Don Socrates: I had the idea all set and ready so I figured I might as well post it. Glad to hear about your story.
Phaedrolous: That was the plan.
Guardian of all that exists: You think he had problems in the last chapter, wait until you read this one. Wait a second…Holy crap! You didn't write in capitals for once! Who are you and what have you done with the real Guardian of all that exists?
Prophet21: Wait until you read this chapter, then you can talk about heart-breaking…
trickster3696: If you read Chapter 14 you'd know that they were actively searching for Gen. Also, no spoilers.
Max: Short and to the point. I'll try.
Trepidin: Glad you like it. It's always nice to know people look forward to the next chapter.
I've decided to have a little fun with some of my chapters by placing references to movies, songs, etc. in some of them and getting you lot to find them. Basically I'll place the reference and you guys have to find it. Don't worry I'll tell you if there is a reference in the chapter and if it's from a song or a book or something but then it's up to you to spot it and figure out where it's from. I'll give a mention to whoever PMs me the correct answer first in the chapter after. I actually did place a reference in the previous chapter. It was a modified line from the movie Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. There's another reference in here to a rather violent videogame. The hint: The protagonist is infected with a virus. Good luck.
Italics = Past
Normal = Present
Disclaimer: Shit is about to get dark…
Chapter 15: The Storyteller
The Crimson Raiders were all gathered in the War Room. Gen was perched on the edge of the console in the center of the room with his eyes closed and hands gripping the edge of the table. Everybody was watching him. Mordecai cleared his throat and asked, "What exactly is going on? You lot weren't exactly specific."
"You're about to learn exactly why I'm like I am today, Mordecai." Gen said, eyes still closed.
Everyone who hadn't been at the bar with Gen sat up at that. They looked at the three who had been there and received confirming nods. Lilith asked, "You sure you want to share that with us, killer? You were pretty set on hiding it before."
"That's because I didn't trust you and after this story you'll understand why." Gen opened his eyes and fixed an intense stare on each person in the room. He sighed and said, "Let's get started. Like I told the others it's a long story."
7 years earlier…
Jonathan sat at his desk, tongue poking out in concentration as he carefully tipped the beaker in his hand and poured the liquid from it into another, bigger beaker. The chemicals fizzed as they made contact and he quickly set about stirring them. He started as someone knocked on his bedroom door, very nearly causing his chemicals to spill.
"Who is it?" The 10 year old called a tad nervously.
"It's me." His sister replied, her voice unmistakeable even with the door muffling it.
"Don't worry, Jon, they went out."
The boy smiled. His sister only ever called him Jon if his parents weren't around. If she called him by his full name then he knew he had to pack up his 'lab' because it meant his parents were either right there at his door or somewhere nearby. It was like their own private code.
"Come on in, sis."
Sarah walked in, smiling as she saw the clutter of glassware and chemicals on her brother's desk.
"I'll never understand how you pack this stuff up so fast without something spilling or breaking." She said.
"Sheer skill, sister dear, sheer skill."
"Whatever. So what are you working on?"
"I'm just sort of messing around for now."
"Okay. Mind if I watch."
"Sure thing. Just keep an ear out for the Gruesome Twosome."
"Jon, don't call them that." Sarah said, her voice suggesting that they'd had this argument before.
"Why not?! They're the ones that tried to ban me from the thing I love doing and hid it from everyone!" Jonathan's voice had risen and he had stood up and begun pacing, his movements agitated. He'd always been the more emotional of the two and was easily agitated.
"Jon, you know that mom and dad just want us to be successful in life."
"Successful is not the same as happy. Just look at dad. He's one of the most powerful men this side of Eden-6 and yet he isn't exactly a regular ray of sunshine!"
His sister pursed her lips, clearly irritated with his stubbornness.
The boy flopped down on the bed, his sister sitting beside him a second later. The boy sighed and said quietly, "I just wish they could accept me for me, not try to change me into what they want."
"I know but you should try to-"
"At least you actually want to do what they're making you do." He interrupted as if he hadn't heard her.
His sister sighed. "Yeah, I know. I guess it's a good thing mom didn't convince dad to 'let' me follow in her footsteps."
The boy looked at her. "Hey sis."
"You're gonna be a great doctor." He told her and pulled her into a hug.
