The New World Chronicles

The

Garson Compound

An article published by the Associated Press, June 1997

ARIZONA - Located in the middle of the desert is a small laboratory established and funded by billionaire Charles Frend. The Frend Lab has one single focus: genetic manipulation of human DNA.

"Of course we can't start with human DNA," says head research scientist Edward Bent. "No, we're actually working on simpler mammals, cats and dogs, specifically. We're also doing more advanced tests on frogs."

The main goal behind the Frend Lab's genetic manipulation is ultimately cloning, an idea from science fiction novels. But it isn't that far-fetched according to Bent.

"We've been cloning amphibians since before 1950, so cloning mammals is definitely plausible. Our advanced testing with the frogs is basically trying to transfer brain waves, well, memories, to the new body."

Surely a controversial subject, but the Frend Lab is proceeding regardless thanks to the ample funds provided by Charles Frend.

***

The syringe was filled with 20 cc's of a clear liquid. The doctor snapped on a pair of rubber gloves and picked up the syringe, holding it up to the light to check the contents.

Grabbing a cotton swab, the doctor moved to stand before the subject, wiping a patch of flesh with alcohol. Lining the syringe up with the blue vein in the subject's arm, the doctor plunged the needle through the flesh, emptying the clear content into the subject's bloodstream. The doctor pulled the needle out, covering the puncture with the cotton and taping it down.

"The serum has been injected at," the doctor looked at the clock on the wall, " eleven twenty-seven a. m."

The doctor's assistant took down the time on a clipboard, her pencil making a scritch against the paper, the only noise in the now quiet operating room. The doctor stepped around the chair in the middle of the room containing the restrained subject. Concern passed over the doctor's face as the subject twitched.

The serum was taking affect.

The doctor took a step back, eyes riveted on his subject. It was a boy this time, no more than thirteen years old. He was short at five foot five, dressed in a white smock. His head was bald, completely hairless, one of the first things that went when he was brought into the compound. The boy had gone deathly pale over the past few days, and now, in just a few seconds, he went paper white. The veins all over his body seemed to stand out all over his body, crisscrossing in dark blue mazes.

The seconds ticked by and the boy shuddered deeply. His head started to shake uncontrollably. In another second his body was bucking up and down against the restraining straps of leather holding him down.

The prominent veins turned slowly from the their deep blue to crimson red.

The female assistant let out a startled scream as the blood burst from the subject's body. The boy moaned in inscrutable pain as his flesh over the veins dissolved. Thick blood pooled over his body and started streaming over onto the floor, splattering onto the polished white tiles.

The boy's moaning broke out into a gurgling scream as the veins in his neck burst. His eyes bulged as he started spitting blood when his throat became clogged. He gagged uncontrollably, thrashing about in his chair, sending blood splattering everywhere.

The veins in his heart ruptured next, stopping the rhythmic beating. The body stopped thrashing. There was a distinct POP and more blood rushed out of the corpse's nose when another vein disintegrated.

The blood continued to run in rivers to the tiles below.

The body sagged as more flesh melted away and more blood splattered to the floor.

The assistant let out a low gasp.

"Experiment fifty has been a success," the doctor said in a sullen voice.

The assistant swallowed the lump in her throat and wrote down the results.

Dean Armand lowered his head in disgust. He had just peered into a dumpster, the contents proving to be more disgusting than any of his friends had said before.

"Told you it was bad," Mark Olsen said from behind Dean.

Dean hopped off the dumpster, the image of the bloodied corpse sticking in his mind. He looked at Mark, finally believing him. "How does something like that happen?"

"I don't know," Mark said turning around. "And in less you want to find out, we need to get out of here."

Dean agreed silently, following Mark back to the hole in the fence where they slipped out and ran the three blocks back to their car. They ran in fear of the people within the compound, what those people would do to them if they were found snooping around. And if that bloody mess in the dumpster was any indication, neither Dean or Mark even wanted to think about it.

When they were in the car and five miles away from the compound Dean spoke again.

"Do you have any idea who it was this time?"

Mark didn't take his eyes off the road, he held the steering wheel firmly in both hands. "I don't know, the list is too long to even guess. The latest one gone missing was Lillian Porter."

Dean's eyes went wide. He knew Lillian. In fact, he thought he had a date with her Friday evening. "Lillian?" he said. "When did she disappear?"

Mark shook his head. "This morning, maybe last night."

Dean couldn't believe Lillian was the next victim. "But we don't know if that body was even a girl. It could have been anything, it was so messed up."

"I'm not arguing with you," Mark said. "But we have got to tell somebody about this."

Dean was in a daze. If they had Lillian now, who would be next? For all he knew it could very well be him. "Who do we tell? Who would believe us?"

"Nobody is going to believe us," Mark replied. "Maybe ten years ago they would have. But now, nobody trusts anyone anymore."

Dean knew without a doubt that Mark was right. And that only served to further depress him. Life was looking worse day after day.

***

"They are preying on us! Those bastards are luring us in," -- there was a dramatic pause -- "then they slaughter us! And they don't care who! Male or female, black or white. They're monsters. Murdering monsters!"

Dean swiveled back around in his chair, turning his back on the ranting Jack Keller. He was sitting in the common room of the Esquire Building , once the prestigious home for a major computer corporation. After the Fall, the company went belly-up, and the likes of Dean and Mark overran the building.

