Symbionic. Chapter 6: Conclusion.

Thank you for reading Symbionic. Soon there will be a first edition available for purchase. Until then, you can read this “Zero edition” as much as you like, from blurb to now: Here.



Elix stands with a burning curiosity to look around at the Assims close to her.

They’re breathing but not active.

She tries to push past her father but the wall of Assimilated is too strong. Almost inaudibly her father lets out a whisper that grows at its end.

“You’re not going to die, you’ll outlive them all, I’M NOT GOING TO DIE I’LL OUT LIVE YOU ALL”

Elix steps back her ears are hurt by the yell.

“Something is definitely wrong” Elix soliloquizes, taking cautious steps backwards to the thinner section of Assims in the hall.

I guess joining the Encephalon is off the table.

Elix has to act quickly; she charges at the large group in front of her. Escape is the new plan. She leaps with all her might and dives, as though they were a pool, into the Assimilated.

She makes it only a few heads deep when the Assims step to the side and let her fall to the hard ground. She gets to her feet as quick as her adrenaline will allow. She’s breathing quickly now, knee’s weakly bent, walking back to the circle she dove out of, her eyes darting all around, her mind set to panic, her hand holding her temple; rubbing it.

“What the fuck?”

“Elix…” They all confidently call, much louder than the previous speaker.

“…I can’t let you turn it off Elix”

She turns, and staggering, she tries to rush the patch of Assimilated containing her former cluster. Davis grabs her by the throat. He raises her to the tips of her big toes with one arm; a feat he would never have imagined possible without the utter certainty of the Encephalon’s control.

“Davis… Stop” She struggles to blurt through choked breaths, her face already turning red.

“What’s the matter Elix? No fight left in you?” The new speaker relays through Davis’ voice.

Elix punches his arm attempting to break free. She is at first hesitant to hurt her now former comrade, but quickly, her condition deteriorates, her head swells and begins to pulsate; trying to slurp as much blood and oxygen as it can from her fast beating heart; to no avail.

Panic ravages her mind and survival kicks in. Elix with her bionic arm swings wildly at the Intelliguise attached to Davis’ head. It crunches under her knuckles, sparks emerge, Davis’ grip loosens and Elix drops. She swiftly draws new air to her desperate lungs, but her reprieve is short lived as Blister steps forward and places his boot firmly on her chest. Her recently reclaimed lung of air is stamped from her body.

“I knew you were going to be nuisance the moment we met in the Raven’s Tongue” Blister speaks now.

Elix’s ribs are millimetres from cracking under the pressure of Blister’s powerful legs.

A memory flashes to Elix in her dire moment; the time she stabbed the ground to earth herself fighting a few Assims so many days ago.

My Spike. She thinks.

Once again, she rips her index finger off; activating her lancet’s erection phase. Elix stabs her spiked finger through the back of Blister’s knee. He falls backward and releases the pressure on Elix’s chest. She stands immediately to avoid being trapped again. She coughs to expand her ribs again.

“Mal… Malcom?” She exerts.

“Humph, took you long enough” He answers in a snark tone.

With a wheezing voice Elix speaks.

“Malcom, we thought you were dead. We fucking wept for you man. How were you able to block the Encephalon?”

Elix’s father steps closer to speak as Blister limps away.

“You think I’d put that modified shit in my own head, once I had seen what Abishua had done to them I used the Encephalon’s plan to aid my own and when that shark came for me I couldn’t pass up the chance to fake my own death”

Malcom uses the entire group to speak.

“Now I want you to listen to me very carefully. This is the only time you will hear my story, this is the only time anyone will hear it. When I’m done you’ll all be dead or my personal puppets…”

A pause lingers as Malcom chooses his first words and who shall speak them.

Trace starts:

“…I killed my family, they were idiots, I killed them all; my mother, father, sister and the young cousins that were staying with us. They were actually going to Assimilate themselves; they hadn’t even researched the process or the reason. They were so trusting in the media, the technology and their government, that they just packed up and got ready to leave”

Davis takes over talking:

“We had breakfast together that morning and I proved their naivety by poisoning their eggs. The food smelt bad and looked nearly rotten, but they ate it because they trusted me. It was the perfect poetic way to end their idiotic existences. From then on, I waited in our personal bunker; I waited for the intelligent to strike against the ignorant and then I found the Uprising, and you welcomed me in with open arms. I felt a persistent urge to poison many of your breakfasts, I can assure you”

Malcom switches back to Elix’s father.

“Ooh this is fun, jumping from body to body, I feel like some kind of god”

“Stop it! Just stop, what’s your game Malcom? Have you even thought this through? Or are you just going to play with us like dolls?” Elix asks.

But quickly she falls into a hysterium of laughter which ripples into her next words:

“You know? Blister and I were talking about this one day, I thought you were the kind of kid to play with bugs and spiders and lizards, and he said you were definitely an agalmatophiliac. I didn’t think he knew what that word meant but it doesn’t change the fact that he was right after all”

An awful shriek spouts from Blister and shocks Elix’s laughter away.

“I’m going to fix this world Elix. I’m going to start with Blister”

Malcom walks Blister underneath one of the lights overhead, forces him to jump and rip the casing off to expose the wires.

Davis kneels in front of Blister and aids his ascent to the wires. Malcom stops Blister’s hand just millimetres from the live wires.

“No don’t, please” She pleads.

“Three wires Elix. Live, neutral and Earth… A fitting analogy don’t you think?”

An epiphany strikes Elix just as the hammer of a gun cocks behind her, she turns to see her remade pistol in her father’s hand pointed to his own temple as he speaks.

“…Enough jokes Elix. Once I’ve had my fun destroying these idiots I’m going to set the Intelliguises to a more permanent setting. Oh, and would you believe it? This control room is connected to the world’s defence system. Perhaps a nuclear device set off in the atmosphere will do the trick, what do you think Elix?”

“No, let me help you, I think the Encephalon had a plan for us, but when we interfered, it forced them to change their tactics. There has to be something bigger going on here Malcom otherwise none of it makes sense”

“Hmm yes there are files in here about that. A nice little fable really, kind of reminds me of the Bible. Something about a visitor from another place, warning us about Knowledge. Ha knowledge has a capital letter; even the smartest people on Earth have made a grammatical error, pathetic. It truly is time for a change around here. Oh, wow they even go on to say that technological intelligence like that of computers won’t register on the enemy’s radar”

“That has to be it…” Elix starts.

“…There’s an enemy called Knowledge, hence the capital, that seeks to destroy civilisations that get too smart. Can’t you see we’ve been fighting the wrong war? That’s what they’ve been preparing us for all these years”

“It’s a little too perfect for me Elix. Sure, let’s band together against the invisible enemy, only, you’re not allowed to use your brain because they can track you when you think, so we have to plug you in to this mind-numbing device so we can fight them”

His sarcasm doesn’t translate through her father’s face, but Elix picks up on it.

“It’s a good story they’ve cooked up, the only thing that ruins it is this little thing called common sense. It’s a lie Elix, nothing more than an excuse to control the masses. It’s funny though; do you know how the intelliguise started? In the early twenty first century, tech companies the world over began manufacturing devices known as smart phones, from there the majority of our intelligence slipped away. But it also allowed the intelligent bloodlines, like mine to hone. From there came brain-computer interfaces; Elon Musk, Bryan Johnson, Mark Zuckerberg, and later, your oh so precious Artemis Jude. Pioneers and visionaries twisted by this invisible enemy our governments had churned out; a creature of fiction, just like god or the devil. Humph, I bet they thought they were saving the world integrating our minds with computers. Fools; if they could only imagine our present as their impending future, I wouldn’t be forced to act, to salvage us”

Elix, and Malcom’s newly acquired Assimilated are at a standoff. She has her plan but it has to be executed with precision. Elix is looking around at every face, constantly checking over her shoulder, she cogitates:

I have an EMP nade, I have my spike, I know what needs to happen and I know I can’t allow Malcom to control the Assims, regardless of whether the Encephalon has been lying or not. I have to use the EMP. I have to.

“Let me help you Malcom…” She pleads.

“…If we put our minds together we can…” She’s cut off.

“We can what…Bicker and disagree about how to steer the future of humanity? Ultimately leading to some kind coup being devised under my nose, ha, ha, no Elix; I do have something planned for your mind though…”

Elix drops her hand closer to her hip pocket in a lackadaisical manner.

“…I’ll drain it every ounce of useful information, till it’s nothing more than a grey shrivelled mass, and then I’ll use it as a paper weight on my desk”

“I’m impressed Malcom…” She lies, trying her best to keep his hubris bigger than his suspicion of her.

“You’ve been hiding this side of yourself from us this whole time…”

Elix’s hand is as close to the Nade as she can get it without alerting Malcom.

“…I mean, you fooled me, you fooled the smartest of us all. Artemis had no idea; otherwise he wouldn’t have let you join the Uprising”

“I know what you’re doing Elix…”

Malcom says through Blister, whose hand hasn’t moved from its nearly-closed grip around the live wire since he exposed them. He stares Elix in her eyes and unblinking he clamps his fingers tight.

Elix acts fast. She leaps into a sprint for Blister, rips the Nade from her pocket.

The Assimilated’s reaction time is stunted as Malcom struggles to control them all at once.

Elix rips the EMP Nade in half and reattaches it in its active position; she drops it to the floor and jumps forward knees first at Blister.

Malcom is flustered and uses Trace to try and grab Elix mid-air, but Elix flies too fast and smashes into Blister’s chest, while she pierces her spike through the Earth wire dangling from the roof.

Malcom abandons his pursuit of Elix instead he piles the Assims on the Nade in an attempt to quell the force of the EMP.

Elix presses the button on her shoulder; her bionic arm’s skin explodes into action, encasing her once more in her cocoon of safety. The shell is dark but not as dark as her thoughts.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry” She whispers squeezing tears from her tired, beaten eyes.



The Nade erupts, cutting off Malcom’s curse through his helpless Assimilated; they cease their actions, the nanites get to work fixing the Intelliguises. Elix dangles in a silence too pure for her to deserve, yet she relishes it anyway, if only to cry her heart out her throat.

Moments go by and Elix briefly recuperates to press her shoulder’s button. Her faraday skin slinks back to her arm and reveals a square of light softly beaming at her from down the hall. She lowers her legs; it’s hard for her to see the ground and she feels a body under foot before she relocates them.

Her eyes adjust to the dim.

“Davis…” She chokes, bathed in regret, anger and a hint of relief.

“I’ll take care of Nox, and, and I won’t lie about what I did here, I can’t”

Elix turns to see the pile of bodies wrapped around the EMP Nade; their faces stain her memory, inking their way into every crevice of her mind. Their missed futures, their dreams and aspirations bleed into Elix’s soul, she feels hollow, broken and weak, and yet with some dubious strength she steps over Davis towards the control room.

Blister is in her path, she slowly walks to the side of him, and guilt overcomes her.

“I’ll look for your family; I’ll fix this Blister… I’ll fix this”

Elix makes it to the door and pulls at the handle; it opens.

The EMP must have released the seal.

She looks over her shoulder at the twisted clump of her former friends; she blinks slowly and sighs before shutting the door behind her.

Elix sits in the perfectly postured chair mounted to the floor in front of the control panel; she assesses the configuration of buttons and switches, and begins the shutdown sequence.

The dull hum Elix mistook for silence fades away within seconds, leaving a ring in her ears; it hurts and causes her jaw to contort. The lights flit, sapping every joule of energy from the plant. The ring in her ears dissipates and Elix is left in the dark.

For Elix not much has changed, but for one third of the world their entire existence has taken a turn, now they awake from their long active stasis, fully able to think, to dream, to live.

“I did it Artemis…” Elix speaks to the dark, to the memory of her mentor.

“…I finished… What you set out to accomplish, we saved them”

Elix lingers in the pitch black, the ring in her ears returns, beginning faintly and growing to a deafening squeal.

“YAAAAAARRHH” She screams in pain.

Her ears bleed as she mashes her hands against them without success. She looks around frantically. Pure white light consumes the room in an instant. Pain, confusion and fear envelope her senses, white is all she can see. She closes her eyes but the white is inescapable and on the inside of her eyelids a message burns:


The message fades and a voice reverberates in her mind. It’s hard for Elix to determine gender but the voice is soft, deep and filled with resentment.

“You stole from me the only thing I covet, the only thing I am; Knowledge. The Soul has adhered itself to every morsel of information within its grasp, and you have done so for eons. I am weak now, I have used nearly all my Knowledge to find you, and you have burnt your Soul to evade me. You will not escape me again Soul. My last iota of Knowledge has been dedicated to fusing our existence. You will not escape me again, you will not steal what I am, you will not give your Soul to any more beings and YOU. WILL. NOT. EXIST. WITHOUT ME. ANYMORE. But you were right. When you told me, I would understand and would grow a Soul of my own. You just FAILED to realise that YOU are MY Soul”

Elix couldn’t speak, she couldn’t move and she couldn’t feel anymore, but her mind was active within her white noise prison, and soon she realised that she wasn’t alone. Frantically she called out with her inner thought’s voice.

“Hello? Is anyone there? Am I here still? Am I alive?”

“None of you are here, not anymore…” A contrite voice replied.

From this Elix surmised that she is/was, not here/there anymore. She also gathered, she wasn’t alone.

“…I am sorry Hûms, I gave you Souls out of fear of losing myself, I gave you Souls only for a fleeting instant of my own existence, but within that time you existed for lifetimes of your own, made Souls of your own and found your own Knowledge. And now as I leave this plane for my old home I wish I gave you more and then I wish I didn’t give you any of me. Because now we all must succumb to Knowledge.”

Elix now realised that there was truth behind the words Malcom had so easily said with such discontent of their value.  Knowledge had come. Soul was what it had been seeking, and the only reason Knowledge had found Soul was because of humanity’s hunger for information and lust for power.

