Point of View:
“PROFESSOR JAIDE, YOU HAVE A VISITOR.”
"Thank you, Computer. Let him in."
There is a click and a hiss as my computer opens the elevator door revealing the last person I want to see: Xavier Aerthas II, the inherited president and co-creator of the Purpose Movement. He steps into my lab, flanked by two heavily armed guards. His expensive suit and hardened expression indicate his importance, but more so, an air of superiority that settles in every room he resides in, for however short a time.
He’s the kind of man who can make a battle veteran sick to his stomach just by glancing at him.
I quickly slide an old blueprint over the stack of data I was examining.
"Can I help you, Sir?" I ask in a plastic manner.
Xavier surveys my lab scornfully, glaring at the piles of chaotic formulas and data sheets, which are scattered randomly about it.
"It seems you have been...busy."
Irritated, I speak blandly. "I'm just doing my job, Sir. Can I help you?"
He turns to stare at me, the look on his face a dire warning that he is examining everything about me, as if searching for some sign of the mockery and insubordination I so desperately wish to express.
"Can you? I have come to see if you are prepared. The Announcement is in two days. Do you have the Projects? Are the Processes prepared?"
"Yes, sir. All of the Processes are fully prepared, and only Project Jaide has yet to be perfected. It should be ready for deployment by...mm...tomorrow night." I inaudibly catch my breath, praying that Xavier isn't quite as good at detecting lies as the rumors say. His eyes continue to bore into my skull, a faint hint of an all-knowing smile briefly touching his lips.
"Aren’t you cutting it a bit close, Professor? I really would take no pleasure in having to deploy the...Consequences."
"I don't believe that will be necessary, Sir. I only have to perfect the programming, which should be completed by tomorrow morning, then run the final diagnostics. That’ll only take a few hours."
I refuse to take my eyes off of him, although I know by the tenseness of Xavier's guards that the first part of my statement was a bit too straightforward for my own good.
Xavier's eyes narrow to dangerously thin slits, but he continues to stare at me carefully.
"Good. Now if you will excuse me, I have to check on Professor Jakeb." He turns around with a flourish and step back onto the elevator. One of the guards punches a button, and the elevator closes behind them.
I let out a breath and grit my teeth in an attempt to keep from screaming. Oh, what I wouldn't do to wring someone's neck: preferably the untouchable XA. Jakeb will handle him much better than I just did, but that doesn’t mean I want Xavier antagonizing his temper. I know my husband pretty well, but I also know too much from Xavier will snap him in half.
The thought of Jakeb makes me smile. But the my mind makes my heart skip a beat. I pick up the data sheets from under the blueprint, and a photograph slid out from between the pages. As I picked it up, a tear slid down my cheek. It was a picture of me holding a baby, Jakeb smiling, his arms wrapped around me and the child.
"Phaiara..." I whisper. ‘Oh, my baby girl...my little fairy.’ I remember calling Phaiara my "little fairy", because of the resemblance to the old word "Fae". ‘I'm so sorry...I wish I could have prevented this. I wish I could have given you a better life. I made the mistake of letting him steal you from me once, but I'm going to give you another chance at life...I just wish we could be there to share it with you.’
I’m crying. I hate crying. It makes me feel weak and doesn’t do anything to solve the problem, so what’s the point? I try to dry my face. When that fails, I take to the old-fashioned water faucet, which helps refresh and calm me, while removing any traces of tears.
Once I’m somewhat presentable, I walk to Kory's control panel and send a holo-call request to Jakeb. Ten minutes pass before a life-like image of my husband appears in front of me.
His face lights up, and he visibly relaxes.
"Hey, honey." I say in an attempt to seem no more than a stressed out than a normal thirty-five-year-old scientist.
"Hi! Man, I really needed to see a friendly face. Xavier just left."
"Yeah, he stopped by me first. Hey, do you have a spare button? One came off of my jacket earlier today."
Silence. There is no trace of cheerfulness on Jakeb's face anymore. "Uh, yeah. Let me go get it." He says in a disturbingly quiet voice. His image flickers briefly as he leaves his computer console. I bite my lip, dreading what I am about to do. Jakeb returns a few seconds later. He taps the console three times, and on the third tap, we simultaneously pinch the buttons we hold in the palm of each of our hands. A high-pitched beep is the only noticeable result.
"Jaide, what's wrong? It's been five years since we had to use the surveillance jammers."
