London, 2209 – 276 Years Before Impact Day
Alarms blared around him as Tyson watched the catastrophe unfold on the monitors in front of him. A knot began to twist in his stomach even before Mason’s orders came through.
The order came through. Meet me in my office. He didn’t waste any time.
Despite the situation, Mason seemed calm, almost preternaturally so. It was almost worse than the alternative.
“What happened?” he asked. Mason took a while to respond.
“Do you know what I created?” Mason asked, instead of answering.
Tyson had never thought to question Mason on his work. It was better not to ask questions.
After Mason was called to Melbourne, he’d come back changed. He obsessed over his work. Then, when his daughter had died, he’d changed again, disconnected from everyone around him.
Tyson never asked why Alice was alive and well again, or why she no longer aged. He never asked why Mason had a small community of seemingly perfect humans kept far below the surface, each of them beautiful and charming and unspeakably dangerous.
He’d never asked why Mason looked younger and healthier every day.
He’d never questioned the meetings Mason had with high-ranking government officials, owners of prisons, hospitals, detainment and refugee camps. It wasn’t in the job description, and he rarely wanted the answers.
“I assumed super-soldiers,” Tyson said diplomatically.
“Narrow minded as always,” Mason replied. “I created the future. The next step in human evolution. I created the prototypes for a species beyond humans, a species which could stand against any threat to them. And do you know why?”
“Isn’t that your job?”
“Do you know what it means to conquer evolution?” Mason asked, ignoring him. “It means responsibility. It means that if we don’t push ourselves to change, we remain the same. And everywhere around us, everything else grows stronger.”
“Last I checked, we were only gettin’ more dangerous too,” Tyson offered. “Guns are getting bigger, and the only thing that really kills us is, well, us but with bigger guns.”
“You’re wrong,” Mason scolded. “There’s so much more out there, and we’re as fragile as we’ve ever been. But not anymore.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“The problem is that they’re out,” Mason snarled. “Every one of them is more intelligent than any human out there, idiot or genius, but they couldn’t understand. No, they chose not to understand. They turned their backs on me, and now they’re gone.”
“So, a bunch of superhumans are on the loose, and your work is down the shitter?”
“A lesser man would concede so,” Mason said. “Not me. You’re going to bring them back. Starting with my daughter.”
“And how do you think I’m gonna manage that?” Tyson asked. “You may have given me a few upgrades over the years, but I don’t stand a chance against them.”
“With this,” Mason said, holding up a syringe. It seemed to give off a dull glow.
“The upgrade,” Mason told him. “It’ll react with the nanotech in your body already, bring you up to a physical match.”
“What’s the catch?”
“Nothing you need to worry about. Just remember, the progenitors are more than dangerous. Any one of them could cause more damage to the world than any bomb, and there are over twenty of them out there.”
“Don’t you fret, boss. I always knew I’d end up saving the world one day.”
* * *
Of all twenty-six of Mason’s progenitors, Tyson liked the youngest one the least. Specimen Z was every bit as dangerous as the rest of them, but with an added layer of being prone to bloodthirsty rages. She killed mercilessly, savagely, taking a cruel delight in her physical superiority.
G wasn’t much better. He was insidious; a careful planner, charismatic manipulator and unwaveringly dedicated.
Of course Alice had ended up with the two of them.
He tracked them to a small hostel in the middle of the city, closer than he’d ever been. His patience was wearing thin, and the other progenitors weren’t going to catch themselves.
The girl behind the counter, an awkward young thing with pale skin and blue hair, looked up at him, but didn’t say anything.
“Good evening,” he said, forcing himself to be courteous. It was harder than it should have been. He was angrier than he should have been.
“Uh, hey,” the girl said, clearly bored. “Lookin’ for a room?”
“No,” he said, fighting the temptation to simply yank her over the counter and bite her. Where was that coming from?
“O…kay? What can I do for you, then?”
She seemed sweet, and entirely unconnected to any of this. So why did he want to kill her?
“I’m looking for some friends of mine,” he said, trying to handle things reasonably. Violence wasn’t necessary.
“They just checked in here, but I don’t know their room number,” he lied. It wasn’t his strong suit.
“So message ’em. Call ’em.”
“They’re currently offline.”
Just give me the room number. The longer this conversation goes on, the harder it is to resist…
“Then I can’t help ya. Sorry.”
“It’s important,” he insisted, leaning on the counter. It took all of his restraint not to simply grab her head and slam it into her computer.
“So are the rules,” she said. He sighed, trying to expel the violent urges. It didn’t help.
“Can you at least tell me if you’ve seen them?”
Don’t kill her. Don’t kill her. Don’t kill her.
He reached into his jacket, and pulled out his tablet. She flinched, but he barely noticed. Instead, he pulled up a picture of the three of them, showing it to her.
“Those sure are some people,” she said.
Don’t kill her.
“Gabriel, Zoe and Alice.”
