Symbionic. Chapter 2: Part 1

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

Elix and The Uprising are huddled in a circle by the sewer exit of their underground base; it’s been one day since Elix joined the group.

Davis checks his watch.

“Two minutes till go time. Elix, you ready?”

She inhales through her nose then quickly out through her mouth to pump herself up.

“Yes” She confirms confidently.

“Now, this is your first mission in a full team, if shit goes sideways, stay close to Blister and listen for my orders”

“How many Assimilated are we likely to encounter?” Elix asks the group with an air of apprehension overriding her confidence.

Trace answers:

“It’s hard to assess based on the Intel we’ve got from the other clusters, but since the Assimilation centre is relatively small, security should be quite low. Maybe ten, or twenty Assims, if they’ve had a large influx of Hûms”

Blister spots the anguish on Elix’s face.

“Hey don’t worry, I’ve handled more than that by myself”

“He’s not lying” Davis adds as he leaves the huddle to open the sewer’s manifold.

“Yeah but Davis is” Trace states, foiling the boy’s boast.

“Well it was a lot” Blister attempts to reclaim his ego.

Malcom had been waiting for his chance to shut down Blister and here it was:

“It was three Assims and when we got to you, you were crying”

“I was sweating alright, it was a tough fight. Anyway, I trust the other cluster’s Intel, believe me this’ll be an easy mission for us”

The Uprising walks single file into the sewers and Blister shuts the door behind them. Elix’s nose was still full of the air from their base, but the second the door shut she was overcome with the stench of a million Assim’s faecal matter and god knows how many other animal’s excretions.

She continues her queries to try and take her mind off the smell.

“So how many Clusters are there?”

Trace begins:

“There’s seven in this city, Clusters A through to J, only Artemis knew how many there were globally”

“Only ten?” Elix is shocked

“How many in each Cluster?”

“Roughly three to six in each, any more and they’d risk being detected. That’s why were on this mission; to find Dr Abishua, he’s the only one Artemis knew capable enough to modify our Intelliguises so we don’t overheat and register as Hûms on the Assimilated’s monocles”

“So fewer than fifty Hûms are going to take down the Encephalon? Which has control of over ten billion Assimilated?”

Davis stops his stride, the group pauses with curiosity, he turns and walks straight to Elix and with the straightest of faces and the calmest tone says.

“We are all that is necessary to end this, even if there were only one Hûm left it would still be enough. Tyranny like this never lasts, our souls, our thoughts, our actions, our emotions, will always persevere”

His voice echoes faintly on through the tunnels, his words are empowering to Elix. For a moment she is scared, but it fades quickly to excitement and gives her a rush of adrenaline and endorphins that will linger with her long into the night and see her through to the morning.

Davis resumes his walk at the head of the pack. It’s silent for ten or so paces as Davis’s speech resonates with all of them. All except Blister who has grown tired of the quiet.

“Alright, somebody say something or I’m jumping into the turd water and you all have to deal with my stink till we get home”

“Any objections?” Trace asks the others.

“Nope, None here”

“I couldn’t care less” Davis and Malcom swiftly sound off respectively.

Blister turns to Elix with desperation written in the veins of his eyes, she hastily thinks of a question as she’s already over the smell of this place and doesn’t want to smell it all night.

“So which Cluster are we?”

A whispered uproar of ‘Boo’s’ and ‘OH’s’ carry over the thick air.

“What? What did I say?” Elix genuinely queries.

Malcom fills her in:

“We were this close to seeing him flail around in excrement” He says, with his thumb and forefinger in the air only a millimetre apart.

“But that would be bad… Right?” Elix sceptically asks

Malcom gives the rest of the details:

“Well yes, of course, for him, see Blister can’t handle the silent treatment and sometimes when he throws a tantrum we try and coax him into following through with his threat. The results so far have been most amusing and actually it’s proven the most effective way to get some peace and quiet on a mission”

“You lot are cruel” Says Elix.

Davis perks up:

“You’ll change your tune in a few weeks when he’s talked your ears off”

Trace chimes in:

“I thought it was barbaric when I first saw it happen, but now it’s almost like he enjoys throwing himself into grotesque substances”

Davis laughs.

“Oh man, like the time we were in that swamp after Artemis needed us to deliver some Intelliguises to one of the new Clusters out in the country” He chuckles the rest of his words out.

“Okay, that wasn’t funny! A crocodile nearly bit my leg off”

“Yes, but you were pretty quiet on the way trek home” Trace concludes.

Davis makes a right turn into a narrower set of tunnels, and the group crouch slightly as they walk on.

“We’re Cluster F…” Blister states finally answering Elix.

“…We’re not allowed to contact any more than two Clusters at a time; we relay with E and G Clusters, it’s part of the set of protocols Artemis devised”

“Shh…” Davis whispers.

“…We’re nearing the Assimilation centre”

Davis stops and pulls out a hand drawn map of the building, he clicks on his torch and reiterates the plan to his encircled team.

“We enter through the drain in the basement, we go up one flight to the first floor’s door and assess the threat level as best we can. Then we time the movements of the guarding Assims and when they’re in position we take them out with our short range EMP nades. Any left-over Assims we take out with our electro-round pistols. After we’ve secured the scientist we have to split up and rendezvous at the Crow’s Tongue at least three hours apart…”

Elix looks a bit confused as to why they have to split up at all, but can tell Davis has more to say and listens intently for his next sentence.

“…Blister, Trace, Malcom you guys go the fast way home, but you have to draw as much attention as you can away from us; so it won’t be a stealthy get away”

Blister is first to respond:

“Got it, fast and loud, take the party to the streets”

Trace and Malcom nod their agreeance.

“Elix, you and I will be in charge of locating and escorting our scientist back through these tunnels as unnoticed as possible and we’ll wait near the Crow’s Tongue’s back door till we’ve heard the all clear from Blister. If anything goes bad or home base gets compromised, we must go to our second rendezvous which, thanks to Elix, is the old library near Artemis’ house…”

Davis takes a few good breaths of the horrible thick air surrounding him to calm his barely visible nerves.

“…Once the nades go off, back up Assimilated with be dispatched immediately and we’ll only have a few minutes to act. So, now’s the time for questions”

Davis scans the faces of his comrades for any sign of uneasiness.

“Spit it out Blister” He says after noticing Blister nibbling at his bottom lip.

“Won’t the EMP nades mess with our Intelliguises too?”



Trace starts:

“Ugh Blister we’ve been over this…” Angry that he obviously wasn’t paying attention the first time.

“…These nades are short range. They only have enough power to disable electronics within a two-metre radius and as for the electro-rounds in case you missed that part too you have to be touching an Assim directly or through a conduit to be affected”

Blister’s nervous tick ceases

“Okay, Abishua should be in the holding area. Let’s move” Says Davis.

The uprising stand on each other like ants to reach the floodwater grate; Blister on the bottom, then Davis, who has Trace; the smallest, on his shoulders. Elix and Malcom wait beside them and watch in awe as Blister tightens his quadriceps and glutes to do the heaviest squat of his life.

Trace dislodges the steel grate as she ascends, and gently places it next to the opening on the floor. Blister’s face is red by now but eases to a warm pink as Trace lifts herself off and into the basement above. She reaches down for Davis and raises him into the room as quick as she can. The two then lower a rope down to the three waiting.

Blister rests and Malcom climbs up first with a blatant lack of chivalry. Elix climbs up next and Blister has a cheeky look at her behind. She looks down to him, nearly catching his voyeuristic face; complete with drool seeping from his mouth. Blister is quick though and resumes panting, before following her up a few seconds later.

The five Hûms; with Davis at the lead synchronously ascend the staircase of the damp basement, being careful not to make even the slightest of creaks. The door at the top appears to be reinforced with steel and the window at its centre is cored with wire mesh. Davis signals to Malcom to move to the front of the pack and use his surveillance gear. Malcom pulls from his satchel what appears to Elix to be a tangle of shoe lace.

Her confusion is lifted as she watches him unravel the string and pull it tight between his hands twice in succession. The lace stiffens, he bends the top third and slides it underneath the door, next he attaches something that resembles an eyepiece to a microscope to the other end of the string to which he places his eye against.

With his other eye closed and wrinkling the left side of his face in concentration Malcom whispers.

“Two guards at the entrance, twelve metres ahead of us on the left. One, maybe two on the mezzanine floor above us, to the right. I see ten Assimilation technicians, which don’t appear to be armed. I can safely assume there is another two guards outside the entrance and the exit, and potentially a couple of Assims nearby”

“Good work Malcom. Back to your position” Davis orders.

He pulls from his thigh pocket a handful of cylindrical objects no longer than Elix’s pinkie finger and thin enough to fit under the door, he places them on the ground, and from the same pocket extracts a modified handheld gaming system with a near destroyed label on it that reads ‘AME BOY’

A small red light powers on in the left-hand corner of the device as Davis flicks its switch into the on position. The cylinders roll away with a soft noise similar to a mosquito flying overhead. He drives the squadron of cylinders into position and commands his team:

“Prepare to breach”

Blister stands and moves to the door, he hastily pastes some kind of goo with a paintbrush onto the locking mechanism and then jams the brush into the keyhole before returning to his position with his hands cupping his ears. Elix is quick to assess what is about to happen and follows suit.

Davis presses the two circular buttons on his AME BOY at the same time.


The EMP goes off, two seconds later the door’s handle disintegrates into a chunky dust on the floor. Blister is first to move, he enters the room to witness the Assims scurry around the building, trying to re-capture the fleeing Hûms.

His pistol is drawn and ready, scanning for any Assim that spots him, so he can quickly disable them. Trace follows closely behind; her right shoulder in line with his left and Malcom just behind her.

Blister paces up the stairs to the mezzanine floor. Trace and Malcom spot two Assims coming for him from the entrance, Trace fires once, one goes down. Malcom fires twice and hits with his second. Malcom stays down stairs as Trace dashes up to meet Blister; they ascend together once she catches up.

The mezzanine level is nearly closed off except for the stairway entrance and a space of about 2 metres that overlooks the ground floor just above Malcom. Blister shoots one of the Assims closing in on them. Trace spots a second peering over the balcony, taking aim at Malcom with his pistol, without a second’s hesitation she fires at the man and he tumbles over the balustrading and lands right next to Malcom. He looks up with shock and gratitude smeared all over his face.

“Clear” Blister calls.

Trace and Blister return to the ground floor and help Malcom check the rest of the facility. Luckily its small and any Assim in the immediate area had fled to gather reinforcements.

“All clear” Trace tells Davis via her Morse responder.

Elix and Davis emerge from the basement at full pace, they know they don’t have much time to locate Dr Abishua.

“He’s got dark red hair, green eyes, and vitiligo scaling up his neck”

Elix takes all that she needs to easily identify the Dr from Davis’s statement

“Red hair, Vitiligo” She repeats, as they enter the holding area.

Blister, Trace and Malcom maintain constant surveillance of the compound, while they search. Davis and Elix split up and travel down separate rows scanning each Hûm they pass.

They only get a few rows deep when:

“Davis, here! Quick I’ve found him”

Davis runs over to her. Elix analyses the machine that the doctor is hooked up to

“We don’t have time for that” Davis says, as he tries to lift Abishua from his seat to no avail.

“Elix, stand back” Davis half-steps backward and raises his gun to Abishua. Elix zips in front of his aim.

“No, what are you doing?!” She protests.

“He’s got chemical induced rigor mortis” Davis says blatantly annoyed at Elix wasting his time.

He grabs her shoulder and fires over her at the Doctor.


Abishua seizes in his seat and drops to the concrete, flailing violently before lying limp on the floor.

Moments later the scientist wriggles and groans to a semi-consciousness as Davis and Elix look on. Not one second of Abishua’s waking mumbles reverberate in the now cold outside air, before Davis wrenches him from the ground and hocks him over his shoulder.

“Cover me Elix” He orders.

Davis trudges into the Assimilation centre with Elix at his rear.

“Assims incoming” Blister shouts from his scouting position at the main entrance.

Davis picks up his pace, grunting instead of replying. His team knows the plan all he has to do is focus on getting back into the basement as fast as possible.

Trace and Blister begin firing off into the distance at the Assims, to slow them down. It barely works as the Assimilated converge on them, appearing to multiply with each step forwards. Trace and Blister retreat to the centre of the complex to reload and continue firing.

