Wooo almost didn’t make it! Went on a vacation for a week and nearly ran out of time for this chapter, so there’s less pictures than usual~
My card editing game is fantastic you can’t convince me otherwise
I took a deep breath, staring at myself through the mirror.
That wasn’t entirely true. I’m not pale. I’m not freckled. My eyes aren’t this color.
They are currently, but they weren’t a few years ago. I’ve grown so used to hiding behind Gloria. I’m still afraid of dropping her. I know Gretel wouldn’t see me differently. She never met me before, and she’s used to my shapeshifting. She wouldn’t care. Nobody would.
Only I would.
I haven’t seen myself in so long. Not even in private. I was too scared of being caught, of being recognized by the Hans while I slept if ever they were watching me – which I’m certain they were. Gloria is a protective glove that fits perfectly.
I wonder if I’d recognize her. The girl who clung to a tree, crying as she watched her mother burn in the car.
I was tempted to drop my pale appearance. Gretel gave me hope and she gave me strength. But…
No, not today. Not yet. Alianne would have to wait.
Even thinking my own name feels risky and dangerous.
I took in another breath, straightening myself into a better composure. We were in Stonebridge. In the heart of the rebellion itself. We arrived yesterday, late in the evening and nobody had recognized me – naturally – but they’d recognized Gretel. Everyone was ecstatic to have her join.
I smiled softly, Gretel isn’t one to acknowledge or enjoy that kind of attention. She rapidly redirected to me, saying she was here for me and only me. Then I told them who I was.
An ex-Hans employee.
I didn’t expect to be welcomed in with wide open arms. I expected skeptical cautious looks at least, and that’s precisely what I received. The mood having been brought down some, their leader, a tall beautiful woman named Annie, gave us a tent to rest in from our long journey. She assigned Ashlynn Credant, who did remember me from the protest she held outside the lab, to show me the way.
I got another vivid dream that night. They used to be rare, and now in the last few days I’ve had two. It’s always this strange thing, this foreign ache in my heart.
Feeling refreshed and not wanting to hog this community bathroom longer than necessary, I smiled at myself and opened the door to exit.
A strawberry blond girl was waiting outside, leaning on the wall. Something in her eyes told me she wasn’t waiting for the bathroom.
I know who she is. Her name is Alice, and we used to share a science class together. I remember…something happened to her. She used to be very carefree and happy, but then…
“You were with the Hans all along?” She asked evenly. We’d never really interacted that much, but for some reason there was a hint of betrayal in her voice.
I wasn’t going to make excuses. While I joined them to hopefully destroy them from the inside, I still accomplished missions for them. I willingly did their dirty work. “Yes I was.” I replied simply and it made her purse her lips.
She glanced away before her eyes settled on me. They were hard and now I was curious. What had happened? What was she, at least partially, blaming me for?
“Did you know about Tyrion?”
I frowned lightly. Tyrion? That wasn’t ringing much of a – oh. Oh that’s right.
Alice had a twin brother, Tyrion. He was a victim of one of the Hans’ tattoo experiments. They let him free, knowing the tattoo would swirl out of control on him. It did, and Tyrion lost control of his newly acquired magic, setting fire to a grocery store. He was just one of the many pawns and pieces the Hans let free to worsen the general view of the supernatural population.
If I remembered correctly, Tyrion had gotten arrested by the local police. Due to his magical origins, the Hans most likely convinced the police to hand him over and they’d have transferred him to a facility. A specific one.
I smiled lightly, seeing how I could potentially bring reassurance to Alice.
“Only vaguely. I didn’t know or was part of what happened to your brother. But I think I know where the Hans are holding him.”
Her entire stance changed, her face growing hopeful. It made me so sad to see the damages the Hans caused. And the damages they would continue to cause.
“Where?” Alice asked.
“That’s one of the things I’ll be telling today.” I informed her. “You should come listen, I’ll be going into detail about everything I know.”
Alice seemed impatient to hear it, which I understood, but she nodded and left.
It was surprising to me how…understanding everyone was so far. Alice’s reaction had been the worst presently. Until recently, I’d been part of the organization they were trying to overthrow – the one that tortured and kidnapped and abused, and yet…yet they were trusting me enough to let me roam the place without a second thought!
Though, I suppose being friends with Gretel helps dissuade people from judging me for things they have the right to. Either way, I was going to answer all their questions today and then some about the Hans as compensation and gratitude, at least, for the welcome.
