Disclaimer: Don't own MR. Unfortunately. I could use the money.
Author's notes: Thought I'd do my whacked-out altfic thing again, again. This time it's someone we all know and either don't think much of or actively dislike.
Server, contact Unit four and advise… Server, contact the director and inform her that we need sixteen more units by… Server, contact Leo's Leader and request target change to… Server, contact Dr. Batchelder….Server, message urgent, contact all Units and advise flock sighted near…Server, Contact the Director…Server…Server…Server…Ser…
Oh, please, somebody help me!
Light, dark, images, patterns, light, rainbows, nothingness, dark, black, no touch.
I am back in my tank again.
I am awake. It is cold beneath me and I am wearing a dress. It is white, and made of cotton and the tag labeled ITEX is stitched to the hem. I am not wearing socks or a jacket, and I feel my skin ripple with little bumps. They prickle and pinch and I watch a wave roll down my arms.
No, that is not me now. I am quiet for now, I am not the server. The lights are bright, and I wish they would turn them down. The light switch clicks down, and I don't concentrate, but it happens, and the people in the room make noise and run around.
The lights turn on again, and I close my eyes. It is bright. Someone pricks me with something.
I wake up in my tank. I am not the server.
I cannot hear.
"Error," I say/speak/send, "Cannot send message."
"Server, we want to talk to you."
I know this man. He is different when I touch him. I must knock on the door and wait. He likes secrets and has many of them, and must hide them all away before he lets me in. He is a doctor, and he smells of outside and blue skies and coffee. He has glasses, and brown hair. He has a name, but there are many names here, in this place, and he has three and doctor at the start and the letters P and H and D at the end. He's proud of his letters, and he doesn't like his son.
I don't like his son either. Ari smells of angry and blood and pain, and he resents me for who I am and he really doesn't like her. Ari wishes that P and H and D would like him more than her and I can't remember the man's name.
I try to access the cameras, to see who else is here. They send error messages, and then I retreat and think and try to override the error. There is nothing there, and I don't feel itchy.
There is nothing and then there is light. I feel and I see and I wonder what took so long. The camera is one button, and there is the itchy. It comes when I can see, but I like the itchy and the seeing and there is the white haired lady.
And the blond haired lady who lives by herself and always flinches when I touch her. She's got a name and it's Annaliese, and she has another name and it's Elizabeth, but only PHD knows that.
She thinks about him a lot, and I don't know what Dr. Jebediah Batchelder PH.D thinks about her because he likes to keep his secrets. Sometime I see them kissing outside his office and inside hers.
All of them look at me, I can't looklook at them I am mirrored in and darkened so I have no distractions here. My eyes are open and I see nothing, and she's wearing red today. The probability is favorable that she will visit him according to all data collated. Error margin by disconnect.
They startle. I have replied on the tail of the statement, it has been 01.32 seconds since PHD stopped speaking, and I cannot read him, and the thought monitor graphic is not connected. I can hear her.
I can never hear him unless he lets me.
There is no chart of locations, no circles of my speaking like ripples on a pond as thoughts or as pictures or as ideas. I cannot suggest anything.
"You turned off the light in the infirmary."
It was bright and light hurts and am I going to be punished. It is quiet and there is something else that I remember and it is watching what I do with my mind and where I push and pull and I don't remember how to do it on purpose, and I don't know how not to make it go accidentally and they are frowning.
"It was bright."
They leave the room.
There are buttons pushed. They were told that they would get nothing more out of me and that priority operations must be resumed or they would loose their tracking on Theflockmaximumridesflock.
Server…they say, and I listen.
I am server.
The man who tells me what it is I must do has red hair that is fading and losing its colour. He has blue eyes. He thinks of me as his little 'pet', and he calls me 'pet'. He is nice to me, and he talks different to the rest of the people I hear.
"Well, pet, howsabout we get this link of yours online and sending messages," He says to me. I do not reply. He does not expect me to reply to him, because he knows that I like the colours and the shapes and the words that the link can give me.
There is light and there is colour in the world again. The computer beeps and I can see the lines and lines of zeros and ones that it makes and sends. The waves that track my thinking begin to dip and rise. There are seven of them, and they are all different colours.
The circles are there too.
