Warning: Pg-14 Raw terms used by Sal at the end
Also watch out I kinda had fun with random gifs in this one
No one’s POV
“I got a weird dream today. It might’ve been a daydream, your drugs don’t make it clear. I was drinking my uncle’s coffee and it was so disgusting that I spit it all over the kitchen counter.” Salandra mused. “It made me think of you.”
“This is not your personal stage.” The man snapped. “As I was saying, pain in your arm is normal. It’s the injection site for the ink, so don’t complain about it. It’ll be there every time.”
“Do you have any deep respect for anyone?”
The scientist turned to his helper. “We most likely won’t be seeing any sign of the tattoo today, do you know why Laury?”
The fledgling nodded. “It needs several treatments with the ink before the tattoo can settle and surface.”
“It’s a very difficult thing to find you know.” Salandra continued. “And even more difficult for it to be mutual. Oh, but if I had to predict…”
“We’ll be starting with low vibrations to initiate the enzymes.” He declared.
“You’ll be alone.” She said.
Intense waves of specialized magic hit her from all sides, dropping her to her knees as she struggled against the strength.
The assistant looked at the man with curiosity. “How long have you been working with her?”
The man cleared his throat. “A year.”
“Have you always listened to her words?” She asked.
“She has a way of getting under your skin. Don’t judge me until you’ve had a conversation with her.” He grumbled. “Which I don’t recommend. Don’t speak to her.”
Laury grimaced. Of course she’d be stuck with one of the lower grades.
I put my food down at the table, giving Svenson a smile. He was one of the few scientists who actually felt like a friend. Cherry would leave me in his lab most of the time when I was younger. He was the one at my bedside too after I got my tattoo.
“Gloria! I’ve been hearing great things about you. You’re really successful with your missions I hear.”
I chuckled. “They aren’t particularly difficult. Cherry has been giving me a lot of easy ones.”
“Seems like a good idea. You need a break.”
“I’ve just had a break. Of a whole year.” I said.
“They’ll trust you again with big missions eventually.”
My face fell. So it was true, me having to go through surviving the horrible effects of the tattoo from the game…it made me look really bad. It made me look weak.
I clenched my hands. Don’t be pathetic. I chastised myself as I felt the tears threaten to come already.
I gingerly cleared my throat and changed the subject. “I heard the company was moving a lot of people to a new facility. They’re finally taking care of the overcrowding problem.”
Svenson cast a glance around the room and I knew precisely who he was looking for. Cherry, naturally. He was probably not allowed to give me information about anything. Cherry probably thought I was too young and weak to start getting in on bigger more important matters.
“Overcrowding is a problem, but it was always the plan to move some subjects to a training facility in a few months. I heard a rumor that one of the tattooed subjects has fortune telling powers. I’m guessing the young boy might have seen something troubling to fast forward their projects.” He shared with me.
“Woah…” Fortune-telling…I’d like to know what the future has in plan for me. We continued eating in silence for a few moments before I couldn’t bear it any longer. “Can I tell you something?”
“As long as it’s not more than five minutes, I’m almost done.” He replied.
I nodded. “I can’t help but notice how I’m the only minor working for the Hans. And the only one with a tattoo.”
“Well that’s normal. Tattoo mortality rates are a lot higher with adults.”
“I-I know but…it alienates me. Sometimes I feel closer to the subjects who have my age and also have tattoos than every other employee here.” I managed to admit, afraid to look him in the eye. “Sometimes I wish I wasn’t the only one.”
“I’m sure other companies have a tattooed teen helping with missions. Either way you’re closer to a young adult now. That awkward phase is practically over for you!” He declared. “I have to get back to work, have a nice day.”
I watched him leave, my appetite dissipating. I cast a gloomy look around the cafeteria. Is this all there is to my life? Sitting alone?
“Gloria looks boring. I remember Ice Queen.”
My dreams have become sweeter than my reality.
Who was Ice Queen…I barely remember her. I wish I could be her again.
No one’s POV
Nikolas had been pacing when his door opened to welcome in the lead scientist and two fresh assistants.
“This subject is a witch, as you’ll notice the anti-witch devices integrated in his cell.” The man presented.
“Isn’t he the subject that went through the mindscape?” The girl asked, receiving a nod from her superior.
