London, 2175 – 310 Years Before Impact Day
Shortly after sitting down, Tyson found himself watching an attractive young redhead enter the cafe. To his surprise, she walked straight to his table, and sat down opposite him. Her intense yellow eyes bored into him, catching him completely off guard.
“Tyson Briggs?” she asked, with a tone to her voice that suggested it wasn’t really a question.
“That’s me,” he said, glancing around. “And you are…?”
“A representative of Genesis Laboratories,” she said. “I’m here to conduct your interview.” He was surprised to her an American accent.
“No kidding,” he said, wishing he’d expected such an obvious tactic. “Alright then. Shoot.”
“Your record is stellar,” she said, in a slightly detached tone of voice. She didn’t seem particularly interested in being here, or talking to him. “Service in both military and paramilitary organisations, and work as a private investigator. We checked with your contacts and accessed the secure records of your service, and we were very impressed.”
“Good?” he said, not sure what else to say.
“Why are you interested in security work?” she asked. “We’re concerned you might not find the work as… stimulating as your previous employment.”
“That’s kind of the point,” he said, shrugging. “My lady’s pregnant. We’re looking to settle down. I’m interested in staying in one place, with regular hours and regular pay, y’know? And a little less danger, hopefully.”
“Satisfactory,” she said bluntly. “And you’ll consent to the security precautions necessary for the position?”
“So long as it don’t affect my family, I don’t particularly mind what you do to me,” he answered. The list of requirements had been a little too long for him to get all the way through, but it seemed pretty standard. More intense than he was expecting, but nothing compared to the black ops missions he’d run in the past.
“Perfect,” she said, with a surprisingly intimidating smile. “When can you start?”
* * *
“This is Charles Mason,” Haylie told him, gesturing to a wiry man, middle-aged, with strawberry blonde hair and focussed cyan eyes. “He’s one of the leading researchers here, and your primary client here.”
“Pleasure to meet you,” Tyson said, offering a hand.
“Likewise,” Mason said, shaking with his left hand. Tyson noticed a simple silver band on Mason’s ring finger, and saw an opportunity.
“Who’s the lucky lady?” he asked.
“The owner of this facility,” Mason replied, disapprovingly. “James.”
“Oh,” Tyson said awkwardly. “Sorry, mate. Anyway, what do you do here? Are you allowed to tell me?”
Mason sighed, and started walking further into the lab. After a few moments, he gestured for Tyson to follow him.
“Ordinarily, I’d not share this, but it’s important for you to know what you’re protecting,” he said. He pressed a button on a wall, opening a secret door into a hidden room. To Tyson’s surprise, it appeared to be a nursery. An infant was crawling around a penned-off area.
“You’re looking for a babysitter?” Tyson asked, beginning to wonder if the job was really going to be worth it. Would the boredom kill him before he ever met his own kid?
“This is my research,” Mason said, slightly exasperated. “Meet my daughter, Alice.”
Tyson looked back down at the infant. Nothing about her seemed unusual, really. She was fairer than Mason, with deep, purple eyes. She was a little young for a gene mod, sure, but stranger things had happened.
“Every father thinks his daughter is special,” Mason said. “But yes, she’s special. I created her from the combined genetic material of my husband and I.”
“I don’t need for you to interact with her directly. I just need you to know what it is you’re protecting.”
“You got it, Boss,” Tyson said. “There isn’t an army in the world that can get through me to your kid.”
“Good,” Mason said. “Haylie?”
“Come with me,” Haylie told him. “We’ll finish your initiation and have you ready for work in no time.”
Tyson followed her back out of the lab, leaving Mason alone with his child. It was a little odd, Tyson thought, but nothing he had a problem with. Lab-grown kids were nothing new, although he did have to wonder if there was something different about this one to warrant such high-priced protection. Then again, maybe the parents were just rich. He had said his husband was the owner of this absurdly sized underground facility.
Haylie led him into a room with the sign ‘Induction Room‘ over the door. It was a sterile white, and once he entered, the door sealed behind him.
“What’s this?” he asked, feeling slightly nervous.
“Security,” she said blandly.
“Yeah, I’m gonna need more details than that, love.”
“Don’t call me love,” she replied shortly.
“You did read the conditions of employment, didn’t you? You’re to be injected with a mixture of nanotech which will allow us to monitor your vitals at all times, track your location, and allow you to interface with the security systems in this facility. In addition, if you attempt to misuse your position here, your employment and life can be terminated in a single moment.”