"Thanks Jon." She said quietly and hugged him back.
The next day…
"Wake up, Jonathan."
The boy cracked open one eye and rolled it up until he could see who had woken him up before he was ready. As soon as he did, he bolted upright. "H-hi dad. What's up?"
His father raised an eyebrow. Jonathan cringed and corrected himself, "S-sorry, father. What is going on?"
"Would you care to explain yourself?"
"What do you mean?" The boy asked, honestly confused.
His father pointed at a spot on the bedroom floor where the carpet was blackened.
"What happened to the carpet?" Patrick Tannis asked, giving his son a stern look.
The boy knew that the burn was from a Bunsen burner just from looking at the mark. He also knew that he'd get an earful and a grounding if he told his father that. His mind raced to think up a convincing lie even while he feigned confusion on his face.
"I don't know, da- Father. That's the first time I've seen that mark." He said, only half lying.
"It's the first time I've seen it too but I know exactly how to find out what caused it."
"The security camera."
"Oh, oka- Wait, WHAT?!"
"Did you just shout at me, Jonathan?"
"No, definitely not." The boy replied hurriedly.
"Good. And I'm talking about the security camera in your room."
"There's a security camera in here?" Jonathan asked nervously, looking around to see if he could spot a tell-tale lens or winking light that would give away a camera.
"Yes. Your mother and I had it installed after your last attempt to secretly continue your hobby."
"Yeah, last attempt, right. When was that again?"
His father smiled and said, "It's good to see that you think so little of that annoying hobby that you forgot when you last did it. It was about three months ago that you finally gave up that silly obsession."
"I am so screwed." The boy thought.
Nonetheless, he followed his father towards the man's study. By the time they reached the door, Jonathan had given up trying to think of arguments since he knew his father wouldn't listen. His father ushered him inside before following him in. The boy refused to raise his gaze from the floor and so was shocked when his father suddenly exclaimed, "Sarah, what are you doing?"
Jonathan's head shot up to see his sister behind their father's desk and tapping away at his console. She looked shocked to see them but quickly composed herself and said, "I was just clearing the video logs like you said I must do at the end of every week."
"It's Monday today, honey. You're supposed to clear them on Sunday."
Sarah looked embarrassed. "I know, but I forgot so I thought I'd do it now."
"She's lying. I saw her heading into dad's office to wipe the records last night," Jon thought, then felt a surge of affection rush through him as he thought, "She's covering for me. She must have heard what dad said and come in here to wipe the recordings."
"Oh sweetie, we need to see the recordings for last night."
"Wait, did she know I had a camera in my room this whole time?" Jon thought, oblivious to the conversation going on around him.
"Sorry, daddy, but I already wiped them."
"I'll have to ask her." Jonathan thought, still lost in his own thoughts.
Patrick looked slightly irritated, but it dissolved into a smile when his daughter gave him a look of worried innocence and asked, "Did I do something wrong, daddy?"
"No, no, it's fine dear." He turned to his son and said, "It looks like we won't be getting to the bottom of this mystery anytime soon, Jonathan."
The boy flinched slightly as he was yanked back to the real world by the mention of his name. "Wha- Oh, yeah, too bad, I guess."
"He never calls me by anything but my name. He's never even called me 'son'." The boy thought sadly.
His father made a 'humph' sound and raised an eyebrow. Jon swallowed and corrected himself, "I mean, that's unfortunate, Father."
Patrick Tannis shooed the children out of his office and closed the door firmly, but not before affectionately ruffling his daughter's hair. Jon stuck his tongue out at the closed door which earned him an eye roll from his sister. She had always been the more mature of the two despite the 4 year age gap. Jon turned to her, mouth opening to voice his earlier thoughts but was cut off by a raised hand from his sister.
"Before you ask, I had no idea they had a camera in your room until today. I just wiped everything on the records, I never looked at them."
The boy gave a sigh of relief, thankful that he could always count on his sister.
1 year later…
Jonathan quietly eased through the window of his room, breathing a sigh of relief as the frame refused to creak. He knew that if he'd been caught a grounding was the least of his problems. He set his satchel down on his desk and, after pulling his goggles off his face, flipped it open, revealing half a dozen metal cylinders with the word "Gentek" stencilled on the sides. He grinned as he lifted them up, his adrenaline still running through his system as he examined his prize. He started and nearly dropped the cylinder when he heard his door opening. He hid the cylinder behind his back, already knowing that if it was his parents checking on him he was dead. He watched in mounting horror as his door swung fully open…
Only to let out the breath he'd been holding as his sister walked in, rubbing her eyes and yawning.
