Beta fic. Enjoy.
The Asylum of the Damned presents…
A bitter wind whipped around his ears, and he pulled up the dull red scarf snugly around his cheekbones. “Right eye to left eye, everything looks clear,” he said, raising the pair of bulky binoculars to his eyes and scanning the skyline, perched on the roof of the tallest high-rise around the cluster of buildings around the city square.
“Left eye here,” came the voice in his ear, “not a single one of those bastards in sight. Right eye, you’re sure you’ve got the right one this time?”
“As sure as I’m going to be,” he replied. “Now don’t slack off- keep watch. Mother brain, how’s everything running?”
“All systems running smoothly, right eye. The radar isn’t picking up a thing, at least not anything hostile, anyway. She should be coming across South Square anytime now.”
“Hand, did you copy that?”
“Got it. Mother brain, are you positive you can’t single her out?”
“You’re on your own, kid. Hang on; one subject is breaking away from the crowd. Right eye, this could be her!”
“Get ready, hand. We’ll provide cover fire if you need it.”
“Cover fire? What for? She’s just a kid, isn’t she?”
“Yes, but I don’t feel like taking any more chances. Our radar can’t pick up individual officers, remember?”
There was a heavy sigh. “Mother brain, where is she?”
“About sixty feet from your current position, hand.”
“We’ve already drawn too much attention to ourselves. So hand, don’t fuck up.”
“Thanks for the encouragement, left eye.”
A Sanitarium Studios production…
Frosty pink-dyed hair ruffled in the light breeze on the streets, and she wrapped her arms around her chest, wishing she had worn a heavier coat than just the pale blue windbreaker. Serenity headed down the dirty and unkempt sidewalks, with one hand on the left strap of her backpack and the other clenched tightly around the can of mace in her purse. The slums always scared her, but it was unfortunately the safest route to head home from school. At least all she had to worry about was a homeless beggar or two in the alleys, as opposed to the mercenaries that infested the subways and bus stations. Just the thought of running into one of those reckless rebels frightened her to no end, and the memory of the gigantic explosion that had rocked the city all the way from the hundreds of oil refineries miles removed from the outskirts was still fresh in her brain. Trains, buses, cars, buildings- nothing was safe from that rogue terrorist faction, and for all she could fathom, they were intent on overturning her entire island country by obliterating it one city at a time. Although all she had ever heard on the television and radio was how inept the current regime was- from launching unemployment and inflation through the roof while driving the infrastructure and workforce into the ground, Serenity felt much safer in the hands of fools than in the hands of madmen.
She crossed the empty street before her and stepped onto the curb, behind a truck parked by the sidewalk. Before she could even take two steps forward, a slender figure in a dingy trench coat shot from the alley, pinning her to the side of the truck. “Right eye, I’ve got her!” Fuelled by nothing but instinct, Serenity let out a deafening scream and ripped her arm out of her purse, shoving the nozzle of her mace can into her ski-masked assailant and spraying a cloud into his face. The cloaked man dropped to his knee and palmed his face, yelping as Serenity spun around and ran for her life. Seconds later, the same ski-masked assailant hand her around the waist, clamping a hand over her mouth and holding her tight. She struggled against him to no avail, and her muffled screams only made it harder for her to hear what he was saying. “Calm down, lady! I’m not here to hurt you!”
“Oh shit,” came a familiar voice from the tiny speakers underneath his ski-mask, “Right eye, chopper in the air!”
“Left eye, evasive plan number 3, pronto! Mother brain, get the girl and Hand, now!”
“Mother brain, where are you?”
“I’m at 93rd and 24th- directly north, Hand!”
Serenity had brought her leg up, and jammed the heel of her running shoes into her captor’s knee. Serenity broke free as he yowled, dashing down the streets again. Lunging at Serenity with his good leg, the trench coat stranger caught Serenity’s left ankle, planting her face-first onto the sidewalk. He hobbled to Serenity’s side and hoisted her up onto his shoulder, with Serenity too dazed and dizzy to fight back.
The roar of helicopter blades suddenly filled the air, and the unmistakeable sound of machine gun fire tore into the streets below. “Mother brain, get those van doors open!” he yelled.