Davis, the scientist and Elix make it safely into the basement. The door shuts and Blister knows his next move.

“Come on you walkie talkies!” he bellows at them.

Hoping to provoke what’s left of their human egos. At the very least his shouting alone draws them through the facility and out the back; keeping them too preoccupied to search for anyone else.

Civilian Assims swarm in on their position, adding to the militarised Assims already close behind the three.

“We’ve got to lose them” Trace stresses.

“Malcom! Nuke these Batteries!” Blister demands.

Malcom pulls from his satchel a handful of EMP Nades and a couple of smoke bombs; he throws them into the crowd. They crackle and hiss as they disperse their contents into the immediate atmosphere, shocking eighty percent of the Assims and sending the rest into a bout of confusion and disorientation, allowing Blister, Trace and Malcom to slip over the wall to the complex and into a neighbouring cemetery.


Symbionic. Chapter 1: Final Part

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

Or skip to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Elix casually turns down a corner, as if she were programmed to. It was the alleyway behind the Raven’s Tongue; she made another turn and found herself to be completely alone.

The back of the pub is a beautiful structure, wrought iron balustrading contained the balconies, only to be separated every five metres with massive pillars of stacked stone bricks as wide as Elix’s torso, leading all the way up to a roof made of tin, which Elix though was painted red but could easily be rusted instead. There are weeds growing from the gutters and birds had turned them into nests for themselves.

No head around here, hmm… ‘Meet Davis where the crow’s head falls.’ I was expecting it to be in this alley somewhere or maybe a symbol on a wall giving another direction, but nothing.

You haven’t looked everywhere Elix. She told herself, looking up again at the rusted corrugations that arch into the gutters from above.

The roof! It has to be up there.

Elix rubs her hands together turning her sweated palms sticky, she steps up to one of the pillars with a gutter shooting down it and begins to climb. The gutter pipe is slightly rusted and aids her climb with its rough texture.

Elix couldn’t turn to look for anyone watching, it would be suicide to stop now. She climbs the pipe with great efficiency until she reaches the top and slides over the bull-nosed edge of the roof sheets.

Cool, I didn’t think there was going to be a rooftop garden up here.

The roofing appeared to cover the whole building but instead, it only covered a parapet wall. In the centre of the roof is a small stainless steel out house looking structure, in no way visible from the ground.

Strange, this seems to be newer than the rest of the building.

Elix approaches it curiously with caution.

This door has been used a lot. She thinks, assessing the scratches all over the front.

Could this be an elevator?

Something else catches her eye to the right of the structure, she steps around to view it; kneeling.

“There you are mister raven, I’ve been looking for you”

This must be where I need to go. With that thought the door to the steel building slides open with a buzzing whish of a sound.

Elix darts behind the small building’s wall in fear that someone was going to come rushing out to attack her. She’s motionless in wait; her senses are hungry for any fragment of noise or whiff of a scent to alert her as to what’s going to happen.

Nothing exits.

There’s… nothing? I can’t wait here all day. She tells herself, peering around the corner.

She creeps closer to the doorway.

It’s an empty room, but that doesn’t make any sense.

The room is dark and Elix would have missed it if she didn’t stick her head all the way in before she stepped.

The floor is missing… There’s got to be something I’m not getting, why would Artemis lead me here? Maybe it’s an illusion?

Elix reaches down with her foot like she would to test the waters of a bath. She swishes it around in the darkness feeling for anything, her foot contacts with something.

That’s not the wall… what is that?

She retracts her leg and kneels down to feel with her hands.

A ladder! Now we’re talking.

Elix begins her decent into the elevator shaft, that appears to go deeper than the pubs basement, but she couldn’t quite tell how far with her eyesight alone, she reaches into her pocket with her bionic arm, pulls out a safety pin and drops it, she waits for it to hit the bottom.


At least five floors down, maybe more. She estimates the distance, letting out a sigh.

Her arm felt tired from climbing the drainpipe to the roof and she slips, nearly losing her footing as well, Elix quickly grabs the ladder with her bionic arm saving herself in the nick of time. Her trembling arms hug the ladder.

As she rests for a moment gathering her strength her thoughts are taken to how she lost the arm; that just now, had saved her life.

I was twelve, and had been moving in and out of Artemis’ house for the past two years trying to make my own way. I figured I’d have to get used to being on my own sooner or later and I’d felt as though I was becoming a burden of Artemis.

He never had kids; he had a wife but not kids and I wanted a safe house of my own somewhere. I found this old factory during my night travels, I think it used to be some kind of manufacturing plant, there were piles of rusted steel and it smelt of various gasses. The air was thick with dust falling from the high ceiling with every bird that landed on the roof.

Maybe not here. I told myself. Too hazardous.

But before I could leave I was confronted by a group of four women, all of them wiry with malnutrition and crazed by the sight me. One of them hit me really hard, I must have lost consciousness.

I woke up hours later, groggy on the ground in the factory. The sun was coming up through the soot stained windows and I felt a lack of feeling in my right arm. Somehow, I made it back to Artemis.

The rest of Elix’s memory of that day is fogged. But she would always try to think of the day Artemis built her a new arm to combat her post-trauma.

It was a few weeks after I found my way back home. I was sleeping; it must have been just before dawn, it was cold and I was dreaming of my parents. He must have worked through the night to get it finished, even though he told me he was still a few days from having it done just the past night. But when he came to my near closed door, his shadow changed the mood in the room; alerting me to his entrance, I knew he was trying to surprise me.

The creaky door opened, sweeping the light from the hallway across my face. I wriggled into a ball of blankets and pillow.

“Elix?” He called out quietly.

I stayed still.

“Elix, I have something to show you” He said slightly louder than before.

I groaned and mumbled.

“leave it on the floor and turn the light off”

“But I need to help you put it on and show you how it works” He rebutted.

I threw the blanket off of my body casting it into the air, and before it hit the ground I was out of bed and hopping with joy, like I was galloping on an invisible horse. I knew exactly what he had

“There’s no surprising you, is there?” He asked rhetorically

“You finished it! Sneaky old man”

He put his hand through his hair and scratched the back of his neck with a smirk.

“The second you went to sleep I had a breakthrough with the Nano-interface and I just pushed on through the night”

By this time, I was trying to peer around his waist at my new arm.

“Now, now, no peeking, take a step back and cover your eyes”

I leapt back in an instant and my hand shot up to my eyes to block them. Artemis reached out with the arm in his hand and its index finger pointing forward, he poked me in the belly with it. I could feel the cold finger’s tip through my shirt and giggled with excitement. I split my fingers to see it.

“It’s bigger than I thought”

The skin was a soft pink closer to that of a pig’s colour than my own skin.

“The finger tips are titanium with receptive silicon pads where the prints would be, and at the shoulder; in this grey bit, is where your arm goes”

Even though Artemis was tired from working all night his face was alive with enthusiasm telling me all the specifications, most of which I had no Idea about, but I waited there patiently until he finished, basking in the transference of knowledge.

“This button will turn it on and off and this lid; you must never take this lid off, because all of the Nano-cultures will escape if you do.

“Now give me your, umm”

He never knew how to address:

“My Nub?”

“Yes, your… Nub”

I wiggled it in his direction. He eased my Nub into it.

“This may feel a bit weird, or it might hurt, I couldn’t find any rats big enough to do a preliminary testing”

I looked at him with raised eyebrows to let him know his poor humour was poor. I didn’t care about the potential pain; my endorphins were dancing.

He pressed the on button. It whirred into life and tiny tendrils that looked like hair sprung out of the grey socket part and dove into my arm. It tickled at first and then it must have gripped at my nerves, I flinched and laughed through the initial hurt, but it persisted, I closed my eyes and clenched my fists.

It took me a few seconds before I realised I could feel myself squeezing with both hands. I opened my eyes and there it was, my new arm, MY brand-new arm and if I wasn’t so preoccupied by it I might have noticed the mood in the room change once again, to something new, something hopeful to something that would stay with me forever.

Elix inhales deeply, her exhalation quivers with sorrow, her eyes pinch closed sending tears down her cheek, then gravity took them from her and with them any ill feelings about Artemis’ intentions and why he didn’t tell her about Davis sooner.

A feint tapping disturbs Elix’s morose mindset.

The bottom! I must be near it. She thinks.

Motivation swells within her and she descends, to her surprise only about five metres. She steps off the ladder and onto what feels to be a steel floor. It shuddered as it took her weight and Elix wasn’t sure if its noise reverberated above her or beneath the floor, but she looks around the base of the shaft as best she can, feeling the walls for anything resembling a door or latch or handle or button.

“Nothing! There’s fucking nothing down here?!”

Elix loses her temper and thrashes wildly at the shadows surrounding her. Her bionic arm connects with the wall, she feels it dent at her knuckles, it shoots an odd sense through her nerves, not pain, not quite, more like a squeeze, her arm tightened as if it were one solid muscle. This strange sensation led her to think she was acting foolishly. She sighed, realising she was going to have to climb the ladder in a sore state if she kept acting out.

Before she could get a handle on the ladder a click sounds.

“Click?” She repeats confused and on edge; listening.

The next sound was the floor beneath her slipping into an unseen slot in the wall, followed by the squeak of Elix’s surprise. She falls only a few metres before her buttocks are caught by a slope, which carries her down a few more levels.

A square of light emerges before her; growing. The ride has changed Elix’s mood from the shock to glee as she glides down into a white room with a mirrored wall confronting her as she enters.

Elix stands and looks around the empty room, assessing its purpose and pondering what could be on the other side of the mirror. She presses her nose to the mirror and tries to look through her own reflection when the crackle of a speaker startles her focus.

“Password?” the male voice asks.

He must be young, I wonder if he’s Davis. Elix thinks, at the fruity tone of the voice.

Wait, what password? Artemis didn’t say anything about a password.

“Artemis sent me” She claims.

For Elix, a long silence was her reply.

The man behind the speaker turns to his companion.

“Davis, she knows Artemis, should we let her in?”

Davis steps closer to the mirror observing Elix’s mannerisms as she patiently waits for a response.

Artemis never mentioned a girl. He thought.

“If she knows Artemis, she’ll know the password, ask her again Blister”

Blister pushes the button to his speaker and asks:


Elix is puzzled.

Davis and Blister watch her process closely. She begins to pace within the white room, mumbling almost inaudibly

“Artemis didn’t give me any password. I didn’t even know about this place until I found the note…”

A little louder she says:

“…The note…”

Back to murmuring.

“…Find Davis where the Crow’s head falls, but it wasn’t a crow it was a Raven, huh, maybe that’s the password”

Elix stops, turns to the mirror with her hands at ease behind her back and without realising; staring into Davis’ eyes, and just as the raven quoth:


Davis smiles and nods at Blister to let her in.

Elix stands in front of the mirror exuding confidence in her answer.

Checkmate Artie.

The mirror makes a sort of buzz noise and slides open from one end to reveal four Hûms. The one in front is a bit taller than Elix, with broad shoulders and black hair atop a rectangular head holding shiny emerald eyes. He steps forward into the room leaving his party slightly behind him.

“Artemis sent me a communique last night, his final one to be exact, I’m sorry, this whole situation is out of character for Artemis, and he made no mention of you”

The man stops his sentence and appears to rearrange his thoughts. He composes himself.

“I’m sorry, I should have started with; I’m Davis, and these Hûms behind me are The Uprising”

Each of them wearing standard issue coats and clothes just as the Assimilated would.

Davis walks back to his line of companions.

“This is Blister”

“Yo!” The stout one says.

“I’m your muscle, your oddball, your little brother with a big mouth, I’m the one you can count on” He states, aiming his thumb to his face.

Elix can’t help but smile as his beady blue eyes squint to the mercy of his cheesy grin.

“You’re the fruity voice I heard over the intercom”

Blister looks to Davis. His grin disappears but his squint remains.

“Do I sound fruity to you?”

Davis doesn’t answer, he contains his laughter; barely.

To Blister’s left is a woman with golden hair shrouding her small face, making her grey-blue eyes pop.

“This Trace, no one knows machines like this one, if it ticks, zaps or booms, she’s the girl to make it happen”

“Welcome to the team… uhh?” Her petite voice asks.

“Ooh shit Davis you didn’t even ask her name” Blister states mockingly.

“Right, right, it’s been a while since we’ve met another Hûm” Davis blushes, scratching the back of his head.