"Wha' you doin' Jon?" She mumbled.
Even as tired as she was suspicion appeared in her eyes at his tone. "Oh really?"
"So what's that behind your back?"
"What do you mean? I don't have anything behind my back."
"Jon." A note of warning had entered her tone. He sighed and pulled his hands out from behind his back, revealing the cylinder. His sister's eyes widened in shock before narrowing in anger. She shut the door and rounded on him. "What the hell, Jon!" She hissed angrily, "You promised you weren't going to do this anymore!"
The boy sat down on his bed, resting his head in his hands. "I know, I know, but how else am I supposed to get the stuff I need for my experiments?"
"Jon, you're stealing from genetic research labs! What if they catch you?!"
The boy snorted and said, "Please, they'll never catch me. Those bozos haven't even figured out that the stuffs being stolen not lost."
"Have you even read the papers?! Don't answer that, of course you haven't or you'd know that they have pictures of you!"
"A hidden security camera in one of the labs. Other companies put two and two together and now they're all gunning for you! This is why I asked you to stop, Jon!"
"Huh, so that's why the guards seemed more awake than usual." Jon murmured to himself.
"Jon, this is serious! If they catch you, it's over. Mom and dad will probably disown you and you'll be sent to juvie until you're old enough to go to prison where you'll rot for years!"
"Well, I've always wanted to know if prison food is as bad as they say." Jon joked weakly, but the glare his sister sent him quickly shut him up. "Okay, okay but what else am I supposed to do, Sarah? I can't exactly buy this stuff and even if I was allowed to by law, mom and dad would sooner shoot me than let it happen."
Sarah opened her mouth and hesitated, refusing to meet her brother's eyes. "You could, you know, gi-"
Jon shot up and glared at her. "I swear if you were about to say give up genetics, I'll… I'll… I don't know what I'll do but it'll be bad!" he hissed, pointing angrily at her.
Sarah sighed and murmured, "I'm sorry, Jon. I just… I just don't want you taking such stupid risks."
The boy relented and had the decency to look shamefaced at his outburst. He sighed and rubbed the back of his head, an awkward silence filling the room as the siblings sought a way to break the tension. He finally looked up and said, "I'm sorry too, sis, but this is something I have to do. Genetics is the one thing that I can honestly say I enjoy. What would you do if mom and dad forbade you from studying medicine?"
"I…I don't know…I'm so used to them encouraging it that it seems weird to think of them forbidding it."
"Try. Then you'll understand my predicament a bit better."
"I'm sorry all this has happened to you, Jon, I really am."
He gave her a wry smile and said, "It's not your fault, so stop acting like it is. That's an order."
She raised an eyebrow. "What am I, a soldier?"
"Yes. My little soldier of hope!" He declared proudly, a shit eating grin on his face.
She rolled her eyes but couldn't help the giggle that escaped. "You're such a weirdo."
"But I'm your weirdo!" He joked and hugged her.
She hugged back before giving an almighty yawn. "I'm going back to bed. You should get some sleep too."
"Aye aye, captain."
"From soldier to captain in what, a minute? Not bad for 7 year old." She joked.
"Not bad at all." He agreed, "Now, to bed."
"G'night Jon." She mumbled around another yawn as she walked out.
1 day later…
Jon grinned as the contents of the vial in his hand began to fizz, proud that he'd managed to produce a formula that didn't seem intent on exploding and getting him in trouble. He carefully set it over a Bunsen burner and turned towards another vial filled with a murky greyish-purple sludge. He slowly began dripping a green substance in and studying the reaction that occurred.
He was startled out of his work less than a minute later by a loud hissing. He swung around and his eyes widened in horror at the sight before him. The formula over the Bunsen burner had turned a dark shade of red and was boiling over the edges of the beaker. A darker red smoke rose off the thick gunk. The boy desperately looked for a way to contain the spill but saw nothing that would work for sure. He grabbed a few empty beakers and tried to scoop up the chemical but began coughing uncontrollably when he accidentally inhaled some of the smoke. He backed away but the coughing didn't ease. In fact, it seemed to be getting worse. The boy sank to his knees, tears beginning to stream down his cheeks as a burning pain spread through his chest. It felt like somebody had set his lungs on fire.
