Lights flashed on, bright and almost painful, waking Sylar from the freedom of sleep. No matter how much he dreamed of escaping, home or safety it was always to these same prison walls that he awoke. The three gray monotone walls zapped all color and life out of the universe; that one window of unbreakable glass always made him feel like he was trapped in a fishbowl. They'd finally figured out how to build a better mousetrap. The mouse was getting stronger though.
"Good morning, Mr. Gray," The nurse, whom he so long ago nicknamed Ratched after that old Jack Nicholson movie, punched in the code to his cell. She entered carrying some medical equipment, vials of blood she'd collected from other 'guests', some syringes containing that familiar black poison and a clipboard filled with all the personal data they'd collected on him. Her tone was polite, overly so, but he saw through that facade. It was just another trick to keep the freaks complacent. "Time for your injections."
He swung his legs around his bed; there was little he could do about what was coming next. He'd fought their treatments in the beginning, showed them every bit of aggression that was left in him to get out of it. In time he came to realize that this battle couldn't be won. They'd only tie him down, restrict his food supply, shove him into solitary for a few weeks, try any number of new torture ideas on him and only continue to force the poison into his veins in the end anyway.
He'd lost too much fighting this already, but the war wasn't over yet.
Rolling up the sleeve of his shirt, Sylar showed no emotion. He wouldn't give them that satisfaction. "If I'm a good little guinea pig, do I at least get a toy surprise like at the dentist?"
Nurse Ratched wrapped the rubber tubing around his bicep and prepared the syringe. "Don't get smart with me, Mr. Gray." Every time she spoke his name, she placed a special emphasis on it. When he first arrived at this facility, it had angered him. They'd made a note of it and used it as ammo against him ever since. It had lost some of its bite by now. In truth, he was neither Sylar nor Gabriel Gray anymore these days, but something new all together, something which these scientists and this company molded him into. "I heard what happened last Friday."
To him the days all blended together, one into the other, but he could guess what she was referring to. "You can't blame me for trying. That guard turned his back on me, left the opportunity wide open. The company's getting sloppy."
"That guard is in the hospital wing this week after what you did to him." She stabbed the needle hard into his arm, plunging the serum into him. It burned through his blood stream, a feeling he was used to by now. It would subside eventually.
The first time they tested out this special brand of poison on him, the nurse took pleasure describing in detail what it did to his body, how it destroyed the cells where his special abilities lay, killing off any abnormality and rendering him completely normal and more than a little nauseated and fatigued.
All science aside, what he knew for certain was that it hurt like hell, like a fire burning away at his insides, wasting away all his precious talents. As he lay back down, he held close to any signs of pain, not letting his captors see him crack. He was fighting a war after all. A war that was as relentless as it was physically taxing.
"I really hate to do that to you, but you are a safety concern for everyone here, including yourself." The nurse jotted down a note on her clipboard. "Have you thought about what I said last time? We have many opportunities for a man of your talents here at our company. You could be very happy as an assassin or recruiter. You just need to apply yourself more."
"Not a chance," He grit his teeth against the pain. All his life, people had been telling him to apply himself more, make an effort to do something special, be someone special. His teachers. His mother. The company. This was as far as the road to success had taken him, trapped in a cage, wasting away but defiant to the last. "I am not your trained dog. Tell the company they can kiss my--"
"Now, now, Mr. Gray. There's no need for profanity." Nurse Ratched reprimanded him as she began packing up her supplies. "If that's truly the way you feel, I suppose there's nothing more that can be done. I've held out for you as long as possible, but my supervisors are eager to move onto the next phase of your treatment, whatever that may be, either to working for them or on to termination."
"There's only two ways out of this compound. It seems you've made your choice which route you want to go." She spoke so calmly about killing him; she'd done it to others before him and would do it again after he was gone. They were not so far apart on the moral scale and in this light it was unclear which of them was the real monster. "I'm sorry it's come to this. I'll have them draw up your dismissal papers as soon as possible."
The door closed behind her, locking in place as Sylar took in the meaning of the conversation. The war between him and the company was quickly coming to a head. They were going to kill him. He knew they would eventually, but now it was definite. He watched as the nurse left the observation hallway, leaving him alone. It was only then that he let go of the scream building up inside him.
As Sylar let go of his pain and anger, he began to plan.
He would not let them win this war.
Sylar focused all of his attention on the window, willing it to break, willing it to melt into goo, willing it to freeze, willing it to do anything but stare blankly right back at him. His powers were useless with the poison running through his veins, he knew this but he never stopped trying to do what had once come so easily to him.
It had to be there, in the back of his mind, some part of him that remembered how to use his abilities, even through the haze the serum put him in. He pushed his mind to the brink before pounding on the window with his fists. Had he ever stolen super strength from anyone? He couldn't remember. There were so many deaths and it had been so long ago. Besides, he was still dizzy from that morning's session and angry over being forced to sign his own termination papers an hour ago. Signing one's own death certificate was supposed to be a metaphor but here it was all too real. At least, once he got out of there, if he ever did get out of there, he'd be considered legally dead by all law enforcement agencies.
He'd tried this before, tried escaping so many times he could barely keep track of the attempts. They'd all ended with him getting beat down, handcuffed and shoved back into his cell. For a while, he gave up trying. It was easier not to try anymore, easier to be the meek little boy who depended on his mother's approval.