“Yeah, same here… Well I’m Elix”

“Welcome Elix” the group, minus the unintroduced last member collectively say.

Elix looks to the last man, inquisitively studying his dark brown hair and long face, but for only a moment, before Davis says:

“And lastly, we’ve got Malcom, anything Trace can make, he can make a program to control it”

“Yes, yes, now that that’s out of the way…” Malcom snarls in a matter-of-fact tone.

“…Why don’t you tell us exactly how you knew Artemis, and what you are doing here!”

Malcom’s face swells with blood and Elix could have sworn she seen his glasses fog over his black brown eyes.

“Enough Malcom!” Davis blasts, shooting a scowl in his direction.

Malcom reverts back to his natural state of function and wipes his glasses nervously with his handkerchief.

Davis continues quieter but just as stern, talking to all in the room.

“If Artemis trusts her, then I trust her, and so should you.”

Silence grips them.

“Well it’s nice to meet all of you. Artemis rescued me when I was young, he took care of me. When I found him, I found his latest invention and a note ‘Find Davis where the crow’s head falls’ I knew I had to get here no matter what”

The group before her are riled with curiosity.

“Latest invention? The communique didn’t mention that either” Davis states, as he thinks over the possibilities of why Artemis would do that.

“Well? What is it then? Come on show us, we need proof” Malcom impatiently demands.

“Jesus Malcom, give her a break she just lost her friend” Says Blister with an exhausted disappointment.

“Come on Elix I’ll show you around the base”

He wraps his burly arm around her shoulders and leads her through the mirrored door way.

“Don’t listen to Malcom, he’s got trust issues, and lots of other issues. Here, this way, you can bunk next to me”

“Blister!” Davis calls out in a dissuading tone.

“Bunk her with Trace”

“He’s got trust issues too” Blister whisperingly quips.

Elix and Blister walk into the main room of The Uprising’s base.

“This is the bunk room to our right…” Blister begins, pointing through a darkened doorway.

“…Toilet’s on the right as you go through…”

He coerces her forward, his arm still wrapped around her.

“…The kitchen is up next, I will literally give you anything you want if you do my dishes…” He pleads desperately.

Elix spots the mountain of dishes as they step past the view through the door. Quickly she thinks of an excuse.

“I’m, umm, mysophobic, sorry”

“…Your loss, I get the best candy, just saying. Anyway, straight ahead is the lab and to the left of that is the training room. We’ll probably get you in their as soon as we can to assess your skills, we all have skills here Elix, you won’t survive without skills in this day and age.”

“Where does that door lead?” Elix asks, pointing to a large round door like that of a bank’s safe.

“That’s our sewer access; you’ll get to go through there soon enough.” Says Blister, nodding his head and squinting his eyes.

“And umm, where’s, the shower?”

“Yeah, I wasn’t going to say anything, but now that you’ve mentioned it Elix, you do stink. There’s the shower at the end of the kitchen, but I recommend using the contamination showers in the lab, cos that stank is a biohazard. Don’t worry we can still be friends though” Blister rambles.


Symbionic. Chapter 1: Part 3

Read Symbionic Blurb here

Read Chapter 1: Part 1 here

Read Chapter 1: Part 2 here

Two days, it should take me two full days if I walk the whole way. She calculated. But if I catch a train I can probably cut that down to about thirty hours or so.


I didn’t want to do that so soon. Maybe I’ll try a different train line.

Most of the older transportation systems of the 21st century was still in use; they’d been modified to run on solar power to eliminate a dependency on fossil fuels, which came in handy when the Assimilated needed to relocate anyone over a long distance, and in this case take Elix into the Mid-City: An even more treacherous place to skulk than a packed train.

Elix’s mind wanders off to her last encounter with Artemis, as she power-walks through the empty streets. What used to be an entertainment district full of arcades, shopping centres, cafes and bars; is now dilapidated and long since abandoned by the last of the Hûms opposed to Assimilation.

“So how far have you come with your journal?” Artemis asked her.

His voice still fresh in her mind from yesterday when she left him

“It’s going pretty good, after the intro, I’ve decided to start with the day I ran away, everything before that is kind of fuzzy and also kind of boring. Do you want to hear it?”

“Of course, I’d love to”

Elix flicked back through the pages of her haggard, brown leather pocket journal and cleared her throat.

“I was eight years old when the world was Assimilated. I remember the day clearly even though the sky was messy with rain clouds. I remember it as the last day I walked somewhere without pretending to be someone else. My mother was calm and composed; she wore her favourite midnight green dress, the one she’d only wear when my father and her went out for dinner or dancing.

Her raincoat was a deep blue often mistaken for black, just like her hair; which was just long enough to curl around her jaw and tickle the top of her neck. I had a coat that was identical to hers in every way except size. She helped me in to mine, as she always did, making sure I was neat and my buttons weren’t miss-matched.

My father wore his cobalt blue suit, with a tie to match my mother’s dress. He told me this was his power suit and when he wore it he was able to achieve anything. It’s only now I realise how silly it sounds, but I sure could do with a cobalt blue suit of my own. He slicked his hair back that day and he was clean shaven. Somehow, his nose seemed more crooked when his face was shaved.

“Are you ready Hun?” My mother asked him.

He looked at us from his spot in front of the mirror by the front door.

“Ready” was all he said.

He looked at me and winked his right eye, then he just stared at my mother and me for a while. I could have sworn I felt the world stop still in space. His eyes absorbed us, we were floating in his gaze crystalized forever in his mind. He turned back to the mirror for one last look, or perhaps he was consoling with himself. Maybe telling himself to be strong, and brave for what was to happen next.

We got into the car and drove for about ten minutes, we passed by my old primary school, a small shopping strip and huge outdoor playground before parking on the street near a building I had never seen before. It was a huge concrete block as grey as the clouds with no windows and it was perfectly sharp at its corners with only one visible way in.

I could see a lot of other cars around, some were familiar

“Are my friends going to be here?” I asked.

“Yes dear, everyone will be here”

“Ooh cool, like a party?”

“Like a big sleep over party” My mother assured.

We exited the car and locked the doors.

“But mum, I can’t sleep without my bear”

“Be brave sweetie, I’m sure they’ll have plenty of bears inside”

I didn’t believe her I wanted my bear; he knew my secrets, my dreams and my fears.

“Why are we having a sleep over on a Wednesday anyway?”

“This is the only way we can have a future” She told me.

Her words confused me and also gave me an odd sense of dread

“What’s going to happen to us in there?” I asked.

My mother hesitated with her answer; she had no idea what to say. We kept walking towards the building.

“When we go in there Elix, they’ll give us a bed and we’ll sleep and dream the most wonderful dreams and when we wake everything will be okay, we’ll all be safe again” She finally said.

I didn’t want to go to sleep, I didn’t want to dream until IT, whatever IT was, was over. I wanted to go home and play and read and learn and laugh. I started crying and screaming.

“Take me home mummy” I demanded.

We were right outside the front gates to the complex, when my father turned around and knelt in front of me.

“Elix, I need you to be a good girl and listen to me. Nobody wants to do what were about to do, but we must do it to preserve what we have and who we are”

I couldn’t tell before but just then, when his face was close to mine I could see the tiny cut-like wrinkles of worry along his sharp cheek bones. He must’ve been really nervous.

“Dad, I want to go home, I left my bear, I want to go and get it”

I wanted more than anything for us all to go home, not just to get my bear, I think I knew that even if I had it, I wouldn’t want to go to sleep in that murky cube. There were so many conflicting feelings in my head, my stomach was turning and my heart was racing.

My father sighed and stood to greet the man at the gates, he handed him a slip of paper and his I.D. before being escorted inside by a couple of men in grey military suits and these really weird looking monocle-like things covering one of their eyes. My mother stepped up next, holding my hand in her left, she passed me my I.D. with her right.

“Do exactly as I do Elix, Okay?”

“Okay” I whimpered.

The second she let go of my hand to walk inside; I ran, I ran so fast, my mother made it a few steps forward when she turned and saw me running. She screamed out my name, and I wanted to turn around and run back but before I knew it I was out of breath in front of my old primary school.

From my school it was easy to get home, I was looking over my shoulder every few steps just to make sure I wasn’t being chased. I haven’t stopped looking since I left my parents that day.

I was home in no time but it was locked so I crawled through the obsolete dog’s door into the kitchen. I found my bear sitting neatly on my bed waiting for me. I grabbed it and almost squeezed the stuffing out of it. I was about to return to my parents with my bear in hand and apology neatly rehearsed when I heard the horrific scream of a young boy. I hid behind the curtains of my front window and peered out to investigate.

The boy wasn’t much older than me being chased by men in the same uniforms as the ones at the grey building.

“NO, DON’T TAKE MY BRAIN, YOU CAN’T TAKE MY BRAIN” He yelled as he fled.

Within steps of his plea he was caught. They shot him with a Taser gun, he fell and flailed on the ground stiff under his skin, and then they simply picked him up and walked away with him; probably back to the grey building I ran from.

I wondered if maybe those men were looking for me as well. If that was my fate, then I certainly wasn’t going back to that nasty bland building.  I turned on the television to see if there were any other people being hurt like that boy.

It was worse than I could have imagined, every news channel was reporting riots and chaos people being taken from their homes, their jobs, and any place they were hiding. The news anchors were calling it ‘Assimilation’ and today was the day we gave up our humanity.

I decided I wasn’t going to be ‘Assimilated’ not even if my parents were. So I packed as much food and clothes into a back pack as I could carry, and I left the inevitably dwindling safety of my home.

There weren’t many places I could go; no one would take me in because they were likely in the same position as me. So I went some where I knew was empty.

I went to the old high school library around the block; it had been abandoned around the time they built the big grey assimilation building. I hid in the bushes across the street until I was sure the Assimilated had finished searching it for any straggling Hûms, when I knew no one was around, I made a run for it. Nobody seen me enter and I stayed there, reading every book I could, until I ran out of food. Actually, I stayed until I was nearly starving. The outside world still scared me, but by that time I was desperate for a feed.

The sun was going down. I figured the night would be the best time to travel and I was right, but there were still people un-assimilated; pockets of them, everywhere.  I thought perhaps it wasn’t urgent to assimilate people anymore, maybe they ran out of those eye pieces.

I couldn’t think much further than those theories; my hunger was crippling.

I found an old store with a few apples nearly rotten on the display stall. I took them and ran into the closest alleyway to eat them. I only got a couple of bites through one of them when a group of three bigger kids came out of the shadows.

“Hey if you wanna eat in our alley there’s a price. Give us your apples” One of them squawked.

There was no way I was giving them my apples, so I force fed myself to the point of nearly choking. I finished one of them before they started hitting me and kicking me. I didn’t let go of my apples, I cried out for help, the kids kept yelling at me but I was blocking their voices out, just like I was trying to block out the pain, and then I heard it; a deep scratchy voice sawing through the alleyway cutting into the kids hitting me. The pain stopped and I could hear them flee.

When I thought it was all over I looked up and there you were; slender, scraggly hair, feint smudges all over your face, staring down at me with your hand reaching for mine.

“And that’s where I decided to end it”” Elix says, a little self-conscious about bearing her soul.

“You make me out to be some kind of saint, all I did was yell out to some punk kids”

“You didn’t have to save me Artemis, and you didn’t have to look after me either, but you did”

“I…” He pauses to re-think his words

“…Despite what you think Elix, I’m… I’m the bad guy, I know I am, and I think in an effort to save the last piece of my humanity I screamed out at the top of my lungs to scare some kids and I ended up saving yours instead. Still doesn’t make up for what I’ve done though”

“Hey, you know that was out of your control, the Encephalon hijacked your brain. We both know you wouldn’t do anything like that if you had control of your own mind”

Artemis turns away to hide his abashment from Elix.

“At first I did… At first, we all did. I knew, without any doubt that this was what we needed to do in order to survive. We were going to save the world, we had our plan and it was going to work. We would have found a way, in time, to make it work…

But the Encephalon decided to take our plan and twist it, they needed me to alter the Intelliguise to subdue all brain functions, instead of just mask them. I refused to do it, I tried to get out but the other inventors had already conspired against me.