Jack Keller was just like Dean and Mark, and the hundreds of other kids in the building, rebels, runaways, and just plain homeless. They lived for themselves and cared only for themselves. Any family that they might have once had were long since gone, mostly due to the Fall, very few were born homeless.

"Why does he do this?" Dean asked Mark?

"What?"

"Continue on like this," Dean explained. "Jack always tells whoever has ears that A New Beginning is out to kill all of us."

"And after this morning you don't believe him?" Mark pointed out.

Dean's breath caught at the image of the corpse in the dumpster that popped up in his head. "That could have been done by anyone. And you don't know A New Beginning owns that compound."

"And you don't know that they don't own the compound," Jack said coming up behind Dean. "There's only one real way to find out though."

Dean turned a little in his seat to look at Jack. "What are you saying? Break into the building and have a casual look around."

Jack's gaze went from Dean to Mark, then back again. "Yeah, exactly." He sat down at the table and leaned in close. "I'm going in tomorrow night. I'll get some solid proof that the murders and A New Beginning are one and the same and then take it to the police."

Jack let his plan sink in. Dean and Mark exchanged looks.

"Well?" Jack prodded. "Are you in, or what?"

"Jack," Dean started.

"You're nuts," Mark concluded. "And not the standard kind, you're the mixed variety."

Jack turned to Dean to see if he agreed. Dean shrugged. "We know that people are murdered in that compound. To go in there for a casual look around is just crazy. I mean, the chances of actually coming out alive are," Dean thought for a moment, but no exact figure came to mind. "Well, they're not very good."

Jack leaned back in his chair. "Fine," he said in resignation. "Than the kids will continue to disappear. And they will continue to die." Jack looked accusingly at Dean. "The next time you look into that dumpster maybe you'll see Lillian."

That struck a tense chord with Dean. The last thing he wanted was Lillian to die. Not his Lillian. He thought about this, realizing that if Jack succeeded, he could save her life. And with Dean's help, it doubled the chance of success.

"Okay," Dean said slowly, "I'll help you."

Jack grinned enormously. He turned to Mark. "What about you?"

Mark sighed heavily. If Dean was going . . . "Sure, I'm in."

"Excellent," Jack told both of them. He then got up and addressed the rest of the room's occupants. "Dean, Mark, and I are all going to infiltrate the Garson Compound tomorrow night," he announced. "We are going simply to find evidence, proof that A New Beginning are associated with the compound. Anyone who would like to join us needs to see me immediately."

There was a rustling of chairs as several people got up to talk with Jack. Dean and Mark got up from the table and moved to a quieter spot in the room. They sat down across from each other.

"This is crazy," Mark muttered. "Jack has no idea what he's getting us into. No one does.

Dean had a thoughtful look on his face. "I don't know about that."

Dean looked down the length of the common room and spotted Trent Seer hunched over something in a dark corner.

"There's at least one person who's been in the compound." Dean stood up. "Come on," he told Mark,

The two walked over to Trent . When they reached him they saw he was playing a game of chess against a computer. Trent wore the same dirty, scrounged up clothes most of the others wore: a white T-shirt and worn black pants. He also wore a jacket, worn black leather.

Dean and Mark sat down and silently watched the slow game. Trent carefully considered each piece on the board, considering each possible move before actually making one.

It was several minutes of silence before anyone spoke.

"The compound is a living hell." Trent 's voice was barely above a whisper. His eyes never left the chessboard and he continued to play. "It's nothing like this life. It's terrible beyond all belief."

Dean leaned in close to Trent . "All the more reason you should help us. Think of all the people, the kids that are trapped in there. You know. You can help save them."

Trent 's eyes rolled up to look at Dean. "No. I can't save them. Neither can you. Neither can Jumping Jack Flash over there. They're all dead once they walk into that compound. All you can do is get stuck in there with them and eventually die the same bloody death."

Trent 's eyes bore into Dean.

"Is it really worth the risk?" Trent breathed. "Is it worth your life?"

Dean leaned back, he had not been expecting this resistance. "If it means saving all those lives, then yes, it is worth any risk."

Trent studied Dean for a moment before lowering his eyes back to the chessboard. "Since the Fall no one's really safe anymore. And with a war breaking out every day, they're just going to die anyway. Now's not the time to be concerned about everyone else's well being. Worry about yourself."

Dean sighed heavily. Trent could help them a lot, but there was no changing his mind. He wished it wasn't so, for Lillian's sake, if not his own. But part of Dean also knew that Trent was right: there was no hope and death was right around the corner for all of them.

All they could do is choose how they died.

***

A press release, 1999

THE FREND Labs, funded by Charles Frend, is now officially GenEn Industries. New buildings are currently under construction in Southern Arizona , and the company is also looking for bioengineers to add onto their staff. Mr. Frend has also recently announced rather enticing stock options for his employees.

***

The orange sun melted into the ragged horizon, spilling its dying light over Samantha Rill's still form. She sat alone on the rooftop of the Esquire Building , watching the setting sun with only partial interest. Her mind was on something else. She thought about A New Beginning, wondering if it was just a real organization just trying to help lost children like herself.

