications of that fact suddenly hit her. Rage began to build inside her as she scanned through the maps to pinpoint the bay which housed the containers. More bodies meant more downloads; that meant that once they had perfected the system they could download anyone’s neural imprint. The idea of dozens of soldiers as fast and powerful as her was horrifying. It was beyond wrong. So far beyond wrong she had to put a stop to it.
Once she’d figured out where the bay was in relation to the tech ops room, she turned and kicked the terminal from its desk along with the tower attached to it, and the terminal next to it. They hit the floor, shattering into a thousand pieces. She wasn’t sure if she’d damaged it enough. Building up the kinetic energy that had been fuelled by her rage – until a static charge flew from her fingers in blue sparks – she punched the shattered remains of both towers simultaneously, driving the static deep inside to disrupt and warp all the internal systems.
She backed out the room, checking the corridor for compound staff, before heading straight to the container bay. What she saw when she reached it defied all expectation. The bay was colossal. It must’ve housed over five hundred containers, each one containing a body just like hers, all with her face and hair. Identical, right down to the tiniest detail. It chilled her to the bone. What exactly did these people think they were doing? Her rage reignited at the indecency of it all. Her life, her creation was a means to an end; they intended to use her as a blueprint for government sanctioned killing machines. Assassins capable of inhuman strength and speed. She had to destroy it; destroy them all. She took a step back and launched a solid front kick at the nearest container. Its glass shattered on impact, releasing the embryonic fluid surrounding the body within. Her rage now in full flow, she attacked the front row of containers shattering them all. Screams of rage flew from her as she kicked and punched until the futility of it hit her. This would take too long, there had to be an easier way. There had to be an external power source.
She searched the bay, following the electrical cables leading from the containers, until she found the electrical switch box in the far corner of the room. The compound alarm was still blasting away so she didn’t need to be quiet in what she was doing. She punched the box cover with all of her strength, denting and warping it at the centre, causing the corners of it to turn up. It was just enough for her to wedge her fingers under it and pull it open. She was aware that there was precious little time to waste. She tensed her muscles and put all of her remaining energy into raising the static electricity across her skin. She treated the switch box in the same way she had the tech ops terminals. Huge sparks flew from the wall mounted box and every container in the bay began to wail along with compound alarm.
That was her cue to exit.
Racing to the fire doors at the back of the bay, she launched herself at them and crashed out into the cool night air, her breathing laboured and her skin slick with sweat. She had no idea where to go next; the outside of the compound seemed deserted. She had no clue where in the world she was. What city or for that matter what country. Right now it mattered little where she was but more where she was going.
As she glanced around the outer perimeter of the compound – surrounded by a fifty-foot fence – spot lights chased unseen enemies. Just then she spotted them. Two grey figures rushing towards a gap in the fence. Whether these were her liberators was unclear, but one thing was definite, if you were compound staff you didn’t leave through a gap in the perimeter fence. Gathering the last ounce of energy she had, she ran towards the gap, and the grey figures, with an awesome burst of speed. She didn’t make it before the figures disappeared. Over the embankment at the other side of the fence, they escaped in what looked like an armoured vehicle. She was suddenly very aware that she was on her own.
Scrambling down the dark slope, her fingers grasping to find purchase on the loose soil, she began to realise where she was. Or at least what type of terrain she was in. As she hit the bottom of the embankment her bare feet sank into cold desert sand. Great, she thought, stranded in the middle of a desert in god only knows what country.
No sooner had the thought entered her head, she was forced to take cover as an almighty explosion rocked the ground beneath her. The compound was a ball of flame, lighting up the desert sky. The staff and military personnel scattered, running for their lives. Someone would have made an emergency call and the recovery crews would be here soon. With this in mind she scanned the dark desert surroundings looking for a rocky outcropping or formation large enough to hide in. The dark would offer some cover but once the rescue helicopters arrived there would be no chance of going undetected. Desperation suddenly gripped her. How the hell was she going to get herself out this mess?
Scanning the area, she spotted a large shape looming out of the dark. She ran as fast as she could, her feet slipping and her strength fading, the unmistakeable sound of approaching helicopters filling the air. Panic spread through her muscles as she made it to a large rock formation with an opening wide enough for her squeeze into.
As she hunched down in the small dark space she finally allowed herself to relax. Exhaustion hit her full force as she crouched with her head resting on her knees. This was a living nightmare. She had no idea where she was, how she was going to escape or even where she was going. The simple fact that someone had freed her begged the question “what now?” Shame her admirers hadn’t stuck around long enough to answer that particular query. As she rubbed her face on the knees of her camouflage training bottoms realisation dawned. They’d dressed her in desert camo training gear. Surely that was too much of a coincidence. If it had been done purposely, then that meant that whoever had set her free, had been working in the compound. Maybe not everyone working for Miss Blood considered her a traitor or an experiment. That thought circled her mind as she drifted from consciousness; exhaustion finally taking her in its grip. She probably wasn’t safe hiding here but she was just too fatigued to care.