SHADE (for writelongandprosper)

Yellow for mild swearing and some scenes of a sensitive nature.

To the north, there lies the old lake. South, the mountains. The west of the city is bordered by desert. To the east, there stands a wall.

Myles Lakeman is 18. He is a man, and it is time for him to receive his mission. His mission? Survive the night.
Myles must capture the rebels, conquer the landscape and most importantly, escape the elusive Shades... but along this journey he meets a girl, a girl with a mission of her own: she must find her brother.
Together, they discover that their world is hiding so much more than they once thought: what are the Shades and where do they come from? What are the rebels doing? What is on the other side of the wall?


14. Chapter 13: Myles

The lift draws to a stop and he steps back into the corridor, ducking back into the recreation room and joining the group of recruits watching an old movie on the television propped in the corner. He is still buzzing with anger at his father, his whole body numb with rage. The pager on his belt beeps three times, but he is focussing too hard on breathing and watching the television to notice until the boy next to him jabs him roughly in the arm.

                .:Office -2.16, 5 minutes:.

With a sigh escaping his lips, Myles pushes himself to his feet and stumbles back out into the hallway. None of the doors have numbers on until he pushes open a glass-panelled door leading to the corridor extending off the main base. Odd numbers line the wall on his left, while even numbers dot the doors on his right. He steps past doors one and two, then three and four and five and six, his feet picking up speed as the numbers blur past the corners of his vision. At the very end of the corridor, squeezed into the corner next to another glass-panelled door that leads into a further, darkened hallway, is room sixteen.

                He knocks lightly on the door, and not three seconds later it swings open to reveal Bandit’s office. Myles doesn’t get to see much of it though, as she steps out into the corridor and through the door on her right. They run down an endless spiral staircase until they reach the prison level, which is so far down that Myles sincerely hopes Bandit will let him take the lift back up- if he doesn’t end up in a cell himself.

                They turn down a long, narrow corridor and enter a room almost identical to pretty much every room in the building. The floor is made up of white tiles, the walls and ceiling lined in the same. I guess they’re easier to clean, he thinks absently, while he waits for his eyes to register where he is stood.

A waist-high metal table sits in the centre of the chamber, a thin girl in a white tunic strapped to its top. Half of her hair has been cut off and lies in matted clumps around her head and on the floor. The girl’s tunic is soaked with vomit and smeared with blood, which Myles guesses has probably come from the still-bleeding cut on her arm. Her eyes are open and bloodshot, staring straight ahead at the bright light set into the ceiling above her. Every inch of her body seems to be trembling, her hands clenched into tight fists at her sides.

“Your mission today,” Bandit says, adjusting her stance so that she stands shoulder width apart, her arms crossed in front of her chest, “Is to extract the information we need. I suspect that she’s been lying to us, but perhaps she’ll trust you. She seems to have taken a certain shine to your character, and that’s a weakness we can use. But first,” she turns on her heel and steps back through the door, leading Myles down another series of seemingly endless, identical and winding corridors. They take another staircase down to the very bottom level of the complex, the unbearable heat swelling up and consuming them as they step up to a set of glass doors, flanked by heavily armed guards in silver uniforms.

“State your name and business.” One of the guards demands, his voice steady and robotic.

“Lieutenant Lora Bandit and Recruit Myles Lakeman, educational visit.” Bandit replies, saluting the guards and dropping her arm straight to her side. The men nod and she steps forwards, motioning for Myles to follow. The doors open with a low hiss, letting them into a small, sterile-feeling antechamber.

“Please deposit all weapons, accessories and personal belongings into the lockers located on the walls to your left and right,” A soft female voice fills the room, bouncing off the walls and leaving an echo lingering in the air long after it stops speaking. Myles runs his hands half-heartedly over his body while Bandit empties a selection of guns, blades and darts into a waist high locker. She steps up to the next set of doors and nods for Myles to join her as they swing aside to let them through into the next antechamber, where another set of guards await. The guards pat them down, inspecting the gears and cogs of Bandit’s arm for weapons and running hand-held metal detectors over their bodies.

