A/N: Alright. So. Altered Carbon is a new Netflix Original Series that I HIGHLY recommend to anyone and everyone who enjoys Cyberpunk, futuristic settings, Sci-Fi, and the most depraved pile of debauchery I've ever seen on Netflix.
That said, if you haven't seen Altered Carbon, you may not want to read this piece. It is SPOILER-HEAVY! Honestly, without watching the show, you probably won't understand most of this either, because its an Alternate Ending of the Show's Season 1 Ending as well.
WARNING: Extremely Dark Piece! Like "I have no mouth and I must scream" levels of Dark!
She wakes up. That's the first clue that something has gone wrong. She wasn't supposed to wake up. Reileen Kawahara comes back to life with a sharp exhale of air, her eyes snapping open and her head flying up. The rest of her body doesn't move with her though. Her arms do not come up in a defensive stance, her legs refuse to respond to her efforts to slide them back so that she's offering the smallest profile she can.
This is the second clue that something has gone wrong. Everything below her neck is completely unresponsive, and when she looks down at herself, she finds she's in some sort of solid latex contraption, her body tightly packed into the form-fitting outfit, melted down onto the stone platform she finds herself held to. She's on her elbows and knees, not an enviable position at all.
All of this… it's confusing enough, but combined with what she KNOWS, Reileen doesn't quite understand what's going on. The last thing she remembers is the feel of the heated muzzle of her gun, pressed up against her neck by her brother. He was going to end it. She'd MADE him end it, telling him that she was never going to change, that she was never going to give up on him.
Rei hadn't necessarily wanted to die. Not Real Death anyways. But she'd accepted it, right there at the end. Her backups were corrupted, her clone bodies all either destroyed by that Ortego bitch are ruined by the malware Takeshi had managed to download into her systems. The body she'd had when she died was the last one. And the plasma bolt had gone right through her neck and through her stack, she was quite confident that her big brother hadn't missed something like that. She'd felt the searing pain, before it was all over and there was nothing but darkness.
She'd also… she'd felt something more, now that she thought back to it. He'd been apologizing, his voice sounding broken as he prepared to pull the trigger… and she'd… she'd been unable to respond because somehow, someone had been backing her up. When Tak shot her through the stack, she'd just been coming out of the download, unable to tell him what was happening before he'd fired her gun.
How… how was that possible? Someone had hijacked her upload process? They'd not only done that, they'd somehow gotten her genetic code in order to make this clone body she was currently in. And they'd managed to copy her consciousness, right before her brother had attempted to grace her with Real Death. That was… shocking, to say the least. And if it were under better circumstances, it might even be a good thing.
But her current situation could in no way be construed as 'better circumstances'. She was trapped, completely and utterly trapped, and she had no idea who had her or what they wanted. What the hell was this?
"There you are. That took a while, but hey, experimental technology, right?"
Reileen's head snaps to the side, her eyes tracking towards the surprisingly familiar voice. It's no one she knows on a personal level… but she recognizes the grinning man standing across the room from where she's trapped, nursing a glass of liquor as he is.
"You… how is this possible?"
She tries her best to keep her calm, even as Isaac Bancroft chuckles and sips from his glass, before slowly making his way towards her, a meandering, casual walk as he eyes her with considerable satisfaction in his eyes.
"Truly? Come now, Reileen. I'm sure with your impressive intellect, you can figure it out. How is this possible? The Bancrofts are the richest family of Meths on Earth. Our resources are limitless, our reach is never-ending. The technology is experimental, certainly… but plucking a copy of your mind from your body right before the end… ah, that was simply a matter of timing. And with the hidden cameras I had placed in your personal quarters, gauging that perfect moment was oh so easy."
It didn't make sense. Isaac Bancroft wasn't quite the simpering young fool that his father wanted him to be. The boy wasn't a boy at all, at over forty years old. More than that, he had aspirations to become more than just his father's son, and Reileen was aware of how far he'd gone in doing so. But this? This seemed completely beyond the boy's means. And she rather disliked being talked down to by a child, when she had persisted for over two hundred and fifty years in this galaxy.
Gritting her teeth, Reileen instinctively attempts to curl her fingers into fists, but finds herself unable to. Her hands are straight in the thick latex binding her down to the stone platform she's on, and with her elbows touching said platform, they're held up in front of her, her palms turned in towards her body. She's trapped, as much as it infuriates her.