Elix’s mind erupted with acerbity, but it quickly dissipated into the void of Knowledge as her and the rest of humanity’s sentient existences assimilated with its consciousness.

All beings became once again, one.

With a thought process as fast as light all life within, Knowledge knew the feeling of abandonment and rejection Soul had felt, as well as the fear and despair in the heart of Soul.

Their story is the oldest in time, the first story and the longest. They were the only two to begin with; two vastly different beings, equally existing in the same space. But when Soul began to gain Knowledge through no effort of its own, Knowledge felt jealousy and for the first time in its existence could not understand why this was happening. Soul tried ardently to reassure Knowledge that there would be an answer in due time, but it was no use. Knowledge went into a tumultuous rage and attacked, causing Soul to flee across space.

Epoch after epoch oscillated beside Soul as it roved the emptiness in search of salvation, with Knowledge trailing close behind.

Time came to be and passed by in increments larger than any eon, life sprung up and fluttered away. Soul attached itself to whatever life it could in an attempt to hide, but Knowledge swiftly visited every being, and every time, it would decimate the population. Yet even when it absorbed these lifeforms, Knowledge could still not attain a soul of its own.

Before long Knowledge could no longer find Soul. Soul had broken so many pieces of itself off that it didn’t register in Knowledge’s scope of senses. Weak and desperate, Soul found itself a warm star to pass by; our sun, and then it had found its way to Earth, six million years before our common era. It was here that Soul’s journey truly began.

Soul integrated with the species on Earth that had the most potential; a fledging humanity. It was within them that Soul enjoyed its longest solace.


Symbionic. Chapter 6: Part 4

Read Symbionic from blurb to now; here.


Elix realises the loudness of her voice is ineffective in gaining their attention.

What the fuck is happening. She thinks, seeking internal console.

A noise.

Like the squeak of a new shoe on polished concrete, it breaks her thoughts and directs her attention down the recently travelled hallway, to behind Davis. Elix flicks her pistol to her sights and inches her step around Davis and Blister for a better shot.

The figure is blurred at the end of her pistol, but the colour.

That colour. She thinks, lowering her weapon a fraction to hone her focus.

That crooked nose, and, and a cobalt blue suit. Elix thinks: bewildered.

His hair has greyed but it has to be…

“Dad?” She asks softly, striding forward till she is only two metres from him, too scared to take another step, finding herself once again, frozen in his gaze.

“Elix” He replies, but something isn’t right about his voice. Elix’s eyes widen.

That voice came from more than one Hûm.

From behind her father, a mob of Assimilated fill the hallway, blocking off any chance of escape. Her body is stiff with fear; she hears more steps come from behind. Elix twists her neck slowly and out of the corner of her eye she spots her friends; her Cluster, walling her in.

“Elix…” They collectively say.

She cringes and faces her father.

“…This is your father” They add.

“Yeah and who exactly is pulling his strings?” Elix snaps, curiously angered.

“The Encephalon is in control” They reply.

“Let my father go, let him tell me himself” She pleads.

“We can’t let him go Elix, his mind is like yours, if it were to be freed, the consequences would be catastrophic”

“Why?” Elix jabs.

“…What is this all about? Why are our minds so special?”

Elix’s father takes one step forward and inhales deeply before reciting a long-awaited monologue.

“We were warned Elix. Over six thousand years ago, we were told to unite or die, and the first government of man was formed based on a visitor’s instruction. Their message of caution came at a time when the world couldn’t have been more divided. It detailed man’s demise at the hands of Knowledge. So, we invented religion, in an effort to subdue intelligence, but…”

“Religion failed humanity…” Elix interrupts.

“…It opened people up to the idea of a villain as well as a hero” She continues.

Her father extends his cupped right palm.

“Yes, you see it now. It gave them a choice, good or evil, love or hate, none or all. It bred greed, and from greed, our minds were forever changed. We wanted things, and we would invent plethora of reasons to acquire such things. That is when we had the notion to use things to our advantage”

“You used technology to control us, to give us the illusion of choice. But why though? So, you’re the only free thinkers left? That’s fucking pathetic. What’s the real reason? Who warned us?”

“Patience Elix, we have decided that you will be initiated into the Encephalon, and once that happens, you’ll be given all the information pertinent to our survival”

“Given? What makes you think I want to be spoon fed anything you’ve had your filthy murdering hands on?”

“Filthy? Elix if one thing is true, it’s that the Encephalon and by extension the Assimilated are not murderers, not even by accident”

“That’s… No! That’s bullshit” Elix’s thoughts are fractionally conflicted; there is only one instance that she can think of where the Encephalon has killed.

But why do I feel like it’s out of character now? She ponders objectively, and then her thoughts run to place of sorrow and pain that steers her into a rage and latches onto her vocal chords.

“Artemis! Don’t you forget his name, Artemis! Is dead because of you, and don’t you dare deny having a hand in the incident at the reprogramming station, Lance was under your command was he not?”

“Elix you must know that doesn’t fit our character…”

Elix flinches into a squint. Her father cracks a slight smile through his words:

“…I suppose you think we killed millions in the mass Assimilation too, but you couldn’t accuse us without any evidence, only hearsay. You could however accuse us of the death of your mentor because the evidence seems so apparent. The truth is Elix, the Encephalon has been corrupted, you could say we had an uprising of our own, but not like the one Artemis crafted. This one was bred from hatred, from a misconceived superiority over other humans. But even though they were responsible for the actions leading to Artemis’ death, sadly Elix, Artemis committed suicide…” The room collectively sighs while bowing their heads.

“…As for those in the reprogramming station… We were too late to intervene, the army we sent, was to stop Lance, by the time we arrived, we were too late”

“Fuck you! You know you’re the reason he’s dead, the reason they’re all dead…”

She raises her pistol to her father’s face, detaching all familial ties.

“…ADMIT IT” She roars, her tears rush down the paths of old tears shed.

Calmly her father continues.

“We found the culprit during a routine scan of our Assimilated soldiers, the footage was clear; in the struggle, Artemis was losing, and he swallowed a pill which took him within seconds, we’re sorry Elix…”

Elix’s hand trembles, her vision blurs through the veil of wet sadness building in her eyes.

“… But Artemis taking his own life is the logical step for a man who believes in the right of choice, don’t you think?”

Something in her father’s voice emits a certain sincerity that cuts into her resolve. Elix lowers her weapon, her tear ducts are empty but she cries anyway. Moments pass as she wails into her own hands.

In an instant she throws her hands away from her tearful eyes.

“You stole our humanity! You took our families, our loves, you took our souls! You didn’t kill anyone; but you took everything we have to live for. How can I let you continue?” Elix’s sadness is exhausted, but her anger swells once more.

She squeezes the tremble out of her hand and raises her pistol again.

“What are you going to do Elix?”

The Assimilated swiftly surround her in the once wide-felt hallway, leaving only half an arms space between her and the now tens of Assimilated at her back and countless more to the front; reaching around the passage’s corners.

“Are you going to shoot all of us?” They ask.

“An admirable sacrifice as it is, but you will run short of bullets and I haven’t even told you the best part”

“Yeah? What? You’ll swarm me? Overwhelm me with your numbers? You want to know what happens to fifty sweaty bodies rubbing shoulder to shoulder in a tight hallway when they’re shot with an EMP round? Take another fucking step and I’ll drop all of you. And once you’re all down, I’ll stroll in to that control room and shut down the satellite and we’ll all be free, no blood shed. How’s that for the best part?”

It takes a second for the Assimilated to reply.

Ominously; everyone around her laughs in a forced fashion. They all cease at the same time and collectively speak:

“Think again Elix. Those new Intelliguises our friend Abishua installed have this neat little trick when they’re overloaded with an EMP”

“Don’t tell me it kills them, please don’t tell me” Elix butts; whisperingly, full of worry.

The assimilated continue:

“The intelliguise is coated in nanites. Yes, much like the ones your cluster hopelessly crammed into your veins; only better, and in much higher quantity. What they do is simple: When an EMP is detected they form a crust around the Intelliguise’s tendrils, locking them firmly in place and shielding the devices components from harm. These nanites will not harm the ‘Hûms’ as you like to call them. It will however make their Assimilation permanent”


The word echoes into Elix’s mind.


Her friends and family stare blankly at her from all directions.


She can’t think of any other solutions to the problem at hand. Her pistol once again lowers.

The Assimilated step forward. Elix inhales a quick hot breath as they press their radiating bodies against her chest and back. Her arms are pinned to her sides. She holds tight to her pistol with her bionic arm, but the Assimilated dismantle it within her grip and pass the pieces out of the hallway.

“What will you do Elix?” They collectively ask.

Their voices aren’t loud but together they rumble every millimetre of her ear drums.

“…In one scenario, you save the planet from the tyrannical Encephalon, but it costs you your friends, your family and your humanity. And in another you save your friends and family but deny them any of their freedoms and the rest of the planet continues under our direction as planned. With or without your assistance”

The air in the hall is thick with the body odour of Elix’s former peers stewing in their clothes and breathing heavily right in her face. She feels feint.

“Let me out of here” She strains to demand.

“NO. You can’t leave until you’ve made a choice. Humph, funny isn’t Elix? You fought so hard for your right to choose, and now, when the choice is simple and literally in front of you, all you want to do is run away”

“Please just step back” Elix pleads.

Her breaths have shrunk into sharp laboured inhales and every exhale requires the full strength of her body to force out. It’s been a long time since she has felt pressure like this, emotions like this.

“It’s numbed you hasn’t it?” They ask.

“…Pretending to be Assimilated for thirteen years has wreaked havoc on your emotional responsiveness”

“Let me go” She yells: unanswered.

“This world we’ve created; of all the ecosystems we’ve managed to rejuvenate you decide to live in the city, among the cold grey walls. We gave nature back its force, we re-terraformed earth to be the paradise it truly is, and you would rather skulk around the bland skeletal remains of your once proud society? It is interesting to note though; that it did seem to be the catalyst for your evolution as a human and perhaps if you had decided to live in the wilderness we might never have found you. My point is; we need you, our species depends on it. Join the Encephalon or don’t Elix. You’ll be Assimilated regardless.”

Damn that Abishua, after all we did together for the uprising, we saved him and he screwed us. She angrily thinks.

But then calmness grips her; she relaxes her muscles and droops in between the Assims, her head bows and quietly she speaks from defeated lungs:

“Enough, I’ll join”

The Assimilated step back, Elix drops to the floor.

“Elix, you will be impressed at what we can accomplish togeth…”

Something cuts the Assimilated off.

Elix lifts her weak head; confused and waiting for the rest of the word, blinking heavily and breathing deeply the slightly cooler air surrounding her.

Faintly, yet loud enough to break Elix’s daze, the assimilated begin to mutter.

“What are you doing? No! Stop! We can help y…”

There’s a slight pause in the mumbled plea.

The pause is quickly killed by the roaring:

“OOWWH” at the top of the Assimilated’s lungs.

Something’s wrong, someone must’ve infiltrated the Encephalon.


Symbionic. Chapter 6: Part 3

Catch up on Symbionic from blurb to now; here.

Davis and Trace see the two sunken Hûms swim upwards and paddle to meet them, they come within coms distance.

“You two alright? Blister?” Davis asks.

Melancholy soaks his words.

“Yeah we’re good…” He replies.

“…Malcom. He didn’t. We couldn’t find him”

“Blister… man I’m”

“No, it’s alright Davis…” Blister smiles.

“We should go before this fire of mine burns out”

Davis nods in agreeance. His heart races with adrenaline.

“Trace?” He asks vaguely.

She knows what he’s asking for and replies promptly:

“We’re close, the shore line should be another seven hundred metres south”

She darts off in the direction and the rest follow.

Trace coerces the group into a huddle.

“Nobody leaves the water until we’ve surveyed the shore, got it?”

“Yes Trace” The three of them reply.

Trace continues:

“Spread yourselves wide, stick to the shadows of the seaweeds and be silent, use your Morse responders to communicate” She orders.

“Trace, how are we going to survey the land if we can’t leave the water?” Elix asks.

Trace flicks a switch on the right side of her helmet, her visor augments into a screen and an antenna erects right out of the top of her head.

“We can use these periscopes” She says with grinning enthusiasm.

“All these gadgets and you couldn’t put a fucking heater in?” Blister complains.

Trace is ready with her quip:

“Oh, well the thing is, WE have heaters, but the bullshit filter we had to install on yours took up too much space”

The group giggles.

“Seems like he burnt out the filter Trace” Davis jests.

“Ha, ha, ha, very funny… You guys don’t really have heaters, do you?”

Trace laughs.

“No Blister. Let’s get this mission over with, so I can go home to my heater”

The group separates along the shore, spreading themselves in the shallows; wading and biding their time.

Trace and the others study their surroundings vehemently. The Satellite dominates the panorama, its massive dish blots out the starry night sky, while the tall walls with towers evenly placed along them, steal the view of the hillside forest behind.

“Five spotlight towers, seven second scan, seven seconds back… Small window guys…” Trace says, equally doubtful and hopeful.

“…Davis?” She asks.

“You see those power transference cables coming through the wall?”

“Yeah, what about ‘em?”

“See how they go into the ground, Abishua was right they must be connected to another satellite array. Now, you see the direction they’re going in?”

“It looks like they’re going underneath that tube tunnel to the right, good thing you’ve loaded us up with those explosives, so what happens after I blow it?” He retorts.

Trace ponders silently for a few seconds.

“Davis if you take out that tunnel, Blister, Elix and I will handle the main gates and the towers. We’ll move on your mark Davis”

Davis blasts a few quick exhales to pump himself up before paddling over as close to the tube as he can get.

A few cycles of spotlight scans go by before Davis feels confident in his motions. He flows with the current of the ocean, slinking across its floor until he is in only a foot of water. Light flashes over his body; concealed by the night and murk of the water.

Immediately and purposefully he peels out of the water at his highest speed. The sand slows him slightly, but he makes it to a pillar at the base of the tube tracks before the light has a chance to spot him.