By the time they pass the final set of doors and step into the lab, Myles is intrigued to say the least. The air in the main lab is cool, the room edged with clean white counters and cluttered with microscopes, test tubes and beakers. Bottles of chemicals line the walls while drawers overflow with wires, pens and pads of paper. A few people in white coats sit on tall stools, their backs arched over screenpads, notebooks and microscopes. The middle of the room is dominated by a metal table similar to the one in Lydia’s cell, although without the restraints. The top is covered with a white sheet, a shapeless mass lying beneath it, too big to be human. An oily black substance drips slowly from under the sheet, down the length of a clear tube and into a bag.

 Bandit stands with one of the lab technicians, discussing something under her breath. Her lips move but no sound comes out, Myles’ unfocussed eyes flickering between her distant figure and the shapeless mass hidden by the sheet. As well as the tube dripping oil, a number of wires emerge from beneath the covering and connect to a computer on a stand at the end of the table. The screen is dark with a little orange light in the bottom right corner signalling that it’s turned on, but Myles knows he wouldn’t be able to wake it up without any of the technicians seeing him. After all the security to get in here, he has a feeling that whatever is under that sheet is top secret. He also has a feeling that he doesn’t really want to know what it is.

“Come,” Bandit says, once more at his side. “I need to show you what will happen to your precious Lydia if you don’t comply with our requests.”

“If you think I love her you’re wrong.” Myles says, roughly folding his arms and following Bandit as she steps through a door and into a corridor lined with floor-to-ceiling glass windows looking into a series of cells. Behind each window, there is a person.

“Oh, I don’t think you love her, Lakeman. I know you do. Maybe not in the way you think, no, we have access to all of your files and we know you were unsuccessful for matching- and we know why. But you are compassionate, and that’s something our other soldiers lack. If you think I don’t know about you sneaking off to see your father earlier- you’re wrong.” She pauses for a moment to let her words sink in, the guilt pricking at Myles’ conscience like a thousand tiny spikes impaling him from all directions. “I have brought you here for a reason,” She says simply, stepping up to the first cell and looking through the glass at the person within. It is a girl, around Myles’ age, with hair like copper and skin like paper. She is strapped to a chair, her body leaning forwards and pressing against the restraints.

He gasps, “Nelly?”

“Miss Seeber is being punished for her involvement in helping you to escape base earlier today,” Bandit explains. “This is her first offence, so she will not be subjected to the same punishment as the rest of our criminals. However, perhaps seeing this will help you to understand how the decisions you make impact other people, most notably your friends.”

Nelly twitches slightly in the chair, her head leaning slightly to one side and then rolling forwards again as she tries to move. A pained groan escapes her lips, her eyes flickering weakly as she struggles to look up, as though she knows he is there. Hanging from a thin metal stand that towers above her is a plastic bag filled with the familiar black substance, a clear tube feeding the thick liquid directly into a needle pushed into the skin at the nape of her neck.

Myles’ stomach twists, his lungs suddenly tight in his chest. “What are they doing to her?”

“This is an experiment,” Her lips curl into a soft but sinister smile, her eyes glinting with a hint of malevolent pleasure. “The criminals we find can’t be released back into the City: they know too much and we can’t trust them to keep quiet. We could of course wipe their memories, but that hasn’t worked out particularly effective in recent years. Sometimes we go too far and they become mindless shells, or we manage to send them crazy and they become a risk to themselves and others. And of course, we can’t risk not doing the job well enough, or they’re a threat to security. Instead of wasting resources going back out into the city to clean up our mistakes, we find it easier to put them to some use.” She leads him to the next set of windows, where a boy sits in a similar set-up to Nelly.

His face is grey and sweaty, his eyes closed and still under the glare of the fluorescent lights. A patch of leathery scales has formed like a collar around his neck, the skin around the edges grey like stone. He wears a tunic that is stained with blood and ichor and frayed around the edges, but his legs and feet are bare. His hands clutch at the arms of the chair he rests upon, his arms lined with the red lines of careful, deliberate cuts and the purple blossom of bruises inflicted during interrogation. Beneath the bruises and smudges of blood and dirt, his skin is olive-brown, his straggly hair coal-black. His nose and cheeks are riddled with acne scars, while his upper lip and chin are touched with patches of stubble.

