Symbionic. Chapter 4: Part 4

Read from blurb to now; here.

“East Bridge is your target…” Blister begins, in the large oval command room filled with all the members of Cluster I.

“…As I said before, B Cluster will be attacking the North Bridge the moment we send our signal, and then once they’ve started their march they, will send you their signal; any Questions?”

Mac; the leader of I Cluster is sitting with his arms folded. His semi-greyed moustache twitching every few seconds from a wound he’d acquired in a fight before the Assimilations.

“East Bridge, you’re fucking serious?” He asks, flicking his longer than it should be fringe out of the way of his glowering eyes.

“Yes, it’s very important that your target is big and attracts a lot of Assims” Blister says.

One of the lieutenants in the room stands to speak out of turn:

“What you’re asking is suicide Blister” The room erupts in agreeance.

“I know it is, and I’m… I’m sorry” Blister tries to appeal over the crowd’s roaring disapproval.

“Quiet!” Mac bellows; the room’s noise trails off to a murmur.

“…Blister, it’s obvious to me and most of us in this room, that this mission you would have us undertake is a decoy. No Hûm in their right mind would attack the Encephalon head on like this. So, we need more Blister, what is your Cluster planning?”

Claire; the second in command of I Cluster raises her lanky figure from her seat

“I’m with you Blister, I truly think you are capable of seeing this through, and that’s because we’re both crazy people, but there’s only a handful of us crazies in this room. You’ll need to convince the sane ones that their doing the right thing”

Claire sits back down and awaits Blister’s response, as does the rest of the room.

“I can’t tell you our plan… That would compromise it; I can’t tell you it’s going to work either…” Blister pauses to review his words, as now is a crucial time, he can’t mince them.

“…We have all sacrificed so much already, and we’ve only now reached a level of comfort. We’ve proved to the Encephalon that we won’t be ignored; our freedoms will not be ignored… I’ll tell you straight up, I’ve had enough of being out of control. As it stands; I control my breathing and my shitting, everything else is controlled by that fucking Encephalon. They’ve stripped us of our choices, but this… This attack is a choice we can control, we control when, we control how, and we will definitely control why; I know why I’m fighting, for my kid and for my wife, I am standing on my feet for them. Who are you fighting for? Claire?”

The back of Claire’s throat squeezes with anguish.

“My mother!” she cries.

“And Mac? What about you?” Blister asks.

Everyone in the room reflects on who they’ve lost and who they are fighting to get back. Tired eyes weep and scarred hands muffle long overdue cries for the loved ones they’ve stayed so strong for.

With bleak timbre Mac begins:

“I have lost everyone…” Blister listens intently while Mac chooses his next words.

“…My parents died when I was young, my brother killed himself in his foster home before they even started Assimilating us, and my sister…”

Mac breaks down; his head falls to his hand propped up by his elbow leaning on the desk he sits behind.

“…YAAARRGH…” Mac roars through his sadness and slams his clenched fist to the leather clad desk, he flicks his gaze to Blister

“…She wouldn’t let me leave, she made me fucking do it Blister and now I have no one, no future, no choices left but vengeance. I have been repressing my anger just to stay alive in this bullshit world long enough to get my revenge, but in doing so I only weakened my reasoning…”

Mac inhales and once again sends his anger down into his belly. He’d exhale smoke if physics would allow it.

“…What do you say Cluster? Is it time for retribution?” He asks the room.

They barely hesitate; somewhat mesmerized by Mac’s conviction, they raise their thumbs unanimously in the air.

“Blister, you will have your deco…”

Just as Mac is ending his sentence another Cluster enters the room. Their leader charges in first; his pointed jaw and sharp cheeks cut the air to each side of him as he dictates:

“Mac! Gather your troops we’re making a move on the reprogramming station”

“Lance? What’s going on? You know I can’t authorise something like this without fair deliberation”

Lance spots Blister at the head of the room, he looks him up and down with certain disapproval before he speaks.

“Well it’s a good thing we’re all in the one room we can…”

Lance makes quotation marks with his fingers.

“…Deliberate”

Blister is shocked at Lance’s arrival.

“Lance? What happened to Ando? I though he was leader of H Cluster?”

“He couldn’t hack it; he was weak, much like Davis… Tell me Blister, where is your leader?”

Mac stands to draw attention away from Blister to himself.

“Lance, enough!”

“I’ll tell you where he is, or rather, where he’s going…”

Blister looks away, Lance continues:

“…Yes, you do know where, don’t you, boy?” Lance was one of the more senior members of the uprising he grooms his hair as though it were a badge of authority; he spent most of his time in the military before the Assimilations, but was dishonourably discharged for choking his commanding officer into unconsciousness over a trivial dispute, and he called anyone he didn’t respect ‘Boy’.

“He’s heading for the advanced reprogramming station, in case you didn’t know” Lance affirms.

“How can you know this?” Mac queries.

“One of my scouts spotted him and intercepted. Fearing he’d been Assimilated, my scout attempted to subdue and question him. Davis flipped out and nearly ripped the kid’s head off, telling him not to follow or he’d finish the job… There’s nothing else out that way Mac, he’s turned”

Mac turns to Blister.

“What the hell is going on Blister? Has Davis gone rogue?”

Blister meets Mac’s eyes with his own, shamefaced.

“I don’t know Mac. He’s been different ever since I told him his brother was sighted going to the station” Blister says, with downtrodden honesty.

“Well Blister; do we stave off the decoy attack to rescue Davis, his brother and the other Hûms?”

Blister scratches his head; vexed.

“Fuck, I fucking told Davis this would jeopardise the mission… No, I think we should focus our preparations on the bridge attack”

Lance approaches Mac’s desk with commanding steps.

“I disagree, we can use this opportunity to secure a beachhead. Think about it Mac, Blister, if we take down this station we gain an army of Hûms, Hûms we don’t have to train…”

Lance points away from Mac without breaking eye contact.

“…Those aren’t civilians in there; those are men and women aligned with our cause. This is a prime opportunity Mac, you’d be a fool to throw away this chance”

Mac is in a deep contemplation, but Blister is frustrated; he can feel his earlier speech being forgotten and overtaken by the dumb brute force plan Lance is reciting.

“I’m sorry Blister, Lance is right; it would be a wasted opportunity if we didn’t take the station… Now, in no way am I saying we’re abandoning your campaign, far from it, I think this is something we can use to test our abilities, if we can take control of the reprogramming station we’ll have a massive morale boost to take with us to the Encephalon and…”

Blister interrupts with:

“And if we can’t take the station?”

Mac continues:

“…Then you will have your decoy, the Assimilated will be very busy trying to get us to go quietly, that should buy you enough time to slip in to the Encephalon unnoticed”

Blister still disagrees, but the plan could very well still succeed down this path. Lance makes his voice heard:

“Everyone’s on high alert as of this moment…”

Mac stares daggers at him, obviously annoyed at Lance’s commanding of his own troops, but concludes his statement.

“Ready every Hûm, every weapon and any courage you’ve had stored away for the right moment… This is that moment people. Move swift, and move accurate”

The sun has been down for a short time, but long enough to give Elix and Trace a boost in confidence about their stealth.

“There, you see it?” Elix whispers.

“What that tiny sparkle in between the bush and that gangly tree?”

“Yeah, that’s Davis”

“I don’t know Elix that could be anything”

“There’s only one way to find out”

Elix looks at Trace with raised eyebrows before dashing out of the shadowy enclave they’d been monitoring their surroundings from for the past twenty minutes.

Trace trails swiftly behind Elix and when she reaches her; Elix is staring dumbfounded at a steel buckle hanging purposefully on a branch.

“But I saw him, where the hell did he go?” She asks; perplexed.

Trace knows this trick, Davis had taught it to her years before, but it was only when she had fallen for it that she realised.

“He’s close Elix, he has to be” A blurred figure saunters towards them through the moon lit shrubs.

“Close enough to Assimilate you…”

The figure states as the girls turn to his voice.

“…You two should not have followed me” He states.

Trace sighs through her next word:

“Davis…”

She runs to meet him, and stops one pace in front of him. She trembles with anger and adrenaline, her fists squeezing, not knowing whether to hit Davis or hug him. Davis makes the decision for her, he swoops his dirtied arms underneath hers to pull her closer. Her trembling body vibrates into Davis’ rigid embrace, melting his tough exterior. He grips her tighter and she lets out a small whimper.

Trace pushes him away abruptly, wipes her tears and slaps Davis across his jaw. Her tear glazed hand stings Davis’ dirt blotched face.

“Don’t you dare run away again” Trace warns.

Davis’ guilt keeps him from thinking up a response.

“What exactly was your plan here Davis?” Asks Elix, rhetorically, she continues:

“Run in guns blazing, throwing nades everywhere?”

Davis rubs his sore cheek and smirks.

“Well that was plan B, plan A was to get in and out unnoticed without having to babysit a couple of groupies”

“Slap him again Trace” Says Elix. Trace cocks her hand and readies her muscles.

“No, no, once is good…” Davis cowers.

“…I just meant, two feet are quieter than six”

“Come on Davis, you should know by now; smarts beat stealth, the way I see it you’ve just tripled your chances of success” Trace says confidently.

“Seriously though, how were you going to get there?” Elix queries.

“Come on, I’ll show you” He says.

Davis leads Elix and Trace to his scouting spot; from there the three of them can see the entirety of the reprogramming station.

“See the flow tube, it goes into the main building on the left, it’s guarded by three towers filled with at least three Assims each… On the right by the third tower is the disposal wing”

Trace’s eyes squint.

“Disposal? How do you know that?”

“Follow me” He says, rushing away through the surrounding forest to a vantage point at the rear of the building.

Panting, he stops and says:

“There, look, down that whole side of the station are man sized tubes, and every few minutes a body slips out and falls into the water below”

“That’s the ocean” Elix bewilderedly states.

“Yeah, and the ocean is hungry, every time a body drops in or gets shot out of a lower level the water goes frothy and bloody”

“Fuck. Wait, lower levels?” Trace asks. Davis replies swiftly with:

“Since I’ve been here that flow tube has brought in twenty full flow tube loads of Hûms, and judging by the size of the building, it wouldn’t even hold half of that in the two levels we can see above ground”

Elix chimes in:

“Not to mention they’ve been doing this for years, there’s got to be thousands of them in there”

“Davis? I hope you don’t want us to go through those tubes?” Trace asks.

“Well that was my plan, but since you’ve shown your apprehension, I can use you for another task” Davis retorts

“Subterfuge?” She asks.

Davis squints and nods his head while saying slowly: “Subterfuge” in a nostalgic tone, just as the Cluster would often say on missions that would require it.

“Umm care to fill me in guys?” Elix questions, feeling a bit left out of the joke that these two veterans by comparison are sharing.

“Trace is going to set an EMP charge at one of the pillars to the flow tube, there’s a spot right by some encroaching bushes that will be our target. Then, you and me Elix, we’re going through the rear while the Assims scurry around to the front. Now, Trace…”

“Wait…” Trace interrupts.

“…There won’t be enough time for me to come back around and get in”

Davis sighs.

“I know, I have a more important task for you. You have to get to E Cluster; they’re going to need your brain to get those submarines running”

“But I can make it back” She pleads.