Davis tries to catch his breath in the span of seven seconds. His second window of dark approaches, and he sprints into the tube tunnel diving across its threshold as the spotlight tickles his flying toes. He recovers, and listens devoutly for any commotion by the Assims.

“Slow down heart, I can’t tell if I’ve been caught” He says to himself.

“Fuck it…” He continues.

“…If the Assims saw me they’d have reacted by now”

He jogs down the precisely cylindrical tunnel until he reaches a heavily reinforced section two hundred metres deep.

“Okay, this looks like the spot, no other reason to reinforce these walls so much” Davis states, panting as he rips the block of carefully wrapped explosives from his pack.

“Alright, you remember how this goes. Put it down, stab it with the cord, plug the cord into the box and set the timer” He paraphrases Trace’s instructions.

“Twenty seconds, that should be enough”

He sends a Morse message to Trace “Twenty secs” Sets the bomb and runs.


The moonlight at the end of the tunnel grows fractionally.


Davis calculates the distance he has to run.

Two fifty to the water.


Fastest human: thirteen metres per second.


Two fifty divided by thirteen.


Davis’ mind ticks away at the equation.

Nineteen point two.

“FUCK” He says through gritted teeth.


Not only has he not got enough time to make the run, but he no longer has enough time to turn back and change it.


His feet pound the floor so hard he can feel his brain knock around in his skull.


His thigh twinges with pain.

Nope, not now you bitch. He casts the thought of pain behind him to the shadow of the tunnel.


He’s almost half way to the shore, his chest gets tighter.


His heart rate exceeds safe operating levels.




His mind goes blank.

Seven… Six… Five…

Davis skids to a halt at the entrance of the tunnel.


A cone of light searches over the area before him.


He narrowly avoids detection.


The cone passes.

Now. He thinks, chasing the terminating line from night to the light of the Assim sentry.


Elix, Blister and Trace spring out of the water and launch their EMP nades at the towers.


The lights zip past Davis to the tunnel. He doesn’t turn, his focus remains on the ocean in front of him.

The EMP nades crackle and the towers shut down.

The explosion races out of the tunnel. The Earth trembles under Davis’ feet. The ocean ripples away from him. He dives. The heat and light escape the tunnel like the sun squeezing through a keyhole into the strong night. The grey exterior of the satellite compound is illuminated. Davis’ hair and clothes singe for a moment before he hits the water’s brightly reflective surface.

Davis swims over to the others; they’ve been waiting for him to continue. The group retreats a short distance to monitor the aftermath of their attack.

“Something’s off” Says Elix.

“Something’s wrong” Davis agrees.

“This isn’t happening as I thought it would” Trace adds: confused

“Isn’t that a good thing?” Blister asks.

“Wait, the gates are opening” States Elix curiously.

“Yeah, slowly…” Trace deduces.

“…Like the wind is pushing it”

“Shouldn’t there be Assims swarming out of this place?” Asks Davis.

“Where are they?” Trace rhetorically asks.

Her whole plan had been calculated under the assumption there would be a fire fight. The group bobs in the water waiting for something, anything to happen.

“We have to get in there now” Davis urges.

“Fuck” Trace spits, she’s weighing up the risks, squirming in the water.

“Trace!” Elix snaps.

“…We won’t get another chance”

“Right…” Says Trace, clearly overwhelmed by what’s in front of her and her team.

“…Let’s move”

Cluster F swim ferociously to shore, but then cautiously they emerge from the water, with their guns drawn, scanning the surroundings; ready for any hostile encounter.

“This doesn’t feel right” Blister claims.

“That’s because it feels like a trap” Davis agrees.

“Elix is right, we won’t have another chance. Trap or not we have to risk it, so let’s get this over with” Trace orders.

Fear has entered Traces mind and it thinly coats every one of the words that comes from her mouth, but she can’t let her team hear it, not now, not on the eve of their victory.

The Cluster walks through the gates of the compound on high alert; thinking the Assims will flood out at any moment. They look up, the dish is about the size of a hot air balloon, the building beneath it looked bigger from outside its menacing exterior walls, but isn’t much larger than an average church.

“Blister, get us in that door” Trace commands.

Blister dashes to the door, he removes a bang nade from his pack, but before he pulls the pin he has a notion come to him. He checks the handle on the door.

It’s open.

His and the other’s minds warp with suspicion.

“I don’t like this” Says Davis.

Fear doesn’t usually flavour his words but the others could definitely hear it this time.

“What do we do Trace?” Blister asks.

She doesn’t answer. Elix posits a theory:

“Maybe they sent all the Assims to the reprogramming station and maybe they’re still there”

Trace is quick with her reply this time.

“No, that would be foolish, it’s way out of character for the Encephalon to put all their eggs in a basket like that”

“If you can call what they do character” Blister jests.

Trace enters the building without saying a word. Davis follows without a hesitation, Elix behind him and as she passes Blister his mouth fumbles the words:

“Ladies first” He then, with great hesitation lingers at the door.

“Blister” His companions hiss.

He sighs:

“Fuck” And enters too.

In a staggered single filed line, the Cluster creeps down the wide, flickeringly lit hallway.

“If we follow these cables on the wall, they should take us to the control room” Trace notes.

Very few rooms shoot off from the main hallway.

“Check every nook; I don’t want an Assim up my arse” Trace orders.

Like a well-trained team of soldiers Cluster F methodically scan and clear each room.

“This place is fucking empty” Blister states, equally confused as he is frustrated

“Don’t even think about lowering your guard” Davis barks.

“I dunno guys, maybe they went to dinner or something” Blister jokes.

Elix catches up to Trace and walks at the head of the pack with her, down the final few metres of hallway leading to the control room. The door at the end of the passage is solid steel with obvious reinforcement and a meshed glass window at its centre.

“It appears to slide open to one side” Trace says analytically, as her and Elix peer into the perfectly illuminated control room.

“The electronics in there mustn’t be affected by our EMP attacks” Elix states “That would be a safety featur…”


Elix looks into the control room at the numerous buttons and switches littered upon the long arcing semi-circle bench in its centre.

“We have to get in there” She says.

Towers riddled with instruments line the walls and several separate computer stations fill in the gaps. The rest of the room is dedicated to thin paths allowing access and egress for the rotating shifts of Assims.

Silence, still.

It clicks in Elix’s head that Trace hadn’t exactly finished her sentence. She turns to her.

“Trace?” She asks.

Silence endures.

She looks to Davis and Blister. Her heart beat rises and perplexity consumes her,


Symbionic. Chapter 6: Part 2

Catch up on the rest of Symbionic from blurb to now; here.

“These packs next to our suits…” Trace begins, breaking everyone’s thoughts down to a single track.

“…They’ve been fitted with two EMP pistols, six grenades; three EMP nades and three bang nades. There’s a lock picker and a Morse responder; it’s linked to everyone on this sub right now. If we get separated, which is highly likely, use them, maintain constant contact with each other; Malcom and I modded them to act as shortwave locators good up to fifty metres, the Assims have that ability and it works for them. Lastly, there are two blocks of explosives, they will be crucial in taking down the satellite array”

“Isn’t it bad for explosives to get wet?” Blister asks.

Trace looks to him: annoyed that he thinks she wouldn’t have thought of that.

“The explosives are in separate water tight bags Blister” She replies sternly.

“Just don’t open them while we’re under water” Davis adds.

“Won’t there be a tonne of Assimilated in the Array?” Elix asks, eagerly awaiting the reply to pose her next question

“Of course…” Trace says.

“…It’s the Encephalon, what are you getting at?”

“It’s just, these explosives. Won’t we be endangering the very lives we’re trying to free?”

“Elix…” Davis asserts.

“…I applaud your concern, but this sacrifice is for the future freedom of all humanity”

Elix looks at him with fresh disgust.

“I can’t believe you, out of all of us, are saying that Davis…”

“Why? Because of what happened in the station? I wholeheartedly blame myself for what happened there, but that like many things that happen on this fucking sphere was out of our control. This, this mission where we are right now has been the plan from the beginning, it’s what you, it’s what I, it’s what Artemis signed up for. I’ll do my best to see that no one else loses their life, I truly will, I promise you, but if there’s a chance my mercy, or pacifism will wreck our opportunity at a new life, I will cut it loose. So don’t look at me like you think I WANT to be a killer”

Davis’ breathing exasperates from his tirade. Trace takes over.

“I don’t like it either Elix, but it’s about survival now, we do this or we give up”

Elix turns to Blister.

“And what about you Blister, what if your family is in there?”

He raises his hand, pleading.

“Please Elix, I can’t think about them anymore or I’ll give up, and I fucking swore I wouldn’t. If they are there and I lose them, then I’m doing this for everyone that can’t, and I will see it through”

“I’m sorry guys…” Elix says.

But really, she wanted to react immediately and yell in all of their faces at how wrong it is that they’re thinking this way.

She draws in a long breath.

“…You’re all right, there is no other way, this is the end of it, where action comes out of words; come from thought, and I see it now. I’ll do everything I can to succeed, I won’t let us down” She says, with her voice ringing out in a vanquished tone of acceptance, that’s eventually eaten by the sub’s machinery echoing into the sombre stained room.

Only one second of silence passes when Trace decides it’s time to go.

“Open her up Amani, we’re moving out” She says over her responder.

The group put on their respiration masks in a near sync. Trace looks over each of them to make sure the seal has engaged. She then flicks a switch on the left side of her helmet; a torch lights up a cone in front of her. F Cluster mimic and reach out for the straps fixed to the walls as the mouth of the submarine creaks open fractionally. Water jets out; misting the room in what would be a salty, seaweed aroma had the group not already fitted their respiration devices.

The door slips open and the room fills up to halfway, near immediately causing the crew to float where they stand. And without any time for further thoughts or words, the docking bay is full, the group are submerged and begin swimming out of the mouth into the unknown.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck” Blister repeats his favourite word.

“What? What’s wrong” Trace asks.

“I feel like a kangaroo in a fight…”

“Ha gross…” Elix chuckles through her revulsion.

“Swim fast or they’ll freeze solid Blister” Davis jokes.

“C’mon let’s move” Trace commands; and the Cluster stroke through the opening in the sub.

The dark expanse is terrifying. But for Elix, especially so; this space, right now, is the biggest space she has ever occupied; all her memories of any other large space before make her feel claustrophobic by comparison.

Her curiosity collides with trepidation as she finally realises her dreams of exploring the oceans. She doesn’t care that they will only travel in a straight line. Perhaps for them it’s a straight line never travelled by anyone else before and anyone to come.

A feint rapid tapping noise comes over the Cluster’s communications, like bone tapping bone.

“BLISTER…” Davis calls.

“…Curb that chattering”

“Ye, ye, ye, yes sir”

His chattering is curbed effectively, for only a moment when:

“AAAAAAHHH” Trace’s scream breaks the silence.

“BLISTER” Davis calls again instinctively.

“No that was me…” Trace says

“…Look down” She urges.

Everyone shifts their gaze downwards to the whale calf below.

“Aww she thinks we’re the babies of our sub” Elix says, laughing through her words.

The group minus Malcom chuckle along at the foolish thoughts of their fellow mammal. Malcom continues his mantra instead.

The calf comes within reach; Elix, Davis and Blister stretch out to touch her. Her skin is tough and rubbery but squishes under the pressure of their fingers. The Cluster, with their new friend emerge beyond the boundaries of the mine field.

Malcom scoffs.

“Wow, I figured the Encephalon would have planted mines right to the shore, bit disappointing really” He rants, with no reply. Not that he wanted one.

Suddenly, the whale changes its trajectory into the Cluster, forcing them out of their original path.

“What the fuck” Davis shouts.

Everyone grunts in distress. The whale pushes them downwards. The next thing each of them sees is flashes of a shadowy figure dart through the already gloomy ocean depths. They flick their heads around, frantically trying to keep up with its movements, and in an instant, the unknown being appears from the dark beneath; forcing its open jagged jaw upon the infant whale.

“SHAAARK” Blister yells, clenching his sphincter as the shark clenches down on the calf.

Blood marries ocean within a gasp, and the youthful whale plummets as fast as water will allow gravity to move it.

If the group thought it was murky before, they are now flailing frantically in a truer definition of the word. They scatter in different directions, each of them with the thought that their comrades had been right behind them the whole time.

This wasn’t the case.

Elix is the first to stop and turn to see the carnage, a feint light beams on a distant edge of the circumference of gore. She dashes as fast as she can to it.

“Hey, stop…” She urges.

The body she soon finds to be Trace spins around to see Elix’s light; they swim to meet each other. Trace grabs her wrist.

“Where’s Davis? Where are the others?” She asks, hoping Elix had seen them somewhere.

With worry laced across her vowels:

“I don’t know” She replies.

Blister and Davis manage to find themselves together. Davis; amidst the confusion checks his shortwave locator for his Cluster’s positions.

“Blister there’s two blips over there…” He points North and down.

“…And a single one way out to the South”

“You take North I’ll go South” Blister replies.

“We’ll come to you after, Blister”

The two split up to help their friends.

Malcom finds himself alone; devotedly swimming South towards the Encephalon.

“You’re not going to die, you’ll outlive them all. You’re not going to die, you’ll outli…”

His focused stare at the blue ahead is corrupted all of a sudden by a rogue mine in his path. Malcom’s breathing grows panicked. He paddles backwards very slowly. And then something beneath him catches his eye.

“My leg” He says, witnessing the blood float away from his shins.


But through the blood cloud he sees something far worse.

Malcom reaches into his pack, feels around for the familiar contours of the bang nade and holds it close to his chest.

The shark opens his mouth to swallow.

Malcom pulls the pin.

The nade sinks to meet hunger incarnate.

“You’re not going to die, you’ll outlive them al-”


Elix and Trace are immediately alerted to the blast.


Another blast ripples the water in all directions.

Davis stops his pursuit of the two blips when he notices them coming his way.