"Where's your father, Isaac? This was his doing, wasn't it? Him or that snake you call a mother. Bring him out boy, and I swear if he's done anything to my brother I will personally ensure the remainder of his existence is a painful and agonizing one."
Even in her current circumstances, Reileen is not without anger, not without rage. She channels that into intimidating the boy before her. As intimidating as one in her position can be. Isaac stands there, staring at her with wide eyes for a moment, his mostly-empty glass held loosely in one hand. For that long moment, Reileen begins to think she's got him right where she wants him. Then, the man bursts out laughing and she's left gritting his teeth as he doubles over completely, busting a gut and slapping his knee with his free hand.
When Isaac pulls back up finally, she gives him her best death glare. Considering the centuries she's had to practice, it's quite good. It does nothing to affect the Bancroft boy though. Instead, he simply gives her a casual, calm smile as he sets down his glass on a nearby table and then moves to stand before her.
"You truly don't know? Truly? I thought you might be able to put it together, after everything. But no, you underestimate me and my family even now, don't you? That was your first and final mistake, Reileen Kawahara. You wanted me for my influence, for my power, for my resources and my wealth… and you didn't stop to consider just how I achieved the things I did. You thought me easily manipulated. Controllable. And convincing you that that was true was… laughably easy."
She's not one to take being condescended to lightly. She'd killed for less than the boy's insults. Of course, she's not quite capable of taking action in this moment. Instead, all Reileen can do is snarl at Isaac Bancroft.
"Speak sense, boy!"
Spittle flies out of her mouth as she rages, and some of it smacks into the boy's cheek. His smile drops and he reaches up to wipe it from his face. A satin, gold-embossed handkerchief comes out of his back pocket a moment later and he cleans his hand as he looks at her with a surprisingly menacing stare of his own.
"Watch your mouth, bitch. Or I'll watch it for you."
No one had talked to her like that for quite a long time. As such, it was fairly understandable that Reileen's reaction to his words was to collect as much spit as she could and spray it right into the upstart boy's face. For a moment, time itself stands still as Isaac processes this. Then, there's a fist in her face and Reileen cries out involuntarily as pain lances through her abruptly dislocated jaw.
A moment later, the enraged Bancroft is stuffing a ball gag into her mouth, and through the pain, Reileen isn't quite able to take advantage of the chance to bite at his fingers. Instead, she finds herself silenced in moments, the agony from his haymaker only amplified by the gag now stretching her dislocated jaw apart.
She's no stranger to pain though. She's lived fairly decent life the last two centuries, but that doesn't mean she hasn't had her share of ups and downs. She's died more than once after all. Isaac pulls back and lets out a loud sigh, even as he cleans up her last act of defiance.
"You, my dear, are a singularly infuriating individual. This is but the latest of your offenses against me. Still, now that I'm the only voice in the room, I suppose I can answer your questions. You asked where my father and mother were, did you not?"
Reileen just glares, not willing to demean herself with even a nod in the boy's direction. She does catch the way he says 'father' and 'mother' though, and Isaac's grin is quite the sight to behold, as she gets a sickening feeling in the pit of her stomach.
"Why, didn't you hear? Laurens Bancroft and Miriam Bancroft have been arrested. 'Father', as it turns out, is a murderer. And so is 'mother'. But then, you already knew that, didn't you?"
Ah. Her brother's work, no doubt. He was always a sentimental fool. She just hadn't expected him to remain one after over two centuries on ice. So then, all of her plans had been exposed. Her machinations in regard to both Bancrofts had brought them down with her. Laurens and Miriam would go to jail.
It was actually a little satisfying, regardless of her current situation, to know that. To know the pair would spend time in prison, that was good. Her brother had won and no matter their differences, Reileen was happy for him. Still, if Laurens and Miriam were out of the picture, that meant…
"Ah, I see the light of understanding in your eyes now. Yes. My 'father' was so impressed with my efforts to emulate him that he made sure to sign over everything to me on his way to the slammer. I happily took everything he offered. I am now the head of the Bancroft Family. The fool has no idea what he's actually done. But then, neither do you. Neither does your brother. It's rather amusing, isn't it. All of you believing I had such an… archaic way of thinking. That was what you called it, yes? Honor?"
Blinking, Reileen tries to process what he's saying. She'd said that, yes, but it had been about Laurens, not Isaac. What was he talking about?
"Still haven't figured it out? My dear, dear girl. You underestimated me, but perhaps I've overestimated you, hm? Do I truly have to spell it out for you?"
