note: takes place before ashe's story in "this broken world" (prev. code: delete). i wouldn't call it a chapter, but it has the potential for it. haven't written in a while, and i might have forgotten everything i've learned, so feel free to point out all the mistakes/tell me how i can improve
edit: not a direct continuation. same world, same characters, though
So this is where they went.
The low buzz of the machinery holding everything together flows like an undercurrent, constant and softly grating. Everything is too bright, lights blending to the point that there are no shadows and flattening out the scene in front of me.
They're suspended in tanks on the other side of the glass, frozen save for the occasional flicker of life passing over their features. Many of them have their hair partially cut away on the left side to reveal skin lined with scarring and stitches. Near the center of the group is a young boy, bruised with sharply visible bones. I vaguely recall seeing his face in the local news. He was missing, but the police had given up when they found no leads. Callen. Nine. Last seen in the park near his house, three months ago. His eyes are closed, but the thin veins on his eyelids and the bags under them are dark, visible even from here. And his face. A long gash starts from the corner of his eye and cuts through his cheek, ending at his chin. It looks a few days old--the skin has scabbed over, with some spots still pink and raw. When I manage to tear my eyes away, I see a young woman, maybe in her twenties. There is something familiar about her, but I can't seem to place it. Then it clicks.
My gasp is loud in the room. Ris. My best friend. She'd disappeared around the same time as Callen, and I’d looked everywhere for her. Is it really her? She has the same highlighted, choppy hair, the same crooked nose, the same faint scar on her chin. But there is something wrong with her eye-- But there is a strange bump under her eyelid that wasn't there before. When she slowly opens her eyes, I see it.
Her left eye is gone, and in its place is a synthetic one. The work is delicate and careful, a metallurgical wonder. The edge where metal meets skin is rough and scarred, as though it is pressing the skin too tight. Her other, normal eye looks glazed over, staring vaguely and detachedly into the middle distance. I want to run over, break the glass, grab her shoulders, call her name.
But I know better.
Instead, I pull up my camera and take several pictures of the facility. As I look closer at everyone, I recognize more faces. The entire time, my hands shake. If I can get these images to circulate far enough, maybe they’ll reach someone who can do something. Someone who has power. The photos could be used as evidence for a punishable offense―there have to be laws against this. I check my watch. Two minutes and thirty seconds left. I’m lowering the camera and sliding it into my bag when I see something shift. Ris’ metal eye has focused on me, following my movements. Her other eye is still unfocused, but the pupil on the metal one widens. I freeze.
And then I hear alarms in the distance.
POV 2 (Kath's POV)
“You can’t just let her go,” I say sharply, and I see Auren wince. He glances back at the footage in front of us.
“Why can’t I? She isn’t doing anything wrong. If anything, she should send those pictures out. Would serve them right for doing this.”
“Why can’t you? Stars, how many times do I have to explain this to you? We’re new to this job. We have one thing to do, and that’s to make sure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen. We can’t let her go any more than we can let the rest of them go. That’s it. We don’t have any more options. This is our last chance. Why don’t you get it?”
Auren looks taken aback at my outburst. He silently takes the keyboard and types in a series of commands, and I am too stunned to stop him. After a moment, he pushes it back. I see that he deleted the footage. No. I try to reverse it, to find it, but it’s to no avail. It’s gone.
“Are you crazy? They’re gonna find out. They’ll find out and then we’ll get kicked out and then we’ll be back where we started.” My voice is thin and high, even to my own.
“So what if they find out? It’ll buy her time. Maybe she’ll be able to do enough damage to end this madness once and for all.”
“Madness? Well, this madness is the only chance we have. Don’t you get it? It’s us or them. There isn’t a choice here.”
“What do you mean there isn’t a choice? This―” He waves his hand over the screen, “―isn’t much better than murder. With the way they’re collecting people, with how many are dying... And you want that to happen? You think we don’t have a choice? You think we can’t change anything? What’s the worst that’ll happen to us? We’ll end up back on the streets, back where we started. We’ll find a way, we always do. But them? They’re the ones who're being subjected to this by a group of “progressive” reformists. They’re the ones being… changed for this--for some sort of convoluted equalizing-- If it was so good--why did they have us sign that confidentiality contract? Can’t you see? You don’t want to face it, but this is wrong. You might be okay with all this, with ignoring your conscience. But you know I’m right. And I can’t put up with this anymore.” His eyes are shining with anger.
“So I’m selfish. At least I’m not throwing away everything Mom worked so hard for. She saw the future, Auren. And yeah, it feels wrong. But sometimes you have to open your mind to new ideas to keep going forward. Sometimes you can’t let your morals get in the way.” My tone drips with virulence.
“She was taken in by pretty words, Kath. She was a convert. She left us. I don’t think she realized what she was doing, and by the time she did, they’d gotten to her.” He shakes his head, sighs. “I think they’ve gotten to you, too.”
The disappointment in his eyes is too much.