A New Beginning representative had approached Samantha on more than one occasion. And each time had been more convincing than the last. A New Beginning's basic message was for everyone to join together as one and bring peace to the world. But they did seem to prey upon the kids, and all those that did join A New Beginning disappeared. The organization's general excuse for the disappearance was a simple change of location: all the new recruits were shipped off to a retreat in Vermont .

At least, that's what they said.

Samantha's thoughts were interrupted as the door to the roof opened and Trent Seer stepped out onto the roof. He walked directly to Samantha and sat down on the roof beside her, sharing her view of the sunset.

"Have you heard about tomorrow night?" he asked plainly.

Samantha shrugged. "Other than the usual Jack Keller bullshit?"

Trent swallowed hard. "It's no bullshit this time. Jack, Dean, Mark and a few others are going down to the compound. Looking for evidence to connect A New Beginning and the murders."

Samantha studied Trent 's profile. "Why the sudden interest in Jack Keller's bullshit plans?"

Trent looked at the sun, halfway into the horizon. "I think I might help Jack with his bullshit plan."

Samantha blinked at his response. "You're crazy, you know that? You're actually considering going back to that place? They would kill you," Samantha said. Then she added, "If you don't end up killing yourself."

Trent finally looked into Samantha's brown eyes. "It's a decent plan. And Lillian disappeared."

"Lillian?" Samantha was shocked at Trent 's claim. Her brow scrunched up. "Does anyone else know about her?"

Trent shook his head. "Dean is the closest to her, but I don't think he knows."

"I don't like this, Trent ," Samantha said. "I don't like the idea of you going back to that place."

"I hate it as much as you do," Trent replied. "But if they have Lillian . . ." Trent let thought hang in the air.

Samantha shivered and looked back at the sliver of sun that peeked over the horizon. "It'll be dark soon," she said. "You're going to need supplies."

Trent watched as the last of the sun finally disappeared. " . . . I know."

***

Trent came out of the stairwell and found Dean, Jack and Mark waiting at the base. They both wore jackets and looked like they were heading out.

"And where are you going?" Trent asked.

Jack grinned widely. "Just a little reconnaissance. Scope out the place before we hit it."

Trent shook his head. "I don't think so." He turned to Mark. "I want you to go to the library and get me a set of blueprints for the compound."

"Wait a minute," Jack interjected. "Who put you in charge of this game?!"

A snarl spread Trent 's lips as he looked at Jack. "If you want my help with your shitty little plan, we do things my way and maybe you'll survive it. Understand?"

Jack obviously didn't. He was upset and very animated. "And what the hell am I supposed to do while Mark is getting blueprints?"

"Well," Trent said slowly, studying Jack carefully. "Assuming I can put up with your bullshit for an extended period of time, you're going to come with Dean and I to Mikey."

That calmed Jack down. In fact, it went as far as pleasing him. Mikey was an arms dealer in Southside. Anybody who wanted to produce some major mayhem made Mikey their first stop.

The grin returned to Jack's face. "Let's go then!"

***

The door swung open, a little bell announcing the arrival. Dean and Jack closely followed Trent .

The storefront was innocent enough: in essence, a second hand jewelry store. But Trent knew better than to believe the cheap facade that Mikey had erected.

The short, squat man behind the counter jerked his bald head up at their entrance. " Trent ! Long time, no see!"

Trent smiled wanly. "Yeah, unfortunately this isn't a social call."

Mikey laughed loudly. "When is it ever, my friend?"

"We need guns, Mikey," Trent said, getting right to the point. "Lots of them."

There was a twinkle in Mikey's eye. "I just got a shipment; I think you'll be pleased." Mikey opened the gate leading behind the counter. "Come on, I'll show you my 'private collection'."

Mikey led the three into the back of the store, the real store. It was, in fact, a warehouse lined with racks of weapons ranging from a tiny gun capable of shooting only a single bullet, to an enormous energy canon capable of annihilating a small country.

Trent nodded approvingly. "Get us a decent line-up," he said. "Pack it up and give it to Dean. Charge it to my account."

Mikey winked. "Not a problem, my friend."

Trent turned to leave but Jack grabbed his arm, stopping him. "Where are you going?"

Trent turned his head and glared at Jack. "That's my business, now isn't it?"

Trent pulled away from Jack and disappeared out the door.

The remaining three stood in a brief silence that hung in the air. Mikey was the first to break it. "Well then, let's see what I can do for you!"

***

There was a distinct silence as Trent sat perched once again at the top of the Esquire Building , this time in the dead of the night. He let his eyes flutter shut as he meditated. There was a gentle breeze blowing against his face and he concentrated on the feeling, welcoming the dark silence. Trent cleared his mind, thinking of nothing but the sound of the wind slowly rushing past his ears.

Bit by bit, he opened his mind up to the world, considering things carefully as they popped up in his head. The first thing that he thought of was how he hated the world. There was nothing immediate that he liked about it, or its inhabitants for that matter. The people that had created civilization were the same fools who had invested everything into the stock market. When the Fall came, the stock market was obliterated and lives were ruined by the billions. The strongest nation in the world had suddenly become torn. Riots broke out, the government disappeared, wars started. And the rest of the world was right behind the United States .