“Gloria, have you eaten? Their food is acceptable, I made sure. I met a robot Gloria!” Gretel enthusiastically said, presenting…indeed a robot. “Oscar this is Gloria. Gloria, Oscar.”
“We’ve met before!” The robot exclaimed with a few clicks. I frowned. I think I would remember a robot… “I feel I should apologize.” He rubbed the back of his head, with a small screech of metal on metal.
“I’m sorry, I don’t remember you…Where did we meet?” Did I encounter him in the Hans? Was he one of their experiments? An elaborate robot.
Gretel looked at Oscar, waiting for him to answer. “Oh! I forget sometimes that I’ve not always been a robot! We met two years ago through Nikolas. We all played a game. You were the Ice Queen.”
I blinked. Oh! Wait…Through Nikolas?
“Nikolas and I shared the Reaper.” Oscar explained. Or at least, I suppose that was meant to be an explanation.
Gretel tilted her head, before she turned to me. “He’s artificial. I can’t drain him.”
Oscar nodded. “Nikolas brought me to life and then put me in this robot body.”
I gaped, taking in this information. “I…I have to go talk to – but I’d like to hear more about this, if you don’t mind, after.”
“Not at all!” Oscar nodded, and Gretel smiled at us both. She looked between us, before she tapped Oscar’s metal torso with her knuckles and the sound of gears rotating came from him, as if he was chuckling.
“He’s made of metal Gloria.” She announced.
No one’s POV
Anyone was invited to listen to Gloria’s little seminar, so several set up to hear about the news from the inside.
Common knowledge was limited to what people could see and what was made obvious; Gloria brought a lot to the table. Including information on secret laboratories and projects, that while not worrying in the present, would be in the future.
The most important, current, information she brought however, was concerning the Goldmind project.
The Rebellion had had suspicions on this project for a while, but sadly hadn’t had any facts or details to support them. Gloria was gladly offering all of these.
The Goldmind project had taken theoretical roots in several different facilities, but had gotten it’s practical beginnings in Cloverfield. Only a pipe dream for a very long while, it officially started once the Hans got their hands on the corpse of one of the Gold family vampires reputed, and the only ones known, for having mind control abilities. It was the corpse of Velor Gold.
A dead subject was better than no subject, and the Hans began their experiments to attempt to replicate this power in reusable artifacts. It was extremely slow going, but eventually the Hans started to see the potential advantages and they got greedy, managing to capture two more subjects, alive ones this time: Zyla and Alec, descendants of Velor. They weren’t known for being strong, on the contrary in comparison to their ancestors, but it was still a lot better than trying to get data from a corpse.
Then…they got James. Gloria easily recounted that day – it had created one hell of a bustle among the Hans in the Cloverfield lab. It was James Whitelight and the value of the Goldmind project skyrocketed. They only had him for a few days, but the amount of data they received advanced the project by years, already opening up the possibility for prototypes. They considered themselves lucky to have gotten this opportunity. So when James died, they didn’t mourn it.
Actually they orchestrated it. If ever James escaped, he’d be their biggest worry against these Goldminds: the tools the Hans wanted to use to take further control over the population. Booby trapping him if ever he got too far from the lab was an effective means of making sure he would never be a problem again.
And clearly, it had worked.
They were to be left with Alec and Zyla for the remaining year to perfect it – though they’d also been freed along with all the Cloverfield lab subjects recently. It made little difference however, as the Hans were currently in phases of testing their Goldminds, and would soon be starting to distribute them.
Gloria elaborated on what that meant and indicated her neck where you could see a very faint scar. The Hans had injected her with a beta Goldmind, in an attempt to wipe her memories, and this was precisely how they were going to distribute the finished Goldminds in everyone else. It was a little chip in someone’s neck, attached to their nervous system, that could be controlled from a distance to send out orders. The Hans intended to start high up, to inject these in politicians, in their doctors, in the police, in anyone with an important position that could be exploited. It was a defensive measure for the Hans, a way to make sure everyone would agree to everything they put forth.
Before it got to that, they were going to test these on children first, in a facility no one had heard of, that Gloria had only gotten wind of because of her eavesdropping tendencies.
