A fist to my face, then another kick to my ribs, spinning stars fill my vision as Cedric commenced to beating my ass. The crowd around us were cheering, relishing in the bloodlust Jynx Ellison, our boss, had created.
As blood seep into my eye, I wonder what would make a person come up with something like this?
The black Timberland boot that had probably broken one of my ribs, was now swiftly heading toward my face, I ducked and balled my fist, punching straight for his crotch. He screamed, as his knees buckled, his body crumpling to the floor, I took that moment to return the favor of doing my best David Beckham impersonation to his cranium.
“Yes!” Jynx cheered, clapping his hands with glee, causing our ruthless peers to join him in praise of this animalistic behavior. “That’s what I’m talking about Cydnee, that why I bet my money on your ass, you got the one thing no one else here has, that’s adaptability. These filthy bitches drag you into the pits, you learn to fight dirty to survive, I love it.”
“Fuck you and all of this! I quit.. this is bullshit.”
“Aww, just hold on, calm down. Listen up everybody, I know none of you see the point of this, but I promise you there is one!” He reach down to grab hold of a metal suitcase, he put his hand on top and it scanned his print, unlocking to reveal several jars of some kind of cream.
“You have us beat each other nearly to death, just to hawk us some godforsaken bootleg Avon cream, you could have given us the beauty consultation before robbing us of it in the first place.”
He walked over to me, and reached into the jar he had, pulling up a healthy dollop of the colorless translucent cream. It had a numbing sensation as he smear it across my tender bruised eye area, damn near broken jaw line, and lacerated forehead. I felt a little bit of tingling that went away just as it began to get uncomfortable, the whole process taking just under forty five seconds. There was a resounding chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’, and I look around nervously as Shaw walked up to me slowly to examine my face.
“Impressive, what name are we gonna sell this by?” He commented, bringing his hand to my face, handling it like glass as he turn it from side to side. “I see military and commercial applications.”
“That’s why you’re on the payroll Shaw McCreed, this newly crafted and patented liquid gold is ‘RepreXi-Gel’. Don’t worry Cyd, the numbing will cease sometime in the next three to six hours. Hey, I never said it perfect.” Jynx shrugged as he started to hand out samples to the battered, bloodied, and bruised participants in his little gladiatorial coliseum. “Oh, and sorry Todd, it doesn’t grow back teeth, but I know someone that’ll patch that spacey grill right on up, when we get back home.. you too, Linda from accounting.”
“This stuff is revolutionary..” Aemous commented, as he examined his sample, no doubt taking notes for Madeleine Astor.
“And this is only the beginning, the primary reason I promoted Zachari Grannison was because he could provide results, this was his brainchild and a product that will usher Arkham into the future.”
There was a round of applause for Zachari, who stood off to the side, smiling nervously as Grayson gingerly pat him on the back, it was a redeeming moment for him.
“Everyone, tonight we are going to celebrate this major achievement with drink, herb, and a hearty meal! They say tonight will be the first snowfall, and the moons of Saturn are supposed to be visible in the clarity before the storm, it’ll be an amazing good time.”
“I don’t think many of us like your idea of an ‘amazing good time’, I say that with all due respect, sir.” Shaw replied, seemly the only one other than myself, who was bold enough to actually call out our boss on his shit.
“Well you’re gonna like this, that’s a promise.”
There was a collective groan from some of the others and myself, when Jynx Ellison made promises, only trouble followed.
~~ ☆ ”That’s right, pleased to meet you.. I still won’t tell you my name. Don’t you believe in mystery, Don’t you want to play my game.. “ ~~
As the bass kicked from the speakers, several of my peers gyrate and dance to the music, the nostalgic sounds of Vanity’s voice to the tune of ‘’Nasty Girl’ seem to wash away the hours before. When several of us were tearing each other apart, piece by piece, to the entertainment of our insatiable employer.
~~ ☆ “Tonight I’m livin’ in a fantasy.. My own little nasty world! Tonight, don’t you wanna come with me.. Do you think I’m a nasty girl! Tonight, I’m livin’ in a fantasy.. My own little nasty world! Tonight, don’t you want to come with me, Do you think I’m a nasty girl! ~~
I was admittedly a little drunk, it made the numbness of my face make sense, it also was the only way Pastel could have dragged me out here to the fire pit, to dance with the others, who were used to being so uninhibited.
My eyes casually search around for Aemous, as something in my heart had found a reason to hear him out and possibly forgive. The thought popped in my head, probably around the third time Cedric had pummel his fist into my face during our fight, and it came back to me again after the fifth shot of tequila.
When I caught sight of his pale ivory sweater, I noticed he looked around nervously, which was an uncommon emotion for him. Aemous was one of those people that had that thing about them, that special little something that guarantee his place in the world.