"Server, we need to send a message to unit Four." He tells me. I locate their lights on the mind map that I call to. They are there, Unit four, there are six little lights and they are moving. "Tell the leader that they are to fall back to the rendezvous."
I change the mind map, and five of the lights die. The one I see is now not white, it is blue. It is important so it is blue, though I don't know why blue things are important. The circles are blue, but they are not important. They should be red.
Unit Four leader. Fall back to rendezvous point. Fall back to rendezvous point. He is hungry. His name is Malady, and he can smell blood, and it reeks in my nose and I try to sneeze it out but all that is there is the mask that makes me breathe. I cannot get rid of the smell.
I feel his anger, and it is at me. I do not know why. I have only told him, but I do not make the orders that I must tell them, and I cannot not tell them.Fall back to the rendezvous, boys and girls he says to his boys and girls and I sigh in relief. Making them hurt for them not doing what I am told to tell them always hurts me just as much as it does them. I cannot not hurt them. I am Server, and it is what I am told to do.
I must do what they tell me.
"Server, now it is Leo's group again. They're right on the edge of your limit, but you should reach them okay. Broad message. Tell them to return to the School asap."
Hello little annoying scrap of a Server-girl.
Attention Leo group. You have orders to return to the School asap.How are you?
Busy. They've got us tracking The Flock again. Who's replacing our watch?
I hear the acceptance and assent of the group, and their lights turn away. There are six of them, too, and I have no need to make them flicker out.
I don't know. No orders sent/received.
There's nothing either one of us can say to that, so I retreat and leave him be. And I wait. I know where she is. The Flock. There is only one The Flock and it is hers. There are the other Flocks, but they are not The Flock. She is Maximum Ride.
They take me out of my tank again. This is new, but I don't think that they realise how much it hurts me to be in the light and the noise and the colour constantly. There is no coding that I can think that huts it off. I can't hide.
A man holds my hand, and he leads me along. I only come up to his hip, but I don't know if it is because he is tall for a human, or if I am short. I do not know much about human as all. I have only met the Scientists that are here, so I do not know much. I know the most about the recombinants that the scientists create.
I am one of them.
I don't know anything about me. My files are classified in the database, and if I do anything to flaunt my clearance they will null me, and I don't like the dark as much as I don't like the light. I am server, and I am meant to be in grey. That is what I was designed and recombined to do.
The tall man leads me to a room where there are other tall people. I recognize her, the Director, and she is prettier than the cameras make her out to be, though under her prettiness there is cold. She looks nice but she isn't. She only likes PHD, she doesn't like anyone else. She isn't wearing red.
PHD is there too, but, like always, I can't hear him. He looks…warm. He is kind. He smiles at me, and then he twists his mind a little around me, and then it is just a little bit quieter, and I can think for myself, not for everyone else.
There are sixteen people in the room, and I look at the floor. I am nothing to most of them. I don't know why I am here.
"Alright, we'll make this meeting quick." The Director says, "Server here has tracked the flock to just north of Lake Dunstan, and we need to make this decision quickly. Do we allow them to continue where obviously they are not yet achieving the purpose they are designed for."
I am listening to her, not just her words but what she is thinking. I watch her face and her body, and I recall every bit of information I have on this woman. What is it that she hopes to achieve? I do not know their plan. I only act on what they tell me to do. They have done something to me, Conditioned me, to make sure that I am likely to obey.
"We have several options that I want your opinions and recommendations on. One - terminate this Flock in entirety. Two – Terminate the distractions, the other experiments. Three – allow them to continue, and hope that they are soon to achieve their potential. Four – introduce our other subjects into the equation. Five – bring them back here for reconditioning."
She claps her hands, and the noise is harsh against my ears that are not used to hearing. So I stop, I turn off the bit that hears as best as I can and let their voices flow over me. They argue for a long time. I don't have any innate time sense, and there is no timer that I can look for in the Link.
But I get tired, and the voices begin to knock against the inside of my head.Little Server, how about we leave them to it for a while, hmm?
This bright thought crosses every other and I agree, just so I can get out of the noise and the bright. PHD sends the Director a look, and then he takes my hand and leads me out of the room.