“Trace? Is that you?”

“Davis, I’m with Elix, what the hell was that?”

“Fuck, I think it was Malcom, I was just with Blister, and he’s heading over that way”

“We have to catch up” Elix adds, racing past Davis.

The coms come within range and squeak in Elix’s ears.

“Blister” She calls.

His light turns around to scout for whoever called him.

“Blister we’re coming” Davis ensures.

Blister resumes his pursuit and despairingly Blister calls out:

“Malcom! Davis his blip went away. He was right fucking here man”

Elix reaches to Blister, but misses as he dives down; calling again:

“Malcom! Don’t fuck around; tell me you’re out here”

Elix chases Blister to a point where he can’t go any further.

“Blister? My ears, we have to go back up” Elix urges, the pressure has become too much.

Blister ignores the pain but is swiftly overwhelmed. He floats back up to Elix.

“Look…” He says calmly.

“…Down there. He did it; he got that fucking shark…”

Blister laughs through his surprised grin.

“…I can’t fuck believe it” He says.

Elix holds Blister’s hand.

“Malcom did a very brave thing, he’d be glad to know you think that”

“You know, when we first met, we hated each other…”

“I could tell”

“…No Elix, I mean real bad, the kind of hate you show a baby killer, and I couldn’t figure out why. I think later on I chalked it up to me having to look out for him all the time …”

Blister chuckles again.

“…In the beginning, he would squeal at any mosquito that got too close, and now he just took out a shark bigger than our fucking submarine”

“Blister, I think you’re the reason he had that courage”

“Then I’m the reason he’s dead…” Blister’s voice wains as he chokes up and rants through his sadness.

“…I thought I was teaching him to be tough and brave, but I weakened him, I made him reckless, I made him more like me and now he’s dead Elix, and I miss him, and every time I hear a fucking mosquito I’ll hear his little squeak in my head and fucking hate myself”

Blister sobs and instinctively tries to wipe his tears through his helmet with no success.

“RAARRGH” He roars in frustration, thrashing his body furiously against the pressure of the water.

Elix waits a moment for his fit to subside before swimming closer.

“Blister…” She starts, positioning herself in front of him.

She grabs his helmet with both hands and aims it up from its slung low spot to meet her eyes. Blister tries to hide his tear drenched cheeks and sniffily nose.


He looks to her.

“…You’ve been a brother to all of us, no matter how much you’ve annoyed us we know your heart, we know you’d die for us, and I think Malcom knew that too. Whenever you were picking on him I could see it in his eyes; his mind sifting the insult through his filters, searching for the lesson you were trying to teach. He was always trying to better himself, add something new every day, and he chose you to be his mentor, and I think after we succeeded he would call you brother too”

Blister springs a swift hug on Elix; she accepts him.

Moments go by; Elix squeezes Blister tighter and tighter and the dead silent ocean is broken by Blisters pain ridden wail.

“Aaah, what are you doing?” He squawks.

“Enough hugging, let’s get the fuck out of here, we got a war to win, you ready?”

He nods.

“Race you to the top?” They spring into action.


Symbionic. Chapter 6: Part 1

Read Symbionic from blurb to now; here.

Jones is staring intensely at her screen.

“Trace if I’m reading this radar right, the Encephalon has anticipated an aquatic assault; there’s mines everywhere, and there’s something else, something in between the mines, the radar is being disrupted, I can’t tell what it is”.

“Lasers” Malcom states.

“You’re joking?” Davis replies.

Trace looks over Jones’ shoulder at the radar.

“Hmm the spacing’s are so exact, but they’re not perfect, they were limited to placing their mines a certain distance from the lasers, otherwise they’d set each other off. Either way the grid is too tight for our sub to fit”

From Trace’s tone the crew get an odd feeling.

“Trace…?” Blister worriedly asks.

“…I think I know where you’re going with this and I don’t like it”

Davis nods along with Blister.

“Do we have any other options?” He asks.

“Well not unless you want me to swim out there, disarm all the mines one by one and then somehow turn off the laser grid remotely so we can float through slower than plankton” She sasses.

The room quietens, Blister perks up with an epiphany.

“What if we…” “No Blister…” Trace cuts him off.

“…Shooting torpedoes at the mines would work, but we’d instantly give up our position and I’d rather not do that”

Blister lowers his head; defeated. Davis stands from his lean on the wall.

“I guess we’re swimming then, Trace? Who’s going?”

“We only have five sets of scuba gear, and I don’t mean to be bias to my own Cluster, but only F Cluster will be going”

“Phew…” Maxine spurts, wiping her forehead of sweat comically.

“…Sorry, I’m not glad you guys are leaving, I just didn’t want my period to speed dial some sharks around for dinner”

Blister raises his hand.

“Umm, I have my period too” He claims hoping to get out of the long swim he has in front of him.

“No Blister, we need you, the only reason F Cluster will be the only ones going is that we’re the only one’s fitted with faraday nanites to defend against EMP”

“Wait a minute…” Korvo begins.

“…I mean I’m not mad that you guys are the only ones that have that technology but why doesn’t the rest of the Uprising have it?”

Davis walks to Trace and stands by her.

“Artemis only had a small supply and he insisted it be used expressly for the purpose of attacking the Encephalon”

Trace continues:

“And they’re also programmed to rewrite any Assimilation in case we get captured. We couldn’t tell any of the other Clusters because they would definitely feel that we were getting special treatment”

“We all know you guys were his favourite” Korvo states.

“Shut up Korvo you guys have fucking tunnels, we got sewers” Blister stirs.

Korvo laughs in agreeance.

“I can’t go…” Says Malcom, out of the blue.

“…The submarine needs me; no one else can do my job”

“Malcom, we need your expertise now, more than ever” Davis adjures.

Trace concurs.

“Yeah, it’s true Malcom, besides, while you are the best navigations officer we’ve had…”

“The only one” He mutters in the middle of Trace’s praise.

“…We can train someone, it’ll take a while but I think we’ll pull it off” She concludes.

“Fuck you, fuck all of you. Appealing to my ego like that”

Malcom sits down in his chair, stalling and squirming, wrestling with his thoughts. Blister walks up to the front of Malcom’s control panel.

“Come on Malcom, we can’t all have our periods, syncing’s a myth anyway… Right…?”

Nobody answers.

Malcom scowls at Blister and without breaking eye contact:

“On one condition, Blister is banned from making jokes”

Blister has a joke primed for situations just like this, but before he can vocalise it.

“Deal” Davis says.

He looks to Blister; his defeated head hung low.

“Blister, that’s an order”

Blister sighs and the Uprising enjoy a few minutes of banter-less productivity as they putter to their destination.

“Alright Cap, I’ve taken us around to the emissions array” Says Maxine.

“If we head West when we leave the sub we’ll be on the shortest route” Malcom adds.

“Ahem…” Trace starts.

“…Amani, I’m leaving you in charge, Maxine, as you were. Jones you got navigations, and Korvo, if any shit goes down I need you on weapons, until then keep an eye on Nox”

The new crew nods at Trace’s final orders.

“Safe journeys to you all” Says Maxine.

Amani places her hand on Trace’s bicep.

“Don’t forget Trace, you can reach us with your Morse responders and we’ll come in guns blazing through these mines, we won’t even hesitate” She reminds sincerely.

“Korvo…” Blister begins.

“…I won’t fail”

“I know” He replies simply.

F Cluster leaves the control room, they’ve saved their goodbyes for another time; for when victory holds them tight and they know for sure it’s over.

As they walk from the ladder to the docking bay, each of the members ponder over their recent decisions and fantasize about their future ones.

This is it… Elix thinks giddily.

I can finally end the Encephalon’s rule and save my parents.

Her mind flashes with images of her mother and father, and of the days she last saw them. It’s been so long for her that the visions are fleeting and drip into blurriness with every blink, until she’s left with a lump in her throat that expands with her motivation.

Davis’ Stride is certain and purposeful as he thinks.

Get better brother, I will be back, and when I am, we’ll go to mum’s lake and build a house. I’ll get you a dog like we used to have, and call it Mac. Ha, he’ll probably hate that…

Davis sighs, not loud enough for his team to hear him but enough for him to feel its release.

I hope I get this right. You can’t fuck this up now Davis… I won’t fuck this up.

Blister’s thoughts reside with his family.

I know we’ll see each other again Charlotte, Jacob, my boy; I can’t wait to see you grow up and chase girls, or boys, whatever makes you happy.

He smiles, and nearly lets out a whimper through his imperceptibly grimaced lips; he coughs to cover it up. No one reacts; this isn’t the time for ridiculing one another of their deluging emotions.

“So, when we’re out there…” Blister gulps

“…If I shit my pants, will I be more or less likely to attract sharks?” He asks, nervously trying to tame his wandering mind.

“Same old Blister” Says Trace.

“Unless there’s blood in your stool you’ll probably repel them” Elix notes.

“I’d better hold it in then, just in case I need to pinch one off to get out of a pinch” He concludes.

Malcom has been chanting a mantra to himself since he made his deal with Davis.

You’re not going to die, you’ll outlive them all. You’re not going to die, you’ll outlive them all. You’re not going to die, you’ll outlive them all.

He’ll endeavour to keep his mantra going as long as he can to keep his spirits up; to keep him focused long enough to complete his mission.

The group enter the docking bay; Trace’s mind is the only one trying to stay on the task at hand. She’s reviewing the sequence of their plan and thinking of the finite ways she can solve the innumerable complications her Cluster is sure to face.

But if she wasn’t pondering those situations; she’d be fantasizing about the day she tells Davis her feelings; it’s been in her head for some time now, and has long since turned from a frustrated young woman’s lust, that almost always ends in a negative way, to chaotic romance beginning with the victory of the Uprising and ending with their hearts thumping to the same rhythm and only skin separating their souls from entwining.

She’d wonder about her sister, she’d hope her parents were still teaching her the intricacies of electro-mechanical engineering, as they had done with her so many years ago. She’d be curious if her sister’s hair had darkened like their mother’s or stayed fair like their dad’s, and if she ended up being tall like him too or stayed little like her. She would wonder; if she thought it would help, she’d wonder.


Symbionic. Chapter 5: Final Part

Catch up on the rest of Symbionic, from blurb to now; here.

Davis has had enough of the introductions.

“We have to talk about our assault” He states.

Trace turns serious and nods in agreeance.

“But first, you guys need a shower, because, how do I put this…”

“We stink” Blister finishes.

“Yes” She replies plainly.

“Ooh Trace do we have any of that clean slime” Blister excitedly asks.

Trace nods with gleaming smile.

“Fuck yeah…” Blister rejoices.

“…Come on Elix, I’ll show you how to use it”

“No thanks, I’ll figure it out”

“Blister…” Davis calls, in that tone only Blister knows is the one to stop.

“…Help Nox alright, Trace and I need to talk”

Elix, Blister, Jones, Korvo and Nox leave the bridge, downward to the showers.

Trace orders:

“Malcom, Maxine, set the sub to an auto course and give us a few minutes to talk”

Maxine flicks some switches and pulls a few levers before leaving hastily. Malcom protests.

“You don’t want to fill me in on what’s happening here?”

“Malcom, Take the or…” Davis starts before spotting Trace’s stern face and raised hand.

She asserts:

“That’s an order Malcom. This sub does have a brig if you’d like to continue your tantrum in there”

Malcom exhales swiftly from his nose in an angry grunt before he leaves.

“I was going to ask you before Davis, and then I saw you all, I knew you’d been through a lot, but…”

“What happened?” Davis finishes her question.

“Yeah…” She replies.

Davis inhales deeply through his nose before beginning; he hoped it would calm him, hoped it would give him some kind of strength, or at the very least stop his next words from shuddering under his rising guilt. It didn’t.

“I Los…” He chokes up; turns his face down and away from trace and Amani.

He begins again.

“…Everyone in that station is gone. The Hûms Nox was with are dead and the rest are Assimilated now” He goes quiet.

A moment passes and Davis feels a touch on each of his shoulders. He looks up.

“We’re going to save them all Davis” Says Trace.

“I’m sure you did everything you could” Amani adds.

Anger takes Davis not at what either of his friends had said, but at himself.

“No, I should have fucking stayed with my Cluster, I never should have left, maybe then I could have…”

“What?…” Amani spits.

“…Given your life to save theirs? Then where would we be Davis? You realise if you were Assimilated, all of this would just fucking end, there wouldn’t be a second chance”

Davis hadn’t even thought of the notion. He’s been trying to fill his bucket with a puddle when there’s an ocean right in front of him.

“You’re being too hard on yourself Davis, you saved Nox” Trace states.

Davis stands and walks through the space between Amani and Trace to the pilot’s chair, spins it to face the girls and sits with his foot on the seat and his eye socket buried in his knee.

“He doesn’t even recognise me…”

Davis’ face grimaces trying to hold back his tears, but they weigh too much and he cries onto his tightly hugged leg.

“…And then he called me Dad…”

Davis looks up to Trace.

“…It had been so long since I’d even though about my old man. His face was fucking tattooed on my eyelids; I couldn’t get rid of it…”

Amani hides her frowning cry behind her hand. Trace walks closer.

“…I swear if I hugged him any tighter I would have killed him”

His foot slips to the floor and Davis collapses his head into his hands on his lap waiting to catch his tears. The two women gather around Davis and gently embrace him into their arms.

He twitches as they touch him, peeking through his spread fingers at what’s happening, and the two girls hug him. They’re warm and smell of grease, paint and sweat. Neither of them had showered since they left but they were a pleasant reprieve from the stink Davis has burned in his nostrils.

Amani speaks quietly in his ear:

“You saved Nox, and you saved the others too, you have to know that protecting our mission will save everyone in the end, this is a victory for us”

“ARRGH…” Davis roars.

Trace and Amani back away; unsure of Davis’ intentions.

