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Chapter 25 – Exodus April 7, 2009

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The fast-moving hunks of metal flew past, skimming above the ground at lightning speeds, destroying all that got in their way, asserting their right to exist forcibly, starting and stopping according to rules which no man could fathom. Athena drew back from the wide pathway where they ran, stampeding through the large, busy forest of buildings. The noise overwhelmed her – loud piercing irritating noises, footsteps, speech from the hundreds of humans, air whooshing from the machines, overloading her senses until she could hardly tell sky from land.

“Athena. The light’s green.”

Why, so it was. Decidedly green. A tug on her hand, and she realized that Jared wanted her to cross the obvious barrier between the human portion of the road and that which belonged to the machines. Was he mad? She released his hand, drawing back from the deceptively peaceful machine-section, the machines before her purring softly as though to tempt her to step in front of them so they could run her over.

Jared sighed, displeased. “Athena. We have to cross the street. It’s safe, just hold my hand.”

Swallowing back her fears, Athena reached for his hand tentatively. If he wanted her to be gored, crushed beneath the horrific machines, then so be it. Sticking close to him, she hesitantly stepped down onto the roadway; she held her breath until she was safe on the other side, marvelling that she had survived intact.

Cities, she thought, were hazardous. She missed Pallas.

Chapter 24 – High Tension November 25, 2008

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Tick. Tick. Tick.

“I asked you a question, boy.”

Tick. Tick. Tick. Thud. Ares slammed back against the wall, a thick arm at his throat.

“Who. Sent. You. What did they want.”

Ares coughed a few times, struggling to breathe. This hurt! His stoic resolve going out the window, he croaked out, “you, sir!”

A pause. A lessening of pressure. The large, frightening man gave a startled, yet frightening smirk. “Me? Not Vi?” Ares shook his head as the man chuckled. “They sent a boy to capture me?” His chuckles became outright laughter, cold and sadistic.

“Don’t mess yourself, don’t try to run, ton’d lay a finger on Vi, or I will kill you.” The statement uttered, offhanded yet serious, the man-shaped tower turned and left the room.

And left the door open.

Ares sat on his cot, struggling to breathe, for a short while. Surely, the terror with a voice like thunder would return momentarily with some new horror to add to this nightmare. Surely. Any moment now.

Laughter from somewhere upstairs. Light. Warmth.

Almost like an animal drawn to the comfort and light, he crept towards the stairs, then slowly climbde them. At no point did he decide to leave the cellar — he merely moved, letting instinct guide him.

He emerged into a warm, well-lit kitchen. The sights, sounds, smells surrounded and overwhelmed him for a moment; slowly, the images resolved. The Terror leaned against a small wooden table, arms crossed; his partner and The Annoying One stood at a center island, tossing a ball of some sort of dough into the air and spinning it, flour coating their faces, hair, clothes. The laughter was a duet between the soprano tones of the girl and the tenor of the younger scientist, and the Terror’s face held a scarcely present yet undeniably real smile as well.

His stomach betrayed him with a growl. Three heads turned, six eyes fixed him in place. the laughter stopped.

“If you’re going to help, you have to wash your hands,” said the female, matter-of-factly, her hands on her hips. She pointed him to a sink.

“I…uh…” he stammered. This was entirely…. irrelevant? Faced with the unknown, like any small child, he turned and ran back to the safety of his prison.

Chapter 23 – Two Worlds November 25, 2008

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Scott flicked on the light on his way into the Director’s office. He sauntered to a guest chair, lounging casually draping one arm across the back of the chair, knees spread wide. He gave a small smile and a casual nod to the Director’s piercing gaze.

“‘sup?”

An icy glare was the only reply until, with a sigh and exaggerated motions, he shifted to sit in the chair properly.

“You will address me with the respect due my station.” The sentence, as expected of her, was icy and direct. the reply, as expected of him, was warm and sarcastic.

“Yes, ma’am”

Secretly, she burned for him. He knew, but would never tell. Instead, he gave her an easy smile, a conspiratorial wink. She gave him a dark glare. Scott relaxed. If she wasn’t ready to confront her feelings for him, hey, that’d be ok. He’d be here, waiting, when she did.

“You need to take your work enviornment more seriously.”

In Scott’s mind, she rose from behind the desk, sweeping it clear of the various accouterments that cluttered it. In his mind, she pulled a riding crop from the desk drawer, ticking it against her palm once, twice, thrice. “You’ve been a very naughty boy,” she dd not say.

“Is that clear?”