He holds my hand in a nicer way than the last man. He doesn't squeeze too hard and he doesn't drag me along, and he lets me walk at my own pace. Sometimes I find it hard to put one foot in front of the other. I haven't had much practice at doing it since I became the Server and stopped being Subject 54.
He opens a door and he leads me into his office. It says his name on the door. I have my name on my tank.
He picks me up and sits me on his desk. It is covered with papers and folders. On the wall is a drawing that is captioned with 'To Jeb, the flock, from Max, age 10,' in very messy handwriting. I don't know how to write, but I can read. It is one of the skills I have 'read' off people.
He hand me a cup full of water. I hadn't realised that I was thirsty, and I drink it all down, even though I know that the drugs that they sometimes give me to drink are in cups like this one.
This doesn't have any drugs in it, it is just cool, clear water, and it feels so good when I swallow it. I finish it all very quickly, and PHD just smiles, murmurs that 'I'm a very thirsty girl, aren't I,' and refills it from the cooler by the desk.
He watches me for a while as I drink. I finish that cup, and he asks if I want another. I shake my head.
He takes a device off the desk. "Server, things are going to happen very quickly now, and I need your help."
He holds up the device. It is silvery metal covered and has two spikes poking out the end. I have seen something like it before but I don't remem…it is called a taser and it stings. They, the nasty scientists who look like the director does inside like them, and like to hurt the experiments. They liked to hurt me when I wasn't the Server.
"This is a modified taser, Server, I can see that you recognize it. It doesn't sting, this one, it's designed for another purpose. Do you know what was done to modify you, Server?" He asks me kindly.
I shake my head.
"Elaborate?" He asks me. Elaborate is a code-word that I am taught. I must give more information.
"That file is classified to me." I tell him, "And I don't remember if the Whitecoats said anything back when I was 54." I shouldn't have used the word Whitecoat, although he understands what I mean.
He strokes his chin, looking at me and thinking. He also looks at me, and he knows that I am telling the truth.
"Do you want me to tell you?" he asks me.
"Would you tell me if I said yes?" I ask in counter. I know I have overstepped the boundaries of what an experiment can say to a Whitecoat. He chuckles, and I relax.
We can help each other, I think. He smiles, he's heard that thought. He shows me the mod-taser again. "This will make your head quiet." He says, and he lets me see that he's telling the truth. Or at least that he believes that he's telling the truth. He picks up my pessimism.
"How about a demonstration, then?" He asks me. He turns the taser over in his hand and touches the little prongs to his temple. He squeezes the button.
I feel the mind that has always been hidden from me stop being hidden. It is a disconcerting thing to see and to feel, like water rushing backwards up a tap, the shield that hides his mind wavers and withdraws with a sort of sucking feeling that means I can hear him all to well. His thoughts hurt.
I'm crying. I curl up into a little ball, and then there are hands pulling my chin up, and a touch of coolness on my temple. There is a spark, and then it stops.
I blink, and I can see the world as they see it, the normal people, the humans, the Whitecoats, the people that are sometimes brought to my tank to be shown why they should give money to the School.
PHD helps me back into a chair. "See," he says with his voice in my ears. "Just makes your head quiet. Just for a while. Understand?"
I nod. "Yes," I say, because I have to say it.
"You cannot mention any of this from now on, okay Server, code J1A6B."
I know that code. My eyes widen. I've never heard it used, but I know what it means. Never tell, ever. Ever. Not even if anyone uses codes. Not even if they use this one.
"You're mostly a normal human, Server. A part of your brain was altered a little to try and give you telepathy, thought-reading, like I've got. Except it worked on you better that it's worked on anyone else, and we found out that you have some technopathy too, which is how you control the computers. Even better was that your technopathy could be used to boost your telepathic range. When we found that out, you became the Server, remember?"
I nod slowly.
"Elaborate?" He asks me.
"I remember it said/though that I could boost, that I could be the monitor network that you needed for the Erasers."
"Pretty much correct," he says to himself, more than me. "There is one other like you." He tells me.
I gasp. I've never felt anyone else. "Where?" I demand.
"Here," he says, "In the basement of the School. He runs calculations, and controls most of the environmental systems, but we have a telepathic dampener around him. You and he need to destroy the School."
"Server?" He asks, with worry in his voice. "Server, comply."
"Yes," I whisper. Destroy the School, unthinkable.