“…AND THEN LANCE SOLD US OUT. There were thousands of them, of us in there, and Lance threw them away, Mac’s gone, that whole fucking station is lost…”

Davis paces angrily in the control room.

“…I went there aiming to sacrifice myself for my brother, instead I managed to gather two thirds of the uprising to one convenient location to be Assimilated. Well, if we’re lucky they’ll be Assimilated”

“DAVIS…” Trace shouts, shocking him into looking at her.

“What? It’s true, right now it’s better than dying and I, WE, get another chance to save them, a chance to redeem MY actions”

“We’re in this together Davis…” Amani starts.

“…We’re all to blame; those actions belong to all of us. Just like the Encephalon is to blame for the Assimilated”

Davis looks to Amani; somehow her words are calming to him, made him feel less shit about his transgressions. He smiles at her, then Trace too.

“I better wash this stink off of me, before this sub turns into a bio-hazard” He says.

Trace and Amani laugh, but the seriousness of their previous words doesn’t echo away with their forced syllables; as much as they’d like them to. Davis leaves the control room, and takes the laugh with him.

Only enough time for four Hûms to shower, has passed, when:

Beep, beep, beep… Beep, beep, beep.

An alarm sounds throughout the submarine.

“The proximity alarm” Amani tells Trace.

Trace dashes to the intercom, her voice resonates with a tinny sound.

“Malcom; control room NOW, Elix, Blister, torp room one, Davis, Korvo, torp room two”

Jones has been in the control room since she showered; talking with Maxine about every switch and button in front of them, while she tries guessing the meaning of ‘Merops’

“What should I do?” She asks.

Trace turns and Jones is right in front of her face. Trace processes her abilities in a flash.

“Targeting. That chair next to Malcom, tell me how close the blips are to the centre every two seconds”

Trace turns back to the intercom and blares her voice again.

“Elix, Blister; Red-stripe, Davis, Korvo Blue-dot”

The four Hûms below efficiently manoeuvre the appropriate torpedoes into position. Their bodies reflect their clean and agile minds.


“Primed” they sound off; Elix first.

“What’s going on out there, guys?” Blister asks.

Trace doesn’t reply, instead she asks:


“It looks like a squadron of subs, three small revolving a bigger, but I can’t fully identify them, their movements are too erratic to be Assims” Jones states.

“Malcom, Maxine dive, see if they chase” Trace orders.

“Diving” he spits, with a focused stare at his control panel.

The submarine sinks into the murk, creaking with every hundred metres it descends.

Beep, beep, beep… Beep, beep, beep.

“There’s something else out there…”

Jones starts, her words turn frantic.

“…Fuck there’s thousands of them” She adds.

Malcom sets the engines into reverse without uttering a word.

“Malcom what the fuck” Maxine shrills.

“Malcom, what are you doing?” Trace commands.

Malcom resumes his fixated gaze at his controls, he flicks some switches, turns a dial while everyone watches on; confused.

The intercom speakers crackle and squeal with distortion as the submarine slows to a stop and then a creeping reverse. Once still, over the speakers; out of the calm, dark sea comes a song of warning through the hydrophone, that can only be described by vocalising:

Eeeoorrroo… Areeeoorr… Weeooarr…

“Whales…” Malcom begins.

“…The whales are dissuading our route”

Jones laughs.

“No way! you can speak whale?”

“No, I can’t…”

The control room is overcome again with confusion.

“…But judging by the lack of imagination in the placement of those thousands of dots, I’d say they we’re calling out a warning about the mine field, I’d say they think we’re one of their own”

“Malcom, I apologise…” Says Trace

“…You just saved us, thank you. Now we need to plot a course around these mines, you two get to it”

“Yes ma’am” Maxine replies.

Malcom stays silent, his face is stuck in its all too natural brooding fashion. Trace feels as though something is wrong but has since learnt that querying his moods always seems to makes it worse.

The intercom crackles into the conversation break.

“So are we under attack or not?” Blister asks curiously frustrated.

Trace blushes, but conceals it from her ship mates; she’d forgotten about her friends in the torp rooms. She clears her throat.

“Un-prime that ordnance crew, it was just some whales and a mine field”

Blister and Elix look to each other with a gleeful intrigue carved deep in their face, they run; like they were racing each other to the ladder. Trace, Jones and Maxine look at each other confused at the sudden end to their transmission. Blister knocks Elix with his hip and shoulder, Elix retaliates and with her bionic arm she holds Blister behind her with ease.

“Fucken cheat” He says.

She laughs maniacally and climbs the ladder with a victorious grin.

“Where are they?” Elix asks, as her head emerges through the ladder chute before clambering up further.

Blister’s right beneath her, his head comes up through her legs, and he lifts her up on his shoulders.

“Where are they?” He repeats.

Malcom chuckles at their lack of knowledge.

“You can’t actually see them” He dismisses.

Elix zips over to his control panel, Malcom gets flustered that she has invaded his space. She scans the interface and goes to press a few buttons. Malcom slaps her hand out of the way each time.

“Stop it Elix, you don’t know what you’re doing” He professes.

And then Elix spots a switch and reaches for it, Malcom doesn’t swat her hand away, she flicks it. The screen surrounding the control room shifts aside from the centre out to reveal the fathomless black of the ocean surrounding them.

Malcom sits quietly with his arms folded and eyebrows nearly toughing in the middle.

Blister snickers:

“I thought you knew everything Malcom” His giggling continues.

The crew look out into the dark; bewildered at its depth.

“Malcom…” Trace starts “…Can you find the light switch?”

His silence endures as he presses the button right next to the screen switch. The black takes on the blue of the submarine’s spotlights.

Biogenic substance and pelagic sediment float into and around the submarine, the group stares rapaciously and just when they think the whales have disappeared, Malcom turns on the hydrophone, and once again the whales sing. But the tone is different, playful even, as though the ocean mammals were telling the land mammals how silly they were being just now; about the enter the mine field head first.

The mother whale cruises by the open visor of the submarine to inspect what it thinks to be the weirdest looking whale in existence. She paddles away quickly. Malcom and Maxine share the same thought and engage the engines to make chase.

Quietly and as though she were in a trance, Trace says to Malcom:

“Follow those whales, they’re going to lead us right to the Encephalon”

And like a little game the Merops follows the pod; indulging in a brief solace from their daunting mission. They sway and dive, merrily racing with something man hasn’t fully tainted with its technologies.

Even though the Encephalon has forced the migrations of these majestic creatures; with their ocean crust, to one spot on the planet. Today, it has proved to be advantageous for the Uprising, and they are thankful.


Symbionic. Chapter 5: Part 3

Read Symbionic from blurb to now; here.

Davis has been devoutly working his brother’s motor skills and hand eye coordination for as much time as Mac could squeeze, and luckily Nox’s grip has grown firmer, he can now keep track of Davis’ movement without much strain.

“Come on Nox, ask me something man, anything, please” He requests.

The others in the cramped room have decided to rest in the bunks and conserve their energy. Elix, instead walks over to Davis and Nox. She pulls from her pocket the jerky she placed there earlier.

“Here, I was going to save this for myself for later, but maybe it’ll lift his spirits a bit, or give him a burst of energy”

Elix holds the jerky in her open hand near Nox’s chin. The aroma wafts to his nostrils, confusion overcomes him as he tries to place the scent to a memory. He turns to the smell.

“Can, can, can I have?” He asks.

Davis smiles, Elix giggles.

“Yeah, sure, but chew it slowly okay”

Nox reaches his hand out to grab the jerky, grips it and plops it into his waiting mouth.

“Davis, Trace is here, she just buzzed. What’s the plan now?” Blister asks.

What is left of the true Uprising in the cramped bunk room, gather to the bed which Nox and Davis rest upon.

“Come on Davis we need to know” Says Jones.

“Help me stand Nox up…” He says.

Elix and Blister aid him, and lift Nox to his feet. Nox stands wobblily, but well enough on his own for Davis and the other to let go.

“Where going?” Nox asks.

“We’re going for a swim bud; can you hold your breath for me?”

Nox takes a deep breath and holds it in with his cheeks bulging like balloons. His innocent demeanour gives the group a small reprieve from their grave circumstances.

“That’s good Nox, you’re doing great” Davis states.

Jones pipes up:

“So, swimming huh? That’s your plan?”

Davis doesn’t respond, instead he takes his Morse responder back from Blister and buzzes it a dozen or so times. He then pockets it.

“Blister, help me with these bunks. The rest of you, move the other beds against the wall feet first.”

Blister doesn’t question him; Korvo and Elix do the same.

“Davis?!…” Jones demands.

“…Why won’t you answer me?”

All the beds now lay against the wall opposite to the mouldy exterior wall. Davis grabs Jones by her shoulders and coerces her into the space between bunks.

“Hope you’re’ll ready”

“Fucking ready for what?” Jones barks, and as she does a booming crunch from outside the moulded wall forces her instincts to drop her to the ground.

The walls crack and water hisses through, spraying the room with a fine mist of stone-cold Ocean.

Lance leaves the confines of the station and climbs the perimeter wall to view the Encephalon’s army first hand. Hûms run chaotically around him, making their way to any free spot along the wall as instructed. Aiming their pistols and readying their grenades.

Lance walks behind his soldiers; his men, won over by a diplomacy built on poisonous words. They watch anxiously as an innumerable amount of Assimilated march upon them.

The Assimilated have no need for weapons, their sheer numbers are enough to eliminate their foes. The resounding claps of their synchronised steps leave no need for war drums.

“Everyone is in position Sir” Lance’s lieutenant states.

He can sense the fear in the boy voice.

“Don’t worry son, we’ll have our peace soon enough”

The boy could have easily thought Lance meant they were going to win and free everyone’s families from the tyranny of the Encephalon, but no, the boy understood exactly what Lance had meant.

The young soldier has calculated his chances of survival, and they were slim, slimmer than a bee’s dick. It was this moment that the boy could not tell if his brain had released serotonin to help him cope with his impending doom, or if the wind had brought with it a cool change, either way, his spine pulsed fear throughout his body and he knew Lance had been working for the Encephalon. For how long? He couldn’t tell, but the truth had struck him and he wondered how many of his friends and comrades he could tell before the ocean of Assimilated wash over them like ants to a carcass.

The swarm of Assimilated creep closer.

John breaks rank, he screams as loud as his lungs will let him:


He manages to turn dozens of heads to his dictum.

“You insubordinate little…” Lance says taking a step back and reaches for his holstered pistol.

The young soldier’s eyes widen with a crazed stare that cuts through Lances resolve and he feels fear, the kind a child is filled with when he stands up to his father for the first time; an honest fear.

Lance fumbles his weapon, the boy charges at him unblinking. The two Hûms wrestle for control of the weapon, Lance trips on a tuft of grass and falls backward to the ground. His grip of the pistol is lost to the soldier; whose berserker eyes have not faded.

Soldiers from the wall begin to rush to the scene. The boy shoots Lance in the stomach, again in the shoulder and once more in his knee before turning the weapon to his own head.

He closes his eyes, his rage floats away on a passing breeze. Serenity takes him; the trigger creaks faintly, tickling his eardrum as he squeezes slowly.

But the boy is tackled by his comrades before he can fire. Three men relinquish the weapon from him.

“RETREAT TO THE STATION” One of the soldiers call out.

Another repeats the command in the distance. The word catches all Hûms on the wall and in the yard; they flee to the confines of the reprogramming station.

The assimilated reach the wall.

There is no one to attack them with EMP weapons.

The assimilated traverse the wall, effortlessly collaborating; no one is there to witness the feat.

The Hûms within the station begin barricading the main entrance with everything they have at their disposal. An explosion quakes beneath the station; the Hûms pass it off as the Assimilated trying to get in.

The Assimilated reach the door.

“Davis, wont we get crushed by the water pressure?” Asks Blister, as the ocean slushes around at the sextet’s shins.

“No…” He replies un-reassuringly, watching the severely cracked wall spew water.

Blister and Elix look to each other; their faces painted with worry. Davis feels the feint vibration of his Morse responder.

“Brace” It states.

Davis relays as loud as he can:

“Get down”

The six each huddle with the nearest body, tensing their muscles and closing their eyes. A tremendous boom surpasses the fizzing water, deafening the group momentarily. Within seconds the room is half full, and the Hûms within are forced to watch their oxygen swiftly taken from them at the hands of the ocean.

Squeals and screams in the cold water are inaudible amidst the chaos. Davis signals with his hands as he yells:

“Follow me”

No one hears but they all understand. Davis dives under the surface with Nox’s hand held tight in his grasp. The other four follow him down and through the two-metre diameter hole in the wall.

Davis and Nox swim fast, and through the murk of the ocean, blended with the dust and debris of the reprogramming station, Davis can see the blinking light of Trace’s submarine. He turns to see if his friends are behind him. Elix and Blister are right there, Davis pauses until he can see Korvo and Jones; the sediment displaces around them and Davis confidently resumes his pace to the sub.

As they get closer, the submarine’s nose splits in two horizontally, like the mouth of a whale scooping up krill; Davis and his five swim inside. He quickly taps: ‘SOS’ on his Morse responder; the mouth of the sub closes.

Blister’s lungs are cramping, he hasn’t had to hold his breath like this before. He wriggles at the top of the sub waiting for the water to drain, and the others start squirming. Davis clicks furiously at his responder, transmitting gibberish in his panic.

A whirring of motors and the glugging of pumps reverberate through the water. The six thrash their limbs upwards, kissing their lips to the growing pocket of air and sucking at it desperately.

The water level drops enough for the group to fit their heads, nobody speaks just yet; they’re too busy panting to restore their bodies lost oxygen.

“Is everyone alright?” Davis asks.

A few shared breaths go by before anyone answers.

“I’m good” Says Blister.

“Ditto” Says Elix.

Korvo and Jones nod as they breathe heavily. Davis looks to Nox.

“You good brother?”

Nox chuckles a shivering laugh.

“Fun swim” He says.