In her own mind, she did no such thing. If she could see into his mind at this moment, it would only serve to reinforce what she already knew — men were pigs, out to get one thing and one thing alone. It was a good thing she had no use for sex — she might, if she were so inclined, waste valuable time drooling over his sandy hair, his luscious blue eyes — why, she might even find herself smitten with his cocky, arrogant smirk! Of all the things, could anyone imagine her, Eva Mendell, smitten like a schoolgirl?

“Yes ma’am.”

Chapter 22 – Untitled November 6, 2008

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Eva sat in her dim office. Alone.

Slowly she lowered her head into her hands.

The dark didn’t reply.

Chapter 21 – Rivalry November 6, 2008

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“Listen, I don’t know what’s gotten into you two, but…”

“He started it!”

“Did not!” “Did too!”

Gregory rubbed his temples, taking a deep breath. His job – perhaps his life – depended on getting adolescent twins to stop arguing. He was doomed.

“Look, Artemis, if you don’t get this resolved, I can’t send you on this mission…”

“Mission?” Both heads swivelled. Four identical eyes lit up before one pair clouded and the other grew stern.

“Why not? She’s just as good as I am…” Artemis’ heart leapt. He didn’t think she was a stupid girl! Apollo silently raged, hands subconsciously balling into fists. How dare their handler make his sister cry?! She was obviously distressed at his words…

Greg frowned a bit. “Of course she is, I didn’t mean to imply… it’s just, she wasn’t able to synch with Selene while you two were fighting.”

Apollo was floored. Eyes misting, he turned to his sister, speechless. “I… I’m so sorry…”

Artemis burst into fresh tears, hugging her brother tightly. “I’m sorry, too….”

“Never, I’ll never hurt you again…”

“No, never, I love you…”

“I love you too….”

Gregory let this go on for a few moments before hesitantly clearing his throat.

“Um, not to interrupt but… we need to get to work sometime soon….”

He gulped as four identical eyes shot four identical glares at him. “…just a thought.” he mumbled. This was going to be a long day.

Chapter 20 – Irritations November 6, 2008

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“So, how’s it work, anyway?”

Ignore her. Irrelevant.

“Hmph. I’ll just figure it out myself, then. It can’t be too hard if a stupid mute kid like you can pilot it.”

Ignore her. Irrel–

“He.”

Violet grinned, pleased with herself. Wouldn’t Dad be proud of her, goading the kid into talking? Caught in a bubble of excitement, she almost missed what it was that he actually said.

“Hmm?”

Ares scowled. “Prometheus is a he, not an it.”

Violet rolled her eyes. “Nuh-uh, it’s just a big toy.”

“Prometheus is not a toy!” Ares sat up, indignent.

The girl merely blinked her eyes at him, perching her chin in folded hands.

“OK.” she said, with a shrug. Ares felt a bit stupid. How was it relevant whether Prometheus was a he or an it? Casually, he rested his back against the wall, trying to dismiss the bubble of pesky, irrelevant feelings this… girl engendered in him.

“So, howsit work?”

Would the torment never cease?

Chapter 19 – Tumbling Down October 27, 2008

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“Did a team of fae dopplegangers replace my team while I slept? I  know I didn’t hire such imbeciles for any project of mine.” The question, as so many the Director asked, was rhetorical. The fury behind it was not.

“Dawson. Are your team prepared for a mission?” The steel gaze pierced through Gregory’s nerve, causing him to stammer, struggling to explain. How could he explain?

“Ah, that is to say, they are not yet prepared for full tactical… ah, not that they’re unprepared, so to speak, just, there’s a bit of a…. not a setback,” he gulped, remembering Jared. “A snafu, perhaps, a…”

“Shut up.” hissed the Director. “Perhaps I should keep the children and terminate every last one of my staff instead!”

Nervous tension filled the silence as the Director paced. Terminate… She can’t do that, can she? She means fire, doesn’t she?

Doesn’t she?

“Incompetent fools!” Now her voice was reaching a fever pitch, her pacing rapidly losing the air of self-control. Was that tug of the collar, that sweat, due to Gregory’s nerves? Come to think of it, it was rather warm in the room, thought Paul…

“How was my boy captured?” asks Scott casually. “Or didn’t you get that information from the support unit? Were you too busy having tea and cookies to bather with a real debriefing?”

A slap rang out, sharp and crisp through the council room. None dared breathe, watching the scene. Eva stood half-crouched, panting, her eyes wild, her hands half-clawed; Scott pressed his fingertips to his cheek, eyebrows raised, a smirk on his face. A moment passed. Another. Finally, The Director straightened, tugging on the ends of her blouse to rid it of the wrinkles. She casually fiddled with her sleeves, lazily, the tiger in charge of its domain once more. The room relaxed a little, breathing resumed.