“So he was part of the Dragons? I didn’t know their members were so young. Well guess it doesn’t matter now.” The young man shrugged.
Nikolas glared. “Say that again, but inside my cell.”
“Yeesh.” Thomas cringed.
“Can one of you two tell me what the purpose of his project is?” The lead scientist picked up.
“Apart from being a witch, the wavelength department detected a magic type that we don’t have under record.” The girl named Laury explained.
“Precisely. Our goal is to identify what it is and its use. For that we already have a lead,” The scientist said, gesturing at the second assistant.
“Wow you guys really enjoy talking as if I wasn’t right here.” Nikolas snarled.
The assistant hesitated, but the scientist motioned for him to continue. “During the mindscape he displayed the use of a power that wasn’t recorded. He teleported, but…not really?”
“That’s really precise thank you.” The man sarcastically said.
“He showed signs that he possessed an additional mental ability. One that allowed him to have an out of body experience. And since it’s outside of the body it’d be an external mental power, contrary to an internal one which deals with the mind directly. This one seems to deal with the outside exclusively. To be precise.” The girl smiled as her companion rolled his eyes.
“Oh my god what a SUCK UP. What are you twelve?” Nikolas sneered.
“Good. Mental powers are a lot harder to observe and document, especially an external one. What approach would you advise to record his ability?”
Thomas butted in then. “To begin we could do several activities to test his power in general. Asking him to tell us numbers on a piece of paper that aren’t visible to his physical body. We could test the range, the accuracy, the-”
“That’s assuming the subject would be cooperative.”
“Yeah, what the fuck makes you think I’ll play along? You all seem like children. I didn’t realize the Hans had such young members.” Nikolas said before kicking the glass.
“As you’ll be spending a lot of time in this room, it’s important that you feel comfortable with this control here.” The lead scientist said, showing them a console. “If the subject is displaying erratic behavior you are highly recommended to utilize this to regain control.” He said, pressing the button and shocking Nikolas.
“That makes me feel better.” The male assistant nodded.
“Yay, you get to torture a guinea pig.” Nikolas muttered.
The young man looked at his colleagues, worried they’d get the wrong idea. “I just meant, I’m glad I won’t have to deal with-”
“Yes, yes, we get it.” The man interrupted him.
“In the likely event that he’d be uncooperative,” The girl picked up. “I believe a more invasive approach is required. If we blast him with a strong disruptive wave of magic on a constant basis we can induce enough stress in his body to provoke him into using his power. Being a mental ability, it would be a means of escape for the body.”
“You’re a nice bunch of insensitive pricks. That doesn’t sound like it’ll work at all.”
“Precisely.” The man said, ignoring Nikolas. “Once you have your plan decided, the next step is retrieving the subject. He is a potentially powerful witch-”
“Potentially?” Nikolas cut in, forcing himself to his feet.
“-so it is recommended that you always incapacitate him beforehand. We have here several drugs at your disposal. We’ll be using a small dose of this one for now as we won’t be needing him for very long.” The man explained, releasing the drug in question.
“Wild guess, but I think your subject’s mental health should be important.” Nikolas added as the drug filled the air and began to make him groggy. “Torture isn’t an effective way of…assuring that….”
I glued my face to the window, wide eyed as I watched the protesters gather. I could hear them demand and chant that the Hans – we – let go of everyone we have.
Protesting that it was unfair. That there was no true system to it. That it was rigged to gather as many magic oriented people as possible.
The Hans pick up people who are dangerous. Their main goal is to keep the cities safe and the Green, Yellow and Red Passes are essential to that. That’s what they say anyhow.
“Anyone who’s a supernatural is a Yellow! Can you believe it? I’d be a Green.”
“Don’t you have a mission to get to?” Cherry’s stable voice made me jump.
“I was just – do you think they’ll attack me if I try to get past them?” I asked her.
“If they do, it’ll give us an excuse to send the task force.” She said.
Oh of course, they’re all Greens. I suppose it wouldn’t look good if the Hans tried to detain them without good reason.
I can do this. There’s no reason I can’t exit the building. For all intents and purposes, I’m the bad guy and they’re the good guys. Good guys don’t attack right? If you think you’re the good guy, you wouldn’t attack. That wouldn’t fit.