I woke up a few days later in my house with an Intelliguise strapped to my face. I’m just thankful I caught on before they got to me and put some nanites in my bloodstream. They were set to periodically eliminate foreign technology that interfered with brain activity. It took them a few days to kick in. But Elix, those were the worst few days of my life. I was both awake and asleep, but not dreaming, nor thinking, just watching in white noise solitude as my body did whatever the Encephalon commanded…”

Artemis ended there; he could have talked for days about the maddening blank of being Assimilated but decided to purge his thoughts of such torture.

“Artemis, you okay?” Elix asked.

“huh? Yeah, I’ll be okay. Are you alright for food? I can’t send you away hungry”

Sometimes Artemis would end his sentences with a subtle suggestion of what he wanted from someone, in this case, he didn’t want Elix around to see him drink away his regrets and already solidified memories.

“I could do with a snack” Elix’s stomach rumbled.

Artemis chuckled and left the room, soon returning with a bag full of all kinds of foods; sandwiches, ration packs, fruits, some vegetables, and bottled water.

“Artemis this is too much, I can’t take all this, what will you have left eat?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, you’ll take it. Besides, I’m getting old, I don’t eat as much as I used to”

Elix looks him in the eye as she takes his generous offering.

“Thanks Artie… I think it worked by the way”

“What did?” he asked

“Saving me did save your humanity, as well as mine”

They shared a smile; pure, like the taste of honey.

“Go on, get out of here would you, I’ve got some work to do”

Elix’s daydream is broken, not by her Intelliguise overheating, but by the realisation she had made it to the Raven’s Tongue. Her excitement nearly produced a smile at the sight of the Raven’s body bolted to the top corner of the building’s roof.

Huh? Where’s the head? She thought, only a few small blocks away from the pub.

By this time, it was broad daylight and there were a large amount of people travelling around the outer suburbs of the main city where the Pub is located

Where are all of you going? She asked herself, suspiciously squinting inside her mind.

What task could you possibly have left to accomplish?

Elix often thought these thoughts. Since the Assimilations began the world has turned down an interesting path, everything is now powered by renewable sources of energy. Ninety percent of the oceans have been covered by a self-sustaining desalinisation plant; providing a massive forest on top with clean water.

Artemis would tell Elix about the wonders that humanity had achieved after being Assimilated. He had a hand in designing the organic desalination level of the ocean’s crust; he said it would essentially drink the salt water, send the salt to one of the many collection stations to be added to drinks or used for preserving food, then the fresh water would be passed into the level above it, where the roots of the forest would be waiting eagerly to drink it.

It’s been years since the crust project, what could they be working on now?


Symbionic. Chapter 1: Part 2

Read Part One Here.

Elix reaches her safe house; the old primary school she used to attend, that had long been abandoned. Most of the outer walls were broken away, there were various gang signs and scribbles on all sides probably indicating the faction of runaways who had previously claimed it. Luckily for Elix the inner walls were still intact and there was an ample sized room without a leaking ceiling for her to sleep in.

The once esteemed school library was highly sought after in the past for any scholar to hold history in their hands, but now there was no need to teach the children anything, not when they were being programmed in a fraction of the time.

Elix enters cautiously, as she always did; there was no knowing if anyone had taken her home as their own in her absence. She hears a rustle, and slows her pace even further; she quietens her breathing and listens. The rustling continues.

Could be a rat maybe, it sounds small. She ponders nearing her room’s doorway.

She steps inside and spots a small rag-clad child rifling through her belongings, Elix edges closer to the kid, he’s within arm’s reach

“INTRUDER” she squawks crippling the boy with fear and grabbing him from behind

“AAAARRGH” the boy cries. Elix holds him tightly; his feet dangle and kick wildly.

“Lemme go Elix, I wasn’t steallin’ nuthin”

“Yeah that’s what you said last time Grabs, and mysteriously, my copy of Brave New World went missing” She retorts

“Was probably the rats, you’ve seen em around they’re hungry lookin”

Elix drops him and spins him, to look at him suspiciously, to see if he’ll cave in and repent.

The boy doesn’t budge.

“So whatchya gonna read to me tonight huh?”

Elix lifts up the front of her shirt, she’s got a concealed bag wrapped around her waist to give the illusion to the Assimilated that she is of healthy weight.

“Whoa, cool hiding place” Grabs steps closer and scans it with his curious eyes.

“You got any food in there?” he asks, grabbing at her with grubby fingers

“Step back, quit tickling me, I’ll give you the goods”

Elix reaches into one of the side pockets and pulls out a sandwich neatly wrapped in a few layers of plastic to avoid the smell of chicken escaping into the Assimilated’s nostrils.

“Here, we’ll share it; you eat first while I read…”

She pulls from a rear pocket her frayed and rippled copy of: “…dun da da daaah… 1984”

“Yay sandwich party” the boy rejoices.

“I’ll pick up where we left off okay?” Grabs nods while tearing open the sandwich from its packaging.

After a few pages of reading, Elix notices Grabs has devoured two thirds of the sandwich

“Hey! your turn to read now” She barks, snatching the remaining morsel from his hands.

Elix eats the rest of the sandwich slowly, savouring the flavour of the chicken infused with what she guesses to be nearly twelve spices.

There’s actual butter in this one, man, Artemis really knows how to treat a lady. She revels, with her eyes looking up behind their lids.

Sadly though, Elix’s second bite is also her last, she practically chews it into liquid trying to keep the taste in her mouth for as long as she can.

Grabs’ reading has gotten better since last time. Leading Elix to believe he has in fact stolen her books. At least he’s been practicing.

A sense of accomplishment comes over her; she’s proud that she was able to educate someone without stealing their humanity. She is also overcome with fatigue, and quickly nods off midway through her thoughts.

Beep beep beep… Elix’s intelliguise alerts her yet again, her dreams have been growing more and more vivid as of late, even her day dreams have been getting out of hand, leading her to nearly be captured and Assimilated only a few hours ago.

Beep beep beep… The piercing sound tries desperately to reverberate off the broken walls and drooping ceiling but only manages to echo in Elix’s ear.

“I’m up, I’m up” she mumbles, thinking she’s once again at Artemis’ house being woken by his 20th century alarm clock.

Beep beep beep… “Oh fuck” She curses realising exactly where she is and what is disturbing her slumber.

She springs up immediately and rips the manifold from the top section of her shoulder blade.

“Shit, one of the fuses has come loose” She gently clicks it back into place, the Beeping stops.

Elix falls back to her bed.

I’m going to have to see Artemis again. Hmm what time is it? She asks, searching for the clock she had thought was trying to wake her.

1am, okay good, I better not use the trains again for a few days at least. I can take the sewers half the way but the rest has to be above ground. Oh damn, my coat. Elix remembers and laments over her sleeve

I can’t go walking around all sleeveless like this. She rummages through her tiny suitcase full of clothes for anything that will fit.

“Nothing?” She says holding a pair of her childhood pants in her hands, she looks at them and has a tiny epiphany

“That could work” Elix hastily stiches her pant leg to her coat has a quick check in what’s left of a mirror she found

“Good enough, glad it’s going to be dark. Now where is 1984?”

Elix searches her bed and the shelves on the wall opposite, she continues for a few minutes getting more frustrated as she scans.

“That little punk! He must have taken it when I passed out. After all I’ve done for him” Elix stops dead halfway through an angry stride and:

“Ha-ha hahaha, I suppose I can’t expect much more from a kid named Grabs ha-ha. Ahh fuck, what am I going to tell Artemis, he loves that book”

Elix Leaves her crumbled dwelling and embarks to Artemis’ house, thinking about the excuse she’s going to give him for losing his book.

Three hours pass and still Elix has no excuse.

I’ll tell him the truth, yeah, he’ll believe me, the worlds gone to shit, he’ll understand.

Elix’s gaze turns from straight ahead towards Artemis’s front door, breaking her robotic stride.

Huh? The doors open, something’s not right here.

She checks her surroundings quickly before treading the path to his front door.

I hope he hasn’t been assimilated, please don’t be assimilated.

Elix tries to push the front door open, but something is obstructing it, it opens only enough for her to squeeze her head through. The room is dark and her face scrapes on the splintered edge of the timber door. She uncomfortably whispers: “Artemis?” then again, a bit louder.

No response.

Her heartbeat races, she pushes the door a bit harder in her panic, it opens a fraction more. Elix can see an arm on the ground. Tears stream down her face

“No, don’t let it be him, please” She gets angry and pushes with all her strength. There’s a crunch and the door gives way. Elix falls to the ground on her side facing the obstruction; she’s hurt but reaches her hand out to touch to body. Her fingers near its skin slowly and meets it with hesitation. Then a memory strikes Elix like a hammer to glass.

Plastic?! Oh, you fucking idiot Elix. She has stumbled across the crime scene of a fallen mannequin, the one that Artemis kept his coat and hat upon.

“Last time you scare me” She says kicking its arm clean off.

Elix takes in a deep breath and shakes the nerves from her body like a dog would water. In the back of her mind there were only a few conclusions to the situation she was in, she dared not think of them until more evidence had been found. She began her search of the rest of the single-story house starting in the lounge room to the immediate left of the entrance.

It was a rarely used room; containing two recliner chairs with a round table separating them and a lamp shooting out of its centre with an aged green shade. Sometimes Artemis would sit there in the dark and have a sip of some old scotch he’d saved. In even fewer times Elix would catch him in deep thought or thoughtlessness in the middle of the night while she too was up with a restless mind.

She moves into the kitchen, nothing is out of the ordinary; Artemis keeps it in immaculate condition. He’s always telling Elix to clean up after herself and then ends up re-cleaning it anyway because he isn’t satisfied with her level of perfection.

She opens the refrigerator; a habit from her youth. Hmm sandwiches, could he have been expecting me? Elix closes the fridge and leaves the kitchen towards the den at the far right of the house.

Elix passes her old bedroom to the left side of the hall; the door is open about 100 millimetres.

“Exactly how much I like it open” She says softly to herself.

Elix’s quirky childhood proclivities had been stained into Artemis, they gave him a sense of purpose, a sort of routine and when she moved out he kept them. Doing the odd little things like keeping the door open so much, not enough to cross young Elix’s face as she slept, but enough to illuminate the demons of her dreams as she woke to escape them. He’d find himself checking under the bed for monsters and re-tying her bear’s bowtie when it came loose, just to keep Elix’s peace of mind, these habits remained and he soon found they would give his mind ease his as well.

She passes Artemis’ bedroom, she’d only been in there a few times, and he rarely slept there. Mostly he would fall asleep at his workbench in the den or on the odd occasion he drank too much scotch; in his recliner chair. Immediately across from his room is the den; its door is wide open.

He always closes this door. Elix’s heart rate rises again as she enters.

Her footsteps lighten, fists clench, and wits sharpen. She’s ready to fight whoever may be there.

In front of her are the book shelves; they cover the entire wall save for a small pocket in the middle, missing to fit a desk. Artemis would often write his books and poetry there, but when Elix came along she claimed it as her own reading desk. She makes a bee line to the desk and flicks on the light.

“The light’s better over here” she said for the thousandth time; which would often send Artemis to write at his workbench amongst the chaos of half-finished inventions and half started contraptions.

Elix turns around. Opposite her claimed desk was his, the light was blueish and cold, and she’d been avoiding looking over there, even though it would be the best place for an intruder to attack her from. Somehow, she knew the danger had gone. Her eyes focus on his high-backed chair and as if her heart were made of stone it drops to the floor and anchors her there; motionless.

She can’t swallow her own spit, her mind hums a noise above the silence, but not a nice hum more like one of an engraver scraping into steel the longest word known to man over and over. The room blurs everywhere else but the dangling limb, still, over the side of the chair.

Breathe, just breathe. Elix tries to convince her lungs.

She gasps for air like someone who’d been winded by a punch to stomach.

“No…” she lets out with her weakened lungs.

Her heart lifts from the floor and resumes its beat so Elix can step closer.

“That, that’s not Artie, it’s someone else, Artemis must have knocked them out fighting the Assimilated off”

Elix persists in telling herself a new story with each step towards the chair, each story growing in fantasy and shrinking in plausibility.

The engraver’s hum remains in her mind until she’s standing next to the chair. Her peripherals know who’s sitting there but she won’t turn to see him, not yet. She breathes deep, exhales and in this moment, Artemis is alive inside her head; telling her a story, a joke, telling her not to do something silly, not because it was silly but because he had thought of something sillier they could do together. His face is right there behind her eyelids smiling and chuckling, everything that made him human is imprinted on Elix in that one moment, and in the next.

