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?

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5. Chapter 4: Myles

As soon as he sets foot in the clinic, a man sat at a half-circle desk a few feet in front of the door looks up at him and offers a sincere, if brief, smile. “You must be Myles.” The other people sitting at the desk continue to work, their fingers dancing over the touchscreens in front of them.

He nods. The man is as old as his father, his hair starting to grey at the edges and his eyes half-hidden behind two polished circles of glass. When he stands up and walks around the edge of the desk, Myles notices that his back is curved in a stoop that suggests he spends too long hunched in front of his computer, and that as a result he is just a little bit shorter than Myles himself.

“Your father told me all about you, yes. I’m sure we can expect to see great things from you.”

“You know my father?”

“I work with him from time to time,” he smiles again, and this time the skin around his eyes crinkles to accommodate it. “Yes, we’re good friends. In fact just recently we worked together to develop the chip. It’s a tracking device that acts as an identifier. There are a number of sensors throughout the city that pick up movement, and we can use the chip to figure out exactly who is where and for how long. I won’t go too far into it: it’s probably incredibly dull for someone like you, but the hope is that we can use the technology to track people moving at night or keep an eye on people who regularly congregate in large groups. It really is a large jump forward for our city.”

Myles nods, his eyes suddenly refocussing to find that he’s been led to a narrow cubicle surrounded by opaque white curtains. The man points towards a bed with an open hand, and Myles takes a seat.

“My name is Doctor Sutzkever. Today we’re going to be taking a few measurements: your height, weight, pulse, blood pressure, resting heart rate, working heart rate and so forth. Then we’ll put you under- nothing to worry about, just a routine procedure to prepare you for life in the field- and you’ll be right as rain just in time to head to mission control ready for tonight.” He instructs Myles to stand up and take off his shoes, and moves him to a spot on the floor marked with a black tile just big enough to stand on. “Just look straight ahead into that mirror. Keep your head straight and stand as still as you can.”

After a few seconds, the edges of the mirror glow green and Sutzkever moves forwards. He takes a handheld screen from the pocket of his long white coat and swipes his fingers around on the screen for a few minutes. The mirror clouds over and a pyramid of letters materialises on its surface. Myles reads them out, first covering one eye and then the other. Sutzkever moves forwards and flashes a light in both of his eyes, then tilts his head to the side and does the same to his ears. He makes Myles stand and do twenty jumping jacks, then attaches an electrode to his chest. The screen of his handheld lights up again, and he removes the electrode as he pushes Myles gently back down onto the bed.

“Alright,” Sutzkever says, tucking the screen back into his pocket and looking at Myles over his glasses. He pushes the panel back against the wall and digs in a drawer, returning with a small vial and a needle in his hands. Myles watches warily as the Doctor pushes the needle through the rubber seal and draws up half of the liquid inside. “This is the last part: all we’re going to do is take some blood and a couple of DNA samples.”

Before Myles has chance to ask why he’s being put under for something he’s done tens of times before, Sutzkever stabs the needle into his arm and presses down the plunger. The pressure of the liquid flooding his veins feels as though he is being injected with lead, and it takes less than a second for his head to begin to spin. He feels his eyes rolling back in his skull and the gentle touch of Sutzkever’s arm under his knees, then the sensation of the world falling away around him as he tumbles headfirst into the impenetrable darkness of sleep.

*

When he wakes up, the first thing he notices is how heavy he feels. His head spins before he even manages to lift it off the pillow, and the second he moves his whole body is overcome with a pain that can only be described as ‘loud’. Myles lets his head sink deeper into the pillow, closing his eyes against the harsh white light shining down on him from above. Underneath the ache that seems to run through his veins, something feels wrong.

Gravity works against him, trying to keep his arms pressed to his sides as he lifts his hands to his head. His scalp is bare.

He opens his eyes, his fingers tracing each little indentation in his skull. No.

But when he stumbles from the bed, his legs shaking so hard that he falls to the floor and has to crawl towards the mirror, he knows that he isn’t imagining things. He chokes out a cracked groan, dragging his fingers across the short, course hairs that remain. Suddenly his eyebrows look too big for his face, his cheekbones too harsh and his forehead too big. His ears appear to be too big for his head, and his once-brown eyes now shine a metallic grey against his tan skin.

The back of his neck aches, and when he runs his hand over it he finds a small, square sticking plaster placed just below his hairline. Another plaster, slightly bigger and more padded, sits in the centre of his chest. He still wears his jeans from earlier in the day, and they feel rough against his skin. The room is too loud, the light too bright.

“You’ll get used to it.” Myles jumps up from the floor, stumbling back against the bed and gripping the edge of the mattress. He swears as he knocks his hip on the metal frame, his limbs feeling disconnected and uncoordinated.

Sutzkever pushes aside one of the curtains and steps into the cubicle, a bundle of neatly folded white clothes held in his arms.

“What did you do to me? You said you were just going to take some samples, and… and…”

“I’m sorry Myles, but I want you to understand that I didn’t lie to you: I just didn’t tell you the whole truth. While we have every confidence in your abilities, it is procedure that every recruit is given certain physical adjustments which will be beneficial to them in their work. You have been fitted with bionic eye and ear implants, which will allow you to see and hear things you might not have otherwise noticed. We’ve installed a tricorder in your chest which will measure your vitals and transmit them back to us, which will hopefully mean that you have to report for physicals less often than your fellow recruits. Lastly, we’ve also fitted you with a tracker, which is similar but slightly more sophisticated than those being installed throughout the city and will allow us to follow your movements in the city. What the technology won’t do,” he adds, “is tell us when anything is a little bit wrong. We’ll be able to notice extreme drops or increases in your temperature or heart rate which will let us know if you’re in trouble and need assistance when you’re out in the field, but if you’re not seriously ill or injured, we won’t be able to pick it up.”

Myles runs his hands over his buzz cut once more, blinking away the tears blurring at the edges of his vision.

“You are expected in mission control in ten minutes.” Sutzkever says, pushing the fresh clothes into his arms. “If you have any problems, don’t hesitate to come see me.” He turns on his heel and ducks back through the curtains, his footsteps tapping away as he walks across the tiles.

Myles unbuttons his jeans and lets them fall to the floor, grabbing the army-issued jump suit and clambering inside. The fabric is stiff and tough, sewn with a metallic thread that glows in the fluorescent light. He pulls a pair of thick woollen socks over his feet and bends down to pick up his shoes, but finds them replaced with a pair of heavy white boots that lace up beyond his ankles. When he is dressed, he stands in front of the mirror and lets his hands fall limply to his sides.

He looks taller than he feels, and his new haircut makes him appear older, somehow. The boots pinch at the back of his heels and he knows that he will have blisters by the end of the night, but the uniform makes his shoulders look broad and square, giving him the confidence he needs to pull aside the curtains and walk back towards the door. As he walks past the half-circle desk full of blank-eyed people tapping away at their screens, he pushes his shoulders back and lifts his chin until it is pointed ever so slightly upwards.

The walk to mission control takes less than a minute.

As he takes the final empty seat among a collection of boys and men his age and older, he discovers a feeling in his chest that he’s never felt before. For the first time in his life, he feels important. 

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