And well, we both think we’re the good guys, so we both won’t attack. Yes, that makes sense.
Gathering my courage, I gave a wave to the lady at the desk and headed outside. I stuck to the walls as much as I could, hoping to walk around the protest unnoticed.
That wasn’t meant to be it seems, as a girl no older than me spotted me just as I was reapplying the disguise over my tattoo.
“You work for them?” She asked. It was a simple question. An innocent and polite question I guess.
But all of a sudden all I could feel was judgement, all I could hear was judgement.
You’re so young. You have a tattoo. Yet you work for them?
You’re exactly like all the people locked and tortured and experimented on. Yet you work for them?
They’re the bad guys. Yet you work for them?
Yet you work for them?
I felt my hands squeeze and a tightness in my throat. “I didn’t mean to.” I blurted out.
She frowned and cast a glance at someone in the crowd. Her clear eyes came back to me before I could slither away. “Are they holding you against your will?”
I gaped. That feels out of left field.
She shook her head. “We’re too close, come on. We can talk safely away from the doors.” She didn’t grab my arm or my hand or try to force me to come.
And I’m not being held against my will. I work for the Hans willingly, I…
I’m fine, but this girl and her kind eyes make me want not to be. Makes me want to accept a reality where I’m not actually happy.
Does that even make sense? Either way, I’m following her away.
“My name’s Ashlynn.” She introduced just as I was doubting my decision to follow her. Is it really a decision? She’s just so nice and seems to care…
“I’m Gloria.” I said, gaining a wide smile from her. It’s almost like she recognizes me. We’ve never met though.
“It’s not an easy world we live in right now. Everyone’s suffering, but there’s help. There’s always help available.”
“You seem young to be protesting.”
“You seem young to be working for the Hans. I don’t think we’re left with much of a choice. Age doesn’t really matter anymore. Opinions do.”
“Did you lose anyone?” I tempted.
“I have a friend inside and I know several people who had family taken as well.”
I swallowed remembering where my loyalties were supposed to lie. “They must’ve been dangerous.”
She laughed, a carefree kind. “Nikolas does cause a ruckus, but not unlike your average teen. He’s just more flamboyant about it.”
I frowned as an unclear memory surfaced again. It’s been happening a lot and it has me worried…
With jagged movements, I reached for my phone and opened my photo gallery. Ashlynn leaned over to see my screen.
“Yes that’s him! So you’ve worked with him…?”
I can feel the slight prod to get information, but all I can focus on is my lack of focus. “I can’t remember.” I mumbled.
My memory….didn’t I overhear that the Goldmind could also affect memories? Has my memory been wiped?
What did I do?
“Do you need to sit down?” She asked.
“I need to remember.”
“My house is around the corner. We can go in and get some water. Rest a bit.” She patiently proposed.
“Why did I take a picture?” I asked. “Why would I take a picture of a subject?”
Her politeness seemed to falter at the term I used, but it was quick to come back up. So did my loyalties. “You helped him attempt an escape.” She explained.
In one swift breath the events unfolded and I remembered it all. The Goldmind, the escape, and-
“Salandra.” I breathed out.
“We can help you Gloria. I know people who can get you to safety, away from the Hans.”
“Don’t you want me to save your friend again? That’s why you’re being nice isn’t it?” I declared. “Someone like you, you probably know a lot of people the Hans want to put away. I work for them and you’re trusting me?”
I bristled, staring back with the same eyes as I donned on her appearance. Even though I was wearing a copy of her now, she seemed unphased.
“I want the Hans’ tyranny to stop. They don’t have the right to be judge, jury and executioner all in one. I want to help all of their victims. And that includes you. I wouldn’t ask you to help my friend again. You already risked your life doing it once. I’d feel better if you were safe along with all of the other people the Hans have made into victims.”
I deflated, my disguise falling off.
“I have nothing.”
Ashlynn smiled gently, placing her hands on my arms. “You can have something. You just need to step away.”
I stepped away from her grasp.
“You’re a Green aren’t you? You shouldn’t be carelessly abusing your privilege like this.” I said before turning away.
I was halfway across the street before she managed to get the last word in.
“I’m not being careless with it. I’m putting it to good use.”
