Symbionic. Chapter 1: Final Part

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

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

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

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

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

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

The roof! It has to be up there.

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

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

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

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

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

Elix approaches it curiously with caution.

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

Could this be an elevator?

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

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

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

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

Nothing exits.

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

She creeps closer to the doorway.

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

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

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

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

That’s not the wall… what is that?

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

A ladder! Now we’re talking.

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

‘Tink’

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe not here. I told myself. Too hazardous.

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

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

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

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

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

“Elix?” He called out quietly.

I stayed still.

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

I groaned and mumbled.

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

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

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

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

“You finished it! Sneaky old man”

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s bigger than I thought”

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

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

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

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

“Now give me your, umm”

He never knew how to address:

“My Nub?”

“Yes, your… Nub”

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

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

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

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

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

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

A feint tapping disturbs Elix’s morose mindset.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Password?” the male voice asks.

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

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

“Artemis sent me” She claims.

For Elix, a long silence was her reply.

The man behind the speaker turns to his companion.

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

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

Artemis never mentioned a girl. He thought.

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

Blister pushes the button to his speaker and asks:

“Password?”

Elix is puzzled.

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

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

A little louder she says:

“…The note…”

Back to murmuring.

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

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

“Nevermore”

Davis smiles and nods at Blister to let her in.

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

Checkmate Artie.

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

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

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

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

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

Davis walks back to his line of companions.

“This is Blister”

“Yo!” The stout one says.

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

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

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

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

“Do I sound fruity to you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, same here… Well I’m Elix”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silence grips them.

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

The group before her are riled with curiosity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Bunk her with Trace”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m, umm, mysophobic, sorry”

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

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

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

“And umm, where’s, the shower?”

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

 

Symbionic. Chapter 1: Part 3

Read Symbionic Blurb here

Read Chapter 1: Part 1 here

Read Chapter 1: Part 2 here

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

“Fuck”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Of course, I’d love to”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ready” was all he said.

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

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

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

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

“Yes dear, everyone will be here”

“Ooh cool, like a party?”

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

We exited the car and locked the doors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Take me home mummy” I demanded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do exactly as I do Elix, Okay?”

“Okay” I whimpered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I…” He pauses to re-think his words

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

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

Artemis turns away to hide his abashment from Elix.

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

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

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

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

“Artemis, you okay?” Elix asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What did?” he asked

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What task could you possibly have left to accomplish?

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

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

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

 

Symbionic. Chapter 1: Part 2

Read Part One Here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The boy doesn’t budge.

“So whatchya gonna read to me tonight huh?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yay sandwich party” the boy rejoices.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elix falls back to her bed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three hours pass and still Elix has no excuse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

No response.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She opens her eyes.

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

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

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

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

Just then, an idea comes to Elix.

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

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

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

“Where would you have put it…?”

She studies his face.

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

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

“Sorry V”

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

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

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

“Oh, you got me this time Artemis”

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

“Huh, a fake eye.”

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

Well it’s not pretty but it’ll work.

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

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

He must have perfected the emission degradation.

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

Elix gasps, with an epiphany striking her.

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

She runs her hand through her hair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Symbionic. Chapter 1: Part 1.

Brief Foreword.

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

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

Have fun reading.

 

CHAPTER ONE: PART ONE

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

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

Yeah that works, I like that.

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

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

It’s so boring and efficient.

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

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

But that would take imagination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beep beep beep. Beep beep beep.

Fuck.

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

All this thinking must’ve overloaded my Intelliguise.

Elix remains still in her seat.

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

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

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

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

“Unassimilated” The passengers receive.

“Engage, assimilate” They’re told.

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

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

Elix wrenches the door open and slips out.

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

No. She cries internally.

My favourite coat.

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

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

Fuck, they’re close, oh, right.

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

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

This is the dead-end alley, SHIT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Faraday sends his regards” she quips.

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

One moment passes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Symbionic.

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

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

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

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

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

Stay vigilant for the upcoming posts.