A black van suddenly backed up into the intersection ahead, and the rear doors flew wide open. “Get in! Hurry!”
The masked stranger dove into the van with Serenity still slung over his shoulder, barely managing to slam the doors shut before a hailstorm of bullets pummelled the thick metal shell of the van. Tires screeched and the van roared away down the streets, careening with reckless abandon until it shot out of the streets of the slums and into the badlands on the city outskirts. “Mission complete,” said the driver.
“Good,” came a voice from over the radio lodged in the dashboard, “Left eye and myself will rendezvous with you back at Nervous central. Out.”
The trench coat wearing figure tore off his ski mask, breathed a heavy sigh of relief, and let Serenity flop against the side of the van. “Oh shit,” he suddenly gasped.
“Oh shit what?” asked the driver.
The large bullet wound had bored a hole through Serenity’s throat just underneath her chin, and gushed out a torrent of blood on the van’s floor.
Her head hurt. All she knew at that moment was that she had a splitting headache, and it was difficult for her to open her eyes. The first thing she saw was a wash of blurry colours, slowly beginning to focus and sharpen as a pair of hands helped her up. “You okay, commander?” a voice from behind her asked.
“Commander?” Serenity moaned, gazing at the two blurry figures in front of her. A dusty feeling seeped into her lungs, and her vision finally cleared once she was set on her feet. Two men, one slim and the other quite portly, each gazed at her with concern. “What happened?” she moaned, turning around to take a glance at the figure behind her.
Piercing, soulless blue eyes glared back down at her from a solid and emotionless face, terrifying her immediately. “Who are you?” she gasped, jumping backwards in shock.
“Commander?” The slim one muttered again. “Are you okay?”
“She did hit her head pretty hard,” the wider man said, rubbing his forehead.
Serenity was immediately aware of a swelling on the middle of her forehead, though she was still too startled to even look away from the creepy bald man beside her. “What-?” She stammered, “Who are you people?”
“Prototype development unit, serial number X-1377-INCT,” said the bald man in a hoarse and toneless voice, not even showing a shred of expression. The rotund man quickly strode to the bald man’s side, and jabbed his elbow into his ribs. The bald man cleared his throat. “Dave.”
All Serenity could do was just stare blankly at the two as the slender figure joined their side. “Amnesia, you think?” He suggested.
Serenity finally took a glance around at her surroundings, and it took all of her power to stop herself from collapsing. A barren wasteland sprawled around her for all that she could see, wreckage of just about everything imaginable strewn across the land. The entire landscape looked like an empty junkyard, and the skies had been painted a bleak, sickly brownish-red. “What’s going on here?” she asked, “And why do you keep calling me commander?”
They just looked at her and stared.
“What?” Serenity murmured uneasily.
Dave reached his hand into his pocket, and fished out a small envelope. “What’s that?” asked the slender man, looking over Dave’s shoulder. “Not to be opened unless I start to act strangely,” he read aloud.
The more portly man looked at Serenity again. “She’s definitely not acting like herself,” he said.
Dave ripped open the envelope and slid out the small folded sheet of paper inside. “If you are reading this,” Dave droned, “then do exactly what this letter says. If I start acting bizarrely, then knock me out immediately.”
“Knock her out?” the slender man repeated in disbelief.
”Knock me out?” Serenity gasped.
Dave nodded. “Do not let me cancel this order. No matter what I say, you are ordered to knock me unconscious immediately.”
“Me?” Serenity gasped, “You can’t be talking about me!”
“But before you do, tell me to ask for Alex. Your commander, Serenity.”
Serenity’s jaw dropped. Dave let the letter fall to the ground. “Executing command,” he droned, stepping forward.
“No-! You can’t!” Serenity pleaded. “I’m your commander, am I? I order you to stop!”
“Negative,” Dave muttered without empathy, “command overridden.”
Before Serenity could say or do anything, Dave had her arms clenched firmly in his hands. Serenity struggled and writhed in futility, squeezing her eyes shut as Dave raised an arm.