“Come on Trace, you’ve timed those body drops, you’ve seen the flood lights scanning, the window is too small and way too unlikely to repeat itself for two separate entries”

Davis knows Trace understands, but her face remains blank as though her mind had shut out the thirty words he just spoke, so she could think of a reason to compel him to let her come too. Davis and Elix can both tell Trace is not happy with how this mission will go.

“This isn’t goodbye Trace” Davis says, stepping into Trace’s personal space.

He wraps his arms around her once more, she grips his shoulders tightly.

“I can’t help but think this is the last time I’ll see you” She nearly breaks into an unending cry.

Davis squeezes her, and whispers into her ear a sentence Trace never thought would ripple against her eardrums.

“I have hidden from you all that I know to be myself. I’d blame this war, my brother or the Assims, but It’s all my doing, I only wish at the end of it all that you will let me say I’m sorry, and let me say, I love you”

The two share an embrace as long as time will permit them, Davis releases Trace and places his hands either side of her face, he wipes her tears with his thumbs.

“You ready?” He asks.

Trace nods, sniffles and smiles.

“Yeah, let’s fucking do this”

 

Symbionic. Chapter 4: Part 3

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

Its night time now, but Blister doesn’t know that yet. He blinks himself into consciousness. His groggy thoughts bounce heavily inside his damaged skull.

I’m, I’m inside somewhere; it’s warm, who the fuck jumped me?

Looking around, there’s only a small slit of light coming in from underneath the single doorway to the room. Blister tries to move his arm to rub his head.

“Fucking tied up; this is great, just…”

His rant is ended by a spot light powering up, aimed directly into his eyes; reminding him of the crippling headache he still has.

“HOW DID YOU FIND US?” A commanding voice behind the light booms

“Umm… Ahh…” Blister mumbles trying desperately to remember the password.

“You guys hit me too hard, I forgot the password, I’m here to relay a message from Davis”

Blister can hear whispers behind the light, he can’t quite make out what they’re saying but he recognises one of their accents. It’s the same accent he grew up with, the very same as his beloved Charlotte’s, and then the familiar voice asks Blister clearly

“Why would Davis break protocol?”

“Korvo? Is that you man?”

“Answer the question!” The man replies immediately.

“Come on Korvo, it’s me Blister, at least turn off the light man, I’ll tell you what’s going on”

The light powers down. Blisters eyes have a moment of peace in the black room before the room’s overhead lights are turned on.

“Korvo, I knew it was you man. I’m glad you’re alright”

Korvo’s permanently stern face doesn’t reciprocate Blister’s pleasantries.

“Tell me everything you know and tell me now Blister” He demands.

Blister looks to his bonds and rattles his arms within their restraints.

“Not even gonna untie me? Ugh, alright, we’re making a move on the Encephalon. I’ve been sent here to personally inform you of your role in the mission”

Korvo crosses his arms and furrows his brow, somehow further than it was already furrowed.

“Yeah? So where’s Davis? Why isn’t he sitting here, telling us to risk our minds?”

Blisters looks down, breaking his eye contact.

“He, he’s not in charge anymore”

“What?” Korvo asks genuinely.

“We were attacked last night, our base was destroyed and our Cluster was forced to scatter, we couldn’t find Davis when we were escaping. So I’m in charge now, and that’s why I’m here”

Korvo swiftly begins untying Blister.

“Oh fuck, man” He apologises without apologising. Blister stands from the chair with Korvo’s help.

“Hey, about knocking you around earlier, it’s just when someone breaks protocol like that our first instinct is to treat them as an Assimilated spy”

“Don’t worry, I would’ve done the same thing if it was you creeping around my neighbourhood…”

Blister rubs his head “…Maybe not so excessively though”

“Well the first hit was meant to knock you out, and when you didn’t, I thought of what you let happen to my sister, so I hit you again, I guess you can call us even now Blister”

“No, were not even yet. I owe you a sister and what we’ve got planned will get us one step closer to me honouring that debt”

Korvo could sense sincerity in Blister’s tone, but he’s cautious still, as that same tone was used by Blister to convince Korvo that his sister would be safe with him.

“Come into my office Blister, we’ll go over your plan”

Korvo opens the door and Blister charges past him straight for the map situated to the right of Korvo’s desk.

“Here…” He points “…The north bridge into the Encephalon, that’s where you, Cluster A and C are going to attack. I’ll be getting Cluster’s H, I and J to attack the East bridge exactly after your attack is recognised by the Assimilated”

Korvo starts stroking his almost un-stroke-ably short goatee as he tries to rap his head around the endgame of this plan.

“Okay, so we attack them head on and then what, we just get Assimilated, sure, we’ve got the numbers now Blister, but it’ll be like throwing a hundred ants at a whale, we wouldn’t even get through the skin before getting squashed”

“Between you and me…”

Blister turns from the map to face Korvo.

“…And I mean only you and me…”

Blister starts, and then in a lower voice says:

“…This is the only way we can get into the Encephalon. I’m sorry Korvo your attack is only a decoy”

Korvo’s reply is halted as he tries to think of another way around this problem, but no, he can’t.

“There isn’t another way” he states, knowing full well what he has to send his men into.

“Look Korvo, we can either keep growing our Uprising and hope we one day outnumber them, or we can attack now and attack hard”

“We’re all going to be Assimilated, you know that, right Blister? What guarantee can you offer us that this will work?”

“During the attack on our base, we thought the perps were regular Assim’s, just militarised. But when we fled through the sewers we caught up to a couple of them who were running away, and one of them told the other to kill me”

“Wait, one of them spoke? But nobody’s heard an Assim speak since their last mass reprogramming, what do you think it means Blister?”

“Me and Malcom were talking about it, he reckons it’s a sign that the Encephalon is having some internal conflict”

Korvo returns to stroking his goatee and scowling in deep thought.

“We’re actually making them squirm…” He smiles.

“This is great Blister, they don’t know what to do with us, part of them wants us dead but the majority wants us unharmed. Alright Blister, we’ll give em hell for ya’s, for Charlotte”

“Hell?…” Blister scoffs and raises his voice loud enough to penetrate the thin walls of Korvo’s base.

“…We’ve been in hell since they started Assimilating us, Nah. These fuckers like hell, they like order, they thrive on controlling everything we do. Give em emotion, give em humanity, make em feel fear, despair, regret. Give em joy before you give them hell”

The base is quiet, Korvo’s crew have gathered to Blister’s enthralling vocals. He hasn’t broken eye contact with Korvo; whose heart is racing. Blister looks to the clock in the office.

“Fuck its past night fall, I have to go meet I Cluster, you’ve got three days to prepare your attack”

“You sure you don’t want to rest a bit? We beat you around pretty good”

“No Korvo, this has to be done now, I’ve already spent too much time here”

Korvo’s mood has changed, he feels compelled to facilitate any of Blisters requests.

This is happening, this is really fucking happening. Korvo thinks to himself, with a poorly hidden grin on his face.

“Let me at least send someone with you to carry the supplies I’m sending you off with”

“You’re giving me a goon?” Blister asks.

“Well yeah, how else are you going to navigate our tunnels? It’s a real maze down there…”

Korvo walks to his office door mid-sentence.

“…Jack, get your arse in here”

Blister curiously waits for someone to enter. Within a few seconds a boy of about fifteen, built like a marathon runner sprints into the room, his green eyes stare intently at Korvo.

“What’s up boss? You got a job for me?” He asks.

“I need a travel pack for Blister and you’re going to escort him through the tunnels to I Cluster, got it?”

Jack runs out faster than he entered to retrieve the gear.

“You mother fuckers have tunnels?” Blister asks with raging jealousy.

“Yeah, we started them a few years ago; they’ve made travel and communication a whole lot easier, Artemis didn’t get you guys onto it?”

“We use the sewers and some of the old subway lines”

“Right, I guess it would have been a waste of resources to have you guys digging the whole time”

Jack races back into the room, stopping the small talk dead.

“Got your stuff boss” He states. Blister inspects the gear thoroughly.

“Guns, food, water, nades, good man! Now, lead me to Cluster I”

“Done” he replies and the two of them leave Korvo’s base.

“I feel bad Trace, this whole time I’ve been with the Uprising I haven’t even asked you anything personal” Elix says.

The pair reach an empty part of town on their way to Davis.

“Its fine Elix, I’m… I’m not really one to share personal things, my motives and past are mine to keep”

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to, Haha, well I guess Blister has been more of an influence on me than I thought, I kind of just wanted to talk about anything really. It’s been a long time since I’ve interacted with another girl”

Trace feels as though she shutdown Elix’s attempt to bond.

“He seems to have that effect on people, doesn’t he? I’m sorry Elix. It’s hard for me to open up, the more I talk about why I’m here there harder it makes it for me to exist, to fight. I know it sounds stupid, most people shout out their motivations behind their war as if it empowers them, but with me, I’m crippled by them. I can’t think straight, I can only think about the task at hand, otherwise…”

Trace pauses just long enough for Elix to finish her sentence.

“Your emotions get the better of you and your humanity gets in the way of your mission”

Trace agrees: “Yeah, it’s bullshit; we have to supress our emotions, our humanity, to fight a war against those who’ve done exactly that so we can reclaim our emotions and our humanity”

“Bullshit, I couldn’t have said it better myself” says Elix.

“Elix, I’ve got family, I know it’s kind of the cliché motivation for a Hûm in a Cluster, but there’s people out there waiting for me and I want to say thank you. We, all of us were pretty sceptical of you when you first came to us, but you’ve pushed us out of the sewers and I know Artemis would be proud of what we’ve accomplished together. So, thanks”

Elix is getting that feeling in her belly and chest, the one that makes you feel warm, tingly and important, it’s brought a film of tears to her eyes, not enough to drop to the ground but enough to make her reflect on her actions thus far, and think:

Wow I am making a difference.

“Thanks Trace, it’s been a long time since someone has said anything like that to me”

Trace and Elix share a moment of blissful quiet as they pass a street into one of the many forests now littered throughout the world.

“I’ve wanted to see a pocket forest since I first heard about them” Says Trace.

“Artemis told me about these; he called them ‘Weecosystems’” States Elix.

“Are you serious?” Trace asks holding her laughter in. Elix giggles.

“Yeah it’s amazing right? Probably the only time he ever named something so aptly. Looking back, I probably should’ve told him how good it was, he probably felt ridiculed when I laughed at it”

“Weecosystem. Haha” Trace laughs, then snorts and immediately goes silent. She clears her throat and starts a new conversation, attempting to kill her embarrassment.

“Despite their lack of imagination, the Assim’s have made a really nice forest”

“Are we not going to talk about the pig in the forest Trace” Elix simultaneously asks, and lets Trace know she failed to kill the embarrassment.

“It’s been a while since I’ve laughed alright, don’t tell Davis, and don’t you dare tell Blister”

Elix zips her mouth shut, locks it and throws an imaginary key away.

“Only us two will know this secret, don’t worry…” She reassures “…But yes, they are beautiful”

The trees are tall and have forged a canopy with their long stretching limbs. The dying light struggles to push through its tightly woven blanket. Shrubs, bushes and flowers grow freely at the tree bases forcing Elix and Trace to constantly change the trajectory.  Dark greens and browns provide a perfect canvas for the vibrant blue, pink and yellow of the wild flowers sprinkled throughout.

A rustling of bush leaves stops the women in their tracks; Trace’s head immediately flicks to the direction of it. The skin between her eyes wrinkles with focus as she listens for more noise. Elix places her hand on her pistol, her trigger finger is ready.