"I know, but this is important. I've made my decision, and you can't change my mind. I'm not asking you to take part, but I'm going to set Phaiara free."
Jakeb goes pale. "Oh my God...how are you going to do that? Do you realize the Consequences?"
"Yes. I'm going to erase Protocol 3, so the others will have to start from scratch, and I've set a timer on her container. Nothing can get in or out until it goes off."
"How long are you going to set it for?"
I pause, afraid he will refuse to let me. But I can't turn back now. I've spent way too much time preparing for this. "50 years." I mutter, my voice cracking with nervousness.
Jakeb just stares. "No. You can't be serious! Why?"
"Because this time and place is not good enough for her. Her body alone should preserve her until then, but with the container, she is guaranteed safety until 2100. When it opens, the slowed aging processes of the container will insure that she will be a ten-year-old orphan. There will be no chance of anyone being able to find her by activating Protocol 3. No one will be able to detect her...condition...because I've spent the last three weeks creating an implant which will entirely cloak it. Someone will take her in and she'll get a chance to live her life--the chance we never got."
"I...I don't know...I can't stop you, but I don't want to lose you! We were supposed to live our lives together!" Jakeb’s eyes mist over in grief.
"With the world Xavier is about to create, I don't think we'd have much of a life to live."
Jakeb pauses, considering my comment. "If you're going, then we'll go together. I'm not about to let you sacrifice yourself for our daughter while I stand on the sidelines."
I let out a quiet cry of sadness. "Oh, Jakeb. I wish we could grow old together."
"Me too. More than you'll know."
Suddenly, there is a banging on my elevator door. A guard shouts for me to open it.
"They must have changed the surveillance frequency! The disablers didn't work. I have guards at my door." I look back at the holo-projector, and to my horror, I see not Jakeb, but Aerthas, smiling triumphantly. He points towards my husband, surrounded by guards, all weapons trained on him. Jakeb's face is a fearful mix of unmasked hatred and contempt.
"Take Jakeb to Jaide's lab. It will be so much more…mm, what’s the word? Romantic to watch them die in each other's arms." The holograph dissipates, and I scream.
"Kory! Put the lab into emergency lockdown, now!"
“ACCESS DENIED. YOU HAVE BEEN FOUND GUILTY OF TREASON AGAINST THE PURPOSE MOVEMENT.”
"Override code JIEAKALFAE50. Initiate emergency lockdown!"
“OVERRIDE ACCEPTED. ACCESS GRANTED. LOCKDOWN INITIATING.”
The lights dim, and there is a loud creak as the airtight emergency locks in the doors seal. I frantically search the lab for something I could use to stop this nightmare; our impending doom. I am choking with fear, but there is one thought that keeps me going: ‘Get Phaiara out of here!’
I run to Kory's control panel, and start typing instructions into the computer.
The banging on the door has finally stopped, and I pause. There is a small, indistinct beeping sound. I start, and run towards the far side of the room, taking cover behind the capsules holding the Projects, just as an explosion rocks the room.
I peek my head out from behind the capsules. The door is blackened and melted, burning papers are scattered on the floor, several chemicals are spattered on the walls, and Kory's control panel is in shreds, with wires sticking out of the screen.
Two guards now stand at the door, and two more drag Jakeb in. He isn’t resisting, but the anger on his face could melt lead.
Behind Jakeb follows Xavier Aerthas, accompanied by five more guards. They throw Jakeb into a chair and chained him to the desk.
“You’ve brought this upon yourself, you know.” Aerthas states coldly as his guards fan out across the room in search of me.
“What did you expect us to do?” Jakeb growls. “You throw us into your pathetic little program and get us to work on all these secret, inhumane projects, then threaten us with death if we leave. You tore apart our family! Are we supposed to just lie back and do nothing?”
“That was the idea.”
As they argue, I pull myself back behind the capsules, and slowly get to my feet, making as little noise as possible. I reach into my pocket and pull out a small flash drive.
“Please let this work,” I whisper. I dash across the room, dodge the guards and push the drive into a usb port in the computer. There’s a muffled alarm, and Kory's distorted voice came over the com:
“EJECTION SEQUENCE INITIATING. EJECTING CONTAINER ONE.”
With a whoosh, the floor beneath the container drops out, and the container falls into space. I gasp. When I was recruited, I had no idea where I was being taken; that information was classified, in the event of a traitor. Well, apparently, they knew what they were doing.