She opens her eyes.

Looks to her left, down at the face. His fair fawn skin has turned grey, his depleted cheek muscles have lost grip of his once pointy jaw. Elix’s muscles become overwhelmed by gravity, she plummets to her knees, her head on his lap

“Artemis…” is all her voice box can handle before being squeezed by the onslaught of her cry.

She lays there sobbing until her tear ducts are dry and her face hurts.

“Why did they have to kill you?” She asks, as if the wind would answer her.

Just then, an idea comes to Elix.

Artemis would rather die than help the Assimilated again. If he’s dead that must mean they came to him, they came searching for something, they came hoping to beat it out of him, but he beat them to the punch.

“Oh, you’re a crafty fox, you must have finished it and hidden it”

Elix’s sadness is swallowed by her curiosity; the hum dissipates back to the silence.

“Where would you have put it…?”

She studies his face.

“You always gave your moves away with your eyes Artie”

Elix turns to what he is facing, it’s a photo of his late wife Veronica.

“Sorry V”

Elix pulls the back off of the frame and between the photo and the rear is a note ‘Find Davis where the crow’s head falls.

Huh, interesting… But surely that’s not all.

Elix returns to studying his face. Something is amiss, Elix looks from one eye to the other and back. His right eye is bloodshot, and his left is not

“Oh, you got me this time Artemis”

Elix gently cups the back of his head with her left and with her other hand she softly prods the eye, instead of yielding with a squish, the eye is firm

“Huh, a fake eye.”

Elix looks around to see what she can use to pull out the eye; a spoon in an empty coffee cup shines a reflection across her face.

Well it’s not pretty but it’ll work.

Her bionic hand is steady like a surgeon’s, as she plucks the eye from its socket. It’s covered in blood and nearly slips from her grasp when she raises it to look closer at its strangely familiar stem.

“OH, it’s just like the male part on my intelliguise”

He must have perfected the emission degradation.

“No wonder you didn’t want them to get their hands on it”

Elix gasps, with an epiphany striking her.

“Davis! That’s who I have to get this to”

She runs her hand through her hair

“Crow’s head? Where does the crow’s head fall?”

Elix paces; as she had all too often seen Artemis do in times of critical thinking.

Another habit exchanged between the two that would keep Artemis with her.

“Raven’s Tongue Pub! It has to be, that’s the only similar thing Artie ever talked about. I have to check it out”

Elix closes Artemis’ eyes and leaves the room swiftly with cause. Any lingering would cause her to stay for the rest of her days.

On her way out, she gathers the remaining sandwiches from the refrigerator, realising only now what their purpose was. She grabs the coat from the disarmed mannequin, leaves hers behind and closes the door. She thought about burning the house down to remove any evidence but her favourite memories where in there.

Someday I’m going to return and reclaim them, I’ll miss you Artie.


Symbionic. Chapter 1: Part 1.

Brief Foreword.

Reks Twelve and I havent known each other for very long, but in the recent time we’ve spent together, our thoughts about the world we are in, where it is going, and the role we are to play in its betterment have been forged into one, and both of us have  grown because of it.

The story you are about to read is what We’ve called a ‘Zero Edition’ of Symbionic. No one but Reks and myself have had any input in its creation. Because of this, you the reader are likely to find plethora of faults, defects, plot holes and plot discrepancies. Luckily for future you’s the book is being edited (as you read this) by a talented, albeit fastidious editor. It will be different, and concisely comprehensive compared to this version.

Have fun reading.



Elix stares out of the train window reciting the beginning of her journal internally

“My world has been corrupted by technology first thought to aid humanity, now turned into a weapon, a weapon against the mind. It was a slow invasion, taking only a fraction of the population at first, transients and delinquents were the first to be assimilated. The world actually applauded. But within a few years came the time to strike. It struck so soft it was mistaken for a kiss, a blessing, an embrace of a loved one and from there technology’s hand grew large enough to grip nearly every human’s mind and squeeze it of what made it human.”

Yeah that works, I like that.

She’s switching her focus now, between the lush green outside whizzing by and her own reflection.

I hate having my hair like this. She begins to ponder.

It’s so boring and efficient.

As everyone’s hair was these days; short, neat, easy to manage, no colour but the one they were born with, no concealment of greys, no need to hide age.

And this ugly intelliguise stuck to my eye. She complains. It’s 2100, as if they haven’t designed something better than this half a swimmer’s goggle looking piece of trash. She almost giggles.

But that would take imagination.

Which is exactly what the intelliguise masks, and in nearly all cases supresses.

Elix focuses on the outside again to stop herself laughing at her own jokes; she loves the trees, the persistent swish of their long breaths. She loves it most when she’s walking through her town in autumn and the leaves fall into her hair, giving her naturally mousey hair an explosion of colour, the red and orange leaves are her favourite, they remind her of a painting her parents had commissioned, of the two of them walking down a road lined with old Banyans in mid abscission.

I wish there were more people to share my thoughts with.

Elix would’ve sighed if it weren’t for the numerous Assimilated Hûms sharing the carriage with her.

Her only true friend and mentor is Artemis, she’s on her way home from his place now. He’s always telling her how smart and funny she is and that if the world were different she’d have no trouble finding friends. He also strongly urged her never to ride the train.

Elix focuses on her reflection again, she often wondered if while she was daydreaming about all the beautiful things she likes, that her face was cracking a smile or contorting to some abnormal state; a dangerous thing to do in a crowd and especially dangerous on the crowded train she was riding. She stares straight ahead at herself.

Damn I’m good at playing robot. She thinks without a flinch or a wrinkle.

Her posture was impeccable; as was everyone else’s, it had to be, for her to blend in. Elix’s has been training her eyes to scan peripherally since she decided to move out of Artemis’ house, she’s been scouting the train, making sure no-one was paying her any extra attention. It’s always been hard to tell who was being controlled directly and who was simply following their programming, Artemis always taught her to assume everyone was watching, always.

Beep beep beep. Beep beep beep.


Her eyes widen, cheeks blush, fear tingles at the base of her skull.

All this thinking must’ve overloaded my Intelliguise.

Elix remains still in her seat.

I just need another minute and I’ll be at my stop.

Beep beep beep. Beep beep beep. The other passengers begin to squirm; trying desperately to find the disturbance.

Don’t sweat, don’t fret. Don’t sweat don’t fret. She tells herself over and over.

One of the passengers spots her; He’s directly relaying his visuals to the Encephalon.

“Unassimilated” The passengers receive.

“Engage, assimilate” They’re told.

All of them stand. Elix is quick to react, she stands also, attempting to play along, but alas, they know she’s the one disturbing their peace.

Beep beep beep. Beep beep beep; confirms it for everyone. Elix lunges for the emergency stop button; the train is already slowing at her stop but crunches its breaks into gear, causing the passengers to stumble.

Elix wrenches the door open and slips out.

By now the people at the station have been alerted and are closing in on her position, one gets close enough to grab her right arm’s sleeve; She tears it off revealing Elix’s bionic arm.

No. She cries internally.

My favourite coat.

Her lament fuels her escape off the end of the station and onto the train tracks. The Assimilated receive new orders, only 3 of them are to pursue, the rest must return to their programmed task.

Elix sprints as fast as she can towards the old industrial section behind her neighbourhood, she bounds the fence in her way with ease thanks to her bionic arm. Her heart is pounding with all its might, she turns her head behind as she rounds a corner.

Fuck, they’re close, oh, right.

Sometimes Elix forgets that the Assimilated Hûms are fed exactly what their individual body needs to be its healthiest and are exercised precisely enough to be in peak physical condition. Her body on the other hand is slightly under weight, slender but inconspicuously so, probably due to her sporadic diet and exercise regime.

Elix turns down an alleyway, and the second she does, she immediately regrets it, she thought it was a different one.

This is the dead-end alley, SHIT.

 Frantically she searches for a way out. The assimilated pace around the corner, slowing their gait to that of the horror movie villains Artemis would talk about. Elix looks left to a fire escape ladder, but it’s raised too high. To her right is a door, she tries the handle.

Of course, it’s locked. She punches the handle clean off in a fit of rage, behind the door is a tiny room with a power box and a rat that flees immediately.

Elix admits defeat to herself. You’ve got to do it. She tells herself. No way out now.

The assimilated are only metres away and closing, as if the person controlling them were trying to instil fear. It was working; Elix’s heart is beating faster than when she was running as she faces them.

“I didn’t want to do this. I’m sorry you have to get hurt”

Elix reaches into her pocket and pulls out a small cylindrical object no bigger than her pinkie finger, rips it in two, turns one end around and re-joins the pieces before throwing it at the Assimilated’s feet. They simply step over it without fully understanding its purpose. The cylinder hisses and squeals.

Elix knows she only has a few seconds to act, she twists, then rips her index finger clean off; this action forces the propulsion of an 8-inch rod from the cavity, she punches the ground with it driving it as deep as she can into the earth.

Next, she raises her body into the air, balancing on her bionic arm, with her other arm she presses a button on her shoulder. Her bionic arm explodes its skin off and suddenly she’s encased within a meshed structure.

“Faraday sends his regards” she quips.

The assimilated don’t hear and wouldn’t care if they did, Elix chuckles to herself. The hissing stops abruptly, the device she threw explodes sending an electro-magnetic pulse through the bodies of the assimilated; disabling their Intelliguises and forcing them into unconsciousness tangle on the ground in front of Elix.

One moment passes.

I better not stick around here too long. Elix thinks, pressing the button on her shoulder again to retract her Faraday skin.

After she pulls her spike from the Earth and reattaches her finger she checks the light on her shoulder.

Green, alright. It must’ve had a chance to cool down.

As Elix walks past the three assimilated on the ground, she watches them cautiously for any spasm; they’ve been known to do that after an EMP. One of the women flings her arm at Elix’s heel as if trying to grab it but lamely knocking it instead. Even though Elix was anticipating it, it still managed to shock her. The drooling mess of Assimilated return to their still state and Elix leaves for her safe house.

On the way, Elix’s thoughts are all over the place.

Was she reaching out for help? I wonder if she chose assimilation like my parents did or if she was one of the Hûms that had to be chased down… I need to find out more about the Assimilated, I wish Artemis would tell me more than to stay away from them… I know it would be bad for me to be Assimilated, I mean fuck that, I like being free, but there has to be something else going on.



In the year 2082 earth was designated as an endangered entity. All the governments of the world decided to merge and form the Encephalon; a conglomerate charged with the rejuvenation and protection of nature, no matter the cost.

The rest of the population however, were convicted of treason against the ecosystem, and were sentenced to endure the restoration of the planet for whatever time was necessary. To ensure they were utilised to their full potential and work without contest, they were fitted with Intelliguises; devices designed to dull brain functions, temporarily turning humans into drones, assimilating them into the Encephalon’s network.

Now it’s the year 2100 and the Earth is repaired to a level of magnificence unseen for 100,000 years. But the Encephalon is yet to release humanity from its prison.

That’s where Elix comes in; she’s been on the run from the Encephalon since she was 8, and now that she’s 26 she’s come to realise the Encephalon has lied about every part of the reason the world was assimilated. Despite her mentor and friend Artemis’ best efforts she has heard of an uprising; a group of humans that have evaded assimilation just as she has. Elix is now one step closer to finding out exactly why humanity has been enslaved and one step closer to freeing her parents and the rest of the world.

This is the first full length novel from the likes of Reks Twelve. This edition is post publication and as such I have dubbed: Zero Edition. All rights remain that of the writer Reks Twelve and his counterpart Isaac; whose last name is omitted.

Stay vigilant for the upcoming posts.

The Ninth Night Continued

There are still unknowns hiding in this world for me to find, there are still things about The Sphere I will endeavour to understand. But for now I will tell you the rest of my story from when I left you.

I stood up, wobbled and walked to the door. My hand hesitated as I reached for the handle, but I couldn’t NOT open it. I hadn’t come this far to just stare at it. I twisted, and threw it open hard beside me.

‘A Mirror?’ I thought for an instant.

‘Impossible!’ My next thought rang.

I extended my hand, the mirror didn’t respond; as though it were blind to my presence. But no, it moved; stepped towards me. Instinctively I moved backwards. Once his eyes passed the threshold of the room’s door, they locked with mine.