“Come out, we’re armed” Trace requests.

The rustling continues and whatever is behind it is closing in on Trace and Elix’s location. Trace reaches for her weapon too; Elix aims hers and patiently awaits the mystery rustler to show itself.

Unexpectedly; a small boy comes running full speed out of the shrubs; both women are shocked and nearly fire wildly at the young kid. Instead Elix takes one step in his direction and smacks him hard to his muddied head with the bottom of her gun-free palm. He drops instantly and lay on the cool dirt; unconscious.

“Holy shit Elix, I almost shot that kid” Trace says holding her chest as her heart races.

Elix steps closer to the boy to inspect him.

“He’s got an Intelliguise on, maybe he’s an Assim. What the hell are we going to do with him Trace?”

Trace walks back and forth pondering.

“We, we have to leave him here, if he’s an Assim he’ll wake up and continue his programming and…”

Elix finishes her sentence:

“…And if he’s not, what then Trace, he just gets picked up by the next Assim patrol to come through the forest?”

Trace is visibly flustered.

“We don’t have any time to spare Elix; we have to get to Davis. The sooner we do, the sooner we can end this and this little boy can go home to his parents”

Elix drags the boy into the bush he came running out of and places a ration pack from one of her pockets on his chest.

“I don’t like this Trace” She states.

“Me either” Trace adds.

They leave the boy, and can’t help but look back on him every few steps as they continue their mission through the pocket forest.

 

Symbionic. Chapter 4: Part 2

Catch up on Symbionic from blurb to now; here.

“Quickly in here” She urges in a familiar voice

Blister is out of options and this woman can talk, which is more than he needs to know that she’s not Assimilated. He enters and the girl shuts the door behind him, locking several locks and latches within seconds of Blister passing her.

“This way” She coerces, leading Blister down some stairs.

Blister has only managed to catch one solid breath since he entered, he hasn’t even had a chance to look his saviour in the eye or blurt a word of gratitude for her actions. The woman opens a door to what appears to be the basement of her apartment. Within the basement is a set of bookshelves and boxes, and all manner of things a family would store, had the world not been over taken by human robots. Behind one of the cupboards is a secret door to a panic room, within the panic room is a hatch. The woman, with Blister’s help lifts the hatch

“Get in, hurry” She says.

Blister looks at her with a certain distrust painted on his face.

“What you don’t trust me now? I just saved you from the horde”

Blister silently agrees, and climbs down through the hatch, but stops before the woman fully closes the lid after him.

“Wait! What’s your name? What cluster are you with?”

She looks at him disgruntled, and sighs.

“I’m Vicky, I have no idea what a cluster is, get in the hole and head west, it’ll take you out of the city”

Blister accepts her answer and swiftly climbs down the ladder. Vicky closes the hatch behind him and secures herself in the panic room for the fallout of her actions.

She looks a lot like Trace, who the hell is that woman? Blister asks himself, at the bottom of the ladder where he stops and places his hands to his knees and pants for a few moments, trying to catch his breath.

There’s a putrid smell in the tunnel he finds himself in; a cold and acrid, familiar stench, his memory wanes to its rotted intensity and it’s restricting his ability to recuperate from his marathon run. He hears what he thinks to be a generator power up and then quieten to a low hum.

Vicky must have some kind of machine to repel the Assims; they’d have attacked her by now for sure if she didn’t. He ponders.

Blister walks at pace just slower than jogging, the smell grows stronger; hints of old meat come to mind. He can see a mass ahead of him.

That has to be what stinks.

Blister gets closer to the now musty odour and slows, as he realises what the masses are.

Oh shit… Vicky…

He looks in the direction of her apartment and dolour fills his head. He turns back and notices a hand carved wooden plaque resting on the brick ledge surrounding the tunnel, with further investigation it reads:

‘My protectors, my teachers, my loving parents’

Blister closes his eyes and weeps at the thought of that young woman having to drag her parents down here, and then stand in the smell of them while she carved a plaque in their memory.

“Don’t worry kid, I’ll help you bury them properly when all this is over” He says quietly to the tunnel’s thick stagnant air.

Blister walks away from Vicky’s parents with a sense of duty to her and also a calming feeling.

There are others out there that have managed to resist Assimilation.

This thought has given Blister an endearing focus to free all Hûms, Vicky and Assimilated alike.

The smell of the dead has long faded as Blister comes to the end of the tunnel. The wall to his left has been broken.

Someone’s done this recently. Blister gathers by the fresh dust piled on top of the old dust.

Small hole too, Vicky looks about this size.

Blister looks up to a hatch.

Maybe I can… Shit.

His hopes are broken when he sees the welds on the inside of the exit.

I guess it’s through the hole then.

He kicks some more of the bricks out of the way to accommodate for his wider body and crawls through.

With a tiny LED light illuminating every metre of the small room, Blister pieces together the purpose of the room. There’s a kitchenette with a refrigerator and dining table for four on the left side of the room, and the other seems to be dedicated to entertainment and relaxation with a television, couches and a ping pong table.

One of Vicky’s parents was probably a subway maintenance worker if they knew about this place. Well, they’d have to be pretty cluey to keep themselves off grid for so long, especially so close to a major city.

Blister savours the nostalgia of the room, running his hands on the ping pong table, disturbing the dust on the couch by sitting down and pressing buttons on the television remote. He sighs, wishing he could stay in a place like this for longer than the few moments he’s already wasted not getting to the other clusters.

Better check the fridge before I go.

He meanders over to it, reminding himself of the countless times he had done this as a kid only to find nothing that he desired within the cool confines. He opens the door.

“Holy shit, no way!” He blurts.

Blister swiftly snatches the item that immediately caught his eye. The packaging is damaged and reads: ‘ars’ but Blister knows exactly what it should say. He hastily rips the plastic sheath apart and crams half of the bar into his mouth. The refrigerator had kept it cool, but the chocolate was soft and melted on to his tongue, he gnashed it between his teeth and his tongue played with the mush till his mouth was evenly coated with chocolate and caramel and he resembled a dog with peanut butter on the roof of his mouth. It was only when he swallowed and looked down at the other half of the bar that he felt a sense of regret. Talking through a thick mess of chocolate he laments over his actions:

“Aw man, Vicky was probably saving this”

Blister wraps the remaining half of the bar in some aluminium foil he found in the kitchen and puts it back on the shelf. He really wanted the other half, but he left the kitchenette; semi satiated with the small morsel of chocolate he thought he’d never get to taste again.

“Thanks kid” he says, walking to a door with a toy train dangling crookedly from a piece of scrap wire on a coat hook.

“Please be unlocked” he says with both hands crossing fingers.

“Fuck yeah” Blister rejoices, opening the door to a chilly, dark subway tunnel. He re-latches the deadbolt before closing the door to the maintenance rec-room behind him.

Some time passes as Blister trudges alone. The fifth station he comes across is the only one he recognises, simply because it’s the only one that is illuminated; the rest have been long since decommissioned due to redundancy.

I know where I am now, this is right near Cluster B; finally, I can get out of these fucking tunnels.

His trek would’ve been swifter had it not been for the schedule of trains that kept forcing him to hide behind pillars and in broken wall cavities until they passed by. Blister waits yet again behind a pillar for a train to take off and hopefully take all of the Assimilated on the platform with it. He peers around the pillar as he hears the train departing.

Now’s my chance.

He dashes out from the shadows and pounces up onto the platform like a cat chasing a laser, then he promptly adjusts his composure to suit the Assimilated and calmly he walks up an out as if he were programmed to.

The streets are nearly empty save for the few Assimilated operating food stalls and maintaining vital city amenities. All of them too busy to notice Blister passing through; who is now very good at faking Assimilation since his brief taste of Abishua’s pill. He makes a left down an alleyway that leads through to a suburban section of the city.

A few more turns and I’ll be at Cluster B’s doorstep.

He wipes his sweaty forehead on his sleeve as he makes the second of those few turns. He reaches an intersection where he’s to make his third turn when…

WHACK.

It comes out of nowhere: a baseball bat cuts a thick wooden line across his vision and sends him to the ground, writhing and squirming in pain.

“What?!… What the fu…” His favourite profanity is cut short, as another hit from the bat knocks him out.

Symbionic. Chapter 4: Part 1

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

After emerging from the sewers into an old mechanics workshop Blister walks as casually as he can into the city’s centre; where the main flow tube is located. By this time the metropolis is chaotic with movement; Assimilated are scurrying around like the ants Blister sees them as.

If this were another time without consequence he’d imagine the pre-programmed destination of each of them, and then promptly scoff, but right now he’s too busy trying to keep his thoughts in check and his mind on task.

I better take this pill before I get into the line; if someone sees me eat it I’m busted.

Swiftly he chucks the pill into his mouth as he nears the tubes.

There’s a line, good. Blister can only assume this is a normal routine for the Assimilated.

This gives me a chance to learn how they board the tube car, and time for the pill to kick in.

He watches intently ahead making sure to keep a blank face and blink every once in a while.

They walk to the scanner, stand paused for scanning, then get in the car and sit down, filling the rear seats first from left to right. I wonder if they’ll let me put my feet on the seats. Blister chuckles internally, nearly cracking a smile.

The que steps forward, Blister’s had Abishua’s pill underneath his tongue for the past ten minutes, it has almost fully dissolved.

Don’t throw up… Don’t throw up.

The taste has grown beyond foul from the cocktail of unknown chemicals mixing with Blister’s saliva. He swallows slowly so he doesn’t raise suspicion.

The line steps forward again.

I can feel something happening.

Or rather, he could feel the lack of something, his mind begins to drift, his eyes blur, and then re-focus, and his tongue goes numb.

Glad that taste is gone, wait, what am I doing again? He asks himself.

A long pause stands between his question and answer.

Right, catch the flow tube, meet the clusters.

He repeats this so he won’t forget.

Flow tube, clusters… Flow tube, clusters… Flow tube, clusters… Flow tube, clusters…Flow tube, cluster… His thoughts dissipate.

Blister’s turn through the scanners goes as swift as the thoughts that left his head. He is unfazed, he has no dread, and no anxious ramblings can even be conceived in his current state. He looks straight ahead at the guarding Assimilated monitoring the scanners. If he were capable of thought, he’d think how redundant their positions were; no one would be crazy or stupid enough to attempt to ride the flow tubes with even one thought going through their head. Luckily Blister had moved beyond crazy, and even though he thinks of himself as the dumbest of his peers, he was far from stupid. This, in his mind, is a well calculated, precisely executed manoeuvre, and one only Blister’s unique combination of intellect and bravado could pull off.

Blister passes the threshold of the scanner and stands for the same amount of time as all before him. Nothing registers. He’d rejoice if he knew. He simply follows the woman ahead of him into the tube car, she sits down and he sits next to her. They stare straight ahead with posture like they were posing for a medical journal, or chiropractors hand book. Their hands rest atop their knees and their mouths are closed, breathing only through their noses.

The rest of the Assimilated board, one of the guards follow and the door closes behind him. The air inside hisses as it pressurises to an uncomfortable level, no one flinches, and then suddenly the vessel takes off. It travels horizontally for a few hundred metres, before diving into the earth and raising its speed to what would be an exciting velocity, had the Hûms been conscious of what was happening to them.

