|Echoes of a Lost Generation
Author: YamiNoEnigma PM
A girl is dragged into a chaotic world where she is an outcast because of a genetic mutation. With the help of a mother who lost her child to governmental research, can she and some newfound friends rescue those like themselves who have no voice?Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Drama - Chapters: 11 - Words: 57,240 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 03-09-12 - Published: 07-12-11 - id: 2932219
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
It is 3030. A genetic twist or mutation has occurred in a certain number of pre-pubescent children. A breakthrough in genetic research brings about a great discovery; the gene has the ability to cure SAND (Split-Acquired Nucleic Disease), a terminal condition where the diseased gene, missing a link in the sequence, causes abnormalities in cells, stopping the body from successfully carrying out cell division. The body cells erupt and disable body functions, resulting in death within weeks of diagnosis.
A result of interbreeding, which has become commonplace, SAND sweeps the world as the next epidemic. The mutated gene found in the children, called the XZB factor, fills in any links missing in the genetic sequence. It seems the problem is under control.
But a side effect of the research has arisen: To take the gene from the child is to pronounce upon them a death sentence.
The world is divided between moral obligations and the "greater good", between a child's life and a better future. The leaders in power back the research and, under the pretense of building a future without disease, devise a new system to locate children with the gene. Young children are taken away from their parents by force and casualties grow.
Not everyone is willing to keep quiet. An underground resistance movement, led by a mother who lost her child to the program, sabotages research labs and releases children. Among those detected with the mutation is Echo, a 12-year-old girl whose parents were killed. After escaping from a laboratory, Echo finds herself in the midst of one such faction. She is able to provide the movement with valuable information... unless the government finds her first. An all-out war is ready to erupt, and little Echo is caught up in it. With the help of a dedicated leader, a new best friend, and a strange little boy named Shadow, can she defend those children like her who cannot defend themselves?
At eleven years old, life was just starting for her. She was ready to start middle school, at the only school left standing in the Seaice District, and she was more than prepared to leave home. She just qualified for the sixth grade. Her birthday, September 11, fell on the first day.
It occurred on that day, the day she turned twelve, that it manifested in her. A gene split, and somewhere hundreds of miles away, an alarm erupted, and with it, what would have become her life.
She barely had time to celebrate being twelve before a suit-encumbered officer appeared at her family's door. Her mother peeked out the door side windows. Her morning smile morphed into petrified horror. "James," she whispered hoarsely. "Get her out of here."
Her father's eyes bulged and his face turned ghost-white. He wrapped his large, fatherly hands around her upper arms and murmured, "Come, we're leaving."
"What's wrong, Daddy?" his daughter inquired. He raised a finger to her lips to silence her. She obediently followed her father down the hallway– she had grown up with obedience as the golden rule—wondering why her father appeared so tense.
She heard her mother open the door. "Good morning, officer," she greeted the visitor, her voice trembling with false cheer.
"Missus," the officer replied in a wheezy tone. "We have received knowledge that your child has reached twelve."
"Yes, she has," Maria answered cautiously.
"She has developed the Mutation," the officer stated. She didn't know what the "Mutation" was but apparently her parents did, because her father tightened his hold on her arm.
"No, you must be mistaken—what are you doing?" Marie demanded sharply.
"Don't lie to me," the officer said coldly. A firearm exploded in the next room, and she screamed. James clapped his hand over her mouth, but to do so, his grip on her arm loosened. She wriggled out from his grasp and burst into sight. Dark red blood seeped into the cream carpet and flowed from Marie Christopher's chest. Her arms rested above her head, spread in the last attempts of protecting her child.
Her father rushed to his daughter's side. His blue eyes, dark with fury, turned to the murderer. "You can't have her," James snarled and slowly rose to his feet.
"Orders from the government," the officer stated lazily, and cocked his pistol at her father. "Refuse and I'll kill you."
James covered his daughter protectively. "I won't let you."
"Fine," the officer grunted, and with an awful, chilling sneer, he pulled the trigger. She screamed again as the bullet ripped into her father. With his last effort, he planted a gentle kiss on her cheek. His hand reached into hers and her fingers closed around a necklace, shaped like a heart, which she slipped down her shirt. A final flicker was extinguished and her father was gone.