Trent didn't like it, and he didn't hide the fact that he despised it. But there was nothing he could do about. Nothing but take his short life day by day. There was a time when he hated life so much suicide was the only logical conclusion. And then A New Beginning tracked him down and promised him a better life. Trent was among the first to join their legions and thought he had finally found an answer to his life.

And then came the Garson Compound . . .

The wind picked up around Trent , howling in his ears. But he didn't hear it, he was too far gone in his meditation.

***

An excerpt from essay CHANGING TIMES, by Phillip Range , published April, 2022:

In simplified terms: we have reached the Second Depression. The blame for this life-altering event can and should be placed squarely on GenEn Industries.

Their human cloning project was marketed as the next big thing, and indeed it was. Problem was, the procedure to get yourself cloned cost so much that the people needed fast and easy money. Going first to the stock market, most people saw GenEn stock and bought it up like hotcakes. Demand grew and soon GenEn Industries was not only the leader in human genetics, but also literally dominating the stock market.

Smaller businesses and companies quickly folded under the competition. Shortly, GenEn Industries became synonymous with the stock market.

Then, in 2019, the U.S. government prohibited human cloning, proclaiming it a violation of a recent Amendment to the Constitution: Freedom of Individuality. Following this, GenEn stock lost all value, the company all but vanished from the radar leaving the population the United States dazed and confused.

The stock market had not crashed. When it first crashed it still managed to recuperate, life went on. In 2019, the stock market was obliterated by GenEn industries. The damage was done and there is no remedy for this tragedy accept for time itself . . .

***

July, 2022.7

Late news on network television:

Only hours ago, popular essay author, Phillip Range , was killed by an angry mob terrorizing his East Miami home. The mob beat Range to death because they disagreed that GenEn Industries is the cause of the stock market crash of 2019.

In other news, nation-wide television network NWT announced that they will no longer be broadcasting as of the end of this week. It is predicted that others will follow suit only in a matter of time.

***

The Garson Compound was originally erected as a high security prison for convicted criminals. Built several years before the Fall, the compound had become the home to the worst of criminals: serial killers, rapists, terrorists, and some of the more dangerous con men. The compound was mandatory for anyone on death row, and practically anyone waiting for a final verdict. No one stayed there for too long.

A convict's time was spent mostly in a small cell, seven feet high by seven feet wide, small by even the short man's standards. The cells lined the walls, one on top of the other stretching down long hallways. Their food was given to them once daily, a loaf of bread and a glass of water, slipped through the bars. Once a week a high-pressure hose was brought in and washed everything down.

It was because of these harsh conditions that no one was surprised when scientists came and started using the convicts as biological test subjects for various experiments. And the prisoners looked to death as a way out of what could only be described as Hell.

Now, long after the Fall, the Garson Compound is far from neglected. The scientists that had originally ran the experiments on the side now use the building solely for their purposes. The cells still hold people, but these people are not criminals, convicted or otherwise. They are held against their will so that the scientists may run their experiments. And these new prisoners look to death as the only escape from what they now found themselves in.

***

A shiver ran through Lillian Porter's body. She was curled up in the corner of her cell, her white smock soaked from the hosing. The cold gripped at her like icy tentacles and she shivered again. The brand on her right shoulder still throbbed dully, the number 172 burned into her flesh.

Lillian was branded the 172nd test subject and her time was slowly approaching. She could look out the bars that held her in the cell and see an orange cone just five cells down, indicating who would be the next test subject. The scientists averaged about five tests a day, and it was early in the morning now so Lillian knew she had at least until sundown before her turn came.

Another shiver racked through her body, this one causing her to convulse on the stone floor, spilling her glass of water for the day.

But what did a glass of water mean? By sundown she would be dead, anyway.

The sun was just coming up, but it would do nothing to lift the grayness from the hall. The main door creaked open and two large men came into the hall. One moved the cone to the next cell closer to Lillian. The other opened the first cell door and pulled a girl out of it. Number 67 dragged her feet unwillingly, shouting loudly and cursing the two men. She was grabbed under the armpits and pulled out of the hall. Lillian watched in silent horror as the three bodies disappeared behind the door.

One down.

Four left to go.

***

Mark spread the blueprints out on the conference table. Dean and Jack looked at different areas of the Garson Compound. None of them were experts at reading blueprints, but some of the details were obvious.

"These walls look huge," Mark pointed to the diagram, "five or six feet deep."

"It's not like we're trying to go through the walls," Jack said.

"I know," Mark replied, attempting to explain his comment. "But still, if the situation arose . . . "

Dean nodded. "It's a good point. But hopefully we'll be able to do this without worrying about blowing holes into five-foot deep, steel reinforced walls."

Mark looked up from his section of the blueprints. "They're steel reinforced?"

"That's what it says here," Dean stabbed the blueprint with his index finger.

"The construction of the walls is irrelevant. The Garson Compound was built as a high security prison. Needless to say, the point of the prison is to make sure no one gets out. And no one would be able to get in without guards knowing about it."

Dean, Mark, and Jack looked at the doorway of the conference room. Trent stood, leaning on the doorframe, arms crossed. As he spoke, he looked at the others through narrowed eyes.

"There are very few ways in and out of that building. We'll be lucky if we find one that they're not watching," Trent finished.