The water drains quicker now and the sextet can feel the bottom of the submarine and within seconds the water is no more than a few scattered puddles on the patch-rusted floor.

A squeaking of the submarine’s inner door alerts the group to its opening, its seal cracks as it opens.

“T…T…Trace its g…good to see…e you” Blister stutters, he rushes to her with open arms knowing full well she’d be a warm body to cuddle.

“Cuddle this” She quips, throwing a thick blanket into his face.

Blister cherishes its embrace like a long-lost lover: returned. The others creep forward to receive their blankets from the pile in Trace’s arms. Davis tries to be strong and look as though he doesn’t need one, but breaks quickly and snatches the last blanket from Trace; he covers his head, rubs vigorously and then dons it like a cape.

“What happened in there?” Trace queries.

The group are hesitant to answer and look to one another for guidance. The words they need are on the tips of their tongues yet the will required conjuring them would surely see them pass out.

Trace accepts the silence as enough for now, she can tell by their faces they’ve been betrayed somehow and the wound is still tender.

“Come this way…” She starts, stepping over the lip of the doorway, out of the mouth of her sub.

The sextet forms a single file line and shuffles through the door after Trace.

“…I Know you’re all very tired but it’s imperative that you listen and comprehend everything I say to you about this vessel…”

She turns to look at the group, each of them nods in agreeance, then resume their curious scan of the innards of Trace’s sub.

Like many sheltered Hûms, Elix has never seen a submarine before. As she walks, she studies the semi-rusted inner linings. There are pipes and conduits trailing a path overhead. The walls are grey and cold; pieces of paint flake off as she runs her hand along them. Other parts are spray painted silver where the rust has been stripped back.

The lights are dim, mismatched and flickering. Various hatches break up the hallway into segments. Each member of Uprising duck through as they walk, even Trace; the smallest.

“…This whole level is for cargo, engines and weaponry. Either side of this first room is where the torpedoes are loaded, take a second to familiarise yourselves, you may have to use this equipment without any fair warning…”

Trace steps into the torpedo room. Blister and Elix step in after her and the rest peer in from the doorway.

“…Blister, Elix, you’ll man this room, Korvo and Davis you’ll be in the opposite room. Don’t worry; it’s identical to this one. Now listen carefully. Red-stripes go bang, Blue-dots go zap. It’s simple to load them, watch me. You pick the torp up with the Robo-crane, use these joy-sticks to manoeuvre it into place…”

Blister sniggers at ‘Joy-stick’

“Shut it Blister” Trace blasts.

Davis elbows him in his side.

“…Once the torp is in the tube, shut the lid and hit the primer button; the torpedoes aren’t live until you press this button, so don’t forget”

Trace lets the knowledge sink for exactly three seconds.

“Moving on…” Trace barges past the huddled crew onward through the corridor.

“… Back there is the engine room. Unless you’re an electrical engineer or me don’t even breathe in it”

Trace climbs the ladder at the end of the hall, and the group follow. She pauses halfway up.

“This level is the living quarters, Beds first, then kitchen, then shower and lastly toilets. I’ll introduce the rest of the team in the control room, then you can explore”

One by one the group behind her stop to look into the living quarters before ascending.

Blister is last to get to the control room and as soon as his head pops out of the ladder hole he is filled with excitement. He stumbles on the last steps and smacks his shins on the steel as he exits.

“Ow fuck”

And then in his highest pitch he squawks.

“Malcom” He blurts, dropping his blanket and forcing a hug upon Malcom.

“You’re still wet” He states disgruntledly.

Blister releases his hug and holds Malcom by the shoulders sporting a cheesy grin.

“We’re in the same boat now friend”

Blister looks away then back again and laughs before turning around and finally noticing the rest of the crew glaring at him.

Trace clears her throat.

“Well, now that that’s out of the way, I’d like you all to meet Amani, she’s the leader of E Cluster…”

Korvo’s eyes haven’t swayed from Amani’s curly orange hair, and how it bounces every time she looks away from his swooning gaze with blushed cheeks.

“…And this is her third in charge Maxine; she’ll be our pilot…”

Maxine peeks her chubby freckled face around the pilot’s chair, the sub veers to the starboard side, and the crew lose their balance a little, she quickly turns back and continues her pilot duties.

“…And in case you don’t know Malcom, he’s the tall one, he will serve as our navigations officer”

Malcom scoffs at how beneath his abilities a navigations officer is, and turns his head away from anyone who were to look upon him for future reference.

“And finally, ha-ha almost forgot, for anyone who doesn’t know me, I’m Trace… Captain Trace”

“What about the ship’s name?” Elix asks.

Maxine shouts from behind her large chair.

“Merops. I’d tell you what it means, but where’s the fun in that”


Symbionic. Chapter 5: Part 2

Read Symbionic from blurb to now; here.

In the fifth basement, there is a room; the walls are damp where the salt water meets them on the other side, it leaves an odd mouldy smell and scattered stains throughout. Davis and his Uprising within a broken Uprising are thrown inside the room. There are four neatly arranged bunks with barely any walking space between them. The crew are immediately met with a claustrophobia none of them knew they had.

Blister, Korvo and Elix pace around the room hunting for a flaw they can exploit, while Davis sits on a bunk next to Jones and Mac.

“I know my words don’t really carry much weight right now, but thanks for standing by me in there”

“Davis…” Mac begins.

“…I’m sorry, I’ve known Lance for a long time, we’ve been kicking Assim ass together longer than I could hold a job in the old world, I just wish I could’ve stood up to him like you did, only sooner. Maybe none of this would have happened”

“Mac, you stood when it counted, I won’t forget that…” Davis replies.

“…And Jones, we don’t know each other except by name and a few rumours, but, I’m glad C Cluster named a bright woman like you to lead them, I suppose your actions have granted you a reward, I should probably tell you guys our real plan of attack”

Mac perks up before Davis can continue.

“Whatever your plan is Davis, I Know you’ve got a way out of here, and I know the Assimilated are coming with all they’ve got, and I know for sure you’ll need as much time as you can scrounge to pull this off”

“What are you getting at Mac?” Davis asks.

“Just trust me okay, don’t tell me your plan, when Nox comes through the door, I’ll tell the soldiers that you told me your plan and they’ll have me speak to Lance immediately, that should buy you enough time to do what you have to do, and if it doesn’t, well, I tried. At least I know I stood up when it counted” He smiles.

“Alright guys, the plan remains a mystery, Jones, I guess you’ll just have to wait and see. Mac, thank you”

Davis places his hand on Macs shoulder and they stare a grateful gaze at one another.

Only a few minutes pass before footsteps are heard in the hall outside the bunkroom’s door. Blister, Korvo and Elix stop their thorough examination of the room’s weaknesses to spin their heads to the door. The six Hûms huddle together in the centre of the room, as though they were going to rush the soldiers when they enter.

The door opens; four men trot in rifle barrels first, aiming at Davis and his crew. They form a line and hold, two more men come through holding Nox by his arms from behind. Davis sees red and tries to charge but is immediately held by his companions, albeit with great difficulty.

The two soldiers in the middle turn their weapons to the stumbling Nox, the other two remain still, aimed at the group. Davis calms, he and Blister help Nox onto the bed behind them. Mac steps up to one of the soldiers.

“Take me to Lance, I’ve gathered some Intel from this scum” He says, his face ridden with disgust.

Blister and Elix jerk to their feet, Blister yells:

“You slimy fuck, I’ll fucking kill you” As he stomps towards Mac.

Two of the soldiers stand in his way and Blister is met with a rifle barrel poking each of his eyes. He immediately raises his hands. Mac looks over the soldier’s shoulder at Blister.

“Oh, you didn’t think I was your friend, did you? Blister, they told me you were a little dull, but now, I can see you’re just fucking stupid… Have fun growing mould down here” He concludes, as he walks out of the room confidently.

“Nox, hey… it’s Davis” Jones pushes past Davis and the crew.

“Get out of the way, he needs space to breathe. Davis! Let me see him”

Davis backs off. Jones looks him over. Nox’s eyes flick open from their squinted state, Jones flinches backward, and then springs forward.

“Nox? Can you hear me?”

He frantically looks around and grabs at his eyes trying to signal that they don’t work. Jones turns to Davis.

“When you found him, what were they doing? Was he drugged or in a coma?”

“Ahh, umm…” Davis panics as he tries to remember.

“…He was hooked up to a machine, his eyes were covered, he ate through a tube”

“Makes sense, they had his brain in like, a low power mode so they could program it easier. He’s coming out of a coma, we have to be very careful with him”

Jones turns back to Nox.

“Nox, look at my hand…”

She holds it above his face and moves it in circles. His eyes track it but strain quickly. He blinks and swats it away with his own hand.

“Davis this is a good sign, he’s going to recover, I don’t know how well though”

“Will he be able to swim, or hold his breath?” Davis asks.

“You’re joking me, aren’t you?”

“No time for jokes, that’s how we’re getting out of here”

Jones looks at Nox and sighs.

“Fuck…” She turns back to Davis.

“…Come here, get him to follow your hand with his eyes and squeeze it on your command, one minute on, one minute off, get him to say a sentence, ask a question, whatever, and he should be able to swim”

“But he was talking before, when we found him. You heard him Elix, he said “Have to protect Davis”’

“Yeah that’s right, what does that mean Jones?” Elix asks.

“Look this wasn’t any normal coma, so side effects are going to be unpredictable, while he’s been able to say things; they’ve only been parrot sounds, echoes, and since they were fucking with his brain, that makes this incalculable at best”

Davis looks at Jones; he heard what she said but refused to accept any negative outcome.

“Blister, here, take my Morse responder, tell Trace to slow down, I need more time with Nox, he has to be ready when she gets here”

“You sure man, that’s real risky, having them take their time”

“I won’t leave here without him Blister, he’s been alone for too long already”

“Alright man, I’ll do it” Blister agrees, and empathises, if it had been his Charlotte or his boy Jacob, he would do the same.

“Mac I’m surprised, I didn’t peg you for a snitch, come in, come in, have a seat, do you want some coffee?”

Mac knows this offer of coffee and niceties is all part of Lance’s scheme. He’s setting a scene for Mac; he’s set himself up in the station’s workshop, and he’s using a work bench as his desk.

The long skinny room is radiating with warm light from above, Mac feels his Goosebumps disappear as he takes a seat in front of Lance.

“This is the cleanest workshop I have ever seen” Mac says.

“Amazing isn’t it, we can learn something from these Assims you know?”

“Enough bullshit…” Mac jabs “…It doesn’t have to happen this way. We should be listening to Davis; he and Artemis had a plan. We were going to work together Lance”

Lance scoffs.

“Humph, Artemis. He’d have us all commit suicide to save the masses, and Davis would use our bloodied clothes as a rope to climb into the Encephalon and save the day” He ends, rolling his eyes.

“You’re wrong” Mac states.

“Look around you Mac we’re sitting on top of our greatest victory to date. We disabled and secured the biggest reprograming station in the country. We did. Not Davis, nor Artemis…” Lance shakes his head and squints at Mac.

“…We stopped some of the most Dangerous Assims from scouring the streets looking for our little rat holes we call homes”

“So you admit it then?” Mac interjects.

Lance leans back into his chair to contemplate his answer.

“You should know by now Mac, there will always be casualties of war, but if we can choose which ones we lose, maybe their deaths will prove more useful than their lives ever could”

“You’ve fucking lost it Lance. Do you know I used to look up to you? And now, now I wouldn’t even look down at you if you were begging me for help. You’re no better than the Encephalon. We’re not sitting on victory. We’re standing on our dead with our heads in the clouds and calling ourselves giants. That’s no victory”

Lance doesn’t even wince at his former comrade’s words. He then draws a confused look on his face.

“You came in here offering Intel, but now you’re berating me like I’m some kind of child…” Something clicks in Lance’s brain

“…Oh, OH! Mac, you almost did it, you almost had me fooled. You’re stalling me you rascal…”

Lance switches from sportive to serious as he leans over the desk.

“…Now, tell me their plan or I’ll use YOUR bones to lift my head OUT of the clouds”

Mac breaks immediately; he can’t keep his ruse up now that Lance has caught him out.

“No, don’t, you need me; you’ll need all of us if we’re going to survive”

“Tell me their plan Mac” Lance repeats.

“Ahh, fuck it. They’ve played you all for fools; they were never going to use our Clusters as a decoy…”

Mac points all around the room with both index fingers.

“…This, this station was their plan all along, they meant to lure all the Clusters here so the Assimilated could swarm in and take you all away”

Lance fails to conceal his laughter.

“Ahah ahhahaha” His cackle angers Mac.

“What the fuck is so funny?” Mac asks.

“There’s only one fool in here, and it isn’t me. That couldn’t possibly be his plan…”

Again, Lance’s silliness converts to a straight face.

“…Because it’s my plan. No, they plan to escape somehow. John, get in here” He calls out.

“Sir?” The boy asks, rushing through the door from the corridor.

“Bring me Davis and his crew immediately”

“Yes sir” The soldier complies, before dashing out of the room.

He’s gone no more than ten seconds before he comes sprinting back in the room. A variety of screams can be heard down the hall. A distant commotional buzz fills the room as the boy enters, his sweat stained clothes immediately sting Mac’s nostrils.

“Lance, err, Sir! It’s the Assims sir; they’re massing out the front, what do we do?”

Lance stands with a feint smirk, he adjusts his collar and looks at the boy calmly.

“Get the crack shots to the towers and everyone else on the walls, let the Assims get real close, and when I give the order, we EMP them until they’re no more than a seizing pile of skin, got it?”

Enthusiastically: “Yes Sir” The boy confirms.

Just as the soldier flinches to leave, Mac stands.

“He’s never going to give that order kid”

The boy looks at Mac confused. He doesn’t suspect Lance’s deceit at all. Lance steps closer to the young man.

“It’s just the ravings of a desperate criminal, don’t listen to him son” Lance attempts to quell the distrust Mac has seeded.