“I cant believe I’ve found you…” He began. His voice sounded oddly familiar I cringed with confusion, trying to process this noise. “I’ve been looking for you, ever since you appeared online. But it wasn’t easy. I have been altered in some way Reks, and only when you are in this room, do I feel whole. It’s almost as if I can’t think with all of my brain when you go back to The Sphere.”

My mind was ruined with queries and conflict. So much so I couldn’t even ask a question. But, I didn’t need to; the man before me simply kept talking.

“I’m Isaac, and you Reks, are my imagination…”

I was stupified further. How in The Sphere could I be HIS imagination? I asked my thoughts; to no answer.

“We used to be one being Reks. I remember the day clearly, it was the last day I saw the world in its beauty, and the last day I experienced a creative thought. You are eighteen, correct?” He asked me. I nodded, still in a stupor. “That would make you about four, and I was twelve when you were taken from me…”

“Taken? what do you mean? Was I placed on the Sphere?”

“More like imprisoned. For some reason someone has targeted us, they saught to destroy us before we were able to understand our own purpose. They trapped you on The Sphere and left me alone with an echoing mind.”

I shook my head in disbelief.

“All of my hardships? My friends? My family? My enemies? Everything I’ve recounted in this room is what? Imaginary?” Isaac stepped closer to me, I flinched back half a step. “Reks, your entire being is imaginary. I can’t explain all of it, I do believe all your accomplishments have truly happened, somewhere. I need your help Reks, someone has done this to us. I know we can find them together.”

Isaac extended his hand, he pleaded silently for me to take it. I could see something in his eyes, or more like something missing, something void, but something honest. His words, his motives and actions, I could sense were sincere. I also sensed that there was something out of my control, and out of his too.

But not this, this was entirely in our control.

A feeling expanded in me. Somewhere between my chin and my guts, it felt like fear, it felt like pain, like I wasnt alive, until just now.

I took his hand.

My eyes slammed shut, not by my own reaction but from some external, unstoppable force. The feeling in my chest grew to a level of pain akin to every hair on my body being pulled from my skin at the same time. I opened my eyes, and Isaac was gone.

“I’m here…” he said, I looked around; nothing, I couldn’t see him. “…I’m, in your head…” He continued. “Is this how it’s going to be from now on?” I asked.

“Well, no, I think you will be inside my head, once we leave here. This room I mean. Since I was the one in control to begin with, I can only assume I will be the one in control in the present and future.”

“Oh…” I said; defeated. “…Am I just a passenger now? Only ever able to feel alive within the confines of this room? Only allowed to exist within the walls of your mind?”

Silence was my answer. Isaac didn’t know, and I felt alone. “I can feel what you feel Reks. You’re not alone, not anymore, and never again.” He said. “If you can feel my emotion, shouldn’t I be able to feel yours, outside?” I asked.

“There’s only one way to find out Reks.” I knew what he meant. “What will we do, once we leave?” I queried. “Your writing of the events on The Sphere, was so powerful, it drew me to you and whether it was your intention or not, returned you to me. I think your… Our writing can help us uncover the truth to our seperation. Before we met i knew something was wrong, but I couldnt think of what or why. I’ve been in a shroud of unimagination, and now, now the ideas flow easily through my mind. I think the person responsible is a writer. Only a constructor of worlds, a creator of fates, could augment our lives like this.”

“So how do we fight someone like that? Write about them to flush them out?”

“If they’re smart enough to send someones imagination to another planet, I dont think they’re going to be easily outed by some creative antagonistation. No, I think they split us up because we are the only one who can stop them, who can beat them at their goal. The only goal any man truly wants; to rule the world. We have to beat them to it Reks”

“Wait, you want us to take over the world. You realise I just came from a place where my life was lost trying to end such a tyranny?”

“Yes, but you did lose didnt you? Your motives were foolproof, but you needed to rule The Sphere in order to make it happen. That conflict led to your demise, and I think if you had fallen anywhere outside of Sovereign City’s walls we would have never reunited. And now that we have, I can tell you easily; I will see this through, I will not let this slip through my grasp. You failed because you didnt have me, and I been a failure without you. Not anymore, I will give you, us, a new chance to end tyranny, will you help me?”

After less thought than I thought I would need, I decided he was right. I was right, from the very beginning. I was just in the wrong place, fighting the wrong tyrants.
I will help Isaac write a book, we will take over the world.

You will hear from us again.

Look for the name Reks Twelve.

The Ninth Night

Tonight, I write to you from a room with an escape.

A door has appeared.

And I have been too scared to open it.

All my trials, all these tasks completed, and I can’t even open a door. The thought of what lives beyond in this strange world; so unlike my own, so advanced and full of mystery. It fills me with a powerful anxiety, it leaves me crippled in my seat, and all I can think to do is tell you how I came to be here on this night. The last night I spend here.

Veek kicked me awake. His clawed feet tore at my clothing and nearly punctured my skin. “Reks we have to move.” He told me. I stood up sore, rubbing my side with one hand and the gunk from my tired eyes with the other. “Is it the Varm?” I asked huskily. He sniffed at the air. “Yes, but they are not targeting us. They mean to beat us to Sovereign City.”

“I have a plan…” I told him. “…I’ve noticed The Varm do not use weapons, we can use this to our advantage.”

“Weapons are for Hûms. We exist as we are, we thrive on our limitations, and become stronger, smarter at overcoming adversities. It has been the conerstone of our evolution.”

I shook my head and looked away before saying: “Our journey is one to end the traditions of our forefathers, we have to be willing to adopt new ways of thinking if we are to be a part of forging the new sphere.” Veek snorted and debated internally before nodding with closed eyes.

“You are right Reks, but we must run, tell me your plan on the way.” I nodded a single nod, and we took off into the trees, leaping over fallen giant flora, darting around thorny bushes, and cutting our way through thick vines weaved in our path. Veeks pace quickened when we came to a small clearing with a thin treeline in the distance. I feared he smelt a dire reason to hasten, so I ran with all my strength. We broke through to the otherside of the trees simultaneously. To my amazment.

Czarina’s brightly coloured dress was the first thing I could see, as she sat, contrasted against the dark blue sandstone walls of Sovereign City. We skidded to a halt when we noticed The Varm waiting at each side of us.

“You kept us waiting Varmint. We grew bored, and felt like playing with your Hûms. We wanted to play with the female first, but the male one wouldn’t let us. He proved to be more fun instead.” It was then that I noticed Mikado’s bruised and bloodied face resting on Czarina’s lap. From Mikado’s widows peak to the collar of his neck ran a track of claw marks, still weaping with blood onto Czarina’s dress.

“MIKADO!” I called. His head flinched and Czarina stroked his hair to calm him. He raised his trembling hand, his two smallest fingers were missing and when he raised it too far, he dropped it immediately to hold his ribs.

Czarina looked at me, she didn’t need to say anything. I knew she wanted it to be over; all of it, this moment, this day, this whole struggle. Her face, her energy was exhausted, she had nothing left to fight with. She yelled at me: “It didn’t work Reks. The gate wouldn’t let us through.”

Veek snarled, his anger swelled with each drip of drool that dropped to the ground. “Your senseless violence is not what The Varm stand for Beta.” Beta Khan threw his arm to his side “You don’t lord The Varm any longer Varmint. If you stand for the old Varm ways, you would call me Odious Khan, and kneel in fealty…” Odious paused. I looked to Veek, he was unflinching. I looked back to Odious. “…No?…” He smiled. “…I’ve been waiting to finish you off Varmint. And when I’m done, I’m coming for YOU; Hûm.” He pointed straight at me without looking, then he slowly turned his grinning gaze to meet my fearfull stare.

While Odious still stared me down, Veek dashed forward into the fray. The Varm that stood either side of us, converged behind him, once again closing the two foes in a circle and leaving me free. I rushed over to Czarina and Mikado to check them out. “I’m alright… I’m alright.” Mikado grumbled woozily. “You’re not alright, you dumb, brave, idiot.” Czarina said, still stroking his hair. He looked at me and winked a twitching wink “She’s over-reacting…” He said, coughing up a chunk of bloody matter at my feet. “Lay still man, we’ll get you out of here soon, get you some help.” I said, trying to reassure him.

“Why didnt it work Reks?” Czarina asked me. I couldn’t lie to her, not after what she’s been through, and I especially couldn’t lie to Mikado. “The seventh Diamond Gate is a fake. We found it at the centre of the Night Mist.” I said. “The centre of the? What? What’s at the centre?” She queried. “There’s a fifty metre woman with the gate on her back. The mist manifests because she was forbidden to stop walking, by the laws of the last King. I think she’s lost her thoughts though. She’s definitely gone blind.”

At this part of my re-telling Veek and Odious had entered combat, after circling each other, taunting and drooling their unacted moves into the sand. This wasnt a battle of movement, the moves were being played in each of their heads. Each attack parried exactly as the attacker would act. Each parry quelled before it can yield a resulting blow.

“I know how you move Varmint; old, tired, crippled. I will not let you escape me this time.” Veek grinned his jagged teeth, before saying: “I will have you at my heel, just as I had your father.” They circled, and I caught a glimpse of Odious’s eyebrow fade to grey. Veek reacted, immediately slashing at the greyed brow, knocking Odious into a torpor.

I turned back to my friends. There was a fledgling of a Maru tree to my side. I ripped it from the ground and wrenched it of its water reserves into Mikado’s mouth, and on his face. I tried to wipe the blood gently from his ruined face with a scrap of my shirt, but every touch coerced a grimace of pain to his face. Czarina took the rag from my hand, and the instant it touch him, Mikado’s face exuded serenity. She brought peace to his chaos, just as he brings chaos to her peace.

Something caught my eye. Veek and Odious locked hands in a test of pure strength; pushing against each other. Neither one yielding. Veek dropped his knee, allowing Odious’ weight to fold over him as he propelled his oponent behind him. Veek stood to anticipate his foe’s retalliation, but was too slow. Odious had landed on his strong leg and pounced at Veek. The two tumbled over, cinched in one anothers grasp.

For two rotations they rolled out fo the circle of Varm. Veek flew from Odious’s grip and landed: skidding to a stop, as Odious rolled to his feet and charged with great speed to Veek’s front. He lept to Knee him Veek in the jaw, Veek stepped to the side, and fluidly he revealed my dagger to Odious and stabbed him; to his utter disbelief, in his his thigh. Veek ripped the Diamond blade up Odious’ leg as he propelled forward; splaying his leg muscle in two.

Odious tumbled on his vanquished leg. He tried vehemently to stand, greying his hair with every roar of pain, and stare at his foe. Veek stepped slowly towards him. Odious scuttled backward, snarling and cursing Veek’s name gutterally. “How dare you sully our ways with the weapon of a Hûm. You! After berating me only moments ago. Hypocrite! Deceiver!” Veek came to his enemy and thrust the Diamond Blade into his chest. Before his heart stopped he spoke the word: “Khan.” Calmly into Odious’ ear.

He turned to The Varm massing behind him, blood droplets joined the drool on the floor and spoke: “The Varm have been chained to their old ways, we have dwindled in our defiance to assimilate. What I once thought to make us stronger has left us hiding in the shadow of the forest. Instead, we should have been wielding the light of knowledge and carving our names into time. Together with this Hûm, we can never be forgotten in the dark.”

I think the Varm that had followed Varmint devoutly were the first to kneel. The former followers of Odious were a bit more relluctant, but without the persuasive tongue of their leader, fear overtook them instead of courage. Within seconds, all were kneeling, and all were placing their hand on their reinstated Khan. Their hands greyed within his presence. I think it was them showing a tremendous fear to fight back.

From the ritualistic circle came flying my dagger, landing in the ground at my feet; Odious’ blood slid down and blended with the dirt. “I have to go now. Czarina, Mikado, I will be back” I told my friends, as I stood and walked past my dagger to meet with Veek. I almost picked it up, but I had the feeling it served its purpose already. That I no longer needed it on my journey. I asked Veek to have his Varm take care of my friends while we were in Sovereign City. Instantly he snarled an order to a few of the Varm; they dashed over to Czarina and Mikado to aid them.

Veek and myself walked up to the final Diamond Gate. I was in a daze, I couldn’t even fully absorb the magnificence of Sovereign city. Its uncountable tall spires, poking into the clouds. The courtyards of stone and red crystal looked as though they had been laid there only moments before we arrived. Each wall was straight and neat, built by master craftsmen.