There was a silence as the others considered what he said. Then Dean spoke.

"But we'll find a way. Right?"

Trent 's gaze went by Dean's and instead locked with Jack's. When Trent spoke, his lip curled, but he spoke in a completely neutral voice. "I hope so. For Lillian's sake."

Gears turned in Jack's head. Why was Trent giving him this look? And what did Lillian Porter have to do with their investigation into the Garson Compound?

Dean looked from Trent to the blueprints and then back up again. He wanted to find a way. For Lillian. "Right," he said. "Let's see if we can't find a way in here."

Dean and Mark went back to the blueprints and began poring over the diagrams, looking for all possible entrances and exits. Jack continued staring at Trent , trying to figure him out. Finally he walked over to him. Trent stepped back and gestured Jack into the hallway. Trent closed the door behind him. The two stood staring at each other, Trent waiting for Jack to speak.

Jack was churning inside, and looked it, too. He felt as though Trent was stepping over his boundaries and trying to replace Jack. His mouth opened, but closed without saying anything. Who did he think he was trying to tell Jack Kramer what to do?

"You . . ." Jack finally said. "We are going into the Garson Compound to find evidence that they're connected to A New Beginning. We do not need all that artillery downstairs and we are certainly not going to try to rescue Lillian Porter!"

Trent said nothing at first, waiting to see if Jack was finished. Then he spoke in a strained voice. "The reason for going into the Garson Compound tonight is rescue Lillian Porter. Period. You do not need any bullshit evidence the A New Beginning is associated with the Garson Compound."

Jack was outraged. This was his plan from square one and now Trent thinks he say what they were going to do and what they weren't? "Let's get something straight, Trent -"

Trent quickly interrupted Jack. "You want to straighten me out, Jack?"

"Yes! Listen, this is my plan!"

Trent had heard enough. He grabbed Jack by the shirt and spun him around, shoving him against the wall. "You listen to me, you little shit. Your plan is crap. It is stupid. The only point in going into the Garson Compound, a high security prison, is to rescue Lillian. Got that?"

Jack was speechless from Trent 's use of force and harsh tone. He had no response. At the end of the hall there was a ding and the elevator opened. Samantha stepped off and saw Trent and Jack.

"You want proof that A New Beginning is working with the Garson Compound?" Trent continued, in his hush, rash tone. "Evidence? How about eyewitnesses that can testify to the fact that A New Beginning is up to no good?"

Jack stared at Trent silently.

" Trent . . ." Samantha put a hand on his shoulder, slowly pulling him back.

Trent let go of Jack and turned to look at Samantha. Released from Trent 's grasp, Jack still didn't move. Trent didn't say anything and an uncomfortable silence hung in the air.

The conference room door opened, breaking the silence. Dean stood in the doorway looking at Trent, Jack, and Samantha.

"Uh," Dean said quietly, "I think we found a way in."

Samantha raised her eyebrows, looking from Dean to Trent , and then to Jack.

***

The sewer was dark. There was murky water along the bottom, about ankle deep. The stench permeated the group of teenagers as the slowly made there way through the sewer.

"What an amazing new smell we've discovered," Mark said, dripping sarcasm.

Dean looked at him. "I wouldn't complain. The only other way into this place is if you sign up as a guinea pig. And you know what happens to them."

Mark sighed and trudged forward. Trent led the way next to Dean who was holding a map. He had found a location on the blueprints called "Waste Disposal", it looked like a giant pipe leading into the sewer.

But it was a way inside.

Next to Mark trudged Samantha. Trent had tried to convince her not to go, but she claimed someone had to keep him in check. Anyway, Trent figured the more help they had, the easier rescuing Lillian would be.

Behind Samantha and Mark were the last three: Jack, Luis, and Rex. Luis and Rex had volunteered from the very beginning to help Jack out. They, like everyone else, knew that A New Beginning was up to no good, they believed Jack when he said that A New Beginning was preying on them. They lived by a simple rule: kill or be killed.

Trent headed up the group. He held the blueprints and was fairly sure they were almost there. He looked up and through the darkness he made out hatchway protruding from the right wall.

"That's it up ahead," he said to the group behind him.

When Trent reached the hatchway he tried the handle. Either it hadn't been used in so long it rusted shut, or it was just locked. Jack watched as Trent yanked at the handle, trying to open the door. He pushed Trent aside and tried himself. The door didn't budge.

Trent took Luis's backpack and took the explosives out.

"Are you almost done?" he asked Jack, holding the explosives up.

Jack backed away and Trent lined the explosives over the door's hinges and the lock. He attached the detonator and set it for ten seconds. Pointing down the hallway, he led the group away from the door.

The explosion echoed through out the sewers, making the ankle-deep slush ripple violently. The door was blasted out of the frame, plenty of space for Trent and the others to slip inside the Garson Compound.

***

Lillian shivered again as she thought of the world outside her small cell, a sun that would be slowly dipping into the horizon. The orange cone was in front of the cell right next to hers. A sense of inevitable doom loomed over her. It was like a dream that you know something terrible is about to happen but you can't do a damned thing about it.

She thought of the lies A New Beginning had told her to get her to join them. Lies about peace, family, in essence, a new beginning. Everything she had been looking for A New Beginning had promised her. But all they delivered was imminent death.