It was the thing that attracted me to the men that now trouble my life, Shaw had his quiet, almost rigid, stoicism. While Aemous was famous for his cool, calm, charismatic, and collected persona. Both different, but oddly the same, with a self assurance I strived for my whole life.
Now that I think about it, that possibly was my crutch, Solomon was a bold natural leader, Cedric could control a room with his presence alone, and my new employer could possibly rule the world if he chose, it seem almost an inevitability.
My entire life has been spent surrounding myself with people I essentially wanted to be, and only now, was I finding out how that superior confidence and self assurance could reveal itself to be a flaw.
A flaw, so evident in the audacity of Famous thinking no one would notice him sneaking away from camp, suspiciously in the direction of the Arkham facilities. Then not even five minutes later, before I could even search him out in the crowd, there was Shaw, heading off, sneaking away from the camp in the same direction.
I don’t know what possessed me, but I was compelled to follow behind them, I had to see for myself what they were up to. Ditching Pastel was the hard part, though somehow I was able to latch him onto Grayson, Cedric, and Zachari. He was drunk and I was certain they would know how to take care of him.
There was a weird feeling that course through me, as I found myself slinking off into the woods, I felt like a spy in a movie, a Double ‘00’ agent. There was an exhilarating rush, but there was also the chill of danger, the combination set my adrenaline afire. It made the forty five minutes hike, feel as leisure as a stroke in the park, that was until I came to the hilltop. It was steep, almost to the point I was climbing on four hands to reach the peak.
When I could finally see the view, I nearly gasp, it was worse than I could have imagined. The sight of a building so big sitting in the middle of this paradise, it was grotesque, like a football field size steel and cement box in the middle of Eden.
As I moved in closer, I noticed the armed guards patrolling the area, in an efficient rotation around the entire facility. They had numbers across the their backs, ranging from ten to twenty five, and all of them seem to be built like Marines. I was scared, I’d be a fool not to be, these men look more than capable of taking out any existential threat that came their way.
I wonder how Shaw and Aemous snuck past them, as I saw no way in but the heavily guarded front door and a row of windows six stories up. It took nearly ten minutes for me to think of plan, and it was still a gamble, with the odds against me. The only way in, was for me to assume Jynx had already given me the clearance I needed to gain access, in a more legitimate fashion than the two spies I attempt to follow.
Walking up to the gate as confidently as I could, I’m sure I look a fool, it was getting colder out and I had on a thin knit cardigan over a white t-shirt and a pair of jeans. They could obviously tell I walked here, and that made me a highly suspicious target, but I had my work badge and ID in my hands.
“Stop there, state your business.” One of the guards commanded, holding his hand up to stop his subordinates, who had all raised their firearms aggressively.
“My name is Cydnee Tyson, an employee of Arkham’s home headquarters, I’m sure you know we are all here on island for a work retreat. Our camp is not too far from here, and I need to access one of my projects, on a secured server.”
“Hand over your ID badge, I need to phone this in.”
He took them from me and walked a few feet away, to discreetly talk on his radio, all of the other guards had surrounded me, ready to kill on command. The man in charge, number seven, kept comparing my face to my paperwork, as he spoke to his superior. It wasn’t too long before he walked back over, and singled to his team that I was cleared to pass. Relief washed over me, and left butterflies in my stomach, as I was let into the building.
Guard number Six, met me once I was inside, stating they had an executive office set up for me on the fifth floor. I was to be escorted there and back, on a strict forty five minute time limit to complete my work, before I would be ejected from the building. The place was sterile, almost like a hospital or government building with too much fluorescent lighting, I could tell immediately this was where a lot of our lab work and trials were conducted, yet there seem to be no employees aside from the security detail.
The office had a modern elegance, I could tell it was probably for Mr Ellison or some other Arkham executive, the guard left me in the room but it was to be assumed he stood right outside the door. So I didn’t waste anytime logging into the network, something odd I immediately notice was multiple visits from Zachari and Karishma, dating back nearly a year.
It took some time to embrace my inner techie, as I was a moderately efficient coder, yet finding a way to break into the last files they accessed would take the full extent of my knowledge. I hacked into the Everlast file and could see there was a trial run conducted on primate subjects, but status was listed as inconclusive. I noticed another file hidden that had another firewall to break through, it was a little bit more difficult to crack but eventually I was able to get in, this was the ReGen project dossier.
I didn’t understand what I was looking at, the photos were grotesque and gory, it nearly turn my stomach. I was able to read the documents but another security fail safe kicked in, that required a retina scan. Mashing the keys in a panic, I scramble to exit out of the program as the countdown reached zero, I didn’t breathe until I saw I had been able to cover my digital tracks.
Suddenly the screen flickered red and black, and the security camera feed came in, showing me where two separate silent alarms had been tripped. I could hear the shuffling of boots, as the guards outside the door, attend to the threat.