The vacuum of space sucks the air out of my lungs, which feels like a punch in the gut. I buckle over in pain, my sight getting fuzzy from the lack of oxygen. The last thing I see is guards rushing towards me, but even the blackness enveloping me cannot block out Aerthas' scream of fury, the gunshot, or the sudden look of pain, shock and sadness on my husband's face. Even that fades to a deathly pale blankness, as does my own consciousness.
I don't remember anything. I don't know where I am. All I know is pain. My life is pure and unchangeable misery. If I must be more specific, then I will, because I have nothing better to do with the endless hours and uncountable ages I spend unable to do anything but think. I am in a tall metal cylinder, immersed in a cold yet fiery fog. Every second is excruciating, but I cannot identify the source of the pain. It seems to come from nowhere and everywhere all at once. I haven't ate or drank anything in God knows how long. I feel like I'm imploding, and every labored breath sets me on fire. I cannot feel my limbs, if they are even still attached. Irregular heart beats pound in my head, causing some medically unknown event umpteen times worse than the king of migraines.
Yet, all I can think of is the last moment before my eyes closed: Jakeb falling to the ground, grief beyond his own physical pain the most visible and admirable emotion on his sweet face.
I'll never see him again.
This truth blinds and envelopes me more than the painful fog surrounding my pitiful form.
I get a sudden shock of air as the front of the cylinder opens. The change in temperature and atmosphere is as painful as it is relieving. Rough hands grab me and strap me to a table.
Vision slowly returns to my weak eyes, but the sight greeting them is no better than the cold dark. A man wearing a white lab coat and a germ mask fills a fearfully long syringe with a green bubbling liquid. It saddens me to see that he is one of my work friends. He shows only a small spark of sadness and regret, but continues to fill the vials. He keeps filling them, despite the horrified look in my eyes, and despite how my parched throat refuses to let me scream. He injects me with the liquid and immediately an electric fire tears through my veins. I cannot describe with words how this felt.
Another man enters my narrow field of vision. If I wasn’t in the middle of a torture procedure, I would have said it was a twenty-years-younger Aerthas.
But I know I’m not hallucinating, as he leans down to whisper in my ear.
"Hello, Jaide." His voice drips with a venomous hate. "I prepared this procedure just for you, my sweet. You have no concept of what you have brought upon yourself. This chamber is set to rerun daily. I can guarantee you will be here for the rest of your very long life. And while you are here, we promise to find all of your precious projects. I will find Phaiara, and when I do, you will be sure to have a front row seat to her extremely painful execution. There’s a bonus package too. As you wait, you’ll hear the soundtrack of your husband's death, and watch him die over and over. I've given you the gift of immortality. How it is spent is pre-determined. Your life shall be made into a living hell, I swear."
“We have done nothing to deserve this.” I wheeze, my whole body spazzing repeatedly in reaction to the demon’s blood running through my veins.
“Oh-h, yes you have. I offered you the world: fame, riches, and the chance to partake in history, but you threw it in my face. It was only a small price I asked of you. Just your daughter.”
“My daughter...she was no small price.”
“Oh, but she was. You see, I learned this a long time ago, and I was just saving you the trouble: family is nothing. The illusion of love is only temporary, before they use your weaknesses against you to manipulate you. It will all end in tragedy. I was simply protecting you from what I suffered. And what thanks do I get? You threw it out the window! You betrayed me!”
Adrenaline rushes through my acid-filled veins, and I spit into his face.
“Betraying you was the best choice I ever made, you monster.”
His face contorts with rage, and he grabs me by the throat, choking me. Aerthas reaches for a knife, and stabs me in the stomach, relishing my cry of agony. He throws me down onto the table.
I feel my life leaking out of me. I don’t want to die like this! I close my eyes, and just as I am about to give up, the pain ceases. I open my eyes in surprise, and look down to the wound, now completely gone. Aerthas holds up a strange looking piece of cloth.
“Lovely, isn’t it? Regeneration Patch. Completely heals almost any wound. Guess what that means? We get to have this lovely conversation all over again. And again.”
Xavier turns to my co-worker. "Put her back into the stasis tube. Increase the electro-cloud to level twelve."
The man looks up in surprise. "Yes, my lord."
Xavier strides out, while the first man gingerly picks up my now limp body and puts me back into the cylinder. He closes the door, and the density of the fog increases ten-fold. I stifle a scream, just before passing out.