The sound of the heavy, steel door opening echoed down the expansive hallway. Lillian watched with wide, frightened eyes as a man dressed in a clean, white smock came into view. He carried the orange cone. He dropped it in front of Lillian's cell, making her flinch.

"Hey there, li'l lady," the man in the white smock said. "How's it going? Everything you expected?"

Lillian didn't answer the man. She wouldn't. She just glared at him, jaw set, trying to control her shivering.

A scream echoed down the hallway, distracting the man from his taunting.

***

The boy was small, skinny, and white as a sheet. He was strapped naked to the examination table, the serum had just been injected into his arm.

The boy was screaming like a dying hyena.

"Put the gag on!" the doctor yelled at the nurse. "Put the fucking gag on!"

The nurse was trying to put the gag over the screaming boy's mouth but the serum was already taking affect. The boy's veins popped out, like a gross spider-web. The veins pulsed as they pushed at the skin. His eyes bulged and he continued to scream.

The nurse placed the gag over his mouth when the veins burst, showering crimson blood all over her arms and face. She dropped gag and backed away, wiping at her face, disgusted by the blood.

The boy continued to scream, thrashing at his restraints.

His skin was slowly eaten away by the acid-blood that the serum had created. The boy's eyes melted in their sockets. His body disintegrated at a rapid pace, blood spilling everywhere.

And still, he screamed. The boy kept screaming even after his brain had melted into a gray-green puddle of goop. He screamed until his lungs gave out and his body was reduced to a slowly disintegrating skeletal structure.

The doctor glared at the nurse when the experiment ended. "You put the fucking gag on before they start screaming, got it?"

The nurse nodded quickly.

The doctor looked down at his clipboard. "What number was that?"

The nurse replied in a quiet voice. "Seventy-one."

The doctor nodded. "Let's bring the next one in."

***

Trent looked at his gathered guerrilla army. "Listen," he said, "we don't have much time to do this. We'll be lucky if Lillian is even still alive."

Trent saw Dean look away and swallow hard.

"We're going into the main cell block, find Lillian, then get the hell out of here. Any questions?"

The group shook their heads, ready to go.

Lillian heard the door open again, this time she knew it would be the last time she would hear it. She curled up into a ball and prayed that it wasn't the orderly. She prayed that someone, anyone, would come and rescue her from this nightmare.

Footsteps echoed down the hall, stopping in front of her cell. She looked up at the visitor.

The orderly had come to take her away.

***

They had split into two groups: Trent, Samantha, and Dean would enter the main cell block from the South entrance; Jack, Mark, Luis, and Rex would enter from the North entrance. They'd search the cells and meet in the middle.

Trent, Samantha, and Dean were armed with guns and rifles, the same as the other group. The crept down the hallways as they worked their way to the main cell block, but they didn't come across anybody, not even a random guard. The place empty.

They reached the South entrance quickly and without incident. Trent pressed a button and the door slid open, making a loud noise, metal grinding against metal. The three teenagers slipped into the main cell block.

***

Jack, Mark, Luis, and Rex didn't go to North entrance to the main cell block. Jack was leading them towards the entrance when he spotted a guard on patrol. They ducked into a small room while they waited for the guard to pass.

Luis raised his assault rifle, looking at Jack eagerly, waiting for him to give the order to kill the guard. But Jack wasn't even paying attention to the guard anymore. The room they were hiding out in was a file room, there were rows of filing cabinets lining the walls. Jack turned on his flashlight and started looking up and down the file cabinets.

"What are you doing?" Mark asked in whisper from the door.

Jack ignored him and opened up a file cabinet. Mark left the door and went over to see what Jack was doing. If he was screwing around, he was taking a big risk.

Jack had pulled out a folder. Upon closer inspection, Mark saw that the folder was labeled A NEW BEGINNING. Jack was going through the folder, his eyes wide as he took in his discovery.

Mark slammed his hand down, closing the folder. "We don't have time for this," he said through clenched teeth. "Trent and the others are waiting for us right now."

Jack looked into Mark's eyes. Silence hung in the air.

"Are we gonna kick some ass, or what?" Luis asked.

***

"I don't believe this," Samantha said softly as they walked down the hallway, looking into each cell, searching for Lillian.

The sight of the prisoners, most of them young children, lying on the cold floor starving, waiting their turn to die was too much for her. She looked away but the cells lined both walls. Samantha grabbed Trent 's arm.

"How can they do this?" she asked him, her face a mask of fear.

But Trent was lost in his own thoughts. As they walked down the corridor he was transported back to when he was the young, starving boy locked in one of the cold cells. His eyes were glassy, jaw set firmly as he remembered his experience at the Garson Compound.

***

. . . it had been at least two weeks now. He had watched as the orange cone slowly moved down the corridor, moving ever closer to his tiny cell. He lay curled in a ball, shivering on the stone floor. His thoughts were consumed with his family . . .

The Seer's were the model family for their community, the ideal everyone aspired to be. Like everyone else, their good fortune was thanks to the fertile stock market. It seemed as though there was only money to be made with GenEn Industries.

Then came the Fall . . .