He had to blink a few times, sure she had to be joking. Her expression was anything but mischievous, though.
“It was in the contract,” she said.
“This is bonkers.”
“You’d rather leave?” she asked.
“I’d sooner not have something that might kill me if someone gets hammered and hits the wrong button, you know?”
“It’s perfectly safe,” she told him. “I’m the only one who can activate it, and I assure you, I’ve never been hammered in my life.”
“Right, so if I wanna steal company secrets, all I have to do is off you first?”
He had meant it as a joke, but certainly hadn’t made it sound like one. Still, if she felt threatened, she showed no sign of it.
“I wouldn’t suggest trying it,” she said, and for some reason, he felt threatened. Who was this woman?
“Alright, alright, it’s a good gig,” he said. “But if you’re gonna blow me up, just remember I have a kid on the way, yeah?”
“I will deliver the news to them personally,” she said, and he wasn’t sure if she was joking, even as the corners of her mouth curled up.
* * *
It didn’t take Tyson long to slip into a routine. The work was easy, the pay was good, and he did find himself enjoying the workplace. Haylie was always around, and had a composed, controlled energy that he appreciated. Mason’s husband visited often, and Tyson couldn’t help but admiring the ways they interacted. It reminded him of his parents.
Everything was going perfectly when Mason received the invite. Tyson was there when it happened, a simple email that had Mason pacing about the office like a restless hunting dog.
The creature beneath the Tower has spoken your name. So rarely does this happen, we must invite you to speak with it.
We must insist.
Please, Charles Mason, come to Melbourne. Come to the Tower.
Tyson couldn’t make heads or tails of it, and frankly, he didn’t care. He knew Melbourne’s Tower was a scientific anomaly, producing enough power to supply the entire country with plenty leftover to export, but didn’t care beyond that. He’d never heard of a creature, but evidently, Mason had.
He packed in a hurry, pausing only to consider bringing Alice. In the end, he decided against it, citing the unknown danger of the trip. She was left in Haylie’s care, and Tyson’s job remained the same.
And so Tyson and Haylie were left alone for several days. Without Mason around, it was significantly more boring, but a job was a job.
Two days in, sitting at Mason’s desk, enjoying a packed lunch, he noticed something odd. There was a large mirror on the wall near the desk, which Tyson had always considered an odd aesthetic choice. Sitting where he was, though, he was certain he could see a shadowy figure in the reflection, one that wasn’t there when he looked around the room.
Curious, he approached the mirror. The shadowy figured moved with him, cautiously at first, then more fluidly.
“More weird experiments?” he muttered to an empty room.
He raised a hand to the mirror, touching his own reflection. The entire mirror shimmered, then faded to clear glass.
Behind the mirror, now visible through the glass, was what appeared to be a small prison cell. Inside that cell was a person, young and thin, with dark skin and green eyes. Eyes that were staring directly at him.
“You alright, mate?”
If the prisoner could hear him, they didn’t respond. Tyson frowned, his eyes scanning the cage. There was nothing in it, no bed or toilet or even a chair. The prisoner was just sitting on the floor, legs folded beneath them, staring back at him.
“This is fucked up…”
“This is fucked up,” the prisoner repeated, in a perfect imitation of his own voice. For a moment, he actually thought he’d just heard a recording played back, but they continued speaking. “You can credit Mason for this.” They were still speaking in his voice.
“So you can hear me. How are you copying my voice?”
“It’s not hard,” the prisoner replied. “Be careful. The golem is nearby.”
“She calls herself Haylie,” the prisoner said. “She’s not human.”
“Do not trust her,” the prisoner insisted. “She is more dangerous than she appears, and capable of infinite cruelty.”
“Whatever you say, mate,” Tyson said, looking nervously around the room. Whoever this was, he knew he definitely shouldn’t have been talking to it. “Look, I gotta—”
“Don’t talk to that thing,” Mason said from the doorway, surprising him.
“You’re back?” he asked, backing away from the mirror. As he turned to look at his employer, he noticed a harrowed look to the man, like the short trip had aged him many years.
“Yes, I… I need to get back to work,” he said. “I need to prepare.” He pressed a button under his desk, and the prisoner’s cell returned to a mirror.
“Prepare for what?”
“The creature,” Mason said, his voice strained. “The beast. The monster that will tear this world to pieces just to slake an insatiable thirst.”
“I’m sorry, what are you on about?”
“The Destroyer,” Mason whispered.
Next Week: Genesis