"You need to do this in specific order. Lock down Erasers. Route Eraser teams to emergency locations. Then Byte, that's the other's name, will do his part with the environmental controls. He will release all the experiments. You must try and get as many to escape as possible. Byte will set the Self-destruct after 10 minutes. You will have five minutes to pull the emergency escape and get as far away as possible. Understand?" He asks.
"Yes," I whisper. "Firewalls?" I question, "Synchronisation?"
He blinks at me in a way that tells me he has got his thought-reading, telepathy back. Then he nods in understanding.
"There will be a virus…" I wince. Viruses are nasty things. "Named Lion'sDen. I will leave you an uplink to each other. Neither you nor Byte will access it until I give you the signal to act. I will say 'Phoenix', and you will do this. Understand?"
I nod. "Yes," I say.
I'm linked to Byte some time later, when I'm back in my tank and it's hard to think like I did with PHD.
Byte is crazy, disjointed, and I wonder if I'm like that. I think I am, but I have no way to know. Either way, he is company, and we talk a little, hiding out link in files that have nothing to do with anything, and everything to do with nothing. Noone loves the circles and the waves and the ones and zeros as much as I do. I ask Byte is he's a one or a zero, and he replies that we are a one-zero.
I laugh, because it's funny.
He doesn't answer my question.
I return to my duty, with RedhairedMan as my watcher and teller, and I listen to Malady and Blaze and sometimes I watch Leo because I can, and I wonder what he did so his father doesn't love him as much as he loves her. Maybe because he's an Eraser, but I know he wasn't always, he wasn't born like we are, because Byte passed me the file.
Byte had my file. I haven't taken it from him.
Malady calls me soon after the RedGrayHairedMan goes away. There is nothing he needs to report except the loss of one of his squad – Esperanza. She is/was old. I make a note, and I send it, and I acknowledge it sent to Malady. He snarls, and I wait for the smell to leave.
There is a click, sometime later and I am suddenly listening to people speaking.
It is an audio feed, from a remote device, and then PHD's voice catches in my 'ears'. I cannot hear as Server.
They are arguing, though I do not know who they are.
A door slams, and the feed crackles out.
I do not know what has just happened, but 'Phoenix' has not been said, so I file it away in the back of my mind.
Byte says nothing.
Soon. We will do this. Soon.
One day, I do not know when for I never bother to keep track of time, he will say it.
He will say Phoenix and the fires will burn.
It has been quieter than usual, I am sending less communications traffic, and there are only a few incoming things I have to watch out for. There are 104 lights on the board and all of them are inside the circles, and none are doing something that I would have to stop.
I hate blanking minds, turning them from light into quiet, from noise into dark until they stop fighting, and I can let them go. Sometimes they never stop fighting, and the light goes out forever. They are Erasers, and they are born to fight, but I can beat them – they do not know how to back down and I cannot.
It is my Duty and I am Server, and there is so much that I have been told to do and never questioned.
I'm starting to question things now, an ability I never had before. I'm questioning, I'm learning, I'm remembering. I see the entire plan the same as I did before, but now I comprehend it.
The Erasers are setting themselves up to get the Flock for once and for all.
Leo is back. He doesn't like me, because of what I am, but then, he doesn't like himself for what he is so we get along nicely when he isn't in a mood that involves the taste of iron and hate.
Leo's squad was taken off tracker duty, because Annaliese, who is today wearing a red shirt, knows that Leo is obsessed with getting Max and killing Fang.
He will mess things up, and she fears it.
He comes into the Linkroom when I am not busy, and RedHairedMan decides to go and get one of those chalky drinks they call coffee. Leo knows how to flick the switches for audio, and he does.
"Hello, little Server." He says to the microphone.
Hello Leo I say to his head.
He sits down in the chair and swings like a circle and the three year old that he was.
"Do you remember being subject 54?" he asks me after I begin to think he came in here just to scare RedHairedMan. Because he'd do that.Yes
"You're in a sensible mood, aren't you?" he says.What?
"Usually you're crazy," he explains with a smile. "Not bloodthirsty crazy or angry crazy like me but genius crazy like someone who can't get all her ideas to slow down into a sensible sentence."
I think about this for a while and three seconds.