Looking back to the monitor, it seem neither Shaw nor Aemous had any idea their presence was known. Aemous was too busy looking over samples of something, while Shaw was trying to break into a room with a steel bolted door, I had to warn them somehow.
My only chance would be to hack into the security mainframe, something I knew I could do, but did I have enough time?
I ran through the woods, the cold air even more brisk than when I had first arrive, especially since I was now soaking wet. The fire alarm rang out loudly into the night, the sound possibly traveling as far as the camp I now sprint to for safety.
There was no way for me to tell if either Aemous or Shaw escape the building alive, but hopefully my warning was enough. For good measure, I had unlocked every door in the building for five minutes. More than enough time for two so called Spies, to make a daring escape.
The moon was near full and the night was eerie, with shadows dancing in the darkness, the music of the night fill the woods around me. I had been running for most of the way, yet once my surrounding grew familiar, I allow fatigue to ease me into a more modest pace. Though now that I had stopped running, I notice the music had stopped, the silence was as cold as the chill in the air.
I don’t know what pierced my ears first, the haunting chorus of a deathly moan, or the feral pace of the foot steps fast in approach. It took seconds for my adrenaline to kick in, as I immediately felt like prey in the path of a predator. A scream got caught in my throat, blocked by my gasps for air, the only solace for my burning lungs. My body was on autopilot, as the beast behind me closed in, there was the sound of more foot steps and the clash of a scuffle, but I dare not turn to face it.
The light of the camp grounds was like a haven before me, I just had to keep going, safety was within reach. I felt wetness drip down my face, and I thought I was crying, but looking up, I could see the first few flakes of snowfall. I mouthed a silent prayer, thankful to make it back to the group unscathed, feeling like my guardian angel was watching over me.
Upon reaching camp, I pass the few late night stragglers poking at the fire, quickly making my way over to the tent I share with Pastel. He was so drunk earlier, I wasn’t surprised he was out cold and wrapped up tight in his sleeping blanket. I did my best to stay awake, to listen for Shaw or Aemous, but there was no sound of them or the beast by the time I drifted off.
The rise of the day came sooner than expected, there were birds chirping their song in tandem, the murmurings of early risers in our group could be heard nearby, no doubt getting a head start on breakfast.
An aroma of bacon and eggs waif into the tent seductively, causing me to salivate in my half awaken state, I look over to the flash of bright pink hair next to me that had yet to stir. Pastel must have had a hard night if the smell of food didn’t rouse him, but he was always the type to sleep in, the only way he’d wake before noon was with some coffee.
So I got up and threw on some cloths, remembering the snowfall from the night before. It had stopped by now, but left behind was about two to three inches of pristine white bliss. The morning banquet was being set up, a young blonde handed two mugs of the coffee that had been prepared along with some extra creamers, and after asking one of the people cooking to save me a plate, I started the trek back to my tent.
Along the way, I notice Aemous sitting off on a large rock sipping his coffee, he seem upset but focused on his thoughts. Shaw was just coming out of his tent, stretching his arms out enough to lift his shirt a bit, I tried to ignore the tightness of his abs or the smooth milky texture of his skin. He caught my eyes, and I’ll admit his gaze gave me pause, those stern brows adding to the intensity of his focus on me.
With a sigh, I continue on my journey, entering the tent, determined not to let the events of last night or my bullshit luck with men, ruin my day.
It was beautiful out, the snow making an already immaculate landscape, even more exquisite. It was like the setting of a fairytale, and who liked fantastical and dramatically picturesque surroundings more than my good friend. So putting on my best sing song voice, I called out to him.
“Dear Pastel, it’s time to wake, to face the day for goodness sake! Wake, child! Wake!”
He didn’t even stir, so I called out to him again, putting more emphasis, by adding a shove with my foot.
“I said, WAKE CHILD WAKE! Come on Pastel before your coffee gets cold, remember what I told you last time you played dead? You lost the right of me crying at your funeral, the rate you’re at it, I’m not even about to attend, keep playing with me bitch.”
I sighed, setting the steaming hot beverages down, so I could check on him. As soon as I touch his skin, I nearly scream from the shock of how cold he was, he was stiff as a board. Those once joyful eyes, now still and cloudy, in an odd unfocused gaze, staring back at me. I immediately broke out into a sweat, fear setting in as I looked at how implicit I look, he had to have been dead for at least a couple hours.
“Cydnee, I think it’s time we talk, I give up and you win, okay? I don’t know what I was thinking..”
I turn to lock eyes with Cedric, who had just barged into my tent, it didn’t take long for his to break focus, darting down to the bluish, all too pale, frozen figure on the floor. He look back up to me, and a chill shivered down my spine, the smile on his lips speaking volumes before he ever utter a word.
“I don’t know what I was thinking.”