He managed to raise his head in time to see the edge of the spill touch a lit Bunsen burner he had knocked over when he staggered away. His eyes widened before he squeezed them shut, bracing for whatever came next. There was a loud boom and he was flung against the wall, slumping to the floor. The coughing intensified as the room filled with the noxious smoke and the pain had now spread through his entire body, making him writhe in silent agony. After what felt like an eternity the pain subsided, leaving a dull ache, and the boy heard footsteps coming towards him.
"Jon! Jon! Are you alright?! What happe-?" His father stopped speaking as he opened the door, immediately backing away from the billowing smoke and bumping into his wife who had followed him. They spotted the prone form on the floor as the boy looked up at them. The man's face ran through shock, anger and disgust before settling on a completely neutral look as the mother turned away from the scene before her. His son stretched a hand out to them, his vision blurred with tears. The boy stared at his father, begging him silently for help, but the man simply closed his eyes, shook his head and slowly pulled the door closed.
"M-mom…dad…" The boy croaked futilely, before unconsciousness claimed him.
2 days later…
Jon slumped against the door, shivering and wrapping his arms around his stomach as a cramp stabbed through him. He'd regained consciousness the morning after his lab accident and tried to get out of his room only to discover that his door had been locked form the outside. When he opened his shutters he discovered that a steel plate had been bolted over his window. But that wasn't the worst of his problems. He'd discovered exactly why his father had looked disgusted when he saw him; he had mutated and developed green skin. As far as he could tell his hair had also turned black and his eyes were now a fiery orange.
Enough of his lab equipment had survived for him to make water with a basic chemical reaction so he was in no danger of dying of thirst but it did nothing for his hunger. He'd been plagued by hunger cramps for the past day and a half and he was starting to lose hope. His parents had installed a top-of-the-line electronic lock on his door and he had no idea how to even open its casing, let alone unlock it.
He slowly pushed himself up, the cramp having passed and stared at the door. A sense of hopelessness washed over him but as quickly as it appeared it vanished, replaced by anger.
"WHAT THE FUCK?!" He screamed, "WHAT DID I DO TO DESERVE THIS?! HUH?! WHAT DID I DO?" Tears poured down his cheeks as he glared at the door. On impulse he drew back a fist and rammed it into the door as hard as he could, crying out as he felt three of his fingers dislocate. He cradled his injured hand and sank to the floor, sobbing as his sense of hopelessness returned.
His head snapped up as he heard an electronic beep from his door or more specifically the lock on his door. A moment later the handle turned and the door swung open, letting a small cloud of the remaining smoke from his experiment out. He'd discovered early on that he could breathe the smoke as easily as he had normal air. However his throat was still sore from his original coughing fit and he seemed to have developed a nasty cough. The boy stared as the small form of his sister appeared in the doorway, staring in with shocked eyes at him.
"Wh-who are you? What are you doing in my brother's room?" She asked, fear and anger mixing in her voice.
"Sis, it's me. It's Jon." He croaked, willing her to believe him.
"No! You can't be Jon! My father told us he was dead! He said Jon died when his lab exploded! We went to his funeral!"
"That's awfully quick for a funeral, isn't it? Did you see a body?" He rasped before coughing violently.
"N-no. Daddy said that the accident was too bad and that it had to be a closed casket."
He could hear a growing doubt in her voice as the coincidences clicked into place and decided to play his trump card. "If I'm not your brother then how do I know that when you have a birthmark in the shape of a crescent moon on your right shoulder blade."
She took a step back, eyes widening and mouth opening in shock. "Wha..How…Jon?"
"Yeah *Cough* It's me."
She moved to come closer but froze when he threw up a hand and said, "Don't! This smoke is some kind of mutagen."
"What do you want me to do?" She asked.
"Could you bring me some food? I haven't eaten since the accident."
"Sure thing." She said and turned to go.
"Wait! Close the door in case mom and dad come back."
"Why? They'll be happy to see you alive, won't they?"
"Who do you think locked me in here?"