It was… it was just out of reach, but she was close to an epiphany. He was… he had… Reileen's eyes go wide as it finally all clicks into place. She stares at the 'boy' before her in mounting horror, even as his smile spreads from ear to ear.
"There it is. Yes, you've got it now. When you look at me, when anyone looks at me… they see Isaac Bancroft. Isaac Bancroft is all this world will know from now on. But in truth, my son has been dead since you tried to blackmail me. I am Laurens Bancroft, double-sleeved right before he committed suicide that day in his study, right before his back up. My double didn't kill himself to forget what he'd done, you stupid cunt. He killed himself so that our plan… MY plan, could come to fruition. So that we could take our revenge on you, for your audacity, for your belief that you could BLACKMAIL A BANCROFT!"
Everything makes far more sense now. Reileen had actually wondered at just how easy it had been to force Laurens to put his influence behind killing Six-Five-Three. Even then, he must have been planning this. All of it… she'd played into his hands and he'd used her overconfidence, her certainty that he didn't remember against her. The original Laurens had been so cold-hearted and ruthless that he'd erased his own son from existence in order to double-sleeve into the boy's birth sleeve. Then, he'd killed himself so that he would forget, allowing his double to conduct the entire symphony of events from behind the scenes.
She'd believed she was in control the entire time. That was the not-so-funny part. While people like Ortego and the other ants that Takeshi had gathered had proven annoying in more than one way, she'd been confident in her superiority over them. What were these children to her, an immortal being? She'd bought into her own hype, that much was obvious now. Leung had worshipped her as a Goddess, and she'd allowed that to convince her she WAS one.
At the same time, she'd forgotten to take into account the other 'deities' all around her. The majority of the Meths were almost as worthless as Grounders. And she'd lumped Laurens in with them, like a complete and utter fool.
"You understand now. I can see it in your eyes. That's good. That's very good."
Laurens, wearing Isaac's face, lets out a powerful exhale of air, his nostrils flaring as he smiles grimly.
"There were some things I didn't know of course. Miriam's betrayal for instance. I was sure that you HAD drugged me, but I never suspected that my wife would be the introduction vector. And all because you had such leverage over her. All because she'd murdered an unborn child in the womb, made from my seed. I will admit, it took every bit of my self-control to keep from murdering her right there in the atrium when the truth was finally exposed by Lizzy and your brother. It was a very close thing."
Looking upon Isaac Bancroft with entirely new eyes, Reileen slowly begins to realize just how bad of a situation she's in. What does he intend for her? She truly doesn't know. That… perhaps she could pledge her service to him. Perhaps he would accept her apology if she appeared subservient and respectful. Then she could make her plans and, with a healthy respect for his intellect, she could finally deal with Laurens Bancroft once and for all.
The only problem with that was the ball gag currently in her mouth. And the pain still lancing through her face thanks to her dislocated jaw.
"You know, I have a back up of her as well. Miriam, I mean. I suppose I suspected that she wouldn't remain free. I didn't know what she'd done, but I knew she'd done something, and all things considered, it was a day for being exposed. Alas, now I'm quite sure I don't want that woman at my side as my wife. Perhaps I'll find another way to utilize her."
A word like 'utilize' had Reileen subconsciously perking up. And how exactly would he utilize her? Isaac-Laurens notices the look on her face and chuckles darkly.
"Oh no my dear. You're not going anywhere. Do you not recognize the piece I've recreated? I've made you into ART."
Confused, Reileen looks down at herself, at her forced pose. While she does so, Isaac-Laurens strides across the room and tears a drape down, exposing the sculpture behind it and drawing Reileen's gaze. Her eyes go wide again as she takes in the familiar piece. It's a sculpture made of complete latex, of a woman atop a stone altar, down on her elbows and her knees, her back arched and her ass jutting up into the air.
The woman is faceless, or at least, masked. There's a hood over her head, skin-tight and covering her features. Except, that sculpture is not a real woman. It's solid latex, from what Reileen knows. And about a century ago, it was the most sought-after art piece on Earth. Until one Laurens Bancroft snapped it up.
"Ah, good. You recognize it. Fleeting Freedom, I believe the artist called it. Her name… her name escapes me, but it's not that important, now is it? The number of people who remember her has dwindled to near nothing. She made this particular piece with the intention of creating a social commentary on stacks and immortality. She believed we trapped ourselves on this plane by switching from body to body. A religious nut… but a talented artist, wouldn't you say?"