She began to cry profusely, and, overtaken by fury, she barreled into the officer, knocking the gun from his hand, sending him tumbling to the floor. Curses, words that she, at twelve, had never heard before, fell from his vulgar lips, and after a few moments, he ended the scuffle, freeing a hand to reveal a full syringe, and plunged the needle into her shoulder. She shrieked and pulled away. The sedative worked quickly, and as consciousness slipped from her, she embraced her father, feeling her tears wash away the remnants of the future from her face.
She didn't know if she'd ceased crying even when unconscious, because when she awoke, tears continued to pour down her sopping cheeks. The puncture in her shoulder where the tranquilizer had entered her bloodstream ached, a persistent pulsing throbbed in her head, and a drowsy grogginess held a heavy fog over her eyes. She drifted in and out of sleep, but after the sedative wore off, she came to herself. Lifting up onto her knees, she strained her eyes to observe her surroundings.
As she adjusted to the darkness, she wondered why silver lines obstructed her vision, thinking maybe it was still the drug, but then she realized a cage encased her in its steel maw. She shivered; it was cold in this prison. She stuck her face against the bars.
While she had never actually been in one, she recognized the tables, technology, and equipment characteristic of a science laboratory. She stared in curious wonder at her surroundings. It took a few moments for her to hear the murmurs around her. She turned as someone hissed, "hey, new girl!"
She faced the speaker. A young boy addressed her. She supposed he could have been good-looking if he got rid of some of that dark mop. His pale face was sunken in; this child was old beyond his years. He had once boasted a healthy handsomeness, but difficulties had stolen those qualities from him.
"I'm Shadow," he told her, shaking black hair out of his face, revealing electric blue eyes. She shivered again; he seemed to be able to look right through her. "What's your name?"
She shook her head. He saw that she was not about to tell him anything and shrugged, leaning against his cage's bars. She turned away. "Shadow can't be your name," she stated quietly.
He let out a hollow laugh. "Of course not," he replied dryly. "But I don't remember my name from before."
"'From before?'" she repeated. "Before what?"
"I'm assuming you carry the Gene?" he asked, though he didn't wait for an answer because otherwise she wouldn't be there.
"'The Gene?'" she echoed.
Shadow rolled his eyes and crossed his scrawny arms. "Do you always repeat what everyone says? The Gene is a—do you know what a gene is? Apparently not," he continued, seeing the clueless expression on her face. "It determines your characteristics, what you look like and stuff. The SAG mutation is a split one of those—we Carriers just call it 'the Gene.' DNA is part of a 'sequence,' and the SAG mutation separates from the sequence, like this," he motioned with his hands to demonstrate. "You know what SAND is?" he inquired.
"'SAND?'" she responded again. Shadow smirked, and she didn't like it.
"Since you won't tell me your name, I'll give you one," he stated. "Since you repeat everything I've said, I'll call you Echo."
She canted her head, more than willing to give up her prior persona to adopt a new one. Echo… she liked it.
"Anyway," Shadow continued in his explanation, "SAND, split-acquired nucleic disease, is a disease that splits DNA strands. The SAG mutation can replace the diseased gene and heal it."
"So they take it from us," She—Echo—assumed. "But that's good, isn't it? They can heal people."
"Good for them," Shadow replied darkly. "Not so for us."
"How come?" Echo asked curiously.
"You can't mess with human genetics without, eh…" he searched for the right word. "Complications. Consequences."
Echo opened her mouth to repeat, "consequences," but she caught herself. Shadow's lips quirked, like he knew she had stopped, just barely, from echoing his statement. "Like what?"
Shadow shifted uncomfortably. His head whipped around, and suddenly his blue eyes widened in fleeting fear. "Flatten yourself against the back of the cage," he muttered, disappearing into the metal sheet. Echo followed his advice, and wondered what it was that frightened him.
The laboratory door opened and light filed in and bathed the floor tiles in illuminating brightness. It wasn't much, but the small amount of light irritated Echo's eyes, after such a long time in darkness.