Its pitch black in the tube, none of the passengers need light to see down there, they no longer possess the ability to enjoy scenery, read books, play games, talk or cure boredom however they see fit. Nothing is all they need, and they don’t even get that, they get the dull hum of the tube vibrating its way through the planet, taking them to their pre-determined task; specifically formulated to progress the planet in whatever direction the Encephalon desires.

Three hours pass by, but for Blister it’s a lot harder to gauge.

I’ve gotta be half way to china by now. He thought to himself.

Wait, I’m thinking again, this is not good, keep your cool Blister… He soliloquizes.

Blister dare not look anywhere but straight ahead or the entire contents of the tube would pounce on him.

The tube emerges from the earth to finish its run above ground. The sun is still bright; Blister’s eyes squirm as he fights his urge to blink repeatedly. He instead opts for a single blink hoping no one notices that it may have been out of sync with everyone else’s.

The tube makes its first stop of ten.

I need to get off at the third stop. Fuck.

Ten, of the fifty-eight passengers stand up and leave the tube as efficiently as they had entered. The tube takes off and Blister feels as though he’s about to pass out, he can feel drops of sweat glide easily from his armpit to his waist; they move slowly and tickle as they fall.

I must be having some kind of withdrawal from the drug Abishua gave me. Fuck; I’m only half way to the second stop. This isn’t good.

One of the guards jolts to attention, staring directly at Blister, the guard’s eyes widen as he points to Blister, then all of the Assimilated follow suit and turn to him in unison. Blister has to move quickly. Despite the horrible feeling in his head and the fermented chemicals within his stomach, he darts toward the guard at the front of the tube. The Assimilated guard is a fraction of a second from pushing the emergency stop button when Blister grabs hold of his rifle and rams it into his face. The guard loses his grip. Blister zips behind him and aims the weapon at the Assimilated passengers while squeezing the guard’s neck in a choke hold.

At the top of his lungs:

“Get the fuck back” Blister orders.

The tube’s patrons pause momentarily, they’re waiting for a command from the Encephalon. One second passes and it seems they are willing to injure themselves to capture Blister.

The assimilated take a step forward.

Blister looks to the oncoming station.

Fuck too far.

The station is one hundred metres away and Blister doesn’t have the time. He drops the gun and slams his fist hard against the emergency stop button. All the passengers launch forward and drop like rag dolls. No doubt it’s a programmed response to minimise injury. Blister and the guard smack into the front window of the tube car and the guard wriggles from Blister grasp. He turns to fight Blister, but Blister is ready, he thrusts his burly right leg, foot first, into the guard’s chest, picks up the gun and dives out of the emergency escape hatch.

There are assimilated all over the sanitary streets, all walking with absolute purpose. This is the height of their day, they are busy dismantling some sky scrapers right now, but Blister barely absorbs this as he bolts from the tube while executing a frenzied scan of his surroundings for his position in regards to his destination.

The tube station is full of Assimilated waiting to board, and by now they’ve been informed of the discrepancy in the tube’s route, they’re looking in Blister’s direction and he in theirs.

Not good, fuck, I have to go that way. He thinks, sprinting with all his energy towards the Assimilated.

They converge on him with long strides, not exerting any more energy than they have to; they know that their consistent speed will catch up to Blister when he tires.

Blister sees a pathway he must take, but there’s assimilated building up in front of the alley.

Glad I grabbed this gun.

He aims it, as he runs, at an electricity box by the side of the alleyway. The Assimilated are unfazed by his shots and the box hisses and fizzes with damage. He shoots it some more and it overloads, sending sparks into the immediate area. A large group of the assimilated fall to the ground, making a passage for Blister.

Must’ve disrupted their guises, ha, take that. Blister thinks, proudly.

He runs past them, gaining in speed with the added confidence of knocking out some of his enemies. The alley way Blister has run into is long and has many off-shooting streets perpendicular to it. Once, a long time ago this strip of backstreets would have been rife with the colourful pieces of various legitimate and illegitimate street artists, not now though, now it’s scrubbed clean.

In the distance Blister can see the feint shadows of the Assimilated travelling towards him, and with each passing crossroad his peripherals catch glimpses of more Assimilated, flanking him.

No, no, no, you’re not fucking catching me, not today. Blister protests internally, with a confident, teeth gritting grin.

“Fuck, fuck, come on Blister, find a way out” He soliloquizes, passing another crossroad.

A sign! What does it say?

A few more steps reveal it to be a no through road, but it’s the only way, all others have encroaching Assims.

Please, please, please let there be a door. He pleads to his own thoughts.

Blister turns right, down the no-through road and scours the area for an escape route, like a rat in a box on fire. He makes it ten metres into the alley when he witnesses a door open on the left side of the street.

Fuck they’ve got me. He laments, thinking the door would reveal a plague of Assimilated ready to pounce on him.

But no, a teenage woman steps out with her arm reaching for Blister, as though she knew he was coming.

Symbionic. Chapter 3: Final Part

Read from blurb to now here.

“Um Trace, how are we meant to climb the chute?” Elix asks hoping she doesn’t have to spread her body out like a spider and climb up one inch at a time.

“Don’t worry, when I cracked into the mirror room it set in motion an escape program that lets me access emergency protocols, like…”

Trace flicks a switch on a panel by the base of the chute that’s not normally there

“…This ladder” She says, as a portion of the wall slides to one side, revealing a very narrow shaft leading upwards. Trace and Elix climb the ladder to the top where Trace pushes even more buttons and yet another door slides open to the bottom of the elevator shaft where the two rest and reflect on what has just transpired.

“How did they find us Elix?” Trace asks with a thwarted accent; even though she knows Elix won’t have an answer for her.

“To be honest…” She continues “…I’m surprised we even lasted this long without being found…” Trace looks up to meet with Elix’s eyes, her tired face breaks with a smile.

“…We’ve been pretty lucky so far, haven’t we? I mean, if I was in charge of the Encephalon I would have made the Assims sweep through every crevice, every tunnel, everywhere, to flush us out”

Elix squints at Traces comment.

“So why didn’t they?”

“What do you mean?” Trace queries.

“They’ve had all this time to find us and they only send a troop of Assimilated to kill us? No… Somethings not right, the Encephalon must be conflicted…” Elix stands with new found energy.

“Trace! We have to get to Davis; he needs to know we’ve weakened the Encephalon”

“I can’t fucking believe that man…” Trace stands too, and begins an angered pace around the tiny room. Elix has never seen her act this way and is intrigued to see this side of her.

“…He just fucking leaves us, in the middle of everything, he knows…” She stops and points her finger in the air looking directly at Elix.

“…He fucking knows we’ve all got family out there” Trace’s anger wanes, her lips quiver then gurns with sadness, as tears flee her ducts for the first time in a very long time. She collapses at the knees and sobs into her hands. Elix sits down next to her and reaches her arm around Trace’s shoulder. Trace’s head flops into Elix’s embrace. Elix combs her fingers into Trace’s hair.

“Let it out Trace, don’t you dare hold back”

Elix’s statement causes her to think of her own lost loves, but instead of taking her own advice, she closes her eyes and holds her pain tightly to her chest as she does Trace, to comfort her. Trace howls her sadness into Elix’s shirt without restraint, until its wet with her expelled misery.

Trace lifts her head; her stressed-red eyes meet with Elix’s, Trace can see Elix held onto her tears. She doesn’t thank her out loud, it would ruin the gesture, instead she says:

“We’re going to need more supplies to have any chance of helping Davis”

Elix smirks, and the two of them stand again together.

“I’m going to need a new shirt too”

They both look down to the patch of moisture on Elix shirt and share a giggle.

“Well, he can’t be more than a few hours ahead of us. Come on I know a dead drop on the way”

The two women ascend the ladder up and out of the elevator shaft and embark to meet Davis.

“Did you see that?” Blister rhetorically asks before darting ahead of Malcom and Abishua.

He turns a corner in the caliginous sewer and spots two retreating Assims; confirming his suspicion. Malcom and Abishua hobble along trying to catch up. The Assims pace around another corner, Blister is gaining on them; his thick legs far superior for sprints. He turns the corner right behind them but is stopped in his tracks. The slower Assim has turned to face Blister with a pistol aimed directly at his head.

“Kill him” The other Assim barks.

Blister is filled with adrenaline and fear, but he noticed. The Assim spoke to the other one.

“I’ve come to join the Encephalon, my days with The Uprising are over” He says calming his breath and realising these weren’t the same Assims that he’d been at war with all these years.

Blister begins backing away slowly to the corner he had only just passed. The Assim with the gun is sweating, Blister sees it, and it’s not from the running. The Assim is conflicted.

“I can be valuable to you; I know things about The Uprising”

The Assim steps slowly in pursuit of Blister, taking his bait.

“Kill him” The other Assim squawks again, scrambling for his weapon, but by now Malcom and Abishua have caught up and Malcom is aiming his EMP gun, with his offhand steadily on Abishua’s shoulder

“Exhale slowly Doctor” He says.

Blister stops just as the Assim follows him into Malcom’s sights. He watches the Assim hesitantly squeeze at the trigger, Blister closes his eyes and thinks of Charlotte and Jacob.

‘PTHOP’

Blister flinches and opens his eyes to see the pistol wielding Assim shudder with electricity. Now is Blisters chance. He launches forward at the falling Assim, grabs his pistol and fires it at the last Assimilated.

‘PKOW’

The weapon echoes:

‘Pkow’

‘kow’

‘ow’

It dissipates to silence.

The second Assim drops to the ground with a hole through his head. Malcom and Abishua walk to Blister; he’s frozen with the pistol in his hand and staring blankly at the corpse he has just created.

“I wouldn’t have…” he pauses to swallow his saliva.

“…I couldn’t get to my pistol in time”

Malcom and Abishua say something reassuring to him, but Blister didn’t make out what they said, or perhaps the gunshot deafened him briefly. The weapon he just fired sounded like cannon fire compared to the soft POP of their EMP weapons.

A feint ‘e’ sound rings out in his ears for a few more seconds before he turns to Malcom with a look strewn upon his face; a face of defeat, of regret, of shame and abandon, one Malcom had not seen on anyone’s face since he left his home to find The Uprising.

Terror and fear squeeze Blister, he’s afraid, but not of anything the world could show him, Blister was terrified of himself.

“I killed him” He says in a haze of disbelief.

Malcom places his hand on the pistol in Blister’s; Blister looks to it and drops it with hasty disgust into a puddle.

“It was him or us Blister, we have to continue” Blister stands and falls onto Malcom wrapping his arms around him.

“I’ve never killed a man before…” He whimpers.

“…Why didn’t he shoot me… I wish he’d shot me… I don’t want this Malcom, I don’t want this feeling anymore” His eyes leak all his sorrow and his cries get muffled into Malcom’s coat, and then within a second Blister was silent and suddenly he grabbed the pistol from the ground and aimed it to his own head, stepping away from Malcom and Abishua.

“We were wrong, I’ve fucked up, I can’t, I fucking can’t…”

‘CLICK’

The weapon doesn’t fire. Malcom jumps at the gun in Blister’s hand and yanks it from his grasp; he drops it and slaps Blister with his free hand.

“Don’t you get it?!” Malcom annoyedly asks “We’re winning Blister, we’re forcing the Assimilated to divide…”

Blister looks only at the ground, he’s feeling ashamed at his recent actions, but he’s listening.