Now that an even greater threat loomed on the horizon, Sylar knew he had to try again. He beat the window until his hands were black and blue, screaming with each thrust of his fist. All the while, his mind continued following the familiar processes that would have moved heaven and earth had it not been for the drugs coursing through his system.
Eventually, he exhausted himself and leaned his head against the cool glass. The headache from that morning had dissipated a while ago but a new one threatened to emerge. As he relaxed from the fight, taking in a deep breath, Sylar felt something warm and tingly on his forehead and then with very little grace, phased through part of the glass window and fell on the floor, landing hard on his stomach.
He rubbed his head where it had hit the floor and suddenly recalled a man in Vegas, a dissected brain and that wonderful phasing ability. Sylar laughed to himself, having completely forgotten he possessed this ability. The laughing broke whatever part of his brain had been subconsciously focusing on moving through the glass. He could feel the psychic hole he'd made in the glass starting to close and quickly pulled the rest of his body through, landing in a heap in the middle of the hallway.
He rolled over on his back, laughing over his success. It had taken so little, after fighting so hard all he needed to do was relax and let nature take over. Before he could celebrate further, sirens started blaring, filling the compound with light and noise. Shifting to his bare feet swiftly, Sylar chose a direction and started running. He wasn't going to let them put him back in that cage. Never again.
Following the next corridor, Sylar made a right turn. There were more holding cells here, all of them empty except for one. Stopping short, he caught his breath as he studied the small figure inside. She was all alone, huddled in the corner of her cage, dirty hair hanging loosely around her face. There was something wrong here, something very wrong about this whole place. Something that called out to him, to Gabriel, to fix it, to restore it as he had once restored timepieces.
His memory flashed back to a time when his mother was still alive, when they had argued over one of his father's antique wooden clock. He could remember himself telling her something and in the present, he mouthed the words again, "It's a beautiful piece. It just needs a little attention."
The figure shifted, pulling her hair away from her face and turned to look up at him. Those big doe eyes, the fair skin and blond hair. He took a step forward, startled by this vision from the past, the last person he expected to run into here. "Claire?!"
She opened her mouth to speak, but stopped herself short when she noticed the sirens and saw the blinking lights. Like a deer in headlights, Claire appeared to be realizing the situation for the first time. It was like she was coming back to reality, or rather, back from trying to block reality out.
"It's really you, isn't it?" He asked, surprised at how different she looked. He almost left her there. It was survival of the fittest after all and Sylar needed to get out of there if he was going to survive. Footsteps were coming from down the hall, loudly marching after him. He could hear a clock ticking the seconds away; there was no time to lose.
Then she nodded, sadly and silently, and Sylar knew he couldn't turn away. He sighed, thrusting out his hand to do some sort of damage, though he wasn't sure what he should be expecting. Nothing moved, not by phasing or by telekinesis or any other power he might have had at one point in his life.
He growled, disappointed with how rusty his abilities had gotten over the past few years. Then Sylar looked back, hoping to find something more mundane to crack this cage open. That was when he saw a nearby fire extinguisher hanging on the wall. It only took a moment to retrieve it and return to her window.
"Back up!" He shouted as he brought the metal of the extinguisher crashing into the glass, shattering it into a million pieces. It wasn't as spectacular as breaking it with superpowers, but it did the job.
Claire ducked to avoid the spray of glass and when it was over, stood there with a myriad number of questions written on her face. Before Sylar could explain his actions, either to her or to himself, he swooped in and grabbed her tiny wrist, hauling her out of there. She had gotten skinny, too skinny. Pushing her in front of him, Sylar commanded, "Run." She was too startled to do much of anything, so he tried again, "Go. Now!"
At that, Claire finally started moving, working her way through the corridors like she'd been there forever and knew every inch of the place. He'd heard that some of the company's 'guests' were taken out for walks every few months. It was their reward for cooperating and it seemed Claire had been one of these good little girls. A few more turns and they stood at the exit, the door he'd dreamt about walking through so many times.
"Locked?" He half-asked and half-stated, while panting. They were so close, he could already savor the taste of freedom. His advanced hearing was picking up the sound of security guards, at least a half dozen of them, following closely behind.
She nodded, again not speaking, after shoving her body into the door, pushing on it as hard as possible. They were stuck between an unmovable door and lots of men with big guns. This was not good.
Sylar closed his eyes, focusing all his energy on blowing the door off its hinges. Adrenaline was seeping through every pore of his body, clearing out the last of the poison and building new resources of power. Beads of sweat appeared at his brow as Sylar attempted to work his telekinesis. His hands shook, thrust out in front of him as his face scrunched up tightly, the forewarned headache finally hitting hard.
It had to work. They didn't have a choice. It was this or live the rest of their lives trapped down here, in the world of the morally gray and obviously soulless. Metal scraped against metal, the door frame shaking and shuddering, until it finally moved quicker and easier.
"Open sesame," He said, enjoying the sweetness of those words as he opened his eyes to watch the door fly off its hinges and into the yard. Sunlight poured into the doorway and every ounce of pain in his body was forgotten. As he stepped into it, Sylar felt himself warmed right down to his toes. He shot a wicked smile at Claire, "I guess I'm back in the game. Let the fun begin."
..to be continued..