Before she knew who they were, she saw those stony faces, cold, uncaring, pitiless. Even though the scientists weren't directly responsible, she hated them, detested them with every fiber of her being for her parents' murders. She leaned forward and her little fingers curled around the cool bars. Shadow hissed, "Get back, girl!"
Echo was too angry to listen. If the bars hadn't separated her from those wretches, she would recklessly have torn them apart. Her rage overcame her sense of caution, and she let out a low growl.
One of the scientists turned around. "Ah, the new girl," he sneered icily in a German accent. Hands clasped behind his back, he bent down to observe her. "What's your name?" he inquired, his voice taunting, and she hated him even more. She hissed at him.
"I won't tell you anything!" she snarled. The scientist's smirk widened.
"Oh, I doubt that," he cooed. "After a few days we'll loosen your tongue." His voice had a melodic quality to it, and as much as she wanted to resist it, she couldn't help but think of her father, and she was soothed. She sunk back.
"You don't need to know anything about her, Schnell," Shadow spat.
Schnell switched from Echo's cage to Shadow's. "Watch yourself, boy," he threatened. "You have enough scars from your lip to last you a lifetime."
Shadow scrunched up his nose, and as soon as the scientist Schnell turned his back, he pressed his index finger to it, made a face, and stuck out his tongue. Echo giggled. Shadow shot an encouraging, somewhat comforting smile at her.
Her emotional boost lasted less than a second. Beside her, the scientists had opened one of the other children's cages. The little girl yelped and pressed her body into the back, attempting to avoid the scientist's grip. He was too strong for her, and she was frail from days, possibly weeks of malnutrition and mistreatment. Schnell grabbed her arm and yanked her violently out from the cage. Echo let out a little gasp and covered her mouth with her hands, her eyes wide. Schnell jerked the small girl to her feet and gave her a cruel smile. The girl began to cry weakly. Schnell brought out a vial of the same sedative the officer had used on Echo. Echo moved to look at Shadow, but he had turned his back to face the other direction. His shoulders were tense and he was shaking. Echo assumed he had seen this happen too many times before. She faced the scene unfolding in front of her again. Schnell stabbed the needle into the girl's arm. After a few moments of struggling, the little girl slumped in Schnell's grip, unconscious. Schnell carelessly dragged the child across the floor towards the exit. Before he left the room, his eyes met Echo's horrified ones. His lips curled again, as if to say, "you're next, little girl." Suddenly, she was afraid.
The door slammed shut and darkness fell on the remaining residents. Echo leaned back against the cage, trembling hard.
"You'll see that a lot," Shadow said quietly. He still stayed facing the other way. "But no matter how many times it happens, the knowledge that that kid isn't coming back still shakes you up bad."
Echo nodded, too shaken to use her voice. Eventually, her ability to talk returned. "How long have you been here?" she asked.
"I dunno," Shadow replied, and turned around. "Two weeks, maybe? It's not the first time, either."
"You've been here before?" she said hoarsely.
"Oh yeah," he snorted. "Twice. Before that it was some place in the Opal district." He named off other laboratories he'd visited. "…Oh, and the Yew district."
"How are you still alive?" Echo gasped in disbelief. "I thought they did experiments on you, and then left you to die?"
"Somehow I managed to escape the research every time. Nobody killed me voluntarily, either." He tilted his head and crossed his arms. "If God exists, he gets some kind of kick out of getting me in and out of trouble."
"Or you're lucky," Echo muttered. Her belief in a higher entity wasn't too founded at the moment.
He considered that. "Maybe. You'd have thought the Pacific faction would have given up on me by now."
"Who's the Pacific faction?"
Shadow leaned back on his palms. "The Pacific faction is a group of rebels and Carriers who have escaped the government. They raid labs and rescue kids and stuff. I'm part of it. And somehow, whenever I get captured, they find me. So I'm not too worried about Schnell's threats."
"How come? Maybe he actually will kill you this time," Echo suggested.
Shadow snickered. "He can't. He's under direct orders from the General not to kill me."
"Why?" Echo asked doubtfully. "I'd say he's just about through with you."
"You'd be surprised. I'm not scared of him at all. I just love to piss him off."
"I can tell," Echo said shortly. "Do you think the Pacific faction will rescue you this time?"