“…That man you just killed was a mercenary. He, like the others that ambushed us were most likely chosen by someone inside the Encephalon because of their violent pasts. No Assimilated we’ve encountered has ever tried to kill us. The fact that this one told the other to ‘Kill you’ should be all the evidence you need… The cracks are forming Blister, are you going to help me break through them? Or are you going to cry on my shoulder in this sewer?”

Blister’s mind has also begun to show cracks. Imperfections on the inside of his eye lids that would never be remedied; any attempt to hide them would result in a flash of his victim’s face.

Blister blinks and turns his head away seeing the face many times before looking to Malcom for him to say:

“This will all make sense when it’s over Blister, I promise”

Blister breaths in through his nose and exhales quick.

“I…” Blister was going to say that he hopes so, but knew that it wouldn’t make sense; there’s a mark on his soul now.

“…Let’s get out of here, I’m sick of these fucking sewers” he concludes instead, and the three embark to their exit in silence.

Elix is walking a few paces behind Trace as the sun rises upon them. The Assimilated are leaving their homes to start their long day of robotic motions and barren thoughts.

Trace turns a corner into an alleyway as if she’d been programmed to; Elix follows, identically emotionless, appearing to any onlooker as a routine action. Trace turns again down a tighter alley with very little vantage points to be spotted from; Elix copies. Trace takes a few more strides down the alley between tall buildings before stopping. She scopes ahead, then behind, past Elix. She’d tell Elix no one’s around but would rather not risk the added noise. Trace kneels in front of a half-sized door with what looks to Elix like the small claw marks of a bird next to the key hole. Trace picks at the lock until it gives way and reveals a tiny room, housing a water pump, a small generator and a few pouches of supplies to hide under their clothes.

Trace passes Elix three quarters of the pouches, her slender frame can disguise more, Trace loads up too, she then pulls at the lever to the pump, some water fills her cupped hand, and she drinks a few handfuls then urges Elix to do the same with a head movement in the pumps direction. Something in Trace’s eyes told Elix they might not be able to get another drink for some time.

Elix slurps as much as she can without making herself sick, and the two resume their machine-like pace out of the alley and towards the reprogramming station.

Blister breaks his party’s silent trudge with:

“Okay Malcom, this is where I leave you and Abishua…” as they stand at the ladder to an exit manway.

“…And about before, that…”

“No need for that Blister, I was just doing what you would’ve done if I was in that state”

Blister smiles, all these years with Malcom and it is when it counts that Malcom steps up to his potential. The three of them stand within a metre of each other, just looking, neither of them knows when they might see the other again and having a clear if not dirtied vision of their faces could be just enough to get them through a tough situation.

“Oh, here, you better take all my gear, the last thing I want is to be scanned with any of it on me when I go through the flow tubes” Says Blister.

Abishua perks up:

“You’re going through the flow tubes?”

Blister disregards his concern.

“I have to, it’s the fastest way to get to the other Clusters, and now that we know the Encephalon is dividing, they really need to be told what’s happening”

Abishua reaches into his pockets searching for something while Malcom says:

“I was about to ask you to wish us luck, but I think you’re going to need all of it”

“He’s going to need more than luck…” Abishua has found what he was looking for.

“…Here, this is a pill I’ve been working on, for dire situations” He places the pill in Blister’s hand; Blister looks at it suspiciously

“Dire situations? Like a suicide pill?”

“Oh goodness no, no. Well… Best case scenario: it will numb your emotions and dull your brain activity so that you won’t have to worry about hiding your humanity”

Malcom scratches his bullet wound

“So, it’s like a temporary Assimilation?” He asks.

“Yes, that is precisely what it is” Abishua replies.

“And?” Blister questions Abishua, who looks at him as though he didn’t just leave an important part of this invention out.

“What about the worst-case scenario Doc’? What kind of side effects am I going to suffer?”

“Right, of course, hmm, not sure really, you might pass out, you might die, you might turn into a vegetable, or worse, it might do nothing and you’ll be Assimilated for real”

Blister sighs before asking:

“How long will I have, if it works?”

Abishua looks to the ceiling moving his eyes and bobbing his head in calculation.

“If it works as I’ve designed, you’ll get a couple, to a few hours of faux-Assimilation, and it might take twenty to thirty minutes to kick in”

Blister stares at the pill, he could have sworn it grew bigger in his hand as he recounted the side effects and potential shortcomings and by the time he put it into his pocket he imagined it as the size of his own fist and when he felt it drop in, he thought it was going to shoot straight through the seams and thud onto the floor. Blister sighs once more and looks to his friends, stretching a smile through his dread

“I’ll see you soon” He states, hoping his words will be true in the long run, and not his last ones.

“Real soon Blister” Malcom says, patting Blister’s shoulder as he mounts the ladder.

“When we see each other next I want to know all about your experience with the pill” Abishua’s words both comforted and terrified Blister.

On one hand he knew he’d see them again, one way or another and on the other hand was his pessimism. No one said goodbye as they parted ways.

 

Symbionic. Chapter 3: Part 2

Catch up on the rest of Symbionic here.

 

Back in the Raven’s Tongue.

“Blister! Report!” Davis calls as he hears the sewer hatch close and lock.

It’s late, at least for those that woke up early to debate with Davis about his plan to retrieve his brother; it feels later than it should. Blister jogs to Davis in the main room.

“Cluster E has located a marine junkyard and I’ve instructed them to set up a team to work on an old submarine we can use. They think it will take them five days to complete the modifications. The rest of the Cluster is collaborating with D and G to get through a section of the ocean crust”

“Excellent work…”

Blister is chuffed at the praise.

“…Tomorrow I need you to meet with Clusters H, I, J and A, B, C to organise their decoy attacks”

Blister’s face cringes with protest.

“But that goes against our whisper protocol, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, I know it does man, but we’re in troubling times and they have to hear this first hand from someone The Uprising both respects and trusts”

Blister’s entire body ripples with pride, his friend and brother just gave him the highest of compliments. Through his smirk Blister says:

“Right, I’m on it, you can count on me”

He hovered for a few moments longer though, which led Davis to look him up and down suspiciously.

“Listen, umm…” Blister starts, he takes a deep breath before blurting:

“I think it’s a bad idea to rescue your brother right now…”

Davis’ face ruins with betrayal. Blister quickly resumes his sentence before Davis can reply.

“…We can do this without him, I trust you, we all trust you, you just have to believe in your own abilities. He will be saved, just not now”

Davis hasn’t broken his dagger stare during Blister’s obviously well-rehearsed speech.

“We’ve been over this Blister; I can’t leave him in there any longer than I have already. Tell me; if you knew the location of your wife, your child, wouldn’t you use every resource to get them out?”

Davis doesn’t realise it immediately but his question had struck a nerve in Blister. Now that their Intelliguises can work without degradation, The Uprising’s words have begun to escape their lips without any thought of consequence.

Blister bows his head for a moment; his eyes grow heavy with the flow of tears. He lifts his gaze to Davis and speaks slowly so Davis can’t misinterpret.

“I would exhaust the planet to its core to see my family again. How dare you even ask me that? But you know what my selfish pursuit would gain me, if I left to find them? One moment; that’s all, one fleeting second. Not enough time to say I love you, to tell a joke, to see a smile, to hear their laughter…”

Blister wipes his now dripping eyes on his sleeve.

Davis starts with:

“Blister I’m…”

“No. I’m not fucking finished, I refuse to burn even one joule of energy to achieve only one second. I want a lifetime, and I want their lives to be lived by them, even if I’m not there to see it. That’s why I don’t track them down. They drive me more than anything to end this SHIT. No Davis, don’t apologise to me, I owe you an apology. I’m sorry I told you about your brother, but you deserved to know and it would have fucking killed me to keep that from you. I just thought you’d use it to fuel our cause, not set us on fire”

Davis falls into silent reflection, he knows he’s in the wrong and he can’t argue further, not now.

Blister wipes his tears again and in the quiet he realises the whole base has stopped working to eavesdrop on their confrontation. Blister walks out of the room past Elix to his bunk, leaving Davis to stare at the map and deliberate on what has transpired. The base slowly turns back to the projects they were undertaking, filling the room with a rising noise of productivity.

Cautiously Elix approaches Blister laying face up in his bunk.

“Hey, you alright?”

He rolls onto his side to face the wall. Elix sits on the bed parallel to his.

“I don’t know where my family is either…” She starts.

Under his breath Blister mutters “Welcome to the fucking Uprising”

Elix hears him but wasn’t about to start a fight over his jaded comment; that wasn’t the reason she came in to talk.

“…When I was eight, we were about to be Assimilated together, but I got scared and ran away. I haven’t seen them since”

Blister rolls onto his back to look at the bunk above him where he keeps a poorly drawn portrait of his wife together with a lock of his son’s hair. He reaches up and touches the crumpled image of her cheek.

“We married young…” He begins.

Elix could tell from his brooding tone that he had not told many people this story, but had been telling it to himself since it started.

“…My parents and hers lived in the country, far enough away from the cities to not be Assimilated for eight years, we were sixteen when they came to town. The Assimilation centre went up in one day; it was a massive boring box that fucked up more than the view of the mountain behind it.

Our parents were good friends with each other and they had decided it was better for everyone to go along with the Assimilation but Charlotte and I had to make our own decision, for our family. We kept her pregnancy secret, at first, we were just scared they’d crucify us for being so young, but when everyone started getting Assimilated we had no idea what would happen. So, we left. No way was I going to let my kid get Assimilated. I stole my grandmother’s wedding ring before we left, ha, it’s funny…”

Blister smiles with the image of his wife looking down on him. He takes the picture from between the slats, sits up and passes it over to Elix.

“…I was more scared of asking her to marry me than I was of getting Assimilated, but when our child was about to be born, the courage just came to me. We were walking in the woods and I stopped her, I gave her this flimsy excuse about seeing a snake, she froze and closed her eyes, when she opened them there I was on one knee holding the ring in front of her…”

Elix passes the picture back to Blister.

“She’s beautiful Blister”

“…She looked so happy, we were sweaty and dirty but there she was as gorgeous as ever. I don’t even think I actually asked her to marry me; she put the ring on her finger and that was enough for me. That night she went into labour. Luckily, we found an old barn to stay in and by morning Jacob was born. We were on the run for five years before they…”

Blister stops, he lays back down to face the wall again. Elix can hear a muffled whimper grow to a stifled cry. She stands, walks to him and touches his shoulder.

“Get some sleep Blister, we’ve got a big day tomorrow”

Elix lies down and attempts to retire as well, but her thoughts a drawn towards a memory from when she too was sixteen.

I miss Trevor, he was a good Hûm. I hope I can see him again before this is all over. Ugh if it weren’t for that bitch Lina, Trevor would probably be here in the Uprising with me. He was the only one of my friends who didn’t make fun of me for having a bionic arm.

Elix rolls over to her right side and her thoughts change as she inhales deeply.

I wonder what my parents are doing right now; I wonder what laborious task the Encephalon has assigned them. No doubt maintaining the Ocean Crust. It seems like anyone who’s not militarily trained goes there or to the food distributors. I hope they didn’t have to assimilate anyone.

Elix rolls to her other side, calms her mind and within moment falls asleep.

“Father?” Elix calls out to a figure not facing her.

Cobalt blue suit? She thinks.