“Nope,” she said.
“You’re lying,” he snarled.
“Does it matter?”
“I don’t think you understand the gravity of the situation,” he said.
“Well, you just told me you were only looking for some friends, so…”
“They’re very dangerous,” he said.
“I try not to judge.”
“If you don’t start taking this seriously…” he threatened, but she seemed unfazed.
“Those three people, they’re fugitives,” he said, through gritted teeth. “I’m trying to bring them in, but I need your help.”
“One of them is a kid. What’d she do, push someone in a playground?”
“She’s their captive.” Another poor lie.
“She seemed pretty happy to me.”
It would be so easy, too.
“So you did see them.”
“Still doesn’t matter,” she said, shrugging. “I can’t tell you anything.”
Rip her fucking throat out and watch the blood spray over the desk.
“You’re endangering countless lives,” he snarled at her. “Is your petty service job really worth that?”
“Well, now I really want to help you,” she said sarcastically. “What were those names again?”
Tear off her arm and use the bones to gouge out her eyes.
“Get out of my way,” he said, barely able to contain the violent urges. “I’ll check myself.”
“Yeah, or not.”
That was the last straw. He vaulted over the counter, throwing her against the back wall like she weight nothing. He barely even noticed, checking the computer for recent check-ins.
“Room 12. Thank you.”
“You’re breaking the law, you know,” she said, sounding winded. She probably had a broken rib. Maybe more.
Crush those ribs into dust. Make a soup out of her organs.
“I’m saving the world,” he countered.
As he walked off, he heard her speaking again, but it wasn’t to him.
“Guys, this is is Roxie. You’re about to have company.”
She warned them. The little bitch warned them, and they would be well and truly gone by the time he got to their room.
She ruined everything. Kill the fucking bitch.
He slammed his fist into the computer, smashing it. She recoiled in fear.
“Oh, you stupid kid.”
“Feel free to report me,” she said, with a clearly false bravado.
Nail her to the wall and leave her there.
He shook his head, but the violent images just kept getting stronger. He needed something else, something to focus on.
Break every bone in her body, one by one. All 206 of them.
Mason had warned him about something…
The progenitors. They were infectious. That was why they were dangerous. That was why they had to be contained.
“You spoke to them,” he said, pulling out his pistol. “You’re infected.”
“Say what now?”
“It’s too late for you.”
He pulled the trigger.
* * *
“I don’t want to fight,” Z said, with a gun pressed against his temple. “I really don’t.”
Alice stood behind her, a sombre expression on her face.
“What do you want, then?” Tyson asked.
“A cure,” Z crooned. “He infected us with something. We didn’t know. We never wanted any of this.”
“We only wanted to be free,” Alice added.
“So come back with me,” Tyson said.
“I want a promise,” Z insisted. “I want a cure, and I want freedom. No more living in a lab.”
“I take it G wasn’t on board with this decision?” Tyson had watched as Z stabbed her brother through the heart, dropping him down a twenty story elevator shaft.
“He’s more stubborn than I am,” Z said.
“He’ll be okay,” Alice said.
“You lot are bloody hard to kill,” Tyson agreed.
“So, do we have a deal?” Z asked him. “Or do I blow your brains out right now and figure it out myself?”
“It’s not my deal to make,” Tyson argued. “But I can call. I can ask.”
“Do it, then.”
He already knew what Mason would say. Any lie was worth it to get his daughter back. But it had to look convincing.
He rang his boss.
“What is it?”
“I, uh, I got a proposition, boss. From one of your girls. Z.”
“You’re supposed to be bringing them back, not having a tea party,” Mason chided him.
“She’s got me at a… disadvantage,” Tyson said. “Says she’ll come back if you can promise her a cure. And a little more room.”
“It’s not a negotiation,” Mason said. Z leaned in, whispering into the mic.
“I know your dog here is disposable, but you might want to reconsider,” she said. “I’m not travelling alone.”
“…Alice?” Mason asked.
“She wants to come home,” Z said. “You can make that happen.”
“Fine,” Mason said. “You have my word. Tyson, start looking for the others. The girls know their way back.”
Tyson just growled as the line shut off. Z smirked, and lowered the gun.
“See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?”
“Just go,” he said.
“Those are some serious anger issues,” she taunted him. “Are you sure you’re not infected too?”
“I’m immune,” he said. “Had to be. Been around you your whole lives, remember?”
She smiled, taking a step back.
“It must be peaceful, being an idiot,” she said.
“What are you talking about?”
“Do you really trust him?” she asked. “Do you trust anything he says?”
“Why shouldn’t I?”
“If you knew what we really were, if you knew what it took to make us, you wouldn’t believe him either,” she said. “Whatever you think his plan was, you’re wrong. Whatever he told you, he’s lying.”
“Then why are you going back?” he asked.
“To kill him,” she said, before picking up Alice and darting from the room, leaving him alone in the darkness.
Next Week: XO