"I'm positive," Shadow assured her confidently. "Silhouette somehow knows where to find me."
"I'm sure you'll find out. They'll be here shortly," he told her matter-of-factly. "But if you must know, Silhouette is the leader of the Pacific faction. She lost her kid to the research and now she's determined to destroy the whole program. She's not the only one, either. There's more than one faction."
"Oh." Echo quieted for a moment. Shadow started picking at the ground in front of him. Echo looked around the room. Then her eyes fell on the huge, gurgling machine in the middle of the area. "Hey, Shadow. What's that?"
Shadow glanced at the machine and then returned to what he was doing. "I'm not much for scientific talk, but I do believe the technical term is 'really bad news.'"
"What is it, really?" she asked.
"It's called the 'Gene pool.' It's not a very subtle pun, I know." He sighed. "I think it's like, some sort of super computer that stores all the information. It sure is noisy, though."
"Yeah." Once again, silence fell on them. Echo wondered what time it was. She didn't know how long it had been since she had arrived at the lab, and the lack of windows prevented her from knowing whether it was daytime or not. What she did know was that most of the children in the room were asleep or drowsing. She had no idea how she could possibly be tired, but somehow she found that drifting off was easier than she thought, and soon after, she was asleep.
One in the morning, and like every night, the Gene pool grumbled and spat. Schnell threw off the covers, frustrated. "I've lost twenty hours of sleep this week, and I swear to God, if this happens again I am going to slaughter those pool architects." He slipped his house shoes over his feet and pulled his white lab coat around his shoulders. It was necessary to wear protective gear in the lab–radiation poisoned the air. Schnell snapped his protection goggles and a mask over his lined, square face and pushed into the lab.
In the room's center stood what scientists referred to as the Gene pool, a rumbling monster that towered above every person around it. While a useful piece of "medical" technology, it had its drawbacks– namely the rumbling and gurgling emitting from the hunk of junk that had disturbed Dr. Todd Schnell for three years.
The sounds smothered the snuffling of sleeping children. Schnell ignored the kids. He saw enough of them during the day, especially that punk Shadow. If he wasn't under strict orders from the General, and if he didn't need the boy for the Gene, he would have shot the Carrier long ago.
Schnell strode over to the Gene pool and slapped his palm on the machine. "Quiet, you damn piece of trash," he muttered. Eventually the rumbling died away, but Schnell didn't remove his hand. He examined his fingers. Knotted, worked and thin, he looked at American hands and saw the extremities of a 3030 Nazi.
Schnell was the offspring of generations of Nazis and Nazi supporters. Of course, he realized that Nazis, like every other race, evolved. Not much, maybe, but surely changed. Instead of a pure Aryan society, 3030 Nazis desired a world free of Carriers, whom they considered a threat to the future master race. Schnell, who hated everything to do with the Carriers, worked as a "medical scientist" under the General because he saw a successful, unbeatable leader and a strong backing. He was willing to stifle his pride if it meant potential power. He wanted to be on the winning side, a true American, and proud of it.
"Hey, Schnell," a boy's voice jeered. "What're you doing up at this hour?"
"What about you, punk?" Schnell retorted without turning around.
"Your stench woke me up," Shadow snorted. Schnell turned and stalked towards his captive.
"You had better watch yourself, boy," he warned, kneeling down and bringing his face closer to Shadow's. "I can make you wish you'd never been born."
Shadow sneered. "If you could do that, you would have done it already. I'm not scared of you. You can't do anything to me."
"Not you, maybe, but I haven't received any restrictions concerning your new girlfriend," Schnell commented coldly, and pointed his thumb at the sleeping girl in the next cage over. Shadow tensed.
"You wouldn't," he hissed quickly. "You don't have the guts."
"Try me, little boy," Schnell dared, seizing his advantage. "She will be tested on within the week anyway. So try not to get too attached, because I will schedule her for tomorrow." He got to his feet and waved a hand at Shadow, whose hands were taught in a white-knuckled death grip on his cage's bars. "See you bright and early," he smirked, and as he strolled down the corridor back to his room, he thought smugly, "you son of a bitch. You dug your own grave, messing with me."