It was a beautiful summer day. The sun shined down on a meadow of emerald green grass. Puffy white clouds drifted slowly across a baby-blue sky. The leaves on the tree rustled teasingly and somewhere a brook was bubbling to itself. The little girl sighed and leaned back on the grassy ground. The sun was warm on her face and the scent of wildflowers filled the air. She dipped her toes into the gurgling brook and giggled at the wet sensation. Something in the brook caught her eye and the girl crawled to her knees and stared down She put a little hand in the water and curled it around a large river-stone.
The little girl pulled it out of the river and stared at its lustrous blue surface, so smooth, so perfect.
"It's a dream."
She turned her head around and stared at the man.
"It's a dream," he said, "and that's not a river-stone."
The little girl looked back at her catch.
A bloodied skull stared up from her hand.
"Her REM just spiked."
"That's the third singularity today, mark it and note it."
The lab tech nodded and punched in some commands. The man in a business suit surveyed the young girl strapped in the metal chair. Wires attached to her body led to strange machines that buzzed quietly in the background. He had a visitor tag attached to his coat lapel and four guards around him. "REM spike?"
The attractive young woman in a more relaxed suit smiled reassuringly, "It's one of the indicators of telepathic activity. When Subject 26 is asleep, the Science Department is able to use equipment to monitor her brain waves and embed mental conditioning."
It was one of the lab geeks who answered this one, "Unconditioned telepaths are a bit like nitro. Very powerful and very unstable. The mental conditioning allows us to mold Subject 26. We give her rules, she can't do that, she can't do this. We place safeties on her so she won't fly loose and go psycho, as well as structuring her mind to obey the orders of whoever owns her."
The man nodded thoughtfully, cold eyes mulling it over. "Are these permanent?"
"Nothing's ever truly permanent," the head geek admitted, "But you can build layer upon layer of conditioning, each layer increases the integrity of the layer before it exponentially. It normally takes about five sessions to lay the groundwork of a reliable conditioning; this is Subject 26's twenty-sixth session, sort of a special occasion if you know what I mean."
The young woman leaned forward, "I'll be honest with you Mr. Paahl, most of our candidates don't survive their fourth session. The fact that Subject 26 has done so is well, exceptional."
The man nodded and stared at the little girl, "What do you plan to do to her?"
"Well, if we can get her to session thirty, at that point she'll be our go-to baby. We'll collect DNA samples and send them to a cloning facility specially engineered to support telepathic embryos. With any luck, we'll have cloned telepathic commanders to command our newest variant of Replica soldiers by the end of next year. See the Replica soldiers are sort of like biological robots. They have conditioning that lets them obey voice orders but telepathic commands are much more effective, in fact-"
"I'm well aware of your Replica soldiers," Mr. Paahl interrupted brusquely, "That's why I'm spending well earned money here instead of at some hack-job plant in China."
"Of course sir, I meant no offense."
Mr. Paahl nodded. "What you're doing here…is it legal?"
"Is it legal? Did her guardians sign some sort of release or something similar?" He smiled coldly, "If I'm going to invest a small fortune in your company, I want to be sure I won't be waking up to lawsuits in the morning."
"Mr. Paahl," the woman smiled teasingly, "Armacham is a law abiding corporation, everything we do here is legal down to its very technicalities."
"As long as it stays that way." Mr. Paahl muttered, "As a woman," he said suddenly, "Do you feel any guilt?"
"Well I'm given to understand females possess some misguided sense of maternal instincts so I'm curious: do you feel any pity when you stare at the little girl you've condemned to be a product for the rest of her life?"
The woman frowned, "I don't see how that's relevant to our-"
The door leading into the lab blew off its hinges. Lab techs yelped and the guards stumbled. Two men in dark colored combat suits and helmets burst in through the smoke. They leveled compact RPL submachine guns at the disorientated guards and opened fire. Blood splattered the walls. Then in unison, the two men turned their guns on the lab techs.
The rest of their pleas were drowned out in the thunder of bullets.
The woman gasped and turned towards Mr. Paahl. Something sharp drove through the flesh beneath her left breast and into her heart. Strong hands caught her and held her still as blood seeped from her mouth.
"My question was relevant because I was wondering whether to let you live out of respect to someone much better than you. But I think she'll forgive me for this." Mr. Paahl wrenched the combat knife out of the woman's chest and let her dying body collapse to the ground. He wiped the bloodied knife on his well-tailored suit.
"What took you so long?"
One of the men took off his helmet, revealing a face identical to Mr. Paahl's, "Sorry Alpha One, Alpha Three underestimated the facility's security."
The third man took off his helmet, he too had Mr. Paahl's face, "The security here is a joke…Alpha Two slowed me down."
Alpha One shook his head, "You two are both a waste of good genes."
"Relax One," Two unslung a duffel bag and slid it towards him, "Look, a change of clothes."
One unzipped the bag and pulled out a combat suit identical to his brothers, "Thanks, I was feeling naked with just the concealed Kevlar." He quickly suited up, "Alright, buckets on."
Together all three clones sealed their helmets over their heads, and then they turned and walked towards the little girl.
Alpha One knelt in the pool of blood around her small body and gently grasped her shoulders. "Ma'am, can you hear me? We're going to get you out of here."
The little girl stared at him with sightless green eyes.
"She's in Nightmare Land." Three muttered, "always did hate those conditionings myself."
"Three you couldn't even feel hate until a year ago," Two griped, "You didn't care about those sessions because you were a meat-can."
"And you weren't, brother?"
"Both of you can it!" One hissed-
All three Replica clones stared at the girl. She frowned at them blearily, and then her eyes went blank again.
"Congratulations Al," Two quipped, "Your buckish charm brought her around for a second."
"We need to get her out of here." One said.