His sister stared at him in shock. "No…No…They wouldn't…"
"…They did." He murmured and looked away.
The girl staggered as if she had been struck, staring at her brother in horror, before turning and fleeing to the kitchen, as if completing the simple task her brother had asked of her would make things right in her world. The boy sighed and hung his head, cradling it in his hands.
Minutes later Sarah returned carrying an armful of tinned food. She laid them down and rolled them to Jon, careful to avoid inhaling any of the small remaining amounts of smoke. She saw how he cradled his injured hand and said, "What did you do to your hand?"
"I punched the door."
"…That was stupid."
"You don't say." He retorted sarcastically, but smiled to show he was joking.
The girl held out her own hands and gestured for him to come closer. "Come on; let me see if I can help."
He moved closer and gingerly held out his injured hand for inspection. She carefully turned it over, showing no sign of disgust or squeamishness as she examined his wounds. She gently tweaked one of his fingers and was rewarded with a hiss of pain from her brother and a muttered, "Geez, be careful would ya?"
She spoke as if she hadn't heard him, "I'm going to need to pop these back in. It'll probably hurt, just a war-"
Mid-syllable she grabbed his index finger and with a sharp jerk popped it back into place. Her brother yanked his hand back with a barely suppressed scream. "What the f- Why would you do that?!"
"Sorry," She said, cringing, "I just thought I'd get it over with as quickly as possible."
"…Well, could you warn me next time?"
"Okay." She said, holding her hand out for his again. He cautiously laid his injured hand in hers. "Okay, so on the count of three. One."
Then she shoved his middle finger into place but this time she clamped his hand in a surprisingly hard grip, refusing to let him pull away.
"Seriously?! Again?!" He growled.
She shrugged nonchalantly and replied, "It's better if you don't tense up. This time I'll only go on three, okay?"
"Nuh-uh, you don't get to use the same trick twice. How dumb do you thi-" The rest of the sentence dissolved into a strangled scream as she popped his ring finger back into position.
"There, all done." She said proudly, "Now eat; your body needs food to heal properly."
"…If you treat me like this I'm afraid for your future patients." He said incredulously. His sister shot him a withering look and threw one of the tins at him.
16 hours later…
"I really think this is a bad idea. Your body can't have finished healing already." Sarah said, watching her brother shrug on his favourite green aviator jacket.
"Sure feels healed. In fact, I feel better than I have in ages. I feel so good it doesn't make sense and if I wanna know why I'm going to need some equipment I don't have here. Have you seen my satchel?" He started sifting through the assorted refuse on his floor as he searched.
His sister sighed and pointed. "It's on your bed, where you put it two minutes ago."
"…Oh…I knew that."
"Riiiight." She replied, sarcasm dripping off that single word.
"Quiet you, unless you've got any advice for me."
"Don't go and start robbing research labs again." She suggested dryly.
"Any advice I might actually consider making use of?" He shot back.
She sighed, shook her head and said, "Don't go after Hyperion."
"They just got a shipment of hazardous genetic substances."
"You see, that's just encouraging me to go after them."
"Hyperion has been adamant that their little thieving problem wasn't over. They've constantly attempted to convince others to continue beefing up security. You think they're just going to let you walk in and let you take what you want? This shipment is so obviously a trap you'd have to be brain-dead not to see it. And just in case you don't rememberJon, you don't even know what sort of affects your last experiment had on you and you want to go and screw around with some even more dangerous chemicals?"
"Not just that, Hyperion's my best bet for the equipment I'm looking for." He sighed and continued, "If I'm dying or something from this stuff, I'd like to know sooner rather than later."
She sighed. "Just…Please be careful, okay?"
He nodded, serious. "I will, sis. I'll get what I need and get out."
"Okay. I'll see you when you get back then."
He moved to his window and carefully swung the steel plate over his window aside, courtesy of acid dribbled on the bolts holding it in place. He'd left a single bolt at the top of the plate to hold it in place and deflect suspicion. He climbed through and turned to face her.
"See you then."
"I should have kept my word." Gen murmured quietly. It was the first time he'd spoken about something other than his story and the others gave each other looks before turning their attention back to him. He seemed to be talking more to himself than any of them as he continued, "If I'd just stayed focused, if I'd just followed my own advice maybe things would have been different."
Gaige couldn't help but ask, "What do you mean?"