Now that I’m pondering on it, they resemble the works of the buildings I can see from this tiny room in which I spend my dreams in. At the time I should have noticed how little the city had aged, by all accounts, it should have dilapidated, but I didnt notice. I was in awe. I made it.

Thinking back, I’m sure it wasnt a noise, nor a touch, or an instinct. I just looked back, and I could see Mikado standing; leaning on Czarina’s shoulder, holding his ribs. He looked like he wanted to say something, and then his arm pointed behind me and his face was wrecked with horror.

I stepped closer to them once.

My spine went numb, my eyes heavy, arms weak.

I felt a cold breeze on my stomach, and looked down.

The realisation struck me, and so did the pain.

I saw a hand, but not my hand, I inhaled sharply, and clearly a voice hissed into my ear.

“No King of mine!” The voice said, and with it came the hot stink of breath I had come to recognise. “V…Veek?” I struggled to blurt. “Deception is a skill that YOU taught me, Hûm.”

His free hand pressed hard against my back, I watched the claw shrink through my stomach and the second it left my back, I fell to the ground. Pain reverberated within me; it was so intense I couldnt tell if I was shivering or not, but I knew I was cold. Blurrily, all I could see was Mikado bashing on the Diamond Gate’s threshold, and Czarina trying to stop him, trying to convince him to go another way.

Thinking on it now I deduce she was trying to get him to go with her and find the Night Mist, or maybe she was just trying to flee the impending reign of Varmint Khan.

I blinked long and heavy, and between the comfortable, dark embrace of my inner eyelids and the consuming brightness of day, I watched my friends run away in flashes, from the Diamond Gate into the forest. When I could see them no more I returned my eyes to the peacful confines of my eyelid enclosure. My darkened solitude was beautiful, my brain felt supernaturally active.

I can barely explain it. I felt like my mind was spiraling through the stars at speeds my body would surely perish from. The spinning stars rapidly accelerated as I flew, blurring into a constant stream of white light. And then the opposite happened, it looked like black and blue stars were coming at me, spiralling and speeding into another blur, but of blackness. It stayed black for a while. A long while. Longer than I could count, longer than I felt I would ever live.

And then there was a soft red glow, all around me, with it came; an at first quiet: Thump thump… Thump thump… It grew louder until it was reverberating within my consciousness. I squirmed, and for a second I hadn’t realised that I had squirmed, I had bodily motion, I felt.

I felt my body, my heart beat, my lungs expand. The soft red glow was the light on the other side of my eyelids, and a feeling rose within my chest.

I opened my eyes.


Fuzzily, but clear enough to tell. It was the room, and as it came into full clarity so too did the understanding of what had happened. Somehow, I transitioned from the Sphere, to this world. This strange land, I have come to know only through this machine, this window of knowledge.

I tried to stand, but my legs were weak under my heavy body. My eyes grew strong as I stared at my hands to gain focus. As soon as I was able to see I looked down to my stomach.

No wound!

But how? I was sure Veek had tore a hole in my gut. I was dying on the grounds of Sovereign City, and now I’m here. Nothing about this made sense, and at the height of my confused pondering I felt something odd. As if someone was watching me. I turned to the corner of the room, but nothing was there. I watched for a moment longer, and then I heard it… Thump thump, thump thump.

With the noise, came the visualisation of a door, and once I could see it, I couldn’t unsee it. It was there, finally! An exit.

I will return with answers, I promise I will. I have to go…

The Eighth Night

My previous night here in this room, gave solace. Tonight, I feel claustrophobic, and uneasy.

This morning I awoke tired, as though I hadn’t slept at all, and had not for days. I close my eyes on the sphere and awaken here, I close my eyes here and awaken there. My mind is always active, and I feel like my consciousness and subconsciousness have melded, and now there is no need for sleep.

Well, that’s just one of my theories anyway.

Our hunt for Czarina and Mikado had taken a detour. Once I had calmed down from my adrenaline-fueled chase in the previous day, I thought about how far ahead they were likely to be. I decided it would be better to locate the missing Diamond Gate before reuniting with my friends. At least then I would be able to tell them how to do the same.

Veek and I ate the last of our rations, which was barely enough to satiate us, let alone uplift us from our slumping lethargy. Regardless of our stomach’s state, we walked with furious intent, pounding our heavy feet into the soft leaf covered ground. It was an hour or two of silence, when Veek stopped abruptly to smell all around him. “She’s nearby.” He stated. “She? Can you smell Czarina?” I queried, my hopes raised high. “No.” He answered simply, enflaming my intrigue further.

But before I could ask for more information.

“Reks MOVE!” Veek barked, as he dashed ahead of me. I made chase, unable to catch up, but staying only just within sight of him. He stopped after a full minute at top speed. Seconds later I arrived to where I though he was, but he had disappeared. It was a gangly tree that I had mistaken him for. I hunched over and panted to regain some stamina before I went looking for him.

It was then that I was grabbed from behind. I was dragged into some rough bushes, my mouth covered, my nose free to smell the stink of the hand smothering me. From the stench I knew who had grabbed me, but I had no idea why. Veek whispered into my ear barely louder than a leaf blowing in the wind: “Don’t speak. Put your hand to the ground and watch the mist.”

I couldn’t even see the mist, and as I placed my hand down, I focused solely on calming myself, attempting to feel anything other than my beating heart.

I looked up, to witness the thick fog roll into the clearing, like a soft tsunami it consumed its path, and then I could feel it. THOOM… THOOM… THOOM… THOOM. “What is that?” I asked. My heartbeat rose once again. “That is the Night Mist.” I didn’t understand what he meant, but as I kept watching I saw a figure come through the blur. A gigantic figure, a fifty metre figure. I thought of how impossible that could have been, I was about to ask Veek how it could be but it was too late, he’d already sprinted past me into the milky atmosphere.

Following him was my only option, he obviously had a plan. I ran after him, following his footsteps exactly. A perfect straight line through the mist. I guess he thought we’d either hit the center and find the fifty metre man, or end up on the other side.

Veek slowed and I caught up to him, we stopped together. He listened into the wind and coerced me to his other side gently with his arm. He gripped my shirt, I felt his muscles clench tightly. Then a gust of warm wind started up into our faces, and with it came a giant foot, crashing down to the ground I had only a few seconds ago occupied. Veek stuck his arm out and clawed into the leg of the fifty metre man. He didn’t break stride, and we were taken for a ride on his leg. Veek threw me onto the man’s thigh and clambered his way upward. We slipped and struggled to make it just to his hip. Veek rested for a moment on the stable mid-section of the fifty metre man, his ragged belt made a good place for us to tie ourselves to.

“How is it possible for a fifty metre man to make the night mist?” I asked. Veek, with panting breath answered: “The lasts king’s orders were not only to carve out The Scar, but to hide one of the Diamond gates, so that even if someone did make it across the chasm, they would have no chance of breaching Sovereign City.”

My thoughts were buzzing “Are you telling me, the Night Mist, the last fifty metre man and the missing Diamond Gate are all one in the same?” Veek laughed at my stupefaction. “You Hûms are a bit slow, aren’t you? It is a fifty metre woman” I had no Idea “It doesn’t help when your being so enigmatic about everything.” I retorted.

“But seriously Veek, how do you know about her?” I queried. “My father…” He began in a solemn tone I had originally thought his kind was incapable of. “…He used to patrol the trees personally when I was a boy, the aging shadow was far more dangerous then. The scar was only deep enough for the fifty metre men to stand in, and the lands were plenty with predators and prey alike. One night, while, alone he spotted a twinkle in the distance. Curiosity caught him and he immediately satiated it. For all he knew it was a threat that had to be eliminated at once. But when he got closer he could see, it was no threat. She was crying as she walked, my father caught up to her, and from the trees he lept to her shoulder, to ask of her plight. She told him of her woes and what she had left behind to fulfil the king’s order. My father, for the first time in his life was sad for another…”

He paused for a long second to put his hand on his chest and look down to me.

“…Our people Reks, The Varm, we do not feel as you do. Our hearts are not built for it, we dwindle, we grey and we die if we lose control of our emotions. If we love too long, cry too deep or even hate without restraint, we will die faster. As the seasons passed I watched my father languish with every returned excursion. He lost his place as Khan to Beta’s father. I was swollen with anger, seeing him age himself in secret with an outsider. So, I confronted him and he told me. He told me of her, of the King’s order and the Diamond Gate. And he said something that changed me forever. He said he couldn’t let her walk alone, he said: ‘none of what we do matters if it is all for the self.’ My father kept returning to her, kept regaling her with tales of fiction and fact, until he was too weak to move. He’s the reason I’ve helped you thus far Reks, he’s the reason we’re both here, and the reason I will regain my position as Khan of The Varm.”

I was moved by Veek’s story, as sad as it was, it gave me more of a purpose. Another person I could help. I got the feeling Veek’s father and the older generation of The Varm had a connection to the Fifty metre men. As though they were entwined in their histories, perhaps The Varm were the faithful companions, or, I think more likely it was the other way around.

Veek sighed, and I swear I seen a hair by his ear grey before my eyes. He must have reminisced too deeply on his father. After he sighed, he stretched his arms out, and gave me the impression he was ready to move again. We looked upwards, the mist was still around us. The fifty metre woman’s body was warm and we could see some vines dangling from above. I think they must have caught onto her as she passed by, and they’ve long since taken root on her heated exterior, gaining moisture from the mist.

We climbed up. The vines thickened as we ascended, and when we reached her back, we could easily tell the difference between her back and the Diamond Gate. It was tightly bound to her back, save for a small arch just above her shoulders. That is what we had to aim for. I had to pass through it.

Determination plagued my thoughts as I stared up to the gradually clearing vison of the Diamond Gate’s opening. I scoped every avenue of my ascent and leaped up, mirroring Veek’s moves earlier, fluidly clawing and leaping and before long I was through the threshold. I had made it, I reached Veek on her shoulder, and something strange happened. We could feel the fifty metre woman slow, almost to a halt. I looked to Veek, he too was confused.

The woman appeared to be sniffing at the air. Something about our presence must have reminded her of something. I didn’t realize at first but when Veek climbed over to her ear to whisper something I could not hear, I could tell that his scent; his pungent sweat-wet hair, that cut into my nostrils receptors, represented something different to the fifty metre woman. It represented an escape from her torment, it represented a friend.

I climbed closer to hear them talk. Veek was halfway through telling her of who he was. I caught him saying “My father told you stories” It was then we heard her speak, probably for the first time in decades to another being. “It is you, the child from the tales.” She said. From which I gathered that all the fables Veek’s father had told her, were of him. He must have poured all his pent-up love for Veek into those stories. As I watched Veek absorb this new information I witnessed a large streak of hair on his back turn white. His father’s love struck him unaware; years after his passing, he was able to send his feelings through the most unlikely of conduits.

A hum of sorrow escaped the woman’s cracked lips, as Veek let out a wailing howl in remembrance. I climbed close enough to ask her for her name. “I, I am, Noora…” She said “…Are you the Varm’s companion?” She asked me. “Yes, I am Reks, and Veek and I are going to end your suffering, so you can return to your people.” She sobbed into her giant hands. “My people are gone, forgotten, lost to The Scar. You should kill me if you aim to end my suffering.”

Veek stood up with purpose “No! They are not lost, I have seen another, in the scar. Caldera Kaiser still remains.” Noora stopped and shuddered with pain. I think she was fighting against her oath. “K…Kaiser!” She roared. I had the notion they knew each other, but it was hard to tell how. “He ran away to hide in The Scar the day I was sworn… NO… Cursed to my task. This is his burden I carry.” Her body heat radiated with ferocity. “Reks and Varmint, please! Pass through my gate and on through the rest. Become the next King and speak the words that will free me. I can’t confront Kaiser until the words are spoken. You must hurry.”

The mist thickened as her body temperature rose. “I will hold him to his word Noora, I swear in my father’s name.” Veek said, and then he picked me up and ran with me along Noora’s outstretched arm. She held off her first step until we had leapt from her fingertips. I watched her fade into the fog as we fell down to the floor.

Veek’s strong legs ploughed into the dense fallen foliage on the floor, landing us safely. He placed me down and we kept going in the direction we jumped from Noora’s arm. It wasn’t long of running before we made it to the Diamond gate. After this one we would be staring at Sovereign City walls. Staring at my goal.