He doesn't say anything for a few minutes and I pull up his file again. Ari Batchelder is many things, but most of all, he's the product of what was done to him. He's not bad, but most four year old don't get taught how to kill and how to use some of the most sophisticated weaponry in the world.
I really am less crazy.
I have someone to talk to now, someone who understands me in full flow, someone who can help me with the shielding of my mind that I never knew I needed.
"What do you remember about being 54, little Server?"
Ari is nearly eight. How old am I? How old is Byte? What does it matter? How long have I been here. If I was a normal little girl, what would I be doing right now?
I'm nine says Byte. You're ten.
I remember my cage. I tell Ari.
Thank you I tell Byte.
I remember being called 54, and not much else. There was a little girl next to me called 62. There was the net on my head, and the needles and the tests. I say to Ari.
"It's not fun being one of us. With all we are. We're supposed to be better – stronger, faster, smarter. We're experiments, but we're the successful ones."
The School loses on average 60 experiments – all types – every month. Byte says.
"Not as successful as The Flock." Ari says bitterly.
You're the first of your type. I tell Ari. You can fly. You're free to see the world outside and feel the sun on your skin. You can eat what you want, drink what you want, and think for yourself. And you know what's going on, unlike some people I can think of and hear think.
Ari smiles, and his head lights up like the Floodlights outside. "Thank you, little Server. That's probably one of the smarter things anyone's said to me. The Erasers say 'get over it', and Dad," he snorts, "Dad doesn't care."
I'm a genius, you know.
One: Lockdown Erasers.
Two: Route Eraser Teams to Emergency Locations
Three: Flee order to Experiments
Four: Emergency Escape
Server Complies, code J1A6B
I have my orders.
One: Lockdown Erasers.
It's too easy. They're all together, in the kennel, some already asleep, but most gathered in the commons or in the kitchens. It's late, and they're bored.
I know them all. They know me – they've talked to me, talked back to me, and acknowledged my orders. Some I've had to hurt, and I see it as a swirling grey around their light. They're marked.
And they'll do what I say.
Sleep, I say to their minds, their lights go grey, and they sleep.
Someone might notice that things are not right, someone might try to stop me, so I reach beyond my tank to the door to the linkroom. I can think now, and I can plan. I will do this.
I am changing.
Close, I tell the door. Lock. It closes and it locks. I will protect myself. I will escape and I will live.
Ari looks around at the door in surprise and realises that the dead-bolted door has locked and that he is stuck in the room – with it's reinforced concrete walls and masses of communications equipment. He's stuck with me and he can't get out.
Two: Route Eraser teams to Emergency locations.
There are twelve teams out now, and a few agents, but the agents aren't my concern. The teams, but more important, their leaders are inside the circles. I reach for the twelve minds, familiar as part of my training. I call.
All Eraser Teams, All Eraser Teams. Report. Report.
The team leaders freeze in surprise in my hearing. Most of them are hunting the Flock. Why must they stop?
"Server!" Says Ari. "What's going on?"
Malady the angry. Fluke the lucky. Spidey the arachnophobic. Crush, who is missing two fingers. Rasputin spent time in Russia. Dusty who got stuck in the airvents. Echo, who had a twin. Sweep, whose eyes never stop moving. One-Ear. Rage, who killed his lover. Mud the clumsy. Longdrop, who fell down a cliff.
I know them and their stories. I know their files. They must be familiar
Route to Emergency locations immediately. Acknowledge.
The teams, especially those who track the flock, snarl in defiance. They hunt. Erasers don't give up a hunt.
But I must obey orders, and I have a weapon in my arsenal that they cannot refuse.
I send them pain.
Their lights go muddy-grey, and flicker. I stop.
"Server?" says Ari. "Server! What's happening! Why have you locked the door?"
Sleep I tell him guiltily, and he falls to the floor. I will wake him before the self destruct, and maybe he will escape. He is only seven, and two and a bit years younger than me.
I'm sorry Leo, I half murmur.
He could destroy my feed, I tell myself.
Byte snorts, and then tells me he's released the electronically locked cages.
This is something I haven't done since I was one of them. I reach out for the muddy grey lights of the experiments in the four wings that house them.
Flee! I order. Run. Escape. The Erasers are all asleep. I'm laughing. The School will self destruct and all the Whitecoats and their pointies will burn!
