It was the day. It was the day of the big reveal. A distinct buzz hung in the air as Becca, Evan and I made our way over to the food hall. Every screen available to us was lit up with the broadcast which had already just begun. All around us, people were smiling as the mood was light and filled with hope. As one, we were hoping for the war to end and today, we were promised just that. This was the spark of light which lay at the end of the tunnel of darkness. Step by step, we were drawing closer to the end of our anguish and the end of our forced oppression. I knew that today would be the day that the council would reveal ‘Project red’ but that was all. I was treated like just another civilian instead of the mastermind that I was. The virus was my idea and was my creation but yet they moved on without me and left me in the dark. Regretfully, I knew that all would be well in the council’s hands, but still I had played a massive part that seemed to go unmentioned.
Ignoring the feeling of unease which resided in my chest, I collected a tall glass of juice from the counter and took my regular seat next to Evan. Barely touching it, I had no appetite as only apprehension filled my mind. I didn’t doubt that the virus would work but still, there was an undeniable amount of risk surrounding the situation. So much could go wrong but yet if executed right, the war would finally be over.
When the screen suddenly flickered and switched to the broadcast, it was as if each and every one of us stole a deep breath. This could be it, this could be the end of the war and the start of a new era of peace. Although the cameras were only a few rooms down, to me, what was being displayed felt like it could have been a million miles away. Fixated on the images, we waited in anticipation for the man on screen to address us and speak words which would change our lives and the world forever. Taking a step towards the microphone, a tall man in full military uniform began his speech.
“Ladies and gentle men, I would like to begin by thanking you for your dedication and efforts during our time at war. Each one of you has made a vital difference and has been invaluable to our cause and to the peace that we stand for. Together, we have unified under the same flag and have fought for our rights and our way of life. Together, we will win this war,”
At that, a ripple of smiles broke through the crowd as the puppet master pulled the strings of his marionettes. We had all given our hopes and our lives to our cause and so words of praise meant a lot to each of us. Finally, we were being credited for our actions. Or at least some of us were… To me, his words rang empty and hollow. Dismissing my own twisted emotions, I continued to watch the screen before me.
“We have suffered great losses and have sacrificed so much but I can promise that it will not be for much longer. Many have given their lives for us and in their names, we retaliate and fight back for the lives they never got to finish.”
A large majority of the crowd were eagerly nodding, being swept away in the tide of words. Loss? Oh, I knew what loss was and how much it burned; I lost my family and my life. Nothing could bring them back. I would give anything to just see their smiling faces one last time but yet I knew that I couldn’t. Powerful words were spoken but loss was a fuel, nothing more. Loss was a fuel for rage and anger and so playing on our desire for vengeance was clever but yet insensitive. Sliding his hand over mine, I instantly relaxed into Evan’s touch.
“Today my brothers and sisters, we will avenge those who are gone and will lay the foundations of our future. We will not let tyrants rule over us but instead, we will carve our own paths and live our lives the way we want to. Because today, we will release our greatest weapon and will end this war for good.”
This was it; it was coming. Soon everyone would know of the project and what I had done. Along with dread, I felt almost excitement to see the reactions of my people as the found out the truth. Other that the speakers, there was simply silence. Even the slight tapping of a man’s foot drew shushes from the crowd.
“After years of work, finally, we have found away to tie up all loose ends and stop the bloodshed for good. Although there may be casualties, we will recover and rise from the ashes and build a better, safer world for our children to grow up in.”
Casualties? I only hoped that they meant the ones that were already dead, not the one that were to come. I had made sure that the virus was not lethal and no-one would die because of it. I assumed what they were saying was merely a precaution and not a promise or a vow. That sounded reasonable enough but yet I couldn’t ignore the feeling of doubt which rose up my throat.
“The sacrifice of few is worth the lives of many as long as we ensure that nothing like this will ever happen again. We will find our feet, together and as one. Mark this day because in the future, we will look back and will remember our freedom and our liberation. And it is all thanks to this: ‘Project Black’.”
Holding up the vial to the camera, it was a deep black. Black, not red. Shit. Abruptly falling to my feet, the glass toppled to the floor, shattering on impact. Suddenly all eyes were on me as it felt like the walls were closing in around me. Tearing my hand from Evan’s grip, I was fully aware of the concern in his eyes. It was wrong, it was all wrong. The virus was different either meaning it had mutated or worse, had been altered. For all I knew, they could become unstable to the point that its effects could not be predicted. The chemicals certainly should not have been black. Oh god, what if the councils didn’t know? That single vial could kill millions of people across the nation. What if not even or vaccines could stop it now? Allowing for the worst but hoping for the best, I quickly backed out of the room, ignoring my friend concerned looks.
“This is a virus which will take down our enemies. We have all been vaccinated against it, but when I place it into the machine, it will spread across the country.”
Bolting down the corridor, I barely registered the booming speakers which lined the roof of the complex. I had to tell them, I had to stop it before it was too late. I wanted revenge but I never wanted anyone to die. Attempting to calm my nerves, I tried to convince myself that this was all a part of the councils plan. But I couldn’t. This was wrong and somehow, it was as if I could sense it in the air.
“This is down to all of you and your efforts. But there is one in particular who I must mention for creating our weapon in the first place: Helena Coleman.”
“No, no. Don’t put my name on this” I muttered to myself as I counted down the door numbers. It was like a sixth sense; I knew that there was something very wrong but whether from the glint in speakers eye or the drastic change of the chemicals colour. I had created a red serum, not a black one and now I was being credited for something that had gone completely wrong.
“Now, brothers and sisters, this is the end of our strife and the pathway to a better world. Together let us open the doorway to freedom. Let us countdown to our liberation.”
The door, yes, there it was. Using my shoulder to charge through, I looked at the set in front of me. The man glared at me momentarily before averting his gaze back to the cameras in front of him. Before I had the chance to even open my mouth, the general was in front of me, pushing me out of the door and away from the one place that I needed to be.
“General trust me. I need to get in there; I have to stop this before-” I began but he cut me off with the daggers he was shooting through his eyes. Doors softly closing behind him, he shook his head with disappointment. He didn’t understand and now thought that I was trying to end the peace but that wasn’t the case at all.
I could almost see the flames of anger dancing in his irises as he pinned me to the wall. Struggling under his weight, I could hear the sheer rage in his voice.
“We’ve come too far for you to ruin this now,” he hissed, eyebrows creasing as his face contorted in fury. Getting over my initial shock, I began to talk, I began to explain why I was trying to stop my weapon being launched and ending the conflict. I knew that he wouldn’t listen to me but I had to try before I was forced to act.
“The virus has changed, it has mutated. I can’t be released or god knows what will happen. Project Red, It was project red sir, not project black. It shouldn’t be that colour, it should never be that colour. If we don’t stop this now, people might die sir.”
I could see a spark of realisation ignite in his eyes but yet he didn’t let me go.
“It’s too late.” He murmured.
He hesitated for one second too long.
Clink. Hiss. Silence.