It’s a curious thing reality.
How can you truly distinguish what’s true from fake? What defines fake? It’s our brains. Our brains manage everything we perceive. But our brains aren’t infallible. They lie to us constantly.
Its fine, it says, you’re in a meadow, it says, you’re safe, it says.
Your mother is alive, it says, your mother will live.
They call it denial.
He likes you, it says, he hates you, it states.
I call it the brain’s greatest deception.
I was so certain it was all fake. All of it.
It made sense that it was. My brain said so.
But then he started knocking, he started talking about the Mindscape, the torture we’d both been in.
Oops, it says, I was wrong, it says. He was real after all.
You know another weird thing?
20-8-5-25 7-15-20 9-20
I haven’t replied yet. I haven’t answered him, but he’s still knocking. Counting is a lot of work you know? Why does he assume I’m still counting his words? It’s insulting how sure he is, that I’m counting.
The door to my room opens and I look up. It’s that punk of a scientist, and just like that my bones feel heavier.
I’ve lasted a year of their examining. Of their prodding and poking and torturing. I’ve been shocked more times than I can remember.
But that one session? With that one injection of ink? It was like feeling my bones get grinded from the inside.
“I would rather not relive that.” I said, giving the window a kick. It deceptively trembled.
Maybe if we kick it enough it’ll break, it says.
If that were true, it would’ve broken months ago, I say.
25-15-21 6-15-21-14-4 15-21-20
Peanut looks at my wall curiously. “Is that knocking I hear?”
“I can’t concentrate if you talk to me.” I roll my eyes.
“I see you made a friend with your neighbor.” He scowled.
Brains are exceptionally good at filtering though.
9 19-8-15-21-12-4 8-1-22-5
Peanut moved to his fancy console, ready to start today’s torture.
“Just give me a sec here!” I snapped at him as he looked over at his drug choices.
“Oh just tell him you’re busy.” He said, making his choice.
I smacked the wall as I counted the last letter. “Yes you should have!”
I’d been idly knocking on the wall. Informing her of a few things I’d learned about the Mindscape. She’d probably stopped counting ages ago. It was nothing really interesting. It’s not like I was going in full detail about how I’d just let the Hans strike a big blow on the resisting supernatural population.
She hadn’t answered at all, so either she was casually ignoring me – probably aware of much I’d fucked up – or she just wasn’t there. I was kind of leaning towards the latter before a loud smack and a very muffled murmur made me jump.
I stared, waiting for the continuation. ‘A’ didn’t make for a very complete reply. Though it didn’t sound like a knock, it sounded like an angry slap on the wall. Which I guess would’ve been her way of saying Duh! to what I’d said.
“Is that all I get?” I asked the wall. “One hit?”
Is she mad or something? She has to know about the Dragons. She knows it’s my fault. She spotted it early. She doesn’t want to talk with a failure like me, even if I’m literally the only one in this fucked up place with her.
I tried to pout and self-pity for a while, but it didn’t work so well, so I turned back to the wall and knocked again. I was starting to knock my justifications when I seemed to hear something. I glued my ear to the wall, and sure enough I could hear a faint muffled sound.
Oh shit of course, she might be talking again.
I passed the wall in astral, but Salandra wasn’t in her cell and she wasn’t talking. The sound came from the middle of the room, where a protective barrier was muffling her screaming.
I sped to her side as she writhed in agony. The man whose face I’d easily come to despise was blank and neutral as he applied different treatments.
Salandra let out a groan like shout as she clenched her jaw. “God! I bet your mother hated you as a child.” She forced out. “I know I would.”
The scientist, thankfully, put a pause on the pain inducing machine to lean forward. “You’ve resorted to mom insults now?”
Salandra had collapsed on the floor out of breath, rolling on her back. “No, no,” She said between breaths. “I’m pitying your mother. That poor woman stuck with your ugly face coming out of her uterus. I wouldn’t be shocked if she’d accidently thrown your ass in a gutter from the surprise.”
Somehow amidst the disgustingness of what was happening here, I snorted at Sal’s reply.
The man quickly turned the torture back on however, and I flinched as her pain began again.
I can’t do anything.
Nothing, but watch.
Something I’m painfully good at.