A quick smack to her temples later, and the world around her drifted away.
When her eyes opened, all she could feel was a burning sensation deep inside of her throat, feeling many bandages wrapped around her neck. She was still lying inside the van, with a thick blanket draped over her body. The doors were wide open, leading to the inside of a garage of sorts. All she could make out as he vision began to clear again was four figures standing just outside the van, deep inside a heated argument.
“I’ve had it, Alex!” the tall, stocky man with a crew cut sneered. “There is no way I’m following you on another one of your crazy suicide missions!”
The dark-haired man with the thin goatee glared back at him. “Nobody’s ordering you to stay with us, Wright. You can quit anytime you want.”
“Quit?” Wright laughed, “I’m not quitting. I’m saying that you’re unfit to lead.”
There was a long silence.
“Fine. We’ll take a vote right now.”
“Fine with me.”
Alex turned to the slim man at his side with long brown pony-tailed hair. “Hacks?”
The slim man pushed his large blue eye visor further up his nose. “Sorry, but I’m going to have to side with Wright this time.”
Alex was stunned. “You are?”
Hacks hung his head. “I’m sorry, commander.”
Alex turned to the shorter man on his other side. “Luke?”
Luke shook his head apprehensively and ran his fingers through his ruffled locks of plentiful blonde hair. “I’m on Wright’s side this time, too.”
“See?” Wright said. “No one wants to trust their lives on some crazy theory, Alex. I’m taking charge now.”
Alex glanced at Hacks, and then at Luke. They both turned their heads, avoiding any eye contact. “Okay Wright, you win,” said Alex with a heavy sigh. “As of now, I turn all operations-”
“Hey, what’s going on out there?”
The sudden murmur from inside the van made all four freeze immediately.
“What the fuck was that?” Luke murmured under his breath, staring into the van.
A tired moan echoed out from inside the van, and Serenity sat up, shoving the blankets off of her body.
“What the-?” Hacks gasped. Wright could only stare in disbelief at Serenity.
Alex grinned. “As I was saying, Wright,” he continued, “I turn all operations under my command only.” Then, nudging Wright in the ribs, he said, “I told you I was right.”
“But-!” Luke stammered, pointing at Serenity’s bloody throat, “she’s dead!”
“Hacks, get those spare quarters ready. Wright, go help Hacks set up.”
Wright muttered under his breath before he turned and left the small garage, disappearing along with Hacks into hallways within.
Luke was still staring blankly at Serenity. “Alex,” he muttered, “She died.”
“She doesn’t look dead to me,” said Alex. “Get some painkillers and some water, Luke.”
Luke let out a defeated sigh. “I’m going to take a few aspirins too,” he muttered, rubbing his forehead and wandering out of the garage.
With everyone else out of the room, Alex walked towards the van doors, and sat on the edge of the fender. “Hi there,” he said, smiling invitingly at Serenity. “You have a name?”
Serenity hesitated for a long time before she weakly murmured, “Serenity.”
“Serenity,” Alex repeated. “That’s a nice name.”
“And you’re… Alex?”
“Right,” said Alex. “How did you know that, Serenity?”
Serenity paused. She only had a fleeting memory of what seemed to be a nightmare to her from only minutes ago. “Someone told me to ask for you,” she said. Then, in a sheepish, low tone, the murmured, “in a dream.”
Alex let out a sigh of relief. “Come on out of the van now,” he said, extending his hand to Serenity, “we’re going to be best friends, you and I.”
Serenity sunk deeper into the van. “Friends?” She repeated. “You’re not some kind of weirdo pervert, are you?”
Alex rolled his eyes. “How’s your throat? Okay?”
Serenity rubbed her throat. “It’s fine, I guess.”
“That’s good to hear,” said Alex, “Considering you just died ten minutes ago.”
Serenity blanked out. “Died?” Her hands flew to her throat, immediately remembering the bullet plunging through her neck.
“Yes, died,” Alex repeated. “And now you’re alive again. Want to know why?”
Serenity nodded. “How?”
“Come with me to my office, Serenity,” said Alex. “I’ve got quite a story for you.”