Life went downhill quickly. Terrorism grew, wars broke out within months of the Fall. Trent remembered what happened so clearly: he was riding his bicycle home when an old, junker car rolled past him. About a hundred feet ahead, Trent saw his home. He knew that his parents and his brother were inside, most likely having dinner. The junker car slowed down only enough for the person in the passenger seat to lob a brown package out of the window. It banged against the front door of the Seer's home, falling to the doorstep.

Trent had stopped and watched this transpire. A gut feeling told him that this wasn't good. He watched in terror as his mother opened the front door to see what the thud was.

Trent screamed out.

His mother looked up.

The package exploded a second later. The shock had sent Trent tumbling backwards. It demolished the Seer's home, killing the entire family save Trent .

Trent went to live with an aunt after the incident. He stayed to himself and didn't talk to anyone. His aunt, plenty worried about her nephew, urged him to visit with A New Beginning - the organization promised closure and hope for kids who suffered through great tragedies. Which described Trent perfectly.

But now look at him: sitting in a small, cold cell waiting for the men in the white smocks to come and take him away.

The orange cone was moved in front of Trent 's cell.

Trent found himself being dragged down the corridor by two orderlies. His weeks of starvation left him weak, he couldn't struggle and he barely had enough energy to scream. They strapped him onto the table easily and then the doctor appeared.

But he wasn't like any other doctor Trent had visited. Trent knew without a doubt that this doctor had every intention of killing him. The doctor looked at Trent as though he was nothing than a slab of meat, something he could do what he pleased with.

And then the needle. It was long, clear liquid dripping from the tip. Trent watched in silent horror as the doctor stuck the needle into his upper arm, injecting the serum into his bloodstream. The doctor sat back with a clipboard in hand, watching Trent closely.

Trent lay on the table for twenty minutes, no one said anything, simply waiting. Then, Trent began to feel a tingling sensation under his skin. At first he didn't know if it was real or just something he was imagining.

But then white-hot shards of pain racked his body. Trent screamed out in pain. The doctor watched, a smile pulling at the corners of his lips. This went on for a full fifteen minutes. It was unbearable for Trent , and all through the coursing pain, he just wished he would die.

And then the pain subsided. Trent slowly calmed down, his sweaty body slowly cooled making him shiver. The doctor looked concerned. Up until now, the serum had worked on all of the subjects. It took a good thirty to sixty minutes for it to work, but it worked.

Trent Seer . . . he was the one who survived.

***

They had searched the entire cellblock. Lillian wasn't anywhere to be found. Trent knew that if she wasn't dead yet, she would soon.

"Where the hell is Jack?" Dean said. "We were supposed to meet a while ago."

Trent shook his head, looking back down the hall. "It doesn't matter, there's no time."

Trent pulled his assault rifle off his back and loaded a magazine. He pulled a handgun from his belt and handed it to Samantha. Dean readied his weapons, wondering where Trent was going to take them.

***

Lillian was strapped onto the table. The strong scent of disinfectant made her nostrils tingle. The gag was placed over her mouth, and she did nothing to stop it. The orderlies left the room, leaving her alone with the nurse.

***

Trent, Dean, and Samantha exited the main cell block through the North entrance. As the door opened, Jack and his group turned around the corner. Dean ran up to Mark, he glared at Jack.

"Where the hell were you?"

Jack avoided looking at Dean. "We ran into a guard."

"Bullshit!" Dean yelled.

Jack spun and slammed Dean up against the wall. "You've got some sorta problem?! I was taking care of what I had to take care of!"

Trent pulled Jack back, addressing him with a cold glare. He pointed into the main cell block. "You free as many of those kids in there and then get out of here, got it?"

Jack stared at Trent and swallowed hard. He nodded.

"Go," Trent said through clenched teeth.

Jack and his group started off in the cell block.

"Luis!" Trent called after them. "You're with us."

A grin spread across Luis's face. He raised his gun as he jogged back to Trent . "Sweet."

Satisfied with his group, Trent started off, leading them to operating rooms inside the Garson Compound.

***

The doctor entered the room, clipboard in hand. He eyed Lillian casually, taking notes as he inspected her. When he finished he looked at the nurse.

"I see you have the gag in place."

The nurse nodded silently.

"Excellent," the doctor said. "We'll be trying for ten seconds now."

The doctor pulled on a pair of rubber gloves, snapping them into place. He reached for the needle containing the serum.

***

Trent was now running down the maze of hallways, the familiar sense of imminent doom enveloping him. The others followed close behind, guns at ready. Trent was navigating the corridors from memory, hardly giving the blueprints a glance.

He rounded a corner and came face to face with a guard. Trent came skidding to a halt. The guard's eyes went wide in surprise and he reached for his sidearm. Two shots rang out and the guard collapsed to the ground, dead. Trent looked at Luis, his gun still smoking.

"Good job," Trent said.

Luis grinned. "No problem."

Trent looked down the hall and saw a light on through a window on the right. "That's it," Trent said, pointing confidently.

They gathered around the door, Trent leaning against the wall beside it. He was breathing heavily as the memories flooded back. His eyes were narrowed, his brow furrowed as he tried to focus.

Dean, Luis, and Samantha stood ready.

"On three," he said quietly. "One . . ."

"Fuck that," Dean said.