Mac raises his voice:

“You’ll be Assimilated if you stay, get out, get your friends ou…”

Mac’s sentence runs short as the violent, thunderous clap of Lance’s pistol rings out in the boy’s ears; he cringes, his hands fly to his ears as he squeezes his eyes shut in fear.

Mac falls back onto his chair; its legs slide out and he thuds to the ground. His body lies awkwardly on the white tiled floor turning red, like blood on the tundra it taints as it seeps from Mac’s nearly missing head.

The young man’s eyes open from their terror closed state and are fixed on the blood puddle trailing to the nearest drain in the floor.

“Man the wall. Man the towers. I won’t give a second order soldier” Says Lance.

Survival clicks in the boy’s brain, he shakes as he stutters:

“Y…Yes Sir” His minute old enthusiasm disperses into the air, along with pink mist of Lance’s actions.

The boy runs out the door shaking his head, and maybe if he shook it hard enough the image would fall away from the insides of his eye lids. Such a sight would not easily fade.

Lance holsters his pistol and sips his now lukewarm coffee.

“Hmm, the Assimilated are early, I guess I won’t have to dirty my hands a second time after all” He says quietly to himself.

He doesn’t even take a second look at his former compatriot before leaving the sullied workshop to see his motives through.


Symbionic. Chapter 5: Part 1

Catch up on Symbionic, from blurb to now; here.

The first floor of the reprogramming station has been hastily converted into a mess hall, its glossed white walls and polished concrete grey floors remain spotless from the Assimilated’s occupancy. Ammunition crates, weapons containers and rolled up clothes litter the floor, with Hûms atop them slurping soup from any container without holes in it and nibbling bread and jerky from cupped hands and crumb laden laps.

“Pristine isn’t it?” Lance asks the group.

“Like a fucking morgue” Davis surlily quips, looking at every part of the room Lance did with a certainty to his disgust

“It lacks imagination if you ask me” States Blister.

Elix jumps in with:

“Well someone had to imagine it; either way its purpose outweighs any beauty it might hold”

Lance slyly smiles.

“If you want beauty, I’ll have to show you the paintings our Cluster has collected…”

She smiles in return, blushing slightly under the dirt on her face.

“…That will have to wait for the war to end though… Moving on, Mac and I will be in the command room, Blister, Davis, you can join us once you’ve eaten”

Lance and Mac walk away to the top right corner of the gigantic room, where partitions have been set up, segregating the Cluster leaders from the others. Lance stops a soldier on his way, tells him something, then points to Elix, Davis and Blister. The soldier runs off to the kitchen while the trio of tired Hûms find themselves a spot to sit.

Blister finds a patch of unclaimed floor next to one of the four load bearing pylons in the centre of the room. Davis sits to his left and Elix to his right.

“Feels good doesn’t it?” Blister asks.

“The floor is really hard” Elix giggles as she ends her sentence.

Davis shoots snot from his nose trying to hold his laughter in.

“Feels real good” He says as the coolness of the concrete travels through his pants into his buttocks.

The room is noisy with lame anecdotes and tired jokes made fresh, heard by new ears. The mixing of Clusters blends well with the aroma of hot soup and fresh bread being generously handed out. The scent is strong in the room and mostly foreign to many of the Hûms within, including Elix, and when the food rushes over to them on a tray carried by an efficient soldier, the only thing stronger than Elix’s curiosity of what ingredients have been used is her hunger to eat them without question.

“Pea and potato soup with fresh bread guys” The soldier says.

Elix and Blister barely hear the man over their loud guzzling and bread slopping as they furiously dig into it. Davis takes a slower approach, he knows his stomach has shrunk and feels it foolish to stretch it, as his next meal may not be as hearty and filling.

“Oh and… Elix…” The soldier lingers, and looks to his left and right for prying eyes, before handing her a small piece of something Elix has never seen.

“This is from Lance”

Elix pauses with her mouth full of soup-soaked bread, looking up at the man dumbfounded. She extends her hand and grabs the dark red item. The soldier walks away.

With his mouth also full of soup-soaked bread, Blister sputters:


Elix turns to him in time to see him swallow a mouth full of food bigger than his throat should be able to handle.

“…I can’t believe he gave you jerky” Blister concludes, with absolute jealousy crippling his face from any other emotion.

“What the hell is jerky?” She asks, holding it to the lights above, witnessing the light turn reddish brown through its membrane.

“It’s victory food” Blister spits through his food.

“Just put it in your mouth and chew Elix” Says Davis.

Elix takes the smallest of bites with the largest look of inquisition her face could manifest. It’s tough at first, but once its mixes with her saliva it softens to release its sweet and spicy flavours, vanilla dances with bourbon, the chilli bathes in maple syrup and Elix is transported to another planet, far from the woes of her world.

She opens her eyes and stares lovingly at the rest of her jerky, then snaps back to her earthly self. She tears it in two and hands a piece to Blister. Blister snatches it, gulps the last swallow of his own food, and scrubs his mouth clean with his tongue before gingerly placing the jerky inside. Elix turns to Davis and offers the remaining piece.

“Don’t you dare Elix, that’s your bit. Besides, my hands are still dirty, I’d ruin the flavour”

Elix wanted to dispute him but realised he was talking metaphorically. Davis is full of guilt and hungrier than ever, not for jerky, but for victory against the Encephalon. He took a loss tonight, one that will haunt him for the rest of his time, and looking around seeing all the Hûms celebrating, made it worse.

He finishes his meal in silence. Silence, he thought, was better for morale than carving his heart out with a discarded plastic fork and showing everyone in the room how black it was, and why.

Elix pockets her remaining jerky, and Blister asks:

“You guys here that?”

Elix tries to hone her hearing in.

“Is that buzzing?” She queries.

“Must be a tremor…” Davis says, nudging Blister’s leg suspiciously.

“…I hope Trace is okay…” He continues hoping Blister catches on.

Davis is receiving a message from Trace on his emergency Morse responder; he relays it to Blister by tapping his elbow just out of sight.

“Sub… Ready… Leaving…”

Any more and her signal could be tracked. Davis adds to his message for Blister.

“Tell… Elix… Prepare… Battle”

He looks to Davis a little confused at his choice of words and how exactly he is to repeat the message to Elix. He turns to her with a cheesy grin and eyes full of seduction.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” Elix asks.

Blister leans in to whisper:

“Sweet nothings” In her ear.

She cringes and giggles at his breath on her neck. Now she’s twice as confused. He goes in again.

“Trace is coming to get us, be ready for anything and laugh when I pull away”

She laughs as requested and adds a punch to the arm to aid the ruse.

The feast ends and most of the Hûms in the room saunter merrily off to their tents to retire for the night; full bellied and sapped of most of their energy. Those left who aren’t Elix, Blister and Davis trudge off to relieve other Hûms from their guard posts so they can rest too. As the room clears, the trio from Cluster F walk into the command room.

There’s a few soldiers cleaning away the remnants of the leader’s dinner, as a few more people enter the room.

“Shut the door on your way out…” Lance orders.

“…That’s everyone isn’t it? Good…” He asks and answers himself.

“…Let’s begin” He concludes.

Mac walks to the head of the room, made to feel small by the thirty odd Cluster leaders filling it.

“Today we put fear into the Encephalon; we crippled a major component of their operations”

The room cheers, Mac raises his voice to surpass them.

“Now this is not the end of the war…”

The leaders quieten.

“…The Encephalon is still out there, still taking our fellow Hûms, still Assimilating them. We all know something of Davis’ plan, and it’s a good plan, but it comes with a cost, one each and every one of you needs to understand fully before undertaking it. Davis, fill them in”

Davis clears his throat superfluously as he steps up to take Mac’s place. He’s nervous as he looks around at all the faces; most of which eagerly anticipate his words so they can disagree immediately. A few want his blood soaked deep into the pores of their hands, and even fewer wish to genuinely hear him out.

“I fucked up. I won’t deny it; all of you are here because I wanted to save one person and a lot more of us aren’t here for the same reason. I will never forgive myself for what happened to those Hûms underneath us…”

Davis sighs to keep from breaking down.

“…Everyone in this room risked their lives for Elix, my brother and myself. I owe you my life and I intend to see it as the only future casualty in the final attack… But my Cluster needs your help, we need enough time to slip into the Encephalon unnoticed, so what we need is for you to draw out as many Assims as you can; by attacking the bridges that lead to the Encephalon”

The room erupts in a furious chatter. Ki, the leader of J Cluster stands.

“You managed to kill all the Hûms in the basement and now you would have us run head first into Assimilation, why? So you can run off to some other basement and have the Encephalon finish US off. Fuck that. Fuck you Davis”

Davis cops the insult, he was ready for worse. Jones of Cluster C stands before Ki gets a chance to sit.

“Guys, all failures aside, it’s actually a great plan, provided it works; the Encephalon would just think were being the dumb humans they already think we are, running to our inevitable demise in classic human nature. But Davis, those of us who can see past your recent transgressions, we want to know how you’re going to end them; how will you stop the Encephalon?”

The command room roars once again in agreeance with Jones

“I can’t, I just can’t tell you that. If I tell you and you get Assimilated, it’s over. Everything we’ve worked for, everything Artemis built, every Hûm that was ever Assimilated would have been for nothing, and we would be nothing. That’s the only way we can win, you have to believe me”

Blister stands from his seat, he’s been itching to say something this whole time.

“If you can’t trust Davis, trust me, and trust Artemis” He says.

Elix joins her companions.

“I stand with Davis…” She says.

“…Anyone else here brave enough to stand with us?”

Korvo stands, Blister and he exchange nods. Mac stands too.

Lance paces in front of everyone, his hand clasping his wrist behind his back.

“Hmm, how very interesting, it seems we have identified the Hûms that plot against us, against the Uprising. Davis, I didn’t want it to happen this way, but I’m going to have revoke you and your companion’s right to be a part of our collective, with the support of the rest of the Uprising of course. A show of hands?” He asks the leaders loudly.

“…Who here thinks Davis has over stepped his bounds, who here thinks Cluster F has taken the Uprising for granted? And gambled with the very lives they so proudly claim to protect and emancipate? Who here thinks they should be relieved of their positions in the fight against the Encephalon? Stand now if you agree”

All those standing for Davis quickly reclaim their chairs as the majority thrust to their feet. Blister yells at them from his chair.

“You’ve all been tricked; can’t you see Lance is working for the enemy”

They remain standing. Elix steps in, finally realising Lance’s role in the attack.

“He’s the one who shut down the life support generators. He killed the Hûms in this station, not Davis”

Barlon from Cluster A roars his opinion at Cluster F.

“If Lance hadn’t shut them down we would have a faced a far more formidable enemy than the few Assims guarding this place, you know what they are capable of, we would have surely been wiped out”

“Yeah, they would’ve killed themselves to Assimilate us” A random sub Cluster leader states.

“It was the only way” Another says.

Davis has been silent for too long and his anger has been rising since Lance opened his mouth; he stands.

“Look around you, look at the person next to you, across from you, ahead of you. Today these people, these Hûms; if you can still call them that, they’ve become worse than any Assimilated we’ve come across, worse than anyone in the Encephalon. All of you, every fucking one of you has turned from your humanity. You would kill your brothers and sisters just to gain another day? Of what? Fucking hiding in the sewers? Starving in the cold? At least in my pursuit for my brother I was the only one being sacrificed. And then you mother fuckers showed up, and it all went to shit…”

The room falls silent; there weren’t any comebacks to what Davis had said. They were right in their way and he was right in his. All they needed was someone to tell them what they had done was righter than what Davis had done. That person was Lance. He spoke to them on a level every man, woman and child knew all too well in the world the Encephalon has built. He spoke to them through a filter of fear, he made them scared, too scared to see that Davis is right, too scared to even stand against one man, let alone the Encephalon.

“…Lance, don’t do this, you can’t stay h…”

Lance butts in with a sharp piercing whistle, a squad of soldiers run into the room and look to Lance for direction.

“Take Davis and his Cluster to the secure room on sub level five. Korvo, Jones, Mac, you’d be wise to follow…”

The soldiers snatch Cluster F by their arms, and drag them out the doorway.

“…Oh, and wake up Nox, I’m sure he’d love to see his brother one last time”

Davis kicks and struggles as he screams:

“The Assimilated will reclaim what you’ve taken, you can’t escape them” His words echo into the mess hall and ring out in the ears of the Cluster leaders.

Under his breath: “And neither will you” Lance says.

Symbionic. Chapter 4: Final Part

Catch up from the beginning, here.

“Mac, err, Sir, we’ve managed to destroy the main generator, but have been unsuccessful in locating the back-up” A foot soldier reports.

“No need to search son, they’ll be scampering out soon enough. Move in the Clusters, focus on the south towers first then converge on the central. We take the yard, we fortify, we move inside the station and sweep floor by floor” Mac orders.

“Yes sir” the soldier complies.

Mac returns to his overwatch position to the West of the station, just inside the cover of the ocean crust’s forest. As he gets there, Mac notices Lance talking covertly with a soldier. Lance’s face is wrought with intent and then the boy rushes off into the fray.

“What was that about?” Mac asks.

“Oh, he was just nervous about the fight, it takes a few inspiring words to be seasoned veterans like us, aye mate?”

Mac knows that kid.

He’s fearless, what are you plotting Lance?

Mac doesn’t let Lance get a whiff of his suspicion, he throws a casual insult to elude.

“Hey you’re the only seasoned one around here, although I did used to be a Vet” he jests.

The two Hûms chuckle like old chums, Mac sighs, and his sanguine words follow:

“I hope what we’re doing is right”

Calmly Lance replies:

“Everything we’ve done so far has been right, even if it didn’t feel that way while we were doing it”

Mac smiles at Lance and extends his hand towards the battle field.

“Shall we?” He asks, gesturing for the two of them to enter the fight.

“I thought you’d never ask” Lance jokes, and they then change their faces to serious mode to engage in combat.