It was located in a very small town further southwest named Oakplain. Not even a tourist destination; it was the ideal place for the Hans to build a facility that they didn’t want to bring any attention to. All Gloria knew about it, was that it was a prison like training facility that combined both the Goldmind project and the tattoo projects. Consistently, the Hans could still only give magical tattoos to children. The strain was too big on adults and killed them.
So the Hans had taken to kidnapping children and giving them mystery power giving tattoos. It was impossible to control what power a child got, and the Hans ran the strong risk of having it backfire on them if ever the child could overcome whatever defenses they’d prepped. That’s where the Goldmind came in, letting them make leashes for these children and also effectively turning the Oakplain facility into an industry that produced controllable little super humans. All of which could then be used to defend or attack anything they wanted….like let’s say a stubborn Rebellion growing more in force every day.
This was a scary weapon the Hans were preparing, especially as there was no known way of countering it. The only tools that could were specialized helmets created and closely kept by the Hans themselves. But as scary as this was, Gloria also came willingly offering a gift.
She had a Goldmind in her neck. It might be a beta prototype version, likely inactive now, but it was still better than nothing and analyzing it might yield ways to defend themselves.
While she brought dark news, she also brought a sliver of hope. If they could figure out a way to turn these off without digging into everyone’s necks, they might manage to avoid a lot of potential bloodshed.
Because yes, that’s where this seemed to be leading to.
“-unnecessary bloodshed.” Laury finished stating with an exasperated look at Thomas.
“I’m just saying, if she’s that bad, maybe we shouldn’t take any risks and just shoot her down.”
“The point is to ask her questions Thomas. Additionally, she supposedly has a reputation, but that’s non-existent now. She’s just a natural. A careless, potentially drunk, natural.”
“Who knows, she might just be playing dumb.” Thomas shrugged.
Laury retrieved one of the now less used tranq guns. “We just need to knock her out and we’ll carry her back to headquarters.”
“Geez Laury, in broad daylight in the middle of the street? People might think we’re with the Hans.”
Laury gave him a stale glare. “Today will be about following her, and once she’s alone we’ll shoot her with a tranquilizer.”
Thomas nodded with a light shrug. Laury resisted sighing as she put the gun away. Why couldn’t she be with someone who took this a little more seriously?
She indulged in a micro-second of complaining before she reminded herself she was more than capable of doing this mission on her own in the end.
The three prowled Hazelwood, spotting Assaria again early afternoon. The woman was standing in front of a building and…well that was it. She was simply standing and staring at it. Arms lightly crossed she seemed to be considering something of high importance – but it just looked quite dumb to Laury.
They waited there for a solid twenty minutes before Laury got restless – Thomas and their helper playing cards on the ground.
“She’s been there for 20 minutes. What can be so fascinating about a public library?”
“Who knows with the crazies.” Thomas shrugged. “Do you have any twos?”
“This is getting ridiculous.”
“I’m sure she’ll eventually wander off somewhere else.”
“What is she doing?” Laury squinted at the brightly dressed woman.
“Ha go fish! Man, I told you I didn’t have any fours two turns ago.”
“At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if the woman stayed there through the night too. Our stay isn’t supposed to last more than three days.”
Thomas glanced up, noticing as Laury bit her thumb restlessly. He sighed and dropped his cards, grabbing one of the tranq guns as he stood up.
He placed a dart in as he walked past Laury.
“Hey Thomas what are you doing? Thomas-!”
But it was too late, Thomas had glanced down the street and made his way across it, the gun resting casually in his hand.
Laury stayed behind, not wanting to be associated if this went sideways.
Halfway there he brought the gun up to his midsection, covering it with his other hand as he pulled the trigger.
The dart shot off and hit Assaria straight in the side. With a surprised swagger she glanced backwards just as Thomas reached her. He’d put away the gun at his belt and was rushing over, looping his arm around her.
“Hey, hey, are you okay?” He asked as Assaria’s vision blurred and her knees gave out. He guided her to the nearby bench as she drooped. “Here, let’s sit.” He sat her down beside him and she fully passed out on his shoulder as he subtly took out the now empty dart imbedded in her side.
After confirming she was out, he leaned back on the bench and took out his phone.
Laury’s phone buzzed and she glanced at it.
? Ru coming over? She heavy
Laury shook her head slightly with a small grimace, but made her way over anyways.
She was starting to wonder if Thomas had made his way up on pure luck or something else. He was a strange one.