“There was a failed prototype from an earlier project at the dwelling, which I did not include in the briefing because it was beyond the weapon’s security clearance. It was assumed that the prototype was cryogenically frozen; they must have had enough warning to reactivate her before the attack.”

The Director gazed out at her team, her hard eyes inspecting each in turn. “Dawson, prepare your team for a mission. Robertson, feed ADONIS the information about the theft.” The Director turned to exit the room, her heels clicking as she crossed to the doorway before looking back, dark eyes twinkling, a hint of a smirk playing at her mouth. She was amused by something. Gregory nearly wet himself.

“And Scott?”

“Yes ma’am?” Scott didn’t seem worried – but then, he never did. Still, the use of his proper name unsettled Gregory and Paul a little – they could only imagine what Scott was thinking.

“See me in my office immediately.”

Chapter 18 – Homo Sapiens October 9, 2008

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Warm daylight shone down upon her face. She blinked a few times, stirring faintly. They were heading for a building she’d never been in. She lay still, closing her eyes again.

She opened her eyes with a start at the feel of leather against her skin as Jared fastened a safety harness around her. She blinked, tracing his movements with her eyes as he fastened himself into the driver’s seat to her left. The small vehicle sealed itself air-tight and began to move.

Athena’s mind worked furiously. What was going on? She compiled and assembled the facts:

  • Fact: She had failed most of her recent examinations
  • Fact: Jared was not mad at her.
  • Fact:Jared had seemed agitated when he entered.
  • Fact: Jared had brought a syringe with him when he entered.
  • Fact: Jared had not explained the syringe.
  • Fact: The pinch had felt rather light compared to the pain of inoculation needles.
  • Fact: She wore no bandage, nor was there blood on her arm.
  • Postulation: She had not been pierced by his needle?
  • Fact: She had been told to lie still.
  • Fact: She was now leaving the compound.

Was she… being kidnapped? Her heart leapt. Jared wouldn’t do that. Was there some danger? Had the compound been compromised?

Jared began to speak softly.

“You were born and raised on a moon called Titan, in orbit around a planet called Saturn – you can see Saturn from here, actually, over that ridge. Your genes were engineered to produce what we call psychokinetic power – do you understand?”

“Psycho, from psȳch, related to the mind. Kinetic, from kīnétikós, to move. That’s how I move Pallas.” Athena was pleased to note the weary smile on Jared’s face – she had once again pleased him.

Jared sighed a little before continuing, tousling her hair affectionatly. “Yes. Your knowledge of etymology is, as ever, spot on. But, I’m trying to get across something new. Listen. You were engineered, yes, your genes were manipulated, but under it all, your basic DNA is human. You’re a human being, Athena, can you understand that? Do you understand what that means?”

Athena pursed her lips, thinking. Of course she knew what a human was – homo sapiens, a specific species of Terran primate, though tto be the only Terran species (and possibly the only species in the universe) with self-awareness. Of course she knew she was human in a dim fashion. She was a girl, girls were human. But the earnest pleading in his voice stopped her. Surely such a basic matter of biology wouldn’t carry enough weight to cause that reaction. What was he getting at?

“I.. I think so… but I’m… I fear I may not understand the question….?”

Jared sighed, clearly dissapointed. Wrong answer. “…of course you don’t. How could you? Don’t worry about it, sweetheart.”

Athena frowned, thinking harder. Humans styled themselves more intrinsically valubale than “lesser” lifeforms due to their intelligene. Athena was considered intelligent. The main example of their value was that they felt free to abuse or destroy “dumb” animals – their origin myths often involved divine right being granted over animals. So… “..because I’m intelligent? So I’m considered more intriniscally valubale than a less intelligent species such as cattle?”

Jared blinked, startled. “Yes, yes, that’s exactly it! You’re a human being, so you deserve to live, not be slaughtered cruelly because you didn’t meet some standard like… like a faulty computer chip or something.”

Athena beamed. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men – meaning all humans –  are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” she recites, proudly. Jared’s grin slips a little.

“Ah, yes. But, do you know what that means?”

Athena frowns. “The writers meant that all human beings have certain rights, primarily the right to live freely and persue happiness where it can be found. Notably, they don’t list the right to be happy, just the right to persue it…”

Jared rubs at his temples. “…right. Athena, I’m taking you away from here, ok?”

She blinks. “… Am I going on a mission?”

“No,” he replies, quickly. “You’ll never have to go on missions again.”

Athena blanches. “Am I … going to die?”