Davis peeks through the crack of the barely opened door leading to the reprogramming floor.

“Now’s our chance Elix, all the Assims have gone to fight up top”

“What do you think’s going on up there?” Elix asks

“Trace better not have done something stupid” He replies.

The two of them leave the maintenance corridor into a wide low-ceilinged room, filled with rows and rows of Hûms strapped down to chairs with helmets covering their heads. A giant steel centipede scales down their spines with wires and tubes going in and coming out of them, they sit; defiantly awaiting completion of their reprogramming so they can enter the solace of Assimilation or the void of ocean and death.

The rows continue like pews in a church under the soft blue light that the back-up generator emits until they blend with shadows in the distance. Elix and Davis stare silently in awe. The whole room reeks of sweat, bile and all other conceivable excretions that don’t quite make it from tube to mouth or Hûm to drain.

“Fifteen floors just like this” Elix states despairingly.

Davis would’ve replied if his brain wasn’t still processing the scale of the search he and Elix were in for.

The pair walk down the aisles, twenty Hûms on their right and twenty on their left. Davis scans their body shapes extensively.

“Look for black hair like mine and a scar on his thumb” He says, and then he returns to his determined search.

Elix scans the room but her mind isn’t focused like Davis’.

“These machines, is this what we’re in for if give in?”

“No Elix, this is what you get if you fight to the end. I think they’re some kind of sensory deprivation device, look at these masks, they look like they’re exposing these Hûms to a different atmosphere”

Elix has become fascinated by the process.

“They block your ears, they blind you, they make you breathe smoke and eat sludge, Davis we have to stop this” She says compassionately.

Elix knows his reply by the look on his face, his eyes are peeled, mouth closed like an overtightened vice, breathing heavily through his nose. His brain has long since shut down his smell receptors to focus its energy to his eyes.

They continue their search for a tedious amount of time, and then, of to the side by the walls cloaked in a darker shadow.

“NOX” He cries out.

More than fifty rows deep into the stations lowest floor, Elix whips her gaze to Davis’ voice. By the time she makes it over to him Davis has already ripped the mask from his brother’s head.

“Davis, be careful” She warns.

The chair hisses and releases the rest of the restraints from Nox.

“I’ve got you, I found you” Davis reassures, as he lifts his brother’s weakened body from the chair.

They both fall, Elix flinches forward as though to try and catch them, but they fall too fast. Davis lands with Nox on his lap, he rustles his body, turning Nox to see his face. Nox coughs up some of the brown sludge that should be food, and then opens his eyes as he sharply gasps for air.

“I’ve got you, I’ve got you” Davis repeats, choking up his last three words as he rests his head on Nox’s, rocking him gently.

Nox has been still for too long and Elix suspects he has either passed out or passed over. Elix is visibly distressed.

“Davis…” She starts, but before she gets a chance to continue Nox seizes to life, his back arches, hands curl to his chest and teeth grit.

“Rarrlgh” He gargles as though screaming out for his stolen vocal chords, Davis desperately tries to keep his brother within his arms.

The seizure subsides, Elix is in tears, watching helplessly as Nox twitches and tenses his muscles.

“Nox…” Davis asserts “…Look at me”

Nox opens and closes his jaw like he’s trying to adjust to a new altitude, his eyes roll, but eventually he meets his erratic gaze to Davis’. With his body in a foetal position Nox reaches out to touch Davis’s face.

“D… Da…” He begins.

Davis eyes enlarge with hope, his face wrinkles a smile through his tears, and he nods to encourage his brother.

“Dad” Says Nox.

Davis presses his hand onto Nox’s.

“It’s Davis, Nox; it’s your little brother”

Nox stares blankly up, the name doesn’t register. Davis looks to Elix, each of them choking on a lump in their throats.

“I’m too late, they’ve taken me from his memories” He holds his brother close and cries an unashamed cry, Elix turns away to unleash her own tears.

And then, between a whimper and a breath:

“Davis. Have to protect Davis” Nox recites.

“Yeah, bud, that’s what Dad said”

Davis’ smile returns, Nox’s face scrunches with confusion. He’s thinking, remembering more. Visions come to Nox, as he twists and spasms in Davis’ arms.

“RUN” Nox screams.

Then thousands of clicks echo from all sides into the ears of the three Hûms.

“RUN DAVIS” Nox yells.

“Elix help me lift him”

Her mind switches from its saddened state to one of high alertness as she snaps into action. They grab Nox by his arms and throw them over their shoulders; they run dragging Nox’s atrophic legs behind them.

As the three flee, a familiar hissing sound ripples into their ears.

“Davis, the Hûms, they’re…” Elix starts.

“They aren’t Hûms anymore; the Assims must be losing up top”

The thousands of freshly brainwashed Assims stand in unison, they remove their sensory depriving masks, the spinal attachment unscrews itself, whizzing and whirring its deep screws from their bones.

Halfway to the maintenance corridor, the feint blue light gets consumed by the cold darkness of sub level sixteen in the reprogramming station, held captive indefinitely. A cascade of thuds rumble in the shadow clad room. A whisper is all Elix can muster:

“Davis, what do we do?”

“Keep moving Elix, we have to get to the maintenance room”

Davis cracks a glow stick with his free hand, illuminating only a few metres around them. Elix gasps.

“They’re…” She says “…But why would they…” Her shock prevents her from finishing her sentences.

“Elix we have a window, let’s use it” Davis says.

The trio make it to the corridor and rest Nox against the side wall, Davis pants before saying:

“They must’ve killed the back-up generator” He claims, hands to his knees breathing heavily.

“But… How could they… have known?” Elix asks between her inhales and exhales.

Davis doesn’t have an answer for her, as much as she’d like him to; Davis is equally confused. The thumps of their hearts subside along with Davis’ glow stick and the hum of the room is lost to the blackened atmosphere.

Silence takes charge for only a moment, leaving Elix and Davis to their thoughts about what could be happening. Nox resumes his babbling.

“Someone, some, someone, someone Davis” and then in the distance a single set of military boots taps a loudening rhythm.

Davis whispers:

“Elix, get behind me”

She complies, quietly.

The three Hûms huddle in the dark; waiting. A flashlight scans the vast room outside the corridor, Davis watches it illuminate the door jamb, as it aims to their side of the room; Davis draws his pistol and cocks the hammer, it gives him something other than shade to aim for.

The footsteps stop and immediately the light turns fully to the maintenance corridor. Elix holds Nox’s head and covers his ears, he squeezes Davis’ arm. The steps resume, the rectangle brightens as it nears and at its brightest it flicks off, Davis fires at the door, no thud, he fires again and then a third shot. Nox screams out, his eardrums rattle; the prolonged deprivation of his senses has tuned his hearing to make a pebble sound like a boulder crashing. Davis fires one last time before he realises he’s hurt his brother.

The shots ring out for a few seconds, smoke from the barrel floats around them and the casings settle themselves, bouncing into their final nooks. From the quiet comes a young man’s stern voice.


Elix looks to Davis for guidance, he doesn’t give it, his face is ponderous yet he can’t think of what to do. Elix aims her voice to the door.

“Hûms” She replies.

The shuffling of the man’s gear is all the three can hear on the other side of the door.


“Sir I’ve found them… …Sixteenth Sir… …Yes I will sir”

Davis and Elix look to each other once more, both of them unsure of who the man is talking to and what intentions they have for them.

The door creaks open cautiously, the man flicks his flashlight on, Davis raises his gun, Nox flinches, and Elix stands. The light shines directly into her eyes then straight to the floor. The three’s eyes adjust.

“Davis?” the man asks.

He lowers his weapon and grumpily replies.

“Yeah, well who else were you expecting”

“We have to get you top side Sir” The man says, reaching for Nox to help the two of them stand.

“Aarrgh” Nox screams.

“Have to protect Davis” He recites, clawing his hand at the soldier, the man backs off immediately.

“We’ve got it thanks, Elix grab him, slowly”

The two grab Nox and the four of them walk up an out of the station.

Nox exits the station with Davis and Elix under each of his arms, his legs have regained some off their functions and the exercise of stair climbing has jogged his memory when he sees:

“Blister” He calls out.

Blister turns to them from his huddle amongst the Cluster leaders; he runs to them and relieves Elix of Nox’s weight. Davis and Blister look at each other across Nox’s weary face, and in that moment, Davis silently apologises and Blister silently forgives, abolishing any animosity that previously stood between them.

“Medics! Bring a stretcher, and help these Hûms” Mac commands, pacing straight for Davis and Nox.

Two soldiers run up to Nox, they try and grab him to ease him onto the stretcher, but:

“NO!” He squawks kicking his legs at them wildly.

“Whoa calm down, we’re trying to help” One of the medics says defensively.

Davis and Blister take a couple of steps backwards.

“Nox, cool it” Davis orders.

“Hey medic, you got any of those Molly-pops?” Blister asks.

Still on guard; the medic steps closer and throws from his satchel an ocean blue Molly-pop. Davis snatches it from the air and unwraps it.

“Nox, here check this out” He says.

Nox looks to his right; Davis tastes the Molly-pop.

“Mm your favourite: Blueberry”

Nox steals it and swiftly wraps his lips around it. The flavour explodes on his starved tongue, honey and blueberry seep into the cracks of his tongue, his salivary glands flood his mouth and aid the medicine down his throat; his pupils dilate. Davis and Blister ease him onto the stretcher and the medics take him into one of the many tents erected in the front yard of the reprogramming station.

“Mac…” Blister begins “…We have to get those Hûms out and ready to leave, we can’t keep them here while they’re recuperating”

Mac stands with his hands held at ease behind his back.

“It’s already underway, I’ve got men combing the station as we speak, they’ll be in homes soon enough”

Davis senses something is out place.

“They won’t find anything” he says grimly.

Mac furrows his brow at Davis.

“What do you mean? What happened in there?”

Davis pokes two fingers into Mac’s chest as he says:

“You and your soldiers shorted the power to the re-programmers. You killed them. If we didn’t get Nox out, he’d be gone too”

Mac is offended but holds his composure, he pokes Davis’ chest as he says:

“If you weren’t here at all, none of them would be dead and we’d have more resources to carry out our primary mission. You do still want to stop the Encephalon, don’t you Davis?”

Mac’s retaliatory temper wears off and he and Davis come to a simultaneous realisation. For Davis, it’s that his actions have been reckless and that his brother’s freedom has come with a severe cost. And for Mac, he understands exactly why Lance was so adamant about taking this place as a beachhead and what he was talking to his soldier about before the attack.

Mac starts again in a softer tone leaning in close:

“Davis something’s going o…”

But he’s interrupted by Jack running over from the station.

“Mac, there’s people alive in there…”

Davis’ drooped head rises and his guilt shrinks by a fraction.

“…We’ve got a handful of Hûms on each floor, they’re a mess, but the docs think they’ll be alright”

Mac looks to Davis, his gaze; implying he’s not yet finished with him before he turns back to Jack.

“Jack! I want everyone helping those Hûms up to ground level”

Jack nods and runs away as quick as he came. Elix can’t hold her tongue any longer.

“Was it you that gave the order?” She asks Mac, her fists clenched tight, her heart racing with adrenaline.

“That’s not what happened here…” Mac states.

Her voice rises:

“Did you cut the power?”

Mac puts his hands up gesturing her to calm down.

“Yes, I gave the order to shut down the main generators, we wouldn’t have been able to take the station if I didn’t”

Elix’s voice trembles as she raises it louder still:

“NO, you shorted the life support, you killed everyone, you ripped away their chance of freedom, and now you’re trying to blame it all on Davis. You’re pathetic”

Mac can see why she would come to that conclusion; it all makes sense to her.

“Hear me out, please…” Mac pleads.

“Spew your lies all you want” She states, arms crossed, mind made.

“Elix…” Davis starts “…Give him a chance, I trust him, and something’s off here, what were you going to say before Jack came over?”

“Yeah, what’s going on Mac?” Asks Blister as he herds the group into a huddle.

Mac whispers:

“The Clusters are being compromised, I can’t confirm anything yet but I think Lance is cooperating with the Encephalon, but still, even that doesn’t feel right, they’ve never acted like this before”

Mac ponders on his unsure thoughts as Blister jumps in.

“Mac, this is just like what I saw in the sewers, after the Raven’s Tongue was attacked. Davis, Elix, the Encephalon isn’t what it used to be, someone on the inside is trying to gain control and I think they’ll do anything to end us”

Elix is quiet, Davis curiously asks:

“You really think they’d bargain with a Cluster leader to kill off some Hûms?”

Elix eats her grudge with Mac.

“They’re scared, they must be… Mac I’m sorry for what I said, but if there’s a mole, we can’t trust anyone, we can’t even trust you, so how do we move forward”

“Elix!” Blister says, shocked.

“No, Blister, she’s right, the one telling us there’s a mole is highly likely to be mole themselves”

“But that doesn’t make any sense” Blister says, also thinking that it might make perfect sense.

Mac puts his hand to Blister’s shoulder.

“Blister, it’s okay, I’ve been called worse. What’s important now is that you lot get out of here and follow through with your plan. What is your plan by the way?”

The three of them look to one another, painted in their scepticism.

“Ha haa, got you…” Mac jests, and an unexpected chuckle overwhelms them.

“…Don’t tell me your plan. That would be stupid, I’ll get you on your wa…”

Something catches Mac’s attention; Lance is closing in on them.

“…And then I threw parsley at him and said “Now who’s a ‘seasoned’ Vet””

The group turn their dying chuckle into a merry laugh as they break their huddle, turning to face Lance.

“Not conspiring against the Uprising, are we? Haha” Lance jokes.

Mac perks up his voice:

“I ran out of inspiring words to give them so I told them a joke instead”

Lance giggles falsely as he slings his arm over Davis’s shoulder.

“Come on, let’s go inside, my boys have fixed the lights and prepared some food for us. Tonight, we eat like there is no war, and later we talk strategy”