The muddy grey lights move, most of them scrambling into corridors and towards freedom. The few Whitecoats that stood in their way I'd quickly touch-flick away and they'd fall where they were, for the experiments to fall over in the darkened corridors. Nothing, almost nothing was working anymore, because Byte is stopping the systems and I am stopping the people.
Then Byte uploads Lion'sDen, and the virus is like being tasered by a hundred Whitecoats all at the same time. I flicker and I jump and then I begin to lose my eyes and ears and arms and legs. There's fuzzy and bit by bit it's dying. Everything's dying.
I hear one thing.
Self Destruct Armed. Twenty Minutes to detonation.
Byte, we have to get out of here now.
All Experiments, you have only twenty minutes.
Fear tingles up my spine and then the power begins to flicker to my tank. I can't stay in here, because I need power to flick the emergency escape, not just the backup batteries. If I'm stuck in here I'll either suffocate – there's only a few minutes of air in the circulation system and the fans will stop working – or I'll be boiled alive when the self destruct activates. My bunker has reinforced concrete walls which are likely to survive some of the blast, and my tank's inch thick Perspex will stop the shockwave from killing me, but they won't stop the heat.
Sorry, Byte, I have to get out of here, now.
I'm trying to save the power, Server, but I don't think I can hold it right for much more.
That's okay. Can you get out, Where will I meet you?!
I'll try, once everything's done. I'll meet you to the south. You'll find me, and I'll find you.
I reach out in the half-dark and in the flickers I know where the emergency escape is.
Then the dying world-thought-tech I'm in flickers it's last and the systems that are built for me and from me let me go.
Ten Minutes to Self Destruct detonation.
I'm lying on the floor, covered in the nutrient gel and the shards of Perspex that came from my now ruined tank. When I open my eyes it's quiet – the power is gone and the Whitecoats are in a state of not-quite-dead-but-mostly-so in the corridors.
The hand in front of my face looks wrong, and my vision is shifty and filled with bright lights, but I push myself to my feet with a lot of trouble.
I force my way towards it, and fall short, tripping over a huge body. Ari.
I sit up and I try to focus on his face, but it's blurry and I can't quite do it, so I focus on his mind.
Leo! Wake up.
I don't want to he whispers.Now!
He jerks awake, and pulls me off him with one huge paw. I'd never noticed before just how big Erasers are, but….
"What's going on!" he growls, shaking me.
"Self destruct," I say pathetically. He snarls, and still holding me one-armed, he stands and stalks his way over to the huge door. He types in his code, but of course it doesn't work. I locked the door down.
I reach out and fight with the door mechanism for a while. For too long. Ari shifts impatiently, and I concentrate harder.
It clicks into submission, but I'm so sleepy.
I'll just…Server, wake up!
Byte…I'm tired… I'm whining.
I can't get out, Sorry Server.
I waited too long to try. It's okay. I've got just enough power left to talk to you, and then I'll sleep.
No! I say You're my first friend. You can't.
You're not going fast enough. Tell Leo you're not going fast enough.
Bye Server he whispers
I'm awake, and Ari's running down a hall, still holding me.
Five minutes to self-destruct detonation.
"We're not going fast enough," I say into Ari's shirt. He's thrown me over his shoulder to run, and I'm bumped about. The self destruct would flatten most of the Badwater Basin if there was anything to flatten but sand and desert rock.
We can't run that far in five minutes, I can barely run at all. But that's okay, because then I'll be with Byte.
Ari doesn't answer, just bursts through another door into the biggest open space I've seen. And still it's inside. There are jeeps. And I understand. Maybe
Ari dumps me into the back of a jeep. "Make the car start!" he yells.
Obediently, I tell the car to start, and just as obediently it does. I don't bother asking why – Ari doesn't want to die.
I don't want to die. Even though Byte and so many others will.
I can't leave without his help, and he can't leave without mine.
The tyres screech as Ari drives up to a metal wall. "Open the garage door!" he yells.
I blink. What?
Ari points to a box on the concrete. I think at it – the garage door in front begins to lift slowly out of a groove in the ground. It opens easily, but not that easily, and I'm already so tired.
I'm not so good at this when I'm outside my tank
I'm so sleepy.