“FATHER!” Elix runs towards him, he doesn’t get any closer, she runs faster; nowhere. The man turns to her and she becomes excited, but it is not her father, at least she’s not sure that it isn’t her father, the man is old, as old as Artemis, but wearing her father’s suit. He points and Elix’s vision is immediately coerced towards a building with a grand spire; grey, just as all the other Assimilated buildings are.

“Is that where my parents are?” She asks the man.

Elix looks back to him for a reply; he’s gone, confusion grips her. She looks again at the building, it’s different, dilapidated, the sky turns wild red and the clouds wash overhead, the ground rumbles and cracks underneath her.

Confusion turns to fear and she runs with all her might to the building. But suddenly she’s there and she’s exhausted, she turns around to where she came from; it’s an ocean now rocking and thrashing.

What looks like dark spheres bob on top of the waves, she focuses on the spheres, looking closely at one in particular. The sphere is now a face.

“Elix” it cries.

The face is mangled and singed hair forms a crown upon its head. Elix is looking for a way out, but she can’t turn back around and she can barely move from her spot, she’s forced to watch the ocean of spheres turn to show millions of faces.

“ELIX” They speak in unison, and repeat:

“ELIX… ELIX”

Finally, she can turn and run. She passes through the gates to the spired building, looking back every second to see the tsunami of faces rise behind her. Her body tires out before it can reach the door. She turns one last time and the wave looms over her head, casting a shadow so dark she thought they had ripped her eyes out.

The wave crashes.

Elix is squashed under the weight, but not dead, just immobilised, frozen, paralysed, with every exhale, a breath half its size is drawn in.

The faces continue to call:

“ELIX…ELIX…ELIX.”

Four hours into Elix’s slumber a red light illuminates the base. Blister is up immediately and slinks over to Elix’s bed, he nudges her awake.

“Elix…” he whispers.

She drowsily lifts her eyelids.

“…There’s a breach in the base, take this, I’ll get the others”

He places an EMP gun on her still chest and stealthily moves to Trace’s bunk. He passes Davis’ bed on the way and sees that it’s empty. Blister grits his teeth to supress his anger. He suspects Davis left shortly after they all fell asleep.

Trace wakes before Blister can reach her.

“Breach” She states quietly losing her mind.

“Where’s Davis?” She asks.

“He’s gone to get his brother, go with Elix. I’ll get Malcom and Abishua”

Trace springs out of bed, pulls her boots on and crawls over to Elix, who’s only just broken free from her sleep paralysis. The two of them move to the doorway at the edge of the main room and ready themselves for an invasion.

Blister exits the other side of the bunkroom, dragging Malcom closely behind him; they’re heading to the science bay to alert Abishua of the imminent danger. Elix spots the two across the main room rustling Abishua awake. Blister signals Trace and Elix to stand their ground.

As he’s about to step out of the Science bay:

BOOSH!

A massive explosion rumbles the hideout’s ceiling to pieces, separating the two groups by a mound of rubble. Six men drop out of the hole in front of Elix and Trace. Elix crouches, taking cover behind the door jamb, Trace stands over her and fires, her first two shots hit the men closest to them

“BLISTER CONC’!” Trace screams between gunfire.

Malcom, Blister and Abishua narrowly avoid the crushing weight of their once grand ceiling’s debris. Blister is first to stand after the calamity; hearing Trace’s plea, he throws a concussion grenade over the top of the pile. Elix spots the grenade bounce over the tangled mess of steel and concrete and land right behind the invading goons.

Trace continues her firing from the cover of the purposely reinforced doorway. The men gain in numbers, with a new one dropping in for every one Trace takes down. Elix pivots around Trace’s leg, stands and grabs her, throwing them both out of the way. The bomb explodes sending the remaining intruders to the ground. Trace peeks around the doorway to scan for any more threats.

“They’re down, for now, let’s…”

“Trace!” Blister yells through the mound of scrap. “Take Elix to rendezvous gamma, then meet the other Clusters”

“What about you?” She replies.

“We’ll be fine, I have to finish what Davis started”

Trace was about to ask Elix to scavenge some gear but when she looks to her, Elix is already doing it, rushing through containers and throwing whatever supplies she can find at the doorway. The two of them then get dressed into their Assim clothes, as they fear they’ll be doing a lot of street walking.

Blister turns to Malcom.

“When we get out of here, you head to gamma too; you’ll have to make sure Abishua gets there safely”

Malcom is trembling; his eyes are darting all around the room.

“Malcom” Blister grabs him by the scruff of his shirt with both of his hands.

“Malcom! look at me, you’re a coward but you’re the smartest coward I know, stick to the shadows and you’ll be safe”

Blister slaps an EMP gun to his chest, Malcom looks Blister in his eyes.

“You just… You just complimented me, that’s the first time you’ve ever done that” He smiles, genuinely, for the first time since they met each other, sadly Blister’s mind is too busy.

“Yeah well I’ll give you another one when we meet up later okay?”

“Can we go now? Please?” Abishua appeals.

Trace and Elix are loaded up with as much gear as they can carry without looking like they’ve just robbed an appliance store of all its hair dryers. They move to the door that leads to the white mirrored room. Trace begins to unlock it when ten more men drop out of the ceiling’s hole. Elix fires her EMP gun and lands hits on three of the invading assimilated.

“Hurry up Trace” Elix squeals between shots.

Trace gets the door open, grabs Elix by the back of her collar and chokingly drags her into the white mirrored room throwing an EMP nade through the gap and yelling:

“BLISTER, ZAP” as she closes the door behind them.

“Get back!” Blister cries at his companions.

He forces them into the science bay and slams the door, creating a seal in the faraday cage that encases the room. Both groups hear the crackle of the EMP nade and let out a sigh of relief at the thuds of the assimilated hitting the floor shortly after.

Blister; with his ear pressed on the cold steel door listens for any disturbances.

“Alright, when I open this door we go to the sewer exit and escape, anyone in our way gets zapped, got it?”

Malcom has been empowered by Blister’s encouraging; albeit insulting previous words.

“Got it” he says confidently, Blister notices his confidence and nods.

“Doctor, you should stay back until it’s over, unless you want a gun?”

“No, no, I’m quite good cowering” The doctor advocates.

Blister cracks the seal to the door, but the sewer exit is blocked by seven assimilated attackers. He throws a smoke grenade into the bulk of the group, they scatter like the cockroaches Blister thinks them to be. He stays low, under the smoke to see the placement of their feet in the space between The Uprising and the exit, and begins firing his EMP pistol anywhere he can spot movement.

Malcom takes a crouched position behind the reinforced laboratory door, but lazily covers only half of his body. It’s probable his boost in confidence has made him brash; he begins firing to aid Blister.

Two men go down to Blister’s shots, he progresses into the smoke. Malcom takes out one assimilated flanking Blister, then another, but one more has crept around and gotten too close for Malcom or Blister to notice. Blister finishes off the two others before turning to see Malcom wrestling with the final intruder.

His mind goes to a place of rage and impulsive action. Even though Blister and Malcom clash on a lot of issues, in that moment Blister saw his friend in danger and decided the instant during his rage that he had to do something. Blister lunges at the Assimilated; Malcom sees his face come over the attacker’s shoulder, and then the three of them fall backward, landing on top of Malcom.

A gunshot reverberates within the science bay.

It causes all of their ears to quake with pain. Blister rips the assailant from Malcom and tosses him to the ground, he pummels the man’s face till his eyes roll to the back of his head. Blister turns around wide eyed, his face painted with mania and blood.

Seconds go by before he snaps out of his crazed stupor and notices the puddle of blood forming underneath Malcom.

Frantically Blister yelps: “Fuck! Malcom! Doctor! Fucking do something!”

Malcom isn’t sure why Blister is looking at him like he’s just died.

“What?” He queries with calmness nearly unknown to him.

“Hold still Malcom, I’m going to look at your shoulder” Abishua says nervously.

“My shoulder feels fine…” As he said those words Malcom tried to rotate his joint but was met with a barrage of pain received by all the nerves in that area, as his shoulder crunches bits of bone together instead of moving fluidly.

“AAARRGH how the hell did this…” Blister witnesses Malcom stare at him with a similar rage that once overtook himself.

“You shot me!”

“No… Nope” Blister states sternly raising his finger and shaking his head side to side.

“He shot you” Blister points down at the beaten assimilated.

“And who tackled him Blister? Huh?” Malcom’s level of pain is only rivalled by his anger at Blister.

“Malcom, look at me” Abishua directs.

He complies, trying to breathe deeply and slowly.

“Now look at Blister” He turns to look at Blister with a statement ready.

“Why would want to look at…” and just as he turns away Abishua jabs him with a needle into his shoulder.

“Hey, what… was… that… for?” Malcom’s words slow with the high-strength pain killer the doctor just administered.

Abishua pulls out another syringe from his bag and penetrates it into Malcom’s wound. The hole in his shoulder fills with sterile putty.

“This will mimic your blood cells and scar your injury” Abishua states.

“But what about the bullet? It’s still in there” Blister asks.

“Don’t worry I’ve modified the putty to force the bullet and any other foreign objects to the surface, I only hope the pain killer doesn’t wear off before then”

“I can’t see any more men coming through the sewer, but there’s no way to know for sure, we have to leave, now” Says Blister.

“I can’t, shoot anymore, Blister, my arm is, numb” Malcom slurs.

Blister walks back to help Abishua pick Malcom up.

“Is he going to be alright Keyon?”

“Yes, I believe so. I will need to scan his arm to assess any long-term damage though”

“As long as you guys make it to the rendezvous, there’s a cluster nearby that will be able to help you”

The three men step through the threshold of the sewer; Blister and Malcom look back fondly at their base. It’s the one place they’ve been able to call home for a very long time. Blister is already looking at how he can repair the place once they return, while Malcom is feeling a sense of family and comradery fade from his mind. The road ahead will surely test them. Blister turns his head forward into the unknown of their mission first.

“I’ll escort you two through the sewers, and then we have to split up. I still need to meet with the other clusters”

“But we’ve just suffered a massive loss, shouldn’t we regroup and strategize?” Abishua contests

“No. All we’ve lost is a comfort zone, don’t think for a second that something like this will stop us, or even slow us down in the slightest. We have to use situations like this as motivation”

“Yeah, from what I’ve seen so far Blister actually works better outside of his comfort zone” Malcom states

“Finally…” Blister starts “…Someone recognises it; now let’s get out of here”

The three men form a triangle with Blister at the apex, and advance through the sewers.

 

Symbionic. Chapter 3: Part 1

Read from blurb to now here

Davis is awoken by Blister in the Raven’s Tongue just before sun rise.

“Hey you gotta get up, I just heard from one of our sub-cluster scouts; they’ve seen your brother”

Davis springs out of bed nearly tangling in his blanket.

“They saw Nox?”

He puts his boots on.

“Where?”

He dons his coat.

“When?”

Blister and Davis walk side by side with a ferocious, silent pace to the map room in the heart of their base.

“Right here, ten K north of us…” Blister points.

“…They said he was headed West from here”

“West? You’re absolutely sure?”

“Yeah. I trust these guys man, they said West”

Davis studies the map intently.

“They can only be going to one place. Blister, they’re taking him to the advanced reprogramming station… I knew they would, sooner or later, but now I know for sure he’s going there”

Blister looks Davis’ face over; eager to see the reaction to what he’s about to ask. Blister knows this could spell danger for their Cluster if Davis decides rashly.