Chuckling once more, Isaac-Laurens leaves the latex sculpture behind, once again approaching Reileen where she's locked in place atop an identical stone altar. For the first time since she woke up, the woman of Asian descent is painfully aware of her shaved head. This body didn't have an ounce of hair on it, not atop her head or anywhere else for that matter.
Though it causes her literal pain to do so, Reileen tries to speak, both through her fucked up jaw and the ball gag stretching her lips apart.
"Sorry… sorry, what was that? Did you want to say something? Ah, that's too bad. My dear, dear girl. There's nothing left to say. I suppose I could tell you that I have no interest in taking out any of my anger towards you on your brother. Takeshi Kovacs has nothing to fear from me, so long as he stays out of my way."
That brings Reileen a bit of relief… until Isaac-Laurens reaches into his pocket and pulls out a stack, glowing with life.
"Though, he may in fact come back this way at some point. After all, I do have his precious lover. Quellcrist Falconer… a stupid name for such a pivotal figure. Still, having the mind of the woman who created stacks in my back pocket is too valuable to give up. And if Takeshi does come for her… well, I'll deal with him then. I must thank you for saving her mind, all those centuries ago. I'm sure she'll be quite useful."
Reileen's eyes are wide again, and she screams in anger as she strains her neck. No other part of her body will respond to her. All she can do is roar through the gag, through her dislocated jaw. The pain gives her focus… but it doesn't help her to escape, even as Isaac-Laurens grins and slips Quell's stack back into his pocket.
Then, he's climbing up onto the stone altar beside her. His hands slip behind her head and Reileen does the best she can to fight him. With nothing below her neck available to her, the best that the former Envoy can do just isn't enough. The thick latex hood that'd been laid against her shoulder blades comes up. It matches the one on the sculpture across the room, even as Isaac-Laurens forces it over her head, despite her struggles.
The ball-gag doesn't come out as he pulls the latex mask together, his finger touching the bottom of the seam and slowly coming up. The more his finger moves, the less movement Reileen finds herself with. First, its her neck that stops moving. Then her chin won't even respond. He slides the way right up to under her nose, and then looks down at her from above, smiling wickedly at her with his son's face as she looks up into his eyes, a mixture of pain, hate, and fear in her gaze.
"Not to worry. This installation cost me a pretty penny, but it comes with some… advantages. Your body will be sustained. You will not need to eat or drink, nor will you have any bodily waste. You will of course be aware of every second of the rest of your eternity as my art, but you will not wither away. You will not decay. And you will not heal."
The pain in her still-dislocated jaw spikes as if to remind her of its existence, and involuntary tears well up in Reileen's eyes as she glares up at her captor.
"Of course, the sculpture is also equipped with VR. If I wish, I can pull you into a construct and we can have some… fun together. Ah, there's the hope in your eyes. Do you think I don't know what Envoys are capable of? No, we'll give it a decade… possibly several. Then, we'll see just how grateful you are to be able to move again, even if it's not real. Doesn't that sound fun?"
All she can really move is her eyes and her nose at this point. Her pupils, dilating with fear and hate and a thousand emotions dart back and forth, while her nostrils flare in anger. Isaac-Laurens simply smiles at her one final time… and then pulls the seam the rest of the way up, his finger sliding along the bridge of her nose, all the way up to what used to be her hairline.
The world goes dark and silence fills the void of pitch black space as Reileen loses all ability to move.
Suddenly there's pressure on her shoulder, through the latex. The heavy hand slides from her shoulder, down her arched back, and up to her ass, running over the curves of the skintight latex showing every bit of her feminine curves.
"They said you would be able to feel. They also said you would be able to hear me. I do hope that's true. You'll be gracing the atrium of my home for as long as I care to have you there. I expect you'll be the subject of many a conversation, as I show off my exquisite, rare piece of Twenty-Third century art. Goodbye for now, Reileen Kawahara. Think upon your sins. Think upon your mistakes."
The pressure on her ass disappears and the muffled voice grows quieter as Isaac-Laurens walks away from her, until there's nothing but the silence, nothing but the void. Reileen can no longer widen her eyes. She can barely even breathe through her nose. She cannot move a single inch.
In the end, trapped in the high-tech latex suit as she is, all Reileen can do… is scream, the noise muffled by both the ball-gag and the hood. No one will hear her. No one can.