We didn’t talk much after passing through the Diamond Gate. While our motives were still the same our perception of those who we fight for has altered. What Noora told us of Caldera Kaiser hasn’t only thrown our impressions of him in question, but of all the people we have encountered too. Well I can really only speak for myself on this, as my opinion of Veek has even been skewed, and if his view of me wasn’t changed it would be folly.

In that moment I couldn’t trust anyone but myself. We both stopped, weak and tired from running, we sat and silently looked at each other in deep thought. It was strange, I felt no inclination to speak, but there was an aura of animosity in the air, like an unresolved altercation the two of us had, but neither of us knew about.

I don’t remember falling asleep. I am here in my tiny room, and my neck is sore. I must be sleeping crooked. I hope tomorrow I can resolve whatever tension is between Veek and me. So we can complete the Sovereign Stride together.

The Seventh Night

“RROOOAARGHWAKE UP” I heard someone yell. I could feel my body being jostled around, I opened my eyes to Varmint Khan, gripping my shoulders and shaking me wildly.


Groggily: “Ahh, I’m awake, What?” I asked. He cast me aside, I skidded along the dirt floor, sore and confused. “What is wrong with you Hûm? Do you not dream?” He asked intensely.


I wasn’t sure how to respond, I wasn’t sure how to react. I looked over to my friends, Mikado and Czarina were passed out still, mumbling seemingly incoherent nothings into the cool air. Varm sitting very closely, listening to them, seemingly tasting their dreams as the sniffed It was then that it hit me. “YOU POISONED US!” I screamed, as I tried to stand. My legs felt like twigs under a boulder, I fell back to the floor. “What have you done to us? I queried, rubbing my head.


Varmint Khan crouched in front of me, and calmly he said: “The Varm have a ritual. It is meant to reveal the true character and nature of anyone’s intentions. All who live with us must endure it; you drink, then sleep, and when you sleep, you talk of the true journey you wish to take your life on. But you, you were silent, nothing came from your mouth. Never has this happened.”


He stood and began pacing in front of me “Where did you go? If not to the dreamland. TELL ME!” He bellowed “WHERE?!”


I didn’t answer. I looked away. I tried to invent a story he would believe, but gave up when the memory of his lie detecting sniff came to mind. He grabbed me by my shirt and pulled me up to my shaky feet. I stared into his eyes and could tell he was afraid of the uncertainty of my inability to dream.


For a fraction of a second I thought he was going to bite my head clean off. I gave in and told him “I go to a room of impeccable design, in a foreign land, where I am trapped, and can do nothing but record my exploits on a device known by the inhabitants as a computer. When I wake, I return here to my quest. To end the Sovereignty of the Sphere.”


The Khan sniffed at my words, and I could see in his eyes, he saw no flaw to my speech. He knew I was telling the truth, though he still looked me over trying not to, then angrily let me go. There was denial in the air, and his Varm were curious of their Khan’s intentions.


The Beta spoke up “Varmint Khan! We must not trust him, he failed the ritual, his purpose is turbid…”


“SILENCE!” The Khan barked. Beta Khan snarled to a murmur. “Tell me Hûm? Do you wish to know the path of your companions? Their dreams? Their desires?” He asked. At first the idea excited me, my eyes widened at the prospect, but a second thought came to mind. “No, they won’t know my thoughts, only what I tell them, the same with you and the Varm, so no, I don’t want to know”


“Fool!” The Beta Khan scoffed “Tell me then Hûm, why do you wish to end sovereignty? Why not rule the sphere and mold it to your mind’s image?” He asked. I thought about my words carefully, I didn’t want him to miss-understand me.

“Take a look at your family, your people. Do they look happy to you? Healthy? How long have you been living like this? And how many members have you lost because of Sovereign law? How many other families have been lost to the tyranny of a Sovereign leader?”

My heart was racing by this point, and all I could see when I looked to the Varm, was each of them reminiscing about a loved one; passed.


Beta Khan rebutted “And you think ending it will solve all of our troubles? We will still be hungry, and the Hûms will still lust for power. All you will do, is take away the laws that keep them from miss-behaving, but once they are gone, you watch! Watch the bad turn evil and the good turn bad and anyone else not brave enough to stand will be slaughtered for food by their neighbor.”


“NO!” I told him “We’ve lived without a leader for seventy years. Believe me, the people of the sphere are fine without a leader, even outside of the walls of Tor, I’ve witnessed this so-called lawlessness first hand, and sure, there’s thievery and violence, but the incidences are few and far between. I’ve seen more unity in the tribes of Hûms outside the walls of Tor than I have within your own ranks.”


The Beta Khan snarled away my words, he knew exactly how they smelled. He turned to his Khan. “Varmint Khan! We’ve heard enough of these Hûms, end this diplomacy and we will take the Sovereignty for ourselves. The soil in Sovereign City is bountiful, we will thrive there.” The Beta was panting after his own monologue. I felt like he had been holding such an argument inside of his head, changing it word by word over the many nights he’s pondered about taking control of the Varm.


“Khan, the other Hûms are waking” one of the calmer Varm said. Varmint Khan was being pressed for a response, but from what I could see, his composure was solid. If his kind could sweat, he was showing no signs of it. He simply walked over to his Beta; the only one showing any defiance to his regime, he wrapped his arm around his shoulder and coerced him away from the group. They walked and talked privately for about nine paces. I could hear them murmuring in their native tongue, but couldn’t guess what they were saying.


The talking stopped abruptly. Beta pushed Varmint Khan away. The Varm swarmed to their location, dividing un-evenly into two groups. I was surprised to see Varmint Khan with the smaller group to his back. I suppose when your fellow Varm can smell the intention of your words, you learn to keep your tongue still.


Beta clawed at Varmint Khan’s throat repeatedly, and repeatedly he missed. They exchanged blows, swift arms flew. It was hard to keep up with their motions.


Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the wriggling of my companions. “Reks? What’s going on?” Mikado asked. “AARRGH” Czarina screamed, clambering for a hiding spot behind Mikado. Her mind must’ve still been affected by the drool. I turned back to the fight and witnessed the crowd tighten the circle around Varmint Khan and his Beta. “What did they do to us?” Mikado queried.


“They drugged us to see our dreams” I told him. “Those rat bastards!” He replied, almost loud enough to catch the attention of the nearest Varm. Sketchily looking around the room, Czarina urged: “We have to get out of here, while they’re still distracted”


No reply was necessary, we were of the same mind and as a huddled group we casually walked to the cave’s exit. I didn’t take my eyes off the fight as Mikado and Czarina led us out, then I saw a Varm turn to us, he snarled to his nearest comrade, who was deeply invested in the fight.


The Varm ripped his friend from the spectacle to give chase to us. “GO, RUN!” I said. We dashed and skidded and slipped in the dirt trying to gain traction. The bright afternoon sun attacked our eyes through a pocket opening in the canopy. It went as quick as it came and when my eyes adjusted, I found myself running alone with one of the Varm still chasing me.


At the time I was too fixated on running to wonder if Mikado and Czarina had abandoned me on purpose. Maybe I could no longer be trusted, or maybe they thought their trust in me would bring them more danger than anything the Varm could do. All I knew at that time, was my lungs hurt, and anytime I looked back to see the Varm chase me, he would fade in and out of my vision as he passed through varying grades of shadow. He was gaining on me. I couldn’t out run him, I had to fight, and if I took another step I wouldn’t have enough stamina to beat him.


I skidded to a halt and propelled myself backwards, pivoting off a root sticking out of the ground, my hand steadily gripped around my diamond dagger, ready to strike. But the second I locked onto my target I could see there wasn’t one Varm, but two, and the other Varm was Varmint Khan; he’d caught up to my pursuer, and subdued him within a few seconds. He then turned his eyes to me, I put up my guard, but he raised his palm to me “Reks! I do not want you dead” He spoke with a plea in his tone. “I have been cast out, I am no longer Khan of the Varm.” His head hung low and I could tell he felt shame and sadness at the events that had transpired.


“What do want from me then?” I asked. He paced closer “Your allegiance, your leadership, your will power. Beta Khan will destroy everything the old Khans have built, everything my father and I have built. He will war us into extinction, but not before he brings ruin to the Hûms. I cannot allow it Reks, we have to stop him.” Just as Varmint Khan could smell the lie to a word, I could sense the sincerity in his. “Can you lead me through the last Diamond Gates?”


A devious grin split his mouth in two “All the true Diamond Gates? Yes, I will. “There was some part of the diamond gate history I was missing. “True gates? What are you talking about?” My hand has not left my dagger yet. I felt like something was off with what Varmint Khan was saying. “There is one missing, and one that takes its place along the path to Sovereign City.” Even if he was trying to trick me, I couldn’t risk going through the wrong Diamond Gate. I had to ally with Varmint Khan. “Alright, we’ll help each other, but what do I call you now that you’re not Khan?”


He scratched his head and looked like he was trying to remember something. “Veek, you can call me Veek, until the second I am reinstated as Khan” “Let’s move Veek, we have to hurry and find my friends, please, lead the way to the next Diamond Gate.” He nodded and promptly dashed away. I could barely keep up. If it weren’t for the rays of light spearing down on him through the canopy every few seconds, I’d have lost sight of him.


We ran the rest of the day dark before we made it to the sixth Diamond Gate. “Look Veek, tracks! They were here” I said. “Your friends are heavy-footed” He remarked, sniffing the air. “The Varm have not come this way, but I would not rule it out, they know how to move around without even me detecting them.” I tried to rush in the direction of the tracks, but Veek caught me by the collar. “No Reks, if your companions are smart, they would have made camp by now. We should do the same, lest we wish to be caught in the Night Mist.”


I had learned at an early age about this Night Mist, sometimes it would creep into Tor on the coldest of nights, we would kick it around and play hide and seek. But in this landscape, it would have been folly to go through. “I can’t afford to get lost, not now. We should camp, I’ll take the first watch. I’ll wake you when we swap.”


Veek nestled himself into a nook of twisted roots at the base of a fat-trunked tree. He looked so peaceful as he lay there. Even though I bet his mind was running amok with the un-foreseeable events of today. He was probably thinking of how he could have done better or different to keep his Varm.


Or maybe the Varm don’t work that way, maybe they can simply shut out that part of their mind, to do the more important task; sleep. All I knew at that point was that I couldn’t sleep, because I didn’t want to end up here again, and despite my best efforts I did anyway, but not before I stayed up watching Veek scratch every phantom itch while he slept.


I tried to meditate my body into a sort of stasis, so I could get some kind of reprieve from the chaos of the sphere, and the silent solitude of this room. But nothing could stop my thoughts from clawing into my head space. I thought about Sephina first. I imagined our lives together after all this was over, and I worried that her view of me would change when she came to know the consequences of my actions. I thought she might even try to kill me right there at our first meeting since our last. I hoped she would understand. I hoped she would forgive me.


I sighed, trying to expel my wandering thoughts of her into the cool wind of the forest. And then the night mist rolled through. It enveloped the immediate area, I could still see Veek, but only barely. So I moved to sit right next to him. With the change of place came a change of thought. I wondered what had happened to my school rival Victor. Until then the occurrences of my journey had blotted out his existence from my mind. But here in the mist, where the closest things are thoughts, I pondered about why I hadn’t seen him yet. Did he take another route? Did he even make it out of Tor?


Parts of me wanted him to be waiting for me at the last Diamond Gate to Sovereign City. So I can prove to him… No! So I can prove to myself that I am better, stronger and smarter. The other parts of me were hoping he wasn’t, because I’m scared to face him, I truly am, and if he wasn’t there when I arrived, then I would know I was better without needing to beat him. I know it’s cowardly, I know a lot of Hûms that would say it’s weak to wish for an outcome like that, but not all battles won are battles survived, and cowardice can be a great companion in a war against your fears.


It was at the end of that thought that I spotted the moon perched right above my head, bathing the mist in its green glow. This was my signal to swap with Veek, but I let him rest for a few more minutes. And for those minutes I got my reprieve, I attained serenity.


And then, I woke up Veek. He nearly bit my arm off, but after seeing my face he calmed. We exchanged places and I laid in his nook. The warmth he left behind made it easy for me to fall asleep, and after I arrived here; in this room, I felt as though my burden had lightened, or maybe I grew stronger today and the same old weight of the sphere was easier to lift.