Davis appears distant though, contemplative, as he stares at the map

“What do you want to do man…” Blister asks, Davis doesn’t reply just yet

“…These past few weeks with Abishua, making the new Intelliguises for us, we’ve been able to grow tenfold, but it won’t be enough to take that station by force”

Davis has made up his mind and in a calm voice he looks Blister in the eyes to say:

“No one else is going, I’m doing this alone, quietly”

Blisters brow contracts and his eyes squint.

“But, we need you here”

“I can’t risk losing anyone else Blister, not this close to our final attack”

“Don’t you think I know that? That’s why I’m coming with you, we can’t risk losing YOU this close to our final attack either”

Blister reiterates Davis original point in the hopes he would see how stupid he was being about going alone.

“I have to get him man, I already failed him once by letting him get captured, and I can’t leave him there”

Blister’s tone changes to one filled with more empathy.

“Come on, you know there was nothing you could’ve done to change that. He made his choice, and he chose your life over his own. So you could continue with his campaign, so you would have something to live for”

Davis absorbs Blister’s sentence with blank contemplation on his face, he stored this wisdom and swiftly cast it aside in his mind, and instead, he readied himself mentally to infiltrate the reprogramming station.

Elix sluggishly walks into the main room, rubbing sleep from her eyes.

“Hey what’s going on? What are you two arguing about?”

Blister turns to her and opens his mouth ready to spill Davis’ foolhardy plan, but Davis places his hand on Blister’s shoulder and steps in between him and Elix.

“I’ve just got word of my brother’s location; I’m going to get him.”

“I’m going too!” She spouts, waking immediately at the shocking news.

Elix has never had a sibling but she knows loss and she knows that any chance at reclaiming what is lost, is a chance worth taking.

“No. Elix I can’t let you go. I need you here, with Blister, to carry out the attack on the emissions satellite if I don’t make it back.”

“Wait. Don’t make it back?”

Elix’s heart beat rises causing her next words to vibrate a sombre frequency.

“Why would you say something like that?! You have to make it back”

She looks to his eyes for Davis to look into hers and respond. Davis averts his gaze from Elix’s now tear coated eyes. Now that two of his friends are giving him the message that he’s wrong, he too is beginning to see their point.

“Davis, you won’t be able to get in there alone, you know it, I know you do” Blister states.

“Get in where? Where is your brother?” Elix asks.

Davis looks up from his feet at Elix.

“He’s in the biggest reprogramming station in this hemisphere”

Confidence and adrenaline replaces Elix’s sombreness.

“Okay now I’m definitely going”

“And there’s no way I’m letting you two go alone” Blister adds.

The two are now standing right in front of Davis; waiting for his answer.

“Fuck…” Davis says, followed by a sigh.

“…Fine, we leave tomorrow morning, before the sun comes up, in the meantime Elix, you’re on scavenging detail, I’ll need you to help Abishua build up as much stock as we can for more Intelliguises…”

Elix wipes her teary eyes and complies to Davis’ order with a nod.

“…Blister, you need to meet with Cluster E and G, see what they know, see if they’re ready to set our attack plan in motion. That means acquiring water transport, scuba gear, setting up decoys and distractions from decoys, and make sure you take their attack map with you, if you get caught make sure they find the map, it could be the only thing that saves this mission”

“Got it” Blister replies.

The two stay stationary before Davis; just looking at him, admiring his change in attitude, his ability to be a pragmatic leader when his team mates are offering sound advice.

“Well? You’re both up early, get to work”

Inside the Encephalon; a nonagonal room with a nonagonal table at its centre seats the nine leading members of the Encephalon. There are no windows on any of the walls leading up to a beaming nonagonal light no bigger than a metre in diameter. The room has only one door for access and egress. A larger chair placed farthest from the door seats a man of sienna complexion and brooding brow, the fiery woman to his left raises her voice at him:

“Nam-Bara! The Rejects seem to be converting more and more of our Assimilated. We need to do something NOW before they’re able to revolt”

“I agree…” Nam-Bara says.

“…Something must be done. Ereb, you are in charge of coordinating our Assimilated what solutions do you offer?”

Ereb confers with the three other members on his side of the table via their modified Intelliguises. Which, in the Encephalon’s case, don’t guise their intelligence at all.

This is the way the eye pieces where originally designed; for communicational purposes, learning, enhanced vision and even as a survival aid, an extension of the human brain, much like the smart phones of the early twenty first century, but whatever their original function; now, the leaders of the Assimilated use it to converse amongst themselves about how they will direct the Earth’s population next.

Amy Broca at the third chair to Nam-Bara’s left, speaks before Ereb and his right side have finished deliberating.

“We need to wipe them out, now! I suggest we bomb and sweep any sector suspected of harbouring Rejects”

Her fierce vine-leaf coloured eyes dart around the table, insinuating the weakness in her colleagues’ inability to swiftly act.

Ereb and his side talk for a second longer before he stands, and slams both his hands on the table, looming his towering mass to say:

“You fool! We need every able body alive, or have you forgotten our pledge?”

Amy turns her gaze from the confrontation she initiated. In her head the plan would work and they would still have enough time left to recuperate any lost lives.

Ereb continues his stare at Amy, and then he sits and turns to Nam-Bara.

“No, we mustn’t kill them. They’re massing an army, which means they’ll be attacking soon. If they are smart, and we know that they are, they’ll be targeting emissions arrays, Assimilation centres and Intelliguise manufacturing plants. What we need to do is set traps at these locations, as many as we can, to capture and Re-Assimilate these people so we can advance our sixth phase to its maximum efficiency”

The four to Nam-Bara’s right each put their right hand on the table, signalling their agreeance with Ereb’s plan. The four to his left are reluctant to accept this direction but one by one, starting with Nam-Bara’s immediate left they each place their left hand on the table; their signal of agreeance. Amy is the last of them to do so, even though she disagrees.

“Then it is settled…” Nam-Bara begins.

“…Ereb Fronta will coordinate the placement of all Assimilated necessary to trap the Rejects. Sens, you and Cere-Pons will aid Ereb in making the migrations as efficient as possible. Sens, you will also need to work with Amy and Tempora to gather as much Intel as you can about the Reject’s attack plans, we’ll need as much information as we can scavenge. Moe, Thala and Entar, you three need to surpass all previous statistics related to Assimilation; we need to be as efficient as possible for the final phase. As usual I expect all of your reports by sundown. Dismissed”

And with that word the eight in the smaller chairs left the nonagonal room to carry out what had just been discussed.

Amy’s fists where firmly clenched as she left but she managed to hide it from the others.

Symbionic. Chapter 2: Final Part

Get the story from the blurb to now; here.

Davis, Elix and Abishua are continuing their trek through the sewers. They’ve maintained a determined silence about them since they had talked about the new Intelliguises they were going to make.

“You’ll have to excuse me for breaking this productive quietness; I need to ask you, what your move is once we have made enough Intelliguises?” Dr Abishua enquires.

Davis understands Abishua’s predicament; he’s been away from conversation for some time, it’s natural for him to want to talk, about anything.

“We’ll need to massively and aggressively expand all our Clusters, we’ll replenish all the ranks we’ve lost so far and then we’ll double them at minimum”

The Doctor nods in agreeance.

“And then what will you do?”

Davis turns his eyes away from the conical view ahead to Abishua’s face.

“We follow through with Artemis’ plan, the plan he’d have no doubt told you about if it weren’t for…”

Davis stops, he’d tell you he stopped in fear of cutting into Elix’s emotions and opening a fresh wound but in that moment, Davis felt the most Human he had in a long time, he missed his friend, his peer. It took him a little longer than the rest but the woe had set in. He coughed to disguise his break in composure.

“…We make our move on the Encephalon”

“The brain?” Abishua quickly asks.

“You want to attack the brain? Tell me have you heard the story of Hercules and the hydra?”

Davis looks blankly into Abishua’s eyes.

“I do…” Elix answers.

“…Any time Hercules cut off one head, two more would take its place”

“Yes exactly. The Encephalon would just divide and spread like a cancer”

Davis’ eyes squint with disagreement

“But the Encephalon isn’t a hydra, and this isn’t a fairy tale”

“No, you are right, we’re not fighting a Hydra with nine heads, we’re fighting a puppeteer with many hands, only its hands don’t grow back like the hydra’s, well not as quick as they did for Hercules” He chuckles.

“What are you getting at old man?” Davis asks

“I propose we cut off the hands”

Davis doesn’t quite catch on, Elix does though.

“The satellite arrays, of course, it’s what’s holding everyone in place and the signals they emit are the strings”

“Okay can we stop using these analogies and talk straight” Davis is becoming more and more confused.

Abishua sighs at his brain’s inability to catch on.

“If we shut down the right satellite we can stop the signals from transmitting to the Intelliguises within one hundred seventy million squared kilometres”

Elix’s eyes squint with disagreement at Abishua’s math.

“That’s one third of the planet, I thought there were nine emission arrays on Earth, how will shutting just one down knock out two others?”

Abishua smirks in a fashion suggesting he’s been waiting for this exact question to pop up.

“There is a satellite, on the last island, that is built into a power station. This power station, has been wired to two other emission arrays on the island, all we would need to do is shutdown the power station”

“Hmm, the emissions array?” Davis asks himself as he paces ahead of the other two.

He turns and faces them walking backwards now.

“If we disable the array we can free an entire army…” He smiles.

“…Imagine how pissed they’d all be when they wake to find out what the government has been doing to them this whole time. Wait, you said the last Island?”

The group stops walking and form a rough triangle of conversation.

“Yes, the last Island, it used to be known as Tasmania before the Ocean Crust was built; now it’s home to the Encephalon and all who maintain the Assimilated”

“Isn’t that going to be just as hard to infiltrate as the Encephalon itself?” Elix asks.

Abishua smirks once again and raises his index finger to about head height.

“Unless. Unless we attack the Encephalon” His grin stretches wide.

“Oh, OH” Elix says, realising the reason behind the smile.

“Hang on, what? What do you mean? That was my plan from the start”

Elix shakes her head, blinking slowly.

“No, Davis, it’s subterfuge, we do exactly what the Encephalon want us to do…”

“…Only we don’t do it” Abishua finishes.

“So, are we attacking the Encephalon or not? Give it to me straight Doctor”

“Yes and no” He replies.

Davis sighs at the answer he almost knew was going to come.

“We assemble an army…”

“Right”

“…Then we have them attack the Encephalon…”

“Okay, so far this is still my idea”

“…And then we use the attack as a distraction to infiltrate the power station”

Davis joins the other two with a gleeful smile reaching for his ears.

“Now we’re on the same page” He says.

Elix can see Davis’ mind wander off as he visualises the possible scenarios in his head.

“Abishua, what do you know of the bridges that link Tasmania to the rest of the world?”

“There are several bridges that link to Tasmania, they are used to transfer waste materials from Tasmania to the processing plants on the main land and send clean water back, they also sometimes transport personnel. But you’d be mad to try and cross those, it’s one hundred kilometres long and plagued with The Assimilated”

“That’s perfect, it’ll buy us plenty of time” Says Davis.

“Time for what exactly?” Elix asks.

“To go for a swim of course”

Elix’s eyes light up with an excitement reminiscent of the day she received her new arm.

“You know what’s in those waters, don’t you?” Abishua dissuasively asks.