Jared pounded the dashboard in frusturation. “I just said you weren’t! I’m freeing you, Athena, don’t you get it? You’re safe now. I’ve rescued you.”

Athena said nothing, quietly wondering what she had been rescued from, exactly.

Chapter 17 – Irrelevance October 5, 2008

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“Hello.”

The storeroom door had, a moment before, whispered open, and clicked shut. Ares couldn’t muster up the desperation nor the energy required to rush for freedom, not with them starving him like this…

“I brought you a meat pie.”

Now they tortured him with poisoned food! Would the horror never end?

“I brought one for each of us. This one’s a little bigger but it’s just the crust, I measured the filling myself.”

Ares blinked at the strange person himself. The other boy had long, brown waves of hair and brilliant violet eyes, and just a hint of bumps on his chest – concealed weapons, perhaps? With a start, his mental picture came into focus, and he felt a tad embarrassed. The girl before him was, after all, the first he’d seen in person in his life. Still, her gender was irrelevant.

“Hey. Don’t you talk?”

Her talkativeness, on the other hand, was highly annoying.

“What’s your name, kid?” she demanded of him. Always demanding, this girl was. He could tell she’d be a distraction right off the bat. Well, he wouldn’t cave to her torturous demands.

“Irrelevant.” he said, sulkily.

“Irrelevant? That’s a funny name.” Oh, how mercilessly she mocked him. Still, he would not cave to her odd interrogation – he was a soldier, far better trained and more deadly than she was.

Ares scowled at the impish girl, irritated. “It means, my name doesn’t matter.”

She scowled right back at him. “I know what it means, I got top marks in vocabulary, so there.” she said, sticking out her tongue. “Stupid boy. I bet you don’t even have a proper name.”

“I do so!” he argued, crossing his arms. “And it’s way better than your stupid name, I’ll bet.”

“Oh yeah?” She replied, crossing her own arms over those mocking bumps on her chest. “
I’m
Violet.”

“Violet’s a stupid name.” he said, triumphant, before remembering his mission. “And anyway, you’re irrelevant. I’m supposed to be waiting for instructions.”

“Well I instruct you to tell me your name.” Violet must think she’s very clever, thought Ares, but really she was just a stupid girl who didn’t understand anything.

“I don’t take orders from you.” Ares closed his eyes, rolling onto his side to face away from her, his arms still crossed. This girl, Violet, was not in his briefing; therefore, she must be irrelevant.

She Was irrelevant.

She was… touching him?! One finger, in a rough poke. Ares snapped his eyes open, turning to glare at her, only to find her looming over him. He jumped a little, sitting up and pushing away from her constant presence. The girl laughed at him – Laughed! At him!

“It’s not funny.” he said, sulkily, looking away. The girl left the meat pie on the corner of the cot, turning to go.

“Fine. I’ve got more important things to do anyway.”

Ares watched her go. Somehow, when she left, the room seemed far colder and emptier than it had before she entered.

Stupid girl.

Chapter 16 – Endings October 5, 2008

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Athena looked up as the door opened, hugging her knees. It wasn’t yet time for food and long past time to start on the tests – Jared shouldn’t be here now. Furthermore, his face was unreadable stone, his footsteps heavy. Nervously, she drew her notebook to her chest, guarding her mathematics work fearfully. What was going on?

“Is… is something wrong?”

Athena didn’t like the look in Jared’s eyes as he responded, softly, “Go lay down. I need to give you a.. a shot.”

Athena obediently walked over to the bed, still on edge. Something wasn’t right here. She lay down, holding out her arm for him to tie a tourniquet to as he held up a small syringe of liquid.

“Am I behind on my vaccinations?” she asked, nervously. Jared twitched slightly, shaking his head just a little. Why wasn’t he saying anything, smiling, reassuring her, engaging in light conversation? He must be very disappointed in her progress. Athena began to cry a little.

“Please.. I’ll do better, I swear, only please, just don’t be mad at me…”

Jared startled a little, pausing his probing of her arm to find the vein.

“Mad?” he asked, confused. “I’m not mad…”

Athena looked up at him through her tears as Jared reached with his thumb to gently brush them away.

“Shh, Athena… sweetie, I’m not mad. Don’t cry.”

Athena nodded a little, sniffling. “..okay,” she said softly, lying still. Jared found her vein, taking the pulse with two fingers. He flicked the syringe twice, then bent over, kissing her forehead.

“Lie very still and do not move,” he whispered, as she felt a slight pinch. She closed her eyes, going limp. A moment later, she felt him lift her, carrying her out of her chambers.

What was going on?