Part Two: Larkhill
"If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction." – Twelfth Night
When my eyes opened, they saw a white light. I'm dead was my first thought. I blinked, however, and the light remained, crushing my theory.
"Victor Egan," a voice spoke evenly. "You have been charged with treason as a political activist. How do you plead?"
Struggling to find my voice, I sputtered, "I don't… I didn't do anything…"
I was dragged out of the room, spots blinking in my vision. After being pulled into a blank room with a pair of doctors wearing face masks, I was forced into what looked like only an orange waste bag for clothes.
I found myself then in a room lined with disgusting dust and dirt, reeking of decay. Another white-clad doctor came at me with a razor, shaving my head as I stared at myself in the mirror ahead, trying to comprehend what was happening through the grogginess clouding my head.
With a start I realized that in my hand I still had the Scarlet Carson. With the rush they must have forgotten to take it, I thought, almost smiling. It was the only thing I had left to hold onto, and I would protect it. If I didn't, I would surely go insane here, if this place was anything like I anticipated.
Two armed guards clenched my shoulders and led me through the grey, damp hallways, past cells with blood-red Roman numerals, most with white chalk Xs decorating the silver metal. The tops of my feet skidded over the uneven tiles, and I swallowed a yelp as the edges of the blocks tore my feet.
I was brought to a face-masked doctor with a needle, and I was allowed to stand as the man replaced a vial of my blood with a yellowish substance.
The guards brought me to a cell marked with a crimson V for room five. As they threw me into the dark, cramped space, I was helpless as the Scarlet Carson slipped from my fingers.
Something like that may seem trivial, but until you've been thrown into a place as despairing and hectic as this with nothing else to remind you of sanity, you can't possibly understand the importance of the rose.
I wasn't sure what they had given me, but my muscles were lead and my head felt like exploding with every pulse of my headache. And my flower was gone.
The floor was frigid, wet, and made of what felt like cobblestones. All I could see were the walls and the faint light peeking out from a crack beneath the door.
With the strength I had left, I pushed myself into a sitting position with my back against the wall.
I braced myself against whatever would happen because of the fluid they had injected into me. They had seemed rushed to deal with me, as if they were running out of time and people to test these things on. I didn't want to guess what all the white Xs stood for.
Suddenly, the tiniest sound floated in from outside the door, sounding something like a woman saying, "What's this?"
I peered through the crack beneath the door and saw a feminine hand pick up the Scarlet Carson.
"Give it to me, it's mine!" I yelled as loudly as my exhausted lungs would allow. It wasn't particularly polite, but I needed that rose. They might take my identity, my sanity, my personality, but I wanted this one little piece of the outside world.
"Why do you want it so much?" the woman asked, her voice sounding strangely familiar.
"Because I need it. It's all I have left," I answered truthfully.
A gut-wrenching pause followed; I wrung my hands, hoping against all odds that some heart would be left in someone working at what I deemed a concentration camp.
The door opened for a split second, flooding my cell with precious light. The Scarlet Carson flew into my hands, and I cried out in joy. When I looked back to the light, I glimpsed the somber face of Dr. Diana Stanton, a hint of relief gracing her face.
The night that followed was beyond the worst night of my life; it was a night of pure hell.
I vomited until I feared I would lose my very organs. My throat grew needles and I couldn't bring myself to swallow for fear of the pain. My muscles collapsed and I could barely move at all. It was hardly difficult to assume that they had injected the St. Mary's and Three Water's viruses into me, and this is what it felt like.
But that was just the beginning. Sutler had given me the partial vaccine, and it didn't agree with the viruses. Normally the vaccine would have helped to prevent the viruses ever entering the system, but when injected directly, they were forced to react.
My heart sped up until it felt like one constant rhythm, blood swelling in my fingers and making my headache unbearable. Then it slowed, draining my strength until I was sure I was going to die. This must have been what happened to the others, I thought, the white Xs flashing in my mind's eye. My eyes closed, and I was convinced that they would never open again.