Davis laces his smug words with chuckling:

“Hey this was your idea Doc”

“I, I thought we’d go by boat or plane or something”

“No, way too visible, we’ll use the cover of the ocean depths to sneak in…”

Davis pats Abishua on the back; he cringes.

“…My mind is brimming with ideas thanks to you, and by the time we get back I’ll have a plan better than just swimming the hundred kilometres”

“Swimming?!” Keyon gulps.

“Ooh I’ve never been swimming before, I read that swimming is the closest a Hûm can get to flying. We better try it before they catch us, what do you say Keyon?”

Davis and Elix can tell Abishua has some kind of fear of the ocean, but anything they say is likely to make his fear worse.

“If Artemis taught me one thing in the many years that I knew him, it’s that a scientist should never be afraid of a new experience, you never know what lesson you might learn”

Davis shoots a single laugh into the sewers ahead.

“That’s the way, now let’s get going, I’m sure you could think up something to ward off the sharks by the time we get home”

Abishua hesitantly starts walking and mumbles:

“That’s not the only thing in the euphotic zone I’m worried about”

“Malcom Shh.” Blister whispers.

“But I didn’t…”

“SHH” Trace and Blister unanimously hiss.

“We’re approaching home base. I’ll climb out first, then you Malcom, Trace, you get our backs”

Blister unlatches the trap door from his perch on the ladder, he raises it as quietly as possible and peers out for any Assims.

“It’s clear, let’s go”

Blister springs up and out of the doorway into the freshly rained on alleyway behind the Raven’s Tongue.

“C’mon, c’mon quick” He says.

Trace and Malcom climb out and swiftly survey the area.

“Move” Snaps Blister.

The three Hûms race up the external staircase to the elevator shaft and climb down the ladder to the bottom, where Malcom feels the wall behind the ladder for the keyhole that’s placed just out of sight. He inserts the key and turns it; a panel pops out on the other side of the wall. Trace is ready; she opens it and enters the nine-digit code.

“Hey Blister what did the Patient say to the dentist?”

Blister tries his hardest not to laugh, Malcom looks at them bewildered, Trace presses enter on the key pad, Malcom’s voice echoes on the steel walled chute

“AAARRGH”.

The group slides safely, albeit uncomfortably for Malcom, to the bottom into the white room with the mirror.

“Not funny” Malcom states.

Trace pulls from her pocket a garage door opener with a keypad on it and presses in an entirely different nine-digit code. The door skids open and Malcom and Blister enter, pistols drawn scanning diligently with all their focus. Trace follows behind and the three split up to search the base in a well-rehearsed fashion; Davis would be proud.

“Clear”

“Clear”

“All Clear” They sound off in the order they entered.

The team then converge on the sewer entrance. Blister pulls out his short-wave radio and switches to the appropriate channel.

“The fox is in the hole”

He waits a moment for a response

“The eagle is waiting” Davis replies.

“That’s not what we practiced” Blister retorts.

“Damn it Blister the Eagle is hungry, open the nest already!”

“You think its them?” Blister asks Malcom and Trace.

Trace sighs and pushes him out of the way to let their fellow Hûms inside.

 

 

Symbionic. Chapter 2: Part 2

Read from blurb to now; here.

Davis has been hanging by one hand onto the underside of the storm drain in the basement since the Nades went off.

“Just one more weld” He reassures Elix, as he mashes the Insta-weld putty into the corner of the grate.

“Hurry up, this guy’s heavy” Elix says drooping slowly downward under the Doctor’s arm.

Davis drops down and relieves Elix of the surprisingly weighty scientist. They begin making their way back to home base.

“Do you think they’ll catch on?” Elix queries.

“They might already be onto us, but even if they had the equipment handy, it would still take them an hour or so to get through those welds”

“You know I helped Artemis develop that Insta-weld putty” Elix notes.

“Then I should probably thank you for all the times it’s gotten me out of sticky situations… No pun intended” He replies.

“I even came up with a better name too”

Elix waves her free hand in the air as she states:

“Goosion”

“Ha-ha, that’s, ahah hahaha. Oh wow that’s better. Fusion by goo”

The two of them each fondly remembers Artemis and his talent for ignoring a cleverly crafted name in favour of an accurately descriptive one like ‘Insta-weld putty’

“I hope Blister and the others got away okay” Elix says, changing the tone of their conversation.

“They’re a resourceful pack, they’ll make it” Davis reassures.

He knows that as a team they will get through anything, he worries about them getting separated, though he’d never let Elix know.

It’s critical that morale is maintained while on mission, even when things get rough morale must never drop. He thinks.

That’s what Davis’s brother taught him. He constantly repeats these pockets of wisdom whenever he feels as though he falls short of his duties.

As the two Hûms plod along through the winding sewers the scientist’s feet begin to stumble into a walk.

“I think he waking up” Elix states.

She had been staring at the ground in front of them for what feels like twenty minutes trying to meditate through her lactic acid induced pain, silently waiting for a break. Abishua takes some more steps and the weight lessens from Davis and Elix’s shoulders.

“Let’s sit him down for a bit. Let him go Elix, I’ve got him”

The scientist mumbles incoherently a few sentences before a couple of clear words get spat out.

“Artemis, Danger”

Davis and Elix look at each other despairingly, knowing that the scientist is too late with his warning.

“What’s your name? Can you tell me your name?” Davis asks.

The scientist’s face scrunches with confusion.

“A… Umm… Abishua… Keyon Abishua”

His memories of what happened to him begin to emerge from the fog inside his head.

“What’s the last thing you remember?” Elix enquires.

“What day is it? What month?” He hastily questions.

“It’s the first Thursday of June” Davis informs the now frantic scientist.

“That means… But, but that means…”

Keyon puts his hands to his eyes and rubs them vigorously with a slight groan escaping his lips.

“They took me on a Monday. I was set to meet with Cluster A before dawn, I was to be relocated to help a team of engineers just as Artemis instructed”

“Davis. That was the day Artemis…”

Elix isn’t sure how to finish the sentence. She knows Artemis and Abishua had some kind of relationship, but to what extent? She was unsure.

“What? Don’t tell me they assimilated him?”

Davis was about to speak but in his head the words weren’t right. Elix knows what she would want to hear.

“Artemis fought and… and he was overwhelmed. When they couldn’t take his mind, they took his…”

Elix chokes and tears glide over her cheek bones, down, and get lost in the puddles on the sewer floor.

Abishua places his hand on Elix’s shoulder.

“You know he told me about you once, he said ‘I met the most wonderful girl’ I told him to marry you, ha! You would have been just a child at the time, but I had no idea. I hadn’t seen him glow like that for some time…”

Elix smiles and wipes her tears.

“…Even though he is gone, it is probably better that he is not Assimilated, it would have made it very hard to beat the Encephalon then…”

Abishua looks off into the darkness of the sewer tunnel to reminisce.

“…Ahh we had a good run though. Fifteen years without capture, we set up multiple Clusters and coordinated the liberation of countless Assimilated. But, most of that is lost now. Last time I spoke to anyone, clusters B and C were all but disbanded and the others had just about given up their fight”

Davis interrupts:

“I won’t give up”

“I won’t either” Elix adds

Abishua smirks.

“We’re going to need more Hûms then, and they’re going to need better Intelliguises”

“So we steal some from a manufacturing plant” Davis naively states

“Are you crazy? We’ll all be captured, there’s way too may Assimilated in those places. No, Artemis told me of a new Intelliguise he’d been working on; one that’s one hundred percent stable, zero degradation. If we just find it, I know I can modify our current Intelliguises”

Elix remembers the device she has in her arm.

“The day I found Artemis, he had this…”

She lifts the manifold of her shoulder and shows the intelliguise.

“…It was in his fake eye”

“Th… That’s it, Keyon’s spirits lift as he sees the device.

“In his eye you say?”

“Yeah”

“I had no idea it was false”

Keyon jumps to his feet, he wobbles for a moment before finding his balance.

“Well. We had better get started right away”

Davis is elated but only lets out a slight crack of a smile as he thinks of the progress they’ve just made.

“This way. Follow me” He says.

“Do you even know where you’re going Blister?” Malcom asks impatiently as the three leave the far side of the vast and well-maintained cemetery.

“Shh. Get into the bushes. Now!”

Malcom panics and leaps into the nearest bush he can see. He rests there for a moment.

“Alright, coast is clear” Says Blister.

Malcom’s brow furrows with anger.

“What?! Ow, OW” He cries, climbing from the rough bush.

Blister and Trace are trying to contain their laughter.

“Ow, damn it Blister, that’s not funny”

“Sorry Malc’, but you really have to learn to trust me”

“Pranks like that make it very difficult to trust anything you say”

“Quick. Cross the street” Blister says without any explanation.

Malcom hesitates, looks right for a second and spots some Assims coming in their direction, he dashes immediately to catch up. By the time he gets to the other side Trace is already picking at a lock to a building, that once served as a safe house for the uprising.

“Assims are coming down the street” Malcom says with fear on his breath.

“Duh” Blister quips.

“Got it” says Trace.

The three Hûms scurry into the building and close the door just in time for the Assims not to see them.

“Ahh home sweet home…” Blister rejoices.

“…Me and Davis got holed up in here for a few weeks a couple years back, before we found you Trace, and well before you came along Malcom. It used to be a workshop for a subway depot; we’ll be able to access the train lines through there”

Blister points to a massive arched gateway, with tracks going underneath the steel reinforced doors, and into the tunnels beyond.

“You reckon you can pick those locks Trace” Blister challenges.

“Better than you can pick your nose Blister”

“That good huh?”

Before Trace gets a chance to continue their rally, a thunderous impact on the front door interrupts them.

“Fuck, they’ve found us, Malcom you got anymore AME BOY EMP’s?” Blister asks.

Malcom is staring intently at the banging door; his fear: crippling him.

“MALCOM?!” Blister repeats.

“Ahh yeah, yes” He blinks rapidly and snaps to his task.

After passing the EMP to Blister Malcom rushes to stand right behind Trace and wait for her to open it so he can escape first.

“You better hurry Trace” Says Blister, placing the EMP at the front door’s welcome mat.

Trace doesn’t reply, instead she devotes her focus to unlocking the door.

Blister readies the EMP nade at the front door to their short lived safe house. The door is cracking through the middle and nearing its breaking point.

“Trace?!” Blister queries and orders in an amalgamated tone of desperation and panic.

He knows there’s way too many Assims on the other side of that door for them to handle.

“Got it” Trace proclaims.

She speedily opens the door within the giant gate, Malcom rushes through almost knocking Trace over as she holds the door for Blister.

With his eyes never leaving the front door Blister moves as quickly as he can to Trace. She steps out of his way, and he waits, watching, and the second he needs to close the door, his ears are hurt by the front door crunching under the pressure of a squadron of Assims pushing with all their might. Blister presses both round buttons with his meaty thumb as quick as his brain will let him.

‘BZZSH’

The nade goes off and majority of the Assimilated group fall into the doorway, blocking the others from entering. Blister slams the door shut and mashes as much Goosion as he has on hand, into the door and the seams of the gate.

“I hope that holds them” Trace says optimistically.

“It’ll buy us time” Blister replies.

The two embark down the subway lines to catch up with Malcom; who has been fearfully jogging homeward since he entered the tunnels.

 

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.

‘BZZSH’

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.

’POWK, BZZSH’

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.