He charged forward, kicking the door in. The scene that greeted him was two people hunched over a small form on a table. Dean recognized Lillian immediately. He also recognized the needle that was about to be injected into Lillian's arm.

"No!" Dean screamed, pulling the trigger to his gun.

The doctor and nurse shuddered violently as the bullets struck them. Blood splattered onto the walls like some kind of sick ink-blot test. Dean kept squeezing the trigger, pumping bullets into the bodies of the doctor and nurse. The bullets tore into their skin, ripping apart their bodies.

Finally, the lifeless forms dropped to the floor where they made a sickening splat. Dean let go of his trigger and his gun fell to the ground with a clatter. He looked at the two people he had just killed. The dead bodies oozed blood like sponges that had soaked up to much water.

Then he looked up to Lillian; small, frail Lillian. She looked at him from the table, wonderment in her eyes, not knowing if this was real or just a dream she was having from the cold stone floor of her cell.

Samantha pushed past Dean and hurried to the table, pulling at Lillian's straps, all the time whispering that it was going to be okay. Trent watched from the doorway, all the while praying that there would a way to stop A New Beginning.

Lillian climbed off the table and fell into Dean's arms. He held her tightly as she began to sob. It wasn't a dream, Dean Armand had come to save her.

"We have to go now," Trent said from the doorway.

Samantha came out of the room, touching Trent 's hand. He looked at her and felt a twinge in his heart. If they made it out of the Garson Compound alive, he would have to remember to tell Samantha that he loved her.

Dean scooped Lillian up into his arms and came out of the operating room. He looked at Trent . "Okay. How do we get out of here?"

"No better way than the front door."

The started walking quickly down the hallway, but didn't get more than a hundred feet before an alarm sounded. The lights dimmed and flashed red, and the alarm wailed loudly.

"This can't be good," Luis said.

"Run!" Trent yelled.

They ran down the hall and around the corner, the sound of footsteps growing behind them. Luis fell to the back and kept looking over his shoulder as he ran. Coming around a corner, he spotted three armed guards.

"We've got company!" Luis yelled.

Looking back again, he saw at least five more guards.

The group rounded yet another corner before finally seeing double doors with an exit sign above them. They bolted down this last hall, the first gunshots ringing out from the guards behind them.

Trent slammed into the doors. Sharp pain shot through his shoulders, but the doors wouldn't budge. "They're locked!" he yelled above the alarm.

Dean fell to the ground behind a nearby counter, setting Lillian down gently. Luis joined him while Trent and Samantha found a cabinet to hide behind on the other side of the hall. Trent looked around the corner and saw the first of the guards appear. He looked over at Luis and nodded.

Trent and Luis stuck their guns around the corners and started shooting at the guards. The surprise attack dropped three of the armed guards but more poured from the hallway.

"There's too many of them!" Luis cried as volleys of gunshots joined the persistent wail of the alarm.

The glass cabinet above Samantha shattered and chemicals spilled on her. They burned at her flesh, but she ignored it, pointing her gun around the corner and shooting at the guards.

Suddenly more gunshots entered the mix and the guards began to scream as the died one by one. Luis looked down the hall and spotted two guards facing the opposite directing. He shot them and they fell lifeless to the ground.

The gunshots faded until only the alarm could be heard. Trent leaned back against the cabinet, looking at Samantha. "Are you all right?"

Samantha rubbed at her tingling skin. "I think so. It feels weird."

Trent nodded and looked over to Luis and Dean. "Everyone still alive?"

Dean had sat through the shootout holding Lillian, her head cradled in his lap. They were both fine. So was Luis. The group stood up and looked at carnage they had caused. They saw only maybe half of it, the rest of the guards lying dead around the corner.

Movement came from around the corner and Luis had his gun up, aiming it at the figure. Trent placed his hand on the barrel of Luis's gun, shaking his head.

It was Mark coming around the corner, his gun smoking from the surprise ambush. "Is everyone okay?" he asked.

Trent nodded. "You?"

As an answer Mark stepped to the side. One by one, from around the corner, the kids that were locked up in the main cell block slowly walked forward. They were silent as they walked to the exit.

"We got them all," Mark said. "Fifty, including Lillian."

Rex came around the corner, following the last of the kids. He carried Jack in his arms, Jack was clutching his chest. Rex set Jack down on the floor before the group. Jack's eye's fluttered open and he looked at Trent .

"We got them . . ." Jack said in a rasp voice.

Trent watched as blood leaked from between Jack's fingers, soaking his shirt. He wanted to look away, but he felt as though he would be cheating Jack if he did. Jack moved his hand and lifted the file folder up, stretching it out to Trent .

The blood dripped onto the white, vinyl floor.

Trent took the folder from Jack. Jack's hand fell to the ground, lifeless. Trent stared at Jack as he slowly died. He knew he should say something, but words escaped him.

The siren continued to wail . . .

***

"What we're facing, in simple terms, is the result of the devastating destruction of the global economy. The world as we knew it simply does not exist anymore - individuals possessed with greed, dreamt of piles of money, ruining it. Those dreams were, and still are, the ultimate downfall of humanity. If we can, in a true global effort, unite to overcome such trivial shortcomings of mankind, we can then, and only then, face forward and start rebuilding the old world, thus inevitably forming a New World in which to live in . . ."