The world may be stricken with misery and suffering, but at least the blessed few who live inside the city are happy. With the invention of a revolutionary new antidepressant named BLISS, the Government can finally award happiness, compliance and coexistence to whoever uses it. Of course, it comes at a price - your free will.



My knees began to tremble as I stood on the spot, my skin twitching sporadically as my legs struggled to support my weight. I flinched slightly and wrapped another arm around the Miserable's shoulders, my fingernails digging into the flesh of my palm until I felt the first beads of blood blossoming from the small half-moon indents. Although it helped me regain my balance, the position we were in was uncomfortable to say the least - I was practically hanging off her neck like a monkey, trusting her to support my entire body's weight. I shifted my feet slightly, suddenly aware of our startlingly close proximity and the hot flush that was rising to my cheeks. 


The girl just frowned down at me, her face closed off and distant as she narrowed those maddening grey eyes of hers. 


"You can't walk, can you," she said, her voice twisting the words into a statement rather than a question. I shook my head even though she already knew the answer and cast my eyes downwards, settling them somewhere above her collarbones.


"I can carry you, I guess. We just need to cross the Stretch and then it's about an hour's trek to the East until we reach New Victoria. The Misery isn't far from there." 


I opened my mouth to ask her could she please explain what the hell she was talking about, but promptly shut it again as she swept me up bridal-style and descended the steps that lead up to the main entrance. I clung to her like a child, my face flushed with uncomfortable embarrassment despite being acutely aware that unless the Miserables had some form of transport, this was the fastest means of travel. Unless I craned my neck violently to the left I couldn't see anything but the bruised indigo sky and a sliver of the Miserable's stony face, so it was with a fair amount of unwillingness that I allowed myself to relax into her arms. 


We lapsed into a weary silence for a few minutes as the girl walked, the only sounds I could make out being the rhythmic crunch of the Miserable's shoes against the gravel of the car park and the faint twittering of birds as they settled down for the evening. The sun, although still uncomfortably bright against my weak eyes, was a regal shade of coppery gold and had sunk low against the horizon, indicating the time to be late evening at the very least. 


"Hey! Chess!" 


I glanced upwards, feeling the Miserable stumble slightly before righting herself again. Her face had slid from exertion and weariness to something shinier and somehow more detached than one of her scowls, her eyes filled with recognition as she smiled at whoever had shouted out to her. It took a few moments for me to register that her name was Chess. 


Before I could quite realise what was happening I had been set down as gently as possible and a multitude voices swelled up to fill the silence, chattering almost furiously as a mass of bodies surrounded Chess. 


"Hey Chess, this her? Is she even gonna make it back to the Misery?" 


I looked up and watched as a girl glanced down at me and hooked a thumb in my direction as she spoke, blatantly not caring that I could hear every word she said. I raised my eyebrows slightly as Chess nodded and grinned, noting the absence of those small creases beside her mouth. After a few more painfully humiliating moments of sitting childishly in the gravel, unable to move, Chess elbowed her way through the small crowd of Miserables and extended an arm, looking anywhere but me. I briefly wondered if she was embarrassed by me. 


"Sakura, this is Project Martyr Series Gamma-X, but most just call us the misfits. It's a bit of a mouthful and most of us think the name is a little pretentious," Chess announced, gesturing towards the crowd of Miserables that currently had their attention trained solely on me. I felt even more pathetic and inadequate beneath their scrutinous gazes and I realised how much stronger and decidedly more impressive they were than me. My throat began to itch and a sudden wave of claustrophobia seized me, my skin stretching too tight over the blood and bone it encased. 


A girl with skin so dark it almost glowed in the feeble twilight was the first to break the silence, raising her hand in a small wave of greeting as she spoke. 


"I'm Seph and you're damn lucky that you got picked up by Chess, I gotta say. She's one of the strongest we've got 'round the Misery," she said, her voice low, throaty and strangely pleasant to listen to. Seph's clothes were a deep matte black and stuck to her sharp, angular frame like a second skin, bulging round the middle where she had a thick weapons belt fastened around her waist. 


"Wrenn. It's good to meet you."


A boy with cropped white hair and even paler skin nodded his greeting in a strange, clipped accent, twisting a switchblade almost nervously in his hands. However, when he met my eyes his smile was broad and unwavering and something bitter twisted in my gut as I realised he reminded me of Erris. 


Seph and Wrenn seemed to trigger something in the the others that set them at ease, for soon I was being introduced to the rest of Series Gamma-X at lightning speed. There was a Bex with bright yellow eyes and whose voice I recognised as the girl who'd spoken to Chess in the corridor, a Juno with hair as colourful as her language, a set of ambiguously Asian twins named Yana and Jaxon whom I secretly hoped were Japanese, a Winter with about ten different facial piercings and a Virgo with an amusingly unironic astrological tattoo mapping almost the entire right side of his face. 


I knew I wouldn't remember half of the misfits' names and faces yet I stood, mouth slightly agape, as these strange new people introduced themselves to me one by one, friendlier and more accommodating than I'd ever imagined Miserables to be. It was startling yet refreshing to see such exotic and diverse appearances, knowing that body modifications like these would never be allowed in the city for fear of disrupting the peace. 


"Well, Sakura, it's been mighty fun getting to know one another but we've gotta head off pretty damn soon if we wanna get you to the Misery by tomorrow," Seph declared, her voice taking on a marginally more authoritarian tone as she eyed the group. I suspected that if I asked any of the misfits they'd tell me there was no set leader so to speak, but it seemed that Seph was the closest thing they had to one. I reached out and grasped Chess' arm to steady myself, leaning into her body slightly as I spoke. 


"Why is it so important that I go with you to this Misery place? You've saved me twice now, and I still have no idea why." 


I felt Chess stiffen beside me as Seph's face curled into something akin to a grimace, obviously trying to put on a cheerful front yet failing spectacularly. It was a moment before anyone said anything, but it didn't surprise me when it was Seph who opened her mouth to answer my question. 


"Sakura, you're the person we were all created to find. I have no idea how or why, but it seems that you're immune to BLISS and we're hoping that it means you might just be able to cure us."



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