"Maybe we should have kept one of the brain-techs alive," Three muttered as he moved towards the equipment, "Because I don't know what half this stuff does. For all I know-"
One ripped a handful of wires out of the girl's body. Blood seeped out of small holes and sparks flew. She shuddered once and then she settled back into whatever twilight she was trapped in.
"-this is the only thing keeping her alive." Three finished.
"Sorry Ma'am," One apologized to the comatose girl, "But we need to get you out of here fast." The clone gently scooped her up in his arms, "Two, take point, Three, watch our six."
His fellow clones closed in around him and the three quickly moved down a dark corridor. With one hand still holding the girl, One activated his helmet's COM system, "Four, how's our evac?"
"Secured a transport," a voice crackled over the other end, "ran into a bit of a hitch though…the pilot didn't make it."
"The pilot pulled a gun on me, Five shot him."
"Sorry One," Five's voice drifted over the radio, "Reflex."
"Can you fly it, Four?"
"That's not reassuring."
"I read the manual...once."
"We are so dead." Two muttered. The three came to a sealed door.
"Four, just get it airborne, Three I need a demo on this door."
"Watch my back, Two." Three muttered as he knelt in front of the door. "Green wire connects to R5, place the Red on R2… Blue to R6"
"I hate it when he starts talking to himself while handling high-yield explosives," Two muttered, staring down his gun-sights at the deserted hallway.
"…and yellow to the C4 taped under Two's bed." Three finished.
"You'd better be joking-"
"Fire in the hole!"
One shielded the little girl's body and Three thumbed the detonator.
A muffled bang, no louder than the sound of someone dropping a book to the floor, and a small metal plate clanked to the floor. The explosives cut through the steel lock of the door like wire through cheese.
"Now if only I'd slipped in some potassium chloride." Three murmured, "Much better fireworks show."
Alarms began to ring. Red lights flashed and sirens wailed. Two turned towards his clone comrades.
"Call it a hunch, but I think ATC Security has uncovered our presence."
Four ATC guards in blue tac-vests and military caps came skidding around the corner.
"You there, stop!"
Two answered them with a burst from the submachine gun. The bullets danced off steel walls, forcing the guards to retreat back around the corner. The three clones retreated down the opened door. The guards returned fire, but their aim was wild and inaccurate. For his part, Two calmly backpedaled through the door, firing short bursts from the gun as he covered his brothers. One pressed the girl's body tightly against his chest and turned to Three.
Three nodded and pulled out a small detonator, "Going dark in five."
At five his finger pressed down on the trigger. There was a muted rumble and then the lights died and the sirens muted. One's visor went to night-vision; his entire world became shades of green.
"We've got two minutes before their back-up generators kick in." Three stated.
"Hey, bet they don't know we can see in the dark." Two whispered over his radio.
A second later he fired into the dark hallway. A body collapsed to the ground.
"They do now." One answered, "Alright, we got less than two minutes to bang out of here, lets move it." Together, the three clones raced down the hallway. They broke into the fire-escape stairwell and clattered up the stairs. Then it was another short dash through a blacked out office and suddenly they were outside on the roof of the facility.
"Two, pop flare."
Two pulled out what looked like an oversized revolver and pointed it up in the air. There was a crack of gunpowder and a blood-red light leaped out of the barrel and erupted into a blinding red haze in the air. A familiar noise began to grow in One's ears, a whump-whump-whump of blades slicing through air.
Four's voice crackled in his ear, "Gentlemen, your chariot has arrived." The blocky armored form of a Hind-D gunship slowly hovered to the ground. The bay door slid open and One found himself in a sobering close-up of a TG-2A mounted minigun. Five waved from the gunner's seat and jabbed his thumb backwards, the meaning clear.
Get your asses on board.
And then bullets sparked off the gunship's hull. Two and Three dropped into crouches on either side of the open door and returned fire as ATC Security teams poured out of the facility. Needing no further prompting, One leaped aboard with his precious cargo. Three followed him and then Two. As Two clambered into the bay, a stray bullet struck him in the shoulder. He let out a short yelp, the bullet knocked him off balance and he teetered backwards and then Three had him by the collar and pulled him in.
Then Five opened up with the minigun.
The TG-2A is not a very accurate weapon.
However, when one is firing a thousand rounds a minute, accuracy really doesn't matter. A stream of lead poured out of the rotating barrels as Five liberally hosed the opposition. Then the Hind lifted away and the sounds of dying men faded into the background.
"Four?" One asked, "Any sign of pursuit?"
"Well, normally this facility has four fully fueled and armed Hind-D gunships. However, I figure right about now they're experiencing technical difficulties…the iditots really shouldn't have them right next to each other, makes it so much easier to sabotage and steal." His featureless helmet swiveled towards One, "We got away clean."
"Clean? You call this clean?" Two jabbed a finger at his shoulder wound that Three was trying to bandage. Three growled and slapped the offending appendage away. He wrapped the bandage around the wound and yanked it tight, ignoring Two's yelp.
"Quit your whining, I've seen worse paper-cuts."
The TG-2A finally fell silent. Five sighed in disappointment and reluctantly removed his hands from the firing studs. "Well it was fun while it lasted." He muttered.
"At least the hard part's over," Three said cheerfully, "We got the girl and we got to clean some house in the process."
One stared at the young girl's vacant face. He waved his hand in front of her eyes, but the comatose girl didn't stir.
"No Three, the hard part's just started."
A/N: I had to get this out my system. This is the first chapter of what should hopefully be a good story, but don't expect any immediate updates. Right now I have three different stories that people are wanting me to update and I really do need to update those. The opening scene was inspired by Serenity, in case you haven't seen it, I recommend you do.
A/N: Did some minor revisions and tweakings of this chapter