But they did.
When I woke, I felt light and delicate, as if moving would cause me to shatter. There was so much energy coursing through my veins that I wanted to sprint miles. That was all I felt, however. I had no strength left; I could barely push myself off the ground. But other than that, the only symptoms that remained were memories. I must have endured it for days, occasionally wishing for death, but I had survived. But many didn't survive, I remembered, suddenly recalling that it was I who had given Sutler enough power to torture the people he found 'undesirable,' using them to find vaccines for the diseases in Britain. No; these prisoners aren't just for testing, I realized. Sutler used them—us – to create the diseases. That way he could use them to make panic and fear among the people so that they would become near-sighted and trust any sources they thought of as reliable. He made Larkhill. Or was it Creedy who devised the master plan? Probably. Sutler wouldn't have any use for someone like Creedy unless he was the brain behind the operation. And a man as smart as Creedy wouldn't take as difficult and risky a position as High Chancellor, so he found a close-minded man he could easily manipulate to take the job. Creedy could ride in luxury, whispering into Sutler's ear and reaping all the benefits of a High Chancellor. He thought it through every step of the way, I gaped. Creedy was a cold-hearted genius, and I had allowed him to control my naïve mind. It will never happen again, I promised.
I couldn't tell how long I had been unconscious, only that I had woken up at least once and I couldn't remember it. There was an empty food plate in front of the door to prove that.
The guards came an hour later. Just before I left, out of the corner of my eye I watched a water drop disengage itself from the ceiling. Without looking, I reached out and caught it as it fell. Luckily, the guards didn't notice that, nor the Scarlet Carson clutched between my fingers.
The lab was a massive, rectangular room always teeming with life. The vast majority of the doctors and guards were here everyday, while prisoners joined them on occasion.
There was a short line of prisoners, and I was the last, giving me a chance to glance around with my peripheral vision; all the other prisoners kept their heads down and I didn't want to appear conspicuous. There were a number of metal vats filled with chemicals, and waste-bins were overflowing with failed vaccines.
I was startled by a cold cloth on my arm, and looked to find Dr. Stanton preparing a vile for my arm.
It took her a second to realize it, but she raised her wide eyes to mine. "You were given the viruses weeks ago. You survived."
I nodded. "Thank you for giving me my rose, Diana," I smirked with my head bowed.
"How do you know my—" she began, but stopped when our eyes met for the second time. She gasped, her face bewildered by the recognition. "Victor… there must be some mistake," she stuttered.
"There isn't," I replied, stoic.
"You were given the old vaccine," she pondered. "That must have kept you alive. How do you feel?"
"They say pain is what proves that you're alive. Let's just say that it is quite clear I'm still living," I grimaced.
"Are there any side effects you've noticed?" she pried.
I considered not telling her, but decided against it. They want to find a cure for the virus they created. I don't want to reward them with one, but I also don't want my pride to be the cause of death for innocent people, I mused. "It sapped nearly all of my strength, but I feel like I can run miles. My reflexes are impeccable," I answered.
"Wondrous," she breathed, hastily scribbling on a notepad. When she was finished, she looked up in concern, "Victor, why are you in here?"
"I wanted to quit Norsefire after realizing that it was completely prejudiced. They send all the 'undesirables' here. So I threatened to speak against them in the newspapers. They called me a political activist guilty of treason," I explained.
Dr. Stanton's expression was unreadable. She stepped back, and my guards approached.
"One question, Diana," I requested. "What are they going to do to me?"
"Reform," she replied, her eyes down. "They'll torture you to try to get you to forget."
"May I ask a favor of you?" I proceeded.
She nodded hesitantly.
"Make sure they do it thoroughly. I don't want to remember Victor Egan or what he did to aid this holocaust. My ignorance will be my only treasure."
Dr. Stanton paused, taking in my strange desire, then said, "I will."