“As you can see, after a certain period of time our participants start exhibiting certain physical characteristics. This specimen has been on Ichlypthuene for one week, whereas this one has been on the substance for four,” she moves on to the next chamber, where there sits a figure Myles figures must once have been a man. He assumes this because the most human part of the person sitting within the chair is part of his bare chest, which is flat and flecked with fine, sandy hairs.

While he didn’t agree with calling the others in the cells ‘specimens’, Myles could see the appeal in using this term for the occupant of the third cell. The small patches of skin that show on his chest, stomach, knees and hands, are the only things about him that still bear human resemblance. His eyes are scrunched closed in pain, his fists clenched and pulling against the restraints binding him to the chair.

The man seems almost too tall to be sat there, his knees lifted at an angle and his shoulders far surpassing the back of the chair. Most of his skin is covered in hard black scales oozing with sticky black ichor, which slowly runs down his body and into a drain set into the floor at his feet. His tunic has been removed, and lies ripped into shreds in one of the corners of his cell. As Myles watches, the man opens his eyes with an almighty scream. The sound is too loud to be human, the guttural noise reverberating between the glass and the tiles and echoing long after he has closed his mouth.

The lab technicians rush in with clipboards fixed to their arms, their hands hastily making notes on lined paper pinned to the sturdy plastic sheets- but they do not enter the cell. Instead they stand in the corridor, pressing their faces against the glass and squinting as the man thrashes against his restraints.

Myles looks into his eyes. What used to be white is now edged with red, the colour of his irises slowly fading away. His pupils have stretched into slits, making him appear almost snakelike. The man has no hair left on his head but for a tuft just above his right eye, while the actual bones of his face appear to have elongated and stretched.

One of the technicians finishes making notes, turns silently to his colleagues for confirmation and then flips open a panel in the wall next to the window. He types a code quickly into the keypad that appears behind it, and watches as a pale green mist hisses down into the chamber. The man within screams as the particles hit his skin, and the scientists make further notes on their boards as he slowly slips back into submission.

“I apologise for his behaviour,” the man Bandit spoke to on the way in says, tucking his clipboard under his arm and pushing his glasses up the length of his nose. His lips move, his arms frantically waving around in front of him as he explains something to Bandit, but Myles isn’t listening: he is somewhere else entirely. His eyes see past the man’s animated conversation and find the cell containing Nelly. He wonders how long they will keep her here and what she will look like when she emerges, how much the poison being pushed through her veins will damage her on the inside. There’s nothing you can do, the voice at the back of his head tells him. His eyes blur, his heart feeling as though it has decided to give up beating as his lungs ache to draw another breath. By the time he zones back into the world, the technician has vanished back into the lab and he is once more alone at Bandit’s side.

“In the past few years, our techniques have really advanced. Just last year, our subjects would fail before their fourth week. We discovered that it was because of the strain the changing process would put on their bodies, but after discovering how we can slow the transformation down, our subjects have been lasting a lot longer.”

“If you work in mission control and run the lower level missions, how do you know all of this?” Myles asks, his hands buried deep inside his pockets. Bandit simply smiles in response, lifting her head slightly as if to show her importance.

“There’s a lot you don’t know about me, Myles.” She winks, then steps in front of the window to the final cell in the hallway.

The creature contained behind the panel of glass is far from human. The chair is mangled and lies on its side, the restraints torn and hanging loose from the crumpled arms. A pale tunic lies shredded and stained on the floor, the white tiles of the floor and walls stained with black streaks. Deep striations run along one of the walls, stained with more ichor and old blood.

The figure is tall, the top of its misshapen head almost brushing against the ceiling. Its face is long, the human features long lost to the poison coursing through its veins. The eyes have completely lost their whites, instead turning the bright scarlet of freshly spilled blood while the pupils have stretched out into thin slits. Myles cannot tell whether the human this monster once was had been man or woman, boy or girl. Its leathery skin is stretched tight over elongated bones, the black liquid seeping constantly from beneath the thick scales. When the creature tips back its head to roar in frustration at its captivity, the scream it releases is animal and wild.

This is what Lydia will become, he realises. This is what they will do to her.

“Lakeman, meet Master Pederson.” Bandit smiles, pointing with her metal hand towards the creature prowling around inside the cell. “Owen Pederson.” 

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