Gen slowly raised his gaze to meet hers. It was the most tortured look she had ever seen. "I got side-tracked."
6 years ago…
Jon hissed in pain as he clambered through his window, a hand clutched over the bleeding wound in his arm, His sister shot up, startled awake as he fell to the floor. She took one look and said, "You screwed up, didn't you?"
"Why yes, dear sister, I would like some help." He muttered sarcastically.
"What happened? I thought you said in and out." She said, manoeuvring him to the bed.
"I might have gotten a teensy weensy bit side-tracked." He confessed.
"Damn it, Jon! When are you going to learn that this isn't a game?"
"When I get shot. Oh wait." He joked. His sister glowered before jabbing his wound with a glove-clad finger. He flinched away.
"What managed to grab your attention? Must have been really shiny, or really big." She teased as she set about cleaning the wound.
"Neither of those actually. It's an experimental hack module. It's designed to interpret code and display it as cells and DNA strands. It allows people who are more gifted at genetics or biology than computers to hack like a pro by allowing them to work with what they know."
"As interesting as that sounds, why do you care?" The wound clean, Sarah placed a pad of gauze over it and began wrapping a bandage around his upper arm.
"I don't want to be caught with a computerised lock ever again." He mumbled.
His sister paused in tying the knot on the bandage at that, but resumed seconds later. She stayed silent until she had finished, "There, done. Lucky it was some kind of laser or I would have had to dig it out."
"Yeah, lucky me, getting shot with lasers rather than bullets."
She opened her mouth to reply but froze when they heard the doorbell ring. She looked confused. "Who could that be?"
"At this hour, probably some prankster." Jon replied.
The doorbell rang again. She said, "That's one heck of persistent prankster."
She rose and started towards the door to his room. "I'm going to see who it is."
"I'm coming too." He said, rising and moving to follow her.
Together they made their way to the entrance hall. Jon paused around the corner and said, "I'll wait here. If you need me, just yell and I'll come running."
She swallowed and nodded before continuing to the door. She took a moment to compose herself as he watched from around the corner. Then she reached for the door handle and some sixth sense made him move out from around the corner and toward her, his mouth opening to tell her to stop. But it was too late.
Sarah Maria Tannis pulled open the door to reveal the large shape of a Hyperion mercenary. The mercenary had been expecting a potential hostile and reacted on instinct, putting three bullets in her chest. She staggered back, coughing up blood as she sank to the floor.
Her brother dropped to his knees next to her, cradling her close to him. "Sarah! Sarah! Don't die, please! Please! Don't leave me here all alone."
"I'm…sorry…Jon…" She whispered just before the light faded from her eyes.
"S-Sarah? Sarah?! SARAH!"
The boy felt the barrel of a gun touch the side of his head and vaguely registered that it was still warm from the shots that ended his sister's life. And just like that the tears stopped. He'd known anger before but this feeling was entirely new. This was the feeling you get when you hit anger and go straight out the other side.
"Get up, you little freak. The guy'll pay more for you alive than dead."
"…Do you believe there's life after death?" The boy murmured quietly.
"Do you believe there is life after death? It's not a difficult question."
"Sucks to be you then."
"And why is tha-" The mercenary never got further as Jonathan slapped the gun away and punched him in the throat as hard as he could, crushing the man's windpipe.
The mercenary slumped to the floor, clutching at his throat, and could only watch in horror as his target stood up and calmly picked up his pistol. The boy turned it over in his hands before aiming it at the man's head.
"This is why." He said, his voice holding all the warmth of liquid nitrogen. Then he pulled the trigger.
"After that, I ran. Picked up training here and there, moved with a group occasionally and eventually found my way here," The Splicer sighed and continued, "Roland, you asked me once why I was willing to risk so much to take down Hyperion. I guess you now think you know the reason but there's more to it. A few years after that night I ran into a master hacker who got me some info I'd been looking for for a long time: the man who sent that merc after me and gave him the orders to shoot anything that moved. It was man by the name of John Winters though nowadays he goes by the name Handsome Jack."
O. M. F. G. I am so sorry this took so long guys but school and writer's block ganged up on me. Anyway, I hope it was worth the wait. If not, my bad. Hopefully the next chapter won't take so long.
As always, Read and Review.
Until next time,